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Friday, March 03, 2006

The Tabbie Awards, Quark and InDesign 

TABPI's annual editorial and design awards' postmark deadline is March 7 (next Tuesday). You should encourage your editors and art directors to enter--it's the only global awards program I know of available to b2b magazines published in English.

I was pleased to see that TABPI has Quark among their gold sponsors for the awards competition. I've had a long term hate-hate relationship with Quark, but have tolerated the software because my Mac-addicted art directors swore by the program. That is, until the last year or so, when I've seen a huge move to Adobe's InDesign.

In my view, Quark got fat, dumb and happy. And the folks at Adobe smartly realized that they could package their must-use programs (Photoshop, Illustrator, Acrobat) with a DTP program (and hey, throw in a web design package to boot), and take the market from Quark with their Creative Suite. And because Adobe pioneered interoperability between all computer platforms with the pdf format, it's great to see that the Creative Suite runs as well on my PC as it does on a Mac--in fact, it probably runs better on my PC, with its dual core Pentium chip and twin graphics cards--but even Macs now feature dual core Intel chips (though Adobe's software won't run as fast on those until the code is re-written).

We're in the midst of upgrading one of our clients to the Creative Suite 2. Our printers like it--they prefer a high-res pdf from which to burn plates, and the Creative Suite accommodates smoothly. We're experimenting now with the GoLive web package, and the InDesign publish-to-web functions. It's a really cool package. (And we just completed a successful test of interoperability--proofing and final-editing a magazine designed on a Mac using Adobe's InCopy on a PC.)

But I am glad to see Quark sponsoring something important in the b2b field. Perhaps they've realized they've made a mistake in taking their customers for granted? Perhaps they'll upgrade and update the program? Perhaps they'll try to win back their dominating marketshare?

Whatever. Competition is good. And even Adobe needs some competition to remain on top of their game.

Note: As I was pulling the links for this post, I found that I couldn't access Quark's website--seems to be down. Typical.

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Thursday, March 02, 2006

Canon Doesn't Lose a Beat 

Canon Communications acquires Octo Media

Soon after the exit of long time CEO Bill Cobert, Canon Communications acquires UK-based Octo Media, a magazine and trade show producer in the medical devices arena.

Octo was formed in 2004 as part of a management buyout from Advanstar Communications.

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VNU Update Update 

The New York Post reports that Permira Advisors has dropped out of the group of private equity firms planning to make a bid for all of VNU.

Key grabs: Permira withdrew from the buying group over concerns that the final price of the deal would be too high, sources said.

and

VNU's board is facing hostile shareholders who argue the company is worth more sold off in pieces.

Via IWantMedia.

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Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Turf Activity 

Here's a P/E flip I haven't seen reported elsewhere. Moose River Publishing, which produces a number of b2b magazines in the turf, landscaping and agricultural markets, was sold to a P/E firm in December. It had previously been an investment of Bariston Partners out of Boston. I haven't been able to identify the buyer. And it's too early to make calls. So if you know who it is, drop me an email.

(Bariston also has investments in Commonwealth Business Media and HCPro.)

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UBM on a Roll 

UBM's 2005 Financials

United Business Media, the parent of CMP and PR Newswire, posted strong 2005 earnings, with revenues up 21.3% and operating profit up 27.3%.

The company invested 105 million pounds in acquisitions in 2005, and intends to accelerate its acquisition activity to between 150-250 million pounds annually, according to Chief Executive David Levin:

We will grow these businesses organically and by making 'bolt-on' acquisitions, with a focus on B2B markets, on faster growing economies, on vertical markets where we already have a strong position, and in markets where we can leverage a leading position with an audiences in one medium into another, for example from print into exhibitions or online.

Print continues to deliver flat or declining revenues for UBM, but:

The need to do business face-to-face at exhibition and trade show events remains as strong as ever. Paradoxically in our increasingly digital world, the face-to-face meeting is becoming a more and more important part of doing business. Our events business showed healthy growth in 2005 with total revenues rising by 21% to 161.5m pounds (and an underlying growth rate of around 10%). The business will continue to be a major focus for organic development and acquisitions in the future.

PR Newswire delivers a 28% margin, the strongest margin of any of the company's divisions. By comparison, print-heavy CMP Media delivers just 11%.

It's worth reading the financials, linked at the top of this page, for a look at a company which is apparently successfully balancing its portfolio through sale and purchase, retiring its debt and shifting its product mix to respond to changing market conditions.

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Monday, February 27, 2006

VNU Update 

Consortium reportedly readies formal bid for VNU

Personally, I think VNU's shareholders will reject an all-encompassing bid, and achieve their goal of a breakup. They've been pretty successful in getting their way so far.

And a breakup would be very interesting, as far as b2b magazines and trade shows go.

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Digital Car Wash 

March digital carwash magazine available now

As readers of this blog know, I enjoy pointing to digital editions of b2b magazines. I especially like the one linked above, for two reasons:

1) I recently bought a new car, and against all sane advice, ordered it in black. Black probably works in California, where it never rains or snows, but in Maryland, the nice shiny black color lasts a few days, and then it's time for another wash. So I'm heavily spending at the local brushless car wash. (My old silver car was washed about once every three months, since it never seemed to show any grime).

2)I love the fact that this monthly magazine devoted to professional car washing is 152 pages, and is chock full of interesting content, and lots of ads. There must be a lot of black cars out there.

It's a big file, but have a look at the magazine here.

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Geopolitics and Trade Shows 

Politics seen clipping wings of Hong Kong air show

It's hard enough to succeed in the trade show business. But Reed Exhibitions has taken this to a new level with their plans for a new Hong Kong-based air show (to replace the Singapore Air Show, which Reed produced for years, and which will continue to run biennially).

In the airshow world, there are three major events, held in Paris, Farnborough (UK) and Singapore. In a past life, as an exec charged with a variety of aviation-related trades, I managed to regularly attend Paris and Farnborough. My business partner Scott Chase made all three events as a matter of course.

Reed's split with Singapore adds a new dimension to the air show world. First, it's crowded. Aside from the big three, there are many other events out there focused on aviation. But second, and more importantly, a China-based location raises serious issues for exhibitors.

Most of the big air shows are a mix of commercial and defense-related aviation products and services. As the Reuters article linked above points out:

"This is China we're talking about, of course. So you're not going to see an F-15 flying around," he said, referring to the U.S.-built fighter jet.

Industry officials said the Hong Kong event could succeed by focusing on Asia's growing appetite for airliners and other civilian aircraft, which organisers Reed said they planned to do.


Even so, that sounds like half an airshow.

There's another issue, as the article points out:

China "already hosts an air show and industry officials said that event, called 'Airshow China,' has the official government endorsement that Hong Kong would need to succeed. Beijing also holds an aerospace convention."

Sounds to me as though Reed has its work cut out: crowded markets are one thing, but geopolitics and national security issues are something that I've (thankfully) never had to deal with.

Update: Of course, national security issues related to port management and such are already heavily on the mind of companies who do business with the US now.

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