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Net Imperative saved at the bell

Free of debts, free of Durlacher

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Net Imperative, the dotcom publisher which went bust last week, has been saved by a consortium, according to Sunday Business. Astonishing, isn't it, Net Imperative scooped on a story about itself...

Durlacher, which had paid £570,000 for 28 per cent of Net Imperative, will no longer have an interest in the company. But what of the other shareholders (esouk is an investor)? Or the staff stock options? Or the trade debtors?

The consortium consists of Bright Station (which is also buying the technology assets of Boo.com). The Internet Business Group and Stockhouse Media Corporation. And it has raised 1 million for the transaction.

Presumably, most of this will go into working capital for Net Imperative MkII: the consortium is taking over the assets and business of Net Imperative. This is not the same as acquiring the company - effectively, the debts are left behind, to be paid - never.

Counting the pennies

The first priority of the consortium is to stabilise the business, Maziar Darvish, chief executive of Internet Business Group, told Sunday Business. To us, this means cutting costs, substantially and raising revenues, substantially.

The Sunday Business piece reveals some useful financial details about Net Imperative. It has 37 employees, net assets of £10,000 and monthly sales of £10-15,000, against overheads of £150,000. And it needed £800,000 to keep it going.

Thirty-seven staff looks top heavy, especially considering the design and back-end development are outsourced to arehaus and Mazware.

It is acceptable, in certain circumstances to lose, £135-140,000 per month, especially when you are in start-up mode, but not when you are turning over £10-15,000. These figures cannot have been in the spreadsheet for month six sales forecasts in the Net Imperative start-up business plan.

Care in the Community

Net Imperative describes itself as a "localised information and community service provider". It doesn't look much like one to us. FortuneCity is a community site, dejanews is a community site, Slashdot is a community site, but Net Imperative? Check out The Ecademy. this is a community site for anyone interested in ecommerce. Or First Tuesday, a community-cum-site for e-greedy people.

From where we sit, Net Imperative is a publishing venture, plain and simple. Only it's on the Internet.

It reads quite a lot like New Media Age (the only British Internet industry trade rag I read, if mostly for the ads - oh, and the stats), and an awful lot like New Media Finance, sister print titles published by Centaur.

Net Imperative is however inferior - certainly to NMA. Much of the copy has the feel of reworked press releases (although the response time is admittedly quick). Possibly, the site is trying to act as a journal of record. Which always makes for a dull, and unreflective read.

Wouldn't it be easier, and so much cheaper, to build a Weblog-type of community - download Slashcode for free from Slashdot for the community site template (but mind you observe the Open Source niceties), feed in aggregated news from moreover.com, or newsnow.co.uk, or isyndicate, get a deal with BreakingViews, to run a column or two a week from some big name writers, jump into bed with the street.co.uk for some financial news, hit on Silicon.com for tech stuff, get friendly with one of the online IPO houses springing up in Europe, and make big ties with one of the myriad networking event organizers milling about the UK.

How many journalists would you need, then? A smaller writing team means fewer editorial managers and fewer subs. It does not mean worse reading, if you have the right people, with the right contacts, working up the insightful articles, the occasional scoops.

And finally

It is probably for the best that Durlacher is no longer involved with Net Imperative. The tech bank has fingers in far too many Internet tarts, to sit comfortably with Net Imperative, a publishing business that writes about Internet tarts.

Net Imperative now faces a fresh challenge in writing about Internet Business Group and Bright Station, led by Dan Wagner, a man who always seems to be described as the controversial entrepreneur. ®

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