Losses at Political Publisher Dods Surge to £5 Million

Guido is frankly stunned to report that political publisher Dods, whose publications include The House Magazine and PoliticsHome, has seen losses this year surge to £5,537,000. The firm shuttered Public Affairs News recently and rumour has it that Lord Ashcroft and Lord Bell fell out in relation to Sans Frontières Associates, Bell’s Ashcroft-backed lobbying venture. The losses are something of a surprise because Dods last year confidently claimed the bad times were over and they were all set for a profitable year. Given Dods main customer base, the public affairs industry in London, is coining it as firms try to figure out Brexit, it is somewhat mystifying. The digital future envisaged seems to have been less profitable than expected…

Something that was not unexpected was the writing off of 70% of the investment in Social360. In January Guido wrote:

Dods bought into Social360 – a social media monitoring service – which has not sold to clients as well as hoped. Many potential clients manage with a combination of Google alerts and Tweetdeck, both of which are free products. The social media crisis solution seems a bit unnecessary, because when you are in social media crisis, you know it without the need for expensive software. Making their database of “Dods People” acessible via a Salesforce CRM plugin seems like a smart idea until you realise public affairs professionals don’t use Salesforce, sales people do. “DODS Signals”, which “enables the tracking of social media profiles and interactions for over 5,000 political influencers”, is essentially a social media list with bells and whistles, which can pretty much be functionally replicated, for free, in Tweetdeck. Unless you don’t know how to search for a hashtag.

Not forgetting that in 2014/15 they bought “Social Lens” for a million which was also subsequently written off. There is also the very real competitive threat from Politico, which is a quality product written by journalists and read by the public affairs professionals who are Dods’ core customer base. All will work out next year says the new CEO after they raise £13.2 million to buy another software company, this time an Indian company, so they can get into AI. What could go wrong?

Lobbyist’s Gamekeeper Singleton Switches to Poaching

David Singleton who edited Public Affairs News quit as editor some six weeks ago. He is off to WPI Strategy so will no doubt be ethically lobbying on their behalf. He wrote a valedictory piece on his 7 years covering lobbying here. The Dods-owned publication has not been updated since the day he wrote that article on March 8th. Nobody seems to have noticed…

Rumour is that it will be shuttered. Most lobbyists prefer to read Politico nowadays anyway…

Political Publisher Dods Sees Share Price Plummet, Blames Brexit

Political publisher Dods, whose publications include The House Magazine and PoliticsHome saw their shares plummet 33% yesterday, knocking some £7 million off their valuation. In the last 12 months the shares have halved in value. New CEO Simon Presswell is blaming Brexit for an expected profits collapse because of the ‘unprecedented’ political uncertainty. Insiders blame the losses on a lack of customer interest in new products.

Dods bought into Social360 – a social media monitoring service – which has not sold to clients as well as hoped. Many potential clients manage with a combination of Google alerts and Tweetdeck, both of which are free products. The social media crisis solution seems a bit unnecessary, because when you are in social media crisis, you know it without the need for expensive software. Making their database of “Dods People” acessible via a Salesforce CRM plugin seems like a smart idea until you realise public affairs professionals don’t use Salesforce, sales people do. “DODS Signals”, which “enables the tracking of social media profiles and interactions for over 5,000 political influencers”, is essentially a social media list with bells and whistles, which can pretty much be functionally replicated, for free, in Tweetdeck. Unless you don’t know how to search for a hashtag.

None of this appears to have put Dods off expanding, their new CEO telling CEO Today that when it come to prospective mergers and acquisitions:

“we’ve done an extensive study that identifies tens of thousands of organisations that might possess an interest for us. We have defined the criteria of attributes that we look for in businesses that would benefit under our ownership, and we have applied this as a filter across those organisations and have a very specific target list.

If you imagine a 2×2 chart that has two axis [sic] on it, one is complexity, and the other is value. We are able to place our prospects into the appropriate quadrants: those that are high value and relatively low complexity take our priority, those that are high value and more complex take our second priority, and our third priority is on the opportunities that are not yet at high value and are relatively uncomplex. For those prospects, we will be seeking to partner with a select minority of incubators and innovators to bring on board those businesses and technologies in order to amplify them across our network.”

Shareholders, of which Lord Ashcroft is the biggest, might prefer an uncomplex focus on the bottom line…

Dods’ Shard Offices Infested with Maggots

Political publishers Dods – owned by Lord Ashcroft – are suffering a maggot infestation. Must be a metaphor in this story somewhere…

“F*** Dods”

All is not well at the flashy new Shard office of political publishers Dods. A co-conspirator reveals how shortly after a member of staff was given the sack, the words “F**k Dods” were graffiti-ed inside the very expensive men’s toilets: “All fingers of blame pointed at the recently departed. But when another 3 cubicles were done the same the next day, and yet another the day after, it seems to be coming from current staff. Which is unsurprising given morale is at an all time low”. Not much to smile about there at the moment…

Médecins Sans Frontières Objects to ‘Sans Frontières’ Name of Crisis PR Firm

Political publishers Dods Group last year made a small £800,000 profit after years of multi-million pound losses. This was achieved largely by Guy Cleaver halving the bloated sales and marketing headcount down from 119 to 57. Dods celebrated their new found profitability by moving out of their Mayfair offices and into the Shard. Inconveniently situated 20 minutes away from SW1 in SE1.

