Multiplatform Publisher Hearst Makes Big Moves with Content

The highly-anticipated acquisition of multiplatform publisher Rodale Inc. by Hearst is coming to fruition; Hearst expands content offerings with ‘Listenables’

We’re pleased to share news on an acquisition that many in the magazine industry believed was coming. Multiplatform publisher Hearst has agreed to buy Rodale Inc., a publishing company we’ve talked about a lot as a past client, and also as a company who follows much of Mequoda’s methodology.

Today we’re looking at this acquisition and what it brings to Hearst. WWD reports, “Rodale, which is based in New York and Emmaus, Pa., publishes Men’s Health, Women’s Health, Prevention, Rodale’s Organic Life, Runner’s World and Bicycling. It also includes Rodale Books and an international division with which Hearst already has a joint venture. The company boasts 93 editions in 64 countries. Hearst Magazines includes 300 editions and web sites around the world, including 20 titles in the U.S.”


Although specifics on financial terms weren’t discussed for the multiplatform publisher acquisition, there have been some speculation. MediaPost reports, “The transaction is expected to be finalized in early 2018, according to the companies. Terms were not disclosed, but an unnamed source familiar with the deal tells the Wall Street Journal the price tag was under $225 million. Both Hearst and Rodale are privately held.”

An article from NY Post looks at the acquisition and what internal changes may develop from it. “At the moment, it appears that all the existing Rodale brands — even the digital Rodale’s Organic Life — are going to be retained.”

“There will be obvious downsizing of back-shop functions, but the belief is that Hearst will keep a presence in Emmaus, Pa., where Rodale has been based for three generations of family ownership.”

The WWD article dives into the acquisition further with a look at additional layers that Hearst takes on with the purchase. “Insiders said the New York-based Hearst absorbed Rodale’s hefty, unfunded pension liability, which is in excess of $30 million in debt, a string of bad real estate deals and vendor contracts with various partners such as Quad, CDS, Cognizant and Axiom, as well as the liens and liabilities against Rodale out in Emmaus. So, in the end, the deal may have closed at around $100 million or less. One source characterized the deal as a “stunning collapse” of Rodale. The collapse is indicative of a broader change in the magazine industry, as smaller publishers, such as Wenner Media, are now closing or selling off titles.”

In addition to this major acquisition, Hearst also announced new content initiatives this week at its fifth-annual MagFront event. AdWeek reports, “Joanna Coles, Hearst Magazines chief content officer, announced new audio initiatives she and the company are calling listenables, voice-first content for platforms like Amazon’s Alexa. One listenable from Hearst is a skill called “My Beauty Chat,” and Coles hopes it will keep Hearst and its experts close to its readers and fans.”

As president of marketing and publishing director for Hearst Magazines Michael Clinton said in the AdWeek article, “Voice is the medium of the future, and Hearst has historically been an early adopter to technology breakthroughs.”

We love to see multiplatform publishers succeed, especially when they utilize the strategies and methods we’ve seen consistently work. Do you need help optimizing your multiplatform publishing business for success? Get in touch with us today. Our extensive experience with hundreds of publishers has led to bigger, more profitable brands.


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