List of Personal Finance Blogs that have Sold for $1 Million or More

There has been a poorly kept secret circulating among personal finance bloggers over the past few years. And with the publication of a Wall Street Journal story yesterday, the secret is out of the bag. So I thought I’d bring it until full focus today. And the secret is that several popular personal finance blogs have been sold to major corporations over the past few years for seven and even eight figure deals.

Here is a list of personal finance blog sales based on publicly available information:

PF BlogBuyerDate of AcquisitionPriceSource
Bankaholic.comBankrate Inc
(NYSE:RATE)
September 2008$11.9 million (plus $500k indemnification escrow)Bankrate Form S-1 (page F-44)
GetRichSlowly.orgQuinStreet, Inc. (Nasdaq:QNST)2009*UndisclosedWall Street Journal
Bargaineering.comBankrateJanuary 2010$3 million (plus possible $500k earn out)Bankrate Form S-1 (page F-34)
FiveCentNickel.comQuinstreet2010*UndisclosedWall Street Journal
MoneyBlueBook.comQuinstreet2010*UndisclosedWhois
TheSimpleDollar.comCut MediaDecember 2011UndisclosedThe Simple Dollar
ConsumerismCommentary.comQuinStreetOctober 2011UndisclosedWall Street Journal

A few things to note about the above table. First, the asterisks next to the dates indicate my best guess at the date of sale. I could not find a source to confirm those dates. Second, for moneybluebook.com, I’ve referenced the whois record that shows Quinstreet as the owner of the site. Third, as you can see, Quinstreet does not disclose the purchase price of the personal finance blogs it has purchased. Under SEC regulations, it must disclose acquisitions material to its financial statements taken as a whole. Apparently, it concluded that these acquisitions were not material. I firmly believe, however, that each of these sales were for at least $1 million and some perhaps as much as $5 million or more.

And that raises an important question–how in the world could a personal finance blog be worth so much?

The Value of a Personal Finance Blog

What do personal finance bloggers write about? They cover debt, credit, banking, investing, credit cards, retirement, and a litany of other topics related to money. Each of these topics relates to industries that are willing to pay large sums of money for marketing and online exposure. Any website that can rank well in search engines for keywords related to these topics can generate a lot of advertising revenue. And the sites that have sold to the likes of Quinstreet and Bankrate have done just that.

Will I Ever Sell the Dough Roller?

In the spirit of full disclosure, I have discussed the sale of my site to large companies in the past. But these discussions never went very far for one simple reason–valuation.

Let’s assume that a blog generates $100,000 a year in income. We’ll assume that the $100,000 is after expenses and after taking out the value of the time the blogger spent on his or her site. In other words, the $100,000 a year is pure profit. What is this site worth?

Buyers typically value websites based on a multiple of yearly income. So the big question is what multiple should be applied to a personal finance blog. And the answer depends on one critical factor–how well is the blogger monetizing his or her site.

Imagine we have two blogs each making $100,000 a year. Blog A makes that income even though the blogger has not maximized the potential of the blog. As a result, a buyer could come in, make some changes to the site, and immediately increase revenue. In contrast, the blogger behind blog B has done a great job maximizing the site’s potential revenue, such that a new owner could not easily increase revenue.

In this hypothetical, Blog A will sell for a higher multiple than Blog B, all other things being equal.

Now back to the real world. What I’ve found is that for a personal finance blog that is well monetized, the typical multiple is 2 times annual income. Note that I have no idea what multiple was used to value the above blogs; 2 times annual income is based on my own experience and research. And at that multiple, I would never sell my site.

When we evaluate stocks, one consideration is the P/E ratio (price to earnings). A typical P/E ratio of a large corporation might range from 10 to 20, although many companies trade at much higher multiples. At a P/E of 10, it will take an investor 10 years at current earnings to earn back the purchase price of the stock. At 2 times annual income for a blog, we are talking about a P/E ratio of 2!

