ContentNext 2.0: Life With The Guardian Media Group

This story was written by Rafat Ali.
We got scooped on the biggest story of our own company's life. Such is our life. Almost six years after our company started with paidContent.org, we have been acquired by Guardian News & Media (GNM), the news media division of UK-headquartered Guardian Media Group (GMG). Guardian itself is owned by the Scott Trust.

GNM publishes UK national newspapers the Guardian and the Observer as well as the Guardian.co.uk and Media Guardian. We will be part of Guardian Professional group, which is the B2B media division for GNM, and runs targeted sites such the MediaGuardian, as well as online data businesses and conferences.

This starts the 2.0 phase of our company ContentNext Media: we will remain a stand-alone business under GNM. This also marks a major expansion of Guardian's U.S. presence....it already runs the Guardian America website, focused on U.S. audiences. You can see all the formal details in the release below.

We were planning another round of funding and were not out shopping the company but when Guardian approached us, all the pegs fit into the right holes: a company that will help us scale, add to our existing portfolio of products, and most importantly, help keep "Our Essence of Being" intact. For our team, the biggest consideration was working with a media company known for its journalistic integrity, its long-term view of businessesand its international outlook in editorial coverage as well as business.

Personally, I am very excited to work with the likes of Carolyn McCall (CEO of GMG); Tim Brooks (MD of GNM); Alan Rusbridger (editor of The Guardian); Simon Waldman (the director of digital strategy and development at GMG; (who I have known for years and who actually first broached the idea of our sites being a part of Guardian back in 2003, when I used to live in London); Emily Bell, director of digital content for Guardian News and Media; and many others in the Guardian family worldwide. For a little symbolism, Guardian and I share Manchester as a birthplace.

Expect some very interesting things from us later this year, including continued expansion and deepening of our activities...I'll keep the rest on the inside for now.

Some major thanks are in order for everyone who has been part of this company, and believed in my somewhat naive quest when it started as a single blog meant to be an interactive resume for me, and helped make it a viable digital media business over the years:

Starts with my wife Najmia who hardly ever saw me for the last four years, and went with me through the company ups and downs along the way. Then Staci D. Kramer, our co-editor, EVP and employee No 1, who forms the bedrock of our journalistic reputation, and all our other journalists, current and past, who took our sites as a mission, and believed in what we were building. On the business side, our current CEO Nathan Richardson, who has only been with us for three months, but plunged into this head on and has been an "Energizer on steroids" for us.

To our sales team, who bring in the revenues and he sell our value to our advertisersand of course, to our advertisers who helped support and grow this business. To Tedd Rupp and our growing biz ev team, who have done a lot over the last year to grow our brand presence and partnerships. To our events team, which has helped grow our events in a big part of our business.

Thanks to our investors Greycroft Partners, especially Alan Patricof and Dana Settle, who believed in me and our business way before anyone else did, and have always treated us as a special businessand to our board, including Larry Kramer and Charlie Koones, who helped us with their invaluable independent perspective both in business and editorial. The of course our bankers at Mesa Global who helped us where it mattered most.

And, of course, thanks to all of you, those who have been along for the whole ride and those reading us now in so many different venues. Our ultimate owner is the Scott Trust but it's your trust that matters most.

On to 2.0

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For Immediate Release

Guardian News & Media to buy ContentNext Media

NEW YORK, July 11, 2008Guardian News & Media today announces a significant expansion of its US presence with the acquisition of ContentNext Media, the leading B2B media company which covers digital media, the entertainment and technology sectors, and publishes the influential paidContent.org.

Its founder and editor Rafat Ali, and CEO, Nathan Richardson, will continue to run the company as a stand-alone business.

ContentNext, based in Santa Monica, California, and New York City, is an online media hub delivering high-quality professional news, information and analysis to executives in the media, entertainment & technology sectors.  Its publishing network comprises the flagship paidContent.org, providing global coverage of the business of digital content; mocoNews.net, covering the business of mobile content; paidContent:UK, focusing on the UK and Europe; and contentSutra.com, covering India's digital content market. The company also runs a complementary events business bringing together business decision-makers and thought-leaders. More of the release after embargo...

