The news recently dropped and everyone is still talking about it. The Financial Times bought a majority stake ownership in The Next Web (TNW). I’m already thinking about who might be next.
Though the terms of the deal are undisclosed, it’s already creating excitement around TNW’s flagship Europe-based innovation event in Amsterdam. My first major ticket purchase (several hundred dollars) for an event was actually for The Next Web’s event in New York, dubbed Momentum, back in 2016.
Power(ed) by events
Collaboration efforts on hosting content for TNW 2019 have been announced as part of the FT-TNW deal. Attendance will likely increase for both companies’ event series as a result of all the news and additional partners that will be brought in this year. FT Live — Financial Times’ conference — should also see improvements in numbers and content as this partnership plays out. For publications looking to get acquired, it looks like having a solid live events strategy is key.
Financial Times was certainly interested in TNW as a publication focused on tech but it was the live events business that was particularly interesting. Many publications leverage an event series to showcase their journalism. They typically set up one of their esteemed journalists or editors to have a fireside chat or moderate a panel.
I think this is an exciting time for not only event-hosting publications, but even for event industry publications, specifically, as well. Putting on events to host thousands of techies, requires tech — and who covers event tech more than event industry publications? Perhaps in the future we may see a major event-focused publication get pulled into a bigger, mainstream partnership.
For now, it’s the tech, entrepreneurship, and lifestyle publications like TNW, Elite Daily — which sold in 2015 and again in 2016 — and Tech.Co — which quietly sold last January — are getting the big offers.
What publications do you predict to partner up next?
On shoulders of giants
A good number of the publications we consumers read and perhaps think are independent are in fact not. TechCrunch, Engadget, Verge, Eater, Polygon, Recode, and Mashable, to name just a few, are part of behemoths like AOL, Verizon, tech company J2, Univision, and Vox Media. The Daily Mail bought out Elite Daily in 2015, only to turn it over to Bustle in 2016. It turns out the market is very much still alive for media properties that can build — and retain — an audience.
Now that The Next Web has traded hands through its majority stake purchase by The Financial Times, the most obvious “at bat” candidate is VentureBeat. Crunchbase news reporter Alex Wilhelm all but called out the possibility directly in a feely piece yesterday.
Wilhelm wrote of The Next Web’s writing staff in the early days:
“It was a stupid-good crew of folks.” — Crunchbase News’ Alex Wilhelm.
He proceeds to list out part of the early ‘Next Web roster: Ken Yeung, Matt Panzarino, Jamillah Knowles, Jon Russell, Emil Protalinski and many others. As expected, a number moved on to “bigger” outlets (read: acquired and well funded) but one name stands out: VentureBeat.
Similarly situated to The Next Web with a strong staff, tech focus, and well-recognized conference series VB Summit and GamesBeat Summit, VentureBeat — gasp — remains independent.
It’s ultimately the intellectual property and “the people” that The Financial Times bought into with its majority stake purchase at The Next Web. VentureBeat has similarly valuable assets, recognition, and stability. It also has a raft of “the people” from legacy TNW. For VentureBeat, we can hear the echoes of acquisition talk from afar.
Will VentureBeat stay independent? We think not for long.
Looking for more coverage of independent publications? Check out our piece on Digital Trends.