Via Dave Weigel, news from the old-media world: Jack Shafer (now at Reuters) is not (officially) looking for a job at TNR:
Chris Hughes joins the pantheon of vanity press moguls with the announcement today of his purchase of a majority interest in the New Republic. The 28-year-old Hughes, a co-founder of Facebook, commands a net worth that Forbes put “in the $700 million range” last year. Based on this portfolio, Hughes should be able to sustain the magazine’s annual losses — which Anne Peretz, the ex-wife of former owner Martin Peretz put at $3 million a year — for a couple of hundred years after his death…
The rich often buy vanity publications when they learn quickly that having a lot of money doesn’t necessarily make them “players.” They want that sort of influence and are crestfallen by the fact that the only reliable way to get people to do as you say — or even nod in agreement — is to put them on the payroll. Purchasing a publication, even a down-on-its-heels magazine like the New Republic, conveys some of that status, providing entree into certain salons and cabals of influence. (Although it still publishes many worthy articles, I rarely hear it cited as often as its competitors — the Atlantic, Mother Jones, the Weekly Standard — but that’s just anecdotal evidence.)
Publications aren’t always “rich people things,” to pinch the wonderful Chris Lehmann’s construction. But for every man who spent part of his fortune on publications and got it all back when he sold to the next sucker, there are a dozen department store owners, real estate operators, trust fund kids, tech tycoons and hedge fund whizzes who haven’t. From the outside, owning a publication looks like a lot of fun, but there are only two guaranteed ways to have fun at a publication: writing and editing. Even if you’re lucky enough to make money off your publication, pocketing profits aren’t anywhere near as fun as producing stories…
From the 2009 Fast Company story:
…[A]t the age of 25, Hughes has helped create two of the most successful startups in modern history, Facebook and the campaign apparatus that got Barack Obama elected. Both were dedicated to the proposition that communities, and the way we share and interact within them, are vitally important. As he recounts his two years as director of online organizing for the man who put community organizing on the map, the existential reverie is understandable. He doesn’t know what community means? Really? “Well, I just never think of myself as being in the business of building an online community.” …
From the embedded NYTimes link:
[Mr. Hughes’s] focus, he said in an interview in advance of the announcement, will be on distributing the magazine’s long-form journalism through tablet computers like the iPad. Though he does not intend to end the printed publication, “five to 10 years from now, if not sooner, the vast majority of The New Republic readers are likely to be reading it on a tablet,” he said.
Shafer has his precious reputation as a contrarian media ninja to protect, but we here are JustABlog. Rupert Murdoch famously started his international media
criminal career with a couple of downmarket local newspapers in his native Australia. Are we allowed to fantasize that a younger billionaire from a less antiquated medium might provide a spark for those of with less retrograde political leanings?