Future PLC Plots Future After $132M Purch Acquisition

Future PLC has agreed to buy the consumer division of Purch for $132 million.

The July acquisition brings together Purch properties Tom’s Guide, Tom’s Hardware and Top Ten Reviews with Future PLC’s tech vertical titles, including PC Gamer and TechRadar. Future PLC’s 100-plus brands also serve non-tech niches like music and photography.

The two companies have much in common: top brands in their category, homegrown tech and diversified revenue. Those similarities attracted the attention of Future PLC CEO Zillah Byng-Thorne.

“What we like about Purch is that they use technology to enable media,” Byng-Thorne said.

Specifically, both companies have invested in proprietary tech that they also license to other publishers. Future PLC created Hawk, an affiliate platform. Because of the platform, ecommerce revenue grew 77% in the first half of its fiscal year, according to filings for the company, which is listed on the UK stock exchange.

Purch took a similar approach with RAMP, an ad platform that optimizes publisher revenue on a page through a mix of programmatic and affiliate.

Both Purch and Future PLC pursue diversified revenue streams. Sixty percent of Future PLC’s digital revenue comes from advertising, with affiliate revenue contributing the remaining 40%. Bespoke ads account for 10-15% of total digital revenue.

Beyond digital, Future PLC brings in revenue from magazine sales, two-thirds of which are purchased on newsstands. Offline, it produces events, especially gaming ones that build on PC Gamer’s leading position.

As Purch joins the Future PLC portfolio, Byng-Thorne is eyeing which parts of its tech can extend across the entire organization. She’s moving slowly at first.

Tech integration won’t start until after Q4 to allow Future PLC to evaluate how the platforms perform and start to make decisions about which Purch properties would benefit from Hawk and which Future properties can use RAMP.

But, in general, Future PLC likes a “one-size approach for all our portfolio,” Byng-Thorne said. “We invested heavily in one solution for all of our brands, and think about how to create opportunities for our buyers and sellers to come together.” The company uses one content management system, created Hawk for ecommerce purchases and thinks about data holistically.

“It’s hard to be a media publisher, full stop, and not use data and analytics,” she said.

Purch isn’t the only publication being brought into Future PLC’s fold. The company, publicly traded on the London stock exchange, purchased NewBay Media in April and a few titles from Haymarket Media this year.

As it acquires new properties, the company is also growing revenue and improving margins. Its latest financial report showed $11.5 million in EBITDA on $67 million in revenue over a six-month period, and margins of 17%.

With an array of publications focused on different passion points, and a business model that includes a sprinkling of every revenue stream out there – advertising, affiliate, subscription revenue, bespoke ads and events – Future PLC believes it’s taking a unique approach to growing the “specialist media” in which it specializes.

“Not many businesses are doing a fully integrated approach,” Byng-Thorne said, referring to the mix of magazine revenue, online assets, events and licensed tech. “We spend our time focusing on how to grow our business, not our competitors – otherwise you end up like a sheep.”

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