Brands Brief: Walmart Raises Minimum Age for Gun Purchases to 21

Top Stories

  • Walmart said it will sell guns and ammunition only to people age 21 or older amid a public push to tighten regulations after the Feb. 14 shooting at a Florida high school that killed 17 people. Walmart said it has not sold “modern sporting rifles” — such as the kind used by the Florida shooter — since 2015, but it will remove items from its website “resembling assault-style rifles, including nonlethal airsoft guns and toys.” (CNN)
  • Music-streaming service Spotify, which has been valued as highly as $23 billion in private trading, filed to trade on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol SPOT. Spotify, which has 159 million active users, including 71 million who pay for subscriptions, is pursuing a direct listing of its shares, a process in which no new stock is issued and no money is raised, but one that allows existing investors to trade their shares on the open market. (The New York Times)
  • Some of YouTube’s new moderators mistakenly removed several videos and some entire channels from right-wing, pro-gun video producers in the wake of the Feb. 14 school shooting in Parkland, Fla. In December, the Google division had said it would assign more than 10,000 people to moderate misleading or extreme content on the video site, and a YouTube spokeswoman said that rapid hiring for policy enforcement teams may have resulted in newer members misapplying YouTube policies. (Bloomberg)

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A data-driven look at the future of mobility

An exclusive look at new survey research data that explores consumer receptivity to auto industry innovations, including electric and self-driving cars, energy sources, and even auto insurance.


WPP Shares Plunge as Digital Assault Roils Advertising Industry
Nick Kostov, The Wall Street Journal

WPP shares tumbled 14% Thursday after the company logged its worst year since the financial crisis and forecast no growth for 2018, the latest sign of how advertising’s digital revolution is roiling the industry. In response, the world’s largest ad company said it is simplifying its unwieldy structure, accelerating its development from a group of individual companies to a “cohesive global team.”

NBCUniversal networks will reduce the number of ads they carry by 20%
Stephen Battaglio, Los Angeles Times

NBCUniversal is cutting the number of commercials it will run across its broadcast and cable networks next season in the hope that advertisers will pay more for them. The move announced Wednesday is an apparent response to the changing habits of viewers who are spending more time streaming video content online from Netflix, Amazon and other services that can be watched commercial-free.

Snapchat takes a flexible approach to how advertising is sold in its shows
Sahil Patel, Digiday

Snapchat has chosen to take a flexible approach to how Snapchat shows make money. In some cases, that means partners taking the lead in sales; in others, Snapchat does.

Media and Entertainment

Spotify Files to Go Public on the New York Stock Exchange
Ben Sisario, The New York Times

Spotify on Wednesday filed a prospectus for its listing on the New York Stock Exchange, an indication of the imminent arrival of one of the most anticipated technology stocks in years, and a sign of the maturation of the streaming market that has turned around the long-struggling music industry. The filing states that Spotify’s shares will be traded under the ticker symbol SPOT, but gives no indication of timing.

Sky Q is getting Spotify, Netflix, and HDR support
Tom Warren, The Verge

British Satellite TV broadcaster Sky is unveiling a number of new improvements to its Sky Q service this week. Spotify will launch on Sky Q in the UK and Ireland in the spring, and like other third-party apps it will be integrated into the Sky Q interface for quick access to songs and playlists.

Ed Sheeran’s Megahit Makes Case for Record Labels in Spotify Era
Lucas Shaw, Bloomberg

Max Lousada was on a mission to launch Ed Sheeran into music’s stratosphere. The pop artist was about to release his third album in early 2017, and it fell to the Warner Music team led by Lousada to make the collection Sheeran’s biggest yet.

Viacom Plots Launch of Streaming Service
Brian Steinberg, Variety

Viacom, which has been in turnaround mode for a few years, is seeing new paths toward growth, according to its top executive. Bob Bakish, who has been CEO of the New York entertainment conglomerate for the past 14 months, said the company is planning a new over-the-top streaming product that will seek to make use of thousands of hours of Viacom’s “library product” and advertising, he said during a briefing at an investor conference organized by Morgan Stanley.

