If you are a fan of the traditional newspaper, particularly the prestigious national “newspaper of record” then you should note the announced retirement of Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, Jr. as Chairman of the Board of The New York Times Company

Sulzberger was the Publisher of the New York Times NYT +2.9% from 1992 to 2017. Sulzberger led the paper and the company through the most challenging times of print newspapers since their creation, no doubt. Sulzberger became publisher of The Times in 1992, succeeding his father, Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, and served in that role until 2017 when he was succeeded by his son, A.G Sulzberger, as Publisher of The Times. Mr. Sulzberger, Jr. will be Chairman Emeritus of the Company. The Sulzberger family controls The New York Times Company due to their super-voting shares, Class B stock.

Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, Jr. presided over the great expansion of The New York Times as a powerful national newspaper, alongside its dominance in the greater New York area. For many of us who grew up in the digital media world, Sulzberger led the New York Times’ many forays into innovation, including digital content and distribution. The New York Times had an early commitment to placing its content on the Internet and across the various digital platforms available. The Times also focused deeply on paid content, which was a novel concept advanced by the digital management at The Times with the backing of Sulzberger. The early and strong commitment of The Times to valuing their content as premium content, deserving to be paid for by consumers, has allowed The Times to continue to grow overall subscription numbers. The Times has built up many millions of paid digital subscribers for the overall newspaper offering, as well as launching and growing a series of niche digital products that have also been introduced by The Times.

Quoted in his own newspaper, the new Chairman of The New York Times Company, A. G. Sulzberger said of his father, “As publisher and chairman, Arthur brought more change to The Times than anyone since Adolph Ochs. His tenure stretched from the first front-page color photo to experiments in augmented reality, from the heyday of print advertising to digital revenue eclipsing print.”

In the category of interesting personal tidbits, The Times’ story on the change of leadership at Company, described the retiring Chairman as a Star Trek fan and a rock climber.

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Paul Kagan passed away at 82 years of age at his home in Carmel, California. Kagan is one of the great analysts of the TV and cable era. His advice and his data were frequently sought out by the many players in the TV and cable ecosystem. Kagan was a major figure in the industry for over four decades.

Kagan is called by many, The Guru of Cable, and was inducted into the Cable Hall of Fame in 2011.

Kagan started as a sportswriter and then was an analyst at E.F. Hutton in New York City. Kagan was an early entrepreneur and set-up his own firm, Paul Kagan Associates in 1969.

Kagan wrote extensively about the economics of the cable industry as it expanded dramatically in the 70’s, 80’s and beyond. Cable TV has reigned King during much of Kagan’s professional life. Over the last few years, the cable industry has suffered the pain of cord-cutting. Kagan’s firm published dozens of newsletters, scores of datasets, sponsored conferences and provided consulting to many companies and organizations, across all meaningful media issues. Kagan was also early in beginning to cover the Internet and the digital disruption of traditional media.

As a successful entrepreneur, Kagan sold his company to Primedia in 2000. Today the research company continues to operate as Kagan, a unit of S&P Global Market Intelligence.  

A bright teenager, Kagan graduated from Taft High School in the Bronx in 1954 at age 16 and then attended and graduated from Hunter College in New York City with a B.A. in Communications. Kagan had an early career as a sportswriter and continued to be a sports fan throughout his life.

“His body will rest at El Carmelo Cemetery in Pacific Grove by the rolling waves of the ocean, but his soul will be in heaven,” his family said. “We hope that they have a press box up there so he can call the games for all the Yankees who have gone before him and are no doubt playing baseball in the clouds.”

The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), the well-regarded national trade association for the digital media and marketing industries, has announced David Cohen, its current President, has been promoted to Chief Executive Officer (CEO), succeeding Randall Rothenberg. Rothenberg had served as the IAB CEO since 2007, except for six months when he was at Time, Inc. Rothenberg will remain at IAB as Executive Chair through 2022.

The IAB sets standards, develops best practices, provides continuing education and training, provides advice and assistance, as well as research and data to the many advertisers and advertising companies that work with IAB. IAB has been instrumental in the growth of digital revenue since its founding in 1996 – the very wild west of the Internet.

