Time Warner is in secret negotiations to sell off part of Time Inc., sources tell the Time Inc. publication Fortune, in a move that could signal just how sick media giants are getting of trying to stop the bleeding from print. Ironic or not, the magazine publishing division that was essentially the foundation for Time Warner has been bringing down the rest of the ship for a while now. In its latest earnings report, the parent company announced that it would lay off 6 percent of Time Inc.'s staff, which would add up to $60 million this year. The quarter before that, Time Inc.'s revenues fell 6 percent, part of which Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes said had to do with the magazine's ongoing transition to digital. Before that, Time Inc.'s 21 magazines saw a 9 percent decrease in overall revenue. And the quarter before that, the magazine unit's revenues decreased another 3 percent. And... you get the picture.
From the Fortune report, it's unclear what a deal might look like. But in one possible scenario Time Warner would sell off most of the company's publishing titles to an undisclosed buyer, while keeping others, such as Time, Sports Illustrated and Fortune — three company mainstays that have embraced digital faster and better than, say, This Old House. Meaning Time Warner would keep the brand value of Time Inc., while still potentially trimming titles like Entertainment Weekly (big online) and People (one of the few newsstand success stories). Some have ventured a guess at who this buyer might be. Time Warner is not commenting.
Update 4:03 p.m.: As for that buyer, Mediadecoder is reporting that Meredith, publisher of Ladies' Home Journal and Better Homes & Gardens is the mystery bidder talking with Time Warner. The deal, according to their sources, would give Meredith titles such as Real Simple, Entertainment Weekly, Cooking Light, InStyle and the "celebrity weekly and crown jewel" People. "The titles, which amount to essentially a women’s magazine company, make a good fit for Meredith Corporation," says The New York Times's Amy Chozik.
From the sounds of the Times report the deal however sound far from done. Meredith has no interest in the less valuable properties, a source told Chozik. The media company has had financial troubles of its own, laying off 60 people this earlier this month, amid major ad-page declines at its biggest magazines.