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Saturday, January 10, 2015

Trade Association Jewelers of America Acquires Trade Publication National Jeweler

It’s one of those announcements saved for Friday afternoon in order to attract as a little attention as possible. However, it also seemed to coincide with Friday night’s Gem Awards gala in New York and a board of director's vote to approve the acquisition, held earlier in the day.

Whatever the reasoning for the late Friday announcement, the jewelry trade association, Jewelers of America, will enter into the publishing business by acquiring jewelry trade publication, National Jeweler

In a carefully worded statement on the JA website, it said it will purchase National Jeweler from Emerald Expositions, which owns the JA New York shows, Couture and tradeshows in several other markets. The tradeshow company, National Jeweler and JA already had a relationship through the two New York tradeshows. In fact JA and National Jeweler were both founded in 1906. 

The acquisition is expected to close by the end of the month. No reason was given for the acquisition and financial details were not disclosed.

The question is can a trade organization own a publication that is truly independent? JA, in its statement, took great pains to say yes. I have my doubts. 

“JA and National Jeweler will remain and act independent of each other,” the statement reads.

“National Jeweler is natural fit for our organization, as it shares our mission to be an informative resource to retail jewelry professionals,” David J. Bonaparte, JA President & CEO, said in the statement. 

Michelle Graff, editor-in-chief of National Jeweler, added, “We look forward to taking advantage of the additional resources being part of the JA team offers us, but we remain focused on our mission: to objectively deliver the news that retail jewelers need to run their businesses on a daily basis.” 

No matter how it’s being spun, it’s difficult not to see this as a publication that will lose at least some (if not all) of its independence. 

There are three major jewelry trade publishers left. The largest and most significant is JCK (my former employer). After facing the possibility of collapse during the 2008-2009 economic downturn, which dramatically impacted both the jewelry and publishing industries, Reed Expositions, which owns JCK tradeshows, took ownership of JCK. It gave publishing responsibilities to a third-party publisher: McMurry/TMG, a marketing company that creates custom magazines for a variety of organizations ranging from the Ritz-Carlton to WebMD. 

The result was a loss of editorial independence. 

The remaining independent publisher is Smart Work Media, which owns trade magazines InStore and InDesign magazines and the Smart Jewelry Show. These publications are the only ones left that truly targets jewelry retailers, something all of the publications should be doing, although it relies too much on old-school “industry experts” and not enough on its editorial staff. 

At a time when independent jewelry stores are closing at a significant rate, when young people are not entering the industry, and where the competition for disposable income is as intense as it has ever been, jewelry trade publications with independence are needed to provide leadership within the industry to tackle these problems. 

Instead, they continue to lose their voice. 

Please join me on the Jewelry News Network Facebook Page, on Twitter @JewelryNewsNet and on the Forbes website.

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