Cohen takes on the leadership of the IAB at a time when traditional advertising is faltering, which has been catalyzed by the Covid pandemic, while digital advertising is projected to grow, albeit, no doubt at a lower rate than in the past.

Cohen has been President of the IAB for the last year and was responsible for a big increase in their media marketplaces and the number of industry executives involved in IAB’s leadership councils. Rothenberg said about Cohen, “He is a true leader with the steadiness, strategic insights, and experience necessary to take IAB and the digital marketing and media industries through the economic recovery and ultimately to the next level of growth. The Board and I felt strongly that there was no reason to wait. He should be our CEO now.”

“As the industry continues to face some of its biggest challenges, we rely on IAB to bring us together, tackle the tough questions, and develop real, actionable solutions,” said Rik Van der Kooi, Corporate Vice President at Microsoft MSFT 0.0% Advertising and Interim Chair of IAB Board of Directors. “In this next chapter, we’ll still be able to rely on Randall’s wisdom and counsel, and we’ll have all the benefits and tremendous strengths David brings to the table. Everybody wins — especially IAB members.”

In his new role Cohen will report to the IAB Board of Directors, chaired by Rik Van der Kooi, Corporate Vice President at Microsoft MSFT 0.0% Advertising. The IAB Vice Chair, is Gina Garrubbo, President and CEO of National Public Media. A long-standing member of the IAB Board, Peter Naylor, VP of Sales, Snap Inc. SNAP -4.7%said, “The bottom line in business is results, and David delivers. His buy-side experience and perspective, most recently as President of Magna, is invaluable. He has built organizations responsible for purchasing billions of dollars of digital media inventory annually.”

Cohen expressed enthusiasm for leading the IAB and serving their clients and partners in the digital media eco-system. He said, “what makes the IAB leadership position so meaningful is that the team here is not just helping individual companies – we’re helping to reshape and grow an entire sector of the economy.”

Cohen continued, “We are boosting our focus on dramatically increasing our brand, agency, and publisher presence across all IAB activities. My buy-side experience has shown me that connecting all those dots is critical for industry collaboration, agenda-setting, and leadership.”

As Executive Chair, Rothenberg will report to Cohen, and advise the IAB on economic, public policy, compliance, and consumer brand and retail issues.

“I speak for all of us at IAB when I say we can’t thank Randall enough for his leadership, his friendship, his sage counsel, and for everything he has done for the industry he has served so faithfully for the past 14 years,” said Cohen. “What we are able to build in the years ahead would not have been possible without him.”

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The Interactive Advertising Bureau, the well-respected trade group focused on digital advertising, has released its newest report projecting modest growth for U.S. digital media advertising spend for the full calendar year of 2020. The IAB expects digital ad spend to grow by 6% in 2020. Conversely, they predict that traditional media advertising will shrink by 30% vs. 2019.

Overall, IAB predicts that ad spend by year-end will shrink by only 8%. These numbers are similar to what other companies, including Zenith Media, predicted earlier in the summer.

Earlier in the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, as the stay-at-home orders started to crater the economy around the world, some observers expected a higher decline in ad spend for 2020.

IAB has projected a 24% decline in traditional TV advertising spend for 2020 vs. 2019. Yet they see a big increase coming for connected TV advertising, which they estimate will growth at 19% year over year.

Many advertising networks and agencies are relieved to see what appears to be a strong V-shaped bounceback for most of the advertising industry in the U.S.

Nonetheless, traditional TV and traditional print advertising expenditures remain on secular downward trends. The Covid impact on the economy has added further pain to the already suffering traditional media outlets.

One senior ad tech executive, who was not authorized to speak to the press, said that the ad industry is definitely seeing a “V-shaped bounce back in the digital advertising business.” He continued, “Our third quarter advertising revenue this year will equal our 2019 third quarter revenue, which is remarkable.” He also expects the fourth quarter ad spend to be strong, perhaps beating last year’s fourth quarter. Traditionally the fourth quarter is the most important quarter of the advertising revenue year.

