The CEO Perspective

The CEO Perspective

What it Takes to Win in the Changing Market Research Landscape

JEGI CLARITY’s 19th Annual Media & Tech Conference focused on ‘Maintaining a Winning Mindset,’ brought together senior executives and investors from across the global media, marketing, information, and technology sectors.

During the conference, attendees had the pleasure of hearing Tod Johnson and Karyn Schoenbart, both currently Co-Founders & Managing Directors of Duo Partners Consulting and former CEOs of The NPD Group, talk to John Rose, Managing Director and Senior Partner at Boston Consulting Group, about the changing market research landscape.

The Changing State of the Market

Tod and Karyn began by acknowledging that the landscape of market research and information services has dramatically changed over the last few years with the deconstruction of large players, such as Nielsen and Kantar, and the consolidation of companies like The NPD Group / IRI merger (now Circana) and the NielsenIQ / GFK proposed merger. Tod commented that this disruption within the marketplace is not new, with acquisitions taking place in the mid-1980s and the reconstruction of many companies like Dun & Bradstreet in the 1990s. He went on to explain that restructuring works well when the two businesses coming together are harmonious in their approach, like the merger of The NPD Group with IRI that collected similar data but in different industries. For Tod and Karyn, the tipping point for them to sell came down to it being the right time – the growth of the business was good, employee and client satisfaction was high, and they felt there was another chapter ahead of them as leaders as well as for NPD.

The Changing State of Market Research

Conversation turned to the changing state of their industry and the decline of panel effectiveness and proprietary surveys. Karyn commented how real time information and ‘always on’ data will become prevalent, with many disruptive, early-stage data companies able to gather information from consumer reviews, social media mentions/videos, and other more passive platforms that are quicker to obtain relevant information and don’t bring with them the privacy issues and fraudulent challenges of survey-based gathering.

This more observational approach was often being driven by tech-led companies, that have the tech know-how but need to tap into the business application and analysis around the data. One such example highlighted by Karyn was a company led by two young female scientists who have developed an AI tool that uses computer vision to look inside of a video to understand the real sentiment of the video. These types of early-stage, disruptive companies are exciting them, and they are looking to bring their expertise and years of business experience to complement their tech platforms.

Tod expanded on how The NPD Group, being a private company, allowed them to take a longer-term view and invest in new technologies such as Media Metrix, online surveys and receipt captures which other larger, public, limited companies that are less agile possibly couldn’t respond to as fast.

Developing a winning mindset

John Rose asked Tod and Karyn what they thought it took to develop a winning mindset. Karyn Schoenbart described the company’s three-pillar philosophy of:

  • Having the best and most accurate data
  • Turning data into information
  • Being able to deliver the data in a way that it is useful for people

Tod added that having a part-creativity and part-mechanics approach is how you generate real success, commenting that if you can apply your expertise in a different way than your competitors, you are likely to win in business.

For more information about our conference please click here.

How I do it: Neil Vogel, Dotdash Meredith

How I do it: Neil Vogel, Dotdash Meredith

JEGI CLARITY’s 19th Annual Media & Tech Conference, focused on ‘Maintaining a Winning Mindset,’ brought together senior executives and investors from across the global media, marketing, information, and technology sectors.

At the conference, Colin Morrison, Founder, Publisher & Editor of Flashes & Flames and Advisory Board member at JEGI CLARITY, interviewed Neil Vogel, Chief Executive Officer of Dotdash Meredith, America’s largest digital and print publisher. The article below was written by Colin Morrison and originally published in Flashes & Flames. Click here to receive more content from Flash & Flames.


Neil Vogel is the Chief Executive Officer of Dotdash Meredith, the largest digital and print publisher in the US, whose 40+ brands include People, Better Homes& Gardens, Verywell, Food & Wine, The Spruce, Allrecipes, Byrdie, Real Simple, Investopedia, and Southern Living.

The company is a wholly-owned subsidiary of IAC, Barry Diller’s listed holding company whose “financially disciplined opportunism” has been responsible for the success of many digital brands including Vimeo, Expedia, TripAdvisor, Live Nation, Match Group, and Angi.

Prior to the $2.7bn acquisition of Meredith Corp in 2021, Vogel had been CEO of Dotdash and led its transformation from a general information website ( to a portfolio of high-performing lifestyle verticals. In 2020, it had made $66mn EBITDA on revenue of $214mn, growth of 65% and 27% respectively. Its operations were characterized by: “Best content, fastest sites, and fewer, better ads”.

The all-digital publisher’s decision to acquire the troubled 120-year-old, print-centric Meredith surprised many. But Vogel had identified the value of its long-established magazine brands; the market-leading product licensing, generating an estimated $100mn of annual profit, principally from Better Homes & Gardens branded products in Walmart; and the constraints that had been forced on Meredith by its ill-fated 2017 acquisition of Time Inc.

