Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Show Me The Bubbles

Confirmation continues that we are in the midst of a bubble, big time. Genealogy site was valued by investors today at $100 mm today. Charles River Ventures paid $10 mm for a 10% stake in the social networking company, described this way in

Geni difference from other social nets rests on its specific focus on people interested in genealogical research and cataloguing. Instead of identifying Geni as a social networking site, Sacks calls it “family networking” and the hope is that people interested in mapping out their personal history will recruit other family members to the site.

Fred Wilson keeps things on the ground by pointing out that the actual cash paid out by Charles River was only $10mm -- by no means chump change, but not $100mm. He also points out that there is cash to be made in a bubble. You just need to be extremely careful and selective.

In a sign that the bubble is not ending life as we know it, the much discussed and at one time much touted Disney on-demand venture Moviebeam was sold to Movie Gallery for about $10mm. That's after it was re-capped last year for $48.5mm and much after Disney poured an estimated $70mm into the project. It was the price that probably did them in. Disney was charging almost $300 for the hardware alone. In the evolving on-demand world hardware is a losing proposition. Everything you need will sooner or later be delivered on-line.

Newspapers Enter Video Age

It was disclosed today on that MSN and AP have worked out an arrangement with thousands of client newspapers and other news organizations around the country by which they will make available thousands of hours of client and user generated content. It's estimated that some 3,500 of AP associated news organizations could participate, ultimately. The day may be a bit further off for newspapers and others who are not yet up to speed with video. But the opportunity is there.

Monday, March 5, 2007

New Geico Caveman Commercial

Who Pays For New Media? The Cavemen

The question of just who will finance the media revolution seems to have been answered... the Geico cavemen. You've seen the commercials, but you probably didn't see, until today, that is, is that ABC has decided to commission a pilot around the characters in the Geico commercials. Says Geico's vp of marketing Ted Ward, "We sell car insurance; we don't make TV shows. We are excited to have an opportunity to do brand extension."

The ad campaign has been successfully extended across platforms. A Caveman showed up at the Oscars, even attending an after party. He also played a round of golf with Phil Simms on the Superbowl pregame show.

But that's not really odd. It's the inverted relationship between programming and advertising that truly makes this seem like a trip to the bizarro world. If I've got this right.... It's a TV show based on a thirty second spot. Granted, ABC has had problems creating a hit TV sitcom in recent years, but taking your lead from a commercial sponsor does not seem like a winning proposition. If history is any guide, it won't work too well, according to the WSJ. In the 1980's the California Raisins had a TV special and a short lived cartoon series and a TV special. The same was true for a talking baby, "Baby Bob," found in an Internet commercial.

And just a sign that we live in a truly bizarre world.... The Burger King will be the subject of a feature film.

Kudos to USA TODAY

USA TODAY went live on Saturday with a revamped website, featuring tremendous social networking features....

"While we've refined the design, we've also expanded the journalistic mission," wrote editors Ken Paulson, Kinsey Wilson and John Hillkirk in an editor's note Saturday. "Our ambition is to help readers quickly and easily make sense of the world around them by giving them a wider view of the news of the day and connecting them with other readers who can contribute to their understanding of events."

It's a great example of a newspaper really getting and extending its branding.

Ford Foundation Conference

I am producing a roundtable on "The Future of Media (and who will pay for it)" under the auspices of the Ford Foundation and UCAL Berkeley in NY on March 23. It will be a small gathering of people from the worlds of media, finance and academe. I will start blogging about it and presenting some relevant materials on this site.

Initially, I'd like to call your attention to the documentary produced by the Ted Koppel Group that will air on Discovery on Sunday. It's called Our Children's Children's War. The Executive Producer is Tom Bettag, who will be present at the Roundtable.

One of the things that is extremely interesting about the Koppel unit is the transition that they (producers and Ted) have made from network television to cable. I would argue that Koppel has realized that he was no longer dependent on ABC for the perpetuation of his brand. Rather, through Discovery as well as through op-eds in the New York Times and regular contributions to NPR, Ted has become a true media brand. I think that he (and we) are the better for it.

Monday, February 26, 2007

In It For The Big Bucks... Not

Guys: Sorry, I was swept up amidst the excitement of February vacation last week, and while I did mean to check in on the blogosphere.... Well, I needed a break. Never fear, we're back in force.

A story in the Toronto Sun declares that there may be some 65 million blogs out there and that almost none of them are making money. We may be in the early stages of a business model according to the paper. That, guys, is not much of a story, but I haven't got too much to work with today.

Speaking of getting paid for these labors of love, there's a kind of odd article in NYT today on YouTube celebs ditching the Web's hottest property for the greener pastures reportedly offered by some other video sites. I find myself in good company of others like Fred Wilson of A VC who are confused. There doesn't seem to be any exclusivity or very much money involved. Why not post every where.

