Much has been written about how Americans (and no doubt people across the world) have changed their behaviors and habits, including their media and entertainment pursuits, due to the stay at home environment caused by the Covid pandemic. In my own research I see many consumers (25-30%) who report that they are spending more time on websites, digital services, streaming media, etc.

Ecommerce platforms, whether they are Amazon or ETSY, are more than just digital retail outlets – they are digital media and content companies too. Many consumers love to browse for products, services, vacations, etc. as a form of entertainment on digital services. Pinterest’s PINS +0.7% whole vision is based on sharing and enjoying pictures and videos of cool products, places and people. The old, out of home behavior, of window shopping is now online – “retail and shopping as entertainment.”

Etsy was founded in 2005 as a Brooklyn-based Website for hand-made goods, crafts, related supplies, and other products embraced by the “maker movement”. In fact, there is a media company, Maker Media, which promotes conferences and digital content regarding such products. People don’t just buy these products, they live a lifestyle around their roles as makers and/or buyers of local, specialized, “crafty” products. The Maker Lifestyle includes consuming and creating content around the maker movement or the “passion economy”.

Etsy’s traffic and revenue has increased over the last year. Revenue has more than doubled in that time period. No doubt this has been achieved through a combination of the tailwinds of the secular growth of the ecommerce market, as well as the “black swan” moment of the Covid pandemic. It is interesting to note that in Etsy’s third quarter over 10% of their revenue were masks – mostly from small manufacturers with a wide array of mask themes.

Etsy is also using the pandemic as an opportunity to reach new customers, including running major TV ads throughout the year.

Etsy has clearly been one of the many digital winners due to the pandemic and the related “stay at home” environment. Though their stock struggled in the early years, after their IPO on 2015, and continued to trade poorly for a number of years – hitting a recent low of less than $40 a share – Etsy has skyrocketed today to almost $180 a share, representing huge growth of 450%.

Below is a chart from Statista that shows the dramatic growth of Etsy’s revenue over the years. Clearly the Internet is providing more and more opportunities for small and medium sized businesses to reach consumers, as well as an opportunity for big brands and manufacturers to reach all types of consumers. Etsy, both as a product seller, and as a content site, has become mass market and the pandemic has catalyzed that growth.

Throughout the pandemic many people have talked about how their various behaviors have changed in terms of how they spend their time. Gaming has been one of the big areas where folks are spending more time. Recently one game studio, Nifty Games, who raised $12 million last year, announced that they were moving into the big leagues, with Peter Moore joining their Board of Directors.

Peter Moore has a long history of running very successful gaming companies from his early days at Sega to his leadership of Xbox, then his job as head of EA Sports, and then serving as EA’s Chief Operating Officer. More recently, Moore was the CEO of Liverpool Football Club. He recently announced he was stepping down from that position after Liverpool’s big win of the FIFA Club World Cup for the first time. Liverpool also won, under Moore’s leadership, the 2019–20 Premier League championship, their first top-flight league title in thirty years.

Peter Moore is perhaps the biggest name in sports and video gaming ever. Nifty Games looks forward to building on his reputation and connections as they build their mobile sports games, NFL Clash and NBA Clash. Nifty has licenses from both the Leagues and the Players Associations.

In an exclusive email question and answer exchange, Moore expressed big enthusiasm for the future of mobile gaming, even with his extensive background in PC and console gaming, saying he “couldn’t be more excited about what the mobile platform is able to bring in the coming years as regards even more innovative game experiences. Powerful devices, 5G connectivity, and even larger screens all point towards even greater adoption of mobile gaming.”

Moore has spent the last three years in his original homeland, the U.K., while running the Liverpool Football Club, but he is now returning to California where he spent many years. Nifty Games is based in San Francisco. When asked why he was returning to California, Moore expressed his love for California and his family saying, California is where I have spent most of my 38 years in the United States, and it’s where our children now all reside.”

