MediaFile

Crunch theater: blogger’s VC fund creates media spectacle

The tech blogosphere was on fire on Friday with a flood of constantly-updated news reports and a barrage of tweets dissecting every angle of the story.

A new iPhone? Details of the long-awaited Facebook IPO?

Not quite. The object of fascination was the preceding day’s news that high-profile tech blogger Michael Arrington has launched a $20 million venture capital fund.

The move instantly triggered a debate about the inherent conflict of an influential blog editor investing in many of the start-ups that would presumably be covered by TechCrunch — a must-read in the tech crowd.

But things only got more confusing as Arrington’s role at TechCrunch and parent company AOL appeared to undergo a series of metamorphoses as each hour passed.

AOL, which acquired TechCrunch in September 2010 and is also an investor in Arrington’s new CrunchFund venture fund, initially said Arrington would become “founding editor” and that AOL would look for a new managing editor.

from DealZone:

Next in M&A: the WordPress Hug?

Maybe it's time to add a new weapon to the old M&A arsenal of poison pills, dawn raids, and white knights -- the corporate blog. You could call it the WordPress Hug.

Late on Monday, Cisco's Ned Hooper used the company's blog to insist it had offered "a very good price" for Tandberg, after some shareholders of the Norwegian videoconferencing company said the price was too low. (See his full post here.)

The "Driving Conversations" blog of General Motors Europe has also been a source of news on the long-running (and now abandoned) talks to sell Opel, hosting posts from GM's chief negotiator, John Smith. (See some of his posts on the topic here.)

Wednesday media highlights

Here are some of the day’s stories about the media industry:

Recession sends Americans to the Internet (Reuters)
S. John Tilak writes: “More than two-thirds of American adults — or 88 percent of U.S. Internet users — went online for help with recession-induced personal economic issues and to gather information on national economic problems, a study released on Wednesday said.”

BBC and Government Fall Out Over Financing Plan (NYT)
“The BBC and Britain’s Labour government, which has a history of support for the “Beeb,” have fallen out over a government plan to share some of the broadcaster’s £3.6 billion in public funding with its commercial television rivals,” writes Eric Pfanner.
Weisberg: Big news orgs have a stake in web-only papers not working (Economist.com|Romenesko) “Web advertising may well end up supporting big newsrooms if they can escape some of their legacy costs,” says Slate’s Jacob Weisberg. “The test I’d most like to see is of a well-financed, for-profit, web-only ‘newspaper’ with no printed version. The problem is that the leading news organizations have a stake in web-only newspapers not working because they will accelerate the decline of the large, if faltering businesses that revolve around print.”

USA Today introduces Newsdeck site for top headlines (Editors Weblogs)
“To give visitors another way to view the news, USA Today has introduced a site it calls Newsdeck that compiles the top headlines in an easy-to-read format. Users can scroll through stories in eight categories, including News, Money and Sports, with the ability to switch back and forth between the latest news and the most popular articles.,” writes Liz Webber.

Tweeters as editors, sources, merchants?

In his speech at the Shorty Awards — the first unofficial Oscars for Twitter users — on Wednesday night, CNN anchor Rick Sanchez marveled at the intermingling of new and old media. Then he told the smartly dressed audience that Tweeters are “my editors, my sources, my friends, my focus group. You’re the people who matter to me more than some of the people who are supposed to matter to me.”******All this from a site where everything starts with a simple question: “What are you doing?” As the audience kept an eye on the stage while typing furiously on their cellphones, event organizer Gregory Galant told us Twitter was about much more than “where you write about what you had for lunch.”***This seemed to be confirmed by by this so-very-novice-tweeter reporter’s straw poll of attendees, who were treated to an appearance by fellow-tweeter MC Hammer.******Whatever else it is, Twitter is definitely a commercial tool as well as a social platform. Many of the 26 winners even used their tweet-sized-140-words acceptance speeches for blatant promotion of ideas, blogs businesses or causes.******Rich Tucker, known as @cruisesource on twitter, won the travel award and used his short spot to plug something called the Sofresh Social Media Cruise.***Politics winner @justin_hart promoted a politician while Scott Zagarino @athletes4acure spoke out about prostate cancer when accepting the nonprofits prize.***Martin Sargent @martinsargent, won the weird category and took a dig at the platform itself. “What’s truly weird is that by receiving the $1,000 grant that accompanies this award, I’m 1,000 times more profitable than Twitter. Thank you.” Another contendor for the weird prize, @Matman showed up at the party in an outfit to promote WellComeMat.com******Then there was the mix of attendees, many of whom paid a $60 entrance fee, besides the reporters who gave the event pretty wide coverage.***Nora Abousteit, who runs an open source sewing pattern web site burdaStyle.com, said she depends so much on Twitter for media updates that she changed her cellphone number and service after discovering twitter didn’t work well on her old phone.***Liam, a bemused 26-year-old from Brooklyn went because he is friends with the organizers. “I don’t understand twitter at all. I don’t get it,” he said. “I don’t like the idea of social interaction being boiled down to a computer.”******But Claire Chang of San Francisco-based Psolenoid saw practical uses. Chang, who is developing a twitter application, tweeted that she was going from Times Square to the awards. A reply came in time to share a car with another tweeter. At the end of the night Claire was confidently tweeting for a ride back to the city.******Vonda LePage, communications director for ad agency Deutsche Inc, dabbles with allkinds of social media. New York Times David Pogue may see twitter being “What you make it” but LePage has definite notions about what Twitter means to her – sharing information for business. But you have to be sincere or people will stop following your tweets, “if you only use it for commercial purposes, you’ll be turned off,” she said. As for the idea of telling the world you’re drinking a coffee or upset about something, LePage said, “That’s Facebook.”******(Photos of @Matman and stage screen at Shorty awards/Sinead Carew)

from Shop Talk:

Blogosphere not kindled on Kindle 2 launch

AMAZON-KINDLE/Resembling a larger, whiter, thinner, but not-as-sexy iPhone, the Kindle 2 got its high-profile launch on Monday by Amazon, the Seattle-based online retailer.
 
