Rumors are swirling about CNN buying Mashable for as much as $200,000,000. Why would a blog be worth $200,000,000? Why would Mashable be worth $200,000,000?
Talent - Medium Value
Great blogs are fueled by compelling personalities and meaningful perspectives. These personalities often have large followings of their own, which in effect extend the value of the overall property. HOWEVER, talent is far from a fixed asset. Blogs are not baseball where players can be traded at the owner's will. Look at TechCrunch and Engadget. Both blogs saw a massive exodus of talent post-acquisition and are beginning to see (in my experience) a loss of reputation equity as a result.
Mashable is unique in this regard. While Mashable has a handful of highly visible and respected members of the industry as leading contributors, much of their content comes from guest contributors. As long as Mashable continues to be a respected place to publish, these guest contributors will continue to participate.
Traffic - High Value
Blogs are destination sites. Strong traffic offers both advertising revenue and the ability to expose existing properties to the blog's readers. Traffic however, will ebb and flow with quality editorial and persuasive personalities. If the key personalities jump ship, traffic will go down.
Mashable is a unique property. They have great traffic, but at 3,200,000 unique visitors a month (according to Compete) and assuming the $200,000,000 that's a valuation of $65 per visitor on a monthly basis. If we assume a valuation speaks to the yearly revenue of the site, we land at about $5 per visitor. If we take a two year view, that's $2.50 per visitor.
While it's true that Mashable speaks largely to a lucrative B2B audience, I don't know that the ad dollars alone line up.
Content - Medium Value
Mashable has become a premier destination for publishing major thought leadership or announcing a new industry study. Mashable is the go-to content source for much of the digital marketing industry, and this content could offer legs beyond the site itself, particularly when syndicated across a broader network of sites.
Mashable clearly offers two or three levels of content. Some of their content is highly informed, well written and properly presented. However, there is a good deal of content (generally written by guest contributors) that is poorly written, ill informed and on rare occasion is outright incorrect. Mashable's content is a mixed bag. While this is an asset that can be bought and sold, it is not the strongest asset.
Community - Medium Value
Successful blogs boast loyal and vibrant communities. These communities engage in the comments section, supply guest bloggers, and share blog content, creating new eyeballs and future community members. This well cultivated community is a strong asset, particularly for a media property who is looking to attract a similar community.
Mashable has a fairly loyal community of what is likely a couple million regular visitors and a good number of commenters. Mashable's community is fairly loyal to Mashable as a content source, but not their only source of content or perspective. The community values Mashable, but if Mashable's talent leaves the community may follow.
Name Recognition - High Value
Tech content is both becoming increasingly important to the general consumer audience, and increasingly lucrative to B2B marketers. As industries like television and digital media come together, there is real expansion potential for the go-to marketer content destinations. Mashable is this close to becoming the new Ad Rag (or replacing them). And with the rise of social and mobile marketing as real industry, there are a growing number of solutions providers who will pay good money to get in front of perspective customers.
While Bloomberg is trying to attract a more tech-centric audience, the Mashable name would lend CNN real geek creds and fast. This is important for both general news consumers, but is far more lucrative when we consider the growth potential for B2B. This is likely a multiplier on Mashable's property value potential.
Events - Medium Value
Major industry blogs participate in all of the industry events, often as hosts or leading sponsors. All Things D elevates the Wall Street Journal digital creds at their managed events, as well as through their participation at other events.
Mashable is a mixed bag in this regard. Mashable manages, participates in and sponsors an incredible number of industry events. Mashable is a respected name at events. However, I don't know that this is that important of an asset to CNN.
I have tremendous respect for Pete Cashmore. An acquisition would make total sense for CNN and could do wonders for Mashable. But I'm struggling to come up with a rationale that speaks to a $200,000,000 valuation. There is real brand name value, content value and significant B2B ad revenue on the table.
But is it $200,000,000 of value?