MediaFile

Sun Valley: David Carr’s advice for reporters

The Bald Mountain resort in Sun Valley offers moguls for advanced skiers all winter long. Media reporters show up every July for the other kind of mogul, who lands among the picturesque Idaho mountains on a private jet and has a name like “Rupert Murdoch” or “Barry Diller.”

Reporters are supposed to be part of the scenery — not part of the conference itself.* They must stand around and hope that one of the more than 200 invitees decides to speak to them, and hopefully dispense a few nuggets of news. Fortunately, this week’s weather is supposed to be sunny, dry and warm during the day, and comfortably chilly at night.

For a Sun Valley freshman like this Reuters reporter, it sounds scary terrifying, despite the clement weather forecast. I asked New York Times media columnist David Carr, who covered the conference in 2007, for some advice. Here are some excerpts from our phone conversation;

Why did you go to the Sun Valley conference?

I was sent because (NYT deals columnist) Andrew Ross Sorkin was getting married. I was actually on vacation at the time, (but) Andrew is somebody at the paper who, whatever he asks for, we have to do. I was actually happy to step into the breach.

What kind of reporting do you do?

You’re arguing over real table scraps and taking deep meaning from people sitting physically
adjacent to each other by the duck pond, but you can’t hear what they say… I got a big get. I saw Rupert Murdoch in a parking lot walking and talking to somebody. I can’t remember who he was talking to, but that constitutes a huge get in the context of Sun Valley. (Was it CNN’s Anderson Cooper? We don’t know.)

Sun Valley: The stars align

Allen & Co’s 27th Sun Valley media and technology conference starts on July 7 and ends on July 12. In the meantime, expect media writers to breathlessly report, blog, tweet, photograph and record the event. Why the fuss? There are literally hundreds of people coming who are known to do nothing else than run the universe when it comes to TV shows, movies, telecoms, the Internet and all sorts of other electronic communications. We have lists of all the people who bankroll them as well, along with a list of other interesting people you will find there.

Here, meanwhile, are the big men and women of media and technology who justify the travel budgets that increasingly hard-up news organizations have to put out for your favorite folks in the press corps to hide behind the hedges and hope for a handout that will break news, move markets and excite our editors. Keep in mind: this list is not a guarantee that these people are showing up; it’s just an invitation list (arranged alphabetically by company). We’ll update it as we learn more. (Our boldface names indicate some general viewpoint that they’re the stars of the stars.)

