The Bureau of National Affairs Inc. last week bought a traditional media technology company and a new media technology opportunity in two acquisitions totaling $9.6 million.

The employe-owned Washington publisher of newsletters on law, taxation, employe relations and other public policy issues, announced that it would acquire McArdle Publishing, a Silver Spring printing company, and Information Consultants Inc., a Washington firm specializing in electronic information management.

"We were very impressed by the companies and their prospects," said William Beltz, BNA's president. "We see some real potential for . . . synergy."

The McArdle acquisition was partly a "defensive purchase," Beltz said, pointing out that the company had been BNA's main printing supplier and mailing house for more than 30 years. "Half of their revenues come from BNA," he said. McArdle grosses roughly $14 million a year.

Joseph J. Fantozzi, now BNA's production manager, will become president of McArdle, whose current owners are retiring. The purchase price was $5.8 million.

BNA's other acquisition offers systems design and special applications software for a variety of professions, including law.

"ICI has a major product for one of BNA's major markets -- law firms," Beltz said. He said that BNA will begin a national marketing effort for VERSUS, a software "litigation support system" for lawyers.

"We believe there's great potential there," Beltz said. "They have a few clients using it, and those spend between $5,000 and $50,000 a month on it."

The acquisition of Information Consultants further underscores BNA's commitment to electronic media distribution as a new source of income for the company. Earlier in the year, BNA made a "significant" investment in an Indianapolis-based electronic information company that eventually will amount to "millions of dollars," Beltz said.

BNA also has a computer software arm that is selling a personal computer disc package for tax preparations.

Beltz said that he hopes more than a quarter of BNA's revenue will come from electronic products and the electronic distribution of information within five years. He expects the company's newsletter publications to remain its major revenue source.

BNA currently has revenues of about $125 million.