Jon Middleton, the CEO of Nifty Games, said that Peter Moore is a gaming “trailblazer” in announcing the appointment of Moore to the Nifty Games Board. In an exclusive exchange with me by email, Middleton said, “In the mid 90’s, Peter ran marketing for Reebok and he left for Sega. He clearly saw the potential of gaming. Games climbed out of parent’s basements and migrated from dorm rooms to living rooms. Peter’s a proven market maker and has delivered gamers big leaps forward in gameplay repeatedly with Sega Dreamcast, Xbox 360 and EA SPORTS. As talented game creators were writing code and designing incredible digital worlds, Peter addressed gaming’s most fundamental aspect – building the gamer community. While running Xbox, he pushed for games which fostered competition, and then connected competitors online with the success of Xbox Live. Famously, he went so far as to tattoo the logo and launch date of Halo 2 on to his arm for unveiling on stage at the big gaming convention each year, E3. There’s a ton of reasons why gaming has grown from millions to billions of players worldwide, and Peter Moore is one of those reasons.”

A mistake is often made by the Silicon Valley “insiders” when they lump all traditional media into one big (failing) bucket. Newspaper advertising in print has been decimated, but TV advertising has actually held up quite well, even during the pandemic. While we are all watching a lot of Netflix NFLX +0.3%, advertisers know that millions of consumers are watching traditional broadcast and cable TV every hour of every day.

According to a recent report from MoffettNathanson, the firm named in part for Michael Nathanson, a long-time, well-regarded media analyst, reported a 3% increase in U.S. TV advertising revenue in the third quarter of this year. The firm compared that to national advertising spending that fell 3.5 percent. For this final quarter of 2020, Nathanson envisions an increase of 2% in TV advertising revenue.

The report is titled “That Was Unexpected!” and Michael Nathanson spoke to why TV advertising revenue was remarkably up this past quarter, “First, the third quarter has a once-in-a-lifetime wave of every major sport returning to the market. Second, the intense 2020 election cycle attracted huge local, regional, and national ad spending – which we estimate to be up roughly 75 percent over 2016 – in key presidential swing states and in the fight for the Senate.”

Nathanson forecast strong future revenue for the TV industry, saying, “The TV ad market will post strong results in the coming three quarters as sports events, including the Olympics, return to their natural cadence.”

In contrast, the newspaper companies continue to lose advertising revenue, and in most cases, subscription revenue too. The national newspapers, particularly The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times NYT +0.9% have avoided this value-destruction by successfully driving paid-subscriptions online.

The Pew Research Center recently issued a report that documented, to no one’s surprise, that advertising revenue from the major local newspaper chains, already suffering from plummeting print advertising revenue, have been slammed even harder during the pandemic and the resultant economic recession.

Pew reported, that among the six publicly owned newspaper chains — Gannett GCI.I 0.0%, New York Times, Tribune, McClatchy, Lee and Belo AHC 0.0% — who own and operate more than 300 daily newspapers, advertising revenue fell by 42% over year last year.


Trump and Biden both advertised extensively on Facebook, along with other digital advertising.

This past election was, as evidenced by the highest popular vote ever, very important to many people. Of course, no one cared more about the election results than President Trump and former Vice President Biden. Though the average voter also seemed very motivated this year to learn about the candidates as proven by the high ratings achieved for the Presidential Debates.

One of the many ways that Trump and Biden sought to communicate to their supporters, and to win over the undecided, was through social media, particularly Facebook. I am not talking about all the free attention that Trump, and to a lesser extent, Biden, got from their own posts on Twitter, but rather the hundreds of millions of dollars spent on paid social media advertising reaching out to all ages, gender and races in the U.S. through the social media giant, Facebook. In fact, each candidate hit all time highs in Facebook advertising expenditures.

Over the last 22 months, ABC 7 Los Angeles’ Eyewitness News, has reported that both Trump and Biden in this election, spent more INDIVIDUALLYon Facebook advertising than both Trump and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spent combined during the 2016 election. Reportedly, Biden spent over $94 million on Facebook ads in this election, and Trump spent even more – reporting $107 million spent on Facebook ads.

Not only was the 2020 election very good to Facebook, but Facebook overall has rebounded stronglyfrom the lower advertising revenue driven in the early months of the pandemic. There can be no doubt that social media and overall digital advertising expenditures are now rivalling TV advertising in importance.

The Wesleyan Media Project, an enterprise run out of Wesleyan University (full disclosure, I am an alumnus), has gathered and analyzed extensive data on the advertising expenditures of Presidential, Senatorial and Congressional candidates.

