Magazine article Information Today

About.com Acquired by Primedia: Sin or Synergy?

Magazine article Information Today

About.com Acquired by Primedia: Sin or Synergy?

Article excerpt

About.com (http://www.about.com), the seventh most-frequently visited site (according to market-intelligence company Jupiter Media Metrix), was acquired by traditional trade and general magazine publisher Primedia (http://www.primedia.com). The speed of the acquisition surprised both industry followers and staff members at About.com. The same day the acquisition was announced, a Wall Street Journal article reported merger activity, giving its success only a 50-percent chance and calling the negotiations fragile and likely to fall apart. Within hours, the deal had gone through and press releases flew. Staff members heard about the move at the same time the world did. Some observers attributed the quickness to the personal relationship between Scott Kurnit, CEO, chairman, and founder of About.com, and Thomas Rogers, the newly appointed chairman and CEO of Primedia. Kurnit and Rogers have worked together in the past and have been friends for many years.

The merger of a traditional publisher with a dot-com business marks another example of the blending of print and online in the Net economy. About.com will gain marketing opportunities and sales channels through Primedia's print publications. Primedia will be able to better satisfy the desire of advertisers for both print and online outlets, as well as promote subscription sales to consumers through About.com.

About.com was founded in February 1997 as the Mining Co. and was renamed in 1999. The Internet portal has 36 areas on its site covering 700 topics and 50,000 subjects. All of the areas have human "guides" who manage the content and community activities in their areas of expertise. According to Chris Sherman, About.com's Web Search guide (http://websearch.about.com), of the several hundred Primedia print publications, a large number have almost a direct correlation to About.com's topics. The About.com Web site tallies about 60 million users each month.

Primedia publishes some 220 magazines, including popular consumer periodicals (e.g., Seventeen and New York), numerous trade publications (e.g., Fire Chief and Coal Age), and enthusiast magazines (e.g., Cat and Hot-Bike). It also owns the Channel One school television network and IndustryClick, an Internet B2B content service. It owns and operates over 200 Web sites plus other Internet properties. Primedia's annual sales in 1999 were $1.7 billion; its losses were $120 million. Tim Andrews, formerly head of Factiva, a Dow Jones/Reuters company, now heads up IndustryClick. The majority of Primedia's stock belongs to Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co.

Primedia has announced its goal to dominate print and the Internet in its niche markets. It has made a number of deals recently with Internet and other media companies to improve its online position.

In announcing the acquisition, Rogers compared the move to the Time Warner/America Online merger and said: "The Primedia and About merger creates the leading model for the integration of traditional and new media niche content and the resulting delivery of targeted marketing vehicles....With this transaction, Primedia has been transformed. Niche is king, and in one fell swoop we are marrying Primedia's powerhouse of content in more than 700 media niches with About's more than 700 topic-specific Guide Sites and some 10,000 associated experts. Primedia is the leading traditional media company in the delivery of highly targeted niche print and video products to consumers. …

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