Sep 19, 20183m read

Marc Benioff, TIME Magazine and The Rise of Tech Media

It’s official! Meredith Corporation is selling TIME Magazine (yes, THE Time Magazine) to Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff and his wife Lynne for $190 million in cash. The news of the acquisition has been buzzing in media and tech circles since Meredith announced it on Monday. Naturally, my team and I at Spot.IM have been following the bulk of the reporting and reaction.

First and foremost, Marc Benioff is not the first tech billionaire to purchase a massive media company. In 2013, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos bought The Washington Post and eBay Founder Pierre Omidyar backed The Intercept. Last year Laurene Powell Jobs, widow of Steve Jobs, secured a majority stake in The Atlantic. This year NantHealth Founder Patrick Soon-Shiong took over the L.A. Times.

Needless to say, tech billionaires are more than interested in acquiring established and/or growing media companies. TIME Magazine is just the latest conquest. The question we should really be asking is why Marc Benioff and others are so interested… What’s in it for them? They can’t all have charming altruistic motives. We have landed on these four very probable celebrity-named theories:

1. Beyoncé – “Mr. and Mrs. Benioff will not be involved in the day-to-day operations or journalistic decisions.” That’s what most billionaires state when they personally buy a media property. And who can blame them? These billionaires aren’t buying media properties for a return on investment; most of the publications are narrowly profitable, and the near-future sustainability for print media is beyond poor. They’re really buying them for social climbing. Wanted or unwanted, acquisitions of this magnitude provide the buyer worldwide recognizability, and more often than not, political/cultural influence. You essentially wake up Beyoncé.

2. Superman – No matter the amount of personal denials, such as the one above. No matter the amount of “print media is dead” headlines. These billionaires are focused on directly or indirectly injecting their tech know-how into this often-mercurial business. While Jeff Bezos and Laurene Powell Jobs have proven what investment and prowess can do for media outlets such as The Washington Post and The Atlantic, other wealthy notables have found publishing in this current social media world nearly impossible and have given up their investments. Most confoundedly, Facebook Co-Founder Chris Hughes sold The New Republic after a very rough period of command. Not everyone can be Superman.

3. Bill Gates – Now let’s talk about altruistic motives. Charity is not just about schools, hospitals and food banks. Social good can take many forms and be spread in various ways. These billionaires see these media institutions as beacons of truth and cultural advancement. They also strongly believe in the First Amendment. And as believers, they feel compelled to help these institutions survive and thrive. In a world of “fake news” and “enemy of the people,” why not dedicate a slice of your life to protecting the role of the journalist? It might not be what Philanthropy King Bill Gates focuses on, but all worthwhile causes deserve respect.

4. Floyd “Money” Mayweather – Are these billionaires secretly or not-so-secretly helping their own tech companies make more money? Does the acquisition of an influential media brand with millions and millions of followers around the world translate into new monetization strategies? There is not a lot of evidence here. And you know what, we hope it stays that way. Marc Benioff and friends should not look at Floyd “Money” Mayweather as a business role model.

Why do you think Marc Benioff and other tech billionaires buy big media companies? Do you agree with one or more of our theories? Please let us know in the comments.


Community Manager at Spot.IM

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