This column appears in the January 05 issue of PC Advisor. Available in all good newsagents.
When was the last time a two-year old company was sold to an existing one for a multimillion-dollar price tag? Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it's 1999 all over again with the sale of Weblogs Inc to AOL for a reported $22m (about £12m).
Rafat Ali had the scoop on the sale, announcing it on his site (www.paidcontent.org) on 5 October. Jason Calacanis, who's normally extremely outspoken on his own blog (calacanis.weblogsinc.com) was conveniently on a plane flying to San Francisco as the news broke, though he had somewhat cryptically mentioned Ali in his post and directed people towards PaidContent.org.
By the next day, the interweb was awash with news of the deal. Supposed bitter rival Nick Denton, owner of blog network Gawker Media, whose model Calacanis openly borrowed from, was pithy to say the least.
"The acquisition of WIN [Weblogs Inc] by AOL is exhilarating news in many respects, most of which I shouldn't list here. For what it's worth, Gawker isn't for sale. 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," Denton wrote on his blog (www.nickdenton.org).
Jeff Jarvis, owner of the respected industry blog BuzzMachine, followed up Denton for comment as to whether Gawker was for sale or not. Denton sent back a sweary response – because he can. He can still swear, you see, because he's "not part of some soul-stifling media conglomerate".
The blog on blogs, Blogebrity, chose to look into the spoils of the deal, deciding the split of the $22m went as follows: $5m, possibly $6m to Peter Rojas, founder of Weblogs Inc's most popular blog, Engadget; 20 percent after Rojas's take going to investors; Calacanis and partner Brian Alvery splitting the rest, working out at $6m each, down to $4.5m after taxes. Concluding the numbers to be "high enough to sit pretty, but low enough to keep Calacanis hungry for the next startup. What will he launch next?"
But Calacanis isn't planning on starting something any time soon; he's staying at AOL. No, sorry – he wants to stay at AOL. He's very keen to emphasise this. "Now, I don't have to stay – I WANT TO STAY," he wrote. :As you've read in the papers AOL is moving from the walled-garden approach to an open-platform company. In fact, that process is complete at this point, so now the question is, where can we take it?
"It's pretty exciting to be part of a transformation like this and I'm going to put all my energy into it. For me this is more exciting than doing another startup, to be honest."
Denton, however, had the last laugh, ironically from something he'd written back in March 2004 when Calacanis poached Peter Rojas from Denton's Gizmodo to start Engadget. Conceding that Calacanis had got one over him, he mused: "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.]"