Google's AdSense is also working with Dow Jones, Conde Nast, SonyBMG, and others to syndicate their video on other websites. The websites get the video for free -- not only that, they split the ad revenues with Google and the source of the video. Sounds a little bit like what Mochila is doing on the print syndication front.

I'd like to humbly request that everyone in the Multi-Platform audience, please pass the word and forward any comments, rants, etc. that you might have.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Video Saved the Radio Star

You may or may not recall the first video shown on MTV way back in the Golden Age of TV, circa 1981 (Actually any Age of TV you just missed seems to become the Golden Age. I was actually quite alive and in college in 1981, but I digress). It was, "Video Killed the Radio Star" by the Buggles.

Now it seems that video may actually be saving the radio star. That is the tack taken by Richard Siklos in today's NYT. Video is now a growing complement to many of the popular radio shows out there. According to comScore Media Metrix, Clear Channel radio sites ranked sixth in December among music Websites. That's behind MTV, AOL, Yahoo, MySpace and Artistdirect.

The article describes how radio stations have added video in an effort to offset dwindling audiences. The efforts seem to be working. I have a slightly different take on it.... I believe that one reason why video is working in tandem with radio is that it offers audiences yet another source of original, local media. Local media is hot right now, whether its offered as Websites, magazines, television. There are numerous opportunities to find out what's happening around the world or across the country, but far fewer reliable sources to discover what's happening around the corner. I believe that's what these video versions of local radio are now offering to their audiences, and people can't get enough of it.

Age of the Blog
Today's WSJ runs an interview with Technorati Chair and CMO Peter Hirshberg. Hirshberg is betting the farm on the future of blogs (well, he does after all, know where his bread is buttered) but it's a point of view with which I agree. He stresses the importance of listening to and engaging with customers and consumers and urges companies to hire a person whose job it is not only to blog but to engage with bloggers and to monitor what's being said. While he is careful to say you shouldn't listen to everything everyone says, you can get a general vibe from monitoring the traffic. Self promotion warning: This is something that I've been advocating for a while now, but it has been falling on mostly deaf ears.

Animal House: Multi-Platforming It
I was at a Dartmouth College event last night taping a book reading by Chris Miller. Miller who co-wrote the screenplay of Animal House has just published "a mostly lucid memoir" entitled "The Real Animal House." From the reading, I can tell you it's not something for Mom's birthday. But what's interesting is that Animal House was adapted from the "Tales from the Adelphian Lodge" that Miller wrote for National Lampoon in 1975. Now, many years later, he's gone back to write the book that was what the articles were supposed to precede. Well, a small cultural icon, starring the artistry of a young man named John Belushi intervened. Thirty years later, here we are.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Fox Business On the Runway

Fox News continues to make noise about the forthcoming launch of its biz channel. At last week's media summit Rupert Murdoch talked about being more business friendly that the competition -- that being CNBC. I'm not exactly sure how CNBC is unfriendly to business, but what is clear is that Fox wants some of the $500 million that CNBC is scooping up in licensing fees and ad revenues.

Fox News Chair Roger Ailes and biz honcho Neil Cavuto also indicated that they would be going for a wider audience in this excerpt from Multi-Channel News...

Cavuto, who worked for eight years at CNBC, said: “We’re going to be entertaining, informative, youthful. We’re going to appeal to groups beyond old white guys with money.”

Riffing on that remark, Ailes said: “I have no problem with old white guys with money, being one of them. Having said that, it would be good to broaden the audience.”

Comedy Central, at least, doesn't have too much to worry about. Clearly. There are some doubts that there's a need for another biz channel, friendly or unfriendly.

News watcher Andrew Tyndall, who monitors TV-news viewing through the Tyndall Report, is not sure one is really needed.

“This is not an underserved market,” he said. “CNNfn didn’t make it. Bloomberg [Television], a very well-established name in the financial field, hasn’t really succeeded.” CNNfn shut down on Dec. 15, 2004, with distribution to 30 million homes. Bloomberg currently counts some 43 million subscribers.

Snickers Scores on Superbowl
You may not have liked the Snickers ad that was quickly pulled and criticized as homophobic, but it did score among some viewers. Visits to the Snickers website was 16 times higher than it was the week before the game, a gain of 1,4447.7%. Similarly, Budlight saw traffic grow by over 655 percent. Granted, traffic to those sites was relatively small to begin with, so the percentages may be somewhat misleading.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Lights, Camera.... MySpace

Just a short one today guys... MySpace is linking in the U.K. with Film4 and Vertigo Films to get a low budget film ($1.96 mm) off the ground. Anyone in the U.K will be free to enter the contest, MySpace Movie MashUp, by submitting a short. The massive quantity of expected entrants will be cut down to 12 by the companies involved. The final 3 will be submitted to MySpace users, who will choose the winner. MySpace users will also have an opportunity to be involved in script selection, casting and other decisions for the eventual feature. They'll even be able to put themselves forward as cast members.