B-to-b media M&A activity began to rebound in 2012, with the level of interest largely dependent on a target company's category within the industry and how much it has expanded beyond traditional print media. Media Business recently spoke with Scott Peters, co-president of investment bank Jordan, Edmiston Group, about the state of b-to-b media. Media Business: What's the current M&A climate in b-to-b media? Scott Peters:
B-to-b M&A had dried up for a pretty long stretch, but 2012 was the year it started to rebound nicely. You started to see not just deals getting done but businesses like Northstar Travel Media, for example, which has done a great job evolving its model, attract really smart capital and push forward. (Jordan, Edmiston represented Northstar in its sale to Wicks Group of Cos. in July.) Also, the strategics are coming back into the game; you saw for many years (they had) been really sitting on the sidelines. In the trade show sector, they're back and being aggressive about continuing to acquire and build. Even in traditional b-to-b we're seeing a good amount of interest pick up as well. So in 2012, investors were back in b-to-b. Media Business: What kinds of deals are getting done? What business models are attractive? Peters:
Trade shows and conferences have continued to enjoy a lot of interest from buyers and investors. That category as a general business model has been strong and will continue to be strong. Also, data, analytics and research in various vertical sectors. Those are sectors that are really experiencing great dynamics and strong growth. The other significant trend you're starting to see ripple through the whole b-to-b sector is this concept of marketing solutions. It's really a significant shift from the old days and more traditional approaches to b-to-b—which were put out a magazine, do an event, maybe have some data around that, but pretty much siloed initiatives—into an entirely different way of managing and running businesses that embraces marketing solutions at the core. (It's) thinking about how to leverage customer bases—whether it's your audience, or your advertisers or sponsors—to help marketers get to their customers in unique ways. ... It's sort of a seismic shift in the industry in terms of how people are looking at the assets under the hood and leveraging them to assist marketers in being more effective. That's one of the major ways b-to-b companies are getting back on their feet, and beginning to grow and becoming more relevant to customers.