    James McCann, CEO, 1-800-flowers.com. Bobby Kotick, CEO, Activision Blizzard Inc. Also Brian Kelly, co-chairman. Jeff Bezos, CEO, Amazon.com Inc. Tim Armstrong, chairman and CEO, AOL Michael Ovitz, AMSEF LLC, former uber-talent agent at Creative Artists Agency and former Walt Disney Co executive. Gerhard Zeiler, CEO, RTL Group, Bertelsmann AG. Bill and Melinda Gates, of the foundation of the same name. Bill, of course, co-founded Microsoft Corp. Mark Vadon, executive chairman, Blue Nile Inc. James Dolan, president, CEO, Cablevision Systems Corp. Leslie Moonves, president, CEO, CBS Corp. Also Neil Ashe, president, CBS Interactive. Also Quincy Smith, CEO, CBS Interactive. (And a former Allen & Co man.) Charlie Rose, interviewer and anchor on the Charlie Rose Show Anthony Bloom, Cineworld plc Richard Parsons, chairman, Citigroup Inc. Former CEO, Time Warner Inc. Lowry Mays, chairman, Clear Channel Communications Inc. Ralph Roberts, founder, chairman emeritus, Comcast Corp. Also Stephen Burke, president and COO, Comcast Cable. Patrick Condo, president, CEO, Convera Corp. Jimmy Hayes, CEO, Cox Enterprises Inc. Richard Lovett, president, Creative Artists Agency Inc. Also Bryan Lourd, managing partner. Michael Dell, chairman and CEO, Dell Inc. Richard Rosenblatt, chairman and CEO, Demand Media. He used to work at MySpace’s parent company before News Corp bought it. Chase Carey, former DirecTV CEO and Rupert Murdoch’s new No. 2 man at News Corp. John Hendricks, founder and chairman, Discovery Communications. Also president and CEO David Zaslav. Jeffrey Katzenberg, CEO, DreamWorks Animation SKG. John Donahoe, president and CEO, eBay Inc. Dara Khosrowshahi, president and CEO, Expedia Inc. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. (We’ve heard conflicting reports about whether he’ll show. Either way, he’s still on our list.) Tom Freston, principal, Firefly3 LLC. Former Viacom executive. Martin Varsavsky, CEO, FON Jeff Immelt, chairman and CEO, General Electric Co. Jeff Zucker, CEO, NBC Universal. (GE) Ronald Meyer, president and COO, Universal Studios. (GE) Eric Schmidt, chairman and CEO, Google. Also co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page. Juan Luis Cebrian, CEO, Grupo Prisa. Also Ignacio Polanco, chairman. Emilio Azcarraga, chairman and president, Grupo Televisa. Also Alfonso de Angoitia, executive vp. Christopher Schroeder, CEO, HealthCentral. Also former CEO of Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive. Cathleen Black, president, Hearst Magazines. R. Todd Bradley, executive vp, personal systems group, Hewlett-Packard Co. Also CEO Mark Hurd. Barry Diller, chairman, CEO, IAC/InterActiveCorp. Also chairman, Expedia Inc. Also Victor Kaufman, vice chairman, IAC/InterActiveCorp. Lachlan Murdoch, executive chairman, Illyria Pty Ltd. Son of News Corp CEO Rupert Murdoch. Craig Barrett, former CEO, chairman, Intel Corp. Also Sean Maloney, executive vp, chief sales and marketing officer. Jeffrey Berg, chairman and CEO, International Creative Management. Also president Christopher Silbermann. Michael Volpi, formerly of Cisco Systems Inc and Joost. Eric Eisner, L+E Pictures. Son of former Walt Disney Co. CEO Michael Eisner. Kevin Reilly, CEO, Lamar Advertising Co. Michael Fries, president and CEO, Liberty Global Inc. John Malone, chairman, Liberty Media Corp. Also Greg Maffei, president and CEO. Reid Hoffman, chairman, president of products, LinkedIn Corp. Sam Altman, co-founder and CEO, Loopt Inc. Craig Mundie, chief research and strategy officer, advanced strategies and policy, Microsoft Corp. Also Robbie Bach, president of the entertainment and devices division, and Henry Vigil, senior vp, strategy and partnership. Rupert Murdoch, CEO, News Corp. Also with him is his second son, James Murdoch, chairman and CEO of News Corp’s Europe and Asia operations. Also Jonathan Miller, News Corp’s chairman and CEO for its digital media group. Former president and COO Peter Chernin, whose last day was June 30, is coming along too, in tow with CFO David DeVoe and new MySpace CEO Owen Van Natta. Gina Bianchini, CEO, Ning Inc. Jorma Ollila, chairman, Nokia Corp. Greg Wyler, founder, O3B Networks Ltd. Jeffrey Jordan, president and CEO, OpenTable Inc. Jeffery Boyd, president and CEO, priceline.com Inc. Maurice Levy, chairman and CEO, Publicis Groupe. Paul Jacobs, chairman and CEO, Qualcomm Inc. Robert Johnson, founder and chairman, the RLJ Companies. Jay Y. Lee, Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. Kenneth Lowe, chairman, president and CEO. Scripps Networks Interactive. Mel Karmazin, CEO, Sirius XM Radio Inc. Max Levchin, CEO, Slide Inc. Sir Howard Stringer, chairman and CEO, Sony Corp. Also Kazuo Hirai, president of networked products and services group; Robert Wiesenthal, executive vp and CFO, Sony Corporation of America; Michael Lynton, chairman and CEO, Sony Pictures Entertainment; Hiroshi Yoshioka, executive deputy president, president of consumer products and devices group; and Nicole Seligman, top lawyer. Nick Grouf, CEO, Spot Runner Inc. Thomas Glocer, CEO, Thomson Reuters Corp, along with Niall FitzGerald, deputy chairman. Michael Eisner, the Tornante Company LLC. Former Walt Disney Co CEO. Lars Buttler, CEO, Trion World Network Inc. Evan Williams, co-founder and chairman, Twitter Inc. David Levin, CEO, United Business Media plc. James Berkus, chairman, United Talent Agency. Brad Grey, chairman and CEO, Paramount Pictures Corp (Viacom). Sumner Redstone, chairman, Viacom. Also Philippe Dauman, president and CEO. Jean-Bernard Levy, CEO, Vivendi. Robert Iger, president and CEO, Walt Disney Co. Also Thomas Staggs, CFO. Edgar Bronfman Jr, chairman and CEO, Warner Music Group. Donald Graham, chairman, CEO, The Washington Post Co. Casey Wasserman, chairman and CEO, Wasserman Media Group LLC. Harvey Weinstein, co-chairman, The Weinstein Co. Shelby Bonnie, CEO, Whiskey Media LLC. Jim Wiatt, William Morris Endeavor. Terry Semel, chairman and CEO, Windsor Media. Former Yahoo CEO. Martin Sorrell, CEO, WPP. Anne Mulcahy, chairman, Xerox Corp. Jerry Yang, chief Yahoo. Mark Pincus, founder, CEO, Zynga Inc.

