Yesterday we announced that VerticalScope sold its automotive publishing division to Primedia. The acquisition of the Modified Automotive Group is a significant milestone for both VerticalScope and Rob Laidlaw, my operating partner and President of VerticalScope. Rob is a highly skilled media entrepreneur - in just four years he grew Modified from an idea into the fastest growing family of automotive publications in the highly competitive automotive market. Each Modified title redefined it's respective niche, bringing a new level of design, editorial, and marketing excellence to the market. My congratulations go out to Rob and everyone at VerticalScope who contributed to building Modified and its sister titles into the leading publications for automotive tuner enthusiasts.
Concurrently, Primedia announced it's intentions to sell its Enthusiast Media group, which had revenues of more than $500 million in 2006. The group's properties now include the Modified Mag titles in addition to Motor Trend, Hot Rod, Automobile and Automotive.com among more than 70 publications and 90 web sites.
VerticalScope: A Brief History
I first met Rob in 1997 when he ran TopHosts.com from his home in Regina, Saskatchewan. My web hosting business advertised on his website, a directory for web hosting providers that he had started at age 15! Rob's site was the second largest hosting directory at the time and one of the first niche directory model advertising sites on the Internet.
When the then-largest hosting directory sold for $30 million to CNET in 1999, I floated the idea by Rob of forming a partnership to grow his business. Rob had built a respected brand and significant traffic base - an excellent foundation that I felt we could leverage into a much larger business with the operational, technical and sales resources I could contribute.
At age 18, Rob dropped out of university (a wise decision!) and relocated to Toronto to work full-time on growing the business. That was the beginning of a great partnership that endures to this day. Under Rob's leadership TopHosts became the largest web hosting directory and a flagship media property of VerticalScope, the company we formed to operate TopHosts. Since then we have developed and/or acquired over 100 online media properties in the powersports, automotive, and technology vertical markets. Amongst others, our properties include the largest network of automotive communities online, AutoGuide.com, targeted content properties like Motorcycle.com, and a variety of niche directory websites.
What's a Web Company Doing Launching Magazines?
At a time when most magazine publishers were struggling extend their brands online, we decided to go in the opposite direction, and launch print titles in parts of the automotive segment that Rob identified as being underserved. It was an unorthodox decision, but most good decisions are!
Modified was born out of Rob's realization that existing automotive publications serving the sport compact market failed to capture the excitement an exploding industry - movies like Fast & The Furious, video games like Need For Speed, and the emergence of new motorsports like Drifting were driving enormous growth in the sport compact world as legions of new enthusiasts began modifying their rides. Rob felt VerticalScope could quickly develop a superior print product and ride the wave of growth in this market. As both Rob and I are automotive and motorsports enthusiasts, he did not have to do too much convincing that this was a good idea.
Through exclusive access to influential industry personalities, event partnerships, and leveraging our significant network of web properties, Rob built a very successful stable of magazine titles that reach millions of enthusiasts each month.
Returning to Our Roots
Rob and I were not looking to sell the Modified Automotive Group, but when the right opportunity presented itself we decided to proceed. With the sale of Modified, VerticalScope returns to its origins as a pure-play Internet media company. We have a number of ambitious growth plans underway and I expect that VerticalScope's future will be very promising.Back to Archived Essays