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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 Week

Posted in Digital Media, News with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 10, 2009 by Dave Liu

VC 2009 Investments: Which Startups Will Get The Dough? — Investments for venture capitalists got squashed in 2008, and the outlook for initial public offerings (IPOs) and mergers and acquisitions (M&As) doesn’t look much better for this year. But at least one VC firm still plans to make investments in 2009. Jeremy Liew, managing director at Lightspeed Venture Partners, said the Menlo Park, Calif. VC will look to invest in companies focused on gaming, virtual goods, Web 2.0 and advertising, and those with solutions that monetize international traffic. While startups can expect fewer investments in the first two quarters, by the end of the year run rates should return to those seen in 2008, according to Liew. “The challenge with investing now is there’s a lot of uncertainty about the recession we’re in, how long it will last and how deep it will be,” he said. “Consumers with more time on their hands and less disposable income will look for the most entertainment for least amount of money.”

Google Solicits Suggestions For Mobile Products — Building on the openness underlying its Android mobile platform, Google is allowing users to propose ideas for new mobile product features through a new Web site. The Product Ideas page for Google Mobile allows Google users to submit and vote on mobile features they’d like to see the company develop. Through this Digg-like rating system, “we’ll be able to see more clearly what’s important to you and we’ll take it into consideration as we move forward with developing our products,” according to a post on the Google Mobile blog last week. “The Product Ideas team will pop in from time to time to see what you have to say, and we’ll be offering periodic updates on what we see and what ideas make it into your favorite products.”

Publishers Competing With Ad Networks — Behavioral targeting can be something of a double-edged sword for publishers, Ad Age’s Michael Learmonth explains. When a user visits a site like Edmunds.com, he or she instantly becomes an “in-market car buyer”, a valuable asset, but one from which Edmunds.com might not necessarily benefit. Like most Web publishers, Learmonth says that Edmunds doesn’t participate in the “mini-economy that flourishes after visitors leave” their site. Instead, “a host of ad networks will sell that ‘in-market car buyer’ to advertisers at a fraction of the rate, thereby increasing ad inventory while driving down ad rates for Edmunds, KBB.com and other sites like it.” The same story is true for other publishers who, by hosting users who demonstrate an interest in their products, create a profile that is eventually used by a third party network that packages and resells audiences at lower prices. As Learmonth says, publishers have long viewed this universe of networks and targeting firms with “unease”, in a similar manner to the way they compete with portals and news services that aggregate their content. Source: AdAge.

Consumers Union’s New Consumer Media Unit Could Expand Beyond Consumerist; No Paid Ads Allowed — Consumers Union’s new non-profit subsidiary Consumer Media LLC launches on Jan. 1 with newly acquired Consumerist.com as its only property but the announcement release stressed that it’s the first. Does this mean more acquisitions are on the way? “The short answer is we don’t know,” Ken Weine, VP-communications, told us. “We may down the road acquire or create new items.” Consumer Media is viewed as a way to expand
the nonprofit’s consumer advocacy mission and to take advantage of a growth spurt in recent years. For now, the new subsidiary sets boundaries between Consumerist, acquired this week from Gawker Media, and CU’s Consumer Reports magazine and website. “The message we’re trying to project—and the reality will reflect this—is we’re not purchasing Consumerist to make it into Consumer Reports and we wanted for that, among other reasons, to structurally create some distance between the two.”

Getting Rid Of The Box: Netflix Software To Be Embedded Directly Into LG TVs — In the march towards getting “rid of the box” as the going-forward philosophy in the evolving digital home, Netflix has extended its partnership with LG Electronics (SEO: 066570) and embedding its online video service directly into the new HDTVs from the Korean electronics company. LG’s new LCD and plasma “Broadband HDTVs” will allow current Netflix members to stream the videos from its service; these TVs have to be connected to a broadband connection, of course.

Monster.com To Create Co-Branded Job Sites With Sun-Times Media Group — The Sun-Times Media Group has struck an alliance with Monster.com on forming a series of online recruitment services and co-branded job sites across the publisher’s 70 newspapers. The deal comes over six months after Chicago-based Sun-Times joined the Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO) Newspaper Consortium, which includes access to Yahoo’s Hot Jobs site. More recently, newspapers and online recruiters have seen help wanted ads decline precipitously as the economy worsens and unemployment ticks higher. The deal could help Sun-Times generate some more incremental revenue and attract more readers
to its classifieds. For Monster, it represents the growth of a media alliance that includes 250 newspapers and their sites, such as the NYTimes.com, and over 100 local TV outlets.

