media | Jun 21, 2023 |
Sandow acquires Design Milk

Sandow, the publishing conglomerate that includes Interior Design, Luxe Interiors + Design and Metropolis, has acquired online platform Design Milk. The price was not disclosed.

“We’ve always loved Design Milk—we tried to acquire it years ago,” Sandow founder Adam Sandow tells Business of Home. “It’s one of the original and best design platforms, and they’ve done such a good job maintaining the brand and surviving the tumult of the industry. Now, under our flag, we’ll invest in it and double down.”

As part of the acquisition, Sandow will snap up Design Milk’s sizable social media presence, including an Instagram account with 3.8 million followers. Design Milk’s employees, including editor in chief Caroline Williamson, will all remain on staff.

According to Sandow, the near-term objective is to bring Design Milk into the Sandow fold, not to make editorial changes. “I don’t think they were getting the attention and the investment that they needed under the old company, so our goal is to bring them over and really take our time—not change anything for the rest of this year,” says Sandow. “We love the brand. We are going to invest, we are going to innovate, we are going to build on it, and it will be in the same vein as [what] they’ve always done. We think that with love and attention we can really grow it.”

Sandow will be the third owner of Design Milk. Founded in 2006 by Jaime Derringer, the site was part of a wave of blogs that rose to prominence in the late aughts. Taking a wide-angle lens on the world of design—covering everything from material innovation to products for pets—its audience grew steadily over the next decade, and Derringer branched out into podcasts, events and commerce while still running Design Milk mostly herself.

Citing burnout and a desire to find deeper pockets to grow the site, Derringer sold Design Milk to Ahalife, an e-commerce roll-up with a roller-coaster past, in 2019. At the time, the idea was to develop a more robust marketplace and turn Design Milk into something like the Food52 of design. “If you don’t have an authentic point of view, you’re just selling other people’s stuff,” Design Milk CEO Robert Mancini told Business of Home at the time. “None of the brands you’re selling will stop at you. And customers are extremely smart—they’ll start shopping around for a price. … The key to all of this is engagement.”

Derringer continued to run the site after the acquisition, but left in 2022 to start a consulting firm and explore opportunities in web3, the metaverse and AI. Mancini left the company earlier this year. The content-meets-commerce play did not appear to have transformed Design Milk—the site does not currently feature a marketplace, and Sandow says that, going forward, the brand’s focus will be on ad sales, not commerce.

Shortly after the deal with Design Milk closed in 2019, Ahalife changed its name to Design Milk Co. The company, which is headquartered in Sydney, is traded on the Australian stock market. According to public documents, it recently entered into an agreement to sell itself to a holding company for $350,000. Ahalife’s other main holding—the e-commerce site Kaufmann Mercantile—appears to be defunct.

For Sandow, the acquisition points to an omnivorous approach to media, with much of the recent expansion happening online. The company unwound its most recent print partnership with Galerie in 2020 and since then has mostly announced digital endeavors, including DesignTV—a streaming channel for design content—and Surround, a podcast network.

Sandow has also been aggressive about expanding beyond content and into services, including the acquisition of research firm ThinkLab and the launch of a creative studio, The Agency. The acquisition of Design Milk, while clearly an opportunistic buy, plays into Sandow’s kitchen sink approach to publishing.

“We’re big on digital, but we’re big believers in print, in events, in services. Any companies today in our space servicing both the B2B side and the B2C side of both residential and commercial design—you’ve got to be omnichannel,” says Sandow. “One pathway is not enough, not in this world.”

Correction: June 21, 2023
An earlier version of this story misstated that Design Milk Co. entered into an agreement to sell itself to a holding company for 350,000 Australian dollars, or roughly $237,000. The correct figure is $350,000.

Homepage image: The kitchen of an apartment in Milan, published on Design Milk, boasts a vibrant color palette | Riccardo Gasperoni, courtesy of Design Milk

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