UBM Will Cut Magazines To Expand Multimedia B2B

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David Levin’s United Business Media (LSE: UBM) is planning to reduce the number of print titles it publishes as part of plans that will make magazines merely a “complementary” part of an expanded multimedia B2B strategy.

In an interim management statement for the year to October, the company says that, in the medium term, “many, but not all,” of its markets will continue to support magazines as part of an integrated content plan and, accordingly, UBM is “managing our portfolio towards a smaller set of market-leading, commercially sustainable titles.”

But don’t expect the web to pick up too much slack. UBM’s online advertising revenue has “yet to show any improvement in aggregate”, meaning it’s either down or stable year-on-year, and the company admits “continued pressure on banner advertising models in general”. But there is increased interest from online marketers for some of its products.

UBM’s online data and services division made £126.6 million in the first half, but since then the downturn has badly affected UBM’s trade, aviation and transport sites. One online product that is growing is internetevolution.com, UBM claims.

Print revenue is down, thanks to the recession and “long-term structural decline”. Curiously, and without adding detail, the company says it has a plan to make magazines pay: “We also have a range of initiatives in progress across our businesses to monetise content that was previously available at no cost to qualified readers.”

— The company spent £20 million on four acquisitions in the year so far, including risk management forestry news site RISI and Spanish medical site Iasist, and its says it’s still looking for more businesses to buy. On UBM’s radar are IP-related and tradeshow companies and it’s keen to invest in China, Russia India and Brazil.

So, there are clues here to UBM’s overall strategy, but the publisher gives none as to its financial figures: it only says its current trading is “stable” and in line with its expectations, with growth in Asia and Latin America and “tough trading conditions” in the US and UK. UBM says its events business, which accounts for about half of its revenue, is “performing well”.

Update: UBM’s on-going publishing strategy could include an increased use of paywalls, the company told us on Friday. UBM publishes several mostly free sites such as Musicweek.com and Farmersguardian.com, but a spokesman told us that “all UBM businesses” are considering a range of models to monetise print and online content and “one of the approaches under consideration is the use of paywalls”. The strategy will differ from sector to sector and across geographies, however. Emap is currently introducing paywalls on its sites, using technology from CMS vendor Abacus; UBM is also an Abacus client.

Full year results are due in March. Release.

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