Friday, September 21, 2018

1997 It's About Time

Billionaires buying media. It’s the latest thing.  Bezos in Washington, Henry in Boston, Soon-Shiong in Los Angeles, the Koch brothers in Des Moines, Adelson in Vegas, Bloomberg at Business Week, and now, Benioff at Time Magazine.

Some of these purchases may be playthings. When you’re a billionaire and have outgrown everything else, what better to fiddle with than the news?

Some are dead serious about saving dead serious properties and do so.

Time Magazine now has been passed around a bit.  First Meredith Corp. bought the lot of its publications and now is starting to spin off the titles they know they can’t handle: Time, Fortune, Sports Illustrated and anything else that doesn’t appeal to the crowd that read Colliers and the Saturday Evening Post when those mags meant something, or others who get their magazines on the supermarket checkout line.

How did it get the bucks to buy them?  With a big infusion of Koch money.  And you can bet that things are going to acquire a libertarian overtone at Better Homes and Gardens.  Gardens? Political? Sure. Survival of the fittest. Bad tomato season? Make puree and then rip out the plants.

Time is too hot for them to handle.  But evidently it’s not too hot for Marc and Lynne Benioff.


Marc heads Salesforce which modestly calls itself the world’s largest CRM platform.

The what?

CRM is customer relations management.  That means they take your data and fiddle around with it. The goal: you getting new ways to make nice to your customers and grow the bunch bigger.

There’s a lot of money in that kind of thing. And the Benioffs are said to have about six billion dollars of it in house.  So a mere $190 million isn’t going to make that big a dent in their nest egg if Time … uh… runs out.

In the meantime, they’ve made a few promises.  One is that they’re not going to screw with the editorial content.  Two is they’re going to keep Time where it belongs, which is New York and three: they’re preservationists whose personal politics run to center left, which is where Time has marched on in recent decades. Oh, and Benioff said in effect, but not in these words that Time is a magazine with a website, not a website with a magazine.

The Time of Henry Luce was a conservative sheet that didn’t much mind mixing fact and opinion.  That’s long gone as it should be.

Some of these moneybag guys have made huge improvements in their papers and magazines, largely by doing what many buyers of big corporations say they’ll do, but don’t.  Hire and/or keep good people and leave them alone.

And (you’re not going to like this) Rupert Murdoch, the Last Great Press Baron has done more good than harm in buying the Times of London, the Wall Street Journal and a major interest in National Geographic Magazine.  We’ll never forgive him for the New York Post or Fox News.  But still…

And going farther back in time, Jock Whitney did a great public service by keeping the New York Herald Tribune on life support as long and as well as he did.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2018

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