Hearst trumpeted the evolution of its digital business in 2014 in a letter published on its Web site on Wednesday.
Penned in January by chief executive officer Steven Swartz, the note highlighted the publisher’s key investments, including grabbing a 25 percent stake in AwesomenessTV, as well as 10 percent stake in Vice Media by A&E Networks. Hearst owns a 50 percent stake in A&E; Disney-ABC Television Group owns the other half. Hearst mentioned its 9 percent stake in Buzzfeed that it acquired through its Ventures division initially in 2012.
“The digital revolution that is transforming almost every aspect of life in many respects makes our job on the consumer side of our company harder,” the ceo said, explaining Hearst’s investments. “New platforms and new brands compete with us for people’s time and for advertising dollars.”
Still, he added that the firm’s “major businesses”—newspapers, magazines, broadcast television and business—all posted profit gains for calendar year 2014. The cable networks were up for fiscal 2014, which ended Sept. 30, he said, without providing numbers.
Swartz touted Hearst’s fastest growing segment, its Business Media group, which has expanded and launched new products such as Knowledge Analyzer, a software program geared to help Hearst’s Health team study a hospital’s treatment plan and recommend changes.
Hearst also upped its stake in ratings agency Fitch Group to 80 percent during the year. The magazine wing of the company scooped up an 80 percent stake in Kubra, a company that provides digital and print-based bill presentment and payment services on behalf of corporate U.S. and Canadian clients.
Hearst Magazines’ International division struck a deal with partner Hearst Shkulev Media in Russia to acquire 50 percent of Fashion Press, which Hearst doesn’t own, from Finnish media company Sanoma.  Despite the volatile economy there, Hearst intends to bring the two businesses together with government approval.
Although the ceo did not highlight strides made on Hearst Magazine’s Digital front, he did mention ESPN.com, which is the top digital provider of sports news. Hearst owns a minority stake—about 20 percent—in ESPN.

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