Popular Woodworking Acquired by Woodsmith’s Parent Company

250_Nov_2017_PWM_CoverPopular Woodworking Magazine was purchased this month by the parent company of Woodsmith magazine, a division of Active Interest Media called Cruz Bay Publishing, Inc. The purchase price was $1 million, according to court records.

We’ve received a lot of questions from readers. Should I renew my subscription? Will the magazine continue? What will happen to the staff and contributors?

I talked with a well-placed source at AIM today, and he said there have been no decisions made as to what to do with Popular Woodworking Magazine. All options are on the table at this point: Keep the magazine going as-is, fold it into Woodsmith, maintain it as an online entity or other options.

The magazine will continue on in some form, he said. They didn’t simply buy it to kill it. AIM just has to evaluate the situation and decide on the correct path. Woodsmith itself was acquired by AIM in 2015 and was kept in its hometown in Iowa. Since the purchase there have been changes to the magazine’s content and cuts to the staff, all typical results when a magazine is purchased by a new owner.

Popular Woodworking has substantial legacy content that came with the deal, including the intellectual property of American Woodworker, Woodwork magazine and Woodworking Magazine.

Also notable is that Meredith Corp., owner of WOOD magazine, was a bidder in the bankruptcy auction but lost to AIM/Cruz Bay, according to Folio magazine.

— Christopher Schwarz

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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47 Responses to Popular Woodworking Acquired by Woodsmith’s Parent Company

  1. Bill Morison says:

    At a minimum, the new owner will digitize every issue of the magazine and sell it on a thumb drive or CD. My paper subscription runs out 10/20; wouldn’t be the first time I was left holding the bag as a subscriber. Thanks very much for the update.

    What can I say, it all went downhill after Chris and Megan departed for new opportunities. . .

    • They may not have the rights. It started off as Pacific Woodworker, then Popular Woodworker, before becoming Popular Woodworking. If they could have digitized and sold them all, I think PWW would have. They did have all issues of American Woodworker and Woodwork: A Magazine For All Woodworkers available on DVD

      Woodwork was a great magazine. After American Woodworker bought them they released a yearly issue for a couple of years, then disappeared. If people don’t have the DVD of those issues, they should.

    • David Thiel says:

      All the issues of Popular Woodworking have been available in digital form (DVD and download) for many years. No new angle there….

  2. ericfromdayton says:

    What PWW has failed to do in recent years is to sell content, not ads. I don’t buy a magazine for the ads. Look how well Mortise & Tenon is doing concentrating on content. Hope the new owners recognize this concept and embrace it. Not sure if I will re-subscribe or not. Another issue I have is the direction of the content they do have. Peter, Paul and George always have interesting content. With PWW’s current obsession with power and computer controlled machines, it would not surprise me one bit to see a machine that will hand cut your dovetails for you, like a robot arm. It will even do the layout for you. Sorry, but I’ll do it myself.

  3. Steve C says:

    Hopefully it will survive the buyout

  4. A million dollars???? Wow!

  5. stumpynubs says:

    Keeping track of who owns what can make your head spin, sometimes. I hope everyone who works at Pop Wood lands on their feet, one way or another. I am sure it has been a very scary year over there. Not knowing what the future holds can be nerve-wracking, especially when your livelihood is involved. Hopefully this will bring some stability to those good folks.

  6. Crap. I missed the timer that said when the auction ended. I was waiting for the last minute to place my bid of $1,000,013.62

    If I had won, I would have been a benevolent dictator. As long as my minions did not displease me.

    Oderint dum metuant!

  7. Andrew Brant says:

    Very interesting. Glad sky and telescope found a home that will care for it beside the woodworking news

  8. Ken says:

    Pop Woodworking has gone from a magazine that I read cover to cover to one that takes 15 minutes to flip through before tossing it. Any changes made by the new owner will be an improvement. Hope Peter finds a suitable home.

  9. Monte B says:

    I let my subscription expire with the last issue, not because I wasn’t willing to risk twenty dollars on whether or not the magazine would survive, but because the content was heading in a direction that I do not care to read. Wouldn’t you know it, three items in my last issue piqued my interest.

    If the magazine survives and if the content improves, I will likely subscribe again. Perhaps I should check out Woodsmith to see where they are headed. I let my Woodsmith subscription expire twenty years ago after thinking that I had outgrown furniture made of plywood.

  10. mnrwoods says:

    I let my subscription expire with the current issue, not because I wasn’t willing to risk twenty dollars on whether or not the magazine would continue to publish for another year, but because I wasn’t thrilled with the direction of the content. Wouldn’t you know it, three items in the current issue piqued my interest.

