Property: LMK App
Buyer: Black Ocean
Date: December 2011
In an interesting twist in the app market, digital media company Black Ocean decided to take a 70 percent stake in Hearstâ€™s LMK app production group. Black Ocean plans to relaunch the app as a free service early this year.
Oliver Ripley, co-founder and CEO of Black Ocean, said LMK is a prime opportunity for his staff. â€śHearst is a great example of a very successful business worth emulating,â€ť Ripley told FOLIO:. at the time of the deal. â€śThat being said, however, LMK became non-core to their strategy and how they operate, which is on a corporate level. These startup companies are probably not the best environment or match for that.â€ť
LMK (an acronym for â€śLet Me Knowâ€ť) was launched in March 2010. At its debut, LMK was a lean and mean operation where a half-dozen employees churned out apps that delivered news bites on categories specified by usersâ€”pop culture, celebrities, sports, and so on. The apps were priced at the .99 to $1.99 levels. The group was an interesting attempt at producing an app factory that lived relatively separately from Hearstâ€™s bigger, branded app production teams.Â
Seven Black Ocean staffers were assigned to LMK, in addition to an outsourced group of writers. The majority of LMKâ€™s content will be aggregated by Black Ocean curators. It will be also move to an ad-supported model. â€śThere was a price, but there are challenges there,â€ť said Ripley. â€śWeâ€™re presenting ads in a manner that is unobtrusive to the content.â€ť
Black Ocean plans to position LMK differently than other news aggregating apps (such as Flipboard), both in presentation and function. LMK is smartphone-optimized for news updates and factual information. â€śIf youâ€™re reading a book or a long article, youâ€™ll do that on a tablet device,â€ť he said.
The deal was a step back on Hearstâ€™s part in the app development craze that gripped the publishing world.