Long-Term Stock Investment in the Maven Publishing Network
Considering an Investment in a Content Platform Called Maven
If you bought Apple or Google shortly after their initial IPO, and held the shares all this time, you’d be very happy with your investment.
There is no way to know which companies are going to grow like that after their Initial Public Offering, but it’s not totally guesswork either.
As a writer of online content, I am very much in tune with what’s going on in the field of online content publishing. Many content platforms have already gone out of business, leaving authors feeling frustrated with non-payment of residuals that accumulate from advertising revenue.
I am glad to have the pleasure of writing on the HubPages network of niche sites, which was a wise decision on my part. I wrote articles for other sites too. I could see the mistakes they made, such as accepting low quality content that served no purpose for the general public. Readers find articles by searching for answers to various questions. If the results are useless, that’s a bad reflection on the search engine.
This is what online writing is all about. If you ever did a Google search for something you needed to know, you ended up finding a huge selection of information among articles written on the topic. Search engines, such as Google, work hard at giving you the best and most appropriate search results. This is still a process being developed with constant algorithm modifications to make it work better.
What all that means is that those publishing platforms that don’t provide useful quality content, will eventually die a sudden death.
That brings me to the subject of this article—considering an investment in a new content platform called Maven.
What Is Maven?
Maven is an online content company based in Seattle, Washington, that was incorporated in Nevada on July 22, 2016 under the name “Amplify Media, Inc.”
Their name was changed to “Amplify Media Network, Inc.” on July 27, 2016 and further changed to “theMaven Network, Inc.” on October 14, 2016.1 Presently, their logo simply refers to them as “Maven”.
Their platform is mainly for journalists, best-selling authors, top analysts, and those focused on important causes, who write content for a particular audience. Maven invites writers who already have an existing audience to have their content hosted on their site.
Each author has a channel and Maven presently has over 300 channels. Some are under their own domain names, but others are subcategories under Maven's home domain.
Despite combining unrelated topics under one domain, a practice that Google frowns upon as being a content farm, Maven uses a proven method of organizing niche channels into interest groups that effectively engage the reader.1
My Thoughts About Maven
There is a subtle difference between Google’s content farm definition and Maven’s site arrangement. A content farm, the types of which Google essentially eliminated with the Panda algorithm back in 2012, was a combination of unrelated articles all on one site. These sites gave very little attention to quality, and Google noticed that.
Maven, on the other hand, has communities run by experts in their niche fields. These individual communities are hosted as channels under Maven’s domain, and some under individual domains.
I had a concern about the possible relationship with a content farm because of the communities that are not under their unique domains. That may not be so important when considering the community of experts devoted to their business.
These writers have their own audience—followers who are engaged and subscribe to their content. That's a unique and powerful opportunity for growth!
It's clear that Maven’s staff of professionals know what they are doing. They are combining authoritative communities of high quality content that Google and other search engines will recognize as useful to Internet search, and that’s what counts.
Maven Acquires HubPages
Maven announced the acquisition of HubPages in January 2018. The two companies have a common mission of providing content creators a publishing platform that takes care of search engine optimization and monetization, leaving the author free to concentrate on writing content.
In 2012 Google implemented the Panda Algorithm that literally wiped out other content sites that shared unrelated articles under one domain as a content farm.
HubPages solved that problem by creating a network of 27 individual niche sites, each related to only one specific topic category.
In addition, they imposed strict guidelines for writing stellar articles that meet Google’s Search Quality Rating Program.2 This is a set of guidelines for creating written content that has a defined Page Quality (PQ rating) and that meets the needs (NM rating) of people doing online search.
I’m sure that’s why Maven decided to acquire HubPages. They saw it as an opportunity to improve their own business.
The Volatile Share Price of Maven
Subject to a number of conditions to be met, Maven’s acquisition of HubPages was for a combination of stock (based on a valuation of $2.50 per share), short-term debt, and cash.
