Future Mulls Radical U.S. Digital Publishing Re-Think, Sell-Off?

Games Radar and Guitar World publisher Future Plc of the UK is weighing its options for its U.S. division, it disclosed in a preview of full-year earnings due in November…

“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.”

At home, Future, led by CEO Stevie Spring, publishes a portfolio of successful titles across music, games, movies, tech and lifestyle activities, like PC Plus, Edge and Classic Rock. In digital, it has reorganised its titles in to portal websites like TechRadar, MusicRadar and GamesRadar, while on tablet it now has Zinio editions topped by a custom app for T3. In the UK, Future’s digital activities are now in profit on monthly digital revenue of over £1 million.

In the States, however, Future has been struggling with what are more advanced set of comparatively worse conditions for print. This year, Future has received more unsold magazines from newsagents than expected.

“Retail opportunities for newsstand magazine sales have decreased even further … reflecting broader challenges at retail and fewer opportunities still for consumers to buy magazines,” it said in July. “Print advertising revenues continue to decline, and we are also actively discontinuing subsidised magazine subscriptions.”

In July, even while telling investors an unnamed “digital product launch” planned for the second half of the year had been further delayed, Future said it would more quickly turn the whole of its U.S. business digital-only, within 12 to 15 months. It had unveiled a similar UK plan, which it now says is “well advanced”, having resulted in 10 percent headcount reduction and other savings.

But all bets now appear to be off for Future U.S.. The kind of language Future has used (“consider a range of strategic options”) suggest it now may look to sell its business there.