Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

Gling? Glam Buys Ning for $200 Million, Mostly in Stock

Glam Media, a social content platform for sites primarily targeting women, said it’s buying Ning, the custom social-platform start-up co-founded by Marc Andreessen.

The purchase price wasn’t disclosed, but sources close to the deal said the sale price was $200 million, mostly in stock. Glam has been eyeing an initial public offering, so shares being part of the deal is not a surprise.

I had reported in August that Ning was on the block and had been talking to a number of companies, including Google and Groupon.

The sale price is well below previous loftier valuations for Ning, which topped $750 million several years ago. Its venture funders have put close to $120 million into the company since it was founded in 2004.

Among its key investors: Well-known entrepreneur and investor Andreessen, LinkedIn Chairman and Greylock Partners VC Reid Hoffman, Legg Mason, Allen & Company and Lightspeed Venture Partners.

Ning will operate as a new business unit within Glam Media. Jason Rosenthal, Ning’s CEO, will join Glam as EVP Social Media and general manager of a Ning unit. In addition, Andreessen will join Glam’s board.

The sale comes after a rocky history for Ning, which bills itself on its site as “The World’s Largest Platform for Creating Social Websites.”

The sales effort grew out of a parallel one to possibly raise more money for the start-up. At the time, sources said there had been some incoming interest, so talking to a larger pool of buyers was undertaken.

Ning has undergone a series of ups and downs over its history, including dramatic management and business plan shifts.

Its most recent plan has been to go all-premium, trying to find a way to turn the start-up into a profitable enterprise.

That has worked out well, the company has previously said, with strong growth. Since its business shift a year ago, Ning has said, it has had 400 percent year-on-year revenue growth, going from 17,000 to more than 100,000 subscribers and with 60 million monthly active users.

Ning’s shift has been under the leadership of Rosenthal, who had been COO of Ning until he replaced its founding CEO, Gina Bianchini, in early 2010.

Ning has also recently tried to get into the highly competitive mobile social communications arena, with a service called Mogwee. The traction for the product does not appear to have been significant and it is unclear if the service will continue.

“Ning is the clear leader for creating custom social Web sites and communities. Acquiring Ning adds a natural extension to our social media platform, new distribution channels and a talented Silicon Valley team, all of which support our aim to connect brands with engaged, passionate audiences,” said Samir Arora, chairman and CEO of Glam Media, in a statement about the Ning deal. “With the addition of Ning, Glam Media will truly become the first next generation media company in the post-social world.”

Here’s the official press release, as well as a blog post from Andreessen:

GLAM MEDIA TO ACQUIRE NING, THE LEADING PLATFORM FOR CREATING SOCIAL NETWORKS AND OWNED BRAND FAN WEBSITES

Silicon Valley Pioneer Marc Andreessen to Join Glam Media’s Board of Directors

Acquisition Will Create One of the Largest Social Media Content Companies with over 240 Million Users & 100,000 Publishers — Creating the First Paid, Owned & Earned Media Platforms for Brands

Silicon Valley, CA — Sept 20, 2011 – Glam Media, Inc. (www.GlamMedia.com), the number one vertical social content platform company with the largest online global reach for women, today announced that it is acquiring Ning (www.ning.com), the leading online platform for building social websites, including more than 100,000 custom branded fan sites.

“Ning is the clear leader for creating custom social websites and communities. Acquiring Ning adds a natural extension to our social media platform, new distribution channels and a talented Silicon Valley team, all of which support our aim to connect brands with engaged, passionate audiences,” said Samir Arora, Chairman and CEO of Glam Media. “With the
addition of Ning, Glam Media will truly become the first next generation media company in the post-social world.”

Since launching the first social blog community in 2005, Glam Media has experienced tremendous success, growing from just seven publishers and 12 authors to more than 2,500 publishers and 4,000 authors globally today. The company has trusted relationships with more than 1,000 leading brand advertisers and is a Top 10 web property with more than 85 million monthly unique visitors in the U.S. and more than 200 million globally.

Combining Ning’s world-class technology and deeply engaging social platforms with Glam Media’s super premium advertising solutions and reach will accelerate the company’s vision of bringing brand marketers online by helping them to engage with passionate social communities across all digital mediums.

Glam Media together with Ning will set the standard for the future of media by providing their clients with the reach of portals, the deep connections and interests of Facebook, and the influence of trusted conversations.

“Social media is transforming the way brands are reaching their audiences. The Ning platform and its Network Creators, combined with the power of Glam’s advertising solutions, will ignite the delivery of our Brands+Social integrated programs at significant scale,” said Fernando Ruarte, CTO & EVP Platform & Products at Glam Media. “Together, Glam and Ning will address
important challenges that currently exist for marketers by enabling social media-activated brand campaigns to run in contextual environments that go beyond the few large social networking sites that exist today.”

Ning

Founded in 2004, Ning is the world’s largest custom platform for social communities and networks. The company has experienced explosive growth since it successfully moved to a subscription-based business model led by CEO Jason Rosenthal. Since 2010, Ning has increased the number of paying customers from 17,000 to more than 100,000 and grown its revenue by over 500 percent. Today, Ning has more than 100 million registered user social profiles and reaches more than 60 million monthly unique visitors. The company’s customers are the most active champions of brands, causes and organizations seeking to make an impact in the world using social media.

