Friday, 17 October 2008

Obama and the race question and the NYT coverage of it.

I live in one of the most hard-left leaning areas of France. We have an enormously popular Communist Party deputy, the only new CP member to be elected in France in the Chircac-Le Pen runoff. In the last election when Sarko came to power, his majority even increased to around 75%.

Local politics isn't about left or right, it's about people. A mayor has a list of 11 people to be councillors, you cross off who you don't like, you add the name of some individuals who might be standing on their own, without a counter-party list of 11 names themselves and that's it. Many communes have no opposition lists. The fix is in, the consensus is kind of understood. We go along and vote, and maybe get something off our chests about someone who slighted us, or give a pat on the back to someone we like.

Down in town, there's a little bit of a left/right going on, but not much. It's people, but people and personalities that tip the balance, their connection with our shared 'pays'.

In the last municipal elections earlier this year, an extremely successful and popular mayor of our local town, who had been responsible for a wide number of high profile, successful and broadly used social and infrastructure projects, lost power.

Why? I don't know.

I do know that there are people in positions of elected power and state authority that say that it was because the mayor added a black man and a Frenchman of Turkish origins to his list.

And that's here in one of most hardcore left wing voting parts of France. Forget Iowa or Florida.

I've already said Obama is going to lose in the voting booth, partly because he is black, and I still think that's the case.

Suddenly, as Obama begins to pull away in the polls, the IHT/NYT are all over this issue in yesterday's newspaper. Why so late?

I don't know the answer to that either.


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Problems for new digital businesses.

If someone came to you with a business plan based on the idea of complete strangers lending and borrowing money from one another over the Internet, how would you respond?

Renaud Laplanche, the founder of Lending Club, a start-up that facilitates borrowing between members of social networks.

Internet lending sites come under stress
By Brad Stone
Thursday, October 16, 2008
SAN FRANCISCO: It was one of the most audacious ideas of the Web 2.0 boom - that people could lend money to other people over the Internet and cut out the middlemen - also known as traditional banks.
Over the past three years, Internet start-ups with names like Prosper, Lending Club, Zopa and Loanio have all pursued that goal.
Together, these companies were on pace to broker about $150 million in loans this year, a 50 percent increase from 2007, according to the Online Banking Report, a financial industry newsletter.
But this so-called peer-to-peer lending, which until recently seemed as if it might offer a reliable source of money in this calamitous economic environment, is now experiencing a squeeze of its own.
On Wednesday, the largest U.S. peer-to-peer lending site, Prosper, based in San Francisco, stopped allowing lenders to make new loans. It said it needed to wait while the Securities and Exchange Commission evaluated its regulatory filings. Monthly loan volumes at the company have been declining since the credit crisis worsened several months ago.
Prosper, which is unprofitable after raising $40 million in venture capital, now faces the damaging possibility that lenders might pull their money from the site instead of waiting for the SEC to allow lending to resume. That could take several months.
"Regulatory agencies seem to want to make sure they have all this understood before it gets too big," said Jim Bruene, editor of the Online Banking Report. "This is definitely going to slow peer-to-peer lending down."
There are other signs of trouble as well. Last week, Zopa, based in London, closed its Web site for the United States, citing "extremely difficult consumer credit circumstances." Zopa continues to maintain lending sites in Britain, Italy and Japan.
The problems in this fledgling corner of the finance world come at a particularly bad time. As traditional lenders hoard cash and shun even dependable borrowers, peer-to-peer lending sites could have offered an alternate source of credit and, in some cases, lower interest rates.
On Prosper, for example, interest rates on three-year fixed loans are set in a format resembling an auction. Borrowers publicly disclose the amount they want to borrow, their credit histories and some personal details (stories of hardship and photographs of cute pets sometimes help).
Lenders compete to offer these people cash, and Prosper collects a fee on each loan.
Prosper's founder and chief executive, Chris Larsen, speaking Monday just before the company unexpectedly entered the quiet period mandated by the SEC, said peer-to-peer lending recalls an age when borrowers and lenders knew each other personally.
"This is the big trend right now; Wall Street firms are becoming banks again and getting back to their roots," he said. "Peer-to-peer lending is the simplest form of pure banking there is."
But Prosper and its cohorts are encountering some very modern hurdles. Last April, Lending Club, a start-up based in Sunnyvale, California, that facilitates borrowing between members of social networks like Facebook, asked the SEC for permission to create a secondary marketplace - a place on its site where lenders could resell their loans and cash out before the end of a loan's three-year life cycle.
According to Renaud Laplanche, the founder and chief executive of Lending Club, the SEC surprised the company by asking whether it should have registered as a seller of securities before it started to broker loans. In response to those discussions, Lending Club stopped all new lending on its site for six months, frustrating its lenders, many of whom withdrew their cash.
"If we had a clean situation to start with, we probably could have registered the new offering while our current marketplace continued on," Laplanche said. On Tuesday, the SEC accredited Lending Club, and the site reopened.
On Monday, Larsen said he did not believe Prosper would need to follow the same arduous route, pointing out that Lending Club set the interest rates on its loans and was itself financing about half the overall loan volume on the site.
But on Tuesday, Prosper changed its mind and also filed to create a secondary marketplace, halting activity on The company would not comment, citing the quiet period, but the painful step suggests that it, too, decided it needed to obtain proper registration from the SEC and avoid any legal ambiguity that could get it into regulatory trouble.
Even before lending on Prosper was halted, the much-hyped start-up appeared to be encountering some problems. Though the company says 7.9 percent more money has been lent on the site this year than last year by this time, the monthly total actually peaked in May and has been steadily declining ever since. The average loan amount on Prosper has also fallen 13 percent from last year, as lenders have become nervous about whether borrowers will repay loans.
Francis Vasquez, a 44-year-old lawyer in Vienna, Virginia, who has lent more than $186,000 on the site since January 2007, says one reason for those jitters is the high default rates on the site.
In his first four months on the site last year, for example, Vasquez said nearly 30 percent of his loans were in default or were four months late, costing him a 1.2 percent loss on his investment.
"I don't think there is a whole lot of trust on the site," he said, citing borrowers who never had any intention of paying back loans in the first place.
Many lenders, including Vasquez, have responded by seeking out more reliable kinds of borrowers in the top credit-score categories.
Indeed, prime borrowers accounted for 45 percent of the activity on the site in September, up from 30 percent a year earlier. But those borrowers, at least in normal economic times, have plenty of other places to raise cash.


