The Twenty-Five Most Valuable Blogs

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There is no way to accurately put a value on blogs and blogging companies. All are privately-held and, as is true with many content businesses, the value of the company is based on what a buyer will pay. The figures we have put together look at advertising revenue and income from related businesses like conferences. We have not included blogs affiliated with larger media companies. It is too difficult to break-out what their traffic may be and how their income is divided with the parent. Some blogs are fronts for other businesses like O’Reilly Radar Those have been left out. A lot of big blogs do not make the list because they bring in very little commercial revenue. Treehugger probably falls into that category.

We looked at unique visitor and page view measurement services when possible: Alexa, Compete, and Quantcast. These services are often criticized for estimating website traffic too low. We have tried to take that into account. We also looked at data at blogs which gave their own ad rates and page views.  Our estimated page CPMs are based on quality of ads and number of ads on each page.  We looked at margins based on headcount and our opinion of how may of the people are full-time. Current growth rate based on our measurement sources was also taken into account. A site with traffic doubling year-over-year was give a higher multiple than one with flat traffic. Because not all blogs make money, we looked at multiples of operating income and revenue. These are completely estimates because of the tiny number of blogs which have been sold and lack of information about what the multiples may have been.

Finally, large blogs with big “moats” got higher multiples than smaller ones. Blogs with one founder who contributes a substantial amount of the content got lower multiples than those with several good writers. Blogs which appear to be well-funded or have operated for a long time got better multiples than newer sites or ones where it was not clear that there was a big pool of money behind them.

In short, the task of valuing the largest blogs is impossible. That makes it much more interesting than writing about the P/E at General Electric.

1.The Gawker Properties: $150 million. Gawker, ValleyWag, Gizmodo, Wonkette, and a number of smaller websites. The company claims 30 million monthly unique visitors. According to audience measurement service Quancast, that number is fairly close. Compete shows that traffic to most of the large sites in the group more than doubled from a year ago. If the sites generate one-and a-half page views per unique visitor and the total CPM value of the multiple advertisers on each page is $20, Gawker is an $11 million business which is still growing quickly. The company does not appear to be staff-heavy, so it is imaginable that the margins on the business are 50%.  Would the business be worth 15x revenue or 30x operating profits? Could be.

2.MacRumors: $85 million.Blog knows more about Apple than Apple management does. It ranks No. 2,700 in Alexa. Compete shows 544,000 visitors and moving up quickly. Quantcast puts global unique visitors at 5.3 million. Page views at 33 million, which seems a bit high. Advertising looks high-end and solid, probably at least $30 per page CPM.  Business should do at least $12 million and have a high margin, estimated at 60%. At a 12x multiple.

3.Huffington Post: $70 million. Several websites commented that HuffPo might be worth $100 million when it raised $5 million late last year. Arianna Huffington said to Portfolio that the business was in the process of becoming profitable. In late 2007 management claimed that the website had 4 million unique visitors per month and would bring in $7.5 million for the year. The website is now in the top 1,000 according to Alexa and its ranking has been climbing, probably due to the election. Compete shows a similar trend with the website reaching over 1.8 million people in February, up 245% from the same month last year. The problem with the business now is that its value has probably peaked. The huge increase in visitors is likely to fall-off once the election is over. HuffPo has tried to building out other content sections, but it is likely that they cannot replace the visits from the core audience which visits the site for political comment. That means that the company will have all of the costs (40 or 50 people) and a falling number of visitors.  Revenue should actually begin to fall in 2009. With a business which is likely to shrink next year, it is hard to believe that the company is worth more than 10x revenue.

