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.