Blue Ant Media gets more digital with MobileSyrup acquisition

Blue Ant Media has acquired tech-focused digital publisher MobileSyrup as part of a stated objective to grow and diversify its business.

Mitch Dent, Blue Ant’s senior vice-president, media sales and branded content, said the deal adds another chapter to what he called a “really good advertising story” for the Toronto company, which has seen it more than double its revenues over the past four years.

“For us it’s really about diversifying the asset mix, but also keeping the whole growth story going,” said Dent, adding that the company had been looking to grow its digital portfolio for more than a year. “As a mid-sized player in media… we’re in a unique place having production and entrepreneurial DNA, and MobileSyrup fits perfectly because it grows our digital strength.”

Established by Ian Hardy in 2007, MobileSyrup specializes in coverage of mobile technology, gaming and product reviews, with a Canadian audience of two million unique visitors each month and a skew towards males 25-49. It benefits from what Dent described as a “hyper-engaged” audience.

Hardy had declined previous offers for MobileSyrup, but said that Blue Ant offered an opportunity to grow the business and expand into other content verticals ranging from broadcast to trade shows. While the company has been on a steady growth trajectory from both an audience and revenue perspective, the transaction will allow them to take it the “next level,” he said.

“I care for the business, I care for the people within the business [MobileSyrup employs seven reporters], and the only way I knew to grow is for it be part of a bigger media company that has TV, print, digital, maybe trade shows down the road,” said Hardy. “There’s so much opportunity [with Blue Ant] I was not capable of achieving.”

There are a number of cautionary tales about small publishing ventures being acquired by larger media conglomerates and seeing their culture subsumed, but Hardy said that discussions with Blue Ant’s executive team, including Dent and president Jamie Schouela, convinced him that his product would be in good hands.

“I got to know the culture of Blue Ant, and it fits very well with MobileSyrup,” he said. “The conversations we’ve had together indicated that it’s going to be very much business as usual, which is really great, because MobileSyrup works, and it works really well.”

Blue Ant had been handling a portion of MobileSyrup’s sales prior to the deal, with discussions about a possible acquisition strategy starting late last year. The deal would likely have been completed in the spring, said Dent, but the process was prolonged because of the pandemic. The discussions resumed once both parties had a clear sense of the pandemic’s impact on their respective business, with the sale formally closed last week.

Dent said there are no plans to tinker with the existing MobileSyrup formula, beyond augmenting its existing product with some video and back-end.”They’re on a roll,” said Dent. “Their audiences are up, they’re running a very successful and efficient news room. “We don’t want to mess with the current formula, so our very-short [goals] will be to add some video and technology to the current site…and make sure the growth continues.”

He said that the possibility exists to to expand into everything from trade shows to a YouTube channel. “It’s an owned brand for us a great vertical, and we are going to look at growing it in different ways,” said Dent.

“We’re definitely in growth mode,” said Dent. “From a long-term standpoint, we are probably uniquely positioned as a company that’s looking for growth in Canada. The long-term goal is to make sure we continue growing by diversifying our Canadian business.”

Chris Powell