July 26, 2022

Industry Dive Proves B2B Can Be Big

There’s something to be said for putting your head down and just getting work done. You don’t act flashy, and you don’t chase headlines. You just get the job done. That’s what Industry Dive has done for a decade; last week’s M&A news is the result.

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Now let’s jump in…

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Informa announced that it had acquired Industry Dive for $389 million. In the press release, Informa said:

In 2022, Industry Dive is on track to deliver further strong growth, with revenues expected to be c.$110m and EBITDA c.$34m. The initial cash consideration being paid is $389m, equating to a pre-revenue synergy EBITDA multiple of c.11.4x and a post revenue synergy multiple of c.10.5x.

The agreement includes a significant earn-up element, which is designed to drive further growth acceleration, whilst de-risking any near-term macro volatility. If the earn-up growth acceleration plan is delivered in full, it could see total consideration increase to $525m by 2024.

Not to make it personal, but this brings me back to the very beginning of A Media Operator. A month after I launched, I wrote about Industry Dive selling a majority stake to Falfurrias Capital Partners. Writing about the deal gave me my first big break with AMO. CEO Sean Griffey shared the piece, and suddenly, AMO started to grow much faster. You might say he was my first influencer. And so, seeing Industry Dive punch even higher and achieve this level of success left me feeling excited.

But enough about me, let’s dig into this deal. As Informa said, the deal’s broken into two parts. The first is the $389 million acquisition and then the “earn-up,” which could leave the company generating an additional $136 million in value.

When Industry Dive was bought by Falfurrias, I estimated that revenue came in at approximately $29 million. As it joins Informa, revenue is expected to be nearly $110 million. Over three years, that’s a CAGR of almost 56%. Talk about growth.

At $389 million, let alone $525 million, Industry Dive is worth $100m+ than BuzzFeed. Let that sink in. BuzzFeed has received hundreds of stories about it compared to dozens for Industry Dive, and yet, Industry Dive is worth more. And it’s far more profitable. Its EBITDA of $34 million is likely higher than BuzzFeed too. B2B can be enormous. Industry Dive shows that.

I could write about why Industry Dive was able to achieve success, but Brian did an excellent job over at The Rebooting. This part was critical, in my opinion:

Industry Dive raised a $500,000 round to get off the ground. What I was always impressed by is that it made fair-sized bets from the start. Rather than start a single vertical and perfect it before moving on, samurai style, to other adjacent verticals, Industry Dive started in four verticals. This spread its bets and gave it opportunities to learn across different industries. But something Sean said to me about the decision stuck with me, something to the effect of, “Many people wait until they’ve perfected a vertical to launch a new one but they end up never launching a new one because they never feel like they’ve perfected the original one.” That is too true.

From day one, the team had its playbook. It launched with four sites. And a decade later, here we are.

So, rather than talking about why Industry Dive was successful, let’s focus on why Informa did this deal and what I think comes next. A big reason this happened, in my opinion, is that Informa regretted some of the deals it made over the past three years. So let me break those down:

  • In February 2019, Informa sold over 20 print and digital brands focused on the healthcare, pharmaceutical, and veterinary spaces for a little over $100 million.
  • In November 2019, Informa sold more than 20 titles to Endeavor Business Media. Although the price is unknown, Informa said it represented $64 million in revenue.
  • In December 2019, Informa sold a handful of events and B2B digital brands to Questex.

In big part, Informa offloaded dozens of titles because events were the name of the game. You could do no wrong owning an events brand. The margins were more substantial, so why would anyone want to own an expensive media asset?

Fast forward four months after that Questex deal, and here comes Covid. That changed everything. Suddenly, no one was going to events. Informa saw revenue drop, and it was forced to cut its dividend. Ironically, while Informa was struggling with Covid, Industry Dive had the best years of its existence. Yes, events struggled, but B2B marketers still needed leads. And Industry Dive was more than willing to help.

So, it should be no surprise that Informa is looking to correct its mistakes by bridging media and events the way I’ve always felt it should. And we can see that in the press release:

We see significant opportunities for revenue synergies by combining Industry Dive’s platform, specialist content and B2B data with Informa’s portfolio of B2B Brands.

This includes the accelerated roll out of new Dives, increased engagement with Informa’s existing Live Events customers through content, the cross-selling of specialist content marketing and lead generation services, and the roll out of new Live & On Demand Events to established Dive communities

Let’s break that second paragraph into its parts:

  • Roll out new Dives: It has large events with no publications assigned to them. So, Industry Dive can create a publication to support it.
  • Increase engagement with existing events: For those events that overlap with Industry Dive, we’ll start to see marketing to drive more ticket sales and sponsorships.
  • Specialist content and lead generation: Anyone can create content. But creating content and then driving an audience organically to said content is what media companies are good at.
  • New events: If Informa doesn’t have an event and Industry Dive does have a publication, we should expect to see new products launch.

Because Industry Dive has so many publications and Informa has so many events, there’s bound to be overlap. Ultimately, Industry Dive has the option to push users down the funnel to the events products.

Data is another reason why this deal makes sense. Industry Dive obviously has a ton of 1st-party data about its audience, including who they are and what they read. Likewise, Informa knows about what its event attendees are interested in. Imagine being able to mix that.

Here’s an example. An executive at Pfizer reads BioPharma Dive. First, they read specific stories related to vaccines. Then, they attend an Informa BioPharma event, where the attendee’s badge has an RFID chip to track which sessions the person watches. That data can then be appended to the user database, building a more complete profile.

I’ll be honest… This feels like the perfect deal. The Industry Dive team is not an expert at events, but they are experts at launching digital publications. And Informa is an event expert, but not on launching digital publications. Mix the two, and you get something pretty sweet.

Thanks for reading. If you have thoughts, hit reply or become a premium member so you can join the AMO Slack. Plus, you’ll start receiving the Friday newsletter. Have a great week!

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