New York Times Company Buys The Wirecutter

As The New York Times Company transforms for the digital age, it has moved more into lifestyle journalism, with online products like Cooking, Watching and Well. Now, it has made another bet on so-called service journalism, with the acquisition of the product recommendation site The Wirecutter and its sibling, The Sweethome.

The all-cash transaction closed on Monday. The deal is worth slightly more than $30 million, according to a person with knowledge of the acquisition who spoke on condition of anonymity.

“The practical approach that The Wirecutter and The Sweethome take to product recommendations embodies the same standards and values that are the pillars of our own newsroom,” Mark Thompson, the chief executive of the Times Company, said in a statement. “Their service-focused guides align with our commitment to creating products that are an indispensable part of our readers’ lives.”

Founded in 2011 by Brian Lam, a technology journalist and former editor of Gawker’s technology site, Gizmodo, The Wirecutter provides recommendations for gadgets and electronics like televisions and headphones. (The Sweethome focuses mostly on products for the home.) The site started publishing as part of The Awl network, whose founders included Choire Sicha and Alex Balk, both formerly of Gawker Media, with the idea that it would delve deeply into categories of products rather than post more frequently.

When readers click through the site to buy the recommended products, the site earns affiliate commissions from retailers like Amazon, a revenue model that Mr. Thompson called “very attractive.”

The New York Times and The Wirecutter already have an editorial partnership, which began about a year ago. The companies have collaborated on stories about bad Wi-Fi, poor battery life and cord-cutting. Brian X. Chen, a consumer technology reporter for The Times who worked on those articles, helped Mr. Lam start The Wirecutter when he was between jobs in 2011.

Mr. Lam, who will stay with the company as an adviser, said in a statement, “We’re thrilled to have the chance to help Times readers find great gear that can improve their lives.”

In a note to employees about the acquisition, Dean Baquet, the executive editor of The Times, said acquisition discussions began earlier this year and that he “was one of the biggest proponents of the deal.” The Times already uses affiliate links in certain reviews and best-seller lists, Mr. Baquet said, adding that the deal was “a strong step toward a further embrace of this approach.” (He assured employees that The Times would do this “within the bounds of Times standards.”)

The acquisition comes at a time of transition for The Times, which is attempting to reconstitute itself for the digital future, a process that has the newsroom bracing for layoffs early next year.


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