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Articles of the Week

Posted in Digital Media, News with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 16, 2009 by Dave Liu

AOL’s Web Strategy Refined Yet Again With MediaGlow — AOL is tweaking its website strategy yet again. As the company struggles with the slowdown in display ad activity, it is giving its web publishing unit a formal name, called MediaGlow. AOL’s Bill Wilson will go from EVP of programming to president of the new unit, which will oversee programming’s 75 sites, NYT reports. AOL plans to create 30 more sites this year. The formation of MediaGlow is meant to move AOL away from being a portal, as opposed to a publisher with niche sites, like “edgy” younger men’s site Asylum and its female counterpart Lemondrop.com, something it’s been working towards for over a year.

Hearst Says Seattle P-I Will Either Be Sold, Close Or Go Web-Only — Following yesterday’s leak to a local TV station that Hearst Corp. was planning to sell or close the Seattle Post Intelligencer, the parent company has confirmed that it is seeking a buyer for the daily, the paper itself reported. The unidentified source who tipped off KING-TV yesterday about Hearst’s plans told the station that the company is pessimistic about finding a buyer in this dismal environment. Publicly, Hearst sees three possibilities for the Seattle P-I, which is one of only two of the city’s daily papers: it will either be sold, turned into a web-only publication or shuttered.

CBS Interactive’s TV.Com Relaunches With Video From Showtime, Sony, Endemol And More — A follow-up to the TV.com relaunch we first reported last month… the CBS Interactive (NYSE: CBS) site, which already sports its new front-page look, is expanding its video catalog with content from Endemol, Sony (NYSE: SNE) Pictures TV, MGM, PBS, and sibling Showtime. TV.com is trying to tilt its image from a community site about television to a video destination. “The thought is to weave in this entertainment into the overall community experience,” explains Anthony Soohoo, SVP and GM of CBS Interactive Entertainment and Lifestyle. “We want to use it more as a starter, a fuel to start the conversation versus letting it be so overbearing that it overtakes the rest of the community.”

Yahoo TV Effort Comes At The Right Time — At the Consumer Electronics Show, Yahoo unveiled a range of new televisions and other devices loaded with software developed with chipmaker Intel Corp. that allows users to call up Web pages and tools for use while watching TV. BusinessWeek notes that past attempts to marry the Web and TV have fizzled badly, but some analysts claim that Yahoo’s efforts come at the right time, because consumers are finally ready to enjoy a range of media from a single device. Apple’s iPhone, which users use to surf the Web as well as to make phone calls and text messages, is the perfect example. “This is a very intelligent chance Yahoo is taking,” says Mukul Krishna, global director of digital media at research firm Frost & Sullivan. “Google and Microsoft will be looking at this very closely.”

Report: Google Shows 58% More Ads, Could Report Record Quarter — A major source of frustration for financial analysts covering Google is the fact that the search giant issues no forward-looking guidance. As a result, analysts’ expectations for the stock can vary widely. The gigantic question mark in the company’s recent fourth quarter performance is whether demand for search advertising increased, and by how much. According to data from AdGooroo, a Chicago-based search research firm, Google led its competitors during the fourth quarter with 58% growth in the average number of ads it showed per keyword on the first search results page (4.01 keywords in Q4 vs. 2.54 in Q3). In December 2007, Google actually ran 4.84 ads per keyword, but since then, the company has made a concerted effort to improve the quality of the ads it shows. The result has been far fewer first page ads per keyword in 2008, though these are ostensibly of a higher quality. Looks like Google may have decided to return to showing more ads per keyword in light of the recession.

Major Shake-up At Sling Media: Krikorian Brothers, Hirschhorn, White, Wilkes Leaving — Little more than a year after Sling Media’s sale to EchoStar (NSDQ: SATS), the co-founders and the top team at Sling Entertainment are leaving the company, paidContent.org has learned. The news is being broken to staff in meetings going on now. Departing are brothers Blake and Jason Krikorian, respectively CEO and SVP-business development, and Jason Hirschhorn and Ben White, president and chief creative officer of the Sling Media Entertainment Group. The senior executives agreed to stay in place for at least a year following the acquisition, which was valued at $380 million, but we’ve been expecting one or more to leave—especially given the entrepreneurial bent. The move comes after a burst of good publicity about the new Sling DVR, iPhone app and
back-to-back best of shows at CES and Macworld.

M&A Report: ‘08 Interactive Ad Deals Down 29 Percent — Now that 2008’s finally closed out, we get a better read on the state of the market in terms of M&A—and Petsky Prunier’s latest Deal Notes report (via ClickZ) shows that the interactive advertising space was hit pretty hard: transactions were down 29 percent from 2007, and investors spent about five times less in 2008 than they did in 2007. Of course, 2007 was the year of the ad network/exchange feeding frenzy: Google (NSDQ: GOOG) bought DoubleClick for $3.1 billion, Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) acquired aQuantive for $6 billion and Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO) paid $680 million for Right Media—so those deals and the economic implosion skewed the results. Still the numbers are worth a look: Deals down sequentially and year-over-year in Q4 : There were 31 deals worth about $436 million in the interactive ad space in Q408—down 18 percent in terms of volume from Q3, and 29 percent in terms of money spent. Year-over-year the stats were worse: transaction volume was down 55 percent from Q407, and dollar value was down 77 percent. Overseas interactive agencies were a big draw : Interactive agency deals dominated the M&A activity in Q4, with eight deals worth a total of about $83 million. Interestingly, big ad holding companies focused on shoring up their digital practices overseas: Aegis Group acquired Malaysia-based shop IF, Publicis picked up Brazil-based Tribal, and Microsoft’s Razorfish’s gobbled up Spanish shop WYSIWYG.

Google’s Russian Fortunes: May Lose Ally, Snubbed By Firefox — In the fast-growing Russian internet scene, one of the big three portals, Rambler, could be about to lose its CEO, after dropping market share and seeing the sale of its advertising unit to Google (NSDQ: GOOG) fail. Mark Opzumerom won’t renew his contract, which ends in March, after Rambler.ru’s share of Runet’s search market fell from 14.9 percent last year to just 6.4 percent, business paper Vedomosti says (via Yakov). Rambler had agreed to sell its Begun contextual advertising platform to Google for $140 million in a summer deal that would also have seen Google replace Rambler’s own on-site search box. But the acquisition was curiously blocked in October by Russian antitrust authorities, arguing Google had not supplied the necessary paperwork. Google has already moved on and is testing the provision of search to leading social net Odnoklassniki. An exit for Opzumerom may suggest the Begun-Google deal may not be revisited.

