It’s official. At 10:12am today, Ars Technica, a leading technology news site, announced its acquisition by Condé Nast, a multinational publishing company owned by the Newhouse family. As scooped by TechCrunch last Friday: For the price of $25 million, Ars Technica will now be part of Condé Nast’s Wired Digital arm (which also owns Wired.com, social news site Reddit.com, a resource site for web developers called WebMonkey, and Hot Wired, the first website to run display advertising.) Condé Net will take over advertising sales, relieving Federated Media Publishing who also lost Digg last year to Microsoft.
Primarily known for top fashion/lifestyle titles in print — namely Vogue, W, Glamour, Vanity Fair — Condé Nast is planting the seeds for long-term expansion into digital media. Based on its history of grooming and allowing editors to run their own ships over time, Condé Nast is expected to give Ars Technica the same “independence”. Founders Ken “Caesar” Fisher and Jon “Hannibal” Stokes will remain on board as the site is integrated into Wired Digital. Fisher’s press release declares:
“Ars Technica will remain an independent publication, with the same editorial leadership in place… We wanted to be somewhere corporate leadership would “get it,” somewhere the next fiscal quarter isn’t more important than the long term, and somewhere with a proven track record of fostering smaller businesses. We looked positively on what Condé Nast has done with WIRED.com and reddit.com (both acquired in 2006): left their leadership alone to grow their sites, while helping them with tools and resources along the way.”
Let’s be honest: digital properties are big business, the younger sibling to print. There is a very fine line between building ad sales/monetizing content and producing content that is critical and independent. In other words, keeping advertisers happy and keeping readers happy. (The recent hoopla over Annie Liebovitz’s photograph of Miley Cyrus, aka Disney’s Hannah Montana, in Condé Nast’s Vanity Fair is a case in point). As traditional media begins to buy into digital media, it will be very interesting to see how this balance is negotiated, upgraded, and stylized. Or, maybe: the more things change, the more they stay the same.