Brands Brief: Shopping Malls Return to Their Roots Amid Shifting Consumer Expectations

Top Stories

  • While recent reports paint a gloomy outlook for U.S. shopping malls, those developments don’t portend the imminent death of malls, according to industry experts who say it’s more that the retail industry is correcting itself in a country that built too many retail centers over the past few decades. And as consumers’ expectations of the retail experience are shifting, many malls are finding new life by returning their roots as community hubs. (Morning Consult)
  • Vox Media is laying off about 50 people, primarily in its Racked, Curbed, SB Nation and Video Services teams as it pivots away from a focus on video. Chief Executive Jim Bankoff said in a staff email announcing the cuts that although the company’s native social video was “growing successfully,” leadership decided it wouldn’t be “viable audience or revenue growth drivers for us relative to other investments we are making.” (BuzzFeed News)
  • Ford’s president of North America, Raj Nair, is leaving the company after an internal investigation found that “certain behavior” by Nair violated Ford’s code of conduct. Nair, who joined the company in 1987 and took the lead of its North American division in June 2017, said in a statement that he regretted instances when he had “not exhibited leadership behaviors” consistent with Ford’s principles. (CNN)
  • Sexual misconduct allegations against casino magnate Steve Wynn were followed by increased negative perceptions of Wynn Resorts among U.S. consumers, according to recent polling. Unfavorable views of the company rose 7 percentage points among U.S. adults overall after a news report last month detailed the allegations, while negative views among liberals climbed to 22 percent from 6 percent. (Morning Consult)

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Events Calendar (All Times Local)

Digiday Retail Summit 7 a.m.
Digital Summit Phoenix 8:30 a.m.
Technology Policy Institute event on the economics and policy implications of AI 8:45 a.m.
Philadelphia Tech Summit 9:40 a.m.
Wisdom 2.0 summit 7 p.m.
2018 AMA Winter Academic Conference 8 a.m.
Wisdom 2.0 summit 8 a.m.
Digiday Retail Summit 8:30 a.m.

New Report: How Americans & Investors Are Reacting To Market Volatility

Recent tumult in the stock market has triggered a wave of concerns about investor confidence and the possibility of sustained downturn. To provide a better understanding of the real-time reaction to this volatility, Morning Consult conducted a comprehensive survey of both consumers and market investors. See the full report.


Google Debuts Adsense ‘Auto Ads’ For Publishers
George Slefo, Advertising Age

Google on Wednesday offered web publishers an optional update to its AdSense system that it says uses machine learning to choose the best ads to display and the best places to put them—even areas where there were no ads before. “Place one piece of code just once to all of your pages and let Google take care of the rest,” the company says in a blog post pitching the update, called Auto ads.

AT&T And Bayer Bet On Blockchain To Tame Digital Advertising
James Hercher, Adexchanger

Major brands like AT&T and Bayer are on a crusade to bring transparency back to the digital media supply chain – and are hoping the blockchain-based solutions they’re testing can be an answer. “Who specifically are those tech providers [in the supply chain] and how much of a fee are they assessing to my working media dollars?” said Mark Wright, VP of media services and sponsorships at AT&T.

Gannett hungers for growth as print advertising collapses
John Glenday, The Drum

Gannett, publisher of USA Today, has racked up losses of $13.6m over the fourth quarter despite beating analysts’ expectations for earnings and revenue, driven south by a continued collapse in print revenues. This contrasts unfavourably with a $24.6m profit over the same period a year ago as revenues slipped from $866.9m to $854.2m on the back of a further 18.5% year-on-year collapse in print advertising, eclipsing a 7.3% rise in digital advertising.

Fox Plans Media-Industry Summit to Fix Advertising Challenges
Brian Steinberg, Variety

Add Fox Networks Group to the list of TV companies trying to get Madison Avenue talking about major potholes in its road. The unit of 21st Century Fox, controlled by Rupert Murdoch and his family, will on March 1 convene a day-long, off-the-record meeting on the lot of the company’s 20th Century Fox studio.

