Why do Billionaires Keep Buying US Newspapers despite their “Terrible Future,” as Buffett Said?

Buffett’s own newspaper conglomerate announced the 2nd round of layoffs in 10 months.

“Newspapers have a terrible future. We own the Buffalo News, as you say, and we hope to be the last man standing.” That’s what the Oracle of Omaha prophesied in November 2009. In November 2011, Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway bought the Omaha World-Herald. A series of other acquisitions has turned into BH Media Group, which owns 31 daily newspapers, 47 weekly newspapers, 32 “other print products,” and a TV station in Miami.

Today, BH Media announced that it is laying off 148 employees and will not fill 101 vacant positions, for a total of 249 jobs, representing about 6% of the workforce. These cuts include 43 jobs at the Omaha World-Herald.

The drop in advertising revenue is a “harsh reality” in the industry, explained BH Media CEO and publisher of the Omaha World-Herald, Terry Kroeger, echoing what Buffett already knew in 2009, well before he bought the outfit, and all the other outfits.

Kroeger blamed e-commerce which has caused a large number of their regional and national clients to cut back on their advertising spend because their brick-and-mortar businesses are being disrupted by online retail.

This is the second round of job cuts in 10 months: In April 2017, BH Media announced 289 job cuts, including 108 vacant positions. At the time, it employed 4,450 people. The World-Herald:

Kroeger said the company is experiencing a “critical moment” as print newspapers have “suffered from the growing popularity of the digital environment.” Regional and national advertisers are being hurt by online retailers, he said, causing them to reduce their print advertising.

Buffett is number 3 on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index ($82 billion). If newspapers have such a “terrible future,” why do billionaires – who’re supposed to have brilliant business minds – keep buying them?

Billionaires have been all over print newspapers

Earlier in February 2018, Patrick Soon-Shiong, biotech mogul and number 175 on the Billionaires Index ($8.6 billion), acquired the Los Angeles Times, along with the San Diego Union-Tribune, Spanish-language Hoy Los Angeles, and some community newspapers. His private investment firm, Nant Capital, agreed to pay $500 million and will assume $90 million in pension liabilities.

“Ultimately, this decision is deeply personal for me,” he said. “As someone who grew up in apartheid South Africa, I understand the role that journalism needs to play in a free society.”

The New York Times was less merciful. It said the deal “brings to a close a tumultuous period marked by the ouster of top leaders, the suspension of the newspaper’s publisher and a contentious unionization effort.”

In recent months, the frustration in the Times newsroom erupted into public view, as The New York Times, HuffPost and other news outlets published articles on the tensions between staff and management at the 136-year-old newspaper.

So now a billionaire owns that baby.

The seller was tronc, the third-largest newspaper publisher in the US (think Chicago Tribune), in which Michael Ferro, Jr., who doesn’t get to play with the big boys on the Billionaires Index, has a 28% stake.

In November 2017, Charles and David Koch, the numbers 12 and 13 on the Billionaires Index ($48 billion each), put their money behind the acquisition of Time Inc., the publisher of the once iconic Time, Sports Illustrated, and well, People. They did so with a $650-million capital infusion from Koch Equity Development into media conglomerate The Meredith Corporation that then used this money to acquire Time Inc.

Despite the Kochs’ active involvement in the political scene, the deal announcement said that Koch Equity Development would not have a seat on Meredith’s board and would “have no influence on Meredith’s editorial or managerial operations.” The New York Times:

The deal could represent the beginning of the end for one of the country’s most celebrated magazine publishers, whose titles commanded the attention of global leaders and chronicled world events, sometimes with striking photography.

The company failed to keep pace as the industrywide transformation from print to digital rendered old methods of magazine-making obsolete and publishing companies crumbled under the pressure of declines in print advertising and circulation.

April 2017, Ron Perelman, number 57 on the Billionaires Index ($18 billion), acquired The Independent, a free weekly paper based in East Hampton. “I am a firm believer in tradition and history, and preserving the qualities that make our community so strong,” he wrote in an open letter. OK, so The Independent isn’t exactly the global paper of record, but hey, any paper counts.

In 2015, Sheldon Gary Adelson, number 20 on the Billionaires Index ($38 billion), founder and CEO of Las Vegas Sands Corporation and its gambling empire that stretches across Las Vegas, Singapore, and Macau, secretly acquired the Vegas Review-Journal.

When it came out, the NY Times posed the question this way:

And so the $140 million question – why Mr. Adelson, 82, and his family would want the newspaper at such a lavish price – remains mostly unanswered. It is particularly pressing to many in Nevada because he is perhaps the most powerful and overtly political figure in the state.

And when it comes to his own interests, Mr. Adelson can get prickly, according to the NY Times:

He has pursued libel suits against journalists whose reporting on his sprawling empires drew his ire. In one continuing case, Mr. Adelson sued a reporter from The Wall Street Journal over an article about another legal battle Mr. Adelson was engaged in with a former employee.

In October 2013, Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon and number 1 on the Billionaires Index ($123 billion), acquired The Washington Post via his private investment company Nash Holdings for $250 million.

In August 2013, John Henry, owner of the Red Sox and at the time widely called “billionaire” though he currently does not figure on the Billionaires Index, acquired the Boston Globe for $70 million.

This story itself is a glaring sign of the print media’s death spiral: the seller was the NY Times, which was trying to stop the bleeding. It had acquired the Boston Globe in 1993, at peak print-media, before the Internet would tear it all apart, for the fabulous sum of $1.1 billion.

In 2007, Rupert Murdoch, currently number 85 on the Billionaires Index, acquired The Wall Street Journal for $5 billion via his company, News Corporation, from the Bancroft family, which had owned it for over 100 years.

So what is it with billionaires wanting to own newspapers even though they have a “terrible future,” as Buffett had put it so elegantly in 2009 before he started buying newspapers himself?

Wealthy people buying and running newspapers is a well-established practice. And fortunes have been made founding the old print media, including by such newspaper moguls as William Randolph Hearst. It’s just that there are a lot more billionaires these days, with asset prices inflated as they have been since the global money-printing orgy started in 2008. The print media may be in a death spiral, but some of their online versions have a large and growing readership, though they might still lose money. And a little red ink may well be worth the price to influence the debate.

Or silence the debate, which the media chose to do when the Treasury Department issued its “Financial Report on the U.S. Government.” And that may have been a good thing, given what a fiasco it is. Read…  US Treasury Posts Gigantic $1.16 Trillion Shortfall in Fiscal 2017, Hilariously Points out “Where We Are Headed”

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  68 comments for “Why do Billionaires Keep Buying US Newspapers despite their “Terrible Future,” as Buffett Said?

  1. Nat
    Feb 20, 2018 at 11:43 pm

    “Why do Billionaires Keep Buying US Newspapers despite their ‘Terrible Future,’

    I always assumed it was because they have more money then they know what to do with, and even though News Papers are black-holes for money they let you shape the opinions and educations of the masses. When you have enough money to buy anything, why not buy the knowledge and opinions of the masses even though it is a money loosing prospect? … or at least it is a money loosing prospect directly, by shaping a countries opinions it could indirectly be a huge windfall for ones’ other companies.

    • R Davis
      Feb 23, 2018 at 1:21 am

      Isn’t it wise to have a money losing prospect to even out the tax bill?

  2. BobT
    Feb 21, 2018 at 12:06 am

    Power and control

    • alex in san jose AKA digital Detroit
      Feb 21, 2018 at 2:14 am

      They buy them so they can either use them for propaganda or shut them down.

    • Feb 21, 2018 at 8:40 am

      Power and control ? Over whom ? Not me.

      I read at least two newspapers daily, and often three when I left college. And except for the sports section, I did look at (if not read) every single page.

      I did not look at even one newspaper in 2017. Perhaps 2016 also. I have not bought a newspaper in many years. I cannot believe the changes I have gone through in that respect over the last 45 years.

      BTW, opinion and flaky ideas masquerading as news has been a large part of my evolution — I would exclaim frequently when reading the paper, ¨That´s not news!¨ as I do now with almost all television news.

      Today´s generation of ¨journalists¨ cannot differentiate between hard or real news, opinion and entertainment.

      No newspaper today has earned my respect enough to get one dollar of my hard-earned money.

