Yesterday ReadWriteWeb, a popular technology blog founded by Richard MacManus in 2003, announced that it is being acquired by digital publishing upstart SAY Media. 

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but according to TechCrunch’s sources, the deal was under $5m.

SAY Media has been active on the acquisition scene, having snapped up web properties including Dogster, Remodelista, a digital agency called Sideshow and publishing platform company Six Apart.

The apparent strategy; instead of simply building an ad network for new media, SAY Media wants to consolidate the market and own the properties it sells against.

Will the next media empire be built on a blog? A few years ago, many were arguing that the answer was almost certainly a resounding yes.

With traditional publishers struggling, it seemed logical that new media empires would form online, where it’s possible to publish more quickly and more cost-effectively.

But the number of high-profile, independent blogs remaining, particularly in the tech space, continues to shrink.

On paper, Say Media’s move sounds like a decent idea. The roll-up approach isn’t new, and although it probably fails just as much (if not more) than organic approaches, the timing might be right.

Although ReadWriteWeb has faced traffic challenges recently, and has lost some of its most important writers, it was still a well-known tech blog. If it is true that SAY Media acquired it for less than $5m, it could arguably represent a more sensible deal than AOL’s purchase of TechCrunch for an amount rumoured to be in the $30m range. After all, post-acquisition, TechCrunch has lost its founder and editor Michael Arrington, as well as many of its most popular writers.

TechCrunch-like outcomes seem to be the rule, not the exception. The Guardian’s acquisition of paidContent, for instance, has not worked as expected, and The Guardian is reportedly trying to unload the blog for the same price it paid for it or less (with no interested parties chomping at the bit to close a deal apparently). Even AOL’s purchase of The Huffington Post, the largest of its kind, doesn’t look all that sensible today given AOL’s continued decline.

So does all of this mean that new media was overhyped? Perhaps. A more accurate conclusion, however, may be that new media isn’t really all that different from old media. In other words, building a media empire is tough and as even the most successful pure-play digital publishers are learning, the rewards aren’t always as great as many once expected them to be.