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Private equity for NYT to acquire, invest or be bought buy.

On the subject of Dubai, there is a big private equity industry shindig going on there at the moment (no all you can drink champagne brunches I hope).

Bottom line: lots of acquisition opportunities out there. Henry Kravis was there, but just for those that don't know, the other co-founder of his firm, James Kohlberg was elected to the Board of Directors of The New York Times Company in 2008. Mr. Kohlberg is another co-founder and has served as chairman of Kohlberg & Company since 1987.

Has Mr. Kohlberg got any 'Super Return' ideas for the NYT or indeed any other media ideas?

Did any senior IHT or NYT execs who attended the opening of the DMC last Sunday, stay on for the equity conference?

Private equity firms see a need to adapt
By Megan DaviesReuters
Thursday, October 16, 2008
DUBAI: Among the executives from the private equity industry gathered at a conference in Dubai this week, there was optimism about finding bargain investments amid the detritus of the global credit meltdown.
But there were also concerns about their own deteriorating assets and questions about whether the leveraged model of investing would bring the same level of returns as in the past.
Participants at the conference, titled "Super Return," included Henry Kravis, co-founder of Kohlberg Kravis Roberts; David Rubenstein, a co-founder of Carlyle Group; and Stephen Schwarzman, a co-founder of Blackstone Group.
"Despite aggressive steps by governments around the world," investors' and business confidence remains "shaken to its core," Kravis told the conference.
Loaded up with cash raised during a 2005-2007 boom period, buyout firms are reluctant to give it back to the pension funds and other powerful investors that allocated the money in more flush times.
Those investors want returns on their cash, and some are calling for a reduction in the hefty fees they pay. On the other hand, exiting investments through an initial public offering is not an attractive proposition because of the turmoil in equity markets, nor is it an ideal time to get a great price in any asset sale.
"It's going to be extremely difficult to deliver the kind of returns in the past when you're selling into a lower-priced environment," said Scott Schoen, an executive at Thomas H. Lee, the buyout firm in Boston.
There was also an elephant in the room: the pending stock market listings from KKR and Apollo at perhaps one of the worst times to go to market in history.
KKR has announced plans to go public this year through a complicated transaction that involves buying its publicly listed Amsterdam investment fund, delisting it from Amsterdam and relisting the new company in New York. Apollo, run by the investor Leon Black, filed in April to register securities, already traded on a private exchange, on the New York Stock Exchange.
At least neither listing relies on raising public cash, protecting them to an extent from a potentially embarrassing cut in offer prices to get the listings done. But the difficulty of being a publicly traded private equity firm is all too evident in the price of Blackstone shares, now trading at less than a third of their $31 IPO price.
For the buyout sector, some relief did come from the extraordinary efforts made by the United States and other governments to prop the financial system and struggling banks. The injection of government cash into banks could be the action that "breaks the back of the credit crisis," Schwarzman said.
Rubenstein said the actions could have the affect of freeing up leveraged buyout debt.
"My guess is the system will probably free up," he said, "and within a few months you'll begin to see buyout debt more readily available than it has been in the last nine months or so."
But ultimately, many agree that the industry must adapt, rather than bet on the hope that the availability of leverage will return to anywhere near previous levels.
"We should be looking at more transactions in which we partner with non-private-equity firms," Kravis said. "We should also look at a variety of investment options including mezzanine financing, even taking minority stakes in companies, as long as we have the ability to improve the strategy and operations of that company."
Mezzanine gained new luster as private equity firms found it harder to obtain the easier, cheaper lending options on which they had relied. This debt, typically exchanged for double-digit interest rates and a chunk of equity through warrants - or options to buy stock at a future date - is more expensive because it is unsecured and carries more risk should a company collapse.
Distressed assets are clearly among the most appealing.
Rubenstein is scouring the financial services sector. He said institutions like banks and insurance companies seeking to sell assets were probably going to part with them at distressed prices.
Looking ahead, private equity does seem to have history on its side. Various executives said at the conference that history showed that funds investing during downturns did better than those investing during better times.
Because pension funds have committed billions of dollars to private equity, many people will be hoping that these executives are right.


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Do NYT and IHT journalists like to have sex on a beach?

I posted recently on the Abu Dhabi Media City in the U.A.E and it's competitor, the Dubai Media City.

