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Times Internet Backed InstaMedia Sold; Founder Starts Up Again


Update: Maheshwari has posted on the BetaOut blog about challenges with scaling, building a CMS which they licensed to Nokia and UTV, but points towards struggles with scaling editorial workflow processes. (via Nextbigwhat)

Earlier Today: Times Internet* backed Instamedia, once a blog network with as many as 17 properties, has gone down, with some of its properties, including flagship properties Instamedia.comInstaBlogs.com  sold off, less than a year after it decided to target the India market.

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The founder, Ankit Maheshwari, has started up again, launching an editorial project management venture called BetaOut, with Vishal Gondal on its board (though not an investor, Maheshwari clarified). Gondal and Samir Bangara had backed Instamedia before Times Internet invested $4 million in it. TechCrunch had reported in 2008, quoting sources, that InstaMedia (then Instablogs) had revenues of around $300,000 per year.

In an emailed response to MediaNama, Maheshwari has said that InstaMedia and Instapress were sold off to a Dubai based group, while one of its earlier properties, BornRich.org, was acquired by one of the founders, Nandini Rathi. InstaMedia now has a fairly expansive profile of its new owner, Dr. Prem, while InstaBlogs bears a note on the footer that reads ‘Promoted by Dr Prem’. BornRich still has Instamedia related Terms of Use.

Maheshwari was very evasive about InstaMedia being piece mealed and sold off, saying (repeatedly) only that “Instamedia found a better home” and “It is still growing under a different leadership”. He points towards to a blog post from Gajwani on the Times Internet blog, which reads:

Instamedia - Led by Ankit Maheshwari, Instamedia focused on creating cost-effective content at scale. Despite a great team, a number of macro factors worked against us, namely Google’s increased shift away from new publishers. As a result, the model didn’t scale the way we hoped, and the business has scaled back from its initial goals.

In an SMS response to MediaNama, Gajwani said pretty much the same thing, also adding that with Google’s algorithm changes and ad market pricing, “the business had a number of headwinds”. Times Internet didn’t acquire any of the Instamedia properties, and Gajwani responded, saying that the since Instamedia is a separate company, and it sold the ones that weren’t creating value.” It appears that Times Internet didn’t see enough value in Instamedia to buy its properties. On why InstaMedia didn’t scale or why it was sold off, Maheshwari only said “Instamedia found a better home. That is my only answer.”

Status of properties

Apart from these properties, InstaMedia used to operate a bunch of properties:

AutoMotto (domainer page now)
CellphoneBeat (live and being updated)
Green Diary (live and being updated)
EcoFriend (domainer page now)
GizmoWatch (live and being updated)
BornTechie (redirects to GizmoWatch)
Techfemina (not updated since December 29th)
Hometone (domainer page now)
Homeqn (domainer page now)
The Design Blog (Blank Instamedia page)
StyleGuru (domainer page now)
CelebGuru (domainer page now)

The footer at Instablogs.com lists at least 17 properties in all, although Dr Prem’s LinkedIn profile (which lists him as MD & CEO of the InstaMedia Network), states that InstaMedia now has 25 properties.

On InstaMedia, Times Internet & Niche Blogs

Times Internet has been trying to seed content properties for a while now: we first heard about this as far back as 2009. Since then, it has launched a number of blogs – (GuyLife.com, HealthMeUpTechnoholik, Luxpresso) and has content portals like iDiva (Women focused) and ZigWheels (automobile). It also acquired another content portal – MensXP – recently, and tied up with Gawker Media for Indian versions of Gizmodo and LifeHacker.

The agenda here should probably be to bundle online and print advertising, and have a single brand for segments, across media properties, targeting segment specific advertisers, but we’re not sure how that is quite working out, or if that is the plan. Why? Because Times Internet has multiple properties across categories. And, frankly, why would BCCL build the Gizmodo and Lifehacker brands offline?

On InstaMedia, it was a flawed media publishing model to begin with. It ran a content shop: at one time (it had claimed) to work with 400-500 freelancers, churning out a mass of articles tweaked to attract traffic both through search and social media. This downfall highlights the clear and present danger posed by traffic based advertising models – because of which content just becomes about acquiring traffic, at times in a disingenuous manner.

Instamedia rode the SEO driven wave of long tail traffic from Google, and when Google (finally) wisened up to it and tweaked its algorithms, it sank.

Disclosure: Times Internet is an advertiser with MediaNama

  • Chithra TH

    Funny conversation on Twitter. Read on 

    “Anthony ‏@tonytongbramAnother victim of the Penguin/Panda RT @nixxin Times Internet Backed InstaMedia Sold; http://goo.gl/fb/ISrVY”  (linked to medianama’s this article) 

    “Ankit Maheshwari ‏@ankitind@tonytongbram Another victim of unprofessional journalism. Our traffic grew 2x after Google update. The guy was taking out personal vendetta.”

     I am not sure of large agenda if any, but the fact is Instablogs traffic took a big jump after panda. So is Luxpresso, their flagship for Times. Check out the traffic.

    • http://www.medianama.com Nikhil Pahwa

      So, alexa isn’t a great indicator of traffic. My points in response:

      On why Instamedia was sold off, Gajwani has clearly pointed towards Google’s shift away from publishers, and that they sold off properties which weren’t creating value. Ankit himself pointed towards Gajwani’s comment on why Instamedia was sold off. To most questions on Instamedia, his response was “Instamedia found a better home”. If Ankit differed with Gajwani’s opinion, he could have pointed out why. we would have updated.

