As the private equity owner of The Week pushes for a sale price of £375m (15 x group EBITDA), the founder of the 26-year-old UK and US current affairs digest has launched a digital rival which could spook prospective bidders.
Jolyon (Jon) Connell, the former Daily Telegraph journalist who launched The Week in 1995 before selling to Dennis Publishing, has launched The Knowledge in a joint venture with the Daily Mail Group (DMGT).
Everything about The Knowledge may worry bidders for The Week. The new digital product promises readers: “We scroll, we read, we listen, we watch – and bring you the best. Brought to you by the founder of The Week, Jon Connell, The Knowledge is the antidote to our crowded online world. If you find yourself struggling to keep on top of what’s happening in the world, we are here to help. Every day we scroll through hundreds of websites, we read the world’s newspapers and magazines, we listen to the best podcasts and watch the most talked about shows to bring you the stuff that matters – all in one place. The most incisive comment, the most useful info, the wittiest quotes – all expertly curated to make you smarter, faster.”
It sounds a lot like The Week, which claims to cover “All you need to know about everything that matters”.
The Knowledge test-launched late last year but has now introduced its paid-for edition for a price of £9.99 with three months free trial. This is almost £2 less than the digital edition of The Week. But, while the high-performing publishers of the The Week, The Week Junior, Money Week, and Kiplinger, may feel they have seen it all before, they might worry that The Knowledge could become a tough competitor. DMGT is the UK’s most successful news group and is big on digital as well as print. It also has an unrivalled record of backing startups.
Significantly, DMGT was known to have been a late bidder for Dennis Publishing (or perhaps just for The Week) when it was originally sold-off in 2019. The speedy decision to disclose it would not be bidding for The Week this time may have been due to worries about the heady valuation – but also its own competitive plans.
It has established a subsidiary DMGK (25% owned by Connell) with an estimated budget of £2-3m. It has some 14 journalists operating in a standalone office but a team of commercial and operations people in DMGT’s London headquarters. Connell is editor-in-chief of The Knowledge. But the launch publisher is Wil Harris, co-founder of another DMGT investment, Entale, which “uses AI to turn audio into a discoverable format that allows listeners to delve deeper into their favourite shows through contextual content, interaction and commerce”.
Don’t be misled by the modest launch budget. That is just the start and the DMGT mood music says The Knowledge is a strategic project. It is being promoted in print and online right across the group. The Week’s current and future publishers might worry even more about DMGT’s statement this week: “Given its pedigree and the opportunities in the market, as well as the expertise in print which dmg media has recently added to with the acquisition of New Scientist, there is clearly an opportunity to move into print and this is under active consideration”.
While The Knowledge team is UK based, it is covering international news and is expected eventually to add journalists in Daily Mail Group offices in New York and elsewhere.
It’s early days, of course, and The Week has become a strong and stylish media franchise in the UK and US. But the DMGT assertion that online usage is “climbing very strongly” will get the attention of bidders.