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Conde Nast snags Jaunted, HotelChatter

Investor interview by John Shinal
April 28, 2008 | last edited July 10, 2008 | Comments
Short URL: http://vator.tv/n/202

Conde Nast's online unit, CondeNet, just added to its stable of sites targeted at upscale travelers by acquiring SFO Media, which runs the fast-growing travel blog sites HotelChatter and Jaunted.

To get a little detail on the deal, I paid a visit to Kourosh Karimkhany, Conde Nast's VP of corporate development, who works out of the company's Wired.com offices in San Francisco.

The media giant went after SFO Media because its visitor traffic is surging and the sites are focused on a demographic that fits nicely under the CondeNast umbrella.

Conde Nast is going to leave the company operate as an independent unit for now, Karimkhany says, rather than roll it up with Conde Nast's own Concierge channel. With Jaunted and HotelChatter combined growing traffic 20% per month, "We're not going to mess with success." Down the line, the company will integrate them or not based on the business opportunities.

The two sites combined have between a million and a million-and-a-half unique visitors and SFO Media will soon add a third site, Karimkhany said. That site will be TripHacker, according to paidContent.

comScore data, which sometimes differs significantly from the internal traffic numbers that sites report, showed the two sites had about 300,000 monthly uniques. comScore reported that Jaunted.com traffic more than doubled from a year earlier.

The media giant's online ad sales team will be able to add the two sites to campaigns for ad buyers who want to reach young, affluent, hip travelers. Because visitor traffic to Concierge tends to be highly seasonal, buying SFO Media will help smooth out the dips, Karimkhany told me.

SFO Media was founded in San Francisco but is now based in Boston, where it is run by Mark Johnson, who will become a senior director at CondeNet and remain in charge of the blogs

Conde Nast has put together a string of Internet acquisitions in the last two years, including buying back the Wired.com unit that had been split off from the magazine nearly a decade ago. Since then, "Wired.com has been going gangbusters," according to Karimkhany, who shared (in confidence) a traffic growth percentage over the last six months that was impressive.

He added that Conde Nast is likely to buy more startups in the travel vertical, which has been lucrative for the company.

After snapping up the recommendation news site Reddit about 18 months ago, the media giant will also stay on the lookout for other tech firms, as well as fashion and other markets focused on wealthy women.  

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