Incisive Media sells British Journal of Photography in app-driven management buyout

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Jasper Jackson, TheMediaBriefing Experts' Blog, B2B Media

The B2B media amputations continue as Tim Weller's Incisive Media becomes the latest publishing beast to sell some non-core assets. It is spinning out the British Journal of Photography (BJP) via a management buyout led by new app-focused publishing company Apptitude Media, led by the BJP team including MD Marc Hartog.

In the words of Apptitude editorial director Simon Bainbriedge, the new company will be: "Pursuing new ventures in digital publishing, alongside our print and various app editions of BJP."

Apptitude Media counts Incisive Media as a minor shareholder and will remain in Incisive's HQ building for now. The move follow's the announcement from Emap that it was prepared to let its Broadcast division exit via an MBO led by Conor Dignam (should a suitable buyer turn up).

At the same time, Incisive has offloaded Computer Active to Dennis Publishing, leaving it with a fully B2B-focused portolio having divested its last consumer titles.

Appy days

The App in Apptitude isn't there for nothing. The BJP has already been using skills and technology developed for its own apps (for which they won a British Media Award in 2012) to develop products for other titles such as the UK version of Popular Science.

"We are now in a position to offer that service to other publishers," says Hartog. "We've already started doing that to other publishers and to anybody really who produces printed matter."

This is part of a growing trend of publishers selling their technology and expertise to other publishers (more on this from us in the near future) - having spent time and effort developing the platform, why not share it externally, for profit?

Another angle is the introduction of a mobile/tablet ad creation process for ad clients, something Hartog is keen to start charging for soon.

However, Hartog says the BJP will remain the heart of the company's business for some time: "The Holy Grail is a publication profitable with reader revenue, and advertising becomes the icing on the cake - though it's very important icing.  

"I will strive for two thirds from reader revenue - that's including print - but I think digital will overtake that soon as more devices go out there."

From big to small - what are the economics of this?

BJP may not make a fortune but it's profitable and has been blazing a trail in interactive magazine tablet editions. 

Hartog tells TheMediaBriefing, the BJP was never a good fit with Incisive's B2B focused portfolio: "BJP has been the incubator for some digital things across the Incisive business and we've been given an element of freedom.

"But what you can’t do as a non-core part of the business is get the investment to expand the team and launch new consumer digital magazines."

Hartog admits his investment may have to be used for running costs as it takes on the additional staff and new products. "The money I’ve raised is to invest in the product and development, and to develop the portfolio. But we’ve obviously just added a lot of costs," he says.

As well as core BJP staff, Apptitude is also taking designers, sales and marketing people and a tech team who were working across other parts of incisive to create a team of 14.

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