For UK magazine publishers, 2018 wasn’t a banner year by any means. Newsstand sales were down almost across the board, leaving publishers looking for new ideas. And one publisher seems to have struck gold.
“Future, a publisher once known for hobbyist titles such as Practical Caravan and Metal Hammer, believes that it has found a durable business model and has backed its hunch with a series of progressively larger acquisitions,” writes Simon Duke in the Times UK.
“Shareholders like what they see,” Duke continues. “Future is the strongest performer on the stock market this year. Its shares have jumped by nearly 200 percent since January, lifting its value to £1.3 billion. Zillah Byng-Thorne, Future’s deal-hungry boss, is in line for an £18 million bonus.”
What’s their secret?
“Future specialises in taking declining print titles, sprucing up their stories for an online audience and squeezing the content for cash,” Duke explains. “Consider TechRadar, its most popular property. The gadget review website publishes content from across its print and online stable. It makes cash by selling targeted online adverts and by sprinkling reviews and articles with buy buttons and ‘best buy’ offers. If a reader taps on a link, Future will earn a commission.
“Ms Byng-Thorne, 45, said that her model could turn niche print magazines into genuine money-spinners,” Duke continues. “She pointed to What Hi-Fi?, which Future bought from Haymarket last year: once the magazine had moved on to its online publishing platform, it ‘made money pretty much from day one’, she told The Times. Having previously generated negligible revenues in America, US consumers now account for about half What Hi-Fi?’s turnover.”
The numbers are impressive – revenue is up almost two-fold, and pre-tax profits are up three-fold this year over last.
At the heart of this success is the idea that audiences are into niche. We’ve seen the pendulum swinging, and we’ve seen publishers like Meredith redefine how to approach a niche audience and find big success.
Yes, UK newsstands are down, there’s no way around that reality. Yet there are creative ways to leverage print titles for profit that go far beyond the newsstand. And once again, we see innovative new business models from our love of the niche print title.