About a week and a half ago, when we managed—late on a Friday night—to get confirmation that Nielsen would be putting all of its tradeshows up for sale, it set me to thinking about “what ifs.” That’s because it’s always fun to second-guess the vague non-announcements about big media companies buying and selling themselves, even if it can turn out to be a meaningless waste of time.
What if another similar-sized events producer buys the total inventory? What will that do to the industry landscape? What if it’s broken up and its handful of landmark mega shows go to different homes? What if hopes for a deal fizzle and we don’t even remember the whole thing six months from now?
Experience tells me the eventual conclusion to deals involving the Mt. Rushmores of the business (think Nielsen, Penton, Reed Exhibitions, etc.) is rarely as much fun as you’d hoped it would be. That’s because the stakes are typically so high, and the dollar amounts typically so huge, that caution is a consideration. Nobody wants to make any sudden moves.
You’ve got to get down to the level of some of the entrepreneurs who are one-person operations—the ones who will be busy talking up the Mt. Rushmores at the SISO CEO Summit in a couple of weeks—before you find some characters willing to make deals that create a little excitement. They are the ones that have so much to win or lose with one simple move (Think of the homegrown World Tea Expo going to Penton Media).
One interesting thought to come from the Nielsen non-announcement: In its Monday morning quarterbacking the next week, TheDeal.com quotes an unnamed banker saying, “Expositions are no longer thought of as a waning business in the mode trade magazines might be.”
As somebody who covers the expositions business, that sounds like good news.
As somebody who works for one of those trade magazines he’s talking about…not so much.
Michael Hart is executive editor of Expo Magazine. He can be reached at email@example.com.