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Articles of the Week

Posted in Digital Media, News with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 2, 2009 by Dave Liu

Gijrath Media Group Could Interest Glam Media — Glam Media, the California-based lifestyle media company, would consider discussing a partial acquisition of Dutch peer Gijrath Media Group (GMG), a company
source said. Joint ventures could also be a possibility, the source added.
“We built out our luxury channel not too long ago, so [this] would
definitely be an area that is of interest to us”, the source said. “International [targets are] definitely on the radar in terms of acquisition potential,” the source said when asked about GMG. A sector banker lent credence to the source’s argument, pointing out that the groups could use each other’s content interchangeably in their publications. Other potential US-based suitors for GMG could include Modern Luxury, another American lifestyle media group, a second sector banker suggested. In reaction, GMG’s owner and chief executive officer Yves Gijrath said he “could be open to” approaches by Glam Media or other players. He added that he would have to become better acquainted with Glam Media’s operations before commenting further on the matter. GMG will have 100 full-time employees in 2009. Gijrath confirmed news reports that the recent Amsterdam edition of GMG’s “Millionaire Fair” had revenues of around EUR 200m, according to preliminary figures. He declined to provide further financials. Earlier, Gijrath said the Amsterdam-based company would consider a minority stake sale to an industry player to stimulate growth. Gijrath specified that an external investor must bring more than capital. GMG is also open to joint ventures with industry players, especially outside the Netherlands, he said. A player with a strong profile in the Internet sphere, or a niche player such as Conde Nast, would be an appropriate suitor, Gijrath said. Conde Nast, however, may be scaling back its M&A activity, one sector banker said. He cited the recent dismissal of Kourosh Karimkhany, vice president of corporate development at its sister company, CondeNet, as a signal to this effect. Source: mergermarket.

Hulu CEO: More Global Moves Planned For ’09 — In just a year, Hulu has morphed into what is arguably the most successful television
network online. The co-venture of NBC Universal and News Corp.’s Fox
already is the sixth-most-viewed online video hub, providing insights into
how consumers transfer their television viewing preferences and habits to
the Web. Here’s what Hulu CEO Jason Kilar told MediaPost about that future.

Social Media Wins In Marketers’ ’09 Plans — Marketers are directing their 2009 budgets toward content, custom media and social media initiatives, according to a new study from online marketing resource and vendor-matching tool Junta42. More than half–56%–of marketing and publishing decision-makers plan to increase their content marketing spending next year, Junta42 found after surveying its community of corporate marketers and publishing/agency professionals.

Britain Introduces Movie-Like Ratings For Web Sites — The British
government is looking into rating Web sites in a similar manner to the way
movies are rated by the Motion Picture Association of America in the U.S.
Britain’s Minister For Culture Andy Burnham told The Daily Telegraph that
the government was planning to negotiate age ratings for English language
sites with the administration of President-elect Barack Obama. “The more we
seek international solutions to this stuff — the U.K. and the U.S. working
together — the more that an international norm will set an industry norm,”
Burnham said. “This is an area that is really now coming into full focus.”

Online Advertising To Weather Recession — It matters little what sector you’re in: 2008 was a lousy year for most businesses, particularly
advertising. And if you believe the forecasters, 2009 isn’t supposed to be
much better, either. Just last week, Barclays Capital lowered its
projection for advertising in the U.S. to a negative 10% next year, with
every single traditional media sector receiving a major hit. By comparison,
advertising fell just 1.9% in the 1991 recession, and 6.2% in 2001.
However, while Barclays and others expect the rest of advertising to get
torched, online advertising is still expected to grow between 6 and 10%
next year over 2008 levels. In fact, according to BusinessWeek, advertising
may see the kind of seismic shift next year that is now bringing about
unprecedented changes to the financial and automotive sectors. “The
harbinger of advertising’s radical transformation is the sustained growth
of online,” the report says, noting while the rest of the sector takes a
big hit, “online is holding its own.”

Bonnier Eyeing Six Possible Targets Within Digital Media — Bonnier, the Swedish privately-owned media company, is looking to expand within digital media via acquisitions, according to Svenska Dagbladet. The Swedish daily cited Sara Ohrvall, director at Bonnier, who said that the company needs to grow via acquisitions, especially within new business areas which will help the company move forward quickly. The paper reported that Bonnier is currently eying six possible targets and that most of them are digital media companies and that the acquisitions are to occur both in Sweden and internationally with a focus on the US. The item noted that Bonnier has a turnover of SEK 30bn (EUR 3.1bn). Source: mergermarket.

NYTCo Lays Groundwork To Raise Funds Through Debt, Equity — With a $400 million revolving credit line expiring in May, the New York Times Company (NYSE: NYT) continues to put its fund-raising ducks in a row. The latest: an SEC filing setting the stage to secure debt or raise equity. The terms in the prospectus are as vague as possible—an unspecified amount, indeterminate price—and meant to allow the company to move fast should it go this route. Times spokeswoman Catherine Mathis explains: ‘In these difficult markets, the company wants to ensure that it has maximum
flexibility and, accordingly, is filing a shelf that would permit it to
offer both debt and equity.” The Washington Post Company (NYSE: WPO) filed a similar prospectus in November for possible debt securities.

