Bloomberg Media Makes First Acquisition in 10 Years, Secures CityLab From The Atlantic

The brand will continue to operate as a standalone entity

Another media acquisition is afoot. Bloomberg Media intends to purchase CityLab, a brand from The Atlantic that was created in 2011 as a standalone website devoted to covering cities and how they are innovating for the future.

The transaction is expected to close by the end of the year, and financial terms of the arrangement were not made public. It’s also the first acquisition the publisher has made since it acquired BusinessWeek in 2009 from McGraw-Hill for a reported $5 million. The CityLab brand will have access to Bloomberg Media’s footprint, which has arms in digital, TV, radio and print.

“What’s really exciting about the addition to CityLab to our portfolio is that it can be introduced into that model as a new multi-platform, global sub-brand that is super-serving a niche that we care about a lot, that we think is very valuable,” Justin B. Smith, CEO of Bloomberg Media, told Adweek.

Atlantic Media, of which Smith was previously the president, sought a diverse revenue stream in the early part of the decade and created an event series bringing together mayors and other leaders to discuss the challenges they face. Bloomberg Philanthropies has co-hosted the event with The Atlantic for the last seven years and will acquire the event series as part of the deal.

“In Bloomberg, we’ve found an ambitious new owner for CityLab that deeply understands and appreciates its reporting and is committed to carrying forward CityLab’s mission and solutions-based focus. We also start from a place of shared history and respect,” said Michael Finnegan, president of Atlantic Media, in a statement.

Under Bloomberg Media’s ownership, will continue to operate as a standalone website and brand. The site saw 1.7 million unique visitors in October, according to the most recent Comscore figures.

Bloomberg Media execs see this acquisition as a way to deepen the publisher’s coverage of “forward-thinking” technologies that complement brands the outlet has already established, including Prognosis (tackling the future of healthcare), Hyperdrive (transportation) and Checkout (retail).

“We have a long history of being solutions and actions focused,” said Jed Sandberg, senior executive editor of Bloomberg Digital. “These folks at CityLab have built a terrific site and terrific audience, not only committed to understanding what’s coming but covering the intersection of innovation and exigencies of urban life.”

Bloomberg Media execs plan to travel to D.C. to meet with the CityLab team later this week, where they’ll get a better understanding of the workflow, Sandberg said, and take a look at the brand’s analytics to determine where investments should be made.

That could mean expanding the brand across Bloomberg Media, which has more than 2,700 journalists in over 120 countries. Already, CityLab held an event in London.

“Think about what we can do for CityLab given our global footprint. We can probably amplify the great work they’ve already done and supplement it with the same kind of viewpoint with a global solution,” Sandberg said.

After Bloomberg Media founder Michael Bloomberg began running for president, the newsroom’s editor in chief John Micklethwait told journalists that they would not investigate Bloomberg or his Democratic rivals. The decision to purchase CityLab in the face of this has “no relation whatsoever” to that decision, Smith said. And when the opportunity to purchase the brand “that we admired for a very long time” became available, they “jumped on it.”

This represents the latest M&A for the media industry as 2019 draws to a close. In recent months, publishers like New York Media and Vox Media, Refinery29 and Vice and Group Nine Media and PopSugar have combined assets.

Though Bloomberg Media hasn’t historically been an “acquisitive company,” Smith said, executives are constantly looking at their options. “We never say we’re not going to look at possible opportunities, and certainly as the industry consolidates, we’re always looking at opportunities that may fit,” he said.