From my point of view, the biggest news this week is that ArsTechnica was purchased by Conde Nast for a rumored $25 million. The acquisition itself has been verified, but the price will likely never be publicly confirmed.
For those who aren’t familiar with ArsTechnica, it’s a technology news site that has distinguished itself over the years by offering intelligent and thoughtful articles. With the recent trend of rapid-fire blogs and “breaking” news blurbs, it’s to their credit they’ve been able to sustain their audience and reputation.
I don’t know the founders of Ars personally, but am certainly aware of their work. The story goes that it was started in 1998 by Ken Fisher (and Jon Stokes) out of “boredom” in graduate school and apparently stayed a hobby for the first 6 years. Ken Fisher touched a bit on the start of Ars in a recent video interview with Kara Swisher. I’m not sure the exact sequence of events, but today Ars is reported to have a staff of 8 people who will now be working for Conde Nast (publisher of Wired).
Their decision to sell is interesting. Online ad revenue has been on the rise over the past 5 years, and I’m certain they are benefiting from this phenomenon. With their technical audience, they should be able to attract very favorable ad rates and sponsors.
Assuming the founders were making a solid profit on a yearly basis in-line with a $25 million valuation (let’s assume they didn’t get a “can’t refuse” offer), what are the motivations for selling a self-sufficient business that from-all-that-I’ve-read has been their “baby”?
10 years is a long time, so I suppose they were ready to move on for various reasons. While the writers are moving to Conde Nast, I don’t see how the co-founders would stay there beyond a compulsory period of time with $25 million in their pockets. I’ll be very curious to see what they do next, and wish them luck.
Update: Fisher explains the motivation… they want to built the site up further which requires corporate backing. And it appears he will be staying to continue building the site.