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Meredith’s Cyber Monday deal: Time Inc

Time Inc logoAfter a slow weekend filled with turkey, football, and shopping, today has big news. In confirmation of a deal rumored for several weeks, Time Inc. is being purchased by Meredith. This continues the consolidation within the magazine industry.

This new combination will marry Sports Illustrated, People, and Fortune with Meredith’s prestige lifestyle books like Better Homes & Gardens, Shape, and Parents. The evolved firm will use this heft to figure out the proper size, content diversity, and digital orientation to compete better in this digital world.

Despite case studies that show the continued value of their advertising, magazines (and their print cousins, newspapers) are suffering from elements that affect them more than their old-old-school media counterparts in radio. Printed content is well past its sell-by date in today’s digital environment; anything newsworthy will already be read by consumers before even a weekly is published. And even analysis and feature content can be found faster online than waiting for a weekly or monthly to come out. Radio has its issues also, but it can report on breaking news as it happens, or play new music as it’s released.

One of the most progressive Time Inc titles (or, if you prefer, the one beating the fastest retreat), Sports Illustrated, is moving to only 27 issues in 2018, down from 51 as recently as 2015.  It is adding the media-flavor-of-the-month, true crime stories, to almost every issue. And an increased emphasis on video is being made through an SI SVOD service which has launched on Roku and other OTT devices that support Amazon Channels.

Unfortunately, I will be part of Time’s problem as I had already decided to not renew my SI subscription when it expires in 2018 – after roughly 30 years of being a subscriber – and I won’t be paying for SVOD or other content they may put behind a pay wall. Particularly for sports, there are just too many other options that are free, more current, and are specifically about the teams, sports, and topics in which I’m most interested.

Digital Conversion Rate

The bright side to this increasingly hyper-segmented “print” marketplace (whether paper or digital) is that those smaller audiences should be at far more valuable CPMs than those for old-school, general interest print titles. The question is, to paraphrase Jeff Zucker, will those digital nickels/dimes/quarters keep an industry alive that is still built on a foundation of analog dollars?

David Tice is the principal of TiceVision LLC, a media research consultancy.
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