Efrem “Skip” Zimbalist III founded Active Interest Media (AIM) just eight years ago, and despite facing some of the most challenging years in publishing during what is essentially still the company’s infancy, it has grown to become one of the world’s largest niche media companies.
With a portfolio of 34 magazines-including Yoga Journal (its largest publication with 360,000 circulation) and a healthy marine group, which features Yachts International and Soundings, among others-the company reaches more than 12 million readers worldwide. It also produces major events, including the world’s largest boat show (the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show), smaller events, successful websites that feature unique content as well as e-commerce (including books and third-party product sales), and new mobile apps that it is “selectively developing,” according to Zimbalist, AIM’s chairman and CEO.
Zimbalist explains the strategy behind this growth is to have “a suite of editorial offerings for enthusiasts that serve their differing needs. We wanted to have magazines, books, websites, shows and ancillary businesses and services,” he says. (One ancillary business Zimbalist explains in this in-depth interview is the US Rider service, which is essentially a towing and roadside assistance service for people with horse trailers.) The theory behind offering varied content products and services for various enthusiast groups involves envisioning “how all [the products] work together, and how it gives us a competitive advantage,” he says. “The events bring the magazines to life. … When they want to buy things, they go to our websites. … And it all creates a bond between readers and advertisers,” he notes.
Here, Zimbalist shares his insights behind the company’s largest growth areas, it’s fastest-growing revenue segments, its rapidly expanding ancillary product segments, its biggest challenges and more.
Subscription revenue is about 12 percent of our revenue. It was 13 percent last year. And I think that will stay the same. I think there may be a shift in mix between print and electronic subscriptions, but we see subscription revenues [being] fairly steady-in some units it’s growing, in some it’s declining a little bit, but overall, it’s pretty steady.