Yahoo’s Board Picks Carol Bartz For CEO — It’s official: Carol Bartz as CEO is in and Sue Decker is out. The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Carol Bartz has been picked by Yahoo’s board of directors to succeed Jerry Yang as CEO and that she has accepted the job. Bartz, executive chairman and former CEO of Autodesk, first emerged as a candidate last week, some two months into the search. A Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO) spokesman said he could not comment on whether an announcement is due today. Update: Bartz wasn’t on anyone’s public short list last November when Yahoo cofounder and CEO Jerry Yang, who was under pressure from the minute he took the post from former chairman and CEO Terry Semel, announced his decision to step down. The last time Yahoo plucked a CEO from the outside, the board went with seasoned entertainment vet Semel—a sign of its interest in media and entertainment, This time, the choice seems to be a Silicon Valley insider but it may not signal anything more than a belief that she has the right management experience, public company background and style mixed with industry know-how to steer a very troubled company that should be more successful than it is. Yahoo does a lot of things right but none of that matters as long as the image is of a company that is flailing.

Microsoft Gains Searches, Yahoo Acquisition On Horizon? — AdGooroo’s Q4 Search Engine Advertising Update, released Tuesday, points to major gains for Google and Microsoft–including 58.0% and 42.3% growth in advertisers, respectively. Yahoo trailed with 8.8%. “Microsoft has begun to close the
gap in advertising share with Yahoo, but based on the previous quarter’s numbers I would have expected that to take longer,” said Rich Stokes, AdGooroo founder.

Harvard Prof: Deceptive Ads ‘Rampant’ On Yahoo’s Right Media — Yahoo’s Right Media automated ad network allows “deceptive” banner ads to “run rampant through its system,” according to a new report by Harvard Business School’s Ben Edelman. Edelman estimates that as many of 35% of the ads shown through Right Media are deceptive. Right Media, which offers an automated auction platform for advertisers and publishers, said in a statement that it has “rigorous platform standards and guidelines” and doesn’t allow its system to be used in a “misleading, deceptive or illegal manner.

Euro VC House Balderton Targets Downturn Innovation With $430 Million New Fund — Fresh from making $140 million from the sale of Bebo and a “substantial return” on the sale of MySQL, Balderton Capital is announcing a new $430 million (£285 million) tech and media fund to capitalise on promising business plans thrown up in the downturn – proving that VCs really mean it when they say money is still available for good ideas. Though private equity is finding it harder to raise money from banks, Balderton – which was Benchmark’s European arm but span out in 2007 – assembled most of its new fund from investors in just two months, general manager Barry Maloney told FT.com: “We are about to enter a very interesting time for new investments, if not for exits. Part of the reason for raising this fund now is to take advantage of the opportunities that this stage of the cycle throws up.” Innovation gets another spurt in times like these, many investors say, explaining that Web 2.0 came off the back of the dot.com crash. VC money isn’t going away – Accel unveiled a $525 million new London fund last month.

Epperson Out At Havas Digital, CEO Role Split Across London, Madrid — In a move that centralizes more of the power for its digital media operations on the European continent, Paris-based Havas is restructuring the top management team of Havas Digital, following the departure of its Boston-based CEO Don Epperson on Jan. 31. Epperson, an entrepreneur with a deep background in finance and technology, joined Havas in 2001 when it acquired HookMedia, an early Boston-based digital shop he founded in 1998, and which became the backbone of Havas Digital’s operations.

Google Shuts Down Google Video Uploads, Notebook, Dodgeball, Jaiku, Mashup Editor — The day of the long knives at Google (NSDQ: GOOG) when it comes to products. In a burst of blog posts late Wednesday, the company announced the closure or impending closing of a batch of products, some more widely available than others: Google Notebook, Dodgeball, Google Catalog Search, microblogging servie Jaiku, and the Google Mashup Editor. You could call it thinning the herd as Google looks for ways to cut back ever so slightly on
engineering and to divert resources to projects that may have a chance or making money or could be more powerful when it comes to the same functions. Google is also halting uploads to Google Video, directing users instead to YouTube and Picasa.

Blockbuster To Bring Video To PCs And Mobile Devices In Q2 — In what is being considered a defensive move against Netflix (NSDQ: NFLX), Blockbuster (NYSE: BBI) said today it is going to start offering thousands of films and other titles to a number of devices as soon as the second quarter. The devices range from PCs and Macs to media players, Blu-ray Disc players, set-top boxes and mobile phones, Reuters reports. Users will be able to download or stream the movies on an ala carte basis, which will allow Blockbuster to offer newer movies than Netflix, which is frequently criticized for having out-of-date titles. Blockbuster may also consider
subscription services in the future.

Google, SpotMixer Launch Self-Service Video Ads — Google and One True Media–the parent company of online video ad creator SpotMixer–today are expected to publicly launch a self-serve video ad creation service for Google AdWords customers to produce and distribute cable television ads via Google TV Ads. Neither partner company would discuss the financial details of the new deal, One True Media CEO John Love did say there is more to it than just exposure for SpotMixer.

AOL Sports Becomes FanHouse — AOL Sports is rebranding as FanHouse, adopting the name of its popular blog for the entire sports site. The move follows on the heels of AOL’s creation of a new publishing unit called
MediaGlow that will launch more than 30 new sites by year’s end. Besides a redesign, FanHouse will feature expand coverage including on-site coverage of major sporting events, improved scoreboards, more video and RSS feeds from top sports writers. Over the next year, the site aimed at males aged 18 to 54, will also launch specialized sports properties including a mixed martial arts site.

Yahoo CEO Says She Will Spend A Lot Of Time looking At Selling Search Business, But ‘Gut’ Says Not To Sell — Yahoo, the Sunnyvale, California Internet company’s new Chief Executive plans to devote time looking at selling its search business, reported the Wall Street Journal. The article, citing people familiar with comments the new Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz made during a company-wide meeting Wednesday, reported Bartz said she plans to spend a lot of time looking into selling the unit but that her “gut” was to not sell the unit. Bartz also said she spoke with Steve Ballmer, the Chief Executive of Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), the Redmond, Washington software company, after taking the job at Yahoo. The report noted that Yahoo’s board of directors isn’t pushing for a quick deal. Source: mergermarket.

How Heavily Will The Recession Weigh On Tech? — The Economist : The news from technology bellwethers like Microsoft, IBM, Motorola and Intel has been awful of late. According to several blogs, Microsoft and IBM are preparing to get rid of 16,000 employees each, or 17% and 4% of their workforces each. This may or may not be true, but The Economist says the news is telling nonetheless, as the cuts would be the biggest in
information technology history. Meanwhile, Motorola earlier this week said it was cutting 4,000 jobs, and Intel on Thursday reported that fourth quarter profit absolutely fell off a cliff, plummeting 90%. These are the signs of the industry’s current plight, The Economist says, adding: “Hardly a day passes without reports of collapsing revenues and workers being laid off.” So, is the tech industry headed for a worse downturn than the one
that followed the dotcom crash?

