Fran Richards was the vice president of sales and marketing and publisher at TransWorld Media, which publishes Skateboarding, Snowboarding, and other titles, from 1988 through 2002. He has been tapped to lead the new venture, Future Action Sports, out of San Diego.
A still-evolving list of consumer and trade-focused titles is planned for Future Action Sports. In January 2005, the company will premiere the five-times-a-year Skateboard Trade News and the quarterly Snowboard Trade News. By August 2005, a new snowboard consumer magazine is planned, with other launches in the works.
It will be in the consumer market that Richards plans to compete in a space that has been long dominated by TransWorld Media, which became a subsidiary to Time Inc. in 2000.
It is his contention that a void has opened up since that purchase. He claims that these titles have become less accessible to readers, as they are staffed more and more by professional athletes rather than journalists.
"Those magazines have changed tremendously," he says. "They used to be very inclusive. Now they have gotten extremely hard core during a time when the sports have actually become mainstream."
Richards also complains that Time Inc. often chose profit at the expense of content integrity, accepting ads that were inappropriate for these magazines' authenticity-sensitive audience.
Richards believes that Future, with its success at delivering premium content to highly dedicated niche groups, offers a more supportive environment.
"Future really understands passion," he says. "They offer the right newsstand infrastructure and incredible talent. I have been really impressed with these guys."
Future's titles have shown impressive growth in circulation over the last few years, despite often carrying a premium newsstand price--sometimes in the neighborhood of $10.
As for the planned trade magazines, Richards says that TransWorld successfully ran similar specialized titles for 15 years before Time Inc. consolidated the majority of them. While not expected to be profitable, Richards believes these will provide "a critical leadership position" in these growing sports.