The Twenty-Five Most Valuable Blogs In America

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It has been nearly a year since 24/7 Wall St. did its latest edition of the Twenty Five Most Valuable Blogs. Valuations have moved up significantly since then. Advertising CPMs have improved markedly since the beginning of this year. A number of the largest blogs on our list have larger audiences than they did a year ago.

All of the blogs analyzed here are private companies. Blogs owned by larger firms are not measured.  Blogs used primarily as fronts for other businesses have also been excluded. Some of the blogs on the list have raised VC money and those sums can be used as guidelines if they are disclosed. The only worthwhile value is what an acquirer will pay, so any estimate needs to take into account the value the blog may have to an outside buyer. Several blogs from earlier versions of this list were sold, among them Ars Technica and PaidContent. Some of the largest blogs based on audience measurements do not have significant revenue and are also excluded.  For instance, “The Daily Beast”, a large news commentary site controlled by IACI, takes almost no advertising. In theory, it has little if any economic value at all.

Because of the recovering economy, 24/7 Wall St. has moved up the multiples that it assigned to blog revenue and operating profits, when there are any, by about 45% from our last list. Several large public companies in the media sector have stock prices that have doubled since their March lows. The prices being paid for online media properties are almost certainly rising.

To determine value, 24/7 Wall St. looked at unique visitor and page view information from several public sources including Alexa, Quantcast, Compete, and comScore. These services are often criticized for estimating website traffic too low and we have taken that into account to the extent possible. We also looked at audience measurements provided by the blogs themselves when it seemed credible. Our estimated CPMs for ads are based on the current display and text ad environment, the quality of ads at each blog, and the number of ads that it runs on the average page. The CPM value assigned to each blog is based on all the ads it runs on its typical pages. To determine margins, 24/7 looked at headcount when available, and estimated costs of operating and maintaining websites. More complex content platforms were assigned higher monthly costs. Current audience growth rates were taken into account.  A site which has traffic doubling year-over-year was given a higher multiple than one which is losing traffic.  Because not all blogs make money, multiples of revenue and operating income were used to assess value. 24/7 used its estimate for revenue over the last three months and annualized the figure to derive an annual revenue and expense figure.

Large blogs with big “moats” got higher multiple that smaller ones. Recreating Huffington Post or TechCrunch would be extremely difficult, even in a moderately good economy. Blogs with one founder who does most of the writing were given lower multiple because the presence of that single person is essential to the company’s value. Finally, blogs which have operated for a long time or have recently received funding received higher valuations because they are more likely to survive.

1. Gawker Properties, $300 million. This group of blogs which includes Gawker, Deadspin, Gizmodo, and Lifehacker has about 23 million monthly unique visitors and 250 million page views. Owner Nick Denton has pointed out the business is highly profitable and growing and that advertising revenue has performed better than expected. Almost all the advertising at the family of websites is premium marketing from major companies. The average CPM on a page is estimated to be $20. That would drive $60 million in annual revenue. Gawker is not expensive to run. Its writers are paid relatively low wages. Many of the blogs Gawker owns have only five or ten writers and editors. Gawker keeps at least 50% of its revenue as operating income. The valuation is based on 10x operating income.

2. The Huffington Post, $112 million. The Huffington Post is ranked first among all blogs on the Technorati 100, which means it has a huge number of websites linking to it. Quantcast puts its global unique visitor audience at 20 million. The site is set up to encourage navigation from page to page and uses editor slide shows to build page views which are probably about seven per visitor. Huffington advertisers are a mix of high and middle CPM marketers. Average CPM per page is about $10. The company’s annual revenue run rate should be up to $16 million. Huffington executives say that the company does not make money. Huffington’s prestige and its strategic value to a buyer make it extremely valuable. The 24/7 figure is based on seven times revenue, a much larger-than-normal premium for a media property.

3. Perez Hilton, $44 million. The entertainment and gossip site have over 7 million unique visitors. 24/7 estimates twelve page views per visitor. The site carries very little premium advertising although its text link ads probably do well. CPM per page is $6. The site has revenue of about $6.2 million a year. Perez Hilton has very little staff and appears to have very low operating costs. The company’s margin should be 60%. This site would be very valuable to a large media company with online entertainment content.