In the case of the Presidential race, they estimated that Trump spent over $426 million in advertising for his candidacy, and Biden spent $564 million. Despite Trump having less to spend on advertising, he over-spent Biden considerably in terms of digital spend, directing over $201 million to digital advertising, vs. Biden’s digital expenditure of $166 million. The same pattern existed in terms of TV advertising with Trump’s spend on TV being $222 million vs. $376 million was spent on TV advertising for Biden.

This year has been, obviously, a very hard time for most people economically, socially and psychologically. But thanks to Presidential espousals, at least the TV advertising and digital advertising businesses got big boosts (political stimulus you might say) from the 2020 elections.

With many of us at home, “spinning the dial” to find a TV show or movie that we want to watch, it is nice to know that more new content is coming to the TV world. Last week I reported that more sports content was coming to television viewers, including both professional Lacrosse, as well as professional Esports content.

NBC announced that its over the air and digital streaming channel, NBCLX, will be programming Esports content starting today. The local TV station group of NBCUniversal last year launched a digital news brand and streaming network, called NBCLX. The L stands for “Local ” and according to TechCrunch, NBCU says the Xstands for “exponential abilities.” The new digital network is going after Gen Z and Millennials – the younger demographics in the media world. These are also the age groups that are most likely to be cord-cutters, which has been confirmed for many years in my annual cord cutting online survey.

NBCLX was launched in 2019 to offer relatable content to younger viewers, and delivers local news and original programming. Audiences can access programming on or via Roku, Apple TV, YouTube TV and other platforms.

One of the hot content areas in the digital world today is streaming content and especially streaming of Esports competitions. NBCLX new esports content will include content about the big games in the Esports world today – such as Fortnite, Call of Duty, Apex Legends, etc. Some of the content will be mini-challenges and competitions. There will also be interviews with players and streamers, as well as some holiday season themed content. Other big Esports games include Valorant, Dota 2, Hearthstone, Overwatch, Rocket League, Counterstrike, PUBG and others.

“We are thrilled for NBCLX to present esports competitive entertainment to our audiences for the very first time,” said Matt Goldberg, VP of Content Strategy at NBCLX, in a statement. “Esports is a global phenomenon. We cannot wait to welcome the esports community and fans to our network.”

There are approximately 500 million people in the U.S., Europe and Asia that watch or attend Esports events. In the U.S. my annual research shows that about 60 million Americans attend or watch esports events.

Esports is very popular worldwide. For instance, a few weeks, ago the 2020 League of Legends (from gamemaker Riot Games owned by Tencent Holdings) World Championship was played in Shanghai and it was anticipated there would be approximately 200M viewers,totaling over 130 million hours of viewing. Others have reported the viewership at closer to 100 million people. Either way, it either matched or beat the last Super Bowl viewership. Esports is clearly a mass media content area.

Vorhaus Advisors

Vorhaus Advisors found fans don’t care if items are virtual. They’ll spend money on them.Image Credit: Vorhaus Advisors

Sixty-three percent of gamers say they would spend more if virtual goods had real-world value,and could be traded or sold. And 64% say they would also play more often. This is all according to a survey by digital media consulting firm Vorhaus Advisors. This suggests players could have real demand for games that adopt blockchain, the secure and transparent decentralized ledger technology, that enables virtual items to be tied to real-world goods.

Blockchain-based items can be uniquely identified and verified, allowing people to take them outside of a game to other virtual worlds or perhaps cash them out. Blockchain games produced a lot of hype, but they have been slow to impact the larger mass market for games. Overall, the report said that people are interested in developers enabling players to make money from the exchange of virtual goods inside games.

The survey analyzed the opinions of more than 2,000 consumers (interviewed in the summer) to evaluate how they viewed virtual goods and blockchain features in games. The target group that is most attracted to blockchain is the 18-year-old to 34-year-old demographic.

“It’s fair to say that blockchain had some fad moments and will continue to have fad moments in the future,” said Mike Vorhaus, founder of Vorhaus Advisors, in an interview with GamesBeat. “I think blockchain is less of a fad, even if it’s not as well known. I think when people start to learn about it, they discover that it’s a very deep, real, elegant technology.”

