Time Magazine has been sold to publishing company Meredith, but to fund the deal, the billionaire Koch brothers, famous for taking a cynical approach to climate change, are acquiring a big chunk in Meredith.
Time Magazine has a circulation of a fraction over three million, but it is not the force it used to be. Back in 1997, it had a 4.2 million circulation, and while it boasts millions of online readers, it has struggled financially in recent years. Explaining why is not hard, like so much of the publishing industry, it has been disrupted by the internet, with the lion’s share of ad revenue going to two certain tech companies.
But it is still a publication with enormous influence and reach. Its person of the year accolade is highly coveted, although winning this title does not necessarily mean you are a person who has changed the world for good. It simply means you have changed the world. Last year’s winner was Donald Trump, but this year a curious row has broken out between the US President and Time over Twitter, with President Trump Tweeting, “Time Magazine called to say I was PROBABLY going to be named “Man (Person) of the Year, like last year, but I would have to agree to an interview and a major photo shoot. I said probably is no good and took a pass. Thanks Anyway.”
To which Time replied: “The President is incorrect about how we choose person of the Year. Time does not comment on our choice until after publication, which is December 6.”
And in the midst of that little storm in a twitter cup, it was announced Meredith, the publishing company behind “Parents, Shape and Better Homes & Gardens,” was buying Time Inc.
In addition to Time magazine itself, this means that People, Sports Illustrated, Fortune and Entertainment Weekly, will all become part of the Meredith empire.
Meredith and Time Inc, are however, of a similar size, so to fund the deal, Meredith has had to take on large borrowings – around $3.6 billion.
But Meredith, to help smooth the deal through, has secured a $650 million investment from the Koch Brothers, who are big funders of the Republican Party and Conservative causes. Greenpeace has alleged that the brothers have been secretly funding the climate change denial machine, although in a recent interview, Charles Koch himself said he is not a climate change denier, but thinks the dangers are exaggerated, and is critical of the way governments are trying to use regulation to curtail the burning of fossil fuels.
In a statement, Meredith said that the brothers will not have seats on the board, “and will have no influence on Meredith’s editorial or managerial operations.”
That may well be right, but things change, especially when a company has taken on massive borrowing to fund a deal that may offer enormous kudos, but may prove to be financially unsustainable in the long run. There may not be much money in advertising these days, but there is money in advancing political causes.