European News: TechCrunch US reports that Six Apart has sold LiveJournal, which it acquired in January 2005, to Moscow-headquarted SUP for an undisclosed amount. SUP had acquired licensing rights in October 2006 permitting them to manage LiveJournal in Russia, where the platform dominates the blogosphere. Six Apart now plans to focus on its three core brands of Vox, TypePad and MoveableType. Acquired in 1999, it’s fair to say LiveJournal never really fitted into the Six Apart world and although it has 14 million accounts overall, unique visitor and page view growth has been static for the last year, so presumably SUP got it at a discount.
SUP was founded in the summer of 2006 by an international management team with Russian seed capital and has a portfolio including LiveJournal.ru, Championat.ru (one of the top two sports news and entertainment services in the Russian internet business), +SOL, a media sales house which acts as SUP’s internal commercial department and sells online advertising for a number of Russian and international websites (Yahoo!, Last.fm, The Times, among others) and Victory S.A., a full-service online advertising agency.
I was chatting to a UK-based tech investor with an interest in Russia recently who basically said that the size of the Russian online market is now big enough for it to be self-sustainable, a bit like China. According to data released by comScore recently, Russia had the fastest growing Internet population in Europe in the past year, increasing 23% to 14.6 million unique visitors in September 2007 or 6.5% of the total European online audience of 226.7 million. The Russian online advertising market was valued at $151 million in the first half of 2007, up more than 70% from the same period in 2006, based on data from Discovery Research Group.
As a result there is little interest in outsiders for capital or, indeed, for employees. If you can build a billion dollar business by selling in your home market why bother with those westerners, eh? Evidently at Six Apart the feeling was mutual.