The independent survey commissioned by Forte also said that 24% of gamers say they’ve purchased virtual goods while playing games, spending an average of $168 over the last year. At the same time, a third of gamers (32%) think that the prices of virtual goods can seem arbitrary and are not necessarily a true reflection of rarity or value.

Mike Vorhaus, CEO of Vorhaus Advisors.

Above: Mike Vorhaus, the CEO of Vorhaus Advisors.

Image Credit: Vorhaus Advisors

Blockchain still has a way to go. It’s still a broadly unfamiliar concept to most U.S. adults, Vorhaus said. And that means that companies are just beginning to scratch the surface on how to monetize their games, he said.

“Blockchain is really a function of consumers getting accustomed to it,” Vorhaus said. “It’s more about getting used to it. One of the really interesting things in the study is when you explain to people that blockchain could make it possible for people to trade goods that they worked on and built in virtual environments, then they like it. Blockchain makes it possible to do that trading with transparency, safety, and without duplication. They already love virtual goods. And now they can make a virtual good they can buy, sell, trade, and make money on. If you look at games like Animal Crossing, we are halfway there.”

Nearly half (46%) of virtual good buyers expressed interest in having real ownership of their virtual goods. Virtual good buyers also expressed interest in being able to sell their virtual goods to others on an open marketplace. That’s one of the big advantages of blockchain. If a game shuts down, a player can take the goods that they have purchased and take them to another game that supports those items. By contrast, if someone wanted to sell an item that they bought in a game today, the publisher might call them out for violating the terms of service.

Being able to take your goods from one world to another is an attractive feature of the metaverse, the universe of virtual worlds that are all interconnected, like in novels such as Snow Crash and Ready Player One. Our next event on January 27 will focus on the metaverse.

“We know that in a metaverse one would need to maintain the same identity throughout it, and there are a lot of people who believe blockchain will be useful for that,” Vorhaus said.

Since goods can be uniquely identified, developers can create scarce one-of-a-kind items that players can collect and resell using verified peer-to-peer transactions.

More than half of virtual goods buyers (51%) expressed interest in earning income from playing games. The capability to create, own, and trade digital assets might allow the lines between play and work to blur more than they already have, the survey said.

Above: Vorhaus Advisors found gamers are accustomed to spending on virtual goods.

Image Credit: Vorhaus Advisors

Virtual goods buyers are most interested in the community-focused gameplay features of blockchain. Peer-to-peer trading of virtual goods (40%) and a universal marketplace that works across any game (39%) were the features virtual goods buyers expressed the most interest in.

Virtual goods buyers see the most benefits of blockchain. Gamers who buy virtual goods are 26% more likely than U.S. adults as a whole to cite the economic benefits of blockchain; 52% of virtual goods buyers are more likely to see it as a way to guard against removal or tampering.

“Blockchain is clearly growing in awareness and experimentation,” Vorhaus said. “I would add that certain things can be done to make it grow more. Education is one of the biggest ones, as well as the assurance of safety. If the gaming industry works hard at educating consumers, we could be on the verge of a massive breakthrough. I agree that a couple of key games will make a difference.”

The news industry—in print, online and on television—has benefited greatly from the 2020 election. Not only have the ratings/reading of these outlets skyrocketed, but the advertising dollars have, too. Local, statewide and national candidates have poured money into television advertising, and the big “independent committees” pushing candidates or specific political issues, have added to the heft of political spending dramatically this fall. For now, with the end of the election, people think that political advertising will die down, at least for a while. What is the next “bright light” for the traditional media business?

Sports content is that bright light, particularly with the Olympics coming up later this year, assuming no additional postponements, and media outlets from newspapers to websites and apps to television are excited about these advertising and sponsorship dollars.

We have also seen a lot of excitement about women’s sports in the country, as well as new sports being introduced to the media consumer, which will expand the media opportunities and revenue for sports.

For instance, the new Premier Lacrosse League launched in 2018 and organized their schedule around when they could get TV exposure. This year they grew the TV audience on NBC for their championship by almost 25% over 2019.

We also see more attention focused on women’s sports. Over a year ago it was announced that the Los Angeles Angel City Football Club would be the newest team in the Women’s Soccer League. Angel City was partly funded by celebrities like Serena Williams, Jessica Chastain, America Ferrera, Jennifer Garner and Eva Longoria. Billie Jean King is also a member of the ownership group.

