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Primedia Puts BTB Segment, Including Direct, Up for Sale

Primedia Inc. retained Credit Suisse First Boston to help explore the sale of its business-to-business publishing segment, the New York-based media company said yesterday.

After three years of declining revenue growth, the segment posted a slight 1.5 percent increase last year and 5.2 percent for the fourth quarter, according to the company's year-end results. That growth “attracted the attention of several qualified buyers,” and the company decided to “evaluate the offers in the context of a competitive review,” Primedia president/CEO Kelly P. Conlin said in a statement.

However, circulation revenue dropped 6.6 percent last year.

Primedia's Business Information Segment consists of 70 publications, including Promo, Direct and Corporate Meetings and Incentives, plus Web sites, industry events and directories in more than 18 business market sectors. Reports yesterday suggested the unit might be worth as much as $450 million.

Primedia reports its Q1 2005 results May 5.

The latest announcement comes three weeks after Primedia said it would retire the 23-year-old Catalog Age brand and sister publication Operations & Fulfillment and merge them into a new title called Multichannel Merchant. Shrinking ad revenue and pressure from Primedia brass to devise new revenue streams were cited by observers as reasons for the earlier move.

Primedia's consumer titles — which include a long list of enthusiast magazines such as Motor Trend and Snowboarder — have been struggling for several years, said Dan Capell, editor of Capell's Circulation Report.

“Ad pages have been off in the consumer segment,” he said, adding that those niche titles have yet to bounce back.

In recent years, Primedia sold several of its better-known consumer publications, such as New York magazine and Seventeen, to pay off debt related to its $690 million acquisition of About.com in 2000. In February, Primedia sold About.com to The New York Times Co. for $410 million.

In signs that the BTB publishing sector is rebounding, American Business Media said last month that BTB ad revenue rose 4.95 percent for December and spending was up 3.83 percent for 2004. Ad pages increased 2.71 percent in December, and year-end totals were up 1.44 percent.

Also, Questex Media Group Inc. signed a definitive agreement this month to buy Advanstar's technology, travel, portfolio, beauty and home entertainment groups for $185 million. The segment includes 23 trade publications, 50 Web sites, 21 exhibitions and 25 conferences.

Chantal Todé covers catalog and retail news and BTB marketing for DM News and DM News.com. To keep up with the latest developments in these areas, subscribe to our daily and weekly e-mail newsletters by visiting www.dmnews.com/newsletters

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