But the CEO has admitted last year was a tough start for the “new” company: “These mergers are hard, and this was really hard and slow. In a good market, nobody sees your mistakes. In a bad market, everyone sees every mistake.”

Dotdash Meredith now claims some 170mn online consumers in the US each month (76% of all adults and 90% of women). That makes it a top 10 internet operator alongside Disney, Warner Media, Paramount and Comcast/NBC – and larger than Hearst and Condé Nast combined. Its largest sectors are: Food (Allrecipes, Food & Wine), Entertainment (People), Home (Better Homes & Gardens, Southern Living) and Health (Verywell). Its pro forma revenue for 2022 was $2.3bn, 60% from ads, 20% from eCommerce and 13% licensing. For Q4, digital accounted for 54% of revenue and 85% of profit, emphasizing the digitalization of the Meredith portfolio.

Before joining IAC / Dotdash in 2013, Vogel was Founder and CEO of Recognition Media, a producer of award shows including the Webby Awards and the Telly Awards. Previously, he had been an executive at digital content and marketing company Alloy, and an investment banker. He had graduated in finance from the Wharton Business School at the University of Pennsylvania.

How did you get into media?

When I realized I was not going to be the starting shooting guard for the Philadelphia 76ers, I had to take a different course. I was an investment banker for a number of years. I actually very much enjoyed it, but I found myself wanting to be a client, not one of my bosses. I joined a very early internet company called Alloy. They ended up going private and selling it off and we had a pretty good run.

Then I left and got into more nuts and bolts media businesses. I started a company, Recognition Media, that rolled-up media and advertising award shows which we eventually sold to private equity. Then I joined a venture capital firm FirstMark Capital as an entrepreneur in residence. But I was a terrible investor. It’s not my temperament or my skillset.

How did you come to join IAC?

I knew the guys at IAC, which now owns Dotdash Meredith. At the time, they had just bought from the New York Times.
That was probably one of the worst scaled internet businesses in history. They called me to see if I knew anyone who could run it, and I said ‘Well, wait, that looks interesting,’ and I persuaded them to let me do it. was a general information website, much like an old fashioned service magazine publisher. But it was one brand, a lot of content, and the vast majority of the content was pretty bad. But it still had 20-30mn users a month and I thought we could do something with it.

The one thing I couldn’t understand was that there were still advertisers – companies like Microsoft and Carnival Cruises – paying us exorbitant amounts of money to advertise on a platform where the ads really didn’t work that well. The content was not presented in a great way. But, because my background was not publishing but more like banking and math, I came to realize that our users were at the very bottom of their decision funnels (whether they were ready to solve a problem or make a purchase) and so that was a very good place for some advertisers. When people are searching “What do I bring on my cruise?” that’s a good place for, say, Carnival Cruises to be.”

With that bit of knowledge, I went to Barry Diller. For those who know him, you’ll know that I did not have the easiest conversation when I said: “This thing that we bought is totally wrong. We’re going to throw out almost two-thirds of the content and we’re going to launch a whole bunch of brands to compete against household brands that you’ve known for a hundred years – on the internet, which seems like a bad place for publishers.” His response was: “Well, this hasn’t been working for so long. It’s about time. You guys have an idea that’s worthwhile doing.”

So we took, broke it up and launched a whole bunch of sites including Verywell Health and The Spruce in Home. We almost instantly had very big success, simply because we had looked at the internet differently. We said we’re going to make fast sites, every bit of content we make is going to be amazing, we’re going to have fewer ads so they perform better and don’t annoy consumers, and it’s going to work. We immediately turned the business round and made some acquisitions. We bought Brides from Condé Nast, Byrdie (a beauty site) from an entrepreneur, and some food sites. Suddenly, we went from 30mn users a month to more than 100mn.

Dotdash went from 60 or $70mn in revenue to almost $300mn. We went from losing money to close to $100m EBITDA. We realized that we had become very, very good at publishing on the internet.

Why did you acquire Meredith?

Dotdash had achieved this rapid growth at a time when everybody thought publishing was broken. Publishing is not broken, bad publishing models are broken. But the thing that we didn’t have was major brands. While The Spruce grew to be the biggest home site on the internet, bigger than Real Simple, Good Housekeeping and Better Homes & Gardens, nobody really knew what it was.

IAC really believes in the power and value of major brands so we persuaded it to acquire Meredith Corp for $2.7bn.

Our whole thesis was that this historic business had structural issues that caused it to be very cash constrained and not that able to invest in growth. We thought that, if we could take what we knew digitally and apply it to these incredible brands – People, Better Homes & Gardens, Travel and Leisure, Real Simple, Food & Wine, Entertainment Weekly – we could do to them what we had done to the brands we had re-invented from

We thought we could have tremendous success and we still feel that way. We happened to buy at a relatively tough time for the ad market. But, long term, that doesn’t matter. We’re now the biggest digital and print publisher in America, probably in the world. We have a whole bunch of print assets too, that we actually like and they fit as part of the mix. We’re by far the biggest publisher online. We like our brands and our scale. Our content really performs and, though the integration has been hard, we’re getting there.