Blinkx Debuts ‘Un-Roll’ Streaming Video Ad Unit — In the ongoing pursuit for the killer Web video ad, video search engine blinkx has introduced a new ad unit that allows users to engage with a brand continuously throughout the duration of a streaming video. The Un-roll unit, as the company has dubbed it, was developed in-house by blinkx in response to the industry’s need for an alternative format to traditional pre- and post-roll ads.

Arrington: January Spending To ‘Fall Off A Cliff’ — The U.S. may have been in recession for a year now, but TechCrunch’s Michael Arrington says the fact is that most Internet-base companies haven’t seen their revenues drop yet. Amazon, for example, recently recorded its “best ever” holiday sales period. Of course all that’s about to change for content sites, he says,
starting this week. “Display advertising revenue is going to fall of a
cliff in January according to a number of content sites I’ve spoken with
who rely on advertising for revenue,” Arrington says. One sales exec said
that sales through December remained strong as advertisers used up their
marketing budgets, but “there are few buyers for this next fiscal quarter,
and those few that are buying are looking for steep discounts.”

Digging In To MySpace And Facebook’s (Projected) Slump In Ad Sales — Earlier this month, eMarketer lowered its social media ad spending outlook for 2008 through 2013, with revised forecasts for News Corp.‘s MySpace and Facebook. In an update, the online research firm offers details for why the two nets will take in less money this year: Slower growth overall at FIM: eMarketer lowered its MySpace ad revenue forecast for 2008 by more than 22 percent—from $755 million to $585 million—partly because of slowed revenue growth at parent company Fox Interactive Media (NYSE: NWS) (FIM). Over the course of News Corp.‘s past fiscal year (which includes half of 2007 and half of 2008) FIM’s year-over-year revenue growth sputtered from 87 percent at the end of Q2, to 55 percent in Q3, to just 23 percent in Q4. The downward trend continued in the company’s most recent earnings report: for the quarter ended September 30, 2008, FIM’s revenues were up just 17 percent year-over-year, and eMarketer expects the trend to continue. Just don’t tell that to MySpace CEO Chris DeWolfe: at the Reuters Media Summit he said that the social net hadn’t really seen “any impact” from the financial crunch and that he expected revenues to grow next year.

Internet Tops Newspapers As News Source — The Internet is now the most popular source of news after TV, according to the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, which released its year-end roundup of news media consumption last week. While TV is still king of the hill, its steady
decline in the face of Internet competition bodes ill in the long term.

ComScore: First Drop In Online Holiday Sales Since 2001 — E-commerce sales fell 3% this holiday season, marking the first drop since 2001, according to data released by comScore. The Web measurement firm attributed the falloff to five less shopping days in 2008 between Thanksgiving and Christmas and the impact of the recession on consumer spending. ComScore had predicted sales from Nov. 1 to Dec. 23 would be flat to last year, at $26.3 billion. The total came in shy, at $25.5 billion.

2008: Worst VC-Backed Liquidity Year Since 2003 — With no initial public offerings (IPOs) and just $3.9 billion generated via mergers and
acquisitions (M&As) of 65 venture-backed companies in the fourth quarter,
2008 proved to be the worst year in terms of liquidity for U.S. venture
capitalists since the post-tech-bust doldrums of 2003, according to
official statistics released today by Dow Jones VentureSource (
http://www.venturecapital.dowjones.com). Overall, U.S. venture-backed
companies generated $24.1 billion in liquidity through IPOs and M&As in
2008, down 58% from the $57.6 billion in liquidity produced in 2007. Just
seven companies completed public offerings in 2008, raising $551 million —
a far cry from the $6.8 billion generated through the public listings of 76
companies in 2007 and the lowest totals recorded since VentureSource began tracking the industry in 1992.

Lee Enterprises Says Does Not have Sufficient Cash Flows To Meet Both Its Requirements For 2009 Operations And Repayment Of Pulitzer Notes — In its Form 10-K filed on 31 December, Lee Enterprises made the following disclosure: The Company generated cash flows in 2008 sufficient to reduce net debt by USD 102,225,000, pay dividends totaling USD 32,573,000 and acquire shares of its Common Stock in the amount of USD 19,483,000. The Company does not have sufficient cash flows to meet both its requirements for 2009 operations and repayment of the Pulitzer Notes. 2009 principal payments required under the Credit Agreement totaling USD 142,500,000 are expected to exceed the Company’s cash flows available for such payments. As a result, the Company expects to utilize a portion of its capacity under its revolving credit facility to fund a portion of the 2009 principal payments required. At September 28, 2008, the Company had USD 207,000,000 outstanding under the revolving credit facility, and after consideration of the 2009 Amendments, letters of credit and other commitments, has approximately USD 162,000,000 available for future use. Principal payments under the Credit Agreement totaling USD 166,250,000 are due in 2010. The Company expects to utilize the remainder of its capacity under its revolving credit facility to fund a portion of the 2010 principal payments required. The Pulitzer Notes mature in April 2009. The Company is actively engaged in discussions with the Noteholders, and to the extent their approval may also be required, the Lenders under the Credit Agreement, to extend or refinance the Pulitzer Notes. The Company has also initiated discussions with the Lenders related to changes to the Credit Agreement to maintain sufficient long-term liquidity. However, the timing and ultimate outcome of such discussions cannot be determined at this time due, in part, to the abnormal condition of the domestic credit markets and the overall recessionary operating environment in which the Company, Pulitzer, and other publishing companies are currently operating. Continuing instability or further disruptions of these markets could prohibit or make it more difficult for the Company to access new capital, increase the cost of capital or limit its ability to refinance existing indebtedness. There are numerous potential consequences under the Credit Agreement, and Guaranty Agreement and Note Agreement related to the Pulitzer Notes, if an Event of Default, including expiration of existing waivers, occurs and is not
remedied. Many of those consequences are beyond the control of the Company, Pulitzer, and PD LLC, respectively. The occurrence of one or more Events of Default would give rise to the right of the Lenders or the Noteholders, or both of them, to exercise their remedies under the Credit Agreement and the Note and Guaranty Agreements, respectively, including, without limitation, the right to accelerate all outstanding debt and take actions authorized in such circumstances under applicable collateral security documents, any of which would impair the ability of the Company to operate its business as a going concern. Source: mergermarket.

