CNN may buy Mashable for $200M

The social media and news site would add clout to the news outlet's tech coverage.

By InvestorPlace Mar 12, 2012 10:46AM

By Tom Taulli

While Time Warner (TWX) may have stodgy print media roots, it is doing everything it can to evolve into a digital media powerhouse. 

It's latest move is a potential $200 million buyout offer for social media site Mashable, which would be rolled into the CNN family of websites.

The edgy tech, social media and business news blog could really beef up the organization's news coverage of 21st-century topics, but the deal is not without risks.

Founded in 2005, Mashable has become a well-respected media platform, covering a broad array of topics, including business and entertainment.

But don't think this is a sure thing. Just look at the troubles AOL (AOL) had when it purchased Techcrunch a couple of years ago. Since the acquisition, many of its top bloggers have left and traffic has trailed off. AOL owns the Techcrunch name but very little else of the property.

What's more, the feud between TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington and the Huffington Post's Arianna Huffington over the launch of Arrington's venture capital fund CrunchFund has been fodder for endless juicy stories. Arrington left AOL after critics raised concerns about potential conflicts of interests in his plans to run the fund and continue to write for the site. The founder and CEO of Mashable, Pete Cashmore, may be eager to play CNN's games -- or, then again, maybe not.

There's also AOL's continued gaffes with its local news platform,, that show the problems of integrating multiple blogs into a core network of sites.

Beyond that, however, the buyout plan is at least an encouraging sign that CNN understands the risks and challenges of 21st-century media operations. It realizes it needs to go beyond television programming. For example, last year it purchased Zite, which has a news reader for the Apple (AAPL) iPad. CNN has also been aggressive with the use of social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook.

And if the company can manage things right, a deal for Mashable would certainly be a great way to boost things.

Whether the deal is finalized, however, is up to CNN and Cashmore to work out. And whether it bears fruit is a question that will take years to determine.

Tom Taulli runs the InvestorPlace blog IPO Playbook, a site dedicated to the hottest news and rumors about initial public offerings. Follow him on Twitter at @ttaulli.

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