Blogonomics: Monetize via acquisition

By Felix Salmon
February 9, 2010
first Abnormal Returns was bought by StockTwits, and now Footnoted has been bought by Morningstar.

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That’s two in as many weeks, I think: first Abnormal Returns was bought by StockTwits, and now Footnoted has been bought by Morningstar.

Both of these operations are small, fundamentally one-person shops: bloggy labors of love which have now become part of something much bigger and much more corporate. That’s great news for the founders, who get an up-front payday (my guess is a reasonably modest one in both cases), and, much more importantly, a steady paycheck, health insurance, and corporate support to help grow the site moving forwards.

From the point of view of the corporations concerned, this kind of deal makes a lot of sense as well. Many companies try to build their own blogs, or hire their own bloggers; those franchises can find it very difficult to gain traction in a noisy and fragmented online marketplace of ideas. By contrast, if you simply acquire the cream of the existing crop, you know that you’re getting a first-rate, hard-working blogger who has already achieved exactly what you want and who is truly dedicated to their own blog and what it stands for.

For a long time, when people have asked me how they can become a professional blogger, I’ve told them that by far the best way to do so is to start out as an amateur blogger, just doing it for yourself, and then get picked up by a bigger company. But now there’s all the more reason to go that route: rather than just getting a job offer to do a job created by someone else, you might even end up with an acquisition offer to keep on doing what you’ve loved to do all along.

There’s one more interesting twist to the Footnoted acquisition: it’s one of that very rare breed of successful blogs (Freakonomics being another) which started as a book tie-in and then grew into a valuable online property in its own right. Michelle Leder started Footnoted as a way of publicizing her book; I’m sure she never dreamed, back in 2003, that it would end up being bought by a huge company like Morningstar. Congratulations to her and to Tadas, and here’s hoping that we see many more deals like this going forwards.

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