Firecrown has a portfolio that includes some of the most storied legacy brands in media history – including several that date back a century – but it is not a legacy media company.
Founded in 2024, Firecrown is moving past the industry’s traditional paradigms to reinvent what’s possible. The name Firecrown was chosen because of the symbolism of the Firecrown hummingbird, one of the most intelligent species of birds. Firecrowns are fierce fighters and defenders of territory, as well as swift, beautiful, and agile.
Like the company’s namesake, we are nimble, fierce, move at impossible speeds, and come armed with an insatiable appetite.
It is these qualities that drive our purpose: to build engaged audiences in marine, aviation and supply chain, and create multi-dimensional enthusiast ecosystems that feed their purpose.
Although the rebranding to Firecrown is taking place in 2024, its story really began in July 2021, when FreightWaves founder and CEO Craig Fuller acquired FLYING Magazine from Bonnier Corporation. Fuller has been a pilot and FLYING reader since he was 13 years old; and his purchase of FLYING began as a passion project. But he soon realized that there was an opportunity to build a large-scale media business, which was the genesis of FLYING Media Group (FMG).
Fuller invested heavily in the content and format of FLYING, reviving the brand and making it one of the hottest enthusiast magazines in the world.
He had learned the power of a content-supported commerce and media brand at FreightWaves, which he founded in late 2016. He realized that a media business that had a large audience could be monetized through non-media opportunities.
The media business generated revenue through advertising and was profitable, but also created awareness of and prospects for SONAR, the company’s software-as-a-service offering. The media business drove top-of-funnel prospects to SONAR by providing some of its key data and analysis to FreightWaves readers. While the media side of FreightWaves helped publicize and legitimize SONAR, its data/analysis provided copy for the media site. This also caused a percentage of the audience that consumed FreightWaves content to sample and then buy SONAR.
Fuller coined a term for this phenomenon — negative CAC, or customer acquisition cost. As defined by the Corporate Finance Institute, CAC “refers to the resources and costs incurred to acquire an additional customer.” Negative CAC refers to the revenue generated by adding new customers through media-generated content.
Although he had not tried negative CAC in another industry, Fuller believed it could work just as well.
In January 2022, Fuller decided to launch a real estate development for pilots, using FLYING’s editorial content and distribution to sell the development to the magazine/website audience. Fuller acquired 1,500 acres in the Sequatchie Valley of eastern Tennessee and designed a luxury fly-in community.
Many in the FLYING audience loved the concept and millions of dollars of pre-bookings were closed within the first few months. This was proof that the content-supported commerce model could work in many business categories.
Utilizing this knowledge, Fuller decided to “roll-up” the aviation media industry, and acquire or develop commerce products to offer the aviation audience. Over the next 24 months, FMG acquired nearly 30 aviation media and commerce brands, ranging from print magazines, digital-only websites, continuing education journals, e-commerce, aircraft marketplaces, job boards, an aircraft finance business, and an airport designated for real-estate development.
The acquired businesses could be grown quickly by tapping into the existing audiences and cross-selling across the FMG platform.
In late 2023, ongoing correspondence between Fuller and the CEO of Bonnier (the magazine publisher that earlier had sold Fuller FLYING), turned to Bonnier’s other lifestyle brands and their potential under the FMG umbrella. A transaction was proposed for Fuller to purchase Bonnier’s recreational marine portfolio, which consisted of industry- leading magazines and media properties focused on boating, fishing, sailing, and yachting.
Fuller agreed, and Bonnier’s marine portfolio became part of the overall FMG business. While the FLYING brand was the perfect name for a company that was solely focused on aviation, the name also limited FMG in regard to non-aviation opportunities. So the company was rebranded as Firecrown.
Today, Firecrown is the largest media platform in aviation and recreational marine. The goal is to replicate the content-to-commerce model in recreational marine that has worked so well in aviation.