While searching for something else, I came across a story that F+W Media, the parent company of Krause Publications, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on March 10. As part of its bankruptcy filing, the company plans to liquidate its assets to pay its creditors.
According to the bankruptcy filing, F+W owes $105.2 million in outstanding debt to between 1,000 and 5,000 creditors (filing is not specific and I did not want to count the over 500-page filing). The most money is owed to LSC Communications, a company that provides printing and distribution services with over $2.7 million owed.
F+W is also asking the court to approve $8 million in financing to be used as working capital. They claim to have over $10 million in assets.
F+W has been a hobby publisher for many years. The company was founded in 1913 and was named for its two initial publications Farm Quarterly and Writer’s Digest. Farm Quarterly ceased publication in 1955.
Since 2000, F+W has been on a buying spree trying to diversify its portfolio. In 2000, F+W bought UK-based book publisher David & Charles and later renamed it F+W International. In 2002, they bought Krause Publications. In 2012, F+W Media acquired Interweave, an arts and crafts media company, and in 2014 purchased New Track Media.
F+W has had a failed Internet strategy that was not coherent across imprints. While those of us who regularly read Antique Trader find it difficult to understand why Numismatic News does not have a website to match. After scanning the bankruptcy filing, it is apparent that the lack of a cohesive e-commerce strategy led to the failure of the Numismaster website.
The bankruptcy of F+W will be felt across a lot of hobbies. They report that the company averages 600 new titles every year and has over 4,000 titles in print. The company produces 42 magazines, not all are weekly publications like Numismatic News. It lacks a cohesive e-commerce strategy and their idea of selling e-books is producing PDF files of their publications.
From a reader’s perspective, F+W magazines have no integration. Several times I have written to the writers and editors of Antique Trader and Old Cars Weekly magazines when there is a numismatic-related mistake in their publications. The response is almost as if they do not realize the other publications exist.
Krause Publications publishes more than numismatic-related magazines and books. Many of their books are collector and buyers guides for other hobbies. Books like Antique Trader Antiques & Collectibles, Warman’s Antiques & Collectibles, Goldmine Price Guide (vinyl records), and Military Trader magazine define these industries.
For the sake of numismatics, I hope that the Krause publications survive. This includes the Standard Catalog books, which are a hobby staple. In fact, because of the Standard Catalogs, Krause should have a significant database of numismatic information that should beat almost anyone. With a lot of imagination, that data could be put to great use for the benefit of numismatics and a way to produce premium content in order to generate the revenue to support its existence.
Just their database could create a treasure trove of possibilities that could be used beyond the numismatic community. All it would take is someone with money (which I don’t have) and imagination (which I have plenty).