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August 25, 2021updated 30 Sep 2022 10:32am

‘People need less screen time’: Why fast-growing B2B publisher Mark Allen is investing in print

By Charlotte Tobitt

Specialist publisher Mark Allen Group has launched two print titles with websites and events to come as it seeks out “virgin territory” in the market.

The MA Business division has launched Consumer Electronics Test & Development and Electric & Hybrid Rail Technology, which will each be published twice this year with an as-yet unconfirmed but “regular” frequency from 2022. Websites for each will go live on 27 September.

The launches demonstrate MAG’s increasing focus on organic growth after it largely focused on acquisitions for the past decade. More launches are expected to follow.

The publisher has spent £60m on 30 acquisitions over the last 15 years. In December 2019 it bought Farmers’ Weekly from Reed Business Information.

MAG executive chairman Mark Allen said the new brands provide “plenty of additional opportunities for spin-offs”.

Operations director Katina Toumba told Press Gazette that although there was an “undeniable need” for digital content the publisher had decided to launch in print as it has seen the popularity of many of its hard-copy publications grow in the past 18 months since the Covid-19 pandemic began.

“It is a fact that people still value the feel of a weighty publication in their hands,” she said. “People need less screen time; a break from PCs and mobile devices.

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“You have to remember that we don’t set the agenda: our readers and advertisers tell us what they want – and they want hard-copy publications complemented by digital activity.”

Toumba said the pages of both magazines will be brought to life with in-person international exhibitions and events from 2023. Electric & Hybrid Rail Technology will also hold an online conference before that.

Asked about how they fit into the company’s strategy, Toumba added: “Mark Allen has gained a reputation for successfully acquiring a number of products in recent years alongside organic growth, but as we have just demonstrated, we have an incredible ability to create new-from-the-ground-up products too.

“Indeed, we have recently added a great deal of ‘launch’ talent to our team, so you can expect Mark Allen to create more brand-new magazines and events in the coming months and years. As you can see, we target virgin territory; industry sectors that are not currently being served by media or events. There’s a lot more to come.”

MAG publishes about 100 magazines and events in 12 sectors, with B2B brands such as HR, Print Week, The Optician and the British Journal of Nursing.

Its recent acquisitions have included the 85-year-old Farmers Weekly magazine and, in June this year, four B2B magazines and nine newsletters from Elsevier Limited.

The company has not yet reported its financial results for 2020/21 but Allen has said it was a “record year” having “weathered the pandemic storm exceptionally well” despite the fact the company traditionally has a high reliance on events and was unable to hold any in person.

Digital events and print magazines instead proved successful.

In the year to 31 March 2020 pre-tax profits at MAG fell from £6.8m to £5m while turnover increased from £51.3m to £54.6m. The company was pleased with the results given the cancellation of a major exhibition due to be held that month in Singapore and the postponement of several smaller events.

Consumer Electronics Test & Development, which will provide answers and solutions to makers of everyday appliances such as fridges and wearable technologies, is being circulated to more than 11,000 people worldwide including hardware engineers, test engineers, heads of R&D, and heads of product development at companies such as Apple, Whirlpool, Sony, Bosch and LG.

Electric & Hybrid Rail Technology will be circulated globally to 5,000 heads of R&D, engineering chiefs and key-decision makers at rail operators and manufacturers.

Both are free for qualified readers, which MAG defines as people working in the industries at a senior level.

The titles were launched by a team led by group content director Graham Johnson, formerly managing director of UKi Media & Events which was bought by MAG in 2019. He said the team had been surprised by the scale of the positive industry response towards both launches.

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