Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

The New York Times Is About to Say Goodbye to About.com

The New York Times’ time with About.com may be coming to an end. The paper has been looking to get rid of the struggling Web site, which produces high-volume, low-cost content, and has a deal in place to sell it to Answers.com.

The question-and-answers site has signed a letter of intent to buy About for $270 million, according to people familiar with the transaction.

The deal hasn’t closed yet, and I’m told that Answers’ backers — PE firms Summit Partners and TA Associates — are trying to line up financing.

The Times bought About, the precursor to “content farms” like Demand Media, for $410 million in 2005. Last year, About CEO Cella Irvine left the company following a string of lousy quarters, but About’s performance has yet to improve.

Last month, the Times took a $195 million goodwill write-down on the unit, which is largely dependent on search traffic from Google.

“While About is gaining momentum in its turnaround efforts, and we expect to build on that progress in the second half of the year, we have reduced our long-term display growth and profitability assumptions for the group,” Times CFO James Follo told investors.

I’ve asked Answers’ executives for comment. Times PR head Robert Christie says, “The company has a policy that it doesn’t discuss potential acquisitions and divestitures.”

Update: The Times is now confirming “talks” without naming names. Via press release:

The New York Times Company confirmed today that it is engaged in discussions regarding the potential sale of its About Group. No definitive agreement has been reached. The negotiations are ongoing and there can be no assurances that an agreement will be reached or that a transaction will be completed.


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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work