Magazines have been cracked in recent years by readers’ preference for digital over print, where advertising is both less lucrative and dominated by technology companies.
Charles Whitaker, the dean of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, said Meredith’s purchase of Time Inc. “was wildly optimistic about the extent to which acquiring those brands would create these economies of scale and synergies that would help them stand out from the Googles and Facebooks of the world.”
He added: “This ongoing consolidation is clearly troubling. The more competition and the more companies we have that produce content, provide jobs and appeal to the public, the better for the industry.
Meredith has slimmed itself down significantly in the years since purchasing Time Inc., divesting three prominent Time Inc. titles that didn’t fit the company’s specialty: style magazines, fashion, celebrity news, and homewares magazines.
Time magazine, the flagship product, went to Marc Benioff, the chief executive of Salesforce, and his wife Lynne for $190 million later in 2018. The company also sold Fortune for $150 million to Chatchaval Jiaravanon, a scion of a prominent Thai family, and Sports Illustrated, for $110 million, to Authentic Brands Group. (ABG later sold Sports Illustrated to TheMaven, which renamed itself Arena Group last month.)
Meredith also sold another asset it picked up in the Time Inc. deal – Time Inc. UK, the publisher of Woman’s Weekly and Wallpaper magazines – to London private equity firm Epiris for a reported $167 million. In June, Meredith announced selling its local media properties, including 17 television stations in Atlanta, Phoenix and other markets, to Gray Television in a $2.8 billion deal.
If the planned merger goes through, Dotdash Meredith will be a top 10 publisher in terms of audience size, according to internet statistics service Comscore, the companies said.