Archive for October, 2008

Digital Media VC

Posted in Deals, Digital Media, News with tags , , , , , on October 31, 2008 by Dave Liu

Heliun Raised $17 Million In Series A — Andover, Mass.-based operator of a how-to reference site, has raised $17 million in Series A funding over the past year. Signature Capital led the round, and was joined by Northport Private Equity and other undisclosed backers. The company also laid off 18 staffers, or 30% of its existing organization.

Crispy Gamer Raised $8.25 Million In First Round — New York-based provider of online editorial content for gamers, has raised $8.25 million in first-round funding from Constellation Ventures and company founders. The company will not accept advertising from game publishers.

Kriyari Raised $2.3 Million In First Round – — San Jose, Calif.-based operator of online shopping site iStorez.com, has raised $2.3 million in first-round funding from Norwest Venture Partners, according to VentureWire.

Digital Media M&A

Posted in Deals, Digital Media, News with tags , , , , , , on October 31, 2008 by Dave Liu

Johnson & Johnson Buys Online Health Coach HealthMedia — Johnson & Johnson has acquired HealthMedia, an online health counselor and web intervention provider. Financials were not disclosed. Founded in 1998, HealthMedia has about 140 employees and posted $23 million in revenue last year. Its suite of interventions covers disease management and behavioral health, among other initiatives. It will remain based in Michigan and, according to J&J, won’t see any management restructuring. J&J, which already owns baby and mom-focused BabyCenter, had been looking for a way to reduce per capita health plan costs and “improve overall employee health and productivity.”

SheKnows Adds Another To The Playpen, Acquiring BabyHold — M&A binger that is SheKnows has made its latest purchase: parenting and child naming resource BabyHold.com. Terms were not disclosed. The site serves as a community for mothers-to-be and is designed to fit in with SheKnows’ stable of other recent additions, including PregnancyAndBaby.com, PregnancyFashion.com and ChefMom.com. Something of a baby boom has been occurring in the online media space over the past few months, as major publishers like People have sought to build up their offerings to new moms by acquiring sites like CelebrityBabyBlog this past spring.

Articles of the Day

Posted in Digital Media, News with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 31, 2008 by Dave Liu

Google And Yahoo Appear Ready To Abandon Talks On Pact — While the Google-Yahoo search ad pact seems increasingly headed for rocks, the two sides have continued to insist that they’re talking with the Department of Justice about crafting an agreement that passes regulatory muster. Until now, it seems. Citing unidentified sources, the WSJ says those talks have not moved the ball an inch and suggests that Google (NSDQ: GOOG) and Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO) may abandon the pact completely. The decision to drop the planned deal could come as soon as next week, the WSJ says—although hedging its bets, the paper adds the two could go the other way and announce a last-minute save. What makes next week so important and why does it seem like such a toss-up? It could have something to do with Tuesday’s presidential election. The thinking could be that an Obama win—which would be at least personally supported by Google CEO Eric Schmidt, an avowed Obama supporter—would probably signal a more jaundiced view of what constitutes anti-competitive partnerships. And a McCain win could mean that antitrust regulation would remain fairly loose.

CBS Swings To Loss On 12.5 Billion Write-Down; Q3 Revs Rise 3 Percent — True to its warnings about lower earnings earlier this month, CBS (NYSE: CBS) Q3 net earnings from continuing operations came in with a loss of $12.46 billion, or a loss of $18.58 per diluted share, versus earnings of $340.2 million, or $.48 per diluted share, for the same prior-year period. The earnings report also highlighted a $56.4 million write-down on items associated with “other-than-temporary declines in the market value” CBS’ investments. Revenues, meanwhile, were up 3 percent to $3.38 billion in Q3, which were driven by the addition of CNET and domestic cable sales of CSI: New York, though offset by lower ad sales. As Les Moonves, president and CEO of CBS Corp., said during the earnings call, “any increase in revenue is welcome in this difficult environment.”

