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The fall of the SPAC market has digital media companies in disagreement about best path forward – CNBC

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Craig Barritt | Getty Images

The digital media industry has reached a strategic crossroads.

Earlier this year, special purpose acquisition vehicles (SPACs) appeared to be the long-awaited savior of digital media companies. BuzzFeed, Vice, Bustle Digital Group and others with venture capital backing had a plan to pay back investors with publicly traded stock. A few of the largest players would go public first, and those companies would then roll up smaller peers, paying with equity to get deals done. The end result would be a handful of larger digital media entities with enough global scale to survive.

But when the Securities and Exchange Commission cracked down on SPAC accounting practices in April, the booming market came to a near standstill. In the first quarter, there were an average of 89 new SPACs issued each month, according to Bespoke Investment Group. From April through late August, issuance has dropped to an average of fewer than 10 per month.

While issuance has plummeted, remaining SPACs are aggressively hunting for deals. July had the second-highest month of SPAC transactions ever on record.

Still, the recent performance of already-completed deals has been lackluster. Prices for the overall space are at the lowest levels since late 2020, said Bespoke. This is affecting SPACs that haven’t found targets yet. Of the 426 post-IPO SPACs which have not yet announced a deal, the average is trading 31 basis points below its IPO price, said Bespoke. In other words, investors are assuming that target companies will be increasingly undesirable.

This confused market, with many SPACs still hunting for deals but very few new SPACs forming and a clear skepticism pervading transactions, has caused some digital media companies to hang on to the SPAC dream while others are rejecting the blank-check companies as merely a fad.

There are three broad camps among digital media executives right now: SPAC believers, SPAC considerers, and SPAC rejecters.

SPAC Believers: Buzzfeed, Forbes, Bustle, Group Nine

The first group continues to believe SPACs are the best way forward. Digital media entities provide steady growth, reliable revenue and aren’t as fanciful with projections as some of the companies that have led to the SPAC downturn, said Bryan Goldberg, Chief Executive Officer at Bustle Digital Group.

“Broadly speaking, SPAC mania has gone sideways, but that doesn’t apply to the digital media world,” said Goldberg. “There’s been a shift from growth to value. That should help digital media founders. What Wall Street normally considers a bargain may be an attractive multiple to media CEOs.”

Bustle plans to pursue a SPAC later this year or early next year, said Goldberg.

This past week, Forbes announced it had reached an agreement to go public via SPAC after reaching a deal at an implied $630 million valuation with the blank check entity Magnum Opus Acquisition. The same day Forbes announced its deal, Axel Springer agreed to pay about $1 billion for Politico, another digital media company.

While that $1 billion exit may seem routine to many large institutional investors, it’s meaningful to digital media founders. Very few companies in the industry have sold at a multiple as high as 5x revenue, Goldberg noted. Politico generates about $200 million in annual revenue. That’s a bullish sign for an industry that’s come back to life after pandemic quarantines in 2020 briefly rocked advertising revenues.

BuzzFeed has also already found a SPAC partner, though, like Forbes, it hasn’t yet started trading publicly. BuzzFeed in June agreed to merge with 890 Fifth Avenue Partners at a $1.5 billion valuation. Chief Executive Officer Jonah Peretti said publicly he expects BuzzFeed to be an aggressive acquirer of other digital media companies — providing another off-ramp for founders who may feel uneasy about pursuing a SPAC, themselves.

Group Nine, which owns digital brands such as NowThis, Thrillist, The Dodo and PopSugar, has already launched a SPAC that it will use to take itself public — but only after it finds a merger partner or partners to bulk up the size of the company.

Ben Lerer
Olivia Michael | CNBC

Group Nine’s SPAC, which went public in January, has an added layer of complexity because it involves merging a target with an existing company, rather than just going public through an empty vessel. Group Nine has taken the entire year to scout targets and has held conversations with dozens of companies, according to people familiar with the matter. Finding the correct cultural and financial fit, with CEOs willing to work together, has bogged down deal talks with several companies, the people said. Still, Group Nine expects to announce a deal soon, according to a person familiar with the matter. A Group Nine spokeswoman declined to comment.

