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Davis says ‘distribution’ key to where Cygnus is headed

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"I'm sitting on enough compelling content that I don't need to go out and make any acquisitions," says Carr Davis, co-CEO of Cygnus Business Media, who took the helm last August along with Anthony O'Brien in an effort to ramp up Cygnus' digital efforts.

It's a bold statement, particularly in one of the hottest b-to-b media M&A markets in recent history. But it cuts to the core of the challenges Cygnus faces in the next few years.

"They're going to try and firm up their own properties and apply technology to expand and grow their product offerings without looking at any merger markets," said Larry Grimes, president of media merchant bank W.B. Grimes & Co. "It's an effort to increase revenue and cash flow to reposition the company to be successful when [private equity firm and majority owner ABRY Partners] goes to market."

Cygnus was reportedly on the auction block late last year but couldn't attract a satisfactory offer. Analysts expect ABRY to put the property back in play within the next few years.

Since their arrival last summer, Davis and O'Brien have been busy working to leverage Cygnus' content online.

In January, for example, Cygnus introduced an online b-to-b buyer's guide for the 15 vertical markets it covers. These markets include agriculture and food; aviation and transportation; fire rescue and EMS; law enforcement; and residential, commercial and industrial security. Overall, the company has 67 trade titles, 68 Web sites, 11 industry directories and 50 trade shows.

"As important as content is, distribution is key," said Davis, when asked about his media strategy moving forward. "It's not a coincidence that when you see a movie distributed by Columbia the first thing you see is the 'Columbia Lady.' "

He said Cygnus' recent deal with Caterpillar Inc. to run product videos on Cygnus' ForConstructionPros.com is a potential model for the media company's aircraft, industrial and manufacturing Web sites, among others.

"I don't think we need to make great investments to create video," he said. "We want to repurpose existing video [from b-to-b marketers] because the costs are negligible once [the client] has produced the video. … It's better to see things in motion, which is more powerful than a static ad in print."

Although Davis is busy crafting new electronic tools for his customers, he said he is still bullish on print.

"Your brands can't exist without print," Davis said, adding that he has no plans to kill any of Cygnus' print products.

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