4. Drudge Report. $42 million. Most measurements of the blog show that traffic trends are flat to down. The site has about nine million unique visitors. Page view estimates published by Drudge are absurdly high. The site carries a very modest amount of premium advertising and it is unlikely that the CPM per page is above $5. Revenue is about $8 million. Drudge appears to have very low staff levels and extremely small operating costs. Operating income should be about $6 million.

5. TechCrunch. $32 million. The sites that make up TechCrunch have almost 4 million unique visitors and the network has about eighteen million page views. CPMs are very high due to the quality and number of advertisers. 24/7 Wall St. estimates them to be $35 per page. Advertising revenue is about $7.5 million. Other related businesses bring in another $2 million. TechCrunch has a staff of about thirty. Company margins are about 30%, or just less than $3 million.

6. PopSugar Properties. $26 million. The Sugar Network has 11 million unique visitors to its site which include PopSugar, FitSugar, GeekSuger, and SavvySugar. The visitors to the sites are young and predominantly female. The quality of the advertising is low and the sites probably do not get a CPM per page of much more than $6. The company has revenue of about $7.5 million a year. The sites have a very large staff, probably more than 60 people. Operating profits are no better than 25% of revenue, or $2 million. This company would have tremendous value to a media company that targets young women.

7. Politico. $23 million. The site is the largest single media property in the US devoted exclusively to national politics. It has more than 5 million unique visitors and 40 million page views a month. Politico needs a better sales operation. It carries a number of high quality advertisers from corporate image and policy marketers mixed with a number of very low CPM campaigns. Advertising CPM per page is $10. Politico has a great deal of value to a national news organization. It does, however, have very high costs and employs at least 80  people. Politico loses $5 million a year on $5 million in revenue.

8. MacRumors. $20 million. MacRumors has 6.5 million unique visitors per month and 45 million page views.  The quality of the advertising is weak. The company’s revenue is about $4.4 million. MacRumors staff is small and the publishing platform the site uses is probably very inexpensive. MacRumors margins are at least 50%. Competition in the “Apple” news website business has gotten fierce.

9. Boing Boing. $18 million. This leading tech and gadget site has 3 million unique visitors a month and probably over twenty-four million page views. CPMs should be relatively high–$14. Boing Boing has revenue of $4 million. The company has thirty or more people so its margins are probably only 50%.

10. Mashable. $17.5 million.This is the top blog in the country that concentrates on social media. It has 4.2 million unique visitors a month. Mashable employees about thirty people. The site has 30 million page views a month. Some of the advertising is from the tech industry and should carry high CPMS, but a fair amount of the inventory is sold to more generic marketers. Total CPM per page is $12. Total revenue for Mashable is $4.3 million. The site is in a highly competitive part of the blog market and is not the leading site in size or reputation. Margins are about 45%.

11. Seeking Alpha. $16 million.Seeking Alpha, the financial content aggregation site, is now nearly as large as some major media websites like SmartMoney and FT.com. The site has 2.5 million unique visitors and 18 million page views. Revenue is $3.5 million a year because of the high quality of the financial advertisers that the site runs. The company has a large staff in Israel and the US. Seeking Alpha has a complex publishing structure. The company makes a very small operating profit. It would be very valuable property for a large media conglomerate that has business and financial websites. Unlike some other sites on the list, SA does not rely heavily on its founder and CEO for its future success.

12. GigaOm. $15 million. This network of websites, founded by Om Malik, includes Tech Insider, CleanTech, Open Source, and Mac Lovers. GigaOm also has a paid research operation and runs several conferences. The sites have about 1.7 million unique visitors and 12 million page views. CPM per page $20. Total advertising revenue is $2.8 million. Sales from other divisions are $1 million. The company has close to 35 employees and high costs of operating conferences. Operating profit is $1.7 million.

13. Breitbart Sites. $11 million. This family of sites includes Breitbart, Big Hollywood, Big Government, and Breitbart TV. Total unique visitors across all sites are 3.2 million and 18 million page views. The site carries a reasonable amount of premium advertisers. CPMs are $12, putting total revenue at $2.5 million. Staff levels seem to be very low and the publishing platforms are simple. Operating profit is about $1.5 million.

