Publishing giant Condé Nast, owner of several media properties including Wired, GQ, and The New Yorker, is buying Pitchfork Media, the company behind influential music website Pitchfork. The acquisition was initially reported by The New York Times, and the terms of the deal weren't disclosed.
The company, founded in 1995 by Ryan Schreiber, includes more than its website and its infamous 10.0 album review scale. It also publishes a quarterly print magazine, The Pitchfork Review, organizes events around the world (including major music festivals in Chicago and Paris), and publishes plenty of video through its Pitchfork.tv arm. (Full disclosure: I've contributed to Pitchfork on a freelance basis since 2011.) All of these additional revenue streams help to make Pitchfork Media profitable, which isn't always a given in today's media landscape, and the business' health was likely a major part of its appeal to Condé Nast. It also boasts a readership that skews younger than many of the publisher's flagship properties.
The site could make or break artists with a single review
At the peak of its influence, the site could make or break artists with a good or bad review; bands like Arcade Fire and Broken Social Scene, both major parts of indie rock in the 2000s and beyond, may have had completely different careers without rave reviews from Pitchfork. Its power may have waned since then, but many people still treat the site as an authoritative voice in music criticism — think Rolling Stone for millennials.
Pitchfork's acquisition brings "a very passionate audience of millennial males into our roster," said Condé Nast chief digital officer Fred Santarpia. He's the executive to whom Pitchfork's staff will now report.