What Content Bubble? Business Insider Scores Huge Sale
At Business Insider, the only bubbles on anyone’s mind today are the champagne kind.
The eight-year-old media startup was acquired today by German publishing giant Axel Springer. The deal values Business Insider at $442 million, almost $200 million more than what The Washington Post sold for in 2013 and well above the $315 million AOL paid to acquire The Huffington Post in 2011. In the current frothy market for content, BI’s deal feels like one of the bubbliest yet.
Axel Springer will pay $343 million to acquire 88 percent of the company; it already owns a 9 percent stake. Jeff Bezos’ personal investment company Bezos Expeditions will hold the remaining shares. Henry Blodget, the co-founder, editor-in-chief, and chief executive of Business Insider, will remain at its helm.
Thanks, everyone! Very kind. So grateful to our readers and clients and so proud of our team. Axel Springer an amazing company.
— Henry Blodget (@hblodget) September 29, 2015
The sale price may sound high, but Axel Springer, one of the biggest media companies in Europe, seems to be looking to the future. The company is the owner of German newspapers Bild and Die Welt; the acquisition illustrates the more traditional conglomerate’s desire to expand its influence in online news. The company has also invested in digital news startups Mic, Ozy, and NowThis Media as well as Politico’s European branch. It has also backed virtual reality startup Jaunt and news reader app Pocket.
“Combining our forces will allow us to unlock growth potential and expand Business Insider’s portfolio to new verticals, new locations and new digital content,” Axel Springer chief executive Mathias Döpfner said in a statement.
Axel Springer is not the only traditional media company that has been aggressively looking at—and investing in—more nimble digital upstarts that appeal to a younger audience. American media giant NBCUniversal has invested millions in BuzzFeed and Vox Media, while Hearst has funded Complex, Refinery 29, and BuzzFeed.
So … is the acquisition the latest sign of a swelling media bubble or the latest desperate attempt of old media titan hoping to buy its way into the future? According to Re/code, Business Insider sold for 9 times this year’s projected revenues. Business Insider has received nearly $60 million in funding since it was founded in 2007, growing its audience to 76 million unique monthly visitors, a figure that increases Axel Springer’s worldwide digital audience by two-thirds.
Axel Springer’s hundreds of millions come at a time when anxiety around the ad-based online publishing business model is growing. Ad blockers are in the iOS App Store’s top ten as users revolt over the crummy online ad experience. But Axel Springer doesn’t seem to be afraid of a few ad blockers—at least not yet.
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