Jul 19, 2022 - Economy

Exclusive: Money making money again

Axios Visuals

Money, once a prominent business title under Time Inc., is officially a profitable business again in online-only form, its new owner Greg Powel told Axios.

Why it matters: The brand was on life support when Powel acquired Money from Meredith Corporation in late 2019. Now, following a redesign and business overhaul, Money is making money as a niche, consumer finance brand.

Catch up quick: Meredith acquired the Money brand in 2018 along with its purchase of Time Inc., then sold the brand shortly after it sold Time Inc. to billionaire Marc Benioff.

  • Money was previously integrated as part of Time’s digital business, although the two companies printed separate magazines.
  • Money’s print magazine is now defunct, and Powel has no intention of bringing it back.
  • Powel's digital content firm, Ad Practitioners LLC, acquired Money from Meredith for a little more than $20 million in debt financing from JPMorgan.

By the numbers: Money was losing around $1 million per year on around $2 million in revenue, Powel said.

  • “The website took 42 seconds to load, it was hemorrhaging cash and underperforming. It didn’t have an SSL certificate [a digital authentication certificate]. … It couldn’t have been more neglected.”
  • At the time of the deal, Money had around a dozen New York City-based journalists. Several stayed on board after the deal.
  • Today, there are 21 editorial staffers in New York and another 20 in Puerto Rico, where Ad Practitioners is based.
  • “The business is probably eight to 10 times larger than when we bought it from a revenue perspective and is solidly profitable,” Powel said, although he declined to provide exact revenue figures.

Be smart: Powel, a former Google executive, saw an opportunity to rebuild Money's editorial strategy around intent-based personal finance content that's typically surfaced from search results, instead of clickbait business stories about celebrities and their wealth.

  • Big digital media companies like DotDash Meredith and Red Ventures rely on a similar strategy.

How it works: At the time of the deal, Ad Practitioners was 3 years old and mostly sold ads on consumer finance content across a few small sites it owned.

  • It also made money from affiliate links on ConsumersAdvocate.org, a personal finance review site.

Today, Money is its biggest brand, focusing on consumer finance content. ConsumersAdvocate.org is its second-biggest brand and focuses on consumer reviews.

  • Powel is the largest shareholder in the company, followed by Sam Niccolls, an early executive at the company, who has since departed. Powel has never raised money, aside from the debt financing for the Money deal.
  • Before the Money deal, the firm had around 80 employees and was profitable. Today, around 160 people work for the company.

The big picture: Money is one of a string of business magazines that struggled to find their footing in the digital era, prompting sales to billionaires and investment tycoons who saw value in the titles, despite difficult digital transitions.

  • Fortune, Forbes, Time, Fast Company and Inc. have all changed hands in the past two decades.
  • “For us, we saw a flagship brand and something we could really invest behind,” Powel said. “I think we’ve shown that we can be really successful in that."

What's next: Ad Practitioners is planning to rebrand later this year around the Money title.

  • Powel said the company will continue to eye acquisition opportunities around consumer finance content, but Money will remain its flagship.
  • “What the business needs over time is probably a larger and more meaningful capital partner to help us do larger inorganic acquisitions,” Powel said, “but there’s no definite timeline” for bringing on partners or liquidating.
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