SPAC Considerers: Vice, Vox

Vice Media Group’s efforts to go public via SPAC have stalled as so-called PIPE (private investment in public equity) investors balked at the company’s valuation, according to people familiar with the matter. While Vice hasn’t given up hope on a SPAC yet, it currently has no specific timetable to go public, said the people. A Vice spokesperson declined to comment.

Vox Media has also held conversations with a number of different SPACs but hasn’t made a decision to pursue a deal, according to people familiar with the company’s thinking. Vox is profitable and may choose to forgo a SPAC for some of the same reasons to move forward: business is good and steadily improving. For private companies that don’t need the public capital, and don’t have pushy early shareholders itching to get a return on their investments, there may not motivation to do a transaction now.

SPAC Rejecters: Axios, Penske

Axios, the digital news site that pulled out of talks to be acquired by Axel Springer in July, and Penske Media Group, which owns publications including “Variety,” “Rolling Stone,” and “Hollywood Reporter,” are among companies that aren’t pursuing SPACs, according to people familiar with the matter.

Penske has been approached by eight different SPACs but has no interest in pursuing a deal given the current market, according to a company spokesperson.

“We haven’t pursued or entertained such discussions, as we believe it is a short-term game to provide liquidity for opportunistic/greedy investors or fledgling companies who cannot get public through a traditional IPO process,” a Penske spokesperson said. “We remain focused on long-term shareholder value, not on the latest investor fad.”

An important piece of the puzzle for digital media will be the stock performance of BuzzFeed, Forbes and any other digital media company that moves forward with a SPAC merger in the coming months. If shares sink in early trading, other digital media companies may be reluctant to take their equity in return for a deal. They’ll also be more cautious about pursuing their own SPAC.

If skepticism of SPACs grows among the industry, the grand plan of consolidating and surviving as publicly traded entities may collapse. January’s SPAC Pax Romana may end up a lot like the Roman Empire’s.

WATCH: Buzzfeed CEO on going public via a SPAC merger

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Van life looks idyllic on social media. But for couples, it can be challenging – CNN

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(CNN)It looks like a dreamy life of freedom on the open road: golden sunsets, cozy bunks and endless photo ops amidst stunning views of nature.

A growing cult of nomads are taking long road trips — sometimes for months — in tricked-out camper vans, often documenting their travel highlights on Instagram with the hashtag #vanlife.
But for couples, especially inexperienced ones, this seemingly carefree lifestyle can come with unique problems. Sharing cramped quarters and isolated from their support networks, couples on the road say they must battle boredom and logistical challenges day after day without driving each other crazy.
The death of Gabby Petito, 22, while on a cross-country trip this summer with her fiancé, Brian Laundrie, has brought new attention to aspects of van life that don’t make it into sunny social media posts. Evidence shows the couple had some tense moments on the road in the days before she disappeared.
Petito’s remains were found Sunday in Wyoming. Nobody has been charged in her death. Authorities are looking for Laundrie, 23, who has gone missing since returning alone earlier this month to his parents’ home in Florida.
Many couples romanticize the idea of road trips but fail to plan key details in advance and end up trapped in a toxic situation, says Chicago-area psychologist John Duffy, who has worked with van life couples.
“A trip like this may feel like a heady, exciting adventure that will draw you closer together, and often it is. But the days, I’ve heard, can be long and arduous. Naturally, you get on each other’s nerves, at least some of the time,” Duffy said.
“And if you haven’t spent some significant time together, you may find yourselves in an uncomfortable — and, in the extreme, dangerous — level of discomfort and conflict.”

Sharing a small space can take a toll

The #vanlife lifestyle has grown in popularity in recent years, fueled by social media posts, DIY van conversion videos on YouTube and the desire to escape crowds during the pandemic.
CNN spoke to a handful of couples who have roamed the US in vans. They say they have been following developments in the Petito case, riveted by the story of the young couple who shared their interests and appeared on social media to have a perfect life.
“I followed the case borderline obsessively. Gabby had devastating and heartbreaking bad luck,” says Sierra Peters-Buckland, 28, a van lifer who’s gone on monthslong trips with her girlfriend, Annette Hayward. “But, vanlife did not kill Gabby, traveling did not kill Gabby, the national parks did not kill Gabby. A person killed Gabby.”
For Peters-Buckland, the allure of the van life beckoned last year. She quit her job at a sporting goods store in Oceanside, California, packed her bags and started planning a cross-country trip.
Sierra Peters-Buckland and her girlfriend have traveled so far to 42 states and 50 national parks.

