April 13, 2022

The News Media Alliance will absorb the MPA – The Association of Magazine Media under a merger agreement awaiting NMA member approval.

The partnership will put together the historically distinct cultures of two arms of the legacy print industry with a particular emphasis on shared lobbying goals, including postal regulations and dealing with the big platform companies.

Terms of the agreement were emailed Monday to the full membership of NMA, who will be asked to ratify it at a Zoom meeting May 6.

David Chavern, president and CEO of the NMA, confirmed that merger discussions are underway but declined to discuss details. In an email, Chavern said, “News and magazine publishers are the greatest creators of original, high-quality journalism in the media landscape. Joining forces could expand opportunities for the members of both associations and consumers.”

Rita Cohen, senior vice president of the MPA, declined to comment on the merger negotiations.

Combinations of news associations have become common over the last decade. However, this is a particularly big one, at least symbolically.

The MPA dates back to 1919, and, until recently, held a large annual conference and was a rich source of data on the industry and its members, including monthly digital audience statistics.

MPA’s website lists a staff of just three and appears to now focus primarily on advocacy and lobbying. That has also become the biggest activity for NMA, which has persistently been seeking an antitrust waiver from Congress to negotiate with Google and Facebook to get compensation for the content the two platform giants use.

The magazine business has been rocked in recent years by a sinking advertising base and financially-driven consolidations. Meredith acquired Time Inc. in 2017, dealing away several of its titles — including Time and Sports Illustrated — to individual buyers. The merger did not go smoothly and Meredith, in turn, was sold to Barry Diller’s digitally oriented Dotdash last fall.

Expenses have been another challenge for magazines. Postal rates no longer subsidize the business to the degree they used to. A number of magazines have cut back print frequency as they simultaneously attempt a transition to more paid digital-only subscriptions.

Under terms of the merger agreement, seven directors from the MPA will join the NMA’s board. Over the next three years, six of them will form a Legacy Directors group, approving the use of reserve funds MPA brings to the combined association. The same group “will advise the NMA’s Board of Directors and Officers on magazine-specific industry developments, and work to facilitate integration of MPA members into NMA.”

Each industry has a separate association for editors, running awards contests and professional events. Those organizations will not be affected by the merger.

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Rick Edmonds is media business analyst for the Poynter Institute where he has done research and writing for the last fifteen years. His commentary on…
Rick Edmonds

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