4.PerezHilton: $48 million. Is No 755 in Alexa. Compete show 1.3 million visitors a month. Quantcast, probably the most reliable of the measurement tools when the sites use its code shows 10.1 million uniques. Quantcast puts month page views at 191 million. That seems high. It would put revenue at $900,000 million a month with a $5 CPM.  The site is as much a personality cult as it is a destination. But, it probably runs with margins over 50%. That would put operating profit at $11 million. Founder is central to business. CPMs are low. Give it 8x operating profits

5.TechCrunch: $36 million. The TechCrunch network claims almost 3.2 million unique visitors and 14.6 million page views. The page view number sounds very high. It would be an unusually high PV to unique ratio. The company also has a conference business. Alexa rates TechCruch at the 951st most visited site in the world, but also shows that the company’s audience is not growing. Compete shows the site’s audience as growing but having a modest 900,000 visitors in February. Based on the advertisers running at TechCruch and the high value of its concentrated audience, the CPM yield on each page could certainly be $30. That would put revenue from advertising at $438,000 a month or $5.3 million a year. Ad another $600,000 for conferences based on 500 attendees at $1,250 per person. TechCruch is a $6 million business. With people and conference costs, the firm’s margins are probably about 40%. The firm does have a fairly large staff and relies on founder Michael Arrington for a lot of its best content. That is a risk. Fifteen times operating profit in case the founder is hit by a bus.

6 (tied): Ars Technica $15 million. High church high tech blog. Sites ranks 2,500 in Alexa. Compete shows over 800,000 visitors. Audience is growing very rapidly. Quancast has reach at 1.1 million. Ads are all premium clients. Site should be getting $40 per page CPM.  Page views are probably six million a month. Revenue of almost $3 million. Site appears to have high end edit staff writing. Margin estimated at 35%. High-end site should be very valuable. Fifteen times operating profit.

6 (tied): Seeking Alpha $15 million. Site is the world’s largest collection of financial blogs. It is No. 6,600 in Alexa. Quantcast puts reach at just under 400,000. Compete puts number at almost 700,000 and growing. A huge amount of content set up to drive multiple page views on the site. Could be four million page view a month. Several large advertisers so CPM on each page is probably $40. Revenue of about $1.9 million a year. Large staff. Put margin at 10% or even a loss. Multiple of 8x revenue for financial site which should get above market value.

8 (tied): Drudge Report $10 million. The blog has over 1.1 million visitors a month according to Quantcast, but it is not being tracked using the measurement company’s code. Alexa has it ranked No. 1540. Compete says 1.8 million visitors a month. Estimate nine million page views a month. Very little advertising on the site. A business that is probably not doing more than $1.6 million a year. Probably a 60% margin. Low operating costs. Ten times operating income to get value.

8 (tied): Mashable $10 million. The site claims five million page views. Site is No. 2000 in Alexa. Compete shows 735,000 uniques. Modest ads. Should have fairly high CPM, $30 per page. Revenue of $2.1 million, with 50% margin. Social networking news is hot. A 10x multiple of operating income

10. GigaOm: $8.4 million. This is one of the top tech sites in the world.  Its network ranks 12,800 in Alexa. Compete shows 225,000 visitors. Quantcast shows global visitors at 400,000. CPMs should be very high and large number of ads on page. CPM at about $40 a page. Pages views estimate at 1.4 million a month. With additional small related businesses revenue total for company at  $1,200,000. Has a few full-time people, so put margin at 35%. Discount on multiple because Malik is so important. Twenty times multiple.

11. Boing Boing: $8 million. Gadget sites are at the high end of the blog world order. No. 3700 in Alexa. Quantcast says 8.7 million page views. Compete puts visitors lower at under 700,000. Not much advertising on the site. Federated appears to be doing the selling so only 60% going to site owner. At a $15 net CPM, revenue should be $1.6 million. Type of content could make it valuable to big media company. If margin is 40% at give 12x operating income

12. Silicon Alley Insider: $5.4 million. Site covers media and tech with New York focus. It ranks 13,100 in Alexa. Compete shows 200,000 unique visitors. Quantcast shows 600,000 and 1.5 million page views.  CPMs and high, numbers of ads are modest. $30 CPM. Annual revenue run rate of $540,000. Large staff, probably not profitable yet. Very rapid growth. Strong financial backing. Goes at 10x revenue.

13. ReadWriteWeb: $5 million. Everything about tech, almost too much. The blog ranks 6,200 in Alexa. It is actually several sites. Compete puts this at 300,000 visits but growing extremely fast. Quantcast puts uniques at almost 800,000. High value advertisers probably yield $35 CPM. Estimate four million page views. Total revenue of $1.7 million. High editorial expense. Margin may be as low as 20%. Site is not as big as some others in general field. Multiple at 15x.