Media and Entertainment

Vox Media Hit With Large Round Of Layoffs
Julia Reinstein, BuzzFeed News

Vox Media is laying off around 50 people, its CEO Jim Bankoff announced Wednesday morning. Bankoff informed Vox Media staffers of the layoffs in an email Wednesday morning, which was obtained by BuzzFeed News.

The Atlantic Plans a Hiring Spree
Jaclyn Peiser, The New York Times

A media company is expanding its newsroom. You read that right.

Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Is Cutting More Jobs Across Newspaper Group
Katherine Chiglinsky and Noah Buhayar, Bloomberg

Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. is slimming down its newspaper empire with more job cuts. BH Media Group is reducing staff by 148 employees and not filling 101 vacant positions, representing a total of about 6 percent of its workforce, the company said Tuesday in a statement.

Sinclair Plans to Sell Tribune’s New York, Chicago TV Stations to Comply With FCC Ownership Limits
Cynthia Littleton, Variety

Sinclair Broadcast Group plans to sell Tribune Media’s TV stations in New York and Chicago to comply with FCC ownership limits if the $3.9 billion Sinclair-Tribune merger is approved by the FCC and Justice Department. Sinclair disclosed the plan to divest Tribune’s WPIX-TV New York, WGN-TV Chicago, and KSWB-TV San Diego in a lengthy FCC filing Wednesday that is expected to be the last step for the company before getting decisions from the Justice Department and FCC on the deal.

Disney workers accuse company of withholding their Trump tax-cut bonuses
Danielle Paquette, The Washington Post

The Disney World puppeteer had to miss his sister’s wedding in West Virginia. He had to skip his family reunion in the Dominican Republic.

At Straitlaced Disney, a Star Producer’s R-Rated Behavior Draws Complaints
Ben Fritz, The Wall Street Journal

After 30 years at Walt Disney Co., Tom Schumacher has become one of the most powerful and complicated people on Broadway as he established his employer as a dominant force in American theater. He reaches a new apex this Thursday when the “Frozen” musical, which he produced, begins playing on Broadway.

Social Media and Technology

The Making of a No. 1 YouTube Conspiracy Video After the Parkland Tragedy
John Herrman, The New York Times

YouTube’s list of “Trending” videos typically includes funny clips, updates from popular YouTube personalities, movie trailers and viral TV segments. On Wednesday, for a brief time, the No. 1 trending video on YouTube featured David Hogg, a survivor of the massacre last week at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. The caption claimed, falsely, that Mr. Hogg, 17, was not a student, but an “actor.”

Snapchat is enlisting more publishers to make video shows
Sahil Patel, Digiday

I want my Snap TV? Snapchat plans to double the amount of Snapchat video shows it releases this year to roughly 80 shows, including what could be its first serialized, scripted shows.

Twitter is (finally) cracking down on bots
Jon Russell, TechCrunch

Twitter is cracking down on bots after it announced changes to its API that will massively reduce the impact of services that allow links and content to be shared across multiple accounts, i.e. the software that powers Twitter bots. So that means an end to services that let those controlling large numbers of accounts to batch tweet, follow users, retweet or like tweets.

Nobody Wants to Let Google Win the War for Maps All Over Again
Mark Bergen, Bloomberg

On any given day, there could be a half dozen autonomous cars mapping the same street corner in Silicon Valley. These cars, each from a different company, are all doing the same thing: building high-definition street maps, which may eventually serve as an on-board navigation guide for driverless vehicles.

BlackBerry Refuses to Give Up
Robert Klara, Adweek

On Oct. 20, 2011, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was aboard a C-17 Globemaster military plane bound for Libya. While waiting for takeoff, Clinton—wearing a pair of dark sunglasses—began pecking at her smartphone, her face a mask of determination.

