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Future uncertain between Drake and Meredith Corporation

On Oct. 6, Des Moines-based Meredith Corp. announced that it expects to be acquired by New York-based InterActive Corporation’s Dotdash for $2.7 billion. The deal is expected to close by the end of the year.

Drake University’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication building bears Meredith Corp. founder E.T. Meredith’s name and has had a long-standing relationship with the company. Since 2003, Meredith Corp. has partnered with Drake University and Iowa State University to offer apprenticeships to students interested in pursuing a career in magazine media, according to Jeff Inman, the program’s advisor. 

After the announcement, uncertainty remains about whether the program will continue to operate in the future under the new company, which will be known as Dotdash Meredith. 

“For the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, that relationship [between Drake and Meredith Corp.] is really essential,” said Inman, who is an assistant professor of magazine journalism at Drake. “It helps power our curriculum, it helps power the apprenticeship program and it helps advance our thinking and teaching based on our connections and conversations with people at Meredith about what they’re doing and how we can better prepare our students to make sure they are ready to jump [into] the journalism world.”

Drake senior Savanna Bous said she and other Meredith apprentices were assured that their positions would remain stable, but the company has not commented about the future of the program. Of the 135 Drake students who have participated in the apprenticeship, 56 have returned to Meredith as full-time employees, according to Inman.

“I really do hope the Meredith apprenticeship is here for the coming years and the coming students at Drake just because I think that it is so valuable to both parties involved,” said Bous, who serves as the online holiday and crafts apprentice for Better Homes & Gardens. “I think Meredith has a really big opportunity to get the younger talent.”

Since its 1902 founding in Des Moines, Meredith Corp. has remained headquartered in the city and has been handed down through generations of the Meredith family. According to Inman, however, it is widely discussed in the media world that Mell Meredith, the 64-year-old granddaughter of E.T. Meredith and the family’s primary spokesperson, wants to retire from the business. 

“Meredith kind of seemed like that untouchable entity,” Bous said. “It’s been the same family and corporation since it started in the 1900s, so it was so surprising to hear about this big step of change for Meredith when it’s been such a steady corporation in media.”

With the acquisition of Meredith, Dotdash has an opportunity to accelerate the company’s digital transformation by combining their portfolio of 14 online media brands with Meredith’s portfolio of more than 40 brands. Meredith Corp. has reported that, like many media corporations, the company’s digital revenue is gradually outpacing its revenue from print publications. Earlier this year, the former surpassed the latter for the first time.

When Meredith acquired Time Inc. in 2018, it quickly reduced staff and volume, canceling out the debt resulting from the purchase, Inman explained. As Dotdash Meredith makes the transition to a primarily digital company, questions persist whether the new company will reduce the number of print staff in a similar manner. However, according to Inman, Dotdash CEO Neil Vogel said in a call to investors that he expects comparatively small savings from the Meredith acquisition and that the merger will instead serve to increase the new company’s digital presence.

“The agreement between Meredith and IAC’s Dotdash combines the power of Dotdash’s digital publishing model with Meredith’s trusted, iconic brand portfolio, loyal audience and scale,” Erica Jensen, a senior vice president and chief communications officer at Meredith, said in an email.

Doubt also remains about whether Dotdash Meredith will be headquartered in Des Moines or New York. Regardless of their ultimate decision, Dotdash emphasized its commitment to Des Moines and the approximate 800 Meredith employees based in Iowa.

“Dotdash has stressed a commitment to Iowa, where our roots have been firmly planted since our founding,” Jensen said. “The Meredith Foundation will continue to be active in the Des Moines community, as will Dotdash Meredith.”

Jeff Inman is the faculty advisor for The Times-Delphic.

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated Dotdash was acquiring Meredith Corp. for $2.7 million. It has since been corrected to read $2.7 billion. 

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1 Comment

  1. Paul LeFort October 23, 2021

    Price of IAC’s proposed acquisition is $2.7BILLION. While efficiencies are always a component in deals like this, the presence of major tech in Iowa, lower cost of living & robust talent pool gives me confidence that the Dotdash-Meredith connections with Iowa & Drake specifically will continue. Both parties gain great benefits.

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