Acquisitions, Audio and AI: Media News Recap for April - Living Strong Television Network
Acquisitions, Audio and AI: Media News Recap for April

Welcome to Media Insider, PR Newswire’s roundup of media news stories from the month.

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The Beyond Bylines team has been watching media industry news throughout April. It was a busy month, full of acquisition news as well as updates in audio, AI, local news and more.

Below, we recap some of the big trends and highlight a few of the major headlines that caught our eye and speak to the larger state of the industry.

The Acquisitions

April was a busy month for M&A news in the media industry. From divesting non-core assets to picking up and relaunching shuttered outlets, merger and acquisition news ran the gamut in recent weeks. Here are a few of the big headlines you might have missed:

  • Essence magazine’s parent company Sundial Media Group announced its purchase of women’s lifestyle company Refinery29 from Vice Media.
  • Paramount Global, the parent of CBS and MTV, inched closer to a deal to merge with Skydance Media. This week, it was announced that Bob Bakish, Paramount’s chief executive who had reservations about the deal, would be stepping down immediately.
  • Artifact, the news recommendation tool that shut down several months ago, is being acquired by Yahoo.
  • Paste Media announced its purchase of entertainment outlet The A.V. Club from G/O Media, which also sold The Takeout to Static Media. The A.V. Club was Paste’s second recent purchase from G/O Media; it acquired Jezebel in late 2023. G/O Media also announced the sale of the satirical news site The Onion to Global Tetrahedron.
  • Puck acquired Artelligence, a Substack newsletter about the global art market, marking the first time the company has bought an established newsletter instead of hiring a writer to create a new one.
  • Automattic, which owns and Tumblr, acquired the messaging app Beeper as part of its strategy to expand its messaging features.
  • Former Disney executive Ben Sherwood and Joanna Coles, former Hearst content chief, were granted an equity stake equivalent to roughly half of The Daily Beast.
  • Califonia politics outlet CalMatters acquired The Markup, which covers technology and data privacy investigations. The deal creates a local, nonprofit news powerhouse in California.

Axios’ Sara Fischer covered the wave of deals, saying, “While the business fundamentals behind many media companies have collapsed, for many, their brand equity has remained intact.” But, she stressed, “Brand equity is a delicate currency.”

Updates in Audio

A new report from Edison Research found that more Americans are listening to podcasts — and listening to them regularly — than ever. The survey showed 67% of people in the U.S. (12 and older) have ever listened to a podcast, 47% listened in the last month and 34% listened in the last week.

Our team spotted several big audio headlines in April, some of them echoing that listenership growth while others were not so cheerful.

AI in Media

At the end of last year, we expected AI to continue dominating headlines in 2024. So far, the tech’s growth shows no sign of slowing down and media companies continue working on ways to implement it effectively and ethically in the newsroom. In April, there were a few AI-related updates.

  • The Washington Post is partnering with Virginia Tech to develop a generative AI project that will answer users’ questions and be trained on the Post’s previous coverage.
  • An AP survey found that nearly 70% of newsroom staffers are using AI for tasks like crafting social media posts, transcribing interviews, story drafts and more.
  • Jim VandeHei, chief executive of Axios, told The New York Times that artificial intelligence will “eviscerate the weak, the ordinary, the unprepared in media.”
  • A bill introduced by U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff would force artificial intelligence companies to reveal the copyrighted material they use to make their generative AI models.
  • Fortune announced the upcoming launch of Fortune Analytics, an AI-powered research tool trained on Fortune’s decades of editorial coverage and Fortune 1000 and Global 500 rankings.
  • Newsweek updated its AI standards, saying “We firmly believe that soon all journalists will be working with AI in some form and we want our newsroom to embrace these technologies as quickly as is possible in an ethical way.”
  • The Financial Times made a deal with OpenAI to train the tech company’s AI on the publisher’s archived content. As part of the deal, ChatGPT will also be able to respond to questions with short summaries from FT articles.

AI’s success hinges on access to data and tech companies are working to make deals with publishers to train their algorithms. But the deals aren’t a fix for everyone and several outlets are already suing OpenAI and Microsoft for copyright infringement. The lawsuits could “fundamentally shift the way news companies are compensated for their work in the AI era.”

Local Media News

Most of the news above relates to national outlets, but there was plenty of local media news in April as well:

  • ProPublica launched its 50 State Initiative, a commitment to publishing accountability journalism in every state over the next five years.
  • New York lawmakers approved $90 million in payroll tax credits to hire local journalists in the state’s fiscal year 2025 budget. The provision is a route to funding local journalism without the outlets feeling compromised by government-funded support.
  • As pushback against a proposed bill that would force tech giants to pay online publishers, Google temporarily blocked California-based news outlets’ content for some state residents. In response, dozens of Alden Global Capital-owned newspapers ran editorials calling the move “a bully tactic.”
  • Press Forward, a $500 million initiative to revive local news, announced that its first open call for funding would focus on “organizations that are producing and delivering news and information to underserved audiences such as communities of color, linguistically diverse communities, low-wealth rural communities, and others not adequately served, reached or represented.”

Also in April…

Follow @BeyondBylines on Twitter for more media news updates and stay tuned for our next monthly recap!

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