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Business media companies plan to accelerate growth

The new deals

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The media, information, marketing and technology sectors logged a combined 1,351 transactions last year, 50% more than in 2011, and saw a 43% increase in deal value for a total of $74.7 billion, according to Jordan, Edmiston Group. “We are expecting 2013 to be active as well,” said Adam Gross, Jordan, Edmiston's chief marketing officer. Gross shared preliminary results of the third annual “Media Growth Survey,” a joint effort of Jordan, Edmiston and Econsultancy. Results of the survey of top executives of media, information, marketing services and technology companies will be released at Jordan, Edmiston's annual Media & Technology Conference Jan. 17 in New York. Responses for the top two projected growth drivers in the next 12 to 24 months were “fairly close,” Gross said. The most popular answer was launching new products/services, followed by the expansion of market share within existing markets. Third, “and not far behind,” Gross said, was making an acquisition. “Sixty-one percent were very or somewhat likely to make an acquisition,” he said, while 31% of respondents said they expected to make a divestiture. Among the b-to-b media deals last year was NewBay Media's acquisition of U.K.-based Intent Media. NewBay has a strong track record of growth through acquisition, with Intent being its sixth since 2007. “We had a small international reach prior to this,” said Steve Palm, NewBay president-CEO. “Intent gives us scale, management talent and infrastructure we didn't have internationally.” To maximize cross-pollination opportunities between the U.S. and international operations, Palm will allow the two units to “run in parallel” rather than integrating them. “It's a great time to be in b-to-b,” Palm said. “We're testing and evaluating about two dozen [organic] growth opportunities,” he added, including marketing services, e-commerce, expansion in live events, mobile and tablet platforms, improving sell-through of existing digital advertising, virtual events and lead generation. Many b-to-b media companies are currently rebalancing their brand portfolios through acquisitions and divestitures. For example, Penton Media, one of the industry's largest players, more than doubled its reach in its largest sector, U.S. agriculture, with its $80 million acquisition of Farm Progress from Fairfax Media in November. In October, Penton trimmed its portfolio in the marketing sector by selling its Chief Marketer, Direct, Multichannel Merchant and Promo brands to Access Intelligence. Family-held Bobit Business Media also made portfolio shifts with three acquisitions and one divestiture in 2012. In May, Bobit fortified its No. 1 position in the fleet vehicle market with the purchase of Newport Business Media's Heavy Duty Aftermarket Journal, Heavy Duty Trucking and TruckingInfo.com. It then closed three deals in December: It acquired the assets of LimoforSale.com, its first all-digital purchase, to complement its limousine charter and tour group, and also bought the magazine and digital assets of Auto Dealer Monthly to strengthen its dealer group. Bobit sold Hotrod & Restoration magazine and its accompanying trade show and website to National Business Media because “it really didn't fit in our portfolio anymore,” said Ty Bobit, Bobit Business Media president-CEO. “Our strategy has always been conservative growth, but we're getting a little more aggressive,” Bobit said. Like NewBay's Palm, he said he believes b-to-b media is a good sector to be in. “Every year has been getting better since 2010, and we expect a pretty good picture for 2013,” he said.
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