Articles of Day


‘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.

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