Last November, Penton acquired agriculture media company Farm Progress for $80 million. The deal combined 22 brands from Farm Progress with the six in Penton’s ag group. Five months later a picture is emerging of how the operation will look going forward.
According to Dan Bagan, Penton senior vice president for Agriculture, Food and Restaurants, who’s heading up the ag division, the deal was originally done because there was little overlap between the companies. "That was the attractive thing about it," he says.
Nevertheless, as happens with any acquisition that combines brands that serve the same market, there are some redundancies. Penton and Farm Progress both take a regional approach to their ag coverage and the south was one area where some cuts needed to be made. Bagan says the Penton brands were the stronger of the two in that region and five Farm Progress titles were shut down—Carolina-Virginia Farmer, Southern Farmer, Mid-South Farmer, The Farmer-Stockman and California Farmer.
There were 18 layoffs associated with the closures. Beyond that, the finance department had also been consolidated into Penton’s New York offices.
Penton’s Farm Industry News will be relaunched with a dedicated focus on agriculture production technology. "It’s not going to be as horizontal," says Bagan. "There’s no way you can handle the complexities of the ag market in a horizontal way, it’s too dynamic."
Going forward Forrest Laws and Willie Vogt will head up editorial for the group and Greg Frey and Don Tourte will lead the sales operation. In both cases, management is a combination of Farm Progress and Penton leadership.
Bagan also noted that the audience development team has been unifying the customer and product data into a single database. "The audience development folks mashed the two big databases together and the overlap wasn’t as much as we assumed early on." he says.
Penton will be officially unveiling the merged division in mid-April at the National Agri-Marketing Association conference, an event specifically for the ag industry’s brand marketers. Bagan says the event’s density of marketing customers, as well as the kick-off of the media planning season for ag, was a primary reason for the introduction.