BrightRoll: Video Ad Rates Fell 25% In Q4 — Average pre-roll ad rates for online video in the fourth quarter dropped 25% from the year-earlier period and 12.5% from the prior quarter, according to video ad network BrightRoll. Pre-roll rates on average were down 14.2% in 2008 from 2007. BrightRoll, whose network spans hundreds of sites, declined to provide actual average CPM figures for business reasons. But average online video CPMs are generally estimated to run from $20 to $25.

Social Nets Threaten Ad Agency Growth — Advertising agencies are not prepared for the changes that will come as a result of new forms of media such as social networks, a new study claims. The Institute of Practitioners in Advertising’s “Social Media Futures” report warns that ad agencies face growth of just 1.2% per year by 2016 if they fail to tackle the changes prompted by the emergence of social networking. Recommendations from friends are obviously more influential than traditional forms of advertising. Because social networks enable consumers to pass on information about products and services, advertisers need to be able to take advantage of that trend. A good example of this is the Cadbury “Gorilla” spot, which has been viewed on YouTube more than 10 million times, or Dove’s famous “Campaign for real beauty,” which can also be seen on YouTube and other online video sites.

Blockbuster Dumps Movielink Tech After A Few Months; Goes With Cinemanow Instead — Blockbuster’s so-called plans have been changing in real time these days, it seems, as the world changes in real time as well: We pointed out yesterday Blockbuster’s continuing vaporware plans for online and mobile video. What was lost in the shuffle was the fact that the rental chain has dropped the technology behind Movielink, the online video service it bought in 2007 for a firesale price of $6.6 million (after $148 million was invested in it over the years), and will now go with one-time rival Cinemanow’s technology for its new online movie service, to be launched in Q2 this year. It had been integrating the Movielink service with Blockbuster.com for a few months now, but after testing it out in closed beta, it is now dumping the tech part, even though the content deals remain
in place, as Variety points out.

eBay Founder Omidyar Launching New Startup Ginx, A Twitter-Based Sharing Tool — After starting eBay (NSDQ: EBAY) in 1995, he’s spent the last fewyears investing in new sites like Digg, Goodmail and Meetup.com. Now the auction site’s chairman Pierre Omidyar is back in the startup saddle. PEHub found an SEC filing listing Omidyar as an executive of secretive new Honolulu-based outfit Ginx, prompting speculation last night as to the business model. So the company has now issued a release confirming Ginx is being created by Peer News, co-founded by Omidyar and eBay’s former classified ads VP Randy Ching: “Ginx is a Twitter client that aims to provide Twitter users with a rich experience for sharing and discussing links. Ginx was created to enable people to become more actively engaged in the news and topics they care about.”

Articles of the Day

Posted in Digital Media, News with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on December 17, 2008 by Dave Liu

News Corp. Stock Moves From NYSE To Nasdaq — With Nasdaq trading higher than the NYSE on Tuesday, News Corp picked a good day to tell its shareholders the stock would begin trading on the tech-heavy exchange. News Corp (NYSE: NWS). which has traded on the NYSE for over 20 years, said that Nasdaq will give its shareholders more up-to-date trading technology. On Nasdaq, News Corp’s Class A common stock will trade under the symbol “NWSA” and its Class B common stock will trade as “NWS.” The transfer will take place on Dec. 29. Nasdaq has been trying to lure other companies from the NYSE, Reuters notes. It recently scored a victory against its rival when regulators ruled that companies moving from the NYSE can keep the same stock symbols on Nasdaq’s exchange.

ESPN Web Overhaul Almost Done; ‘Less Is More’ Design Aimed At Advertisers — ESPN.com’s year-long revamp is finally ready today and set for its formal debut on January 5. Aside from emphasizing video and smarter search, as the company has talked about over the past few months in previews, execs at the Walt Disney (NYSE: DIS) sports unit tell the NYT that the site’s overarching ethos is all about reducing ad clutter. As John Skipper, ESPN’s EVP for content, explains: “If we are frustrating people, they’re not going to spend as much time as we want on the site.” Some of the key changes include: The revamped home page has done away with the big block of 36 links at the top, and reduced it to 19 tabs for Fantasy (a rollover unveils about 16 sub-categories), NFL (which unfolds to offer eight links that take users to the “scoreboard” or “blog network”) and a “More” tab, which has 20 links to areas such as Olympics, poker and cricket news.

Lee Enterprises Faces Possible Default — The crushing debt that was built up over the past few years at newspaper publishers like The Tribune Company and McClatchy (NYSE: MNI), is now weighing heavier on Lee Enterprises (NYSE: LEE), the parent of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. This week, the Davenport, Iowa, publisher said that it faced several potential default triggers on its debt, the WSJ reported. In a statement, Lee said it notified the SEC that it will delay filing its annual report until on or before Dec. 29, because it needs additional time to sort out the amount of non-cash charges it will take to reduce the carrying value of goodwill and “other intangible assets.” Lee expects the impairment charges to total at least $180 million after-tax for the quarter that ended Sept. 28, 2008. Lee’s auditor, KPMG, said it will include an explanation in the company’s annual report of Lee’s “ability to continue as a going concern.”

Microsoft’s Search Guru Brad Goldberg Turns VC — And another one bites the dust. Brad Goldberg, Microsoft’s GM for Live Search, is leaving to head up the online business at Peak6, a Chicago-based investment firm. TechFlash confirmed the news with a Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) exec who said the departure was “amicable.” The company will replace Goldberg with Mike Nichols (who has experience working with online services exec Yusuf Mehdi). Still, Goldberg is leaving on the heels of two other key executive departures: Brian McAndrews, who oversaw a large portion of Microsoft’s online division, and Bill Shaughnessy, who’s resigning as global VP of sales—meaning the company’s online services, overall sales and now search divisions will all be under new management. The changes may be part of a stealthy reorg in the wake of Microsoft’s appointment of Qi Lu as head of digital, as none of these new departures were mentioned in the release that detailed the realignment of several teams.

