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Good for CNet, iVillage?

February 2005

Good for CNet, iVillage?

Plus: It's versus IAC's

By Bambi Francisco,
Feb. 18, 2005

SAN FRANCISCO (MarketWatch) -- As print media warms to the Web again, the few online publishers that attract a large audience are looking more attractive. 
Those online publishers or properties range from CNet (CNET) , iVillage ( IVIL) and Intermix Media's (MIX) to Ask Jeeves' (ASKJ) bundle of sites, as well as to divisions within publishing companies.

That's the case with, a division of Primedia (PRM).

Primedia said late Thursday that it sold the company that operates for $410 million in cash to the New York Times Co. (NYT)., with 22 million unique monthly visitors, runs hundreds of its topic-specific sites with information expert "guides." Its centralized sales force helped to disperse the advertising across those hundreds of sites, while the experts just kept drawing in the audience, much like bloggers draw audiences to their niche-topic sites.

The purchase price of About represents a multiple of more than 10 times its revenue, and more than 30 times its cash flow, in 2004. It's also slightly more than the $401 million that Primedia itself paid when it acquired the company back in March 2001.

Based on Times Co. projections, the price is about 23 times this year's cash flow. The deal is expected to add to the newspaper publisher's earnings in 2007.

"Advertising-supported destination Web sites are a lot like magazines. The bulk of the traffic goes to a few leading sites," said Ken Marlin, of Marlin & Associates, a boutique investment bank specializing in media and technology companies. "Those few sites are not often available to be purchased. When they are, the prices tend to be strong."

Indeed, there are very few sites that command an audience. But the few that are left standing only become more attractive.

"Just in the past few months alone, in addition to the Times, companies like Capital One, Dow Jones and AOL have spent big on 'strategic' acquisitions," said Bill Martin, editor of FindProfit and the founder of Raging Bull, one of the first online stock-chat sites. "This is likely to continue."

Dow Jones (DJ) in January completed its purchase of MarketWatch Inc., the publisher of this report.

Shares of CNet and iVillage both were on the rise in Friday trading. CNet Chief Executive Shelby Bonnie recently said that his company would like to remain independent.

Meanwhile, a combination of About with would increase the leverage they have over advertisers.

"They've taken a very strong leap to becoming a much more broad force," said Mark Josephson, senior vice president of Kanoodle, a privately held paid-search advertising firm that competes with Google and Yahoo. "They control much more audience; they're more attractive to advertisers."

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