While we previously heard that Answers.com was a likely buyer for About.com and its associated properties, today the New York Times announced that it has sold the group of sites to Barry Diller’s IAC conglomerate for $300 million.
The NYT says it expects the all-cash deal to close within the next few weeks, and that the proceeds will be used for “general corporate purposes.” The About group includes to-do site About.com, CalorieCount.com, and ConsumerSearch.com, and it was purchased by the NYT for $410 million back in 2005.
Update 8/27/2012: The cash will add a substantial boost to the Times company’s coffers, as the entire company is only worth $1.35 billion. It holds about $570 million in cash and $775 million in debt. The stock market hasn’t responded well to the deal, though, sending NYT shares down about 1.2 percent in trading Monday, to close at $9.11. By contrast, IAC, which has a market capitalization of $4.55 billion, is up about 0.8 percent to close at $51.92.
With its collection of instructional articles across a plethora of topics, About.com — founded in 1996 during the first dot-com boom — was able to milk search engine traffic to drive its ad revenues. But as Google optimized its search algorithm and ad rates fell, the site ended up dragging down the NYT’s financials. The paper wrote off $195 million last quarter for About.com, and future performance didn’t look much brighter.
The New York Times is taking a hit with the About.com sale price, but at least it won’t have to worry about future losses from the lackluster web property. And even though Diller was able to snag About.com for a low price, he’ll still have to fix the issues with the site to make it profitable once again. About.com has a better chance of thriving at IAC, which holds a number of popular web properties like Match.com, Vimeo, and Ask.com, as well as the streaming TV bad boy company Aereo.
“About.com has been a strong contributor to our company since its acquisition in 2005,” Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., chairman of The New York Times Company, said in a statement today. “About’s early expertise in search engine optimization, expert content and revenues from cost-per-click and display advertising made it a valuable component of our portfolio for the past seven years. This sale will allow the Times Company to focus on the development and growth of our core brands locally, nationally and on a global scale.”
Photo credit: Adam Kinney/Flickr