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Manoj Bhargava’s spending spree
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Manoj Bhargava, 5-hour Energy’s founder, is quickly rolling up media properties. What is his grand plan?
Bhargava already owns Bridge Media Networks, which includes two TV channels – NEWSnet and Sports News Highlights – as well as the brands Driven and TravelHost. This week came a slew of additional moves:
Bhargava plans to take a majority stake in The Arena Group, the publisher of Sports Illustrated, Men’s Journal, and TheStreet.
He bought stakes in radio companies Audacity and Cumulus.
He purchased iMedia Brands, which includes TV network ShopHQ.
Bhargava also has many other initiatives outside of media. He incubates new products that aim to address the “biggest problems in the world” – including Alzheimer's Disease, access to water, and tools for surgery.
Bhargava told TheStreet he’s investing in media in order to have a platform to promote those products:
“Basically, I make stuff, I sell stuff. So media becomes part of it. In other words, the guy in the middle is media, for me to reach the customers that we sell to. And so media has gotten nuts. In other words, media at this point doesn't care about the advertisers. They go, get in line, get that 30-second ad bid for it and get out… We have a t-shirt in the office that says, ‘Never mind, we'll do it ourselves’... Instead of buying spots, we'll be getting into the media side of it.”
Bhargava talked about integrating advertisers more deeply into shows, mentioning as inspiration a Colgate-branded show and soap operas (sponsored by soap companies). As a part of the deal with The Arena Group, Bharhava agreed that his organizations would spend around $60 million in advertising with Arena Group over five years.
Bhargava, who dropped out of Princeton, has previously criticized those with MBAs, contrasting their style of thinking with what he calls his “common sense” approach. In his recent interview with TheStreet, he criticized media operators for being too focused on technology and centering too much on the 18-34 demo, in addition to missing the needs of advertisers. “If all of these guys are messing up, this makes my job really like, oh, this is sweet. So easy.”
Now with a sizable media portfolio, Bhargava's "common sense" will be put to the test.
To go deeper, here are some resources:
Bhargava’s recent interview with TheStreet
The Arena Group’s press release
A 2012 interview about his incubation efforts
Takeaways from a documentary about Bhargava’s work
And here’s the latest news in digital media:
The Arena Group announced Q2 earnings. Digital advertising revenue grew 19% YoY, driven by a 35% increase in revenue per pageview (alongside a 12% drop in monthly average pageviews). Digital subscription revenue fell YoY.
The AP released new guidance on using AI. According to the standards, “any output from a generative AI tool should be treated as unvetted source material. AP staff must apply their editorial judgment and AP’s sourcing standards when considering any information for publication.”
Google rolled out AI-generated article summaries. The feature allows users to see a list of "key points" when viewing an article in their browser. The feature does not summarize paywalled articles, and publishers are able to block the feature.
Digiday published research on display advertising. In the report, Digiday’s overall takeaway was positive: “With display’s track record as a reliable marketing tool for building brand awareness and supporting conversion goals, this legacy ad channel is likely to remain a top go-to in marketers’ playbooks for years to come.”
More on publishers:
Telegraph Media Group reached 1 million subscribers, 70% of which are digital.
Courier Newsroom, which runs local outlets promoting left-leaning politics, is launching additional newsrooms in Nevada, Texas, and New Hampshire.
Fantasy sports analyst Matthew Berry raised $2 million for a fantasy sports and sports betting company.
Vice Media, which recently entered into a partnership with Saudi-controlled media company MBC Group, reportedly blocked certain stories about Saudi Arabia from being published.
Items taken in the Marion County police raid of a newspaper have been returned.
More on platforms:
X reportedly slowed links to sites such as the NYT, Facebook, and Substack (and then apparently started reversing course after WaPo reported on it).
Roku added a slew of free ad-supported news channels.
Substack now enables “following” on its Notes platform (which doesn’t require “subscribing” to receive emails).
Google is testing an AI chatbot that gives life advice.
Some companies are using OpenAI’s GPT-4 for content moderation.
Amazon’s “sponsored product ads” will appear across a network of publishers.
A roundup of what publishers said about AI in quarterly earnings calls.
A profile of Pop Crave, a culture & political news outfit native to social media.
A feature on podcasting in Africa.
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