The next big (read: nine-figure) consumer internet acquisition may involve an unexpected buyer – CNN.
According to Reuters’ Felix Salmon, the Time Warner-owned cable news network could announce as early as Tuesday that it is acquiring Mashable, one of the most popular tech/social media blogs for a figure that could be north of $200m.
It wouldn’t be CNN’s first ‘tech’ acquisition. As The Guardian notes, the news network purchased an iPad news aggregator called Zite in 2011 for an amount reportedly in the range of $20m to $25m.
But the $200m plus CNN is apparently negotiating to pay would make Mashable one of the largest blog acquisitions ever, and would also make Pete Cashmore, the Scotland native who founded Mashable in 2005 when he was 19 years-old, one of new media’s biggest success stories.
The big question: is this rumour for real?
There have been numerous M&A rumors around Mashable for several years now. The site, which receives somewhere between 15m and 20m unique visitors each month depending on who you ask, was reportedly of interest to AOL for some time. An AOL deal, if one was being looked at, obviously never happened, and arguably a CNN marriage makes more sense as Mashable already has a distribution partnership with CNN and Cashmore is currently a CNN contributor. The relationship between CNN and Mashable makes the rumour of an imminent acquisition plausible.
Some, however, question whether CNN can justify a $200m price tag for Mashable. paidContent’s Staci Kramer, for instance, writes, “I don’t see Turner paying $200m—or even coming close—for it.”
And she has a point. Critics question the quality of Mashable’s content. Recent posts like 3 Ways to Woo a Startup Into Hiring You, 10 Awesome Accessories to Organize Your Office and 6 Things You Wish Your iPad Could Do for Business show why Mashable, more than perhaps any other tech blog, is all about the pageviews. That leads to a lot of linkbait posts, like top 10 lists, which hasn’t helped Mashable recruit the type of ‘serious’ audiences other tech and social media blogs can boast about.
This, of course, doesn’t mean that Mashable isn’t potentially a valuable property to a suitor like CNN. But AOL’s disastrous acquisition of TechCrunch, which is just one of the company’s less-than-stellar blog buys, and other deals that haven’t exactly panned out so well (like Guardian Media’s acquisition of paidContent), suggests that a $200m acquisition of any blog is risky. Put simply, the trend is not in favor of nine-figure blog M&A.
With this in mind, if CNN is actually considering shelling out $200m or more for Mashable, it would appear that the old media stalwart didn’t get the news: buying a popular blog, retaining key staff, maintaining an audience and making money are much easier said than done.