Julie Uhrman, Founder and President of Angel City FC, in an exclusive email exchange, said “Angel City is bigger than a game. We are a platform that stands for equality and impact, where we strive to set higher expectations on and off the field. We believe leading with passion and purpose will lead to profitability. Angel City Football Club is reshaping expectations of what a sports franchise is today.”

Also, sports is not just sports anymore, particularly for the media outlets. Sports now includes Esports – the competitive environment encompassing professional and amateur players of certain video games that lend themselves to team competitions. The biggest titles include League of Legends, Call of Duty, PUBG, Counterstrike, Overwatch and others. Millions of people are watching thousands of competitive players challenge other teams for big prize money, as well as revenue from livestreaming, endorsements and merchandise. Esports has become big business, estimated at over $2 billion in worldwide revenue. My research has shown that there are 500M people around the globe regularly watching Esports in person or remotely.

Though much of the audience watching Esports competitions is young men, there is also a big minority of women following Esports. In fact, Cloud 9 one of the biggest and most successful Esports teams has announced an all-female team that will compete in the game Valorant, a newly launched first-person shooter from Blizzard Studios.

Uhrman, a leader in the media, gaming and sports world, welcomed this all-female team to esports, “As a long-time media and gaming entrepreneur and now president of a professional women’s soccer team, I could not be more thrilled to see the rise in female participation in esports. Women bring a totally different perspective to sports and this team will open esports up to a much larger, more diverse audience, while also creating new revenue streams and attracting even more women to get in the game.”

Follow me on 


Originally Posted on Forbes

For the last 20 years the American newspaper industry has cratered. Advertising revenue, as well as print subscriptions have declined, just like a falling knife . The local newspapers have been particularly hard hit and some have even closed-up entirely. But The New York Times has announced a big increase in their digital subscription revenue.

The national newspapers, particularly The Wall Street Journal DJCO -0.3% and The New York Times NYT +2.9%, created paywalls much earlier than most news and information sources online. The Journal was particularly early to institute a paywall, starting in 1996. Most people in the digital news industry have considered the Journal’s subscription paywall more of an “enterprise” product and often a business expense for the subscribers.

The New York Times started charging for online content in 2011 and it was a modest revenue source at the time. But over the years, the advertising revenue from print, and even the advertising revenue on The Times’ digital services, has continued to decline. Meanwhile, the digital subscriptions for the New York Times, both for their flagship news brand, as well as for crossword puzzles and other “a la carte” offers for paid content, are growing rapidly.

The Times announced today that for the third quarter of the year, for the first time ever, digital subscribers’ revenue was bigger than the revenue from the print newspaper subscriptions.

“Our strategy of making journalism worth paying for continues to prove itself out,” Meredith Kopit Levien, who took over as CEO of The New York Times Company in September.

There were six million digital subscribers to The New York Times’ core news product, as well as their additional crossword and recipe paid services. In comparison there are less than 850,000 print subscribers to the newspaper of record in the U.S. Further data on their revenue sources and growth or decline are outlined thoroughly in The New York Times newspaper’s coverage of The Times success in paid content.

The Financial Times is another major newspaper that has experienced strong results by charging for access to their content online. The FT has charged subscription packages, like other newspapers, and they were early adopters of a paywall, back in 2002.

The New York Times Company remains profitable and will likely continue to build up both its new subscription service, but also more content and products for consumers to buy. It looks like The New York Times is doing an admirable job at avoiding the complete value destruction that has occurred at other newspaper companies.

Many pundits counted out the newspapers that instituted paywalls, pointing out that news is a commodity and is available free in many digital locations. For instance, in 2011 the Financial Times covered comments by a Canadian media expert, Mathew Ingram, where they described his negative opinion of paywalls, “Ingram contends that there is little guarantee that NYT paywall subscriber numbers will continue to grow, and every reason to believe they won’t.” Clearly The New York Times has been very successful with their paid content offerings.

Follow me on 


Originally Posted on Forbes

“Hear ye, hear ye, read all about it.” This phrase has been hawked loudly for well over 100 years to alert the public to big news (or sometimes not so big). “Extra, extra, read all about it”, is the same basic idea. Historically the content industry has promoted its stories and shows to encourage the public to check them out.

