WeblogsInc: More

: I asked my friend Nick Denton whether he had comment on the WeblogsInc/AOL deal. And he said:

Whether we’re for sale? No. Fucking. Way. And I can still say “Fucking”.
Because we’re not part of some soul-stifling media conglomerate.

: Just saw Tina Sharkey, the AOL exec who made the deal to buy WeblogsInc. Usual “very excited” soundbites. She says it will be run as a separate company keeping separate URLs but will be promoted across AOL and they will use it grow in some verticals complementary to AOL.

A Reuters reporter came up and asked whether there is an earnout. She said they’re not commenting on the specifics. Darn, that media training pays off.

: Reuters said they have it on good source that the deal is for $25 million with an earnout that could get it up to $40 million. Note that it’s not just Jason Calacanis and Mark Cuban, his investor, who are laughing all the way to the Maserati dealer. Pete Rojas is chortling, too, for he left Nick Denton’s Gawker Media to get equity and got it from Jason, giving him the base to build Weblogs Inc.; without Engadget, I doubt the company would have grown enough for this deal to be done.

: Nick says now:

The whole point about blogs is that they’re not part of big media. Consolidation defeats the purpose. It’s way too early. Like a decade too early.

I agree. I think that blogs and big media have a relationship but I know firsthand that big change in big media will not happen within but without.

: Mark Pincus chortled himself yesterday when he heard the news and said he can’t wait to see a wealthy Calacanis: “Bling!”

He won’t have to wait long. Jason will make a triumphal entry into Web 2.0 today. I’ll pass on what I see and hear.

: The Stalwart digs up the fact that I really had the scoop on this story long ago, when I asked him the question in May 2004.

The best line? Calacanis, publisher of the defunct Silicon Alley Reporter, famously turned down an offer from Time-Warner for the dotcom magazine. This time, he’s taking the money, first with an investment by Mark Cuban. When pressed by Jeff Jarvis, the moderator, to say how [much] his latest company would make him, Calacanis said: “$20-30m — and this time I’m going to take the money.”

If you click on that last link, you’ll see Nick’s post on the event, in which he pulled out this quote from Jason in 2000:

When journalists believe that they should be millionaires and billionaires like the companies they cover, their careers are over. And that’s what’s happening… And I’m afraid that I’ll lose my edge, I’m afraid that I’ll get soft. I really enjoy being a journalist, and I don’t want to muddy that with this expectation that I should be worth millions of dollars.

This is so much fun.

The Stalwart also dug up these fun quotes from Nick’s blog after Pete left to start Engadget for Jason:

I was, as they say back home, royally shafted. That’s just like shafted, only worse. For those of you who doesn’t follow every navel-gazing twist and turn of the blog world, Jason Calacanis of Weblogs Inc., a rival, poached one of Gawker Media’s writers, Pete Rojas of Gizmodo….

Pete will feverishly work night and day on his new site. We’ll bring in guest stars, and spice up Gizmodo. Maybe we’ll bid against each other, as if it were 1999 all over again, to become anchor tenant of AOL’s tech section. (That was a joke… I hope.)

And here’s the punchline.

: Dana Blankenhorn thinks the deal was for too little!

: My take: This is great for Jason et al. For AOL? It’s more old-media think. They think that the way to get into blogs is to own them. They can’t help wanting to own content. That’s what they do. Listen to Semel below.

But blogs are doubling every five-and-a-half months. They are distributed among the people who create them and own them becuase they are part of these people’s lives. They are too small for marketers to care about one at a time but in targeted networks they will be very powerful. So is the best way for a media company to get into blogs to buy them?

I don’t think so.

: UPDATE: Just saw Jason in the hall. He’s one happy camper as he well should be.

He said the deal came to be when WeblogsInc. covered that big concert event that online did better than TV. AOL wanted them to cover other big events. And it grew from there.

He said the real benefit is traffic: They were growing at 20 percent a month and to really explode, they needed to get investment or get a big player. Et voila.

He said that AOL guarantees independence for him and his bloggers; they will not “filter” them.

He laughed about Nick pooh-poohing a big media deal the day after announcing a deal with VNU to get international distribution.

