Koch Brothers Pass on the Tribune Company

When Koch Industries announced that it was looking into buying the Tribune Company and its portfolio of newspapers, including the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times and others, lots of conservatives (like me) got excited. Imagine if Koch owned seven or eight major newspapers, and installed new, more conservative management! Liberals, on the other hand, were horrified. The Hartford City Council went so far as to pass a resolution opposing purchase of the Tribune Company, which owns the Hartford Courant, by Koch Industries. I really believe that if liberals had their way, they would enact legislation making it illegal for a conservative to own, or be employed by, any newspaper or other news organization. This Reason video provides an entertaining view into the liberal mindset that favors free speech, as long as it isn’t by conservatives:

All the while, however, Koch said that its interest was economic, not political: it was evaluating the proposed purchase strictly on its business merits.

Sadly, the Daily Caller now reports that the transaction won’t take place, because Koch found that buying the newspapers was “not economically viable.” The details are interesting:

Two of the Tribune Company’s digital assets in particular, CareerBuilder.com and Classified Ventures LLC., a source with knowledge of the proceedings told The Daily Caller, were discovered to be half of the company’s revenue….

The Wall Street Journal reported in June that due to what is dubbed a founders’ agreement, “a sale of the newspapers could invalidate long-standing arrangements under which Tribune’s papers sell local ads on behalf of the websites, boosting the papers’ digital ad revenue.”

Without the current revenue stream provided to the newspapers by CareerBuilders.com and Career Ventures LLC, the newspapers are unsustainable, the source said to The Daily Caller.

The moral of the story is that the newspaper business is in even more dire straits than we knew. A chain of major papers can’t survive without the income stream provided by two web sites that I, for one, had never heard of. If the Kochs, with their unsurpassed business acumen, didn’t think they could make a go of the papers, all I can say to the liberals is: lots of luck.

Still, I confess to a sense of regret. Sports fans don’t care whether our local teams are profitable, we want our owners to plunge their millions into building a winner. Likewise in politics. I still think that someone–if not the Koch brothers, some other conservatives–should buy magazines like Ladies Home Journal, Cosmopolitan, Us and others, and hire editors who would shift them in a subtly conservative direction. Conservatives do great with well-informed voters. Unfortunately, they are a relatively small minority. What we need to do, more than anything else, is get our story in front of low-information voters, the large majority, who are now cynically manipulated by the Left. I can’t think of a better way to do that than by buying up non-political magazines and other cultural influencers.

But let’s not give up hope. The newspapers were a losing proposition, but maybe the Kochs can find a way to make money on Cosmopolitan.

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