This article is by Tony Silber, AM&P Network’s director of programming and development.
In an era where the prolonged focus in B2B has been on building “data-first” businesses, producing leads and holding events, the recent sale of content-centric Industry Dive stands out.
M&A in B2B media is red hot. The big news, of course, is the sale of Industry Dive a week ago to Informa. That spectacular transaction, valued at $525 million with a staggering multiple of about five-times revenue, is reverberating through the industry. It will likely have a significant effect on valuations going forward.
The 10-year-old publisher went straight when others turned left searching for shiny objects. Industry Dive has never focused on lead gen or any other types of data development. It never leaned into in-person events. Instead, under the guidance of CEO Sean Griffey, it has emphasized journalism, focusing on delivering news and trends and other kinds of information in 27 vertical markets. (See a recent story my colleague Ronn Levine wrote about one of their 10 2022 Neal Award winners.)
Financially, Industry Dive has depended on good-old advertising revenue and marketing services. This year, its projected topline revenue is $110 million. “It became very popular to say that ad models wouldn’t work and that everything has to be subscription,” Griffey told the Press Gazette last year. “But what we said was that ad models and marketing models still really work if the audience is incredibly valuable. And where the audiences are very valuable are in niches.”
Informa is not alone in acquisitions. Between them, GovExec and Endeavor Business Media have acquired at least 15 companies this year. And since late last year, Future plc has acquired Dennis Publishing (including Kiplinger), WhatCulture, a digital-only brand focused on gaming and entertainment, and leading digital-only women’s lifestyle publisher WhoWhatWear.
For Informa, this latest transaction represents a total turnaround. It had been divesting major chunks of its business over the last three years, including its pharma intelligence unit to PE firm Warburg Pincus, its asset-intelligence unit to Randall Reilly, and UBM Life Sciences plus 20 other brands to Endeavor Business Media. It also sold a group of trade shows and B2B brands to Questex.
But then last month, Informa said in a “Trading Update” that it is now bullish on B2B. Their three B2B units are all performing strongly year to date, and partly because of the Industry Dive acquisition, it sees major B2B growth going forward.
Robust M&A activity is usually an indicator of a healthy market. And that’s why I’m thrilled to be here at the AM&P Network.
B2B never lost the ability to create great content—or to aggregate valuable audiences. And in retrospect, all the out-of-necessity experimentation of the last 20 years has created something important: resilient, entrepreneurial media companies that have developed multiple sources of revenue and the ability to innovate and iterate. The coming decade and beyond will see the rise in strength of B2B media, in terms of influence, importance and engagement.
We have much work to do, but I promise you this: Our organization is and will be the center of gravity in this industry. We’ll bring together disparate sectors—such as digital, agriculture, legacy companies, association media, and private-equity rollups—and help you navigate this new promised land.
I’ve spent a good part of my career with Folio: and Min, Forbes and MediaPost, writing about the challenges media executives face in all areas—tech, marketing, content, audience, sales, product development, financial management, talent, strategic planning and more. Then I spent more than a decade as a senior business executive myself, learning these same things not as an observer but as a practitioner, accountable for business performance at each step.
So as I work to produce content and events and sell sponsorships and media, I know what this industry needs as well as anyone. I’m fortunate to be helping facilitate the boom days ahead. First up: An in-person BIMS (Business Information & Media Summit) in early December. It will be the best BIMS event ever, with new insights, plenty of inspiration, and a day-and-a-half program packed with innovation and instant takeaways.
Watch this space the next few days for more information.