      • AJS
        Feb 21, 2018 at 7:17 pm

        It’s about getting enough people to believe what they want. You then have political momentum. The mainstream media still has a large following.

    • R Davis
      Feb 23, 2018 at 1:26 am

      What power?
      What control?
      Over whom?
      Surely you don’t believe that mainstream media has the Svengali touch?
      The brag that mainstream media has held the minds of the populus in a controlled limbo since its inception?
      Its just a myth perpetuated by a nobody wanting to be somebody.

    • Argus
      Mar 2, 2018 at 1:14 pm

      yes. They get to control the message.

  3. raxadian
    Feb 21, 2018 at 12:13 am

    You know something funny? Ads are very ineffective online. Magazines, radio and Tv, and yes even newspapers, ads have more success. Yes people buy stuff online but people has learned to distrust ads online. Search engines and specific websites are the main way people use to get stuff online.

    Yes there are apps to buy stuff, but they do not beat Google or Amazon or even E-bay.

    Not to mention that since we are in the age that even the Apple store has got infected of crapware, people are slowly and painfully learn to be more careful with what apps they keep installed on their phone.

    • California Bob
      Feb 21, 2018 at 6:18 am

      “Ads are very ineffective online.”

      Yep. If you make half an effort, you can learn to ignore display ads entirely (sorry Wolf), and when I was in the market for a real estate agent to sell my house it was an old school postcard flyer that caught my attention (and the agent a listing).

    • phil m
      Feb 21, 2018 at 11:02 am

      There are other ways to “advertise” Online besides display. Native advertising ( content marketing) is doing quite well and will continue to do well as it fits with Online behavior.

  4. B
    Feb 21, 2018 at 1:13 am

    Easy answer, to control public opinion/perception to distract from what is really happening in the world, and they are willing to pay. Think of it as a type of lobbying for public sentiment. Billionaires lobby for public favor not just government favor. Luckily we have people like Wolf R, Don Q and many other contributors who are free of creating false impressions.

    • Konstantin KS
      Feb 21, 2018 at 8:04 am

      If people nowadays read less than they surf, how much can they still be controlled by papers?

      • robt
        Feb 21, 2018 at 9:48 am

        Pretty well all newspapers are online, too. And an overwhelming majority of them, as well as TV media, specialize in the perversion of facts disguised as news delivered in slogans and quick bites. Result?

        “The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.” -Churchill

    • Mortimer Snerd
      Feb 21, 2018 at 8:55 am

      Absolutely correct B. It is about forcing your opinion on the population.

    • R Davis
      Feb 23, 2018 at 1:28 am

      With alternative media – isn’t all that power obsolete?
      Denial is a safe place to hide for a time – hey.

      • Argus
        Mar 2, 2018 at 1:18 pm

        Many people are naively trusting – “I read it in the paper”. Some are intellectually lazy. Many would rather opt for sports, celebrity coverage etc than dig for truth in geopolitics or the financial world.

  5. Frederick
    Feb 21, 2018 at 1:31 am

    Presstitutes are valuable propaganda tools for these people but less effectively today due to sites like Wolfstreet etc, etc.

    • R Davis
      Feb 23, 2018 at 1:36 am

      Australian radio ABC RN – I listen – in the wee small hours it’s all fiction – even the so called experts are fiction – program hosts & actors with scripts.
      BBC radio is even worse – stories & events from Africa & India – actors with real African & Indian accents & scripts – all fiction – hours & hours of scripted fiction.
      I read & listen to world news & know that it is all made up.
      What a waste of electricity.
      It is fast approaching the 11th hour – we do not have these resources to waste – someone need to switch them off.

  6. Mike G
    Feb 21, 2018 at 1:37 am

    For Bezos and other rich guys buying a single newspaper with no prior background in the media biz — it can buy political and social influence, which may benefit the owner’s business operations, but I think mostly it’s a rich guy’s trophy, like owning a sports team or a luxury hotel.

    • KFritz
      Feb 22, 2018 at 5:53 am

      Bingo. And a cheap trophy compared to a major sports franchise!

  7. Ed
    Feb 21, 2018 at 2:09 am

    “Noblesse oblige!” replied the Duchess. Alice had heard this phrase before, and wished she knew exactly what it meant, but she was determined not to say another word if she could help it.

