Matt Craven on buying and selling The Blog Herald, and the future of ex-BlogMedia
It’s been a hectic year for Matt Craven. He has bought The Blog Herald, made it even bigger and better, and sold it again. His blog network, under the BlogMedia banner, has been more or less sold off, and now BlogMedia is Problogging, Inc., focusing on consulting.
This interview started way back, more or less in the same time as Bloggertalks was launched. Since then it has taken quite some turns, first with the reorganization of BlogMedia, and then the sale of The Blog Herald that was made official just yesterday.
You’re more or less reading it chronologically, which makes it a little special. There are some good advice on buying and selling blogs here, as well as a few words on the recent current events as well.
Oh, and a little disclosure as well. I’m a paid writer at The Blog Herald.
The one site that a think of when BlogMedia comes to mind, is of course The Blog Herald. You bought it early this year, what made you do it?
Duncan had what was clearly the industry leader in terms of blog news. Initially, when the site came up for sale we were bidding through a third party on the site. Unfortunately, the bidding rapidly escalated to around $72,000, which we felt was far too high for the income that The Blog Herald was bringing in at the time. This sale ended up falling through and the site came up for bid again.
We began bidding on the site on Sitepoint – again through a third party. The auction seemed to stall for quite awhile without any movement. David Krug, who was our VP of Sales & Marketing at the time, ended up talking directly with Duncan and was able to reach a deal. I remember being in Boston with my family for my wife’s PhD defense when David called me at a bar to tell me that he thought we were within striking distance of a deal. We closed up the deal a few days later…
Our intent then was to acquire a high traffic site in our niche of blogging & technology news – that could help us develop the rest of the network. We think that our investment in The Blog Herald has paid off handsomely…
So I’m guessing you didn’t cash up $72,000 then. Would you tell us how much you paid, and perhaps what the numbers where in your calculation?
One of the terms of our sales agreement is that the price will not be disclosed. Suffice to say that both Duncan and our team felt that the price we paid was appropriate for the property.
There’s a lot of diversity in thought about how to value and price a website. Ours, however, has served us well and is quite simple. We’re willing to pay no more than 18-24 times the monthly earnings of a site. There have been exceptions to this valuation theory in the past – but generally we’ve been happy to follow that path.
Picking up after someone else is always hard, especially when the readership is dedicated. What problems did you encounter during the first few months?
The toughest thing when taking over a blog like The Blog Herald that had such a strong and respected voice in Duncan Riley was finding our own voice – and then helping our readers adjust to that voice. It took us a few months to figure out what our formula would be. I wouldn’t say that we hit our sweet spot until bloggers like Aaron Brazell and Martin Neumann came onboard with their distinct personalities… We’ve since added Thord (yourself), Tony, Jessica, Mohammad, Ben, and Darnell. David Krug has even come back and began blogging for us again with his unique & snarky look at what’s happening in the blogosphere.
You haven’t had The Blog Herald for a year yet, but do you feel it has met your expectations so far?
I would say yes. We expected a high traffic publication that got a lot of attention – Blog Herald is certainly that
Financially as well?
Blog Herald has been a strong financial success for us. Even with several paid bloggers on staff – we continue to turn out strong profits month after month after month. I have no complaints there.
The Blog Herald, blogosphere news that kicks ass.
A month or two back you ran an ad for a betting company on The Blog Herald that got some heat in the comments. Now, most of us know that when you move from Adsense and such, to actual direct ad sales, that’s when you make the money. But how do you get that far, if you have the traffic but not being a sales person kind of guy?
I’m not, by nature, a sales guy… and neither are the other BlogMedia staffers. But you do have to find a way to be able to make yourself available to your advertisers – and those interested in advertising on the site. Much negotiation is done via email but you do have to get on the phone and talk with folks often in order to seal the deal.
It helps to have a good contact page and some advertising information online. Some of the ad networks are good resources as well.
Beyond that, sometimes the “coldcall email” works well – email folks that you see advertising on other popular blogs in your niche and try the direct sell approach. You’d be surprised how successful this can be…
Does having The Blog Herald give spin-off income on the side of the actual site, like consulting and things like that?
Well, yes, and no. We already have a highly successful consulting business, but I won’t deny that The Blog Herald has enabled us to become even more successful with this than before.
Getting recognized in the blogosphere isn’t always easy, so buying a blog that really has the readership is probably something a lot of people consider. What do you think are the major obstacles they need to sort out?
You’re correct when you say that this is not an easy task – whether you’re starting out with a new site or buying an existing blog.
When buying an existing blog, I think much consideration has to be given to how you will transition that blog to new ownership and how you will integrate it into your network (if applicable). I would take the time to sit down and write out an integration plan that addresses these things.
I will go back to something I said earlier in this interview… finding the voice that you will have on the new blog is probably the toughest thing to do – particularly if you’re coming in behind a strong voice like I did in purchasing The Blog Herald from Duncan Riley…
So a potential seller is wise to not brand his blog too close to his own person then? Makes sense.
I think it depends on your blog and your personal approach. But if you’re looking to sell – and the entire blog is based around you and your personality – selling that blog is not going to be easy.
