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Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Our Pain, Moonves, Zucker, Mercer and Breitbart's Profits

by Spocko

I'm pissed off at the news media, because I think they failed their duty to the truth. But that's an old timey view of the news media. The metric for success in mainstream media is revenue for shareholders. Les Moonves is measured by how well he fulfilled his duty to shareholders.
Les Moonves, the chief executive of CBS, celebrated Donald Trump’s candidacy for the second time on Monday, calling it “good for us economically.” Moonves, speaking at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media, and Telecom Conference at the Park Hotel in San Francisco, described the “circus” of a presidential campaign and the flow of political advertising dollars, and stated that it “may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS, that’s all I got to say.”

“So what can I say? The money’s rolling in, this is fun,” Moonves continued, observing that the debates had attracted record audiences.
Feburary 29, 2016, -- Lee Fang The Intercept
What if generating money was taken out of the equation? What if you didn't have to show shareholders you are making a profit, not even breaking even?

In the high tech venture capital world people get money to realize an idea. They don't have the instant demand to make money in the beginning. The money they spend during their early months and years with little or no revenue coming in is called the "burn rate" the goal is a successful product, service or company. The companies are looking towards a "liquidity event" an acquisition, an IPO or a profitable company. Things are different if you never even have to attempt to do any of those things. What if you have "money to burn" that keeps coming for as long as you do one specific thing? Like push an specific idea or point of view.

Last week on the Majority Report Sam Seder interviewed Matt Phelan, on his piece in JacobinThe House of Breitbart & the New Fascism how Breitbart, Bannon and O'Keefe were funded and rose to power.Link  The article is excellent and answers some of the, "My god how did we get here?" questions about Bannon.

I really recommend people listen to the interview or read the whole Jacobin piece. Then if you want to see an example of how James O'Keefe's schtick works, read this piece by Jane Mayer in the New Yorker "James O'Keefe Stings himself."  They are both about issues of media, activism, political power and funding.

Rebekah, Robert, and Diana Mercer at the 2014 World Science Festival Gala on April 7, 2014. Rebekah is one of 16 on Trump's transition team executive committee. Her father Robert is among Trump’s top financial backers

One of the things that is clear is the power of a billionaire who is willing to fund you and your radical ideas. Phelan names some billionaires I wasn't aware of but one name sounded familiar,  Robert Mercer.

Last year, Breitbart News received substantial funding from Long Island–based hedge fund manager Robert Mercer, who has donated upwards of $15 million to conservative groups since 2012. (It was happy, satisfied customer Mercer, and his daughter Rebekah, who reportedly pushed for Trump to hire Bannon as his new campaign chief.)

And there was something else about that name that rang a dog whistle.  Remember the planned Islamic center in Lower Manhattan?
Guess who was behind the ad campaign attacking it?
Robert Mercer, the co-CEO of the giant hedge fund manager Renaissance Technologies, appears to have financed the ad campaign entirely himself, through a $1 million contribution on July 26, 2011.  - Politico January 18, 2011

When a billionaire spends his money to push an idea, it doesn't have to have a monetary pay off.  A profit-making corporation needs to show how an investment adds to the health of the business.  If  Mercer wants to spend $10-15 million for a Muslim hating, money-losing media outlet, nobody is stopping him. And, if in the process he figures out how to use it to save money, to quote Donald Trump, "That's just smart business"
One thing to keep an eye on during the Trump administration: the resolution of a long-running tax dispute between Renaissance Technologies and the Internal Revenue Service. The tax agency is challenging a series of financial maneuvers that reduced Renaissance managers’ tax bills. Although the amount in dispute isn’t public, a Senate report in 2014 estimated that the moves may have saved $6 billion or more.
--November 11, 2016 Bloomberg Politics 
Phalen's piece shows how comparatively little money it took to prop up Breitbart and put the country on this ever more radical right-wing path.

Think about all the money that went to mainstream media in political ads this year. Was any of it earmarked for better journalism? Could the media moguls have rolled any of that out in the direction of investigation of Donald Trump pre-election?

In a recent interview with CNN's Jeff Zucker, he stressed how the revenues for 2017 are going to be lower than in 2016. He is giving his investors guidance so they don't punish him when there are lower revenues. This is his real concern, because they have the power to fire him. What is more likely to get a news media CEO, who sets the direction of the company  fired? Failure to do their duty to the public? Or failure to increase the bottom line?

So how do you punish Zucker and Moonves and the big media for their failure? Zucker has already said, revenues are going to go down.

Over a decade ago I developed the Spocko method to defund right-wing media. It was extremely effective and wildly successful. Today mainstream commercial advertisers don't want to associate their brand with sexism, bigotry and violent rhetoric on right-wing radio and TV. But like any strategy and tactic, the opposition adapts.

In the world of measuring media success by revenue, losing ad revenue is a massive blow to the distributors.  How to they stay afloat now? Several ways:
  • Accepting the new low revenue from commercial advertisers as the new normal.
  • Cutting payments to "talent"
  • Going private to hide loses
  • Constantly renegotiating debt to avoid bankruptcy
  • Moving money losing right-wing talk radio shows to tiny stations
  • Getting as much election ads money as possible this season
  • Direct infusions of cash from billionaires who want to reach a specific audience
  • Getting money laundered through groups like the Heritage Foundation
On the right sites like Breitbart don't have a duty to the public, the truth or their advertisers. Even the moderating influence of corporate advertisers can't be used on them. It's one thing for an unaccountable billionaire to support racism, bigotry and sexism, it's another thing for a brand to do that.

But they are still popular Spocko! They are still going! Yes, but beyond generating lower revenue than in the past, they lost Corporate America's acceptance. That's not going to come back because they still want to appeal to multiple audiences and avoid controversy.


My understanding is that today is #GivingTuesday sooo if you are feeling the need for someone  to tell you the truth, to fight with you and for you, then look around for the people and groups that have done good work.

I know the right thinks George Soros pays all the activists and media on the left, but that's not the reality. Most left-wing activists, bloggers and media never see Soros money or Clinton machine money. (That said, if you ARE a left-wing billionaire, be advised I take multiple currencies, not just quatloos.

I and the people who run the sites I write for like Hullabaloo,  Crooks and Liars, The Smirking Trump (formally the Smirking Chimp) ShadowProof (Formerly Firedoglake) all need money to keep going.

My friends in radio don't have billionaire backing but still do amazing work, folks like  Angie Coiro with In Deep, Nicole Sandler from the Nicole Sandler Show R.J. Eskow of Zero Hour, Brad Friedman the Brad Blog and Sam Seder of The Majority Report.

There are groups I'm involved in, like the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the  Center for Media and Democracy and Nebraskans Against Gun Violence that all do amazing work.

For decades I worked with and for a group doing social justice work. One of the directors had a bumper sticker on her car. "Some of us give by going, others go by giving." It would be easier to get a few left-wing billionaires to write checks, and we could then sit back and watch billionaire surrogates fight it out. But when we have a sense of belonging to the groups doing this work, it helps both the people giving and the people going.

SPOCK: One man cannot summon the future.
KIRK: But one man can change the present.