The Woman Behind the New York Times’ High-Risk, High-Reward Business Strategy

Meredith Kopit Levien, chief operating officer of the New York Times

a deal: the $14 million, 15-month commitment included Samsung “360” cameras distributed to hundreds of Times reporters, as well as heaps of ad space. The resulting 360 videos got prominent placement, some on the home page, and they carried a credit for Samsung.

.. It is the kind of nontraditional pact that Ms. Levien, who became chief operating officer last year, has pursued as she tries to steer the Times through unforgiving waters in publishing.

Through the Samsung deal and others with the likes of General Electric Co. and BMW AG , the 47-year-old executive is upending the Times century-old ad sales strategy, shifting away from one-off ad placements of the low-six-figure variety, in favor of more elaborate and lucrative deals that resemble corporate partnerships.

.. It’s worth it, she said, because the old ad business—which she describes as selling rectangles of ad space in the paper or on the website—“is just falling away.”
.. Last year, the Times’ revenue grew 7.7%, powered by a run of digital subscription sales tied largely to interest in politics and the Trump era.
..  it wasn’t enough to offset weakness in print that resulted in a nearly 4% contraction in overall ad revenue.
.. The Times has been among the most aggressive outlets at pitching nontraditional ad deals, advertising executives said.
.. she joined the Times in 2013 as head of advertising. At the time, the seemingly inexorable decline of print advertising wasn’t the paper’s only problem; digital-ad revenue was dropping, too.
.. Ms. Levien quickly rose to chief revenue officer.
Although the ad-sales group has grown to around 500 people from 350, fewer than 100 of them work in conventional ad-sales roles.
.. They’re now working on a partnership that could involve a sponsored video or podcast series reflecting Principal’s expertise on people’s financial behavior.
.. She and her team sat in on an editorial meeting to see “how the sausage is made.” Bringing an advertiser to a news-planning meeting isn’t typical in mainstream news organizations
Mr. Baquet says the Times opens up its meeting to various outsiders, including advertisers, from time to time.

.. After the initial Samsung 360 deal ended, the two sides got to work on a new deal that would involve displaying a New York Times news briefing on Samsung smart TVs that are in Ambient Mode


Batteries Are Taking Over the World

For all the “gigafactory” hype, Tesla doesn’t make batteries: Cell production is the responsibility of its Japanese partner Panasonic. The other leaders in the field are LG Chem and Samsung SDI ,both listed subsidiaries of the namesake Korean conglomerates, which supply the electric-vehicle projects of Nissan, General Motors and BMW , among others.

.. Hot on the Koreans’ heels are two Chinese companies determined to supply the ballooning Chinese electric-vehicle market: BYD, 25% owned by Berkshire Hathaway and also an electric-car maker, and CATL, which is planning a $2 billion initial public offering in Shenzhen in the coming months.

.. These five companies and a few newcomers—among whom car makers are conspicuously absent—currently intend to build 24 factories with a total capacity of 332 GWh by 2021

.. Investors looking to benefit from this gold rush need to take a very long-term view. The capital requirements are vast, and the contracts being signed are at wafer-thin margins. Sam Jaffe, managing director of battery researcher Cairn ERA, says the companies are taking “the traditional Asian conglomerate approach” of prioritizing market share over profits.

.. And manufacturers are under intense pressure from environmental regulators to sell electric cars even though their cost is uncompetitive. The only solution for car makers will be to pile pressure on battery prices. Big new factories will enable suppliers to cut unit costs, but profits could get lost in the squeeze.

.. Investors may be better off looking further up the supply chain. The most valuable component of a battery is its cathode

.. The risk for these companies is that a radically new technology makes existing investments obsolete.

.. John Goodenough, a now 95-year-old professor at the University of Texas considered a founding father of the lithium-ion battery, this year claimed a breakthrough with “solid-state” cells, which sideline various problems by replacing a flammable liquid electrolyte with a hard layer. Toyota expects to sell cars with solid-state batteries by the early 2020s; British engineering firm Dyson has penciled in a 2020 launch date for a solid-state car.

Why You Might Spend $1,000 on a Smartphone

Many delay upgrades of other big-ticket items so they can buy a better device

Apple’s newest iPhone is expected to have components that cost about 80% more than the components in the iPhone 7, including an edge-to-edge, organic light-emitting diode, or OLED, display, wireless charging and new sensors

.. If consumers take the new price points in stride, Apple and Samsung could widen their advantage over hundreds of smartphone rivals, many struggling to break even. Apple and Samsung claim nearly all the industry’s combined annual profits, with about 79% for Apple and 15% for Samsung

.. The two are defying the gravity that usually pulls consumer prices downward as innovation wanes and manufacturing costs fall. For example, average prices for TVs and laptops have fallen about 50% from their respective peaks over the past 15 years, to $467 for TVs and $598 for laptops