Digital media companies slow public rush as SPAC market cools

Jonah Peretti, Founder and CEO, Buzzfeed, speaks on the Wall Street Journal Digital Conference in Laguna Beach, California, U.S., October 18, 2017.

Lucy Nicholson | Reuters

This was the purported to be the Summer of Digital Media.

Amidst a growth of particular goal acquisition companies (SPACs), companies together with Buzzfeed, Vice, Vox, Bustle and others focused this summer time as a probable timeline for going public.

Five months into the 12 months, executives and advisors now assume that is not going to occur.

A serious slowdown in SPAC issuance, pushed by new accounting guidance by the Securities and Exchange Commission, has pressured many digital media companies to reassess their timeline on going public, in response to 4 folks acquainted with the matter.

Buzzfeed remains to be anticipated to discover a SPAC accomplice later this 12 months, stated three of the folks, who requested to not be named as a result of the discussions are non-public. But different companies, such as Vice and Bustle, that thought there could also be a path to going public on their very own within the coming months have pulled again, stated the folks. Vice has been in superior talks to merge with 7GC & Co Holdings, The Information reported in March, however the timeline on these talks have stalled, in response to folks acquainted with the matter.

Still, Vice hopes to proceed with 7GC within the coming months if it could acquire exterior funding, in response to folks acquainted with the matter. Vice plans to carry a street present for PIPE funding within the coming weeks to gauge curiosity, one of many folks. Vice’s income was $580 million final 12 months, down from $604 million in 2019, according to The Information

Spokespeople at Buzzfeed and Vice declined to remark.

SPAC slowdown

That run to high quality has tamped down expectations amongst digital media companies hoping to experience the SPAC wave to present liquidity to long-term shareholders.

Buzzfeed stands out as the solely important digital media firm to go public this 12 months, stated three of the folks. Jonah Peretti has little interest in promoting Buzzfeed or relinquishing his CEO position, so he is on the lookout for targets with founders or executives who’re keen to work collectively whereas giving up operational management, two of the folks stated.

Group Nine has founded a SPAC the place the digital media firm, which owns properties such as PopSugar, The Dodo and NowThis, will merge itself with a goal of its selecting. Buzzfeed could make sense a goal for the Group Nine SPAC — particularly as a result of Group Nine CEO Ben Lerer has informed traders he could also be keen to step apart as chief government, as CNBC reported earlier this year — however no deal is imminent, the folks stated. Buzzfeed has held talks with 890 5th Avenue Partners Inc., a unique SPAC, Bloomberg reported in March.

There are few, if any, companies corresponding to Buzzfeed that commerce publicly. It’s unclear if there will likely be strong PIPE curiosity in digital media companies, which have solely just lately grow to be worthwhile and whose projected progress charges cannot match industries like electric vehicles and biotech, which have fostered a number of SPACs. 

Still, digital media could have a path ahead by way of SPAC if traders come to see their trajectories as safer, steadier bets than extra fanciful, higher-growth companies.

Bustle, which owns websites geared to ladies such as Elite Daily, Nylon and Romper, has spoken with a number of SPACs however has no plans to go public alone in the mean time, stated an individual acquainted with the matter.

Vice hopes its diversified portfolio of media property will persuade PIPE traders that it needs to be seen extra like ViacomCBS and different video-first media companies than different digital media entities, two of the folks stated.

Buyers grow to be sellers

Several digital media companies need Buzzfeed to go public first to allow them to see how traders worth it earlier than they decide to go public themselves or look to promote, two of the folks stated.

But those self same companies can also be dealing with a harsh actuality — that they are just too small with unremarkable progress profiles that will not curiosity public market traders.

As a outcome, some companies will grow to be more and more determined to promote to both Buzzfeed or Group Nine’s SPAC, if they’re the one consumers with publicly traded forex, stated two of the folks acquainted with the matter. Digital media companies might additionally merge with different friends, such as the information curation service theSkimm, however non-public mergers are sometimes tough to finish as a result of there is not any public market to precisely dictate fairness valuation.

It’s attainable different legacy media companies could decide off one or two digital media companies. The Athletic is hoping to promote to The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal reported this week

But The Journal additionally reported that The Athletic’s first plan — merging with digital media firm Axios and discovering a SPAC to take them public — has fallen aside.

That’s emblematic of the broader state of play proper now for digital media. The euphoria of January and February has given solution to a sober May. Venture traders and early workers who’ve been caught ready for an exit for years will simply should carry on ready.

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