Bright Station Ventures investor Dan Wagner is declaring a “win” after buying 10 fashion blogs from the former Shiny Media. Now he intends to place the sites alongside his social clothes shopper Osoyou.com plus another yet-to-launch website.
“This is an important win,” Wagner told paidContent:UK, hours after his four-week opposition of Shiny Media’s being placed in to administration last month led to Friday’s announcement he has acquired Catwalk Queen, Kiss and Make Up, Bag Lady, Shoewawa, Crafty Crafty, Dollymix, Trashionista, Shiny Gloss, Star Trip and Nollie.
Wagner is making the acquisitions through a new entity called Aigua. He says he wants to re-hire the writers and revealed he will ally the fashion blogs with Osoyou.com, the “drag ‘n drop” high street started with ex Emap Elan MD Dawn Bebe in which Bright Station has a £1 million investment, and TheBeautyQuest.com – a brand new site Wagner revealed will be “an Osoyou for beauty, health and healthcare”.
“They’re all separate entities at the moment,” he told paidContent:UK. “But they are synergistic, they have relation to each other, they are sister companies. For expediency, I wasn’t going to have one acquire the other, it would have been complex. I just wanted to get the deal done and put an end to this aggressive period.”
Chris Price and Ashley Norris, the remaining two of Shiny Media’s three co-founders, put the outfit in administration on July 21, citing “extremely difficult” trading conditions and an inability to secure better bank loan terms. They immediately reincarnated as Shiny Digital in what’s been described as a pre-pack administration. But – in a dispute that caused many of Shiny Digital’s systems to be locked down for three weeks – Wagner opposed the administration, arguing Shiny Media had been perfectly solvent, despite some writers’ claiming they had not been paid.
“I was contentious and put myself in a situation where I was able to negotiate,” Wagner told paidContent:UK. “The business should not have gone in to administration in my view. But it was put in administration legally, so there’s not much I can do about that. In this particular case, I’ve been able to leverage various things to get it done.” Bright Station partner Shaa Wasmund described Wagner as “formiddable” during the tussle.
For the 10 blogs, Wagner has made to the new Shiny Digital “a small payment but not a huge amount of money” – rather, it’s a personal settlement that takes the legal animosity between both sides off the table. He says the administration “upset” him and “didn’t need to happen” but, with the result, he’s emerged “quite well”. Wagner has picked his business partner Mischa Alexander as general manager of the new Aigua, with Wagner himself a non-executive director and some other appointees yet to be decided.
Now there are plans for resurrecting the blogs: “There’s a lot we can do to improve them … beyond just post-in blogs more in to destination sites. We want to expand the use of technology on there so that there will be doing recommendation and dynamic merchandising – so when a user is reading a post, using very sophisticated profiling technology, we’ll be using profiling to push particular products.” These advertising and affiliate arrangements will remain the prime income model, but the sites “may also develop in other areas”. The fashion segment is “thoroughly underserved”, Wagner says.
Shiny Digital is left with its forebear’s portfolio of tech and sports blogs, and its owners are still brainstorming the evolution of niche interest online indie publishing, after the “blogs” of 2004. Why did Britain’s most promising answer to America’s Gawker Media collapse, and why did Bright Station’s supposed $4.5 million investment in the company in 2007 actually turn out to be under £1 million?
“There was another investor behind the vehicle we used to invest in Shiny Media – that investor stopped funding,” Wagner tells paidContent:UK. “That didn’t result in its demise, that happened in 2007, the business has been fine actually. There’s been speculation that this lack of money coming in to to Shiny Media was the reason – that’s absolute nonsense.”