MediaFile

Google: We’re no media company – but read our magazine

Earlier this week, New York Times  media columnist David Carr asked the question that is on the minds of moguls  everywhere: Is Google a media company?

Google flat out rejected the description. Here’s Hal Varian, Google’s chief economist, explaining the rationale to Carr: “We are in the business of media distribution, but I don’t think that we would be very good at media creation. I think it’s one thing that we have astutely avoided in the last 12 years.”

Umm, well, not exactly.  The search behmouth  just unveiled an online magazine called “Think Quarterly” that has a very high brow, old media vibe to it.  The idea behind the quarterly publication? It’s best said by Google (and sounds suspiciously like old media):

In a world of accelerating change, we all need time to reflect. Think Quarterly is a breathing space in a busy world. It’s a place to take time out and consider what’s happening and why it matters.

The fist edition, which they are calling a “book,”  is all about data and certainly looks and feels like a magazine. There’s long form journalism such as a profile of Vodafone U.K. Chief Executive Guy Laurence, photos, and Q&As.

Fired AOL India employee talks

AOL cut more than 900 jobs around the world today — 20 percent of its staff — and  India took a pretty tough cut from the axe: 400 jobs, according to several sources, and 300 contractors, according to another source. The nice thing for Reuters is that we have a big  bureau in Bangalore, not too far from AOL, and plenty of our people know other people there and were able to get important details about the job cuts.

I coordinated some of the coverage from here since I’m hanging out in the bureau, and was happy when I heard that my colleague Nivedita Bhattacharjee got time to talk with one of the employees who was laid off today. Here is some of what he told her. We agreed to his request for anonymity because he wants to get work again and does not want to disqualify himself from jobs because he spoke to the press.

The entire team had a meeting, and they briefed us about how issues will be handled… we work in AOL. It’s something that we are always prepared (for). We were expecting an announcement soon.

David Eun Exits AOL after Huff Po purchase

david-eunAnother high-level AOL executive is heading for the exit door after the company shifted its content strategy again with the $315 million acquisitionof the Huffington Post. David Eun (pictured left), the ex-Googler recruited by AOL Chief Executive Tim Armstrong to be president of AOL media and studios, is leaving. Eun is a causality of the Huff Po purchase that put the charismatic high profile  founder Arianna Huffington in charge of AOL’s content.

In a memo to AOL employees posted on AOL’s technology blog TechCrunch, Eun described how he and Armstrong tried to find a place for Eun at AOL after the acquisition.

“I came to AOL last year to be the leader of the media organization. With the historic acquisition of The Huffington Post, my role and responsibilities as President, AOL Media are changing. Tim and I have discussed at length how I might continue within the new organizational structure, but ultimately there isn’t a role that matches what I am seeking to do.”

Sports Illustrated unveils another digital app subscription plan

sports illustratedTime Inc’s Sports Illustrated unveiled the details of another subscription plan for the Samsung Galaxy tablet computer and Android based smartphones — the print version of its  parent Time Warner Inc’s “TV everywhere” idea currently touted by Chief Executive Jeffrey Bewkes.  Like TV Everywhere, magazines everywhere charges one price for access to content across print and digital platforms.

The SI digital and print subscription plan comes on the heels of  a Time Inc announcement about a similar subscription plan for SI and People for  Hewlett-Packard’s forthcoming tablet device the TouchPad.

“The key to the media business is habituation,” said Time Inc EVP and Chief Digital Officer Randall Rothenberg.

First Melinda Gates, now Warren Buffett exit Wash Post board

WarrenBuffettWarren Buffett has always had a sweet spot in his heart for newspapers. Until he didn’t. In recent years, Buffet – once a paper boy, now a newspaper owner — has been quite vocal about the prospects of the industry.  For instance in 2009 during a Berkshire Hathaway gathering in Omaha he told investors that  the newspaper industry  had the possibility of  “unending losses” and that Berkshire would not buy most newspapers in the U.S.  at any price.

Buffett, who owns the Buffalo News and has deep ties with the Washington Post, just cut another string of attachment to the industry: After nearly 40 years, Buffett said he is leaving the board of the Washington Post Co.

