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From diversity to streaming, 2020 was a year of reckoning for media industry – NBC News

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In a sign of the times, “Wonder Woman 1984” hit the HBO Max streaming platform on Dec. 25, the same day it hit theaters in select markets around the country. The movie scored the highest box office opening of the pandemic era, drawing $16.7 million.

The simultaneous release is a new strategy being employed as the pandemic has forced movie theater closures in many regions of the U.S. and made customers wary about returning to confined spaces where the virus can spread more easily.

While the year was dominated by the effects of the pandemic — and an industry indelibly altered — racial and ideological reckonings at major companies, the growth of audio and an increase in newsletters from prominent voices represent more positive changes in media over the past 12 months.

Streaming hits its stride

As the pandemic forced people to shelter at home, streaming and video-on-demand platforms took advantage of the captive audience and pumped out new shows and movies directly to content-hungry viewers. Given the focus on streaming, Warner Bros. even announced a dramatic new model for its film releases in 2021, which will be available online to subscribers on the same day they hit theaters.

“This was a huge year for streaming video,” said Rich Greenfield of media research firm LightShed Partners. “But it’s not just Netflix and Disney+ in terms of the surge of demand that happened. It’s also the explosion of time spent watching and playing video games.”

Greenfield pointed to one area that suffered during the pandemic, causing a monthslong suspension of professional sports.

“A lot of the casual sports fans are shifting to on-demand entertainment,” he said. “This shift in focus is a major risk or theme that came out of 2020.”

Podcasting’s major moment

Audio has continued to see growth with companies like Spotify and The New York Times announcing acquisitions and major partnerships with figures such as Michelle Obama and Joe Rogan.

“Audio is having its moment. … There’s a ton of great content,” Greenfield said. “Everyone is realizing people spend a lot of time with audio. It’s something you can do in the background. You can do many things while you’re consuming podcasts.”

Podcasts have also become a great testing ground for content and the year saw an increase in announcements of hit podcasts being turned into video series.

Yet another newsletter subscription

This year also saw a major boom in subscription newsletters as several prominent journalists cut out the middle man, their prior media outlet affiliations, and flocked to Substack to deliver curated content directly to their followers. The move gives these journalists more control and independence over their newsletters and the ability to monetize their followings.

“Emailed content still really works. It’s a very easy way to consume content,” Greenfield said. “Rather than subscribing to a newspaper, you can subscribe to the actual talent itself directly.”

A reckoning over diversity

The media industry faced a major reckoning over racism, following broader unrest about the treatment of Black men and people of color by police. Several journalists and executives at major companies stepped down after employees raised the alarm about toxic workplace conditions related to race but also gender and identity.

Among some of the big names affected by this surge of employee activism were Troy Young, who resigned from his role as the president of Hearst’s magazine division following allegations of lewd and sexist comments, and ABC News executive Barbara Fedida, who allegedly used racist language and made insensitive comments.

Outlets like ESPN, Condé Nast, The New York Times, The Washington Post and Refinery29 all faced allegations from employees about workplace culture.

There was also a reckoning over ideological differences after roughly 150 prominent academics, journalists and celebrities signed a letter decrying the rising “intolerance of opposing views,” which they said has pervaded American discourse. Two influential conservative voices also publicly announced their resignations from prominent positions over claims of increased illiberalism in America.

More news, more job cuts

With the pandemic, social unrest, raging fires and a presidential election, 2020 generated an abundance of major news stories. But even as there were more stories to cover, newsrooms at both the local and national level faced major cuts.

Fox News, WarnerMedia, Disney, and NBCUniversal, the parent company of NBC News, were among a long list of media companies that announced layoffs prompted by the financial strain of the pandemic.

While subscription numbers, especially at local papers, increased during the pandemic as people sought out relevant news, local media outlets are still in the midst of a decadeslong economic decline that has led to entire newsrooms being shuttered and those that survive suffering deep staff cuts.

The economic uncertainty also led to a slashing of advertising budgets at many companies and threatened to deal a major blow to the industry. However, digital ad revenue eventually bounced back.

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Social Media Buzz: Larry King Dies, Dr. Birx, Heathrow Crowds – BNN

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(Bloomberg) — What’s buzzing on social media this morning:

Larry King, the interviewer whose schmoozy style attracted celebrities, politicians and other newsmakers as guests and made him the star of a top-rated U.S. cable talk show, has died. He was 87.

