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Primedia banking on new financial group

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Most media companies are retreating from their Internet ambitions, but Primedia Inc. is taking a "damn the torpedoes" approach in both its online and offline endeavors, even as its stock continues to languish in the single digits.

Last month, the company created the Primedia Financial Services Group, which aims to leverage the company’s existing financial trade magazines and develop new offline and online media products. Warren Bimblick, who was most recently Primedia’s VP-investor relations, heads the new group and reports to Tim Andrews, CEO of Intertec, the Primedia b-to-b unit.

The expansion will be driven by Registered Representative, a 90,000-circulation monthly for retail stockbrokers who control more than $5.5 trillion for about 30 million investors, and Trust & Estates, one of the leading monthlies for estate planning and wealth management services, with a paid circulation of 15,000. New advertisers include the New York Stock Exchange for Registered Representative and Phillips Auctioneers for Trust & Estates.

Bimblick said both books need to branch out to e-mail newsletters and events, for example, to keep abreast of the regulatory changes that affect the brokerage business.

"These are places where people spend a lot of money," Bimblick said. "We need to broaden our portfolio for financial advertisers, which have been underrepresented" in Primedia’s print products. He said financial institutions targeting the youth market, for instance, could reach prospective customers through Primedia’s Teen, and those seeking an upscale audience could advertise in New York.

Bimblick said he has received numerous inquiries from financial institutions eager to strike advertising deals, but he would not elaborate. He also wouldn’t divulge details about proposals the group has pitched to financial institutions to develop customized research products in concert with Kagan World Media, a media research group that Primedia acquired last year.

The group will look to launch cross-media advertising and marketing initiatives that take advantage of the wide-ranging assets in the Primedia portfolio: enthusiast Web site About.com; MediaCentral, which is an agglomeration of all of Primedia’s media-related products; Primedia Workplace; and the recently created Integrated Sales & Marketing Group.

Roland DeSilva, managing partner at media investment bank DeSilva & Phillips, said Primedia is taking the right approach to harnessing the Web. "In this case, you have print products as the drivers. Once [the company] puts them together and starts mining legacy audiences and advertisers, they will be able to leverage both of them on to the Web."

But after nearly two years in charge, Primedia CEO Tom Rogers has apparently failed to convince Wall Street that the Web can be a profitable channel for the company. Primedia’s stock has fallen nearly 50% in the past year, and in early August shares were trading around $6, down from a 52 week-high of $20.63.

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