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Radio World Finds a New Home

As Alan Cohen put it, "in movement there is life, and in change there is power."

As Alan Cohen put it, “in movement there is life, and in change there is power.”

Change is taking place at Radio World. Look at the last inside page of this issue and you’ll find a new name in place of IMAS Publishing.

On July 5, RW and its younger siblings — broadcast and professional audio trade publications including TV Technology, Pro Audio Review and Audio Media — were acquired by NewBay Media, part of the Wicks Group of Companies, a New York-based private equity firm.

Leading brand

(click thumbnail)Steve Dana works the floor at his last NAB convention before selling IMAS Publishing. He attended his first NAB show in Washington in 1977, 30 years before. Photo by John Casey.This announcement marks the departure of Steve Dana, the driver of our newspaper for three decades and, more than any other person, the man responsible for launching what has become a competitive radio technical trade publishing industry.

Dana founded Industrial Marketing Advisory Services in the 1970s, originally with the goal of creating a computer-based electronic industry marketplace.

Talk about being ahead of his time. This concept didn’t pan out; the era of personal computers and consumer online access was too far in the future. But IMAS quickly moved in another, more fruitful direction.

Dana, then a 29-year-old entrepreneur, saw an opportunity to start a publication aimed specifically at technical professionals in the U.S. radio broadcast market. The idea came from one of the few early IMAS customers for computer services.

The client “suggested a publication rather than a computer service,” Dana told me in a 2001 article noting IMAS’ silver anniversary. “Why radio? Because radio station technical people felt disenfranchised by the existing publications at that time, which were largely focused on TV matters, not radio.

“Chief engineers were the target readers and they needed a voice. RW filled that niche, and still does today, though in an expanded manner.”

Radio World’s “godparents” — advisers Steve called his Audio Mafia — included people like Harv Rees, Bill Sacks and Mark Durenberger. RW’s first big story was the debate over the First Phone license; coverage of that issue helped build tremendous readership. Ad support from Roy Ridge and Allied Broadcast was a big early boost, Dana said.

In the years ensuing, Dana built the IMAS line card up from a publication covering one sector of broadcasting into a family that reached into video and professional audio, and that stretched — via print and online — into numerous other countries and markets.

The success of RW spawned competitors and imitators but the Radio World name remains the leading and most familiar brand in a niche that Steve literally created. If you are a radio engineer and feel you have a wealth of trade information available to you from IMAS and elsewhere, Steve Dana is a big reason.

‘Wonderful fit’

Given his long and prominent role in radio and the intense loyalty of our readers and advertisers, our ownership change will be scrutinized even more closely than it might otherwise.

Steve never hid that he planned to exit when it was time for him to retire; and our staff has known for some months that a change was coming.

IMAS is a healthy and prosperous company. I knew it would be attractive when it was offered for sale eventually. Our managers did a good job of keeping staff informed during the time the company was on the market; and we knew in the spring that several potential buyers had come forward and one selected, though we didn’t know the name.

As in any pending company sale, employees have wondered what might come of this sale and who our new bosses would be. When I learned the outcome, I was relieved and excited for RW, which I think plugs right into NewBay’s offerings like a tight-fitting XLR connector.

NewBay itself is a quickly evolving part of Wicks. Just last fall it had acquired CMP’s 14 magazines, among other assets, from United Business Media.

So Radio World now is part of a family that includes Pro Sound News, Guitar Player, Bass Player, Systems Contractor News, Keyboard, EQ, Residential Systems, Rental & Staging Systems, Videography, DV, Government Video, Television Broadcast, Digital Cinematography, Technology & Learning, DV Expo and Government Video Technology Expo. The company reaches 3 million professional and enthusiast readers monthly.

In the IMAS transaction, NewBay Media picks up the IMAS brands, publications and Web sites. That includes Radio World, Radio World Engineering Extra, Radio World International, Radio World Francophone, Radio World Latin America, TV Technology, TV Technology Europe, TV Technology Latin America, TV Technology Asia Pacific, Pro Audio Review, Audio Media and Broadcast & Production Italy. The sale also includes the contracts for the official show dailies for NAB and NRB.

(click thumbnail)NewBay Media CEO Steve PalmOur new CEO Steve Palm calls IMAS and NewBay a “wonderful fit” and said the move adds depth and breadth to NewBay’s pro audio and video divisions. I met with the new CEO before the sale and interviewed him by phone after the announcement. I was pleased by his enthusiasm and interest.

“IMAS is the No. 1 player in the radio and TV broadcast space; that was very attractive to us,” Palm told me. He sees NewBay as a mid-sized publisher with the breadth and depth to thrive in this sort of market but small enough to be able to react and take on opportunities.

“I think IMAS is similar in terms of its culture. It’s an aggressive entrepreneurial organization with some scale,” a company that achieved a lot given the resources it had. NewBay, he indicated, will bring further resources to bear.

“Radio World is a great publication. It obviously has the support of readers and advertisers as well as partners. When you have that sort of situation — where everybody reads the publication, from the users to the manufacturers, to the retailers, the advertisers, everybody — that’s nirvana to me.

“RW is such a dominant publication in the space (so) our feeling is, how do we enhance it, grow it and not lose what makes it special?”

Palm is interested in enhancing RW’s online offerings and possibly exploring more involvement with events, two areas in which NewBay has significant investments elsewhere. But he remains a believer in the value of the print medium and says the majority of decision-makers continue to make decisions based on what they see in editorial content on paper.

“There’s a satisfaction out of a magazine that you don’t get online. But online delivers news, audio and video very quickly. It’s up to us, the publishers and editors, to decide which content is best delivered in which way.”

In the announcement Palm also pointed out the “global reach” of IMAS, which reaches readers in six languages and more than 100 countries, and he talked about expanding NewBay’s brand internationally.

Top officials like IMAS CEO Carmel King, VP of Sales Eric Trabb and Publisher John Casey remain in place; and Carmel has told me several times that she is delighted that Steve Dana found a buyer with a “similar mindset” about building great publications.

Our company also will continue to be based in the nation’s capital region.

“We are looking at a new facility within a few miles of its current location, but still in the D.C. area,” Palm told me. “Editorially, as far as the heart and mind of these publications, RW and TV Technology, those will still emanate from the same people in virtually the same location.” NewBay also will retain IMAS offices in the United Kingdom and Italy.

No doubt there will be movement and change as our corporate culture becomes part of NewBay’s. But from what I’ve seen, this acquisition will be a healthy and powerful one for RW’s readers, advertisers and staff.

Through the negotiations, Palm said, Steve Dana “was a gentleman. This is his baby; and our intention is to take good care of it and grow it. These are two great publishing groups that will learn from each other.”

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