What an extremely odd sale. I don't know how much Mike got (hopefully plenty) but this has to be one of the most unlikely deals since the dotcom boom.
The Inquirer is very much the creation of Mike Magee – short, tight news clips and throw-away pieces of gossip usually covering a niche part of the IT market.
It is very un-VNU – a company which likes to think of itself as a reliable solid news source but in reality pumps out little more than cheap rehashes. The Inquirer often gets solid news stories, and blantantly steals the remainder, notwithstanding the liquid-lunch insights.
VNU is also a tight-arse company that only buys to swallow – and Mike knows this, which is why it is such a strange deal. I only hope the reason behind it isn't a faltering of Mike's health.
As for VNU, presumably it thinks it can turn the stories The Inq finds into more acceptable versions. It is a very odd belief. The Inquirer will not follow VNU's ridiculous culture and if VNU tries to impose itself – which it inevitably will – it will find all the contributors, who are freelance, will just walk away.
Mind you, VNU's online strategy has always been virtually defined by its incompetence. It pooled all its different magazine and newspapers – which include(d) Computing, PC Week, PC Dealer, CRN, Computeractive, Personal Computer World, IT Week and so on – into one completely unheard of news website at www.vnunet.com. It was idiocy on a grand scale.
Not only that but it then pooled most the mag and newspaper reporters together, using it as an excuse to fire yet more staff, and resulting in even more bland and repetitious reporting. And its obsession with not paying journalists any money means that it can only ever hire inexperienced, young reporters.
Vnunet has actually done quite well this year but considering VNU is one of the UK's leading computing publishers, its page impressions are laughable.
The best explanation for the purchase of The Inquirer as I see it is that VNU management has decided that the online portal is the future of the business and so it has done its traditional tactic of putting its ruthless publishers under enormous pressure to hit daft targets.
Buying The Inq will give the publishers the right to claim an extra two million hits a month, and possibly pick up bonuses in April. Why did Mike sell? Hopefully because the money was enough for him to think “fuck it”.
Mike will up and leave as soon as he's not happy. And he'll have the funds to start afresh, plus, possibly, a nice nest-egg. I'm tempted to head to the Clachan to see the celebrations. Although it's already 5pm so I know I'm already three hours too late.