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shopping momOnline advertising and marketing company Federated Media just announced its first full startup acquisition — BigTent, a company offering social networking tools to help parents build communities on the Web.

That’s a surprising choice for Federated company’s first purchase, since I usually think of the company in a tech news context. The company sells advertising (with a focus on “conversational” campaigns, rather than run-of-the-mill ads) for VentureBeat and many other tech blogs, but president and chief operating officer Deanna Brown said Federated also focuses on business, the real-time Web, and, yes, “lifestyle media”. Federated says it already reaches 8 million parents through its partner sites, and that it’s particularly interested in reaching the “chief household officer” who makes a family’s spending decisions.

Less than three months have passed since Federated bought technology from a startup called TextDigger and hired some of its executives — but it didn’t buy the company outright, which is why BigTent counts as the first full acquisition.

Federated first approached BigTent about a potential partnership several months ago, and as talks proceeded the two companies decided to go for an acquisition, Brown said. Federated could use BigTent’s technology to build social tools for some of its other publishers and readers, she added, but the deal is more about capturing BigTent’s influence rather than its technology.

“I care less about platform, if you will, and I care more about the influence of the authors and the products as well as the audiences that they serve,” Brown said.

She pointed to Federated’s recently announced partnership with the Clever Girls Collective, an agency that helps clients market to “decision-making, budget-wielding women,” as another sign of its interest in this market.

Brown said Federated is in the process of reaching out to the different group leaders to inform them of the acquisition. Existing BigTent groups will continue to operate as usual, and parents will be able to create new groups.

BigTent was backed by Menlo Ventures and Mohr Davidow Ventures. The terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.


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