The opportunity to acquire Meredith arose essentially because of its problems with the purchase of Time Inc six years ago. Had Dotdash / IAC also tried to acquire Time Inc back in 2017?

When Meredith bought Time Inc, we were actually too small to do anything. But we forced ourselves into the room to see what we could learn. Meredith had made a choice to double down on print: one print publisher was buying another print publisher and hoping to wring more money out of print.

Some of our people jokingly called it “print on print violence”, and it didn’t work. I don’t really have an opinion on what happened before we got there, but I think the results speak for themselves. We paid significantly less than what the combination of Meredith+Time Inc would have been worth at the time they did it.

For us, though, it certainly wasn’t about buying either print or digital; it was about buying brands. What we saw in Meredith was a company with some very talented people but which was a dividend-driven, essentially a family-controlled business, not really exposed to the latest thinking. We’d just been through this exercise with the assets plus the seven or eight brands we had bought. We knew exactly what to do with these legendary Meredith brands, to fix them on TikTok, on Instagram and – more importantly – on the web.

We also had a very good idea of what to do with print because you just have to make magazines that people are willing to pay for, that are high quality – and that will work. We probably had a touch of irrational arrogance because of our previous success. If we get this right, I think we can be a category-defining publisher for where media’s going.

How did People – the biggest and most profitable Meredith brand – fit your strategy?

We’ve always said – and I think it’s something unique to us – that we’ve always stuck to our knitting and said we are going to be a service publisher. That means health, finance, home, food, tech, travel. We are never going to do news, we’re never going to do politics, we’re never going to do User Generated Content. I mean, we do it in recipes but that doesn’t count. That’s not what we do. Nothing we produce puts you in a bad mood or gives advertisers concern. You’re never going to have an opinion piece. No one stops me on the street and yells at me because maybe they didn’t like a recipe on Food & Wine!

Would you really have bought People if it had not been part of Meredith?

Maybe. We’d never said we wouldn’t buy entertainment, but it’s a little bit different than everything else we do. We like things that are ‘down funnel’ intent. We had to take a very hard look at People before we bought it because it was such a meaningful part of the portfolio. What we found was that, with the entertainment type businesses, you must have readership scale otherwise the audiences are simply worthless to advertisers. But that’s what we have. People is 4x bigger than the next biggest entertainment sites, the Daily Mail and TMZ.

We basically knew it had the scale and that – if we did a good job – there was an intent-based kernel in there, because some 35% of the traffic comes from search. Our ad sellers were very excited to have People as part of a sales package because it sprinkles stardust on the portfolio. If you’re talking to a soup company, allowing them to do something at the Academy Awards can be very helpful. So, we bought People with our eyes open. It’s actually probably been our fastest-growing audience. Super-interestingly, the People team came up with the definition of their brand: “People means ordinary people doing extraordinary things and extraordinary people doing ordinary things.”

What we have ensured is that the print, social media and web content is distinct because the audiences are. In print, you can put the Queen on the cover and write a million stories about Julia Roberts and they do great. On the internet, it’s Kim Kardashian and what was on TV last night. If you try and put George Clooney on TikTok, no one even knows who he is. But the thread is quality journalism for entertainment, which means nothing salacious, no rumors, no gossip. Just a different kind of person for a different kind of audience. We’ve spent the last year transitioning, which has been fairly brutal, trying to do that in all of our brands and understanding what people want. Food & Wine, the print magazine is about experiences. You want to read it while you’re watching TV or whatever. The internet is recipes and social is, “How do you make a Popsicle explode?”

Once you understand that and realize you can do this all from the same brand voice, it gives you super-freedom.

We have these amazing editors from Meredith who had felt restricted in what they were able to do. They are now just bursting with ideas. It’s been a real education for us, learning from them. We are now at the point where all of the brands with print (six of them) have ‘brand editor-in-chiefs’ responsible for the brand mission. They have no operating control over digital, but the effectiveness of this brand-led approach has been a revelation.

How much of Dotdash Meredith is now print?

It’s a much bigger share of revenue than of profit because of the nature of print. We’ve said publicly that, in Q4 last year, 54% of the revenue and 85% of EBITDA profit was from digital. We’ll print probably half as many magazines next year as we did last year but the profitability is going to look pretty much the same. We’re in a really nice cadence where both the ad business and subscriptions on print are pretty good.

