Jupitermedia’s surprise acquisition of Mediabistro raises the question of where its primary interest lies: The job board or the community?

News that Jupitermedia Corp. this week acquired Mediabistro.com Inc. for $20 million had a number of industry professionals scratching their heads, wondering why a stock photography and digital media provider would pony up so much to purchase a Web site with a job board as its primary source of revenue. Others found the deal less hard to believe.

"I don’t think there is anything extraordinary about the purchase price," says Thomas Kemp, a managing director with Veronis Suhler Stevenson. "In deals for online businesses, the valuations need to be justified based on the financial performance and potential growth. Right now, online businesses have greater potential for growth than print."

According to the deal, Jupitermedia agreed also to pay Mediabistro.com; which includes job postings, forums, industry blogs, educational courses, and events for professionals in all realms of media;$3 million more over the next two years depending on performance. Mediabistro.com founder Laurel Touby agreed to remain with the company during that time as a senior vice president.

In an interview with Folio:, Jupitermedia chairman and CEO Alan Meckler declined to disclose Mediabistro.com’s specific financial figures, saying only that he feels he paid a "fair price" for a product that "has been growing 30-percent per year." Sources familiar with Mediabistro.com, however, estimate the Web site’s revenue between $5 and $6 million, and it’s EBITDA at $1 to $1.5 million. That puts Mediabistro.com’s EBITDA multiple at about 15.

"There’s really no set standard yet on sales of Internet companies," says Desilva + Phillips managing partner, Reed Phillips. Desilva + Phillips represented Mediabistro.com in the transaction. "So far, smaller Internet companies have been selling at 10 to 15 times EBITDA. For larger companies, it skyrockets from there."

One of the larger questions remains as to what Meckler’s main interest is in Mediabistro. "Jupitermedia is entrepreneurial and forward thinking," Touby says. "Alan Meckler understands the value we place on community, and I believe our businesses will mesh well."

Blogger Rex Hammock says the acquisition is a win for both b-to-b and community media and Meckler hints at future product development, although his primary interest may lie in the job board, rather than the community or content. "We believe that we can grow Mediabistro’s already extraordinary job board and build similar services for some of our other sites," he says. "We’re very good at doing Webinars and trade shows, and feel that the Mediabistro brand will benefit from that. I’m excited about expanding the services that Mediabistro already does well, and about leveraging the business into new areas, too."

Jupitermedia properties include online imaging services BannaStock, Workbook Stock and Brand X Pictures. The Darien, Conn.-based company’s industry networking Web sites include Internet.com and Graphics.com. The company sold its Internet research division in March 2006.