Macrovision Backtracks On TV Guide Network Sale To One Equity Partners; Chooses Lionsgate Instead — The TV Guide saga continues … Macrovision (NSDQ: MVSN) has a new buyer for its TV Guide Network and TV Guide Online properties—Lionsgate Entertainment. The TV and movie studio is slated to buy the properties from Macrovision for $255 million, the same price Macrovision had agreed to sell it to Allen Shapiro and One Equity Partners for (plus a $45 million earnout payable for the next three years) less than
a month ago. That deal was expected to close on April 1, 2009. Macrovision’s CFO James Budge told the WSJ that the company went with the
new deal because it seemed more certain to close: “At the end of the day, overall deal considerations were superior with the Lionsgate deal in all
circumstances.” This new deal is slated to close in February.

Gannett Lifts The Curtain On Local/National Hybrid Site ContentOne — Gannett (NYSE: GCI) is going live with its local/national web hybrid ContentOne this morning, says Jim Hopkins on his Gannett Blog. The program was introduced by execs speaking at the UBS Media Week conference last month. At the time, Craig Dubow, Gannett’s chairman, president and CEO, said ContentOne would serve as an exchange between its 85 local papers’ websites and USA Today’s site on the national level. He also described the idea behind ContentOne as “local content on a national level,” adding that it will use the regionally focused MomsLikeMe social net and Metromix web guide as the foundation. ContentOne would operate as a single site and serve as an easy access point for advertisers targeting readers both local and national level.

Better Late Than Never: Ad Agencies Try To Create Online Marketplaces — After witnessing ad networks and exchanges capture more revenue from major marketers these last few years, traditional media agencies are starting to play catch up. Interpublic Group’s buying and planning shop Mediabrands is working on a digital marketplace tool for clients that will include behavioral targeting. IPG’s major ad holding company rivals are not far behind either, WSJ says, noting that WPP Group, Publicis Groupe and Havas are also trying to come up with similar programs.

Mail.ru Investor Offloads Stake; IPO Looks Less Likely — While you were off for Christmas, the ownership of Russia’s top website (according to TNS) shifted a little. Tiger Global Management hedge fund sold its 27 percent stake in Mail.ru to its existing shareholders Digital Sky Technologies and Naspers. The Russian online investment vehicle and the South African media outfit now have 53.2 percent and 42.8 percent respectively, CEO Dmitri Grishin has 2.5 percent. The deal means DST, which is part-owned by Arsenal soccer club and LiveJournal investor Alexander Usmanov, now controls a majority of both Mail.ru and Runet’s top social site Odnoklassniki.ru.

Online To Weather 2009 — How will online advertising fare in 2009? Adweek says there are two schools of thought: optimists see tighter budgets shifting more dollars from less measurable media like TV and print to the Web; pessimists believe that weaker ad budgets will result in cuts across all media, although digital should fare a little better. With that in mind, search spending is expected to remain stable, while display and ads and microsites could come under pressure. Social ads are also likely to remain top of mind this year, as marketers look to move beyond experimenting with social media toward really engaging and leveraging users’ social interactions. Researcher eMarketer pegs online ad spending growth at 8.9% in 2009, from $23.6 billion to $25.7 billion. Forrester Research, another research firm, expects display spending to increase 8% this year.

IAC/InterActiveCorp Sees Strategic ‘Search’ And ‘Local’ Acquisitions As Use For USD 1.7bn in Cash — IAC/InterActiveCorp. (NASDQ:IACI), the New York-listed Internet company, is looking for strategic “search” and “local” area deals with USD 1.7bn in cash, according to a CitiGroup analyst report. The report cited comments made by IAC Chief Executive Barry Diller yesterday during Citi’s Global Entertainment, Media and Telecommunications Conference in Phoenix, Arizona. According to the report, IAC sees growth potential in the two areas, despite a cautious macroeconomic outlook for 2009. Source: mergermarket.

AOL’s Conroy Jumps To Univision As Interactive Media President — paidContent has learned that Kevin Conroy is leaving his post as AOL’s EVP, products, and heading to Spanish-language TV broadcaster Univision as president of interactive media. Before coming to AOL (NYSE: TWX) in 2001 to build AOL Music, Conroy was CMO for new technology at BMG Entertainment, where he worked for eight years. Conroy took on additional duties at AOL last April, when John Burbank departed as CMO less than a year after arriving at AOL.

