After a pretty quiet year news-wise, online syndicator Mochila has started ’09 with two relatively big deals: it has secured its third round of funding and is partnering with tech publisher IDG to create a personal technology news section for 44 newspaper sites. And on a smaller personnel note, Benjamin Chen, has moved up from chairman and CTO to become CEO of Mochila, succeeding Keith McAllister, who will remain on the board. Lastly, Velocity Interactive Group’s Jon Miller has also just joined Mochila’s board.
– Over $30 million in funding to date: Mochila’s third round was led by The Greenspun Group, a Henderson, Nevada-based investment firm that backs gaming and media companies, including the Las Vegas Sun daily newspaper, which has also taken a majority stake in the company. The amount was not disclosed. The company has raised over $30 million since 2006, and these new funds come at key time for New York-based Mochila. As the economy has turned worse, it finds that its aggregation services are suddenly more in demand. I spoke with Mochila’s Chen about what the funding and its timing means for the company. “We have worked with Greenspun before and we see them as a strategic investor,” Chen said. “It’s difficult for traditional venture capital firms to issue money to new and even existing firms. But with Greenspun, which has been around since 1950 and has a portfolio made up of real estate, travel and other businesses aside from media, we feel very comfortable weathering this current economic storm.”
– Aggregation comes of age: Getting major publishers to sign on to Mochila’s network has sometimes been a challenge, said Chen and Carolyn Bekkedahl, Mochila’s president and chief revenue officer. But the concept of syndicating content has finally caught on with large media companies. IDG already embraced the idea, when it opened its ad network to outside publishers nearly a year ago. In its arrangement with Mochila, IDG will have its content — from mag sites belonging to PC World, Macworld, Computerworld and GamePro — placed on newspaper websites that Mochila works with. The first sites include Tampa Bay Online, latimes.com, chicagotribune.com, and denverpost.com. But don’t expect IDG to bring its other ad network partners to Mochila. The deal is meant to broaden IDG’s tech-centric readership to a more general consumer audience. As Peter Longo, CEO, IDG Syndication and Network, told me: “We selected Mochila because they provide an existing distribution network for IDG content and offer a superior technology for building, customizing and serving our syndicated news and information. The purpose of syndication is to deliver IDG content to new audiences and to bring readers back to our sites so IDG TechNetwork sites will not be part of this initiative.”