IAC starts spending some of its cash on more dating sites

IAC chief Barry Diller has spent the last year building and then sitting on a pile of cash, which rose to $2 billion in the first quarter — only some $400 million less than its entire market cap of $2.4 billion. Journalists and Wall Street have asked Diller repeatedly how he intends to use the cash. A big M&A move perhaps? A generous one-time dividend maybe? Or share buybacks?******Diller is focused on adding to his empire of Internet units in small increments rather than making major acquisitions. That empire includes dating site Match.com, search engine Ask.com, event planning site evite and many others.******Here’s Diller back in April on the first quarter conference call with analysts: “While I can’t say what we’ll do, obviously, other than invest in the businesses we have, because we believe they’re worthy of investments, relatively small scale, we’re open but I am actually not optimistic about being able to extensively spend the enormously large amounts of cash that we have. It could change on a dime, but there it is at the moment.”******True to his word Match.com said on Tuesday it has signed an agreement to buy People Media, an operators of targeted dating sites for $80 million in cash from American Capital Ltd.******People Media owns 27 dating sites incluing BlackPeopleMeet.com, SingleParentMeet.com and SeniorPeopleMeet.com with a combined 255,000 paying subscribers.  IAC said People Media generated $11.6 million in earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) in 2008.

Swine flu talk spikes up on Facebook

Facebook has been mapping swine flu discussions among its members for the past few days using its Lexicon application, and it’s pretty cool to see how the conversation on Wall posts shot up over the weekend as more and more cases of the disease came to light in the United States.

Lexicon, for those who don’t have to follow Facebook’s every move, is a tool the social networking site uses to follow trends on words and phrases that are being used on “Walls,” the open space on each member’s profile where friends can post comments. Kind of like how you can take the pulse of topics trending up or down in Twitter search.

The chart below, courtesy of Facebook, shows how there were no mentions of the term “swine flu” before the evening of April 23 on any of its 200 million members’ walls, but people start discussing it quite a bit over the next two days, causing a sharp upward spike.

Pay TV: Shelter from the storm?

Safe haven. Two magical — and mysterious — words. Cable and satellite companies didn’t fit the safe haven bill in 2008, but 2009 just may be there year.

According to a Reuters story out today, “cable and satellite service providers now hold the promise of strong free cash flow growth as they retain old customers but spend less on deploying set-top boxes and digital video recorders due to a fall in new subscriber growth.”