Confirmed: Apple Dropping DRM Across iTunes, New Pricing Structure, 3G Downloads — Just before Tony Bennett sang goodbye to the Moscone Center faithful with “I Left My Heart In San Francisco,” Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) confirmed at its final Macworld Expo that it will drop DRM copy protection across 10 million iTunes Store songs from all majors, as per CNET’s earlier report. The move will apply to eight million tracks as of today and will extend to a further two million by the end of the quarter. Bringing to a close what have sometimes been fractious label negotiations, Apple is also introducing three new pricing tiers for iTunes tracks—$0.69 for older tracks, $0.99 for recent tracks and $1.29 for new hits. Marketing VP Phil Schiller, taking Steve Jobs’ traditional keynote spot, also said Apple is extending the ability to buy iTunes songs wirelessly via iPhone from merely WiFi to 3G mobile networks; also from today, tracks will be priced the same and have the same bitrate as desktop iTunes downloads.

@ CES: Microsoft CEO Ballmer Starts His Stage Setting With A Swipe At Yahoo’s Yang — We’re in the not-as-crowded-as-usual ballroom at the Venetian where the first Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) keynote completely sans Bill Gates (well, he got a mention and some applause) is underway with Steve Ballmer on the stage. It only took a couple of minutes for a light-hearted jab at Yahoo’s Jerry Yang, with a fake message asking: “Why do you keep ignoring my friend requests in Facebook?” No mention of the latest funky Yahoo deal rumor, of course, Ballmer’s real mission tonight is to outline his vision for Microsoft and to pitch Windows as the once and future software that will connect devices, platforms and people—and the PC as THE computer. “In many ways, connecting all of this together is the last mile. … The linchpin for bringing all of this together for you should be Windows.” Windows 7: “I am really pleased with the progress on Windows 7…. We’re working hard to get it right more quickly.” It should boot more quickly, take less battery life, incorporate touch. “We are releasing the beta of Windows 7; Tech Net and MSDN tonight.” Friday, the beta will be available globally for any user to try. Hasta la vista, baby.

Time Warner Warns Of Net Loss For ‘08; Expects $25 Billion Impairment Charge — Time Warner (NYSE: TWX) is warning investors that it will report a net loss ranging from $1.04 to $1.07 a share profit. Back in November, the company said it expected income to grow 5 percent over 2007’s $12.9 billion. The company is also expecting an impairment charge of $25 billion. About $15 billion of those write-downs are related to Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC), which the company is planning on spinning off, although it still holds an 85 percent interest, the WSJ noted. Time Warner made the announcement in advance of CFO’s John Martin presentation at the 2009 Citigroup Global Entertainment, Media & Telecommunications Conference today. Following the news, Time Warner shares were down 6.1 percent in
pre-market trading. Time Warner said the change in expectation was due to several factors and not just the worsening economic environment. For example, in December, it was hit with a $280 million expense related to a judgment against Turner Broadcasting System in a court case involving to the 2004 sale of its winter sports teams. Time Warner also pointed out that advertising at AOL and its publishing business suffered more than anticipated in Q4, reducing the expected income growth rate by about 1 percent.

Citi Media: Time Warner’s Martin On AOL: Don’t Expect Any Strategic Deals Soon — Asked about Time Warner’s plans for the AOL business and all its discordant parts—from access service to content and ad sales—CFO John Martin told the 2009 Citigroup Global Entertainment, Media & Telecommunications Conference in Phoenix that the company is still enthusiastic about exploring “strategic relationships.” However, to be realistic, this kind of economic environment isn’t conducive to quick action. The comments were somewhat in contrast to what CEO Jeff Bewkes said last month at the UBS Media Week event, when he told attendees “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.” Still exploring alternatives: Martin: “We look at the company in three buckets, the cable, the content companies and AOL. With AOL, you have at least two big businesses in there. The access business has surpassed expectations in terms of cash flow. It’s declining, but it’s doing so at a predictable rate. The access business, though, is not strategic to Time Warner (NYSE: TWX). So we would be open to different options, but in this environment, we appreciate the fr*ee cash flow. As for audience size, AOL doesn’t have the industry scale that some of other businesses do. So we’ve been in talks with other companies about creating alternative structures and seeing what we could do. But this is a tough environment to do any strategic relationships. We just completed 22 months of considerable growth in usage on the vertical channels and there is still reason to be optimistic.”

