Project M acquires punk rock satire site The Hard Times

Project M acquires punk rock satire site The Hard Times

Matt Saincome knows that compared to many of the startup acquisitions that we write about on TechCrunch, selling a website for a little over $1 million (mostly cash, with a little stock) isn’t a huge deal.

“But in the world of punk comedy media? Whoo boy!” he said.

Saincome is happy to poke fun at himself — he is the co-founder and CEO of a satirical punk news website, after all — but he also sounded genuinely proud of what he’s built with The Hard Times. He never raised outside funding, and while there have been acquisition offers in the past, he was always afraid that they might threaten the site’s voice.

“I had always been the financial backstop,” Saincome told me. Still, at a certain point, “That started to become irresponsible.”

So he’s happy that there will be a bit of a financial windfall (not to mention health care and benefits) for himself, his co-founder and editor in chief Bill Conway and their editorial staff, plus a pay bump for freelancers. He also suggested that the acquisition will allow The Hard Times to invest more seriously in its editorial strategy, for example by building out its podcast network.

“If you like The Hard Times, it’s just going to be The Hard Times on steroids,” he said. “It’s very much the same direction, but better and secured.”

The acquiring company is Project M Group, a digital media and e-commerce company founded in 2016 that has also acquired Revolver Magazine and Inked Magazine.

Here’s how founder and CEO Enrique Abeyta laid out the Project M model: “We go out and acquire existing media properties with an audience, and we reinvigorate or relaunch or put some capital behind them to grow those audiences. Then we tie that into a vertically integrated e-commerce platform.”

After all, it’s no secret that many online publishers have struggled to make the digital advertising model work. And given Revolver’s focus on heavy metal and rock, and Inked’s focus on tattoos, there are some natural commerce opportunities — for example, if you’re reading an article about Metallica, you might also want to buy a Metallica T-shirt.

At the same time, Abeyta emphasized the importance of authenticity in the publications that Project M acquires, and he said that post-acquisition, they don’t become any more corporate.

“I’m a tattooed, mohawked guy running this company out of my house in Cave Creek, Arizona,” he said. “We’re the least corporate thing on Planet Earth … Our whole vibe when we partner with these entrepreneurs is, we want to work with the entrepreneur and the brand.”

So the entire Hard Times team, including Saincome, will remain involved. At the same time, the site’s old parent company will continue to own and operate the related gaming and technology site Hard Drive.

Saincome said he’ll also continue running OutVoice, a separate startup building freelancer payment tools. In fact, one of the results of the deal is that all of Project M’s publications will be using OutVoice.

“My role at Hard Times is going to be the visionary, brand-builder sort of guy,” he said. That should free up a lot of his time and energy from worrying about day-to-day business concerns, and he promised, “I’m going to take that energy and pump it back right into OutVoice .”