As my colleague Ben Berkowtiz reported, Buffett has been dialing back on his board commitments, choosing to devote more time to Berkshire Hathaway.

Super Bowl ads: What’s $600 million between friends?

It’s almost time again for the Super Bowl, which means this is when all the talk starts about those famous, and famously expensive, commercials. Just how expensive? Kantar Media came out with a study today that shows Anheuser-Busch InBev, Pepsi, Walt Disney, General Motors, Coca-Cola have combined to spend nearly $600 million on Super Bowl ads over the last 10 years. For those of you bad with numbers, that’s more than half-a-billion dollars. Keep in mind, General Motors wasn’t even part of the game for 2009 or 2010.

This year, however, General Motors is back in a big way – leading a pack of auto makers who, as we pointed out in a story last week, will dominate this year’s game. Up to nine different auto manufacturers are expected to run spots this year. Kantar points out that five years ago only four car companies ran spots. Ten years ago only one car company bought time.

Kantar digs ups a few other interesting tidbits as well. Of course, everyone knows that prices have climbed over the last decade. But the amount of commercials running during the broadcast is also rising. Last year, the CBS broadcast contained a record 47 minutes 50 seconds of commercial time. A total of 104 individual messages aired. Who has time for a football game with all those advertisements?

AOL aspires to be a 1990s publishing powerhouse; arms dealer

Tim Armstrong AOL

Tech nerds and gadget geeks over the age of 35 should have no trouble recalling the company Ziff Davis – a former publishing powerhouse home to such magazines as Computer World, PC Week and Red Herring. Ziff’s glory days were in the 1980s and 1990s and it scaled dizzying heights as its magazines groaned under the strain of advertising. Media observers would weigh issues of say Computer World for sport not unlike putting the September issue of fashion mags on the scales.

In 1995, a majority of Ziff was sold to SoftBank for $2.1 billion. Yet, Ziff’s storyline is familiar to a wide swath of Silicon Valley companies that prospered in the late 90s.  The tech bubble popped and by the late naughts Ziff Davis Media headed to bankruptcy court.

Ziff Davis is apparently on the mind of Tim Armstrong (pictured) . The AOL chairman and CEO invoked the company yesterday during his presentation at the Citigroup Media, Entertainment and Telecom conference.

from Reuters Investigates:

Congratulations to Murray Waas

WAASMurray Waas is picking up the prestigious Barlett & Steele award today in Phoenix for his special report on health insurers dropping patients after they were diagnosed with breast cancer.

The Reynolds Center is holding a panel discussion with Murray and silver medal winner John Fauber of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, which will be streamed live here.

Murray's four-month investigation, supported by additional reporting from Lewis Krauskopf,  revealed that a giant health insurer had targeted policyholders recently diagnosed with breast cancer for aggressive investigations and canceled some policies. An exhaustive study of records, hearings and federal data, as well as dozens of interviews with experts, officials and patients led to the story, which was edited by Jim Impoco and Doina Chiacu.

Five backward-compatible forecasts for 2011

Innovation doesn’t know what day it is. It’s also true that we never seem to predict the most interesting things which actually do happen. Oh sure — years of speculation preceded Apple’s iPad announcement last January. But did anyone actually figure on the iPad?

With trepidation, then, I’ve committed to a forecast at years’ end, a moment of no moment for either tech or media. Sadly, there is no fiscal year option in the pontification game that could postpone this to a more sensible time in Q2.

So, in the spirit of tradition, I offer my First Annual Backward Compatible Tech Forecast.

Time Inc creates sports and news divisions

Just before the Christmas holidays, newly appointed Time Inc. CEO Jack Griffin put the finishing touches on changes in the executive suite with the formation of two new divisions, one for news and one for sports.

Mark Ford has been promoted to executive vice president of Time Inc. and president of the Sports Group, responsible for the Sports Illustrated franchise.

Additionally, John Q. Griffin (no relation to Jack Griffin) has been named executive vice president of Time Inc and president of the News Group, responsible for Time, Fortune and Money properties.  He was previously president of publishing at the National Geographic Society. Within that group, Kim Kelleher will become publisher of Time and Brendan Ripp, currently the publisher of Time, moves over to become publisher of Money.