It has been only a week since Washington Post Co.’s chairman, Donald Graham, announced that Newsweek was on the block, but already a few big media players are taking an early look at the newsweekly.
Thomson Reuters and Politico.com owner Allbritton Communications have expressed interest out of the gate, according to people familiar with the situation. Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. has also taken a look, though a spokeswoman said, “Not us” when asked about being on the short list. Newsweek editor Jon Meacham also said he would consider trying to pull together an offer with investors.
People involved with the Newsweek sale cautioned that it’s incredibly early and that rich folks tend to congregate around big media properties, but that doesn’t mean they’re close to drawing up an offer sheet.
Of the names that have emerged on the short list so far, Thomson Reuters is the most surprising. The company, a huge player in Europe, has only recently stepped up its game in the U.S., and has never before been a contender for a U.S. property with Newsweek’s profile.
Last year, when Bloomberg was about to purchase BusinessWeek, Thomson Reuters threw itself into that bidding very late in the game, joining up with ZelnickMedia to make a play for the business weekly. Bloomberg, a rival to Reuters, ultimately bought the magazine.
While Reuters is best known for business media—it recently announced plans for a finance Web video service called Reuters Insider, reported to cost $100 million—it also has been beefing up its consumer reporting, a buildup that would fit in well with a Newsweek purchase.
The company lets finance blogger Felix Salmon do what he likes, and last year it hired Jim Impoco, from Condé Nast Portfolio and The New York Times before that, to beef up its long-form reporting team.
And what would Thomson Reuters want to do with a magazine such as Newsweek? Perhaps the company is just kicking the tires, or maybe there’s a plan at work that is more substantive. Last year, Newsweek cut its rate base from 3.1 million to 1.5 million, hoping to serve a far more elite audience. Maybe the people at Thomson Reuters feel like they can have their own version of The Economist.
Staying competitive with Bloomberg, which has a monthly and just added a weekly magazine to its holdings, could be another reason.
“We do not comment on market rumors,” said a spokeswoman for Thomson Reuters.
Bloomberg told The Times last week that it didn’t have interest in the newsweekly, but one person familiar with the Newsweek sale said that it may be reconsidering, especially after Thomson Reuters decided to throw itself into the mix. Bloomberg didn’t show interest in BusinessWeek until a week before the deadline approached for bids. The New York Post reported that Carlos Slim was interested in buying Newsweek two days after the magazine went up for sale, but a Slim spokesman immediately shot that one down.
Robert Allbritton, chairman of Allbritton Communications, did not return a call looking for comment.