Eighty-five-year-old Brides is not continuing as a print magazine under its new owner Dotdash, but the company is planning to invest more in the title’s online growth and expansion.
Neil Vogel, Dotdash’s chief executive officer, said Brides fits easily into the company’s model of service or evergreen content focused on more pragmatic interests of Millennial women, like health, finance and functional home and lifestyle content, all served by Dotdash outlets like Verywell, The Balance, My Domain and others.
Dotdash, a subsidiary of Barry Diller’s IAC, operated as About.com until a 2017 rebranding that came after years of trying to make the single site work. At Dotdash, there’s been a return to profitability of $3 million in the first quarter on $34 million in revenue, and the company is expected this year to pull in between $35 million and $45 million in adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, or EBITDA, according to financial projections by IAC. With the financial turnaround has come acquisitions — before Brides, Dotdash scooped up two sites from Clique Brands for an undisclosed price. The price for Brides was not disclosed, but it is thought to be less than $10 million. Representatives of Dotdash and Condé Nast declined to comment on the price.
“[Brides] is a really nice fit in our lifestyle group,” Vogel said. “We do think we can do a really good job on endemic wedding content and there’s a real opportunity to use our formula in that space.”
That formula, so to speak, is one where Dotdash focuses on fewer, better-performing ads that it charges more for and branded content. The company does not use pop-up or pre-roll ads, which Vogel admits annoy people. By bringing the bridal segment into the group, which across its nine sites pulled in 90 million unique visitors last month, according to ComScore, Vogel sees an entry point to reach even more Millennial women and further leverage its quality-over-quantity advertising model.
“If you believe ComScore, two-thirds of the Millennial women online each month touch one of our properties, and they’re not coming to us for a ‘Games of Thrones’ recap,” Vogel said. “We have people at times when they’re really paying attention, the things they’re reading really matter to their lives and it’s a really different mind-set. We think there is a really big opportunity to contrast what we’re doing at scale.”
Lisa Gooder, the magazine’s executive director, is set to stay on in the new title of general manager, where she will continue to oversee the title’s strategy and content.
“We are thrilled that Brides has been acquired by a strong digital content leader who will help continue to grow the brand’s unique voice and loyal audience,” Gooder wrote in a memo.
But any growth will only be digital come fall, as Dotdash is not going forward with the print side of Brides. All editorial employees are joining the company, however, and will be moving to the Dotdash offices in Times Square on Friday. Dotdash, with nearly 400 of its own employees, does not work out of IAC’s New York headquarters. Dotdash is also set to start hiring around Brides in areas like sales, product engineering and design, as those roles were filled by Condé Nast through a shared services model where people worked across titles.
As for why Dotdash decided to end Brides in print, Vogel alluded to it just not making sense for a digital media company to try and continue with 85 years of a printed magazine. He said it wasn’t strictly because the magazine was losing money.
“If we were print people, we could have easily had a different view.…I actually think print can be a viable business,” Vogel said. “And I think there is a greater than zero chance we do something in print in the future. I don’t know what that would be, but we don’t knee-jerk dislike print. However, as a buyer, you can only look at things through what you’re good at. We want to focus all of our time and investment on the digital product and the digital opportunities and I would rather invest the time and money building beautiful franchises on Instagram than in print.”
As for what exactly he wants to build out of and around Brides, Vogel said it’s early, but the editorial team coming over already has ideas, and talks about a proper registry product that would drive revenue are being had.
“There’s a huge opportunity in the space to really upgrade the kind of content that is on the Internet around brides and weddings…and there is a very big opportunity to just modernize the approach to a wedding and how it works today,” Vogel said. “One of the things about us is we’re willing to try things and experiment and mess up a couple of times. But this brand is special and I think we can do a lot to get it to a place where it should be.”
Over at Condé, it’s been a busy week. On Monday, Discovery disclosed that it had purchased Golf Digest and planned to keep that magazine going in print, but with a focus on integrating content into its online channels and international TV operations. The price for that deal is thought to be $35 million and the Golf Digest team is set to remain in Condé’s New York headquarters until next year and the publisher will continue to lead production of the magazine on behalf of Discovery.
This leaves W magazine as the last Condé title for sale. The going price for the fashion glossy, founded in the Seventies as a sister publication to WWD, is thought to be around $8 million. While C Ventures has been said close to a deal, it’s unclear if the new media company will be the ultimate buyer. Nevertheless, a deal for the magazine is expected soon.
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