Microsoft To Lay Off 17% Of Workforce? — Fudzilla, a tech blog, reports that Microsoft may lay off 17% of its work force, or 15,000 people, on Jan. 15, but Silicon Alley Insider contends that a cut of this magnitude is
unlikely. “Unless Microsoft’s business has been absolutely crushed in the
past two months, there is no reason for the company to suddenly cut this
much cost,” writes Henry Blodget. He points out that Microsoft’s margins
are actually fine, as much of the company’s revenue is generated from
multi-year contracts that aren’t expiring anytime soon. Blodget says the
only way Microsoft would lay off this many people is if decided to
eliminate whole businesses, but again, this is unlikely, because the
software giant would be more likely to sell rather than shut down any
divisions it no longer wanted. This includes MSN, which Fudzilla cites as a
major recipient of the pending job cuts. Blodget adds that if Microsoft
wanted to get out of the Internet biz, the best way would be to combine its
online operations with Yahoo and then take a majority stake in the combined entity. However, Microsoft just hired a new head of MSN, and while it’s possible he will make some cuts, “15,000 sounds extreme,” Blodget says.

Publicis Continues To Bet On Internet Ad Spend, Despite The Risks — Looking back at the growing strains on the traditional ad business over the last year, Publicis Groupe CEO Maurice Lévy expresses his continued enthusiasm to the NYT that the rise of digital media will save the
industry. Lévy, who spends most of the article professing his ardor for
Barack Obama, says that despite the global economic downturn, online growth will remain solid. As he has maintained since last year, by 2010, Lévy expects 15 percent of global ad spend will be tied to the web. He has also previously said that 25 percent of Publicis’ revenues would be related to the internet by next year, but the NYT interview didn’t include an update
on whether or not Lévy still holds that view. Risks to betting on internet
ad spend: To be sure, banking on the growth of online as traditional ad
spend was cutting back was a fairly safe one when Lévy first made it in May
2007, a Morgan Stanley report on Publicis says that the company might want to rethink its past bets internet gains. “This has recently become a
higher-risk strategy,” the Morgan Stanley report says, pointing to the last
downturn, when online spending suffered the most. Still, the current signs
suggest that even with the significant economic pitfalls, online appears
fairly resilient, although that’s mainly attributable to lower cost search
ads.

Social Gaming: Challenges And Opportunities For ’09 — Social gaming may be a growth sector, but GigaOm’s Wagner James Au warns the coming year will bring challenges as well as opportunities for social gaming startups. One of the biggest challenges, he says, is that the majority of startups are still at the mercy of top social networks like Facebook, which have a habit of suddenly changing their policies. Such changes can have an adverse affect on third party application makers. There’s also unpredictability in competition. Most social networking games are easy to reproduce, so developers often find themselves competing with knockoff versions of their own app. Also, the proliferation of poor quality games could hurt the sector as a whole, says Kristian Segerstrale, CEO and co-founder of Playfish: “Poor quality user experiences or misleading monetization mechanisms like some of the aggressive CPA practices we’ve seen in 2008 could jeopardize the perception of social games and our growth potential as an industry.”

Online Or Bust: Why 2009 May Be The Nail In Newspapers’ Coffin — Optimistic newspaper proprietors like Sly Bailey and Tim Bowdler blame the business’ current malaise (we’ve covered over 1,000 newspaper job losses in UK since October alone) on an advertising downturn that’s merely
“cyclical”. In reality, 2009 is more likely to bring more layoffs, further
consolidation and the death of certain long-running titles than it is a
cyclical upturn in fortunes, as publishers grapple with the truth that
their businesses have changed fundamentally and forever. In 2008, every
newspaper group either cut regional budgets, closed offices, shut titles or
cut staff – in some cases, all of the above. In one way, this is nothing
new – cutbacks are part of life for most newspapers and magazines nowadays. But there’s a strong case for saying 2009 will mark a shift from seasonal, sensible belt-tightening to the long-term shrinking of the newspaper industry in Britain.

