Future Publishing buys Imagine for $21m, broadening number of titles

U.K.-based publisher Future Publishing today announced it is in the process of acquiring Imagine Publishing for £14.2 million ($21 million) worth of shares, continuing the trend of media consolidation in the world of magazine publishing. Imagine publishes a series of magazines that operate in the same space as Future’s line-up and a series of publications in spaces that are new to the veteran publishing house.

Even if you’ve never heard of Future, chances are that you’ll have seen its websites and magazine titles. Originally founded 31 years ago, the publisher was the first to include floppy disks with software on the covers of its magazines. The company started with Amstrad Action, followed by a slew of computer- and gaming-oriented magazines, including MacFormat and PC Format.

Imagine was formed 12 years ago, and currently has a portfolio of 19 magazines, with some of its best-known titles including 3D Artist, Gadget, Retro Gamer and Digital Photographer. The publisher has also created more than 800 “bookazines,” a hybrid format that is shaped like a book but designed as a magazine, and can be found on the magazine shelves in newsagents, rather than in book stores.

An example of some of Imagine Publishing's 'bookazine' line-up.

An example of some of Imagine Publishing’s “bookazine” line-up.

It is unclear what will happen to the magazines that are direct competitors to Future’s own. Gadget Magazine, for example, goes head-to-head with the company’s own T3 and TechRadarThe company has had a history of ruthless slashing of both titles and jobs over the past few years, and the shareholders haven’t been kind to the company — but the company’s management remains optimistic.

“Imagine has an impressive reputation with 19 periodical magazines and is a world leader in bookazines,” said Zillah Byng-Thorne, Future PLC’s chief exec. “The acquisition will enable us to scale significantly our market position in bookazines and will see us enter the knowledge vertical, broadening our reach.”

The “knowledge vertical” Byng-Thorne is referring to is Imagine’s selection of how-to guides and handbooks, its “genius guide” series aiming to be a strong beginner’s guide to a number of tech-oriented topics and its “how it works” brand, which approaches science and technology from an approachable angle.

The deal isn’t 100 percent complete yet; there are still a couple of formalities outstanding (such as final shareholder approval and getting agreement from the Competition and Markets Authority), but it’ll be interesting to see how the publisher absorbs and leverages its new brands and staff into the organization.