The Twenty-Five Most Valuable Blogs In America – 2011

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1. Gawker
> Value: $318 million

Under the deft editorial and business leadership of founder Nick Denton, Gawker has become the most valuable blog network on the web. Comprised of many of the most popular individual blogs, including Gizmodo, Kotaku, and Gawker.com, Gawker ‘s success is built around equal parts snark and celebration of the famous, the infamous and the tech-obsessed. And while Denton has demonstrated remarkable prescience curating top brands and shuttering or selling others, his latest move to reject the very blog-format that made his sites top destinations has not gone over hitch-less. The company’s steady and impressive growth was interrupted earlier this year by Denton’s redesign of the network – one he hoped would ultimately increase pageviews. Though readership has only recently recovered to last year’s numbers, Denton’s bet on impressions may pay off. Pageviews per person have increased steadily since last year, boosting ad impressions along with it.

2. Drudge
> Value: $93 million

Drudge may not be a one-man company, but it is close. The site is the largest link-based blog in America. Its content is built around simple selection of headline links to other mainstream sites and blogs. A recent Outbrain study found that Drudge Report drives twice as much traffic to news sites as mammoth social network site Facebook. Matt Drudge, the site’s founder, is considered to be a conservative, and Drudge content is considered to be on the right of the political spectrum. By most accounts, Drudge has three editors. Its largest cost is commissions paid to its advertising sales representative, Intermarkets.

3. PopSugar Media Network
> Value: $64 million

The well-known PopSugar.com site is part of the Sugar Inc. network, which includes vertical editorial sections on gossip, entertainment, sex, motherhood, health and food. The business was founded by Brian Sugar and his wife Lisa. Sugar claims that blog pioneer Om Malik advised him in 2005 to start a blog for women who traditionally visited sites owned by Time and Conde Nast. PopSugar has raised $46 million in funds from VCs and the venture arms of major media companies for expansion. Most of the blog’s readers are young women. There is a good chance that a media company will eventually take over Sugar for its large audience and ad base.

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4. SBNation
> Value: $56 million

SBNation is a collection of 315 sports blogs, many of which cover local sports. The sites cover the four major league sports, as well as golf, soccer, and tennis. SBNation also has an active fantasy football business. This section of the main site makes it a popular destination as fantasy football members return over and over to track their players and teams. SBNation has a very large staff of over sixty people, making its expense base larger than most blog networks. A fairly large portion of its revenue comes from premium advertisers, but many of the ads are for its own products, including its iPhone app. This suggests it has trouble marketing all of its ad inventory. SBNation is probably a takeover target by large media companies that have substantial websites, like ESPN and Sports Illustrated.

5. Macrumors
>Value: $52 million

Macrumors is the largest of a small number of blogs that cover Apple. These include 9to5mac, AppleInsider, and TUAW. Macrumors has a relatively small staff — no more than a dozen people. Its founder, Arnold Kim, is the site’s editor. He is not well-known enough to present significant founder risk. One of the strengths of Macrumors that is shared with other large tech sites is active conversations held in its forum. These forums are a platform for thousands of visitors who want to discuss hundreds of subjects related to Apple. Visitors must register to use the forums, which are moderated by volunteers who make certain that people do not post messages that violate Macrumors’ rules. Forum submissions number about 10,000 a day. This activity adds meaningfully to return visits and the site’s “stickiness.”

6. Business Insider
> Value: $45 million

Business Insider is one of the most ambitious blog start-ups ever. It remains to be seen if the business can be profitable. Business Insider has certainly flanked many mainstream sites, even though it is little more than two years old. Its online audience is almost as large as TheStreet.com and CNBC. Business Insider’s mix of in-depth financial and business analysis and gossipy and sophomoric content has more than doubled the site’s audience in a year. The site was founded by Henry Blodget, a former Wall Street Internet analyst, and Kevin Ryan, a founder of DoubleClick, one of the most successful start-ups of Web 1.0. Between them they have a large number of industry contacts, which certainly helped the site’s growth. Business Insider management says it has raised about $10 million for expansion. This has helped the company’s rapid growth, but it has also allowed expenses to balloon. The next year should show if BI can produce strong profits. Blodget is the face of Business Insider, so the site has significant founder risk.