Archive for Platform-A

Articles of the Day

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

Despite Industry Gloom, AOL Takes Its Ad Sales Pitch On The Road — Despite all its bad news lately, AOL (NYSE: TWX) can point to at least some revenue gains tied to its traffic jump. The company’s Q3 was mixed at best: profit dropped 7 percent to $400 million and display ad revenue fell 15 percent to $181 million; meanwhile, it had 12 percent gains in paid search. Later tonight, AOL, led by CEO Randy Falco and Lynda Clarizio, head of Platform-A, will gather 400 ad and media execs to kick off a “traveling upfront presentation” it’s calling the AOL Roadshow at the American Museum of Natural History. Bill Wilson, EVP of AOL Programming, demoed his presentation for me Friday; he’ll be trumpeting the company’s traffic numbers (one favorite of his: 21 months of consecutive year-over-year unique visitor growth for a current total of 56 million uniques). More important, he will also try to convince the industry that AOL is actually delivering on those traffic gains. Although total ad revenues were down 6 percent to $500 million in Q3, Wilson will highlight the news that the vertical content network of sites were up “solid double digits in Q3”—but no specific figures.

WSJ.com’s Third Super-Premium Tier Coming? — Murdoch’s love for newspapers is undying, nevermind the near-death throes of the medium itself, and he reads it out (literally, on the radio) as part of a series of Australian radio lectures titled, “The future of newspapers: moving beyond dead trees.” Compare and contrast this to his famous speech on April 13, 2005, to the American Society of Newspaper Editors, which shook the newspaper industry then for its forward thinking about the digital future of newspapers. And this was before he bought MySpace (three months later) and later in 2007 bought Dow Jones.

GE’s Immelt: ‘Some Opportunities In Media Consolidation’ — Jeffrey Immelt’s latest tack to convince people that NBC Universal (NYSE: GE) parent General Electric is staying in the media business—talk about buying more media assets. The GE chairman and CEO told the FT “There are going to be some opportunities in media consolidation, in infrastructure, oil and gas, aviation. And my hope is that we can play in some of those as time goes on.” Those who may need convincing include Vivendi (EPA: VIV), which owns 20 percent of NBCU. As FT points, it’s time for the annual guessing game over whether Vivendi will exercise its put option for GE to buy that stake and whether GE would sell NBCU to avoid further investment. GE acquired the majority of NBCU in a $14 billion deal in 2004. But much has changed at GE since the last time this question came up, including the company’s structure and NBCU’s designation as one of five operating units. Vivendi’s put option runs through 2016 and is based on market value; starting 2011, GE has an annual window with call rights through 2017 with a floor price of $8.3 billion that will increase based on the Consumer Price Index.

AOL Cutting Off Uncut Video Service; More Squeeze On Third-Party Vendors? — AOL (NYSE: TWX), as part of its efforts to trim the non-core and no-revenue-generating parts of its portfolio, is closing down the AOL Uncut online user-gen video service, after 2.5 years of trying to compete in the space. The service, started in May 2006, was powered by Videoegg, which has since moved on to become an online video-advertising network. According to a memo/FAQ to be sent out next week, obtained by Techcrunch, the service will close on Dec 18, and users will have to transfer video off the service before then. It is recommending that users transfer videos to Motionbox, the white-label video-upload service.

Discovery To Invest Up To $100 Million in Oprah Network; Has Spent $7 Million Till Now — The high-profile launch of “OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network” in late 2009 has attracted its own share of speculation since the announcement in January earlier this year, including executives, programming choices and finances. The company has already names Robin Schwartz as president, Maria Grasso as SVP of programming, Robert Tercek as president of digital media, among others. But no other details on the finances have been revealed till now.

UMG Digital Sales Up 33 Percent, New Streams Offset Dropoff In CD Sales — Universal Music Group predicted a turnaround, and maybe it’s coming to pass… UMG posted EUR 3.14 billion ($3.97 billion) revenue in the first nine months of 2008 –that’s up 3.5 percent if you rule out currency fluctuations. True, in actual currency, it’s down 3.8 percent, but even that’s better than the kind of chronic results some of the majors have become used to. It’s not that CDs are enjoying a revival… the hike came thanks to growth in music publishing and merchandising after UMG bought BMG Music Publishing and Sanctuary, from increased licensing income via the growing number of music-using services, and from a 33 percent increase in digital sales. All of which ”more than offset lower physical sales, according to parent group Vivendi’s earnings. Earnings before the deduction of interest, tax and amortization expenses were up 21.8 percent to EUR 408 million ($516 million) but were actually dragged down by various restructuring costs. Duffy was a big seller for the label.

