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TechCrunch and AOL: Is Selling Your Blog a Mistake?


When AOL bought TechCrunch back in 2010, it seemed like the perfect pairing. Some were skeptical, but Mike Arrington really seemed pumped about it and encouraged the TechCrunch community to be too, particularly in the post Why We Sold TechCrunch To AOL, And Where We Go From Here. Oh what a difference a year makes, right? I don’t think anyone at TechCrunch in 2010 would have suspected the drama that was to come in 2011. If things don’t change, TechCrunch might even fail.

So was selling the blog a mistake?

Financially, it’s hard to argue that it was. The widely-reported sale price was $25 million (though some believe it was much higher), and while TechCrunch’s popularity means that this money could potentially be made back in just a few short years, the acquisition was still a risk on AOL’s part. So while you can always argue that something was worth more, for argument’s sake, let’s say that TechCrunch did pretty well. I mean, the deal wouldn’t have been signed if both parties weren’t happy with the sale price, right?

What bloggers know to be true, though, is that blogging is about way more than money. I think that’s the key that most companies buying blogs are still missing.

AOL is a large corporation. Their main goal is to make money. Someone like Arianna Huffington has no personal attachment to TechCrunch, and I don’t fault her for that. Why should she? Why should anyone who wasn’t there to build TechCrunch from scratch? TechCrunch isn’t AOL’s baby, it’s blood, sweat, and tears. TechCrunch was…and is…a business investment.

For many of the writers there, TechCrunch is a home. I think most bloggers feel that way. It’s easy to sell a house. It’s hard to sell a home. So when someone says, “We’re going to buy this house, but you can still live here,” it is easy to keep thinking of it as your home.

Only it’s no longer yours, not really.

It’s more like you’re renting the house. You can make it as cozy as a home, but the landlord can come in and paint the walls a color you hate, tear down the deck, or even evict you. Your lease agreement only protects you so much.

When you sell your blog, it doesn’t matter what kind of off-the-record promises were made. Tomorrow, the company that purchases your blog could make decisions that you don’t like, and when that happens, you don’t have any control to stop it. That’s the risk you take when you sell. True editorial independence no longer exists. Even if you have this freedom, it is only because your overlords are allowing it. Your kitchen walls are still that beautiful shade of red you adore because the landlord is allowing it. Tomorrow, the house’s owner could be in a yellow mood. They can change their minds.

And they will, if they think it’s the best choice for their business investment. They haven’t “grown up” with the blog, so they don’t always make the best choices in terms of the community or design or even content. They make the best decisions in terms of money, or so they think. Personally, I feel that any blog ruled by money won’t succeed, at least not to its full potential. That’s not necessarily for me to say, though.Everyone defines success differently.

If you sell your blog, you don’t get to make the decisions anymore. You can dole out advice or even make threats to discontinue your involvement with the blog…but you can’t stop the train once it is moving. Selling your blog is that first chug-a-lug without you as a conductor.

Bloggers can be a stubborn bunch – and I’m definitely including myself in that statement. What a corporation suggests might not be a bad idea, but changes can be scary. It’s really easy to feel the urge to push back whenever anyone suggests that you’re doing something wrong or could be doing something better, especially if you’re already pretty successful. “That’s not how we do things around here.” Well, it is now. When you sell, there are changes that will be made. Even if you think you’re doing the best possible job, outsiders with a different perspective won’t always agree.

So is selling your blog a bad idea?

Yes – if you think it’s going to continue moving forward the exact same way as it is under your leadership. TechCrunch will never be the same. No sold blog is the same afterward. No matter what the terms of the sale, things are going to change. Those changes could be good, if you give them a chance. They could also be horribly wrong, and you could see your baby fail. In my opinion, you shouldn’t sell unless you’re prepared to walk away, enjoy the money, and fondly remember your blog how it was, no matter what it has become.

5 Tips For Selling Your Blog


I recently sold one of my personal blogs and didn’t realize, until it was over, how difficult it would be to let go! I decided to sell for a variety of reasons – the amount of work going into the blog wasn’t corresponding to enough pay, and although I adore the topic, I was starting to feel burned out writing about it on a daily basis. Sure, I probably could have monetized the blog more effectively, but I couldn’t commit to that time and decided it was now or never.

Throughout the sale I did some research, learned a ton, and so I thought I would share my top 5 tips for selling a blog:

  • Be Realistic:
    This is a hard one, or at least it was for me! I mean, I wrote on this blog daily for two years. I had a Google PageRank of 4. That should be worth something, right? Well, in the blogging world – not really. When you’re selling a blog most times the buyer looks only at the amount of profit your site obtains. And that’s not last year’s spike in income – it is today’s profit. In the bricks and mortar world, most companies will sell for 2-3 years of the total net income, but online I found that it’s only 1 year. That was a little hard to digest!

    And those website value calculators? A buyer could really care less!

  • Gather Documentation:
    No matter how you sell your site (an auction website or broker), you will need a variety of documentation – the most important being your traffic and your income. You are going to need at least three months history of your statistics including traffic, unique visitors, bounce rate, etc. You will also need to put together a P&L for the last year (or more) that provides proof of payments from your various income sources (ad sales, Google AdSense, blogads, whatever). Get everything together beforehand so you can show documentation when asked.

  • Own Your URL:
    This wasn’t an issue for me, but I’ve seen people try to sell out their LiveJournal and Blogspot accounts, and it’s pretty touchy … You are much better off owning your own domain and paying to host it. Your blog needs to be a real web property. What I mean by this is that it needs to be a real domain, on hosting you are paying for.

  • Be Available:
    Be available to your potential buyers during the sales process and after. You may need to answer questions, provide additional documentation, and of course you’ll need to transfer all the data in a timely fashion after the sale.

  • Offer Additional Elements:
    With the sale of my blog, I also offered up the Facebook and Twitter account (with 2500 followers) I had developed for the site. I’m not sure if this influenced the price (I doubt it did) but it may be a good factor if you don’t have a huge amount of traffic on your blog. Your social media efforts and development will only enhance the sale and prove that you were vested in building an audience for the blog.

I’m proud of the way the transaction went, even though I had to swallow my ego and accept a reasonable offer (far below my initial expectations).

What tips do you have for selling a blog?

Nikki Katz is the Managing Editor for the BlogWorld Blog. Feel free to follow her Twitter @nikki_blogworld and @katzni

Image Credit: SXC

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