What to Do With Time4 Media? 'So Many Possibilities'

Q&A: Meet Bonnier Group's Jonas Bonnier

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Today's deal by Stockholm's Bonnier Group to buy the Parenting Group and most of Time4 Media from Time Inc. has planted a fresh face in the pantheon -- or rogues' gallery, depending on your perspective -- of magazine big shots in the U.S. He is Jonas Bonnier, the 43-year-old exec VP of the Bonnier Group and president of its Bonnier Magazine Group. While he prepares to leave Sweden for a trip to New York, where he will be by Monday, Mr. Bonnier answered questions from MediaWorks.
Jonas Bonnier, exec VP, Bonnier Group, and president of its Bonnier Magazine Group
Jonas Bonnier, exec VP, Bonnier Group, and president of its Bonnier Magazine Group

MediaWorks: Now that you've won, what do you plan for your acquisitions?

Jonas Bonnier: Obviously we have great belief in the U.S. magazine market. We proved that today. There are a lot of possibilities that exist with the Time4 and the Parenting Group brands and magazines themselves.

Coming from Europe, we believe that the editorial excellence of the magazines, especially since these are magazines aimed toward very passionate readers who already know it all, is the No. 1 issue -- to keep on setting the example on the editorial side.

The multiplatform publishing that one has to do in the magazine business going forward creates a great challenge and opportunity for these titles.

And then of course with tens of millions of passionate readers in the different magazines and various media formats, we can provide advertisers with a unique and extremely exact and cost-effective service.

We'll definitely want to grow in the U.S., but the first priority is to work with the existing portfolio to sort of leverage more on the very, very strong and established brands in the portfolio.

MediaWorks: Are the jobs of the Time4 and Parenting employees safe?

Mr. Bonnier: Of course, we have to try to find the synergies if there are any, especially with World Publications. They have a lot of boating titles, fishing titles, some action-sports titles -- and of course Time4 is in all those niches as well. So there may be synergies for back-office functions, corporate overhead, these things.

But the main focus is not to cut costs. The main focus is definitely to develop the multiplatform strategies that create possibilities and to invest in them. We didn't buy these and think we could cut costs and make it a great acquisition. We bought them because we thought there were so many possibilities. We have to invest in them. The idea of buying it and stripping it down is totally the opposite of what we intend.

MediaWorks: Magazine-ad-pages sales in the U.S. have been flat, when looked at as a whole, so why are you so enthusiastic about the market here?

Mr. Bonnier: It's very hard to generalize the magazine market in the U.S. because it's very differentiated. The sort of magazine publishing we do in Europe is mostly special-interest magazine publishing -- very niche.

Because the internet finally turned into a business a couple years ago, I think that the magazine business has a great opportunity in the years to come. We think that you can build a brand easily with a magazine title. You can get readers who become very passionate, very loyal. You create a relationship with your readers that is extraordinary.

But I think the growth exists for small niche magazines with a very defined, very precise target group. At the same time very broad, mass-market titles in the U.S. will continue to struggle in the years to come.

MediaWorks: Why has your 200-year-old company suddenly been able to enter the U.S. in such a big way last year and this?

Mr. Bonnier: We've been struggling and trying to make this happen for the last 40 years or so.

We owned part of Esquire magazine for at least two weeks in the 1980s. ... We tried to do Cook's magazine in the early 1990s. We also had a partnership with a gossip magazine in Washington, D.C., for a year or two in the '80s or '90s.

We're also very, very patient. Right now the right opportunity presented itself, so here we go. I will tell you in 35 years if this was a good thing or a bad thing.

MediaWorks: Given that World Publications has a CEO in Terry Snow and Time4 has a president in Tom Beusse, who will run your U.S. division?

Mr. Bonnier:I'm personally and definitely for the first year going to be the working chairman for this division.

But the only way to organize a magazine company is to get to know the people who work in the company and build the structure around them. So I'm going to spend the next couple weeks talking to a lot of people at Time4 and the Parenting Group. After that I can tell you more. Before that it's all theories and speculations.
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