CBS And Time Warner Considering Joint Olympics Bid — CBS and Time Warner’s Turner Networks are in discussions about making a joint bid for the broadcast rights for 2014 and 2016 Olympic Games, AP confirmed. Both media giants caution that the talks are merely exploratory and no plans have been put in place. NBC Universal (NYSE: GE) has the rights to the 2012 games, having beat Fox and ESPN/ABC with a $2.2 billion bid back in June 2003. NBC has had rights to the games since 1988. Considering the ratings success it had across its broadcast, cable and online, it will likely put up a fight to continue its Olympics run. Still, it’s hard to imagine what shape all the major networks will be in next year, given the likelihood that the economy will remain in a severe recession. The talks between CBS and Time Warner (NYSE: TWX) will likely spur the other parties to examine the prospects of a collaborative deal.

Knight Foundation Gives $390K To Four Local News Sites — At least there’s still some expansion going on these days… Four non-profit hyperlocal news sites are sharing a $390,000 investment from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to build up their reporting staffs. The recipients of Knight’s backing are MinnPost, which received $250k from the Knight fund in August 2007; the three-year-old VoiceofSanDiego.org, which was started by a columnist for the city’s Union-Tribune; the Chi-town Daily News, which has relied on citizen journalists and staff reporters to cover Chicago’s 75 neighborhoods; and St. Louis Beacon, which was covers the city in partnership with its local public TV station. Over the past few years, the Knight Foundation has handed out $100 million to community-minded news outlets.

Articles of the Day

Posted in Digital Media, News with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 15, 2008 by Dave Liu

Liberty Media To Split Off Majority Of Liberty Entertainment; Assets Include DirecTV, Sports Nets — In typical Liberty Media (NSDQ: LINTA) fashion, the company founded by John Malone has just filed a complicated business plan with the SEC on a Friday night. It’s also a relatively rare move—a split-off that will give holders of the Liberty Entertainment group tracking stock shares in a new subsidiary that will hold the majority of the group’s businesses, assets and liabilities in exchange for some of their tracking stock shares. The announcement follows CEO Greg Maffei’s assurance this week at the UBS Global Media and Communications conference that the company is looking for a structure that benefits shareholders better than the current tracking stocks. If it gets the usual regulatory and IRS approval—as is generally the case with Liberty, the goal is a tax-fr*ee transaction—holders of the tracking stock will have stock in two investments. Release. The details: The new Liberty Entertainment will be a publicly traded company—not a tracking stock—called Liberty Entertainment, Inc. That company would include roughly 52 percent of The DirecTV Group (NYSE: DTV), Inc., 50 percent of GSN, LLC, 100 percent of FUN Technologies and 100 percent of Liberty Sports Holdings, LLC (three regional sports nets.) It also will be responsible for $2 billion in debt incurred when Liberty acquired its majority interest in DirecTV last spring.

New NYT.com GM Denise Warren: Tip-toeing Into Aggregation With Guarded Optimism — As if heading advertising for the New York Times (NYSE: NYT) Media Group wasn’t tough enough in this climate, Denise Warren is taking on the role of GM of NYTimes.com as the site fends off increased challenges from competitors and the economy. Warren has been chief advertising officer of the NYT Media Group for three years and has been with The New York Times Company for 20 years. As she settles into the GM job vacated by Vivian Schiller, who exited after being named CEO of NPR, Warren tells paidContent that she has been able to maintain her optimism. For example, despite the temptation to suspend new initiatives and wait until a more supportive ad market returns, Warren has faith the NYTimes.com’s new experiments with aggregation will deliver. In particular, she’ll be taking a close look at recently unveiled Times Extra feature and the current beta test of Times Widgets, which lets readers create custom apps for RSS feeds from various news sections. While the NYTCo has a lot more plans along those lines, Warren concedes that the economy will likely force the company to scale other experiments back a bit. “One of the unfortunate things about this downturn is that you can’t do all the things you’d like to, whether it’s your personal life or your professional life,” Warren says. “You have to watch that budget. You can only do the things that are really important. But in a way, these constraints that we’re operating under can help focus you.

Google Quietly Tries Brokering Deals With ISPs To Get Priority Access — Congress has failed to pass legislation regarding so-called “Net Neutrality,” and now the issue is again top of mind as Internet providers seeking preferential treatment; network operators considering a tiered approach, and once-staunch defenders beginning to soften their stance on the matter. This time, it appears Google (NSDQ: GOOG), which has been traditional a huge advocate of network equality and openness, is working behind the scenes with major cable and phone companies to get its Internet traffic prioritized, according to documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

CBS Relaunching TV.com; Hoping Finally To Become A Video Player; Aiming Beyond Hulu, Not At It — CBS Interactive is relaunching TV.com, hoping to transform the well-named site known for its TV-related community and user-generated content into a serious video destination, paidContent has learned. The full-scale relaunch with new content partners is slated for January but the cosmetic changes will start this week with a new look and logo, according to sources familiar with the plans. TV.com is among the assets CBS (NYSE: CBS) picked up with its $1.8 billion acquisition of CNET last summer. (The other notable non-brand domains: News.com, MP3. com and Radio.com). Despite having the ultimate url and folding in some video through agreements first with CBS and then with Hulu, CNET missed multiple opportunities to grab early advantage. Now it’s playing catchup with a number of competitors, including Hulu and newest challenger Sling.com.

Lycos Europe Opts For Liquidation, $66 Million Paid Back To Shareholders — Lycos Europe shareholders voted to liquidate the business at an extraordinary general meeting at a hotel in Amsterdam this morning. They also nodded through management’s strategy to sell its domain registration business, shopping portal and Danish website as going concerns. Shareholders will get €50 million ($66.72 million) returned to them on December 19 – not a bad Christmas present, but the price per share of €0.1605 ($0.21) is vastly less than its opening high of about €24 (now $32) in 2000.

Facebook Opens Paris Sales Office As Part of European Expansion — What does Facebook want for Christmas? A greater foothold on the European ad market by the looks of things: the social network is set to open a sales office in Paris as part of plans to grow across Europe, according to Mad.co.uk. The site’s commercial director for EMEA Blake Chandlee has unveiled the office’s first employee Damien Vincent who has defected from MySpace France where he was head of sales. Facebook claims to have 6.1 million users in France and to have just reached the one million mark in Switzerland, adding to its 130 million users worldwide. Facebook translated the site into French in April and saw an immediate traffic boost, but it still trails in France to the Skyrock social net, which has more than 12 million users. In August Chandlee was behind moves to double the site’s UK sales and marketing staff to about 40. There are more than eight million UK users but according to Nielsen Online suffered a slight dip at the start of 2007 from a peak of 8.5 million.

