The management buy-out, which was finalised on Friday 8th April 2011, is backed by funding from management and from external private investors, including three of the publishing sector’s most well-known and experienced players – Graham Sherren, Martin Durham (pictured) and Nick Miller.
Abacus was founded in 1983 and has become established as a leading online supplier for both the media and public sectors. In the media sector the company’s flagship Webvision CMS platform supports the online properties of leading publishers such as EMAP, Centaur, UBM, Macmillan and Thomson Reuters. Public sector clients include Derbyshire, Lincolnshire and Oxfordshire County Councils, and the Bank of England.
A core objective for the newly independent Abacus in the months ahead is to accelerate the development of a suite of Audience Development (AD) tools for the media sector. The new web- based Audience Development platform, ADvance, will allow B2B and consumer publishers to sell and manage their print and online subscriptions, registrations and events in a single coordinated fashion. For the first time integrated print fulfilment and online access control will work hand in hand, says Abacus. Perhaps even more important in terms of supporting business growth, powerful BI and ETL tools will give the marketers the opportunity to generate campaigns, and to mine and segment audience data from whatever source, that will in turn inform new product development.
Steve Feigen has managed Abacus through a number of acquisitions and continues as Managing Director of Abacus e-Media. Ian Eckert will lead the new Audience Development business reporting to Steve. Ian returned to Abacus e-Media in 2009 following board roles as Internet Director at CMP Information, and at TSL Education. “There is no doubt in my mind that the big advantages publishers have in the online space are their trusted brands and long-term relationships with customers. It is critical that these relationships are fully leveraged but all too often existing systems and suppliers act as a barrier to achieving this. Our Audience Development platform will change this – allowing publishers to mine the rich seam of data they have on their readers and users - ultimately leading to better-focused product, significantly enhanced customer service and improved return on investment from both print and online activities.
“ADvance has been designed in close consultation with the publishers. In fact we’ve been overwhelmed by the fantastic feedback from potential partners who have quickly grasped ADvance’s potential to help drive revenue and profit.”
To complement this initiative Abacus plans to acquire an established customer data and fulfilment business within the next three months.
The new investment also brings with it a wealth of senior publishing management experience.
Martin Durham joins as non-executive Chairman. From 1994-2009 he was Chairman and Managing Director of Haymarket Business Media, and prior to that he was Managing Director of IDG Communications. He has been an active member of the PPA, including a year as its Chairman of its B2B division. “Having worked in B2B publishing for many years and having had considerable hands-on experience of M&A activity in this sector, my investment in and my new role at Abacus is an absolutely perfect fit for the next stage of my career. I am very excited by the prospect of working with such a long-established company as it starts what I believe could be the most innovative and rewarding phase of its development to date.”
Graham Sherren, founder and ex-chairman of Centaur Communications (now Centaur Media) joins the board as a non-executive director and investor. With more than fifty years’ experience in the publishing sector, he is enthusiastic about his involvement with Abacus. “Abacus has been in the game for a long time and has certainly delivered exactly what the market has needed. I find their plans for Audience Development extremely exciting.”
Nick Miller also joins the board as a non-executive director and investor. His thirty years in business and consumer publishing include a period as Group COO at Wilmington, and he was also Chairman of WDIS, Wilmington’s own circulation business, now part of CDS Global. “Steve Feigen and his team have been at the vanguard of the digital media revolution from the very beginning and continue to develop best of breed solutions for their impressive media and local government client base. I know that they will bring the same pragmatism, intelligence and expertise to Audience Development, an area which, as a media owner, I know has been languishing in the dark ages for too long.”
About Abacus e-Media
Abacus says: “Abacus e-Media is a leading online service developer, offering consultancy, design, technical implementation, content management and hosting. The company has offices in London and Portsmouth.”