The move marks a major step in Guardian News & Media's expansion outside of the UK. In the last nine months it has launched Guardian America, offering news and comment to a US audience, and forged a new commercial relationship with Reuters to sell advertising in the US. GNM, which publishes two leading UK newspapers, The Guardian and The Observer, and the guardian.co.uk network of websites, also owns a B2B division, Guardian Professional, providing publications, events and conferences to professional audiences in its core sectors of media, education, and the public sector.  ContentNext will form part of the Guardian Professional group.

Tim Brooks, Managing Director of Guardian News and Media, said: "We have long been admirers of Rafat and the business he has built, which is an indispensable resource for so many senior people in our industry.  So we are genuinely excited at the prospect of being able to help Rafat, Nathan and the team take ContentNext to the next level."

ContentNext was founded in 2002 by Rafat Ali and funded by Greycroft Partners in 2006.

Rafat Ali, the founder, said: "The Guardian's international reputation for editorial integrity and digital innovation make it the perfect partner to help ContentNext to grow its expanding platform."

Nathan Richardson, CEO of ContentNext, added:  "The strategy and ambitions of the Guardian are a terrific fit for ContentNext's plans to be the leading digital publishing platform for news and information to the media, entertainment and publishing industries."

"I have admired paidContent for years. Rafat and his team personify the values of editorial independence and integrity that are core to the Guardian. I'm very happy to welcome the company into the expanding Guardian Media Group," comented Carolyn McCall, Chief Executive of Guardian Media Group.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Guardian News and Media (GNM) is the award winning publisher of the Guardian and Observer newspapers and guardian.co.uk. Founded in 1821 the Guardian has a long history of editorial and political independence.  The Observer is the oldest Sunday paper in the world, founded in 1791 and was acquired by GNM in 1993.  GNM's network of websites launched in 1999 and Guardian.co.uk is now the UK's most popular newspaper website. For three consecutive years Guardian.co.uk has been voted the best newspaper on the web at the Webby Awards. The site recorded traffic of 18,323,824 monthly unique users in May 08 and maintained its market leading position in the UK with 7,664,856 unique users (audited by ABCe), the highest-ever monthly user figure for a UK newspaper site.  In the same month it attracted 4,977,591 unique users from the US. 

Guardian America, a section of the site tailored for its audience in the U.S and edited from Washington can be found at guardian.co.uk/America.

Unlike most media organizations which are owned by a proprietor or group of shareholders, the Guardian is owned by the Scott Trust, a unique form of media ownership in the UK, which secures the continuity and editorial independence of the Guardian, Observer and guardian.co.uk.

Guardian News & Media Limited is a division of Guardian Media Group plc, one of the UK's leading multimedia companies (http://www.gmgplc.co.uk). Its diverse portfolio also includes:
-- GMG Regional Media: the Manchester Evening News and its website, other regional newspapers in the North West and South of England, and the Channel M city TV station.
-- GMG Radio: a number of regional radio stations across the UK under the Real Radio, Smooth Radio, Century Radio and Rock Radio brands.
-- GMG Property Services: Vebra, Core Systems and CFP, providers of software to independent estate agents, and thinkproperty.com, the consumer-facing portal.
-- Trader Media Group: one of Europe's largest specialist print and online media companies, and publisher of the Auto Trader magazine and website. Trader Media Group is jointly owned by GMG and Apax Partners.
-- Emap (LSE: EMA) Communications: the B2B publishing, events and information business, also jointly owned by GMG and Apax Partners. http://www.gmgplc.co.uk.

For more information please contact:

Julie Taylor, Guardian Press Office, 0044 207 713 4087/Julie.taylor@guardian.co.uk
Patrick Wallace, Larkin Volpatt Communications, 619-255-8025 pr@contentnext.com


By Rafat Ali
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