The Web and our digital services all seem to have notifications, alerts, promotions, etc. bringing important (and sometimes not so important) information to our attention. The news is everywhere, but letting the people know where to find the breaking news stories is a constant effort of search, notifications and alerts. While some people may complain about these alerts, others will tell you that they gather a good sense of the news, over the course of a day, from the alerts and notifications they receive from news sources, often on social media platforms.

CBS VIAC -0.2%N, the 24-hour news streaming service of CBS, has grown considerably since its launch in 2014 and now regularly has millions of viewers watching their breaking news stories. CBSN has had big peaks in their ratings during major live events, such as presidential debates, Covid briefings, and protests, as well as big news in the major local markets where CBS’ local TV stations program a locally-oriented CBSN feed.

CBSN has just launched a new service for the Roku connected TV platform, a major distribution platform for CBNS, called “Video Push Alerts,”. These alerts are a lot like what you would get on a mobile phone alert and promote live news events to CBSN viewers across the 12 major local CBS station news markets. The Video Push Alerts were tested, pre-launch, on the Apple TV system.

Hollywood Reporter announced this new feature from CBSN today. During an interview with Christy Tanner, executive vp and GM of CBS News Digital, she said to The Reporter, “Think of how ubiquitous mobile push alerts are. These are the same thing, for our CBS News app ecosystem. We are going to have the ability to alert you when something interesting newsworthy and live is happening in one of our 12 live streams.” The markets include: New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Minnesota, Boston, Los Angeles, the Bay Area, Denver, Chicago and Dallas-Fort Worth.

With the election approaching rapidly no doubt there will be many alerts about rallies, scandals, announcements, and controversies boiling the news’ waters.

In an email exchange with this contributor, Ms. Tanner expanded on her thoughts about the importance of local live programming, saying, “With video push alerts, CBSN continues to lead the marketplace in both editorial and technology innovation. Now, our producers can easily let viewers know when something is breaking on one of our 12 live streams, delivering on our mission of public service by putting the spotlight on our reporters’ excellent work.” 

“When we do research, we hear people say that their most trusted outlet is their local news,” Tanner says. “We recognize that value, and we wanted to be able to be the first mover in local streaming at a national level, so that people can stay connected to their communities, wherever they are.”

Follow me on 


Originally Posted on Forbes

Emarketer, the well-regarded source of much digital research data, has released data showing that in-app purchases (typically for virtual goods) in mobile apps are growing as a revenue source, and that advertising, due to Covid is shrinking. The mobile app economy has been dominated by in-app purchases since the advent of the smartphone, particularly due to the presence of extensive in-app purchases items in mobile gaming apps. In non-gaming apps there is rising revenue driven by content subscriptions.

Sensor Tower, a well-known data analytics firm in the mobile app arena, according to eMarketer, estimated that global app revenues from in-app purchases rose by 23.4% year-over-year in the first half of 2020 and $36.6 billion came from within games, an increase of more than 20% YOY.

It is has been observed in the recent past that increasingly hybrid monetization models are becoming popular. Such models are a combination of in-app purchases and advertising, which are especially prevalent in mobile gaming. Many game developers and game publishers are buying cost-per-install based advertising to acquire their users by advertising on mobile game apps similar to their own.

I believe that the advertising revenue model will continue to increase for mobile games, in part due to the big demand for mobile advertising inventory by those advertisers wanting to convey their messages to consumers across mobile platforms. But for the short-term it appears that the growth of advertising in mobile apps is slowing.

According to AppsFlyer, a mobile analytics company, the share of games using a hybrid model dropped 8% between Q2 2019 and Q2 2020. For casual and midcore games the revenue coming from advertising fell 30% YOY. As eMarketer said, “In absolute terms, ad revenues did well in these hybrid games, rising by 47%, but IAP revenues jumped by 130%.” According to AppsFlyer “Users were far more engaged with games during lockdown, and along with the effects of our ‘new normal,’ users have become less tolerant of ads,” said Shani Rosenfelder, Head of Content and Mobile Insights at AppsFlyer.

Speaking about subscription revenue, eMarketer quoted Ted Krantz, CEO of App Annie, another mobile analytics firm, asking a big question: “How many subscriptions will a particular consumer actually,” pay for.

Follow me on