MiBiz sold to Revue Holding Co

September 25, 2011
| By Pete Daly |
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Revue Holding Co., which owns the Revue West Michigan entertainment guide and another in mid-Michigan, has acquired MiBiz, a regional business publication started in 1988 by William R. Lowry and now covering 18 counties in West Michigan.

Brian Edwards, chairman of Revue Holding Co., will serve as editor and publisher of MiBiz, which is his third publication. Lowry will serve as a consultant to the new management of MiBiz during a transition period and will continue to write his monthly “Parting Shots” column for it.

Edwards, 47, began his career as a reporter and columnist at the Chicago Tribune, then moved to Grand Rapids where he was a vice president at the Seyferth Spaulding Tennyson PR firm. After that, he and Jeff Lambert founded the Lambert Edwards & Associates public relations/investor relations firm in 1998.

Edwards left Lambert Edwards in 2004 for other business ventures, although his name is still on the door and he maintains a friendly relationship with the firm.

In 2004, he became a partner and executive at GPSi LLC, a Detroit-area firm that designs and sells technological equipment for tracking stolen vehicles and fleet vehicles. He is still an owner/director of that company, although he no longer works there on a regular basis. He is also an owner with his former wife in a lakeshore-area catering business.

In 2008, Edwards acquired Revue West Michigan, which had been published in Grand Rapids since 1988. In 2009, he launched Revue Mid-Michigan, which covers the state’s central region including Lansing and Mount Pleasant.

Edwards said MiBiz, which is published every other week, has a circulation of about 11,500. Its main office is in Muskegon and that will continue. A satellite office on the north side of Grand Rapids eventually will be consolidated with the Revue office in downtown Grand Rapids. MiBiz also has an office in Kalamazoo.

Edwards said Lowry and his staff “put together a fine publication that has been around a long time and has a great track record.” Terms of the sale were not released.

When asked what changes he has planned for MiBiz, Edwards said his philosophy is to “make change on more of an incremental basis. There will be changes, but you’re not going to see a big re-launch or revamp.”

“It’s in pretty good shape,” he added.

Edwards said he and his team organized Revue Holding Co. because “our belief is that there is a lot of opportunity in niche and local publications.”

While daily newspapers and large national magazines have been struggling with diminished advertising revenue for the past decade, Edwards said one can still see “racks and racks” of niche publications in newsstands like Elliott’s News in downtown Grand Rapids.

“Local niche publications like MiBiz or like Revue, or like the Business Journal or Grand Rapids Magazine — they’re doing fine as long as they stay true to their mission of being very local and being very in touch with their readers and what they want, and being a good partner with their marketing partners,” said Edwards.

“We are big fans of print media and we hope to build the company into a much larger company that’s based around print media. Now, that doesn’t mean we won’t embrace the Web and social media. In fact, we will. That was part of our fix-up and revamp of Revue — launching websites, getting much more active on social media — and we’ve got some more tricks up our sleeve for Revue, relative to the online presence.

“So we don’t view what were going to do as an either/or proposition — either ‘you’re print’ or ‘you’re the Web,’” he said. Rather, it is an “and” proposition.

“The challenge in that is, how do you monetize the online presence? And that’s a changing game. We’re kind of moving along slowly, I think, as most publishers are, but we’ll get there.

“We really started (Revue Holding Co.) with the intent of finding other print publications, and starting print publications,” said Edwards. “There are an awful lot of guys like Bill Lowry out there” who start print publications and “they’ve been running them with varying degrees of success for 15, 20, 30 years. They’re approaching retirement age and they’re looking for different options for liquidity, frankly. And that’s one of the challenges in the market — the banking and equity world as it is. There are an awful lot of people who don’t believe in print media right now.”

But there are still good publications out there, he said.

Revue Holding Co., he said, has the “ability to come in and maintain all the things they were doing well, and then making those incremental changes that keep it going, and take it into the future.”

Lowry could not be reached for comment.

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