F+W Publications’ new magazine president Colin Ungaro wants to grow the company’s publishing revenues from $100 million to $150 million over the next five years and wants e-media revenues to grow to 30 to 40 percent of that total over the same time period.
Ungaro joined the company just two months ago and has ambitious plans for F+W’s enthusiast publishing division, which currently makes the majority of its revenues from print, followed closely by events.
Ungaro has spent the majority of his career working at b-to-b media companies, including IDG and McGraw-Hill. Most recently he worked in the new product division of Reed Business Information. Going from b-to-b to enthusiast media isn’t that big of change, Ungaro said. "It’s serving a particular audience, which is what you do in b-to-b," he said. "There are a lot similarities between the two."
He will be relying on his b-to-b background to grow both the online and events sides of F+W’s magazine division. Although events are already a thriving part of F+W’s business, online currently brings in a very small percentage of total revenue for the division.
A Sale and a Lawsuit
Cincinnati-based F+W had carved out a successful niche for itself as an enthusiast media company by August 2005 when private equity firm Abry Partners of Boston bought it for $500 million from Providence Equity Partners.
Just three months after the deal was brokered, Abry sued Providence Equity alleging it had overpaid for F+W and was seeking to rescind the deal. Abry’s lawsuit alleged that F+W had artificially inflated its revenue.
With the litigation behind it, F+W has moved on.
While Ungaro, the husband of former Family Circle editor Susan Ungaro, admits he asked about the lawsuit when interviewing for the job, he said it had no bearing on his decision to join the company. "For me, it’s all part of the company’s interesting history," he said, adding that the story was probably of more interest to publishers, media bankers and PE firms than to F+W readers. "Our readers know the magazine, the brand. I think most people probably don’t know who publishes the magazines they read."
Ungaro, declining to say specifically how much online does add to the bottom line, said he would like to see online revenues grow to between 15 and 20 percent of total revenue over the next two years and 30 to 40 percent over the next five. "We already have the infrastructure in place to grow online," he said. "The infrastructure was in place before I got here. We have an interactive media department. So what I’m doing is building out what we already have."
In addition to making the Web sites for F+W’s 60 publications more interactive, Ungaro plans to launch a significant number of online events and trade shows that will build on the company’s existing face-to-face events. "We’ll be rolling out new products at a very fast pace," he said. "We’re in the process of integrating our sales teams because I don’t believe in having separate online advertising or editorial staffs. We’re also putting together highly integrated packages in the online Web events area for when we begin launching our virtual tradeshows and conferences."
Specifically, the company already has plans to launch a virtual companion for its Great American Scrapbooking event, which complements Memory Makers Magazine and Scrapbook Retailer. "Events are a very profitable part of our business," he said. "It helps us to serve our audiences much better and, I would say, we’ve only just scratched the surface in the market. We’re very bullish about the business and the growth we can achieve."
Face-to-face offerings will continue to expand as well, as will print offerings. Although print will grow at a much slower pace, Ungaro said. He said the company will grow both organically and through acquisitions.
Part of what has made F+W so successful is the variety (the company publishes titles for lovers of coins and firearms to graphic design and gardening to scrapbooking and CDs) of audiences it serves, said Ungaro. "Clearly we’re in different markets," he said. "And we’re serving different needs in different markets but the common thread is that we’re serving enthusiasts that want to get very specific information in whatever they are interested in."
Ungar said the company will be looking to acquire business that serve one or more of the 22 categories it already serves as well as businesses that serve vertical categories.