@ CES: Discovery’s Kathy Kayse: ‘We’re Better-Equipped To Deliver On Digital This Year’ — Discovery Communications gobbled up online reference site HowStuffWorks for $250 million back in late 2007, and network brass told us that HSW would be the company’s “primary platform” for online growth. Well, has the company delivered on its promise? We asked Discovery’s EVP of digital ad sales Kathy Kayse at the Reinventing Advertising Conference at CES: Increased traffic: “It’s about a year into the integration process and we’ve seen significant growth in unique visitors and page views to both sites [Discovery.com and HSW],” Kayse said. “This year, we’ll focus even more aggressively on cross-channel promotion and integrating more Discovery (NSDQ: DISAB) content onto HSW.”

Microsoft Beats Out Google To Win Verizon Search Deal — It’s official. Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) has won the deal to become the default search provider on all phones on the Verizon Wireless (NYSE: VZ) network, reports Reuters. The two companies said they would go into greater detail about the deal later today at CES in Las Vegas. In November last year, the WSJ reported that in an effort to snatch the deal from Google (NSDQ: GOOG), Microsoft was offering guaranteed payments to the carrier of approximately $550 million to $650 million over five years—about twice what the search giant had proposed. The payments are to come from the ads that Microsoft would be able to serve up with search results.

Travelocity CEO Peluso To Leave — Travelocity CEO Michelle Peluso is packing her bags and will leave the online travel agency early next month. She’ll be replaced by Hugh Jones, who most recently served as chief operating officer for the Sabre Travel Network and Sabre Airline Solutions businesses. Sabre Holdings is Travelocity’s parent company. Peluso came to Travelocity in 2002, when the company acquired online travel site Site59.com, which she founded. Transitioning from CEO of Site59, Peluso became Travelocity’s COO a year later. At the end of 2003, she was became president and CEO. Over the past year, as other vertical categories started seeing slower growth, travel-related sites were still holding their own. Whether that will continue as the recession takes hold is unclear. Jones, who had served as a financial controller for American Airlines, was likely singled out to succeed Peluso because of his background. No word on Peluso’s next move.

Venture Capitalist Sounds Alarm For Facebook, Slide — In an interview with PaidContent writer Tameka Kee, Norwest Venture Partners principal Tim Chang expressed concern about two well-known Silicon Valley startups that he thinks will find it hard to grow their revenues or raise new money this year. “I’m concerned about Facebook,” Chang said. “Microsoft isn’t likely to renew its search-advertising contract–at least not at the same rate–and Facebook makes a significant amount of money from that deal. Imagine if you lost $300 million worth of revenue–how would you make it up? It’s not going to come from advertising, even if they have other ad platforms.” As Kee points out, that also raises questions about what happens to News Corp’s MySpace when Google renegotiates its search deal.

@ CES: Online Video Exec: ‘If We Don’t Do Things Differently, The Industry Is Screwed’ — Online video viewing continues to surge, but the ad dollars flowing into the space still aren’t scaling accordingly. Panelists at the Reinventing Advertising Conference @ CES trotted out well-worn reasons for that imbalance: lack of standard metrics; high volume of low-quality content; building the right amount of reach, etc. But Brian Terkelsen, EVP and managing director at MediaVest’s connectivetissue, (pictured) avoided the hand-wringing and laid it on the line: “Advertisers aren’t being aggressive enough in general—they helped grow TV to where it is now, so I think it’s partly up to them to drive video. If we don’t challenge the industry to do things differently, we’re screwed.”

Google Won’t Buy Ailing Newspapers, Could ‘Merge Without Merging’ — Their fortunes are poles apart and yet inseparable—one is hauling in buckets of advertising, the other is losing it at an alarming rate. Google (NSDQ: GOOG) sympathizes with the newspaper business’ predicament and continues to say it can help, but, sadly for NYT-Google acquisition speculators, CEO Eric Schmidt says he isn’t about to buy or bail out any news publishers.