Dods is lending almost all of that last year’s profits in an unusual investment. It has subscribed for 40% of the issued share capital of Sans Frontieres Associates for a nominal sum and lent it £700,000 to provide initial working capital. Sans Frontieres Associates is chaired by Tim Bell and will do PR and comms work in war stricken hotspots.

Dods reckon that:

“Jonathan Lehrle, CEO and founder has a strong vision for his organisation and the objective to redefine the approach taken to international geopolitical and crisis communications consulting. His vision for his company’s core capabilities and international reach is in keeping with the trends and changing market requirements seen by the Board of Dods.”

The respected NGO Médecins Sans Frontières is less happy. Here’s their spokeswoman Polly Markandya:

“We’d be in the same corridors – us trying to negotiate for humanitarian access and them negotiating PR contracts. It’s too close for comfort. Surely, with their creative brains, they can think of another good name for their venture.”

Other people who wondering about the new comms agency are Dods’ own clients, the comms firms who subscribe to their monitoring services and read their Public Affairs News* magazine. Many may be less than keen on paying monthly subscriptions to their competitor…

*Strangely Guido can not find any mention in Public Affairs News of the launch of Sans Frontieres Associates or the involvement of PA luminaries like Tim Bell and Darren Murphy. Fancy that…

Lord Ashcroft Hires Former Porn Star

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Dods Group plc, the struggling political publishing business controlled by Lord Ashcroft, lost another £5 million last year. Ashcroft’s third CEO, Martin Beck on a mere £177,779, lasted only a year before being going. The publisher of The House magazine and PoliticsHome.com among other titles managed to lose £5 million on the back of write downs of asset valuations. Last year the Group reported the loss in earnings before tax of £5 million following a previous loss of £1.5 million in 2014. Guido is at a loss to understand how the firm can lose almost £20,000 per employee. The losses are ongoing year after year to such an extent that one begins to wonder if there is not some tax benefit, or if the balance sheet is being deliberately shrunk. Falling revenues have seen the headcount reduced from 280 to 260 – though the firm still has some 58 managers. The Dods share price is still trading below the price Lord Ashcroft paid in 2011 and the firm has not paid a single dividend since he got control…

Who has Lord Ashcroft hired to turn the firm around? Guy Cleaver, until recently Managing Director of Dods‘ events and training businesses, has been promoted to Chief Operating Officer with responsibility for all the group’s businesses. Prior to joining the world of training Guy had a short-lived career in adult entertainment…

Here is a much younger Guy Cleaver starring in Witchcraft X. These are the more family friendly bits:

Hopefully Guy can sex up Lord Ashcroft’s political publishing business…

Kevin Schofield New PoliticsHome Editor

Welcome to the internet to the Sun’s chief political correspondent, Kevin Schofield, who is taking over from Paul Waugh at PoliticsHome:

From “politics without the boring bits” at SunNation, to the boring bits at PoliticsHome…

More Dods Losses: Paul Waugh to HuffPo

Replacing Mehdi at HuffPo is:

Following on from Sam McCrory’s move to the BBC this means struggling Dods have now lost their two most senior editorial staff in two months. Smart move by AOL, Mehdi was more of a polemicist and interviewer than a news man. Comment is cheap and over-supplied, news is in more demand. Waugh has a better nose for news than his predecessor. Congratulations… It’s still Waugh!

Total Politics Closing Immediately

totalpolitics-closed

Ashcroft-owned political publishers Dods are shutting the perpetually loss making Total Politics magazine. There will be no January issue. Just in time for Christmas…

Guido always thought it was brave to bring out a politics/lifestyle print magazine in the twenty first century. Printing being expensive and lifestyle journalism being over-supplied already. It was always going to be a brutal world for a political magazine that was self-described as a “relentlessly positive magazine”. Good news doesn’t sell…

UPDATE: This statement from Dods came in after the above went to pixel:

“Total Politics is moving online-only from 2015 as part of our wider digital-first strategy. Total Politics’ following online is greater than in print, partly a reflection of our younger audiences inside and outside Westminster. Like many media organisations facing the same commercial and editorial realities, we aim to serve our readers in a format that suits them best.”

