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Articles of the Week

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Articles of the Week

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Articles of the Week

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Articles of the Day

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

Mindshare Wants A Lotame, And A Lot Of You: Cuts Deal Based On How We Spend Time Online — In a Madison Avenue first, WPP’s Mindshare unit has cut a
deal to begin serving ads to social media users based on the time they
actually spend engaged on social media sites, and the advertising content
surrounding them. The deal, details of which will be announced today with
Lotame, the developer of an advanced audience behavior targeting system, is
another step by a major agency away from the classic advertising model of
placing ads based on the context of media content and instead moving to one
based on the context of the audiences consuming it.

AT&T’s VideoCrawler: Part Of A Bigger, Three-Screen Content Distribution
Plan
— A strange launch at a strange time, and from a strange source: AT&T
rolled out a beta version of VideoCrawler, an online video search and
aggregation engine. The public beta comes about three months after an even
softer launch designed to help the company work out VideoCrawler’s kinks,
and AT&T partnered with video search tech firm Divvio in its development.
Divvio founder and CEO Hossein Eslambolchi is AT&T’s former CTO.

FT.com Relaunching This Week: Pink Front Page, New Name Target ‘Obsessive’
Users
— FT.com will tomorrow roll out the latest installment of its
long-term web redesign with a pink front page and a region-specific
homepage for its growing Middle East audience. Those are some of the
immediate changes but, as a redesign, it’s more like a war of attrition:
more changes are on the way but the whole process won’t be over for some
months. In an interview with paidContent:UK, FT.com editor James Montgomery
spoke of his long-term goals and why there’s no money to be made in
attracting casual users.

Facebook Launches New Ad Product, Still Lags Behind MySpace — Facebook may
have passed MySpace in terms of worldwide audience, but the social
networking giant has struggled to sell ads as effectively as its
competitor. Today, the Palo Alto company is unveiling its latest ad format,
called “engagement ads” which prompt a user to do something within the ad
unit, such as post a comment about a product or RSVP to watch a TV show.
Once a user engages with an ad, a message would then be sent through the
news feed to his or her friends list. As the Journal points out, Facebook
has a lot to prove with the new format, which is being made available to
all of its advertisers after four months of testing. According to comScore,
Facebook’s share of U.S. online display spending was just 1.1% in June. By
comparison, News Corp.’s Fox Interactive Media unit, which includes
MySpace, was the market leader in display spending with 15.9%.

For Professional Content, YouTube Pales Next To Hulu — New York Times
technology writer Saul Hansell says Google’s recent move to put
feature-length films and TV shows on YouTube is — like most of the online
video giant’s forays into professional content — more show than substance.
Hansell claims that Google is merely intimating that the professional video
market could become a core moneymaking strategy for YouTube, without really
making the commitment to it. Meanwhile, Hulu.com, the joint venture from
NBC and Fox, is starting to establish itself as the most prominent site for
professional TV shows and movies. As Jim Packer, MGM’s co-president, tells
the Times, “We will have some long-form videos up on YouTube, but I don’t
think that’s the platform to have 30 or 40 movies up at once. I feel much
more comfortable doing that on a site like Hulu.”

Advertising Earnings: Miva Raises $10 Million Credit Line, Posts Q3 Loss;
Marchex Fares Better
— PPC-centric ad network and media company MIVA has
secured a $10 million credit facility from Bridge Capital Holdings
subsidiary Bridge Bank, NA. America’s Growth Capital arranged the credit
line, and MIVA was eligible to borrow $6.5 million of it as of the end of
Q3. The Fort Meyers, FL-based company will use the funds to expand
distribution of its ALOT toolbar, roll out a new media platform (and likely
stave off potential buyers like Blinkx). MIVA seemingly needs all the help
it can get. In today’s Q3 earnings report, the company posted a $10.5
million loss (or 32 cents per share), in contrast to a $3.3 million loss
(12 cents per share) in Q307. Part of the loss stemmed from the company’s
restructuring program—which resulted in a $2.7 million charge in the
quarter—but revenues were also headed the wrong way, down 21 percent to
$28.1 million. CEO Peter Corrao said that MIVA’s restructuring program and
the new ad platform should get the company profitable in 2009.