Since the acquisition of HubPages, I watched Maven’s stock price struggle to go above $2.40, and it was dropping steadily instead. Throughout 2018 Maven's share price dropped from $2.50 to around 50¢.3
Personally, ever since I learned about Maven, I expected their shares would drop in value due to costs of acquisitions. They are expanding rapidly and the value if the stock can't be considered a reflection on their performance during these initial stages.
In the interim, nevertheless, the share price followed my guess—although maybe for different reasons. Nevertheless, this provides me with an interesting investment opportunity.
My Maven Investment Strategy
I would have wanted to invest in HubPages for many years now, but I couldn’t since they are not a public company. Now that a public company acquired HubPages, and assuming the conditions of the merger are met, I now have the opportunity to invest in HubPages, although indirectly by buying Maven shares.
I have reasons to believe Maven might do well over time, and I'll discuss that in a moment.
In the middle of February 2018, Maven’s share price dropped to $1.50 and buyers quickly came in, bringing it back up over $1.80 in two hours. So I figured $1.50 is a good entry point.
I placed an order to buy shares at that price, good till canceled if it ever gets back down there. On Feb 23rd, right before the market closed, my buy order executed and I got my shares.
Now as a shareholder, my investment dropped to one third, but I expect a lot of volatility as the price goes up and down—even extremely. I plan to be patient and hold these shares long-term. I realize this is not a get rich quick investment, and I know that I need to ride out the waves since it's a new company. As I said before, they have huge costs of doing business right now—especially with acquiring other companies.
I was invited to Maven's Coalition Conference in Whistler, Canada, in April 2018, where I learned a lot about their business plan. It looks promising.
I realize that they have a strong team behind them, and with the combination of talent from HubPages' staff, I expect growth in the future. I could be wrong, but I feel comfortable with my decision for the long term.
Why Maven Might Do Well Over Time
I expect Maven to be a good long-term investment for many reasons:
- They are getting involved with a lot of successful enterprises, such as HubPages, Po.et, and say Media (more on that below).
- They also have a strong executive team, with senior executives and veteran engineers from Amazon, Google, Microsoft, News Corp, and Yahoo! 4
- They handpick professional content publishers, reporters and journalists, to join as partners (known as “The Mavens”). Those who are chosen move their independent websites to join Maven’s community of experts under channels—as they are called.
- As of February 2018 they already had more than 70 channel partners, with roughly two being added every month since last August.
- Channel Partners have a powerful advantage. They can concentrate on their business while Maven provides broader reader engagement, greater distribution, and increased revenue from more efficient advertising partnerships.
- Publishers who moved their websites to Maven’s platform have experienced their audience engagement had increased by 71%.4
As I discussed earlier, if the combination of these channels on the same site turns out to be an issue with Google, I would think Maven would react quickly to construct an infrastructure similar to HubPages’ network niche domains.
I feel Maven made a wise choice with HubPages because Paul Edmondson, the former HubPages CEO, is now the Chief Growth Officer at Maven. He will deliver with his knowledge and experience, as pointed out in a recent HubPages blog.
"Network sites have been a central theme of our joint success over the last two years. We are excited to bring this knowledge to Maven."— HubPages Blog (January 5th, 2018)
Combining Strategies That Work
The strategy of using niche domains as network sites has proven to be successful for many authors who publish content on HubPages’ network of 27 domain sites. I myself have over a hundred articles on many of their niche sites with well over a million views, so I personally see the benefit.
Google puts a tremendous amount of extra search ranking on individual sites that focus on only one topic. This helps bring more readers because they recognize the authoritative nature of the content.
I expect that the merger of both companies will provide a learning experience for both to discover what has been working for one another.
The Maven’s CEO, James Heckman, explained their success strategy in an interview by Wall Street writer Brad Thomas.5 I had learned from that interview that they intentionally stay out of the way of Google by maintaining a closed network of invite-only professional writers.
Maven announced that the union of the two companies would bring more than 40 million monthly readers.6 This alone can increase revenue as advertising monetizes the content.