    “That means,” the Duchess went on to explain, “that I’m obliged to go on talking whether you like it or not.”

    (Everyone likes to talk and talk, even billionaires and duchesses . . . )

    • Den Waye
      Feb 21, 2018 at 5:09 am

      Not “everyone” likes to talk. In fact most everyone is searching for someone to listen to.

      • Ed
        Feb 21, 2018 at 5:13 pm

        True enough.

        But I think talk megaphone is what most desire when they buy a paper. They may say “noblesse oblige” but I am wary of believing it.

      • Ed
        Feb 21, 2018 at 5:17 pm

        True enough.

        But I think a desire to talk is driving this. Same as political contributions. Everyone has the right to speak, but some people you can’t hear because the next Guy’s speech us a giant megaphone.

  8. F Vevaina
    Feb 21, 2018 at 5:22 am

    How else can you “shape” the opinions of the public using the Deep State narrative? The shaping of opinions has a hundred fold benefit relative to cost.

    • fajensen
      Feb 21, 2018 at 2:05 pm

      These people are not actually very interested in shaping public opinion – instead they are interested in shaping the opinions of various “decision makers” and politicians. It is just a question of R.O.I.

      Many of those people will engage a bunch of flunkies – or in some cases algorithms – to read a wide range of media for them and bring a daily mix of all the “trending” stories to their attention.

      If one can inject “trending stories” at a key media node – like Reuters – one can have it quoted, re-told and commented upon by many media channels and pundits, thus it becomes a trending story, prompting the very people one needs to manage because they can do something for / against ones interests to at least have an opinion about something one wants them to have an opinion about.

      This process is, in my opinion, why “the news” lately give this impression that people from Andromeda or an AI is making them – nothing is useful or relevant to Me, because it is not written for Me, it is written for a few hundred people who are so wealthy and so isolated from everyone else’s experience, that they are barely human anymore.

      Lately, a lot of garbage and spammy items seem to be smeared all over the media landscape (like some person farting on a plane – everywhere in English and Danish media).

      That, in my opinion, is just machine learning where news-selection algorithms are selecting the most click-baity articles from all over the world to drive add-numbers, which the news “AI” is trained to optimise.

      Which is one reason that automated AI bot traders trading on “news” soon will have their heads handed to them! Probably where all of the genuine concern about “fake news” comes from too.

      • Feb 26, 2018 at 12:09 am

        I think you’re 100% correct there. Politicians still think they can buy elections, and they highly overemphasize the effect on voters.

        The Trump victory and Brexit loss were both examples of when this doesn’t work, when the biggest money backs losing side and is baffled about the loss. This doesn’t necessarily make the entrenched political class doubt the influence of news, its actually more likely to make them double down on their efforts.

        In other words, billionaires buying media outlets gives them political influence. It acts as both carrot and stick to serving political interests and increases the influence of their lobbyists.

        If you think about it, media ownership could easily be justified as lobbying expense.

  9. RvC
    Feb 21, 2018 at 5:39 am

    Because a newspaper (still) is a skeleton key giving access to politics (selling policy, memes and frames).
    Revenues are indirect: owners network takes a giant leap and brings early info on public projects to invest in.

  10. d
    Feb 21, 2018 at 6:02 am

    “The print media may be in a death spiral, but some of their online versions have a large and growing readership, though they might still lose money. And a little red ink may well be worth the price to influence the debate.

    Or silence the debate, which the media chose to do when the Treasury Department issued its “Financial Report on the U.S. Government.” And”

    Ultimately there can be no other intelligent reason.

  11. Kent
    Feb 21, 2018 at 6:10 am

    My local newspaper is Florida Today. It was started by the same guy who founded USA Today: Al Neuharth. Before passing away a few years back, Al spent the latter part of his life tucked away in a beautiful and sprawling property on Cocoa Beach.

    I was a paid up reader of Florida Today for 20 years. 10 years back or so the paper began to degrade quickly. The advertising began to take up more page space than the articles. There would be two or three pages in a row of nothing but ads. And the articles became nothing but corporate press releases. Insightful stuff like how Charlie Smith worked his way up through great customer service at the local Ford dealer.

