Archive for June, 2008

Digital Media VC Fundings

Posted in Deals, Digital Media with tags , , on June 27, 2008 by Dave Liu

Yaolan.com (a.ka. BabyCare) Raised $17.1 Million 3rd Round — Chinese online community for pregnant and nursing mothers,has raised $17.1 million in third-round funding. Foundation Capital and NSA Investments were joined by return backers Sutter Hill Ventures and Chengwei Ventures.

Mill River Labs Raised $900,000 in Seed Funding — The parent company of online startup company database TradeVibes, has raised $900,000 in seed funding. Backers include Ron Conway, Felicis Ventures and the Kinsey Hills Group.

Nineyou International Ltd. (9you) Raised $100 Million — Shanghai-based online gaming company, has raised $100 million in private equity funding from Singapore’s Temasek Holdings. The company last year had planned to raise $174 million via an IPO in Osaka, but bailed after licensing conflicts with a pair of Korean gaming companies.

Demand Media Raised $35 Million in Additional Series D — Santa Monica, Calif.-based domain name aggregator and registrar, has raised $35 million in additional Series D funding, according to a regulatory filing. The company had held a $100 million first close last year. Shareholders include Goldman Sachs, 3i Group, Generation Partners, Oak Investment Partners and Spectrum Equity Investors.

Become.com Raised $17.5 Million in Series C — Mountain View, Calif.-based online comparison shopping site, has raised $17.5 million in Series C funding from TPG Growth.

WebCollage Inc. Raised $10 Million in New VC — New York-based provider of online merchandising networks to manufacturers, has raised $10 million in new VC funding. Greylock Partners Israel led the round, and was joined by return backers Sierra Ventures, Cedar Ventures and Gilde Investment Management.

WePlay Inc. Raised $1.87 Million in Series A — New York-based online community for youth sports, has raised $1.87 million in Series A-1 funding, according to a regulatory filing. Backers include Pequot Private Equity, Creative Artists Agency and Major League Baseball

Bihu Raised $ 10 Million — Sequoia Capital China has invested USD10m in Bihu, a Chinese firm that develops technology to place ads within online games.

Google confirms USD1m investment in China’s Comsenz — Google revealed that it invested USD1m in a second funding round for Comsenz, a Chinese provider of technology for community sites such as social networks. The Beijing-based startup was created by former Google board member and Sequoia general partner Michael Moritz. The investment took place in Jul last year and follows a first round of funding in 2006, in which Comsenz raised USD2m from Sequoia Capital China and former Yahoo! China president Zhou Hongyi.

LeadPoint Inc. Raised $6 Million in Series E — Los Angeles-based online leads exchange marketplace, has raised $6 million in Series E funding, according to a regulatory filing. Backers include Redpoint Ventures, Estalea LP and Breakwater Ventures. The company has now raised over $15 million.

Blekko Raised $925,000 of Series B — Redwood Shores, Calif.-based online search startup, has called down $925,000 of a $3.07 million Series B round.

Digital Media M&A

Posted in Deals, Digital Media, News with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 27, 2008 by Dave Liu

Amazon Acquires Fabric.com — US retail giant, Amazon, has acquired online fabric store Fabric.com in a bid to further its range of products. The deal, which was closed for undisclosed terms, will see Amazon expand its current selection of sewing, craft and hobby items in the US with patterns, fabrics and sewing accessories. “Over the years, we’ve seen a growing interest in this segment from our customers,” says the VP of Amazon.com’s home and garden division, Chris Nielsen, speaking about the acquisition. Fabric.com CEO, Stephen Friedman adds: “We now have the opportunity to significantly expand our breadth of inventory, as well as benefit from the technology, fulfillment and customer service expertise of Amazon.com.”

Microsoft Acquiring Semantic Searcher Powerset For $100 Million: Report — Well if it can’t get Yahoo’s search business… Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) will acquire semantic search engine Powerset for more than $100 million, according to Matt Marshall at VentureBeat. His exact language is that the company “has agreed to acquire” the company and that it will be announced next month. SF-based Powerset has been something of a media darling, despite the fact that it hasn’t taken off yet. In 2006 it raised a $12.5 million first round from Foundation Capital and The Founders Fund, as well as various angels, including Esther Dyson and PayPal founder Luke Nosek. Despite years of interest in “semantic” or “natural language” search, this area is a long way from proving that it works much better than current search technology. VentureBeat also reports that its first round valued the company at $42.5 million, so this wouldn’t be a huge win for the investors. But given the uncertainty of this area, and the cash requirements of an independent search engine, this might’ve looked like a pretty attractive outcome.