14. Paidcontent.org: $3.5 million. All about media of every kind. It ranks 20,200 in Alexa. Compete estimates 134,000 unique visitors and growing quickly. Page views at one million a month. High CPM and multiple ads for $40 yield. Revenue of $480,000 for ads. Conference business looks like, at the rate charged per person, the business might add another $700,000. Total revenue of $1,180,000. Expensive to run. Put margin at 20%. High multiple for operating income of 15x.

15 (tied) Search Engine Land:  $2.7 million. The site, everything readers would like to know about search engines, is ranked No. 4,600 in Alexa. Quantcast has its code on the site so their numbers are probably fairly accurate. That shows 225,000 unique visitors and over 500,000 page views. The page CPMs for this site appear to be very high, probably $50. Revenue at $300,000 a year. At a 60% margin and 15x multiple.

15 (tied) Smashing Magazine: $2.7 million. The content centers on graphics, animation, and design. It ranks 3,000 in Alexa. Compete says 325,000 visitors. Quality of advertisers looks strong. CPM per page of $30. One million page views a month. Business generates about $360,000 a year. At 15x multiple and 50% margin.

17, DListed: $2 million. Site insults celebrities. Blog ranks No. 17,300 in Alexa. Compete shows 350,000 visits. The site probably has about 1.2 million page views. A lot of ads on each page, but probably not very high CPMs for this kind of gossip content. Peg it at $30 CPM. That is $432,000 in revenue per year. The site seems to have a lot of personnel costs. The operating income is probably around $200,000. At a 10x multiple.

18.Daily Blog Tips: $1.8 million. Blog is paradise for bloggers. Site is ranked No. 14,500 in Alexa. Compete says the site has 120,000 visitors and is growing quickly. CPMs look high, perhaps $40. Page views at 500,000. Revenue of $240,000 and 50% operating margin. Fifteen times yield.

19 (tied) Techdirt: $1.5 million. The insight company for the information age. Or, so they say.  It ranks 25,600 in Alexa. Quantcast shows 400,000 unique visitors and almost one million page views. CPM on the pages look to be very high but number of ads is low, probably $20. Close to $250,000 in annual revenue. Margin of 50% and 12x op income.

19 (tied): Neatorama: $1.5 million. The blog is an amalgamation of trivia. It ranks 9,900 in Alexa. Compete shows 300,000 visits and growing very fast. Site may have 1.5 million page views. Volume of ads is light. Fifteen dollar CPM would be good. Revenue of $270,000 a year. Margin of 60%. At a 9x multiple.

21 (tied): BuddyTV $1 million is too much about television. It ranks No. 4,400 in Alexa. Compete shows 800,000 visitors. Probably running two million page views. Advertising is weak, maybe $10 CPM.  Revenue at $250,000. Margin 40%. Not terribly distinctive content. Give 10x op income for a network TV or cable buyer.

21 (tied):The Superficial $1 million. About women in bikinis, mostly. It ranks 2,500 in Alexa. Quantcast puts unique visits at 420,000. Compete has 522,000 visits last month, but dropping sharply. CPM here is low. Bikini sites don’t draw the high end marketers. $10 per page, if they are lucky. Probably 1.7 million page views. Annual income of $200,000. Low multiple on 50% margin.

23. Talking Points Memo: $860,000.  A news commentary site. It ranks No. 13,000 in Alexa. Compete show 233,000 visitors and rising fast. Ad sales look weak, perhaps $15 page CPM. At one million page views a month, annual revenue would be $180,000. High margin of 60%, but low multiple for medium sized “news” site. Eight times operating income.

24. Travelpod is a travel scheduling and planning site. Blog ranks 9,700 in Alexa. Different model than most. Sells links in sections on airlines, car rentals, hotels, and travel packages. No way to value the site, but should have ad a real benefit to a large travel e-commerce site. Very likely to be in Top 25 on value.

25. 24/7 Wall St.:  N/A

Douglas A. McIntyre

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