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The Washington Post could seek acquisition to boost subscriber count

Kerry Flynn
Aug 31, 2022
Illustration of a person reading a hundred dollar bill-shaped newspaper
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The Washington Post has considered buying another news organization such as The Associated Press, The Economist and The Guardian, The New York Times reported.

Why it matters: M&A might be the best strategy for the Post to vastly and quickly grow its subscribers and revenue.

Details: The Times story focuses on the Post's struggles, with the brief mention of M&A consideration occurring deep within the story. Even though these talks likely haven't gone anywhere, the interest in pursuing one is compelling.

  • The news brands mentioned as part of the deal considerations were only discussed as part of "extensive internal talks," according to the Times. And, as far as Washington Post deal partners go, two of them really don't make sense.
  • The major hurdle is getting through the private ownership structure of each. The AP is a nonprofit cooperative. The Guardian is owned by the Scott Trust.

What they're saying: In response to the Times' story, Guardian Media Group's communications director Brendan O'Grady tweeted, "A Guardian spokesperson said '🤣.'"

  • "As a not-for-profit news cooperative, The Associated Press cannot be bought or sold. This has been AP's structure since its founding in 1846, and keeps us free from even perceived financial influence. We believe it is the best structure for an independent news organization," AP spokesperson Nicole Meir wrote in an email to Axios.
  • The Post did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The intrigue: The Economist would align with the Post's goal to establish more of an international presence.

The big picture: The Post hopes to reach five million total digital subscribers by 2025, dubbed the "5 by 25" initiative, according to the Times.

  • The New York Times has boosted its subscription business not only through organic bets on non-news products but also with its recent acquisition of The Athletic.
  • Digital brands also have joined forces as scale helps them better compete for ad dollars. Recent acquisitions include Vox Media buying Group Nine Media, BuzzFeed acquiring Complex and IAC's Dotdash acquiring Meredith's National Media Group.
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