Archive for WPP

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.

Articles of the Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Articles of the Day

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

Google And Yahoo Appear Ready To Abandon Talks On Pact — While the Google-Yahoo search ad pact seems increasingly headed for rocks, the two sides have continued to insist that they’re talking with the Department of Justice about crafting an agreement that passes regulatory muster. Until now, it seems. Citing unidentified sources, the WSJ says those talks have not moved the ball an inch and suggests that Google (NSDQ: GOOG) and Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO) may abandon the pact completely. The decision to drop the planned deal could come as soon as next week, the WSJ says—although hedging its bets, the paper adds the two could go the other way and announce a last-minute save. What makes next week so important and why does it seem like such a toss-up? It could have something to do with Tuesday’s presidential election. The thinking could be that an Obama win—which would be at least personally supported by Google CEO Eric Schmidt, an avowed Obama supporter—would probably signal a more jaundiced view of what constitutes anti-competitive partnerships. And a McCain win could mean that antitrust regulation would remain fairly loose.

CBS Swings To Loss On 12.5 Billion Write-Down; Q3 Revs Rise 3 Percent — True to its warnings about lower earnings earlier this month, CBS (NYSE: CBS) Q3 net earnings from continuing operations came in with a loss of $12.46 billion, or a loss of $18.58 per diluted share, versus earnings of $340.2 million, or $.48 per diluted share, for the same prior-year period. The earnings report also highlighted a $56.4 million write-down on items associated with “other-than-temporary declines in the market value” CBS’ investments. Revenues, meanwhile, were up 3 percent to $3.38 billion in Q3, which were driven by the addition of CNET and domestic cable sales of CSI: New York, though offset by lower ad sales. As Les Moonves, president and CEO of CBS Corp., said during the earnings call, “any increase in revenue is welcome in this difficult environment.”

ValueClick Net Income Plummets 88 Percent — Online ad firm ValueClick (NSDQ: VCLK) had previously warned investors that Q3 would be rough and its earnings report on Wednesday clearly bore that out: the company’s GAAP net income was $2 million ($0.02 per diluted common share), down 88.1 from $16.8 million ($0.17 per diluted common share) in Q307. Net income was affected by the completion of an offer to purchase up to 4.9 million stock options with exercise prices ranging from $25.66 to $29.73 per share. It was also impacted by tax adjustments. Excluding those two items, Q3 net income per diluted common share would have been $0.15, ValueClick said. Revenue was down 2.5 percent to $152.9 million compared to $156.9 million for the third quarter of 2007.

Liberty Media’s Interactive Group Income Falls 14 Percent — Liberty Media’s Interactive Group posted slim revenue gains of 2 percent, while adjusted operating income fell 14 percent in Q3. The increase in revenue was primarily driven by the impact of the Bodybuilding.com purchase last December and growth at the other e-commerce companies. The decrease in adjusted OIBDA was due to the results at shopping channel QVC, which is the largest part of the group and has been hurt by the economic downturn. In keeping with the unsteadiness of the market, Greg Maffei, Liberty President and CEO, said the company would concentrate on bringing down its debt. Earlier this month, the company drew down on its QVC bank facilities and retired 87 percent of its senior notes that mature in mid-2009. The company repurchased 13.6 million Liberty Capital shares from Aug. 1 through Oct. 29. Also, Liberty has instituted a hiring fr*eeze, company-wide. Given the uncertainty in the economy, the company is withdrawing its guidance for Q4.

TheStreet.com’s Weak Q3 Forces Boardroom Shuffle — Wall Street’s losses have turned partly into TheStreet.com’s gains, as traffic surged to an all-time high over the course of Q3—and ad revenue tracked upward accordingly. But the company wasn’t completely immune to the market downturn, as it missed analysts’ EPS and revenue expectations (via Tech Trader Daily), and posted a $1.1 million loss in net income. TheStreet.com (NSDQ: TSCM) shook up its boardroom as a result, making Jim Cramer Chairman so that former Chairman (and current CEO) Thomas Clarke can focus on navigating the even tougher times ahead.

WPP Sales Up In Third Quarter; Expects ‘Very Tough 2009’ — Ad holding company WPP Group reported a 16 percent rise in sales in the third quarter, boosted by the stronger dollar and euro against the pound. Revenues came in at £1.72 billion ($2.8 billion), compared to £1.48 billion ($2.42 billion) a year ago. Adjusting for inflation, revenue was six percent higher; on a like-for-like basis–stripping out acquisitions and currency fluctuations–growth was three percent. As rivals Publicis, Interpublic and Aegis reported earlier this week, WPP expects that the “disintegration in the financial markets” will continue to have a “significant negative effect” on consumer and corporate confidence, with 2009 shaping up to be “a very tough year.” CEO Martin Sorrell told Bloomberg that the “real recovery” will come in 2010, when events such as football’s World Cup and the Winter Olympics games should boost sales.

