Search marketers were surprised this morning by the announcement that three of the most influential publications in the search marketing sector had quietly been sold to new owners. Jupitermedia, publisher of Search Engine Watch and ClickZ Magazine, announced plans to sell its research, publishing and trade show divisions to UK-based publisher Incisive Media PLC for approximately $43million in cash. The timing of the announcement is interesting as it falls on the eve of the largest annual Search Engine Strategies conference, SES San Jose which opens next Monday (August 8th).

In 2004, Jupitermedia reported nearly $40million in revenues which translated into $23.6million in gross profits from its online media and search event divisions. It also reported revenues of $21.5million in the first half of this year.

Jupitermedia chair and CEO, Alan Meckler, who is interested in expanding the digital images and photography divisions of Jupiter, said the sale would help strengthen Jupitermedia’s finances, making additional acquisitions possible. Currently, the digital image and photography market is dominated by Bill Gates’ Corbis Images and Getty Images.

The sale is said to demonstrate the continued strength of the B2B publishing sector, at least as it relates to search marketing. Incisive Media says it will finance the purchase by releasing new shares to institutional investors and through increased debt facilities. It also says it wants to expand the number of SES tradeshows while expanding its reach in the North American search marketplace.

“The acquisition will allow Incisive Media to strengthen its footprint in the US and to roll-out the SES model across the territories in which the company currently operates,” Incisive said in a media release.

Search Engine Watch is the home of search journalism pioneer, Danny Sullivan and his team of bloggers, journalists and SES organizers which includes Gary Price, Chris Sherman, and Elisabeth Osmeloski. In a post to the SEW forum, Danny expressed optimism over the sale stating that he and his team, “… are carrying on with our regular work as part of the deal. While the owners are changing, the quality content we aim to deliver to you is not. Overall, it’s a good thing. Jupitermedia is concentrating on its images businesses, and the deal puts us with a new owner looking to expand the work we do.”

Expansion of SEW’s work seems to be in the works for Incisive as well. Incisive has announced it plans to organize a larger number of SES conferences in the future with a focus on the European and Asian markets as well as the North American market.