CultureMap, which launched as a digital publication in Houston in 2009, is once again a Houston-owned media company with the news that locally based Gow Media has purchased the platform.
Originally conceived and created by entrepreneur Nic Phillips and hospitality veteran Lonnie Schiller to cover Houston's society, arts and dining scenes, CultureMap saw Phillips depart in 2011. Longtime Houston Chronicle society columnist Shelby Hodge and fashion writer Clifford Pugh were initially installed as editor-at-large and editor-in-chief of the pub, which originally counted heavy-hitter Becca Cason Thrash among its backers. Hodge later departed for PaperCity in October 2016. (Curiously, her photo and byline remain on CultureMap's masthead.)
With Hodge's departure, the question arose as to whether or not CultureMap would continue to place emphasis on society coverage. But with the entry of Gow Media, which inked the deal to purchase the publication on February 9, it appears that CultureMap may shift its focus to more sports coverage. Gow Media owns two local sports radio stations, ESPN 97.5 and SB Nation Radio 1560, in addition to the SB Nation Radio, which it runs in partnership with SBNation.com.
"We plan to share content, cross-promote, create bigger events, and provide larger scale packages for advertisers. The opportunities are exciting," wrote David Gow, CEO of Gow Media, in a press release.
This is the second time CultureMap has been purchased in the last two years. Alexander Muse, CEO of Dallas-based ViewMarket, purchased CultureMap in April 2015, promising "to boost [CultureMap's] video-related content up to about 90 percent." This seemingly did not happen. Instead, nine months ago, Muse founded venture capital firm Sumo Ventures in Dallas with his father, shifting his focus away from CultureMap. Former ViewMarket co-founder and CEO Robert Bennett remains with CultureMap, however, as its current CEO.
ViewMarket purchased CultureMap for a reported $15 million in 2015. No word yet on how much Gow Media paid for the publication.