Articles of the Day

Posted in Digital Media, News with tags , , , , , , , , , on December 11, 2008 by Dave Liu

Yahoo Board Receives Letter From Ivory Investment Management Urging Salvage Of Microsoft Deal — Ivory Investment Management LP, one of Yahoo’s largest stockholders with 21.4 million, or 1.5% of the shares outstanding, today proposed in a letter to Yahoo’s Board of Directors that the company salvage a deal with Microsoft “and not miss another value maximization opportunity.” Noting Microsoft’s renewed interest, Ivory proposed that the company sell its search business to Microsoft, with Microsoft becoming the search provider for all Yahoo properties. Under the Ivory proposal, Microsoft would own and operate the combined search platform, with Yahoo becoming an affiliate that retains 80% of the revenue generated through searches on its own site. Finally, Microsoft would become the search engine for Yahoo’s existing search affiliates. We believe a search deal with Microsoft could deliver value to Yahoo shareholders of USD 24-29 per share, or more than double yesterday’s closing price of USD 12.19.” Ivory stated in its letter that it believed Yahoo could “receive more than USD 15bn upfront from Microsoft for its search business and increase EBITDA by more than USD 500m per annum.” “On an after-tax basis, the USD 15bn payment from Microsoft would be USD 9bn for Yahoo shareholders, leaving Yahoo with USD 21.2bn of cash and investments (up from USD 12.2bn today) and annual EBITDA of USD 2.4bn (up from the midpoint of current guidance of USD 1.9bn ). Applying a 5x EBITDA multiple on the “new Yahoo” would result in a value of USD 24 per share. If Yahoo were to go a step further and deploy the USD 9bn in new cash for its own shares at a USD 16 offer price, it could reduce its share count by 40% which would leave the remaining shareholders with a stock approaching USD 30 per share (amazingly close to the original bona fide bid from Microsoft).”

CBS Interactive To Merge CBSNews.com and CNET Newsrooms; Some Layoffs — CBS Interactive, under pressure to cut costs after what now seems like an even more costly acquisition of CNET, is announcing some more restructuring tomorrow, we have learned from reliable sources late tonight, and as part of it, will be merging CBSNews.com and CNET newsrooms. Not clear: if it is merging the two main websites CBSNews.com and News.com. As a result of this merger, there will also be some layoffs, but we couldn’t figure out the extent of those.

Time Warner Cable Split Still On Track For Early 2009 — Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes says the Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC) spinoff “is on track to get executed in early 2009. … We don’t see any problems really from any side of the transaction.” That should mean an $11 billion payout for all shareholders is still on the way—including $9 billion for parent Time Warner (NYSE: TWX). It also means a return to a content-centric company. Bewkes is the lunch speaker at the UBS Global Media and Communications conference.

Bewkes On AOL: Will Do Whatever Creates Most Value; Needs To Be ‘Fairly Soon’ — Updated: Looking for clarity when it comes to Time Warner (NYSE: TWX) and AOL? So are we—Time Warner is exploring just about every variation you can imagine when it comes to AOL, based on the exchange CEO Jeff Bewkes just had with UBS moderator Aryeh Bourkoff, who asked the questions in just about every way possible. The short answer: “I’d like to get it resolved, meaning clear… so AOL can be seen and valued… We need to do it fairly soon and we’ve been working hard on it.” And, no, he won’t translate “fairly soon” into a real time frame. Bewkes isn’t complaining about operations and said if AOL were a TV network, “he’d say the ratings are up. ” But, he admitted to investors, ad sales are not up the same way and have been disappointing to us and to you.” AOL’s performance is further hampered by being “essentially in third place” and not a market leader. “Because of that, even though some excellent work is being done on cost cuts, programming and traffic,” AOL’s value is being lost. The questions: what would be the improvement in economics from a combination and would the result be “reasonably as good or better” than TW can do with any other option?

RBI Sale Cancelled; Reed Elsevier Still Wants To Sell It In Medium-Term — The verdict is in and the answer is: no sale. Reed Elsevier (NYSE: RUK) has announced that its torturous, nine-month campaign to sell the B2B magazine division is over. Reed announced to the stock market this afternoon that it has “terminated discussions with potential bidders” and that due to the poor economic outlook, shareholders would get more value by the company hanging on to the Farmers’ Weekly and Variety publisher. RBI now remains separate business and will be run by RBI UK CEO Keith Jones as overall CEO of the company.

Gannett’s ContentOne Ties Local Content With National Ads — It’s a tougher time for newspapers, but Craig Dubow, Gannett’s chairman, president and CEO, has a basic answer for the continued existence of newspapers: consumers will always need content and advertisers will need to reach them. As for why newspapers are the best vehicles for that connection, Dubow turned, interestingly enough, not to print, but to Gannett’s web properties. In particular, Dubow, speaking with two other Gannett (NYSE: GCI) execs at the UBS Global Media and Communications (PDF) conference, touted a forthcoming program called ContentOne, which he said “will completely change the way we share content across the company, especially at the local level. It will be created using the web start-up model.” It should be up sometime in Q1. The idea is “local content on a national level,” and will use the regionally focused sites MomsLikeMe and Metromix as the foundation.

CBS Wouldn’t Buy CNET In This Market; ‘Highly Doubt’ Any Acquisitions — CBS CEO Leslie Moonves raved about the value of the CNET acquisition and the integration since the merger with CBS Interactive, but told investors he wouldn’t make the same deal today. “The CNET deal was in May….Life was very different. We would not be doing that acquisition today.” As for other acquisitions, “I highly doubt you will see us acquiring anything in the near future.”

Articles of the Week

Posted in Digital Media, News with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 5, 2008 by Dave Liu

Microsoft, Yahoo Said To Be Hammering Out $20 Billion Search Buyout; Denied — Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) is working out a deal that would ultimately net it Yahoo’s search business for $20 billion, The Times Online reports, but has been denied outright by parties involved. If it turns out to be true, it would be complex deal with many moving parts: MSFT would initially only invest $5 billion, with the option to buy out the new unit for $20 billion after two years. Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO) would continue to run its own email, messaging, display and content services businesses in the event of a buyout. Velocity Investment Group founders Jonathan Miller and Ross Levinsohn would likely lead the new search division; and they’d match MSFT’s funding with $5 billion from external investors. The new unit would end up with a 30 percent stake in Yahoo, and the external investors would have the right to appoint three of Yahoo’s 11 board directors. Senior execs at both MSFT and Yahoo have reportedly agreed on some of the terms, but the deal hasn’t been finalized—and may not be approved at all, The Times’ sources say.

