Despite massive purchases from billionaires like Jeff Bezos, many once-popular news outlets have reportedly lost big financially in recent years.
The Amazon founder kicked off the trend in 2013 after he bought The Washington Post for $250 million. After him, in 2018, bioscientist Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong bought the Los Angeles Times for $500 million, and Salesforce founder Marc Benioff bought Time Magazine for $190 million the same year.
In the past few years, however, all three publications have taken financial hits, according to a report from The New York Times headlined “Billionaires Wanted to Save the News Industry. They’re Losing a Fortune.”
“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 the Times. “We’ve seen a lot of naïve hope attached to these owners, often from employees.”
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In 2023, a decade after Bezos’ purchase, The Washington Post was on track to lose $100 million, according to a New York Times report that cited “two people with knowledge of the company’s finances.”
After the publication’s peak in 2020, its traffic dropped “more than 50% from 2020,” resulting in “less than 60 million monthly uniques,” according to Puck News. The company was reportedly also implementing forced buyouts as part of its extensive workforce reduction goal to prevent layoffs.
Los Angeles Times editor Kevin Merida also announced on Jan. 10 that he would resign following a layoff of 13% of its workforce, 74 positions, from its newsroom. On Thursday, the Times also predicted another round of layoffs in the future.
The Times also reported that Time Magazine lost around $20 million in 2023 with the publication weighing efforts to cut costs in 2024.
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Despite this, the Times stated that some publications with billionaire owners have managed to earn profits. The Boston Globe, purchased by Boston Red Sox owner John W. Henry, has reportedly remained profitable while The Atlantic, owned by Laurene Powell Jobs, reached over 925,000 subscribers.
Overall, though, the Times found that many of the billionaires were showing “greater signs of fatigue” over these difficulties.
“The very rich find it very difficult to lose money year over year, even if they can afford it,” analyst and media entrepreneur Ken Doctor said.
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