'The market feels very polarized': Some publishers still feel optimistic despite a brutal month of media layoffs

I talked to a range of publishers at the Digital Content Next summit in Orlando, Florida, a gathering of premium media companies.

And while there was a lot of doom and gloom in the air, with last week’s layoffs that swept BuzzFeed, HuffPost, and others in the industry, the outlook wasn’t all bad. As consolidation threatens some companies, others see pockets of opportunity.

Here’s what people said in off-stage conversations:

There’s opportunity for trusted brands

Publisher frustration is running high with advertisers continuing to spend on Facebook, as evidenced by its fourth-quarter earnings, despite the steady drumbeat of measurement snafus and data scandals. Facebook, along with Google, has been gobbling up most of the growth in digital advertising.

Read more: Advertisers are still pumping money into Facebook, even as the company is under fire over growing security and data concerns

But several also expressed optimism that trends would shift to their benefit.

This optimism was bolstered by the 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer, which showed a renewed interest by people in the news in 2018.

“Advertisers are paying more attention to where their brands are appearing,” said Daniel Hallac, chief product officer at New York Media.

Others took satisfaction in the fact that Facebook is increasingly being held to account by the press and European regulators and that the platform recently gave $300 million to support local news (even if that funding only amounts to “scraps from the table,” as another publishing exec put it).

“They’re actually beginning to be called out more,” the exec said of the press’ use of its megaphone to scrutinize Facebook. “It’s a powerful thing I think we forgot we could do.”

Subscriptions, other revenue lines

Publishers that have well-developed subscription businesses are better positioned because they aren’t relying solely on advertising to pay the bills.

New York Media, for one, just launched a paywall to supplement its commerce, advertising, and events revenue.

“There’s never been greater demand for content. People are looking for trusted sources of information, and the ones who will survive will be the premium, trusted brands,” Hallac said.

Still, publishers privately expressed concern that as more publishers throw up paywalls and membership programs, it’s getting harder for everyone to compete for what is seen as a finite amount of people’s time and money. Some publishers said they’ve noticed a marked increase in their peers discounting their subscription prices.

Diversified media companies are doing better

The headlines have been dominated by layoffs and fire sales for VC-backed digital media companies like BuzzFeed and Mic that scaled through cheap distribution on Facebook but failed to meet investors’ lofty expectations.

But that’s not the whole story. Todd Krizelman, CEO and cofounder of MediaRadar, said he sees a growing disparity among his clients in terms of ad revenue growth.

“The market feels very polarized,” Krizelman told Business Insider. “You have folks that missed investor expectations. A lot of folks are running out of money. The surviving class of folks, some of them are doing really well.”

Morgan DeBaun, cofounder of black media startup Blavity, said she’s optimistic despite the fate of other digital startups because Blavity took a diversified approach to revenue from the beginning, with ticketed and sponsored events.

The company also used newsletters to build its audience, which ensures a more loyal audience than one built on social media. It reaches a multicultural audience that isn’t served by other media; and has taken a cautious approach to fundraising and spending, she said.

The buying cycle is increasingly unpredictable

Still, a common concern is that media sellers can no longer count on advertisers to buy according to a predictable schedule. That makes it hard for sellers to know how much revenue they can count on. (It’s also the impetus behind a new predictive tool MediaRadar just rolled out that promises to help media sellers forecast when ad buyers will be in the market to spend.)

That uncertainty extends to native advertising, the ads that mimic straight editorial content. For many publishers, it’s the bedrock of their revenue strategy. But it’s become so popular that there’s a glut in supply for those types of ads, leading to pressure for media sellers to cut prices or compete harder.

Krizelman said in five years, publishers’ renewal rate has gone to 30% from 70% even though the volume has grown.

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Newegg's selling 3 'sweet spot' Radeon and GeForce graphics cards at killer prices

Today’s a good day to upgrade your graphics card without breaking the bank. Newegg is offering a trio of excellent deals on mainstream “sweet spot” AMD Radeon and Nvidia GeForce GPUs.

First up is a 6GB MSI GeForce GTX 1060 Gaming for $200 at Newegg FlashRemove non-product link after applying the promo code NEFPBC93 and receiving a $20 mail-in rebate. That works out to $220 upfront, which is a pretty good price in itself considering most 6GB GTX 1060 cards cost $240 or more. With the 6GB GTX 1060 you can expect no-compromises 1080p/60 frames per second gaming with all settings pushed to the max, and solid 1440p action at “High” settings. You’ll also get a bunch of Fortnite freebies with this card.