    I dropped my subscription a long time ago. Now I start the day with a few articles from Google News followed by Wolf Street.

    • Frederick
      Feb 21, 2018 at 6:24 am

      If it’s anything like USA Today then it’s total trash

  12. marco
    Feb 21, 2018 at 7:01 am

    Because Americans will believe anything their billionaire rulers print and put before them ?

    No wonder RT and Sputnik readership is “off the charts” vs US Pravda billionaire media.

    • Mike G
      Feb 21, 2018 at 12:29 pm

      Not buying it, Boris

  13. philbq
    Feb 21, 2018 at 7:25 am

    The U.S. print media has been the voice of the wealthy for more than a century. The rich man’s press has always sold the views of the ruling class. They sell us their wars, they fed us their “government-sources say…” propaganda, their corporate view of trade and the world. Why is there always a “business” section to the newspaper, but no “labor” section? Because it is the voice of the Wall St. class. Now they are dying, killed by the Internet, – and it’s about time. The Internet provides endless independent information. You don’t need a filter- use your own intelligence. It is called free thinking.

    • raxadian
      Feb 21, 2018 at 1:06 pm

      Tell that to Nixon. It was a newspaper that ended booting him out presidency. There has never been such a thing as free press but at least newspapers used to be better at their jobs.

  14. Scott
    Feb 21, 2018 at 7:31 am

    In general, I think these billionaires use it to sway public opinion, and thereby improve the profitability of their other businesses.

    However, there is sometimes more to be seen.

    The Boston Globe’s old headquarters sold for $81 million. Now the paper had to start renting space for a newsroom and build a new printing press, but that’s still more than the Globe itself was sold for.


    Plus, John Henry’s wife is reportedly very involved in the paper, putting in long hours.

  15. Dave
    Feb 21, 2018 at 7:40 am

    Wolf, you answered your own question.

    “The print media may be in a death spiral, but some of their online versions have a large and growing readership, though they might still lose money. And a little red ink may well be worth the price to influence or control the debate.

    Or silence the debate, which the media chose to do when the Treasury Department issued its “Financial Report on the U.S. Government.”

  16. Steve Graves
    Feb 21, 2018 at 8:16 am

    Sounds like it may be a combination of all of the above.

    a.) Billionaires have LOTS of extra money to invest, more than they know what to do with.

    b.) Newspapers still influence public opinion. While their mediums are changing their influence is still significant, and billionaires have vested interests in influencing public opinion for obvious reasons.

    c.) And finally, these billionaires are all OLD! Meaning, they’re inherently old school. To them, the influence of newspapers, even as it wanes, is so deeply psychologically ingrained they simply cannot help themselves.

    So even if their investments in newspapers isn’t necessarily money well spent, they’ll probably keep doing it anyway. And who knows, when the bottom drops out of this whole leveraged charade or our fearless numbskull finally figures out how to work that dang football, maybe print will make a comeback. Could be the good ole days all over again…

  17. c smith
    Feb 21, 2018 at 8:33 am

    The proper analog is sports teams. Power, influence, ego – not about building additional wealth.

  18. MC01
    Feb 21, 2018 at 8:33 am

    This is one thing that intrigues me to no end: why pour money into newspapers?

    The reasons for my puzzlement are very simple: newspaper circulation has been declining worldwide since 1995 but entered a steep and sharp decline in 2010.
    To stay in the US both weekday and Sunday circulation have taken a massive blow in the last 20 years, going to 31 and 32 million respectively, a figure not seen since 1940. The days of selling well over 60 million newspaper nationwide every day are long gone.
    And in spite of the positive spin the decline is not merely predicted to accelerate, but digital subscriptions are failing to stem the bleeding in any way or form. 150,000 new digital subscriptions may sound like a lot, but they don’t compensate the 500,000 less newspaper you are not selling every day.

    An interesting note is that, according to Pew Research, the Newspaper Association of America stopped printing revenue data all the way back to 2012. The reasons are easy to gauge: Pew reconstructed circulation and advertising trends using publicly available resources such as SEC flings for publicly traded newspapers companies and the numbers are simply scary.
    Advertising revenue for 2017 was $18 billion, about the same when Ronald Reagan sent the US marines in Beirut. In 2005 they stood at $50 billion.
    Intriguingly enough circulation revenue has remained stable since 2003 at $10.8 billion, hinting newspapers (not to mention digital subscriptions) cost a whole lot more than they used to. Bless that deflationary boogeyman.

