mergers & acquisitions | Sep 15, 2022 |
Recurrent acquires Dwell

Dwell, the California-based architecture and design publication, has been acquired by Recurrent. The purchase, announced today, adds to the venture-backed digital media company’s portfolio of shelter brands, which includes Domino, Lonny, BobVila.com and Business of Home. The terms of the deal were not disclosed.

“The content [Dwell produces] is a fantastic complement to our other home brands and gives us a tremendous opportunity to further establish ourselves as the leader in the design category,” said Lance Johnson, CEO of Recurrent, in a statement.

“[Dwell CEO] Zach [Klein] and the team have done an outstanding job of expanding what Dwell can do and who it can reach over the last few years,” said Lara Deam, founder and majority owner of Dwell, in a statement. “When looking at potential buyers, Recurrent was at the top of our list.”

Deam founded Dwell in 2000 as a print magazine that sought to bridge the gap between professionals and design-loving consumers. Over the years, the publication has maintained an accessible, clued-in perspective on modern design while occasionally pivoting to meet the shifting winds of the media landscape.

In 2015, Deam took on investors and experimented with orienting Dwell’s site around user-generated content. Ultimately, the publication shifted away from the strategy, but the move laid the groundwork for a more robust online presence. In 2020, Vimeo co-founder (and longtime design obsessive) Klein joined as CEO and introduced a paywall and a digital subscription offering—a significant change in direction and a gamble on Dwell’s relationship with its audience. It worked.

“The hardest thing about print companies switching to digital is calibrating the metronome. My first objective was to reset company culture to be sensitive to the fact that customers wanted to be engaged with us on a daily basis, not just six times a year. We needed to retool everything to do that,” Klein tells BOH. Ultimately, his team discovered “a large passionate community that values our content and is willing to pay for it without batting an eye.”

Today, Klein says Dwell has 65,000 paying digital subscribers out of a total list of 1.1 million. Though the bimonthly print magazine will continue publication to a rate base between 200,000 and 250,000, Klein says that the majority of Dwell’s revenue now comes from digital subscriptions and online ads. It’s a trend that will likely continue under Recurrent’s ownership, as the brand seeks to grow its programmatic advertising and affiliate commerce businesses.

“We’ve always wanted to do those things at Dwell but haven’t had the systems in place to accomplish them,” says Klein. “Our programmatic and affiliate businesses are green shoots; we see huge untapped potential there. In Recurrent, we see an organization that can help us.”

Dwell’s team of 28 will remain with the company through the acquisition, including CRO Nicole Wolfgram and editor in chief William Hanley. Klein says the magazine’s core editorial mission will remain unchanged but that it continues to take on new meaning amid the growing inequities of the U.S. housing market.

“We’re very much aware that the landscape of housing has changed a lot since Dwell was founded,” says Klein. “We’re contending with an environment in which housing is not attainable to a lot of people in a lot of markets. We can’t be only focused on homeownership or conventional ideas about home—there’s an opportunity for Dwell to redefine what is ideal.”

Homepage image: Dwell magazine | Courtesy of Dwell

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