14. SB Nation Network. $8 million. The company has a network of about 200 relatively small sites across all major sports. The network has 4 million unique visitors. SB Nation has about twenty employees. The sites are a page view machine but the advertising is low quality. Total revenue of $2 million with very modest margins.

15. ReadWriteWeb. $7 million. The site covers online trends. It bills itself as a site for tech innovators. The site has 1.2 million unique visitors and 10 million page views. The company has a staff of ten. CPM per page is very high with some pages carrying as many as 10 premium ads. CPM at $20 brings total revenue to $2.4 million. Margins are probably close to $1 million. ReadWriteWeb is in an extremely competitive part of the online content business.

16. The Business Insider. $7 million. The Business Insider is a family of websites covering media, the internet, business, and finance. The sites together have 1.8 million unique visitors and 14 million page views. The sites carry a large amount of premium advertising. The Business Insider revenue is about $2 million. The firm has a large staff of about 20 people and probably losses a modest amount of money.

17. Destructoid. $5 million. Mega-gamer site with 1.1 million unique visitors and ten million page views. The website is game reviews meets social networking. It appears to have very loyal audience. Most of the content is user-created and the staff appears to be small. There are not a lot of ads, but those that run are from the game industry and should have high CPMs. Annual revenue is $1.4 million and margins are at least 50%.

18. Apple Insider. $4.5 million. Another of the many websites about what goes on in the land of Steve Jobs and his many spectacularly successful inventions. The site has 1.2 million unique visitors and eight million page views. Advertising is a mix of high-end consumer products, which tend to pay low CPMs, and business electronics. Apple Insider appears to have a small staff. Revenue is about $1.3 million and the site should make $700,000 in operating profit.

19. //film. (SlashFilm). $4 million. The audience for this film blogging site has dropped about 15% over the last three months, but unique visitors are still 1.3 million and eleven million page views. The site carries very little premium advertising, averaging CPMs at less than $10 per page. Revenue for //film is about $1.3 million a year. The company probably is keeping more than half of that as profit.

20. SearchEnginLand. $4 million. This site, which covers the search engine industry, makes most of its money from conferences called the SMX Search Market Expos. The company that runs the site and conferences is Third Door Media. The main site has about 400,000 unique visitors and 3.5 million page views. That means the internet part of the company has revenue of just over $600,000. Revenue from the conferences is probably $2 million. The parent firm has a large staff.

21. Smashing Magazine. $3.5 million. The site is the online destination for graphics design and has 900,000 unique visitors a month and 6 million page views. The site has a huge Twitter following of over 80,000. The company has a very small staff and some outside contributors. Each page has a large number of premium online ads. Revenue of $1.9 million and 30% operating margin.

22. Talking Points Memo Sites. $3.5 million. This collection of sites includes political coverage site Talking Points Memo, TPMMuckracker, and TPM TV. The sites have 1 million monthly unique and 8 million page views. The company has a small staff and gets some news from wire services. TPM operates in the crowded and competitive space that includes The Huffington Post and Politico. The sites have very little high-CPM ads. Revenue is just under $1 million a year and the business does no better than breakeven.

23. VentureBeat. $3 million. This is the class of the online venture capital news and analysis websites. The site has 800,000 unique visitors and seven million page views. There are a number of premium advertisers on VentureBeat and most pages carry multiple ads. Revenue for the company is $1.25 million. Venture Beat’s staff is large enough that it probably does not make money.

24. The Superficial. $3 million. The Superficial is the flagship of a small number of sites run by Anticlown Media. The site is a modest version of Perez Hilton, and competes in a sector that includes websites like TMZ and the online operations of People and US magazines. The Superficial has one million monthly unique visitors and Compete shows a slight drop in audience recently. The site has 10 million page views and very little high CPM advertising. Revenue is about $1.5 million.

25. 24/7 Wall St. Network. $???. Family of sites which includes 24/7 Wall St., Volume Spike Investor, BioHealth Investor, and Apple Financial News.

Douglas A. McIntyre