By: Lucia Moses and Steve Yahn
New York-based Editor & Publisher Co., at the 115-year mark of its run as the bible of the newspaper industry, reached an agreement in principle to sell the company to BPI Communications, Inc. of New York.
Terms of the sale, which was handled by New York media investment banker Veronis, Suhler & Associates, were not disclosed. The sale is expected to be completed in the next few weeks.
BPI Communications, a subsidiary of VNU-USA, plans to add the E&P operation to its Adweek Magazines group. Adweek Magazines publishes Adweek, Brandweek, Mediaweek, and MC magazines and is also engaged in directories, conferences and online businesses.
“As the leading magazine in its field, E&P is a perfect complement to our media group,” says John Babcock Jr., president/CEO of BPI Communications, in discussing the role of the weekly print version of Editor & Publisher magazine.
The Editor & Publisher Co. also includes: Mediainfo.com, a six-times-a-year supplement to E&P that covers issues facing new media professionals at newspapers, radio and television stations and other media companies using digital means to serve readers and advertisers; Free Paper Publisher, a monthly magazine reporting news about and issues pertinent to free community newspapers and shoppers; the highly regarded Year Book series of annuals that compile relevant contact, rate, and circulation data on newspapers throughout the U.S. and Canada. In addition, E&P has both online and conference operations.
Mark Dacey, president of the BPI Adweek Magazines group, says he expects to expand E&P’s businesses by increasing promotion of its core products, building sales, and expanding its conference and online presence.
“It’s marketing, marketing, marketing,” Dacey tells E&P. “We believe the franchise is strong, the businesses are strong, and they also have good opportunities for growth.”
D. Colin Phillips, publisher of E&P, says: “I’ve known the [BPI] management team for a number of years, and we’ve been watching how they performed in competing with Advertising Age. We feel very comfortable with the fit.”
Phillips says he and his brother, co-publisher Christopher Phillips, began evaluating their options at the end of last year. He says the company reached a point where limited finances kept it from reaching its potential.
“It becomes difficult if your backbone is supported by one magazine,” he says. “You need a larger newsroom, technology department, and corporate infrastructure
to grow and compete effectively given
the new 24/7 news environment we’re entering.”
Although no decisions have been made about staffing, D. Colin Phillips says BPI told him it would retain most of the staff.
Other subsidiaries of VNU-USA, which is owned by the giant Dutch media company VNU N.V., are: VNU Marketing Information Services; Bill Communications; and SRDS. BPI publications provide specialized publications, electronically delivered data and marketing services to the entertainment, media, marketing, arts and design business, and consumer communities. BPI publishes 23 magazines, including Billboard, Shoot, The Hollywood Reporter, Architecture, Interiors, and American Artist.
E&P’s history dates back to 1884, when The Journalist, a weekly, was founded. Editor & Publisher was founded in 1901 and merged with The Journalist in 1907. James Wright Brown bought controlling stock in E&P in 1912.
The company remained in the Brown family until the present. Robert U. Brown, son of the founder, became editor of the publication in 1944 and later added the titles of publisher and company president. He currently serves as president and editor emeritus, having given up active management responsibilities in 1996.
“After 65 years, I get a little emotional about it,” Brown recalls while sitting in his office, adorned with photos, awards and momentos of his years with the magazine. “It was a perfect case of nepotism. I was raised in this business.”
Like publishing in general, the trade publishing industry has been rapidly consolidating in the past few years, driven by the low cost of capital and high prices paid for magazines, says Scott Peters, managing director for The Jordan, Edmiston Group, Inc., a consulting firm to the publishing industry.
A frequent strategy, say industry analysts, has been to buy trade magazines, trade shows, and other services in the same industry and save money by consolidating back-office operations.
“They [E&P] probably realize there are great multiples out there, and there’s pressure to sell,” says Peters, noting that it’s difficult for smaller, independent publishing companies to survive when faced with big, well-capitalized competitors.
Over the years, suitors have made offers to buy the company, but were turned down by Robert U. Brown.
Like other industry trade magazines, E&P has been losing circulation. In December 1998, total circulation was 21,237, down 4.8% over the past four years. During the same period, Advertising Age lost 9%, Folio lost 20%, and Columbia Journalism Review gained 10.6% according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations. In recent years, E&P has grown revenues by expanding its conferences and titles.
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