Mr. Heckman also said they will have $30 million annualized revenue by the fourth quarter of 2018.7
Maven Partners with Po.et
In addition to providing a revenue sharing platform for content publishing, I suspect Maven may also plan to offer protection against copyright infringement in the future using the same technology that has caused the boom in Bitcoin values. This is the blockchain technology.
In February 2018 Maven partnered with blockchain-based Po.et to protect publishers of online content.8
Blockchain Protection for Content Creators
Blockchain technology is used for cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin. The blockchain contains all records of currency transactions so that a third party is not required to oversee the transaction in order to protect the parties involved.
Using similar technology, Po.et developed a blockchain protocol that contains time stamped titles of new content when the material is registered with the Po.et network.
In this case, the blockchain provides proof of existence with a verifiable proof of creation date which can help protect against copyright infringement.9 The fact that Maven is involved with this powerful technology is encouraging.
Video: How Po.et Proof of Existence Works
Maven Continues Innovating to Improve Advertising Revenue
On February 26th, 2018 Maven announced an agreement with Wochit to include their video creation tools in their platform.10 Channel Partners would be able to use these tools to create and include enhanced video with their content. Video has been known to increase advertising revenue significantly.
Maven also is constantly improving ad-generating methods. They recently employed a sticky ad at the bottom of articles when viewed on mobile devices. This is effective for advertisers without being obtrusive to readers, which helps produce additional ad revenue.
Maven Acquires "Say Media" for Their Advertising Strategies
Maven acquired advertising firm "Say Media" in early 2018 for their technology to provide additional advertising revenue.7
Say Media uses auctions to sell advertising space in online articles to the highest bidder. The idea they developed is called "Header Bidding" and it helps increase revenue for Maven as well as for the writers.
Rapid Growth with Independent Digital Media Partners
Maven has been rapidly growing with the addition on many independent digital media partners, such as A&E’s History.com and Biography.com. These partners account for an additional 18 million and 11 million monthly viewers, respectively.
The total, with other recent mergers, account for 100 million monthly viewers.11
You can see why I have high hopes for the success of The Maven, Inc.
- They have the right attitude with their mission of providing a platform for success.
- They are merging with competent companies in fields that are important for content creators.
- They are focused on learning new skills from those who are adept in the field.
It probably will be a long upward battle that will require patience for any investor. Getting in at the right share price is also important.
The main idea is that this is a long-term investment; shares that I’ll own and just let it do its thing. My overall impression of Maven is that it’s a well-run company and it has great potential with a strong team of professionals with the right attitude.
Most of all, they have a clear understanding and appreciation of their client base that comes from Internet search and existing subscribers, and they know how to meet their needs with quality content in a well-organized structure.
- Form 8-K. (October 14, 2016). U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission
- Google Search Quality Rating Program
- The Maven, Inc. (ticker symbol MVEN) stock quote. Bloomberg Finance
- Digital Media Startup theMaven Network Inc. Secures More Than Two Dozen Partner Agreements in Array of Media Categories. BusinessWire
- Brad Thomas (Aug 2, 2017). Maven's bright future: a strategic Q&A with James Heckman. theMaven.net
- Maven to acquire HubPages (January 5, 2018). theMaven.net
- Sara Guaglione. (August 7, 2018). Maven To Acquire Say Media, Expands Share For Premium Ad Spend. MediaPost
- Maven Partners with Blockchain-Based Po.et to Empower Publishers. theMaven.net
- Po.et reclaims value for content creators, publishers and consumers. po.et
- Video made easy (Feb 26, 2018). Maven Investor News
- A&E's flagship History.com launches on Maven. (Sept 12, 2018). Maven Communications
As of the writing of this article I own shares in The Maven Network, Inc.
This article is for informational purposes only. I am not a professional stockbroker and this article is not meant to provide any recommendations. Your investment decisions are based on your own due diligence.
© 2018 Glenn Stok