May 17, 2022

Future Extends Linear Commerce Play With Who What Wear Acquisition

The thought of a recession might have some operators worried, but for Future Plc., its quest to continue expanding through media acquisitions has no intention of being stopped.

But first… A message about our sponsor, House of Kaizen.

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Now let’s jump in…

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According to an announcement on Future’s corporate site, it acquired the Who What Wear brand from its parent company, Clique Brands.

Already reaching 64.6m women every month in the US, the move comes almost a year to the day after the organisation added Marie Claire US to its stable of brands and will see the business become the 6th largest Beauty and Fashion publisher in the states (source: ComScore).

WhoWhatWear was launched in the US in 2006 by Katherine Power and Hillary Kerr and has 12m monthly online users (source: GoogleAnalytics) and 10m social media followers. With Future’s content already reaching 1 in 3 adults online in the US, the transaction will further extend Future’s scale and revenue opportunities in the US.

While Future did not reveal the financial terms, Flashes and Flames reports that it could be upward of $100 million. In a press release, Future said, “the acquisition will be funded from the Group’s existing debt facilities. Following the acquisition, leverage is expected to remain at under 2x EBITDA.”

This sort of deal makes sense for Future for a couple of reasons.

First, it provides Futures more scale in its Beauty and Fashion category. As it said in its announcement, this deal came nearly a year after it bought Marie Claire US. Therefore, it can provide additional opportunities for advertising partners to reach target audiences.

Second, this provides more profound linear commerce opportunities for Future to benefit and learn from. According to 2pm, the law of linear commerce is:

The lines of demarcation between media and commerce are fading. For the brands that are most suited to the modern retail economy: media and commerce operations work to optimize for audience and sales conversion. This is the efficient path for sustained growth, retention, and profitability.

In 2021, Who What Wear launched its apparel collection. As described on its about page, “by coupling its editorial team’s deep knowledge of trends and street style with consumer-informed data, Who What Wear created the collection to offer a fresh approach to fashion design.” Not only is the media company in the business of writing about fashion, but now it can directly monetize based on what it knows its audience will likely want to purchase.

This is compelling, and while it’s likely not a massive part of the business since it is so new, I suspect it’s a big reason why Future decided to make a move.

The question is how much it can take this and learn from it. With a linear commerce strategy, you understand your audience’s needs and then create products specifically for that. It’s not the first to do this, of course. Food52 can understand its audience’s wants with data. Hodinkee can do the same. Honestly, a solid chunk of The Chernin Group’s portfolio is this strategy personified, and I can’t help but wonder if they were also in the running to buy Who What Wear.

But can Future take this and apply it to other brands? Take Homes & Gardens, one of the brands that Future owns. Could it create its own line of interior design goods? I’m thinking sheets, storage units, throw pillows, or anything else. It already knows what its users like. Because it is writing about these topics every day, it can look at its analytics and see what people care about. And that can be the start of its linear/owned commerce strategy.

We’ll have to wait and see.

Bloomberg doubling down on international

Bloomberg announced that it was launching a new venture to target the British business news market. According to The New York Times:

On Wednesday night, executives introduced a venture that they hope could generate $100 million in annual revenue: Bloomberg UK, a brand meant to compete directly with The Financial Times and The Sunday Times, staples of British business journalism.

Bloomberg UK will include a website, a weekly Bloomberg Quicktake video series profiling British newsmakers, a podcast about the City of London and a summit this year on the future of British business.

It is the first inkling of a new international strategy for Bloomberg, which has 176 offices that are home to its 2,700 journalists and analysts. By building up regional editions in promising markets where it already has an editorial footprint, executives hope to eke out new dollars without spending to establish new headquarters.

That last sentence in the quote is the key part. While Bloomberg has had a team in the UK, its purpose was to cover things for its American audience. marketing this as a “regional edition” focuses its readership squarely on the British market.

It’s subtle, but it’s similar to what Justin Smith and Ben Smith are trying to do with Semafor. They got a lot of flak (including from me) when they announced that they were targeting 200 million members of an “English-speaking, college-educated, professional class” worldwide. As I said at the time:

Yet, here we are, looking at the perfect example of media companies that are smack in the middle of the barbell with no discernable niche and, instead, are running with the theory that there is this big, underserved market of people who need journalism.

But the ideas are somewhat similar. Semafor is a broader, general-interest news organization than Bloomberg’s business focus. That said, there are many people who live in other parts of the world that would probably like English-language reporting about their part of the world. And I think that’s the critical part here. It’s for “their part of the world.” Bloomberg reported on Britain, but for its U.S. customers. Now it’s going to do it for prospective British customers.

Do I think it’ll work? I remain skeptical but less than I was when I initially wrote about the Smiths’ project. There is an argument to be made that geographic-specific publications could do well. But it’s still a big, uphill battle for both Bloomberg and Semafor. There are incumbents in the U.K. that have very successful brands, and as Semafor starts going after other markets, will it find sufficient demand? We won’t know until they start sharing results, which could take a while.

AMO Podcast: Chris Ferrell from Endeavor Business Media

The latest episode fo the AMO podcast is out, sponsored by Omeda! I speak with Chris Ferrell, founder and CEO of Endeavor Business Media. When he started the company, he had a goal of reaching $100 million in revenue; it just happened years faster than he expected. He talks about Endeavor’s acquisition strategy, how they integrate the companies and force every property to use the same technology stack, and why he is so bullish on market research.

Be sure to give it a list on your podcast player of choice:

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