Before anyone signs up to any potential assigment there, I think it's important you be aware of the following (it is also an important lesson on the cost-benefit analysis of attending a an all-you-can-drink champagne brunch in a city which is hot and near the sea):

Britons get jail time in sex on beach case in Dubai
The Associated Press
Thursday, October 16, 2008
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates: A British couple charged with having sex on the beach were sentenced to three months in jail Thursday in a case that has caused controversy in this Gulf boom town.
The judge did not provide any details about his verdict, as is customary in Dubai, so it is unclear whether Michelle Palmer and Vince Acors were found guilty of engaging in intercourse, or some lesser offense.
The two Britons, who are both in their 30s and met at an all-you-can-drink champagne brunch before the alleged incident occurred, were arrested in July and later charged with sex outside of marriage, public indecency and drunkenness.
In addition to the three-month jail sentence, Judge Hamdi Mustafa Abu el-Khair levied a 1,000 dirham (US$272) fine against each of the defendants and ordered them to be deported from Dubai after serving their prison time.
"I will appeal (the verdict) and ask a judge to look at the medical report that says they did not have sex," their lawyer, Hassan Matter, told The Associated Press after Thursday's ruling.
Both previously admitted they were drunk but denied having sex. The two were not in the courtroom Thursday to hear the judge's verdict, and it was unclear if they would remain out of prison while their lawyer appealed the case.
Matter said he will submit his appeal after the judge issues a formal explanation of his verdict, which the lawyer expects in a week to 10 days. The defense has to file an appeal within 15 days.
"I think the judge gave a small punishment for a kiss, not sex on the beach," said Matter.
The couple could have received two years in prison if convicted of all charges.
Public displays of affection are illegal in Dubai, a city that has worked hard to cultivate an image as a haven for Western tourists and businesses in the Middle East but has a conservative legal code based on Islamic laws and tribal rules.

What the AP story does not remind us of is that Michelle works in guess what industry? That's right - media and publishing. Here's more but I'm now putting in a vote against the DMC and for the Abu Dhabi Media City.

Beach cop saw Michelle on top

Chief Foreign Correspondentin Dubai
Published: 10 Jul 2008

BRIT Michelle Palmer was caught romping on top of her lover on a Dubai beach, police said yesterday.
She was arrested after a cop said he saw her having sex on the sand in the Arab emirate.
The officer said she was sitting astride sozzled businessman Vince Acors, who lay on his back, and that she was moving up and down.
Michelle, 36, faces up to six years’ jail in Dubai as she awaits trial for public indecency, drunkenness and assaulting the arresting cop.
Divorced dad-of-one Acors, 34, from Bromley, Kent, faces a similar sentence.

Front page ... Sun exclusive
And yesterday brunette Michelle was called in by the publishing firm where she had worked for three years in the Muslim state – and sacked on the spot.
Bosses at ITP Publishing said they had no option but to dismiss her for bringing their name into disrepute.
Michelle, who collapsed in tears, was said to be “close to despair” last night.
The expat had linked up with SMS text company boss Acors after getting drunk at a bar last Friday.
Pals said they began kissing and cuddling as they joined revellers on a crawl around local booze joints.
The Sun told yesterday how they ended up on Jumeirah Beach, where they were TWICE caught romping by a local police officer.
Cops say feisty Michelle blew her top after her arrest – allegedly abusing the cop and trying to assault him with one of her shoes.
Both she and Acors have been barred from leaving Dubai until police finish their investigation.
Acors, dubbed “Vince Charming” due to his success with women, had travelled to the Middle East on business.
He and Michelle told cops they could not remember if they had sex in the early hours of Saturday.
But police, facing pressure to curb the excesses of western visitors, pressed on with the inquiry.
Michelle and Acors, who has a son aged seven, must now wait for at least two weeks before local chiefs decide whether to pursue the case.
They face jail terms estimated at between three months and six years plus a fine and deportation.
A pal said yesterday: “Michelle and Vince were both absolutely hammered when arrested – it’s hardly surprising they can’t remember a thing.
“No one would have turned a hair about that kind of behaviour in Magaluf, but they made a very grave misjudgment doing it in a Muslim country.
“They woke up in police cells with monster hangovers, facing six years in jail. Vince is beside himself with worry – he never intended to offend anyone.
“And Michelle is absolutely devastated. One bonk on the beach has cost her her career, reputation and, most probably, her liberty.”
One of Acors’ pals said: “Vince is a top class bird-puller. A great character who laughs the ladies into bed.

Idyllic ... the pair romped on Dubai sands
“I have to say I wasn’t surprised to hear he’d been at it again – but I feel terribly sorry for him now he’s in such terrible trouble.”
Another chum said: “He was just in the wrong place at the wrong time, that’s all.”
Michelle was born in Oakham, Leics, where mum Margaret and dad Jim still live.
She set up home in Peterborough with ex-fiancé Max Paterson, 26, before they split and she moved to Dubai.
Yesterday her employers confirmed they had fired her as a manager. A spokesman said: “Michelle Palmer is no longer an ITP employee.
“It is made clear to all employees when they join that certain standards of behaviour are expected.”


International Herald Tribune
New York Times

Vacation /Business Trip Furnished Rental Apartment in Paris

Media stocks yesterday.

The IHT's three main competitors today are the WSJ and the FT.

As a result, and given the extraordinary market conditions, I am going to keep you posted on performances.

Firstly, current trading prices on NYSE as of time of blog post or a few mins. before.

