Media Unmade podcast - Chapter one: Greg and the Lost Cat
The first chapter of Media Unmade; Facebook's new holding company name; ructions at Prime Media; HT&E makes a deal; and Jake & Viv ride again?
Welcome to Friday’s edition of Unmade.
I was planning for this to be a quick intro, as people listening to the first chapter of my book Media Unmade are going to see these words in their audio app, if that’s how they choose to listen.
But, as Harold Macmillan apparently said: “Events, my dear boy, events…”
So I’ll get to the contents of the first chapter shortly.
First four things from the last few hours:
1. Facebook’s new name is Meta
A couple of hours ago Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg announced the parent brand of Facebook will now be Meta. (Not Horizon, as I speculated a few days ago. Horizon Home will be its metaverse brand).
The company is also not (yet, anyhow) changing its corporate structure to become a holding company in the style of Google’s parent Alphabet. But it will report its financials in two segments “family of apps”, and “reality labs”. Facebook will be one of those apps.
The animated version of the new logo rotates between an infinity symbol and an M
(Until this email lands in my inbox, I’ve no idea by the way, whether Substack’s newsletter technology is capable of displaying the gif above, or whether you’ll need to go online to see what I’m talking about.)
The logo reminds me of the ABC’s brand. There’s more on how they developed the brand on the Facebook design blog. (TIL: Facebook has a design blog.)
Do tell me what you think of it, at email@example.com or via the comment button.
2. Something’s going on at Prime Media
Prime Media put out an unexpected announcement yesterday afternoon. Chairman Ian McGill is gone after just ten months as a director and just eight months as chair. In a corporate world where doing only a single term of three or four years is seen as bad form, the sudden exit suggests more drama in the board room.
You’ll probably recall that Prime has about a year-and-a-half left on its affiliate agreement with Seven. That’s the same amount of time until Ten and Southern Cross Austereo’s own affiliate arrangement expires.
There are also ownership intrigues. Antony Catalano and Alex Waislitz have been moving up the share register while Bruce Gordon gradually sells down. And Seven West Media took a 15 per cent stake when Catalano and Gordon blocked the Seven-Prime merger.
I understand there have been ructions between the owners and the board members in recent weeks. There may even have been threats to spill the board if they did not resume paying a dividend. They did resume paying a dividend.
My former Mumbrella colleague Zoe Samios, who now writes on media for The Age and the SMH, is usually the best informed journo on the activities of the Cat. In the coming days, I’ll be reading her coverage of the ructions with interest.
3. HT&E is ready to start making deals
Less than an hour ago Here, There & Everywhere, the parent company of the Australian Radio Network, dropped a significant announcement on the ASX. The company has finally settled its dispute with the Australian Tax Office over the sale of its New Zealand newspaper assets. The bill will be $71m, which is more than the company wanted to pay, and less than the $195m the tax office was seeking.
The company had already deposited $51m with the ATO. The other $20m will not be a problem to find. In its half year results back in August, HT&E said it had net cash of $122m.
That means that HT&E must now choose whether to spend its war chest, or return the money to its shareholders. Deal making is afoot.
4. Radio Today Tonight, revived?
I previously wrote about the sale of Radio Today to Radioinfo and bemoaned the death of its must-listen weekly podcast featuring soon-to-be ex-owner Jake Challenor and my former Mumbrella colleague Vivienne Kelly.
Maybe it won’t quite be the end after all. A trailer reached my ears last night, for a new podcast called That’s Entertainment.
"From the accompanying blurb: “From the duo that brought you Radio Today Tonight comes a brand new show. Go behind the curtain of Australia’s billion-dollar entertainment industry with a podcast dedicated to the business of media and pop culture, hosted by Vivienne Kelly and Jake Challenor. Launching November 12th, 2021. That’s Entertainment! comes to you each Friday - unfiltered, unedited and uncut - mixing the biggest news of the week with hot takes, insider scoops, and a discussion of all the personalities, politics and pressures from within the bubble.”
That’s a subtle change in the pecking order. Last time round, it was “with Jake and Viv”. This time the names are the other way round.
I understand former Nova executive Jay Walkerden’s Podshape is involved in the project.
Chapter One… in my own words
Which finally brings me onto the main point of today’s email - the first chapter of the audio version of my book Media Unmade.
One of the many things I learned in the process of publishing Media Unmade is that not every book gets an audio edition - the market is smaller, and there are significant production costs involved.
In the case of Media Unmade, which tightly focuses on the Australian media industry, the commercial economics of recording an audio version did not stack up, as it would not be of much wider interest for international audiences.
But I kept being asked whether there would be an audio edition, and as my motivations for doing the book were never commercial, it felt like unfinished business not to find a way. Until an audio version existed, I’d feel like I’d not given the book every chance to succeed.
So instead, I developed a daily routine of finding a couple of hours a day to record at home.
I’d then upload each chapter to Tasmanian audio company Abe’s Audio, whose engineers would work production magic, snipping out my many stumbles and cutting out the various disturbances that come with a home recording. (Pro tip: If you need cost effective audio work, use a Tasmanian audio company.)
On top of launching this newsletter, the recording process has been a bit of a marathon.
In the opening instalment today comes the prologue - featuring Antony Catalano, as it happens, enjoying cocktails in Vegas, and Greg Hywood. It also includes my introduction, when I set the scene for the scope of the book, and then the opening chapter.
The first scene of the chapter is based on this video I shot while trespassing in a basement at Sydney University back in 2010.
But the thrust of the opening chapter is around the miserable situation Fairfax Media found itself in just over a decade ago as digital disruption finally caught up, and Hywood was forced to cut 1,900 jobs. It also features the story of the audacious way that Catalano launched The Weekly Review in Melbourne, setting him on a path to becoming Australia’s last media mogul.
For the next 26 weeks, I’ll be uploading a chapter each Friday. You’ll be able to listen to them via the player at the top of this newsletter, or by adding the feed to your own podcast player. (That’s easier than it sounds - follow the instructions next to the player.)
Some chapters will be available only to paying subscribers. The price of that goes up tomorrow, so your last opportunity to lock in Unmade’s heavily discounted launch price of $144 per year is via this button, today.
Recording the book has been a labour of love. If you like it, you can support it in a couple of ways. First, by buying the text edition. It’s published by Hardie Grant and is available in book stores and online. And second, by passing this email to anybody who might be interested in hearing it.
Time for me to let you get on with your day.
Please do drop me a line to firstname.lastname@example.org, or via the ugly brown comment button.
Have a great weekend.
Proprietor - Unmade