Articles of the Week

Posted in Digital Media, News with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 26, 2008 by Dave Liu

YouTube’s Plan To Gain The Upper Hand With Music Labels — Record labels like Universal Music Group are using YouTube to rake in millions of dollars from their music videos, and yesterday we raised the question of whether Google was making much money from these deals. Well, sources tell MediaMemo’s Peter Kafka that the answer is a big, fat no. In fact, the music clips are costing Google (NSDQ: GOOG) money, even though YouTube is running ads on them. But that is about to change, Kafka says. Currently, YouTube pays the labels either a per-stream fee or a portion of the ad revenue (if there’s an ad on the video) every time a user clicks on one of their music clips; but since YouTube hasn’t saturated the site with ads (yet), most of the time it’s stuck with the per-stream fee. YouTube is in the midst of negotiating new deals with the labels (UMG, EMI, Sony (NYSE: SNE) and Warner Music Group) on very different terms, and Kafka’s sources say the new terms will not add nearly as much cash to the labels’ coffers. The current deals expire over the course of 2009.  

Newspapers Suddenly Adapt To Social Media; Nearly 60 Percent Offer User-Gen Content — Newspapers’ tough times appear to have spurred the industry to adopt the kind of social media habits that have led so many readers away from the traditional news format. In The Bivings Group’s annual look at how newspapers use the internet, the researcher found that 58 percent of dailies offered some form of user-generated content this past year. That’s more than double the 24 percent of papers that had user-gen features in 2007. Other finding’s from Bivings’ report (PDF): The number of papers who opened up stories to user comments also more than doubled in the last year to 75 percent in 2007 versus just 33 percent the year before.

Facebook Continues Torrid Growth — Facebook is growing faster than ever, especially overseas. Active users on the social network have hit 140 million, according to new data released by the company this week. That total is up from the 130 million Facebook reached earlier this month, putting its current growth rate at more than 600,000 users a day, by the estimation of Inside Facebook blogger Justin Smith. It crossed 100 million users in August. Most of that growth–about 70%–continues to be outside the U.S. Inside Facebook pointed out that growth has been especially explosive in Italy, where users have jumped from 572,000 in July to 4.9 million now.  

Warner Pulls Videos From YouTube As Contract Talks Break Down — In another setback for Google’s popular video sharing site, Warner Music Group over the weekend ordered YouTube to remove all music videos by its artists after contractual negotiations broke down. According to Reuters, Warner’s decision could affect hundreds of thousands of video clips. Talks broke down early Saturday because Warner wanted a bigger share of ad revenues. “We simply cannot accept terms that fail to appropriately and fairly compensate recording artists, songwriters, labels and publishers for the value they provide,” Warner said in a statement. According to comScore, YouTube had more than 100 million viewers in the U.S. in October, making it the most popular destination for online video by a massive margin. Warner became the first major media company to negotiate a deal with YouTube in 2006. As part of that deal, Warner, Universal Music Group and Sony Music each took small stakes in the online video giant prior to Google’s acquisition in 2006, profiting from its close.

NeoEdge Takes On comScore — NeoEdge Networks will announce today a service to collect survey data to support some of the advertising technologies and online games it develops and supports. The NeoEdge survey, dubbed “NeoMom,” takes on comScore and focuses on females ages 25 and 54. The survey topics are geared toward consumer products. Gathering survey data for the first report begins in January.  

Redstone Gets Reprieve To Restructure $800 Million In Debt — No financial Armageddon today for Sumner Redstone, who gets an indefinite reprieve on either paying—not gonna happen—or restructuring some $800 million in debt coming due for National Amusements. The total debt is about $1.6 billion. Redstone owns 80 percent of the company, which owns movie theaters and controls Viacom (NYSE: VIA) and CBS (NYSE: CBS). (Redstone is chairman of both media company boards.) The reason for the extension: National Amusements is gaining time to finesse a plan that’s already been presented to creditors, it’s current on payments and the deadline was more of a target than anything.  

Study: Almost 10% On Social Networks Via Mobile — The proportion of U.S. mobile subscribers who access social networks on their cell phones nearly tripled to almost 10% over a year ago, according to a consumer study by The Kelsey Group and ConStat spotlighted Monday by eMarketer. Specifically, 9.6% of mobile users were connecting to a social network as of October 2008, compared to 3.4% in September 2007. The rapid growth is due in part to the small base of people who are social networking on mobile. 

Fanscape Projects 15% Revenue Increase In ’09 — At best, next year represents uncertainty for most advertising and agencies. Social-centric media shops, however, continue to wax optimistic over their prospects for growth. Take Los Angeles-based Fanscape, a digital-engagement marketing agency that works with clients to better understand and influence niche audiences online. “The jury’s still out, but I believe that revenue is going to grow by 15% next year,” said Terry Dry, president and co-founder of Fanscape. 

Warner Overplays YouTube Hand — CNet’s Greg Sandoval claims that it was YouTube that actually began removing Warner Music Group’s videos from its site after Warner came to Google with an “11th-hour demand” for better financial terms. Warner over the weekend said that it began asking that YouTube remove its videos after talks to renegotiate its licensing deal broke down, but two sources close to the situation claim that YouTube actually walked away from the deal first. According to the sources, managers at YouTube considered Warner’s demand, only to begin pulling Warner music videos as its answer. YouTube also first notified the public of the split by posting a note on its blog. Warner responded by saying the music labels were building a YouTube competitor, and that YouTube didn’t drive much revenue for them, anyway, and that Warner’s departure was a bad sign for the Google video site.