Data coming from My Portfolio on

Last price
1-day$ change
1-day% change
30-day% change
Total value

New York Times Company NYT: NYSE

News Corporation NWS.A: NYSE

Pearson PLC. PSO: NYSE

Now Analysts Recommendations:

Consensus recommendation
EPS estimate (2009)
Target price
Long-termgrowth rate

New York Times Company NYT: NYSE

News Corporation NWS.A: NYSE

Pearson PLC. PSO: NYSE



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Thursday, 16 October 2008

Online Watchdog Sniffs for Media Bias (NYT)

John Atcheson, left, and Todd Herman, creators of SpinSpotter.

October 16, 2008
Online Watchdog Sniffs for Media Bias
If you don’t trust the news media, what are your options? You can fume about bias, wonder what you’re missing and suppress the urge to throw things. Or ignore some sources and turn to those whose slant you like.
But what if there were a device that objectively flagged questionable elements in online news articles, poking and parsing words and phrases, and letting you contribute your own critiques? Well, a Seattle company called SpinSpotter has produced a piece of software — a free download that works within a Web browser — that tries to do just that.
As its creators acknowledge, it still has to overcome some daunting technical and human barriers to live up to its lofty aims. (Its home page at proclaims, “Behold the epiphany of unfiltered news.”) But a month into its release in a test version that is only available for the Mozilla Firefox browser — an Internet Explorer version is expected in a few weeks — it gives an interesting peek at where the future of truth-squadding may lie.
Any attempt to judge news articles could rely on experts, a broad audience of readers or a set of formulas. SpinSpotter combines all three, but for now the formulas are still being adjusted, the audience is not yet big enough, and it remains to be seen how unbiased or effective the experts are. SpinSpotter grew out of a longstanding obsession of Todd Herman, a conservative former talk-radio host who is the company’s chief product officer. “I thought of this 10 years ago,” he said. “The things I’d see in mainstream media drove me crazy.”
The chief executive officer, John Atcheson, is politically liberal, and he and Mr. Herman say they tend to balance each other out. “We don’t delude ourselves into thinking we’re going to eliminate spin, and that’s not even our objective,” said Mr. Atcheson, who has been an executive of several technology companies. “We just want it to be transparent, above the surface.”
With the SpinSpotter plug-in, anyone can call up a news article, insert red flags over offending passages and, in a pop-up box, explain the perceived problems and suggest edits. Another reader seeing the same article will also see those flags, can comment on them and, crucially, can vote on whether the offense is serious or not.
In addition a panel of journalism graduate students at the
University of Missouri picks through a random sampling of articles, and critiques the critiques. That is supposed to help guard against a group with a particular bias “gaming” the system, but it is not yet clear how well that will work.
Each individual user earns a “trust rating,” based on other readers’ votes, the judgment of the graduate students and how often they agree with other users who are highly trusted. Users will not know their ratings, but comments posted by those with the highest scores will predominate.
SpinSpotter has an advisory board of journalists and journalism professors who helped devise the company’s standards. They have varying political stripes, and include some well-known writers like Jonah Goldberg of the National Review and Brooke Allen of The Nation.
The company has also devised algorithms that search for potential fudge phrases like “critics say,” and that learn from users which expressions are most often censured.
“The algorithm approach also has serious limits, which is why the human element is essential,” Mr. Herman said. “There is no algorithm that can interpret language with anywhere near the sophistication of a reader.”
One problem with the “wiki” approach, relying on the self-correcting wisdom of the crowd to reach a rough consensus, is that there needs to be a critical mass of people picking apart each article. And there needs to be some assurance that the crowd, through self-selection, does not have serious collective biases.
SpinSpotter’s creators acknowledge that they are not there yet, though they say it is only a matter of time. (They will not say how many users the software has so far, or how many it needs to be effective.)
In the last month, they say, it has become clear that their limited following is far too small to cover the vast array of online news sources. So starting this week SpinSpotter is focusing primarily on the Web sites of five major news outlets: CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, The New York Times and
Yahoo! News.
The software insists that reader objections fit into one of six broad categories: lack of balance, using the reporter’s point of view, using passive voice, using a biased source, disregarding context and selective disclosure. But for now those categories have their own limitations. Some journalistic misdemeanors — citing just one source, or failing to offer supporting evidence for an assertion — do not fit neatly into any of the categories.
One category of complaint, use of passive voice, seems bound to flag phrases — “four people were killed in an accident,” for example — that are far from biased.
“We’re constantly tweaking,” Mr. Herman said. “People are asking us, for example, about creating a category for things that are provably false.”
SpinSpotter has financial backing from a number of venture capitalists, primarily the firm Epic Ventures, who are drawn more by the commercial possibilities than the implications for journalism.
The SpinSpotter site plans to sell ads, but the main hope for revenue lies in selling services.
“Anybody who deals in marketing and communications, a P.R. agency, a corporate marketing office, a political campaign, we can give them information on what phrases are being used out there as spin, or are being perceived as spin, where those phrases are showing up,” Mr. Atcheson said. Press releases, he said, can be scrubbed of phrases that sow doubt.
Which might just point the way toward newer, subtler ways of spinning, not toward the transparency the company advocates. But Mr. Atcheson said he is hopeful about what SpinSpotter can do for news reporting.
“We’ve even talked to some news organizations that are interested in having a version of our service behind the wall,” he said, “so they can prescreen their work.”


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Paid Content at WSJ

Group think says there's no future in paid content. The WSJ begs to differ and it was while visiting their site for my normal first two paras free of charge that I was presented with a full article under this header.

This prompted me just to take a look at their current offers and marketing. This house ad on top right hand corner of their home page.