CNN vs. Fox: Why these two cable networks can’t stop talking about each other
Paul Farhi, The Washington Post

When a young survivor of the Parkland, Fla., school shooting accused CNN of trying to “script” his questions for its town-hall-style telecast last week, Fox News’s opinionated hosts Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham jumped on the story. Carlson interviewed the teenager, Colton Haab, on his prime-time program, and expressed amazement at CNN’s supposed attempt to manipulate him: “It’s shocking to us, too, trust me, in the actual journalism business.”

PBS launching new conservative political talk show
David Bauder, The Associated Press

Columnist Michael Gerson and commentator Amy Holmes are teaming to start a conservative-oriented talk show on PBS that takes its cue from William F. Buckley’s “Firing Line,” which aired from 1966 to 1999. The new show, “In Principle,” will air Friday nights starting April 13.

Vogue, Vice put editorial collaboration on hold
Lucia Moses, Digiday

Vogue and Vice are indefinitely delaying their editorial collaboration. Sources suggested the decision was led by Vogue, although Vogue and Vice announced the decision in a joint statement that read: “Both Vogue and Vice are committed to creating the most relevant, innovative content experiences for audiences, and at this time, have mutually decided to delay their content collaboration.”

Young Harvey Weinstein: The Making of a Monster
Scott Johnson and Stephen Galloway, The Hollywood Reporter

Long before he was a Miramax movie mogul, Weinstein was an “artsy-fartsy” student, a savvy concert promoter and, it turns out, a budding abuser and sexual predator. The Hollywood Reporter retraces his moves in Queens and Buffalo and interviews dozens of former friends and associates to examine the formative years of Hollywood’s most infamous figure.

Social Media and Technology

YouTube’s New Moderators Mistakenly Pull Right-Wing Channels
Mark Bergen, Bloomberg

YouTube’s new moderators, brought in to spot fake, misleading and extreme videos, stumbled in one of their first major tests, mistakenly removing some clips and channels in the midst of a nationwide debate on gun control. The Google division said in December it would assign more than 10,000 people to moderate content after a year of scandals over fake and inappropriate content on the world’s largest video site.

‘Bro Culture’ Led to Repeated Sexual Harassment, Former Google Engineer’s Lawsuit Says
Kate Conger, Gizmodo

Loretta Lee, a software engineer who worked at Google for seven years before being fired in February 2016, is suing Google for sexual harassment, discrimination, retaliation, and wrongful termination she says she experienced at the company. Lee says in her lawsuit that the company’s “bro-culture” led to continuous harassment and that Google did nothing to intervene.

Amazon, Apple Struggle to Sit Out NRA Gun-Control Debate
Spencer Soper and Selina Wang, Bloomberg

Gun-control activists are demanding that Inc. Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos do something he has carefully avoided: pick a side in a hot-button political debate.

Amazon will start selling UFC pay-per-view fights
Kurt Wagner, Recode

Amazon is taking another step closer to parity with the big cable providers: It inked a new deal with UFC to sell pay-per-view packages for the organization’s upcoming slate of weekend fights.

Your Love of Your Old Smartphone Is a Problem for Apple and Samsung
Timothy W. Martin and Drew FitzGerald, The Wall Street Journal

The smartphone industry has a culprit to blame for slumping sales: Its old devices remain too popular. Flashy phones of yesteryear, particularly Apple Inc.’s iPhones and Samsung Electronics Co.’s Galaxy S handsets, are getting refurbished, and U.S. consumers are snapping them up.

Live by the algorithm, die by the algorithm: How LittleThings went from social publishing darling to shutting down
Lucia Moses, Digiday

It was two years ago at the Cannes advertising spectacular, a week of peacocking, drinking and schmoozing on the French Riviera. And on a corner of the Daily Mail yacht, there was LittleThings, hosting a late-afternoon pick-me-up with hand massages and nail touch-ups, and, of course, rosé.

