Well the BSJ subscriber numbers are in and after performing thorough due diligence, the Mergers and Acquisitions Department at BJBSJ is …
Having some background in valuation multiples, specifically with media companies, these subscriber numbers are pretty instructive. Bedard has professed a disdain for – and unwillingness to accept – VC funds. “New York money” he dog whistled. And in my estimation – that won’t be a problem for him.
Let’s take the midpoint for subscriber revenue and call it 420k. Ad revenue, given their maximum top end web traffic, and the general lack of sponsor/branding opportunities is likely a rounding error here and would be laughed at if brought to the table as incremental value. BSJ is roughly equated to an old guard media company like the very worthless Boston Globe. Of course their revenues are much smaller, as are their operating costs. This is not a digital media company with scale. The only path to growth is through subscriber acquisition which is challenging given the cost to acquire and the LTV of a subscriber. The ratio of a subscriber cost to LTV is, best case scenario is 1:1 for each dollar spent. And that is being generous.
Given all this, I’d peg them at a .3X multiple or 126K. Maybe The Athletic thinks they need McAdam, BRobb, Price, and Bedard. This would seem unlikely given their current slate of writers. It stands to reason a large percentage of Athletic subscribers are also BSJ subscribers, so it’s not a guarantee that the non-existence of BSJ grows The Athletic’s subscriber base. It seems likely Bedard has costs under control by now or the site would be dead. The numbers are certainly at a rate of survivability, given his cutbacks on travel. The reported pushback on reimbursing travel expenses would seem to underscore this point.
There is no path to glory here. Greg can continue to grind out a living and pretend he loves being his own boss, with all the associated headaches. But make no mistake – the only way he’s making it to Nantucket is if Felger gifts him a week in April and he has to take the storm windows off and stain the deck.