McGraw-Hill puts Business Week up for sale

190 staff, 4.8m readers and 80 years-worth of back issues.

I give you Business Week, for sale by McGraw-Hill with a reserve price (according to some reports) of as little as $1.

The volume of ad pages carried by Business Week during Q1 fell by a remarkable 39.8%. During Q2, the decline was 30%.  (NB: These numbers come from McGraw Hill and differ from the YOY revenue numbers used by Silicon Alley insider in the chart above.) The bankruptcy of Detroit hasn’t helped.

At The Atlantic, Michael Hirschorn points to what ails the US news weeklies, which he describes as ‘mainframes in an iTouch world”:

In the digital age, with its overabundance of information, the modern newsweekly is in a particularly poignant position. . . The audience it was created to serve–middlebrow; curious, but not too curious; engaged, but only to a point–no longer exists. Newsweeklies were intended to be counterprogramming to newspapers, back when we. . . needed a digest to redact that vast inflow of dead-tree objectivity.

Now, in response to accelerating news cycles, the newspapers have effectively become newsweekly-style digests themselves, resorting to muddy ‘news analysis’now that the actual news has hit us on multiple platforms before we even open our front door in the morning.

True enough. For McGraw Hill, this is an exercise in bolstering profit margins.

Traditional media forms perhaps one-tenth of McGraw-Hill’s revenues. Increasingly, Business Week looked awkward alongside the data-driven business like Standard & Poor’s and JD Power. McGraw-Hill’s ability to spread the cost of owning Business Week across its other businesses was limited.

Business Week used to be a cash cow. Now it’s a loss-maker. The dynamic is similar to that which forced DMGT to sell the Evening Standard for £1. In the darkest hour of recession, the relief on the bottom line is all that matters.

Looking ahead a little further, the natural impulse is to look for other large companies that own small, and isolated, media operations.

One such is Pearson, owner of the Financial Times. It’s usually at this stage in the economic cycle that grumbling and speculation about Pearson’s ownership kicks off among investors and analysts.

Thus it was during the dot.com bust. And so it shall be again. . .

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