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TikTok, the Western social video app, from ByteDance, a major Chinese interactive entertainment company, has become a cause celebre with Donald Trump on one side wanting to ban TikTok, and others contending it is a restraint of free speech and an illegal action by the Trump Administration.

TikTok is the up and coming mobile video app that is growing rapidly in the U.S. and is hugely popular in India and other countries around the world. TikTok has also been recently banned by the Indian Government, in part due to the border tension between China and India.

Due to the Trump Administration’s action against TikTok, ByteDance has been in discussions with Microsoft, Oracle and others, such as Walmart, who has confirmed they are discussing the deal with Microsoft.

TikTok is all about super short video. Another major competitor in the short video digital world is Quibi which launched earlier this year, at a price tag of $4.99 or $7.99 a month, with or without ads respectively.

Quibi received close to $2 billion in financial backing, and was founded by Jeffrey Katzenberg who is Chairman. Katzenberg is well-known in Hollywood as an entertainment and creative success, having co-founded DreamWorks SKG, as well as being the past CEO of DreamWorks Animation. Katzenberg was Chairman of Disney Studios for 10 very successful years before DreamWorks. Katzenberg

recruited Meg Whitman, the former CEO of eBay EBAY -5.3% and former Republican nominee for Governor of California in 2010, to be the CEO of Quibi.

TikTok and Quibi are both short-form, but otherwise these two companies are wildly different. Perhaps the most significant difference is how Quibi and TikTok differently define “short”. Let’s take a look at the key differences between TikTok and Quibi and consider how these differences have led to big success for TikTok, and failing fortunes for Quibi, which is rumored to be considering eliminating their subscription fee and becoming free.

Short-form: While Qubi defines short-form content as 10 minutes, about 100 million Americans have demonstrated with their deep engagement with TikTok, that they prefer truly short videos – no longer than 1 minute and often as short as 15 seconds. In today’s world with multi-tasking run rampant, multiple devices grabbing our attention, and the fast-paced tempo and “click-bait” of digital content, 10 minutes is not really short. Maybe for a senior citizen, but not for a member of the Z or Millennial Generations. Under the category of short hits of digital entertainment, TikTok is besting Quibi.

Pricing: Consumers have shown a deep affection for long-form TV and film content, including a willingness to pay for that content on services like Netflix NFLX -5% and Disney Plus, as well as the majority of American households that subscribe to traditional pay cable and satellite TV. But the advertising supported video content services, like YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, TikTok and others show the great affection of consumers for free content. In the realm of pricing, TikTok’s free content is beating out Quibi’s paid content.

Virality: TikTok makes it super easy to share a video you like (or made) with others by email, posting to Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, as well as Whats App, Twitter, Facebook Messenger, and text messaging. Yet, Quibi has spurned viral sharing opportunities. Similarly you can readily find TikTok content on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and other services where TikTok compilations have become top performing videos. Quibi’s content distribution strategy is focused on the Quibi app.

Authenticity vs. Stars: In many cases Quibi has followed the paradigm of traditional Hollywood with big budgets (by digital terms), known actors and famous writers. TikTok’s content is authentic,

refreshing, and relatable because it is created by your relative, your neighbor, or your buddies at school and work. TikTok takes the day for authentic content that appeals to Every-Person (the more modern version of the Everyman concept). Plus, TikTok content is free to make (for TikTok) while Quibi has expensive writing and production budgets for their content.

Additionally, TikTok content has something for everyone from travel and cooking to life hacks, workout tips, and of course, the famous TikTok challenges and dances. A unique type of content has also risen up on TikTok, what I call “intergenerational content”. Perhaps it is driven by the at-home scenario being lived by some many families during the Covid pandemic.

But whatever the reason, TikTok is a great place to find siblings goofing off together, kids and their parents acting out short-skits and interactions, and even a popular Grandma cooking with her grandson. Most TikTok accounts are registered to teens and young adults, but Mom and Dad, plus others from the older generations are hanging out on TikTok too.

When you consider these factors it is not surprising to see that TikTok is riding a tidal wave of consumer appeal, while Quibi is floundering.


