Amazon’s getting serious about courting media for Alexa skills

In this week’s Rundown, we have a new Digiday+ experience — and more on Amazon’s march into media, as well as a new vibe at Vanity Fair.

The new Digiday+
We’re excited to start the year with a new Digiday+ experience, which will be live later today. You’ll now find all exclusive content — including our twice-weekly research, The Rundown and Digiday magazine content — in one place, along with information on our upcoming events, Digiday IP and more. We plan to continue adding features to Digiday+ this year, led by the new managing director of Digiday+, Jack Marshall. Be sure to reach out to Jack about what you like, what you don’t like and what you’d like to see more of.

As a reminder, please come to our next Digiday+ event, a live podcast recording at Bleacher Report headquarters in New York City with Howard Mittman, CRO of Bleacher Report. I’m speaking with Howard about why the pivot to video has failed for many — most? — publishers, looking at Bleacher Report as a lifestyle brand and why to be optimistic about ad-supported media at a time when everyone seems to be trying to diversify away from it. Please register here. We’d love to see you there. — Brian Morrissey

Amazon gets serious about Alexa skills
Amazon is going to revamp the Alexa skill store this year. It just hired a new team for Alexa skills a couple months ago, as it has struggled to get users to adopt and use the product. Google, meanwhile, has been doing everything it can to play catch up — which includes meeting with media companies to create content for Google Home. — Sahil Patel

Google vs. Amazon
If there is one clear theme of CES, it’s how afraid Google is of Amazon’s lead in the coming voice war. It’s impossible to walk anywhere on the Strip without seeing a massive Google billboard. The company has a fleet of workers inside the Aria hotel directing attendees to various things Google is doing. As one media executive who met with Google this week told me, Google is afraid of Amazon’s success with Alexa and is desperately trying to catch up. His view: Google can separate itself by cutting checks with media companies. A second media executive said Google has been incredibly active in the past few months in getting media companies to create content for Google Home. “Google bought Nest thinking the ‘internet of things’ was the next big thing,” said the first media executive, “and then they see Amazon stumbling into success with Alexa, and they realized it’s not IOT but voice that’s the next thing.” — Sahil Patel

Amazon’s big sports push
Rumors of Amazon’s push into live sports refuse to go away. The online retailer reportedly held talks with Premier League bosses about broadcasting live soccer matches in the U.K. between 2019 and 2022. The reports speculate that Amazon could rival Sky and BT to show matches when they are auctioned next month. However, industry sources argue that a move for the rights, despite the online giant’s clear interest, is unlikely. “I smell Premier League market-building rumors,” said one sports marketing insider, while another suggested talks between Amazon and the Premier League were preliminary. The thinking is that rights holders speaking to potential partners before a tender isn’t that surprising and that the league wants as many bidders as possible.

What will likely happen is both Sky and BT renew for around the same price ($6.62 billion) as they did last time. The outlay is too big for Amazon to pay when it doesn’t need to. Premier League rights are another level to the $13.5 million the technology firm agreed to annually pay the ATP to show tennis matches. — Seb Joseph

Vanity Fair’s new day
It’s a new day at Condé Nast, where one by one, at titles from Teen Vogue to Glamour, almost all the editors from the Si Newhouse era are being replaced by ones who are often younger, more diverse and digitally savvy. At Vanity Fair, where Graydon Carter presided as a cultural tastemaker for 25 years, you get the sense that people are ready for something new. The bygone celebrities and dead Kennedy covers that served the magazine well in a newsstand-driven era feel dusty, and the Hollywood machine Vanity Fair helped create is due for a comeuppance in the age of #MeToo.

Condé Nast signaled that it, too, wanted something very different from Carter in choosing Radhika Jones, a former top Time and New York Times books editor who’s quiet and low-profile, and she’s likely to bring a far different approach to the magazine, too. — Lucia Moses

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