Articles of the Day

Posted in Digital Media, News with tags , , , , , , , , , , on November 6, 2008 by Dave Liu

Platform-A Extended To France — AOL is extending its Platform-A digital ad business to France, following recent launches of the division in the U.K. and Germany. AOL said Platform-A was the leading ad-repping company in France, with an audience of 24 million monthly unique visitors, reaching 8 out of 10 Web users. Platform-A now reaches more than 80 million unique users in Europe, or 76% of the continent’s online audience. AOL’s ad platform will be expanded to other European countries by year’s end, the company said.

Google Pulls Out Of Ad Deal With Yahoo — Google Inc. pulled out of its proposed advertising partnership with Yahoo Inc. under pressure from regulators and clients Wednesday, leaving Yahoo’s future in question as it struggles to maintain its share of the growing market for search advertising on the Internet.
However, by Wednesday afternoon shares of Yahoo had picked up more than 4%, based on hopes that the company might now revive merger talks with erstwhile suitor Microsoft Corp. In a statement on its corporate blog, Google said four months of antitrust review of the Yahoo partnership made clear that regulators and some advertisers “continue to have concerns” about it. “Pressing ahead risked not only a protracted legal battle but also damage to relationships with valued partners,” Google’s chief counsel, David Drummond, said in the statement. “That wouldn’t have been in the long-term interests of Google or our users, so we have decided to end the agreement.” In response, Yahoo said it was disappointed by Google’s move, and maintained that the scuttled partnership would have been constructive for everyone. Yahoo had anticipated seeing hundreds of millions in additional annual revenue as a result of the deal.

Yahoo’s React: Disappointed Google Withdrew, But The Deal Was Only ‘Incremental’ Anyway — Yahoo has come out with its statement about Google’s decision to terminate the search ad pact the pair announced in June. “Yahoo! continues to believe in the benefits of the agreement and is disappointed that Google (NSDQ: GOOG) has elected to withdraw from the agreement rather than defend it in court. Google notified Yahoo! of its refusal to move forward with implementation of the agreement following indication from the Department of Justice that it would seek to block it, despite Yahoo!’s proposed revisions to address the DOJ’s concerns.” Though the deal would have enabled Yahoo to speed up investments “in its top business priorities through an infusion of additional operating cash flow,” Yahoo says the benefits would have been merely “incremental” to its product roadmap, which includes crafting more services around search.

Jerry Yang’s Advice To Microsoft—Buy Yahoo — Now that quasi-white knight Google is out of the picture, Yahoo co-founder and CEO Jerry Yang has some advice for Microsoft: “To this day, I believe the best thing for Microsoft to do is to buy Yahoo.” Yang was the evening headliner for Web 2.0 in San Francisco, interviewed by John Battelle. Earlier, Google made its decision to step away from the search deal used like a wreath of garlic cloves to ward off evil Microsoft, rather than face the DOJ. AP reports that Yang also said there are no talks going on but that he and Yahoo’s board “remain open to everything.” You may recall that Yang and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer still disagree about how their talks fell apart the last time, with Ballmer saying he withdrew at $33 when Yahoo and Yang said they wanted $37 per share. Both numbers seem incredibly remote given today’s close of $13.92.

Echostar-Owned Sling Launching Online Video Portal; Hoping For Multi-Screen Convergence — Sling Media, the place- and time-shifting device company that is now owned by Echostar, is launching something that seems counter-intuitive on the face of it: a free, ad-supported online video portal aggregating video from various professional sources like TV networks, studios and other independents. Sling.com will launch as a video portal on Nov 24. Anyone can use the site—they don’t have to be a Slingbox user/subscriber, though if they do have it, they can plug that into Sling.com site, and watch live TV through their own TV boxes (like they do now through their online accounts, only in this case it is all integrated).

AdECN Invites Networks To Test Exchange — Microsoft’s auction-based ad exchange network AdECN is inviting advertising networks that buy and sell online advertising to test its new Federated System, scheduled for release in 2009. The platform from the Carpinteria, Calif.-based AdECN aims to simplify the process by allowing ad networks to use proprietary technology, such as behavioral and demographic targeting and optimization tools.

MTV Taps Quantcast For Audience Tracking — Web ratings startup Quantcast formally announced Tuesday that MTV Networks has signed on to use the company’s online audience-tracking service. With the move, MTV will now also become part of Quantcast’s Qualified Publisher Progam, giving marketers and media buyers access to audience profiles for the network’s properties including MTV.com, ComedyCentral.com and VH1.com. The program, which lets Web publishers receive traffic and usage reports via tags placed in online content, spans more than 80,000 publishers including NBC Universal, CBS, Hachette-Filipacchi and Fox, and 10 million individual sites.