And I asked the Mark Pincus question: What’s the bling? He resisted and then finally answered: He wants a one-button espresso machine.

  • consolidation – noun – A bringing together into a whole: coalition, unification, union, unity. See part/whole.

    so does this mean that the head of Gawker Media plans to free Wonkette, Fleshbot, Sploid, Defamer et al because “consolidation defeats the purpose?”

  • Nick’s disparaging the level of consolidation that reaches commodification. A WIN blog, he’s said, has as much branding as a Burger King. Gawker still builds strong specific brands. It gets more bang from each blog, and I’d bet its readership is more loyal.

    While being classy may not directly help the bottom line, it builds a better “quality of life” for those involved.

  • Michael

    “Because we’re not part of some soul-stifling media conglomerate”

    Nope, it’s now called Soul-Stifling-Media-Conglomerate 2.0!!

  • Sorry, Nick D., but I think that’s total crap. You think the readers of Gawker are more loyal than those of Engadget or TUAW or Blogging Baby? On what evidence do you base that?

    It’s all about the bloggers. If the bloggers on a given blog are ambitious and are dedicated to interacting with their readership, they’ll build loyalty. If they’re not, they won’t. “Consolidation” is a bogeyman.

  • Nick, did you just call Gawker, Defamer, Fleshbot, Wonkette, and Spolid “classy”?

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  • The midway position between the big bling corporate buyout and the PJMedia/Blogads/Denton model is the one which saw Kevin Drum goe to The Washington Monthly.

    Big media has tried turning its stars into bloggers. Didn’t work. It has tried to housetrain some blogger (MSNBC). Works fairly well.

    The deal which makes the most sense however, is to buy the rights to reprint chunks of blogs or run RSS feeds, or both.

    As most bloggers do it for nothing locking up the rights to reprint 5000 words a month would likely cost no more than a couple of hundred dollars a month. Now, even the lowliest opinion jockey in big media is making 60-120K a year for, say, three 700 word columns a week. Call it 2000 words or 8K a month. You can get the same or better from bloggers for $500.00 a month and have money left over to revamp your tech section, fashion, gossip, science and those pesky book reviews.

    At some point MSM is going to twig to the huge value there is in bloggers for all manner of opinion journalism and niches. When that happens the marque columnists will begin to look very pricey indeed.

    (And speaking of syndication – I am surprised no one has started a syndication service…hmm. I have extra webspace.)

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  • Jason is insane.

    A one-button espresso machine? You can’t get a good crema with one of those. You need to take your time, get a good quality group. Grind it with care. Pack the group. Come on McCabe.

  • Jason selling to AOL is a case of “selling out to The Man.”

    AOL still has the most costly dial-up service available.

    AOL also has some netnanny type blocker stuff that, whether a user wants it or not, immedicately blocks not only access to information on AOL’s competitors, but also blocks everyone from searching for adult-oriented sites. It doesn’t know if you’re a bona fide adult with no children present, or if you’re a good family man looking for some jollies while the kiddies are napping…

    I’m sure that, from this point on AOL will slowly find ways to censor what is being said on Weblogs, Inc. blogs. After all, it’s all about make all those folks at home feel safer about neglecting their children’s Internet activities.

    However, had I known that he’d made 25 mil in one day, I might have introduced myself to him when we locked gazes at We Media. We smiled at each other, then were gone…oh, well…

  • aoldude

    jason now has enough money to buy buzzmachine.

    jeff and jason will start web 3.0 and make billions.

  • How obvious that Web 2.0 leads to Bubble 2.0. For every dot-commer that sold out a little too soon in 1996-1999, there are ten Pointcasts that waited until everyone else figured out that they never really had a business model.

  • I don’t think this news is a negative for Nick at all. AOL will do good by WebLogs Inc, driving up traffic, garnering ads, and generally drumming up interest for the idea of blogs as stand-alone business — and all this works to Nick Denton’s benefit, as he and Jason are “The two blog moguls,” (and, we suppose David Hauslaib should also be mentioned). As they used to say around Silicon Alley Reporter, “a rising tide lifts all ships.” And Nick, quite frankly, has got some prestige boats docked in the harbor.

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