Speculation about Time Warner selling off its publishing unit Time Inc. has been a favorite pastime of media watchers for years now. Partly because of the thrill of imagining the country’s largest publisher being spun off and partly because of revenue and operating income challenges that have nagged the unit when compared to TW’s other groups.

And, as Time Inc. is in the midst of laying off six percent of its global workforce, a report today by Fortune, a Time Inc. title no less, cites several unnamed sources who say that Time Warner is indeed in discussions with a buyer to sell most or all of its publishing unit.

Fortune describes the talks as "formative."

One curious possibility is Time Warner keeps several brands such as Time, Sports Illustrated and Fortune, and sells off the rest of the 21 titles.

Time Inc.’s full-year revenues in 2012 were $3.4 billion, down about 7 percent, and operating income tumbled 25 percent to $420 million.

Who the buyer may be and whether any of this will actually happen remain unclear. In one sense or another, companies are very frequently "in discussions" about a possible sale.

The full Fortune report.