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Thursday, March 07, 2013

Does Time Inc's change of mind spell the end of "synergy"?

Time Inc has abruptly pulled out of merger negotiations with publisher Meredith and decided to put its magazines into a separate company from its film and TV assets. This is presumably for valuation reasons. You can't blame them for that.

What will probably pass without notice is that this may mark the point at which major media companies stopped talking about "synergy", when the biggest one of all admitted that there was nothing to be said for having their magazines under the same umbrella as their TV company.

"Synergy" used to be a key buzz word for TV companies buying print publishers or vice versa. It was the plausible sounding element in the attempt to make two and two add up to five which is at the root of most corporate moves.

In the fantasies of media moguls your magazine journalists feed stories into your radio stations and create stars who then sign book deals with your book division which are then adapted into block busting movies by your studio.

I'm sure there were cases where it worked out like that but I know there were many thousands when it didn't. The people who create intellectual property work for their own satisfaction, glory and profit rather than for the greater good of the company, no matter how well-disposed they might be towards that company.

All the different media disciplines have very different cultures. The people who work within them are not sharers. They resent the people sitting just the other side of the partition badly enough, let alone the ones across town with the better offices and different job titles.