Media Insider: Al Jazeera is Launching a Business Site, Condé Nast Sells Brides to Dotdash, Reading Eagle Warns of Mass Layoffs

Welcome to Media Insider, PR Newswire’s round-up of media stories from the week.

Stack of newspapers with World Business section open

Al Jazeera Is Launching a Business Site

Al Jazeera is planning to launch a cross-platform business vertical called AJ Impact, which will feature original reporting from Al Jazeera journalists worldwide and curated business content from Bloomberg. AJ Impact will focus on topics like personal finance, economic inequality, and impact investing — a significant departure from Al Jazeera’s traditional areas of coverage. The site will be led by Patricia Sabga, who currently serves as managing business editor at Al Jazeera Digital. Sabga says the company has pulled together a team of 10 full-time staffers to launch the site and 20 are expected to be a part of this effort by the end of the year. 

This is part of a growing trend of news companies expanding their business and technology verticals.

Condé Nast sells Brides to Dotdash, which plans to end print version

Condé Nast sold Brides to Dotdash, part of Barry Diller’s IAC/InterActiveCorp, which plans to shut down the 85-year-old print version of the magazine after the August/September issue. A Condé spokesman said subscribers will be offered subscriptions to other Condé titles — such as Vanity Fair, Vogue, or the New Yorker — or a refund. Condé Nast had hauled in an average subscription price of $9.72 per year from Brides’ 217,793 print subscribers. That means the publisher collected an estimated $2.1 million, which likely was not covering the mailing costs. Terms were not disclosed, but most observers think it would be lucky to reach $10 million.

Related: Dotdash is launching a commerce line with Amazon in an effort to transition its business more into e-commerce.

Hedge Fund-Owned MNG Reduces Stake in Gannett to 4.2%

The hedge fund-owned newspaper company that launched a hostile takeover bid to acquire Gannett Co. in January has reduced its stake in the company. According to a document Gannett filed with the SEC, Alden Global Capital’s MNG Enterprises Inc. now owns 4.2% of Gannett, down from 7.5%. In January, MNG made an unsolicited offer to acquire Gannett for $12 per share. Gannett rejected the bid as not credible and argued that MNG’s board nominees had potential conflicts of interest. MNG, also known as Digital First Media, owns about 200 publications, including newspapers such as the Denver Post, Mercury News of San Jose, Los Angeles Daily News, and the Boston Herald.

The move comes less than a week after Gannett shareholders voted to reject MNG’s three board nominees.

Reading Eagle Warns of Mass Layoff as Auction Deadline Looms

The company that owns the Reading Eagle received multiple bids Wednesday evening and executives are now reviewing the offers to see whether any are qualified, the newspaper company said in a statement on its website. The minimum bid was set at $5 million and bidders had to submit a deposit of 10%. With that deadline looming, the Reading Eagle Co. alerted more than 200 employees of the threat of massive layoffs. According to the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) notice filed with the state, 209 Eagle employees could be laid off — the company’s entire staff.

Meanwhile, the future of Rutgers University’s 150-year-old newspaper, The Daily Targum, is also in question after losing all of its funding from student fees, its primary source of revenue.

Refinery29 Thinks It Can Double Revenue to $200 Million Despite a Tough Climate for Digital Media

Women’s lifestyle publisher Refinery29 had raised $125 million as of 2016, when it was valued at $500 million, and investors like Turner swooned over its ability to reach millennial women. Now Refinery29’s co-CEOs, Philippe von Borries and Justin Stefano, aim to get the company into the black by 2020 by balancing advertising, currently 70% of the business, with other sources of revenue. Stefano said the company pulled in more than $100 million in revenue last year and he believes it could get to “well north of $200 million.” Video is a big piece of the strategy. Refinery29 has 28 video shows in development, double the number developed last year. The company aims for video revenue to be 10% of total company revenue this year, up from about 7% in 2018.

Over at NBC, CNN’s video guru Chris Berund has joined NBC News and will run its digital operation.

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Maria Perez is Director, Web Experience & Operations at PR Newswire. An animal lover, she curates content for @PRNPets – that is, when she’s not busy cuddling with her 11-year-old blind Maltese, Toody.

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