Future Publishing was another company delivering better-than-feared results today.
Several months ago, chief executive Stevie Spring provoked smiles among perennial Future-watchers by suggesting that the company would cope with a downturn relatively well.
The reason for this, Spring suggested, was Future’s status as a special interest publisher. In a downturn, its typical reader would behave less like a shopper in Marks & Spencer and more like a B2B professional whose appetite for tailored content remains constant.
At the time, this felt like a bit of a stretch, but Future’s results for the nine months to the end of June — released today — suggest that Spring might have been on the right track.
Revenue across the nine-month period increased by 1%. Interestingly, however, revenues for Q2 (March-June) grew by 5% YOY. And Future stuck to its forecast for profits at the year-end (which will arrive at the end of September).
Happily, Future’s online adventures appear to be performing to plan. It’s a testament to Spring that a company that used to be an also-ran in terms of sales culture is now capable of saying this in an earnings release:
A 39% increase in online advertising revenue more than offset a 2% reduction in print advertising revenue.
For many, many other media companies, this objective remains out of reach.
The more 2.0-oriented among you will also be intrigued by the news that Future Publishing has spent £1.5m on BallHype, an 18-month-old US start-up that operates Digg-style aggregation sites.
Of course Jeff “Link To The Rest” Jarvis would love it. Indeed, looking at Future’s deal, the big, fat, obvious question that forms in my mind is: why isn’t Conde Nast, Emap or IPC doing this already?
A few others follow on behind, of course. Can Future monetize the audience? Is £1.5m a steep price to pay for “proprietary” technology that seems to rely upon open source software and Yahoo interfaces?
Oh. And this one: can Future splice this model to its traditional publishing operations? The more common fate of dot.com bolt-ons like BallHype is to languish and droop as Friends Reunited did at ITV. The odds are that this won’t happen under Stevie Spring.