After many twists and turns, DIY social network Ning has finally found a home. Glam Media is buying the network of social networks. A final price is not being disclosed. It is likely more than the $35 million News Corp fetched for MySpace from Specific Media and Justin Timberlake, but less than the $120M or so in capital that was poured into the company over the years. (Update: A source puts the deal price higher, at $150 million). Ning’s co-founder, chairman, and original investor Marc Andreessen will be joining Glam’s board as part of the deal. With Glam’s strong IPO prospects, a large part of the acquisition was probably in stock. Other serious bidders included Google, Yahoo, and even Groupon.
Ning started out as a platform where anyone could build their own niche social network. It turned out that most people just wanted to be on Facebook (Andreessen also sits on its board). About 18 months ago, Ning laid off 40 percent of its employees, switched CEOs, and started charging for its product. It went from an ad-supported model to a subscription model, and while it is no Facebook, CEO Jason Rosenthal managed to create a decent business with 100,000 Ning-powered sites and 60 million monthly unique visitors. If you just look at the subscription plans and apply a discount, the business is easily doing somewhere between $10 million and $20 million a year in subscription revenues alone.
Glam Media runs its own network of content sites, originally targeted at women, but now broader, with a combined reach of 200 million monthly unique visitors. After taking out duplication, the Ning acquisition should push Glam’s audience count up to about 240 million monthly uniques. Glam also has its own brand-friendly ad network to sell ads against that audience, and a content management platform. Now with Ning it has a social platform as well.
Glam will now be able to incorporate social features into its content platform. With Ning it gets the equivalent of a blogging platform, commenting platform, and social feeds platform all rolled into one. Glam should be able to do a better job selling ad inventory against the visitors to Ning-powered sites.