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For Them acquires LGBTQ+ publication Autostraddle

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Aug 22, 2023

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Non-media companies have increasingly swooped in to rescue publishers from the financial pressures of a tough ad market and other issues. Such a bet carries risk, but the upside is that the buyer believes it's gaining an external marketing resource in the process.

Why it matters: Owning a media company can potentially help brands save future costs by creating community and customer loyalty through content.

Driving the news: For Them, a wellness company dedicated to supporting queer and gender-expansive people, is acquiring online magazine Autostraddle in an all-equity deal, CEO Kylo Freeman tells Axios.

Context: As an entrepreneur in residence at Prehype, Freeman decided to launch a startup tackling a personal problem — how their chest binder was "ridiculously uncomfortable," they say. For Them launched in January 2021 and that year released a chest binder, which has sold more than 40,000 units.

  • For Them raised $2 million in pre-seed funding in August 2021. Resolute Ventures led and was joined by Yes VC, Animo Ventures, Gaingels Spark Fund and individuals.
  • "We're at a great inflection point where we're growing really fast," Freeman says. "We'll raise a little bit more to get us through this acquisition and get us to a place where we can grow and feel really strong and then we'll do a Series A next year."

Details: Freeman says For Them was interested in a content business as a way to "distribute accurate information" and "connect folks through the queer zeitgeist." Freeman reached out to five publications, including Autostraddle, which Freeman says had helped them come out.

  • Founded in 2009, Autostraddle is an online magazine for queer, trans and nonbinary communities. It averages more than 2.1 million monthly page views. Revenue has come from ad deals with brands like REI, Johnson & Johnson and HBO and from community fundraising. But it has struggled financially as the company publicly admitted and as reported by Defector.
  • Autostraddle will have editorial independence and plans to hire more writers, For Them CMO Em Chadwick says.
  • Autostraddle CEO and co-founder Riese Bernard will join For Them in a strategic development and editorial role. All six full-time employees will join For Them's team of six full-time employees and receive equity.
  • Financial details of the acquisition were not disclosed.

What's next: For Them plans to expand The Playground, the membership program it launched in June that now has about 1,000 paid members. It includes discounted and exclusive products and an app that offers journaling, outfit tracking and community chat.

  • Autostraddle's membership program A+, which includes premium content and members-only events and has 7,000 paid subscribers, will merge with The Playground.
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