Deals By The Dozen: Recapping The Hot Year In Publisher M&A

2015 Digital ContentWith attention shifting to online, investors have realized that dollars are moving there too, making 2015 a hot year for digital publishers looking for investments or to be acquired.

The deals ranged from NBCUniversal’s $200 million investment each in BuzzFeed and Vox, to smaller ones like the $2.5 million PureWow picked up.

“The value of great consumer brands [in publishing] will become more pronounced over time,” said Jason Kint, head of publisher trade group Digital Content Next.

Traditional media investments in digital publishing happen as they realize the decline in TV watching is due to an uptick in time spend on the web, according to RBC Capital Markets analyst Rohit Kulkarni.

“Usage and consumption in the new demographic is shifting dramatically,” he said. “Old media companies see that wave of people using new-age media, such as Snapchat or BuzzFeed, growing forward over the next few years.”

Kulkarni predicts traditional TV “will start declining at a faster rater than anyone has seen,” an assertion backed up by recent studies released by Magna Global and ZenithOptimedia.

For all the acquisition activity in the publishing space, Kint sees the sector as a stable force compared to its counterpart, ad tech, where more companies exist than the market can sustain.

“In ad tech, where there are 500 companies, there’s such a morass there,” he said. “All the consolidating there greatly dwarfs the activity in the content space, where the consumer actually knows and trusts the brands.”

Here’s AdExchanger’s list of the major investments, acquisitions and fundraising in digital publishing this year.

January: Daily Mail acquires Elite Daily for close to $50 million

March: PlayBuzz, a quiz platform for publishers, raises $16 million in Series B funding

April: Refinery29 raises $50 million in Series D financing from Scripps Networks Interactive.

May: PureWow raises $2.5 million as lifestyle site’s audience triples.

July: Zealot Networks acquires ViralNova for $100 million.

July: Nikkei buys Financial Times for $1.3 billion

August: NBCUniversal invests $200 million in Vox Media, another $200 million in BuzzFeed.

September: MoviePilot raises $16 million in Series B financing from French publisher Webedia.

September: Media General buys Meredith for $2.4 billion. (The deal still hasn’t closed yet while Meredith evaluates an unsolicited bid.)

September: Axel Springer buys Business Insider for $390 million.

October: Time Inc. buys HelloGiggles for $20 million to $30 million, and a week later it buys xoJane.

October: IBM buys The Weather Co.’s digital business (though data, not advertising, was the bigger draw).

December: Disney doubles investment in Vice Media, adding $200 million for a $400 million investment

December: Tribune Media invests $25 million in viral publisher Dose Media, a Series B round.


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