Rumors about political news upstart Axios possibly combining with the sports-focused subscription media empire the Athletic in a SPAC deal were apparently off-base. Instead, German media conglomerate Axel Springer is reportedly on the cusp of acquiring Axios and adding it to its growing English-language media empire, which presently consists of Insider (formerly Business Insider) and its associated properties.
The news was first reported by the Information. Details of a possible purchase price weren't disclosed, and it's unclear how far along the talks are. A deal could still fall apart. And a spokesperson for Axel Springer said the company "doesn't comment on 'market rumors', while Axios CEO Jim VandeHei didn't respond to the Information's prodding.
Axel Springer also owns stakes in Group Nine Media, which has also reportedly been in talks about a possible SPAC deal, along with, well, practically every other digital media company in the US as their VC backers desperately push for an exit as the space's digital darlings like Buzzfeed look like they won't ever achieve profitability.
The news is the latest in a series of media-world deal announcements. From Verizon dumping what's left of Yahoo and Aol, to AT&T spinning off WarnerMedia in a deal with Discovery, to Amazon buying movie studio MGM, the space has been a hot one as SPAC dealmakers scrape the bottom of the barrel for new ideas.
Axios has been trying to bolster its profitability by focusing on newsletters and podcasts, while investing heavily in subscription-based "pro" offerings, not unlike Politico, where both of the company's founders served as senior executives before leaving to start Axios.
The company made a name for itself during the Trump era for its focus on churning out lightly reported scoops, with all of its stories boiled down to bullet points, a unique format that has been praised by some and derided by others.
Like pretty much all of its competitors, the politics-focused Axios has seen traffic slump more than 30% since Biden's inauguration, according to data from SimilarWeb.
The big question now is whether Axel will overpay for Axios like it did for BI?
This seems like something so obvious that it will probably happen -- but will Axel Springer overpay for Axios as much as it did for Business Insider? https://t.co/HfPaot8eGO— Mathew Ingram (@mathewi) May 21, 2021
Or maybe the firm sees potential "synergies" allowing it to cut costs - ie lay off dozens of reporters and editors - at BI?