MediaFile

Media, tech moguls meet in New York (You are NOT invited)

Media and technology executives are meeting Wednesday and Thursday in New York City at a conference hosted by private equity firm Quadrangle. Note the word private.

When they meet at the Plaza, they will talk about a ton of different things that their customers, their investors and other readers want to know. I have to apologize for them because they’re not letting in any riff-raff. And that includes reporters who get paid to spend all day figuring out how these people decide what kind of entertainment you want, what kind of technology you pay them for and what deals they pursue with the money that you give them when you buy their stock. This event always excludes press, but that’s no reason not to highlight what you probably are missing because of this. After all, who wants to wait for the 8-K filing?

Some press will be allowed, but it will be an assortment of celebrity journalists who will moderate panels and, according to Peter Kafka, author of “MediaMemo” at News Corp’s AllThingsD blog, will not write about the event (I’m talking about Maria Bartiromo and David Faber of CNBC, The New Yorker’s Ken Auletta, etc).

Peter wrote two posts about this, here and here. He also issued me a challenge to sneak into the conference, but horror of horrors, I’m on a deadline that I can’t shirk any longer. So consider this an invitation from me to you to go to the Plaza and catch these guys on the way in and out of the building. It’s a fun way to spend the day, and maybe you’ll learn something interesting.

Here is the agenda, courtesy of Peter Kafka. Below that is a list of speakers. Outrage breeds corrections: I have to amend the record: The list I had posted here of topics is last year’s agenda. My mistake. The list of speakers appearing THIS year still appears below.

MySpace: Be ready to read this story twice

MySpace, the online social network (can we still call it that now that it has ducked out of the Facebook/Twitter competition?), appears to be pursuing what I’ll call the “two-pronged news strategy.” You get used to it when you cover media and technology. For those of you who don’t enjoy this privilege, it goes like this:

    Pick a news outlet that you like and whisper things to them about what you’re doing. It doesn’t have to be interesting, it just has to be exclusive. If you’re in public relations, you don’t even have to know that someone in your company is doing this. It works well for you. Let the rest of the press read the story and bombard your telephone and e-mail with messages demanding to know if it’s true. Score a big hit on the news cycle. Because you either decline to comment or only want to talk “on background,” it heightens the air of mystery — and newsworthiness. The official announcement of the news, which will always resemble 90 percent or more of what you read in the first round of anonymously sourced stories, will get just as much attention as that first round. It’s a 2-for-1 deal that is irresistible to many companies.

I don’t know that MySpace is doing this, and wouldn’t be able to confirm it if I asked. It could just be that the reporters who get the breaking news have great sources and the reporter asked smart questions that would yield good answers. I’ll let you judge.

The first example comes from Kara Swisher, tech blogger at AllThingsD, which is MySpace’s cousin in the News Corp family. She reports:

Aardvark’s Internet search: No web pages required

Microsoft may be the only company with the wherewithal to challenge Google’s Internet search dominance head on, but a number of firms are trying to outflank Google with services that handle aspects of search not covered by Google’s index of Web pages.

Aardvark – a firm whose cofounders include two ex-Googlers – is pushing something it calls “social search.”

Instead of looking at Web pages to find answers to search queries, Aardvark’s service taps a person’s network of social contacts. Ask Aardvark for anything from restaurant recommendations to home improvement tips, and the service will relay the question to Facebook and Twitter friends who have identified themselves as “experts” on various topics.

Twitter and Bing: A cold September

For two of the Web’s newest sensations, September was not a good month.

The robust growth that Twitter and Microsoft’s Bing search engine enjoyed in recent months appeared to come to an abrupt halt last month.

Twitter, the microblogging service cherished by everyone from Shaq to Al Gore, saw its growth stall in September — at least in terms of U.S. visitors to its Web site.

The number of unique visitors to Twitter’s site in the U.S. reached 20.89 million in September – virtually flat compared to the 20.83 million visitors the month before, according to the latest comScore data.

On Facebook nobody knows you’re a dead language

Gaudeamus Igitur!

Friday was a day of great joy and merriment for seminarians, academics and other devotees of Latin following Facebook’s announcement that the world’s largest social networking website is now available in the language of Caesar.

Latin may be considered a so-called dead language, but that didn’t stop Facebook from adding it to the 70 language options offered on the website.

“Most of the time when we stumble upon a Latin phrase, it’s etched in stone: carved in the hallways of universities, chiseled on facades of government buildings or carefully imprinted in cathedral foyers and churchyards,” read a Facebook blog post announcing the news.