Sierra Peters-Buckland and her girlfriend have traveled so far to 42 states and 50 national parks.

In April, she and Hayward bought a white Mercedes Sprinter van they nicknamed Chance. They decked it out in crisp white linen and curtains to soften the van’s wooden interior, packed a few belongings and stashed bear spray in various spots to protect against intruders. Then they hit the road.
On their last trip Peters-Buckland and her girlfriend drove 24,000 miles and visited 42 states and 50 national parks. They saw buffalo, bears, moose and bighorn sheep. One Instagram pic showed a sunrise over Death Valley National Park; the coffee mug in the foreground says, “Enjoy the Journey.”
But long days and numerous daily tasks on the road can take a toll, says Peters-Buckland. She says their journeys taught them valuable lessons on handling conflict.
“Travel, especially budget travel, can be tiring and cause extra strains having to make decisions every day … expect the hard times, expect the unexpected and have strategies in place if you’re in a relationship that can get into heated arguments,” Peters-Buckland says, adding that she and Hayward learned to resolve their disputes quickly.
Of course, some couples have abusive relationships from the beginning, and their problems can’t be blamed on a long journey in a van.
But even so, too much bickering on the road is a bad sign, van lifers say.
“If the arguments are happening super regularly, becoming aggressive, or causing deep sadness, the reality is you should not be traveling together in a small space. And probably not be in a relationship,” Peters-Buckland says. “We need to stop normalizing toxic behavior so more people don’t end up like Gabby.”

Van lifers must take care of their mental health

Van lifers say they meet like-minded people and make friends all over the country. But it can be lonely being away from their social circles.
Navod Ahmir has been driving his black 2018 Ford Transit van cross-country on a part-time basis for a year now. He’s been up and down the East Coast and to a gathering of Black nomads in Georgia. His partner regularly comes along for the ride.
“I think the importance of community and how much being alone on the road for long periods can take a toll on your mental health isn’t discussed enough,” says Ahmir, 28, of Rocky Mount, North Carolina. “It’s a balancing act between learning to be more social and living with fewer attachments to people and things.”
With a support system hundreds of miles away and nowhere to flee after a disagreement, couples are forced to get creative about resolving conflicts, he says. Ahmir and his partner are careful to take breaks from each other when needed.
Navod Ahmir, 28, drives his 2018 Ford Transit van on frequent long road trips. His partner regularly comes along for the ride.

Navod Ahmir, 28, drives his 2018 Ford Transit van on frequent long road trips. His partner regularly comes along for the ride.

“For example, if I’m taking a nap, then my partner may relax in the cabin, work at a nearby park bench or explore the area until I wake,” he says. “Communication is key, as it’s equal parts listening to understand and speaking up for yourself.”
Like stationary couples, van life couples must practice patience and find what works best for their lifestyle, he says.
Ahmir works remotely in finance and is planning to make his van life permanent later this year. But he says Petito’s case has made him and his partner refocus their priorities to maintain a healthy relationship while on the road.
“We read a lot of personal development books and strive to apply that knowledge to our daily lives, which filters into our relationship,” he says. “Because of this case, we’ll be highlighting our focus on better communication.”

Long trips take a lot of planning

Chicago resident Katherine Kulpa, 31, has gone on several road trips with her boyfriend in a rented ProMaster cargo van.
Van life for couples involves detailed planning that factors both people into the equation, she says.
“It requires a lot of teamwork and communication. You have to make joint decisions on travel plans, often times on the fly,” she says. “Traveling as a couple is fun, but sharing a smaller space can be challenging if you’re not organized.”
Katherine Kulpa has taken a few road trips with her boyfriend in a rented van. "There are definitely parts of van trips that are tough," she says.

Katherine Kulpa has taken a few road trips with her boyfriend in a rented van. "There are definitely parts of van trips that are tough," she says.

