Matt Mickiewicz, editor of SitePoint newsletter for Webmasters, just posted a quick useful column on buying and selling existing Web sites and ezines. His point that now is a great time to acquire content sites and ezines that are ad supported is a good one. The economy is starting to improve (in the US anyway) so great deals will not be around forever. If you have a series of ebooks, PDFs or other stuff that you're already making good money selling to your own list, then it might be cheaper to acquire a list with a highly similar demographic than it would be to build the list on your own.
They will not perform as well as your own home built list though. In the print world we used to assume a 30% paid conversion rate when we bought competing subscription newsletters and merged them into our own. So 30% of the acquired subs might pay to keep getting ours when their initial term was up, while on average 55- 65% of our own home-grown subs would renew. If these numbers hold true online, you need to assume that acquired names may buy about half the stuff your home grown names will.
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