On Wednesday, Boston-based online visibility and marketing analytics company SEMrush announced that it has acquired a 100% stake in Polish startup Prowly from previous investors, which include IQ Partners, Internet Ventures, and online marketing agency Bluerank. The deal is part of a growing trend of communications platforms combining promotion and influence when reaching different audiences on the web.
The transaction is an example of how the worlds of marketing and advertising are becoming more intertwined. Inexpensive and simple opportunities to publish online combined with the worldwide web’s theoretically unlimited audiences have smashed traditional channels for news, entertainment and advertising, while the lines between these formats have become increasingly blurred.
According to the press release, Prowly has helped companies publish more than 75,000 stories, and offers a customer relationship management media database with more than 1 million journalists and influencers. Prowly’s clients can create custom-tailored online newsrooms that integrate with e-mail campaigns and analytics. Prowly will continue to operate as a stand-alone brand, but it will also be tightly integrated into the SEMrush ecosystem, benefitting from SEMrush’s extensive data assets. The size of the transaction was not disclosed.
SEMrush isn’t the only one with this vision for where PR and marketing are headed. Global communications group Havas has also been promoting the idea of “merged media”. “The changing shape of media platforms does not mean the brokerage of earning media and conversation dies – on the contrary, providing we ensure we have the right skills, mindset and speed to thrive in real time for our clients and brands we will redefine our value. We will own merged media in a real time world,” Havas CEO James Wright said in an op-ed for Little Black Book.
This crossover can be observed both in the way that companies produce their content and in the ways people consume it. A study from the University of Southern California’s Anneberg Center for Public Relations revealed that more than 60% of public relations leaders, CEOs and students surveyed in 2019 say that within five years, the average person will not be able to make a distinction between paid, earned, shared and owned media when consuming information.
Add to that the fact that digital channels present new opportunities to ensure content reaches the right audiences at the right time. The old axiom that “half of the money you spend on advertising is wasted, but you’ll never know which half” may even become obsolete in a world where algorithms dish up tailored content, and online visibility can be measured like never before thanks to data sets like those under the hood of SEMrush’s platform.
The transaction shows the importance of access and analysis in communications, as more and more businesses chase customer interests and choice. That consumer interest can run from traditional and non-traditional media entertainment websites to self-publishing apps like Instagram or Twitter full of commentary and content.
It speaks to the core offering from SEMrush, which includes data-driven insights and ideas in building, managing, and measuring campaigns across all marketing channels. This has become even more impaortant as social distancing measures related to coronavirus have moved interaction and influence almost fully online.
“At a time when businesses are struggling to break through the noise and in-person meetings are rarely possible, digital PR platforms like Prowly bring more value than ever,” said SEMrush Chief Strategy Officer Eugene Levin. SEMrush will bring content marketing tools to Prowly that will boost measurement capabilities and help companies understand the value of their PR activities, he said.
Currently, Prowly is cash flow breakeven at more than $1 million in annual recurring revenue (ARR). Year-over-year ARR growth is in the triple digits. With growth like that, it’s no wonder the startup was an attractive target.
SEMrush has said it will invest heavily in the development of Prowly. Integrating SEMrush data related to the audience, traffic, SEO metrics, and subject matter of websites and other online properties will be highly relevant in Prowly’s media database.
Online visibility, marketing, understanding and producing content and data are hot businesses, making the deal far from unique and the space quite competitive. That said, the expansion of its ecosystem and capabilities can only help SEMrush in that.