Dods Posts Losses for Fourth Year in a Row

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Dods, the publisher of PoliticsHome, Total Politics and House Magazine has posted its fourth successive year of losses. It is now losing £30,000-a-week or a total of £1.5 million last year, bringing the total losses since Lord Ashcroft took control up to £12 million, about as much as he paid for his controlling share. Subsidiary Dods Parliamentary Communications Limited, which holds the non-print publications and is the online future of the firm, managed to lose £1,624,282. Unsurprisingly the share price is down another 25% on the year and some 75% since Ashcroft bought his shareholding…

For years the business has claimed that whereas the political blogs have scale and a greater reach, their publications such as the House Magazine were read by more MPs – the target market for lobbyists and advertisers who pay Dods to help them engage with MPs.  Survey after survey shows that this is no longer the case. According to independent research more Labour MPs read LabourList, more Tory MPs read ConservativeHome and LibDemVoice is read by most LibDem MPs. Overall more MPs read Guido than the House Magazine, which often goes unread straight into the wastepaper basket…

Dods’ Tweeter of the Year Isn’t on Twitter

Well this is embarrassing. At last night’s Dods parliamentary awards, editor-in-chief Paul Waugh proudly presented the award for Tweeter of the Year to iPad-loving Labour MP Tom Harris. Dods explained that they felt Harris was a worthy winner “for his daily usage of Twitter.” Just one problem: Harris isn’t actually on Twitter

Worthy Winners at PAN Awards

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Two very deserving winners at the Public Affairs News awards last night. Intern Aware and the Taxpayers’ Alliance cleaned up, taking home the Voluntary Sector campaign and In House campaign of the year rewards respectively. Readers will know of Intern Aware for the support they have given to Guido’s stories exposing slave intern hypocrisy in politics and the media – recently infuriating Dods plc, publishers of, errm, Public Affairs News. Worthy winners.

PoliticsHome v Guido: Dods CEO Writes to Staff

politicsKeith Sadler, the new CEO of Ashcroft-controlled political publishing combine Dods plc, has written to reassure employees this morning:

All,

Our results for the 15 months to 31 March 2013 were posted on Friday. The underlying numbers were exactly in line with the guidance we had given to the market the previous year.

[…] Read the rest

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Tory Media Bitch Fight: Peter Oborne v Lord Ashcroft Round II

After round one last year, sometime Cameron loyalist Peter Oborne accuses mischief-making Lord Ashcroft of treachery in an uncharacteristically forthright piece in the Telegraph. Citing twitter, polling and his alleged loathing of Lynton Crosby, Oborne calls for Dave to withdraw the whip:

“This brings me onto the subject of Lord Ashcroft.

[…] Read the rest

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Exclusive: PoliticsHome / DeHavilland Merger Monopoly Fears + + + Office of Fair Trading Refers Ashcroft Bid + + ++ + + Competition Commission to Rule on Legality + + +

OFT Statement:

The OFT today referred the anticipated acquisition of the political intelligence division of DeHavilland by Dods Group PLC (Dods) to the Competition Commission. The evidence before the OFT suggests that, as a result of this merger, Dods will not face sufficient competitive constraints and this could result in higher prices or less quality for UK customers procuring political intelligence services.[…] Read the rest

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Exclusive: Office of Fair Trading to Rule on Ashcroft Bid + + OFT Fears Dominance of Political Monitoring Sector + ++ + City Takeover Panel Requires “Whitewash Resolution” + +

Guido reported last month that Lord Ashcroft was adding to his political publishing empire by buying DeHavilland Political Intelligence for £12.8 million. This will give him control of the political intelligence services sector in the UK. PoliticsHome was his first purchase, originally conceived to take on Dods’ established political monitoring business, in the end instead of out-competing the rival Dods, Ashcroft bought and merged the two loss making businesses.[…] Read the rest

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Can You Belize It: Dods Buys Rival DeHavilland Ashcroft Pours in Another £6m – Increases Stake to 42.9%

In July last year Dods Plc, which Lord Ashcroft controlled 23% of at the time, bought PoliticsHome from two companies owned by Lord Ashcroft. In November Loss-making ePolitix.com and the House Magazine were merged with loss-making PoliticsHome. Today it seems Dods have made a real purchase rather than merely streamlining the paperwork.[…] Read the rest

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ePolitix & PoliticsHome Merge Ashcroft Losses Top £5 Million in 2 Years

The merger announced today between PoliticsHome and ePolitix had a certain inevitability to it as soon as the Lord Ashcroft controlled Dods plc, publishers of ePolitix and the House Magazine, swallowed the loss making website. PoliticsHome lost £500,000 last year, so some rationalisation of what are essentially websites with similar output was bound to happen. […] Read the rest

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Ashcroft Shuffles Pack: Loss Making PoliticsHome Sold for £0.00++ Merges With Loss Making Political Publisher Dods' ePolitix ++

Dods plc, publishers of ePolitix.com and the House Magazine, announced this morning that it had acquired the business and assets of PoliticsHome.com, the political news aggregation website now run by Paul Waugh. The sellers were Political Investments Limited and Politics Home Limited, companies which Ashcroft controls.[…] Read the rest

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