AOL Defense, AOL Energy and AOL Government were sold in February 2013 for an undisclosed sum to Breaking Media, a b-to-b digital media company that publishes Above the Law for the legal profession, Dealbreaker for the financial industry and Fashionista, a news site for people working in the fashion industry and consumers who follow it.
AOL Defense, AOL Energy and AOL Government had comprised a unit called AOL Industry, which was formed in early 2011, around the same time AOL was finalizing its $315 million acquisition of the Huffington Post. Although originally conceived as a b-to-b network that would extend into several verticals, AOL Industry went no further than the three original sites, which were launched in May and June 2011.
Early last month, BreakingMedia reintroduced the sites with new designs and new names—Breaking Energy, Breaking Defense and Breaking Gov. They were also moved to Breaking Media's WordPress-based content management system.
Breaking Media CEO John Lerner said the company's network of six sites now attracts about 5 million unique monthly visitors. “The acquisition probably increased our reach by 33%,” he said.
“The energy and defense markets intrigued us because there is synergy between them and finance and law,” Lerner said. “We touch those areas from a content perspective in our other websites.” One example of that synergy occurred during a recent networking event in Houston for Above the Law, where the Breaking Energy editor was invited to join the discussion.
The fit for Breaking Gov was not as obvious as it was for the energy and defense sites. “We're still working on the model,” Lerner said. “While our other sites serve niche vertical markets, government is very broad. We have heavy readership in government agencies [such as] the Department of Justice, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Department of Energy and the Department of Defense through our other sites, so we're currently posting government-related stories from those industries to Breaking Gov.”
Five staffers from AOL's Industry unit have joined Breaking Media, two editors each for Breaking Energy and Breaking Defense as well as a salesperson. The additions bring the company's total employee tally to about 25. “Each of our sites has its own editorial team,” Lerner said, “but sales, business development, technology and other functions are centralized.”
Lerner, who became CEO of the seven-year-old company in August 2010, is a b-to-b digital media veteran. In 2000, he became VP-general manager of VNU Business Media's e-media division, which he ran until 2007, when he joined F+W Media as exec VP-e-media.
Breaking Media's primary revenue stream is from digital advertising, but the company recently branched out with small sponsored events. “Events are a big push for us. We'll be doing 18 to 20 this year,” Lerner said. “Our third revenue stream will be research. We're data mining our audience and getting insights from them.”
As far as future acquisitions, Lerner said, “We are looking to grow the company organically and, if the right opportunity comes along, we'll grow through acquisitions as well.”
Media Advisory Partners was Breaking Media's financial adviser on the deal.