Confirmed: Searchenginewatch, SES and ClickZ sold to Blenheim Chalcot

Updated: Early today we announced the news based on sources. The News is now official as Blenheim Chalcot confirms the news.

News is out that the brands ClickZ, Searchenginewatch and SES from Incisive Media have been sold to UK Business builder Blenheim Chalcot. The sale was first tweeted out by Mike Grehan, former group publishing director at Incisive Media, publisher of Searchenginewatch  and ClickZ, and producer of the SES international conference series.

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The sale has been made official, before several sources confirmed the sale has been done and the buyer is indeed Blenheim Chalcot, a UK based company that owns several different companies world wide.

A long history of SES and Searchenginewatch

For many years SES was the institute when it came to events in the search marketing industry. In 1997 Danny Sullivan founded the blog which would later be called Searchenginewatch, you could say the industries first real industry news website. Two years later they organized the first search marketing conference, SES. Danny sold the event and the website to Internet.com who later sold it to Incisive Media in 2005 and left the business December 2006. At that point the conference was at it biggest with 8,000 attendees in New York in 2007.

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After that Searchenginewatch, ClickZ and SES broadend with a more focus on general digital marketing, while Sullivan continued on the search path creating the other successful site and conference: Searchengineland and SMX via ThirddoorMedia.

In the past few years the conference circuit started to change. With other models like the free BrightonSEO and many smaller conferences entering the arena, it became more difficult to hold up the size of the conferences. And where ThirddoorMedia chose the path of growing the search conferences in the US and create spinn offs for different topics like social and last year Martech, Incisive Media tried to get everything into one by changing from SES Conferences to ClickZ.

It didn’t make the events grow so it seems. Many saw declining visitor numbers and when key figures like Mike Grehan and Matt McGowan left it looked like things needed to be shaken up. And they did. With a lot of staff changes at first and a different angle on the conferences after.

Last SES London created a lot of debate in the industry when SES decided to not use former speakers and charge agencies for speaking at the conference, while inviting brands on stage. You can now say this move was aimed at the sell. After all, that way Incisive would look to be in a higher level, and thus worth more money.

Where to next?

I’ve reached out to Incisive for a response, but haven’t heard back yet. Whether or not the brand remains as it is and the conferences keep the same approach is therefor unclear. I’ve understood that the editorial team will be kept on and staying in New York until the sale is final. It looks like Blenheim Chalcot will be setting up offices in New York as well.

Looking at the website of Blenheim Chalcot we can see that they “set out to create companies that could transform industry sectors.” And:

“We look for high growth, potentially large industry sectors, typically undergoing some market, technology or regulatory discontinuity, where we can build scalable, platforms that satisfy a significant customer need, resulting in strong and sustainable margins.”

It could go any way, though the aim is definitely ‘the big leagues’.

What is clear is that once again it shows the industry has changed and is growing up.

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Bas van den Beld

About Bas van den Beld

Bas van den Beld is an award winning Digital Marketing consultant, trainer and speaker. He is the founder of State of Digital and helps companies develop solid marketing strategies.

  • Thanks for sharing this Bas.

    Got to be a deal worth a fraction of the potential it could and should have.

    SES was the first event I went to in London. Made many long term friends from the speaker circuit there.

    Clickz is the only site of note in that trio.

    • Are you stuck in 2005? Wake up, it’s been 10 years since Danny aborted ship. And yet you’ve got to bang on with the same opinion you probably had then. Lots of good things happened to SEW and SES between 2009-13 that progressed the entire industry – and even before then, the editors and journalists on both sites gave it a shot. All these brands brought many more new and talented names into the industry – fresh blood and fresh perspectives on the tired old Google dance. Both SES and SEW took a lot of risks in nurturing new talent who have gone on to be superstars now. Yet old SEO dogs, in fear of further speaking gigs at the mothership have to tow the line with the continual reproduction of the “betrayal of SEW” narrative. You are so stuck in the past it’s not even funny. If there is any site in the set that has really lost it’s identity it is ClickZ which now has no original journalism and an unclear clear editorial remit – but I’m sure all your buddies still write for it so you have to say something nice, right?

      Which is my point – when you take a big dump on the work of a company division and constantly rehash the past, you’re actually taking a big dump on a lot of ordinary people who are just living their lives and showing up to work everyday to try and deal with all the challenges they face. A lot of very nice and friendly people, who I am sure have personally supported you too, tried their best and had to face the same blind unconsidered opinion that you expressed every day, all the while knowing that no one ever will change their opinion because old dogs can’t learn new tricks. Don’t pretend your comment is about “quality” when you’re really just blurting out your “loyalty.”

      Yeah, I bet these three brands got sold for a fraction of their worth too – but then how much is an audience worth if it is stuck 10 years in the past and refuses to ever accept a change in leadership? The current team probably faces the same ghosts again, but at least they might now have a board that invests in them rather than cutting costs to sell.

  • letsdisqusit

    I agree Jim there is a lot of value there. I would also agree that ClickZ is currently the only site of note, but I “blame” that on an effort in the early 2010’s to “premium-fy” ClickZ towards a more sophisticated agency target. SEW Forums in it’s day was one of the places to be (when under Danny and Elisabeth and Maria (RIP) there were some great connections made and outstanding discussions). But now it has been left to die on the vine and although still have search engine juice, the majority of users aren’t the same quality IMO.

  • Andrew Betts