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RR Donnelley, Press+ Exploring Sale

Memo says international expansion, new markets, are priorities.



Michael Rondon By Michael Rondon
11/07/2013

*Editor's note: Folio: is a Press+ client.

RR Donnelley's digital paywall platform, Press+, is on the market, according to an internal memo obtained by Folio:.

Nieman Journalism Lab broke the news that the company was being "shopped" on Wednesday.

The memo refutes some of the framing of that article however, claiming that it was Press+ who initiated discussions around a sale several months ago. Founders Steven Brill and Gordon Crovitz would not comment directly, but their memo says they're looking for international opportunities and new markets that RR Donnelley doesn't offer at the moment.

"Press+ might be better able to take advantage of the opportunities offered for international expansion and—with our new video meter—expansion into new content markets by having a home with a different kind of partner," they say.

Brill and Crovitz also hint at possible expansion under new ownership.

The group, previously known as Journalism Online, has grown rapidly in the two-and-a-half years since it was purchased by RR Donnelley for a reported $35 million. With less than 30 clients at that time, Press+ now says it has about 450 with more on the way. A London-based business development director was hired in June with the intent of expanding the company's presence internationally.

The move would ultimately be a minor one for RR Donnelley which generated $2.6 billion in net sales for the third quarter and acquired Consolidated Graphics for $620 million last month.

The Press+ platform, launched in 2009, is based on a freemium content model. Visitors get a set number of stories (usually around 10) for free and are asked to pay for access to more.

The memo from Brill and Crovitz:

You may have seen, or will see, a report from Ken Doctor [of Nieman Journalism Lab] that RR Donnelley is "shopping" Press+. Although "shopping" is not accurate, what is going on is that a few months ago we began discussing with RRD the possibility that now that we have grown so fast, Press+ might be better able to take advantage of the opportunities offered for international expansion and - with our new video meter - expansion into new content markets by having a home with a different kind of partner. At the same time, RRD could be rewarded for its early investment. (Remember: when they bought us, we had just a dozen or two launched Affiliates.) Put simply, they'v been an ideal partner, and this is a possibility we are exploring together.

Nothing is certain. We are under no pressure to do anything; we are simply considering various possibilities. And if we do change or add partners, the two of us aren't going anywhere (and, if anything, in this scenario the staff would probably be expanding more quickly).

We will keep you posted, but don't expect any big announcements soon. And please keep this confidential.

Steve and Gordon

Michael Rondon By Michael Rondon
11/07/2013







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