A pair of reports that CNN is preparing to spend $200 million on Mashable, an Internet news website founded by a would-be male model in Scotland, has tech geeks chatting up a storm down in Austin this week. Felix Salmon, Reuters blogger, broke the story on Sunday night in a YouTube video filmed at South By Southwest. Wearing what appears to be a teal-colored polo shirt and Wayfarer sunglasses, Salmon announced the idea by citing "a little bird" and ending with a question mark at the end: "Is this true?" Who knows. Brian Stelter at The New York Times followed up with a corroboration of sorts: "CNN, a unit of Time Warner, and Mashable are in advanced talks that may lead to an acquisition of the social news Web site, three people with knowledge of the talks said." Are we sure? PaidContent is not: "The report and particularly the valuation captured instant interest and some skepticism," says Staci D. Kramer. "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." So how much will they spend? We'll have to wait until Tuesday to find out if it's even a single penny. In the meantime, Salmon's trip to Texas is already paying for itself. So much free advertising for Reuters' new TV project!
Update (11:11 a.m.): Mashable founder Pete Cashmore (the would be male model from Scotland) is evidently playing down the idea of a CNN buy at the office. "In fact we just heard from a trusted Mashable staffer that founder and CEO Pete Cashmore is denying the reports to senior level Mashable editors," says Matt Burns at TechCrunch. "But that might not mean anything. Mike and Heather gave us TCers the same line up until Tim Armstrong showed up at Disrupt." It's worth mentioning that Cashmore is also a CNN contributor and Mashable enjoys a content partnership with the network. But until he goes on air smiling and holding a big check, we're going to leave this speculation in rumorville and move on to real news.