Articles of the Day

Posted in Digital Media, News with tags , , , , , , , , , , on November 3, 2008 by Dave Liu

Comcast Interested In Acquisitions For All Business Units — Comcast, a cable operator in Philadelphia, is interested in M&A for all its business units, said Chief Financial Officer Michael Angelakis at a recent conference. Pundits speculated that M&A may grind to a halt as companies grapple with valuations in today’s market, but when Comcast is ready to acquire again, its priorities are likely to be digital video content and technologies, they said. An industry banker said Comcast has to think about what good a cable system will be if all content is delivered ubiquitously over the Internet. He named three privately held potential targets, Brightcove, Veoh Networks and VideoEgg. Brightcove, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is an interesting company gaining attention in the industry, the banker said. It manages, publishes and distributes content, and Comcast currently does not own the technology to do that. Brightcove did not return phone calls for comment. Brightcove has received USD 81m in venture financing. Source: mergermarket.

Wall Street Grows Bearish On Online Ad Market, J.P.Morgan Slashes Outlook For Second Time In Two Months Citing a pronounced weakening in market conditions in recent weeks, the influential Wall Street equities research team at J.P.Morgan has reduced its online advertising forecast for the second time in two months. Emphasizing that it hoped it was the last downgrade it would be making for a while, the analysts issued an advisory to investors attributing the downgrade to “further economic deterioration” that is weakening demand from online advertisers.

MySpace and MTV Networks Tie Up on Videos, Ads; Auto ID of Clips — MySpace is following YouTube in trying to identify uploaded clips and then insert ads in them: it is starting with one media company first, MTV Networks (NYSE: VIA), and will likely add other media companies later. For now, when users upload clips of any MTVN shows including popular clips from Daily Show or Colbert Show, it will identify those clips automatically and insert ads, both video and overlays. The company is using technology from a seven-year old tech TV fingerprinting firm Auditude. Interestingly, Auditude’s CEO is Adam Cahan, former EVP of strategy at MTVN…he joined the startup a year ago. MySpace already uses similar ID technology from Audible Magic, but Auditude takes it a step further as ads can be inserted into the uploaded premium content. YouTube has a similar ID and ad insertion system called Video ID.

AOL BlackVoices Adds Male-Focused Blog — AOL’s BlackVoices channel has started BV Power List, a new blog that offers men tips on how to succeed in all aspects of their lives. A key feature is the editors’ weekly picks of five leading African-American influencers. The first Power List includes Barack Obama, Tyra Banks, Tyler Perry, Magic Johnson and Mellody Hobson.

Global Budgets To Boost Online Advertising — Despite advertisers’ cuts to traditional media budgets and a slowdown in the rate of growth, the total dollars spent on Internet advertising will continue to increase, according to a report from the Rubicon Project to be released today. The report suggests that millions of dollars are being shifted from traditional advertising budgets into online, and that Web advertising has become a global industry that is less subject to any one country’s economy.

Scripps Overhauls Web Ads; BusinessTargets Get Smaller, More Local — EW Scripps, one of the rare newspaper publishers to report negative interactive ad revenues in Q2, is trying a quick turnaround. NYT has an overview of the Cincinnati-based company’s plans, including altering the commission structure for online ads, reducing the reliance on convergent print/web ad sales and expanding its universe of advertisers to smaller and more local marketers. In addition, Scripps is counting on Yahoo’s new APT ad delivery and targeting system to boost revs, which slumped 8 percent in Q2. The company reports Q3 earnings Friday. The four-year goal: If all goes as Rusty Coats, VP for interactive, projects, Scripps will sell enough ads to support the staff and costs of the print and online newsrooms by 2012—all without the job cuts that have become a near daily occurrence in the newspaper industry. In order for online to start producing more revenue, Scripps believes the incentives have to change for online ads.

WaPo Profits Plummet 85.8 Percent; Online Revs Grow 13 Percent — The newspaper business has been suffering for a while, and that’s the part that pulled down The Washington Post (NYSE: WPO) Company’s Q3 earnings, as the more profitable education and cable TV units failed to offset print losses. Year-over-year, net income fell 85.8 percent to $10.3 million ($1.08 per share) from Q307’s $72.5 million ($7.60 per share). The newspaper company also said operating income declined 63.5 percent in the quarter to $40.3 million from $110.5 million from last year on a $59.7 million goodwill impairment charge and $12.5 million in accelerated depreciation at The Washington Post.

