Most of the publishing world says Content is King. The publishers at SIPA say Content is Money.
The annual conference of the Specialized Information Publishers Association is a celebration of the value of content. Last week here in Washington at the Capital Hilton more than 250 publishing professionals came together, the majority of whom sell content far more than they do advertising. They sell reports, education and training, up-to-the-minute data, webinars, databases, market studies, site licenses, loose-leaf reference volumes, CEUs and even subscriptions.
The first trade magazine I launched, Paraphernalia & Accessories Digest, served the headshop industry. I had cofounded High Times four years earlier, by then a resoundingly successful consumer magazine. The market the Digest covered included record stores and boutiques which sold lifestyle items like incense, blacklight posters, and underground comix in addition to their primary lines of goods. The main focus of my magazine for those retailers, and others more exclusively positioned as headshops, were rolling papers, pipes and other accoutrements which were used by people to consume recreational drugs, primarily marijuana.
An insidious term has started to be widely used these past couple of years. As publishers, we must stamp out the term "earned media" before it becomes chiseled in stone -- if we're not already too late -- because it devalues what we do. If you have seen it as a line item in marketing plans while advertisers explained they couldn't spend on your publication, you've been burned by earned.
Private Equity firms are now the dominant players in B2B publishing. They probably own less than half of all B2B media properties, but we've passed the tipping point.
M&A deal value in B2B media increased more than 600% from 2013 to 2014 -- from $452 million to $3.2 billion -- according to the Jordan Edmiston Group, an investment bank specializing in such deals. Not all of the money involved was from private equity (PE) firms, but that has been the driver.
If B2B publishing was a different industry, the prospect of LinkedIn buying Bizowould invite anti-trust scrutiny. Just think about what might happen in the world of consumer advertising if Facebook was buying AdSense. The regulators would be all over it. But with the possible exception of those of us in the business, we are looked at as a subset of the larger publishing and advertising business -- assuming anybody pays attention to us at all. Since the initial announcement of this sale I've barely read one word about it.