We invested heavily in the print properties we kept, so we raised news stand and subscription prices by about 20%. That seems to have all been accepted. We’re excited about it because there’s still a magic in print brands. I’ve been meeting these CMOs and they still love print and they have a lot of data that says it’s still very effective. It’s just you have to realize it’s not for everybody. It’s not going to be a growth engine, but it’s still a really nice contribution business.

What are your principal digital revenue streams?

Advertising is our biggest piece of business and the ad market’s been fairly rough because there’s so much uncertainty. It’s been a challenging environment.

However, a large – and probably the fastest growing – piece of our business is transactional, which is effectively like a guides ratings reviews business. Readers trust Food & Wine for their recipes so they trust them also to tell them which blender to buy. We have 53 test kitchens in Birmingham, Alabama and 100,000+ square feet of product testing space in Des Moines, Iowa. We do comprehensive consumer report-style user tests across everything from throwing luggage off a loading dock to figuring out what is the best blender for a small kitchen. That’s been a real bright spot.

It’s a great business to be in. The people who do the tests and reviews are deliberately independent of any economic arrangements we make with the brands. If we say we have the best brands in the world and they’re really trusted, we should absolutely be able to recommend luggage on Travel and Leisure and blenders on Food & Wine, and we should also be able to tell our readers how they can buy the dress that Jennifer Aniston wore last night in People.

This is a very big and growing business for us digitally. We also have a large licensing business, but the only reason it works is because people love the content. We spend heavily on content and, again, it’s one of those things we tell our people: “Don’t worry about the money, make amazing things, build great audiences, and the revenue will come.” There’s obviously a lot of us who do worry about the costs and revenue, but not our people making the content.

Product licensing was one of the standout, best-in-class successes of Meredith. For more than 20 years, it had been way ahead of its larger rivals in putting magazine brands on licensed product. Is this long term revenue stream now a game changer for you?

We have a very big, longterm partnership with Walmart which sells everything from candles to sheets under the Better Homes & Gardens brand. These products are bestsellers. We love this licensing because it’s great business but also because it’s brand validation. If your brand can carry off that many consumer product sales and have that much consumer trust at Walmart, it’s pretty incredible.

We are in the process of expanding this licensing with many of our other brands, including Southern Living and Brides, for the long term. It’s a great way to monetize our brands.

The next time you are in Walmart, look at Better Homes & Gardens products. It’s an amazing range of bestsellers. We now give everyone on the editorial team at Better Homes & Gardens a $500 quarterly allowance to buy whatever they want from “their” range at Walmart.

What about subscriptions?

We have 11mn print magazine subscribers, but that’s a different business. We have not done subscriptions in any material way across our other properties. We’ve obviously thought a lot about this. But, in order to be a successful subscription product, you generally have to have daily use and many or most of our properties are not that. You need them when you need them and you don’t when you don’t. Also, our whole business is built on scale and subscriptions would tend to limit the audiences.

If consumers are going to pay for things, it generally has to be part of a bundle or part of something. In our sectors, we have made the decision not to be subscription-driven. Our primary revenue is going to be advertising, sponsorship, and eCommerce. But we’re still learning and some of the Meredith people have made a strong case for is experiments because we do have 12mn subscribers who are willing to pay for content.

How important are podcasts?

We do a few. Southern Living has a very big podcast and so does our Verywell Health brand. We probably have 15-20 podcasts across the company, and two or three are large. We don’t do podcasts just to do them. But take the “Biscuits and Jam” one for Southern Living, Sid Evans, the Editor-in-Chief, takes all kinds of southern musicians and just talks about Southern culture. It’s an amazing podcast and does very well. We also have a very big mental health podcast. It’s early days but podcasts are interesting.

How will AI impact your company?

We could do five hours on this! I think there’s been lots of threats to our business in the 10 years we’ve been here. But this is the first thing that could be truly existential if not done correctly and properly. The thing to keep your eye on, as a publisher, is it’s an incredible tool. It’s the greatest analytics tool ever and it’s helping us. We’ll never use it to write content, but it’s helping us figure out what to make in a way that is mind-blowing.

The part of it that no one really knows what’s going to happen (and Barry Diller, has been fairly outspoken on some of these issues) is that the world has been conditioned to use the search bar to get information. People’s behavior can change or not change, but I think that’s where we are for now. Google dominates search so what it does with the search results is going to be the single thing that affects American consumer businesses more than anything else going. Because that is what’s going to happen. If AI disrupts that process in some way, our business is going to change. No matter who you are, because Google is a material part of the traffic.

What’s your vision for Dotdash Meredith in, say, five years?

I’ll be working for the robots! I think we’re in a really interesting place. We’re the biggest publisher in terms of scale. I’m biased but I believe we also have the very best brands in the world. We’re very good at the new-ish channels and our ads perform incredibly well because very simply… If you put three ads on the page instead of six, they do way better. We have a chance to redefine what we’re doing in terms of share of revenue and share of voice. Because we have platform-level scale, we’re now competing with Meta and we’re competing with CTV and we’re competing with all these other channels. If we can do all of this in a brand-safe environment and guarantee that the ads perform, I believe we have a chance to really redefine what a publisher is.