Articles of the Day

Posted in Digital Media, News with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on October 20, 2008 by Dave Liu

Microsoft’s Role In GOOG-YHOO Delay: Outlobbying — So how did Google move from promising to start its deal with Yahoo with or without the regulators to postponing it all within a matter of weeks? Chief among other factors, Microsoft played the DC chess match more deftly, applying its expensive tutoring to starting—and staying—a few moves ahead of Google and Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO). One excellent illustration from the NYT’s look at the lobbying that has Google on the defensive: Microsoft launched its protest site July 15, while Google waited more than three months after announcing the deal to put up its own explanation. Another example underscores Google’s traditional public self-confidence and how that can chafe the folks with power in Washington. Schmidt promised reporters on Sept. 17 that the partnership would kick in this month with or without Justice approval, while admitting they hadn’t explained it well enough. But a tech lobbyist tells the Times: “I watched that with some amusement because policy makers don’t like to be told that they’re irrelevant, and what that announcement amounted to was they were told they are irrelevant. … Well, they just found out how relevant policy makers are.”

Yahoo Planning Major Job Cuts; Could Be Above Thousand — Various reports are pointing to an inevitable move by Yahoo to cut a good number of jobs, as many as above thousand. This comes as the company is set to announce its Q3 earnings on Tuesday and the picture may not be pretty. Besides these layoffs, many other cost cutting measures will be announced, reports WSJ. Yahoo managers have been asked to cut operating budgets by 15 percent, and the company has recently let go of two to three dozen external recruiters, WSJ says, citing sources. The company fired about 1,000 workers in January this year. The company had about 14,300 employees worldwide at the end of June. With the economy being in the shape it is, some of this is the usual belt tightening, but for Yahoo, the issues are more dire. With the fallen MSFT deal, the Google (NSDQ: GOOG) search deal stuck in regulatory issues, competitive pressure increasing from all sides, and major slowdown in display advertising online, Yahoo’s time is running out on multiple fronts.

Doomsayers Turn To Online Ads; Space Is Still Resilient, But Affiliate Deals Could Help — When the economy really started heading downhill last year, the thinking was that the migration of ad budgets from traditional to digital would accelerate. Now, with pessimism settling in after another turbulent week in the financial markets, the doomsayers are turning to online. AdAge looks at the prospects of online publishers to sustain themselves on advertising alone and concludes that most will not. It also revisits the outlook for the 400-plus remnant ad networks and finds that consolidation is likely to begin happening sooner rather than later.

NBC Universal Calling For $500 Million Budget Cuts Next Year; Layoffs At Telemundo — Now onto the big media side of retrenchments and belt tightening, NBC Universal (NYSE: GE) CEO Jeff Zucker is asking for $500 million of budget cuts next year, which is about 3 percent of the company’s total budget. He outlined this to staffers in a memo late today, reports B&C. From the memo: “While each business leader has flexibility in how to meet this goal, we have asked them to focus on three areas: reductions in promotion expenses; in discretionary spending, such as travel and entertainment and outside consultants; and in staffing costs.”

Facebook Wants Music, But Doesn’t Want To Tangle With Labels — Buoyed perhaps by the frenzy surrounding the launch of MySpace Music last month, Facebook is revealing more details about its musical ambitions, the New York Post reports. We have heard about this a few times before, but the project is not as much a “me too” play as was previously thought. Differences: Facebook doesn’t want to give away equity: MySpace Music traded equity in exchange for securing licenses to various tracks from its four partners: Universal Music Group, Sony BMG, Warner Music Group and EMI. Facebook doesn’t even want to deal with the hassle of acquiring those licenses, let alone offering up equity in exchange. Still Zuckerberg and other execs have continued to meet with label execs to broker some kind of deal. Facebook doesn’t want to build a whole new site: The network doesn’t want to “bog itself down” with the development of an additional property, seeking instead to integrate more deeply with existing music partners like Rhapsody.com, iMeem.com, iLike.com, and Lala.com.

