The Big Story: Mega Mergers

The Big Story podcast

Media mega mergers have replaced VC-backed media as the latest trend to watch. And they’re coming thick and fast.

On Monday, Vox Media bought Group Nine Media. The week before, BuzzFeed – with Complex Networks and HuffPost in tow – went public. Dotdash bought Meredith in October, and Axel Springer spent $1 billion on Politico over the summer.

Media consolidation is in vogue, but Big Tech shouldn’t be quaking in its boots just yet. Though these companies offer appealing scale and can build more appealing first-party data plays, their increased leverage is still relative.

“We've seen the Big Tech platforms exert a lot of pressure by virtue of their size and dominance in the marketplace,” AdExchanger Associate Editor Anthony Vargas, who reported on the acquisition, says on this week’s episode. “These publishers now have a lot more muscle to flex.”

Speaking of muscle to flex, Criteo bought IPONWEB for $380 million last week in a deal that  speaks directly to Criteo’s ambitions to move beyond retargeting powered by the (disappearing) third-party cookie. IPONWEB fits right into Criteo’s plan to expand more deeply into commerce and retail media, including by possibly building custom platforms for retail media clients.

“This deal opens up a new opportunity for Criteo to actually build audience networks for retailers, like The Trade Desk did for Walmart, but to do it faster,” says Managing Editor Allison Schiff, who interviewed Criteo CEO Megan Clarken and Chief Product Officer Todd Parsons post-acquisition.

Criteo’s similarly-sized acquisition of HookLogic ($250 million in 2016) powered the company’s initial commerce push, and IPONWEB could power a second wave of growth through building solutions for retail media brands.

Just like the recent spate of large media acquisitions, the IPONWEB acquisition is taking place in the shadow of Big Tech, as independent ad tech and content-focused advertising businesses urgently search for space unoccupied or under-occupied by platforms.

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