Microsoft To Buy Portuguese Mobile App Firm, MobiComp — Microsoft has agreed to buy Portuguese mobile app developer MobiComp for an undisclosed sum, marking its latest push into the mobile software industry. Founded in Braga, Portugal, in 2000, MobiComp develops mobile applications, including a backup service and tools to create and share content. The 40-strong private company claims to be profitable and counts Vodafone, MTN and Nokia among its clients. 

eBay Acquires Media-Sharing Firm VUVOX — eBay has quietly acquired media-sharing and mash-up firm, VUVOX. The deal – which was closed for undisclosed terms – will see VUVOX integrated into eBay, allowing users to embed VUVOX media tools into their personal listings. VUVOX’s staff will join eBay’s design and development teams in California, says eBay employee Richard Brewer-Hay on the auction site’s official blog eBay Ink.

Nokia Buys Location-Based Social Network Plazes — Nokia is acquiring location-based social network Plazes for an undisclosed sum, pursuing its expansion into the mobile services and location sector. Plazes will remain in Berlin and join Nokia’s services unit which includes staff from gate5, a navigation firm that Nokia acquired two years ago. The acquisition follows Nokia’s announcement last month that it expects to sell 35m GPS-enabled phones this year.

Liberty Media Acquires Party Site Celebrate Express For $31 Million — Another e-commerce buy for Liberty Media… this time it is buying out small, publicly traded Celebrate Express, a party supply retailer, for $31 million. At $3.90 per share, the deal represents a 69 percent premium over the company’s $2.30 closing price. Celebrate Express, which traded in the $20s just a few years ago, operates under such brands as Birthday Express and 1st Wishes. The new company will be attributed to the Liberty Interactive Group, and it will be combined with Liberty’s BUYSEASONS business, which operates in the same area. Liberty has made a number of deals for e-commerce companies, including its taking a major stake in BodyBuilding.com and outdoor retailer BackCountry.

Providence And Carlyle Confirm Takeover Talks With Informa — UK publisher Informa is negotiating an all-cash sale to a consortium led by Providence Equity Partners and the Carlyle Group and including Hellman & Friedman. Based on Informa’s stock value on Fri (20 Jun), the firm is worth GBP1.85bn (USD3.65bn), which would make the takeover one of the largest deals in the history of UK publishing industry. However, the bidders say talks are “at an early stage” and there is “no certainty” that they will eventually make an offer.

The Orchard Buys TVT Records Out of Bankruptcy — The Orchard, the digital music label, has bought out TVT Records after a New York bankruptcy court declared its bid the winner on Thursday. The company will gain control of TVT’s catalog, artist contracts and physical record distribution infrastructure, but will not receive holdings in its music publishing subsidiary.

Getty Images Shareholders Approve PE Buyout — Getty Images, the Seattle based images and multimedia giant, has a shareholder approval on its $2.1 billion sale to private equity firm Hellman & Friedman. About 75 percent of the shares represented at the shareholder meeting were in favor of the deal, representing 96 percent of the votes cast.

Fandango acquires Movies.com from Walt Disney — Fandango, the nation’s leading moviegoer destination, today announced that it acquired Movies.com, a leading movie content site previously owned by the Walt Disney Internet Group, a unit of The Walt Disney Company. The synergy of these two well-established and popular movie sites, both launched in 2000, will create new opportunities for exhibitors, studios, advertisers and other partners to reach the movie-going audience, and will provide additional information and entertainment for moviegoers. Fandango’s advertising sales force will represent both sites with a wide variety of advertisers.

IPC Media To Acquire Mousebreaker Website — IPC Media, the UK magazine publishing arm of Time Warner, is to buy Mousebreaker, a gaming website, the Financial Times reported. IPC declined to comment on the deal size, according to the newspaper. The item appeared alongside an article about Yell Group. The deal could take place today (24 June), the report said. The deal size is believed to be in the in the range of GBP 1m (EUR 1.27m) to GBP 10m, according to the report.

Travel Social Network WAYN Admits To Takeover Talks — Travel social network WAYN has held talks with unnamed suitors over a possible takeover, the firm’s chief executive tells StrategyEye. CEO Peter Ward reveals he has met a number of interested parties, but says WAYN wants to grow its business further before selling itself. “We have had a lot of inbound interest and we have met with many other companies,” says Ward. “We believe that to maintain our positioning and grow the business from now holds a lot more value for us than to sell.” However, he acknowledges that selling the platform is definitely part of the firm’s long term strategy, without disclosing a timescale.

