MediaFile

Facebook’s new class of apps expand the social vocabulary

Time was when “liking” something on Facebook was the standard way to recommend something on the social network.

Now Facebook users will have a whole new vocabulary at their disposal so they can tell friends they “want” tickets to an upcoming rock concert, they are “cooking”  a certain dish or that they “ran” five miles in the park after work.

On Wednesday evening, Facebook announced the availability of more than 60 third-party appsthat can be integrated directly into Facebook, including apps from Ticketmaster, Airbnb, Foodspotting and Pinterest. Facebook also said that any software developer can now create their own such specialized apps for Facebook integration and submit the app to Facebook for approval.

Once you begin using one of these apps, your interactions within the app – say clicking on a dish you see in Foodspotting to note that you have “tried” it – are broadcast to the Facebook “ticker” for all your friends to see.  The apps are also integrated into each user’s Timeline – the revamped version of a user’s personal profile page that Facebook has been gradually rolling out to its more than 800 million users.  Now when you visit a friend’s Timeline, for instance, you might see a special section showcasing the top movies they’ve indicated that they want to see on the Rotten Tomatoes app, or the latest hotel reviews they’ve written with the TripAdvisor app.

The new apps are part of the so-called open graph feature that Facebook rolled out at its developer conference in September. The initial open graph rollout focused on integrating media apps from partners such as Spotify and Yahoo into Facebook, allowing users to notify friends of the music they were listening to, the news articles they were reading and the videos they were watching.

TodayInMusic: Live Nation snaps up rest of Front Line

Christina Aguilera and Irving Azoff, chairman of Live Nation (Photo:Reuters)

Christina Aguilera and Irving Azoff, chairman of Live Nation (Photo:Reuters)

Lots of medium-sized developments at Live Nation Entertainment today. 

Firstly, the world’s largest concert promoter and leading ticketing company has taken full control of Front Line Management after spending $116.2 milion to buy the remaining stake it did not already own.

That stake was held by Live Nation’s executive chairman Irving Azoff and Madison Square Garden. It means Azoff has an increased position in the company, as does MSG. Front Line was founded by Azoff and manages over 250 artists including The Eagles, Christina Aguilera and Neil Diamond.

Other important changes at Live Nation include interim non-executive chairman John Malone stepping down from the board. You might recall he became interim chair after fellow media mogul Barry Diller stepped down as chairman last fall after a boardroom power struggle.

Is Comcast really the Worst Company In America? Really?

Comcast-worstcompanyawardBrianRobsSo Comcast ‘won’ the Worst Company In America award from readers of The Consumerist blog, which as its tagline suggests, is the place where “shoppers bite back”. Yet we have to ask, is Comcast really the worst company in America or is it all relative?

The Consumerist’s readers are likely to have contact with Comcast through its customer service. They, like many, have likely been frustrated with waiting for hours for a technician (sleeping or awake). Or maybe it’s taken Comcast a day or two too long to fix their high-definition DVR boxes?

Fairly or unfairly, Comcast’s reputation had gotten so bad the company took the opportunity of a new product launch  to change its customer-facing name to Xfinity. But it’s not just customer service. Consumerist’s readers have also been ticked off by what they see as  above-inflation price rises, throttling Internet access, and Comcast’s plans to buy NBC Universal.

from Shop Talk:

Check Out Line: Duke wins, but there’s another bracket to fill

duke1Check out a different kind of tournament bracket still underway.

The Duke Blue Devils may have won yet another college basketball title Monday night, but consumers can still make their "Sweet 16" picks in Consumerist.com's annual "Worst Company in America"  tournament, which runs through April 26.

In its fifth year, the website, owned by Consumers Union, the publisher of Consumer Reports, lets consumers vote for their least favorite companies in matchups much like the NCAA tournament. Starting with 32 "teams," the tournament pairs companies in votes in which the "winner" (think about it, in a worst company vote you want to lose) advances to face the next competitor.

In the first round this year, Bank of America beat Citibank, GM beat Toyota and in an "upset" Cash4Gold beat defending "champion" AIG. Other companies that advanced included Walmart, Ticketmaster, United Airlines, Best Buy, Apple and Comcast, which has lost in the title game the last two years.

Fans still buying tickets, startup CEO says

So how’s the market for sports and concert tickets holding up, given the economic turmoil that has dominated the public imagination since last year? Better than you’d think, according to Mike Janes, the founder and CEO of FanSnap, a live-event ticket search engine that launched in March.

“People’s appetite for the shared experience of a game or show hasn’t changed. Their bank accounts may have changed, but not the desire,” Janes said.

