Aug 30, 2022 - Economy

Exclusive: Time makes first acquisition since Meredith sale

Illustration of Time Magazine with Benjamin Franklin from the hundred dollar bill on the cover.

Illustration: Axios Visuals

Time has bought Brandcast, a company that licenses software for easy-to-build marketing websites, Time's editor-in-chief and CEO Edward Felsenthal told Axios.

Why it matters: The deal marks Time's first acquisition since Marc and Lynne Benioff bought the publication in 2018.

Details: With the purchase, which closed earlier this month, all of Brandcast's 14 employees moved over to Time as a part of a new division called Time Sites, which replaced the Brandcast name.

  • Time Sites is led by Brandcast CEO Ashok Santhanam, who joined Time's executive team as president of Time Sites. Santhanam reports to Ian Orefice, president and chief operating officer of Time & Time Studios.
  • "When we want to make this technology available to more customers than we do today, we believe that association with a brand like Time can only be helpful," Santhanam said when asked why the company chose to sell instead of raising more money to stay independent.
  • While executives declined to disclose the deal's terms, they did note that the acquisition does not require any sort of regulatory review, which is required for deals over $101 million.

The backstory: Marc Benioff was an early investor in Brandcast, which is how Time executives became familiar with the company, Felsenthal told Axios.

  • Brandcast has raised over $33 million since it launched in 2013. In addition to Marc Benioff, Shasta Ventures, TPG Growth and Buchanan Investment have all invested in the company.
  • Time previously used a different vendor to build custom content websites for its advertising partners, but decided it preferred Brandcast's capabilities after Benioff introduced Time to the firm, Orefice told Axios.

Between the lines: Time Sites plans to use Brandcast's talent and technology first with Time's business-side operations and then eventually with its newsroom as well.

  • On the business side, Time Sites will be used to more quickly and efficiently build out custom content websites for Time's advertising clients. In will also power enterprise website solutions for Time's NFT division, Time Pieces.
  • On the editorial side, the tech can be used to build out sites for smaller verticals, similar to Time's expansion into workplace content via its partnership with Charter. It could also one day be used to help build websites for other editorial projects, like newsletters or event websites.

The big picture: The creation of Time Sites is part of a greater effort by Time to diversify its revenues away from print and across a variety of digital channels.

  • In the past few years, Time has launched a lucrative TV and film licensing business called Time Studios, a branded content division, a live events business for its Time 100 franchise, and a web3 platform that includes a profitable NFT community.

By the numbers: Time has vastly expanded its product offerings, with a focus on digital transformation, since the Benioffs bought it four years ago.

  • Print accounts for less than 44% of Time's total revenue today, compared to 83% in 2019.
  • The company now has nearly 250,000 digital subscribers, Felsenthal said, in addition to roughly 1.3 million print subscribers.
  • Time is still on pace to bring in at least $200 million in revenue this year, a 30% growth rate over last year, Felsenthal said, with roughly one-quarter of that revenue coming from Time Studios.

The bottom line: "For decades, the conversation about Time when it was part of Time Inc. or Meredith was a shrinking version, in revenue and in the brand. Over the past four years, I think you've seen the exact opposite," Orefice said.

  • "We're a completely different company than we were four years ago when Marc and Lynne bought us," Felsenthal said. "They put us on a completely different trajectory than where we were in our past life."

Go deeper: How Marc Benioff is transforming Time magazine

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