Just five months after it received a $7.5 million federal small business loan, Bustle Digital Group, the publisher of Bustle, Nylon and Mic, appears to be pitching potential investors amid the pandemic, WWD has learned.
In its quest, BDG is understood to have shared bullish forecasts, projecting revenues of $121 million and gross profit of $92 million, respectively, in 2021. In 2019, revenues came in at $89 million and are expected to slip to $83 million this year, but profit is on track to remain unchanged at $67 million. If the 2021 numbers are realized, this will mark quite the turnaround from April, when the company applied for the federal loan, laid off staffers and cut pay as the COVID-19 crisis decimated advertising revenues across the whole media industry.
What’s more, while Condé Nast and Future Media Group struggled to turn W Magazine’s fortunes around, BDG is betting that its recently formed partnership to operate the oversize glossy will add a projected $11 million to top-line revenue in 2021.
As part of the deal involving a number of celebrity backers — including models Karlie Kloss and Kaia Gerber and Formula One race car driver Lewis Hamilton — BDG will manage the newly named W Media’s sales, business and technology, with chief executive officer Bryan Goldberg serving as managing partner. It plans to print the magazine six times a year, which will mark the digital media company’s first foray into print since its plans to return Nylon to print were stalled by the pandemic.
BDG is hoping that it will be a vehicle through which it can attract luxe advertisers. This may be easier said than done, though, at a time when high-end fashion brands are struggling and rethinking their marketing needs. Before the deal, the magazine was treading water amid the COVID-19 crisis, with former owner Future Media furloughing print staff and cutting the salaries of digital employees as luxe advertisers retreated. Staffers are now thought to be back at work.
The partnership came just a few months after BDG in April implemented a series of cost-saving measures as COVID-19 hit. These included laying off two dozen staffers, introducing a temporary tiered pay reduction and shuttering Millennial-focused site The Outline.
Just two weeks later BDG received the PPP loan, which raised some eyebrows since it was a venture-backed company that could access other forms of capital, while many small businesses across the country that had limited alternative financing options reported difficulties in obtaining a loan. Through the PPP, businesses can borrow up to $10 million depending on the size of their workforce and the Small Business Administration will forgive loans if all employees are kept on the payroll for eight weeks and the money is used for payroll, rent, mortgage interest or utilities. It’s not known if BDG will have to pay the loan back.
At the time, the company said the loan would enable it “to partially undo salary reductions across the company and expand hours for part-time and freelance writers.”
According to Crunchbase, to date BDG, which also owns women’s lifestyle site The Zoe Report, Elite Daily, Input and the defunct Gawker, has raised $80.5 million in funds.
A BDG spokeswoman declined to comment.