Thursday, 6 August 2009

Genealogy companies in the news

There have been some interesting developments in the genealogical world in the last few days. On 3rd August it was announced that will be selling shares to the public for the first time in what is known as an initial public offering (IPO). A report can be found on the Techcrunch website. As part of the process Ancestry were required to file a Registration Statement with the Securities and Exchanges Commission in America. The full document can be read online here. There are some interesting facts and figures concealed in the small print:

- In the six months ending 30th June 2009 Ancestry had 990,959 subscribers, compared to 913,683 in the equivalent period in 2008.

- Revenues from subscribers in the United States, the United Kingdom and other countries collectively were 74%, 19% and 7%, respectively, in the first half of 2008 compared to 76%, 16% and 8%, respectively, in the first half of 2009.

- Ancestry plan to launch a new multi-language website called later this year. No further details are provided.

- The BBC television programme "Who do you think you are" was largely responsible for an increase in Ancestry subscribers in the UK: "Our subscriber additions were 569,851 in 2006, principally driven by the airing of “Who Do You Think You Are?” in the United Kingdom, and 479,663 in 2007".

- Ancestry have already purchased "product integration" in anticipation of the launch of the US version of “Who Do You Think You Are?” in 2010. They are no doubt hoping that the programme will have a similar impact on subscriptions in the US. (The US programme was initially scheduled to be shown in April 2009 in the US and in the summer of 2009 in the UK, but was postponed at the last minute for unknown reasons and the revised dates have not yet been announced.)

Yesterday it was reported in The Guardian that Ancestry was one of the companies in the running to purchase Friends Reunited and Genes Reunited from ITV. The other prime candidate was Ancestry's main UK rival Brightsolid, the parent company of and Scotland's People. In the event Brightsolid emerged as the eventual winners and the news of the purchase was officially announced today on their website. There was another report on the acquisition on the BBC website. (As an intriguing aside I was amused to learn from the BBC report that the German equivalent of the reality TV programme "I'm a celebrity… " is known as "Ich bin ein Star"!)

I suspect the future of Friends Reunited is now in doubt as it has effectively been superseded by Facebook. In contrast, Genes Reunited is a thriving community with nine million loyal members, and it has proved to be an effective way of making contact with other family history researchers in the UK. The interface is however very clumsy and there is plenty of room for improvement. It will be interesting to learn what plans Brightsolid have for the site in the coming months.

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