Consummating MikeT 07 Dec 2005

18 comments Latest by theCreator

As promised, many of the posts I'll do this month will discuss my experience with the M&A process, specifically at CNET. I'll start with a real world example by announcing CNET Networks' acquisition of dating site today.

Over 6-months ago I called Ben Brown of to see what was happening with the site, and understand why he felt the world needed a site for "hot nerdy girls and indie rock boys with glasses", and if the site was successfully delivering on its promise of helping people "meet interesting people". I will tell you, I was a little nervous about the call, because looking at Ben's Consumating profile, he describes himself as an "Internet Rockstar" and there's a picture of him licking Malcolm Gladwell. These are usually the tell-tale signs that the entrepreneur is a complete ego-maniac or a bit crazy. Anyway, within minutes of talking to Ben, I realized that he has a great combination of confidence, experience and a fantastic sense of humor that immediately makes you like him. The rest of the team felt the same way after meeting him. We knew he would be a great fit for the organization. More importantly, he truly cares about the Consumating cause, and making sure the people who sign up for the site find a cool place to hang out and actually meet people. Consumating is about something, and something he cares about a lot - helping people meet people where they can make a meaningful relationship around the things they like, not just the statistical matching of their profile.

So why did we buy Talent, brand, content and community. We truly believe that Consumating has the ability to be a fantastic brand for our 18-30 year old audience, and both our users and marketer customers will receive great value from the community experience. CNET cares very much about these traits, and we always try to find the right combination of talent, brand, content and community in each of our businesses- whether built or bought. Over the last few years, you may have noticed that our brands have really embraced their audience and increased the level of community offerings in their sites (See:, Gamespot,,,, Webshots,, for examples).

So this is a little insight into why we have bought a small, innovative company in the dating and people connecting space. You will notice that there was no mention of tagging, Web 2.0 or other hype, er, feature-based items that drove this purchase. has these things, and uses them very effectively to create a unique (but easy) way to find new people. How many other sites can help you find girls into comic books, PHP and Wilco in the Chicagoland area this easily? The point is that Ben created something of value for his users, and we valued that. I believe Ben would tell you that he chose CNET as a home for Consumating because we can help him scale, give him more resouces and help him nuture and grow the brand and the community. Short version: our visions lined up, and we believe Ben and team are the right people to help us deliver on it.

Please check our Ben's message about the acquisition to his users here. Look forward to your comments.

18 comments so far (Jump to latest)

Jamie Tibbetts 07 Dec 05

None of the Consummating links are working. They’re all redirecting to “www2” which doesn’t seem to be working. Yikes.

Ben Brown 07 Dec 05

This is probably just cached DNS, unfortunately. Keep trying!

Nosey 07 Dec 05

Everyone is wondering, so someone has to ask - any ballpark dollar figures on the deal?

Sam 07 Dec 05

I’m curious as to how you identified as a potential acquisition and how you made the initial contact. Did you just pick up the phone or fire up Thunderbird and drop them a line asking about their business?

Tatum 07 Dec 05

Great question Sam, and it will be the focus of my next post. We identified Consumating as a candidate through looking at the social media market, and identifying brands and services that we thought had great user/marketer potential. There are tons of dating sites, and tons of social networking sites. What we thought set Consumating apart from the others was its sense of brand, focus on a certain audience and a clear vision of “what it was about”.

Per my post, once we identified Consumating as an interesting company, we sent an introductory email.

More on this in bigger post…

Sam 07 Dec 05

I’ll look for the detail in the next one. I’d also be interested to know if you’re casually in touch with several other entrepreneurs on the web before getting to the decision to send that introductory email.

Don Wilson 07 Dec 05

I don’t care for CNet anymore because they snatched up a business partner of mine (while working on a site together), and left our site ( in the dust. They own the site and won’t give it back, nor even take care of it.

And another note, if you could tell the author of the domain at hand to turn the font size down just a tad that would be great. ;)

niblettes 07 Dec 05

This reads like a brand-awareness press release for Cnet.

My spidey sense tingled with some of the guest blogger intros—looks like it was right.

I mean really, how is the conclusion that “our visions and people lined up” a valuable insight into today’s internet M&A world? I’ll tell you how: its not an insight, its a commercial.

Vince 07 Dec 05

Niblettes is absolutely 100% spot-on with his observation about this post.

Whereas I’ve been enjoying the run of guest authors (most notably, Sam Brown’s clever illustrations), this particular entry felt nakedly disingenuous.

