A business-to-business information company–1105 Media Inc. of Chatsworth, Calif.–announced on Jan. 16 that it has acquired Florida Educational Technology Corp., the long-time producer of the annual Florida Educational Technology Conference (FETC). The announcement drew mixed reactions from education observers who spoke with eSchool News.

Launched by Florida educators in 1981 in St. Petersburg, the meeting was officially named the Florida Instructional Computing Conference the next year. It was named FETC in 1990 and grew to become one of the largest and most prestigious educational technology trade events in the United States. News of its acquisition by 1105 Media Inc. comes about a week before the start of FETC 2007 in Orlando. Terms of the takeover were not disclosed.

According to its web site, 1105 Media Inc. targets “specialized sectors of the information technology community with offerings that include print and online magazines, journals, and newsletters; seminars, conferences, and trade shows; training courseware, and web-based services … in the fields of industrial health, safety, and compliance; security; environmental protection; wastewater management; and home healthcare.”

1105 Media executives told eSchool News the FETC acquisition would not affect plans for this year’s event, which kicks off Jan. 24 at the Orange County Convention Center. In recent years, the show reportedly has attracted more than 8,000 educators and 500 exhibitors.

1105 Media–which publishes several educational titles, including T.H.E. Journal and Campus Technology–said its acquisition of FETC will enable the company to grow its live-events business, while using its resources as an educational publisher to expand the reach of FETC nationally.

“The acquisition of FETC by 1105 presents a terrific opportunity for us to grow the event and serve even more administrators and educators who seek to transform education through technology,” said Mike Eason, executive director of FETC, in a statement released Jan. 16. “FETC has deep roots in the education community, drawing 40 percent of its attendees from across the country, and the additional resources within 1105 will allow us to increase our reach to an ever-growing national audience.”

As news of the deal circulated yesterday, ed-tech advocates offered mixed reactions. While some welcomed the development, others said the idea of a business-centric company assuming control over a traditionally vendor-agnostic event raises concerns.

In an eMail message to eSchool News, Susan Patrick, executive director of the North American Council for Online Learning (NACOL), said she wonders “how this could change the dynamic” of FETC and other events like it.

In 2005, NACOL assumed sponsorship of the Virtual School Symposium, a national conference focused on online learning. That conference originally was run by eCollege, a for-profit provider of distance-education programs to schools.

Patrick said NACOL decided to take over the conference as a nonprofit sponsor, so that all entities–educators and for-profit companies alike–could participate “on equal footing.”

“I think the results of having a nonprofit managing the event were very positive,” wrote Patrick. “It opened up the dialog to all participants and provided a neutral ground to ferment ideas on the growth, research, and development of virtual schools in an unbiased way.”

Mary Ann Wolf, executive director of the State Educational Technology Directors Association, said she was encouraged by 1105’s acquisition of the long-running trade show.

“This certainly has the potential to build upon the strengths of both organizations,” Wolf said. “I believe [FETC’s] quality of professional development and emphasis on what is good for students will continue, while [1105 Media brings] a more national focus.”

FETC will be merged into the 1105 Education Technology Group, led by Group Publisher Wendy LaDuke. Apart from T.H.E. Journal and Campus Technology print publications, the division also maintains control of five education-focused web sites, nine eNewsletters, and live events for the higher-education technology market, according to company documents.

Reached by phone yesterday, LaDuke said the deal should provide FETC board members with “more resources” to grow the event beyond its regional base in Florida.

“It’s a win-win for both sides,” said LaDuke. Besides taking advantage of additional funding provided by the company, she said, FETC executives also will have the resources of an educational publisher at their disposal to help FETC carry its message beyond the annual three-day event in Orlando.

When asked to address the concerns raised by a for-profit media company assuming control over what traditionally has been an event designed by educators, for educators, LaDuke said, “I don’t anticipate that being a problem.”

Links:

FETC
http://www.fetc.org/

1105 Media Inc.
http://www.1105media.com