Friendfinder Networks files to go public, may make acquisitions — Friendfinder Networks, the Boca Raton, Florida-based social networking company, has filed for an initial public offering and anticipates USD 460m in proceeds. The Internet-based company said in an S-1 filing on 23 December 2008 with the US Securities and Exchange Commission that Renaissance Capital is the underwriter. “To access technologies and provide products that are necessary for us to remain competitive, we may make future acquisitions and investments and may enter into strategic partnerships with other companies. Such investments may require a commitment of significant capital and human and other resources,” stated the company in its SEC filing. Source: mergermarket.

WaPo Digital-Print Integration: The Fast Track — Reading through some clips in the wake of the news that Jim Brady is leaving WashingtonPost.com, I was struck by the rapid shift from separate but cooperating news operations to Russian nesting dolls following Katharine Weymouth’s promotion to Washington Post (NYSE: WPO) publisher and CEO of the Media Group: Feb. 7, 2008: From the Washington Post: “Washington Post Media is designed to forge a closer relationship between the business functions of The Post newspaper and washingtonpost.com, while maintaining separate newsrooms and editorial decision-making.” 

Online Display Ad Spending Dips 6% Through Q3 — A 27% plunge in spending by financial services marketers led to an overall 6% drop in the online display ad market in the first nine months of 2008, compared to the same period a year ago. The percentage declines in both instances mirrored results from the first six months of the year, according to data released by Nielsen Online. Other sectors downsizing display ad budgets included Web media, down 15% to $1.1 billion; travel, falling 7% to $304 million; and retail goods and services, slipping 4% to $833 million. The declines were offset partly by surging ad dollars in the automotive and entertainment categories, which jumped 32% and 29%, respectively. The continued growth in auto advertising online contrasts sharply with the 8% spending fall-off in the category offline. 

Ad-Revenue Sharing Model For Publishers Emerges In 2009 — Advertising networks will begin sharing ad revenue with publishers in 2009. Attributor, which published a study on the ad-serving market this week, will soon offer a service that lets customers monetize content. Rich Pearson, VP of marketing at Attributor, said the Redwood City, Calif. company will rely on technology to automate the process. “We are working with Politico, but it hasn’t been formally launched,” he said. Last week, Reuters–a division of global information company Thomson Reuters–said it will incorporate government and political news from Politico, a unit of Capital News, into its newswire service in a revenue-sharing deal. The group will allow Politico to sell online advertising on their sites. Ad code attached to the media content will determine the revenue-sharing agreement.  

Google, Microsoft, Yahoo Rattle SEO In 2009 — Rival search engines and marketers will continue to fret over Google’s market gains regardless of how the “large actor” acts. Microsoft will “dance and flounder” until cutting a deal with Yahoo toward the end of 2009. The Sunnyvale, Calif. company will need to first find a CEO–which Danny Sullivan, Search Engine Land founder, predicts could happen by February. Whether Yahoo cuts a deal with Microsoft or breaks off and sells the search business remains up in the air. “Yahoo’s CEO will first need to learn the landscape, rather than immediately cut a deal with Microsoft,” Sullivan said. “If a deal happens, it will need to go through a review, which would take two months. By this time you’re in the middle of 2009.” Aside from who’s doing what at search engines, tech-related trends will move beyond Web search results and page content, and into video SEO, local search engine rankings and analytics. Marketers will look for ways to dominate local search results based on demographics. Perhaps local listings will appear at the top, video in the middle and blog search results on the bottom, all on one page. 

NYT Online Ad Revenues Decline In November — It appears that even online advertising–long a growth engine–has started sputtering for the beleaguered New York Times Co. The company said Wednesday that Internet ad revenues across its Internet properties dropped 3.8% in November, compared to a 4.6% gain in October. It marks the first monthly decline in online ad revenue the Times Co. has reported to date. 

MySpace’s Berman: More Ad Products To Come — MySpace has introduced a flurry of new applications and services as it transforms into an advertising-supported social portal, chasing the big bucks spent on Yahoo and Google’s YouTube. It is aggressively leveraging its 75 million active monthly users, each with about 111 friends and spending an average four hours monthly in ways that Madison Avenue and Hollywood cannot ignore. When you can claim nearly 12% of all Internet minutes in the U.S., people will listen. Jeff Berman, MySpace president of sales and marketing, discussed future plans with MediaPost. 

Liberty Media Could Sell Shares Of IAC/InterActiveCorp Until April 2010 — IAC/InterActiveCorp. (NASDAQ:IACI), the New York Internet company, could have Liberty Media (NASDAQ:LINTA) sell shares until April of 2010, reported the Wall Street Journal. The unsourced report in the Heard on the Street column, said the rate at which Liberty Media is going in selling shares of IAC, the company could continue stock sales until April of 2010. According to the report, to avoid the pain of Liberty Media slowly selling its stake IAC could issue a dividend or a buyback of shares. IAC has a market capitalization of USD 2.2bn. Source: mergermarket.

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 November 12, 2008 by Dave Liu

In Followup To TNS Takeover, WPP And Nielsen Trade Research Assets — UK ad-holding company WPP Group, fresh off its takeover of audience researcher
TNS, has sold its 50 percent stake in TV researcher AGB Nielsen Media
Research to Nielsen. In return, Nielsen will transfer to WPP the assets of
ad-pricing researcher SRDS and health-care media-planning data unit
PERQ/HCI. Nielsen will also give over its 11 percent share in several
subsidiaries belonging to Brazilian media research firm IBOPE Group. WPP
already holds a 31 percent stake in IBOPE. These assets will be added to
The Kantar Group, WPP’s information, insight and consultancy division. For
the past year, WPP has been ramping up its investments in emerging markets
like Brazil, so aside from unloading its stake in a TV researcher it
doesn’t need after acquiring TNS, the move fits with WPP’s interest in
adding assets in Latin America.

