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Friday, May 27, 2005

A Nascent News Business Model? 

The Wall Street Journal to Provide Editorial Content to The Washington Post

The Washington Post will run select business articles from The Wall Street Journal, starting June 1.

Ironically, today I was explaining to someone why, while I subscribe to The Washington Post print edition, I rarely read it. One of my reasons was the lousy business coverage. (Plus the abysmally boring writing that can be found throughout the paper.)

Perhaps we'll see the 'national papers' focusing their editorial teams on key 'specialty' content (business, sports, arts, etc.), and syndicating that content widely, while buying in content where they're weak. Each paper would have 'complete' coverage, but only generate a portion of that content themselves.

As a lifelong b2b media person, I know the power of focusing editorial resources on a single market space. General consumer newspapers haven't had the luxury of that kind of focus--they have to cover everything. That costs a lot, and doesn't allow much depth.

I've been doing a lot of thinking about the paid vs free content. Fact-based news stories are commodities--no one's going to pay for these, because you can get fact-based stuff just about anywhere. But insight, knowledge, depth of analysis, understanding, wisdom--those kinds of things will always be worth money.

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JPMorgan Partners Acquires Hanley Wood 

JPMorgan Partners to Acquire Hanley Wood from Veronis Suhler Stevenson in Second Largest B-to-B Media Deal

JPMorgan Partners, along with Wasserstein & Co, and current and former Hanley Wood management, have acquired Hanley Wood from Veronis Suhler Stevenson. According to a report from BtoB Online, the purchase price is $650 million, making it the second largest B2B media transaction in the US, and giving the deal, by my calculations, a 13x multiple against current EBITDA.

Key grab from the press release:

"Our goal is to continue the dramatic growth that Hanley Wood has achieved during our partnership with Veronis Suhler Stevenson," [new CEO Frank] Anton said. "We have a five-year plan in place, called HWX (Hanley Wood Accelerates), to double our existing businesses, and we expect to remain an active acquirer of construction industry magazines, trade shows and data businesses."

I have no doubt that Hanley Wood, with its smart leaders, including my friend Peter Goldstone, and its fine employees, can double the business.

UPDATE: Folio's analysis.

Grab:

The hefty price for Hanley Wood could keep prices up for future deals, including the pending sale of Primedia Business. “This may bode well for Primedia,” says Gross. “The sale of Canon was viewed as indicative of a peak to high valuation deals. As it turns out it’s not.”

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Thursday, May 26, 2005

Golf and the Lessons of Technology 

The New York Times > Sports > Golf > Golf Club Prices Are Up; Scores Are Not Down

I don't golf anymore. Playing the game hurt my back and my ego simultaneously. But the article linked above from the NY Times got me thinking. All that ball and club technology, all that money spent, and average golf scores haven't declined.

The lesson for me: technology is great, but the fundamentals remain the fundamentals. That's something we in b2b media need to keep in mind. Blogging, podcasts, e-magazines and other communications vehicles may become wonderful ways to connect with our audiences in new ways. But if we don't get the basics right--creating valuable and must-read content that helps our audiences do their jobs better, make more money and grow in their careers--we're going to fail, regardless of medium.

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Required Reading 

Future of magazines: Net could empower readers

Terrific roundtable discussion on magazines, technology and the future from Online Journalism Review's Mark Glaser (via IWantMedia), featuring David Abrahamson, Jeff Jarvis, Samir Husni, Nina Link, Jay Rosen and Joan Walsh.

Click the link above and add this to your required reading (and thinking) list.

Sample grab from Jeff Jarvis:

However, magazines have one great strength: They've not been commoditized. There are many newspapers and news shows reporting the same things. Magazines have a voice and in this era voice is values; magazines can create content with unique value and if they can continue to find readers across media they will survive.

There's a lot I agree with in this discussion, and some I disagree with, but am thinking more about.

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Blogs as Technology? 

USATODAY.com - Once blogs 'change everything,' fascination with them will chill:

Really nonsensical piece from USA Today (Via IWantMedia). Basic premise: blogging is hot now, but soon will be replaced by another technology. For some reason, I don't think of blogging as a technology. Blogging is another way to publish to, reach and coverse with an audience (even if that audience may only be me).

Sample grab:

"But in the past, each technology has also gone through a cycle of superhype, followed by a hype-o-glycemic crash. After that, the technology reaches equilibrium and steadily evolves into a crucial piece of the global fabric.

'For the moment, blogs are on the ascent to the detriment of other media activities,' says Larry Downes, professor of information economics at the University of California-Berkeley. 'But newer and more interesting communications technologies will unthrone blogs soon enough.'

The novelty of blogs will wear off, Downes says, just as it did with Web sites a handful of years ago. 'How much time do you spend anymore just surfing the Web, you know, for fun?' he asks."


Er...technology doesn't communicate with people. People communicate with people, sometimes using technology.

Update: Rex Hammock's view.