We’re very good at technology. But we make content that people love and we make it accessible and we aggregate these great audiences and connect them to advertiser-vendors. This is a business that has existed for a hundred years. Better Homes & Gardens is 101 years old now. It’s not brain surgery, it’s “just” execution but it’s difficult. It’s hard. But we put in the work and I like our chances.

For more information about our conference please click here.

Webinar: Creating Value With AI

Webinar: Creating Value With AI

Date: June 29, 2023 at 1pm ET
Partner: KUNGFU.AI (

Leveraging AI as a product differentiator to capture market share and to scale rapid growth is no longer a nice to have – it is imperative. We are already seeing companies within media, marketing, information and technology outpace their competition and reshape their marketplaces, with a significant impact on valuations.

During our webinar, we discussed how companies can create greater value with AI and its impact on M&A. JEGI CLARITY Managing Directors Hugh Boston and Rich Kanefsky were joined by Dr Benjamin Herndon, Chief Strategy Officer at KUNGFU.AI. Dr Herndon has over 30 years in the practice and science of organizational transformation. He is the former Director of AI Strategy at Vista Equity Partners and the first Chief Analytics Officer at the US Internal Revenue Service. 

Please use the link below to watch a recording of the webinar and feel free to contact us if you would like to discuss this topic or the broader market in greater detail. 

Data-Driven Growth in the Media, Information, and Event Industry

Data-Driven Growth in the Media, Information, and Event Industry

This report was produced in partnership with H2K Labs. H2K Labs empowers media, events, and digital information companies to thrive in a rapidly evolving market. For more information, please visit

Since data is the lifeblood of businesses in the media, information, and event industry and the service providers who support them, we surveyed industry leaders about their challenges and usage of data to drive profitable revenue growth. The study, conducted in April and May 2023, collected data from over 100 executives of the largest and leading companies covering all facets of B2B and B2C media, information, event, and marketing service providers. We also included in the survey a selection of investors, private equity, and venture capital firms to gain their perspectives and views on this industry. Since not all questions were appropriate for each audience, not all respondents were asked every question. Unless otherwise specified, all results in this study are among leaders at media, information, and event companies.

Bob Lockwood Joins JEGI CLARITY as Managing Director

Bob Lockwood Joins JEGI CLARITY as Managing Director

New York, NY, June 1, 2023 – JEGI CLARITY, a pre-eminent M&A advisory firm for the global media, marketing, information and technology industries, headquartered in New York, NY and London, UK, is pleased to announce that Bob Lockwood has joined the firm as Managing Director. Bob has over 25 years of investment banking experience at both large and boutique firms, focusing on the internet, digital media and application software sectors.

Prior to JEGI CLARITY, Bob was a Managing Director at Lincoln International in their TMT Group. He advised leading growth companies across multiple internet sectors, including advertising and marketing technology and services, e-commerce, travel & hospitality technology, digital content, and media and entertainment technology. Bob advised private equity and venture capital firms, and leading private and public companies on mergers and acquisitions, as well as private equity and debt capital raises. Prior to joining Lincoln, Bob was a senior TMT banker at leading investment banking firms including Raymond James, Credit Suisse First Boston and Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette. Bob received his BA from the University of Pennsylvania.

Commenting on his new role at JEGI CLARITY, Bob said, “I am incredibly excited to join the global team at JEGI CLARITY. The firm’s deep industry relationships, incredible transaction experience and long tenure in the digital media and internet sector are truly unique in today’s investment banking world. Joining the firm enables me to elevate my presence in the digital media, marketing and e-commerce sectors. And recent changes in sector and deal market conditions require these expertise and relationships which the JEGI CLARITY team successfully brings to bear for its clients.”

Wilma Jordan, Founder & CEO, North America of JEGI CLARITY, noted, “We are very pleased to announce that Bob Lockwood has joined JEGI CLARITY as Managing Director. Bob has a very successful history as a merger and acquisitions advisor and is known for driving outstanding outcomes on behalf of his clients. At JEGI CLARITY, Bob will serve clients in the technology and internet sector with a specific focus on digital transformation of companies in and around these sectors. We welcome Bob to our firm!”

Executive Leadership Dinner

Executive Leadership Dinner

Location: The Pierre, New York City
Partner: BDO  (

JEGI CLARITY held its second Executive Leadership Dinner of 2023 on May 31st at the Pierre in New York starting at 6PM with cocktails. These events are structured as roundtable discussions and provide a stimulating evening of great conversation and networking.

