CNN Mashing Up With Mashable? Not So Fast

CNN might yet end up as the owner of Mashable but it’s not imminent despite a single-source report from Felix Salmon at *Reuters*.
Salmon reported late Sunday that CNN is buying Mashable, the consumer social media news site that has been branching out into other verticals, for more than $200 million with an announcement due Tuesday. Turner has been shopping for good digital fits with CNN, which acquired personalized aggregater Zite last August, and has had talks with Mashable, among others.
But a source familiar with the situation describes the report of a deal as a rumor and tells paidContent no announcement is scheduled.
Mashable, founded by Pete Cashmore in 2005 as a 19-year-old blogger, and CNN, already one of its partners, could be a good fit in a number of ways. In addition to more than 15 million monthly visitors, Mashable has more than four million social media followers across Twitter, Facebook, Google+ et al and a high profile with consumers. It’s held conferences at Disney (NYSE: DIS) World and on a cruise ship, while its SXSW party draws more attendance than several tech brands combined.
The report and particularly the valuation captured instant interest and some skepticism. While I wouldn’t be surprised to see CNN wind up with Mashable, I don’t see Turner paying $200 million — or even coming close — for it.
Update: A couple of notes in the light of day: Mashable could get close to $200 million if the valuation is at the highest range times earnings. Would it come as a flat payout? An earnout based on post-deal performance might make the most sense for Turner. Also this morning, Brian Stelter reports that talks are ongoing, which tracks with what I’ve been hearing. Will a deal actually come of it? As I know all too well there are moments when deals can look very close — and when they might not be as close as they seem. Felix may turn out to be right on everything but the scheduled announcement. The numbers may vary. Or it may not happen at all.
Just to lay it all out there, TechCrunch offers a second or third hand report that (I’m not sure) Pete Cashmore is telling Mashable senior staffers the acquisition rumor isn’t true. Which, of course, doesn’t mean an acquisition isn’t happening.