In fairness, it’s not meaningful to compare the valuation of a large publicly traded corporation to a personal finance blog. Because these blogs depend heavily on search engine traffic, and because search engines are extremely fickle in how they rank sites, any business built on this type of traffic comes with substantial risk. But a valuation of 2 times earnings for a site generating a full-time income is, in my opinion, a non-starter. In fact, I turned down a verbal offer for this site a little over a year ago. Since that time, the site has earned almost the value of the offer.

Inspiration

I don’t know about you, but I find the above sales to be inspiring. Each of the bloggers behind the blogs worked hard, built great sites, generated presumably a full-time income for themselves, and eventually sold their sites for a lot of money. Most bloggers I know want to generate enough income to blog full time. The above bloggers show us that it can be done, and they deserve a lot of credit for what they have accomplished.

Now It’s Your Turn

If you’ve thought about starting a blog, the sooner the better. The most valuable blogs are those that have been around the longest. So starting a blog today is better than starting one tomorrow. And if you don’t know where to begin, check out my tutorial on how to start a blog.

I’ll be updating the above table as new sales occur and as I learn more information about the above transactions. If you know of sales that should be added to the list, let me know.

Photo Credit: ~jjjohn~

Published or Updated: April 23, 2012
About Rob Berger

Rob founded the Dough Roller in 2007. A litigation attorney in the securities industry, he lives in Northern Virginia with his wife, their two teenagers, and the family mascot, a shih tzu named Sophie.

Comments

  1. Money Beagle says:

    Well, if someone offered me a million bucks for Money Beagle, I wouldn’t think twice :)

    Since that’s not going to happen, I don’t really think too much about it. I love writing and I’m sure there is a price at which I would probably sell, but I also know that my blog isn’t fancy enough to probably draw that much interest. At least, I’ve never had an offer!

    I had heard rumors about some sites being owned by corporations and had my suspicions about a couple that are indeed on this list. I will be going and reading that article as I’d missed it until now.

  2. Evan says:

    I have had some discussion with companies (none as big as Quin) but the numbers never made sense. I can’t believe I missed that article!

  3. NoNamer says:

    The guy from money blue book used to post his networth on networthiq.

    Around the time he sold his site, his networth sky-rocketed – you can likely get a clue to the transaction price from that data…

    • DR says:

      Thanks for the info. Any idea how much his net worth increased?

  4. jim says:

    I’m surprised that a number of those blogs have sold. They mostly seem to stil have the original author still writing for them. I wonder if its always actually the same person or if they employ ghost writers? Keeping the original author on for a while to write may be part of the sales contract deal. Still I’m surprised that the numbers could be that high. I wonder if QuinStreet is working some sort of stock trade deal / profit share / employment contract with some of the blog owners or something? That could explain why they don’t have to report it.

    • J.D. Roth says:

      Hey, Jim. I can’t say for certain what’s going on at other blogs, but anything with my name on it at GRS is written by me. I would not have sold if that were not the case. I don’t use ghost writers. That said, I’ve been very public about my shift to additional staff writers, etc. over the past few years. So while I may not be using ghostwriters, most of the content at GRS is now generated by other people.

      • jim says:

        JD, First, congratulations on your success.

        Yeah I wouldn’t have thought you were ghost written. And the use of staff writers is very clear. None of the other blogs in question really seem ghost written either.

        That ‘ghost writer’ comment wasn’t meant to be an accusation or airing my suspicions or anything. I was kinda just wondering out loud about how blog sales like this might work really rather than thinking anyone of the blogs in question was ghost written. In fact now that I think more about it I doubt it would be easy to pull off a ghost writer on such a blog. Any given bloggers writing style is pretty unique and it would probably be pretty obvious to long time readers if the blogger were replaced by a ghost writer.

  5. DR says:

    Jim, it’s common for buyers to hire the bloggers to continue writing after the sale.

  6. The PF blogs that sell tend to be the ones that cover the same topics that the WSJ would cover in their PF section, so it’s a natural fit. I know I could write about those topics too, but my blog takes a much more personal angle. It will never be worth $1M, but it’s inspiring to think that anyone’s hobby could turn into something so profitable.

    • Consumerism Commentary has a pretty personal angle to it in terms of net worth updates and such. I wouldn’t discount myself too much if I were you. I’m also not sure I would plan on this happening though – these are top-notch bloggers we’re talking about.