Nielsen To Shutter “Hey Nielsen” Social Network/Market Research Hybrid — Nielsen is shutting down its social network-market research hybrid “Hey! Nielsen,” Mediapost reports. Seems like it was only a matter of time. The community, which officially launched in conjunction with Superbowl XLI in January, was sort of an odd play for the media ratings and research giant. Designed to be both a tool to gauge feedback about various Nielsen products and services, as well as a way for the company to understand the evolution of social media as a whole, it attracted mostly rabid entertainment junkies and media industry insiders—not exactly a representative sample.

News Corp Annual Meeting: Questions About Bailouts; A Deal With Redstone? Murdoch: No, And No — Rupert Murdoch began the News Corp (NYSE: NWS). shareholder meeting going through details of the terms of the company’s board of director elections (all were re-elected). The meeting is in progress now at the Hudson Theater just off of Times Square. Over the course of the meeting, Murdoch showed traces of annoyance and amusement with some of the shareholders’ wide-ranging questions, as did much of the audience. During his presentation, he sought to boast of News Corp.’s success in cable, broadcast and even newspapers—mostly outside the U.S. except for WSJ— as a bulwark against an economic storm that looks to be increasingly grim and protracted.

Articles of the Day

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

Earnings: Google Comes In Higher Than Expected After All; Revenue, Income Up — Despite all the qualms and lowered expectations from analysts, Google (NSDQ: GOOG) reported Q3 revenues of $5.54 billion, up 31 percent over last year, and net income of $1.56 billion, or earnings per share of $4.92. Google beat the average EPS estimate from analysts of $4.74 a share, according to FactSet Research (via MKTW). Compared sequentially, though, Google showed a modest 3 percent increase in revenue over Q2. Excluding traffic acquisition costs of $1.5 billion, net revenue was $4.04 billion. Google’s shares snapped back this afternoon during the last hours of today’s session and are trading at $375.97.

Google Names Rosenblatt Head Of Display, Releases Build-Your-Own Display Ad Platform — Former DoubleClick CEO David Rosenblatt has swapped titles—he’s now Google’s (NSDQ: GOOG) new president of global display advertising, Bits reports. It’s a new role within Google, and a signal, perhaps, that the search giant is ready to get serious about becoming a display giant too. Google bought DCLK last year for for about $3.3 billion. Another signal is that Google launched a build-your-own display ad tool today for AdWords, which makes it easy for users to pick text, images and logos for ads that will run across Google’s content network (including in video and game units). Google hasn’t announced a lot with DoubleClick since the acquisition closed, but the display ad division is seemingly one of the only recent add-ons that’s pulling its own weight. We’ll see if they acknowledge Rosenblatt’s new gig (or even DoubleClick’s contribution to the bottom line) later today.

News Corp Rethinks Private Equity Investment In MySpace Music; Too Complicated, Not Necessary — That Hulu-like private-equity set-up for the much-hyped MySpace Music isn’t on the front burner and may not ever happen, according to sources familiar with the situation. There are several reasons that boil down to this: News Corp (NYSE: NWS) and MySpace don’t see the need to try to do something as complicated as a full spin-off given the way MySpace Music has taken off in terms of downloads and advertising interest. This is not a case of market fright—private equity inv*stm*nt interest is there— but of the company deciding there’s no compelling reason to make the move at this point. As someone in the PE community told me, “They didn’t even shop it that hard.”

Nokia Adds U.S. Publishers To Media Network — Several top U.S. publishers have joined the Nokia Media Network, a premium mobile ad network with the potential to reach millions of consumers. Fox News, the A&E Network, the Bio Channel, the History Channel and the Hollywood Reporter are the latest additions to the network. They join publishers including Reuters, CNET, Agence-France Press, Unidad Editorial, Hearst and AccuWeather.

Yahoo Bows Unified Social Media Profile — Yahoo recently shut down its fledgling social media site Mash, but that didn’t derail all of its social media plans. Today it launched a unified profile feature that lets users access (and eventually control) their various social media personas across the Web. It’s part of the company’s “open” strategy (Y!OS), which gives developers and other third parties access to a number of Yahoo platforms through a set of APIs. The strategy has already spawned two search plays, Yahoo BOSS and Search Monkey, each with varying levels of customization. Users of Yahoo Messenger 9.0 have already started seeing some of the profile integrations, as the IM client pulls in their friends’ Twitter, Yahoo Buzz and Mybloglog updates. Deeper integration into Yahoo Mail is slated to come next, as well as a customizable homepage.