Were Techmeme and Sphere too greedy?

by Mathew on September 14, 2007 · 12 comments

Kara Swisher at All Things D reports that Yahoo has acquired a blog aggregator — or “meme-tracker” — called Buzztracker for the bargain price of $5-million or so. Not a bad payout for a site that appears to have been founded and run by a couple of guys. Co-founder and CEO Alan Warms, who is a friend of VC Fred Wilson’s, becomes general manager of Yahoo News.

I have to confess that while I have heard of Buzztracker, it seems like a distant also-ran in the meme-tracker game. I check Techmeme.com religiously because it is by far the best (most timely, least spam-filled, most efficient at finding new blog posts that are on topic, etc.), and also check Tailrank and Sphere from time to time, but have never paid much attention to Buzztracker. And I don’t think I’m alone in those habits.

Which raises the question: Why did Yahoo buy Buzztracker and not any of those other sites? It’s possible that Yahoo isn’t all that bright, and just picked the first meme-tracker with a cute name, or figured that $5-million is about what Terry Semel blows on the corporate jet every year, so what the heck.

Or it could be that Alan Warms struck someone at Yahoo as a good GM for Yahoo News, as Kara suggests in her story (the head of Yahoo’s media group apparently reconnected with Warms at the D5 conference but says he has known him for years). But from what Kara says, it also sounds as though some of the other players in the space wanted too much money:

“Yahoo had looked at other better-known competitors in the space, such as the San Francisco-based Sphere… but those trendier (and more popular) startups apparently had too lofty valuations.”

Of course, it’s possible that some of them jacked the price up because they didn’t want to be acquired by Yahoo, but didn’t want to say no :-) The bigger question, of course, is whether Yahoo plans to integrate meme-tracking into Yahoo News somehow, or just keep it as a sideline the way Netscape is with Propeller. TDavid takes a look at how Buzztracker stacks up to Google News here.

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