Good Competition, The CEDIA Conundrum and Julie

Every business owner in every company hopes, especially when they invent or pioneer something unique, that their competition will be good. Bad competition tends to shred an industry and can lead to its eventual demise.

For example, I have many friends that own AV integration firms — they love the good competition and loathe the bad ones. Good is when your competition, too, has ethics, quality processes and doesn’t just base everything on price; i.e., undercutting you at every turn just to win the job. Many so-called “box-houses” are the loathsome competition to real design-build firms. Some actually focus on stealing each and every “job” simply by undercutting the price quoted. In many cases, not doing any work but data-mining the system design to re-quote it for less.

Good competition, on the other hand, competes on intellectual property and expertise and wants to retain the value of services provided to the customer that, in many cases, can’t be quantified on a price sheet or through bidding the job. So, they may come in less expensive than you, but it’s because they decided to design and build the system differently — not just price it differently.

rAVe’s publication arm, known to you as rAVe [PUBS], has enjoyed good competition with EH Media — publishers of industry mags such as CEPro and Commercial Integrator. Sure, they’ve copied us over the years as we innovated the eNewsletter in AV — having published all-digital a half-dozen years before anyone else did — and they even tried to emulate our rAVe [NOW] live show coverage some years back with a team of reporters they branded as the BlogMob at shows. But, I don’t blame them! I’d have copied us, too. We get copied a lot. We started with social media before anyone else. We shot in-booth trade show videos long before anyone anyone else. We’ve been speaking at industry events and writing about topics to drive technology adoption and help integrators evolve and thrive as long as anyone else in the business. We were one of the first to start podcasting. These we all things the industry needed from more than one source.

So, we’ve enjoyed “good” competition from EH Media. They don’t target us to out-price us, to under-cut us or to disparage us. Over the years, they’ve been, well, good competition. And, I have a tremendous amount of respect for Julie Jacobson co-founder and editor of EH Media. And, Craig MacCormack — one of the editors of Commercial Integrator. He’s helped us grow #AVtweeps, for example, into the de facto hashtag for AV geeks. Yep, we started that as one of our writers (Johnny Mota) used the #AVtweeps hashtag first, too.

Today, it was announced that EH Media was purchased by trade-show company, Emerald Expositions — you can read their entire release here. You may know Emerald as the company that, 20 months ago, purchased the CEDIA Expo from CEDIA, the association — here’s our story on that, too.

This is awesome news for us and for EH Media. For obvious reasons.

But, for CEDIA, the association, this could be the most uncomfortable year they’ve ever had. If you read the Emerald announcement, today, carefully you’ll see a section that describes how they will use EH Media to help them “develop programming, education and connections that make for beautifully designed, safe and increasingly smart/connected spaces.” Uh, this is EXACTLY what CEDIA, the association, does. Exactly.

So, now the company that bought CEDIA the show from CEDIA the association has announced, less than two years later, that they are going to compete with the association they purchased the show from.

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I reached out to CEDIA (the association) today and asked what they thought of this. CEDIA’s Tabatha O’Connor, president and CEO, immediately responded, “CEDIA and Emerald are aligned in our goals to reach the specifier community and increase the awareness of CEDIA members. We are the leading source of education to the industry and continue to produce the conference at CEDIA Expo; we anticipate this announcement will open up even more opportunities for us to deliver world-class education to the trade, as well as the specifier community.”

Tabatha is absolutely right and I believe her, 100 percent. But, what if Emerald says, thanks but no thanks? I mean, CEDIA, the association, has no control over this. Emerald could announce that they are using EH Media to to manage the education aimed at integrators (like they say in the press release) — and not even use them at their show. Thus, making it tough on the association as the Expo is the one place where everyone residential AV gathers every year.

I hope this isn’t the case, but I would highly recommend that CEDIA, the association, come up with an alternative plan. I mean, like, right away. Look, smarter minds than mine are on this. The CEDIA association is amazing with great people — Tabatha O’Connor is probably one of the smartest CEOs in tech — not just AV tech. I am quite sure that she’s got a handle on this. But, this certainly is an uncomfortable and surprising development they did not anticipate. Kudos to Emerald as it’s a genius acquisition. Genius.

(Side note: No need to shed too many tears for CEDIA — they own 50 percent of the hugely successful annual ISE trade show, which surely ensures their continued financial stability)

I look forward to watching this carefully. And, one last thing: a huge congratulations to Julie Jacobson — she truly built something special.

Here’s the original announcement in its entirety:

Emerald Expositions Acquires Select Assets of EH Media

CE Pro, Commercial Integrator, Campus Safety, Security and Sales Integration and Total Tech Summit Complement Emerald Design Group Platforms

Emerald Expositions, a leading operator of business-to-business trade shows in the United States, announces the acquisition of the following key brands serving the technology sector for the built environment: CE Pro, Commercial Integrator (CI), Campus Safety, Security Sales and Integration (SSI) and Total Tech Summit. 

This blended package of show and media assets will integrate and strengthen the Emerald Expositions Design Group of trade shows including HD Expo (Hospitality Design), ICFF (formerly the International Contemporary Furniture Fair), the Healthcare Design Conference, GlobalShop and Expo and Design and Construction Week. Each of these events benefits from the audiences served by this portfolio of technology platforms.  Emerald Expositions acquired the CEDIA Expo platform from CEDIA in January of 2017 establishing a presence in the smart/connected residential and light commercial markets.

All of these brands, including CEDIA Expo, allows the Emerald design brands to develop programming, education and connections that make for beautifully designed, safe and increasingly smart/connected spaces

“Specifiers of residential and commercial spaces are hungry for insights, strategic partnerships and know-how concerning the intelligent integration of technology in built environments,” said David Loechner, President and CEO Emerald Expositions. “Emerald Expositions is perfectly poised to bring technologists and specifiers together. The acquisition of these platforms allows for integration into established Emerald Expo design events, as well as to continue to grow and develop the platforms themselves.”

The newly acquired brands and CEDIA will have installations at Design and Construction Week, HD Expo and ICFF in 2019.