IBJ Media CEO Nate Feltman started talking about three years ago with Gerry Dick, founder of the Inside INdiana Business brand, about acquiring the company. But the seeds of a deal might have been planted 15 years earlier, when Feltman was serving as Indiana commerce secretary.
That’s when Feltman’s appreciation for “the need for strong, accurate, reliable journalism” grew, an interest that led him to become a co-owner of IBJ Media—publisher of the Indianapolis Business Journal and The Indiana Lawyer—in 2017.
This week, Feltman announced that IBJ Media had purchased Inside INdiana Business—and that Dick was staying on to helm a division at IBJ that will continue to produce his Emmy-winning TV show and radio broadcasts.
Here’s what Feltman told IBJ about the acquisition.
How long has this deal been in the works?
I’ve been thinking about it for the last several years and have been talking to Gerry about it over that time.
When did the talks become more serious?
They got more serious over the last year.
What interested you about acquiring Inside INdiana Business?
The first is that I always thought that the IBJ and IBJ Media should begin to expand more into video, TV, radio, other mediums. And there was already this existing business platform—Inside INdiana Business—that was working in that area.
And I’ve had a lot of respect for the work Gerry Dick has done over the past 20 years and was familiar with his organization. And so it was an opportunity to really expand our footprint and our connection with Hoosiers across the state of Indiana and do so with a known platform. That just made a lot of sense to me.
But why buy rather than build a statewide media organization yourself?
I really think that Gerry has already developed a good brand and that he is highly respected throughout Indiana’s communities. And it was a heck of a lot easier to work with Gerry on this opportunity than it would be to go out and build it on our own.
Why was it important that Gerry Dick stayed with the company and be a part of IBJ Media?
As I mentioned, Gerry has a strong following throughout the state—in the private sector, in the public sector, in government and economic development. I’m excited about the opportunity to work with him, to build out a true multimedia company with his experience on the video side and radio side and our experience on the print journalism side.
Is this a move away from print at all? Or a move away from what IBJ is doing?
No, it’s not. Just the opposite. Our print has been growing. In fact, we’re at a 10-year high for [IBJ] print subscribers, which has been growing significantly over the last three years—up by about 40%. So we will continue to invest in and to grow our print.
Why was it important for you to go statewide?
I grew up in Mishawaka, in the South Bend area, and I actually felt a little disconnected from the rest of the state growing up. I actually felt closer to Chicago—and in fact, literally, I was closer to Chicago from a time-on-the-highway perspective. And so I believe there’s an opportunity.
So, as a caveat to that, now it’s actually about the same amount of time to get from Mishawaka to Indianapolis, as it is to get to the south side of Chicago, thanks to Major Moves and improvements to U.S. 31. But that wasn’t there at the time.
So there was just never a connection, from my perspective, with the rest of the state or with what’s happening in Indianapolis, or … [with] what’s happening in Evansville and other parts of the state. And I think there’s a hunger for Hoosiers to have more common threads or information about what’s happening in the rest of the state, especially in the business community, and from a governmental perspective and politics.
I think we have the opportunity to fill that void and to make it easier for all Hoosiers to understand what’s happening from an economic perspective and from a business perspective throughout the state of Indiana.
Do you expect both the IBJ and Inside INdiana Business brands to exist into the future?
I see maintaining both of those brands. It’s hard to predict exactly, and there will be some tweaks that happen along the way.
I see changes that will help IBJ readers and subscribers see and understand and learn more about what’s happening throughout the state. But I see the Inside INdiana Business platform really being our statewide brand and engagement effort.
How soon would readers or viewers expect to see any changes?
We hope the regular IBJ reader will start to see some differences, some additions, fairly soon. And I’d like to see some integration on the Inside INdiana Business side as well.
Were you ever on Inside INdiana Business when you were the secretary of commerce?
I was—at least a couple of times.
And did that pique your interest in getting involved in media someday?
I had a respect for the media. And I think that experience and how media works and my interactions during the time I was secretary of commerce with the media—not just with Gerry’s show but working with print media, the IBJ and IndyStar, that experience really did pique my interest. I had an appreciation for the job that those in the media needed to do and are doing.
My interest—in terms of the need for strong, accurate, reliable journalism—was certainly piqued.
So often these days, when there’s an acquisition in the media, it is followed by significant layoffs or incredible belt-tightening. Do you expect any of that in this deal?
I do not. We are excited to welcome the Inside INdiana Business team to the IBJ family.•