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For Sale: Mediabistro

What You Get: Classifieds, Blogs, Classes and a Boa-Wearing Founder

By Published on . 0

NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Who will buy the boa? Mediabistro, the networking, jobs and news website for journalists, PR people and other communications pros, is on the block, according to several people familiar with the discussions. Several suitors, including media companies and employment web sites, are said to be in the bidding for the company.
Laurel Touby and author Toby Young at a recent Mediabistro event.
Laurel Touby and author Toby Young at a recent Mediabistro event. Credit: Andrea Fischman/Mediabistro.com

Estimates of the company's revenue from people familiar with the process vary, from less than $2 million to $5 million to $8 million. The company, which started out seeking a higher multiple, is now asking for a sale price of three or four times revenue, those close to the discussions said.

September sale
Media-focused investment bank DeSilva & Phillips is handling the sale process, which is expected to wrap up by September. Partner Reed Phillips declined to comment.

To those who don't peruse Mediabistro's jobs ads, take its writing courses or read its navel-gazing Fishbowl blogs (including a weekly update of who lunches at Michael's), the site is probably best known for founder-CEO Laurel Touby -- or at least the brightly-colored boas she wears to Mediabistro's frequent networking parties across the country.

Thanks in no small part to journalists' insatiable desire to mix, mingle and consume news about their own, Ms. Touby has become a fixture in the blogging world, even if the digerati's glare hasn't always been kind. A long line of Gawker editors, for instance, have made the flamboyant Ms. Touby a target. In floating a rumor of a potential sale in June, it wrote: "Honestly, who would be dumb enough to buy Mediabistro? It's all a big mystery; if you've heard anything, let us know."

Positive press
The attention, however, hasn't been all unkind. She was recently swaddled by the New York Sun and, in December 2004, her wedding to Jon Fine, a former Advertising Age magazine reporter who's now a columnist at BusinessWeek, earned feature coverage in The New York Times' "Sunday Styles" section -- the gold standard of matrimonial PR.

Following a sale, Ms. Touby, who didn't immediately return a call and e-mail for comment, is said to be interested in remaining active within the company.

Exactly who would make a good strategic owner for Mediabistro isn't readily apparent. Two of the likeliest media companies, Haymarket Media, which owns PRWeek, and Crain Communications, owner of Advertising Age, are no longer interested in a deal. Job boards like Monster.com or Vault may make a better strategic fit.

Growth prospects?
Also unclear is where Mediabistro's future growth prospects will come from. The company's revenue comes from job ads that cost $229 pop, classes that can run upward of $600, and membership fees of $49 a year.

Perhaps a quote she gave to the Sun back in June explains: "There are 6 million people in media and communications overall. These are people who work in the press, radio, television and the web. This is our market and we've only hit 10% so far."
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