Marketplace Wanted; Web Site for Sale

There have been several attempts (some successful) to sell web 2.0 sites on eBay. Usually, these are from startups that have thrown in the towel for one reason or another and have met with varying degrees of success. Realistically, there are many problems with selling such an asset on eBay, unless you're really looking for little more than what the domain's worth.

Ryan Carson attempted to sell a mature money-making site via blog. In his case, the company wasn't calling it quits, but rather wanted to focus and (I'm guessing) move to what they were more interested in. I'm not sure how that ever worked out, but his approach was refreshingly open and honest.

Which is not the way "legitimate" companies do these things. For some reason, it usually requires investment bankers, personal relationships, and NDAs. Or maybe that's just to sell a web company, as opposed to a web property. In which case, there's really no established way to sell a web property.

For some reason, putting out the "For Sale" sign tends to lower the perceived value of this type of asset. I mean, if it were worth anything, you wouldn't want to sell it, right? People would at least have to come knock on your door.

I'm not sure that logic makes sense. I mean, if you want to sell a piece of property, you can legitimately list it as for sale without looking desperate and/or amateur. Indeed, most pieces of property—be they real estate, virtual real estate, what have you—are for sale at some price. Especially if they're owned by a for-profit business.

The reason there are systems in some industries to announce this fact is because it would be terribly inefficient for those in the market to buy to go knock on the doors of everyone who may be willing to sell. And, indeed, listing something as for sale is a flag that the owner is likely more motivated than average. The reason they are motivated does not necessarily reflect on the asset. It often more has to do with personal and/or business needs.

This is all by way of defending the fact that I've now announced publicly that we're looking for a new home for Odeo (a euphemism for we want to sell it). The schadenfreude may now reign down, but that doesn't seem like a reason not to do so. (I've already admitted how Odeo screwed up.) The Internet is about making commerce more efficient (among other things), and it seems silly to not spread the word as efficiently as possible that we're motivated to divest ourselves of this asset. I'm certain it's worth more to another company than it is to us. The site has more traffic than many venture-funded startups (and most podcasting sites), and there are a bunch of people doing things in podcasting. We're just choosing to go a different way.

If there were a more fluid marketplace for web properties (There are attempts, of course, but they don't quite feel...right.) I would not just be happier as a seller, in this case, but as a buyer in others. There are probably a lot of things that the owners can't make work, or aren't into, because of personal or company situations, that we could bring a lot of value to and make part of our strategy. And I'm sure the same is true for other companies.

Anyway, we don't have that, so I made a blog post. Maybe that's all that's necessary. Whatever happens, this will be an interesting experiment.