Everyone knows that the future of publishing is in bits and bytes, not barrels of ink. So yesterday. So old school.
So why did Meredith Corporation — publisher of Family Circle, Better Homes and Gardens, Parents, Shape, and others — buy Time Inc for $2.8 billion?
Because print’s still a moneymaker. Combine it with digital and people-based marketing and you’ve got a winning strategy.
Who said print’s dying?
The whole “print is dying” trope has a basis in reality. At one time, print was the only game in town. Focusing tightly on target markets was tough, so marketers overbought advertising, effectively spending more than it should have.
As first television and then internet-based media grew, print ad revenues plateaued and then periodical publishing revenue began the decline that hasn’t stopped. People who wrote off print thought Meredith was eyeing a sinking ship in Time Inc.
Not either/or, but both/and
But Meredith is canny. The deal is as much about digital as it is print and is intent on bringing both together for a people-based-marketing future for media.
Publishing consultant Bob Sacks quotes Nietzsche, who said, “There are no facts, only interpretations.” Whether you think print is alive or dead depends on your business model. “It’s all a matter of perspective,” Sacks writes.
To understand the Meredith strategy, forget print versus digital. Instead, think about the essence of publishing: providing information and entertainment to the public and enabling marketers to reach the audience.
Meredith has a strong print position. One of its titles, Better Homes and Gardens, is among the top five highest-circulation magazines in the country with around 7.6 million readers. Meredith also has a growing set of digital properties, a collection of local television stations, branded video content, and events. This means it reaches many millions a month across multiple platforms.
Pull together all those aspects and you can connect people across different media identities, learn more about them, and reinforce marketing capabilities.
Time Inc. is a big addition to that vision. Titles like People complement Meredith’s strengths among female audiences. General interest and business publications like Fortune and Time add new perspectives on traditional markets of women, and male-oriented brands like Sports Illustrated either offer entry into new market segments or could be sold off.
The combination includes the Time acquisition of Viant, with its large advertising tech capabilities including individual targeting of specific people and cross-platform targeting with the purchase of Adelphic. Meredith gets additional sources of information on its customers and tools to better understand and identify them.
There’s also scale. “It makes the combined company a serious digital player, which is what you have to be in today’s media world,” said Time Inc.’s chief content officer, Alan Murray, to CNBC.
Meredith’s business strategy wasn’t doomed to failure because it didn’t grasp a new reality. Instead, the company is doing exactly what it must to address that reality.
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