This week in brand publishing:
- Binance is making a $200 million investment in Forbes. It may be an attempt by the brand to use publishing to develop authority and credibility.
- Penn National Gaming is moving towards full ownership of publisher Barstool Sports, and says that the acquisition has helped it keep customer acquisition costs low.
- Brands looking for editorial talent would be served by trying to find it in B2B newsrooms, staffed by journalists with deep domain expertise and a solid set of relationships.
Binance’s big Forbes bet
The world’s biggest crypto exchange, Binance, has made a $200 million strategic investment in Forbes. This makes Binance the second-biggest owner of Forbes, which plans to merge with a publicly traded SPAC in the coming months. “Forbes is a typical web 1.0/pre-web company,” Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao said to CNBC. “Media businesses have had a hard time transitioning from web1 to web3, and we’d like to help them.”
The deal is emblematic of how crypto is struggling to push into the mainstream and a good illustration of how media will increasingly be used to familiarize wider audiences with it. It’s also an indication of how web3 development may intersect with content generation. “We’ll look at every sector and make acquisitions to bring them into web3, and that’ll help adoption of crypto,” said Zhao.
Brand publishers are in good position to capitalize on the opportunity in crypto: It’s a complicated and nuanced topic that requires deep expertise and a bench of authority — which brands in fintech or in VC may already have. Venture giant a16z for example, has been flooding its publication, Future, with crypto-focused content as it also ramps up investment in crypto companies. Paradigm, which announced a $2.5 billion crypto fund a few months ago, is differentiating itself by unpacking the nuances of crypto through content.
We’re now curating new and notable job vacancies and roles from across the brand publishing world in one place with a new jobs resource on the Toolkits site. Our goal is to give Toolkits readers an easy, centralized place to uncover and connect with the best career opportunities out there. Jobs added this week include content roles at MediaHub, Fannie Mae and Nike.
Penn-Barstool deal appears to be paying off
Sports betting companies have been some of the most active brand publishers, spending significant resources, time and money to build media businesses of their own. For Penn National Gaming the strategy appears to be paying off. The company is now hoping to purchase full ownership of Barstool Sports, according to the company’s most recent quarterly investment call. The gaming giant acquired 36% of the publisher in January 2020, in a deal that also called for $62 million additional investment within 3 years to attain 50% ownership, at which point it also received the right to buy it fully.
The existing investment is already one of the bigger ones in the brand publishing world. Penn National is able to use Barstool’s massive reach, as well as that of its embattled founder, Dave Portnoy, to promote the sportsbook. Sports betting is a hot, hot market right now, as betting became legalized in states including New York just recently. (Penn did not win a license in the New York market.) But its investment in publishing in order to drive down customer acquisition costs appears to be paying off: On the call, Penn CEO Jay Snowden referenced how much competitors are spending on customer acquisition, compared to his company. He said the sportsbook is able to make use of the Barstool Sports marketing and Penn National’s own vast database of casino customers to attain “what we believe are the lowest customer acquisition costs and best return on investment timelines in the industry.”
Meanwhile, DraftKings last week announced it was growing its media business and brought on Stacie McCollum from ESPN as its new head of programming from ESPN. The brand is now working on exploring how it can buy rights to live programming in an effort to build what chief media officer Brian Angiolet called “a foundation of skillsets required to take us into the future.” The company also brought on Disney exec Todd Dubester to be a VP of media strategy. McCollum and Dubester’s prior experience indicates this may be a way for the company to get into launching a streaming platform for fans, an idea that’s been rumored to be in the works for a while.
B2B journalists are ideal targets for brand publishers
As brand publishers get more serious about their content and publishing operations, they’re becoming more discerning about the editorial talent that they hire to power and grow their efforts. There’s one group that’s increasingly in their crosshairs: Editors and reporters at “trade publications” and other business-focused media companies.
Business-to-business (B2B) publications and trade publishers generally cater to specific industries and the professionals that work in them. They are marked, generally, by a laser focus on those specific industries, and the trends and news within those industries or markets. They can be ideal hunting grounds for brand publishers looking to kickstart or bolster their editorial efforts. Business media often equips editors, reporters and writers with unique mindsets and skills that often translate extremely well to brand publishing operations, whether their content is aimed at a business-related audience or not. Read more about what brands should think about when constructing roles in editorial.