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Articles, News

Q1 in Media: M&A, Search Engines, Cookies, Regulation, IPOs, AI, and more…

By Andrew Arida

An eventful first quarter has drawn to a close. We’re wrapping up the biggest changes on the open internet in publishing and media.

A few top takeaways:

  • Several iconic media brands were rolled up, shut down, or otherwise greatly changed;
  • Publishers are searching for alternatives to search traffic as Google and Bing embrace AI and referrals dip;
  • Major mergers and acquisitions changed the media landscape again;
  • Sights are set on Q1 2025 for cookie deprecation D-Day, kicking off a race to gather more first-party data;
  • Countries and States are stepping up action against social media companies for their dangerous impacts on mental-health; and
  • One major media IPO showed us the power of passionate communities.

2024 is shaping up to be anything but dull. With cookie deprecation around the corner, movement is everywhere and picking up pace.

Now, let’s get into the detail. 

Mergers, Acquisitions, and IPOs

Pitchfork Rolls Up into GQ

Pitchfork, renowned for its in-depth coverage of music and culture, was merged into GQ. This move signifies a strategic alignment aimed at expanding GQ’s cultural coverage while leveraging Pitchfork’s expertise in music journalism.

Our read? We’re with Casey Newton on this one. Pitchfork didn’t lose out to better music journalism elsewhere. Tech music giants like Spotify have stepped up their algorithmic recommendations, displacing a major reason that music reviews are needed at all. That should be a reminder to publishers: increasingly, competition is truly everywhere.

Sports Illustrated Keeps Print, Partners with Minute Media

In January, Sports Illustrated announced plans to discontinue its print edition, signaling a shift towards digital-first content. However, Minute’s acquisition injected new life into the print publication, betting on the enduring appeal of traditional media formats despite the rise of digital platforms.

VICE Goes Studio Model

Once valued at $5.7 billion, VICE announced the cessation of updates on its website, signaling a shift in its digital strategy, transitioning to a fully studio model. This decision reflects a broader trend in media, highlighting the challenges faced by publishers in sustaining traffic.

The Independent Takes Control

The Independent taking control of HuffPost and BuzzFeed in the UK and Ireland marks more strategic moves towards consolidation, a move to unlock synergy between media entities. This turns the publication into Britain’s largest publisher network—a new powerhouse demonstrating the importance of scale and diversification in an increasingly competitive landscape.

Reddit’s IPO

The nearly 20-year-old Reddit, Inc. went public after several years of cleaning house to improve the platform’s reputation, innovating on its native advertising offering, and maintaining trust with a notoriously fractious user base. A major milestone for the platform, the listing also signals a thawing IPO market for tech and social media specifically.

As we wrote on OpenWeb’s LinkedIn, their success is an excellent example of how to balance trust, loyalty and monetization, and a win for “social media” outside the algorithmic feeds of Meta, TikTok, and X.

Technological Disruptions and Regulatory Changes

Cookie Deprecation is Nigh

Google’s long-awaited third-party cookie deprecation has begun, sending shockwaves throughout the advertising and publishing ecosystem. Publishers and marketers alike are rethinking their strategies and testing new solutions for audience targeting, data collection, and monetization. Most experts agree Google will finish the job by or in the first quarter of 2025.

Regulatory Scrutiny on Social Platforms

Increased regulatory scrutiny on social media platforms, particularly regarding child safety and privacy concerns, has led to fines and potential bans around the world. exemplified by:

These developments highlight the growing importance of regulatory compliance and responsible platform governance in the digital age.

Challenges and Opportunities for Publishers

SEO Shifts, Traffic Declines

Search engine optimization (SEO) is a digital strategy cornerstone but recent shifts in search algorithms, the introduction of AI like Gemini and Copilot, and Google’s roll out of new products to their results pages, have led to declines in traffic across the industry. Publishers are thinking about how to increase loyalty, register more users, and generate new revenue from their most loyal community members.

AI Innovation Keeps Marching Forward

OpenAI’s Sora debuted to acclaim, surprise, and some weariness. Regardless of your reaction, the technology highlights the rapid advancements in AI and its potential applications across various industries. Media organizations everywhere are thinking about how to use AI for content creation, personalization, and audience engagement.

What’s Next?

We’re not going anywhere. As the year keeps unfolding, we’ll continue to provide updates, insights, and best practice across our social channels—stay tuned to our LinkedIn get the latest. 

Let’s have a conversation.

Right now OpenWeb has a limited number of partners we can work with in order to provide the highest quality service to each and every one. Let us know you’re interested and stay informed about how OpenWeb is empowering publishers and advertisers to change online conversations for good.