Archive for NY Times

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 15, 2008 by Dave Liu

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

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

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

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

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

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

Articles of the Day

Posted in Digital Media, News with tags , , , , , on December 12, 2008 by Dave Liu

Bewkes Takes Over As Time Warner Chairman As Parsons Moves Out — A much-expected move has happened: Richard Parsons, the former CEO of Time Warner (NYSE: TWX), is now stepping down as chairman of the company board, and current CEO Jeff Bewkes will take over, starting Jan. 1 next year. Bewkes took over from Parsons as CEO in January this year. The biggest media company in the world has seen many changes since then: it is spinning off Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC), has merged New Line Cinema and closed Picturehouse and Warner Independent Pictures, and its unit Time Inc recently started layoffs of 600 employees.

EMarketer Lowers Social Networking Forecast, Again — EMarketer on Wednesday revised its social networking outlook to $1.2 billion from $1.4 billion, the second downward revision for the sector by the research company this year. Company execs said the decision to lower spending estimates was driven by the weakened economy and a particularly poor performance by MySpace, one of the giants of social networking. EMarketer’s revenue projection for MySpace fell to $585 million from $755 million in May, while Facebook’s revenue estimate also fell to $210 million from $265 million. Overall MySpace and Facebook account to 70% of social media spending. The research aggregator now expects social media advertising to grow by just 8% next year, totaling $1.3 billion. EMarketer had previously forecast 2009 spending at $1.8 billion.

The New York Times Considers About.com And The Boston Globe Strategic — About.com and The Boston Globe are core to The New York Times Company (NYSE:NYT), CEO Janet Robinson said on the sidelines of an investor conference. Speculation about the New York Times selling off assets to pay down its looming debt load has abounded, with both The Boston Globe and About.com flagged as sale candidates. During the conference, Robinson said the company was reviewing its portfolio. The New York Times, with more than USD 700m in debt, recently borrowed USD 225m against its headquarters to pay long-term debt. About USD 100m in medium-term notes are due late 2009 and a USD 400m revolving credit facility expires in May 2009. Other logical disposals include the company’s regional papers and its classical music radio station, WQXR-FM. But, potential suitors are sparse on the ground, a banker, lawyer and analyst agreed. One logical sale candidate is NYC-based WQXR-FM, a communications lawyer said. The company used to send New York Times-branded news out through the station, but recently has switched to sending out Bloomberg news, the lawyer noted. Finding a buyer could be difficult, but even in tough economic times an FM station based in New York should be worth a “lot of money.” WQXR-FM has little revenue, but The New York Times might not want to be known for getting rid of New York City’s historic classical music station, the banker said. Source: mergermarket.

Display Rose A Meager 7 Percent Through September, TNS Says — Growth trends for display ads have been shrinking since late last year, and through September, the category was up only 7 percent, TNS Media Intelligence data shows. That’s less than half of the 17.2 percent gain TNS recorded last year. As TNS points out, growth rates have shrunk for the past five straight quarters. The TNS numbers obviously don’t tell the whole online-ad-spend story, since its data still excludes paid search. TNS’ release comes after the major ad companies released their latest forecasts, including Magna Global’s Bob Coen, who downgraded his 2008 forecast for U.S. online ad spend to 8 percent growth (5 percent gain expected in ‘09); ZenithOptimedia (which cut its global online spending forecast to 21.2 percent this year) and GroupM (which projected 10 percent global gains for ‘08 and 5 percent in ‘09). ZenithOptimedia remains the most optimistic for global online ad growth, projecting a 21.2 percent rise for the world’s web ad dollars this year and 18 percent next.

Articles of the Day

Posted in Digital Media, News with tags , , , , , , , on December 9, 2008 by Dave Liu

Tribune Files For Ch. 11 Bankruptcy Protection; Cubs Not Included In Filing — Tribune has filed for Chapter 11 protection this morning, in bankruptcy court in Wilmington, Delaware. This comes after the news yesterday that the debt-laden newspaper company and owner of LA Times and Chicago Tribune had hired inv*stm*nt bank Lazard and the law firm Sidley Austin to try and help in this process. From the company release about the filing: Total Debt: $12,972,541,148.00. The company will continue to operate its media businesses during the restructuring, including publishing its newspapers and running its television stations and interactive properties without interruption, and has sufficient cash to do so, it said. The Chicago Cubs franchise, including Wrigley Field, is not included in the Ch 11 filing. Efforts to “monetize the Cubs and its related assets will continue,” the company said.

Facebook Still Valued At $15 Billion? — Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg sits down with TechCrunch and reveals that the social networking giant is looking for more funding in the $15 billion valuation range, a price that was set when Microsoft purchased a 1.6% stake in the company for $240 million in the Fall of 2007. “We’re not actively going around trying to raise money from a lot of different people. It’s more just a follow on to that (previous round),” Zuckerberg said. However, the Silicon Alley Insider notes that Facebook had to recently cancel an employee stock sale program because it couldn’t find buyers for their shares at a $4 billion valuation, which makes CFO Gideon Yu’s mission to keep the $15 billion round open “ambitious if not downright quixotic”, says SAI’s Nicholas Carlson. That said, preferred shares like the ones Microsoft got are certainly on offer here, which means these investors would their money back first in the event of any sale.

