Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Buying a blog. Validating a concept

There's news this week about a very interesting little deal in the B2B world.
Canon Communications has purchased Pharmalot, the extraordinary little blog that has proven an inspiration to numerous standalone journalists. Ed Silverman, founder of Pharmalot, will join Canon as editor at large in the Pharmaceutical Media Group and will continue as Pharmalot’s editor. He's also being asked to "spearhead further development of Canon’s digital assets, including webcasts and podcasts" and contribute to Canon's existing brands in the pharma space.
Details about the purchase can be found here.

Most people familiar with pharma, blogging, journalism or some combination thereof will applaud this deal. It's a nice fit. It unites one of the smartest writers in the space with one of the smartest companies in the industry. Canon gets both a property and a personality (making the deal something more than what my friend Rex calls an "acqhire"), while Silverman gets money, support and validation for his years of work.

But my love of this deal -- and I do love it -- is based in something more personal.
Regular readers of this blog know I first wrote about Pharmalot two years ago when Silverman and the blog were still tied to the Newark Star-Ledger.
In that post I suggested that Pharmalot offered newspaper publishers a model for expanding into a more lucrative area by competing head-to-head with B2B publishers.
But anyone who has witnessed the ceaselessly poor decisions that have come out of the newspaper industry in recent years will not be surprised to find that the Star-Ledger, rather than backing Silverman, wound up cutting him and the blog loose.
And no newspaper that I am aware of has since attempted to duplicate the model.

But what regular readers of this blog don't know -- because I haven't written about it before -- is that several months after Silverman went out on his own, I tried to convince a client of mine to hire him and buy Pharmalot.
That client had asked me for help in moving into the healthcare-data space. But my suggestion that they move slowly and start by buying Pharmalot, led to some bad blood. The client thought my plan was neither big nor bold enough. I, on the other hand, didn't think the client had the skills or resources to tackle something larger.
In the end, the client and I parted ways.
And Pharmalot continued on as a standalone product.

But life is a circle. Things have a way of resolving themselves. And over time I've learned that my initial reactions to a situation are often proven right ... over time.
As of today that former client has yet to find a way to get into the healthcare space. But now Silverman and Pharmalot are exactly where they should be: helping drive the digital efforts of a B2B publisher.
And the only thing that could make me happier is if I could come up with a convincing argument about why someone should pay me a commission on the deal.

1 comment:

  1. First, good luck with the convincing to get your rightful commission on the deal! ;)

    Great post, that is a very interesting deal and it's also motivating for bloggers. There are probably some lessons to be learned about pharmalot's story and how to develop a blog properly over several years. The value isn't always immediate (like revenues generated) but there are some you have to look at deeper to valuate. The purchase is, like you said, a validation for his hard work. While other bloggers might not be as luck to get acquired or acqhired ;)... there's still value there that they can leverage in perhaps other ways.

    I can also relate to what you said, about overzealous clients thinking they know best. It's frustrating when you're hired for your expertise but when it's not what they want to hear, they dismiss you.
    They can't have it both ways and eventually, like you also said well, things will work themselves out with their natural course and that client will unfortunately realize their mistake but hopefully learn to listen to the expert the next time around.

    Thanks again for the great post. Keep it up.