This Dinner was titled “How The Business Of Legal Services Is Changing And Why PE Is So Excited About It.” The roundtable discussion was led by Matt Sunderman, Chief Executive Officer of HBR Consulting + LAC Group + Wilson Allen, who shared his perspectives on the evolving legal services landscape, the impact of AI on the legal profession, and trends in both the business and practice of law as well as private equity and other non-lawyer ownership.

The Dinner brought together approximately 35 senior executives from a mix of large global corporations and emerging companies.

Inside the Winning Mindset

Inside the Winning Mindset

Building MiQ, the Leading Global Programmatic Media Partner

JEGI CLARITY’s 19th Annual Media & Tech Conference focused on ‘Maintaining a Winning Mindset,’ brought together senior executives and investors from across the global media, marketing, information, and technology sectors.

At the conference, Marcus Anselm, a Partner from JEGI CLARITY’s London office, interviewed Gurman Hundal, CEO & Founder of MiQ, a leading programmatic media partner to the world’s largest brands and agencies.

In H2 2022, MiQ received an investment from private equity firm, Bridgepoint, which valued the company at nearly $1Bn, generating a 6.1x return for its previous investor ECI Partners. JEGI CLARITY had the pleasure of advising Bridgepoint on the transaction. During their fireside chat, Marcus asked Gurman about the journey he had been on since the business was co-founded in 2010 and its transformation into the major global player it is today. Gurman shared his views on topics ranging from how the business started out and how to build the best relationship with private equity firms to future trends in the AdTech space. We’ve picked just a few highlights from the thought-provoking session.

From ‘bootstrap‘ beginnings to private equity funding

Gurman and the Co-Founder & Global Chief Growth Officer of MiQ, Lee Puri, started the company in the UK without any external funding, investing $20,000 each at its genesis. Within a few months they had a revenue of $100K and $20,000 in EBIT which they reinvested to grow the business. Early challenges included building a business in South India to provide the right technical expertise for their service and breaking into the US market.

Up until that point, growth had been entirely organic, but it was an offer to buy the business that Gurman and Lee walked away from in 2016 that led to them to think about partnering with a PE firm. It challenged the misconception they had previously held about what it would be like, and the value that an investor could bring to them. When asked about the advice he would give both to an agency thinking about bringing in a PE partner, Gurman advocated spending a lot of time getting to know one another, ensuring the culture is right. From the PE firm’s point of view, he advised that it was vital to take the time to understand the complexities of the fast-moving AdTech industry. For agencies, he advised that a good PE partner “should be an extension of your leadership team, you should want to pick up the phone to them.”

The power of retention – clients and talent

In the face of a talent shortage, Marcus asked how they keep retention rates well above 80% at MiQ. Gurman explained that two main areas of focus for the business were retention of clients and retention of talent. At the start of the pandemic they made a promise not to fire or furlough any employees. They worked hard to listen to what their employees wanted and tracked employee engagement religiously. Gurman stated that he and Lee have been “relentless about the people experience. At the end of the day as Founders that’s our legacy – how people felt when they worked at MiQ, that’s what we care about the most. Ultimately, I believe if you care about that the most, you tend to have a good business.”

Next stage for growth

The conversation then turned to growth for MiQ and current market sentiment. Gurman commented that although the market was still volatile, programmatic advertising, because of its flexible and responsive nature, was well positioned. Brands, as ever, are interested in how they are reaching users, they want to follow the ‘eyeballs’ and behavior. Gurman predicted the continued rise of digital at home among other platforms and there was real interest in how opportunities in home game consoles might develop as well as branding in games.

In response to Marcus’ question about what is next for MiQ, Gurman said he believed there was still more opportunity for organic growth – which could lead to them doubling the size of the business. He also talked about their new M&A capability, which completed its first deal earlier this year and will provide MiQ going forward with “the muscle to be a strategic buyer in the AdTech space.”

For more information about our conference please click here.

Face-To-Face Events Reinvigorated

Face-to-Face Events Reinvigorated

The events industry has bounced back faster than expected, its value has been proven and even strengthened by Covid. Investors are jumping back in to access deal opportunities across the size spectrum in the ecosystem.

Renewed importance of a diverse industry

Three years ago, Covid brought the world to a complete halt and the Face-to-Face (F2F) industry, be it exhibitions, tradeshows, conferences, 1-2-1s, experiential events, or corporate events, was one of the most affected sectors. Today, the F2F industry is seeing renewed importance as attendees are flocking back to all forms of events with irrefutable energy and motivation.