    If the magazine survives and if the content is more to my liking, I will subscribe again. Perhaps I should check out Woodsmith to see what they are doing these days. I let that subscription expire twenty years ago when I outgrew furniture made from plywood.

  11. Old Woodworker says:

    I’ve been a woodworker for 45+ years doing commissions. I have let or am letting all my woodworking magazine subscriptions expire. With so many ads, the mags should be free. I was tired of tool reviews, how to cut a dovetail, or which wood species makes the best soup! Stupid!! I’ve even stopped watching YouTube because of the ads and stupidity of its submitters. I follow a few blogs such as this one but this one is even becoming a “sales” web. Buy this. Buy that. Tools, hats, coats, wax, etc. Take note, Chris. Your business is Lostart…PRESS and commissions. NOT lostartmerchandising. Sorry, not one of your sycophants – just an admirer of your workmanship.

    • Here’s the business model: We make things and we sell them. We don’t take ads, sponsorships, free crap or regular crap.

      We make decent stuff. And we give away a lot of content for free here and on Instagram. And John and I almost make an OK living at it. So I’m afraid you won’t see any changes in the way we operate.

    • stumpynubs says:

      Not that Chris needs me to defend them, but let me say this issue is more complicated than OldWoodworker sees it. Sure, everyone hates ads. It would be great to live in a world where nobody wants to sell you anything. But everyone has to to make a livings. Chris and others could make that living selling shoes, or cleaning windows (I did that for 20 years) or working in a factory. But they chose to spend their time making genuinely useful content for woodworkers all over the world.

      The way I see it, folks can either pay for that genuinely useful content by enduring the occasional blog about soft wax and stickers, or they can do without that genuinely useful content. Because nothing is free.

      As a woodworking content creator myself, I get the occasional complaint from good meaning folks like OldWoodworker. I sometimes wonder if those folks complain to television networks or radio stations about the ads. Because, unlike woodworking blogs that sell tools relevant to woodworkers or You Tube channels that advertise products that actually make sense in woodworking shops, TV and radio ads can be about anything from shampoo to little blue pills.

      Give me great woodworking articles and videos. I’ll be happy to endure the occasional ad, or sales pitch to help pay the bills.

      • mitch wilson says:

        For those of us who used to listen to NPR back in the early 1970s, let’s remember that the space between “articles” was filled with acoustic music from Leo Kottke and Steve Goodman. Now, we get paid commercials throughout. But without them, there would be no content. You just wish for the advertising to be interesting. Sometimes in the woodworking mags, it is. Not so much with NPR. So unless John and Chris can get Mitch McConnell to get the Senate to pay their bills……….

        • Andrew Brant says:

          There is a subtle distinction on NPR ads, I know because I ended up getting a local one for what I do on there as a thank you for a donation I made.

          You can’t advertise per se – “We have a new widget and it will solve these problems with your life and be better than all the rest!” You can only say facts. I ran a screen print shop so I could say “Mt Zion Press, printing custom t-shirts in Chicago since 2008”, and that was about it. Just the facts, since those are ‘sponsors’ and not ‘advertisers’. Some of the copywriters get a bit clever but it is different.

          • mitch wilson says:

            Technically, I know that you are right. However, I still would prefer to hear the acoustic riffs from Kottke and Goodman. Saw them together at the Mississippi River Festival in Alton, IL in August 1974. Memories that the “sponsors” for NPR can never hope to match.

    • mark says:

      Lost Art Press, I absolutely love your posts about saws, shaker brooms etc. How else am I ever going to know about these products in Southern California.

  12. Steve Baisden says:

    I was going to let my subscription expire anyway. What a shame. PWW was my favorite until Chris and Megan left. This last issue I received featured a concrete coffee table. WTF? Also feel bad about Sears. Bought my first electric drill from Sears in 1953. It’s gone too.

    • tsstahl says:

      Sears, or the drill?

      My Craftsman drill from 1983 still works great. 🙂

    • Paul Drake says:

      The concrete coffee table reminded me of a water skier and a shark. Still there was content worth checking out after paging past the masonry. The ads in the mag are of interest except for the DR chipper.

      • Ken says:

        I would really like to have one of those chippers. I read the electronic version for free through my local library. That concrete table was awful, and I like concrete.