We have all had so many virtual, digital experiences over the last six months since the Covid pandemic began to spread. For some people it was birthdays and weddings. For others it was conference meetings and seminars. For many it was school at one level or another. But there have also been many one-off events – normally big, in-person spectaculars. One great example is the political nominating conventions every four years, right up there (but nowhere near the ratings) with the Olympics, Presidential Inaugurations and other happy and sad events of mass appeal.

Right now the Democrats are having their first virtual, digital Convention, and many of the mainstream politicians probably will hanker to go back to the crowded stadiums and convention halls

of past conventions, with speeches only the home audience could hear because the noise from the convention floor rumbled in the background.

The pre-Covid conventions had the exciting (read this sarcastically) on-the-spot, man-in-the street interviews on the convention floor with roving correspondents in search of intrigue, gossip and breaking news. It was just boring TV with limited production quality, and a bunch of “talking heads.”

The ratings for the political conventions has been spotty over the years. The networks continue to reduce their live coverage of what used to be “gavel to gavel” broadcasts, but the many digital platforms have more than made up for it. Different numbers will be reported over the next few days in terms of TV viewers of the Democratic Convention, as well as the many digital viewers, but it seems that the total number of Americans tuning into this digital convention, across all platforms and outlets, was substantial, almost 50 million Americans. Undoubtedly some people used more than one platform to view the convention at different times throughout the night.

How will consumers feel about this new, digital, distributed approach to a convention that is highly produced, with hundreds of real folks in their real homes watching, applauding and chiming in about their man for President? We have been subjected to long, boring, droning preambles by the leader of each State’s delegates when they cast their votes for the “next President of the United

States,” ever since the first TV broadcast of a national political nominating convention in 1940. But now each State’s delegates appear remotely in some beautiful, special, or dramatic “made for TV” setting and concisely herald their soon to be nominee, as they cast their votes.

This new style convention, this virtual , digital convention seems to me to be “better TV” than the old

live broadcast of a stuffy gathering of white men, smoking cigars, and making side deals to nominate the next President. The smoke-filled rooms were real and the press, be it print, TV or digital, has covered the intrigue and inside maneuvering of each political party and their leaders with the sort of detail that only an army of reporters could produce.

But the intrigue is rare, if not entirely nonexistent in the modern, traditional convention today. The nominating rules of both major political parties rarely result in a “brokered” convention (a nicer way of saying the end result of horse-trading), because the Presidential nominee has entered the convention with a clear majority every single time since 1980 and many times before then. So perhaps the old style convention is dead, not just because of Covid, but because it was boring TV and in the end just a long, poorly produced advertisement for the candidate of each party.

Today’s virtual convention is also an advertisement for the candidate of choice, but it is more than that. The Democratic Digital Convention is also good TV. The live speeches were well produced, perfectly delivered, and you could hear them without the roar of a raucous crowd not paying attention to the speaker.

Many conventions have presented produced video stories of 5-10 minutes to push their candidate, often used in order to introduce the candidates or their spouses. But to me something more authentic, a bit more “from the home and the heart” came across in the digitally streamed speeches (practiced untold times no doubt) from various meaningful locales, like Dr. Jill Biden delivering a speech from one of her old classrooms from her days as a teacher in Delaware. It may not have made you cry, but it felt more real to me than the crowded, awkward hand-holding and waving of candidates and their wives from the podium of a large, noisy convention hall.

I also thought the many “zoomed-in” appearances of regular people (not the delegates who are often political hacks, junkies and activists who I doubt the average American feels much in common with) were fun and brought home the national nature of a political nominating convention, perhaps more so than seeing all the States’ placards in a central convention hall. Here, in this digital convention, we had hundreds of Americans waving and applauding, almost as if they were sitting next to me, or at least in the apartment down the hall. I wrote about this “bring in the people” production technique when it was used in the NFL Digital Draft back in April. In both cases it made these “reality TV shows” more real.