Event participants have a heightened appreciation for the value and unique advantages of meeting F2F in environments that foster networking, building new relationships, collaboration, and a more focused learning environment. Net Promoter Scores (NPS) evidence this. Pre-pandemic, industry benchmarks put average visitor NPS in the +5 to +7 range, with average exhibitor NPS being negative. Explori reported a post-Covid increase of 20 points in the NPS average in 2021 as F2F resumed. With these higher levels of engagement and satisfaction among attendees, sponsors and exhibitors are also reaping the benefits and strengthening their commitment to the category. A Stax survey of 196 sponsors of corporate events showed an uplift of 29% in perceived value of events from 2019 to 2023, with net sentiment increasing from slightly positive to positive. More broadly, the shift to remote and hybrid work has created an environment where F2F is significantly more valuable now for selling, marketing, and networking as well as for corporate team building, strategy, engagement, and culture. These positive views are here to stay.

Full recovery of market size

The global exhibition organizing market has traditionally grown ahead of GDP, for example, growing at 5% annually from 2017 to 2019 when it reached a total value of $29B. But Covid halted this growth dramatically in its tracks, with the market shrinking by 69% to $10B in 2021.

With Covid re-proving and even enhancing the value of proximity and immersion brought by F2F, near-full recovery is forecast in 2023. Growth is established at or above pre-pandemic levels and the industry will look much the same. F2F remains the core, now enhanced by the accelerated development of adjacent digital products and data during Covid, providing potential for deeper reach into the communities served by event brands.

Beyond exhibitions, the recovery and growth rates of other segments of F2F such as meetings & incentives and delegate-focused events are mirroring or even outperforming the sector. In addition to organizers, service providers to the industry such as contractors and other suppliers are also benefiting strongly from the return and can expect continuing growth.

This bounce-back has not been universal, however. Asia has been restrained by China’s zero-Covid policy, but that market has now reopened. Domestic growth in China will continue, but organizers will look at other trade flows for event participation. Smaller, weaker events are not returning, but we are seeing a substantial increase in event launch activity as organizers target emerging sectors, mostly with a tech focus.

The rationalization of virtual

The pandemic highlighted the analog nature of the industry, with only 2% of digital revenue in 2019. The emergency dash to digital brought some success and innovation, but limited monetization. Efforts were mostly failures, most of the stopgap efforts were not repeated.

While digital technology allowed us to stay connected and continue to do business during difficult times, we now have the proof-point that virtual events cannot fully replace the real human connection that helps brands build visibility and trust. Only a small set of events such as some delivering training and educational content have remained exclusively online now that it is possible to meet in person again.

Coming out of the pandemic, we are seeing the number of virtual platforms decreasing. When Covid hit many event organizers scrambled to shift their in-person offerings to virtual. Now we are seeing rationalized offerings that augment F2F, extend engagement to 365, and provide opportunities for performance-based marketing, broader content engagement, data collections, and analytics. Digital revenues will not expand as rapidly as predicted in the pandemic, but we expect them to grow at double-digit CAGR to contribute over $1B by 2024, substantially up from the pre-Covid levels of c.$650M. Much of this will be driven by the monetization potential of standalone offerings that extend F2F exhibitions (e.g., 365 year-round digital services, marketplaces, newsletters) being realized.

Transformation to community and customer value

Although events have proven value standing alone, winning organizers had already embarked on a journey of transformation before the pandemic, recognizing the need and opportunity to give customers greater value. Informa’s IIRIS data strategy is a major investment in customer closeness. Italian Exhibition Group announced its community catalyst strategy, others are taking similar initiatives .

We also see other changes to business models, mostly driven by acquisition. Emerald’s acquisition of Bulletin complements its NY gift fair and makes a serious entry to marketplaces. Organizers Clarion, Hyve, and Tarsus have all acquired businesses that organize one-to-one meetings, seeking to spread that competence across their portfolios. Overall, the industry is evolving towards greater use of data and technological integration, allowing it to increase market reach and audience involvement.

Transactions are back

With F2F back on track to pre-pandemic levels and the industry stronger, investor confidence has also returned. This is shown by the slew of major and some smaller deals in 2023, proving that the industry is both attractive and investable.

The industry is seeing a return of M&A activity and relatively strong transaction multiples. North America continues to lead the way with a strong market recovery post-Covid and a broad set of actionable opportunities. In 2020, North America saw 88 event-related transactions, followed by 94 in 2021 and 106 in 2022. Europe has also recovered well and has seen a similar M&A pattern with 90 event related transactions in 2020, followed by 98 in 2021 and 96 in 2022. M&A activity in the APAC region remains subdued.

In addition to mainstream traditional events that have rebounded, buyers are looking to acquire “tip of spear” and other innovative business models which enable higher sales conversion and more efficient buyer engagement. These include smaller curated events that occur throughout the year such as 1-2-1 and hosted-buyer events, content-rich conferences delivering critical information to their communities, and focused knowledge-sharing businesses, such as peer-to-peer networks. Investors have the strongest appetite for growing, resilient, global verticals such as healthcare and technology. Given the current macro-economic backdrop they are less focused on cyclical markets such as construction and retail, although software and tech that is driving productivity in any market is a hot topic.