Morley Zhi 07 Dec 05

“Increased the level of community offerings”? Are you joking me? CNet _ruined_ by adding bloat and _removing_ much of the community. This claim is as puzzling as it is laughable.

Tatum 07 Dec 05

Niblettes and Vince,

I understand why you would feel this way, and expected such a reaction. But I would ask you to point to the last time you saw a public company, specifically the corporate development lead, go into such detail on why they made an acquisition. Am I fan of and excited about buying it? Of course, or I wouldn’t have done the deal! I tried to be as factual as possible to give some insight on why we did the deal, and I *hope* that came through. I promised to talk about M&A rationale from my company, and this is what I did here.

The other thing I’ll tell you is that this wasn’t approved by legal, PR or any other group in the company. These are my thoughts. You should also expect that the 37Signals gang wouldn’t appreciate me using their blog for press announcements. I announced this hear because I thought it was relevant to a thread that comes up here often: are Web 2.0 companies worth something? In the case of Consumating, I was saying yes.

Hope that addresses any of your concerns about the quality of posts on SvN.

Tatum 07 Dec 05

Don and Morley Zhi,

I’m sorry you don’t think what we have done with Guzzlefish and TVTome have been improvements. With Guzzlefish, we are still working on a plan there. We have moved many of the collection features to Gamespot, and Most of the feedback we got from our users at each of those sites is that they really enjoyed the improvements. It makes sense, as David Snider (the founder of Guzzlefish) runs

Also, has done extremely well post our integration, at least in terms of users and usage. That usually indicates an improvement, but only more time will tell for sure.

It is always so difficult to adequately please some of the old user base, and you just have to plan on losing some as the founders opt for growth through acquisition. It reminds of these debates I was in a LONG time ago that revolved around whether any of The Replacements albums after signing with Sire (major label) were any good. At the time, I was absolutely sure they were not. Looking back, Tim and Please to Meet Me were two of their very best. Don’t Tell a Soul and All Shook Down were not high points, but Chris Mars had already checked out and…. Another forum for this one.

niblettes 07 Dec 05

If you suspected some people might feel your post was an a brand awareness ad, then why did you post it as-is?

And what “detail” or “insights” did you provide? Let’s summarize:

Paragraph 1: Let�s talk about my M&A experiences

Paragraph 2: We just bought Ben Brown�s company. At first I thought he was just another internet flake—but boy was I wrong! He’s confident, funny, passionate and he cares!.

Paragraph 3: We leveraged win-win brand synergies to maximize our value networks. And hey! Check out our other great brands here, here and here!

Paragraph 4: That was just a short insight, and look we didn’t use any buzzword2.0s, so you know we’re old-school serious about business.

Forgive me for being so obtuse, but I didn’t see anything resembling an insight. What I saw was slick, well executed textbook PR copywriting.

You asked where else one could find this level of detail from a public company on the M&A rationale? Well I found very similar details in a merger press release I randomly selected from Yahoo. Here�s just a taste:

�Tribeca gains access to Kaplan’s worldwide reach and resources. The impact for Tribeca will be significant through an ability to grow more quickly while expanding its offerings.”

Compare with what you wrote:

“Brown chose CNET as a home for Consumating because we can help him scale, give him more resouces and help him nuture and grow the brand and the community”

Don�t disrespect the intelligence of folks online: it�s like taunting happy fun ball.

Ernie Oporto 07 Dec 05

Your paths are showing…

Warning: Can’t connect to local MySQL server through socket ‘/var/lib/mysql/mysql.sock’ (2) in /var/www/sites/ on line 6
Error: Cannot connect to the database.

8500 08 Dec 05

I’ve been a fan of Ben Brown since his days. Congrats!

Alana Post 08 Dec 05

I’m not a fan of the current acquisition-happy relationship between big and little companies. Like Paul Graham says in his article ‘Ideas for Startups’, “success for a startup approximately equals getting bought.” There’s too much money and not enough common sense going into these buyups, and I’m leery of the enormous conglomerates that are emerging (and as someone already observed, leaving in their wake a lot of ghost sites inaccessible to those who originally wanted passionately to develop them).

If this entire seemingly bottomless goldmine wasn’t male-dominated, and today’s “just a few white male 20-30 year old friends helping each other out” is tomorrow’s Enron, I’d probably be less disillusioned.

In addition, I’ve had a profile on Consumating for some time now and spoken to many fellow New Yorkers who do as well, I think it’s an utterly useless community site, and a horrible dating site.

fans from d erc 08 Dec 05

congrats ben!!

roland & fern

theCreator 22 Jan 06

I don’t get it