The Week Kick-off: From SpaceX to ZX and cover to cover hits

Media made the headlines in every sense last week, as bold covers from Time and ES magazine lit up social timelines. For Facebook, the spotlight brought unwelcome scrutiny, in the form of a damming Wall Street Journal Investigation (WSJ). And while Elon Musk’s SpaceX somehow managed to fly under the radar, there was unavoidably sad news from the UK, as Sir Clive Sinclair – inventor of the ZX Spectrum – passed away. So fire up your tape-decks and prepare for launch, as we load up another week in Media… 

Magazines engage from cover to cover

Two magazine covers set tongues wagging last week, as Time and ES magazine reminded us of the power of a strong visual. The former ran with an image of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, who the publication included on its Top 100 Most Influential of 2021 list. The image received some detailed social commentary, with some readers suggesting that the Prince’s bald spot had been airbrushed, while others speculated that he looked like a hairdresser talking Meghan through what he’d done to her layers. 

Back across the pond, The Evening Standard’s ES Magazine – which last week also unveiled a new editor – published a new piece of NFT artwork, which the publication says is the first ever moving NFT art produced by a fashion magazine. It features LGBTQ+ campaigner, poet and fashion model, Kai-Isaiah Jamal, and was developed in collaboration with multi-disciplinary artists Warren Du Preez and Nick Thornton Jones. Read more here.   

Facebook hits back at The WSJ

For Facebook, last week’s media scrutiny left the company looking far from fashionable. The Wall Street Journal published the findings of an investigative report into the social media giant, inclusive of what it claims are internal documents. One slide posted on the Facebook message board is reported to say, “Thirty-two percent of teen girls said that when they felt bad about their bodies, Instagram made them feel worse,” while an internal programme known as XCheck has given millions of celebrities and other high-profile users special treatment that exempts them from certain rules.

Facebook hit back against the report over the weekend, in the form of a blog post and Twitter thread from Nick Clegg, the company’s Vice President of Global Affairs. In it, the former Deputy Prime Minister of the UK, said: 

“At the heart of this series is an allegation that is just plain false: that Facebook conducts research and then systematically and wilfully ignores it if the findings are inconvenient for the company. This impugns the motives and hard work of thousands of researchers, policy experts and engineers at Facebook who strive to improve the quality of our products, and to understand their wider (positive and negative) impact. It’s a claim which could only be made by cherry-picking selective quotes from individual pieces of leaked material in a way that presents complex and nuanced issues as if there is only ever one right answer.” Full statement here

Reflecting the more positive side of the industry

While the platform-publisher dispute rages on, there are also more positive stories beginning to emerge from Mediaville. A new agency has been launched in the UK, focussed specifically on championing diverse and inclusive influencer talent. Launching last Thursday, Reflect will operate as a non-profit D&I influencer talent management agency, with all revenues generated being pumped back into its social enterprise vision. 

“So much of what we see every day on our screens and through our media channels still speaks to a ‘one dimensional’ view based on traditional societal stereotypes,” says Russell Amerasekera, Shadow Board Member at Reflect. “The reality is, this narrow lens no longer reflects either the diverse world we live in or the inclusive society we aspire to become. Our aim is to address this imbalance by championing truly diverse content creators and working with brands and media channels to eradicate boundaries. Only by doing that can there be a difference to what people are seeing, reading, hearing and sharing.” Full story here

Space X fails to ignite the imagination

We’ve reported this year on pioneering space launches for both Richard Branson’s Virgin Galatic and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, both of which became significant global media events. So roll-up Elon Musk and SpaceX – the company that’s arguably winning today’s commercial space race, technologically at least. 

Only trouble is that the latest launch itself – which saw the first private, all-civilian astronaut team orbit the earth – was delivered with very little fanfare (or transparency). Gizmodo described the mission as “surprisingly secretive” and a “major letdown”, while the BBC hinted at the reasoning behind the relative lack of coverage compared with other recent space events: “Not much information has been released since launch about the activities of the crew, who are the subject of an exclusive Netflix documentary.” Watch this SpaceX… if you have Netflix. 

Sir Clive Sinclair dies

There was sad news from the UK last week as Sir Clive Sinclair – creator of the ZX Spectrum and electric powered Sinclair C5 – passed away at the age of 81. He is also credited as being the inventor of the pocket calculator. The Guardian newspaper reportedthat Elon Musk, commenting on an article about Sir Clive on Twitter, wrote: “RIP, Sir Sinclair. I loved that computer.” His daughter, Belinda, told the newspaper: “He was a rather amazing person. Of course, he was so clever and he was always interested in everything. My daughter and her husband are engineers so he’d be chatting engineering with them.”

As for FIPP…

Following the success of our Digital Immersion Week at the beginning of the month, held in partnership with Google and the FT, we will now be running a second course from 4-8 October. It will once again be a specialist five-day course for operational managers in magazine media in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, and will include case studies from the FT as well as from leading magazine media brands.

Attendance is free, but the programme has space for only attendees, and applications close this Wednesday 22 September. You can find more information and submit your application here

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