Jun 21, 2022 - Economy

Local magazine company N2 rebrands to Stroll as revenue tops $131M

Stroll magazine locations
Data: Stroll; Chart: Skye Witley/Axios

N2, a local magazine company, will rebrand next week as “Stroll,” bringing all of its 650+ local print magazines under the same branding, executives tell Axios.

Why it matters: The rebrand marks a major milestone for the company, which has grown to bring in more than $131 million in annual revenue.

  • "The feedback from our readers is still overwhelming. If you produce unique content that people want to read about, they will read it. And in a very digital world, print is now cool again," said Duane Hixon, co-founder & CEO.
  • The rebrand represents a shift in focus from delivering community news to finding ways to help neighborhoods build stronger connections. "Stroll" references casual neighborhood walks where people can get together. Stroll's logo is a mailbox.

By the numbers: "We just turned 18, and we’ve now had 17 years in a row of profitability," said Hixon.

  • Stroll operates nearly 600 hyper-local magazines across 48 states.
  • About 250 people total work at the company.

How it works: While local newspaper companies are struggling to stay afloat, Stroll continues to grow by licensing its branding and services to local businesses or entrepreneurs that franchise the local titles on its behalf.

  • The company distributes free, local magazines to readers by mail for free each month. The magazines are operated and managed by local constituents, who can leverage Stroll's national printing, copy editing and operational resources.
  • Stroll keeps a cut of the ad revenue local business owners make from selling local ads in the magazines. Stroll's national team has editorial oversight over what's published in each hyper-local issue, to ensure to local magazines meet its editorial standards of non-partisan, community-focused local news.
  • The magazines typically feature local articles written by residents about everything from spotlights on student athletes to local homes. Stroll also offers "sponsored spotlights," which could be an article written and paid for by a business, with oversight from Stroll, about their background.
  • In addition to its local magazines, Stroll operates a few national products, including a local digital marketing company, which are also included in its annual revenue figures.

The intrigue: None of the magazines are available online, as a way to ensure the content and experience remains hyper-local. They are only sent by mail to local residents.

  • The magazines vary slightly in style and format, and they tend to run between 30-50 pages. Magazines tend to get bigger over time, a spokesperson said.
  • The rebrand is meant to help bring uniformity to all of the local magazines, as the company expands the resources it provides at the national level.
  • All area magazine directors have access to an internal tech platform that they must use to create stories and ads through a proprietary platform. Stroll has a full-time staff of editors that review all of the content on every publication.

Catch up quick: N2 was launched in 2004 by two North Carolina-based sales entrepreneurs. The company is bootstrapped, and has received no outside funding.

  • It launched its first local magazine in Wilmington, North Carolina, where the company’s home office is headquartered today, and in the Chicago area. Its magazines in the beginning were akin to neighborhood print newsletters. Now they are thicker and look and feel more like magazines.
  • Co-founders Hixon and Earl Seals, who still own and operate the company, harnessed their personal business networks to encourage friends to launch their own local magazines in their hometowns.
  • While magazines span nearly every U.S. state, the company has its biggest reach in Texas, Florida, Ohio and North Carolina. All printing is done in-house.

What's next: The company will expand to more local cities. It plans double down on a digital platform product it offers for local real estate agents in major cities.

  • Altogether, "our company is on track to double in revenue in the next 4-5 years," Dixon said. The company has no plans to sell the company or go public, he noted.
Go deeper