In some ways, Penton Media's buyout of Nine Lives Media and its brands reminds me of a big, well-established IT company buying a small MSP. On the one hand, the big IT company wants to accelerate the small MSP's growth in a strategic market. On the other hand, the buyer doesn't want to mess up the small MSP's existing business model. The key requirement: Balancing "business as usual" with integration issues, existing operations and some potentially new business initiatives.
Every merger or acquisition triggers changes -- real or imagined. Over the past 24 hours, a lot of people have publicly congratulated the Nine Lives team on the Penton deal. (Thank you so much.) But...
- all the positive buzz is worthless if we don't pull off a great integration between Nine Lives and the Penton Technology Group, a highly successful media organization that serves IT administrators and IT developers.
- There is plenty of off-line chatter, too. I've received voicemails from readers asking if I'm really staying. (Answer: Absolutely yes.)
- Some folks are asking about Nine Lives co-founder Amy Katz's strategy to run Nine Lives as a division of Penton. (Short answer: She'll rock.)
Extended AnswersAs reader questions pour in, let me reinforce some statements we've already made, while adding a few wrinkles you may have overlooked:
- Amy is now president of Nine Lives Media, a division of Penton Media. Amy reports to Peg Miller, market leader for Penton Media's Technology Group. There's a long-term plan for Nine Lives' continued growth under Penton's ownership. Sorry, I have not attached a PDF of the plan...
- I'm here. I'm pumped. And I'm running editorial operations for the Nine Lives brands. Why would I walk away from the brands and communities that our team has worked so hard to build? You can't fake my fanatical interest in our sites, our communities and our industry. I don't co-own the sites anymore. But my DNA is in them. And I don't plan on extracting my DNA anytime soon. Rumor has it, The VAR Guy feels the same way.
- Some readers haven't noticed some key growth steps we've taken in the past three-plus years. Let's focus purely on editorial and content for a moment. Do you realize our team of contributing bloggers has grown to include Dan Berthiaume, David Courbanou, John Moore, Nicholas Mukhar, Charlene O'Hanlon and Matt Weinberger? Courbanou and Weinberger have each written more than 1,000 blogs across our sites since October 2009. And O'Hanlon has edited or written more than 1,000 blogs for us since around December 2010. But this is more than a "volume" story. Our team cares deeply about every blog they write and edit.
Think BiggerWhile digesting reader comments about the Penton-Nine Lives deal, I was both flattered and a little concerned. Most of the comments started with "Dear Amy and Joe" or "Dear Joe and Amy." No doubt, Amy and I have poured our hearts and souls into Nine Lives. Thank you so much for wishing us continued success. But please don't overlook the fact that Nine Lives, now a division of Penton, has a deep bench of editorial and sales contributors who serve our readers and sponsors. I've lost track of time, but Senior Sales Consultant Kim Daniels has been with us since nearly the dawn of Nine Lives. And the sales team has continued to grow.
So, is it business as usual here? Mostly yes and and somewhat no.
- Yes, we're committed to delivering the high-quality content and sponsorship programs you expect from us.
- Yes, I still love what I do. (And I think Amy would say the same thing about her role.)
- Yes, we've got a talented team of contributors. I hope they continue to love the Nine Lives brands as much as I do.
- No, we can't say everything will be "exactly the same." We'd be idiots to do everything exactly the same for years to come. The worlds of media and IT evolve too quickly to sit still and rest on our laurels. Penton has some incredible resources that could help us to further accelerate our business. We'd be fools not to leverage those resources while maintaining the best of what we have -- our brands, our insights and our community relationships.
Bottom Line for Penton and Nine Lives: No doubt, Nine Lives did a lot of things right as an independent company. But Penton is the largest, independent, privately held B2B publisher in the US. Nine Lives can certainly learn a ton from Peg Miller and Penton as Amy drives the Nine Lives brands forward.
Speaking of which, it's time for me to get MSPmentor back on-message. Enough about the Penton-Nine Lives deal. Anybody care to leak me any news about your own M&A plans?
I'm standing by for the details...