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Dice swallows Slashdot, SourceForge, Freecode in $20m deal

Geek sites welcome their new recruiter overlords

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Dice Holdings, which runs a number of job-listing sites including Dice.com, has acquired open source code-hosting repository SourceForge, software-index site Freecode, and tech-news discussion site Slashdot from parent company Geeknet, in a deal valued at $20m.

"The acquisition of these premier technology sites fits squarely into our strategy of providing content and services that are important to tech professionals in their everyday work lives," Dice Holdings president and CEO Scot Melland said in a statement.

The deal caused some head-scratching from observers – why would a recruiting site want to acquire media and code-hosting businesses? – but according to Melland, adding the three Geeknet sites to Dice's portfolio will allow its employer-customers to reach more tech professionals on a regular basis.

In addition to job listings, Dice already publishes its own news site that emphasizes tech topics. By acquiring the three former Geeknet properties, Dice not only gains new sources of tech content, but also adds three communities of engaged tech professionals, many of them programmers and IT admins.

Of the three sites, GitHub-like code portal SourceForge is the biggest, drawing 40 million unique visitors each month. That could mean a significant traffic boost for Dice if it plays its cards right. Currently, Dice.com itself only gets about 2.3 million unique visitors per month.

According to Melland, around 80 per cent of SourceForge users are based outside the US, which suggests Dice may be hoping to strengthen its presence in overseas markets.

The quirky and cantankerous tech discussion community Slashdot brings in around 3.7 million unique users per month, who contribute some 5,300 comments to discussion threads per day. Slashdot discussions are typically started with a link to a story on another website, giving rise to the notorious, site-killing "Slashdot effect" as thousands of readers all click on the link at once.

Freecode, by comparison, is a relatively minor site, netting a mere 500,000 unique visitors per month. A kind of "Yahoo! for code", it collects links to software packages grouped by category, most of them open source.

Under Geeknet, the three sites have enjoyed modest success, with all three generating around $20m in combined revenues for 2011, Dice's statement said.

The sale leaves Geeknet with just one property remaining: ThinkGeek, an online shop that sells tech culture–related gadgets and gifts. Geeknet chair Ken Langone said the ThinkGeek division would now get the company's full attention.

Predictably, news of the deal has sparked a lively discussion on Slashdot itself, with many longtime members worrying that Dice would water down the community's hardcore geek content, or bombard it with ads.

A Slashdot staffer with the handle "Soulskill" did his best to assuage any concerns, but even he had little information:

Put simply: I haven't heard anything about changing Slashdot. I would guess (and this is only a guess) some links that already exist in the header and footer will change, and that some of our regular ads will be swapped out for Dice ads. (Which would have no effect on you if you ignore the ads anyway.) As far as I can tell, Dice is mainly just interested in owning a tech news community.

Other commenters remarked that Slashdot has already strayed far from its roots as founder Rob "CmdrTaco" Malda's personal blog. Where once the site consisted solely of freewheeling, user-generated posts, under Geeknet it began adding "channels" of sponsored content with a much more canned feel.

Malda himself has issued no comment on the sale, other than to note it on his Google+ page, but he likely has no stake in it. He quit Slashdot in 2011 to pursue other interests. ®

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