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D&B boosts Web presence

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D&B's acquisition last month of AllBusiness.com for $55 million illustrates the hearty and growing appetite among traditional media companies for digital media assets.

"These companies need the digital assets because they can't develop what they're trying to do in-house," said Reed Phillips, a partner in media investment bank DeSilva & Phillips. Phillips estimated the price for AllBusiness.com was about five-and-half-times revenue. "It's a strong price," he said.

AllBusiness.com may be just a blip on the revenue screen for D&B, a $1.5 billion enterprise, but it provides the company with an online means to better target the ever-elusive small and midsize business market.

One industry observer said D&B would be wise to get out of the way of AllBusiness.com. "D&B, which has a tendency to impose its corporate culture on its subsidiaries, should be especially careful in the case of an innovator like AllBusiness.com to stand back and let 'er rip," the observer said.

AllBusiness.com, founded in 1999, claims an audience of more than 2.5 million business decision-makers and offers more than 2 million pieces of business information, including articles, videos, blogs and agreements.

Business topics run the gamut: finance and accounting, human resources, operations, technology, sales. The site's content comes from about 800 business periodicals, including the Journal of Corporation Law, Risk Management and Western Journal of Communication. It also features interviews with SMB executives and academics about business trends.

The site had 2.54 million unique users in November, up from 1.67 million in November 2006.

AllBusiness.com will combine its "how-to" approach online with D&B subsidiaries Hoover's (for company research) and First Research (for industry research), said Kathy Yates, CEO of AllBusiness.com, which will operate as a wholly owned subsidiary of D&B.

"We want to marry information we have with the companies and information at D&B, and pull in those links to our data set," Yates said. "This will allow users to link into other areas in a seamless way and in a way that we couldn't do as a nonintegrated company." D&B maintains one of the world's largest business databases, containing information on more than 100 million businesses worldwide, including 38 million in the U.S.

Yates said there will be no layoffs at AllBusiness.com due to the D&B acquisition and, in fact, it would be adding to the staff.

In a news release, D&B Chairman-CEO Steve Alesio said, "We are pleased with our AllBusiness.com acquisition, which will help us scale our existing Internet business while expanding our ability to meet the needs of professionals doing business on the Web." Alesio would not comment further on the AllBusiness.com acquisition, a D&B spokesman said.

AllBusiness.com was sold in 2000 to NBCi, the Internet venture of NBC, for $225 million. NBCi merged AllBusiness.com with BigVine.com, which was broken up and sold to various buyers in 2002. At that time, Richard Harroch, who founded AllBusiness.com, repurchased the original core assets.

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