This adclick takes you through to three offers, off a 2 week free trial automatic renewal offer:

2 Weeks Free(54 weeks in total) with your payment when you purchase

1 year of + the Print Journal

Print Journal
1 year for $89

1 year for $89 +Print Journal
1 year for $99

All looking good. I'm in Europe, the dollar is a peso; I've had a subscription before but I can get round that - marginally alter my name and new address. Old trick.

They nearly had me.

Before I read the small print:

This is a special offer made available only for first time annual subscribers. Thereafter, your subscription will be renewed automatically at the then-current annual rate. You will be notified of any rate changes in advance. Savings percentage based on 52-week newsstand price for The Journal print edition plus the standard 1-year rate for The Online Journal. Offers good for new subscriptions for a limited time only. Newspaper delivery is only available in the contiguous U.S. Sales tax may apply.

Good, simple, clear marketing and a timely moment given the financial crisis to tempt me in with a full sample article (we can argue about pros and cons of automatic renewal offers subject to seeing their conversion data - as a consumer I personally never bite, but as a marketer I know they work).

However, they've forgotton one rather important fact: this offer is on something called the world wide web, their offer is for contiguous U.S only, I live in France and no option to click through to WSJE.

Mr. Murdoch, your subscription marketing people are asleep on the job. In Manhattan-centricitis land.


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Ad Firm Tracks Consumers Across Media (WSJ)

OCTOBER 14, 2008
Ad Firm Tracks Consumers Across Media
Special Software in Cellphones Measures Customers' Exposure to Marketing on TV, Radio and Movies

For years, marketers measured the reach of their ads one medium at a time. For TV, it generally was Nielsen; for radio, Arbitron; newspapers and magazines report circulation figures; while the Internet shows hits and page views and other traffic data.
But there haven't been many ways to measure an ad campaign across all of these media at once.
A small media research company called Integrated Media Measurement is trying to bridge that research gap with a new technology that measures consumers' exposure to the audio in ads on television, radio, computers, mobile phones, DVDs and inside a movie theatre -- using a consumer's cellphone.

NBC is among the networks using the cellphone-based data

to track how people watch shows like 'Saturday Night Live.'

The Internet's ability to produce evidence on the effectiveness of ads -- such as how many people viewed an ad and whether or not they clicked on it -- has led to something of an industry obsession with new forms of measurement. The financial crisis promises to make marketers even more reluctant to risk money on ads, especially if they can't keep score on how effective the spots are. Meanwhile, media fragmentation continues, as big-tent events like the Olympic Games and the Super Bowl are consumed in more and different ways.
"People don't know how to measure the multimedia world we live in, so any piece of the puzzle is helpful," says Brad Bortner, principal analyst at Forrester Research.
IMMI embeds its software into the cellphones of the company's 4,900 panelists. The software picks up audio from an ad or a TV show and converts it into its own digital code that is then uploaded into an IMMI database, which includes codes for media content such as TV shows, commercials, movies and songs.
IMMI's database then figures out what the cellphone was exposed to by matching the code. Cellphone conversations and background noise are filtered out by the software, IMMI says, since there is no "match" in the IMMI database.
To get a handle on the effectiveness of a given ad, IMMI's data can show, for example, when a panel member is exposed to a movie trailer on TV and whether that same consumer later goes to see the movie. Similarly, IMMI data can show if a panelist watching a promo for a TV program will later watch the show, either on TV or online. IMMI thinks it can expand that idea from films and TV shows to consumer products like shampoo or toothpaste. It is testing its technology with a national grocery store chain.

"We follow the same person from end to end," says Tom Zito, IMMI's chief executive.
IMMI isn't the first company to attempt this kind of measurement, but past efforts were stymied by the costs of creating a large-scale panel. IMMI's use of cellphones means that consumers don't have to labor over diaries or push buttons, says Mr. Zito, who worked for years as a journalist and rock critic before launching a number of Silicon Valley start-ups since the mid-1980s.
IMMI is still a tiny company, especially compared with competitors like Nielsen Media Research. The company's 4,900-person panel has teenagers and adults in just six major markets -- New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami, Houston and Denver. IMMI panelists are paid $50 a month or receive free phone and data service in exchange for making the cellphone their primary phone, and carrying it with them at all times.
But the San Mateo, Calif.-company has managed to attract the attention of movie studios and broadcast networks like
General Electric Co.'s NBC Universal and Walt Disney Co.'s ABC. NBC has used IMMI data to track how people watch shows like "Heroes" or big sporting events like the Beijing Olympic Games.
While the technology isn't perfect, IMMI is helping NBC answer questions about how viewers watch its programming, says Alan Wurtzel, president of research at NBC. "I'm convinced the handset will be the way we will measure media going forward," he says.
Still, IMMI is unlikely to change the way marketers develop ad campaigns. Mark Loughney, vice president of sales and strategy research at ABC, says that IMMI's panel is still too small to make long term decisions. "For now, it's a supplement, not a replacement to what we use," he says.
IMMI also doesn't measure outdoor or print ads, or Internet ads that don't use audio.

But the company is already getting the attention of big competitors like Nielsen, which teamed up with IMMI to sell a service that tracks ad exposure in places like bars, health clubs, hotels and the office. Walt Disney's ESPN and Zenith Media have already signed up for the service.


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The Panic of '08: Rating The Media Winners (And Losers) - Gawker

Although the business media can't sell any ads during an economic meltdown like the one we're having now, it sure is a great chance for reporters to make names for themselves. Business reporters absolutely live for the periodic destruction of the American economy. This is their Normandy! After the jump, we survey the media landscape and pick out the winners and losers—all your favorites, from Paul Krugman to Jim Cramer, ranked on a merciless 10-point scale!
[Ratings are on a 1-10 scale—with 10 being the best—and are based on how much the media person or outlet has benefited from the crisis, how right they've been, and how much influence they've had.]


