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.”