At embedded world this year there were some people muttering about the ownership of by Mouser. I have taken some time to write about this, as I wanted to get my facts right, and I’m pleased to say Electropages and Mouser were both very open and helpful when I asked them about the situation.

Electropages was formed when Craig Dyball approached Brian Butler back in 1999 with the idea of creating an online publication for the electronics industry. The publication grew and developed, with a large proportion of their advertising revenue being driven by distributors, and in 2015 they made an eye-catching appointment by bringing highly-respected journalist Paul Whytock into the team. They’ve also been very proactive in developing apps for both iOS and Android. It sounds like a nice little publishing business that frankly has done rather well over the years. But that’s not quite the full story.

Back in 2014, the company was quietly sold. Quietly sold to Mouser: a direct competitor of many of the bigger advertisers on the platform. Today Mouser owns all the shares and has the only directorship in the company. Yet it’s my understanding that some of the best customers of Electropages were completely unaware of the fact that they are doing business with a company owned by a major competitor.

There is nothing wrong with a distributor owning a publication. Although they didn’t necessarily make a lot of friends with their acquisitions in the USA, it’s arguable that Arrow helped secure the future of the publications they bought, as they were not particularly loved by their previous owners. Arrow was very up front about their acquisitions, whereas Mouser have been rather secretive, raising questions about possible conflicts of interest.

To be fair the ownership has not been hidden when it comes to records at Companies House. It’s pretty clear who owns the company, but you do wonder why both Electropages and Mouser omitted to actually tell anyone of the change of ownership. I can certainly understand that they didn’t want to upset the advertisers, and any discussion would potentially raise questions about the future of Craig and Brian at the company, but it seems obvious that not being as open as they could be would only cause bigger problems when the news finally got out.

There is no suggestion of the companies doing anything wrong, but it doesn’t feel right. Although Electropages has definitively told me that there is no sharing of data with Mouser, the lack of openness fueled concerns like these during embedded world.

When I contacted Electropages, there certainly wasn’t any attempt to conceal the situation. To be fair to Craig, he was very open about the relationship with Mouser, and explained the desire to have the site run on a “business as usual” basis after the acquisition. He also arranged for a statement from Mouser, which is very clear, and also suggests that there is no passing of data between the two businesses:

“Mouser confirms that Electropages, the UK-based digital marketing business, is a wholly owned subsidiary, and this has been a matter of public record since the acquisition three years ago. Electropages runs, like so many other Berkshire Hathaway companies, as a totally independent business.

Both Mouser and Electropages serve the electronic design community worldwide. Mouser’s goal is to be first to make new electronic products and technologies available to its customers and to offer the widest choice from leading manufacturers. Electropages’ goal is to be first to communicate news of new products and technologies, so there were clear synergies.

Electropages runs as a fully independent business under its founder, Craig Dyball. The acquisition by Mouser provided him with the financial resources to develop the site, adding further value for its readers and advertisers. The growth of Electropages, which now has over 97,000 subscribers, an increase of 80% from three years ago, attests to the ongoing success of his strategy.”

What’s the future for Electropages? Despite feeling unhappy at the way they kept people in the dark over the site ownership, I’d like to believe that there is nothing to worry about and that the site will continue to grow and develop. They’ve been one of the more innovative publications, and I’d love Mouser to support them to become bigger and better. Perhaps their biggest challenge is convincing the direct competitors that advertise on their site that there is nothing to worry about, and that the businesses are independent. At this stage, however, it is clear that the advertisers haven’t fled the site, so I’m hopeful that Electropages will continue to have positive momentum and remain one of the publishers with the most innovative approach in our industry.

+44 (0) 1243 531123