Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Time Inc. Limps Toward a Spring Spinout

newstandSometime next spring, Time Warner will no longer own Time Inc., the world’s largest magazine publisher. The media conglomerate is jettisoning its namesake unit, and will become a company that only makes and sells TV shows and movies.

Today’s earnings provide a reminder of why Time Warner wants to get out of publishing: The business still throws off a lot of cash, but it seems to be in permanent decline.

We’re now used to seeing numbers like today’s — subscription revenue down four percent, ad revenue down two percent, operating income down eight percent — but it’s always bracing to see them in chart form. So here you go:

Time Inc Q3 2013

If you’d like to make the “highlights” chart even gloomier, consider that the ad and circulation numbers got an artificial boost from the fact that there was an extra week in the third quarter, which meant that People and Sports Illustrated could sell more copies/ads. And Time Warner CFO John Martin said that ad sales, which had seemed to perk up a bit in Q3, are now trending down again in Q4.

What about digital? That had to be a bright spot, right? Nope: Time Warner made a point of noting that website revenue was down last quarter, too.

That said, I wouldn’t be surprised if Time Inc. goes out and buys itself some digital growth, via a splashy acquisition, as it prepares to spin out in the next few months.

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