Next is the ASRock Phantom Gaming X Radeon RX 590 for $230Remove non-product link after a $20 mail-in rebate, so you’ll pay $250 upfront. The Radeon RX 590 only rolled out a month ago and was $60 more at the time, so this is a great price. The RX 590 is a cut above the GTX 1060. It’s the best graphics card you can buy for 1080p gaming, and it puts in a great showing at 1440p resolution too. Plus, you get three free games with your purchase: Resident Evil 2, Devil May Cry 5, and Tom Clancy’s The Division 2.

Finally, Newegg’s also selling the 8GB Sapphire Pulse Radeon RX 580 for $190Remove non-product link with the coupon code EMCTUVE25. This is where the tough decisions come in. At $190 this card is close to its Black Friday pricing, but for only $30 more after rebates you can get that faster Radeon RX 590. When we’re talking about regular pricing, the Radeon RX 580 offers better value overall with solid 60fps 1080p gaming and respectable 1440p performance. But if you can afford the Radeon RX 590 at its sale price, it’s the better deal. In addition to the card, the RX 580 comes with your choice of two free games from among the three mentioned above.

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Newegg's selling 3 'sweet spot' Radeon and GeForce graphics cards at killer prices

Today’s a good day to upgrade your graphics card without breaking the bank. Newegg is offering a trio of excellent deals on mainstream “sweet spot” AMD Radeon and Nvidia GeForce GPUs.

First up is a 6GB MSI GeForce GTX 1060 Gaming for $200 at Newegg FlashRemove non-product link after applying the promo code NEFPBC93 and receiving a $20 mail-in rebate. That works out to $220 upfront, which is a pretty good price in itself considering most 6GB GTX 1060 cards cost $240 or more. With the 6GB GTX 1060 you can expect no-compromises 1080p/60 frames per second gaming with all settings pushed to the max, and solid 1440p action at “High” settings. You’ll also get a bunch of Fortnite freebies with this card.

Next is the ASRock Phantom Gaming X Radeon RX 590 for $230Remove non-product link after a $20 mail-in rebate, so you’ll pay $250 upfront. The Radeon RX 590 only rolled out a month ago and was $60 more at the time, so this is a great price. The RX 590 is a cut above the GTX 1060. It’s the best graphics card you can buy for 1080p gaming, and it puts in a great showing at 1440p resolution too. Plus, you get three free games with your purchase: Resident Evil 2, Devil May Cry 5, and Tom Clancy’s The Division 2.

Finally, Newegg’s also selling the 8GB Sapphire Pulse Radeon RX 580 for $190Remove non-product link with the coupon code EMCTUVE25. This is where the tough decisions come in. At $190 this card is close to its Black Friday pricing, but for only $30 more after rebates you can get that faster Radeon RX 590. When we’re talking about regular pricing, the Radeon RX 580 offers better value overall with solid 60fps 1080p gaming and respectable 1440p performance. But if you can afford the Radeon RX 590 at its sale price, it’s the better deal. In addition to the card, the RX 580 comes with your choice of two free games from among the three mentioned above.

To comment on this article and other PCWorld content, visit our Facebook page or our Twitter feed.

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Unity acquires Vivox, which powers voice chat in Fortnite and League of Legends

Game engine maker Unity believes voice communications are going to grow to become a critical part of gaming across platforms and it’s buying one of the top companies in the space to bolster what its customers can build on the its platform.

Unity has acquired Vivox, a company that powers voice and text chat for the world’s most massive gaming titles from Fortnite to PUBG to League of Legends. The company’s positional voice chat enable gamers to hear other players chatting around them directionally in 3D space. The company also provides text-based chat. No details on deal terms.

“We thought, I thought, that voice is just one of those things that we should offer our customers,” Unity CEO John Riccitiello tells TechCrunch. “There are just a lot of places to innovate there and I was excited by the roadmap of Vivox.”

Unity plans to use its cross-platform support expertise to make it easier for developers on platforms traditionally underserved by voice chat tools, like mobile, to take advantage of the deeper communication that’s made possible by Vivox. As Unity looks towards new customers beyond gaming, this acquisition has broader reach as well.

“We’re increasingly supporting industries like architecture, engineering, construction and the auto industry and they talk a lot about collaborating and communicating,” Riccitiello says.

Vivox was originally founded in 2005 and raised over $22 million in venture funding from firms like Benchmark and Canaan Partners before it struck hard times some time after its last reported funding in 2010. The startup’s name and some of its assets were acquired by a new entity, Mercer Road Corp, we are told. The company has maintained much of the original leadership during this time; founder and CEO Rob Seaver will continue on with the company after its acquisition.

For his part, Riccitiello doesn’t seem to have immediate plans to shake things up at the Framebridge, Massachusetts-based company, which will maintain its offices and 50+ employees situated in The Bay State. Seaver will report directly to Riccitiello.

