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Not So Much a Region, but an Attitude April 27, 2007

Posted by David Card in Media.
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Classic. Rather than build a product, old media is at least equally focused on patenting a technology. Yes, I’m just back from the left coast — Pacific NWest, actually — and feeling grumpy after meeting with a lot of smart people who are actually working on solving interesting problems.

    News Corp. says it hopes to patent a technology that will allow for the digital insertion of ads and promos on Fox network and cable programs that people watch days later on a digital video recorder. News Corp. hopes to test the technology soon, says Andrew G. Setos, president of engineering for Fox Group.

What smart creative people do:

– Silicon Valley & points north: work on solving interesting problems
– Southern California: fight foolish battles between art and commerce
– East Coast: worry about office politics, where their kids will go to school, and how to get richer, while maintaining their ironic distance

Alloy and Channel One: I’m Sure Some Interest Group will Howl April 24, 2007

Posted by David Card in Media.
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Alloy continues to be one of my favorite the most intriguing teen and young adult marketing and media companies out there. (And sometimes controversial.) Alloy — which sold off Delia’s a while ago — does all sorts of “non-traditional” marketing, including creating YA novels & movies, running an on-campus outdoor network, and now, the TV channel that feeds thousands of classrooms in middle and high schools.

    Manhattan-based Alloy Inc. said Monday that it will buy Channel One Communications from Primeda Inc. — its second acquisition in three days. Last week, the media company bought Frontline Marketing Inc. for $5.8 million.

Sprig Introduces the Greening of Women’s Sites April 23, 2007

Posted by David Card in Media.
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Washington Post Co.ís digital group, Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive, today rolls out a womenís lifestyle site with a green twist, Sprig. Created by the folks behind Rodaleís Organic Style magazine, Sprig will offer about half a dozen new stories a day, video, and an extensive database of eco-friendly products and services. Itís also got a little Daily Candy in it Ė a daily digital newsletter is almost more important than the site. WBNI execs say theyíve got 85,000 newsletter subscribers already, with minimal marketing (youíll see co-registration at other WPNI sites).

Womenís content is feeling a little crowded these days, and Sprig doesnít have a cross-media or social media angle (at least not yet). However, it looks slick, has good genes, and WPNI isnít going to break the bank building it. Itís aiming to be some usersí second or third green site, and/or their second or third fashion site. WPNIís digital sales force, about 35 to 40 strong, is behind Sprig, and the newsletter approach offers a site traffic-driver. And green is in. All looks promising.

Fear, Hype, Insight. Yep, Talking About Google Again April 20, 2007

Posted by David Card in Media.
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In light of Google’s continuing spectacular results, I reviewed some of the coverage of its proposed acquisition of DoubleClick. Emily’s right, it’s agency and marketer (or even publisher) privacy that’s the big deal, not consumer privacy. Google’s self-proclaimed biggest customer, WPP’s chairman Martin Sorrell says he wants to ensure his client’s data is safe. And why do some people think buying a $300M ad-serving business “locks up” internet advertising from search through display to classifieds? That’s a little heavy on the hype. You can get better insights from a guy with a beer in his hand and a silly hat (read the post, then check out the home page). Owning an audience still matters.

Still Waiting…. April 18, 2007

Posted by David Card in Uncategorized.
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Back in my 2006 Predictions post, I said a heavy hitter would leave the goog, but that it wouldn’t hurt ’em. No offense, guys, but this doesn’t quite count. (Best of luck, Dens!)

Neither did Pat, even though he’s practically a media mogul now.

Highlights from Yahoo’s 1Q07 Earnings Call April 18, 2007

Posted by David Card in Media.
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Highlights from Yahoo’s Q1 earnings call yesterday. As usual, I’ll focus on industry rather than financial things. The slides are here.

Ad revenues (search and display) ex-TAC (that means, minus the revenue-sharing that Yahoo pays out to its search partners) were down 3% sequentially compared with Q4, and up 9% year over year, to $980M. Fees paid by consumers, small businesses, and broadband partners were down 5% from Q4 and up 5% from a year ago, to $203M. Yahoo stuck to its guidance for 2007 — execs think it will grow at the rate of online display growth: 14%, with growth accelerating through the year.

The new paid search ranking for Panama — Yahoo’s re-engineered search and ad-serving platform — is up and running in the US, and bits of it are being trial-tested in Japan. Performance is on schedule. Yahoo still hasn’t hired a new head for its Audience group (started looking mid-January). It all sounds like steady — if slow, oh, so slow — progress.

Big Picture

CEO Terry Semel is now describing Yahoo as a global advertising network. Where have we heard that recently? Just paint a bullseye on your forehead, Yahoo, and beg for Google comparisons. This is not a good messaging strategy, imo. Yahoo is still a media company with a richer collection of content, communications, and services — and thus a potentially richer advertising platform than everyone’s favorite search engine, DoubleClick or not. Somebody needs to work on Yahoo positioning.

