Commentary

New Print Investments For Dotdash Meredith? Actually, Probably Not.

“Exclusive,” the Axios headline read. “Dotdash Meredith targeting print investments.”

In the story, published this week, Dotdash Meredith CEO Neil Vogel explained that the company is committed to brands and not the medium in which they’re distributed. It was picked up elsewhere, with headlines suggesting a print-media renaissance for the company.

Going forward, print would play a role in reaching “hyper-enthusiasts,” Axios noted.

This comes after weeks of Dotdash Meredith coverage reflecting the opposite strategy, with the company shuttering print magazines while retaining the digital brands.

In April, the company announced it was eliminating the print editions of Martha Stewart Living, one of the storied magazine brands of the last 30 years, after a 32-year run. It was the seventh Meredith magazine this year to be shifted to online-only format. It joined six of the industry’s most iconic titles that made the pivot in February: EatingWell, Entertainment Weekly, Health, InStyle, Parents and People en Español.

Those February cuts resulted in about 200 layoffs, according to the company, and in the case of Martha Stewart Living, 20 New York-based employees were impacted.

But there’s less here than meets the eye. Vogel has consistently been saying the same thing since the acquisition: The company would retain print elements where it made sense. His strategy is exactly in step with virtually every print magazine discontinuation in the last several years -- that the regular print frequency would be eliminated, but print specials, theme issues and one-shots would be evaluated on an opportunistic basis.

In fact, Vogel said as much in the Axios story. “We're actually going to add small pieces of print — not economically relevant — to some of our other brands,” he was quoted as saying.

I emphasize: “Not economically relevant.”

Doesn’t sound like “targeting print investments” to me. But the spin plays a useful role for Vogel and Dotdash Meredith in that it provides a certain amount of air cover for decisions that will come later.

 

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