Though the company’s previous customers include studios like Unity-rival Epic Games that used the tool to bolster voice chat in Fortnite, there doesn’t seem to be any plans to cut off non-Unity customers from using the service, “nothing is changing,” Riccitiello tells TechCrunch.

“It can be nerve-racking to count on something from a smaller company when they might get acquired by a competitor or might go out of business,” he says. “I don’t think anyone is worried about Unity going out of business and I don’t think anyone is worried about Unity being bad hands, we’re sort of Switzerland in our world, we support all platforms and virtually every publisher in the world.”

Asked whether he felt the company’s status as an open platform had been harmed by recent feuds with UK-based cloud gaming startup Improbable, Riccitiello minimized the issue saying it was a skirmish based on “them claiming a partnership that didn’t exist,” reiterating that “relative to developers, I think they can count on us morning, noon, and night to do the right things for them.”

Unity has raised more than $600 million and is valued at north of $3 billion.

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12 facts about space that will rock your world

Blast off with fun facts about space.
Blast off with fun facts about space.
Image: FLICKR / NASA GODDARD SPACE FLIGHT CENTER

When you look up at the stars, what do you think about? That we may be not be alone? The vastness of it all?

There’s a lot to wonder about space. The fact is we don’t know all the answers about it. We know it’s vast and beautiful, but we’re not really sure how vast (or how beautiful, for that matter).

Some of the things we do know, however, are downright mind-boggling. Below, we’ve collected some of the most amazing facts about space, so when you look up at the stars you can be ever more wowed by what you’re looking at.

1. Neutron stars can spin at a rate of 600 rotations per second

Fun facts about space: The spinning rate of neutron stars.

Image: FLICKR / NASA GODDARD SPACE FLIGHT CENTER

Neutron stars are one of the possible evolutionary end-points of high mass stars. They’re born in a core-collapse supernova star explosion and subsequently rotate extremely rapidly as a consequence of their physics. Neutron stars can rotate up to 60 times per second after born. Under special circumstances, this rate can increase to more than 600 times per second.

Source: Swinburne University of Technology Centre for Astrophysics and Supercomputing

2. Space is completely silent

Space fact: It's silent in space.

Image: FLICKR / NASA GODDARD SPACE FLIGHT CENTER

Sound waves need a medium to travel through. Since there is no atmosphere in the vacuum of space, the realm between stars will always be eerily silent.

That said, worlds with atmospheres and air pressure do allow sound to travel, hence why there’s plenty of noise on Earth and likely other planets as well. 

Source: NASA

3. There is an uncountable number of stars in the known universe

Cool space fact: There are so, so, so many stars.

Image: FLICKR / NASA GODDARD SPACE FLIGHT CENTER

We basically have no idea how many stars there are in the universe. Right now we use our estimate of how many stars there are in our own galaxy, the Milky Way. We then multiply that number by the best guesstimate of the number of galaxies in the universe. After all that math, NASA can only confidently say that say there all zillions of uncountable stars. A zillion is any uncountable amount.

An Australian National University study put their estimate at 70 sextillion. Put another way, that’s 70,000 million million million.

Sources: University of California at Santa Barbara ScienceLine

4. The Apollo astronauts’ footprints on the moon will probably stay there for at least 100 million years

Fun fact about space: Neil Armstrong's foot print are there to stay.

Image: FLICKR / NASA GODDARD SPACE FLIGHT CENTER

Since the moon doesn’t have an atmosphere, there’s no wind or water to erode or wash away the Apollo astronauts’ mark on the moon. That means their footprints, roverprints, spaceship prints, and discarded materials will stay preserved on the moon for a very long time.

They won’t stay on there forever, though. The moon still a dynamic environment. It’s actually being constantly bombarded with “micrometeorites,” which means that erosion is still happening on the moon, just very slowly.

Source: Space.com

5. 99 percent of our solar system’s mass is the sun

Space fact: The sun is really, REALLY heavy.

Image: FLICKR / NASA GODDARD SPACE FLIGHT CENTER

Our star, the sun, is so dense that it accounts for a whopping 99 percent of the mass of our entire solar system. That’s what allows it to dominate all of the planets gravitationally. 

Technically, our sun is a “G-type main-sequence star” which means that every second, it fuses approximately 600 million tons of hydrogen to helium. It also converts about 4 million tons of matter to energy as a byproduct.

When the sun dies, it will become a red giant and envelop the Earth and everything on it. But don’t worry: That won’t happen for another 5 billion years.

Source: The Ohio State University’s department of astronomy

6. More energy from the sun hits Earth every hour than the planet uses in a year

Fun space fact: There's a lot of energy in the sun.

