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The Multi-Billion Dollar Industry That Makes Its Living From Your Data

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The Multi-Billion Dollar Personal Data Ecosystem

The Multi-Billion Dollar Industry That Makes Its Living From Your Data

In the ocean ecosystem, plankton is the raw material that fuels an entire food chain. These tiny organisms on their own aren’t that remarkable, but en masse, they have a huge impact on the world.

Here on dry land, the massive volume of content and meta data we produce fuels a marketing research industry that is worth nearly $50 billion. Every instant message, page click, and step you take now produces a data point that can be used to build a detailed profile of who you are.

Every breath you take, Every move you make

The coarse-grained demographics and contact information of yesteryear seems quaint compared to today’s sophisticated data collection battleground. In the past, marketers would make judgement calls on your likely income and family structure based on where you lived, and you’d receive “targeted” mail and calls from telemarketers. Loyalty programs and the emergence of web analytics pushed things a little further.

Today, the steady march of technological advancement has created a vast data collection empire that measures every aspect of your digital life and, increasingly, your offline life as well. Facebook alone uses nearly one hundred data points to target ads to you – everything from your marital status to whether you’ve been on vacation lately or not. Telecoms have access to extremely detailed information on your location. Apple has biometric data.

Also watching your every move are web trackers. “Cookie-syncing” is one of the sneaky ways advertisers can follow you around the internet. Basically, cookie-syncing allows third parties to share browsing information at such a large scale that even the NSA “piggybacks” off them for surveillance purposes.

The recent sales growth of smart speakers will only increase the breadth of data companies collect and analyze. Amazon and Google have both filed patents for technology that would essentially allow them to mine audio recordings for keywords. Advertisers could potentially target you with diapers before your family and friends even know you’re expecting a baby.

Following the ones and zeros

While web trackers and companies like Apple and Google are collecting a lot of personal and behavioral data, it’s the whales of the data ecosystem – data brokers – who are creating increasingly detailed profiles on almost everyone.

Data brokers trade on the privacy of consumers and operate in the shadows.

– Senator Al Franken (D-Minn)

The goal of data brokers, such as Experian or Acxiom, is to siphon up as much personal data as possible and apply it to profiles. This data comes from a wide variety of sources. Your purchases, financial history, internet activity, and even psychographic attributes are mixed with information from public records to create a robust dossier. Digital profiles are then sorted into one of thousands of categories to help optimize advertising efforts.

Fear the shadow profile?

According to Pew Research, 91% of Americans “agree” or “strongly agree” that people have lost control over how personal information is collected and used.

Though optimizing clickthroughs is a big business, companies are increasingly moving beyond advertising to extract value from their growing data pipeline. Amalgamated data is increasingly being viewed as a clever way to assess risk in the decision-making process (e.g. hiring, insurance, loan or housing applications), and the stakes for consumers are going up in the process.

For example, a man may feel comfortable sharing their HIV status on Grindr (for practical reasons), but may not want that information going to a third party. (Unfortunately, that really happened.)

In 2015, Facebook filed a patent for a service that would help insurance companies vet people based on the credit ratings of their social network.

The More You Know

Below the surface of our screens, our digital profiles continue to take shape.

Measures like adjusting website privacy controls and clearing cookies are a good start, but that’s only a fraction of the data companies are collecting. Not only do data brokers make it hard to officially opt out, their partnerships with corporations and advanced data collection methods cast such a wide net, that it’s almost impossible to exclude individual people.

Data brokers have operated with very little scrutiny or oversight, but that may be changing. Under intense public and governmental pressure, Facebook recently cut ties with data brokers. For a company that has bullishly pursued monetization of user data at every turn, the move is a sign that the public sentiment is changing.

The more information on the personal data industry, visit Cracked Labs’ report on the issue.

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Who Owns Your Favorite News Media Outlet?

A revealing look at consolidation and ownership of news media outlets in the United States. See who owns news media, and where ‘news deserts’ exist.

