Thursday, February 14, 2013

Morning Brief: MSLO updates recipe apps; WaPo leaves comments open on Pakistan Valentine's Day story, may regret the decision; the Time Inc. sales leak

Eartier Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia had updated its magazine apps, now today comes updates to their three recipe apps: Martha Stewart Makes Cookies, Martha Stewart Makes Cocktails and Smoothies from Whole Living. The app edition of Whole Living was pulled from the App Store a while when work came that the title would be shuttered.

The app descriptions all tell the same tale concerning this update: "now includes 6 recipe bundles with app purchase" and "minor improvements and upgrades."

Unlike magazine apps, these apps are large downloads, the smallest is about 100MB, the largest is over 700MB.

Among the other magazines updated today is Macworld UK from IDG UK. This universal app has added progressive downloading, allowing readers to begin reading the digital edition before downloading is completed, as sell as other performance improvements.

Today is Valentine's Day, you are aware of that, aren't you? I'm not a big fan of the "holiday" believing that any day with such as this should be accompanied by a day off – otherwise, it should be relegated to Sunday like Mother's Day and Father's Day.

Turns out that the Pakistani government is not too keen on the day either – at least according to the Washington Post account. The Electronic Media Regulatory Authority has sent a letter to TV and radio stations that "Valentine’s Day celebrations are not in conformity to our religious and cultural ethos and has, therefore, condemned its unequivocal propagation through media."

OK, I guess this is a decent excuse for a story in the WaPo, but leaving comments open was a bad idea. The story has just hit but the first comment already says "Build a wall around the animals. It's our only option. These things are not human."

The WaPo does not moderate their comments in the same stricter fashion than the NYT, and it sometimes shows. It is fair to say that not all stories should allow comments unless one is inviting trouble.

Everybody posted stories on the report that seems to have originated from Fortune that Time Warner is in talks to sell off its magazine publishing division to Meredith. The NYT has a long piece on the rumor here.

My first thought, having been involved in M&A talks, is who the hell spilled the beans and why? A sale of this size and importance should have involved the upmost secrecy, at least until deal was done Рwho wanted to upset the apple cart? (Two clich̩s so far, can I get to three.)

According the NYT story, the source was someone involved in the negotiations. Really? If true, that would be one really poor M&A professional, and if the other side found out, would end the negotiations (or at least hurt them). On the other hand, a lot of people are being laid off at Time Inc., could someone who has knowledge of the negotiations have been one of those losing their job?

One thing clear is that Meredith is not really interested in the entire portfolio of magazines. The Iowa publisher of Better Homes and Gardens is not looking to publish Sports Illustrated, Fortune or even Time, but surely is looking at People, Cooking Light, Real Simple, Sunset, and other titles – right?

Well, maybe. I am reminded of the McClatchy purchase of Knight Ridder, one that seemed way over the head of the Sacramento-based newspaper company. It was, though McClatchy didn't think so at the time. One strategy that is possible would be to buy the entire division then sell off the unwanted titles to other magazine publishers at the time of closing. To do this, of course, one would need to have completed these deals around the same time as the main deal. And there is yet another possible source for the leak to the media. Fortune's own reports speculates that a private equity company could be brought in. I doubt Meredith would want this – if so, that would be the end of Meredith – but one could come into the picture as part of a deal for the properties that won't be retained by Meredith.

Make some popcorn and sit back enjoy this drama - I'm sure some execs involved will be getting ulcers over all this before a deal is completed.

Update: The NYT is speculating that Meredith would work with Time Warner on a spin off publishing company, one that would isolate the magazine titles from the parent company, much as News Corp.'s spin off of its newspaper titles would isolate losses generated by the new division.

David Carr, in a later morning post, writes: "The specter of Time Inc., which lent its name to one of the largest media companies in the world, being pushed out the door like a party guest who has overstayed his welcome is a stark reminder of how fundamentally the game has changed."