On their most recent trips — to North Carolina’s Outer Banks last fall and Shawnee National Forest in Illinois this summer, security was also a concern. They traveled with their dogs, Kasper and Daisy, and stuck to campsites at night.
They also shared their travel itinerary in advance with family and friends.
“Social media makes most travel look more glamorous than it is. There are definitely parts of van trips that are tough,” she says. “If you don’t have a shower or bathroom inside either that can be a challenge, and usually means you have to find a campsite or public restroom. The van can get messy easily, so you have to stay organized.”

Couples should first ask themselves key questions

Heading out on the road for weeks or months at a time requires major logistical and financial planning.
For couples, that should also include talking with a therapist or life coach, says Duffy, the psychologist.
“Talk through a series of questions: How long do we plan to be gone? What is the purpose of the trip? How much do we plan to spend?” he says. “One couple I worked with spent some time in session talking at length about who would be driving, leading to a discussion about control in their relationship. These are important discussions to engage in ahead of the trip.”
Gabby Petito and her fiancé, Brian Laundrie. Many van lifers have followed Petito's disappearance and death with interest.

Gabby Petito and her fiancé, Brian Laundrie. Many van lifers have followed Petito's disappearance and death with interest.

Couples should also figure out how they will manage changes in plans or emergencies, he says. And while road-trippers can’t prepare for every contingency, a plan can help with problem solving and conflict management, Duffy says.
Young couples often have less experience living together and resolving issues together. Confine them to a small space for days or weeks at a time and there is an increased potential for conflict, he says.
A core idea of such trips is to create memories together, but couples should also have a plan for spending time apart to give each other space, Duffy says.
“Some can do that silently within the vehicle, even seated next to one another,” he says. “Others will need to pull over in a town or out on the road, and allow each other that space. Without planning a method for conflict management ahead of time, the van … can quickly become a toxic and unhealthy environment.”

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Media Release – September 24, 2021 – Guelph Police – guelphpolice.ca

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Home Invasion Investigation

On the morning of September 16th, 2021, three adult males and an adult female forced their way into an apartment in a residential building located near the intersection of Speedvale Avenue East and Stevenson Street North in the City of Guelph.

An adult male resident was struck with a firearm, and other weapons were brandished during this incident. The male resident and an adult female resident were ultimately able to lock themselves in a room and contact the Guelph Police Service for assistance. The three males and female fled on foot.

The male resident was transported to hospital, treated for his injuries and released.     

Police later located the three males inside another apartment in the building and they were subsequently arrested.

Through investigation, police identified the female involved and a warrant was issued.

This was a targeted incident and there is no concern for public safety. 

A 26 year old Guelph male has been charged with:
-Disguise With Intent
-Break, Enter And Commit Indictable Offence

He was held in custody pending a bail hearing on September 24th.

A 27 year old Guelph male has been charged with:
-Disguise With Intent
-Break, Enter And Commit Indictable Offence
-Use Firearm While Committing Offence
-Possession Of A Weapon For A Dangerous Purpose x2
-Breach Probation
-Fail To Comply With Judicial Release Order

He was held in custody pending a bail hearing on September 24th.

A 33 year old Guelph male has been charged with:
-Disguise With Intent
-Break, Enter And Commit Indictable Offence
-Possession Of Weapon For A Dangerous Purpose
-Fail To Comply With Judicial Release Order

He was held in custody pending a bail hearing on September 29th.

On September 23rd, just before 9:46am, police observed the female as a passenger in a motor vehicle driving near the intersection of Wellington Street West and Fife Road. A traffic stop was initiated, and an adult male driver fled the area on foot.

The female was subsequently arrested.

A search incident to arrest revealed 1.18 grams of Fentanyl.

Further investigation revealed that both the vehicle and the vehicle plates were stolen.

A 30 year old Guelph female has been charged with:
-Disguise With Intent
-Break, Enter And Commit Indictable Offence
-Use Firearm While Committing Offence
-Possession Of Weapon For A Dangerous Purpose
-Assault With A Weapon x2
-Breach Probation
-Fail To Comply With OIC Undertaking
-Possession Of A Controlled Substance – Schedule I
-Possession Of Stolen Property Under $5,000 x2

She was held in custody pending a bail hearing on September 24th.

Please note that police found a second adult female in the vehicle during the traffic stop. She was also subsequently arrested.

A 23 year old Guelph female has been charged with:
-Possession Of Stolen Property Under $5,000 x2

She will appear in court on January 14th, 2022.

