In the roughly two years since Jason Webby joined Future plc as chief revenue officer for North America, the UK publisher has acquired eight companies – including Marie Claire US, a portfolio of properties from Dennis Publishing and the Waive data platform – and the pace of acquisition is unlikely. slow down in the short term given the company’s ambitions.
“The shopping spree we did is quite prolific. And most of that is really destined to be one of the major media players in the United States and North America,” Webby said on the latest episode of the Digiday podcast.
While the bulk of Future plc’s purchases have been publication purchases, the strategies behind them are not just about adding inventory and lookalike audiences. Such was the case with its deal for WhoWhatWear, announced in May, to bolster the publisher’s portfolio of women’s lifestyle publications. But its acquisition of entertainment publisher CinemaBlend last year opened the company up to entertainment advertisers that weren’t yet part of its customer base, Webby said. Meanwhile, the acquisition of Waive in March will help the company build on its proprietary Aperture data platform as Future plc develops its own identifier, Future ID, which is designed not only to help publisher to prepare for the disappearance of the third-party cookie, but also to capitalize on its booming American activities.
“We feel really good about our ability to not have to rely on cookies at all. And we have that ability today. One of the benefits of having such a large user base on our same platform owned-and-operated form is that we are already reaching one in three American online adults,” Webby said.
Here are some highlights from the conversation, which have been edited for length and clarity.
Acquisition as an advertiser diversification tactic
The fact that we keep adding new content plays alongside new acquisitions gives us a whole new range of customers to talk to, so everyone in the market won’t be down at some point. We’ve definitely seen some customers have supply chain issues or not be able to get product out, and so maybe they’ve canceled campaigns or delayed them. It absolutely happened in different pockets. But I think we were lucky to be able to overcome that by having a very diverse portfolio of brands and users.
Acquisition as an advertiser acquisition game
When we first acquired CinemaBlend, we weren’t doing business with Hulu, Disney+ or HBO Max, or any of the major Hollywood studios or streamers. Today, we do business with almost everyone. So that was a really good example of us looking at the market, finding a site that can really add to our brand portfolio by giving us a new content property that we can go to market with and attract a whole new set of customers. and users to our global portfolio.
Acquisition as a cross-sell opportunity
We acquired The Week; we also acquired Person Finance from Kiplinger. This has created opportunities for us to trade in the wealth category as well as current events. So we were able to look at advertisers that they traditionally had a lot of strength and long-term relationships with, and now we’re pushing new Future brands for them that they can now communicate with users. So we do a lot of cross-selling. This is one of the benefits we look for when bringing new brands into the portfolio.
Acquisition as a first-party data strategy
We have migrated TheWeek.com to our owned and operated platform, which we call Vanilla. We have over 250 web properties on the same platform. This allows us, from a first-party data perspective, to look at a user as an individual and understand where they enter the Future wallet, what content resonates with them, where do they go if they pass from TheWeek.com, then click on to Guitar World or MarieClaire.com. We may identify that person as a unique user. If anyone is looking for a certain audience that The Week has in full force, we can also take a look at how that segment might play out across the Future network.