Media Insider: Forbes Axes SPAC Plans, Dotdash Meredith to Invest in Print

Welcome to Media Insider, PR Newswire’s roundup of media news stories from the week.

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Forbes, Chronicler of Wealthy and Powerful, Will Scrap Plan to Go Public via SPAC
New York Times | Lauren Hirsch and Benjamin Mullin

Forbes has called off a deal to go public through a special-purpose acquisition company, also known as a SPAC, after the market flipped and investor appetite for the once-popular financial instrument cooled. The deal would have taken the company public at a $630 million valuation through a merger with Hong Kong-based Magnum Opus Acquisition. Enthusiasm around these “blank-check” deals has waned since a number of SPACs failed to live up to expectations, like deals for BuzzFeed and Vice. Regulators have also heightened their scrutiny of the practice. Forbes has reported positive financial results since agreeing to the deal last August, another sign that it fell through as a result of this souring market for SPACs.

The Times also reported this week that Substack has dropped its fundraising efforts amid another cooling market, this one for new start-ups.

Local Newspapers Fact Sheet
Pew Research Center | Katerina Eva Matsa and Kirsten Worden

Pew released its Local Newspapers Fact Sheet to get a better understanding of how local outlets have fared in the digital age and over the course of the pandemic. The analysis shows that many of the trends apparent in the overall newspaper industry also apply to local newspapers. Although on par with the previous year, total weekday circulation is down 40% since 2015 and total Sunday circulation has fallen 45% since 2015. Within those declines, however, data shows that 2020 digital circulations saw the greatest year-over-year increases since 2015. In terms of revenue, the total ad revenue for locally-focused U.S. daily newspapers in 2020 was $1.07 billion, down 40% from 2019 and much steeper than the 25% decline the overall newspaper industry experienced during the same time.

In other local news updates, the owner of a rural weekly newspaper in Minnesota is looking to give his publication away so he can travel to Ukraine.

Dotdash Meredith targeting print investments
Axios | Sara Fischer

Publisher Dotdash Meredith is planning to possibly add more print titles to some of its flagship brands. CEO Neil Vogel told Axios that moving forward, print brands will be “smaller in circulation and much more luxury.” The strategy will involve investing in print products that cater to hyper-enthusiasts. The company axed print editions of EatingWell, Entertainment Weekly, Health, InStyle, Parents and People en Español in February but it still retains several core print titles, including People, Better Homes & Gardens, Real Simple, Food & Wine, and Travel + Leisure. “Those magazines have a viable need for print,” Vogel explained. “It’s not financially the most important thing we do, but it’s the most important thing we’re doing for branding.”

Read next: The Economist’s monthly podcast listeners are now more than double its print subscriber base.

Bloomberg Media will debut five new podcasts with iHeartMedia this year
Digiday | Sara Guaglione

Bloomberg Media and iHeartMedia are releasing five podcasts this year as part of a co-production and distribution podcast deal, originally announced in May 2021, to create over a dozen new original shows in the next three years. The new shows are a mix of daily and weekly news programs and narrative-style limited series. They will include shows about crypto, political extremism, daily news roundups and more. The variety shows the publisher’s drive to use different content angles to reach a wider audience. “iHeart does have a lot of people who probably aren’t familiar with Bloomberg. So if we can expose what we consider to be very good work to new people, perhaps they will explore some of our other offerings,” said Jared Sandberg, Bloomberg’s senior executive editor for digital.

In other audio news, a VP from NPR denied there were “catastrophic levels of people leaving” the broadcaster and said the current annual staff turnover rate is just 5%.

Vox Media union pledges to strike as contract nears expiration
New York Times | Katie Robertson

The union that covers about 350 workers at Vox Media said its members are prepared to strike if a deal cannot be reached by the time the current contract expires, at midnight on June 13. The union is seeking competitive salary minimums, cost-of-living raises and affordable benefits, as well as a commitment to protect those proposals in case of a corporate sale or merger. Lauren Starke, a Vox Media spokeswoman, said in an email: “We are actively engaged in bargaining, and, with bargaining scheduled on most days through the expiration of the contract, hope to reach a resolution at the table that we are all proud of.” The union covers editorial and video staff across Vox Media sites, including, SB Nation, Curbed, Eater, Polygon, Recode and The Verge.

ICYMI: The U.S. Supreme Court blocked a Texas law that prohibits large social media companies from banning or removing users’ posts based on political viewpoints.

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Rocky Parker is the Digital Content Lead at Cision PR Newswire. She’s worked with journalists, bloggers, and content creators to create their targeted newsfeeds from PR Newswire for Journalists. Rocky has also counseled on content writing best practices. Check out her previous posts for Beyond Bylines. In her free time, Rocky can usually be found cooking, binge-watching a new show, or playing with her puppy, Hudson. 

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