The wine website and publishing platform, JancisRobinson.com created by leading British wine critic and Master of Wine, Jancis Robinson has been sold to the US-based online publisher Recurrent Ventures. "Considering my age and the need to secure an even better future for the website and to further improve it, I am happy to announce that we have found the ideal partners to lead JancisRobinson.com to its next chapter", Robinson says on her website.
Robinson, an early user of the internet, launched the site in November 2000, after refusing a number of offers from media companies and investors during the dot.com boom of the previous five years. A paid-subscription model, called ‘Purple Pages‘ was introduced just over 12 months later, though parts of the site remained – and still remain - free. Podcasts and video clips followed in 2007 and 2008 respectively, and the contents of Robinson’s award-winning Oxford Companion to Wine and thousands of her tasting notes were incorporated into the site, as well as a forum. The site also includes adapted versions of articles Robinson writes for the Financial Times, and now boasts the maps from the World Atlas of Wine which Robinson co-writes with its creator, Hugh Johnson. There are also tasting events. An annual Purple Pages subscription costs £85 ($117)
To generate the material required for the site – including wine recommendations and two new articles per day - Robinson has also assembled a team that includes several Masters of Wine situated across the world, While all the material is in English, there is also a growing selection of pieces in Chinese and there are now subscribers in 82 countries.
Hardly surprisingly Robinson admits to finding the technical and administrative perspectives of what is now a substantial business increasingly hard to handle.
Recurrent Ventures, the new owner, is a three-year-old venture-capital business that seeks to ”build, cultivate and scale transformative digital media brands.” One of its founders, Matt Sechrest previously worked in software development in Silicon Valley, while the other, Andrew Perlman has a background in patent licensing and in intellectual property and film rights.
The portfolio of online titles their business owns includes publications such as TheDrive, CarBibles, BobVila.com, Kitchenistic, Task and Purpose, Popular Science, Outdoor Life, Field & Stream and Saveur. The price paid for any of these – or JancisRobinson.com has not been disclosed, but the titles it had already acquired before this transaction are estimated to have been worth $150-250m.
When talking about previous acquisitions to Digiday, Perlman stressed the need to maintain each brand’s existing talent, and the aim to give the editorial teams “a platform and tactics to boost what is already happening.”
However, given Jancis Robinson’s strict avoidance of advertising and sponsorship and commercial relationships within the industry, it will be interesting to see how Recurrent manages to balance their new acquisition with the “programmatic advertising and affiliate e-commerce” that they see as “top focuses for revenue for the company.” Of similar interest may be the effort devoted to product licensing it is making with other titles in the group.