December 5, 2023

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Media Insider: Condé Nast Cuts 5% of Staff, Biden Signs AI Executive Order, Twitter Value Plummets

4 min read
Also in this week’s media news roundup: The deal to buy Forbes is extended and outlets get a win in the Google antitrust case.
Media Insider: Condé Nast Cuts 5% of Staff, Biden Signs AI Executive Order, Twitter Value Plummets

Welcome to Media Insider, PR Newswire’s roundup of media news stories from the week. 

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

Condé Nast, Publisher of Vogue, Will Cut 5% of Its Work Force
The New York Times | Katie Robertson, Benjamin Mullin

Magazine giant Condé Nast will cut about 5% of its work force, affecting about 270 employees. According to CEO Roger Lynch, the cuts are a result of digital advertising pressures, a decline in social media traffic, and shifting audience behaviors, including a move to short-form video. The announced cuts seem to signal and end to the company’s plans to build up an in-house video studio to tap into Hollywood’s demand for film and TV ideas. Lynch said the video business would be folded in with the editorial brands. Although the video division has seen some success, cash coming from Hollywood has begun to dry up as investors expect streaming services to abandon their grow-at-any-cost approach in favor of profitability.

Read next: NiemanLab examines the “Trump slump” for news organizations and its impact on journalism layoffs.

Biden wants to move fast on AI safeguards and signs an executive order to address his concerns
AP | Josh Boak, Matt O’Brien

President Joe Biden signed an executive order on AI that seeks to balance the needs of cutting-edge technology companies with national security and consumer rights. “AI is all around us,” Biden said. “To realize the promise of AI and avoid the risk, we need to govern this technology.” The order aims to steer how AI is developed so that companies can profit without putting public safety in jeopardy. It requires leading AI developers to share safety test results and other information with the government. Also part of the order, the Commerce Department is to issue guidance to label and watermark AI-generated content to help differentiate between authentic interactions and those generated by software. The guidance within the order is to be implemented and fulfilled over the range of 90 days to 365 days.

Related: New research from the News Media Alliance shows that AI developers outweigh articles over generic online content to train the technology.

X is officially worth less than half of what Elon Musk paid for it
The Verge | Alex Heath

Employees at X, formerly Twitter, were awarded equity in the company at a valuation of $19 billion, a 55% discount to Elon Musk’s original purchase price of $44 billion. Since purchasing the company a year ago, Musk has said that he wants to model the company’s compensation plan after SpaceX, which is also privately held but lets employees regularly cash out a portion of their shares to outside investors. The $19 billion valuation may still be too high, according to one of the company’s big investors, Fidelity, which thinks X is worth 65% less than when Musk bought it.

In other social media news, Meta will launch an ad-free subscription option for Facebook and Instagram for users in Europe.

Forbes buyer asks to extend deal deadline amid scramble for funds
Axios | Sara Fischer

Austin Russell, the 28-year-old Luminar Technologies CEO who is seeking to buy Forbes for $800 million, has received a roughly two-week extension to gather the funds. The high valuation — a premium over previous valuations — has made it difficult to find new investors. The deal has been surrounded by controversy since it was announced in May. Russell actually inherited the deal from Indian investment firm Sun Group, which was dropped from the deal in April due to regulatory concerns. Russell has been working to replace as much foreign cash on the cap table as possible since then. If the deal closes by the end of the extension, Forbes’ new owners will face pressure to disclose who is funding Russell’s bid.

ICYMI: BuzzFeed is in advanced talks to sell Complex Networks at less than half the price it paid for the company two years ago.

Media outlets win fight to gain faster access to Google trial evidence
Ars Technica | Ashley Belanger

In October, media outlets filed a motion with the court arguing that they were struggling to cover the DOJ’s antitrust trial against Google because much of the evidence and proceedings has been withheld, redacted, or closed off entirely to protect industry trade secrets. Judge Amit Mehta granted some of the demands of outlets — including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, MLex, and Law360. The order requires the outlets to designate a single representative to submit document requests on behalf of all outlets and sets a daily limit on the number of document requests. Mehta didn’t grant all of the outlets’ requests, but it’s still considered a win for the media. “Not exactly what we asked for but a great outcome for press freedom,” Bloomberg reporter Leah Nylen posted on X, celebrating the order.

Read next: Newsweek has unveiled the Newsweek Fairness Meter, a tool through which readers can share the perceived political leaning of articles. 

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