  • King died Saturday morning at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. The cause of death wasn’t provided. The cancer and stroke survivor had spent time recently undergoing treatment for Covid-19.

Pfizer Inc. is trending on Twitter. Senior doctors in the U.K. are urging the gap between first and second doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine doses be halved to ensure efficacy. The U.K. extended the maximum wait from three to 12 weeks to get more people to take the first shot. France may also delay second doses to stretch supplies.

  • Large crowds at Heathrow Airport on Friday sparked concerns of virus spread. U.K. only allows residents to travel internationally for “legally-permitted reasons.”

Dr. Deborah Birx said she “always” considered quitting Donald Trump’s coronavirus task force as she worried she’d been viewed as a political person. “I mean, why would you want to put yourself through that, um, every day?” Birx told CBS in an interview that will air Sunday, according to an advance clip. Her term ended as Biden took office.

Protests broke out in cities across Russia as tens of thousands demanded the release of jailed opposition leader Alexey Navalny. Police detained hundreds of people.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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Blockbuster Laine-Dubois deal draws mixed reviews on social media – Sportsnet.ca

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Sometimes, change happens fast.

Mere days after Columbus Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella benched Pierre-Luc Dubois, one of his team’s best players, in an overtime loss against the Tampa Bay Lightning, Dubois was packing his bags to go play in another country altogether.

The Blue Jackets traded the 22-year-old, who had requested to be dealt shortly after signing a two-year, $10-million bridge contract in the off-season, to the Winnipeg Jets for superstar winger Patrik Laine and Jack Roslovic in a move that sent shockwaves through the NHL.

Not all blockbusters are universally well-received, of course. And while some on Twitter celebrated the move as a shuffling of high-profile talent, others were quick to wonder how the dynamic between Laine, an offensive-minded forward, and Tortorella will play out.

Here is some of the best reaction to the winter blockbuster:

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Social media's sea shanty trend scores well with musician-curator – CBC.ca

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Southern Ontario folk musician Ian Bell says it makes sense that sea shanties are taking off on social media right now because they are participatory and easy to learn.

“It’s easier to learn Heave ‘Er Up and Bust ‘Er than it is to try and figure out all the bits for, say Bohemian Rhapsody or something,” Bell, who is also the former curator of the Port Dover Habour Museum, told CBC. 

“I think for a lot of people, singing shanties at this moment is like the musical equivalent of learning to bake your own bread.”

The social media platform Tik Tok is awash in videos of people performing the traditional work songs or altering others’ videos of them, and even talk show hosts such as Stephen Colbert have gotten in on the action.

The songs are appealing because of their communal nature, Bell said.

“There is nothing better than being in a large gang of people who are singing their faces off often in three or four part harmonies, and it’s one of those situations where it kind of goes beyond musical. You know the vibrations can go right through you,” he said.

One of the best shanty sings used to take place at the Mill Race Festival in Cambridge, he said, where 60 or 70 singers would pack into the Kiwi Pub and belt out the numbers.

Musician Ian Bell has been singing sea shanties for many years and says he loves shanties about the Great Lakes because of the local connection. (ianbellmusic.ca)

Songs to make work easier

Shanties aren’t so much songs as they are templates of songs, Bell said.

The rhythm helped workers carry out tasks in unison such as pulling in sails on sailboats.

“Some of the jobs needed a bunch of short pulls, and some of the jobs needed longer pulls, and so there was a whole repertoire of songs that fitted those needs and that the sailors sang to make the work go a little more easily,” he said.

But the lyrics were fluid.

Each work crew might have a shantyman — possibly the person with the loudest voice — who might recall some of the original words to the number, but there was a lot of improvisation, Bell explained.

“If the job wasn’t over and he’d finished the song, ‘Well, we’ll add a verse about the cook,'” he added.

Great Lakes shanties name local spots

A number of sea shanties were written on or about the Great Lakes and they are particular to the types of ships on the lakes, he said. Specifically, they were schooners rather than clipper ships. 

There were lots of capstan shanties, or songs sung while rotating the capstan to pull in an anchor, he said. Some also specifically mention the lakes or the surrounding areas.

“They mention Buffalo and they mention Long Point and they mention Windsor and Sarnia,” Bell said. 

For those wanting to learn a shanty or two and get in on the social media activity, Bell recommended Bully in the Alley and It’s Me for the Inland Lakes.

“I love the way it’s happening on Tik Tok,” Bell said, “which I haven’t tried, because, let’s be frank; I’m an old guy.”

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