A bright future for Future Publishing?

8th June 2012

However, Future's recent interim results, for the six months to 31 March, suggest the company may be ahead of the curve compared with some competitors. It looks to have reached a tipping point where group digital revenues have grown enough to start making a meaningful impact on the whole business – year on year, they were up 37%, with digital advertising now comprising 44% of total advertising.

One hugely positive – if arguably fortuitous – development in Future's favour has been the opening towards the end of last year of Apple Newsstand, which is now doing for the consumption of magazines by Apple users what iTunes has done for music.

Of course Apple takes a significant cut from any deal but Newsstand represents a whole new distribution platform. If a publisher sends a printed magazine to, say, WH Smith in Norwich, it can only be bought by someone visiting WH Smith in Norwich but a magazine published online can be bought anywhere in the world and with nothing in the way of distribution costs.

Revenues from Apple Newsstand on an annualised basis already account for more than 10% of all Future's circulation revenues and, what is more, 90% of those consuming the company's magazines this way are new rather than existing customers. For years this business has seen no growth but it is now coming through.

A crucial difference between a publisher of specialist content such as Future and a publisher of more general news such as, say, Trinity Mirror is you can find general news in many different places – from the BBC to blogs or Twitter. People are less fussy about where they hear about the latest world developments – indeed, in some respects, they want to hear about them from many different sources.

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