F+W Media, Citing Debt, Decline, And Mismanagement, Files For Bankruptcy Protection

F+W Media is a publisher of many popular magazines, books, digital products, videos and other content. Within the genealogy community, the company is best known as the producer of Family Tree Magazine, Family Tree University and the Family Tree website. Sadly, F+W Media filed for bankruptcy protection a few days ago.

Facing near-term liquidity issues with only about $2.5 million in cash available and $105.2 million in outstanding debt, F+W Media filed for protection under Chapter 11 of the federal bankruptcy code, citing in various documents a perfect storm of secular industry decline, poor investments, and even mismanagement.

NOTE: Family Tree Magazine published by F+W Media in the U.S. should not be confused with a magazine of the same name published in England by Warners Group Publications Plc. (See https://www.family-tree.co.uk/ for the “other” Family Tree Magazine.) The two magazines may share a name but nothing else. They are owned and published by totally different companies.

The genealogy division of F+W Media has offices in Cincinnati, Ohio although the corporate headquarters are in New York. The company is one of the country’s largest publishers of specialty and enthusiast media, with such brands as Deer and Deer Hunting, Sky & Telescope, Old Cars Weekly, Popular Woodworking, Coins, Numismatic News, and along with various crafting titles, and other publications in artist’s network, collectibles, writing, outdoors, sky & telescope, woodworking, family tree, construction, and horticulture.

In the bankruptcy filing, the company notes the market for subscription print periodicals of all kinds, including those published by F+W, has been in decline over the last decade. Indeed, since 2015 alone, F+W’s subscriber base decreased from 33.4 million to 21.5 million, and its ad revenue decreased from $20.7 million to $13.7 million. As a result of this trend, the company shifted into digital platforms and e-commerce.

F+W Media said it plans to sell its businesses while continuing to operate, in order to “maximize the value of their estates for the benefit of all their stakeholders.”

You can read more in an article by Tony Silber in Forbes at: http://bit.ly/2TEoL9v.

7 Comments

C. Christopher Sirr March 15, 2019 at 2:33 pm

Good reason to seek Publication Subscription Insurance; if possible. This company was getting to the point, with constant promotions, where they might next try to sell air samples from a genealogy library. Too bad because the magazine is or was excellent.

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I have downloadable products like cheat sheets from familytree, I did down load them to my iPad so that I can save them. I also have quite a few videos on the downloadable products that I would also like to save since I did pay for them. They were from (FTU) Family Tree University.
I can’t figure out how to download and save them to my iPad. Will I be able to save to my desktop.

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Sad, I really liked the magazine. I also had taken a few classes at FTU and bought a lot of books from them. They did not have good customer service though, always had issues trying to sign in and to have the extras and even with orders. Hope they can salvage the magazine somehow.

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Dick: Do you know if someone/ some entity will pick up the genealogical aspect of this huge firm? Is there anything in the fire that we should know about? Thanks, Carl

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    I am not aware of any such plans. Rumor has it that the company, including its genealogy business, has been losing money for the past several years. I question whether or not anyone would want to buy it. (I don’t have any “inside information.” I am just wondering…)

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Certainly a cautionary tale. I had begun to wonder at their constant barrage of advertisements, online course offerings, etc. So now I have a couple of half-completed courses that were promising but now vanished, and a bad taste in my mouth. Ruptured my trust fairly substantially. Worse, I feel taken for a fool. Back to the free webinars put on by local genealogy societies!

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I’ve subscribed to Family Tree Magazine on and off since their first issue and just renewed my subscription a couple months back and for many years it has been an expense that I’ve considered cutting. Once you subscribed for a few years, most of the content was just rehashed. I still enjoyed a few of the items in each issue but it was getting to the point where it’d sit on the desk for a week or two before I’d both opening it up. Guess in three decades of genealogy I’d grown out of needing an article every other month reminding me of the basic of research. It is most definitely no Everton’s or Heritage Quest. I’d take a rebirth of either of those over FTM.

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