MediaFile

Time to determine how the media biz is faring

Media companies report their quarterly results during the next few weeks, time that should help us determine the state of advertising. Has it stabilized? Is it growing? Or is spending still trending down?

Google, which kicked off earings yesterday, probably isn’t a great bellwether. After all, it was held up better than almost any other media company during the recession. Still, the largest U.S. Internet search engine hasn’t been completely immune. Revenue was up in the second quarter, but only by 3 percent.

Google executives told analysts and investors on a conference call that they believed their business had begun to stabilize, but were unwilling to predict when a broader economic recovery would prevail.

A number of analysts were unconvinced that Google has overcome the worst of it. (Just look at the stock, which was off 3 percent right after the report).

As Signal Hill analyst Todd Greenwald wrote in a report today: “Management noted that the business “stabilized” in the quarter and that the worst of the crisis was behind them. While we agree that the overall environment did improve, we remain concerned by the dramatic deceleration in Google’s core business, and believe that future quarters may slow down further.”

Microsoft loves it when Apple cries Uncle

Microsoft Chief Operating Officer Kevin Turner did cartwheels of joy down the corridor — he claims — when Apple’s legal people called him a few weeks ago demanding he stop the “Laptop Hunter” ads, where penny-pinching punters opt for cheaper PC machines over more costly Macs.

“We’re going to keep running them, and running them and running them,” Turner said at a Microsoft conference on Wednesday, relishing a clear blow in the fistfight for customers.

Watch Turner’s spirited performance here — scroll the bar onto 2:57:45 for the Apple segment.

Good days for cable TV

A year ago, the big story around Emmy nominations was the acclaim showered on cable programs like “Mad Men” and “Damages.” A quick glance at today’s nominations indicates little has changed.

Just look at the best drama category, where Fox’s “House” and ABC’s “Lost” will face stiff competition from cable’s “Big Love” (HBO), “Mad Men” (AMC), “Damages” (FX), and “Breaking Bad” (AMC).

While the Emmy awards aren’t everything — ratings are still the holy grail — they certainly don’t hurt. Particularly when it comes to cable networks, which have built a reputation for developing more sophisticated, bolder programs than the broadcast counterparts.

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.

Updated-Apple boasts 1.5 billion App downloads

(Updated to reflect that Apple was referring to application downloads, not application sales.  Many iPhone apps are free.)

Apple Inc impressed the tech world with the rapid take off of its applications store, announcing on April 24th that it had sold 1 billion apps downloads in just 9 months to users of its iPhone and its iPod Touch.

That was just for starters. Now it says it has sold seen another half a billion apps downloaded in around a third of that time, showing that its growth is speeding up despite the fact that its rivals have all opened their own apps stores.

App developers appear to be taking notice too as Apple says it now has 65,000 apps available in its store ready for download to the 40 million iPod Touch and iPhone devices it has sold.

Monday media highlights

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

Microsoft takes on Google as Office moves to Web (Reuters)
Jim Finkle reports: “Microsoft will offer for free to consumers Web-based versions of its Office suite of programs, including a word processor, spreadsheet, presentation software and a note-taking program. Microsoft will also host one Internet business version of Office at its own data centers, charging companies a yet-to- be-announced fee.”

Six in 10 companies plan to skip Windows 7 (Reuters)
“Many of the more than 1,000 companies that responded to a survey by ScriptLogic Corp say they have economized by cutting back on software updates and lack the resources to deploy Microsoft’s latest offering.”

MySpace to Take Entertainment Tack (WSJ)
“In a brief interview, News Corp. Chief Executive Rupert Murdoch said MySpace needs to be refocused ‘as an entertainment portal.’ Mr. Murdoch described his vision for MySpace as a place where ‘people are looking for common interests,’” writes Julia Angwin.

Whither Windows 7 and its (expected) wake?

A lot may be riding on the release of Microsoft’s newest operating system, Windows 7, which is due in October, not the least of which is an expected rush of advertising to support everything from the software itself, to the computers it will run on to the rival computers it will not run on.

This surge of business is seen coming just as the holiday shopping session gets under way and could help spark the economic turnaround that some suggest will come later this year.

Or maybe not.