      • John Kunstman says:

        I wonder how well the DR chipper would hold up vrs the concrete coffee table…

      • Jack says:

        I’m thinking you mean a motorcyclist and a shark…

  13. Jon Hershey says:

    Last month I received a card notifying me that my subscription to PW was ending “soon” (it ends in October!) but since I was a preferred member of the Continuous Service Program, my credit card would be charged the guaranteed rate of $24.99 for another year. What a deal when there is a card in the magazine offering a year for $19.99 or $29.99 for two years. That did it for me and I canceled my subscription. When I called to do that, I was offered the $19.99 price for a year. I have been able to get a paper copy or download each issue from the library for years but I didn’t want to be part of the problem of magazines I like going out of business. Even though the free copies were always available before I received my copy at home, I wanted to support their continued operation. But the ridiculous preferred offer did it for me. Hopefully they will figure out what they are doing and be able to continue publication in some way.

    • Bruce Lee says:

      I ended up letting my sub run out when I noticed they were restarting the subscription counting from when they processed my card, so I was getting about 5 issues per ‘subscription year’. And no electronic receipt to check against & object.

      • Dan says:

        It has nothing to do with woodworking journalism, but the business model for journalism generally is getting worse and worse.

        My mother just showed me a letter she got from her local newspaper (the Columbia, Missouri Daily Tribune) telling her of their “exciting new subscription model!!!” that they generously agreed to prove “at no cost to her!!!” (and that incidentally there’s no way to opt out of), by which from time to time they’d publish “special content issues” and because they are going to be so special!!! and she would no doubt find each special issue “so valuable to her!!!” they’d charge her anywhere from $1 to $9 per special content feature, depending on just how special the content was, and “as an added convenience to her!!!” instead of separately charging her whenever they felt like sending bonus features, they’d “simply reduce the term of her subscription accordingly,” but don’t worry, “because you’re a valued customer on auto-renew!!!” (and incidentally, there’s no way to opt out of that, either) she wouldn’t have to be bothered by the fact that her annual subscription would magically be turned into a quarterly-or-less subscription.

        The first special content edition was a complete list of the players on the local university’s varsity men’s hockey team. $2.

        All phrases in quotation marks are reasonable approximations from memory. The profusion of exclamation points, however, is real, and how dare you imply that any special offer that is so exciting that it requires a thousand exclamation points could possibly be a scam?

        Sic transit gloria mundi

  14. pathdoc75 says:

    Something needs to be done with PW for the better m, as the content qualitatively is declining , 64 pages latest issue with 16 of those as full page ads and the issue before was 68 pages and 20 plus full page ads. The practicality of some of the articles is also declining over the last year. I am really not trying to kick a sick magazine dog here, but I am just saying, the “ old gray mare ain’t what she used to be”. Sad to see, as I am a very long term subscriber through all of its permutations.
    Michael O’Brien

  15. Even I had the curiosity with the subscription renewal of Popular Woodworking company and from this article this has been acquired by the parent company. It is clear that all options will be going on the way it has been. Also I came to know about the process of employee retention after the purchase was done. Few months back I received a card notifying me that my subscription model was ending soon but being a preferred member my credit charged the guarantee rates of $24.99. Thus I cancelled my subscription. Although free copies were available I wanted to continue. After going through this article I believe they will soon figure out what to do with their members and how to continue with them.

  16. Chuck Nickerson says:

    Hopefully, with WoodSmith buying PWW the last couple years of The Woodwright’s Shop will finally make it to the market on DVDs.

  17. Rob Suppes says:

    It’s a sad day when a ww mag takes another small step towards oblivion. When I started with woodworking almost 10 years ago I found PW vibrant and interesting. The last few years I’ve just hung on as a subscriber out of loyalty rather than interest. I’m not sure I can quantify what exactly changed in the mag that made it less interesting; I still read FWW cover to cover but PW mostly sat unread. Many of the articles felt like they were there to fill space rather than to inspire or teach. Even the last issue with Anne Briggs, which I was initially excited to read, didn’t really seem like it knew whether to be an article about making chairs or an interview meant to inspire. Instead of a vibrant feature with a popular woodworker, it came across directionless and tired.

  18. Gregg says:

    I’m cancelling my PWW subscription. The concrete coffee table was the last straw. They are now doing articles using powered routers. If I wanted a magazine that covers that sort of thing I’d re-subscribe to FWW.

    But i don’t.

    I like Peter Follansbee’s articles but basically, PWW has left me.

  19. Duane Holmes says:

    I too used to like PW and was wondering why the content of interest to me had declined so much. Now I know.

  20. Robert Jerome Hanby says:

    I had already decided to not renew my subscription. Now maybe i can close the browsers tab i keep open to read their blogs. Flexner is the only one worth reading…

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