Update 5:41 p.m.: Since talks fell through with the Meredith Corporation this afternoon, Time Warner has decided to spin off Time Inc. and all 21 of its magazines into a separate company. "After a thorough review of options, we believe that a separation will better position both Time Warner and Time Inc. A complete spin-off of Time Inc. provides strategic clarity for Time Warner Inc," CEO Jeff Bewkes said, per a press release. Those options suddenly became a lot slimmer when Meredith Corporation ended negotiations this afternoon. It doesn't sound like Time Inc. had any other interested buyers. So, a separate company it is.
With the change, CEO Laura Lang, who took the helm back in 2011, is also out — and by what sounds like her own choosing. "Laura indicated to me that we should find a different kind of CEO for this new public company, and I respect her decision," Bewkes continues. It's unclear who will replace her at this moment, or what the heck is going to happen to those 21 magazines going forward. Update: This Time Inc. spin-off is going public.
Update 5:38 p.m.: The talks to sell off Time Inc. to Meredith Corporation have fallen apart, reports Media Decoder. "Weeks of negotiations between Time Warner and Meredith Corporation came to an end Wednesday when the two companies could not agree to a deal on how to spin off the Time Inc. magazines into a separate publicly traded company," they write. As reported below, it likely had something to do with the fact that neither parties wanted Time, Sports Illustrated, Fortune or Money.
So, what now? From the reports, it sounds like Time Warner will spin all 21 of the publications off into a separate company. Or, it's also possible the company will look for another buyer. But takers weren't exactly clawing at the opportunity before, so, the first option sounds a little more plausible.
Original Post: Time Warner's negotiations to sell off its Time Inc. magazines aren't going so well, at least not for its namesake publication, Time, which turned 90 years old this week and is bordering on the edge of homeless. The interested buyers at the Meredith Corporation don't want Time, Sports Illustrated, Fortune, or Money. And neither does Time Warner, sources tell The New York Times's Amy Chozick and Christine Haughney.
When word of the sale first emerged last month, Time Warner was said to be interested in keeping those four titles — but it wasn't clear whether that was because of some news-based brand affinity or because Meredith was uninterested. Now it appears that Time Warner, already open to shedding People, is ready to sell the farm, according to the Times: "The thinking on the magazines, which like the rest of the industry have faced industry-wide downturns in revenue, has changed."
Since Meredith planned on creating a mega-women's magazine publisher by combining titles like Time Inc.'s People and InStyle with the likes of Ladies' Home Journal, the four news stalwarts don't exactly fit in. Time, Fortune, and SI have certainly built out digital presences, and Money has attached itself online to Time Warner's CNN — Jeff Zucker wants more of that, apparently — but that can't hide the fact that the print magazines are getting thinner, with big staffs and not enough advertising. More from the Times:
Time, Fortune and Sports Illustrated all experienced declines in advertising pages in 2012 compared with 2011, according to the Publishers Information Bureau. Time’s advertising pages declined by 12.2 percent and Sports Illustrated’s by 5.5 percent. Money’s pages dropped by 5 percent and Fortune experienced a 4 percent decline.
If the deal doesn't go through, Time Warner might spin Time Inc. off into a separate company without Meredith, in which case Time, Sports Illustrated, Fortune, and Money would stay at home in some form. You can't just get rid of Time magazine overnight, as editor Richard Stengel put it in his 90th anniversary letter this week: "For me, 90 is not so much a milestone but evidence that for nine decades TIME is always new, always of the moment."
Tell that to the bidders.