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Moves by Reed Elsevier, UBM signal major shifts in delivery of b-to-b media

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Recent moves by b-to-b media holding companies Reed Elsevier and United Business Media reflect how rapidly the distribution of business information is changing, as media companies scramble to keep up with the migration of marketing dollars from traditional media to online.

UBM announced last Friday that it is restructuring CMP into four market-focused businesses, each with its own CEO. As part of the reorganization, the CMP name has been eliminated.

Just a week earlier, Reed Elsevier said it was putting its Reed Business Information unit up for sale to reduce the parent company’s exposure to cyclical advertising markets.

RBI, whose assets include Broadcasting & Cable, Publishers Weekly and Variety, is expected to fetch between $2 billion and $2.5 billion. Potential buyers include Bain &Co., Court Square Ventures and Incisive Media.

Reed Elsevier also said it has agreed to buy ChoicePoint, which provides technology and information-based risk management products, for $4.1 billion in a move designed to enhance Reed Elsevier’s work-flow services.

“It’s pretty clear the b-to-b landscape continues to morph, as b-to-b media companies’ customers, large and small, continue to experiment with increasing their bottom line,” said Mike Parker, a managing director at media investment bank AdMedia Partners. “As print continues to struggle in so many industries, all b-to-b companies are still trying to answer the digital question: how do we make money?” He added: “As volume increases in the digital space, [ad] dollars need to catch up to print levels.”

Parker said UBM’s restructuring of CMP should, at least on paper, improve customer relations by “splitting [the company] into vertical silos, as opposed to a horizontal sell.”

The four new divisions, now part of UBM-U.S., are:

  • TechWeb (www.techweb.com/aboutus), led by CEO Tony Uphoff. TechWeb, formerly CMP’s Business Technology Group, produces events such as Black Hat, Interop, VoiceCon and Web 2.0. Its other assets include InformationWeek, MSDN and TechNet.; bMighty.com, which covers the small and midsize business market; Intelligent Enterprise; Light Reading; Financial Technology Network; and TechWeb Network.
    • Everything Channel (www.everythingchannel.com), led by CEO Robert Faletra. The unit, formerly CMP Channel, focuses on the indirect sales channel for technology purchases. It includes the ChannelWeb online network; CRN and VARBusiness; the XChange and Vision events; work-flow tools (MTC and eXalt); telerecruiting; sales support; marketing services; research; and education.
      • TechInsights (www.techinsights.com), led by CEO Paul Miller. The division, formerly CMP’s Electronics Group, focuses on technical information for the electronics industry. It includes EE Times, Embedded Systems Conferences, Portelligent, Semiconductor Insights and TechOnline.
        • Think Services (www.think-services.com), led by CEO Philip Chapnick. Think Services, formerly CMP’s Game, Dr. Dobb’s and International Customer Management Group, connects specialized communities via interactive media and educational events. Its products include Dr. Dobb’s Journal, the Game Developers Conference, Gamasutra.com, Help Desk Institute, and the International Customer Management Institute.

        There will be no CEO in charge of the overall UBM-U.S. The CEOs of the four new units report to UBM CEO David Levin, who is based in London.

        The new businesses will share back-office functions and a strategic account team for integrated ad sales. Other functions will be decentralized.

        “We’re increasingly serving different markets, and CMP as a holding company was not an enabler but was holding the entity back,” Levin said, adding that with the four divisions, “we’ll be able to pursue target markets faster and address customer needs better.” He said advertisers’ initial reaction to the restructuring has been positive.

        Keith Turco, senior VP-global branding of software giant CA, said the move was a step in the right direction. “The realignment positions [the four divisions] better for customers’ needs,” he said. “As long as changes come to benefit customers and key constituents, the evolution of media properties and growth is a good thing.”

        In the last several years, CMP had morphed from a printcentric business into one geared toward events and the Web. In 2004, print generated 75% of revenue. However, after a string of acquisitions in the last few years, print this year will account for about 24% of revenue on a pro forma basis, followed by events (40%), online (20%) and data and services (16%).

        The reorganization came a little more than three months after Steve Weitzner stepped aside as CEO of CMP to run its international division. In January, Weitzner became chairman-CEO of CMP rival Ziff Davis Enterprise.

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