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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.

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:

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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.

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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

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