Billionaires buying up media: Savior complex or civic duty?

ABC News | 9/22/2018 | Staff
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The Washington Post. Time Magazine. The Atlantic. The Village Voice. The Los Angeles Times. All American media icons, all bought by billionaires in the past half decade. Some are thriving. One died. On the rest, the jury's still out.

Still, for beleaguered news organizations the prospect of a deep-pocketed savior — even from the very same tech industry that has kneecapped the media's traditional business model — is all but irresistible.

Success - Risks - Industry - Outsiders - Business

But success is not guaranteed. And risks run from industry outsiders making poor business decisions to exposure to undue influence on editorial operations.

For the billionaires, meanwhile, ownership of storied magazines or newspapers provides an alluring combination of a trophy property, a high-profile opportunity to demonstrate their business acumen and a chance to display highbrow civic-mindedness.

Nothing - Name - Top - Masthead - Publisher

"There is nothing more satisfactory than seeing your name on top of a masthead as publisher or editor or owner," said Samir A. Husni, journalism professor at the University of Mississippi.

While some new billionaire owners say they are doing it for civic purposes and to ensure that journalism will continue as an institution, at the end of the day these folks are still businesspeople, Husni said. If their investments don't work out, it's not guaranteed they'll want to run publications as charities.

Billionaires - Success - Money - Magnates - Jeff

Billionaires are accustomed to success. But they also have enough money to fail. That includes tech magnates like Jeff Bezos, who bought The Washington Post in 2013 for $250 million, or Marc Benioff, the Salesforce CEO who just snapped up Time Magazine for $190 million, and even Steve Jobs' widow, Laurene Powell Jobs, who has acquired a majority stake in The Atlantic.

Benioff told the technology journalist and New York Times columnist Kara Swisher this week that he sees Time magazine as a startup that's been "opportunity constrained."

"But we are here to unshackle them," he said.

Having these...
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