Social Media Ad Firm ViTrue Buys Rival UGENmedia — ViTrue, the social media ad firm backed by Comcast and Turner Broadcasting, has acquired competitor UGENmedia for an undisclosed sum. Founded in 2006 by former DoubleClick executives, UGENmedia helps clients develop, deploy and distribute social media marketing programs. Atlanta-based ViTrue says the deal will enhance its ability to offer turnkey social media solutions while providing a strategic New York presence.

Articles of the Day

Posted in Digital Media, News with tags , , , , , , , , , on June 27, 2008 by Dave Liu

Bill Gates Resigns To Focus On Philantrophy — Microsoft chairman Bill Gates has resigned to dedicate himself to the Gates Foundation. Gates, who co-founded Microsoft, has been gradually handing over power since 2000, when he appointed Steve Ballmer as CEO. In 2006, he relinquished the position of chief software architect, replacing himself with Ray Ozzie while promoting Craig Mundie to chief research and strategy officer.

Dailymotion Sees No Sale In Short-Term — French video-sharing site Dailymotion is not looking to sell itself, the firm’s CEO told StrategyEye, dampening recent speculation of an imminent sale. Mark Zaleski says Dailymotion, the most visited video site in France and one of the most popular in Europe, is developing a business model that will enable it to stay independent. This is based on agreements with content providers, such as Viacom and Time Warner, as well as cross-platform expansion, says Zaleski citing the launch of a mobile service in France in partnership with Vodafone and Neuf. 

Yahoo’s Latest Reorg Is Official: Three New Teams Reporting To Decker With Schneider Heading U.S. — As had been anticipated, Yahoo has announced yet another reorganization. In a move designed to “leverage”, “accelerate”, “monetize” and “enhance” (all Jerry Yang’s words), the company is centralizing consumer product development, establishing a US-focused unit designed to bring products to market faster, and formed an “insights strategy team.” It also announced a slew of new titles, necessary since there’s been so much turnover. The company denies that this is some knee-jerk response to any sudden turmoil, real or perceived. Sue Decker’s statement: “We have planned these changes deliberately over the past several months to clarify responsibilities and to capitalize on the scale advantages while allowing for fine tuning to meet local market needs.” 

Sony Offers Morsels On New Video Platform; Announces Investment Plan For Coming Years — Sony, which is always on the hunt for a new strategy or direction, has offered up its latest growth plan across its various myriad business lines. As described by a Thomson wire report, the company will focus more on organic investment—$16.7 billion through 2011—than on cost cutting, as it’s done in the past. In particular, it wants to invest more in the BRIC countries. In terms of digital media, Sony says it’s rolling out its long awaited and much rumored new multi-platform video service this summer in the US. Still nothing meaty in terms of usable details, except that it will work with its Bravia TVs, Playstations and handheld devices.  

$300 Million Goodwill Writedown At IAC’s Cornerstone Unit — This might bolster the claim that IAC (NSDQ: IACI) needs to break up to improve management focus… in a filing the company says its Cornerstone Brands unit, a catalog distributor, will take a $300 million goodwill writedown. Cornerstone is part of HSNi, which will be its own fr*eestanding company. The writedown is attributed to economic conditions exacerbated by “execution issues and turnover of management.”  

High-End Auctions Debuts eBay Alternative — High-End Auctions is launching an online auction website designed to serve as an alternative to eBay and other mass-marketing internet auctions. The site only accepts items worth USD500 or more. The company says its venture was prompted, in part, by recent changes in eBay’s feedback and bidder identification policies. The startup says its site requires feedback information for both buyers and sellers. In a move designed to further protect auction integrity, the site also identifies all auction participants.

Articles of the Day

Posted in Digital Media, News with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 26, 2008 by Dave Liu

Publicis Launches Centralised Ad Platform With Tech Giants — France’s Publicis Groupe has reached agreements with AOL, Google, Microsoft and Yahoo! to create a technology platform that provides a unified resource for its agencies to more easily buy large-scale digital advertising campaigns. The world’s fourth largest advertising group owns media-buying operations such as ZenithOptimedia and Starcom, as well as creative agencies including Saatchi & Saatchi and Digitas. The company says it is launching the platform, called the VivaKi Nerve Center, to allow an advertiser to access all publishers, other ad networks and ad exchanges through a single interface.

