Business Aggregators Hunt for “Digital Treasure”

For investors and the “big business” they foster, aggregation is no new trend. Corporations have been buying up smaller entities for years. Most recently, this business move is exemplified by firms like Thrasio–a team that buys and aggregates ecommerce businesses.

Furthering this concept, some aggregators have begun buying pieces of the internet that generate passive revenue. The most recent example of this concept is a startup called TreasureHunter–a firm that acquires, operates, and grows content websites. This team is betting that “digital demand aggregation” is the future of online content as digital content quality increases, website values grow, and competition online heightens. 

How Do Content Websites Make Money?

Individuals’ trust in mainstream media is at an all-time low. Instead, the average person finds information via independent industry experts. Notably, this trend has driven the growth of entrepreneurial journalists, chefs, travel experts, and others who deliver helpful content. By delivering truthful information, these individuals are generating revenue from display advertisements, affiliate marketing, and cost-per-click deals on their website.

Currently, 80% of ecommerce advertisers thrive off affiliate partnerships with content websites. As ecommerce continues to thrive, there will be a consistent need to stimulate sales with online content. Furthermore, 40% of ecommerce merchants designate affiliate programs as their top acquisition channel when it comes to sales.

Many digital asset owners started their site by blogging about the activities in which they are interested in. Whether it’s cooking, sports, travel, or something very niche–pro-bloggers who have carved out their own space on the internet are now cashing-in on their passion project(s).

 Owners of content websites can use their informative blogs to generate traffic, cultivate an audience, and monetize information. Now, corporate aggregators are stepping in to buy these digital businesses and to offer standardized processes, larger professional team(s), and (of course) bigger budgets.

 “The need for high-converting traffic will increase over the next few years, as the ecommerce sector grows, and competition in ecommerce increases,” said Benjamin Schardt, TreasureHunter’s Co-Founder & Co-CEO. “We believe there is a bright future for digital demand aggregation.”

A Treasure Map of the World Wide Web

Rather than digging underground or diving deep under the ocean, treasure hunters are discovering online gold. These “hidden gems” are content websites and blogs that rake in passive profit. For aggregators, the best “treasure finds” are niche content sites that generate hundreds of thousands in USD every year.

 Aggregators hope that their business plans act as a solution or exit strategy for individual bloggers and small teams that have reached operational limits. In order to scale, leaders at these firms enlist their large teams to dive deeper into the blog’s SEO plan, marketing map, content strategy, social media, website development, advertising/sales, and more. In the end, aggregating fims bet they will be rewarded with an impressive content site under their umbrella of assets that generate great traffic and increasing ad revenue.

The Hunt Begins

For aggregation firms like TreasureHunter, the “secret map” begins with the team’s “unique method of mining data,” said one company leader. Sourcing solid leads is this team’s first step toward uncovering “hidden treasure” on the internet. 

In order to conduct due diligence and evaluate digital assets, aggregators muster a dedicated M&A team. Contracts with blog owners often end in two ways: The asset owner joins the corporate team to continue to grow the site, or the blog owner will take a buy-out for a chance to step down.

Even if the asset changes hands, firms like TreasureHunter stress that these deals aren’t all about money. Of course investors must be satisfied. However, TreasureHunter’s team makes an effort to assess and retain a website’s “DNA” after the transaction. 

 “We know that when we step in, the blog has already gained an organic following and invested audience. We conduct interviews with the owner to assess the content and tonality that makes the asset special,” said Schardt. “We want to keep that established base and implement our team of professionals to scale up.”

Without changing the content or “the voice” of a blog, aggregators utilize their team to jettison the purchased asset’s value. For example, TreasureHunter acquired its first asset, called in June 2021. Since then, the German travel blog has undergone a substantial increase in revenue due to standardized processes around sales optimization, traffic stimulation, and content management.

 “In the future, we also hope to use our network and portfolio of sites to find comparable synergies that end in mutual growth,” concluded Schardt.

Luckily for the aggregation team at TreasureHunter, many of the assets on their “map” are already profitable. Blog owners often have pain points that aggregators can mend. When digital asset owners create a blog as a side-business or passion project, it does not take long for the project to reach operational limits. So, aggregators reach-out to turn a business that started as a side-hustle into a full-time project.

Time will tell if it’s all worth it, though. If aggregators like TreasureHunter are correct–the internet landscape will be changing quickly. In the future, firms like this hope to own a solid portion of “internet property” before competitive asset grabs occur. 

 “We have goals to grow these assets 10x in the years after acquisition, ” said Schardt, whose team is in the process of onboarding new websites. “As we look forward, we intend to acquire several assets from North America, Europe, and all around the world.”

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