PandoDaily acquires NSFWCORP to double down on investigative reporting

By Sarah Lacy , written on November 25, 2013

From The News Desk

There are three people who have long been on my dream team to help me build PandoDaily. One of them I've still gotta work on. The second is Mike Tatum, who keeps saying no and then keeps doing work for us for free anyway. The third is joining us today by way of acquisition.

I'm sure regular readers can guess who I am talking about: Paul Carr. I'm thrilled to announce that PandoDaily has reached a deal to acquire his company, NSFWCORP.

But it's a lot better than that. We aren't just getting Paul. I'm equally thrilled to announce that we're also adding Mark Ames, Brad Jonas, Yasha Levine, and David Sirota as full-time staffers. NSFWCORP contributors like John Dolan and Dayvid Figler will be making regular appearances too, and Katherine Dolan will continue to work her copy editing magic behind the scenes.

This team will form the core of a new investigative reporting unit at PandoDaily, of which Paul will be the editor. Our regular PandoDaily staff will also be working with Paul on more long-form, investigative pieces as well. The goal? To produce one-to-two "Holy Shit!" stories per week.

This is going to be fantastic.

There are three predictable reactions to this news:

  • Are you just bailing Paul out because you guys are friends?
  • Wait, the two weren't already the same company?
  • About time!
The answer to no. 1 is a clear "no." Paul can attest I've been a brutal negotiator throughout this process, our friendship aside. The answer to no. 2 is we've long been sister companies but separate organizations. The answer to no. 3 is a clear and resounding: Yes, it is. High time.

I like how our executive chairman Andrew Anker put it best: "This deal is correcting a historical anomaly," he said at our recent board meeting to discuss the deal. "These always should have been the same company."

While NSFWCORP had a different editorial focus and style than Pando, it's always shared the same core values of investing in journalism, editing, mentorship, and development of talent. And -- and this is always been important to both of us -- paying talented reporters a living wage to do a demanding job. NSFWCORP's editorial has pivoted from "the Economist as written by the staff of the Daily Show" to a heavy focus on politics to increasingly covering the broader cultural and political ramifications of the tech world's ascendancy to power.

It was NSFWCORP's shift towards focusing on the rising power and influence of technology entrepreneurs that ultimately made this deal happen. At lunch a few weeks ago, Paul told me NSFWCORP was considering moving more aggressively in the direction of tech-related, long-form, investigative reporting. I was struck by how similar our editorial mandate was becoming. Stories like Silicon Valley's increasing power in Washington and the NSA scandal were broadening our coverage at the same time NSFWCORP was seeking to narrow its coverage. We were meeting in roughly the same place.

At the same time, Adam Penenberg's excellent story on getting hacked was looking on track to hit one million views. It was yet another example of what we've seen in cold, hard stats for a while now: Our readers devour our long-form reporting more than anything else we provide.

At that lunch, Paul suggested that we should collaborate on some of these stories. I countered with a bigger idea: "Maybe we should just buy you guys." We hashed through the details -- board members, lawyers, terms sheets, and all -- and finally here we are.

The NSFWCORP brand and voice will be going away, and everything will now be under the Pando brand. The old NSFWCORP team will adapt to our audience and style, at the same time as our voice expands to cover more of tech and startups' impact on the globe. Expect to see more stories like Mark Ames' series tracking Edward Snowden in Russia, Yasha Levine's investigations into the brothers behind America's largest private drone base, David Sirota's columns on Apple's threat to our security and the politics behind Jeff Bezos' purchase of the Washington Post, and of course Paul's reporting on Silicon Valley's cult of disruption.

And while we will not put any of this work behind a paywall, the NSFWCORP subscription isn't going away. We're keeping print. I thought a print magazine was the dumbest thing I'd ever heard when Paul first told me he was launching one, but I was completely wrong. His subscribers have loved it, and I've been envious of the things you can do in print that you can't quite do electronically. We're expanding the old NSFWCORP Magazine into a new quarterly publication called PandoQuarterly.

With PandoQuarterly we'll aggregate the best of Pando in this gorgeously designed, illustrated, and photographed quarterly publication, along with new features. (And a better paper stock.) We'll keep the subscription rate at $84 per year. Existing NSFWCORP subscribers will be grandfathered in, and we're hoping that more Pando readers will subscribe to support this kind of journalism as well. If you're not already a subscriber, you can sign up here. I think you'll like some of the creative ideas we have for it. Like December's comics-plosion issue edited by Pulitzer finalist Matt Bors.

PandoDaily is poised for a big 2014. This deal is as transformative to our company as our recent Southland announcement, and I couldn't be more thrilled. This unquestionably pushes our editorial to the next level, and in the direction readers are telling us they want to go. And -- FWIW-- in a recent reader survey NSFWCORP readers cited Pando as the other publication they regularly read most.

It's no secret that NSFWCORP has had some operational challenges -- mostly because Paul has openly written about them here. Content is a hard business, but we believe that Pando's strong traffic growth, highly-attractive demographic, committed investor base, and seven-figure revenues will put us in a good position to keep NSFWCORP's commitment to fierce investigative reporting in a financially sustainable way.

We couldn't be more excited and more ready to get to work as one big team.

[Read Paul's announcement of the deal to NSFWCORP subscribers here.]