Five on Friday: Alphabet, Elevate Scholarships and Election Night

Featuring Google, YouTube, INMA, Reuters, Facebook, and Stars and Stripes

In this week’s Five on Friday, the New York Times reports that the DOJ could file antitrust charges against Alphabet, parent to Google and YouTube, this month. Meanwhile, the Google News Initiative and INMA partner to create an Elevate Scholarship program for under-represented and disadvantaged groups in media. Also, movie theatres including AMC Theatres and Regal Cinemas are reopening and their movie subscription programs are restarting where available, Reuters and Facebook partner to provide live results on election night, and Stars and Stripes will receive federal funding to continue publication after all.

DOJ Could File Antitrust Charges Against Alphabet This Month

The Department of Justice has been investigating Alphabet, parent company to Google and YouTube, for nearly a year, and it could file antitrust charges against the technology behemoth as early as this month, reports The New York Times. Sources familiar with the matter say that Attorney General William P. Barr is forging ahead, though some attorneys working on the case have said they need more time to gather and evaluate evidence.

There has also been talk that pushing the case through sooner may give Trump and Barr a pre-election win. Fifty states and territories and their respective attorneys general are also interested in pursuing antitrust violations against Alphabet and its subsidiaries, but Democrats are believed to be moving more slowing than Republicans, says The Times.

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The primary areas of interest are Google’s dominance in online searches and advertising. Google represents about 90% of all searches done online. It also accounts for about one-third of all online advertising. Through these tools, Google tracks the habits of its users, giving it additional data to improve its products and make them even more dominant in the online marketplace.

Representatives from the DOJ declined to comment on the story, but Jose Castaneda commented on behalf of Google. Castaneda said the company would continue to cooperate with investigators and that its business practices were not anticompetitive. In fact, they believe that their behavior offers “increased choice and competition.”

INMA Partners with Google News Initiative to Offer Elevate Scholarships for Under-Represented and Disadvantaged Groups in Media

The International News Media Association has partnered with the Google News Initiative to develop Elevate Scholarships to providing learning opportunities to under-represented and disadvantaged groups in media. The program focuses on equitable inclusion, training and development, networking and mentoring, and helps early to mid-career media professionals overcome barriers. Elevate Scholarship recipients will receive the following, according to an announcement by INMA:

Scholarship recipients will receive:

  • Recognition through public announcements
  • Free access to three upcoming INMA master classes
  • The opportunity to participate in a mentoring video meet-up with Google and INMA to discuss the news industry and career development
  • A free membership in INMA for one year, with full access to the association’s global community

Qualified applicants must work for a media organization below the senior management level, be in the business for less than 15 years, be under 45 years of age, and be from a group that is either under-represented or disadvantaged. Interested media professionals have until September 25, 2020 to apply at INMA.org/elevate. There is no fee to apply.

“Removing obstacles for equitable inclusion in news industry training and development, which hamper innovation and the future of the news media, can shatter the glass ceiling for professionals from under-represented groups,” said Earl J. Wilkinson, executive director and CEO of INMA, in the September 3 announcement.

Chrissy Towle, head of news/Americas partnership solutions at Google, said that it is critical to the future of the news media to spend time focusing on diversity and inclusion for the next generation of journalists.

“How can the news industry become more inclusive? How can you contribute to the news industry’s inclusiveness,” said Towle.

Interested applicants can visit INMA.org/elevate for additional information, apply or to contact INMA with questions.

Image courtesy of INMA.org

Reuters and Facebook to Partner to Disseminate Live Election Night Results Online

Last week, Reuters announced that they would partner with Facebook to provide live election night coverage to social media users. Election night results will be compiled by Reuters and published through Facebook’s Voting Information Center. Users can access them through the voting center and through push notifications, depending on their personal preference and settings.

In their September 3 announcement, Reuters said the live election results will include charting real-time outcomes such as vote tabulation, exit polls and winner projections from the National Election Pool (NEP), a consortium comprising the four biggest U.S. networks, ABC News, CBS News, CNN and NBC News, and Edison Research.

“This partnership will provide billions of Facebook users with fast, accurate and trusted election day news via Reuters data offering. Reuters will deliver comprehensive election data via the NEP, providing up-to-the-minute insights and results on one the biggest political events of the year,” said Reuters president Michael Friedenberg.

According to Statista, as of August 2020, Facebook had 2.7 billion monthly active users, including 190 million users in the U.S. It is only surpassed by India in terms of users, which has 290 million users.