According to a survey by ScriptLogic, six in 10 companies plan to skip buying Windows 7. Some will pass on the added cost of the upgrade, while others are concerned about compatibility with existing applications.

Google and Microsoft – lunch of the frenemies at Sun Valley

Google is moving to steal Microsoft’s lunch with its plan to release a PC operating system that competes with Windows. But when Eric Schmidt and Bill Gates crossed paths in Sun Valley on Thursday, lunchtime was all pleasantries.

As Gates was walking out from one of the morning conference panels for lunch, reporters naturally surrounded him to ask for his thoughts about the new Chrome OS announced by Google this week.

Before Gates had a chance to answer though, Schmidt appeared from behind and joked “it would be better if you don’t make that comment,” provoking laughter all around.

For Google, less is more versus Microsoft

– Eric Auchard is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own – 
   
By Eric Auchard 

Sergey Brin eyes fellow Google co-founder Larry Page at launch of Google Chrome in Mountain View California on Sept. 2, 2008.

LONDON, July 8 (Reuters) – Google has entered the very lair of Microsoft by launching its own computer operating software.

Electronic health records in the land of Gotcha!

There needs to be at least a hint of political scandal for serious public policy discussions to qualify as news these days. Which is why reports that patients in the UK’s national healthcare system might be granted some some say in managing their personal health records after the next election gets largely lost in discussion of close ties between Google and Britain’s Conservative Party. This is a shame, because public debate over the promises and perils of electronic health record technology are long overdue. ******The tempest concerns Steve Hilton, considered one of Tory party leader David Cameron’s closest aides, who is married to Rachel Whetstone, Google’s vice president of global communications. The suggestion in some reports is that these links will make it difficult for the party to include Google in any plan to give citizens the choice of storing their health records with private companies such as Microsoft or top UK private insurer Bupa. Google would have to get busy quick, as currently, its health records service is designed only for the United States. And it has had trouble gaining traction there. As an opposition party, the Conservatives’ views on the subject are relevant because they currently enjoy a wide lead in polls over who might win the next national elections.******Electronic health records could offer broad benefits, if ever implemented.  But many issues must be resolved. The medical profession has long resisted adopting any plan that would help patients second-guess treatment decisions by their physicians. There remain vast problems with how to incorporate old medical records with any degree of accuracy into an electronic record. There are nagging questions about how to create common formats to share all the different types of information that might be included in a health record — from scribbled prescription orders to faxes to database records to X-rays and so on. There are commercial issues over how to balance the interests of patients, medical providers and “payors,” or insurers. Then there is the chicken and egg question of how to get these institutions involved and who will move first. Perhaps the most cripling issue is patient privacy and how to ensure that intitmate personal information is not released. ******In an April speech at the Conservative Party’s spring conference, Cameron spoke of replacing the National Health Service’s (NHS) centralized patient database with a distributed patient health record system that grants some powers to patients to manage their own information. He claims a private plan would “cost virtually noting to run”, in contrast to the Labour government’s £12.7 billion current upgrade of health information systems that does not include measures to give patients more control over their records.***

“People can store their health records securely online, they can show them to whichever doctor they want. They’re in control, not the state.***And when they’re in control of their own health records, they’re more interested in their health, so they might start living more healthily, saving the NHS (National Health Service) money.***But best of all in this age of austerity, a web-based version of the government’s bureaucratic scheme services like Google Health or Microsoft Health Vault cost virtually nothing to run.”

***Paul Stevenson, a spokesman for the Conservative Party on health policy, confirmed his organisation has commissioned an independent report by the British Computer Society looking at issues involved in implementing a more decentralised approach to electronic patient records. He declined to comment on specifics of the party’s plan, but said a response to the BCS report will be released in a few weeks time. “What the report does look at is how to move to a bottoms-up approach in NHS computing rather than a top-down approach,” Stevenson said.******The public’s attention span is never long for complex medical issues.  Note the relative inattention paid to public health preparations since the global swine flu panic of April. As we head into the silly season of late summer news, expect medical privacy scare stories to reach a fevered pitch.  The near-term prognosis is not good. ******(Images: TheInsider.com; Times Online; Google Health)