Ning makes it easy for brands of all sizes to build custom and powerful social brand fan pages and web sites as diverse as Linkin Park’s fan social network, Martha Stewart’s mentorship community, Scott Brown’s virtual campaign office and the collaborative hub for the Peace Corps. More than 50 percent of Ning sites are integrated with social applications such as Facebook, Twitter and Google+, which helps to amplify messages across each member’s social graph.

Ning will operate as a new business unit within Glam Media. Jason Rosenthal, Ning’s CEO, will join Glam as EVP Social Media & General Manager of Ning, and will be a member of the Glam Media executive team.

“Our passion at Ning has always been to make social and mobile core to every web experience, and to leverage the power of community to change the world
and drive value for customers,” said Jason Rosenthal, CEO of Ning. “Connecting our customers with super premium brand advertisers has been a core part of our vision from the earliest days of the company and joining
with Glam Media — which shares our roots and belief in the power of social — delivers on that promise.”

Additionally, Marc Andreessen will join Glam Media’s board of directors, joining the top venture firm investors in Glam — Accel’s Thereisa Ranzetta and DFJ’s Tim Draper — as well as Co-Founder of Glam Media Fernando Ruarte, Dr. Marcel Reichart from print media leader Hubert Burda Media, and Glam Media Founder & Chairman Samir Arora. Marc is a Silicon Valley pioneer who created Mosaic, the first web-browser and was the co-founder of Netscape Communications. In 2009, Marc created the venture capital firm, Andreessen Horowitz, with Ben Horowitz that invests in leading edge technology companies. He currently serves on the boards of Facebook, HP, eBay and other leading technology companies.

“Glam Media is one of the most dynamic companies in the digital media space, and I am excited to help guide their further expansion,” said Marc
Andreessen. “With the fusion of Ning’s leadership and social networking technology, and Glam’s solid stake in the world of digital advertising, publishing and content creation, there’s no limit to where we can take the company.”

Platforms and Products for Brands and Publishers

Ning joins Glam Media’s suite of next-generation advertising, social, and content platforms, which include:

GlamAdapt — super premium ad serving platform
GlamMobile — full-scale mobile advertising, content and social platform
GlamCreate — content creation management platform
GlamEnable — content platform to enable mobile sites and applications
GlamConnect — first social networking platform for professional authors and bloggers

The acquisition of Ning will allow Glam Media to provide its 2,500 publishers and 4,000 authors with even more innovative ways to connect, create and broadcast authentic content across multiple mediums and social streams — all in one place. Glam publishers will be able to leverage new services that enable them to grow their audiences on desktop, mobile and video and increase frequency, leading to higher levels of engagement.

Additionally, Ning Creators running active online communities will have new opportunities on desktop and mobile devices to monetize their sites and grow successful businesses.

Merging Glam and Ning

Today, my company Ning, where I serve as chairman and cofounder, is announcing that it has agreed to merge into Glam Media. In this post, I’d like to briefly explain the whats and whys, and to thank a lot of people who have worked very hard to get us to this point.

Ning is my third company, founded several years ago by Gina Bianchini and myself, and run for the last couple years by my close friend and colleague Jason Rosenthal. Over the last two years, Jason and his team have brilliantly executed a dramatic transformation of the company and today Ning hosts over 100,000 social networks covering every conceivable topic and interest, from 50 Cent to Sarah Palin and beyond. Ning’s mission has always been “your own social network for anything” and the team at Ning has worked hard to achieve this.

Glam is a company founded by longtime entrepreneur and innovator Samir Arora. I first met Samir almost 15 years ago in his role as founder and CEO of NetObjects, one of the first, and best, web and e-commerce development systems, later bought by IBM. Before that, Samir was a longtime senior contributor at Apple, where his work led to Apple’s famous “Knowledge Navigator” vision video and then later, through a long and winding road, to the Apple iPad.

In Glam, Samir and his outstanding team have built one of the leading premium content networks on the web. Glam’s high-end content has amazing reach: 200 million users and 2.6 billion page views across 2,500 publishers, with advertising participation by 1,000 premium brands. Combining Ning’s social technology, user base, and 100,000+ networks will immediately boost Glam’s reach to 240 million users and 3.1 billion page views, add recurring subscription revenue to Glam’s business model, and most importantly, set up the combined company to be the leading social media content company on the web.

As consumer behavior broadly moves from old media to the web — as software eats content — the opportunity for high-end online content is gigantic and our combined company will be in the pole position in this huge market.

To that end, I am also delighted to announce that I will be joining the board of directors of Glam after the completion of the merger, which we expect to occur in the fourth quarter of 2011. I’m thrilled to be able to work with Samir and his team at Glam, as well as Jason and his team from Ning, to build an amazing combined company.

Now, I owe some people huge thank you’s.

To Jason, the management team, and all of the wonderful current and former team members at Ning who have worked so hard to get us here, as well as our extremely supportive investors along the way, thank you so much. Working with you over these last several years has been one of the highlights of my life, and I look forward to working with you for years to come.

To Samir and the Glam team, thank you for building Glam into such a great company. I’m excited to pursue the huge combined opportunity with you.

Finally, a very special thank you to Gina, my cofounder and longtime friend and colleague, for all of your insight, innovation, hard work, and commitment going back all the way to the beginning.


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