Consolidation in the publishing world is nothing new, but it is nonetheless an odd coincidence when the sales of two major English-language audio magazines are announced on two sequential days.
Stereophile was founded by J. Gordon Holt in 1962. Holt had previously been a reviewer for High Fidelity, and created Stereophile to focus upon how audio components actually sounded in use (radical concept, no?). Holt sold the magazine to Santa Fe businessman Larry Archibald in 1982, and in 1986, John Atkinson left the editorship of the UK magazine Hi-Fi News to become Editor of Stereophile–a role he still holds.
In 1998, Archibald and Atkinson sold the magazine to Petersen Publishing, best known as the originator and publisher of Hot Rod and numerous other automotive and specialty magazines. Just a year later, Petersen was acquired by EMAP USA, the American arm of an English publishing conglomerate. Two years later, in 2001, EMAP’s US magazines were acquired by Primedia, which sold the magazine in 2007 to Source Interlink, a publicly-traded distributor of print and physical media. Following major financial reversals, Source reorganized as a closely-held company in 2009, and then sold its magazine holdings in 2013 to Golden Tree, an asset management company which labeled the magazine holdings as TEN: The Enthusiast Network.
On March 22, it was announced that the magazines and websites that comprised TEN’s Home Tech Network (Magazines: Stereophile, Sound & Vision, Shutterbug; Websites: S’phile, S&V, Shutterbug, AudioStream, Analog Planet, Inner Fidelity) had been sold to AV Tech Media Ltd., the UK-based publisher of Hi-Fi News, Hi-Fi Choice, Home Cinema Choice, and a number of other special interest and hobbyist magazines. The group also produces the annual Hi-Fi Show.
When Stereophile began in 1962, it was an irregularly-published, slender magazine with limited circulation. Archibald and Atkinson transformed the magazine into a real, mainstream publication, gaining strength during the period when old-guard audio magazines like High Fidelity, Audio, Stereo Review and many others either vanished or were consolidated into other titles. With a monthly circulation of about 71,000, the magazine continues to be the industry leader. The new, more-congenial ownership should only serve to make it even stronger.
Just as The Enthusiast Network appears to be pruning its publications in order to concentrate on automotive titles, the Haymarket Media Group in the UK appears to be following the same path. Haymarket publishes the successful and long-running Autocar, What Car?, and Pistonheads titles, and on March 21, announced the sale of What Hi-Fi? and four other magazines to Future Publishing in the UK.
Future’s comments on the purchase prove that corporate-speak is, sadly, not limited to the US: “These brands will present Future with the opportunity to continue its strategy of organic growth in line with its content monetisation strategy….This acquisition is a further demonstration of our strategy to develop evergreen content that connects with communities and further diversifies our revenue streams.”
What Hi-Fi? is the best-selling audio magazine in the UK, with an average monthly circulation of around 28,000. The field has contracted a good bit: five or six years ago, the magazine’s circulation was close to 80,000.