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BtoB

Optimism about b-to-b media

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Recent "talk" amongst many in the advertising world would have you believe that our business media companies are in serious trouble. Yet that is certainly not the case. While some companies have been severely burdened by debt, and many have had trouble growing print dollars, overall the business is doing quite well.

At last month's DeSilva & Phillips M&A conference in New York, one thing was quite clear: The financial folks are quite bullish on b-to-b media companies, more so than consumer publishing companies. They see online, data and events as having a bright future for b-to-b at a time when print is seeing flat growth.

Private-equity companies such as MidOcean Partners cited the loyal following b-to-b brands enjoy as having convinced them to keep pumping money into media deals. Their feeling is our brands will make the transition to being multichannel media companies very well.

And while we all know that marketers want much more than just print now, print isn't dying by any means. Just look at the most recent BIN numbers from ABM and IMS-The Auditor: Ad revenues, while barely growing, certainly weren't down. And when you add in the significant dollars flowing into the online channels, our revenues are still quite strong. As ABM's Gordon Hughes II said recently, "Certain ad categories will grow, some will not and others will be flat, but at the end of the day, b-to-b media is still an $11.40 billion business and it is not going away."

Key for all of us is the focused transition to online. But don't worry, we are all still in a great high-margin business with a very rosy future.

Bob Felsenthal can be reached at bfelsenthal@crain.com.

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