Whilst it appears to have been an open secret that Hearst was keen to offload its technology titles, it does come as a bit of a surprise that Arrow is the company that has stepped in to buy them. Whilst owned media continues to grow in importance, picking up titles such as Electronic Products, EEWeb, and Embedded Developer, as well as databases such as Electronics Engineering Master and a share in the joint venture Chinese site 21ic.com is, by any measure, a bold move.

I’m fascinated to see what happens as a result of the acquisition. It would be great if a distributor such as Arrow could show that it can be a component vendor and a successful publisher. But the acquisition is fraught with a number of possible pitfalls. For example it’s hard to see other distributors being as committed to the Stockcheck plugin if it is controlled by a competitor. Maintaining advertising in the publications is likely to be equally challenging, and hard questions could be asked by manufacturers who don’t use Arrow as a distributor, as well as competitors. It might even be hard to maintain rates with suppliers that do work with Arrow, as I’m sure many will be keen to use their relationship to negotiate better rates.

Whatever the financial implications, there is always the question about whether distributors can run publications successfully. Whilst most of them offer in-house titles, and have very significant readership, I don’t think that any of the distributors has yet been able to produce a title that is as influential as the best independent publications.

Despite these concerns, it’s exciting news. Firstly Arrow is a smart organisation, and they will have through through these potential problems. Clearly they believe that the benefit to their organisation will outweigh any possible loss of revenue. More importantly some great titles now have an owner that really wants them: this has to be better than the previous situation: Hearst clearly didn’t feel the titles fit with their plan for the business.

it will be interesting to see what does happen in the long term. My guess is that Arrow probably won’t want to continue with all the publications – hopefully those they don’t want will get sold or spun off, rather than be closed. I do, however, think that there is a good chance that Arrow will make a success of the acqusition: providing some element of editorial impartiality remains, they should be more than able to grow the audience for the titles, and there are obvious benefits to a distributor like Arrow in having such influential titles batting on your side.