MediaFile

Swine flu: not so bad for CDC.gov

Too bad the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) doesn’t charge for its information or make money off its website — they could have made a pile of cash on the swine flu scare. (You know, if it wasn’t a government site.)

Web traffic measurement firm comScore says traffic soared at CDC.gov last month, as people visited the website amid concerns over the H1N1, or swine, flu.

In April, CDC.gov saw a 142 percent increase in traffic, or 5.7 million visitors, making it the top audience gainer among websites, comScore said. “When news of the swine flu pandemic erupted, many Americans turned to the Internet as their primary source of information for how to keep themselves and their families safe,” said Jack Flanagan, executive vice president at comScore Media Metrix.

Social networks also continued their tear last month, growing 12 percent to nearly 140 million visitors. That’s about three-quarters of the U.S. online population, comScore says, so chances are someone you know is either is Twittering, Facebook-ing or on MySpace. Twitter jumped 83 percent to 17 million visitors, while Facebook grew 10 percent in April from the previous month to reach 67.5 million visitors. MySpace had 71 million visitors.

Keep an eye on:

Photo: Reuters

Google disruption sets Web users atwitter

A minor panic spread across the Internet on Thursday after Google suffered what appeared to be a temporary service outage.

Reports cropped up throughout the Web that Google’s search engine, as well as popular services like Gmail and Google Analytics were running slowly or not at all in various parts of the world on Thursday morning.

And the incident caused ripples that slowed down other Web sites.

Because many online firms have woven javascript applications like Google Analytics – which provides analysis of a site’s traffic – into their Web sites, the Google outage impacted their own sites. Imad Mouline, the CTO of Web performance monitoring firm Gomez said his company noticed that certain sites took between two times and four times longer to load because of links to Google applications on Thursday morning.

A familiar name in real time search

The Musk name is famous among techies thanks to high-profile companies like PayPal and Tesla Motors, the electric car maker, which were founded or funded by entrepreneur Elon Musk.

Now another Musk-backed start-up is looking to make a splash. Only this time it’s younger brother Kimball at the helm, as CEO for OneRiot.

OneRiot is launching a real time search engine on Tuesday that combs through the flood of messages and Web links that are shared through services Twitter and Digg, as well as in OneRiot’s existing browser toolbar product, to determine the hottest topics on the Internet.

On swine flu, Scribd calls itself the “anti-Twitter”

Use Twitter’s name even when you’re dissing it: that could be a good way to ensure some publicity, given the hype around everyone’s current sweetheart. But maybe Scribd, the social publishing startup that lets you upload all kinds of documents online and embed them into blog posts, does have a point about the misinformation that Twitterers could be putting up in 140-character bursts.

After all, at the Society of American Business Editors and Writers (SABEW) conference last week, CUNY J-school professor Sandeep Junnarkar did begin his workshop on Twitter for journalists with a caveat: “Everything you find on Twitter is rumors, false information. That’s the default position.” Kind of like what journalists and students are always told about Wikipedia.

A press release that landed in my inbox from Scribd seeks to distinguish the San Francisco-based startup as “anti-Twitter” — the antithesis of Twitter. Scribd is “quickly becoming a trusted source for unfiltered, detailed information about the swine flu,” the release says.

Swine flu talk spikes up on Facebook

Facebook has been mapping swine flu discussions among its members for the past few days using its Lexicon application, and it’s pretty cool to see how the conversation on Wall posts shot up over the weekend as more and more cases of the disease came to light in the United States.

Lexicon, for those who don’t have to follow Facebook’s every move, is a tool the social networking site uses to follow trends on words and phrases that are being used on “Walls,” the open space on each member’s profile where friends can post comments. Kind of like how you can take the pulse of topics trending up or down in Twitter search.

The chart below, courtesy of Facebook, shows how there were no mentions of the term “swine flu” before the evening of April 23 on any of its 200 million members’ walls, but people start discussing it quite a bit over the next two days, causing a sharp upward spike.

Oprah Tweets: Blessing or Curse for Twitter?

Oprah Winfrey is expected to join the twitterati on Friday, as she posts her first message on Twitter.