      Do have to say I’m surprised by this – I had no idea some of these guys had sold their blogs!

  7. Huge high fives to anyone that’s been able to sell their blog- what a testament to creativity and innovation in the financial world to take bloggers seriously and value the quality of their work and a need for diverse forms to get information for consumers. Love it!

  8. Those are some compelling numbers. I’m not holding my breath for that kind of offer just yet though.

  9. funancials says:

    Inspiring numbers. The only offer I’ve received was for what I make in a month. How’s that for a PE ratio..

  10. I’m incredible happy for these guys. The ones that have sold attracted buyers because of their hard work and dedication. They deserve everything that they have made.

    I can only hope that someone would offer me anything near those numbers. I’ve had the odd offer here and there, but nothing that would make me shift.

  11. Glen Craig says:

    One thing that’s common about those sites – they have been around for a long time and they all are considered authorities. They also worked hard to get where they were.

    Indeed, they are an inspiration!

  12. I am really really happy for these buys but especially Flexo. Just last week I was telling another blogger that while he’s has the longest running PF blog his ego doesn’t match it, just a very down to earth guy and I appreciate that when seeking him out for advice.

    This post gives me serious motivation because I hope to one day be on a list like this!

  13. Pinyo says:

    I thought you sold…whew :-)

    The problem with comparing to PE is that we don’t really have book value. Without search traffic from Google, a lot of the personal finance blogs will just be a ghost town.

  14. It’s always inspiring to hear of the success stories. I think the key is to somehow establish your blog as a “brand” … something special in the niche that stands out as unique in the niche. That’s the hard part I’m still trying to come up with.

  15. Never I would have realized that this big blogs are now corporate controlled. Sort of eye opener. At least for next two years, I am not selling

  16. WOw! It’s nice to see what hard work can earn in a few years. I would like to get there as well but I couldn’t imagine selling my baby :)

  17. James says:

    @LaTisha, I like the idea of keeping my hands on the helm as well. Sadly, at some point, we all need to let go (hopefully with a perfectly timed exit strategy and a wheel barrow full of cash :) ).

  18. That’s quite inspiring and shows what you can accomplish by providing quality content over the course of a few years. I’ve always thought about creating one mega site, but instead decided to create dozens of smaller ones.

  19. Very interesting! I had no idea those websites were sold for THAT much money. A million dollars sure would beat the 50 cents I have rolling in from my Google ads. LOL.

    But I agree with Money Beagle. As exciting as this prospect is, I didn’t start my blog to make a million dollars. It was started with the intention to help others and pass on what I’ve learned about making and saving money.

  20. Shane says:

    It’s interesting, too, that most of these used the same investment bank to handle the deal.

  21. There is another angle that isn’t mentioned. If you have a site that is preaching things like spending below your means, saving cash for large purchases, it might be in the best interest of the “industry” to acquire it and slowly shift it to a credit card promotion site.

    Not that GRS or SimpleDollar do this.

    On my PF site, I tell people what they need to hear, not what corporations want me to hear. I’m banking that this will be what people want to read.

    Thanks for compiling this.

    • Rob Berger says:

      John, I’ve always felt that credit cards and sound financial planning can go together. My wife and I have used credit cards for years for their convenience, security, and rewards. Isn’t the key to not overspend and pay them off in full every month?

      To your point, however, you’re absolutely right. The valuation these sites get is due in large part to the credit card industry. And that’s true even if the blogger was not promoting cards before they sold their site (although most of them were).

  22. Michael says:

    I highly doubt The Simple Dollar sold for over a million. That guy is a sad sack who obviously can’t negotiate anything well, and his announcement of the sale was strangely worded and embarrassing.

  23. j. daniels says:

    Congrats to you J.D. Roth. I have a question for you, what about student loan websites? I have a generic domain name for my website. Its ranked 1# on google. Are companies looking to buy student loan websites?

  24. This is a great post to revisit. Now imagine what the sales prices would be if they were sold today with the S&P 500 at close to record highs 30-45% higher than in 2010-2011?

    A good follow up post would be about what they sellers are doing now.

    Cheers,

    Sam

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