Dow Jones (NYSE: NWS) wants to buy the 50 percent stake it doesn’t currently have in personal finance mag SmartMoney from Hearst, the WSJ reports, citing unidentified sources. No word on what price DJ is offering for the magazine, though a deal could be hammered out by next week. The two companies have shared ownership of the monthly title since 1991. Being the sole owner would allow DJ to combine the editorial staffs of the WSJ and SmartMoney. While it doesn’t appear that any edit staff will be laid off if the two can work out a deal, it is likely that a number of jobs on the business side could be cut.
Unlike business news magazines like BusinessWeek and Fortune, personal finance titles have tended to hold up a little better, as concerned investors and consumers have a heightened interest in money management advice. Plus, there tends to be an eager amount of advertisers ready to meet those consumers’ needs with a wide array of products and services.
Nevertheless, 2009 was a particularly painful year for most mag titles. While SmarMoney’s circ held relatively firm at 800,000 copies, according to Audit Bureau of Circulation, ad pages fell 23 percent last year, per the Publishers Information Bureau.
The negotiations come amid a flurry of activity at Dow Jones and its media properties. The WSJ.com itself is in the process of a European expansion, while the London-based subscription site Financial News has just been given a makeover. This week, Dow Jones’ MarketWatch unveiled plans to rollout a series of new paid-subscription newsletters. Earlier this month, Dow Jones agreed to form a join venture with CME Group to operate a global financial index services business in a $600 million deal.
— Update: One source close to SmartMoney’s editorial side says there some uncertainty as to whether only the business side is being targeted for post-merger layoffs. There is at least one person who has been at both the WSJ and SmartMoney: Johnathan Dahl, who has been the magazine’s editor-in-chief for the past six years. He had previously spent 18 years at the WSJ, where he held various posts including editor of the Weekend Journal, as well as columnist and reporter. No word on whether he would keep his role in the merger.