Facebook Triples Mobile Traffic — Facebook has tripled its mobile audience
to 15 million in the last year, according to a recent post on the company
blog. The m.facebook.com site allows users to receive notifications or
update their status with text messages, as well as access applications for
devices such as the Treo, BlackBerry and iPhone. Julie Ask, a
JupiterResearch analyst who covers the wireless space, called Facebook’s 15
million mobile users “a big milestone,” in a blog post. “I think this
number will only continue to grow and everyone in the ecosystem will
benefit.”

ComScore: Everyday Health Is Top Health Site In October — The Everyday
Health Network became the largest health site in October following its
merger with the Revolution Health Network last month. Everyday Health had
25.7 million unique visitors, topping longtime category leader WebMD, which
drew 19.6 million, according to comScore. AOL Health was a distant third,
with 10.4 million. Waterfront Media’s Everyday Health and Revolution
Health–started by former AOL Chairman and CEO Steve Case–joined forces in
a deal valued at $300 million with the expressed aim of toppling WebMD as
the No. 1 online health property.

Will Local Online Slow in 2009? — Flashy formats draw more attention, but
still lag in dollars spent. Local online ad spending growth will reach 7.8%
in 2009, down from 47% in 2008, according to a November 2008 estimate by
Borrell Associates. The company said projections of double- and
triple-digit increases in local media companies’ 2009 interactive budgets
would be tough to meet, and that banner ads would be particularly hard hit.
An October 2008 projection by ThinkPanmure also sees slowed growth for
local online ad spending. The company estimated that growth would slip to
11% in 2009—still double digits—down from 27% in 2008.

Google Unveils Video App For Gmail — Just in time for the recession,
Google on Tuesday unveiled a free browser plug-in that allows Gmail users
to conduct voice and video chat with other Gmail users. The plug-in
requires an Intel-based computer running either Mac OS X or Windows XP or
Vista, a Web cam and/or a microphone. It works with Firefox 2.0+, Internet
Explorer 7.0, Safari 3.0 and Chrome.

Pay-For Content Set To Grow Faster Than Free, With Music Leading The Way,
Forecast Says
— Maybe there are legs after all to that hypothesis on the
return of pay-for content – the one Economist publisher Paul Rossi
suggested at our Future Of Business Media conference last month. Just 12
percent of European web users paid for online content last year, but that’s
due to rise to 19 percent by 2013, a new Jupiterresearch report says:
“While fr*ee content will continue to dominate, as overall online audiences
for all content categories continue to grow, so the number of European

users willing to pay for content online will grow at an even greater rate.”

Vivian Schiller Leaves NYT; Joins NPR As New CEO — This one is a shocker:
Vivian Schiller, the longtime head of NYTimes.com’s digital efforts, has
left the company, and has joined National Public Radio as its new CEO. She
succeeds Dennis Haarsager, who has served as interim CEO since March, after
Ken Stern left abruptly after internal discord. Also recently, Kinsey
Wilson, the executive editor of USA Today and previously the editor of
USAToday.com, left the paper and joined NPR as its digital head. With two
digital vets at NPR, its already formidable online presence and reputation
should grow, if only they can prevent getting mired in all the politics at
the company and its member stations. (Our interview with Schiller is here.)

Articles of the Day

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

Microsoft Rejigs For Commercial Search, Multimap Leads The Way — Microsoft is restructuring its Search Business Group to add a new group geared toward commercial search. It’s picked Multimap CEO Jeff Kelisky to be GM of this new Commercial Search unit, which covers Live Search cashback, MSN Shopping, local, consumer mapping, Virtual Earth and mobile. It’s part of the big plan to improve the performance of Live as a search and advertising platform. Kelisky will report to Search Business Group GM Brad Goldberg in Redmond but will remain based in London. Goldberg: “We are increasing our focus on commercial search, including changes to the search leadership team and engineering team and in order to lead this market we need to bring all find, explore and commerce needs together. (Jeff) will direct this team to ensure Microsoft continues to innovate and deliver so that consumers choose us to find local information and services.” Goldberg said Kelisky understood particularly how to navigate search, local services, business search and mobile.

Google Tweaks Bidding System — Google is updating the system it uses for judging ad quality to calculate results in real-time, Cnet reports. The so-called ad quality score is a critical measurement that influences how ads are placed next to search results. Google weighs both the ad quality score and the amount the advertiser is willing to pay in determining which ad to place. For ads with low quality scores, which are determined using criteria like click-through rate and the speed with which the advertisers’ landing page loads, Google raises the minimum bid requirement. But changes are coming to this system, too. According to Cnet, ad quality will now be judged at the time each user searches, instead of relying on old, static quality data to assess ad placement. This way, AdWords will use the most accurate, specific, and up-to-date performance information when determining whether an ad should be displayed,” Google said on its blog, adding that it would test the changes over the next few days before deploying them across its network next week.

