When Fitch parent-company Fimalac bought French media startup Webedia last year for more than €70 Million, it wasn’t quite clear what their strategy was. They stated at the time of acquisition that Fimalac would benefit from Webedia’s reach into the entertainment industry; however, most assumed that it was just Founder & CEO Marc Ladreit de Lacharrière throwing around some of the billions of euros of capital he has at his disposal in order to play in digital. I sat down earlier this week with Webedia CEO Cédric Ciré to talk about the company’s last 12 months, and the next couple years. Since its acquisition nearly a year ago to date, the company has made a spur of acquisitions – the flipboard-like YouMag, the gaming news site JeuxVideos.com (for 70M€), Exponaute.com (a recommendatino site for finding expositions), and they event bought the German equivalent of French film review site Allocine (also owned by Fimalac), called Moviepilot. We announced earlier this year the acquisition of Overblog from eBuzzing & Teads, and they also bought a large multichannel network, Melberries – that’s a lot of properties, a lot of content, and a lot of users.
Building an End-To-End solution for Digital Culture
The first thing Cedric points out is that, when Webedia was acquired by Fimalac, they were acquired by Fimalac’s entertainment division – Fimalac Divertissement – which manages 80% of the top French artists (David Guetta, Stromae, to name a few) and also have exclusive rights to the Zenith chain of venues in France. Cedric tells me that the goal is to drift away from the advertising-dependent business to an end-to-end business – namely, managing a community of digital music fans, and selling them concerts at Fimalac-owned venues for Fimalac-managed artists. Fimalac sees that, between the physical world where it dominates, and the pennies spent to get there, it is losing percentages at every chink in the chain – so it wants to buy the whole fence. This means that, for each of Webedia’s (which is in charge of the entire digital initiative at Fimalac) vertical focuses – Film (allociné/moviepilot), Games (JeuxVideos.com), Cooking & Fashion – Webedia will build an internal monetization method to resell movie tickets, video games, recipes/ingredients, clothes, etc. While this model isn’t too far from the advertising model, it differs in that Webedia seeks, with each acquisition & vertical, to get access to a community engaged on a certain vertical, and, particularly, valuable verticals (Exponaute, for example, represents a much smaller, although vertically similar, market opportunity for Webedia, says Ciré), and push them offers, not just from partners, but from their own coffers. Why sell someone else’s clothes when you can just buy a sewing factory, right?
Do these Verticals scale?
The big question is whether the efforts being put into Allociné will benefit Exponaute – that is, is there enough in common with the process of monetizing each of these verticals that webedia will benefit from scale. Ciré says they are still in the integration mode, but that the most recent results who suggest that there are great benefits to consolidating communication, the technical team, the contracts they sign with partners (now across multiple verticals, instead of just one at a time), etc. Prior to acquisition, Webedia was a technically strong company, having built their own internal Content Management System to fit their own particular advertising purposes. Continuing this effort to build out their end-to-end technical needs will certainly benefit each existing site, finding overlapping needs and adapting to cross-site opportunities. Don’t expect Webedia to slow down its acquisition pace: international is on the mind (Moviepilot is just the beginning), and any vertical leader in the digital culture space may be an acquisition target for Webedia.