It was sudden, but not surprising, when this release appeared last week, letting it be known that Torstar was joining forces with Golf Town to acquire ScoreGolf Magazine, its website, TV and other assets.
It was no secret in the golf industry that ScoreGolf had been on the market for years, but buyers willing to pay top dollar for it were scarce. The release makes no mention of a dollar figure in this acquisition, but that isn’t unusual.
However, the release is long on how wonderful the deal is, but comes up short in explaining how it will work, which may mean that it’s a work in progress, or they just don’t want to go into details.
Either way, there is high interest in ScoreGolf, with its roots stretching back to 1980. Even as more and more national and regional publications, and eventually websites, launched over the years, ScoreGolf remained a leading national brand in golf.
A year ago, the PGA of Canada awarded ScoreGolf with the George Cumming Distinguished Service Award at Canada Night during the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando.
In September, the Golf Journalists Association of Canada presented ScoreGolf publisher Kim Locke with the 2020 Dick Grimm Award for significant lifetime contribution to Canadian golf.
Over the years, ScoreGolf past editors such as Lorne Rubenstein, who still writes a regular ScoreGolf column, Bob Weeks and John Gordon have been named to halls of fame and received awards for their lifetime achievements. Jason Logan, the current editor, admirably, carries on that tradition.
So, there’s really no need in the press release to convince people about what ScoreGolf has meant to Canadian golf for the past 40 plus years under Locke’s guidance.
The release says he’ll continue to work with the magazine and website, but it doesn’t say whether he’ll continue running ScoreGolf’s previous parent company, Canadian Controlled Media Communications, or how long he’ll stay involved with ScoreGolf.
Locke is in his late 60s, which is why I’ve been predicting change coming in Canadian golf media for the past few years. Locke isn’t the only one and, as proprietor of GNN, I include myself in that group now at traditional retirement age.
In my case, I have no immediate plans to retire and maybe Locke feels the same way and the new group is fine with that, or he could just stay on for the transition.
Either way, this is a major change in golf media, as predicted, with ScoreGolf now a product of the odd combination of a retailer and a major media chain, but the major stakeholder has yet to be identified publicly.
Torstar, which was sold just last year to NordStar Capital LP for $60 million, has been struggling with declining advertising revenue, particularly in print. The coronavirus pandemic of the past year has made the situation even worse, but in a volatile media industry, none of that is exclusive to Torstar.
Then again, few other media outlets are investing time or finances into a golf property that has also felt the pinch of declining revenue before and after the pandemic.
Torstar’s vast resources put a lot on the table as the media side of the new partnership and it says it plans to ramp up its editorial product across its daily and community newspapers, as well as its digital assets. Certainly, ScoreGolf can contribute to that goal, at least with special golf projects.
It’s quite common after deals such as this to carry on endlessly about quality editorial content for it’s the feelgood side of any media deal.
According to the release, the new partnership is aimed at supporting participation that grew dramatically in 2020 with golf deemed a safe sport.
This new partnership wants to increase player participation even more because it also wants to tap into it financially. All the warm, fuzzy chatter about content is often used to overshadow the fact that this is a business venture.
In an age of declining ad revenues, Torstar doesn’t want anything else dragging it down and Golf Town is first a retailer, before being a magazine publisher, understandably with its own business objectives.
What that means to ScoreGolf and the golf industry remains to be seen going forward.
Conceivably, Golf Town could tailor at least some of its content to its own business needs issue to issue, as well as taking an increased profile on ScoreGolf advertising pages and in Torstar products as a result of this deal. If that’s the case, how will green grass shops react to an off course retailer promoting its product at clubs that circulate the magazine?
It’s also conceivable that suppliers to Golf Town feel the pressure to advertise in ScoreGolf as part of the retail deal. There may be a commitment to editorial, but will business interests take priority?
How ScoreGolf evolves will be answered by actions, not words going forward.