Articles of the Day

Posted in Digital Media, News with tags , , , , , , , , , , on September 23, 2008 by Dave Liu

Microsoft Plans $40 Billion Buyback — Microsoft on Monday announced that it would repurchase $40 billion worth of its own stock, and raise its quarterly dividend to 18% in an effort to spur investors into buying the company’s stock. That raises Microsoft’s dividend from 11 cents a share to 13 cents. The $40 billion buyback program will expire on Sept. 30, 2013. According to Reuters, the company recently completed a $40 billion stock repurchase program. It also said its board had issued debt financings “from time to time” of up to $6 billion. The company will use the proceeds from this for general corporate purposes.

Platform-A Gets Into The Ad Exchange Business With ‘BidPlace’ — While Yahoo’s Right Media and Google’s AdSense serve as the largest examples of online ad exchanges, AOL’s (NYSE: TWX) Platform-A wants them to make room for another one: later today, the Time Warner company will be introducing BidPlace, billed as a a self-service marketplace exchange which is set to launch during the first half of next year. In an interview with paidContent, Lynda Clarizio, Platform-A’s president, says that the exchange is being presented as a way for marketers to better manage their display campaigns. The announcement, coming on the second day of New York’s Advertising Week, also comes after months of industry reports showing that display advertising revenues have slowed considerably and the darkening economy has advertisers feeling less certain about the ad format. Clarizio says that BidPlace is not being created to allay such fears—though she seems to feel it should help. BidPlace has been in the works for some time, Clarizio says, emphasizing it is not a reaction to anything going on in the market right now or that recent warning that Time Warner gave last week about AOL possibly missing its revenue targets due to the ad slowdown.

Yahoo To Form Digital Advisory Council — Yahoo on Monday announced formation of a Digital Advisory Council made up of agency and advertising partners that it said will work together “to explore the continued evolution of digital media and online advertising.” More to the point, the effort is aimed at helping smooth adoption of Yahoo’s forthcoming display ad system and acceptance of its controversial search ad partnership with Google.

Microsoft Partners With CNBC On Mobile Ads — Microsoft will be the exclusive third-party display ad provider for the mobile Web site of CNBC, the companies announced Monday. The deal expands an online ad agreement Microsoft and the cable network reached last December and marks the software giant’s first mobile ad syndication deal in the U.S.

Ailing Newspapers: NY Sun Still Needs Cash; McClatchy CEO: ‘Too Early To Judge Knight-Ridder Buy’ — The New York Sun, the highbrow conservative daily in New York, needs cash now in order to survive. Just a couple of weeks ago, the company published a letter, saying that without fresh capital it would have to fold up shop. In an interview with NYT, editor and publisher Seth Lipsky says: “I haven’t raised all that I need, but I’ve raised a lot.” He added that avid readers have sent in checks of $100-$200, though that’s not going to cut it. He also seems pretty sure that Rupert Murdoch will not swoop in as a savior. The most likely rescue scenario at this point would be for a major, wealthy benefactor to step in with no illusions about getting a return on investment. Meanwhile McClatchy (NYSE: MNI) CEO Gary Pruitt made some surprising comments about the company’s 2006 acquisition of Knight-Ridder… In an interview with the Sacramento Bee, Pruitt said it was “too early to tell” whether it was a smart buy. Seeing as the company has already taken goodwill writedowns associated with the deal, and there’s no question that the overall business has deteriorated, this is a hard position to reconcile. He did add that “It’s hard to claim it’s a good deal when you see the stock performance,” so perhaps the earlier statement needs more context. Faced with a steep debt load, McClatchy made its second major employment cutback for the year, just last week.

Answers.com Writes Off Brainboost Acquisition; Does Away With Direct Ad Sales — Last week, the troubled Answers.com filed an S-3 with SEC. In it, it disclosed that it has written off its acquisition of Brainboost Technology, the developer of the Brainboost Answer Engine (BAE) that it bought in December 2005 for about $4.56 million, $4.0 million of which was in cash. The reason? It says that its WikiAnswers site of user-gen questions is growing much faster, and both BAE and WikiAnswers are effectively focused on similar areas, answering complex natural language questions. “Conversely, during that period, Answers.com has generally declined each quarter….the success of user-generated questions and answers as compared to the technology-driven answers presented by the BAE, we made a strategic decision in the second quarter of 2008 to focus our efforts, in the realm of questions-and-answers, on user-generated questions and answers, and effectively abandoned our use of the BAE,” it says in the filing. As a result of abandoning its use of the BAE, the net book value of the BAE, as of May 25, 2008, in the amount of $3.138 million, was written off during the three months ended June 30, 2008, the company said.