NYTCO To Sell About.com

Confirming earlier reports, The New York Times Company on Wednesday said it is ready to sell About.com, and is already engaged in discussions with potential buyers.
“No definitive agreement has been reached,” a New York Times Co. representative said. “The negotiations are ongoing, and there can be no assurances that an agreement will be reached or that a transaction will be completed.”
Earlier on Wednesday, The Wall Street Journal’s AllThingsD blog reported that the Times Co. was nearing a deal to sell About.com to Answers.com for around $270 million. A Times Co. representative would not comment on the report, or address specific sale discussions.
Times Co. bought About for $410 million in 2005. The site is powered by freelancers who produce stories and how-to videos on a range of topics. It is widely recognized as the forefather of “content farms” like Demand Media.
Recently, however, the site has struggled. Last month, Times Co. took a $195 million writedown of About.com, while in its latest earnings release, the company said that About Group’s revenue declined 8.7% to $25 million.
About.com’s falling fortunes are largely attributed to a drop in display and cost-per-click advertising.

A sale of About.com would also be consistent with Times Co.’s broader efforts to streamline business operations. The company recently sold its stakes in the Fenway Sports Group, owner of the Boston Red Sox, and took a major writedown last year on its Regional Media Group before -- selling the newspaper group to Halifax Media Holdings in January of this year for $143 million.
Founded in 1998, Answers.com emerged as a plug-in for Internet Explorer. The business morphed into a reference answers site, combining more than 250 data sources to help users find information on reference topics, including non-digitized sources.
More recently, Answers has sought to build out social, personalized and ad services on desktop and mobile, based partly on a minority investment made by TA Associates, the global growth private-equity firm.

TA Associates and Summit Partners -- which also backs Answers.com -- are currently trying to secure the financing necessary to acquire About.com, AllThingsD reported.



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