Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

PaidContent's Rafat Ali Speaks! So, Here's Who's Next…

Earlier today, BoomTown broke the stunning-for-blogs news that ContentNext, owner of the popular online digital media news site paidContent, was being bought by the Guardian Media Group for about $30 million in an earn-out acquisition.

I have posted below a video interview with ContentNext’s founder Rafat Ali, who spoke about the deal. I caught up with him in his New York hotel this morning (by coincidence I flew into New York today on a redeye).

But the deal–which comes after the mid-May sale of Ars Technica to Condé Nast for a reported $25 million–begs the question of which tech blog might be next to be acquired.

And, after much noisy poking around today, BoomTown is giving the nod to one of the sector’s larger and splashier sites: TechCrunch.

Several sources told me TechCrunch has been in off-and-on talks recently with Time Warner’s AOL (TWX), which wants to pay from $20 and $30 million for the site.

I could not find out what price TechCrunch thinks is fair, although one might assume it is higher than that.

TechCrunch CEO Heather Harde told me via email that she had no comment. “My policy is not to comment on rumors of our business,” she wrote.

TechCrunch, which was founded in mid-2005 by Michael Arrington, is a group-edited blog that has grown large by focusing–“obsessively,” according to the site’s About page–on Web 2.0 start-ups, covering every jog and tittle of their life cycles.

Sources said the talks between TechCrunch and AOL have been ongoing for the past six to eight weeks, although the site has been in talks with several other large media companies interested in it in the past and these have not led to an acquisition.

AOL would probably be a good home for a site like TechCrunch, since it has a blog focus from its own Switched site and sites it bought, like Engadget.

AOL acquired that popular gadget site in 2005 in the $25 million acquisition of Weblogs, which was founded by entrepreneur Jason Calacanis.

Calacanis, by the way, runs an annual tech conference with TechCrunch, now called TechCrunch50.

Also, I have stayed in Calacanis’s house in the Brentwood (see post and video here), when I was interviewing a Disney exec onstage at a paidContent conference in Los Angeles recently.

Oh, yes, it’s a small tech blogging world after all.

But the money has suddenly become big for the sites involved in that universe too, although most still have relatively small businesses.

Nonetheless, tech bloggers have grown in number and influence, as sites–like this one–compete to break news and attract readers.

Such efforts take funding–despite the lower costs as compared with traditional media–and this probably means inevitable consolidation.

Before its acquisition by Guardian, for example, ContentNext had been raising several million dollars recently to fuel more expansion.

Other sites have also recently raised funds, such as GigaOm, Silicon Alley Insider and VentureBeat.

Most of them have also been talking about various roll-ups between and among one other. Sources told me that VentureBeat, for example, has spoken separately in the past to both paidContent and TechCrunch about joining forces.

VentureBeat’s Founder Matt Marshall would not comment on that, but did note that “size matters, so you have to do what you can to get the economics of scale.”

That includes adding on more sites and doing conferences, as VentureBeat has done (its new conference is called MobileBeat, for example, which will take place in Sunnyvale, Calif. on July 24.)

“Consolidation is what you are probably going to see,” predicted Marshall about the tech blogging arena.

Here’s ContentNext’s Ali talking about exactly that and more today:

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Nobody was excited about paying top dollar for a movie about WikiLeaks. A film about the origins of Pets.com would have done better.

— Gitesh Pandya of BoxOfficeGuru.com comments on the dreadful opening weekend box office numbers for “The Fifth Estate.”