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Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Another Pull-Ad Policy 

BP INSTITUTES 'AD-PULL' POLICY FOR PRINT PUBLICATIONS

AdAge.com highlights BP's 'zero tolerance' pull-ad policy:

According to a copy of a memo on the letterhead of BP's media-buying agency, WPP Group's Mindshare, the global company has adopted a zero tolerance policy towards negative editorial coverage. The memo cites a new BP policy document entitled "2005 BP Corporate-RFP" that demands that ad-accepting publications inform BP in advance of any news text or visuals they plan to publish that directly mention the company, a competitor, or the oil-and-energy industry.

I'll be buying my gas elsewhere.

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The Joy of Magazines 

One of the joys of being in the magazine business is the tactile and relatively immediate feedback you get from your work. Every month (or week or quarter), you get to hold the results of your labor in your hands.

Yesterday, after some detective work in the cavernous halls of McCormick Place, I found the pallets bearing 4,000 copies of ERI--Extended Retail Industry Journal. (Why is it that almost every trade show hall manages to lose or misplace magazines?) Our little company helped Retail Systems Alert Group (RSAG) conceive and launch the magazine--a process that took a little over seven months.

GRID art director extraordinaire Lise Holliker Dykes, who's in town to produce the Show Daily we're also managing for RSAG, noted that she never gets quite the same buzz from her web work as she does from holding a piece of print media she worked on. How will we old ink-on-paper folks get our joy in the future, when we've fully migrated to e-publishing?

I'll worry about that one later. For now, volume one, number one of ERI looks great and feels great. I look forward to hearing feedback from our readers and advertisers here at the show.

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Monday, May 23, 2005

Birth Announcement 

ERI--Extended Retail Industry

ERI: Extended Retail Industry Journal has been born. The link above will take you to the website, where articles from the issue are posted. The print edition hits our hot little hands today, just before the Retail Systems 2005 conference and trade show in Chicago.

Like any new father, I'll be a bit busy for the next few days, working the trade show and showing off the baby to prospective advertisers, so I may be blogging lightly.

If any of you out there would like to see a copy of the print publication, email me with your address and I'll pop one in the mail to you. I'd love your feedback, comments and critiques.

As with any birth, this one has not been without a certain level of pain. But we think we have the right position, editorial approach and stick-to-it-iveness to make this magazine a valuable contribution to its readers and advertisers.

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Penton: Secularity 

You learn something new every day. Because of my client, Religion News Service, I've tended to define secular in a certain way, as in: RNS is the only secular news service which covers religion and ethics exclusively. But after combing through Penton's recent SEC filings, I found a different meaning for the word. As in:

Referring to long-term changes that take place slowly and imperceptibly. Commonly used to describe changes in elevation, tilt, and stress or strain rates that are related to long-term tectonic deformation. For example, a mountain that is growing is getting taller so slowly that we cannot see it happen, but if we were to measure the elevation one year and then the next, we could see that it has grown taller. (From the US Geological Survey.)

Here's Penton's use of the word with this type of meaning (from the company's Penton's 10Q-A, for the First Quarter 2004--refiled recently.) I quote it at length, because I think it's a great definition of what we in b2b media face.

The continuing decline in print advertising pages across a broad range of business-to-business markets appears to be tied to the combination of the historical lag of advertising recovery and the secular changes that are occurring in our industry. While it is historically consistent for advertising recovery to lag the recovery of underlying end-markets, we are likely experiencing a structural change in how our customers are allocating their marketing budgets even as their business conditions improve.

While the secular changes vary by market and are not consistently applied across all sectors, we are witnessing increasing adoption of electronic marketing programs that include search engine advertising, as well as custom marketing programs including events and print products. The changing marketing strategies of our customers continue to impact print advertising budgets in several sectors.

The adoption of non-traditional media channels seems to be driven by a combination of sales lead generation goals and marketing accountability in several markets. Brand building and new product introductions, long the strength of print advertising programs, are not the primary marketing strategies for many of our customers at this point in the economic cycle.

In sectors where brands continue to be the primary focus of marketing plans, such as foodservice and retail, print advertising continues to be the foundation of marketing programs. As customers in other sectors return to brand building and introduction of new products, it is likely that print advertising will recover. However, it is also likely that print advertising recovery will lag the overall growth in our customers’ total marketing budgets.


Some further notes, from Penton's three months ended March 31, 2005:

The Company had approximately 812 record holders of its common stock on March 31, 2005. [Disclosure: I'm one of the elect, looking for salvation or a nice cup of joe on the valuation of my holdings]

But...

If the Company had been sold on March 31, 2005, the bondholders would have been entitled to receive $330.3 million and the preferred stockholders would have been entitled to receive $154.2 million before the common stockholders would have received any amounts for their common shares. The amount the preferred stockholders would be entitled to receive could increase significantly in the future under certain circumstances. Common stockholders are urged to read the terms of the preferred stock carefully.

Given a Consolidated Adjusted 2004 EBITDA $33 million and a generous 10x multiple, my shares are worth...oops! Guess I'll have to wait for that cup of coffee.

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Sunday, May 22, 2005

Two Publishers Walk Into a Bar... 

Seriously, the Joke Is Dead - New York Times

A rabbi, a priest and a publisher walk into a bar.
The bartender eyes them suspiciously, and demands: "What is this, some kind of joke?"

Perhaps proving the point of the NY Times article [reg. req.], linked above.

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