Genealogy This Week - 7 November 2009
This week we thought we would do something a little different and talk about the Ancestry.com IPO (Initial Public Offering) share listing that occurred this week. This is the first time a private genealogy company has done a large public share listing. What makes this particularly interesting to genealogists is that Ancestry.com is by far the largest company in the field of genealogy.
When a company goes public, they have to release a wealth of information about their company, their business model and their industry. In this case, the company, the business model and the industry is all about genealogy. The IPO document alone runs to 156 pages. We read it. We also read several analysts’ reports on the company and talked to various people in the industry.
Below are some of the key points that we have gleaned about Ancestry.com, the field of genealogy and how genealogy is evolving:
The company originally started out as a genealogy magazine (like us) and a publisher of genealogical reference books.
In 1997 the company launched what would become the website Ancestry.com as a place where people could go on the internet to look up genealogy records for a fee. The only other options at the time for people looking for genealogy records were to either travel to the library or archive that contained the record or attempt to get the record sent to them by post. Paying a modest fee to access a record online was both faster and cheaper than the alternatives of the time.
The online database grew so quickly and became so popular that the revenue generated from the online database soon dwarfed the revenue from traditional print genealogy magazines and reference books. Today, the vast majority of the company’s revenue comes from people paying subscription fees to access the Ancestry.com website.
The average Ancestry user pays slightly more than US$150 per year to access one of the Ancestry websites. There are three main websites: Ancestry.com for the US; Ancestry.ca for Canada and Ancestry.co.uk for the UK.