It’s been two and a half years since the death of David Hall, founder of publishing company David Hall Publishing. Tackle & Guns finds out how things have changed at the publishing house since he passed away.
It’s been a turbulent few years for David Hall Publishing (DHP Ltd.). Not only has it had to deal with the massive challenges that all publishers have faced, but also the loss of its high profile boss left the company with an uncertain future. “David never thought he was going to die,” said Sean O’Driscoll managing director of the company. It’s a strange statement considering David was told his cancer was terminal in September 2013. “Roger banned anyone in the company using social media during working hours and threated to sack any member of staff if they mentioned the word ‘Apps’.” Times were difficult and despite a certain amount of re-structuring including making a number of redundancies the company struggled to make the figures add up. Cherry was left with a company that was in decline and it was proving difficult to turn things around. “It was about this time last year that Roger and I sat down with Cherry and decided that the best course of action would be to seek new investment for the business. The alternative was not worth thinking about,” Sean admits. Discussions were had with a number of publishers and a deal was struck in March of this year. “We whittled it down to two interested parties – both in the publishing world and after meeting with Cherry, David Hall Publishing was sold to well-established publishing and e-commerce group, MyTime Media. “MyTime Media ticked all the boxes and although this is its first venture into angling it already operates across a dozen popular specialist hobbies and pastimes markets with audiences as dedicated as those found in angling,” says Sean. Its magazine portfolio covers radio controlled flying, model boats, stamp collecting, woodworking, quilting, sewing, horse riding, military modelling and craft stamping. AvTech Media, another group brand, owns Hi-Fi magazines and shows. Peter Harkness Chairman of MyTime Media who founded the company with CEO Owen Davies said: “Owen and I have grown this company steadily for 11 years by focusing on hobbies which create a real buzz and loyalty among their followers. Angling has been an obvious gap in our line-up and we have been looking at possible acquisitions for a while. We’re delighted to have concluded this deal with DHP. “Sean and Owen have plans to develop both the publishing and the events divisions of DHP and I am sure that David Hall’s legacy will flourish in our group.” DHP retains its own identity and has moved to a new HQ premises in Daventry – the town where it has traded for the past 12 years. The re-structuring undertaken included selling off the Tackle & Guns magazine and show plus closing Advanced Carp. It still leaves DHP publishing with a significant 2 Sean O’Driscoll managing director of DHP Mortimer and I use to visit him every Friday for well over a year for our management meetings while he lay in bed at home. He was the same old feisty character that the trade had grown to know over 30 years. We would regularly get a tongue lashing for not doing this or that and we would often come out of the ‘meeting’ agreeing that he would return to work on Monday. “Of course he never did, but as someone that had a history of fighting against the odds, it was always in the back of our minds.” On his death in March 2015 the company was left to his wife Cherry, who started the business with David and worked in it full-time up until about 10 years ago. Trading remained tough as a decline in traditional incomes streams and the increasing influence of the Internet impacted heavily on its profitability. “I think its fair to say that we struggled to see the positives of the Internet, but we certainly were not alone,” comments Sean. “We were very slow off the mark because we couldn’t see how we could monetise anything to do with digital.” It was also no secret that David found the whole social media arena and the on-line offerings difficult to understand. “David was very much a visionary when it came to print, but he did struggle with the ‘new publishing world’. So much so,” said Sean, “That he actually port-folio of brands including Total Carp, Match Fishing, Total Sea Fishing, Total Fly Fisher and Pole Fishing consumer titles as well as Tackle Trade World and Gun Trade World, two very influential trade publications. It also runs the popular Carp In The Park event and the 30 year-old Evesham Angling Festival. “The new investment is most welcome and we are already seeing the benefits through increased paginations across our titles and our first sustained magazine promotions for a number of years. This will see all of our titles either cover mounted or offer extra value over a six month period,” enthuses Sean. “I would hope the trade has also witnessed the strides we are making with our social media offering, particularly with Facebook. Those companies with more than one brand to look after understand the challenges that they are faced with. Ensuring each brand receives sufficient attention to attract strong engagement is critical and by no means an easy task. I feel confident to say that DHP now has the largest Facebook offering in the UK angling market.” DHP also has other Facebook pages including: Think Fishing, Carp In The Park, Tackle Hound, Stuff That Anglers Want, LURE (figures not included in above. “The Internet has forced many businesses to change direction and we are no exception. While we were slower than some to embrace the opportunities, our new investors see it as vital to our future. “As I look around the angling industry I think it is fair to say there are many examples of brands that we have helped grow since DHP was formed and that is something that we are all very proud of. By the same token we take pride in seeing many of our exemployees enjoying career success within the trade. “Now that things are starting to settle down it is vital that we work as hard as we can with the trade and help them get true benefit from our brands,” finishes Sean.