The Financial Times buys The Next Web to beef up live events business

The Financial Times has bought a controlling stake in consumer publisher The Next Web, marking its first acquisition in continental Europe.

The FT didn’t disclose the terms of the deal, which will see it take ownership of the Amsterdam-based media company’s website The Next Web and the TNW Conference, an annual event that draws 17,500 attendees from around 3,500 companies a year, according to TNW. The move will beef up the publisher’s own live global events business, FT Live, which produces 150 different events a year across categories ranging from the FT Innovation Summit in New York to Managing Assets for UK Insurers. Ticket prices range from €149 ($169) to €799 ($905) for the TNW Conference.

The FT’s subscriptions model is typically more business-to-business focused than most national publishers, which will mean some adjustment is needed to cater to TNW’s editorial tone and mandate which has been more consumer-facing. Events are a popular method for publishers looking to diversify their revenue base.

Around 70 percent of TNW’s revenue comes from events, advertising and its Amsterdam start-up tech hub, and each area accounts for a similar-sized proportion of revenue, according to TNW CEO Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten. “That shows the strength of the brand the way we have structured the business. It’s not one thing that keeps us all floating,” he said. The remaining 30 percent comes from smaller parts of the business such as its consultancy unit and business-to-business data products.

“This completely fits with the FT’s strategic development, said Douglas McCabe, CEO of media research firm Enders Analysis. “Though TNW’s broad remit, and very different tone from the FT, will not be entirely without its challenges.”

TNW was founded in 2006 and has 86 employees in its Amsterdam office. The next event, TNW2019, will take place in May. The FT will program part of the event and will co-host TNW’s The Assembly, a gathering of technology leaders, industry figures and key policymakers, according to the FT.

TNW is an open-access site with a global audience of over 3 million monthly unique visitors spanning markets including the U.S. and U.K., according to comScore. The TNW site will remain open access, and there are no plans to put it behind the paywall, said Veldhuijzen van Zanten.

TNW began acquisition inquiries two years ago but wasn’t tempted to court any venture-capital funding, according to Veldhuijzen van Zanten. “VC money, in general, comes with a sense of urgency, and not in a good way. You can’t take VC funding and not have a clear plan to an exit in the foreseeable future. We weren’t interested in it. We wanted to find a partner who could help us grow.”

The TNW Conference and operations will continue to run separately, and will not be integrated within FT Live.

“TNW is an established and profitable business that produces one of the largest and most critically acclaimed tech startup events in Europe,” said Angela Mackay, global publisher of FT Live. “There are clear synergies between TNW and FT Live, in sharing audiences and delivering the FT’s world-class journalism on live stages in Europe.”

The FT has made a string of acquisitions over the last few years, including research and thought-leadership-based firm Longitude, and media company Alpha Grid. In January the FT invested in digital media publisher Sifted, a site which focuses on technology innovators and entrepreneurs, as part of ongoing plans to expand its technology-themed editorial products.

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