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Monday, July 21, 2008

McGraw Hill to bid for Reed Elsevier? (2)

Here is a further news item on the suggestion that McGraw-Hill might be interested in Reed Elsevier. This Washington Post article notes that they originally believed McGraw-Hill had interest in Reed's construction titles, but the scope of interest may have widened.

In my heart, I'm not sure of the validity of this story, because as far as I know, McGraw-Hill had been following on roughly the same track as Reed in believing that the future does not lie in conventional print/advertising based publications. Sure, I understand, McGraw-Hill had no plans to ditch its existing titles, including regional construction magazines, Engineering News-Record and Architectural Record, among other. But McGraw-Hill didn't want to acquire or develop significant new print titles, regardless.

Reed may be following the lead of Thomson Reuters which had the foresight to get out of print media several years ago, focusing on value added databases and electronic services. The question is, if you are a leading player in a field you know is about to rapidly decline, do you get out or do you hold on? Your existing properties can still be 'cash cows' if you slash costs, cut resources, and adapt the brands, but you have the messy business of laying off employees, and shrinking your operations to adapt to the changing environment. So, it seems logical that you would try to find a buyer who can see value in the underlying assets, who is not afraid to be ruthless to turn them into profitable operations. Again, it doesn't make sense to me that McGraw-Hill would want to play that role.

So who is spreading these rumors, and why? The answer could relate to 'inside' employee tips and reactions with self-preservation in mind; or it might simply be that indeed McGraw-Hill is kicking some tires -- heck if your largest competitor is ready to open its books for review, would you not want to take a peek at them?

At ground level, I see these developments as natural and inevitable trends as the publishing/media industry continues to experience seismic shifts under the combined pressure of media convergence, the increasing value-focused emphasis on Internet advertising, and the breakdown of traditional models/priorities within conventional media. If you are a consumer of construction news and information, or purchase advertising to serve the industry, you need not worry -- you'll find you will continue to get more for less: with (perhaps temporary) exceptions where local or specialized circumstances exist -- which is why the large media players within the industry are changing to find new avenues for their businesses.

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