Internet Brands, the owner of vBulletin, is being taken private for $640 million.

Besides vBulletin, Internet Brands owns a bunch of message boards and websites across different categories. Back before their 2007 IPO it appears they dealt primarily with vehicle and mortgage verticals. After their IPO they expanded to new categories such as careers and travel, using the IPO money to buy up lots of developed websites and domain names.

The exact benefits or reasons for going private are hard to tell. I would suspect it may have to do with the current availability of cheap credit and the owners/directors not having a very positive outlook on their long term future. On the other hand it eliminates the costs of regulatory compliance being a public company and allows a company to operate without making all their business activities public via SEC filings (its easy to demand more money when you know exactly what your prospective buyer has been paying out to everyone else.)

There are several other companies like Internet Brands that have a strong track record of purchasing the type of websites developed by self employed website publishers. The biggest mistakes I see publishers make are building out sites in the wrong vertical and treating their business activities as a part time hobby.

Even though companies such as Demand Media are heading the other direction and seeking an IPO, both events are good for website publishers because they publicly establish financial valuations that allow more investors to “understand” the business. Publishing content is very much a hot area and you can count on more copycat acquirers to help drive up the valuations of your internet properties. Also don’t be afraid to use your knowledge of how the business works to purchase, or short sell, companies that make money from content publishing (however understanding how to read company financials is just as important.)

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