So it has finally happened. Arrow has purchased UBM’s electronics titles, including the American and Asian versions of EE Times, EDN, ESM, Embedded, EBN, TechOnline, and This long-rumoured acquisition has finally happened, giving Arrow control of a large proportion of the electronics design media in the USA (and a significant presence in the Asian market too).

The move continues Arrow’s strategy of acquiring content platforms, data and online traffic in the industry, providing them with an impressive media platform around the world. The reception to the news has not been entirely positive, with David Manners asking:

Will Arrow lean on journos to promote its franchises once it is paying the journos’ salaries?
Will manufacturers who don’t use Arrow, and Arrow’s rival disties, want to use EETimes to cover their products when every click through will be showing up on an Arrow-controlled computer?
Will EETimes feel free to criticise managements or products in which Arrow has a commercial interest?
How will EETimes journos take to being owned by a company with widespread commercial interests in the industry which they are supposed to report on objectively?

UBM tells us the price was $23.5 million, which doesn’t sound a huge amount for such strong brands, but as these publications only generated $16 million from on-line sales and $3 million from print sales in 2015, it is going to take a long time to make that money back from the low-margin business of publishing.

To be fair, Arrow have treated the publications they have acquired to date pretty well. They’ve not turned them into Arrow promotional vehicles, and seem to continue to prioritise editorial quality. Of course other distributors felt uncomfortable about working with the publications Arrow has already purchased (it never feels good to get an invoice from a competitor), but we’ve not seen anything out of order yet.

In the announcement of the acquisition, Matt Anderson, chief digital officer of Arrow Electronics, is quoted as saying, “Our internet media is guiding innovation forward by making technical decision making easier for designers, R&D groups, and engineers. This is a step forward in our digital transformation, positioning Arrow as the preeminent, unbiased technology internet media, design, and eCommerce option for companies, from those on Indiegogo all the way to Fortune 500 global leaders.” Other than hoping the writing in the publications will be more readable than Matt’s quote, the idea of integration he describes is a little worrying. if Arrow is this wonderful one-stop-shop, then surely at some point in the future, will sense to link the elements together and drive readers straight to the Arrow website to buy the products they’ve just learnt about?

I think Arrow are going to be more careful. Although Arrow is entitled to run their business in any way they want, and we didn’t see many other companies fighting to invest their money in electronics publications, I think Arrow will care about credibility. If they do start adding different ways to monetise the publications, I suspect it will be a fairly slow and gentle process.

I’m more interested in what other companies will do. If you’re a supplier to Arrow, you’ll probably want to assert some independence from your distributor, and if you’re not one of Arrow’s lines, you’ll almost certainly want to take back some control. There are so many opportunities! Whether we will see new independent publications launch, manufacturers begin to have a more direct conversation with users of their products or distributors finally realise that quality matters when producing in-house publications (I know that there have been some good distributor publications: there have also been many bad ones too), this move is bound to drive some exciting innovations in the American electronics media market. At Napier, we’re working hard with our clients to help them take advantage of this interesting situation.