Facebook Connect Set To Expand; Includes Discovery, Digg, Hulu and Others — Facebook, in an increasing attempt to prove its utility beyond its own site (and hence build on its advertising potential in the long run), is expanding its Facebook Connect service on some major media and services sites, including Discovery.com, SFChronicle, Digg, Citysearch, CBS.com, Hulu and others. The Connect service allows a federated identity system of sorts, competing with other services/efforts such as OpenSocial (backed by Google and MySpace) and OpenID, and also allows Facebook services to go outside its own site onto other services. It allows Facebook users to sign in on these third-party sites, connect with their friends who also use the sites, and then share their info and action on the social networking service.

Skol! Digitas Continues Expansionary Roll, Enters Sweden — On the heels of its expansion into South America last week, Publicis’ Digitas has turned its sights on Scandinavia, launching Digitas Sweden. The new Nordic outpost has been formed by combining two pre-existing Publicis units – direct and digital marketing shop 1.1.3, and pure play creative shop Joy – to form a new Stockholm-based full-service digital marketing agency. Digitas Sweden will be led by 1.1.3 founder Lisa Amatiello, who will report to Alan Rutherford, CEO of Digitas Global. The agency will continue to serve 1.1.3 and Joy clients while also offering expanded reach for Digitas’ global clients.

AOL Starts Site For Parents Who Ain’t Got Game (Knowledge) — Parents hit with pre-holiday pleas for “Grand Theft Auto IV” and other hot video games have a new source for sorting out which are appropriate with the launch of PlaySavvy.com from AOL. A complement to the Web portal’s game-focused properties, the new site offers parents a guide to games, from ratings and reviews to connecting with other parents about making informed buying decisions.

During October, Consumers Conducted 12.6 Billion Searches In The U.S., Up 7% Sequentially, According To comScore — Searches on Google rose 7% to 8 billion. Yahoo followed, up 9% to 2.6 billion, and Microsoft was up 8% to 1.1 billion. Google still owns the market–up 0.2% to 63.1%–followed by Yahoo at 20.5%; Microsoft at 8.5%; Ask, 4.2%; and AOL, 3.7%, according to comScore. AOL not only saw its U.S. search count decline, but also its market share, which fell 0.4%. Fox Interactive Media’s MySpace also declined 8% in October, from 614 searches to 563.

Baidu To Launch New Search Product — Baidu, Google’s Chinese search engine rival, will overhaul services after being accused of allowing unlicensed suppliers to fake documents and buy their way up the search results, reports Ars Technica. Chinese citizens had complained about paying exorbitant amounts for products and services found on Baidu’s search engine that later proved to be ineffective. China’s top-ranked search engine expects to unveil a new advertising platform that will offer more information about companies listed in search queries. The forthcoming new platform, Phoenix Nest, aims to offer better search result rankings and resolve some recent problems pertaining to competitive ranking.

MySpace CEO: Cautiously Optimistic About 2009; Chance To Pick Up Startups On Cheap — MySpace CEO Chris DeWolfe was speaking at the Reuters Media Summit (not open to other reporters, only internal Reuters reporters), and said he is cautiously optimistic about growing its ad revenues in 2009, something that of course he has to say officially. “We’re up 18 percent year-over-year as of last quarter,” he said and hopes to grow it next year, despite the economic crisis. He continues: “We haven’t really seen any impact, other than we think we could have grown even more than we have.” Isn’t that the impact? To think that they won’t see a major impact this Q4 and next year is to be delusional, but I think they know that part and have to tow a corporate line publicly.

Newspaper Online Revenues Fall In Third Quarter — The Newspaper Association of America on Friday reported yet more depressing figures for the industry-in-decline that were compounded by a 3% year-over-year drop in overall online sales. This is particularly bad because online revenue growth was supposed to offset rapid declines in print ad sales; now, the industry is reporting losses from both revenue streams. In total, online ad sales fell 3% to $749.8 million, or about 12% of total newspaper spending. Print and online declines combined to produce an 18% decrease in total third quarter spending, from $ 10.9 billion in 2007 to $.8.94 billion. What we have here is an industry in a nosedive. Blogs, social networks, 24-hour news sites like CNN.com and real-time communication services like Twitter are stealing eyeballs from newspaper sites as the weak economy forces financial services, automotive and retail advertisers to greatly cut back on their spending. Meanwhile, newspaper publishers across the board are reporting steep declines and are responding by cutting costs, including thousands of jobs. Some publishers have also defaulted on debt payments, shrunk their pages, or even eliminated print editions altogether, in order to cope with the downturn.

CNBC’s Own Bad News May Be Coming, Soon, Despite ‘Massive’ Marketing Campaign — CNBC, high on its viewership numbers as the markets continue to nosedive, is in for its own downturn possibly by Q1 of next, a long cover story in the latest issue of B&C says. “Despite the yuks and the huge numbers, the network is now in the process of slashing as much as 10% from its budget. People at the network, says one staffer, are ‘scared s—less.’…As CNBC enjoys a new level of visibility and is about to launch a massive new marketing campaign to capitalize on the momentum, it must do so while navigating through the same flailing economy that has sent the network’s proverbial stock soaring.” This far into Q4, the channel viewership is up 66 percent compared to the year-ago quarter.

After Layoffs, Newspapers Embrace Content Sharing; McClatchy And CS Monitor Exchange Foreign Reports — As the newspaper industry’s prospects darken, and rounds of buyouts and layoffs have left little room for more cuts, The McClatchy Company (NYSE: MNI) is joining with the non-profit Christian Science Monitor on sharing foreign news coverage on a trial basis. The trial will last for three months and then the two will evaluate whether the combo worked. The exchange will involve two CS Monitor correspondents, one in New Delhi and the other in Mexico City, and two McClatchy foreign correspondents in Nairobi and in Caracas. The arrangement comes two months after McClatchy said it would cut an additional 1,150 jobs—10 percent of its workforce—while CS Monitor is preparing to shift from a daily to a weekly print pub and going online-only for breaking news. Meanwhile, the Associated Press is planning to slash 10 percent of its staff next year. That could make arrangements like McClatchy’s and CS Monitor’s more common.

Huffington Post Closes $25 Million Third Round; Plans Include ‘Focused Acquisitions’— After weeks of denials and “no comments,” political blog The Huffington Post has closed a $25 million third round funding from Oak investmentPartners, the company said in an e-mailed press release this morning. We reported earlier about a $20 million and above round with post-money valuation in the $110 million range. This probably puts it right at $115 million. The company said it planned to use the proceeds to support general growth efforts and for “focused acquisitions.” HuffPo also wants to build up its in-house ad sales team, as even the internet is succumbing to the wider economic turmoil. The three-year-old HuffPo had previously raised roughly $12 million from Softbank Capital, Greycroft Partners, co-founder Ken Lerer and Bob Pittman.