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who owns U.S. news media outlets

Who Owns Your Favorite News Media Outlet?

It’s no secret that news media is a tough industry.

For various reasons — from tech disruption to changing media consumption habits — the U.S. has seen a net loss of 1,800 local newspapers over the past 15 years. As regional newspapers are bundled together, and venture-backed digital media brands expand their portfolios, the end result is a trend towards increased consolidation.

Today’s graphic, created by TitleMax, is a broad look at who owns U.S. news media outlets.

Escaping the News Desert

As outlets battle the duopoly of Google and Facebook for advertising revenue, the local news game has become increasingly difficult.

As a result, news deserts have been springing up all over America:

What happens when times get tough?

One option is to simply go out of business, while another traditional solution is to combine forces through consolidation. While not ideal, the latter option at least provides a potential route to revenue and cost synergies that make it easier to compete in a challenging environment.

Nation of Consolidation

Though the numbers have decreased in recent years, regional news media still reaches millions of people each day.

Below is a look at the top 20 owners of America’s newspapers:

Parent CompaniesTotal PapersExample brands
New Media Investment Group451Patriot Ledger, The Columbus Dispatch, The Providence Journal
Gannett216USA Today, Detroit Free Press, Arizona Republic
Digital First Media158Oakland Tribune, San Jose Mercury News, Denver Post
Adams Publishing Group144The Charlotte Sun, Wyoming Tribune-Eagle
CNHI114Niagara Gazette, The Huntsville Item, The Lebanon Reporter
Lee Enterprises100Arizona Daily Sun, St. Louis Post Dispatch
Ogden Newspapers81The Maui News, The Toledo Chronicle, Salem News
Tribune Publishing77Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, The Baltimore Sun
Berkshire Hathaway Media75Buffalo News, Winston-Salem Journal, Omaha World-Herald
Shaw Media71Suburban Life Magazine, Putnam County Record
Boone Newspapers66The Austin Daily Herald, The Charlotte Gazette
Hearst Corp.66San Francisco Chronicle, Seattlepi.com, Houston Chronicle
Paxton Media Group58Daily Corinthian, Connersville News-Examiner
Landmark Media Enterprises55Citrus County Chronicle, The News-Enterprise
Community Media Group51Lafayette Leader, The Wellsboro Gazette
AIM Media50Odessa American, El Nuevo Heraldo
McClatchy49Idaho Statesman, Miami Herald, The Sacramento Bee
Advance Publications46The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Wired, The Oregonian, NJ.com
Rust Communications44Cherokee Chronicle Times, Southeast Missourian
News Media Corp.43Cheyenne Minuteman, Brookings Register, Newport News Times

Source

Turnover in this segment of the market has been brisk. In fact, more than half of existing newspapers have changed ownership in the past 15 years, some multiple times. For example, the LA Times is now in the hands of its third owner since 2000, after being purchased by billionaire biotech investor Patrick Soon-Shiong.

The industry may be facing another dramatic drop off in ownership diversity as the two largest players, New Media Investment Group and Gannett, are on the path to merging. If shareholders give the thumbs-up during the vote this November, Gannett will have amassed the largest online audience of any American news provider.

The Flying Vs: Vox and Vice

It isn’t just regional papers being swept up in the latest round of mergers and acquisitions — new media is getting into the mix as well.

Vox Media recently inked a deal to acquire New York Media, the firm behind New York Magazine, Vulture, and The Cut.

I think you’re going to see that trend [of consolidation] across the industry. I just hope it’s done for the right reasons. You see too many of these things done for financial engineering.

– Jim Bankoff, CEO of Vox Media

Meanwhile, Vice recently acquired Refinery29 for $400 million, giving it access to a new audience skewed towards millennial women. This match-up seems awkward on the surface, but it allows advertisers to reach a broader cross-section of people within each ad ecosystem.

Both companies announced layoffs in the past year, and this restructuring may help both companies win as they consolidate resources.

