Hot off the press: How to scale a magazine brand, according to Time Out boss Julio Bruno

 
William Turvill
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Time Out CEO Julio Bruno talks about strategies to boost growth (Source: Getty)

Ordinarily, you might expect a company to make a shortlist of candidates when seeking a new boss. In the case of Time Out and Julio Bruno, things were a little bit different: Bruno put Time Out on his shortlist.

Bruno, who formerly held senior positions at Trip Advisor and Diageo, persuaded a friend (“without telling them why”) to introduce him to Time Out’s private equity backer, Oakley Capital.

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Nearly two years on, Bruno landed the job and has since led the company to the London Stock Exchange, with an initial public offering uncomfortably close to last year’s EU referendum.

One of Bruno’s challenges was persuading investors that Time Out Group is much more than just a weekly magazine.

Foot in the door

Time Out’s office is everything you would expect: decorated with magazine covers, filled with shiny Apple computers, and located in the heart of Soho, on Shaftesbury Avenue.

Sharply dressed and showing off his various gadgets, Bruno fits in to the office well as he tells the tale of how he craftily got the top job.

“When I met Oakley for the first time, we were talking generally for an hour. And at the end of the conversation, I said: ‘Do you think there’s any company that you own that you think I could be a match for?’

“So I planted the question. And the answer was: ‘Well, we have this company called Time Out.’ And I went: ‘Oh really? Time Out? Oh, you’ve had it for some years? Oh, the CEO, hasn’t he left? So what are you doing now?’”

This prompted Bruno to share some of his ideas for the company, and led to further meetings, including with Oakley’s boss, Peter Dubens. “Of course, at that time, I disclosed to him: ‘You know, you didn’t find me, I found you.’”

Not just a magazine float

Tony Elliott founded Time Out magazine in London in 1968 using £70, which was part of a 21st birthday present from his aunt. The title now has 30 editions across the world, in cities such as Melbourne and Beijing. Understandably, therefore, when one hears “Time Out”, they think “magazine”.

However, like most print media brands, Time Out also now has a website, claiming a monthly global readership of 40m people. The brand has diversified, and also has guide books, runs events and even has a street market in Lisbon.

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Taking Time Out to the London Stock Exchange seemed to Bruno a good way of explaining to people what the brand now stands for. “We saw the opportunity to go to the public market, because we had at that time… developed a five-year plan that the board thought was good, or exciting enough, to take to the public market,” he says.

“Because we have something that is growing, we have something that is going to grow much more, we have to explain to the world what Time Out is.”

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Bruno must have done a reasonably good job at selling Time Out, which is not yet profitable, to investors: star fund manager Neil Woodford was among those to buy shares in the company.

Time Out has not had the easiest of years on the stock market. After pricing at 150p, its shares dropped to 125p after the Brexit vote and now stand at 133p.

Bruno remains an optimist. Revenues are growing, losses are shrinking, and he is even hopeful for the future of the magazine. “I still believe in print,” he says. “People still love having something in their hands, touching something, feeling something.”

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