Microsoft's recent investment in Facebook, and the staggering $15 billion valuation that came with it, have once again brought to the fore the question of just how much internet media are worth. Much of the white-hot heat of the Web comes courtesy of Matt Drudge, the sometime muckraker who brought Monica Lewinsky to the world's attention. His Drudge Report is one of the most influential political-news sites on the internet as well as one of the largest drivers of traffic of any sort. But the site is still essentially just a one-man, one-page mix of gossip, hard news, and random esoterica. How on earth do you put a value on the thing?
Drudge wouldn't talk to us, but we sat down with three experts at media investment bank DeSilva & Phillips in New York-Reed Phillips, Kenneth Collins, and Jeffrey Dearth-to come up with some numbers.
METHOD NO. 1:
How many people read Drudge? Internet-traffic measurer ComScore counts 1.33 million unique visitors a month. How much is that traffic worth? DeSilva & Phillips estimates that Slate, another semipolitically oriented site, went for between $15 million and $20 million when the Washington Post Co. bought it from Microsoft in 2004. Slate had an estimated 4.8 million unique visitors a month, which means a value of roughly $4 a visitor. Apply that rate to Drudge's traffic and you get a baseline value of $5.3 million. Many Drudge readers, mind you, visit the site several times a day, which suggests that the method below might be a better way to go.
METHOD NO. 2:
Count Those Ads
Drudge could command advertising fees of $5 to $10 per 1,000 pageviews, according to DeSilva & Phillips. (Drudge's stats show he doesn't have the most valuable of audiences; 67 percent of visitors make less than $75,000 a year.) ComScore says the site gets about 60 million pageviews a month. If Drudge sold every page, he could earn $7.2 million annually; selling two-thirds would get him $4.8 million. Though many internet media deals are going for three to five times annual revenue, the bankers think two times seems more reasonable, given the site's size and relatively low rate of growth.
Value: $9.6M to $14.4M
METHOD NO. 3:
Ask His Mother What It's Worth
Drudge himself would most likely cite bigger numbers. His own running tally, posted on the site's front page, showed more than 462 million visitors in November. But there's a hitch: Those are pageloads, not pageviews. According to technology blog Valleywag, Drudge's site refreshes 20 times an hour.
If you go on Drudge and then walk away from your computer for an hour, your visit will count as 20 pageloads. Drudge's advertising agency recently claimed that the site enjoys 360 million monthly pageviews and 10 million unique visitors a month. That might lead Drudge to conclude that the site is worth anywhere from $40 million (using unique visitors) to $86.4 million (using ad revenue from pageviews).
Value: $40M to $86.4M
THE BOTTOM LINE
If you want to buy the Drudge Report, offer him $10 million. If he's even interested in selling, don't be surprised if he counters with $15 million or more. But don't pay a penny unless you lock the man in the fedora in to a long-term contract. Without him-and his sources-the site is worthless.
Value: $10M to $20M
Visit Portfolio.com for the latest business news and opinion, executive profiles and careers. Portfolio.com© 2007 Condé Nast Inc. All rights reserved.