PR and Marketing

To Survive a Challenging Future, Shopping Malls Look to the Past
Joanna Piacenza, Morning Consult

For years, many analysts in the retail and commercial real estate sector have predicted the death of U.S. shopping malls. But a closer look at recent industry data shows that despite sweeping closures and thinning foot traffic, malls are far from dead.

Ford’s president of North America is out over ‘inappropriate behavior’

Raj Nair, Ford’s president of North America, is out after an internal investigation into reports of “inappropriate behavior.”He’ll leave the company immediately, Ford said Wednesday.

Wynn Allegations Hurt Brand Standing, But Experts Say Long-Term Impact Unlikely
Edward Graham, Morning Consult

Sexual misconduct allegations against casino magnate Steve Wynn increased some U.S. adults’ negative perceptions of Wynn Resorts, Morning Consult Brand Intelligence shows. But experts suggest damage to the Las Vegas-based company’s reputation could be limited.

Why Priceline Group Is Changing Its Name to Booking Holdings
Jonathan Vanian, Fortune

Say goodbye to The Priceline Group and hello to Booking Holdings. The online travel giant said Wednesday that it has changed its name to better reflect its businesses as as well as acknowledge the significance of its service, its biggest unit.

NY supermarket chain Tops files bankruptcy, cites debt and Amazon
Jonathan Stempel and Jessica DiNapoli, Reuters

The U.S. supermarket chain Tops Markets LLC filed for bankruptcy on Wednesday, saying an unsustainable debt load, falling food prices and stiff competition from Inc and other low-cost rivals forced it to reorganize.  Tops said it expects the 169 stores it operates in upstate New York, Pennsylvania and Vermont to remain open while it restructures under Chapter 11 of the U.S. bankruptcy code in White Plains, New York.

Activist calls on Bloomin’ Brands to spin off Outback Steakhouse, change up board
Sarah Whitten, CNBC

Activist investor Barington Capital is lobbying for changes at popular steak restaurant Outback Steakhouse. James Mitarotonda, CEO of the hedge fund, is calling on Bloomin’ Brands to spin off three of its smaller brands into a new company and let Outback stand on its own.

Toys R Us is in danger of breaching a covenant with its lenders
Lauren Hirsch, CNBC

Toys R Us is at risk of breaching a covenant on one of its loans, intensifying concerns about its ability to emerge from bankruptcy protection, sources familiar with the situation tell CNBC. The storied toy retailer secured a $3.1 billion loan from a group of lenders led by J.P. Morgan Chase prior to filing for bankruptcy protection.

How Jeffrey Immelt’s ‘Success Theater’ Masked the Rot at GE
Thomas Gryta et al., The Wall Street Journal

Jeffrey Immelt, the longtime boss at General Electric Co. was a polished presenter who held court each year at a waterfront resort off Sarasota, Fla., where industrial executives and Wall Street listened for his outlook on the conglomerate. “This is a strong, very strong company,” Mr. Immelt said at the event last May.

Opinions, Editorials, Perspectives and Research

How to fix Facebook: Make users pay for it
Roger McNamee, The Washington Post

The indictments brought by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III against 13 individuals and three organizations accused of interfering with the U.S. election offer perhaps the most powerful evidence yet that Facebook and its Instagram subsidiary are harming public health and democracy. The best option for the company — and for democracy — is for Facebook to change its business model from one based on advertising to a subscription service.

‘No Gay? No Way’ is wrong message on Amazon HQ2 decision
Ryan Roemerman and Bob Witeck, CNBC

Last fall, Amazon spurred a 21st Century gold rush by inviting every U.S. city and state to bid for their second corporate headquarters. Who could resist the economic genie promising thousands of jobs and potential billions in revenues?

Why the GDPR Is Actually a Good Thing for Brands
Peter Reinhardt, Adweek

In less than four months, the European Union data regulator will begin enforcing the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) to strengthen the security and protection of EU residents’ personal data. Companies that don’t comply with the GDPR not only risk losing their customers’ trust, but they could also face fines of €20 million or 4 percent of global annual revenue.