Friday, July 11, 2008

When Blogs Become Big Media: ContentNext Purchased by Guardian for $30 Mil

On a personal note I couldn't be more happy that after pioneering serious blog journalism on the business of media Rafat Ali's ContentNext is being acquired by the Guardian Media Group for north of USD 3o million, according to Dow Jones' All Things Digital blog (and of course it's very appropriate that Dow Jones returns the favor to Rafat after his many scoops on them). Rafat's worked very hard for this moment and had the wisdom to assemble a great team to help him make it happen. The story seems to be that contentNext will remain an independent product with the Guardian helping to provide growth and outlets for its content and events for professionals.

That's the key point to remember about this acquisition: it's not really a "blog acquisition." Rafat Ali started with a relatively simple blog structure but he focused early on broadening the mission of the publication as a source of serious trade journalism and on attracting a global clientele of serious media business people to his content and his events that made it far more like a traditional B2B trade publication with a strong events component than a blog without a magazine. That's hardly a bad thing, but from an acquisitions standpoint this is really about a traditional publishing group broadening its portfolio with a B2B play that just happens to have started life using blogging technology. ContentNext puts together great events, has great industry reporting and was smart enough to do all with from day one useing Web-based publishing and marketing methods. In fact there's no reason why a publication stable like ContentNext couldn't add a print component and be entirely successful - though it's not likely any time soon.

The real question isn't why ContentNext got a fairly healthy multiple for its operations but rather why more B2B publications don't look more aggressively at acquiring born-on-the-web publications that can help them to trim down to similarly responsive and profitable proportions. The worst enemy that B2B trade journalism has is the legacy of born-in-print executives who are trying to find a place to employ their dated skill sets in the digital age - and dragging down the long-term profitability of B2B media in the process. With a core publication family like ContentNext under its belt the Guardian Media Group has a publishing team that's successful in its own right but which can also provide a blueprint for managing B2B media successfully for years to come in other market sectors. Getting a team that does it the right way already may be a better option in many instances to provide existing internal Web operations a model to follow.

In the meantime, congratulations to Rafat and to all of the great people at ContentNext - enjoy every moment of it.
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