“We’re partnering with Reuters and the National Election Pool to provide authoritative information about election results. We’ll show this in the Voting Information Center so it’s easily accessible, and we’ll notify people proactively as results become available. Importantly, if any candidate or campaign tries to declare victory before the results are in, we’ll add a label to their post educating that official results are not yet in and directing people to the official results,” said Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

On the surface, this sounds well and good, but there are some inherent problems with this partnership (sorry, Reuters). First, not everyone trust Facebook as a source of factual or unbiased information. In fact, it has often been accused of being a source if misinformation. Also, while 190 million Americans may be on Facebook that does not include everyone, and it doesn’t necessarily include all voters. Some people will not get this information.

It’s a great idea, but it has some inherent flaws. Regardless of where we can get our information, or which candidates we individually favor, election results are not going to be easy to capture, share or trust.

Image: Pixabay

Movie Theatres Are Reopening and Movie Subscriptions Are Starting Back Up

Movie theaters around the country are starting to reopen. That is both an exciting prospect – because we are all ready to get out of the house – but it is also a scary one because of health concerns. AMC Theatres is among the chains that is starting to reopen. They have a complete plan in place to ensure the health and safety of their patrons. In a recent video, Adam Aron, CEO and president of AMC Theatres, addresses some of those important issues.

“The health and safety of our movie theatre guests and our movie theatre staff is our absolute highest priority at AMC,” Aron said.

The company has partnered with Harvard and Clorox to develop the AMC Safe & Clean program to ensure the health and safety of guests. But what about their subscription programs?

The company has three movie subscription programs, including two which are subscription based. Here’s where they stand:

AMC Stubs rewards: AMC Stubs rewards and points that were set to have expired have been extended until October 31, so movie goers will have a chance to use them.

AMC Stubs Premiere: An extension of the AMC Stubs loyalty program, AMC Stubs memberships have been extended an additional eight months. They have been on hold while theatres were closed. This program has a $15 annual fee, plus tax, that entitles members to discounts, fee-free online ticketing and other perks. Premiere members can now extend their memberships for $5 a year, plus tax.

AMC Stubs A-List: This movie subscripton program has been very successful for AMC Theatres. This too, however, was put on hold during the pandemic, and memberships were paused. Members can go online to restart their memberships once theatres in their area reopen. These memberships are in the $20 per month range, but the monthly membership fee is based on location. The company is currently offering a promotion for $5 off the first month for new members.

Additional details including health and safety measures, welcome back offers, and the status of theatres in the U.S. is available on the AMC website.

As of September 4, AMC Theatres said that 70% of its theatres in the U.S. have reopened with more theatres being reopened as local jurisdictions allow.

Regal Cinemas is also reopening. Its health and safety adaptations are available through their website’s FAQs page, but the information is harder to find and more limited than what AMC provides. Regal, too, offers a movie subscription program – Regal Unlimited – with three tiers: Regal Unlimited ($18/month), Regal Unlimited Plus ($21/month), and Regal Unlimited All Access ($23.50/month). Regal has extended its subscriptions for the period of time theatres are closed plus 30 days, with some theatres opening last month.

Movie theatres are among the businesses hardest hit by the pandemic, closing for six months at the height of COVID-19. They will gradually open at greatly reduced capacity, but they’ll still be hurting financially for a long time to come, and some smaller theatres may not survive at all. Those who had the foresight to start a movie subscription service long before we heard about the pandemic may find themselves in better shape long term.

AMC, for example, added subscriptions successfully to bring in a new recurring revenue stream. They also added on-demand movie purchase and rental options, further expanding revenue generation opportunities. Hopefully, these decisions will help them stay afloat until theatres can operate at full capacity again.

Movie theatres are slowly reopening, and so are their subscriptions.
Image: Bigstock Photo

Pentagon Plans to Shutter ‘Stars and Stripes,’ Trump Reverses Decicion

In the U.S. Defense Department’s latest budget, the department decided to terminate federal funding for Stars and Stripes, effective September 30. Started during World War II, Star Stripes is an editorially independent multimedia news source for the military. Cutting Stars and Stars from the Pentagon’s budget would save approximately $15.5 million, but a public outcry followed news of the shuttering of the military lifeline which is provided for free to service members, but is also available for purchase at newsstands and via subscription (digital and print). Rates vary based on rank and rank equivalency.

The New York Times reports that a group of 11 Democratic and four Republican senators wrote to the Defense Department, urging them to find funding for Stars and Stripes which has become an institution for the military.

“We urge you to take steps to preserve the funding prerogatives of Congress before allowing any such disruption to take place,” said the letter which was signed by Senators Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California; Tammy Duckworth, Democrat of Illinois; and Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, and others. “Stars and Stripes is an essential part of our nation’s freedom of the press that serves the very population charged with defending that freedom.”

Allegedly bowing to political pressure and to improve his image with the military and military supporters, President Trump reversed the Pentagon’s decision on September 4.

Image: Twitter

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