Paul Krugman, NYT: Yea, he just won the Nobel Prize, okay? [10]

Robert Thomson, WSJ: Thomson led the WSJ's recent redesign and re-imagination—which proved perfect for the big, scary headlines necessary over the last month. [9]

Joe Nocera, NYT, and Bethany McLean, Fortune: Scored roughly a million-dollar deal to write the "definitive" book about the crisis. These two are certainly qualified to do it, but still—lucky bastards. [9]

Maria Bartiromo, CNBC: The Money Honey is still the public face of CNBC, which owned this crisis top to bottom. [8]

Lionel Barber, FT: Editor of the paper that's been consistently serious enough for long enough not to make anyone wonder about its political motives when the crisis went down. [8]

Andrew Ross Sorkin, NYT: Wunderkind M&A reporter and Dealbook chief who is just everywhere. He got a shitload of money for a book. [8]

Steve Liesman, CNBC: Senior economic reporter, and a man who's been getting way more face time with Wall Street big shots lately than their wives have. [8]

John Gapper, FT: Chief business commentator at the solid pink paper, he's been admirably hard on the villains. [7]

Charlie Rose, PBS: Landed a big interview with Warren Buffett—the last investor anybody trusts. [7]

John Carney, Clusterstock: He left Dealbreaker in the midst of all this as possibly the most visible young, bloggin', new media name who actually knows what the hell is going on. [7]

Felix Salmon, Portfolio: He's one of the better finance bloggers and has managed to stay on top of the crisis consistently, when not working on 12,000 word analyses of the Gawker pay structure. [6]

Daniel Gross, Newsweek: Maybe smartest of all, plans a "quickie electronic book" to be published before the end of the year. Do less work, get out first, heyo! [6]


Fox Business Network: Yes, the little network finally got a measurable audience because of the crisis, and yes, they go to throw some decent shots at Jim Cramer. But the comparison to CNBC just makes them look bad. [4]

Charlie Gasparino, CNBC: Got a lot of airtime as a talking head, which is good for him. Was working on a book about reckless leaders at Wall Street firms like Bear Stearns before Bear Stearns collapsed, which could mean a lot of pain in the ass rewriting. Comes off as a bit of wingnut by trying to pin the whole meltdown on Obama. [4]

Andrea Mitchell, NBC: Trying to report while being married to Alan Greenspan, one of the guys most responsible for this whole thing. Ha. Time to retire, maybe? [3]

Book Publishers: Who's going to buy all these books? [2]

Jim Cramer, CNBC: Gave intermittently terrible advice, then made it worse when he tried to correct it. Overly emotional, which is not the thing people want in a money manager. See a roundup of his whole weird year here. [1]

COMMENTS (IW - as ever with Gawker, their comments often interesting)

The Doctor 4:30 PM on Wed Oct 15 2008
Those are some moneymakers I have no interest in seeing shake.

The Doctor Those are some moneymakers I have no interest in seeing...

4:52 PM on Wed Oct 15 2008 1 reply
Spirit Fingers 4:52 PM on Wed Oct 15 2008
Can we put Suze Orman in the loser pile? I don't know what she's said over the last few weeks, but the orange skin is appalling.

Spirit Fingers Can we put Suze Orman in the loser pile? I don't know...
1 reply by SaraRueful

SaraRueful 5:13 PM on Wed Oct 15 2008
Spirit Fingers: I hate her creepy zombie eyes. When I was commuting on Metro-North I switched seats once because her poster was right in front of me. {shudders}

SaraRueful @ Spirit Fingers : I hate her creepy zombie eyes. When I...

4:52 PM on Wed Oct 15 2008 3 replies
Cannot Find Server 4:52 PM on Wed Oct 15 2008
NPR's been knocking it out of the park too. The "This American Life" that explained everything two weeks ago (entitled, aptly, "Another Frightening Show About the Economy") was clear-headed, full of common sense, and completely free of shouty nonsense. I knew nothing before that show, now I understand most of this crisis.
Adam Davidson and Alex Blumberg deserve an award for their work on that show alone.

Cannot Find Server NPR's been knocking it out of the park too. The "This...
3 replies by mfnher, encnyc, La Mareada

mfnher 4:58 PM on Wed Oct 15 2008
Cannot Find Server: I don't know if that was the same one they did on the mortgage crisis. I think the one your mentioning is the follow up. Either way, they're both great. I work in the industry and whenever my friends ask me what's going on, I just tell them to download the This American Life episodes.

mfnher @ Cannot Find Server : I don't know if that was the same...

encnyc 6:06 PM on Wed Oct 15 2008
Cannot Find Server: If netting didnt scare the hell out of you, nothing will. Totally agree that NPR, especially via This American Life, has done the best reporting on the financial meltdown by calmly explaining the insanity that was its cause.

encnyc @ Cannot Find Server : If netting didnt scare the hell...

La Mareada 6:13 PM on Wed Oct 15 2008
Cannot Find Server: Davidson & Blumberg have a daily podcast called Planet Money so you can be more scared and smarter than anybody else everyday.

La Mareada @ Cannot Find Server : Davidson & Blumberg have a...

4:55 PM on Wed Oct 15 2008
Phyllis Nefler 4:55 PM on Wed Oct 15 2008
John Carney also kicks a hell of a field goal for YOUR SUPER BOWL CHAMPION NEW. YORK. GIANTS!
Oh and he's running for office in Delaware too.

