The media shakeups continued overnight with Tuesday's bombshell that Los Angeles-based Penske Media Corporation has acquired the B2B assets of Fairchild Fashion Media from Condé Nast for a reported $100million.
In the interests of full disclosure, for the benefit of any readers who are not already aware of this, I am the Australian correspondent of Womens Wear Daily or "WWD", Fairchild’s flagship media brand, which is due to head Penske Media Corp’s way in September, along with WWD's extensive archive (which requires a separate subscription to the daily paper), Footwear News, M Magazine and the Fairchild Summits and events business.
Two Fairchild consumer media properties will remain with Condé Nast – Style.com and the fashion blog network Now Manifest, which was acquired by Fairchild Fashion Media in 2012 for what well-placed sources tell FELLT Industry was $3million.
Fairchild Fashion Media president and chief executive officer Gina Sanders will remain at Condé Nast parent company Advance Publications in a new, yet-to-be-revealed role.
The Fairchild news follows a week after Condé Nast announced it would spin off Lucky magazine and lucky.com into a separate company called The Lucky Group, a joint venture between Conde Nast and eCommerce platform BeachMint, with Conde Nast owning a majority stake.
“Today’s announcement reflects our strategy of investing resources in our core consumer brands,” said Condé Nast chief executive officer Charles Townsend in a statement. “Condé Nast has enjoyed unprecedented growth in our core consumer print, digital, mobile, events, video, television and film development businesses; this sale underscores our commitment to accelerating growth in these areas. Gina and her team have done a remarkable job leading FFM and its brands, and I commend them for shaping these businesses into valuable assets which are primed to flourish under Jay’s leadership with the PMC team.”
Added Jay Penske, PMC chairman and chief executive officer, “This is a unique and remarkable opportunity to add a collection of esteemed global brands to our growing portfolio. WWD and the other Fairchild properties are brands the entire PMC organization deeply respects, with an editorial heritage I have revered throughout my career. We look forward to welcoming this exceptional editorial team and profoundly talented organization to PMC.”
What does this mean for WWD?
Another new chapter for the 104 year-old daily fashion trade, aka “the fashion bible…. the publication of record and the industry’s voice of authority” – as per Condé Nast’s own marketing material.
Since Edmund Fairchild launched the publication in 1910 – a womenswear spinoff of Fairchild’s then 20 year old men’s journal Daily News Record - there have been four ownership changes. Three of them in the 18 years since I first began working with the company.
In 1968, Fairchild Publications was purchased by Capital Cities Communications. In 1996, via a $19billion merger, Capital Cities/ABC became a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Walt Disney Company. In 1999, Walt Disney sold Fairchild Publications to Advance Publications for $650million. After various in-house permutations, the company was rebranded as Fairchild Fashion Media in 2011.
At the time of the Advance purchase, Fairchild Publications included the consumer magazines W and Jane (the former, now housed under the Condé Nast umbrella and the latter, since closed) along with 11 other publications, a trade show partnership and the Fairchild Books publishing division, which was sold to Bloomsbury Publishing in 2012 for $6.5million.
Interesting media times.
As FELLT Industry reported last week, there is a subtle shift taking place in the US fashion media, with tech giant Yahoo! for example, gathering editorial forces on the west coast for its various news portals and digital magazines, including the soon-to-bow Yahoo! Style, under Joe Zee.
Although headquartered in Los Angeles, PMC also has offices in New York and that’s where Fairchild’s current staff will decamp to – according to WWD, in the new year.
But the acquisition definitely brings WWD closer to Hollywood, with one report claiming Penske is planning to use FFM to “capitalize on the increasingly close ties between Hollywood and the fashion industry”.
Founded in 2003 by Penske, the 35 year-old son of Detroit billionaire Roger Penske, an automobile industry executive and race team owner, Penske Media Corporation is a digital media, publishing and information services company which reaches more than 144 million consumers monthly (comScore, 2014).
Its 20-strong media brand portfolio is headlined by Hollywood insider blog deadline.com and the 109 year-old Hollywood trade bible Variety, which the company acquired in 2009 and 2012, for a reported $14million and $25million respectively.
There has since been quite some upheaval at both titles.
In March 2013, Penske dropped variety.com’s four year-old paywall and the 80 year-old Daily Variety print edition to relaunch the title in a weekly format.
Then in November, Penske parted ways with Deadline founder, the Hollywood news hound Nikki Finke, who left to launch her own rival site nikkifinke.com.
While it took Variety until 2009 to attempt to protect its content via a paywall, it's worth noting that WWD has been behind a paywall from the moment the paper went online, over a decade ago.
The premium business content is available only to WWD’s 59,000 paid subscribers but there is considerable free content for consumers on wwd.com, notably during runway show seasons, when all runway images and show reviews are free to view. There is also substantial web exclusive material, some of it ungated.
According to Condé Nast wwd.com commands 10.8million page views a month, with 827,000 unique browsers (compared to say 1million monthly uniques generated by the Now Manifest blogger collective).
"Paywall" may have once been a dirty word, but they are pretty much par for the course these days at media companies. Style.com sources tell us that even Style.com has been seriously considering launching one.
Here’s to WWD's next chapter.