Magazines Publishing

Magazine media M&As – what happened in 2018 in review

In this industry, change is constant. Though, over the last number of years, we’ve seen increasing numbers of mergers and acquisitions on the media landscape. 2018 was no different, with magazine media marketplaces restructuring, consolidating and diversifying. 

“The trends we are seeing are diversification and consolidation. Media and publishing companies need to have more diverse offerings for their customers which may include digital, video, data and analytics, marketing services and events in addition to print and broadcast offerings,” Reed Phillips, president of Oaklins International, told FIPP in September.

As FIPP CEO James Hewes outlined in September, the industry was ripe for change. “The emerging model is to be the acknowledged, unrivalled subject-matter expert for your chosen audience,” he wrote. “The days of the quick cash-in are gone, it is only deep expertise that can be properly monetised though the magic combination of commerce, paid content and live events that most are striving for.”

“You’ve got that kind of thing going on where everyone’s for sale,” Tony Haile, Scroll CEO, told Joe Pompeo at Vanity Fair.

“Haile isn’t incorrect. Everything does seem for sale. As the threat of the so-called FAANGs—Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, Google—continues to grow, large legacy players, such as AT&T and Time Warner, or Disney and 21st Century Fox, are combining at a rabid pace,” Pompeo wrote.

In January, Hearst completed its acquisition of Rodale magazine media brands, adding 20 US titles to its portfolio and nearly 300 editions and websites around the world, according to a release. The acquisition brought changes in roles and titles, and brands.

In February, Meredith completed its acquisition of Time Inc., after announcing it the previous November. The Iowa-based publishing company became the largest publisher in the US, with 40 magazines, 50 websites, and 17 television stations.

“We saw a new hierarchy emerge. Now we have the Massive Two—Hearst and Meredith—along with a Big One—Condé—and an Emerging Two—AMI and Penske,” wrote Caysey Welton for Folio

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That month, Forbes acquired British online business publication, The Memo, focused on European content that would enable Forbes’ expansion plans in Europe. “This is a strategic acquisition and part of a multiplatform initiative to grow and better serve our European readers and marketers alike. The formation of an official editorial team in London is an important element of this strategy,” said Mike Federle, chief executive officer at Forbes. 

By March, Accenture acquired Meredith’s digital agency MXM, to enhance its B2C marketing capabilities in creative services, data-led marketing execution, content strategy and digital marketing, and expand Accenture Interactive’s studio locations in key US markets.

“Combined with other acquisitions, MXM adds creative, digital marketing, content strategy and marketing execution heft to our North America business,” said Jeannine Falcone, marketing offering lead, North America, Accenture Interactive in a release. “There is a clear strategic alignment around insight-led digital marketing and content strategy, where we each have had proven success in executing integrated programmes for our clients.”

Across the pond, UK-based Future bought publisher Newbay Media in deal worth $13.8 million in April. According to PressGazette, NewBay owned 49 B2B brands in the television, video, entertainment, technology and music sectors. The acquisition increased Future’s owned brands to over 100 across print, events and online. It also added a number of music titles to Future’s music portfolio including Bass Player, Electronic Musician, Guitar Player and Guitar World.

“We have a proven track record of acquisition and successful integration. This deal will be earnings enhancing and drive further organic growth in revenue and profitability in the first full year,” said Zillah Byng-Thorne, chief executive of Future

Over the late spring and summer, media companies in the US and the UK continued to see acquisitions.

UK-based Future bought four consumer titles from Haymarket including What Hi-Fi?, Four Four Two, Practical Caravan, and Practical Motorhome, for GBP£13 million (USD$16.5 million), in May.

The following month, American Media (AMI) acquired 13 titles including Touch, Life & Style, and Closer from Bauer Media USA. The deal also included nine brands that make up the Bauer Teen Group, including J-14 and Girls World, became part of the new AMI Entertainment Group. The acquisition would help grow AMI’s monthly digital audience and newsstand revenue.

“Today’s announcement underscores AMI investor confidence in our business strategy as we continue to build and grow our Entertainment Group,” AMI Chairman and CEO David J. Pecker.

In July, Tokyo-based business media company Uzabase acquired Atlantic Media’s Quartz. For Quartz, the deal signalled the start of a new chapter for the media brand, its verticals, newsletter and app. “This new chapter for Quartz will be one of further invention and expansion, and increase our ability to produce quality journalism and products for a global readership,” according to co-president and EIC Kevin Delaney and co-president and publisher Jay Lauf in a release.

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By September, London-based Immediate Media, publisher of Radio Times, Gardens Illustrated and Top Gear magazines, acquired BBC Good Food from BBC Studios. “We are excited to be acquiring BBC Good Food. Not only is this the biggest brand in food publishing and media, but is absolutely on strategy for Immediate, given our focus on high value special interest communities, and cements our market leadership in the Food sector,” said Immediate Media CEO Tom Bureau. “We see significant opportunity in growing the brand, which we know well from working closely with BBC Studios.”

Also that month, Dundee-based DC Thomson Media announced its acquisition of Aceville Publications, a Colchester-based magazine company, reported PressGazette.  DC Thomson publishes The Press & Journal and other major Scottish dailies alongside magazines such as The People’s Friend and The Beano. The acquisition added 40 brands including UK-based craft titles, gardening, health and food publications to DC Thomson Media’s portfolio of more than 20 magazines. “The team at Aceville, and their portfolio, are a great fit for our business and this collaboration opens up a host of opportunities for both businesses,” said Mike Watson, chief executive officer at DC Thomson Media, in a release. “This acquisition will materially change our landscape and is a key step in our Protect, Launch, Diversify strategy.”

Most recently, Australia’s Nine and Fairfax officially completed a merger, creating a media giant with assets in print, digital and television. “This is the very special opportunity in front of us. To continue to create unique content – be it in the entertainment space or in our journalism – that audiences want. That there is an experience they value,” wrote Nine CEO Hugh Marks in a memo.

According to The New York Times, critics of the merger cited concerns of media concentration in Australia. The deal was made possible after legislation that encouraged diversity and prevented common ownership of television, newspaper and radio in the same region, was relaxed. 

Former Australian prime minister Paul Keating called it “an exceptionally bad development,” and suggested the answer for Australian media was diversity of income streams, not a “closedown in news and content,” he said in a statement. “News of today’s announced takeover of Fairfax by Channel Nine will change the news landscape of Australia altogether,” he said.

Whatever 2019 may bring, as Hewes points out in a recent FIPP article, “When the pace of this activity dies down, as it inevitably will, the industry will look very different. But I’m confident that it will be an industry that is more innovative, more productive and better-placed to thrive in an ever-more competitive market.”

By Jessica Patterson  @jesspatterson

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