media | Jan 27, 2021 |
Domino has been acquired

Domino is changing hands. The publication, formerly owned by Multiply Media, has been acquired by North Equity, a Miami-based firm that specializes in acquiring and managing media properties. The deal, first reported by Axios, closed today for an undisclosed sum.

Domino’s brand and content drive trends in the home and design space,” said Andrew Perlman, managing partner at North Equity, in a statement. “The dynamic content and impressive team piqued North’s interest, leading us to build a relationship with the executive and creative team. We’re ecstatic to finally welcome them to our family.”

North Equity will be Domino’s fourth owner. The magazine was originally launched in 2004 at Condé Nast and quickly became one of the shelter publishing world’s hottest new titles, swelling to a subscription base of 1 million readers. In 2009, it became a much-mourned casualty of the recession when Condé shuttered the book. Four years later, the title was relaunched as an independent magazine and website by three entrepreneurs—Andy Appelbaum, Cliff Sirlin and Aaron Wallace—who subsequently sold to St. Louis–based digital publisher Multiply Media, the owner of Answers.com, in 2018.

Domino general manager Tracy Cho tells Business of Home that she had been interested in partnering with an owner who could bring investment and expertise to the technical side of the operation. “We wanted to find a place that would help us lean into the things we were doing well and help us grow and provide some strong technical excellence to support our business,” she says. “We’re a small business and our team is very content- and editorial-heavy, but we don’t have a full product and engineering team. That’s something I've always wanted to invest in, but building that out on your own as a small company is really difficult. … Having a team that works on the product and experience all day, every day will be huge.”

North Equity is a San Francisco– and Miami-based “venture equity” firm (the term refers to a hybrid business model that combines elements of venture capital and private equity) with a narrow focus on media. The company has snapped up a variety of titles in recent years. In 2020 alone, it acquired Popular Science, Popular Photography, Saveur, Outdoor Life, Field & Stream, Better You and Interesting Things, bringing its total portfolio up to 13 titles. Domino will be the 14th.

The acquisition of Domino rounds out North Equity’s portfolio of home titles, which includes Saveur, Kitchenistic and home improvement site Bobvila.com. “They were looking for a brand that had a different monetization model, while staying inside the home vertical … and one that was able to deliver premium content,” says Cho. “They’re bringing the technology piece, how to scale, married to what we’re doing, which is a direct-advertising business alongside affiliate, experiential—which is going to come back!—and podcasts. All of those things they’re hoping to spread across their portfolio, as well.”

The conversations with North Equity began in January of last year, then were put on pause when COVID hit. In late 2020, a deal began to take shape. As part of the transition, Cho will additionally become general manager of Saveur, while Domino executive creative director Kate Berry will become its chief creative officer. Nearly all of Domino’s staff will stay on.

Cho says that the move won’t change Domino’s editorial approach, and that, from a business perspective, the brand was already on a path to grow and diversify its revenue streams. (Last year, it launched its first podcast, “Design Time,” as well as Domino Kids and Renovator’s Notebook, a home renovation vertical.) “With or without this partner, [our plan for growth is] all of the above,” she says. “Now that we have some opportunities to lean on expertise, we hope to see what will grow.”

Homepage photo: @Africa Studio | Adobe Stock

Want to stay informed? Sign up for our newsletter, which recaps the week’s stories, and get in-depth industry news and analysis each quarter by subscribing to our print magazine. Join BOH Insider for discounts, workshops and access to special events such as the Future of Home conference.