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Peter Kafka

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Waywire, Cory Booker’s Attempt to Build a Web Video Startup, Sells to Magnify

waywire380Waywire, the video startup best known for its association with politician Cory Booker, is being sold to Magnify, a Web video distributor.

People familiar with the transaction say that Magnify, which helps websites manage, curate and distribute video, is buying Waywire primarily with equity.

It’s unlikely that the deal placed a high value on Waywire, which had previously raised $1.75 million, but, in any case, Booker won’t profit from the deal. Booker, who is running for one of New Jersey’s U.S. Senate seats, had previously announced that he was donating his stake in the company to charity, and I’m told that deal was closed last week.

Waywire started out as an effort to create a video studio/platform aimed at millennials, but struggled and tried pivoting into a distribution/aggregation play.

But the site’s fate was more or less sealed after a series of New York Times stories focused on Booker’s connection to the site, suggesting that investors like Google’s Eric Schmidt, LinkedIn’s Jeff Weiner, and Oprah Winfrey had backed the company as a way to curry favor with Booker, a rising political star.

Booker is currently the mayor of Newark, and is likely to win a special senate election on Wednesday.

People familiar with Waywire’s sale say that Magnify’s plan is to continue operating Waywire.com, but to power the site using Magnify’s technology. At least one Waywire employee will end up working for Magnify, which had previously raised around $5 million.

Sarah Ross, the last remaining member of Waywire’s founding team still associated with the company — former CEO Nathan Richardson left in August — will become a member of Magnify’s advisory board, according to people familiar with the deal.

I’ve asked both Waywire and Magnify for comment.

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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald