Time Inc. acquires FanSided with its 300+ sports websites, and more than 1,500 contributors

The acquisition will be integrated with Sports Illustrated to deepen local sports coverage, create new digital advertising real estate for Time Inc. sellers

Way back in the neolithic days of publishing Talking New Media I also began publishing a second website called Citizen Publishing. The URL, long since has expired. One of the couple of dozens stories I wrote concerned a blogger in Minnesota that was covering the local soccer seen there. You can’t find the story via Google search, which just goes to show you that the idea that content lives forever on the web may not actually be true.

In any case, the point I made in that story back in 2010 was that traditional media outlets need to reconsider how they do their reporting and they they should strike up partnership deals with citizen publishers in order to broaden and deepen their news coverage.

Fansided-logo-smOne example not doing so is the growth of new media companies such as Vox Media which owns the SB Nation sports blogs. I read McCovey Chronicles, the blog for the SF Giants, most days and often wondered why Grant Brisbee hadn’t been scooped up long ago by one of the local media outlets.

For reasons I totally understand, legacy media companies are better at acquisitions than organic growth. For most legacy media companies, launching new products involves tremendous effort, much interaction with the company bureaucracy, and far too much office politics. Better, the thinking goes, to simply an existing new property.

So, today’s announcement that Time Inc. has acquired FanSided probably shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. Founded by brothers Adam and Zack Best, FanSided is a collection of more than 300 sports websites that is said to get about 50 million page views per month. Like SB Nation, it is a collection of individual sites for each team in each major sport. Also, FanSided has been working closely with Sports Illustrated, the Time Inc. weekly, for a while now.

Foghorn-230“What does this mean for you?” the founders of FanSided wrote to readers online today. “It means lots of great things ahead, but there are no immediate plans to change the way you currently access and use our FanSided sites. Our core team will be sticking around to ensure we deliver more coverage, better products and even higher quality to service you, the fan. Our longstanding partnership with Sports Illustrated will only grow. Strategically, we will be more ambitious in our effort to be the one-stop shop for the most fanatical of fans. Additionally, we’ll be a sibling brand to other iconic Time brands like Entertainment Weekly and People.”

50 million page views per month is actually not much traffic considering the total number of websites involved. A look at the Giants site, Around the Foghorn, shows you why: where the Vox owned website will have hundreds of comments on its each day, the FanSided site has one or two per story.

So, is buying FanSided a foolish acquisition then? Not necessarily. While the company may not be getting the kind of traffic Vox is getting, FanSided’s founders have built out the network of websites, something that would have been hard for Time Inc. to accomplish on its own. Now, properly promoted and integrated into Sports Illustrated, the new media property can provide Time Inc. seller with new advertising real estate, and with SI with more content.

Integration, of course, is the key.

Here is Time Inc.’s announcement:

New York, NY – May 26, 2015 – Time Inc. announced today that it has acquired Missouri-based FanSided, a sports, entertainment and lifestyle network of more than 300 websites with thriving communities. Launched in 2009, FanSided is one of the industry’s fastest growing independent digital content networks, with a collective audience of approximately 15 million unique visitors per month that generates an average of 50 million page views per month. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Fansided-iPhoneFanSided’s unique fan-focused editorial voice, very popular mobile app and personalized digital newsletter are behind FanSided’s rapidly growing popularity among millennial sports and entertainment fans. FanSided’s community of 1,500+ contributors will deepen Sports Illustrated’s local sports coverage and add more weight to the brand’s new customization platform, which is set to launch later this year. Time Inc. also plans to further leverage FanSided’s entertainment and lifestyle coverage across its brand portfolio.

This acquisition builds on a two-year partnership between Time Inc. and FanSided that saw the network’s growing audience roll into the overall SI Digital footprint, providing the sales and marketing teams with yet another valuable product to offer clients. Founders Adam and Zach Best, along with partner Matt Blake, will join Time Inc. and oversee FanSided as a division of the Sports Illustrated Group, working closely with SI Group Publisher Brendan Ripp, Editor Paul Fichtenbaum and SVP, Digital Scott Havens.

“The FanSided business is an investment in a modern content strategy plus deeply engaged and passionate audiences,” said Time Inc. CEO Joe Ripp. “The entrepreneurial and agile FanSided leadership team is a great addition to our growing Sports Illustrated Group portfolio.”

Since becoming an independent public company in 2014, Time Inc. has been extending its brands, content and audiences into new revenue streams through investment and acquisition. Time Inc. acquired Cozi, a technology company that leads the family productivity space, and UK Cycling Events (UKCE), the UK’s leading provider of premium cycling events. Time Inc. is an equity investor in 120 Sports, a groundbreaking OTT network created by multiple leagues and content companies; and a lead investor in Keaton Row, a go-to resource for busy women who want the luxury and convenience of personal shopping in an online environment. Building upon the diversity and authority of its trusted content, Time Inc. introduced MIMI (www.mimichatter.com), a constant stream of social chatter, beauty content and video, as well as The Snug (www.thesnug.com), a DIY social aggregation website targeting millennials.

The acquisition also aligns with SI’s expansion into men’s lifestyle categories, such as fitness, adventure sports and the global sneaker community. Over the past year the brand has launched nearly a dozen new editorial and digital products–a large reason for the brand’s selection to Advertising Age’s 2014 A-List and Adweek’s Best Sports Publication honors. Earlier this year at the NewFronts, the company also announced a new video initiative: SI Films, which will develop video programming for all platforms and mediums. This aggressive growth strategy has driven 30% of y-o-y growth in UVs to the SI Digital network which now reaches more than 24MM (comScore April ’15 vs. April ’14).

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