    If, as many people say, these billionaires want to influence public opinion this is a puzzling strategy, as their supposed chosen instrument is reaching fewer and fewer people and the information provided is of the “preaching to the converts type”.
    Perhaps this is a Billionaires’ Club thing: owning a newspaper is like owning racehorses or financing archaeological campaigns in the days of yore, basically a harmless show of wealth. Until the novelty wears out and the new thing becomes collecting hats.

  19. Petunia
    Feb 21, 2018 at 8:36 am

    Newspapers have become extensions of the political parties. Buying them is a way of injecting soft money into politics. They tow the party line of the left or right. The same can be said of major websites which publish “news.”

    There is no free press anymore. Media outlets have always had a bias one way or the other, but now they are total captives of their politics. They want to preserve their right to filter the news for the masses, but they no longer have any credibility. The president is right to bypass them.

    • Ethan in NoVA
      Feb 21, 2018 at 12:11 pm

      The internet is full of free press. There is more free press than ever, with very little work involved to publish compared to the old days. Worldwide distribution, included, for free!

      • Petunia
        Feb 21, 2018 at 2:40 pm

        I weep for my country.

        I wasn’t referring to the price of newsprint, which in America, was always intentionally kept very low. I was referring to outlets where they are free to report the truth. Truth is what is really lacking in the news.

      • c smith
        Feb 21, 2018 at 2:44 pm

        And, as we’ve seen with the viral proliferation of “fake news”, you get what you pay for!

  20. Dan Romig
    Feb 21, 2018 at 8:41 am

    On 1 July 2014, “Mankato billionaire Glen Taylor finalized his purchase of the Star Tribune.”

    “Taylor has put the price near $100 million. He will personally own 100% of the Star Tribune; it will not be under the Taylor Corp. umbrella.”

    “The Star Tribune is not only a good business, it is an important institution for all Minnesotans,” Taylor said.

    Glen gets a few of my dollars as I am a subscriber and will remain one. He has left the paper pretty much intact, but I always look at the reporting and editorial positions taken by the Strib with a degree of skepticism. The Strib has a partnership of sorts with Bezos’ Washington Post and that does not bring any value to this reader.

    Taylor owns the Timberwolves and Lynx pro basketball teams which play in Minneapolis- owned Target Center. The Target Center just had a $140 million dollar renovation. The exterior portion was paid for by $24.5 M from Minneapolis, $5 M from the Timberwolves and $500,000 from AEG the arena management company.

    My next door neighbor is one of two City Council members who voted against having the the city shell out these tax dollars. Great quote from him: “Twenty-five million buys a lot of f#*#ing paint!”

    • Feb 21, 2018 at 9:55 am

      Thanks. That slipped by me.

      Interesting side-note on “billionaires”: Everyone seems to call him “billionaire Glen Taylor” but he is not on the current Bloomberg Billionaires Index :-]

      • Dan Romig
        Feb 21, 2018 at 12:05 pm

        Forbes recently put the Timberwolves’ ‘Team Valuation’ at $1.06 billion. Taylor bought the T-Wolves in 1995 for $89 M; a 13% annualized appreciation. The “… billionaire Glen Taylor” moniker was taken from the Strib article published 1 July 2014 that I quoted in my comments.

        Of the Target Center renovation, Taylor funded $58 M, and most of the rest of the $140 M was covered with a city sales tax.

        The US Bank Stadium, where the Super Bowl was just played, is a textbook case of how a Pro sports team owner(s) gets taxpayers to make them rich. The Wilfs bought the Vikings in 2005 for $600 M, and Forbes valued it in its ‘NFL Teams Value List’ of September 2017 at $2.4 B. The Wilfs took seat license fees, naming rights (US Bank) and a free loan from the NFL to pay for virtually every penny of their contribution to construction costs, which was roughly one half of the $1.1 T total.

        • Dan Romig
          Feb 21, 2018 at 12:07 pm

          Please add richer to rich on the Wilfs.

