As one of the leading content website aggregators we might have some unique insights in the markets, be it from operating >20 websites in 10 countries together with renowned media publishers, our partnerships with various marketplaces and brokers, our co-founders like Olaf Schmitz, who was responsible for Amazon’s advertising partners in Europe, or industry experts we’re talking to on a regular level. Happy to share 5 trends and 2 non-trends we’re at TreasureHunter are seeing for 2023 in the Content Website Aggregation space, but as always, DYOR and YMMV (e.g. why we are declining about 80% of all offered Content Sites).
#1 Multiples will keep dropping
Since the start of 2022 we’re monitoring an ongoing trend of dropping exit multiples for assets in our sweet spot, SDE 100k+, both in the EU and the US market. This observation is in line with the experience of other professional buyers, such as Michael Bereslavsky from Domain Magnate, who’s mentioning monthly multiples at 30-35x SDE (Richard Patey reported on this in the Flippa ALT Substack alts.substack.com on November 2, highly recommended).
5 reasons why this trend will continue into 2023:
- Macro climate and rising interest rates, thus higher cost of debt…
- …at the same time re-emerging, low-risk investment options investors
- are leading to even fewer professional buyers, especially in the 6-digit range
- while a professionalization of buyers, similar to the Amazon FBA aggregator market, is structurally not to be expected
- in terms of supply, however, the number of on-market assets will remain relatively constant or even slightly increase, as the macroeconomic environment could force some asset owners to liquidate assets
#2 Off-market deals will gain momentum
Following on from #1, a stronger focus on off-market deals is the next logical step. If we consider content website aggregation as a Micro PE like venture, this step is indeed overdue as private equity is actively looking for deals on a regular basis. Buyers, who will evaluate and closely review every deal in the next few years due to, among other things, limited access to capital and the general market sentiment, start exploring assets beyond on-market to build a synergistic portfolio. Flippa has recognized this trend early on and launched Flippa off-market, a suitable product, which might see some improvements regarding the underlying data quality, but might become a hub for buyers in the future. Especially those, who don’t have some own data mining in place.
#3 Flipper Fred will become extinct while Strategic Sally & Portfolio Paul will be thriving
For EmpireFlippers personas Newbie Norm, DIY Dave and Flipper Fred, the outlook may look dark. Rising competition in the verticals, professional buyers, strategic investors as well as media players will continue to drive the expansion of the digital segment, which has been going on for years. To this end, the formation of synergistic portfolios, with all the associated advantages for these assets and all the disadvantages for any other market participants, will become more prevalent. This is precisely what can be observed in various thematic areas, such as finance with RedVentures or gaming with RS, and will continue to intensify. Buying a single content website without a dedicated M&A+tech+sales team and experienced management will become even less attractive, regardless of the price range. And according to EmpireFlippers data, 2/3 of buyers are already struggling with decreasing ROI, see https://empireflippers.com/digital-assets-roi-study/
#4 Retail investors will be able to invest in a diversified Content Website portfolio
For retail investors in particular, we paint a grim picture in terms of content website investments. But there will also be positive developments: Content websites and other digital assets will become an accessible asset class through partial participation, similar to startups, real estate, farmland, playing cards, sports cars, music royalties and many more. Started with EmpireFlippers Capital and the IPO of onfolio, now fueled by Flippa Invest, the trend will continue to gain momentum in 2023. In the future, small investors will have the opportunity to invest diversified in digital assets without having to buy a day job or jump into the cold water regarding operations. This may be an economically attractive alternative to an own investment for many newbie Norm, DIY Dave & Flipper Freds. It will be exciting to see whether platforms will create more solutions or whether operators will join forces or even start their own products. And what will come after that? A meta-platform for aggregators of digital assets, Hedanova-like?
#5 Alternative forms of ownership will emerge
The growth of portfolios on the one hand and decreasing multiples in a buyer’s market on the other hand will lead to the emergence and adoption of alternative forms of participation in the market, such as content licensing or minority investments. Sellers benefit from the existing portfolio, traffic, advertising opportunities, content synergies and many other components of the strategic partner aka buyer. The buyer, meanwhile, not only purchases an isolated asset, but also the management and thus the creativity behind the front end.
non-trend #1 Financing options will increase
In contrast to trends.vc, we do not expect financing options to improve in the prevailing market environment, particularly for retail investors. Revenue-based financing in general, and other non-dilutive forms of financing, will transition to, PE-like, paying closer attention to the management than the underlying, single asset.
non-trend #2 trust by proxy
Technical connections and structures will bring more transparency to the purchase of digital assets. At the same time, especially in the segment of content websites, a detailed due diligence cannot be replaced by a tech-based, cursory review. Not only because of the many individual moving parts of websites, but also, as Tiam, our CSIO, notes correctly: “M&A is a people’s business.”
One thing is for sure, 2023 will be a very exciting year. Beyond the topics mentioned, the emergence of larger buyers through M&A can also be a subject, as also happened with the FBA aggregators, as well as the rise of influencers in the industry (shoutout to Mushfiq Sarker), increasing networking or first (digital) conferences as well as OaaS as a hybrid between acquisition and external management.
If you have any questions around the trends or our approach on building content site portfolios feel free to reach out at any time:
About the author
Michael is Co-Founder & Co-CEO at TreasureHunter and Co-CEO at ever-growing, a leading European pubTech company in the product comparison market.