ValueClick Net Income Plummets 88 Percent — Online ad firm ValueClick (NSDQ: VCLK) had previously warned investors that Q3 would be rough and its earnings report on Wednesday clearly bore that out: the company’s GAAP net income was $2 million ($0.02 per diluted common share), down 88.1 from $16.8 million ($0.17 per diluted common share) in Q307. Net income was affected by the completion of an offer to purchase up to 4.9 million stock options with exercise prices ranging from $25.66 to $29.73 per share. It was also impacted by tax adjustments. Excluding those two items, Q3 net income per diluted common share would have been $0.15, ValueClick said. Revenue was down 2.5 percent to $152.9 million compared to $156.9 million for the third quarter of 2007.

Liberty Media’s Interactive Group Income Falls 14 Percent — Liberty Media’s Interactive Group posted slim revenue gains of 2 percent, while adjusted operating income fell 14 percent in Q3. The increase in revenue was primarily driven by the impact of the Bodybuilding.com purchase last December and growth at the other e-commerce companies. The decrease in adjusted OIBDA was due to the results at shopping channel QVC, which is the largest part of the group and has been hurt by the economic downturn. In keeping with the unsteadiness of the market, Greg Maffei, Liberty President and CEO, said the company would concentrate on bringing down its debt. Earlier this month, the company drew down on its QVC bank facilities and retired 87 percent of its senior notes that mature in mid-2009. The company repurchased 13.6 million Liberty Capital shares from Aug. 1 through Oct. 29. Also, Liberty has instituted a hiring fr*eeze, company-wide. Given the uncertainty in the economy, the company is withdrawing its guidance for Q4.

TheStreet.com’s Weak Q3 Forces Boardroom Shuffle — Wall Street’s losses have turned partly into TheStreet.com’s gains, as traffic surged to an all-time high over the course of Q3—and ad revenue tracked upward accordingly. But the company wasn’t completely immune to the market downturn, as it missed analysts’ EPS and revenue expectations (via Tech Trader Daily), and posted a $1.1 million loss in net income. TheStreet.com (NSDQ: TSCM) shook up its boardroom as a result, making Jim Cramer Chairman so that former Chairman (and current CEO) Thomas Clarke can focus on navigating the even tougher times ahead.

WPP Sales Up In Third Quarter; Expects ‘Very Tough 2009’ — Ad holding company WPP Group reported a 16 percent rise in sales in the third quarter, boosted by the stronger dollar and euro against the pound. Revenues came in at £1.72 billion ($2.8 billion), compared to £1.48 billion ($2.42 billion) a year ago. Adjusting for inflation, revenue was six percent higher; on a like-for-like basis–stripping out acquisitions and currency fluctuations–growth was three percent. As rivals Publicis, Interpublic and Aegis reported earlier this week, WPP expects that the “disintegration in the financial markets” will continue to have a “significant negative effect” on consumer and corporate confidence, with 2009 shaping up to be “a very tough year.” CEO Martin Sorrell told Bloomberg that the “real recovery” will come in 2010, when events such as football’s World Cup and the Winter Olympics games should boost sales.

Conde Nast Scales Back Portfolio, Men’s Vogue; Layoffs Are Coming — The print publishing cuts just keep coming. Condé Nast plans to cut budgets company-wide by 5 percent, including scaling back the number of Portfolio and Men’s Vogue issues it publishes and laying off some staff, NYT (FRB: 066570) reports. Men’s Vogue is taking the biggest hit, shifting to bi-annual production from 10 issues per year, and business-industry last-year-darling Portfolio will go from 12 issues to 10. Most of Men’s Vogue‘s operations will be folded into Vogue, while some of Portfolio’s online components, including ad sales, will be bundled with Wired magazine. While the layoffs will hit various titles, the NYT cites unidentified sources saying that the two aforementioned titles will absorb most of the job cuts. At our FOBM conference Tuesday, Condé Nast group president David Carey was adamant that Portfolio was healthy and wouldn’t be whittled down to a “digital only” publication, and was quite bullish on the magazine’s digital revenue generation potential earlier this year. Condé Nast launched Portfolio amidst much fanfare in April 2007. The news comes just days after Time Inc. and Gannett (NYSE: GCI) both said they were resorting to mass layoffs, and the Christian Science Monitor announced it will shift to printing its paper edition weekly instead of daily.

AOL Opens Up Site To Social Networks — As part of its open strategy, AOL today unveiled a new feature allowing users to access social networks including MySpace, Facebook and Bebo directly from the Web portal’s redesigned home page. The “My Networks” feature lets AOL visitors post status updates to multiple social networks at once, as well as provide profile activity information such as new friend requests and mail notifications from third-party social sites. The move follows AOL’s step last month to offer direct access to outside e-mail services including Gmail, Hotmail and Yahoo Mail via prominent links on its home page.

Marchex Adhere Adds 23 Publishers To Roster — Pushing to give media buyers more options as budgets tighten, Marchex Adhere has signed on 23 publishers in the past 90 days, upping the lineup to more than 200. Marchex Adhere for Publishers is a white-label ad platform that publishers use to run their own performance-based advertising marketplaces. The expanded roster gives advertisers a method to target a specific audience, said Sloan Seymour, VP of Seattle-based Marchex.

Netflix and TiVo to Partner on Movies — Netflix will place its Watch Instantly streaming-movie service on TiVo’s HD-compatible set-top boxes, furthering the technology industry’s goal of sending television shows and movies over the Internet — instead of over traditional cable and satellite networks — to ordinary TVs. Netflix, based in Los Gatos, Calif., is more widely known for its DVD subscription service that mails discs in familiar red envelopes. But it has lately been expanding its digital offerings, and now has 12,000 movies and television shows that subscribers can view instantly over the Web on their PCs without charge. Netflix and TiVo said they would begin testing the service on Thursday and expected to make it available to all owners of TiVo set-top boxes in December. There will be no extra charge for TiVo subscribers who also have one of Netflix’s unlimited subscription plans, which start at $8.99 a month.

Gorilla Nation Lands Reuters Canada — Los Angeles-based publisher rep firm Gorilla Nation has been selected to represent advertising inventory for all traffic coming from Canada to Reuters.com (www.reuters.com) and Reuters.ca (www.reuters.ca). GN also recently signed the Economic Times (www.economictimes.com) and the Times of India (www.timesofindia.com). These properties will also contribute to an aggregated market of business professionals for the company’s new financial vertical market offering, in addition to its current 35 vertical markets.

Articles of Day

Posted in Digital Media, News with tags , , , , , , , , on October 30, 2008 by Dave Liu

‘New’ AOL.com Homepage Goes Live With Lifestreaming, New Themes, And More — If all goes as planned, by the time you’re reading this the new version of the AOL.com homepage will be live—complete with new themes and full-fledged lifestreaming. I’ve been playing with the demo version a bit tonight, creating a mix that includes my Gmail, AIM, AOL mail and Facebook. A Twitter tab promises that the module is coming; other options include Yahoo mail, AOL’s Bebo and MySpace. (Twitter and Bebo are being turned on last.) The ability to access third-party e-mail, added in early September, was the first of the social/life management features. The direct video playback and photo galleries are slated to launch over the weekend. AOL says the impact is already being felt, pointing to the September numbers from comScore (NSDQ: SCOR) Media Metrix. Traffic to AOL.com is up 34 percent in September year over year; uniques are up 3.2 million, or 11 percent; and total minutes are up 40 percent. The number of people selecting AOL.com as their home page jumped by 500,000, according to internal stats.

Reports Say Yahoo, AOL Doing Due Diligence For Tie-Up, But Sources Tell Us Not So Fast — Are Yahoo and AOL finally getting ready to merge? Reuters reports that the two companies are now doing due diligence on each other’s finances in what could, after months of on-again, off-again discussions, be a prelude to a tie-up. The wire service’s source, whose name it did not disclose, said the process is “meaningful” but not imminent: The two companies are “looking at each other’s books to figure out how much money they could make together and where costs can be saved.” AllThingsD also reported the due diligence angle yesterday. Reuters says the talks center on “how to integrate AOL’s content and advertising business into Yahoo,” which could essentially swallow both AOL’s portals and editorial efforts and its Platform-A ad behemoth. That could add a significant new dimension to the DoJ’s still-ongoing scrutiny of Yahoo’s Google (NSDQ: GOOG) ad deal. Question is: How ready will the department be to green-light an amalgam of Yahoo, Google and Platform-A advertising assets? Alternatively, a Yahoo/Platform-A tie-up may afford a fall-back option, should the Google avenue be blocked.

RealNetworks Reports Losses For Q3; Games Help Increase Revenues — RealNetworks announced its Q308 earnings today, and it reported losses for the quarter, though the games division helped shore up the topline. Its Q3 losses were $4.5 million, compared with a net profit of $4.3 million in the year-ago period. Revenues grew 5 percent to $152.0 million compared with $145.1 million for Q308.

Meredith’s Profits, Revs Down — The downward trend continues for women-centric media and marketing giant Meredith, with slumping profits and revenues for Q3 in both its publishing and broadcast divisions. The company has a stable of 25 magazines (including Better Homes and Gardens and Fitness), 31 Websites and 13 television stations. For the quarter ending September 30, revenues came in at $370 million ($0.41 per share)—down nearly 8.5 percent from last year’s $404 million ($0.68 per share). Publishing ad revenue is down, of course : Q3 ad revenues were down 18 percent—in contrast to Q307 when publishing ad revenues actually grew by 13 percent. The sinking sales dragged down overall publishing revenue, which fell by 9 percent to $330 million (from $300 million in Q307). Meanwhile, operating profit fell by 40 percent to $33 million.

WPP, Google Team Up To Prove Value Of Search — With the boatloads of money funneled to search marketing in recent years, one might not think academic proof was required to convince advertisers that search is where they should put their dollars. But according to WPP Group and Google, you would be wrong. The two companies are teaming up to provide grants to academic research to show how search marketing benefits brands. The $4.6 million joint project, funded equally by the companies, will run three years, with about a dozen grants expected in the first year alone. “The aim is to make us smarter, our clients smarter and help our clients move their budgets online more quickly,” WPP Digital CEO Mark Read said. The partnership marks an unusual alliance between the two companies, given WPP honcho Martin Sorrell’s famous reference to Google as a “frenemy.”

Sohu.com CEO Denies Specific Plans To Acquire In China, But Says It Will ‘Launch A Radar’ To Seek Suitable Targets — Sohu.com (NASDAQ:SOHU), a listed Chinese web portal operator, will “launch a radar” to seek suitable targets, Chairman and CEO Charles Zhang said during the company’s Q3 08 earnings call. The company’s cash position and lower valuations in the market mean that there are probably some good target candidates about, he said. However, Zhang said he had been misquoted in a recent media report that Sohu had begun actively looking at companies. “I was talking about generally about investment and about if there’s some opportunity to buy some cheap things,” he said. “We’ll basically launch our radar and look for them [targets] but there are no specific plans right now,” he said. “It’s a logical thinking so we are looking into this,” he conceded. Zhang revealed 3Q 08 revenue of USD 120.7m, up 18% quarter-on-quarter and 134% a year-on-year. Brand advertising revenue increased by 18% quarter-on-quarter and 66% year-on-year to USD 49.4m. Online Games revenue reached USD 54.6m, an increase of 14% quarter-on-quarter and 330% year-on-year. A recent report in Caijing, a bi-weekly Chinese journal, cited Zhang as saying that there were some good targets for acquisition and that the company was actively seeking an appropriate buy. The National Business Daily cited Zhang as saying that now is the right time for Sohu.com to make acquisitions as prices are low. Source: mergermarket.

Articles of the Day

Posted in Digital Media, News with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 29, 2008 by Dave Liu

Aegis’ Fay: ‘Not As Bad As You Think’—And Not Done With M&A — Aegis North America CEO Sarah Fay, in a conversation with Andy Serwer, Fortune’s managing editor, at Future of Business Media conference hit on all the touch points facing the ad industry right now: the state of ad spend, the divide between traditional and digital, the Google issue and M&A activity. In general, Fay expressed a relatively sunny take on the turbulent media industry at the moment. Bullish on M&A activity, display: During the audience Q&A, Fay noted Aegis’ eight digital acquisition this year—a company called IF based in Malaysia—and added that the company has no plans to pull back on digital M&A, especially in emerging markets. She added that while search’s accountability is even more crucial to marketers during an economic downturn, the importance of online branding will make display more attractive as well.

Hulu Hopes To Enter UK; Held Up By Kangaroo’s Troubles — We’ve speculated for a while that NBCU/News Corp.’s US VOD JV Hulu would like to launch here in the UK. Today C21 reports the site is considering “a partnership approach” with UK counterpart Kangaroo, with C21 even suggesting Kangaroo could itself get named “Hulu” rather than the rumoured “See-Saw” This is not quite our understanding of the situation. Sources told paidContent:UK the much-lauded Hulu is hoping for a UK launch next year, along with several other territories under consideration. But its plans are on hold until the outcome of the Competition Commission inquiry that’s currently preventing Kangaroo’s launch. That’s because Hulu would be better to launch with a full service, carrying public service shows from Kangaroo’s founders BBCWW, ITV (LSE: ITV) and C4, than a piecemeal offering.

Long-standing Book Search Lawsuit Costs Google $125 Million — How much has it cost Google to scan hundreds of thousands of books and make them available via its Google Book Search? At least $125 million. That’s how much the search giant has paid to settle a long-standing class action lawsuit with the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers (representing publishers like McGraw-Hill (NYSE: MHP) and the Penguin Group). The funds will be used to set up a Book Rights Registry that will let U.S. copyright holders register their works so that they can get a cut of any resulting online retail and ad sales. MarketWatch’s Therese Poletti wonders if the settlement lines Google up as a future Amazon.com competitor, or at least, a contractor—as Google’s scanned books could wind up as part of Kindle’s growing library.

Could A Recession Bring Back The Idea Of Charging For Content? — Economist.com took a pass on the free-content phenomenon first time around – now, just as flares and yo-yos came back in to fashion, the publisher sees pay walls regaining popularity in an advertising downturn. The news mag’s site already charges for stories over a year old and, publisher Paul Rossi told our Future Of Business Media conference, that could be just the right model for a looming recession: ”The growth in online advertising is slowing. Is this the return to paid content online, because advertising becomes less a driver for the business? It will be be interesting to see if paid content comes back online because the model is changing.” The Economist already had something of a disdain for the ad-dependent alternative, vowing never to mix ads and editorial on the same print page: “We start with the premise that a reader is paying us a substantial amount of money for our magazine.” And Rossi, interviewed by our managing editor Ernie Sander, seems never to have considered web ads a truly viable paradigm anyway, saying “to be rely effective online, it has to be interuptive and disruptive” – losing points for user experience. Despite flirting with free, WSJ.com and FT.com have settled on a part-free, part-paid compromise. Economist.com, too, seems to have that base covered as we enter uncertain times.

Bloomberg’s Norman Pearlstine: Acquisitions Won’t Grab Headlines — Norman Pearlstine, chief content officer of Bloomberg, said during his Q&A today that they are indeed looking at acquisitions, while also providing a refreshing take on what’s working with their highly profitable terminal business that charges 290,000 subscribers about $18,000 a year, and the work that needs to be done in its smaller consumer media business, including Bloomberg TV, which reaches 57 million U.S. homes. Bloomberg won’t be buying anything as big as AOL: “Historically, Bloomberg has had a strong preference for building rather than buying, and since I’m coming from Time Warner (NYSE: TWX), the approach makes a lot of sense. But I think that we have shown a number of things—while maybe not in the acquisition area—we have shown the ability to work with others. We also have signaled a willingness to look at acquisitions. The CEO of Bloomberg, who is in charge of the terminal business, created a new group called Bloomberg Ventures, which is looking at a lot of new ventures for potential acquisition. In the immediate future, we aren’t talking about the major kind of acquisition that gets written about. With the difficulties of integration, and again I’m reminded of my AOL/Time Warner experience, I’m with that program.”

Financial Portals May Face Audience ‘Burnout’ — The economics crisis has been good to both financial portals, like Yahoo Finance and AOL (NYSE: TWX), while also benefiting niche sites like Seeking Alpha and Minyanville, according to comments made by those company executives during a panel. Here’s what they said about what products work the best, and any potential tie-up between Yahoo and AOL. On the potential Yahoo-AOL tie-up. Is bigger better? In September, Yahoo Finance recorded 20 million uniques and AOL had 14 million: Scott Moore, Yahoo SVP said the two sites are complimentary. Yahoo is a news aggregator and AOL’s focus is on personal finance. “If one company owned both of the sites, it would be a category-killer. It would be game over in terms of metrics.” Marty Moe, AOL SVP of Money & Finance: “I have no idea what will happen, and I don’t have any knowledge of discussions going on, but with that said, any scenario would present enormous opportunities. In this this economy, there are many ways in which bigger is better. In this economy, it’s inevitable that consolidation is happening. I think that it’s a trend that will happen, particularly for international growth.”

Articles of the Day

Posted in Digital Media, News with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 28, 2008 by Dave Liu

AOL Hands Off Video Duties To Brightcove — After years of handling video content management internally, AOL is expected to announce today that it is bringing in Brightcove to take over those duties. The transition, expected to be completed by early next year, will leave the thriving online video platform with control over AOL’s video content management, publishing, and playback duties.

NYTimes Partners With Brightcove For Video — NYTimes.com late last week relaunched its video platform with a high-definition, wide-screen format, redesigned video library and individual playback pages for each video. The Times’ new video platform rests on Brightcove’s online video technology platform, Brightcove 3–which is designed to help the Times reach new audiences through SEO, and syndication, and improve streaming experiences. “In layman’s terms, Brightcove’s technology brings more stability and flexibility,” said Nicholas Ascheim, vice president of product management at NYTimes.com. “What you want is for a user to able to click play and the video plays, which is harder than you think.” Brightcove’s technology also introduces new advertising inventory and opportunities for brand marketing, according to Ascheim.

Online Retail Traffic Declines — U.S. traffic to retail Web sites has fallen for eight straight weeks as of Oct. 25, marking the first such decline since June 2007, according to a new study by Hitwise. Visits to retail sites dropped 4% in September compared to an increase of 14% from June through August. Hitwise said the fall-off reflects consumers’ cutting back on spending as a result of the current economic climate. “These declines have strong implications for the upcoming online holiday season as well as offline sales,” said Heather Dougherty, research director at Hitwise. “Everyone is aware of the role that the Internet plays to influence offline sales through research, so this slowdown may indicate a further ripple effect in sales in retail locations.”

Three Bidders Left For Reed Business; Former Publisher of WSJ Involved In One Group — We noted earlier today that the Reed Business Information auction is being sweetened again, with parent Reed Elsevier (NYSE: RUK) planning to to offer a bigger vendor loan to finance the struggling sell-off. Now we have learned that there are three parties left in the auction, and interestingly, one group is working with the former Publisher of the Wall Street Journal Gordon Crovitz. Crovitz is working with the consortium of Apollo Management, the PE firm, and Strauss Zelnick’s PE firm Zelnick Media. The other two parties left in the auction are Bain Capital (which has taken on Helen Alexander, the former CEO of The Economist Group as an advisor on the deal) and the group led by TPG and DLJ Merchant Banking Partners. As has been reported before, Reed had been offering vendor financing from its own coffers to $330 million, besides helping bring in other banks for staple financing, and now it may pony up more its own money.

Mansueto’s Koten: Breaking News Doesn’t Bring In Ad Dollars, Aggregation Does — When Fast Company and Inc. publisher Mansueto Ventures laid off 20 staffers, mostly on the online side of the business, earlier this month, it seemed like a curious move. While the magazine side of business has been healthy, Mansueto had spent a much of the past year building up the digital side, including high-profile hires like Robert Scoble, starting Fast Company TV, and creating a social media initiative around Fast Company as well. So why defenestrate a chunk of the online side? In a Q&A with Forbes.com, Mansueto CEO John Koten elaborates on the company’s rationale behind the cuts, which he says was to tear down the walls between the digital and print sides.

ValueClick COO Yovanno Jumps To Widget Analytics Firm Gigya As CEO — Widget distribution firm Gigya has named ValueClick (NSDQ: VCLK) COO David Yovanno CEO, Venturebeat reported. Yovanno told Venturebeat that after nine years at ValueClick, it was simply time to move on. ValueClick has been struggling over the past year. Back in February, ValueClick settled a suit brought by the Federal Trade Commission that accused the company of using fraudulent tactics for online lead gen activities. More recently, that company has been hit by the downward trajectory of the display business. Aside from helping preside over that, Yovanno also managed ValueClick’s comparison shopping businesses and oversaw the company’s acquisition of 14 firms. News of Yovanno’s departure comes just ahead of ValueClick’s Q3 earnings report this Wednesday.

Articles of the Day

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

Cox Communications Betting $500 Million On Ambitious Cellphone Service — Cox Communications plans to launch its own cellphone service in the second half of 2009, an ambitious attempt to compete independently with the major carriers. Cox president Pat Esser told USA Today the company “spent $500 million buying wireless capacity in our markets. Now, we’re going to turn it on.” Plans for the service, which will mesh cellphones, landline, TV and Internet, may sound familiar; after all, Cox was one of the MSOs that formed a JV with Sprint (NYSE: S) to accomplish much of the same. But the JV fell apart earlier this year, following investments of $100 million from the operators and $100 million from Sprint—and a whole lot of hype.

Gannett Q3 Profits Drop 32 Percent; Revs Slide 8.9 Percent — Gannett’s profits and revenues were down again in Q3, with total operating revenues slipping 8.9 percent to $1.64 billion from last year’s $1.80 billion. Net income meanwhile fell 32 percent to $158 million ($0.69 per share) from Q307’s $234 million ($1.01 per share), reflecting the woes its newspaper peers have been experiencing lately as revenue from ads and circulation plummet and the company acts to rein in costs. Gannett (NYSE: GCI) recently said it would eliminate 1,000 staff positions, including 600 layoffs, for a 3 percent reduction in its workforce. Analysts estimates gathered by Thomson Reuters (NASDAQ: TRIN) expected the USA Today parent to post a gain of 75 cents per share and revenue of $1.61 billion, AP reported in its earnings preview. While noting the trouble on the print side, Gannett’s earning statement attempted to highlight some of the more positive news on the digital front. Like most newspaper companies who are still experiencing growth from their respective internet properties—albeit at a slower rate, these days—digital revenue ballooned to $77.5 million in Q3 from $17.1 million. Again, impressive numbers, but certainly not enough to stanch the losses elsewhere. As for a review of some of Gannett’s digital moves during the quarter, the company acquired all of its partners’ ownership stakes in comparison shopping site ShopLocal and took an additional 10 percent stake in CareerBuilder, increasing its ownership to 50.8 percent. While the company publishes 100 websites, mostly related to its newspaper and broadcast properties, the real money makes were CareerBuilder, along with ShopLocal and rich media ad firm PointRoll.

Economy Will Impact Billion-Dollar Deals; Old Media Should Buy New Media — When it comes to the shaky economy, the big question is how are deals getting done? A panel at FOBM offered some optimism, saying that companies with cash are looking for well-priced deals, and that old media companies will be looking to Silicon Valley for their next stage of evolution, but they also cautioned there’s no more mega-billion dollar acquisitions. Along with discussion, Newser Founder Michael Wolff, who is writing a book about News Corp (NYSE: NWS) Chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch, provided a number of colorful insights about Murdoch’s purchase of Dow Jones, one of the biggest media deals of last year. On how the market changed from a deals perspective in the last four weeks: Scott Peters, managing director of the Jordan Edmiston Group: “The deal market is fantastic. During the first half of this year, it [M&A] was really active and it’s still active, but the type of transactions have shifted. The mega-billion dollar market is gone. The middle of the market is still active with strategic deals—non-private equity deals—and the next flood will be full of challenging situations.” Wolff: “We are going to see a ramp up really quickly. I think you are going to see a vast reconfiguration.

Clearspring Leaps Into Widget Network Lead — Clearspring Technologies has vaulted into the top spot among widget networks in September with 254 million unique viewers worldwide, according to comScore’s latest Widget Metrix report. The company attributes its nearly 60% audience growth since August to its acquisition of social bookmarking site AddThis as well as new partnerships with publishers such as MetroLyrics and SnagFilms. The surge pushed Clearspring well past former category leader Gigya, which saw its viewers worldwide drop from 174 million to 161 million from August to September.

FT.com Trims Free Stories Back Again, Launches Chat Community — FT.com today launches a user-led chatroom, the first step in a six-month overhaul of the site designed to capitalise on the massive interest in financial news as markets collapse and recession looms across the world. The Long Room, named after a notorious but now closed City boozer, will be part of FT.com’s popular Alphaville news and analysis strand and allows users – by invitation only – to begin and run their own discussions and upload files. It’s part of attempts by the FT to make the site more interactive – and to ultimately increase readership across the site and convince more occasional readers to sign up to a paid subscription. In an interview with paidContent:UK FT.com MD Rob Grimshaw said the blog was a sign of things to come, and he gave a strong defence of the site’s part-paid business model.