Phyllis Nefler John Carney also kicks a hell of a field goal for YOUR...

5:53 PM on Wed Oct 15 2008
Felix 5:53 PM on Wed Oct 15 2008
It was 5,000 words, tops.

Felix It was 5,000 words, tops.

6:04 PM on Wed Oct 15 2008
ZiggyStardust 6:04 PM on Wed Oct 15 2008
Hamilton-- Ben White moving from the Financial Times to the New York Times-- and racking up gobs of front-pagers should make him a winner as well.
Ditto WaPo's Steve Pearlstein, WSJ's Dave Enrich, Robin Sidel and Damian Paletta, the American Banker staff (who have been pounding the pavement hard) and a number of others...

ZiggyStardust Hamilton-- Ben White moving from the Financial Times to...

6:16 PM on Wed Oct 15 2008
Dave J. 6:16 PM on Wed Oct 15 2008
Larry Kudlow should be on the losers list, just basically because he's a huge loser who really sucks.

Dave J. Larry Kudlow should be on the losers list, just...

10:19 PM on Wed Oct 15 2008
david 10:19 PM on Wed Oct 15 2008
Don't forget Yves Smith at Nakedcapitalism, most relentless high quality coverage of the carnage so far.

david Don't forget Yves Smith at Nakedcapitalism, most...

12:47 AM
missdelite 12:47 AM
I learned alot from CNN's Glenn Beck Show.

missdelite I learned alot from CNN's Glenn Beck Show.

10:27 AM
Monte Wooley 10:27 AM
"Roughly a million dollar deal?" So let's say it's really 800K, less commission, leaving 680K, less taxes, leaving 350K, and finally split in half, so that's 175K each. Those are blog-book numbers, my dear. Harumph.

Monte Wooley "Roughly a million dollar deal?" So let's say it's...


International Herald Tribune
New York Times

Big Media. Bad Idea. (

Big Media. Bad Idea.
by Sophia Banay Oct 15 2008
Ask any shareholder not named Murdoch or Redstone—big media just isn't working

Say what you want about the benefits of synergies and size for big media companies; for their shareholders, the bigger the company, the smaller the gains. Between last week and the same week a year ago,Time Warner shares were down 50 percent; Viacom was off 59 percent; G.E. had fallen 46 percent; News Corp. slid 65 percent; and Disney, the big winner, had tumbled a mere 34 percent.Is it time to say "Enough already" with big media and the dead-as-disco idea Japanese giants such as Sony had about buying movie studios to sell their VCRs? How about small media? Or at least smaller media?
It sounds fairly logical. The supposed "synergies" between the divisions of modern conglomerates like Viacom, G.E., and Time Warner have never really blossomed. Time Warner's magazine group, cable networks, AOL, pay TV, and movie-studio divisions barely communicate, let alone work together. And if that lumping together doesn't deliver value in the stock market, why suffer through it?
Time Warner took one step toward unraveling those holdings last spring, with the spinoff of Time Warner Cable, which delivered shareholders over $10 per share in dividends. Before that move, long-awaited by analysts, the cable unit's success was never reflected in the larger company's share price.
AOL, by contrast, has had a disproportionately negative affect on the company's stock, leaving many investors wondering when a sale of the unit—or of the floundering magazine unit—will take place. That's a tough break for the company's better-performing assets, like Turner Broadcasting, home to cable hits like The Closer, and stellar studio Warner Bros., responsible for summer smashes like Sex and the City and The Dark Knight. Spun off independently, any of these properties could deliver substantial value to shareholders. As it is, the albatross of AOL is the only thing visible to anyone looking at Time Warner's stock price.
CBS is a similar story. Last week, it put Showtime content front and center in a new partnership with YouTube, offering the channel's most recent series premieres of Dexter and Californication to viewers for free. In doing so, the company, whose share price was down 72 percent from a year ago last week, is trying to capitalize on its marquee pay-TV brand to bring viewers and media attention to its shows online, where it will take in revenue from ads played at the start, middle, and end of its shows. But could CBS unlock the value of its increasingly shiny Showtime brand by spinning off the network into its own independent entity? The premium-cable channel is obviously feeling its oats, as buzzworthy original series like Californication, Dexter, and Weeds have led a 2 million jump in subscribers, to 16 million, over the past two years.Some analysts agree that Showtime, as a stand-alone stock, could be the secret weapon of CBS shareholders. On its own, "Showtime would probably be worth more than CBS today," says Porter Bibb, a managing partner at Mediatech Capital Partners in New York."It's hot, it has an interesting future, and it's making money with video on demand." Of course, not every premium pay-TV channel would perform as well as a stock. HBO, for instance, is probably better served—for now—by remaining a part of Time Warner, under intense pressure as it is to deliver hot, game-changing new shows with the frequency it used to, says Bibb.
But in general, if a media property is strong, it performs better outside of a conglomerate than inside one. Why keep a company's most valuable assets hidden inside a decaying shell? The Dolan family's Cablevision, which owns a slew of valuable cable networks through Rainbow Media—including the Sundance channel, IFC, and AMC, home to the breakout hit Mad Men—is another example of a media company whose stock is undervalued. Cablevision would do well to spin off some subsidiaries—or even just stop making new acquisitions. After paying almost $650 million for the paper Newsday, the company got very little back in terms of stock value.
G.E., which has been urged to spin off NBCU by eager analysts, no longer has that luxury with G.E. Capital suffering in the economic crisis. But should it do so in the future, the new company—made up of a movie studio and theme parks, with business models that are not advertising-reliant, plus a mature slate of cable networks with dual revenue streams—would likely perform well in the stock market. News Corp. and Disney are two possible exceptions to the big-media curse. Disney makes sure that ESPN programming on ABC, for example, is obviously marked as such, an effective cross-marketing tool. And News Corp. is steadily integrating Dow Jones' components, such as MarketWatch, into its daily operations.
But even the most skilled managers are overextended when trying to grapple with the various subsidies of their enormous conglomerates.
A(nother) case in point: YouTube has lost some of its tech-darling status since being swallowed up by Google. Perhaps that explains the new partnership with CBS, which aims to expand YouTube's niche from clips of cats falling from trees to more mainstream content like you'd find on But can one mammoth media company save another?
"I don't believe in conglomerates from a financial point of view because they totally depend on having good management," says Bibb. "That's a tough thing to depend on."
In other words, don't count on it.


