Blogging pioneers unite as online journals become serious business
By Michael Liedtke, AP Business Writer
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — In another sign the online journals known as blogs are maturing from a quirky craze to serious business, two startups that helped spread the phenomenon are joining forces to create a more diversified company.
San Francisco-based Six Apart, the host of a widely used blogging service called TypePad, is buying Portland, Ore.-based Danga Interactive Inc., which operates LiveJournal, a youthful blogging community. The financial specifics of the cash-and-stock deal announced Thursday weren't disclosed.
The combination weds two blogging pioneers with different strengths.
Six Apart, formed in 2001 by the husband-and-wife team of Ben and Mena Trott, caters to bloggers with more sophisticated software demands. Besides TypePad, Six Apart makes a Web publishing software called Movable Type that has been sold to several large customers, including About.com, Walt Disney Co., Nokia and the U.S. Census Bureau.
Danga's LiveJournal, launched in 1999 by Brad Fitzpatrick while he was still a teenager, runs on a simpler, open-source software platform that has helped give it more widespread appeal. Most of LiveJournal's 5.6 million users are teens and people in their 20s, a hip demographic that piqued Six Apart's interest.
"This was a match made in heaven," Six Apart CEO Barak Berkowitz said Wednesday.
Together, Six Apart and LiveJournal will have more than 6.5 million users — an audience that represents a major chunk of the so-called "blogosphere." Six Apart plans to operate LiveJournal as a separate division, but LiveJournal's 10 employees, including Fitzpatrick, will move from Oregon to San Francisco.
Blogs — shorthand for Web logs — have evolved from self-absorbed diaries into influential information hubs that have circumvented traditional communications channels to deliver news and political messages that are resonating with an ever-widening audience.
In the United States, 27 percent of adults with online access read blogs, according to a November survey by the Pew Internet and American Life Project. The same survey found that 7 percent of online Americans now write blogs — a figure that seems likely to rise in the months ahead. About 23,000 new blogs are created daily, according to Technorati, a Web research firm.
Fitzpatrick began his blog when he was just 19. Mena Trott, a 27-year-old born six days apart from her husband, began musing about her life at dollarshort.org during the dot-com bust, laying the foundation for company that now has about 70 employees scattered in San Francisco, Paris and Tokyo.
Venture capitalists, the financiers who have bankrolled many of the technology industry's biggest breakthroughs, still haven't flocked to blogs. Six Apart is among the handful of blogging companies to entice venture capitalists, raising $11.5 million so far.
The blogging phenomenon has captured the attention of software giant Microsoft Corp., which last month introduced blogging software called "MSN Spaces." Another technology powerhouse, Google Inc., also has owned a major blogging software supplier since 2003.
Berkowitz, a technology industry veteran, said Six Apart acquisition didn't feel compelled to fortify itself against looming competitive threats. "There is no brilliant master plan here," he said. "We just want to be the leading company in blogging."