ABS Consulting Group, Inc.: Home | Blog | Resume | Speaking | Publications

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Fox Buys 73% of National Geographic: End of the World?

21 Century Fox did What?

Exactly what did Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox do? NPR reports:
In a $725 million deal, the 127-year-old National Geographic magazine is leaving behind its nonprofit status and becoming a key piece of a new venture between its parent organization and 21st Century Fox.
Fox is Already in National Geographic

If you've not kept up on cable TV deals, 21st Century Fox already owns about that much of National Geographic TV. That deal went down 18 years ago. The channel currently reaches 500 million homes worldwide.

Both the magazines and the channel will become part of the new National Geographic Partners. Partners will also house travel, education, digital and other products. Commenters to the NPR article noted above suggest both more ads in recent National Geographic Magazines and the "populous" shows on the NatGeo Channel point to things are already going "down hill" from the organizations prominent past. I can't comment; National Geographic is a brand I see only in my professional work in education and GIS, and even then, not that much.

Standards will Not Change

Both Fox and National Geographic say standards for the magazine will not change.
Executives at Fox and National Geographic underscored that the new partnership — which will be governed by a board with an equal number of representatives from each organization — would not affect the magazine’s standards of reporting.
Further, Fox CEO James Murdoch, who took over from his father earlier this years stood fast.
Speaking to National Geographic staffers Wednesday, James Murdoch said he revered the publication, which he has read since childhood. He told the New York Times he has no plans to change the culture or mission of the magazine.
Good News for Climate Change Coverage and Research?

Quartz suggests the move may actually be a boon for those who want more accurate information regarding climate change. Not that the move would be easy and goes against much of previous Fox News coverage.
James’s new job could usher in a new type of climate change coverage for Fox News, as the Huffington Post pointed out earlier this year. The nearly $1 billion investment in National Geographic might signal 21st Century Fox’s first steps in that direction.
Quartz also looks at the business realities of National Geographic.
National Geographic, on the other hand, has scooped up dozens of major awards (pdf) on its extensive work related to the perils of a warming planet. Like many print properties, it has struggled to adapt to the digital era—circulation has fallen over 20% in the past three years, as  the Washingtonian reports. Still, it has over 3 million paid subscribers, as well as a popular Instagram account and $55 million in annual revenue.
The deal also puts more money into National Geographic research raising the endowment to nearly $1 billion per the press release.

Media Is Changing!

Media is changing. Jeff Bezos owns the Washington Post. HBO is involved with Sesame Street. Now Fox has a controlling interest in (more of) National Geographic.

I was ok with Bezos' acquisition. We need the Washington Post! And, I'm actually ok with the HBO deal. And, I think I'm ok with this one, too, despite some suggestions National Geographic was doing fine financially and that the deal may have been a bit premature.

Geographers, explorers, educators and others may feel disheartened about the change as we think we own or connect with the National Geographic brand in a special way. That may or may not change. I'll be curious about if in one year, five years or 18 years how we all feel about National Geographic.

Actually on Topic: Back to GIS

Did you every think about what'd happen when Jack Dangermond is ready to leave Esri? It's a popular topic of speculation in our industry. Among the ideas I've heard in my travels is that National Geographic might be where Esri lands. With its non-profit status and somewhat similar vision about exploration and managing our world, National Geographic might have seemed a good home.  More recently, Esri has sidled up to Smithsonian (articles by Esri) and NPR (American Futures) two other very reputable media organizations.