Google, PayPal And Microsoft Launch Digital ID Scheme — Google, Microsoft and eBay-owned PayPal want to make online authentication simpler and safer by introducing what they describe as digital wallets. The companies are among 15 founding members of the Information Card Foundation (ICF), which is officially launching this week. Other founders include Equifax, Novell and Oracle. The ICF wants to bypass the need for login and password details when accessing secure sites or purchasing items online. Instead, using digital information cards, users will be identified by simply clicking on an ICF logo on any partner site. The foundation says such a system would eliminate the need to have multiple login identities and reduce the risk of phishing from hackers.

Microsoft Offered $1 Billion For Yahoo Search; Plus $8 Billion Investment; Wanted 10-Year Exclusive — Yahoo has sent another open letter to its shareholders, in an attempt to allay any fears about renewed talks with Microsoft, following the Google deal. Besides a repetition of why the Google search deal makes sense, it has disclosed some new details of what MSFT proposed in a sub-set deal following the first proposal of outright buyout of the online company. Some details from the letter: “Rather than acquire our whole company as it had been proposing for months, Microsoft now proposed to acquire only our search business for $1 billion and a share of future search advertising revenue. This proposal also included an $8 billion investment in Yahoo but required Yahoo! to commit to a 10-year exclusive arrangement that would have made us dependent on Microsoft for all of our search business.

Meebo Joins Forces With Social Net App Developers — Instant-message site Meebo today is expected to announce partnerships with social network application developers Buddy Media, Commagere Ventures, FrozenBear, K-Factor Media, Mesmo TV, Rockstarted, Spicerack Media, Trippert Labs and Unit 501. The deals allow Meebo to syndicate its API-powered embedded chat rooms — Meebo Rooms — inside their social applications. 

Microsoft, Google And Others Agree To Electronic Health Records Standard — In a move designed to prompt more people to store their medical records online, Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT), Google (NSDQ: GOOG) and several others have agreed on privacy standards to protect patients’ information. The list includes WebMD (NSDQ: WBMD), MedicAlert, AARP, Consumer Reports publisher Consumers Union, BlueCross BlueShield, and other insurers.

NBCU Will Provide Advertisers With Streaming Metrics For Specific NBC.com Shows — Trying to carve out another space where it differs from the competition, NBC Universal is claiming first-in status when it comes to providing metrics on streaming media to advertisers. Starting next month, NBC Digital Entertainment says it will use Nielsen Online’s VideoCensus to provide online streaming data by show in addition to the more common network-wide stats for NBC.com. The rationale: advertisers have been asking for it and NBC, the first broadcaster to tag streaming video for VideoCensus, thinks the numbers are accurate.

WPP Revenues Grow 4.5% Despite European Slowdown — Advertising giant WPP say like-for-like revenues grew 4.5% in the first five months of 2008 but warned of slow growth in developed markets. The growth figure, which excludes currency fluctuations and acquisition impacts, was aided by faster growth in emerging markets. However, WPP warned that growth in Western and Continental Europe, started slowing down in Mar, despite some recovery in Germany. WPP’s overall revenue growth was down 0.3% over the five months, compared to Q1 growth of 4.8%, reports the Financial Times. However, revenue grew 20% in the Middle East and 14% in Latin America.

Articles of the Day

Posted in Digital Media, News with tags , , , , , , , , , , on June 25, 2008 by Dave Liu

Yahoo-Microsoft Talks Restart — Yahoo is either talking with Microsoft again about an outright acquisition or some kind of deal short of a complete merger, depending on which Web accounts you believe. CNet reported Monday that the companies are in discussions about a transaction that doesn’t involve an acquisition. But on Tuesday, TechCrunch cited sources saying talks between the two were back on, albeit at a lower price than its original $33-a-share offer. Meanwhile, CNBC reported that no deal was in the works, though Microsoft was still interested in Yahoo’s search business.

Visa, Facebook Partner For Small Biz Ad Program — Visa Inc. on Tuesday unveiled a new marketing initiative on Facebook providing small businesses a total of $2 million for advertising on the social networking site. The credit and debit card processing giant is awarding $100 ad credits to each of the first 20,000 businesses that join its Visa Business Network, an application aimed at connecting small businesses via Facebook.  

RealNetworks Does a Reorg; New Operating Structure and Exec Promotions — RealNetworks, which is in the process of spinning out its games unit, has done a long-due reorg of its business structure and promoted three senior executives. From an earlier SEC filing, On June 9, 2008, Daniel Sheeran resigned as SVP, Business Development and Corporate Partnerships, he remains employed as a strategic advisor to Rob Glaser, the CEO.

