Condé Nast Sells Brides Magazine to Barry Diller’s Dotdash
The courting of Brides magazine had none of the meet-cutes and grand gestures often described in its glossy pages.
Condé Nast, the publisher of Vogue and The New Yorker, rather unceremoniously put the publication on the market last year as part of a cost-cutting campaign. The online brand Dotdash was among the early suitors, and on Wednesday, the two sides came to an agreement. Neither would disclose the terms of the sale.
“It wasn’t like there was crazy bidding at the end,” said Neil Vogel, the head of Dotdash, which is part of InterActiveCorp (IAC), the company behind Tinder, Match and OKCupid. “It’s clear to us that there wasn’t a ton of investment behind this in the last few years.”
Dotdash plans to scrap the 85-year-old print magazine and redesign Brides.com. The majority of the editorial staff, including the executive director, Lisa Harman Gooder, will make the move from Condé Nast’s Lower Manhattan offices to Dotdash’s facilities in Midtown, the company said.
“We’re not buying this for print,” Mr. Vogel said. “We’re buying this for the editorial team and for digital.”
Condé Nast, which is owned by Advance Publications, has been getting leaner while moving closer to its digital future, laying off employees, limiting print production and leasing out floors at 1 World Trade Center.
Once known for endless expense accounts and top-of-the-market salaries, the magazine publisher put Brides up for sale last summer, along with Golf Digest and the glossy fashion book W. On Monday, Discovery Inc. bought Golf Digest for $35 million; W is still available.
The number of print readers for Brides wilted over the last five years, with circulation falling 4 percent, to a little more than 300,000. Those about to walk down the aisle these days are more likely to browse wedding sites or scroll through Instagram than run to a newsstand. Single-copy sales dropped accordingly, to roughly a third of what they were in 2014, according to the Alliance for Audited Media.
Bridal magazines were once to lucrative that Condé Nast placed a big bet on the category in 2002, when it bought a similar publication, Modern Bride, from Primedia for $52 million; its sibling company at the time, Fairchild Publications, acquired another competitor, Elegant Bride, from Pace Communications in 2003. In the aftermath of the 2008 financial crash, Condé Nast shut down both titles.
Brides, the oldest bridal magazine in the United States, started in 1934 as a publication mailed free of charge to women whose wedding announcements appeared in newspaper society pages, according to “One Perfect Day: The Selling of the American Wedding,” by Rebecca Mead. Its original title was So You’re Going to Be Married.
Condé Nast acquired the magazine’s former publisher, Brides House, shortly before Samuel I. Newhouse Sr. bought a controlling interest in the company in 1959. Then titled The Bride’s Magazine, the publication fit in snugly among Vogue, Glamour and House & Garden. The name of the magazine was eventually shortened to Bride’s, and the apostrophe fell off in 2005.
The magazine ran its first article on same-sex ceremonies in 2003. Three years later, it went online. In 2012, it became the first Condé Nast publication to be led by an African American, when Keija Minor was named editor in chief.
Under Ms. Minor, who stepped down in 2017, and her successor, Ms. Gooder, Brides expanded its digital presence. Brides.com had 3.6 million unique visitors in March, more than double the number in 2015, according to comScore.
The magazine’s new owner, Dotdash, was a repository of answers to online queries like “how to beer-batter chicken” in its previous incarnation, About.com. Started in the late 1990s, About.com was bought by The New York Times in 2005. It was sold to IAC, whose chairman is Barry Diller, in 2012.
Dotdash is now a collection of sites focused on topics like travel and home décor. When the company changed its name from About.com to Dotdash, Mr. Vogel, the chief executive, said he told IAC executives that he envisioned the brand as “what the future of Condé Nast should be.”
With Brides, Dotdash will compete against WeddingWire and The Knot, which have spent years doling out advice on floral arrangements and bachelorette parties (a.k.a. #bachbashes).
In the first quarter of 2019, Dotdash’s revenue increased 13 percent, to $34 million, IAC announced in an earnings report last week. The company hopes to stay on that upward trend with the help of its latest addition.
“We’re capitalists,” Mr. Vogel said. “We like money, and we like selling ads.”
Follow Tiffany Hsu on Twitter: @tiffkhsu.
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