        • Dan Romig
          Feb 21, 2018 at 12:44 pm

          OK, the new Vikings stadium did not cost $1.1 T, but rather $1.1 B.

          Proof reading, eh ….

  21. Enrique
    Feb 21, 2018 at 9:31 am

    I think it may be what I call the McDonald’s effect.

    Theoretically fast-food restaurants are not the wave of the future (healthy eating etc etc etc) but there almost certainly be SOME FF restaurant that survives. Which would presumably be the biggest/most robust.

    They all want to own the newspaper version of that.

  22. DK
    Feb 21, 2018 at 9:37 am

    Newspaper readership really all that good? On line or hard copy? Almost no one I know looks at them anymore.

    • Frederick
      Feb 21, 2018 at 9:54 am

      Same here I haven’t bought a newspaper in over ten years and I don’t know anyone under 90 who has

    • robt
      Feb 21, 2018 at 10:07 am

      My first job was at a newspaper decades ago, and after seeing how the ‘news’ is created, I made a point for many years of not reading just one, but several every day just to see how many different ways the same story could be told.
      It brings to mind the old story about the politician commenting about how laws are made: like sausages, and you don’t want to see how it’s done.
      Haven’t picked up a paper for years, but the last time I looked they range from two to four dollars depending on the day of the week. You may as well make up your own stories for that kind of money.

    • MC01
      Feb 21, 2018 at 11:48 am

      Newspaper circulation started to decline in 1995 and has been steadily falling off a cliff since 2010. And plainly put online subscriptions are nowhere near enough to halt or even slow the bleeding.
      If you want numbers, newspaper circulation in the US peaked in the early 90’s, being steadily over 60 million copies/day, and in 2017 was estimated to have hit 32 million/day, about the same as in 1940.
      Please note the Newspaper Association of America stopped publishing circulation, advertisement and revenue figures in 2012, so the most recent data have been “reconstructed” using a variety of publicly available sources.

      This sharp decline is a worldwide trend: newspapers seem to be going the way of the steam locomotive, and faster.
      I hope pension funds aren’t invested too heavily in printing equipment manufacturers…

  23. Shane From Melbourne
    Feb 21, 2018 at 11:13 am

    You have to wonder how much influence any of the old school media has over the public when they were mostly shilling for Hillary and still couldn’t get her elected. Mind you they were exceedingly generous with free publicity for Trump……

  24. Feb 21, 2018 at 11:34 am

    Newspapers represent politics in the past tense. In history comes a second time as farce every instant billionaire imagines playing Charles Foster Kane, for a laugh. Newspapers represent the cycles in life, when your president makes instant tweets at 3AM, none of it worth paying attention to, hey its time to back off.

  25. Paulo
    Feb 21, 2018 at 11:56 am

    Reasons? Egos on legs.

    But…thank you newspaper owners for your excellent firestarter material. I go to town once per week and always pick up an armful from the bulk kiosk so our locals who heat with wood have something to start their woodstoves with every morning. I light about 3 fires every day in our family homes. Plus, when I am doing some painting or staining great to protect the workbench and in fall we wrap green tomatos in them. Oh, I forgot….puppy training.

    There’s about 3 minutes of local news reading, too. House fires, B&Es, ferry problems, and the yearly foodbank article at Thanksgiving.

  26. Enquiring Mind
    Feb 21, 2018 at 12:15 pm

    Small-town newspapers get overlooked. They are typically the only game in town, where print ads are the most likely avenue of generating any traffic for local merchants. That gives the media owners a lot of influence in what gets printed and how much the ads cost. Internet delivery isn’t everything, after all.

    Warren Buffett famously likes insurance companies in part because of the cash flow timing and working capital impact. Small town papers, of which Buffett owns many, also provide some cash flow benefit while accruing many non-cash intangibles. Not much of a free press there when the moat is so wide and the likelihood of any material competition is remote. If you live in the boonies, you see that daily.

  27. Shawn
    Feb 21, 2018 at 12:19 pm

    “Why do Billionaires Keep Buying US Newspapers despite their ‘Terrible Future,’

    Easy, propaganda.

  28. gorbachov
    Feb 21, 2018 at 1:41 pm

    Elections are won by a slim %. If you can move an election and get your guy in there to protect your money, then it’s worth it.

