This is largely a personal story, but I think it’s also an interesting one. The specialist investment media, as we call the ‘trades’, are going through the biggest change for years – for the first time in about 20 years, in fact. Here’s the story, from an insider’s perspective. It’s a massive transformation. And it all happened very recently.
Last week, Morningstar announced it had bought ‘Firstlinks’ (previously known as ‘Cuffelinks’). And Rainmaker, run by Chris Page, has bought Debbie Wilkes’ popular ‘Industry Moves’ weekly newsletter. Page had also previously bought ‘Money Magazine’ from the international publishing group Bauer, and he followed this in buying the newsletter ‘Sustainable Report’, from Rachel Alembakis, an experienced freelance journalist based in Melbourne. She is now an editor at Rainmaker. Financial Standard is Rainmaker’s main title, but the firm has also some other more bespoke magazines and digital titles.
But the biggest deal to happen, probably, is the purchase of the two largest titles in the industry, acquired by Jamie Nemstas, the former co-owner of CIE (the Centre for Investor Education). He and his business partner, Drew Meredith, bought control of Shed Connect, the PR company which owns the investment titles: ‘New Investor’ and ‘The Rub’, both edited by John Kavanagh. Their combined circulation is about 100,000 – more than the depleted Australian Financial Review, and certainly more influential. Sadly, the AFR is not what it was.
Nemstas has bought 51 per cent of Shed Connect. Sheridan Lee, who was the founder and major shareholder, negotiated the deal. Nicholas Way and I are still minority shareholders. Nemstas has a significant platform from which to work.
But the Morningstar deal appears to be the weirdest. Back in 2003, after the tech wreck, Morningstar bought the Investor Info titles, which I built. A listed company, Investor Info’s titles included ‘Investor Weekly’, ‘IFA’, ‘Investor Daily’, ‘SMSF Magazine’, ‘Investor Supermarket’ (which, as an aside, was where the money was thanks to Debbie Wilkes, Ben Thornley and David Sokulsky who worked on it). And we launched ‘Master Funds Quarterly’, with Amanda White and Haissam Aoun. Amanda and Hassaim made it so easy. They were the two most attractive and charming people in the whole industry at the time. They got a sale everywhere they went.
They followed this up with the launch of ‘Investment Magazine’, which morphed into Conexus Financial after Debbie Wilkes, head of distribution, and Colin Tate, head of sales, re-joined the fold. Leng Ohlsson was the second editor, after Amanda went on maternity leave. Colin Tate became the second head of sales, after Haissam went off to launch a retail sales business.
Anyway, Morningstar turned out to be not such a great publisher. Publishing is not for the feint hearted. As good a firm as it may be – a better investment researcher and advisor than a publisher – the titles struggled in the foreign environment. I wanted to buy back “Investor Weekly”. But they didn’t want to sell me just one title, separately. The people who bought the group after it was put on the market, Momentum Media, actually run a good publishing company.
Investor Weekly was a rare “dot.com” as was ‘Investordaily.com’. They were both launched, as online newsletters, in 1999. Investor Weekly actually dates back to 1994, as a subscription and paper-based weekly newsletter. Its main feature was the “Money on the Move” column. This gave readers the good oil on what was likely to happen with new mandates. No-one else was able to do that. Combining ‘Money on the Move’ with the directory Investor Supermarket was an instant hit with fund managers.
Vanessa Stoykov, who now runs her own video marketing company, followed by Michael Bailey, the editor at the AFR who runs the ‘BRW Rich List’, were the main drivers of ‘Investor Weekly’.
Now, Morningstar is back in the publishing world again. Good on Graham Hand for surviving the tough business of specialist publishing. It’s not easy, but you can have some good times along the way. I hope he has.
Greg Bright is publisher of Investor Strategy News (Australia)