Freelance Journalism Site True/Slant In M&A Talks

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More M&A may be on the way in the freelance content space, although on a much more modest scale than yesterday’s Yahoo-Associated Content deal. True/Slant, a freelance news startup that encourages “entrepreneurial journalism,” was raising a second round but wound up with sales interest by so-called strategic buyers. We initially heard a deal was already done, but a source familiar with the situation tells paidContent that is not the case and that talks are ongoing. Asked about a possible sale, founder/CEO Lewis DVorkin said by e-mail that the New York-based company is merely looking to raise a second round. We’ve confirmed though that both possibilities are still in play. The company raised $3 million in August 2008 from Forbes Media and what is now known as Fuse Capital; we understand it has been looking for another $3 million to $5 million for this next round.

DVorkin left his post as SVP of *AOL* News and Sports two years ago to start True/Slant. In addition to his work at True/Slant, the news vet also consults for Forbes. (Tim Forbes is on True/Slant’s board.) Dvorkin told us May is shaping up to be True/Slant’s best month yet, with the site on track to hit 1.5 million uniques, according to *Google* Analytics, Quantcast data and T/S’s internal numbers.

A year after launch, True/Slant is in a familiar position for many small startups, especially those that have yet to turn cash-positive: it needs an infusion to grow or an owner who is a good fit strategically and wants to invest. Who might buy? The most obvious possibilities are the portals and news publishers. It wouldn’t cost *Yahoo* nearly the $90 million or so it’s reportedly paying to pick up Associated Content, a very different model (True/Slant likes to emphasize its reliance on humans, not algorithms), and it would seem to fit in with its new dual approach to mass and niche content. Fuse (formerly Velocity Interactive) invested in True/Slant when *News Corp* digital head Jon Miller was a partner; he is said to still be a supporter so could it have a fit there? Maybe, but News Corp (NYSE: NWS) has been divesting some of its digital stakes lately and this doesn’t seem like the best fit under the current model. AOL (NYSE: AOL) has been building its own original content across the spectrum. Etc.

Will there actually be a sale? Watch this space.

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