Cover Story: Building A Sustainable Future
"I'm competing with IDG [and] MacWorld," she says. "I have a great respect for them as an organization; they have very deep pockets. I am kind of like the David going up against a very smart Goliath, and so I kind of made this app my stone, and the iPad was my slingshot."
Based in London, Future produces more than 180 magazines, websites and events worldwide in four areas: games (computer and console gaming), active (sports, hobbies, automotive), technology (consumer electronics, computing and creative), and music and movies. It bills itself as a special interest media group, straddling enthusiast and consumer audiences with titles like MacLife, Guitar World, Classic Rock and Simply Knitting. Close to 1,200 people work in offices in London, Bath, San Francisco, New York and Sydney, and while its profile has always been higher in the U.K., Future ranks 13th in U.S. newsstand sales.
Dig a bit into the company's operations, and surprising sources of strength appear. Many in the U.S. probably are unaware, for instance, that Future has the world's No. 1 cycling business in terms of audience size, with major brands including Cycling Plus and Procycling (the company's online BikeRadar network alone attracts over 3 million unique visitors a month)—or that American audiences are an important component of this global market, monetized by a U.S.-based sales team that reports directly to the U.K. Or that Guitar World has the largest audience of any guitar magazine in the U.S. Or that the company's custom publishing division in this country is involved in major partnerships with big-brand entities like Best Buy.
The Post-Recession Rebound
After a 2009 that Future CEO Stevie Spring called "a truly 'annus horribilis,'" the company's U.S. business rebounded in 2010. According to the company's annual report, an operating loss of 3.3 million pounds (more than $4.5 million U.S.) was wiped away as the company returned to profitability in the U.S. (In Britain, the company had a profitable 2009 and 2010.) The turnaround was achieved through a "root and branch review of every product and operational division in the company," Spring said in the report.