Say Media has acquired ReadWriteWeb, an old school tech blog known for providing more thoughtful analysis than many of its rivals. RWW will anchor Say's technology vertical, which reached approximately 75 million U.S. users in October per comScore, but has lacked a known media brand to tie that audience together.
RWW's name may be worth more than its traffic. Despite its respected status, the eight-year-old site has struggled to scale (comScore pegs its monthly U.S. uniques at under a million), a problem Say Media hopes to correct through new talent and a redesign. From a business standpoint, the site will get a streamlined ad experience consisting of one large placement per page. It's the model for all publishers migrating to Say's platform, says company president Troy Young.
"Every property we work with will go through what we think of as our cleaning process, where we remove all the clutter from the page and put on a single brand ad," Young told ClickZ this morning. "We're trying to bring back some of the elegance to web publishing. As display rates on small IAB banners plummeted, publishers were [incentivized] to put more junk on the page."
Say Media is equal parts content platform, media company, and ad network (with roughly 500 media partners). But its relentless focus on premium advertisers - a concentration shared by competitors like Glam Media and Federated Media Publishing - has not always looked relentless. Consider that the company got its start as VideoEgg, a video and app-based ad network. Later it pivoted into a premium display ad company, bought Six Apart and its TypePad blogging platform, and rebranded as Say Media. It then went on a content development spree, acquiring premium sites like Dogster and Catster; launching others such as xoJane.com from Jane Pratt, founding editor of Sassy and Jane; and even buying a digital agency, Sideshow, to help it develop those in-house properties.
What with the variegated acquisitions, the name change, and in particular the purchase of Six Apart, advertisers may be justifiably confused about what this company is and what it wants to be. Young is not confused.
"For some people, the Six Apart acquisition may have created the idea that we are a long-tail company. We are not a long-tail company," he said. Rather, he said buying Six Apart was about building a content platform. "The Six Apart acquisition isn't about our network. That's not where we're serving media."
What will this relentless branding focus mean for RWW? Larger ads, fewer ads, and possibly more consumer advertisers, as opposed to tech industry ones. And the site may say goodbye to the sponsor badges that adorn its homepage today.
On the talent front, the site nabbed Dan Frommer as editor at large. Frommer is a founding writer at Business Insider who earlier worked at Forbes and most recently founded an independent tech blog, SplatF.
Young said, "The media companies of the future obviously need to have a real focus on platform and make strong voices like Richard [MacManus, RWW founding editor] and Dan Frommer a little more successful."
That, and they have to represent quality brands. Asked how Say Media decides which publishing brands to bid for and which to partner with, he said, "I think you look for quality and integrity of voices. You look for natural distribution. You look for the vibrancy of the community."
The below list of Say Media's four key verticals shows audience reach as estimated by comScore. The individual websites here include both owned and network properties.
Tech: 75 million
Style: 49 million
Food: 58 million
Living: 67 million
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Until March 2012, Zach Rodgers was managing editor of ClickZ's award-winning coverage of news and trends in digital marketing. He reported on the rise of web companies, data markets, ad technologies, and government Internet policy, among other subjects.
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