Image: FLICKR / NASA GODDARD SPACE FLIGHT CENTER

The use of solar energy has increased at a rate of 20 percent each year for the past 15 years. According to Yale Environment 360, the world added 30 percent more solar energy capacity in 2017, meaning that 98.9 gigawatts of solar energy was produced that year. 

Despite seemingly large number, this amount of energy only accounts for 0.7 percent of the world’s annual electricity usage.

Source: Yale Environment 360

7. If two pieces of the same type of metal touch in space, they will bond and be permanently stuck together

Fun space fact about metal in space.

Image: FLICKR / NASA GODDARD SPACE FLIGHT CENTER

This amazing effect is called cold welding. It happens because the atoms of the individual pieces of metal have no way of knowing that they are different pieces of metal, so the lumps join together.

This wouldn’t happen on Earth because there is air and water separating the pieces. The effect has a lot of implication for spacecraft construction and the future of metal-based construction in vacuums.

Source: Mental Floss

8. The largest asteroid in our solar system is a mammoth piece of space rock named Ceres

Cool space fact: This HUGE astroid was named Ceres.

Image: FLICKR / NASA GODDARD SPACE FLIGHT CENTER

The asteroid — which is sometimes known as a dwarf planet — is almost 600 miles in diameter. It’s by far the largest in the Asteroid Belt between Mars and Jupiter and accounts for a whole third of the belt’s mass. Ceres’ surface area is approximately equal to the land area of India or Argentina.

The uncrewed spacecraft Dawn just finished up its mission orbiting Ceres and helping us totally transform our understanding of the world.

Source: NASA

9. One day on Venus is longer than one year on Earth

Cool space fact: A day on Venus feels loooooong.

Image: AFP / Getty Images

Venus has an extremely slow axis rotation that takes about 243 Earth days to complete one full cycle. Funny enough, it takes Venus even less time in Earth days in order to complete one revolution around the sun — 226 to be exact.

Furthermore, the sun rises every 117 Earth days, which means that the sun will rise only two times during each year, which is also all technically in the same day. Since Venus also rotates clockwise, the sun will rise in the west and set in the east.

Source: NASA

10. Jupiter’s Red Spot is shrinking

Fun space fact about Jupiter's red spot.

Image: UIG / Getty Images

Jupiter’s famous Red Spot has been shrinking over the past few decades. This spot on the planet is  a giant spinning storm that used to be able to fit about three Earths. Now, according to only one Earth can fit inside the spot.

Interestingly enough, as the storm is shrinking in width, it’s actually growing taller in length. As of 2018, scientists are still stumped as to why this phenomenon is occurring in the first place, but some theorize that it may have to do with jet streams on Jupiter that have either changed direction or location.

Source: NASA

11. One of Saturn’s moons has a distinct two-tone coloration

This fun space fact is all about the Saturn moon Iapetus.

Image: Universal Images Group / Getty Images

Iapetus, one of Saturn’s 62 moons, is actually a pretty unique celestial object. This moon has a very distinct two-tone coloration, with one side be much darker than the other. 

As of 2018, this strange occurrence isn’t present on any other moons in the Solar System. Iapetus’ color has to do with its position in relation to the rest of Saturn’s moons. It turns out that Iapetus is way outside of Saturn’s rings, and because of this, it gets hit with a lot of space debris from objects that might be passing through its orbit, explaining the dark areas, according to Forbes.

Furthermore, another moon Phoebe, which is completely dark and farther out than Iapetus, revolves clockwise around Saturn and “emits a steady stream of particles.” Iapetus revolves counterclockwise, meaning that only one side of Iapetus gets hit with the particles coming off of Phoebe when they revolve past each other. This explains why Iapetus isn’t fully dark, but only partially. 

Source: NASA

12. The position of the North Star will change over time

Cool space fact: The North Star will move (eventually).

Image: UIG / Getty Images

Navigation will be weird when Polaris stops being the North Star in about 13,000 years. In case you didn’t know, Earth’s axis goes through a motion called “precession” which means that the planet’s axis will change, and trace out the shape of a cone—even if it’s slightly.

When this occurs, it takes around 26,000 years for the axis to trace out a complete cone shape. To add to this, Polaris, the Earth’s current “North Star” will eventually begin to shift positions as the Earth undergoes precession. 

In 3,000 B.C., it’s believed that the North Star was the star Thuban, otherwise known as Alpha Draconis. In about 13,000 years, the star Vega will be the new North Star — but in 26,000 years, Polaris will return in its original position as the Earth continues to go through precession.

Source: Starchild, NASA

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This story was originally published in 2014 and updated in 2018.

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