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Going Big with Small Digital Publishers

Brian Fitzgerald has the unenviable task of telling media entrepreneurs their businesses will never be hits. And then he presents them with an offer: Join us.

That’s the corporate strategy for his digital media conglomerate, Evolve Media. The company was founded as Gorilla Nation Media in 2000 and had its biggest hit in 2012 when it sold its female lifestyle site to private equity firm Great Hill Partners for a nine-figure sum.

Evolve buys up struggling media outlets, cuts costs and then places the companies under its male and female lifestyle media brands: Totally Her and Crave Online. The company has acquired a total of 50 sites and plans to acquire up to four more by the end of the year.

Legacy media companies are not interested in small acquisitions, Mr. Fitzgerald says, leaving sites with low-seven-figure annual revenues but still losing money with nowhere to go.

Mr. Fitzgerald spoke to The Information about the tough landscape for smaller media sites, why programmatic ads have hurt them in particular and why taking venture money in a bid to grow quickly (or “move fast” as Facebook would say) might not be the best idea.

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