GNM network buy is bid to go global

Guardian News and Media has bought a business news website network which started life in an east London flat, in its latest bid to go international.

ContentNext is a California-based company that publishes a network of business-to-business blogs targeting senior executives in the digital media industry.

Although the terms of the deal were not disclosed, digital media site All things D, reported a sale price ‘north of’$30m (£15m).

‘We’ve never bought a company outside this country before, so it’s a real turning point for us as a business,’GNM managing director Tim Brooks told Press Gazette.

‘What’s changed in our company in the past two years is that we are now very consciously looking at expansion opportunities outside our home market.”

The move comes as GNM prepares to open a commercial office in Mumbai later this month to explore opportunities in India.

Former Silicon Alley Reporter journalist Rafat Ali founded the company’s flagship site, PaidContent, in his flat in Leytonstone, east London, after his job with Inside.com left him a casualty of the dot-com boom in 2002.

In just six years, Ali’s company has expanded to include mocoNews.net, which specialises in the mobile-phone content business, the UK-focused paidContent:UK, and contentSutra.com, which covers India’s digital media market.

In addition to display and recruitment advertising on its online publications, the company publishes specialist research reports and hosts a number of conferences.

‘One of the attractive things about ContentNext is that it has three areas of revenue-generation – which is always better than one,’said Brooks.

Hands-off approach

According to Brooks, GNM will take a largely hands-off approach to its new acquisition, running ContentNext as an independent company within its B2B arm, Guardian Professional, offering help where it is welcome and requested.

This could include help from The Guardian’s web development team and UK-based conference organisation to replicate its US conferences in the UK.

It could also include cross-promotion between the ContentNext sites, which largely appeal to senior managers in the digital media, and the more broadly targeted Media Guardian products, Brooks said.

‘There are probably a few things that we could do to help them run the business a bit more smoothly, but they are really at the margin of the business.

‘The reason we bought it is because we think it’s a really good business that is performing very well.

‘One of the reasons for investing in the company is that we have a very high level of confidence in Rafat and Nathan [Richardson, ContentNext chief executive]and their abilities.”

The acquisition comes as part of a strategy initiated by Brooks’ predecessor Carolyn McCall – now chief executive of parent company Guardian Media Group – to reduce the national newspaper division’s reliance on copy sales and recruitment advertising by adding B2B events and specialist publications to its portfolio.

Guardian Professional runs B2B publications and events in media, technology, education, and the public sector – niches where The Guardian has traditionally had strong specialist coverage. It does not include the Emap Communications titles Guardian Media Group bought with Apax late last year.

Brooks predicted that Guardian Professional would double its profits this year.

‘It makes a significant contribution to the success of our business,’he said.

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