BtoB

Sale of assets reduces Ziff Davis' b-to-b presence

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Will Ziff Davis Media's recent sale of its Enterprise Group mark the end of the company's standing as a major player in the b-to-b marketing world?

Ziff sold the assets of its Enterprise Group to private equity firm Insight Venture Partners in July for about $150 million. Those assets include several properties that b-to-b marketers rely on to get their messages out, such as Baseline, CIO Insight, eWEEK, baselinemag.com, cioinsight.com, channelinsider.com, deviceforge.com, eweek.com, microsoft-watch.com and webbuyersguide.com. The portfolio also includes a database of 3.5 million business and technology users.

Ziff's two remaining divisions are the much smaller Consumer/Small Business Group, which includes flagship PC Magazine, and the Game Group.

"Operationally, we're going to keep doing what we've been doing for the last six years: transforming the company from print to an integrated model with a strong center of gravity around the digital space," said Jason Young, who in early August was promoted to Ziff CEO from president of the Consumer/Small Business Group. He added that Ziff's digital properties currently account for 50% of the company's overall revenue.

Though Ziff has now sold off most of its b-to-b titles, PC Magazine still attracts many business marketers. "We see the PC Magazine brand as a strong hybrid between b-to-b and b-to-c, with guidance for both business and home-office products," Young said.

According to a survey conducted this past spring by IntelliQuest, PC Magazine ranked No. 1 among computer-oriented business titles in reaching business technology influencers.

Tom Kemp, a managing director at private equity firm Veronis Suhler Stevenson and former chairman-CEO of Penton Media, said, "PC Magazine is still a tremendous brand for users and buyers of computer products. The question is: In the minds of buyers, are all of the issues Ziff is dealing with having an effect?"

Ziff is seeking to regroup as it faces serious financial challenges. Following the sale of the Enterprise Group, it was still saddled with about $250 million in debt.

Several b-to-b marketers declined to comment regarding the advertising appeal of Ziff's remaining properties. An exception was Jeffrey Hayzlett, VP-CMO at Kodak's Graphic Communications Group, who said, "Companies, such as Kodak, that have both b-to-b and b-to-c models, would welcome opportunities to leverage media buys and reach both audiences in one buy."

He added: "The critical questions for most marketers and companies are: What will be the real ROI, and will the content be enough to hold both audiences in a way to give it the staying power to attract key advertisers and partners?"

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