The Top Right Group has announced the creation of a new operating company to replace EMAP, accelerating the transformation of the group’s B2B arm into a digital pure-play and events businesses. The move will see all 17 titles from the publisher-formerly-known-as-EMAP, including Construction News and Health Service Journal, move to digital-only within 12 to 18 months and the 70-year EMAP brand disappear.
In today’s statement, Top Right Chief Executive Duncan Painter said, “Customers are sending a clear message: digital subscriptions and live events are the formats they want to engage with. This change finalises our group’s migration to a digital and large scale events company.”
Painter told the Guardian that the name change is a symptom of the difficulty in getting the market to accept a 70 year-old brand as a digital publisher. Despite the fact that 67 percent of EMAP revenues are digital, he said, “we just haven’t been able to get the market to accept EMAP as a digital brand… The best strategy was to retire the name.”
The new operating company will be headed up by current EMAP CEO Natasha Christie-Miller and formally launched – and presumably named – in November. She sees the changes as an opportunity to consolidate the 4C, Planet Retail and EMAP brands, which she says have many things in common, including customers.
Top Right’s new structure will feature three business units; the new digital publishing operation, fashion information business WGSN and events operation i2i, which includes the Cannes Lions festival.
With steadily reducing debt, and pre-tax profits of £85 million from revenues of £312 million last year, the new ‘digital-only’ label could also re-re-ignite discussion of a Top Right sale or flotation.
Alongside genuine fears of job losses…
So long Emap. Never nice to see such a venerable B2B brand retired, or so many magazines no longer in print. Hope not too many jobs go.
— Michael Barnett (@MichaelPBarnett) October 5, 2015
There was some real nostalgia for the mighty publishing empire that EMAP once was on social media…
— Arif Durrani (@DurraniMix) October 5, 2015
Some saw the move as sad, but possibly a foregone conclusion…
This is sad, but was it inevitable? – ‘Emap brand to be scrapped as all its titles move digital-only’ http://t.co/TQbtfGiQuw
— David Bostock (@davidbostockUK) October 5, 2015
Although one thread sees the all-in nature of the digital-only shift move as bold…
— Neil Thackray (@neilthackray) October 5, 2015
Especially given that different markets have taken on digital at different rates with some looking at Lloyds List’s return to print as a possible note of caution…
@neilthackray Informa tried with Lloyds list and now are back in print. Different markets respond differently I guess.
— Parry Malm (@ParryMalm) October 5, 2015
A comment on the original Guardian story questions the wisdom of giving up the 33 percent of revenues that are not digital, especially given that earnings from events will feature heavily in the remaining 67 percent.
“A third of the revenue from one third of the business. I wonder how much of the 67% of revenue comes from digital? I’d wager the events business is doing all the heavy lifting there.”
Ditching print revenues might seem like a strange move when there’s so much pressure for publishers to generate revenue, but the reduction of earnings will be less of a concern if a sale is on the cards – Digital multiples are likely to be significantly higher than those on a mixed print-digital portfolio.