OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author’s opinion.
Several major newspapers and media outlets have continued losing tens of millions of dollars per year after they were purchased by billionaires who initially believed they could turn things around financially while still maintaining a decidedly anti-Trump, anti-GOP editorial slant.
According to a report in DNYUZ, outlets like the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and Time magazine are still losing millions of dollars years after being sold to billionaire benefactors, and there appears to be no sign of their financial conditions improving on the horizon.
“As the prospects for news publishers waned in the last decade, billionaires swooped in to buy some of the country’s most fabled brands. Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, bought The Washington Post in 2013 for about $250 million,” DNYUZ reported. “Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, a biotechnology and start-up billionaire, purchased The Los Angeles Times in 2018 for $500 million. Marc Benioff, the founder of the software giant Salesforce, purchased Time magazine with his wife, Lynne, for $190 million in 2018.”
On each occasion, the newsrooms welcomed their new owners with guarded optimism, hoping that their business expertise and technological knowledge would provide solutions to the challenging puzzle of generating revenue as a digital publication, the report said.
However, it appears that the billionaires are facing challenges similar to almost everyone else. According to individuals familiar with the companies’ financial situations, Time, The Washington Post, and The Los Angeles Times all reported significant losses last year, despite substantial investments from their owners and concerted efforts to establish new sources of revenue.
“Wealth doesn’t insulate an owner from the serious challenges plaguing many media companies, and it turns out being a billionaire isn’t a predictor for solving those problems,” Ann Marie Lipinski, the curator of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University, told DNYUZ. “We’ve seen a lot of naïve hope attached to these owners, often from employees.”
The losses are expected to have the most immediate consequences at The Los Angeles Times, where journalists are preparing for potentially unfavorable developments. Kevin Merida, the highly regarded editor of the newspaper, recently announced his resignation, a decision that reportedly stemmed from disagreements with Soon-Shiong regarding editorial and business priorities, as revealed by two individuals familiar with the situation, the outlet said.
In the middle of last year, The Times was on track to lose $30 million to $40 million in 2023, according to three people with knowledge of the projections. Last year, the company cut about 74 jobs, and executives have met in recent days to discuss the possibility of deep job cuts, according to two other people familiar with the conversations. Members of The Los Angeles Times union have called an emergency meeting for Thursday to discuss the possibility of another “major” round of layoffs: “This is the big one,” read the email to employees.
Bezos has encountered challenges at The Washington Post as well. Similar to numerous news organizations, The Post has found it difficult to sustain the momentum it gained in the aftermath of the 2020 election. Declining subscriptions and advertising revenue resulted in losses of approximately $100 million in the past year. By the year’s end, the company had reduced its workforce by 240 positions out of 2,500 through buyouts, including some of its highly regarded journalists.
Meanwhile, most of these print outlets continue to be decidedly anti-Trump and anti-conservative in their reporting and editorial bent. The same holds true for cable news; according to the Pew Research Center, revenue “decreased for CNN and MSNBC and increased for Fox News in 2022.”
The center added, “CNN’s total revenue decreased by 5%, from $1.9 billion in 2021 to $1.8 billion in 2022. Similarly, MSNBC’s revenue fell from $977 million to $903 million, an 8% decrease. Fox News saw a 5% increase, from $3.1 billion in 2021 to $3.3 billion in 2022.”
Newsmax, which is also conservative-leaning like Fox, “made $66 million in revenue” in 2021.