At the end of 2022, the F2F industry saw notable activity. JEGI CLARITY was the sell-side advisor on three event-related transactions in Q4 2022: LRP Media Group’s sale of its HR Tech and Ed Tech B2B event and digital media portfolios to Arc, backed by investment funds managed by EagleTree Capital; e.Republic, a media, research, data and events company, sale to Leeds Equity Partners; and the investment in WTWH media, an integrated B2B media company that includes 12 events, by Mountaingate Capital.

Fast forward to March 2023, the industry saw three large and transformative acquisition announcements. Informa plans to acquire Tarsus, operator of 160+ B2B event brands, for $940M. Less than a week later, Blackstone, a fund focused on events and travel recovery, announced it has entered into a definite agreement to acquire meetings, events, and hospitality tech provider Cvent for $4.6B. Shortly after, Providence Equity Partners, partnering with Searchlight Capital Partners announced that they had made an offer to acquire Hyve Group, a U.K. event organizer for $579M, approximately 20.3x EBITDA for FY22.

Stax has been equally busy over the past 12 months with six sell-side and buy-side commercial due diligences across exhibitions, conferences, and experiential, as well as its other strategy and transformation work in F2F.

Select deals in F2F

We will also see a wide range of investment opportunities in the broader ecosystem beyond event organizing. Service providers that support organizers are now in a stronger position than pre-Covid. Building from their downsized bases, these providers are enjoying strong growth in line with the faster than anticipated industry bounce-back. With some scarcity of supply, many players are able to command higher prices from customers and improve margins.

The $4.6B Cvent investment underpins the attractiveness of technology players that support meeting and event organizers as well as their participants. In venues, while there is overcapacity in some parts of the world, the value or specialized, flexible pace is highlighted by Convene’s investment in etc.venues.

Further investment ahead

With continuing positive fundamentals, we can expect to see more transactions throughout the ecosystem. Private equity investors such as Blackstone, Providence, Charterhouse, EagleTree, and others have made strong returns repeatedly across a number of deals. They will be joined by others attracted by the quality of the industry’s fundamentals and its recovery.

Media & Technology Conference

Media & Technology Conference

Location:  The Pierre: 2 East 61st Street at Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10065

Maintaining a Winning Mindset

Our 19th annual Media & Technology Conference was a pre-eminent, can’t-miss event for over 500 senior executives across the media, marketing, information and technology sectors.

The theme of the conference this year was Maintaining a Winning Mindset. Attendees heard intimate discussions from an array of world class leaders and executives who shared their experiences managing through today’s fast-paced and rapidly evolving landscape as well as their strategies for success in the year ahead.

Click Here for the 2023 Conference Program

Click Here for the 2023 Speaker Bios

Select Speaker Presentations:

JEGI CLARITY Sector Insights – JEGI CLARITY Leaders
US Advertising Forecast, Spring 2023 – Vincent Létang, EVP, Managing Director, Global Market Intelligence, MAGNA
Recent Legal Developments in the Transactional World – Robert Dickey, Partner, Morgan Lewis


David Tyree, Entrepreneur, Sports Analyst & Former NFL Player

David Williams, Founder, Chairman & CEO, MRE Capital

Gurman Hundal, CEO & Co-Founder, MiQ

Tod Johnson, Co-Founder & Managing Director, Duo Partners Consulting

Karyn Schoenbart, Co-Founder & Managing Director, Duo Partners Consulting

Neil Vogel, Chief Executive Officer, Dotdash Meredith

Derek Correia, President, ReserveBar

Robert Dickey, Partner, Morgan Lewis

Carl Fremont, Chief Executive Officer, Quigley

Guy Gadney, CEO & Co-Founder, Charisma Entertainment

Lisa Hannant, Chief Executive Officer, Clarion Events

Heather Holst-Knudsen, CEO & Founder, H2K Labs

Jeffery Hudson, SMD Institutional Distribution & Origination, Libertas Funding

Chris Kuenne, Founder & CEO, Rosemark

Vincent Létang, EVP, Managing Director, Global Market Intelligence, MAGNA

Paul Miller, Chief Executive Officer, Questex

Colin Morrison, Founder, Publisher & Editor, Flashes & Flames

Jonathan Roberts, Principal, Transaction Advisory Services, BDO

John Rose, Managing Director & Senior Partner, Boston Consulting Group

Keith Schwartz, Co-Founder & CEO, Bounteous

Mark Taylor, Global Practice Lead, Digital Experience, Cognizant

Adam White, Founder & CEO, Front Office Sports

Mark Williams, Chief Revenue Officer, Americas, Datasite

Matt Yorke, Global Chief Revenue Officer, Foundry

We would like to thank our valued, blue-chip sponsors for supporting the event