  29. NS
    Feb 21, 2018 at 3:11 pm

    they are still trophy assets and believe me when i say that there would be multiple buyers if, say, the NYTimes put itself on the block. George Soros would likely pay an insane number for a trophy asset like that, regardless of its financial outlook on a spreadsheet. Reach is so tough to find and having a trusted editorial voice in a divided global ecosystem is a rare thing.

  30. mean chicken
    Feb 21, 2018 at 5:41 pm

    Fascinating question!

    1) The mean ol’ Russians made them do it?

    2) Possibly, the reporters serve the purpose of personal paid boots on the ground gathering real data?

    3) Tax benefit

    4) Satisfy some philanthropic urge.

  31. michael Engel
    Feb 21, 2018 at 6:39 pm

    Owners of mass media have a powerful moat ==> a partnership with the gov. They become an insider, without election, embedded with them.
    Mass media have a strong relationship with the gov, because they have influence and can shape public opinion.
    Once they become insiders, they can promoting their own business interest.
    WB Dad was devastated when he lost election. Media ownership was his son (WB) solution to be in the gov, to glue with them.
    Since the 1970’s, he bought and sold many assets, but
    always kept media assets, like ABC, W.Post, Buffalo news and others…
    The reason is simple. Once a Billionaire acquire enough
    media, he can use the gov as a lever to benefit & expand. In an emergency, to save himself.
    It’s a dangerous game, because when the opposition
    takeover, he will pay the price.
    Media in your hand can also promote the owner
    public relationship & image, show how wonderful he is.
    Once a rich man have enough capital and the gov as
    a moat, media losses can be easily absorbed !
    Unions know how to play their games.

  32. govinda
    Feb 21, 2018 at 7:10 pm

    Surprised no one saw the obvious reason (beside the power that propaganda brings) – the shaping of history. Their fake news and brainless drivel will be preserved for all of time and stitched together in the future to paint a picture of a history that no one ever experienced except in some editor’s imagination – prodded heavily by the owner. Its why they use their ill gotten gains to buy media outlets, sponsor symphonies and have names of medical schools named after them – to cover up their crimes.

    Anyone notice how they contradict themselves on almost a daily basis now? One day an article says X, a day or two later it will say the complete opposite. They can claim fairness to all sides, in order to keep the $ and power flowing in.

  33. ann
    Feb 21, 2018 at 8:18 pm

    I used to read them. I am part of the “super educated” class and very high income class. Buying a newspaper or a magazine has no financial impact for me. Zilch. Even 10 or 100. Yet I don’t bother at all. Even at the airport in the business lounge or trans flights where they’re free, I don’t even pick any. And I noticed that nobody bothers either. We even had a questionnaire the other day from Delta platinum: their angle was clear: should we waste money with newspapers.
    The reason I don’t read them is simple: they all have the same agenda: I call it the imperial agenda: a mixture of socialism for the benefit of multinationals and their owners. That’s , Imo why the billionaires buy them. To place the propaganda.
    I’m a libertarian and cannot take it anymore.
    So I stopped hurting myself and gave up.
    But the sad truth is people still believe the fake news they read. And old people still buy it.
    For how long?

  34. Cricket
    Feb 22, 2018 at 5:50 pm

    You asked why? The reason is simple. EXPENSIVE TOILET PAPER. Won’t be available when the SHTF.

    But Newspapers will be there, not affected by EMP. People will need to know what’s going on and it can double as TOILET PAPER.

    Win-win. There’s a reason why they are billionaires, ya know…..

  35. ML
    Feb 23, 2018 at 3:14 am

    “Same here I haven’t bought a newspaper in over ten years and I don’t know anyone under 90 who has”

    Every Saturday I buy Financial Times weekend edition. The FT is a good read if you have the time. I rarely do. My wife does so she spends most of the week doing so.

    The price has risen since Pearsons sold it. Almost £4 a week now. Long ago I worked out that if I played my cards right then I might be able to make enough money from trading stocks and shares to cover the cost of buying newspapers and such like.

    Billionaires buying newsoapers is probably for the playing roulette
    feeling. Anything really important they’ll have heard about long because it gets into the newspaper.

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