June 16, 2016 Last Updated 10:37 am

Condé Nast buys Backchannel tech business brand from Medium, will join Wired Group

Website’s founder Steven Levy will return to Condé Nast as part of the acquisition, and tech business journalist Jessi Hempel will also transition to Backchannel from WIRED

Just yesterday I was speaking to someone who just recently left a major magazine company to return to a digital-only media firm about the acquisition habits of the magazine companies. My argument was that it was more likely that they would acquire a digital brand than launch on themselves.

The example I gave was Time Inc., which yesterday announced that it had launched a new vertical called Tech & Media for its Sports Illustrated Group. At first it sounds like an internal launch, but reading the release one quickly realizes that it will simply be the home of content coming from a third party provider.

My point was that the only way to get a big publisher like Time Inc. to consider doing something would be to sell them something, approach them from the outside rather than from inside the company.


Below we have the announcement that Condé Nast has acquired Backchannel from Medium. As a few observers have already snarkily said, this is an acquisition of a Medium brand that will stay on Medium. Looks like the winner here is Medium.

But this is probably not really an acquisition in the true sense of it, but rather an acquihire as it means the return of journalist Steven Levy to Condé Nast. That makes it worth it in my eyes, at least. So, maybe it is unfair to say that Condé Nast is showing that big magazine companies are bad at launches and so must acquire its digital brands. Or maybe not, I’m still not sold on the digital media acumen of the big magazine publishers.

Here is the announcement from Condé Nast:

NEW YORK, NY – June 16, 2016 — Condé Nast today announced the acquisition of Backchannel, the premier tech business brand from social publishing platform Medium. Backchannel will be the third brand, alongside WIRED and Ars Technica, in the newly formed Wired Media Group. Founder Steven Levy will return to Condé Nast as part of the acquisition, along with executive editor Sandra Upson. Acclaimed tech business journalist Jessi Hempel will also transition to Backchannel from WIRED.

“Backchannel is one of the most highly-respected tech business brands and seamlessly complements WIRED and Ars Technica to create the premier group of leading editorial brands covering the technology sector,” said Fred Santarpia, chief digital officer of Condé Nast. “Backchannel’s unique and highly-engaged audience of tech enthusiasts also creates new opportunities for our advertisers.”

Founded by Levy and Medium in 2014, Backchannel is a Silicon Valley-focused business and tech publication that dives deep into the culture and stories of the tech industry through in-depth and unique reporting, and provides a distinctive and authoritative point of view. Backchannel will continue its presence on the Medium platform.

“Condé Nast is already home to two of the leading technology publications in the industry,” said Kim Kelleher, publisher and chief revenue officer of the Wired Media Group. “Backchannel’s trusted insight into the inner workings of Silicon Valley, coupled with WIRED and Ars Technica’s signature editorial voices and storytelling expertise, will truly make Condé Nast the authority within the tech space for audiences and advertising partners alike.”

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