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Discovery Communications has sold off HowStuffWorks, a website that explains the science behind everything from magnets to Silly String, for $45 million, taking an 82% loss seven years after acquiring the asset.
The buyer was a company called Blucora, owner of the InfoSpace search business. It bought HowStuffWorks in an all-cash deal, according to a filing today. Discovery, whose cable channels include TLC and Animal Planet, will keep providing advertising services to the website it acquired for $250 million in 2007.
The site was the third in a trio of digital acquisitions for Discovery CEO David Zaslav, following Animal Planet's acquisition of Petfinder.com in 2006 and Planet Green's purchase of Treehugger.com in 2007. Discovery sold Petfinder to Nestle last year and formed a joint venture with Mother Nature Network in 2012 to share ownership of their environmental websites, including TreeHugger.
Discovery sought to make HowStuffWorks more in-depth and accurate than the low-rent "content farms" that offer cursory information on a broad array of topics -- while still attracting big traffic.
The site committed to update articles over time, for example, and to writing extend deadlines where necessary. That was a departure from other operations that gave writers incentives to churn out evergreen content and move on.
"We're not oblivious to cost, but at the same time, we are laser-focused on quality," the site's editor in chief, Conal Byrne, told Ad Age in 2011.
But the right mix of traffic, ad revenue and expenses ultimately proved elusive. The site ranks 327th for U.S. web traffic, according to Alexa.com, but Discovery doesn't disclose its financial results.
~ Bloomberg News with Ad Age staff ~