Dooce is a great example. That blog is built entirely around the personality, life, and stories of Heather Armstrong. Selling that blog without Heather writing for it would likely be an abject failure.
You’re currently selling a couple of the blogs in the BlogMedia network, to tighten up your portfolio. What’s the goal with the network?
We’re taking an opportunity to downsize some of our operations and narrow our focus. Our primarily business is – and always has been – our consulting operation – which operates primarily outside of the eye of the blogosphere. We’re planning on staying in the blogging news niche though..
Sitepoint is the market place of choice for your current sales and you mentioned it above with The Blog Herald sale as well. Is that the best way to buy and sell blogs?
I’m not sure that there is necessarily a best way – but Sitepoint has always been a good marketplace for established sites. I also like the forums over at dnforum.com – but to buy/sell there you really need to be a platinum member or you don’t get as much attention. Either of these is usually a good place to buy/sell an established site.
Back to The Blog Herald. In my opinion the podcast that you do is one of the best one out there. Are there any money in podcasting?
Thanks for the kind words.
I’m sure there is money in podcasting – but I think we’ve only seen about $50 of it so far. Podcasting is something new for us and an area in which we’re working on a significant expansion in the coming months… You’ll see more from us in this area in the near future.
The Blog Herald has a pretty good content flow at the moment, lots of updates every day and all. In my book, that’s when someone in your position should sit down and thinks about what’s next. So what’s next for The Blog Herald?
Well, we’ll continue to seek out and involve the best possible writers while working to expand our private ad sales and other measures. Beyond that, we have a few other things planned, but I need to keep those under wraps for now.
When this interview was finished, the big news hit. BlogMedia was shifting focus and becoming Problogging, Inc. Now, that was just something I had to talk to Matt about, so I fired off some follow-up questions. Silence followed, and the reasons for that became evident just recently; The Blog Herald was sold as well.
I managed to get a few little things from Matt on this matter.
BlogMedia is now Problogging, Inc. and as we spoke of earlier, you have narrowed down your network to a select few blogs. What kind of services will you offer?
I would say that we’re now just about complete with our transition from BlogMedia, Inc. to Problogging, Inc. We have some minor things to wrap up but otherwise the move is complete.
Our initial plans revolve around establishing a solid blog over at Problogging along with some other service oriented products that we have in development presently. Think about a talent management system for bloggers, designers, and others in this creative business of ours and I think that will give you an idea of where we’re headed.
I’m also planning on writing an eBook or two about our experiences this year with BlogMedia – we’ve learned some valuable lessons that I think will go a long way with helping some others.
Should other blog networks take note and read something, like slowing ad sales or whatever, into this move?
Not in the least, in fact, the last three months have been the best three months of our existence. No one should read anything into that at all.
You’re doing a podcasting blog. Do you have any other new launches as a result from the Problogging move?
We have a few things up our sleeves – but mostly what you’re reading above.
And now I’m told you’ve sold The Blog Herald! Who bought it and could you tell us something about the deal?
Unfortunately, I can’t disclose the buyer as we have a NDA in place and they’ve not yet chosen to disclose themselves.
The deal came about back when we started to divest our blog network. In the process of doing so, we were approached by a couple different companies about selling The Blog Herald. I engaged David Krug to represent us in the sale and we moved forward from there. One company wound up the winner.
I’m really curious about how you reasoned, doesn’t The Blog Herald (and perhaps the podcasting blog above) fit into the new Problogging concept?
It takes an enormous amount of time to run The Blog Herald – and that alone gave us pause when we initially acquired the site. And it only gets more complex as the site grows and more bloggers are added. It simply didn’t fit with the direction that we really wanted to go….
The Pod Herald – our new podcasting site – does fit in with where we’re headed because there isn’t a single podcast out there that’s covering the blogging news the world that’s any good – we’re going to fill that void – plus we simply enjoy podcasting. So it’s a labor of love.
The Blog Herald is without a doubt the news source for the blogosphere. It’s huge, and I think you’ve handled it well. It would be interesting to let you wrap this up with an anecdote, a story or just some piece of advice that this experience has given you?
I’ll stay away from advice since I offered up some key lessons learned in my reflections post over at Problogging – but I will share a funny story.
Duncan warned me when we purchased the site back in February that we’d get a lot of calls from reporters… and that was completely true. It’s also well known that I’m horrible at checking voice mail here in the office – I mean, we’re a tech firm – and we do must of our business via e-mail, wikis, forums, and instant messaging.
And sure enough, just about a month ago, we got a voicemail from a reporter looking to speak to Tony Hung about one of his pieces on The Blog Herald. So I emailed Tony the message and the reporter’s phone number and he calls her up. Turns out that the number was her home phone number and he had reached her somewhat late on a weekend evening. To top it off, the story had run a month prior!
Shows how well I check my voicemail.
I’d like to thank Matt for doing this interview with me. Check out The Pod Herald, his podcasting blog, as well as the sales post over at The Blog Herald. Also be sure to pay a visit to Problogging, Inc. for the latest in Matt’s world. Best of luck to you, mate!