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Mergers and acquisitions in 2010

Best handshakeWhether it was to grow stronger, shed weight or out of necessity, news organizations in 2010 sold, merged and acquired. Here’s a look back at the year’s hottest mergers and acquisitions:

  • Although this merger technically happened in December 2009, BusinessWeek’s transition to Bloomberg Businessweek was going on well into 2010 with more than 100 layoffs. In April, Folio reported that the magazine underwent a redesign complete with a new nameplate, new sections and additional pages. “A year later Bloomberg is faring well because they’ve invested in eye-catching graphic design and followed that up with well-timed print pieces while maintaining a busy online community that hones in more on the business content,” said Rebecca Bredholt, managing editor of magazine content at Vocus Media Research Group. “They had so many resources to begin with that they were able to take a bird’s eye view of their content and decide proactively what works best where – as they had been doing for years with their radio and financial sector pieces.”
  • In May, a longtime newspaper rivalry came to an end when Gannett sold the Honolulu Advertiser to David Black, owner of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin. The merged paper re-launched in June as the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, making Honolulu a “one-newspaper town.” According to BizJournals.com, the paper had a Sunday paid distribution of 130,367 as of Sept.12, but its circulation audit from the Audit Bureau of Circulations won’t be available until January. The last audit for the Honolulu Advertiser as of March 2009 had a Sunday circulation of 139,630, while the Star-Bulletin had a Sunday circulation of 60,158 as of March 2007.
  • After a long drawn-out struggle, the bankrupt Philadelphia Newspapers, which includes the Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Daily News and Philly.com, was acquired by the Philadelphia Media Network in October. According to Editor & Publisher, Philadelphia Media Network is now shedding several of its non-daily community newspapers to Broad Street Media, including the Northeast Times, The Star Newspapers, as well as shoppers and specialty publications.
  • Newsweek made big headlines when the Washington Post Company sold it to Sidney Harmon for $1. Soon after, the staff started its exodus from the long-lived newsweekly. But it wasn’t long until rumors started flying that there could be a potential merger between Newsweek and Tina Brown’s The Daily Beast. In November, the merger was officially announced. Since then, Brown has been bringing in talent such as Washington Post veteran Robin Givhan. Despite this, Bredholt noted that the merger isn’t guaranteed the same outcome as the Businessweek/Bloomberg merger. “Tina Brown will need to surround herself with new media experts and invest in really good breaking content while still keeping the print version alive,” Bredholt said. “I think it will take a few small miracles to find a dedicated audience for the print magazine. What is good about the merger is the Daily Beast’s staff ability to adapt and be flexible, which is a key survival tool.”
  • Although it isn’t official yet, Nielsen Media recently reported it looks like Hachette Fillipacchi Media, which publishes Elle and Woman’s Day, might soon belong to the Hearst Corporation. According to MediaWeek, Hachette and Hearst have been in talks for the last several months.
  • The most recent partnership on the horizon is Salon.com, which is reportedly looking to merge or be acquired by another media company. According to WSJ.com, Salon Media Group has had losses totaling more than $15 million in the last five years, with about a third of that from the fiscal year ending March 31. “I think we’d all like to think you don’t have to be a media conglomerate to succeed at doing high-quality journalism,” Salon chief executive Richard Gingras told WSJ.com. “Right now, the content economy we have today says you probably have to be.”

Heading into 2011, it looks as if recently merged entities will continue to transition while other news organizations will continue to strengthen existing enterprises through partnerships or selling altogether.

— Katrina M. Mendolera

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