Project Orion: Say Media’s Plan To Tailor TypePad Into Its CMS And Become The Conde Nast Of The Web

I finally caught up with Say Media CEO Matt Sanchez today, after his acquisition of tech blog ReadWriteWeb. He wouldn’t confirm the $5 million price (he didn’t deny it either), but he let slip something else which sheds light on Say Media’s overall strategy. Internally, they call it Orion.

It is a professional, modern content management system (CMS) specifically tailored to handle everything “from content creation to how ads appear,” says Sanchez. Usually, content and ads are controlled by different systems. The focus will be on creating a streamlined, “beautiful experience” which Sanchez describes as “having an art department in a box.” It will have a “smoother interface,” support for multiple contributors, social sharing and analytics on the backend to help editors better program their sites. It will also work across mobile and Web from the get-go. ReadWriteWeb will move over to Orion with a redesign in the first quarter.

Orion is a customized version of TypePad (which Say Media bought along with Six Apart last year—TypePad proper will continue to be supported as a subscription blogging platform). Orion will become the content engine for some of Say Media’s owned-and-affiliated properties. There are now 16 of these sites spanning Tech (ReadWriteWeb; Gear Patrol; Gdgt; TechDirt; SplatF; Android & Me), Style (Xojane; Fashionista; Honestly…wtf; Red Carpet Fashion Awards), Food (Serious Eats; Food52; The Kitchn; Amateur Gourmet), and Living (Remodelista; Dogster). All will have the option to move over, but won’t be required to.

The idea is to create a premium experience both with editorial and advertising. All the sites will have a clean look, and pages will have one high-impact ad. This strategy is similar to AOL’s Devil Ads paired with premium editorial.

“We can keep moving vertical magazines onto that printing press,” says Sanchez, hinting at more acquisitions to come. “Our thesis is that professional publications has evolved where there will be a massive consolidation.”

If you think about it. The blogging industry started with FM Publishing, which offered advertising scale across many niche properties. But FM didn’t own those properties, and when they got big enough, they started selling their own ads (this is exactly what happened with TechCrunch, which originally was an FM-affiliated site). Sanchez wants to provide more than just the ads. He wants to provide the publishing platform, help with events, and much more. “This is Conde Nast,” he says, but for the Web.

Image credit: Mr. Physics