International Herald Tribune
New York Times

Could Recession Help Big Media? (Forbes)

Online Publishers

Could Recession Help Big Media?

James Erik Abels, 10.15.08, 7:45 PM ET

Today's ugly media truth: Online advertising rates are falling. "Pricing has definitely trended downward this year," says PubMatic President Rajeev Goel.
His firm, which lets publishers automatically search mulitple ad networks to find the one that will earn the most money, has been tracking online display ad rates since the fourth quarter of last year. In a report issued on Wednesday, Goel says these rates dropped 21% in the third quarter of this year to $0.27 per thousand impressions from $0.34 per thousand impressions in the second quarter. The information is culled from some 180 online ad networks, including seven of comScore's top 10 largest ones.
Numbers like these chill media honchos from coast to coast. At a Media and Money Conference in New York on Tuesday, a whole panel of executives discussed the issue. Martha Stewart Omnimedia co-CEO Wenda Harris Millard said she's worried, noting that advertisers are holding out until the last second to buy ads.
But so far it's hard to say how a recession will impact digital media. On one hand, the rate of online display ad spending has been slowing down. Though it reached $11.5 billion in the first half of this year, reports the Internet Advertising Bureau, the 15.2% growth rate that got the industry there was a lot slower than the rate seen in the first half of 2007, which was 27%.
On the other hand, the slowing market may actually help, boosting traditional media's control over the digital media ecosystem by giving it an opportunity to buy smaller upstarts or watch them get crushed. Think about it this way: The digital businesses that may be hit hardest by a downturn aren't really media businesses at all. Instead, outfits like Facebook, Meebo, and Twitter provide fun tools and communications technologies for people who, when aggregated in one spot, may be worth a lot of ad dollars--if they can actually grab them.
That's going to get tougher. Chrysler said Wednesday that it is starting to withhold ad dollars from "experimental" ad campaigns for things like virtual worlds or social networking applications. That hurts Facebook but maybe not traditional publishers like Hearst. It's also bad news for ad networks and helps to explain their plunging rates.
Here's why. Advertisers have a pretty good idea on their own of who is paying attention to certain types of editorial content--and they bet its quality level improves the value of their ad. In the media universe, it's called "sold against" and it's nothing new. But online advertising networks, which place ads via technology, have devalued the notion in recent years by making ad serving a commodity business that benefits nonmedia sites as much as it does media ones. Some see the value of "sold against" gaining more ground online in a nervous time when fewer dollars are available.
Brian Fitzgerald, president of Gorilla Nation Media, an ad rep firm that exclusively sells display ads for publishers and others, such as Marvel, says his rates aren't slipping yet. And though he admits it's still early to know how the markets will ultimately affect them, "We're actually seeing revenues growing, CPMs are constant," he says.
Constant--and a whole lot higher than $0.27 per thousand views.


International Herald Tribune
New York Times

Vacation /Business Trip Furnished Apartment in Paris

TV Guide Sold for a Buck (Advertising Age)

TV Guide Sold for a Buck
SEC Filing: Buyer Got $9.5 Million Loan From Macrovision to Do Deal
Nat Ives Published: October 15, 2008 NEW YORK (
How much is TV Guide magazine worth in a morphing media business and molten credit markets? Try $1.
That's how much the private equity fund OpenGate Capital has agreed to pay Macrovision for the unprofitable magazine and all its liabilities. The cover price, by way of comparison, is $2.99.
Take this magazine -- please.
To sweeten the deal even further, Macrovision is loaning OpenGate up to $9.5 million to help get going -- at a very friendly 3% interest. "I'd borrow from Macrovision any time," one investment banker said of the terms. The terms were not disclosed when Macrovision said Monday it had struck a deal with OpenGate, but emerged in a Macrovision filing to the Securities and Exchange Commission yesterday.
For Macrovision, the deal clears from its books a money-losing print magazine and its 3 million subscribers who need to be serviced.
Money pit
It acquired the title when it bought Gemstar-TV Guide for its digital assets last January. But the magazine lost about $20.3 million in 2007, according to Gemstar's 10-K filing for the year ended December 2007. Gemstar said in that 10-K: "We currently anticipate continuing, but declining, losses for the next two to three years." OpenGate believes it can turn the title's liabilities into profits. "The reason we acquired this business is simple," OpenGate managing partner Andrew Nikou told yesterday. "It needed additional investment. We're investing in this company to take it to the next stage." Macrovision is selling cable's TV Guide Channel separately.


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New York Times

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