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Brand-owned publications and impartial journalism — an oxymoron?

Posted by Chris King on 16th June 2016

Earlier this month electronics distributor Arrow followed up its acquisition of the United Technical Publishing arm of Hearst Media and German publisher ICC Media back in 2015 with an even bolder move to purchase all of UBM’s electronics titles, including the American and Asian versions of EE Times, EDN and EBN.

It’s clear to see the benefit to Arrow of owning the world’s leading B2B electronics trade brand and the site with the highest domain authority in the sector. Even so David Manners of EE Times’s competitor Electronics Weekly was quick to question whether this move would damage the brand’s longstanding reputation for impartiality upheld by great journalists like Junko Yoshida, Rick Merritt, Peter Clarke and the many others over the years.

It begs the question of whether UBM’s journalists now obliged to promote Arrow and its franchises given that they’re on the payroll? Can they criticise strategy decisions and products?

Will the likes of Avnet, Future Electronics, element14, RS Components, DigiKey and Mouser still be able to get EE Times to cover their products (and more importantly will those companies still want to target those publications?)

How will EE Times journos take to being owned by a company with widespread commercial interests in the industry on which they are supposed to report objectively?

You’ve got to believe that Arrow in the short term will want to try to protect the integrity of the EE Times name, but longer term, surely the temptation to connect the dots and drive readers straight to the Arrow website to buy the products they read about will be too great?

It’s going to be really interesting to see how this one plays out. Who is next on the acquisition trail for Arrow? Penton? Mark Allen Group? Weka? Metropolis? Will other competitors jump on the bandwagon? Is the writing on the wall for B2B electronics trade media as we know it?

Legend has it that, well ahead of his time, the once CEO of Intel suggested buying a trade press title but was put off by suggestions that no one would believe what it said any more. Perhaps he was right! What do you think?

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Chris King

Chris’s extensive experience of agency PR, ‘can-do’ attitude and track record for achieving outstanding results time after time make him a firm favourite amongst clients. His natural teaching skills make him an expert mentor and respected MD.