ComScore: Google Still Leads Search — ComScore’s monthly comScore qSearch analysis of the U.S. search marketplace indicates that in July 2008, U.S. users conducted 11.8 billion core searches (up 2% vs. June) as Google Sites slightly extended its lead in core search market share by 0.4 percentage points. Google Sites led the U.S. core search market in July with 61.9% of the searches conducted–up from 61.5% in June, followed by Yahoo Sites (20.5%), Microsoft Sites (8.9%), Ask Network (4.5%), and AOL LLC (4.2%).

Reed Business Sale Expected As Early As October; Gruner & Jahr Now Interested — Reed Elsevier expects the sale of its Reed Business Information trade magazine unit to complete as early as October. In a memo seen by Dow Jones, Marianne van Leeuwen, CEO of the Holland operation, says bids were made for RBI “since last week”. “In the first three weeks of September, the global board of Reed Business will give a management presentation to potential acquirers,” Van Leeuwen wrote, though she said she did not know who the buyers would be. BusinessWeek publisher McGraw-Hill (NYSE: MHP), private equity house Bain Capital, Providence Equity Partners and Apollo Management have been linked with bids, while Billboard publisher Nielsen was also linked. In half-year earnings last month, Reed Elsevier reported “strong buyer interest” in RBI. This means we will have a new owner of Variety very soon.

Yahoo News’ Original Content Efforts, Again; Also on Music — Yahoo News is doing more and more original content, something it planned to do when Lloyd Braun came in to do that for the whole Yahoo Media group, and then pulled back after he left….now it is picking up the baton once again, this time as a series of high profile video/text interviews with world leaders, as AFP points out. Among its recent interviews: South Korean president Lee Myung-bak, the first internet-only interview US president George W. Bush, and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the latter two done in association with Politico.com. Yahoo is also working with Politico reporters for coverage of the coming Democratic and Republican party conventions. The pitch is simple to get these “exclusives”: “We get these interviews because we have this global audience of 500 million viewers,” director of editorial programming Jessica Barron told AFP. “Yahoo News is a news organization,” she said. That’s news. Yahoo News has typically worked with newswires and other content providers for its site, and it still is the biggest part.

American Social Nets Struggle In China — China has the world’s largest Internet audience. As such, it should be the holy grail for social networking sites, but the likes of MySpace and Facebook have found the going rather tough in China. This is partly due to the country’s “perilous” regulatory environment, which renders social networks responsible for any piece of content on their site. Indeed, if a site doesn’t comply with government regulations, authorities have the right to shut it down. Unaccustomed to this, MySpace and Facebook trail Chinese social networks, whose elaborate censorship technologies block or delete politically sensitive material. As Forbes reports, these “social networks operate just the opposite way in the U.S., where users are allowed to freely share all kinds of data without the threat of government intervention.” For this reason, “American social networks will find it extremely difficult to make inroads in China.”

Articles of the Day

Posted in Digital Media, News with tags , , , , , , , , on August 18, 2008 by Dave Liu

Yahoo To Unveil New Ad Management Software — Yahoo is slowly emerging from the Microhoo mess, ready to finally unveil “what could be its company-saving ad system,” according to the New York Post. Formerly known as “Amp,” the new ad management platform will roll out this quarter. Yahoo claims it will make it easier for publishers, advertisers and agencies to buy and sell space across its network, by eliminating the need to use the phone. In fact, unlike Google’s DoubleClick, with which the unnamed system will compete, Yahoo’s system will be free. More than 800 publications that belong to Yahoo’s newspaper consortium will use it. The San Francisco Chronicle and San Jose’s The Mercury News will be the first publishers to test it next month. The truly unique thing about Yahoo’s system is that it allows publishers to sell inventory on other sites, including Yahoo properties. The Merc, for instance, could theoretically sell space at the Chronicle and on Yahoo News. At the same time, everybody will benefit from the revenue sharing scheme.

Google Explores Putting Android On Cable Set-Top Boxes — Even before it hits mobile phones, Google is exploring the possibility of putting Android on cable set-top boxes. According to VentureBeat Google wants Android to become a “universal operating system that will span set-top boxes for televisions, mp3 players and other communication and media devices and services.” Also, Frommer makes the point that cable companies won’t exactly be falling over themselves to sign up for having Android run their set-top boxes. Why would they need a Google OS? Will Android widgets make people watch more TV? Probably not, says Frommer.

LA Times Names Former DirecTV Head Hartenstein As Publisher; Zell Says LAT’s A Keeper — The embattled newspaper Los Angeles Times has named Eddy Hartenstein, the former head of DirecTV, as its new publisher, a story first broken by DHD last month. He will fill in the position left vacant when David Hiller resigned on July 14, after parent Tribune began implementing the latest round of staff cutbacks at the paper. Hartenstein said that Zell approached him a month ago. He said his new boss made no demands concerning future staff cuts…Zell “basically said, ‘You’re the publisher and CEO. It’s yours to run,’ and that was pretty much it.” He then asked Zell if he wold keep the paper or sell it…The answer “was a strong, affirmative ‘Yes. This is a keeper.’ ” Words spoken too soon?