Conde Nast Scales Back Portfolio, Men’s Vogue; Layoffs Are Coming — The print publishing cuts just keep coming. Condé Nast plans to cut budgets company-wide by 5 percent, including scaling back the number of Portfolio and Men’s Vogue issues it publishes and laying off some staff, NYT (FRB: 066570) reports. Men’s Vogue is taking the biggest hit, shifting to bi-annual production from 10 issues per year, and business-industry last-year-darling Portfolio will go from 12 issues to 10. Most of Men’s Vogue‘s operations will be folded into Vogue, while some of Portfolio’s online components, including ad sales, will be bundled with Wired magazine. While the layoffs will hit various titles, the NYT cites unidentified sources saying that the two aforementioned titles will absorb most of the job cuts. At our FOBM conference Tuesday, Condé Nast group president David Carey was adamant that Portfolio was healthy and wouldn’t be whittled down to a “digital only” publication, and was quite bullish on the magazine’s digital revenue generation potential earlier this year. Condé Nast launched Portfolio amidst much fanfare in April 2007. The news comes just days after Time Inc. and Gannett (NYSE: GCI) both said they were resorting to mass layoffs, and the Christian Science Monitor announced it will shift to printing its paper edition weekly instead of daily.

AOL Opens Up Site To Social Networks — As part of its open strategy, AOL today unveiled a new feature allowing users to access social networks including MySpace, Facebook and Bebo directly from the Web portal’s redesigned home page. The “My Networks” feature lets AOL visitors post status updates to multiple social networks at once, as well as provide profile activity information such as new friend requests and mail notifications from third-party social sites. The move follows AOL’s step last month to offer direct access to outside e-mail services including Gmail, Hotmail and Yahoo Mail via prominent links on its home page.

Marchex Adhere Adds 23 Publishers To Roster — Pushing to give media buyers more options as budgets tighten, Marchex Adhere has signed on 23 publishers in the past 90 days, upping the lineup to more than 200. Marchex Adhere for Publishers is a white-label ad platform that publishers use to run their own performance-based advertising marketplaces. The expanded roster gives advertisers a method to target a specific audience, said Sloan Seymour, VP of Seattle-based Marchex.

Netflix and TiVo to Partner on Movies — Netflix will place its Watch Instantly streaming-movie service on TiVo’s HD-compatible set-top boxes, furthering the technology industry’s goal of sending television shows and movies over the Internet — instead of over traditional cable and satellite networks — to ordinary TVs. Netflix, based in Los Gatos, Calif., is more widely known for its DVD subscription service that mails discs in familiar red envelopes. But it has lately been expanding its digital offerings, and now has 12,000 movies and television shows that subscribers can view instantly over the Web on their PCs without charge. Netflix and TiVo said they would begin testing the service on Thursday and expected to make it available to all owners of TiVo set-top boxes in December. There will be no extra charge for TiVo subscribers who also have one of Netflix’s unlimited subscription plans, which start at $8.99 a month.

Gorilla Nation Lands Reuters Canada — Los Angeles-based publisher rep firm Gorilla Nation has been selected to represent advertising inventory for all traffic coming from Canada to Reuters.com (www.reuters.com) and Reuters.ca (www.reuters.ca). GN also recently signed the Economic Times (www.economictimes.com) and the Times of India (www.timesofindia.com). These properties will also contribute to an aggregated market of business professionals for the company’s new financial vertical market offering, in addition to its current 35 vertical markets.

Articles of Day

Posted in Digital Media, News with tags , , , , , , , , on October 30, 2008 by Dave Liu

‘New’ AOL.com Homepage Goes Live With Lifestreaming, New Themes, And More — If all goes as planned, by the time you’re reading this the new version of the AOL.com homepage will be live—complete with new themes and full-fledged lifestreaming. I’ve been playing with the demo version a bit tonight, creating a mix that includes my Gmail, AIM, AOL mail and Facebook. A Twitter tab promises that the module is coming; other options include Yahoo mail, AOL’s Bebo and MySpace. (Twitter and Bebo are being turned on last.) The ability to access third-party e-mail, added in early September, was the first of the social/life management features. The direct video playback and photo galleries are slated to launch over the weekend. AOL says the impact is already being felt, pointing to the September numbers from comScore (NSDQ: SCOR) Media Metrix. Traffic to AOL.com is up 34 percent in September year over year; uniques are up 3.2 million, or 11 percent; and total minutes are up 40 percent. The number of people selecting AOL.com as their home page jumped by 500,000, according to internal stats.