Facebook account: free. Friends? About 18 cents apiece

How much are 1,000 Facebook friends worth?

According to Leon Hill, $177.30.

That’s the price that Hill’s online marketing firm uSocial.net is selling Facebook friends for, through a new service that has already raised alarms within Facebook.

Hill’s reputation as a notorious peddler of online souls precedes him, having launched a similar service selling Twitter followers to clients earlier this year.

Another endeavor, in which he sought to “game” social bookmarking site Digg by letting advertisers buy votes to push certain stories to the top of the site, earned him a cease-and-desist letter from Digg’s attorneys, he says. (A Digg representative said the company could not comment).

Facebook’s start-ups strut their stuff

Facebook opened its doors to venture capitalists on Tuesday.******The world’s largest social media company, which landed $200 million in funding in May, wasn’t trying to drum up any more cash for itself.******Instead, it was promoting a couple dozen start-up companies that leverage its technology and could further the strategy of making Facebook a key building block for Internet businesses and services.******The start-ups were selected by Facebook earlier this year through fbFund, a joint venture between Facebook, Accel and Founders Fund that provides seed funding (typically between $15,000 and $75,000 per start-up) to Facebook application developers.******The start-ups toiled through the summer in Facebook’s erstwhile Palo Alto, California headquarters and Tuesday was show-time: a chance to show off their progress and, they hoped, secure a more substantial chunk of funding from the VCs assembled.******Unlike traditional Facebook applications, such as games that run directly within the Facebook Web site, many of the products showcased on Tuesday were stand-alone Web sites that tap into a Web surfer’s network of Facebook friends using the Facebook Connect service.******Thread.com, an online dating site, allows people to cull through their Facebook friends’ friends, searching for say, single women in a certain age group, and to contact a prospective date via a trusted friend.******Another start-up, Sociable, provides a service that it said can boost sales for online retailers by integrating transactions with Facebook. The company said it was already generating revenue and that concert-promoter LiveNation is a customer.******According to Founders Fund’s Dave McClure, who organized Tuesday’s event, five fbFund companies are already break-even or profitable, and another three expect to get there by the end of the year – no small feat given the rough economy.******Facebook will need more such success stories as it seeks to transform its own company from the Web’s top social networking destination into the underlying social fabric of all Web sites.

from The Great Debate:

Can sleeping giant Skype reinvent itself?

eric_auchard_thumbnail2.jpg -- Eric Auchard is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own --

Do once-hot Internet start-ups who miss a date with destiny ever truly get a second chance? History says no, even for once-great names like Netscape, AOL and MySpace.

Skype hopes to be the exception. On Tuesday, a group led by top Internet financiers in Silicon Valley and Europe agreed to pay eBay $1.9 billion in cash for a 65 percent stake in the one-time web calling sensation.

The deal values Skype at a face-saving $2.75 billion, well above the $1.7 billion at which it has been valued on the ecommerce giant's books. Ebay also stands to keep a 35 per cent stake in the company.

from DealZone:

Stirrings from Silicon Valley

As centers of innovation go, there are worse places to place a bet on the past repeating itself than California's technology hub. Looking beyond the Internet, housing and credit bubbles, it's still the preferred playground of such leading financial weathervanes as venture capitalists, gizmo nerds and software studs.

Perhaps Wall Street, searching for reasons to remain optimistic about the market's summer rally, should take heart from the spate of articles painting pictures of green shoots all over Silicon Valley. The Wall Street Journal's Deal Journal notes that tech IPOs are staging a comeback, and asks if its time to party like it's 1999?

Our reporting shows that investors, encouraged by a growing number of acquisitions and public stock flotations in the past few months, are keeping a close eye on a coterie of promising startups in Silicon Valley. David Lawsky identified six privately held companies as the ripest for acquisition or readiness to go public, out of 34 cited in industries ranging from alternative energy to social networking.

MySpace in talks to buy iLike for $20m – reports

MySpace is looking to buy Web music service iLike for around $20 million according to several blogs. iLike co-founder Hadi Partovi declined to comment when we asked him and MySpace’s PR team also declined to share details.

All Things Digital has the latest details of the deal which they say is around $13.5 million in cash, with a $6 million earn out for the founders which include Hadi’s twin brother Ali who is CEO. Official confirmation of an agreement is being held up by “thorny tax issues” according to All Things Digital’s sources.

The news makes some sense because as MySpace is fast losing ground to Facebook in the social networking arena. MySpace’s owner, News Corp, has indicated that it sees the site becoming more of an entertainment portal.