For almost 90 years political conventions have heralded their nominees’ acceptance speeches with a huge ballon drop (when they work) showering everyone with red, white and blue balloons. The balloon drop started in 1932and I am sure for many old-timers it won’t be the same when the emoji style balloons of every color, shape and size come floating across the viewers’ TV, phone or computer screens. But for many others it will make us feel right at home – just like we were on Facebook or TikTok.

The national political conventions this year are social media styled, reality TV shows brought to you by Covid. Coming August 24 we can see how the Republicans produce their digital, virtual convention and we will see what kind of digital drama will be presented by the leaders of the Republican party and the incumbent President of the United States. It could be very interesting. Both the party and their nominee know a little bit about TV (again read sarcasm).

The leaders of these campaigns know that this year the TV production is going to be different and they both want to nail a great show. “We are producing a digital convention, and people are watching,” T.J. Ducklo of USA Today, tweeted.

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ByteDance, the owner of TikTok, is building its business in many markets around the world where TikTok has been expanding and gaining a lot of traction, such as India and the U.S.

TechCrunch has recently reported that ByteDance is considering an investment from Reliance Industries, Ltd., a huge Indian conglomerate active in many areas, including telecommunications/mobile phone services. Reliance operates Jio Platforms, a major telecommunications and digital services company, that has received investments recently from Facebook, as well as a major private equity firm, Silver Lake Partners. Reliance would specifically be backing the Indian operations of TikTok. This investment would presumably give Reliance a major position in TikTok.

In addition to President Trump’s executive orders seeking to ban TikTok and WeChat, TikTok has also been under the gun in India. Earlier this summer the Indian government banned TikTok, at the same time blocking dozens of other digital services, including WeChat, the hugely popular communications and social media platform that dominates the Chinese Internet.

Despite the ban, many Indians are circumventing the government’s blockade of TikTok, by accessing the Internet through a VPN, or virtual private network, which allows someone to browse the Web and download apps without their true geographic location being detected, as well as providing other privacy benefits.

The Indian government indicated the ban was instituted to protect national security and due to concerns about data privacy for Indian users of TikTok. ByteDance and TikTok have repeatedly assured governments and consumers that the data from TikTok’s users is secure and not shared with the Chinese government.

India is a very important market to China, and is reported to be the second biggest market, after China, for TikTok, with over 200 million users. ByteDance is being smart about not just looking for investments from local companies in the markets where TikTok competes, but searching for investments from corporations, in key countries where they operate. A similar strategy has been used for decades by U.S. and European companies seeking business in China, Japan and the Middle East.

ByteDance shows with the Reliance discussions that they know it is smart to seek partnerships with local companies that have major influence in their markets and have earned great respect in their countries, such as Reliance in India. These investments represent not just the international nature of Internet businesses, but also show that ByteDance wants to be a true international company.

TikTok has many competitors that are positioning to take advantage of the TikTok bans in India and the U.S. These companies include Dubsmash and Triller, as well as Reels, recently launched by Instagram, which is owned by Facebook. Clearly a lot of companies want to compete in the world of user generated videos online.

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In the midst of a major economic recession, disputes in Washington over further relief payments to Americans, issues of racial injustice, and other important national and international issues, a huge number of Americans (reportedly 100 million) are now faced with a new challenge – the possible banning of Tik Tok which has become very popular in the U.S. over the last year, particularly in the 13 to 34 age groups. Forbes senior editor, Abram Brown, wrote an interesting article recently about the possible motivations for President Trump to want to ban Tik Tok.

Most of the discussion about Tik Tok lately has been around the fear of possible Chinese use of Tik Tok for espionage or privacy/security infringements. Tik Tok is owned by ByteDance, a Chinese-based company.

No one seems to be asking the question, who is going to be most affected by the threatened shutdown of Tik Tok in the U.S., which, of course, are the users of Tik Tok in America. Tik Tok works very hard to support the creators on the app and have launched a $200 million program to fund work by Tik Tok creators. This announcement was received positively by creators and the whole industry that has grown up around them, often called the Creator Economy. Avi Gandhi, Executive Vice President at Wheelhouse, an agency that works closely with influencers/creators said, “We work with a number of creators with major presences on Tik Tok. What we consistently see and hear is that they’re eager to do more for their fans, but can be bottlenecked by resources.”

