Wednesday morning, Meredith announced the acquisition of Shape, plus the digital assets of the Shape, Natural Health and Fit Pregnancy brands, from America Media. Meredith's Fitness will be rolled into Shape. The merged Shape will have a rate base of 2.5 million, an increase of 60 percent from its current level of 1.6 million, Meredith said in a press release. The Shape and Fitness websites will continue to operate as separate digital destinations, with a combined reach of almost 7 million unduplicated unique monthly visitors.
David Zinczenko and his team from his independent company, Galvanized LLC, had been managing Shape for AMI. and he will continue during the transition even while managing Men's Fitness for AMI. It's sort of an odd arrangement.
So Meredith is cruising along, but American Media, run by a true media original in David Pecker for the last 16 years, has been in and out of financial crises for the last decade. Perhaps this is the start of an AMI sell-off, because Shape is without doubt one of AMI's strongest brands. The company also publishes Star, National Enquirer, OK! and other brands, and since 2009 it has handled the business operations for Playboy.
The morning announcement was unclear about who will manage the merged Shape. My colleague Steve Cohn reached out to Meredith this morning to seek clarification whether Fitness Publisher Eric Schwarzkopf and Fitness Editor-in-Chief Betty Wong would be staying on.
It took until the afternoon for Meredith to announce that Schwarzkopf is Shape associate publisher and Wong VP of brand development at the Shape and Fitness websites. Shape publisher (and Schwarzkopf's boss) is Tim O'Connor, who moves from Meredith corporate sales group managing director, while editor-in-chief Elizabeth Goodman Artis is a carryover from AMI.
We were told that the delay followed Meredith protocol of "completing all employee conversations before:sending out anything on personnel or staff changes."
Meredith Corp. is soon going to have to be designated the best magazine company in the country, maybe the world. That's saying a lot, because its peer companies—Time Inc., Hearst, Condé Nast—are pretty good companies too. But for a decade or more, Meredith has had a formula that works, and works, interestingly, in part by stressing the value of print media. Case in point:
The company launched a print version of Allrecipes, and just raised the rate base for that successful print brand to 1.1 million. And last year, Meredith took over the sales and marketing for Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. Maybe it's the market focus and the audience. Meredith is the leading media company serving American women exclusively.
No matter. The fact that people are guessing that Meredith might acquire Time Inc. at some point in 2015 says a lot.