NBC Partners With Wavexpress For Olympic Coverage — US television network NBC will broadcast coverage from the 2008 Olympic Games this summer using Wavexpress’s TVTonic internet video service. NBC executive Perkins Miller says TVTonic will cover the event on a sport-by-sport basis, allowing viewers to choose which areas they are interested in. Because of the time difference between the US and China, viewers will also be able to download events and watch them at a later date. The market for IPTV is set to soar, with the number of global subscribers reaching 60m worldwide by 2010, according to Telecommunications Management Group. 

Loop’d Adds Nike Branded Social Community — Action sports social website Loop’d is launching a branded Nike online community. The portal aims to support athletes and enthusiasts of action sports, including surf, snow, freeski, freeride, wake, moto and BMX activities. According to Loop’d, the community features the first ever viral mash-up widget created exclusively for action sports, giving it the opportunity to connect with the site’s 300,000-plus action sports enthusiasts.

Articles of the Day

Posted in Digital Media, News with tags , , , , , , , , on June 24, 2008 by Dave Liu

Ticketmaster To Be Independent In Early August Following $750MM Payment To IAC/InterActiveCorp — Ticketmaster, a West Hollywood, California-based ticket seller, will be spun off IAC/InterActiveCorp by the beginning of August, Los Angeles Business Journal reported. Sean Moriarty, the chief executive officer of Ticketmaster, said that Ticketmaster will have roughly USD 750m of debt and USD 450m of cash after leaving its parent company, IAC/InterActiveCorp, according to the report. A Wall Street Journal article reported that Ticketmaster will make a USD 750m dividend payment to IAC/InterActiveCorp immediately prior to its spin-off. The move was announced by IAC yesterday, the report said, adding that other units being spun off – HSN and Interval International – will also pay a dividend, totalling in excess of USD 1bn when taken with the Ticketmaster payment. The dividends will be made public by the subsidiaries within the next few days, the item stated.

Google To Launch Media Planning Tool AdPlanner — Continuing its inroads in the media planning side of the business, Google (NSDQ: GOOG) will launch an ad planning tool for agencies and marketers tomorrow called AdPlanner. According to NYT, “AdPlanner, was designed to help agencies identify sites where their target audience might be active. While it uses audience measurement data, AdPlanner also combines it with search engine data and information from third parties, to determine with more precision what sites attract a certain demographic audience. It then uses that data to help agencies determine where to place ads.”

Monster Aligns With 19 Newspapers For Career Ad Network; Co-Branded Sites On The Way Too — Seeing slow ad growth, deliberate or not, Monster has formed a “career ad network” with 19 local newspapers. The move comes just as that industry feels increasingly squeezed by an economic downturn and the industry. Monster first struck an ad alliance with the New York Times Co (NYSE: NYT). in February 2007 and a few months later rolled out a co-branded site with its Boston Globe Boston.com site last year as well. Since then, the newspaper ad alliance space has been filled by new entrants like the NYTCO-backed QuadrantOne and the more established Yahoo Newspaper Consortium, which is planning to unveil some additional targeting services in Q3. 

Murdoch Restructures WSJ And Sets High Digital Target — Revenue from Dow Jones’ digital operations could shoot up to 75% from 50% in a just a few years, says Rupert Murdoch, chairman of Dow Jones’ parent, News Corp. His comments come as the company is restructuring itself to become more nimble and efficient. Among the changes, Dow Jones’ Wall Street Journal (WSJ) is creating a new central news desk to coordinate domestic and international reporting between the newspaper and Dow Jones Newswires print and online operations. The company is also promoting three new deputy managing editors who will report to the WSJ’s managing editor Robert Thomson, also editor in chief of Dow Jones.  

Former Yahoo! Exec Rolls Out Topspin Media — Topspin Media, an online marketing services firm for musicians, has emerged from stealth mode. The firm, headed by Yahoo!’s former VP for music Ian Rogers, goes live after a year in development, with more services to be rolled out over the coming months. Topspin’s unbranded marketing software – aimed at bands and existing marketing firms – is designed to help musicians connect with fans and build their brands. Eventually the platform will be open to anyone, and is currently being used by selected artists such as the Dandy Warhols and Josh Rouse, who are using it to independently release new material through their websites.

LinkShare Symposium 2008

Posted in Digital Media, Media, Multimedia with tags , , on June 23, 2008 by Dave Liu

For the second year in a row I attended the LinkShare Symposium.  The people at LinkShare always put on a classy black tie event followed by a great day of speakers and networking.  As one of the largest affiliate networks in the US, LinkShare brings together over 650 representatives from the world’s leading and emerging e-commerce companies. I really enjoy attending and being a judge at the Annual LinkShare Golden Link Awards: