Articles of the Day


Google Makes Health Portal More Accessible, Microsoft Talks HealthVault’s Progress — Google and Microsoft launched their competing health information storage platforms, Google Health and Microsoft HealthVault, amidst a slew of hype earlier this year, and even tried to entice users by agreeing to third-party online privacy standards in June. This week, they’re trying to jumpstart the hype again with more details about their products. Google has built accessibility features into its health records platform, angling for Web users with sight and hearing problems. The company rolled out a new version of Google Health that it says works better for users of screen readers, self-voicing browsers and browser add-ons (like the open source Fire Vox).

EBay Swings To Black For Q3 But Growth Is Oh So Slow — EBay moved into the black for Q3 but will it be there this time next year? The e-commerce company reported third-quarter net income of $492 million after charges, or $0.38 per share, up from a loss of $.69 in the same quarter last year. (Q307 included the massive $1.43 billion writedown for Skype.) Revenue rose $228 million to $2.12 billion, up 12 percent over $1.9 billion in Q307. But the economic downturn combined with eBay’s (NSDQ: EBAY) slowing growth—almost stagnant—doesn’t bode well; that year-over-year revenue increase is actually down $769 million from last quarter and eBay’s increases for the last three quarters were incremental, with a range of $15 million. Q4 will include $70-80 million in charges from the recently announced 10 percent job cuts. The result: eBay would consider zero revenue growth over this quarter to be a win. Skype: Revenue for eBay’s communications division grew 46 percent over last year, to $143 million. A “robust trajectory” as eBay puts it but again, revenue growth is slowing. Sequentially, Skype revenue was $126 million in Q1, $136 million in Q2.

Investors Pump $148.5 Million Into 12 Virtual Worlds Companies In Q3 — While VC firms like Sequoia Capital prep their startups for leaner days, and the WSJ says that marketers are planning to cut back spending on “experimental” ad buys, a group of virtual worlds companies has nearly $150 million to burn. Virtual Worlds Management reports that a dozen virtual worlds-related companies received $148.5 million in funding in Q3, bringing the total amount invested in the space this year to over $493 million. Kid-friendly worlds were definitely a focus, as more than half of the deals (worth more than $36 million) were with companies that had either launched or were set to launch youth-facing properties; but it will be interesting to see if the same level of investment is sustained in the coming months. Notable deals: SF-based Gaia Online picked up $11 million in a third round led by Institutional Venture Partners. All told, the teen hangout has raised over $32 million since 2006. Hollywood Interactive Group snagged $5 million in a first round led by BlueRun Ventures. The company launched MyHollywood.com, a celeb- and entertainment-themed world for women, in June.

Facebook Finally Pays Out $2 Million From Its Apps Fund To 25 Developers — Probably six months too late, Facebook has finally announced 25 recipients from its $10 million fbFund. The fund was announced a year ago by Facebook, with money from the company, Accel Partners, and the Founders Fund, but its disbursement has been delayed since then. These 25 recipients each get $25K grants, with no-strings attached (meaning no equity stakes), to “help build businesses on Facebook.com or around the Web with Facebook Connect,” the company said. These recipients are eligible for an additional $225K each in grant funding, which will be awarded to five winners selected by Facebook users and the fbFund advisory council in December. This comes as arguably some of the app and widget madness is dying down a bit, as companies and services in the space get weeded out during the downturn, both as a result of, well, just useless services, and also because of no underlying business model in them. Some would argue that means this is the best time to invest in these services.

Display Ad Prices Trending Downward; Fall-Off Is Consistent, But Not ‘Dramatic’—Pubmatic — The average price of a display ad was 27 cents in Q3, a nearly 50 percent drop from Q407’s 50 cents, according to Pubmatic, which sells software optimization tools to ad networks and has been surveying prices for the past four months. In Q1, the company said the average price of a display ad was 37 cents, while from Q2’s price was 34 cents, said Pubmatic, which bases its PubMatic AdPrice Index (PDF) on a survey of roughly 5,000 websites mostly in the U.S. Some of the other findings in its survey showed: Display ad pricing has generally trended downwards across website sizes and verticals. All categories moved down from last quarter, with the exception of Technology which stayed flat. Social nets are still the lowest priced category, with sports coming in a close second, at 21 cents and 25 cents, respectively. Entertainment had the biggest drop of all verticals, falling 42 percent to 33 cents in Q3 from 57 cents in Q1. Small-sized websites’ inventory was more than triple the value of larger sites in Q3, with values of 61 cents and 18 cents, respectively.

Experian Cancels Pricegrabber.com Sale Efforts; Blames Failure On Credit Crunch — More evidence arrives illustrating how the collapse of credit markets around the world is affecting companies’ ability to make deals happen. UK credit checking firm Experian has cancelled the sale of price comparison website Pricegrabber.com because it couldn’t find a buyer willing – or able – to finance the deal. Experian bought the site for $485 million (£281 million) in 2005 and by the looks of things it’s going to be holding onto it for a while longer than planned.

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