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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Business Media Should Merge Back Offices

All of the business media publishers are facing unprecedented challenges. The economic downturn, long term decline in magazine profitability, a threat to profits from events, the challenge of making money from the web and so on.

Publishers long since worked out that there was no competitive advantage in running their own circulation management systems or print plants. Exhibition organisers long since contracted out their on site registration. But why has nobody thought of eliminating permanent costs from other areas of hygiene activity?

One of the benefits of APax owning both Incisive and Emap was the merger synergies. They never happened as crunching the two businesses together would have required a refinancing of the whole deal - and you can understand why that didn't happen. But what is to stop these two businesses sharing back office overhead in finance. Locate the credit cotnrol desks for both businesses in a single location where labour is cheaper than in central London, with one group management providing services to both companies on a SLA.

If it could done for these two companies, why not invite RBI, UBM and Informa to join the party? Each party would own an equity stake in the service company which would be run on a cost plu basis, with any profits returned to the shareholders. Make an agrement to protect the confidetiality of data. Consider inviting smaller publishers to enjoy the benefits of the solution for a fee. Cost savings and a profit share too!

Business media comapnies have worked together before. Tower, the circ bureau grew its business in the nineties on the back of a concord agreement with a cadre of blue chip publishers. The Excel Exhibition Centre was built with funds secured from RBI Emap and UBM amongst others.

How big are the savings? Well lets imnagine that back office finance costs 5% of turnover. Lets pretend we could save 20% of that. If we could process £1b of turonver thats a saving of £10m a year or put another way - on a 10% average profit margin, the equivalent of offsetting £100m of revenue loss. Mmmm.

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At 4:48 pm, Blogger Rory Brown said...

Nice post but there is a third way to save costs on back office functions which doesn't involve the complexities of inter-company negotiations...



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