The difficult economy has had the effect of bringing many ticket prices down, he said, meaning there are plenty of bargains out there. While there will always be insatiable demand for big-name performers or games (Springsteen; Yankees vs. Red Sox) keeping those ticket prices high, Janes said tix for your average major league baseball game can be had for below face value in some cases, as folks looking to resell tickets flood the market with supply. It’s a bit too early to see about NFL games, he said.

Your new friendly concert ticket seller/promoter

The proposed merger between Ticketmaster, the world’s largest ticketing firm, and Live Nation, the world’s largest concert promoter, met with huge uproar when it was announced back in February and is still being examined by federal regulators.

Most of the uproar was prompted by fears the combined company would have too much power and be able to control (read ‘raise’) concert ticket prices whenever they want. There were also separate complaints about Ticketmaster’s use of a secondary ticketing company (read: scalper) to sell tickets such as Bruce Springsteen’s at exorbitant prices.

Perhaps with one eye on getting the merger past regulators, both companies are this summer trying new ways to win over music fans. Live Nation, for instance, said it is expanding its “No Service Fee Wednesday” program to include every single ticket in each of its amphitheaters this summer.

from DealZone:

After March Madness, a little May Rage

SOCCER-ENGLAND/With the end of the economic meltdown so tantalizingly close, and stock markets pricing in the spring thaw, The Consumerist’s annual Worst Company in America competition is just the tonic DealZone readers need to keep their prized sense of perspective appropriately tickled.

“It’s the bailouts versus the monopolies!” the Website’s news release rings out:

The annual 32-company battle royale has whittled itself down to the “final four”: Bank of America, Comcast, Ticketmaster and AIG. One of these disastrous companies will go on to join Halliburton (2006), RIAA (2007) and Countrywide (2008) as “The Worst Company in America.”

Yahoo planning more job cuts

Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz is planning a new round of job cuts according to the reports as the company continues to cope with the aftermath of a downturn in online advertsing sales.

The New York Times and Reuters, citing several people with knowledge of the plans, said the layoffs could affect several hundred employees and may be announced as early as Tuesday when Yahoo reports its first-quarter earnings.

The cuts would be the first since Bartz joined the company as CEO in January.

Yahoo, which spent most of 2008 in a series of off-on merger/partnership talks with Microsoft, has already had two rounds of job cuts in the last year or so. It let go 1,000 staffers in early 2008 and cut another 1,400 at the end of last year.

Outlook grim for media and entertainment deals

Deal-making in the U.S. media and entertainment sectors is going to be down this year, says a new PricewaterhouseCoopers survey (request a copy here). Now, that’s not a new or startling conclusion given the state of the economy, but it’s just another piece of evidence that when consumers and advertisers get thrifty, deal makers can end up become benchwarmers as companies struggle with cost cuts and other exigencies.

Here are some industry trends for 2009 from the PWC survey:

    Declining consumer spending is hitting many media and entertainment companies. What’s more, these declines were exacerbated by technological convergence, as these firms adapt to and look for ways to make money off new Internet technologies. Overall U.S. advertising market is going to shrink as sponsors cut ad budgets across retail, consumer goods, automotive, financial and other sectors. Companies will continue to divest their non-core assets, but those that don’t get a good price will prefer to hold on rather than sell at bargain prices. Bolt-on deals will likely be popular for risk-averse companies, so deals below $1 billion — mostly small and mid-market companies — will be a rising trend. Private equity will remain quiet since the debt markets aren’t really healthy yet. Deal structures will change this year, given the difficulty of getting debt financing. The strategic rationale for doing a deal will be more important than getting a favorable capital structure.

But all hope is not lost, according to PWC’s Transaction Services Entertainment & Media Leader Thomas Rooney:

With M&A activity ingrained in the DNA of so many companies and the ever growing presence of private equity, E&M deal activity might not be as quiet as many expect in 2009… History has shown the E&M industry to be one of the more active M&A sectors irrespective of market and economic conditions.

Live Nation and Ticketmaster: “Don’t stop Believing”

Live Nation and Ticketmaster might have plenty of people out there who are not pleased with the idea of the two companies coming together but they have received support from several superstars in the run-up to a U.S. anti-trust hearing in Washington DC on Tuesday.

Names like Seal, Shakira, Journey, Van Halen and Billy Corgan (The Smashing Pumpkins) have all offered support to a merger some legislators, smaller rivals and fan groups worry will put too much power over the U.S. and global live music industry in the hands of just one company.

Some of the superstars have long-running relationships with Live Nation’s concert promotion business or are clients of Front Line Management, the artist management firm owned by Ticketmaster. Front Line has more than 200 acts under its wing giving it plenty of leverage in dealing with many promoters, venues and even record labels.