Reports Say Yahoo, AOL Doing Due Diligence For Tie-Up, But Sources Tell Us Not So Fast — Are Yahoo and AOL finally getting ready to merge? Reuters reports that the two companies are now doing due diligence on each other’s finances in what could, after months of on-again, off-again discussions, be a prelude to a tie-up. The wire service’s source, whose name it did not disclose, said the process is “meaningful” but not imminent: The two companies are “looking at each other’s books to figure out how much money they could make together and where costs can be saved.” AllThingsD also reported the due diligence angle yesterday. Reuters says the talks center on “how to integrate AOL’s content and advertising business into Yahoo,” which could essentially swallow both AOL’s portals and editorial efforts and its Platform-A ad behemoth. That could add a significant new dimension to the DoJ’s still-ongoing scrutiny of Yahoo’s Google (NSDQ: GOOG) ad deal. Question is: How ready will the department be to green-light an amalgam of Yahoo, Google and Platform-A advertising assets? Alternatively, a Yahoo/Platform-A tie-up may afford a fall-back option, should the Google avenue be blocked.

RealNetworks Reports Losses For Q3; Games Help Increase Revenues — RealNetworks announced its Q308 earnings today, and it reported losses for the quarter, though the games division helped shore up the topline. Its Q3 losses were $4.5 million, compared with a net profit of $4.3 million in the year-ago period. Revenues grew 5 percent to $152.0 million compared with $145.1 million for Q308.

Meredith’s Profits, Revs Down — The downward trend continues for women-centric media and marketing giant Meredith, with slumping profits and revenues for Q3 in both its publishing and broadcast divisions. The company has a stable of 25 magazines (including Better Homes and Gardens and Fitness), 31 Websites and 13 television stations. For the quarter ending September 30, revenues came in at $370 million ($0.41 per share)—down nearly 8.5 percent from last year’s $404 million ($0.68 per share). Publishing ad revenue is down, of course : Q3 ad revenues were down 18 percent—in contrast to Q307 when publishing ad revenues actually grew by 13 percent. The sinking sales dragged down overall publishing revenue, which fell by 9 percent to $330 million (from $300 million in Q307). Meanwhile, operating profit fell by 40 percent to $33 million.

WPP, Google Team Up To Prove Value Of Search — With the boatloads of money funneled to search marketing in recent years, one might not think academic proof was required to convince advertisers that search is where they should put their dollars. But according to WPP Group and Google, you would be wrong. The two companies are teaming up to provide grants to academic research to show how search marketing benefits brands. The $4.6 million joint project, funded equally by the companies, will run three years, with about a dozen grants expected in the first year alone. “The aim is to make us smarter, our clients smarter and help our clients move their budgets online more quickly,” WPP Digital CEO Mark Read said. The partnership marks an unusual alliance between the two companies, given WPP honcho Martin Sorrell’s famous reference to Google as a “frenemy.”

Sohu.com CEO Denies Specific Plans To Acquire In China, But Says It Will ‘Launch A Radar’ To Seek Suitable Targets — Sohu.com (NASDAQ:SOHU), a listed Chinese web portal operator, will “launch a radar” to seek suitable targets, Chairman and CEO Charles Zhang said during the company’s Q3 08 earnings call. The company’s cash position and lower valuations in the market mean that there are probably some good target candidates about, he said. However, Zhang said he had been misquoted in a recent media report that Sohu had begun actively looking at companies. “I was talking about generally about investment and about if there’s some opportunity to buy some cheap things,” he said. “We’ll basically launch our radar and look for them [targets] but there are no specific plans right now,” he said. “It’s a logical thinking so we are looking into this,” he conceded. Zhang revealed 3Q 08 revenue of USD 120.7m, up 18% quarter-on-quarter and 134% a year-on-year. Brand advertising revenue increased by 18% quarter-on-quarter and 66% year-on-year to USD 49.4m. Online Games revenue reached USD 54.6m, an increase of 14% quarter-on-quarter and 330% year-on-year. A recent report in Caijing, a bi-weekly Chinese journal, cited Zhang as saying that there were some good targets for acquisition and that the company was actively seeking an appropriate buy. The National Business Daily cited Zhang as saying that now is the right time for Sohu.com to make acquisitions as prices are low. Source: mergermarket.

