Six Apart, social media’s neglected star, gets deal buzz

Whispers and rumorsFor once, people are talking about Six Apart, a blogging pioneer that hasn’t otherwise generated much chatter recently. Rumors are flying that the company’s in the midst of some kind of a deal — though we hear executives at Six Apart are denying anything’s afoot.

The most specific rumor we’ve heard is that Six Apart is looking at deals in Japan, a market it entered in 2003 and where it remains the dominant blogging platform. And sure enough, Six Apart has hired GCA Savvian, a boutique investment banking firm with offices in both Tokyo and San Francisco that’s well known for its Internet startup deals.

No deal appears to be imminent, since GCA Savvian’s banker for Six Apart, Steve Fletcher, and Six Apart’s lead dealmaker, Andrew Anker, are both on vacation.

Six Apart, whose name was inspired by the close birthdays of its founders, the husband-and-wife team of Ben and Mena Trott, was among the first companies to commercialize the then-nascent business of blogging when it launched in 2001. It sells the Movable Type software and subscriptions to its hosted TypePad service.

But it’s since moved aggressively into the business of selling advertising both on its own sites and its publishers’, a hybrid model similar to companies like Federated Media and Glam Media. It markets itself as a social advertising network second only to Facebook in reach, with an audience of 90 million monthly visitors. In June, it signed up enthusiast-content network Whiskey Media and women’s lifestyle site BettyConfidential.com as ad-sales clients, and acquired NaturalPath Media, a green-focused ad network.

Six Apart has done complex deals before. In 2007, it sold online community LiveJournal to a Russian company, SUP, with which it had a business partnership. One possibility: Since Six Apart’s blog software remains popular in Japan, could it sell it to Nifty, an Internet service provider with which it has long partnered to provide blogging services in that country?

It is likely that Six Apart’s investors are growing restive for a deal. August Capital led a $10 million round in 2004, and participated in a $12 million round in 2006. Most venture-capital firms like to see their portfolio companies sold within seven years of their initial investment. In theory, a deal in Japan could generate cash to buy out early investors — or help fund Six Apart’s push into the advertising business.

There’s nothing to suggest a deal is even close. But if Six Apart made a move, that sure would be something to blog about, wouldn’t it?

[Photo: Hans_van_Rijnberk]


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