(Image: Politico)

Suddenly news media and information-based start-ups are breaking through to Silicon Valley’s legendary unicorn status, with billion-dollar buyouts by old media organisations struggling to find their footing in the digital age.

Last week continental Europe’s largest purveyor of old media, publishing house Axel Springer, was reported as paying one unicorn -- $US1 billion -- for Washington-based news site Politico and its associated digital titles. (“Unicorn” was coined in 2013 to describe those rare digital start-ups that end up being worth $US1 billion or more.)

It’s a key play by Springer, positioning the German company in the increasingly competitive battle to be one of the handful of 20th-century news and information oligopolists to build a global footprint in the Internet age -- along with News Corp, The New York Times and, indeed, The Guardian.