      Yes it is true that I don’t believe in a traffic led model. That is clear to Ankit, and we have discussed this in the past. He chose a model, and his business died by it (it appears). Tomorrow, MediaNama could struggle for revenues and die, and I would take ownership of my choices, and say that I was wrong. My opinion on traffic led models is under “Our take” and he is free to disagree with it. 

      Adding an opinion doesn’t make this unprofessional. Off the record conversations with Ankit are off the record. Due process was followed under all circumstances and disclosures are in place. 

      Ankit did point out to me that some facts of this story are incorrect. I asked him to clarify on which facts are incorrect, and he said it doesn’t matter. I apologised to him, and said that we’d still like to get the facts right because we dont want to share incorrect facts with our readers. There was no response.

      Just because we don’t toe someone’s line or disagree with someone’s model, doesn’t make this unprofessional.

      • http://twitter.com/ankitind Ankit Maheshwari

        Nikhil, 

        Couple of questions?

        1. Would you deny that you mailed me in the morning with a very strong tone and gave me a call and you were extremely angry that we didn’t gave you the exclusive news, but instead sent it to all news outlet?

        The story you did followed shortly. 

        2. Did you took some help from professional online marketing person in arriving at the facts about the sites being penalised by Google Panda or any tweak on their algorithms? Or this is your own conclusion. 

        3. Did you researched in checking out the domains and sites you have mentioned are part of Instamedia?

        Instamedia, we had a great team. We were growing but could’t scale to the level we wanted. I have learned from my mistakes, team got reunited, Vishal Gondal is helping us again. I believe we have come out with a much better product. 

        Just because someone refuse to give you an exclusive lead … 

        “By the way, what have you done that’s so great?

        Do you create anything, or just criticize other’s work and belittle their motivations?”

        – Steve Jobs

        • http://www.medianama.com Nikhil Pahwa

          Ankit, 

          1. Our understanding was that I would wait for the deal to be completed, and then report on it, while you would ensure that I get first dibs on the story. Like I had mentioned, we don’t want to report on deals not completed because we don’t want reports to mess up deals. 

          No, I don’t deny that I was angry, but due process was followed in terms of the questions that you were asked, for an explanation on why InstaMedia was sold. You chose not to respond, and we have mentioned that in every instance.

          2. We don’t go to experts for their opinion. However, the decline of your network was attributed by your investor to a change in Google’s approach to publishers. Since you pointed towards his comment when I asked for why InstaMedia was sold off, this viewpoint was endorsed by you. You cannot endorse this opinion and then retract it. Thus, that is is your conclusion. I took that conclusion as a reference to Google’s search algorithm’s. In case that is an incorrect assessment of “Google’s increased shift away from new publishers”, please feel free to correct me.

          3. We checked sites that were supposedly a part of the InstaMedia network, based on our previous coverage. If there were mistakes then, they were not corrected by you then. They haven’t been corrected by you now. I would appreciate it if you could correct us. We don’t want to provide incorrect information to our readers, and are open to correction.

          If you want to share with us a correct picture of what happened at InstaMedia, we can update our story (though at this point in time, we might want to try and validate your claims).

          *

          On the Steve Jobs comment that you’ve mentioned: I’ve never claimed to do anything great. It is for others to judge my work, and I’m only interested in doing my work, not basking in any glory. There is no sense of entitlement here. I’m a critic, so if a story is not to your liking, I can’t help it. 

          Also, please note that I was personal neither in the post nor in my comment above.

        • http://twitter.com/ankitind Ankit Maheshwari

          Nikhil,

          Anyone reading this article and the comments can clearly see your intentions. The only reason you are reporting an old story (6 months), was that you were extremely angry because I didn’t gave you an exclusive lead.

          It’s your blog, you can write whatever you want, including the business models which you don’t understand.

          My only advice to you is stop blackmailing people to get exclusive leads. 

          And yes, I was not able to take Instamedia to the heights it deserved. The entire team, our investors and mentors showed great confidence in me for years and I failed. But I am extremely thankful and grateful to my existing team and Vishal to come again with me in this new venture.

          I am also extremely proud of our engineers and designers for building the Betaout platform in really tough times. 

        • http://www.medianama.com Nikhil Pahwa

          I have never blackmailed to get a story, never will. I don’t see how that is even possible, logically. I already had the story, but didn’t because it could have messed up your deal. 

          You’re attributing intent where none exists, and hurling unsubstantiable accusations. If all you want to do is throw mud, then this conversation is over.

          That said, we’re open to correction. If there are things that are factually incorrect, we don’t want to share incorrect information with our readers. Please feel free to email me those details.

      • naushin hashmi

         Hi Nikhil,

        instablogs (rechristened instamedia.com) was nothing but a spam media network which generated tonnes of rewritten junk content to milk adsense and when panda and penguin hit them they had no other option but to shut shops. It was a big blot in the world of online media, thank god it finally got shut or otherwise would have spammed the web with its stupid content written by cheap Indian content rewriters. I guess its founder Ankit has been one of the shrewdest spammers. I managed to have a chat with one of the founding editors of this network who told me that Ankit used to run a network of spammy adsense websites in Delhi before moving to a bigger spam model “instablogs” and having a a party till Google put brakes on it!!

  • Chithra TH

    My question is who is Dr. Prem. Does he exist? Or he is as spammy as instablogs? Justasking.