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Wednesday, May 24, 2006

VNU 78.7% Sold 

Valcon says purchase of VNU is done deal

Here's a reason why I'm not rich, I tell you, rich! I predicted that VNU would be broken up and sold in pieces, but I was wrong, at least for now.

Valcon, the consortium of private equity firms bidding on VNU, overcame most shareholder opposition, and is reporting that 78.7% of VNU's shares have been tendered at $37.56. That bid values the company at $11 billion, up from the estimated $9.5 billion valuation first offered in March.

(To make the deal happen, Valcon also lowered its demand that 95% of shares be tendered to 80% and then accepted the 78.7% of shares that came in, but hey, they're declaring victory, and 78.7% smells like a strong majority to me.)

Here's Forbes' report on the deal.

I stand by this previous post, which predicts an eventual breakup of the company, and praises the presence of Bob Krakoff in the consortium.

Interesting side note: while I was cruising Google for more information on the VNU deal, I found an Adword ad from the Financial Times' FT.com:

Vnu
Knight Vinke relents
on sale of VNU shares
FinancialTimes.com


The link took me directly to a relevant story. I hadn't really noticed that kind of editorial promotion in Adwords before, and liked it very much.

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Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Salespeople and Multi-Platform Media Sales 

Paul Conley asked some questions in the comments section of my recent post on media buyer Donna Campanella's keynote address at the min Sales Executive of the Year awards breakfast.

He notes:

As you know, I've already lost patience with editors that haven't embraced new media. But I haven't given much thought to sales people who can't function in the new world.

Should publishers dump them? Train them? Is there a place that offers good training in new media for sales staff? [S]ome kind of new-media sales bootcamp?


Paul, I think there's a problem that needs to be addressed before we look at sales training.

We need to start at the structural level. It's key that b2b media management begins to understand what customers are looking for. Buyers like Donna want multi-platform proposals. They don't want four different proposals from the same media company--one involving advertising, one pitching trade shows, another hawking banner ads and a final proposal offering customized media and sponsorship opportunities.

But most b2b media companies split their sales functions up by media (advertising, trade shows, online), under the (probably true) theory that salespeople do better when focused on hitting a single media budget than when trying to sell multiple products at the same time. Some of this is driven by the buyers themselves--we often sell print to a different person than we sell a trade show booth. But this is also an indication that we may be doing our active selling at too low a level--there's usually always a marketing executive at the client who has all media under his or her control. And that's the executive who should see multi-media proposals.

There's a structural way to address this, and some companies in my experience do a good job of it--they assign a team leader (usually a publisher) to handle accounts who want and need multi-platform buys. That person coordinates the activities of individual sales people from different media, and develops and shepherds a master proposal. Behind the scenes commission splits among the relevant salespeople are common.

But many b2b media companies still don't do this, and it's not rare to find companies where the trade show and advertising folks would much rather do business with anyone other than each other, because the internal competition for client dollars is so fierce. And that's going to be a growing problem in our multi-platform present.

If we as b2b media companies structure ourselves so that clients have to make a yes-no-maybe choice among our various media platforms, we simply feed the notion that new media is somehow an alternative to print, rather than a natural and important part of a complete media buy. And, to put it another way, we feed the notion that print is dying because online is thriving.

The account team management approach is one solution (as are split/shared/enhanced commission agreements among salespeople).

But ultimately, we're going to have to give our individual salespeople the ability and skills to sell all of our media simultaneously to the same client.

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Monday, May 22, 2006

Birth Announcement 

Hanley Wood to launch new magazine titled ‘Architect’

Hanley Wood will be launching Architect, a 60,000-circulation magazine focused on real-world commercial and institutional architects, this October. The official launch announcement will take place next month at the American Institute of Architect's show in Los Angeles.

I note this launch for two reasons.

The first: it's another step in Hanley-Wood's long-term strategy to broaden the scope of its media properties beyond the residential home building marketplace, which it dominates.

(See also the company's recent acquisition of Alexander & Edwards).

This is very smart thinking, since it allows Hanley-Wood to offer a balanced portfolio of properties, while still retaining its core focus on building and construction. The company doesn't need to expand into noncore markets to protect itself from business cycles. If the residential home construction market moves down for a time, the multi-family, commercial and finance sides of the equation can keep earnings and marketshare up.

The second reason for noting this launch: Our company helped research and develop the launch plan of Architect for Hanley-Wood, and we're very proud to have assisted the best company in b2b media get even better. We're also assisting with the execution of the launch of Digital Home, which premiered in April with a quarterly magazine and a successful conference. So we're a bit biased.

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O Barbaro 

Since most of America pays attention to horse racing between early May and early June, you probably know about Barbaro, the Kentucky Derby winner who broke his cannon bone, and his ankle in two places during the Preakness Stakes here in Maryland this weekend.

Our family felt a special connection to Barbaro, since we had the chance to meet him on April 14, during our Spring Break vacation in Kentucky. We were at Keeneland, perhaps the most beautiful racecourse in the country, touring the barns with a racing journalist, when we came upon a beautiful horse being washed down after his morning workout. We were told this horse, Barbaro, was a potential favorite for the Kentucky Derby. Since we don't know race horses, we took this at face value.

What won our hearts--especially my horse-riding daughter's heart--was the way Barbaro posed for pictures. He seemed to enjoy being the center of attention, and had the self-confident look of a winner.

Here's a shot my wife took that day. She took a lot of photos, and in all of them, Barbaro is looking directly at the camera, regardless of the angle.



So flash forward to the Derby. My daughter and I opened an on-line betting account and put some money on Barbaro. We cheered his stellar victory at Churchill Downs--his sixth straight, and interestingly, the sixth time the jockey didn't need to use the whip, but simply had to urge him on in the stretch. This was a horse who loved to win.

Now having become experts in racehorse flesh, we decided to do something we'd never done, which was to go to Pimlico for the Preakness to root for "our" horse. Pimlico is the opposite of Keeneland--a run-down, drab place, but certainly a lively one, with 118,000 mostly drunken spectators waiting through a sunny day for the big race. (If you've ever had a Black-Eyed Susan, Pimlico's answer to the Mint Julep, you'll know why so many people were drunk).

You know the story from there. Here's a shot of Barbaro (#6) just before his jockey, Edgar Prado, pulled him up (probably saving his life, at least for the moment, by reacting so quickly).



My daughter is a tough 11-year old. She's been around horses since she was five, and she knows how delicate they are. She was solemn at Pimlico, but not distraught--her only concern was that Barbaro's handlers get him to the hospital quickly. Barbaro was taken to Penn's large animal center--probably the best in the country, and a place my daughter aspires to, if she pursues her dream to be a veterinarian.

We've been following the news accounts since the race, and now know that Barbaro survived his surgery, and that his injuries were so bad that most other horses would have been put down on the spot. He's not out of the woods yet, but he stands a chance, and that's good.

I'm sure there will be much gnashing of teeth over the cruelty of horse racing--that the horses are overbred (true), often ill-treated after their 'usefulness' is over (also true, and my daughter is passionate about supporting thoroughbred rescue agencies), that it's only a business (very true, especially if you've ever smelled the combination of horse manure and cash that seems to waft over the bluegrass region of Lexington, Kentucky).

But as my daughter knows, horses love to run, and riders love to run them, danger and all. We hope that Barbaro will run again, as a stallion, in a lovely pasture, for the rest of his life.

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