Analysts, media and gadget hounds filled New York's Morgan Library to hear Chief Executive Jeff Bezos touting the slimmer, faster new version of the e-reader that at $359 is still hardly a steal.
    
The press conference even featured an appearance from horror author Stephen King, whose novella "Ur" -- about a college instructor who orders a Kindle (no joke) to frightening consequences -- is only available on the Kindle.
    
But despite the advance hoopla -- read Reuters' preview of the Kindle launch here -- the blogosphere was surprisingly low-key about Monday's unveiling -- perhaps given leaked photos of the supposed device that could be seen on the Internet beginning last fall.
    
"Wow, even Amazon is jumping on the iPhone-killer bandwagon," said one blog, http://www.boygeniusreport.com, adding that the new Kindle is 25 percent thinner than the iPhone. Gizmodo, calling its new design a success, wrote: "It looks like Amazon got a few clues from Apple and Braun's design guidelines." The www.Techcrunch.com blog summed it up even more succinctly: "It's much less ugly."
    
Bloggers praised its thinness, more storage, better battery life, better display and faster page turning, but some still griped at its price tag and design, with one blogger saying the new Kindle is "still not pretty." 

"If I'm going to spend $370, why wouldn't I buy an iPod Touch or a Netbook and get way more functionality," asked one posting. Another referenced the ubiquitous debate in cyberspace over open devices: "Where is the universal open device that consumers really want? Limited consumers just so you can direct all sales through Amazon will not play out in the long run."
 
For an interesting read on how Amazon is currently cornering an underserved market niche, but how competition from tablet PCs could be an issue in the future, read here.    
    
Few bloggers commented on the new "read-to-me" feature, which allows users to hear their content read by either a female or male voice -- although one blog said it "should be fun." That may steal away some sales of books on tape, but Kindle said the feature was still experimental.
    
Amazon won't disclose how many advance orders for the Kindle 2 it expects -- nor how many of the first version it sold. And still a mystery is whether or not the Kindle is cannibalizing sales from the company, whose highest margin business is physical book sales, according to Bernstein Research's Jeffrey Lindsay.
 
Bezos said last month for every physical book an Amazon customer with a Kindle buys, he or she buys 1.6 to 1.7 Kindle books.

(Photo of Bezos/Reuters)

Writing for your life at The New York Times

Who can blame a print reporter for wanting to get up to speed in the new media world, particularly at The New York Times? With ad revenue down and the future in doubt, it might seem worthwhile for reporters to keep themselves marketable. The union that represents the NYT’s reporters approves, but it suspects that some are making too many concessions. Here are excerpts from the memo:

The financial troubles at The New York Times have many Guild members looking over their shoulders wondering when the next round of layoffs may occur…As a result, many of our members are understandably operating in survival mode and scurrying to find a niche.

In this economic climate, the Guild more than ever encourages members to make themselves as valuable as possible. Embrace the web, which undoubtedly holds the key to our future. …

Huffington Post top indy political blog for traffic

obamamccain.jpgPolitical Web sites and blogs compete for scoops and eyeballs with an intensity rivaling the presidential candidates, so the Internet traffic figures released Wednesday by industry tracker comScore are likely to provide some bragging rights.

The winner is… HuffingtonPost.com  – founded by commentator Arianna Huffington, the site led among stand-alone political blogs and news sites with 4.5 million visitors in September, comScore said. That was way above the site’s tally of 792,000 in the same month last year.

It was followed by Politico.com with 2.4 million visitors and DrudgeReport.com with 2.1 million. The biggest gainer among the top five was realclearpoltics.com, a clearinghouse for commentary and polls that has become a must-read for the politically inclined. Its traffic surged almost six-fold from last year to 1.1 million visitors.

Gawker dumps three blogs in advertising winter

ship.jpgNick Denton’s Gawker Media is parting with three of its blogs: political gossip site Wonkette, travel site Gridskipper and music site Idolator, dumping ballast in a stormy ad market.    
 
Denton put it simply in a memo to employees, first seen on Silicon Alley Insider:    

Why these three sites? To be blunt: they each had their editorial successes; but someone else will have better luck selling the advertising than we did. … it would be naive to think that we can merely power through an advertising recession. We need to concentrate our energies … on the sites with the greatest potential for audience and advertising. 
    

Here’s the details:
* Buzznet, a music social network, is buying Idolator after snapping up its main rival Stereogum.

Not all bloggers are poor

cash.jpgBloggers, don’t quit your day jobs — unless you’re Gawker’s Nick Denton or Perez Hilton. 24/7 Wall St’s Douglas A. McIntyre takes a stab at guesstimating blog valuations, looking at unique visitors, page views, ad rates and profit margins, among other factors.

McIntyre is the first to admit it’s hardly an exact science: “In short, the task of valuing the largest blogs is impossible. That makes it much more interesting than writing about the P/E at General Electric.”

A handful of the top blogs:

    Gawker: $150 million MacRumors: $85 million Huffington Post: $70 million PerezHilton: $48 million TechCrunch: $36 million ArsTechnica: $15 milion Drudge Report: $10 million Mashable: $10 million GigaOm: $8.4 million Boing Boing: $8 million Silicon Alley Insider: $5.4 million ReadWriteWeb: $5 million Paidcontent.org: $3.5 million