The Bottom Line

While news media isn’t quite as consolidated as the broader media ecosystem, it’s certainly trending in that direction. Thousands of American communities that had local newspapers in 2004 now have no news coverage at all, while remaining papers are increasingly becoming units within an umbrella company, with no direct stake in community reporting.

That said, until the issue of monetization is definitively sorted out, consolidation may be the only way to keep the presses from stopping.


About the Graphic

This list of top 100 news sites was compiled using the following criteria:

– The top “digital-native” news outlets by monthly unique visitors (Pew Research and ComScore, excluding sports)
– The top newspapers by average Sunday circulation (Pew Research and Alliance for Audited Media)
– Alexa’s top sites under the category of news (U.S. only, excluding user-generated)

Note: The graphic has been updated to reflect changes in ownership for Refinery29, Gizmodo, and Jezebel.

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How the eSports Industry Fares Against Traditional Sports

eSports has evolved into a billion dollar industry in just a decade, but how does it fare against traditional sports when it comes to monetization?

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How the eSports Industry Fares Against Traditional Sports

In just a decade, electronic sports (eSports) has evolved from an underground culture into a mainstream industry worth billions of dollars today.

The industry is growing at an explosive rate, and with major tech giants like Amazon and Google vying for a piece of the pie, the future of this industry is an exciting one.

It’s no surprise that eSports is often compared to its predecessor, traditional sports. However, eSports certainly has none of the typical confines of a traditional sport—so how does it compare in terms of audience size, market potential, and revenue?

An Equal Playing Field?

eSports is an umbrella term for competitions played on electronic systems, typically by professional video gamers—with the first competition dating back to 1972.

The 16 to 24-year-old audience has increased by 60% since 2017, fueling the rapid growth of this emerging industry. The global audience is expected to grow to 276 million by 2022, with League of Legends tournaments often boasting a higher viewership than some of the biggest U.S. leagues:

Cumulative Viewership (2017 finals)

  • NFL Super Bowl: 124 million viewers
  • League of Legends: 58 million viewers
  • MLB World Series: 38 million viewers
  • NBA Finals: 32 million viewers
  • NHL Stanley Cup Finals: 11 million viewers

While viewership can surpass that of well-known professional leagues, it doesn’t yet stack up in terms of monetization. That said, this aspect is now increasing enough to be seen as a threat to more traditional leagues.

How Much is eSports Worth?

According to Goldman Sachs, eSports will exceed $1 billion in revenue in 2019, and reach $3 billion by 2022. eSports creates the foundation for an entire ecosystem of opportunities, which include live-streaming, game development, player fanbases, and brand investments for sponsorship and advertising—where 82% of revenue currently comes from.

Although eSports under-indexes on monetization relative to the size of its audience, there is a huge opportunity for it to close the gap, given the predicted 35% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) for total eSports revenue between 2017 and 2022.

Getting Attention from the World’s Biggest Players

The success of eSports tournaments is attributed to live-streaming platforms. Amazon’s purchase of leading video-streaming site, Twitch, allowed Amazon to tap into the rapidly growing eSports audience, along with other live-streaming opportunities. Since the acquisition in 2014, the number of average viewers has doubled to 15 million, half of YouTube’s daily viewership.

Google, which lost the bidding war for Twitch, has recently made its own big move into gaming with cloud gaming service Google Stadia. Ultimately, the company hopes it will help keep live-streamers on YouTube instead of competing platforms.

The Future of eSports

Over time, eSports will tap into bigger advertising budgets, and reach national, regional, and global levels, as traditional sports are able to. eSports will also be a medal event in the 2022 Asian Games, which could pave the way for full Olympic status.

As a whole, eSports is starting to seriously compete with the big leagues. With a massive worldwide appeal, passionate fans, and billion-dollar revenues, the industry is only beginning to take flight.

The debate however, is not around the battle between eSports and traditional sports. It is around the shift to celebrating a culture that is completely virtual, over one that is physical—which has much bigger implications.

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