Sunday, November 13, 2005

The Shareholder Value Revolt: Major Publishers and Aggregators Face Tough Decisions

It hasn't been smooth sailing for many major publishers and aggregators lately. As VNU fends off angry shareholders and Wolters Kluwer shakes off questioning as to whether it can remain independent, it's becoming a big question as to whether many large holding companies are going to be able to hold their bottom lines together based on more traditional synergies much longer. It's not that these and other B2B content companies are going in the wrong direction: the IMS Health deal would have added important analytical depth to VNU's holdings and Wolters Kluwer is moving towards more content integration capabilities with its recent acquisitions and product positioning. It's more a matter of degree than direction, as well as whether there will be enough cash on hand to truly transform companies that have taken their time adapting to the new realities of online publishing. Companies such as Thomson that rapidly shedded print properties and invested aggressively in radically upgrading their product delivery infrastructure and integration capabilities are in a much better position to sustain both revenue growth and margins for the next few years - if they keep on the investment train. This is no time for innovative publishers and aggregators to let up. The next few years in the content industry are going to be even more change-filled than the last several, favoring companies that are willing to tell hard truths to their shareholders and prepare to compete toe-to-toe with companies that are not as invested in older business models.
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