It was announced today that Future Publishing will sell its portfolio of craft magazines to Immediate Media. You can read the release here.
The sale also includes sport titles and comes on the back of changing times at Future. A new CEO in April, a (£30m+) loss in the first half year and widespread headcount reductions across the business – clearly a time of significant transition.
This represents somewhere in the region of 20-25% of Future’s revenues which is a significant chunk. The PR materials explain this shift as part of focus on ‘the growing consumer technology market’. That’s certainly an area of strength, with T3, TechRadar and Gizmodo amongst its technology brands, alongside many other computing and photography magazines and sites.
Recent history at Future makes for an interesting case study on digital disruption. They have been digital pioneers. They were very early onto the digital newsstand and quick to invest in the technologies and platforms to enable digital reach. They have been digitally savvy when it comes to marketing. The craft title Mollie Makes is a great case study of how to launch a magazine or community through social media and building online followership.
Despite this innovation, it’s clear the numbers are not stacking up. At the heart of this is the unfortunate truth that revenues from the digital newstand and digital advertising are not offsetting the decline of print business. At least, not yet,.
It’s clear that ad revenues are a big part of the master plan. Quoted in this article on The Guardian site, CEO Zillah Byng-Maddick says:
Our expert, trusted content enables us to attract large communities of highly engaged customers who want to buy things, and that’s exceptionally appealing to our clients.
The article goes on to make this claim:
Everybody knows the future is going to be ad-funded.
That’s something I totally disagree with. The future for media businesses does not have to be ad funded at all, something we’ve proven at F+W with the huge growth of our consumer ecommerce and emedia businesses. We use our expert, trusted content to attract large communities….and then we sell them more content, and the things that they want. We don’t need to rely on clients for that revenue.
It’s for this reason that I think Future may just have chosen the wrong path here. I do applaud the objective of focusing the business and brand portfolio, but is this choice the right one? The great thing about the craft category is that consumers need a combination of instruction and materials. That instructional need gives you the ability to create valuable content that you can sell. You can use it to pair with product, and sell that too. It’s also a great demographic, in general with a high disposable income and growing all the time. It’s a category that is exciting a new and younger audience and where craft/fashion/handmade meet is an area of great opportunity. The TV success of the Great British Sewing Bee is evidence of all this.
Certainly this is a bold move and I hope for them it is the right one. In the meantime, we will look forward to seeing how Immediate Media develops its new craft portfolio alongside its existing brands.