While we were all looking the other way, Future have airbrushed Practical Photoshop out of their portfolio.
In the Jan-Dec 2012 ABCs the title reported a circulation of just 8, 265. Even then, this was not Future’s lowest-selling magazine.
With an inevitability that would make an Ancient Greek dramatist utter a long, low whistle of appreciation, the ongoing tragedy of Future Publishing moves into yet another act.
This week Mark “Dead” Wood has announced 55 redundancies – on top of the vacancies that haven’t been filled since it introduced a recruitment freeze in July. Dead has blamed (again) the delay in the launches of new games consoles (an argument wonderfully skewered by MCV in July) and the bumpiness of the road to digital. And expect both these arguments to be taken out for long walks again later in the year.
The underlying problems of Future are twofold – the short termism that being a publicly-quoted company engenders, forever chasing a positive spin to put onto its City trading updates, and the fact that Future has always had pretensions to be a Premiership side when really they’re towards the foot of the Championship. They are not Celtic or Aberdeen, more a Morton or a Cowdenbeath. (more…)
I’d promised myself not to do it. Here I am sunning myself on the lovely Isle of Barra, where the temperature has climbed to a balmy 14 degrees, so I shouldn’t be playing with yon interweb.
Plus, it’s not to do with the demise of any printed products, but some of those new-fangled digital titles. And it’s about Future Publishing* so it seems like kicking a man when he’s down.
Then again, when a man’s down is the easiest and most effective time to put the tacketie buits in.
So our old pals in Bath have announced the death of two of their products in the last few weeks. The first was Tech, a “weekly international iPad magazine aimed at busy technology enthusiasts,” who were far too busy to read or to buy the product, and the second was Tap! the digital zombie left when the print version of the title was axed last year.
Even then I might have left mentioning these new corpses were it not for the comment about the closures that Nial Ferguson, Future’s MD of technology, film and games made to MediaBriefing , “there is learning in everything we do, and we’re looping that learning back across our teams as we drive on.”
“Looping that learning” – a phrase to savour.
*I know they’ve dropped the word ‘Publishing’ from their company name as that is so last century, so I feel it right and proper to go on using it, even if only to irritate Mark Wood.
For fans of magazine closures, Future Publishing is proving to be the gift that keeps on giving, with news that they are waving good bye to Xbox World and PSM3. The final issues will hit the newsstand on 12 December, after which it will be ‘game over’ for both.
Clair Porteous, Future’s head of entertainment, said ”Future continues to publish the highly successful Official Magazines for Xbox and PlayStation.” Apart, that is, in the US, where they recently announced the closure of Playstation the Official Magazine
What will be next?
Further to yesterday’s post, a commenter has pointed out that Future has also closed Nintendo Gamer magazine as it finally administers the coup de grace to a clutch of long-standing, but poor-selling, titles.
Future’s sales volumes have been pretty pathetic in recent years. Back in 2011 I mentioned that the company had 23 titles with ABCs of under 20,000 and (closures notwithstanding) the situation is unlikely to be much better. These stats are worth bearing in mind when Future pulls its usual stunt of talking up its digital improvements – the vast majority of its revenue is still bundled around small-circulation magazines that are a breath away from extinction.
A small aside: last month Future made a big song and dance about having generated 75,000 subscriptions from the Apple newsstand.
The current ABC figures show a net drop of over 100,000 on their print editions in the past year. That’s 100,000 per issue, so call that in excess of 1 million single copies over a full year’s distribution.
Lots of coverage today for ‘tablet editor-in-chief’ Mike Goldsmith of Future’s announcement that they made $1 million in just over 3 months of launching all 65 of their magazines on Apple’s Newsstand. The key figures are:
- 75,000 subscriptions gained
- 40 percent of orders are for subscriptions
- 9.3 million free container apps downloads
- 8.5 million free issues
- 4.3 million opt-ins for push messages
This has led to general rejoicing all round.
Obviously, it’s unlike me to be curmudgeonly, but let’s have a wee look at these numbers.
- First off – $1million of revenue in 104 days gives us around $3.5 million over a full year. That’s £2.25 million against Future’s revenue last year of £141 million.
- 75,000 subscriptions against 9.3 million downloads is under 1% conversion. If subs are 40% of sales, then total unit sales must be around 200,000, which nudges just over 2% conversion.
- $1 million is just over $15,000 per title on average
- If the total sales are around 200,000, then the average sale value must be around $5 (which, actually, isn’t bad).
Two more points:
Many of the 75,000 subs are short-term and cost only £0.69 regularly, so Goldsmith cautions that subscriber count could go down as well as up and not all subscribers are high-value. [So where is the average $5 value coming from?]
All but three of Future’s iPad titles – T3, Guitarist Deluxe and Tap! – are page-turner magazine replicas. But Goldsmith said: “ If I did a T3 on every one of future’s 65 titles, I’d bankrupt the company. ”
And one quote that we can all agree with:
“Print circulations are declining – we are not going to get them back up – iPad is helping. The genie is out of the bottle, so we need to embrace it.”
Stevie’s doing a bit of selling, with Hi-Fi Choice, What Satellite & Digital TV and Home Cinema Choice being offloaded to MyHobbyStore with immediate effect.
None of the titles sells more than 10,000 copies. All have followed the Future model of calamitous sales declines in the past few years.
How many of the staff will relocate from Bath to Sevenoaks has not been disclosed.
A ‘pre-close trading update‘ from Future provides a few interesting snippets, amongst which are:
- revenues expected to be 6% down year on year
- UK revenue expected to be 2% down
- £3.5million cash cost of axing 10% of workforce
- £1.4 million provision for having empty offices because they’ve axed 10% of workforce
A possible significant paragraph is in the middle of the release:
In July the Group announced steps to accelerate the transition of Future US into a primarily digital business. However, with trading conditions in the US reflecting ongoing weakness and decreasing visibility at newsstand, and an acceleration in the year-on-year growth rate in digital revenues, the Board is now considering a wider range of strategic options in respect of its US operations.
Does this mean that Future are considering either a) closing all magazines immediately (perhaps operating websites with a skeleton US staff and UK feeds) or even b) flogging off the whole operation to a
mug punter US publisher.
Look at the first two points from Future’s statement again – overall revenue down 6%, UK down 2%. The UK is 70% of Future’s business, so if Private Frazer’s abacus is correct, that means that US revenues are down 15% or more on last year – a significant deterioration in their trading performance.