Reuters is reporting that Barry Diller’s IAC Corp. has apparently trumped a bid from Answers.com to buy About.com from the New York Times company. The New York Times issued a press release a couple of weeks ago confirming it was in negotiations to sell About, but very little other information has surfaced about the potential deal since then.
The Times is selling About because it has been struggling with its overall business. Last month, the Times Co wrote down value of About by $195 million. The Times originally purchased About from Primedia, Inc. for $410 million in 2005. Prior to that, Primedia acquired About in 2000 from its original founding investors in a deal that valued About at $690 million.
I’ve spoken with a number of key players on all sides of the potential transaction (including one of the founders of About, which started life as the Mining Company), and will follow up if/when there’s a definitive announcement of a sale.
Contrary to what many have written, I’ve never regarded About as a content farm subject to penalties from Google’s panda and penguin updates (full disclosure: I was the web search guide for About.com from 1998-2001). About has always had rigorous guidelines for the people who created its content, and never tried to spam search engines or otherwise promote their content in other than kosher ways. They also had some of the most highly respected search marketing people employed on staff, since before the company was sold to Primedia.
Stay tuned for details.