If Then

Tech Barons Are the New Media Barons

A conversation with the Washington Post’s media columnist about the billionaires buying news organizations—including her own.

MONOPLY of news outlets.

Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by MONOPOLY.

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On this week’s If Then, Will Oremus and April Glaser talk about a literal moonshot. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has announced the first private customer who is signed up for a trip around Earth’s moon, possibly as early as 2023. He’ll be bringing along some surprising passengers. Meanwhile, the Justice Department is investigating Musk’s other company, Tesla, over an ill-advised tweet. Next, Will and April discuss a new Twitter feature that brings back the classic reverse-chronological timeline.


The hosts are then joined by Margaret Sullivan, the media columnist for the Washington Post and former public editor of the New York Times. They’ll talk to her about the trend of tech barons buying media companies. That’s what Salesforce founder and CEO Marc Benioff did this past weekend with his $190 million purchase of Time magazine. Sullivan knows a bit about tech titans buying media companies—her employer, the Washington Post, was bought by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos in 2013, and she worked for Warren Buffett at the Buffalo News. We’ll talk to her about what this sale might mean for the future of Time, and the growing entanglements between big tech and journalism.


13:34 - Interview with Margaret Sullivan


33:33 - Don’t Close My Tabs

Stories discussed on the show:

Don’t Close My Tabs:

Update: After this podcast taping, it was announced that Ian Buruma is out as editor of the New York Review of Books.

Engagdet: Why PayPal’s Crackdown on ASMR Creators Should Worry You

Slate: Why Did the New York Review of Books Publish that Jian Ghomeshi Essay?

Podcast production by Max Jacobs.

If Then plugs:

You can get updates about what’s coming up next by following us on Twitter @ifthenpod. You can follow Will @WillOremus and April @Aprilaser. If you have a question or comment, you can email us at ifthen@slate.com.

If Then is presented by Slate and Future Tense, a collaboration among Arizona State University, New America, and Slate. Future Tense explores the ways emerging technologies affect society, policy, and culture. To read more, follow us on Twitter and sign up for our weekly newsletter.