Bain Close To Buying Reed Business; Parent May Keep a Stake — The sale process of Reed Business is in its final stages, as one of the two bidders left in the fray, Texas Pacific Group/DLJ combo, has dropped out of the bid, according to reports. This leaves Bain Capital as the only bidder and with a shot to buy it following due diligence. Sir Crispin Davis, the outgoing CEO of Reed Elsevier (NYSE: RUK), has invited the Apollo and Zelnick Media combo to bid again, even though it pulled out of the auction last month, and our sources say privately Strauss Zelnick still wants it. A decision likely will be reached by the end of this month, sources say. The sale price is now around $1 billion, down drastically from the starting asking price of around $2 billion when the process started in February. For Bain, the final thorn is that Reed Elsevier is unhappy with some of the complicated earnout conditions of its bid, a move that would effectively tie key executives to RBI for a number of years, says the Independent. RBI global CEO Gerard van de Aast left last month, leading to more speculation that the sale process hasn’t been the smoothest.

NYTCo Wants To Raise Up To $225 Million From Mortgage Or Sale-Lease Of Times HQ — Last month, The New York Times Company (NYSE: NYT) board cut the Sulzberger family take-home pay—and increased the flow of money to the company—by cutting dividends. This week, according to the NYT, it’s planning to mortgage or even work a sales-lease on the family “home”: up to $225 million on the 58 percent of the Times Tower owned by the company. CFO Jim Follo told the paper the company has hired Cushman & Wakefield to get the financing through either a mortgage—the NYTCo share of the mid-Manhattan tower is not mortgaged now—or possibly a sale that would include leasing back the space. Developer Forest City Ratner owns the rest of the building.

FOXSports.com Tackles SEO Video Search — FOXSports.com on MSN has tapped EveryZing’s technology to give sports fans the ability to search for specific keywords in video clips online. The Cambridge, Mass. video search company makes speech recordings searchable through its speech-to-text recognition software ezSEO that wraps audio from videos in metadata that Google, Yahoo and Microsoft search engines can index.

ZenithOptimedia Cuts ‘08 Online Forecast To 21.2 Percent Growth; Total Ad Spend Slipping 0.2 Percent –The recession’s squeeze has pushed ZenithOptimedia’s bullish outlook for online ad spending downward a bit, as the Publicis Groupe media shop is predicting global online ad revenues to rise 21.2 percent this year and about 18 percent in 2009. The company will present its forecast on a panel at the UBS Global Media and Communications (PDF) conference in New York this morning, on a panel with Interpublic Group’s Magna and WPP’s GroupM.

Articles of the Day

Posted in Digital Media, News with tags , , , , , , , , on November 27, 2008 by Dave Liu

Google May Power Search, Ads For Russia’s Odnoklassniki Social Net — Russia’s top social network Odnoklassniki.ru is testing Google’s search box, both companies confirmed to business paper Kommersant, leading to a possible ad sales split in what is one of the world’s fastest growing online ad markets. With Google’s acquisition of RuNet portal Rambler’s Begun contextual ad agency recently blocked by anti-trust authorities, the search tie-up could offer a further foothold in a market that is booming despite the US slowdown in web ads’ growth. One Russian ad agency boss told Kommersant an Odnoklassniki.ru deal would add five percent to the 32 percent share of the Russian ad market Google (NSDQ: GOOG) would enjoy if the Begun deal goes ahead. It’s said to be the brainchild of new president Nikita Sherman, who has set about adding more paid features and driving monetization opportunities. Kommersant says the deal could make the portal an extra $1.5-$2 million next year, though the estimate isn’t explained. 

WPP Launches Ad Network In China, Latest Push By A Madison Avenue Biggie — WPP Group is extending its digital footprint into one of the largest and fastest growing online markets – China – and it’s doing it via an alliance that will form a new online advertising network. The move is interesting for two reasons. One, it makes good on WPP chief Martin Sorrell’s vow to establish more of a presence in China. Secondly, it marks yet another move by a big agency holding company to form its own advertising network, a step that could potentially disintermediate the array of third parties that dominate the space.  

NYT Claims To Have Figured Out Facebook As A Business Tool — The NYT is declaring that it cracked the code on using Facebook as a promotional vehicle. The company says that a branding campaign this month aimed at building Facebook fans around election news netted the paper “4.3 times the value of our spend,” according to a memo by president Scott Heekin-Canedy and posted on Harvard’s Nieman Journalism Lab site. It’s unclear exactly what that means: Heekin-Canedy doesn’t say what the baseline value of its ad spend was, and we called for clarification but didn’t get an answer. 

Music Service iLike In Search Of A Buyer: Report — Social music service iLike is on the block, MediaMemo reports—with existing stakeholder Ticketmaster and online music pioneer RealNetworks at the top of the potential buyers list. ILike has raised about $16 million in funding since its launch in 2006, with Ticketmaster and Bob Pittman’s Pilot Group as its investors. If this situation sounds familiar, it’s because it is. Fellow music-focused social media company Imeem is also on the hunt for a buyer, a sign that both companies’ management teams are wary of functioning independently in an increasingly cash-strapped market. Still, investors haven’t shied away from from pumping money into the digital music space: distributor TuneCore closed a $7 million funding round just last month, and Facebook has even been pondering its own music offering. Facebook also could be a likely buyer, given that iLike is one of its most popular apps, attracting about 5.4 million active users per month, but a pure stock play is likely to go over as well as it did with Twitter.