The male who fled the vehicle on foot was not located.

Anyone with any information is asked to contact Constable Jenifer Nadalin at 519-824-1212 ext. 7523, email her at jnadalin@guelphpolice.ca, leave an anonymous tip at CRIME STOPPERS 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or submit an anonymous tip online at www.csgw.tips.

Road Rage Incident Leads To Weapon Charges

On September 23rd, 2021, just before 6:01pm, a road rage incident occurred between two adult male drivers, which lead to both males exiting their motor vehicles out front of a residence located near the intersection of Starwood Drive and Eastview Road in the City of Guelph. One of the males then pulled foldable knife out of his pocket, opened the blade and held it out in a threatening manner. He eventually left the area in his vehicle.

At 10:32pm, the male who had the knife turned himself into the Guelph Police Service station and was subsequently arrested.

A 29 year old Guelph male has been charged with:
-Assault With A Weapon
-Possession Of A Weapon For A Dangerous Purpose

He will appear in court on January 11th, 2022.

Motor Vehicle Collision Investigation

On September 23rd, 2021, just before 4:52pm, a collision occurred between two motor vehicles near the intersection of Dawson Road and Speedvale Avenue West in the City of Guelph. The collision resulted in minor injuries but significant damage to both vehicles.

Anyone with any dash camera footage in the area or any information at all is asked to contact Constable Lindsay Porterfield at 519-824-1212 ext. 7182, email her at lporterfield@guelphpolice.ca, leave an anonymous tip at CRIME STOPPERS 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or submit an anonymous tip online at www.csgw.tips.

Stolen ATV

Some time between midnight and 8am on September 23rd, 2021, a shed in the backyard of a residence located near the intersection of Edinburgh Road South and Waterloo Avenue in the City of Guelph was entered. An ATV was then taken, as its key was left in the ignition.

However, the vehicle wasn’t in good working order and was difficult drive, so it was abandoned around the corner from the residence, and was recovered by police at 9am.

Anyone with any information is asked to contact Constable Joshua van Breda at 519-824-1212 ext. 7417, email him at jvanbreda@guelphpolice.ca, leave an anonymous tip at CRIME STOPPERS 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or submit an anonymous tip online at www.csgw.tips.

The Guelph Police Service would like to encourage the public to never leave keys in the ignition of an unattended motor vehicle.

Multiple Motor Vehicle Collisions And Driving Complaints

Over the past 24 hours the Guelph Police Service received reports of 14 motor vehicle collisions and 11 driving complaints occurring throughout the City of Guelph.

The Guelph Police Service would like to encourage the public to slow down and follow the rules of the road in order to help ensure everyone arrives to their destination safely.

Calls for Service in the last 24 hours: 227

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Black Press Media Weekly Roundup: Top headlines this week – Summerland Review – Summerland Review

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Good afternoon and happy Friday!

Before you start off your weekend full of sunshine, cooler weather and pumpkin patch adventures, catch up on some of this week’s news headlines from the Okanagan-Shuswap region.

Woman found dead at Highway 33 and Nickel Road in Kelowna

Kelowna RCMP launched an investigation after the body of a woman was found at Highway 33 and Nickel Road in the city.

Police said they don’t have much information surrounding the woman’s death or the cause of it, but the investigation is ongoing.

Fundraisers set up for family of Penticton murder victim

Fundraisers have been set up for a Penticton murder victim’s family.

Taig Savage’s mother, Tracey, previously lost two other children in a house fire. The goal of the fundraisers is to support her as she goes through losing a child in a tragic way for the third time.

One dead in Vernon shooting

One person died and another person was taken into police custody after a morning shooting in Vernon on Monday (Sept. 20).

Vernon North Okanagan RCMP said the victim and the man in custody are known to each other. As he is still in custody, police said there is no further threat to public safety.

Boaters want Shuswap Lake channel dredged but obstacles deter city

Boaters have been asking the City of Salmon Arm to dredge the channel that leads into Shuswap Lake, but the mayor and his staff say that the high costs and government requirements to dredge are keeping them from doing it.

Staff added that dredging is a temporary solution and has a short life span.

And that’s all for this week. Have yourself a good and safe weekend.


@twilamam
twila.amato@blackpress.ca

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