Remember, however, that before the economy fell apart, a number of investors considered the pay TV industry “recession proof.” The argument went that even in the toughest of times, Americans would stay home and watch TV, saving money on trips to movies or out to dinner.

from Summit Notebook:

Diller to profitable companies: Lay off the layoffs

IAC Chief Executive Barry Diller took several groups to task at the Reuters Media Summit, but he reserved special disgust for CEOs at profitable companies who add to the country's rising unemployment rate.

Also targeted by the former Hollywood executive were "incredibly, shockingly stupid" Big 3 auto executives, the Internet's strange and growing dictionary, and Hollywood's lack of creativity.

Diller said companies had a higher obligation, especially in tough times like these:

Sun Valley – a sked of who’s where, when…

kingabdullah.jpgThanks to New York Times Andrew Ross Sorkin’s DealBook blog here’s a sked of who’s going to be speaking at this year’s annual media mogul and new media upstart get-together organized by Allen & Company in Idaho’s Sun Valley.

Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos, IAC/InterActive Corp’s CEO Barry Diller, and Google co-founder Larry Page will be among those speaking today.

Other key names speaking tomorrow include Sir Howard Stringer, chairman of Sony Corp. , Jeffrey Katzenberg, chief executive of Dreamworks Animation.

Snapping away at Sun Valley

The media bigwigs are out and about in Sun Valley, Idaho, showing off the hottest looks in “executive casual.” Reuters photographer Rick Wilking caught some of them in action. Have a look:

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Social ‘nets are nice but where’s the money?

diller2.jpgBarry Diller likes social networks. He says they function as telephones used to: they help us communicate with each other. But one thing they don’t do is make money. Here’s what he told the Goldman Sachs Ninth Annual Internet Conference today in Vegas:

In social networks, the only way you get paid is from advertising and advertising has … on social networks has proved to be not particularly effective.   

That’s not to say things can’t pick up:   

It probably will find ways to be effective but it hasn’t been and so you can’t say okay, lets find widgets and all of these things to put on all of these services.

Icahn to Yahoo: We’ve lost faith

carl-icahn.jpgBillionaire investor Carl Icahn fired a salvo at Yahoo on Thursday morning, threatening a proxy fight unless Yahoo gets Microsoft back to the negotiating table.******In a letter to Yahoo Chairman Roy Bostock he said Yahoo’s board had acted “irrationally” in turning away an offer that amounted to a 72 percent premium and warned Yahoo not to announce any “strategic alternatives” (such as a deal with AOL or Google) without a shareholder vote.***

I am perplexed by the board’s actions. It is irresponsible to hide behind management’s more than overly optimistic financial forecasts. It is unconscionable that you have not allowed your shareholders to choose to accept an offer that represented a 72% premium over Yahoo’s closing price of $19.18 on the day before the initial Microsoft offer. I and many of your shareholders strongly believe that a combination between Yahoo and Microsoft would form a dynamic company and more importantly would be a force strong enough to compete with Google on the Internet.

***Icahn also disclosed he has purchased 59 million shares and has sought antitrust clearance from the FTC to acquire up to approximately $2.5 billion worth of Yahoo stock.******Microsoft has remained quiet so far. Wall Street Journal reported earlier that Icahn had been yet unable to lock in Microsoft’s support.******Also, despite having nominated a 10-member slate, which include Icahn, former Viacom chief Frank Biondi, Icahn Enterprise’s vice chairman Keith Meister, former New Line co-CEO Robert Shaye and corporate governance expert Lucian Bebchuk, he could yet settle for a smaller slate of Yahoo directors.******After spending a week telling the world how uninterested they are in Yahoo, Microsoft has remained quiet so far.******(Reuters)******Keep an eye on:***

    *** CBS to buy CNET Networks for $1.8 billion to boost its Web presence, and maybe laying to rest a CNET activist investor fight (Reuters)

    *** Ask.com to expand its vocabulary with plans to buy Lexico, owner of Dictionary.com and Thesaurus.com (Reuters)

    ***

***(Picture: Reuters / Icahn at the Lazard presentation during the Time Warner battle.)