The board of directors of F+W Media has ousted the company’s top leadership. A letter to staff sent out this morning stated that CEO Tom Beusse, COO Joe Siebert, and CTO Joe Romello are no longer with the company. The board has appointed Greg Osberg as interim CEO.
“This is not about shifting strategy;” Osberg wrote in this morning’s letter, “it’s about moving even more quickly to adapt to realities of our new world.” Osberg owns Revlyst, a consulting company that assists legacy media brands to go digital. He previously spent two years as publisher and CEO the company that owns The Philadelphia Inquirer and before that was president of the company that owns Newsweek. Osberg will be assisted by a team from FTI Consulting led by Ken Harding who has consulted with a large portfolio of legacy media companies.
F+W is owned by Tinicum Incorporated, a private investment firm with offices in New York and San Francisco. Tinicum is the fourth private investment firm to own F+W since 1999 and acquired the company in May of 2014. F+W is a major publisher of craft media and owns a portfolio of well-known brands including Interweave, Fons & Porter, and Quilting Arts among many others.
The company launched two new craft-focused websites in the last 18 months in an effort to integrate their various brands: Interweave.com and The Quilting Company. Consumers and staff alike have expressed frustration with the user interface on both sites. “Everyone hates the websites,” said one mid-level manager who requested to remain anonymous.
In this morning’s letter Osberg went on to emphasize that both print and digital channels will be part of the company’s future. The company is actively closing down print magazines, however, and has drastically reduced the number of craft books it publishes each year.
The number of print publications F+W is producing is shrinking overall. Recently the company announced two design magazine closures include Print which published its last issue this month and HOW which will cease publication after the spring issue. The company is shutting down craft publications as well. Love of Knitting and Love of Crochet magazines will no longer have print editions. The Interweave and Fons & Porter book team has gone from publishing 58 titles annually in 2015 to 18 titles in 2017.
In November Beusse told a Craft Industry Alliance reporter that craft media made up a third of F+W’s portfolio and that the company as a whole would pull in $200 million in revenue for 2016.
A scathing review of the company published on January 2 on employment site Glassdoor cited mismanagement by the executive team. After critiquing Seibert and Romello for failure to effectively lead, the review pinpoints Beusse as the core problem. “Beusse is an old media guy with enough slick salesmanship to convince an investment group he can lead an ecommerce company, yet his direction and governance give little indication he has any awareness of such a business,” the anonymous review states. Just a week after the review’s publication the members of the executive team that were called out have all been fired.
Lisa Shroyer worked as an editor at Interweave, and later as a content strategist at F+W Media, for a total 12 years until September when she left to become the programming director at Craftsy. “Change is pretty constant there,” Shroyer said during a phone interview today. “I’m not surprised at the news. They brought on this executive team to transform F+W into a contemporary, strong digital business, but with a big conglomerate with offices spread everywhere that’s rooted in legacy print media, that’s hard. You really need a seamless, aligned strategy and they just didn’t have a plan.”
Shroyer went on to say that depending on websites and an email program is simply not enough today. “That backbone, plus depending heavily on ad revenue, is risky,” she added.
As a former author for F&W I am not surprised by any of this. I love the direct honesty of the anon poster and the comments of Lisa Shroyer. That company had some huge problems and Lisa hit the nail on the head. There’s a great sub-society of former F&W authors, we have a kinship as soon as we meet 😉 I am grateful that they finally discontinued my first book – and wait for it – no one ever has communicated with me for all the ten years they kept it, not even to say they were stopping print. Nicely written story.
I just found this article but was concerned about and understand our society is changing print media to digital. In the past I have always revisited past issues for patterns and articles that I have bookmarked. If/when F+W Media decides to change to a digital format how will this affect subscriptions. I have noticed from other digital subscriptions the loss of past issues that were available when your subscription was active. Having a digital subscription is a disadvantage for people that want to (1) print a pattern from a magazine published 2,5, or 10 years ago and (2) Some do not allow an individual to print an article or pattern. I am sure others are concerned about this and other issues.