Battelle: Google Ad Planner No ‘comScore-Killer’ After All — Complaining about how comScore undercounts unique visitors compared to their internal numbers is a fairly constant refrain from web publishers. So when Google Ad Planner was released with the promise of better figures (i.e. higher unique visitor counts) than comScore, Federated Media head John Battelle was initially enthused. But after comparing the first set of numbers between the two, Battelle writes on his Searchblog, that Google Ad Planner is hardly the hoped for comScore-killer. While the comparison data Battelle received is from comScore, he says given that comScore’s reputation depends on not juicing the stats, he is inclined to trust that the research is bias-fr*ee. Battelle’s review follows others, such as ad agency and web publishers, who also found that Google Ad Planner was, in the words of Forbes.com CEO Jim Spanfeller, “are as bad or worse as anybody else’s out there.”

Pandora To Pull The Plug? — One of Internet radio’s most successful services is on the verge of pulling the plug, Ars Technica reports. Thanks to the hefty Internet royalty rate hike pushed through by SoundExchange last July, Pandora founder Tim Westergren says the music subscription service won’t last beyond the first round of payments. As Ars points out, SoundExchange heaped massive royalty hikes on Internet-only radio stations, imposing per-user fees for each song. Worse, these royalties are set to double for big stations by 2010 to an estimated 2.91 cents per hour per listener. Satellite stations, meanwhile, pay just 1.6 cents, and radio stations have a different royalty structure altogether. Despite its best efforts to petition SoundExchange’s tough decision, Pandora’s pleas have fallen on deaf ears. According to The Washington Post, Rep. Howard L. Berman (D-Calif.) is attempting a last-minute deal to save Internet radio — a deal that would lower the per-song rate set last year — but he isn’t optimistic. “If (the negotiations don’t) get much more dramatic quickly, I will extricate myself from the process,” Berman said. What does this mean for Pandora? The music service will now have to pay 70% of its projected 2008 revenue of $25 million. As Westgren told the Post: “The moment we think this problem in Washington is not going to get solved, we have to pull the plug because all we’re doing is wasting money.”

Articles of the Day

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

comScore Revs Up 34 Percent; Net Income Soars — Shares of internet measurement firm comScore are spiking hours after the company reported another very healthy quarter. Excluding the impact of the M:Metrics acquisition, revenue was up 34 percent to $27.8 million and adjusted income more than doubled to $2.57 million. Including M:Metrics, revenue was up 38 percent and EPS would have been $.06 per share. Meanwhile the company is still winning customers, netting 64 in the quarter, bringing its total to 1,013. International revenue is still small at $4.1 million, but it grew at a 75 percent clip, and accounts for for 14 percent of the total. With M:Metrics factored in, the company is calling for revenue of $119-$120 million, a few million ahead of current estimates.

IAC/InterActiveCorp to make multiple buys under USD 100m — IAC/InterActiveCorp., the New York-listed internet company, plans to engage in multiple buys, reported the Wall Street Journal. The report, part of a story looking at the company’s second quarter results, cited IAC chief executive Barry Diller as saying the company plans to use USD 1.3bn in dividend payments from its spin-off to make multiple buys. According to the report, Diller said the deals will each be under USD 100m and if it can’t find good targets it will return cash to shareholders. Source: Wall Street Journal

Dubai Group, Blackstone Eye Informa — The Blackstone Group has teamed up with Investment Corp. Dubai to bid on UK media group Informa PLC (LSE: INF), according to The Financial Times. Earlier reports had an alternate consortium of Carlyle Group, Providence Equity Partners and Hellman & Friedman, but today’s FT story says that Hellman & Friedman has walked away.

Cobalt Rolls Out Search Tools — Cobalt has developed a new set of paid search marketing tools under its PowerSearch automotive advertising platform. The tools, which are based on search traffic research and ongoing auto industry trends, offer clients new keywords and bidding strategies to capitalize on consumer interest in parts and services, as well as financing. The ads can run across Google, Yahoo and MSN.

Interpublic Makes HUGE Bet On Digital Marketing — Taking a majority stake in online agency HUGE, Interpublic Group has bolstered its digital marketing capabilities. The deal gives Interpublic an interactive shop that specializes in building sophisticated, transactional Web sites for clients such as JetBlue, IKEA, Scholastic and Time Warner Music Group. Its clients’ sites together generate $3.5 billion in annual revenue and draw more than 120 million visitors a month.

IAC: Search Ads Hold Up, While Display ‘Spotty’; Looking At All Deals, But Will Be Selective — For its last call as a single company, all five CEOs and their CFOs are on IAC’s conference call. Kicking off the call, Diller noted that it’s not even worth talking about Old IAC anymore, in part because it’s almost gone, but really because “It’s just too much complexity and information.” That statement speaks as much to the company’s conference calls and earnings releases as it does to the whole notion of Old IAC: ‘just too much complexity’. Hence the breakup. Right now the company doesn’t have precise timing on the split, except that it will be “very soon”. Diller said he hoped to talk about all five companies on the call, and that he didn’t want New IAC to hog the time, but almost every question was on New IAC (NSDQ: IACI). At a couple of points, Diller, from the position as a shareholder in each company, took the job himself to ask questions of the other CEOs.

Amazon Launches Online Payment Services — In a move to rival eBay’s PayPal and Google’s Google Checkout, Amazon launched on Tuesday two online payment services, Checkout and Simple Pay. The difference in the two is that Checkout provides capabilities to support real time shipping, tax calculation, promotions and other tasks like cancellations and shipment tracking, while Simple Pay enables customers to use payment information already on file.