Meredith, Time, Inc. And The Threat Of Moneyed Interests

When Meredith announced it had acquired Time, Inc., for nearly $3 billion late Sunday night, the news was not a surprise. Rumors swirled for weeks that the company best known for women's lifestyle magazines like Better Homes & GardensMartha Stewart Living and Shape, was making another attempt to acquire the heralded publisher.

The merger will result in the world’s largest lifestyle and special-interest print and digital publishing company. According to Variety, in September 2017, the two companies combined shared 174 million unique monthly visitors, and boasted 10 billion video views annually.

One detail of the sale—a massive cash infusion of $650 million by conservative activists the Koch brothers—caught the public’s and media's attention. For now, it’s just speculation whether the money will translate into editorial influence once the deal is completed in early 2018.



Will Meredith sell off the weeklies, such as TimeFortuneSports Illustrated and People, that don’t fit its established editorial aesthetic? Is the goal to achieve great ad scale with more compatible magazines, such as Southern Living and Cooking Light?

Why would the Kochs be interested in investing in a media company that has little in common with its political agenda?

The Daily Beast ran the headline “The National Enquirer Sought Time Magazine—and May Still Get It” investigating an earlier interest by American Media, Inc. in Time, Inc.’s weeklies. It noted that during his campaign, Trump touted the National Enquirer, one of AMI’s titles, as a paper worthy of a Pulitzer.

The story explored the possibility the Koch brothers gave their financial backing to the Meredith deal to gain access to those titles once sought by the conservative AMI, only to sell them off to a similar entity when the deal was done. Other publications echoed this refrain.

The website The Wrap asked how likely it is that the Kochs remain on the sidelines post-merger, citing The Wall Street Journal as an example of Rupert Murdoch throwing his money and politics into a media purchase. He eventually altered the message and coverage of the esteemed WSJ, despite the creation of an “Editorial Integrity Committee.” (Similarly, in 1976, when Murdoch bought the then liberal New York Post from Dorothy Schiff, he transformed it into his conservative beachhead.)

Publisher’s Daily spoke with Jim Fosina, founder and CEO of Fosina Marketing Group, who has worked with media companies like Conde Nast and Hearst, about the upcoming merger.

“These are two powerhouse brands with their own respective suite of titles,” Fosina said, noting the merger offers both companies the opportunity to advertise across a much larger swath of readers. He suggested Meredith would hold on to the Time, Inc. weeklies, strengthening its portfolio in the process.   

Fosina believes the Koch brothers are focused on financial returns — and can secure those returns by bringing in big ad dollars.

But this creates a tricky dichotomy for the future of publishing.

Whether investors—the Koch brothers or Jeff Bezos, owner of The Washington Post—enact their political agenda following investment, analysts wonder if their presence will impact editorial content. In essence, will Meredith maintain Time's informed and lauded journalism or bow to money interests and conservative politics?

4 comments about "Meredith, Time, Inc. And The Threat Of Moneyed Interests".
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  1. Henry Blaufox from Dragon360, November 29, 2017 at 12:27 p.m.

    Perhaps concern about the Koch PE investment is overblown. But given the prevailing ethos among Time Inc. staff, particularly on the edit/content side, it is inevitable. The ability of Time Inc. to maintain past journalistic standards has been strained for several years as the business environment turned against them, severely depressing their revenue. Readership of the flagship property has been impacted the most, along with ad revenue. So why not give the new owners at Meredith a chance to turn this around?

  2. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, November 30, 2017 at 1:27 p.m.

    Step by step, little by little infusion of influence will happen in time. It doesn't have to hit you over the head at once to be effective. You won't even notice for a couple of years. A word here, a comma there at first. A column change, a new person hired by a different HR person - questions can be asked in many different ways for an answer one is seeking - content know and all can be done step by step. Indoctrination of discrimination and other dogma can appear as an banana tree. (get it?)

  3. Todd Gaak from Observer, November 30, 2017 at 5:55 p.m.

    How about if Meredith simply stopped the hemorrhaging of Time’s Ad pages, Ad dollars and readers/subscribers by improving the product (gasp!), thereby saving your precious "informed and lauded journalism?"  Why must this be a conspiracy to veer off to the Right (as opposed to careening off to the Left)?  Why can't it be seen as an attempt to pull Time, et. al, away from either Black Hole’s gravitational pull and brought it back to The Center of the Universe?  You know, where there are more potential subscribers -- and advertisers -- of both stripes and perhaps made some money and rehired people?  With apologies to Henry Ford's Model T philosophy, Journalism is one of the few institutions with the temerity to blame their own audiences for looking at cars in other colors and not being content to buy in only black.    

  4. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, November 30, 2017 at 6:47 p.m.

    Todd, the problem has never been the size or quality/demography of the magazine audience, nor whether the readers read ads and act on them. They read and they are motivated to buy.The core problem is that many advertisers have decided that electronic media----for a variety of reasons, is the way to go---that means TV and, in digital it means video. Print is simply out and I see no way for this to change, no matter what is done with "Time" or most other publications. Their path to the future is digital----if they can figure out how to do it before it's too late.

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