Ex-AOL CEO Miller Reportedly Raising Funds To Bid For Yahoo; But Could Be For His Own Fund — Jon Miller, former CEO of AOL and now one of the founders of VC firm Velocity along with Ross Levinsohn, is in the process of raising funds to try to buy Yahoo, reports the WSJ, citing sources. The story says he has been trying to do it for months. Our sources say that the WSJ might be reading too much into this: he and his partners at Velocity have been presenting to investors all across the globe, including sovereign investors in Dubai, to raise a new fund for his VC firm. So I would not be surprised if the two things got confused along the way, and someone expressed interest in putting money into a Miller-backed consortium. The story says that Miller believes he can do a deal that would be worth around $20 to $22 a share to Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO) shareholders, which means raising about $28 billion to $30 billion to purchase the entire company. I have said before that the Indian tech-media giant Reliance ADA should look at a Yahoo deal seriously, and it is likely Miller has had conversations with them, considering Velocity’s India connections (it is an investor in NDTV there, among other companies). Full story —

Google Ratchets Back On Spending, New Projects; Buys Futures In Six Sigma — Nothing says serious about cost cutting and process quite like hiring a CFO with a black belt in Six Sigma management. With or without the tanking economy, Google (NSDQ: GOOG) has been heading towards maturing growth—you can’t keep up triple-digit growth or even double-digits indefinitely—and the addition of McKinsey vet and Bell Canada planning exec Patrick Pichette as CFO in August was one sign that cost containment was on the way. The slowing of online ad growth coupled with the unexpected speed of the economic downturn has only accelerated Google’s need to show maturity of a different sort. That would explain tonight’s long WSJ article about how Google is taking the responsible approach by cutting back on its ubiquitous product approach—along with some of the food perks and redundant offices. CEO Eric Schmidt told the Journal Google has to “behave as though we don’t know” what’s coming. That means cutting what Schmidt calls the “dark matter”—“projects that ‘haven’t really caught on’ and ‘aren’t really that exciting.’” Engineers may still get their 20 percent time but staffing and resources for their projects, particularly those without signs of real revenue potential, will be much harder to come by. Google needs hits that make money, not just headlines.

Yahoo Ties Up With CBS To Save Streaming Radio Service — Yahoo has turned to CBS to help keep its LAUNCHcast streaming radio service alive. As part of the new partnership, CBS Radio will provide the player and handle the ad sales for LAUNCHcast, and various CBS (NYSE: CBS) stations will be available on Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO) Music. Yahoo will also incorporate more radio content throughout its news and sports portals. It’s the latest move in Yahoo’s strategy to “completely open” its music operations to other services: the company recently launched an enhanced music search service with Rhapsody (the same company it offloaded its premium music subscription business to in February).

Dow Jones Taps Langhoff To Lead European Charge, Focus On Online — Dow Jones (NYSE: NWS) has picked a local publishing exec with online tenure to lead The Wall Street Journal’s assault on Europe next year as it squares up to The Financial Times on its own turf. Andrew Langhoff, CEO of DJ’s Ottaway local publisher, will be publisher of WSJ Europe and MD of DJ’s consumer media group across the whole EMEA region, starting January 5. For extra brownie points, he will also run the South America consumer business, including The Wall Street Journal Americas. Over the last year, DJ has upped its European news coverage, debuted the US WSJ edition in some London locations and added a magazine to the European edition. But the ‘09 push is online. Guardian editorial development director Neil McIntosh is already due to start as WSJ.com’s Europe editor in the new year and WSJ’s LA bureau chief Bruce Orwall is moving to run the London bureau.

Conde Nast’s Flip Goes Flop: Teen Social Network To Be Shuttered — When news came out that Conde Nast was launching its teen social media site Flip.com, back in 2006, Staci had a very pertinent question: “Can Conde Nast, which has been so good at matching demographics with ideas for print, create an online place appealing enough to catch and keep teen girls attention among so much competition?” Now, with the announcement that it is closing Flip.com, the answer seems to be no. The site will close down on Dec. 16, according to a note sent out to users, reported by FishbowlNY. “If you have any flipbooks that you would like to save before this date, we suggest you print them. It’s easy; go to the flipbook and click on the Print button just below it.” How convenient.

FT To Do Some Buyouts; Salary Freeze; The Memo — The Pink One will pass out some pink slips, though more in form of buyouts than actual layoffs, reports Reuters, citing an internal memo sent out today by FT CEO John Ridding. The company has already done some redundancies in its library/research division in October. For those interested in a buyout, Dec. 19 is the cutoff. It also is freezing salaries for employees who earn more than $50K a year or the equivalent, which means most of the mid- to senior journalists at the company. That freeze decision could be reviewed if conditions improve later. Also, FT is offering some employees the opportunity to work three- or four-day weeks, which of course means at a lower salary.

IAC Dissolving Programming Group; Lehman Leaving, Jackson Taking New Role; Which Sites Are in Play? — PaidContent.org has learned that IAC (NSDQ: IACI) is dissolving its programming group as part of its post-spin reorganization. As a result, Nick Lehman, COO of programming, has to decided to leave. Michael Jackson, the president of programming who also worked with Barry Diller at USA Networks and Universal Television Group, will stay on in a new role. Lehman confirmed his move but declined comment on the reasons and referred to IAC public relations for details. (No response yet to phone and e-mail queries.) As we pointed out in some detail recently, Diller said in the Q308 earnings call that IAC would shed some of its emerging businesses and was rethinking investments; this appears to be part of that strategic shift.

Icahn: No MSFT-YHOO Search Deal—For Now; Opposes Sale To Miller — Activist investor and Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO) director Carl Icahn is throwing more cold water on speculation that the company is about to sell its search business to Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT). While he would like to see Microsoft take the search off Yahoo’s hands, MarketWatch quotes Icahn as saying there’s nothing imminent now and he knows of no discussions between the two companies. Shares of Yahoo were down over 1 percent to $11.35 in after hours trading. Last week, Icahn added nearly 7 million shares to his holdings in Yahoo—for a to 75.6 million shares— for the relatively low price of $67 million. He muscled his way onto Yahoo’s board back in July, after acquiring a 5 percent stake in the company.

