Venerable search marketing firm iCrossing is about to be acquired by publisher Hearst, according to the Wall Street Journal:
Under the deal, which is in the final stages of negotiations, iCrossing, one of the nation’s biggest independent digital-marketing shops, is likely to fetch about $375 million, plus bonus payments if it reaches certain targets, these people said.
The article goes on to discuss how publishers may be trying to take digital marketing in-house rather than relying as much on traditional agencies. And it says the deal could still fall apart.
A few years ago a number of SEM firms were acquired by larger advertising holding companies. For example, in 2004 iProspect was acquired by UK-based Aegis Group for a reported $50 million and in 2007 Reprise Media was bought by Interpublic Group.
There are many high profile search and digital agencies that remain independent. If the Hearst deal goes through it could trigger similar acquisitions by other publishers seeking to have more control over search/digital marketing in house.