Wikia, founded by Wikipedia’s Jimmy Wales and led by Gil Penchina (formerly of eBay), provides a place for wikis on things that aren’t appropriate for an encyclopedia — most often fan pages for things like a team, product, or TV show. It had raised $4 million earlier this year. Developing product-oriented content makes a lot of sense for Amazon. The sports stuff? Not so much.
Update: Penchina gave us a call to offer more detail.
The funding and the acquisition “were frankly very separate events; they just happened to come together at the same time,” said Penchina. However, he added, it would have been hard to pay for the ArmchairGM deal without Amazon coming in.
The ArmchairGM purchase is not just about sports, but about the collaborative blogging platform ArmchairGM had built on top of MediaWiki (the platform Wikia uses that was developed for Wales’ Wikimedia Foundation). ArmchairGM had created “a level of richness in terms of interface that we aspire to but hadn’t gotten to yet,” said Penchina.
The idea is to use the ArmchairGM technology to power time-sensitive vertical topics like sports, but also news and coupon deals. “We see Wikia as the library and ArmchairGM as the magazine rack,” said Penchina.