Digital Media M&A

Posted in Deals, Digital Media, News with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 10, 2008 by Dave Liu

eBay Pays $945M For Bill Me Later; Buys Two Danish Sites For $390M; Cutting Staff By 10 Percent — eBay (NSDQ: EBAY) announced two acquisitions—spending over $1.3 billion altogether—this morning designed to shore up its other parts of its business in the face of declining profits and stagnant traffic at its primary online auction site. The company also finally addressed layoff rumors and said that it is indeed cutting 10 percent of its 15,000-person workforce. The company said about 1,000 full-time jobs will be affected, in addition to several hundred temporary workers and the elimination of open positions. The two acquisitions and the layoffs were summarized in a single release, with two others containing additional details.

Local Online Research Firm Kelsey Group Bought By BIA Financial Network — Kelsey Group, a Princeton-based provider of research and consultancy services in the local media space, including online (we have quoted their work many times over the years), has been acquired by Chantilly, VA-based BIA Financial Network, the financial and strategic consultancy firm for media and communications industries. Financial terms were not disclosed. Kelsey will operate under the newly formed subsidiary BIA Advisory Services, which will also include BIA Consulting and BIA Research. John Kelsey, who founded the group in 1986 with his wife Pam, will oversee conference planning and execution. More details in release.

Aegis Buys Environmental Marketing Company — Media buying and planning firm Aegis Group’s latest acquisition is a little off the beaten path. It has bought fellow London-based company Clownfish, which helps advise marketers on crafting more eco-friendly, “sustainable” initiatives. The acquisition’s terms weren’t detailed, though Aegis said Clownfish has $880,000 (£500,000) in gross assets. While the purchase would seem to have little to do with digital media, Aegis insists that it does. Clownfish will be folded into Aegis’ Isobar search ad network, as the company says it sees a clear relationship between the online and environmentally sound business practices. Overall, Aegis has been stepping up its buying activities lately. Last month it bought U.S.-based search engine marketer Range Online Media for Isobar, its sixth acquisition this year.

VeriSign Exits Mobile Content; Sells Remaining Stake In JV To News Corp For $200 Million — VeriSign’s effort to capitalize on mobile content through its acquisition of Jamba is officially over. VeriSign tried to keep skin in the game through a JV with News Corp (NYSE: NWS). selling 51 percent in May 2007 for $187.5 million and a merger with Fox Mobile Entertainment. Today, the two companies said VeriSign has sold its remaining 49 percent to News Corp for approximately $200 million, suggesting that the value of the JV, which has struggled with leadership and strategic issues, has been static at best. VeriSign’s sale has been expected for months given the company’s switch to a core focus on internet infrastructure. VeriSign acquired German mobile content company Jamba in 2004 for $273 million.

Monster Acquires Remaining 55 Percent Of ChinaHR For $174 Million — Monster.com has full ownership now of major Chinese recruitment site ChinaHR.com, spending $178 million on the 55 percent it did not already own. Monster acquired 40 percent in 2005 for $50 million with a promise that it could get the remainder if ChinaHR failed to do an IPO within three years, according to TradingMarkets.com. As recently as mid-September, ChinaHR president Zhang Jianguo held out hope that the company would finish its IPO plan before year’s end. The acquisition gives Monster a major presence in online recruiting in Asia as well as China. Monster moved quickly to put its stamp on the company, appointing Edward Lo, EVP, Monster Greater China, as interim CEO of ChinaHR; he’ll keep his Monster regional duties as well. But it’s far from a slam dunk. As TradingMarkets.com notes, China’s growth is slowing and the sites face challenges from smaller companies, more localized companies with less overhead.

TNS’ Saga Nears Its Close, As WPP Declares Victory — WPP Group says it’s ready to close the deal for its $2 billion (£1.14 billion) takeover of TNS Media Intelligence, having received the support of 82 percent of the audience researcher’s shareholders, Reuters reports. The is now unconditional, though the extended offer period for further acceptances is open until Oct. 22. WPP will no longer offer the option to mix and match the share to cash ratio, however. As more shareholders shifted their support to WPP over the past week, TNS finally dropped its opposition to the deal on Monday, though it continued to maintain the WPP’s bid undervalued the company. Executives at the UK media measurement firm said they were in an untenable position, as continued attempts to block the takeover would have left TNS investors holding on to a minority interest in an unlisted company.