PR and Marketing

Walmart raises minimum age for firearm purchases to 21
Jackie Wattles, CNN

Walmart will only sell guns and ammunition to people over the age of 21 from now on. The company said in a statement Wednesday that it decided to review its firearm sales policy “in light of recent events.”

Dick’s Sporting Goods decided on assault-rifle ban after student protests and a meeting with nuns
Liz Moyer, CNBC

The groundwork for Wednesday’s announcement by Dick’s Sporting Goods that it will stop selling assault rifles in its stores started with a private conversation in January between company executives and a religion-affiliated investor group. Mercy Investment Services, a St. Louis-based money manager for the Sisters of Mercy, had filed a shareholder proposal with the sporting goods retailer in December that called on it to re-evaluate its policies regarding sales of assault rifle, promote restrictions on gun sales and make a few other considerations related to safety and sales practices.

How Defective Guns Became the Only Product That Can’t Be Recalled
Michael Smith and Polly Mosendz, Bloomberg

Thomas “Bud” Brown makes his way out the back door and stops a few steps to the right, raising a trembling arm, pointing at something. It’s where he found his boy slumped against the cold back wall of the house around 7:15 a.m. on the last day of 2016, bleeding out.

Best Buy plans to shut 250 small U.S. mobile phone stores
Nandita Bose, Reuters 

Best Buy Co Inc , the No. 1 U.S. consumer electronics retailer, on Wednesday said it will shut 250 small mobile phone stores in U.S. malls as it looks for ways to operate more profitably and turn around its business amid intense competition. The stores, which contributed just over 1 percent to the company’s overall revenue and 1 percent to its overall square footage, will be shut effective May 31.

Pizza Hut signs sponsorship deal with NFL
Darren Rovell, ESPN

Less than 14 hours after Papa John’s announced it had prematurely ended its sponsorship as the official pizza of the NFL, the league announced its replacement: Pizza Hut. Financial terms of the deal were not revealed, but sources say it extends beyond the original Papa John’s deal, which was contracted to run through the 2020 season.

At KFC’s UK restaurants, it’s not all gravy
Martinne Geller and Lisa Baertlein, Reuters

Yum Brands Inc said on Wednesday it is offering limited menus at its reopened UK KFC restaurants after a chicken supply snafu with a new delivery firm, but now there is a gravy shortage. The crisis in the UK market that accounted for roughly 3 percent of Yum’s global system sales in 2017 comes as a business turnaround at the fried chicken chain was taking hold.

Opinions, Editorials, Perspectives and Research

Here’s why #BoycottTheNRA worked so quickly
Jason Miklian and Jennifer Oetzel, The Washington Post

After the tragic Valentine’s Day shooting of 17 people at a high school in Parkland, Fla., survivors, advocates and businesses quickly worked together to press for social change. On Feb. 20, #BoycottTheNRA started trending on Twitter, as progressive website Think Progress encouraged consumers to abandon companies offering deals to National Rifle Association members; Parkland high school students amplified the message.

Spotify Was a Terrible Business. Then the Record Labels Stepped In.
Shira Ovide, Bloomberg

Spotify may have saved the record labels. But the record labels saved Spotify, too.

Sky Is the Limit in Battle for Sky
Stephen Wilmot, The Wall Street Journal

How high could Sky stock go in a bidding war between Walt Disney Co. and Comcast Corp.? Valuation fundamentals are a poor guide when big-picture strategy meets asset scarcity.

Stop Blaming Russian Bots For Everything
Miriam Elder and Charlie Warzel, BuzzFeed News

By now you know the drill: massive news event happens, journalists scramble to figure out what’s going on, and within a couple hours the culprit is found — Russian bots. Russian bots were blamed for driving attention to the Nunes memo, a Republican-authored document on the Trump-Russia probe.