AOL Reorganizes Products Division Following Conroy’s Departure — AOL (NYSE: TWX) is reshuffling parts of its products division following the departure of Kevin Conroy as AOL’s EVP of products. AOL Video, AOL Radio, Winamp, SHOUTcast, widgets and a few other areas are being moved from the Products & Platforms Group to the AOL Programming Group under EVP Bill Wilson. Programming will also take over AOL’s commerce and marketplace channels. Also, the chat applications under Userplane, which AOL bought in 2006, will move into the People Networks business unit under Joanna Shields. In a memo to staffers about the latest changes, Randy Falco, AOL’s chairman and CEO, says that there are few other details at the People Networks that will be completed in the next few weeks. Meanwhile, Conroy’s remaining duties within the Products and Technologies division, which include overseeing mail, video search tool Truveo, mobile and toolbar, will go to Ted Cahall, the group’s president.

Tracking The Shift In Media M&A Dollars in 2008 — Even though 2008 was a slower year for digital media M&A, about $0.88 of every dollar of industry revenue growth flew to four growth sectors: Database & Information; B2B Online Media; Consumer Online Media; and Interactive Marketing Services. Only $0.12 flowed to traditional media, according to an analysis by media M&A advisory firm The Jordan, Edmiston Group. This compares to $0.67 of every incremental ad dollar flowing to traditional media sectors (newspapers, magazines, events, etc.) from 2001 to 2007, while only $0.33 went to these four growth sectors. Some other highlights: Multiples: The all-important metric for an entrepreneur: The four growth categories saw average revenue and EBITDA multiples range from 3.4x to 4.5x and 13.5x to 21.3x, respectively, in 2008, as compared to 1.5x to 2.4x and 8.0x to 8.5x, respectively, for traditional media sectors. Deal numbers: Deal count and value declined 35 percent and 58 percent, respectively, in Q4 2008 versus Q4 2007. For the full-year, deal count was down 13 percent and deal value declined a significant 68 percent from 2007 highs.

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 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 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 26, 2008 by Dave Liu

LinkedIn CEO: Everything’s Rosy Here — The San Francisco Chronicle sits down with LinkedIn CEO Dan Nye to discuss the professional social network’s fortunes in 2008. At last count, LinkedIn was the fourth largest social networking site, behind MySpace, Facebook and Classmates.com. It is also the fourth fastest growing social network, according to the Chronicle report, behind Twitter, Tagged.com and Ning, with membership of 30 million. The private company is expected to rake in $100 million in ad revenue in 2008, up from $10 million at the end of 2006. In June, LinkedIn raised new capital valuing the firm at $1 billion. “What’s most gratifying is seeing the success that people are having on the network,” Nye says in a lengthy interview. “There are just amazing stories about people making money, finding opportunities, getting advice, avoiding disasters from reference checking, reconnecting with important people in their lives, getting introductions, getting access.”

Collective Media Debuts Performance-Based Network — As if direct marketers needed another ad network to choose from, ad network and technology provider Collective Media today is expected to unveil its own performance-based ad network–Directive Network. The company’s CEO, Joe Apprendi, however, is confident that the new Directive Network will stand out among the more than 200 such networks saturating the market today.

Google Debuts Display Ad Builder Features — The upgrades, based on user feedback, aim to provide greater customization and make building display ads easier. The image picker feature lets users choose from previously uploaded images when creating ads. Real-time editing lets users see text and other custom edits without having to click the “update preview” button. 

Microsoft To Rebrand Live Search — Microsoft is once again rebranding its search engine, TechCrunch says, citing a Microsoft source. The software giant plans to rename Windows Live Search sometime early next year, and “Kumo”, a Japanese word meaning “cloud” or “spider” is apparently the frontrunner, according to the blog LiveSide. Microsoft recently purchased the Kumo.com domain name. According to TechCrunch, very few people inside Microsoft are privy to the pending change, and “Kumo” has not been confirmed, although a source claims that a final decision about the new name has been made.  

Job Sites Step Up As Unemployment Hits 14-Year High — Unemployment in the U.S. has hit a 14-year high as companies cut back. That has sent masses of laid-off workers flocking to the Web in search of opportunities — and job sites have been stepping up to meet the challenge. New job sites with names like MarketVendorJobs.com have sprung up to take advantage of growing user interest amid the economic downturn. Established sites, such as CareerBuilder.com, have also started rolling out new features to improve the relevance of job listings for candidates and make their résumés stand out, among other things. And some sites, such as Vault.com, are providing career counseling and other new services.