Articles of the Day

Posted in Digital Media, News with tags , , , , , , , , , , on October 7, 2008 by Dave Liu

Microsoft Raises Stakes With Search Perks — Microsoft continues to offer incentives to searchers to boost usage (and eventually market share) of its Live Search engine, the latest of which is called Search Perks. Some detractors call it bribery, and others say that it’s yet another desperate attempt to attract users– but according to stats from Hitwise, if Search Perks performs as well as Cashback, then the promotion should actually be called a success. The software giant launched Cashback, which gives shoppers money back for every product they search for (and eventually buy) through Live Search in late May. Although the program boosted search volume by 15% a month later (per comScore), the question has been whether it would cause Microsoft’s search share to continue to rise.

TV Guide Network Being Sold Separately From Mag; Book Finally Out — Macrovision (NSDQ: MVSN) has finally put the book out for the formal sale of TV Guide Network, according to Variety. The channel includes its flagship TV scrolling IPG, distributed in about 80 million homes in U.S., and the much-smaller TVG Horse Race Network, and the story says could fetch a relatively-small $400 million for the sale due to the financial market and economy turmoil. TVGN had total revenues of about $129 million last year. Among the companies considering the channel are Constellation Ventures, the NYC-based media focused VC firm, the story says. Not much interest from the usual suspects Time Warner (NYSE: TWX), News Corp (NYSE: NWS). and Disney (NYSE: DIS). UBS is running the process for Macrovision.

Depressing Movies: Netflix Cuts Q4 Outlook; Shares Down — So maybe people aren’t watching that many movies during these depressing times, or at least not joining a new service in droves: Netflix (NSDQ: NFLX) has cut its Q4 subscriber outlook, and also said that Q3 ended with fewer subscribers than it anticipated. CFO Barry McCarthy said that net subscriber growth in July was “in line with expectations but August was unusually weak…In September, the business regained momentum with results slightly below original expectations, likely due to the economic climate.” Netflix ended Q3 with about 8.672 million subscribers, just below the low end of its previous guidance of 8.675 million to 8.875 million subscribers. Subscribers grew 23 percent year-over-year and 3 percent sequentially. For Q408, it expects subscribers between 8.95 million to 9.25 million, down from 9.1 million to 9.7 million. Revenues are expected between $353 million and $359 million for the quarter, down from its earlier projection of $357 million to $367 million.

TNS Surrenders To WPP Group, Tells Shareholders To Accept The $2 Billion Deal — After months of repeatedly rebuffing WPP Group’s $2 billion (£1.14 billion) takeover bid, media measurement firm TNS is now telling its shareholders to approve the deal, Reuters reports. WPP made the offer back in July, two months after TNS and its German rival, media audience monitor GfK, announced plans to merge, creating the world’s second largest audience measurement firm after Nielsen. But when WPP muscled in with its offer for TNS, GfK began to get cold feet. GfK began trying to come up with a cash offer for TNS, but those efforts quickly failed, leaving nothing but TNS’ continued rejections of WPP and the ad giant’s unflagging desire to buy it.

Name Change Didn’t Help: Jellycloud Defunct; $50M In Funding Down The Drain, 36 Staffers Out — Adware purveyor turned ad network Jellycloud has had two other aliases during the past eight years, but now you might as well call it dead and buried. Last weekend, the company (fka Gator and, subsequently, Claria) closed up shop and had its furniture repossessed, Valleywag first reported, citing an unidentified tipster. The news was confirmed today by Venturebeat, which cited an unidentified source within the company. Repeated calls to Jellycloud were not returned. About 36 employees lost their jobs. Last month, Scott Vandevelde, Jellycloud’s CEO, was comparing the company’s offerings to both traditional ad nets like AOL’s Advertising.com and the Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO) ad exchange Right Media.

Sugar Expands E-Commerce, Opens ShopStyle API, Launches New Sites — Blog network Sugar Inc. is opening its ShopStyle API to anyone interested in building apps based on the shopping technology and plans to follow that up with something called ShopSense, which will allow users to share in Sugar’s retailer revenue. CEO Brian Sugar bills it as a way for publishers to make money, especially during the upcoming holiday season. Sites already using ShopStyle, acquired last year, for their e-commerce include Glamour, Elle UK, Bravo and InStyle. Of course, this doesn’t instantly translate into revenue for anyone outside Sugar. That kind of proof will have to come in the form of payments.

Jivox Unveils New Online Video Ad Platform — Jivox is expected to announce today a new version of its DIY online video ad platform that helps connect small and medium-sized businesses reach local customers via viral and local search campaigns. While big brands are seeking to capitalize on short-form video content and the transition of traditional media to the internet, San Mateo, Calif.-based Jivox aims to help small advertisers find online video success with local video on established Web properties that are proven to reach customers at a local level via Jivox AdSlate 3.0.