According to her show’s web site: “Oprah’s getting ready to send her very first tweet! And, why Ashton Kutcher’s been crowned the King of Twitter.”

While the media mogul is certain to accumulate hundreds of thousands of followers in record time (she already has 66,000), we wonder: What does it mean for Twitter, the wildly popular mini-blogging service, which is essential to some, supremely confusing to others and whose business model (or lack of it) gives journalists fits.

Twitter, from poor man’s email to innovation leader

He once called Twitter the poor man’s email. But to hear Google CEO Eric Schmidt today, one would be forgiven for thinking it’s the next big thing.

Schmidt’s comments on the microblogging site are picked over with the kind of meticulous care often associated with neurosurgery, simply because Twitter is often rumored to be a Google acquisition target.

On Thursday, In an apparent reversal of his earlier pooh-poohing, Schmidt declared Google to be open to some sort of advertising partnership with Twitter.

Gannett sets the tone for a tough earnings period

Let the bleeding begin. USA Today publisher Gannett kicked off earnings season for media companies this morning, posting a 60 percent drop in quarterly profit.

Here are some key points:

    Revenue fell almost 18 percent to $1.38 billion.
    Publishing ad revenue fell 34.1 percent from last year, with U.S. ad revenue down 28.2 percent and British ad revenue down 38.7 percent.
    At USA Today, ad sales fell 33.5 percent, and the number of paid advertising pages fell to 527 from 826 last year. USA Today’s paid circulation also likely will fall after Marriott International said this week that it would no longer automatically deliver the paper to its guests.

Don’t expect advertising revenue to look much better for biggest media companies as they roll out their numbers over the coming weeks. As Bernstein analyst Michael Nathanson recently pointed out in a research note, investors have been “looking past the horrid near-term trends to a happier place somewhere out on the horizon” but with earnings here “the recent run-up in media stocks will have resistance as the market realizes that recent trends are not likely to reverse any time soon.”

Keep an eye on:

    Dominos has found itself in the center of a publicity storm after two employees filmed a prank in one of its restaurant’s kitchens and posted it online (NY Times)
    ABC Entertainment Group President Stephen McPherson is under increasing pressure to produce a break-out hit (NY Post)
    Twitter is talking to big web companies about partnerships, but isn’t looking to sell itself (NY Times)
    Publicis Groupe agencies have added Hewlett-Packard’s personal systems group account in the Europe, Middle East and Africa region following a review (Adweek)

Google coins new mantra amid Twitter Talk

Google famously made “don’t be evil” its official mantra a few years ago.

But a new, 7-word phrase may well end up Google’s most-used, unofficial slogan, as company officials take turns repeating “we don’t comment on rumor or speculation” in response to reports that Google is in talks to buy microblogging startup Twitter.

The topic inevitably came up at the Web 2.0 conference in San Francisco on Friday morning, where Google Engineering VP Vic Gundotra was on stage for a keynote presentation.

Gundotra, who oversees Google’s mobile applications, said he was a big fan of Twitter, which lets people broadcast 140-character text messages to a network of friends. He also confessed that he was enjoying the online debate/blog-battle about whether his company was preparing to acquire Twitter.

Could Google buy Twitter? Ask Arrington, then ask Swisher

******We sprinkled updates into this blog. We’re highlighting them like this.******Thanks to TechCrunch, U.S. tech reporters are about to spend another weekend working instead of playing. UPDATE: Or maybe Kara Swisher at All Things D will save them!******Two sources told proprietor Michael Arrington that Google “is in late stage negotiations to acquire Twitter.” He wrote:***

We don’t know the price but can assume its well, well north of the $250 million valuation that they saw in their recent funding.

***

Twitter turned down an offer to be bought by Facebook just a few months ago for half a billion dollars, although that was based partially on overvalued Facebook stock. Google would be paying in cash and/or publicly valued stock, which is equivalent to cash. So whatever the final acquisition value might be, it can’t be compared apples-to-apples with the Facebook deal.

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Why would Google want Twitter? We’ve been arguing for some time that Twitter’s real value is in search. It holds the keys to the best real time database and search engine on the Internet, and Google doesn’t even have a horse in the game.