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Saleroom turns over new digital page from The Daily Telegraph
London, 17 January 2012
ATG Media was the subject of a major article in The Daily Telegraph’s Business Section on January 17th 2012.
In summary, the Daily Telegraph article described how ATG Media developed a profitable digital strategy in publishing – a sector which in general is experiencing falling circulation and declining advertising volumes.
The article explained that in 2008, DMGT decided to sell the Antiques Trade Gazette (ATG). Given the challenges facing the publishing industry, the article asked what possessed the management team to put together a private-equity backed bid to buy the business.
The report described how the managers of ATG realized that the rise of the internet and the digital camera presented a new opportunity both for the business and its advertisers: provincial auctioneers. “We could see digital photography was going to change the game. The first thought was to publish auctioneers' catalogues online” said Simon Berti, Sales Director of ATG Media.
By 2006 many auction houses were finding ATG's site, the-saleroom.com, to be a useful source of additional revenue. It was at this point ATG made the leap from niche media company to software business by developing a live bidding platform.
For an upfront fee and a small commission on each transaction, auctioneers could supplement their physical audiences with buyers from anywhere in the world.
Live bidding has caught the imagination of auctioneers. ATG Media's digital products now account for almost 45% of the company's £8.9m turnover. Whereas a regional auction might attract an audience of 100, the-saleroom.com brings an additional 180 registered online bidders. the-saleroom.com is used by roughly half of the UK's auction houses, with more and more consumers becoming regular users.
The article gave details on how ATG is about to invest £0.5m to update its bidding software and develop a cloud based platform to help auctioneers manage orders and deliveries.
The article explained that the company's online venture is having a revitalising effect on paid subscriptions to Antiques Trade Gazette. In addition, advertising revenues are up 10% on last year. “About 4000 new people register every month on the-saleroom.com – it's a great path to building circulation” said Richard Lewis, Business Development Director.
To that end, ATG has taken its online business overseas by offering its bidding platform to similar audiences in France and Germany. It has also partnered with China's first live auction site, epailive.com. “We can be the Chinese window on the West” says Lewis. “Our auction catalogues and live auctions are now appearing on epailive.com, giving auctioneers reach into the heart of the Chinese market”
What's the most valuable item sold during one of ATG's auctions? It was an industrial crane which went for £330,000. The machine was sold on i-bidder.com – a separate ATG site that focuses on industrial equipment such as tractors, excavators and farm machinery, which contributed £0.5m of sales last year. “We want to take this to Europe” said Berti.
The Daily Telegraph report concluded by questioning whether the current Chinese art market bubble and the Eurozone crisis could damage ATG's business. Lewis continued “In our 40th anniversary year, we did a recap of every year we've been in existence. In 1973 it was the oil shock and the stock market had an awful year – but the auction industry was fantastic. It doesn't mean it will be the same in 2012, but in our darker moments, when we read the dreadful headlines, this is what we think”