Mike Fredericks, President & CEO of Annex Business Media, is a CA accountant and has operated Annex for nearly 26 years.
Early this year, Annex and Newcom acquired 67 trade publications, related websites and other digital assets previously owned by Business Information Group. With this transaction, what had been the largest privately owned B2B company has made another major leap to become the biggest B2B publishing company in Canada.
The B2Blog spoke with Mike Fredericks about this acquisition as well as the business-to-business publishing industry in general.
Annex Business Media and Newcom Business Media announced earlier this year the acquisition of 67 titles previously owned by Business Information Group (BIG), and the launch of a new amalgamated company. What does this new partnership mean for the future of B2B publishing in Canada, in your view?
I think it’s a good sign that private owners have such a significant interest in B2B publishing, and that we were prepared to invest a pretty substantial amount of money and some of the best titles in the country. I think it’s good; it bodes well.
Since the recent merger, what have been some of the first orders of business?
The primary elements have been getting to understand the assets and to meet the senior people associated with all the titles that we’ve acquired and understand what their business opportunities and challenges are. It’s really about fact-finding, about what it is we’ve acquired. Of course, we know them through years of watching them or in some cases competing with them, so now it’s nice to know them from the inside.
How has the evolution of Annex shaped your own experience and your understanding of the B2B industry in Canada?
I’ve been in the business 25 years or so, from a very small number of business titles and very vertical markets. We see the evolution of the needs of marketers to the various business communities that they serve. The big thing on everyone’s mind is: how do we continue to serve them? Twenty-five years ago we were all quite satisfied with making a nice magazine and putting it on doorsteps or in mailboxes, but today its more complicated than that. We have to deliver to our audience in a variety of ways, through digital formats of all sorts and also face-to-face events. We’re still in the magazine business, but we have a lot of other things to go with it.
Annex Business Media operates differently than many publishing companies in that you are your own supplier of almost all necessary operational functions. Can you tell us about the genesis of this approach as well as the resulting opportunities and challenges?
The genesis is that the businesses we acquired were already established in this format. They were running their own circulations department and their own graphics departments, but also had print facilities. All we have done is use that model with more modern approaches to things like very sophisticated printing plants. It helps us to manage our costs and be in control of our work flow.
In your opinion, what is the biggest challenge the B2B publishing industry must adapt to today?
I think it’s the fragmentation of the purchasing dollar, in that it has various people driving what they think is going to be effective for them. Coming up with the best multi-faceted solution, which I think is an integrated sales approach and also how to best reach a total audience.
Many of Annex’s and recently acquired BIG magazines are considered references in their respective industry. The quality of the content these magazines produce has been celebrated by the B2B community through the Kenneth R. Wilson Awards, a program that recognizes excellence in B2B publishing. What gives strength to your publications?
We’re always happy to find best practices in a new enterprise, or share those that we’ve been successful with, giving us a broader base of publications to share best practices across all aspects of the publishing. Best practices are certainly a big benefit. Also, in the case of Annex, we made a pretty substantial commitment to the manufacturing sector. We were already in it, but the majority of titles we acquired from BIG were in the manufacturing sector, so it’s a very large commitment to the Canadian manufacturing sector.
Annex Business Media is one of the founding members of Canadian Business Media. As a publisher, what do you hope to get from the association and what do you feel is critical that the CBM focus on in the foreseeable future?
I think the primary function of any business association is to lobby the government for the best efforts to support the industry. Also, to work with the industry for the development of the staff within the industry, to be the primary hub of education and training. An ancillary, of course, I do appreciate the efforts of identifying and recognizing the best in the industry, so I think the awards programs are beneficial.
What advice would you give emergent writers, editors, publishers who want to work in B2B publishing?
Have a passion for the industry that you’re applying to, or at least a serious interest in it. The writing and the publishing tends to be somewhat technical, based on the environment, so enjoying that environment certainly brings a lot more benefit. When someone is committed to the sector that they’re working in, it benefits both the employee and employer and as well as the overall industry.