The boss of the former Emap B2B publishing business has said the firm will keep printing “just not necessarily mass distribution magazine products”.
Ascential is the new name for the Top Right Group, which itself was created from the former Emap business publishing wing.
The information and events group has been jointly owned by Apax Partners and Guardian Media Group since a £1bn buyout deal eight years ago, and is now preparing to float.
Ascential’s brands include Drapers, Retail Week, Construction News and Architects’ Journal as well as online fashion trends forecaster WGSN, the Cannes Lions creative festival and the Spring and Autumn Fairs.
In October last year Ascential chief executive Duncan Painter sent a shockwave through the printing industry after he was quoted in the Guardian as saying that all of the firm’s print titles would become digital only “over the next 12 to 18 months”.
Speaking ahead of the company’s flotation, which is expected to take place this month, Painter told PrintWeek that ultimately the firm’s customers would decide its future in print.
“At the end of the day customers will decide in the subscriptions they buy. If the current trend continues, and we expect it to, then we will produce less print products,” Painter stated.
However, he said that print still had a place despite Ascential’s obvious digital focus, with 66% of its customers being digital-only subscribers.
“It doesn’t mean that as an organisation we won’t produce products that are printed, just not necessarily mass distribution magazine products,” he added. “For some journals, reports and deep research, customers do want that in a printed book or magazine form. We will carry on printing some form of printed products.”
The group’s Emap business information and events wing was renamed Plexus at the end of last year. Headley Brothers in Ashford, Kent, prints all the Plexus titles.
Ascential posted sales up 15% to £312.7m in the year to 31 December 2014, and made an operating profit of £36.8m. Nearly 32% of revenues, £99.3m, came from subscriptions. It has around £450m of debt.
The flotation is expected to value the group at more than £800m, with Ascential aiming to raise at least £200m from floating 25% of its shares.