Digg CEO: Read My Lips: Not For Sale — Digg says it is not for sale anymore. Really? How many times have we heard that one before? With a $29 million round recently, that was all but decided then. But wait until the next time someone floats a trial balloon through Techcrunch. For now, with no one coming forward to buy it at the valuations the company hoped for (that’s the reality of it), the four-year-old startup will dial back some of its expansion plans, instead prioritizing projects that generate revenue and profit, says the BW story. Among some of the new “focused” projects: ads in its RSS feeds; a revamped version of its own search engine for more targeted search ads; and it is within a month of closing a deal with a mobile ad provider to sell more mobile ads. On the more important revenue side, Digg tripled revenues in September over the last year. In 2009, CEO Jay Adelson expects “another tripling if not more.” Am I mistaken or are ad-network ads all that Digg has at this point? To scale from there will be tough in this market.

Cox Enterprises Merging Newspapers, TV, Radio Into Cox Media Group; 100-Plus Digital Services — Waving the operational efficiency flag, Cox Enterprises is merging its three media units—Cox Newspapers, Cox Television and Cox Radio– into the Cox Media Group headquartered in Atlanta. The units will operate separately but will share a corporate structure. When the move takes effect in January, the new group will include the flagship Atlanta Journal-Constitution and 16 other daily newspapers; 26 non-daily newspapers; 15 local TV stations; 86 radio stations (Cox Radio will continue trading on the NYSE); and 100-plus digital services. It also includes Valpack, the coupon company Cox put up for sale in August. Cox will continue with plans to sell Valpack and its newspapers in Texas, North Carolina and Colorado. Cox vet Schwartz, who will be president of Cox Media Group, listed digital as one of the advantages of merging the units: “We are bringing together our wide array of digital resources that ultimately will lead to enhanced online and mobile experiences for all our audiences.”

Adobe To Cut 600 Jobs; More Focus On Web Video — Adobe is cutting about 600 jobs, or 8 percent of its workforce, citing the economy slowdown as a reason. Sales for its Creative Suite 4 package, which includes the popular Photoshop, has been much slower than expected, the company said. And these cuts, which are across the board, will help it better focus on its growing online video (through Flash, the default online video standard now) and online software business, CEO Shantanu Narayen said, according to WSJ.
The company said it will record $44 million to $50 million in charges related to the headcount reduction.

Updated: Industry Moves: Microsoft Picks Qi Lu To Head Digital — Update: Microsoft has confirmed Lu’s appointment in an official release. Lu will start January 5, and report directly to CEO Steve Ballmer. He will oversee a trio of execs—but not all of the names initially thought: Nadella, Mehdi and Scott Howe, who has been promoted to SVP of MSFT’s Advertiser & Publisher Solutions group. Former aQuantive CEO Brian McAndrews previously held that title, but he’ll be transitioning out—and leaving MSFT—over the next several months. Microsoft’s quest to find a digital head will end in a rather technical choice: former Yahoo EVP of engineering for Search and Ad Tech Qi Lu, according to Kara. The final details of his contract are being ironed out, and could be announced by next week, the story says. This position has been vacant since Kevin Johnson left and joined Juniper.

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 the Day

Posted in Digital Media, News with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 22, 2008 by Dave Liu

Google, Yahoo Keep Talking To DoJ On Ad Deal; Strategic Costs From Yahoo’s Side: $73M This Year — Despite some rumbles about the Google-Yahoo ad deal being in regulatory trouble, the two companies insist they are still talking to the U.S. Justice Department about it, CEO Eric Schmidt said today. The companies have extended their discussions with DoJ, it announced earlier this month, though Google had previously said that it would move ahead with implementing the deal in October, with or without approval from antitrust approval. The anti-trust decision is expected anytime now, maybe as soon as this week.

HLTH And WebMD Could Make Buys, Now That Merger Is Canceled — HLTH and WebMD, the two listed medical portals that called off their merger agreement, could make buys, reported the Wall Street Journal. The report, part of a story looking at HLTH and WebMd’s move to call off the merger, cited Martin Wygod, chairman of both companies, as saying that by ending the merger, both companies are in a good position to pursue buys. HTLH of Elmwood Park, New Jersey owns 84% of WebMD of New York. HLTH has a market capitalization of USD 1.7bn. Source: mergermarket.

CBS Interactive Hopes To Gather TV Viewers And Web Users In ‘Social Viewing Rooms’— While the data on how many viewers are watching TV and surfing the web simultaneously has been a little thin the past few years, CBS Interactive (NYSE: CBS) feels it has little to lose with a new service that aims to capture those viewers doing both. Its new Social Viewing Room service will encourage users to watch shows on TV, find like-minded fans and participate in chats around a particular program. This is something that MTV Networks (NYSE: VIA) has pursued for awhile, with shows like The Hills. But CBS, which has historically attracted the oldest audiences of the major broadcasters, has been a little late to the game. At the launch, there are about a dozen shows in the Social Viewing Room. As part of a promotional campaign around CBS’ new service, Intel (NSDQ: INTC) is having its brand “weaved” into the room’s content, which are grouped into three channels—primetime, daytime and CBS Classics.

Music Social Network Imeem In Play; Hires Bank; Laying Off 25 Percent — Online music-focused social network Imeem is on the block, according to our sources, and has hired investment banker Montgomery and Co. to lead the sale. Coincidentally, we have also learned that the company is announcing some layoffs internally today—as much as 25 percent of its around 80-strong workforce. These layoffs are mainly on the technical back end and services side. The company has done its on-demand streaming music deals with all four majors, and has also been working with a slew of indies. As it has built out its platform (it recently relaunched its site/service), and done most of the biz dev deals, the focus now is on growing audience and monetizing the platform…it won’t be needing as much technical expertise going ahead, the sources say, and hence the layoffs.

Glam Media Finds Its Male Side, Launches Brash.com — After offering a hint about its plans last month, female-centric Glam Media has released Brash, its new male-focused lifestyle and entertainment online hub. Brash is being targeted to men 18-49 years old and is beginning life with more than 25 sites including ArtistDirect, DigitalTrends.com, Squidoo and SpirlFrog. Samir Arora, Glam’s CEO, claims that the Brash network has more then 10 million uniques at launch. The network is comprised of five channels: Men’s Lifestyle (Style, Fitness, Travel, Food & Drink), Entertainment (Music, Movies, TV, Games), Tech (Audio, Gadgets, PC & Macs), Auto (Luxury, Sport, SUV, and Sedans) and News (World, US, Politics & Tech). In addition to the site network, Glam has also created BrashTV, a DRM-protected, video distribution platform built on GlamTV. Partners on that offering include Entertainment Studios, CINELAN 3-Minute Films, Howcast.com and VIDCAT.com.

Interwoven’s Adaptive Targeting Personalizes Ads, Content — An optimization platform that delivers targeted ads becomes available today from Interwoven. The Optimost Adaptive Targeting service allows businesses to offer the best combination of advertisements and content based on click patterns and characteristics of those visiting their sites.