I recently conducted a national online survey where we see that for the purpose of viewing free digital video, across the entire U.S. adult population, YouTube and Facebook dominate. But when you look at the population of those 18 to 34 years old, you see that Tik Tok has become very popular with a usage number equal to Snapchat, below Instagram, and ahead of Twitter.

Instagram is still the “one to beat” in the 18-34 year old group of video viewers online. And now Instagram is releasing Reels, a direct competitor to TikTok. Instagram is owned by Facebook, who continues to have the highest number of consumers in the 18 to 34 year old age group of any digital service presenting free online video. There are other TikTok competitors, such as Triller who recently raised $200 million and is supported by a number of the major music companies. Triller has reached the top of the App Storein many countries recently. Many TikTok creators have alerted their viewers on TikTok to the possible ban of TikTok in the U.S. and referred their viewers to their other social media outlets, such as Instagram, YouTube, Triller and others.

Because Reel is part of the Instagram app and because of the reach of their parent company, Facebook, it is evident, and already happening, that many consumers are going to download Reel. Between Triller and Instagram Reels, not to mention Lickee, TikTok has plenty of people waiting to step into their shoes, or prepared to compete directly with TikTok.

Tik Tok users are super happy with the content at Tik Tok and presumably will be quite unhappy if the app is banned. When asked to rate their satisfaction with the various digital services consumers use to view video, the viewers of Tik Tok were the most satisfied among the consumers of any of the free digital video services.

I reached out directly to Kevin Mayer, the newly appointed CEO of Tik Tok, and former head of Disney DIS +3.3%’s Direct to Consumer and International groups. Mr. Mayer said in a statement, “Tik Tok lets hundreds of millions of people across the US and around the world experience new ideas and find their voice through short, immersive, expressive videos. It’s truly inspiring to see how our users form communities and connect through this platform, and we are dedicated to continuing to provide a fun and safe experience for them to show their creativity and engage with entertaining content.”

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As people spend more time at home as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, various television and video services have reported that consumer usage has grown considerably over the past five months. I recently found in a national online survey of the U.S. adult population, that 20% of people report they are watching more Internet video as a result of the Covid pandemic stay at home situation. Nearly 40% of the U.S. say they are watching more TV programs, presumably across traditional broadcast, cable and digital VOD services.

YouTube is the granddaddy of Internet video. In the industry we use to call videos made by “amateurs” user generated content. Now it is referred to as Influencer content or Creator content. In fact, the entire ecosystem around digital video has flourished with some amateurs, who are YouTube creators, making millions of dollars in advertising and endorsements. Many others are making less money, but still enough to be called something more like a “professional” than an amateur.

YouTube has risen from a small site where people made silly videos with cats and dogs, to a powerhouse of the digital video world. In the U.S. more consumers report using YouTube for consuming free digital video than any other digital service.

Users of YouTube are very happy with the job that YouTube does – almost 80% say they are satisfied or very satisfied with YouTube.

YouTube sells subscriptions to TV services, but it is known for “free” video, first and foremost. Now subscriptions are being sold by individual creators/influencers on YouTube to their loyal fans, as reported by Bloomberg. Big Jet TV was featured by Bloomberg as an example of new alternative business models for YouTube video creators. Their channel offers two levels of paid subscription – “first class” and “super class” ($4.99 or $19.99 a month, respectively) which provides subscribers with exclusive content from Big Jet and other benefits. Big Jet reports making almost $20,000 a month from subscriptions. YouTube gets 30% of that revenue. Certainly with downward pressure on advertising revenue during this Covid recession, alternatives to advertising will be important to YouTube and to YouTube’s creators.

While advertising is the primary source of revenue for YouTube creators, Bloomberg reported that in April of this year 80,000 channels earned money on YouTube from alternative sources, up 20% from the previous month. According to Neal Mohan, YouTube’s chief product officer, “It’s important for our creators to have a diversified portfolio,” of revenue sources.

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