By Tyler Callister
Bay Area company Six Apart announced on Sunday that it has sold LiveJournal to Russian media company SUP (pronounced “soup”). The sale stirs up old questions about LiveJournal’s ability to stay afloat as it competes with massive social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook.
Launched in 1999 by then-19-year-old Brad Fitzpatrick, LiveJournal pre-dates MySpace and Facebook, and is partially responsible for initiating both the blogging revolution and social networking revolution. Now, according to the Associated Press, comScore statistics show 72 million U.S. users visited MySpace in October, 32.9 million visited FaceBook, and just 3.9 million visited LiveJournal.
In a telephone interview, Six Apart CEO Chris Alden said that the sale of LiveJournal was...
in the best long-term interest of the LiveJournal service, and he seemed optimistic about the service's potential for growth and progression. “SUP clearly has the passion and purse to invest in LiveJournal going forward,” he said. “We feel frankly that SUP is going to have more time to invest in it than we do.”
Alden also made it clear that the sale of LiveJournal was not an attempt to get rid of an unprofitable piece of property, saying that it was in fact very profitable for Six Apart.
SUP made a deal with Six Apart last year to manage LiveJournal’s Russian counterpart, LiveJournal.ru. Since then, the Russian word for “LiveJournal” has become synonymous with the Russian word for “blogging.” “Who better than a Moscow-based company to... want to grow LiveJournal, which is such a giant in the Russian internet landscape?” Alden said.
The amount LiveJournal was sold for was not disclosed and the only publication to suggest a figure was the Russian paper Kommersant who said it was sold for close to $30 million. However, the paper did not name its source, and neither SUP nor Six Apart have confirmed that figure.
LiveJournal and Six Apart, despite their communitarian reputation, have gotten a lot of flak from online media in recent years. Wikipedia (which, by the way, owes some of its existence to the pioneering of LiveJournal developers) has several sections outlining criticism of LiveJournal. Tech blog Valleywag has said that Six Apart's management was too far stretched to handle LiveJournal. Another blogger, Dave McClure, speculated that Six Apart is flat lining and ought to be sold to a bigger company. The blogger W.B. Mook, said that the sale of LiveJournal to SUP, “really makes LiveJournal seem like The Simpsons … all but the most hardcore fans are praying for it to just be fucking over.”
But one thing is certain: LiveJournal is holding on to a strong niche market among social network users by offering a blog-based format rather than a profile-based format. While MySpace often gobsmacks you with unwanted music and video, dancing advertisements, and general cutesy mayhem, LiveJournal is a much simpler, cleaner-looking site. “It’s a lot more writing heavy and content focused rather than just photos or small bits of things," LiveJournal Product Marketing Manager Krissy Teegerstrom said.
Users do have the ability to embed photos, videos and music into their LiveJournal entries, but LiveJournal Product Manager Kimmy Nguyen said there's generally an "unwritten rule" that users don't "like clicking over to somebody’s LiveJournal and having music automatically load and stuff flash at you."
As for speculation that Six Apart will or should be sold, Alden said. “We’re not selling the company. ... There’s no basis in that speculation.”