For Golf properties, bittersweet split with Time
David DeNunzio, the new editor-in-chief for Golf magazine and Golf.com, calls Time Inc.’s efforts to sell the titles, despite a recent run of audience growth, a “great breakup story.”
“It’s really kind of a bittersweet thing. I wish I had a breakup story like this with some of the girls I dated before,” he said.
Golf magazine and its digital counterpart now stand at the forefront of Time Inc.’s effort to sell several of its portfolio titles such as Coastal Living and Sunset following a halted effort by the Sports Illustrated parent to sell itself in full.
That sales effort is ongoing with the aid of investment bank Houlihan Lokey, which assisted with Topgolf’s purchase last year of online game World Golf Tour. But it also arrives as the magazine and Golf.com are qualitatively and quantitatively at a high point. Recent internal and comScore metrics had Golf.com at more than 3.3 million monthly unique visitors, up by 76 percent year over year, with mobile traffic, video consumption and social reach all similarly up by high double-digit percentages.
So why has Time Inc. decided to shed Golf, despite the recent success and Time Inc. CEO Rich Battista publicly praising the title on several occasions? After choosing to not sell itself, Time Inc. is now focusing primarily on developing its core assets such as People and Time magazine.
“[Golf] needs some better brand focus,” said Chris Stone, editor-in-chief for the SI Group, which oversees Golf. “It’s still one of the smaller entities under the Time Inc. umbrella.”
Golf competes primarily with the Condé Nast-owned Golf Digest, with circulation and total audience reach up for both titles this year compared to 2016, according to the Association of Magazine Media. Both Condé Nast and SportsBusiness Journal parent American City Business Journals are subsidiaries of Advance Publications.
Both Time Inc. and Houlihan Lokey declined to detail the state of the Golf bidding process or targeted price. But industry sources said initial bids for Golf were due at the end of last month, and the title is being marketed to potential buyers including traditional publishers, private equity firms and other endemic golf entities. A resolution could arrive by late November.
Meanwhile, DeNunzio in June was promoted to editor in chief from managing editor for instruction, knowing that it would come with no guarantees on what might happen to him or his colleagues under new ownership.
“This was all part of the plan. I went in eyes wide open. But I remain a huge believer in the brand, wherever we end up going,” he said.