On the positive side, Yahoo is justifiably psyched by its expanding newspaper classifieds (and content) network, a deepening relationship with eBay, and video distribution deals with all of the TV networks.

Advertising & Search

– Yahoo said ad sales on its own properties were up by a mid-teens percentage, but down at a similar rate on network sites. Yahoo blamed that on the continued transition away from the former MSN deal, increasing pay-out rates, and the fact it’s continuing to weed out crappy affiliates (who generate $$, but dilute the overall network).

– Yahoo said sales to its top 200 advertisers grew 20%. However, it admitted that that rate is down from the 25-30% growth rate in Q4, and an even higher rate last Q3. Yahoo said apples-to-apples inventory comparisons are up, but that even its top advertisers are spending money on remnant inventory at much lower prices. That is, pricing for premium inventory like section fronts, rich media, and video is robust, but social media and e-mail is cheap.

– Dollars per page view is down. See above. Yahoo says that remnant inventory is “nascent” in its ability to be targeted or “integrated with context.” It’s kind of embarrassing to admit that when you’re a portal that’s building out its ad platform, guys. Better work on that a little faster.

– Still claiming to be the leader in social media, especially for young-ish adults, by aggregating up all its pieces (Answers, Flickr, Groups). And finally — woo hoo! — attempting to monetize all that Answers traffic by serving up paid listings on Answers search results pages. Yahoo mentioned display ads and sponsorships for Answers, too, but no details.

– “We were pleased to see a diminshed RPS (revenue per search) decline in Q1.” Ugh. But the results ranking algorithm will start to reverse that, beginning now.

– No color on categories/industries. No exposure to sub-prime lenders, though.

– Panama will offer “quality-based pricing” and domain blocking in future releases.

– Google’s potential DoubleClick acquisition justifies Yahoo’s strategy. Welcome, Google; seriously, as someone once said.

Paid Content & Services

– 16.5M paid relationships. That’s up, even though Fantasy Football is over. No color on categories.

“Old Media Is Dead!” Scream Start-Ups April 17, 2007

Posted by David Card in Media.
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Heck, mass media is dead. That’s what you get for hosting an event in NoCal, I guess. I think the view from New York or el Lay would be a little different. Come on, Charlene, didn’t you smack ’em down a little?

    “Maybe mass media was just a temporary phenomenon,” mused Rich Skrenta, co-founder and CEO of news aggregator Topix, noting that mass media arose as a consequence of controlled distribution and captive consumer attention. Today, of course, getting one’s message out, or film or song, for that matter, doesn’t require approval from distribution channel gatekeepers…

“Of course.” Yeah, dream on. There are still plenty of gate-keepers and promoters. Oh, that’s right, hits don’t matter anymore. Didn’t I read that in Wired? (Or in Chris Anderson’s best-seller, wait, that’s a hit, isn’t it?) Give me a break.

Perspective, Please? Part XXII April 17, 2007

Posted by David Card in Media.
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Yeah, like pirate radio killed Clear Channel, and pirate cable wiped out Comcast. Puh-lease. Note the MPAA is quoted, but no studios or networks.

    As media companies fight to keep control over distribution of their shows, they have focused their guns on big sites like the YouTube unit of Google Inc. But little sites like this one in New Mexico collectively represent an equally thorny challenge. They are like guerrilla squadrons that are constantly shifting tactics to defy big media and keep offering consumers free programs.

Conflicting Signals on Time Warner Cable? April 17, 2007

Posted by David Card in Media.
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These can’t both be true, can they?

Wall St. Journal
Inside Time Warner Inc., senior executives are considering what was once unthinkable: whether the world’s biggest media company should substantially reduce its cable-TV holdings over time. Cable has been a core part of the company and its precursors for decades and is now the biggest contributor to profits. But the long-term future of cable, as the Internet emerges as a viable venue for watching TV, is murky. Some within Time Warner wonder whether the company wouldn’t be better off if it were to get out of cable and double down on the Web — where it already owns AOL — by buying another major Internet company…

Advertising Age
..But Jeff Bewkes doesn’t want to follow fashion; he wants to talk TV.”Television is very important and increasing in value, and network-based interactive TV is very powerful” — even more powerful, he said, than the internet.

Is the UPS Campaign Cool, or Scary? April 16, 2007

Posted by David Card in Media.
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I don’t know why, but this strikes me as scary. And, gawd knows, as do regular readers, that I embrace the whole pop culture = art = commerce thing. Those UPS commercials, where the guy draws on a whiteboard, are:

a) directed by a pretty-darn-good if not brilliant documentary director, and
b) the guy in them is the ad agency’s creative head. That’s so meta, my head is spinning.