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February 2008 Archives

February 2, 2008

Microsoft - Yahoo: Does Brute Force Work?

I woke up Friday morning to the news of Microsoft making a $44B offer for Yahoo. My initial reaction: $44B seems like alot for 20% - 25% of the search market plus a crap load of remnant inventory. Or, as the Compete blog notes, $1,200 for each Yahoo visitor. Hmmmm.

The Next Sears Kmart?

Interestingly enough, just a few days before the merger was announced, I read Laura Ries interesting post mortem on the Sears - KMart merger. I took another read of it after hearing about this deal and I couldn't help but swapping in Microsoft for Sears and Yahoo for Kmart as I read.

As sales of its core durable goods started to fall off, Sears started stocking more clothing to compensate. And so began the beginning of the end.

In the 1980s with sales continuing to slide, Sears sought expansion through diversification. Sears bought real estate company Coldwell Banker and stock brokerage firm Dean Witter Reynolds. Sears also launched the Discover credit card.

The purchases culminated in the now infamous “stocks to socks strategy.” Brilliant! You can buy your socks, your stocks, your real estate, your daughter’s prom dress all at Sears. Did it work? Of course not.

Expansion might help in the short term, but in the long term expansion a company unfocused. And an unfocused company stuck in the mushy middle of its category is ripe picking for competition. As an industry matures, competitors come in and steal market share from above you as well as below you. This is exactly what happened to Sears.

If I'm Steve Ballmer, I read that post pretty carefully. I've noted in the past that one of the biggest problems facing Yahoo (and MSN) is that its has no online brand. Yahoo doesn't mean search. It doesn't mean news, entertainment, personals, photos, or even directory anymore. Even though it has all those services. The Yahoo power users are their email users. And right now, that's pretty much the bottom of the barrel in page view/ CPM ratios. So how does this deal change things?

What About Product?

If the past 15 years of shown anything on the web its that attempts to "brute force" your way to the top generally doesn't work. Innovation - and the accompanying massive user adoption - doesn't come from the behemoths, much less two behemoths combining. Excite @ home didn't win the search wars. Neither did Yahoo - Inktomi - overture. No it was a small team in Stanford that came up with an innovative product and captured an audience. Same goes for social networks. Forget Orkut, Yahoo 360, etc. It was a small group out of Harvard. Google video, AOL video, etc. all lost out to a small company with a slick name and a low end flash implementation. And the list goes on and on.

In the true democracy of the web, it's product that wins market share. So ok, MShoo now got lots of page views - great. That's a start. But what's the product plan? Right now you both are bleeding search market share on a monthly basis? How are you going to stop giving ground in the search space? Is there product vision? And what about display? Lots of page views is great, but display advertising CPM's suck. What's the product value-add to marketer's to get them to pay more? Behavioral? Social? Brand? What's the product plan there?

Integration - Excederin Headache #36

The one silver lining in this deal is that there are plenty of cost saving opportunities here. Microsoft and Yahoo have lots of overlapping/ competing services. Combining those into one would likely realize alot of cost savings on the backend. Everything from servers to ops and sales staff to office space could be consolidated.

Sounds great, right? Yeah, good luck with that. The political wars over deciding where to make cuts happens are going to be ugly, at best. Let's see, which search should we use? Yahoo's or Microsoft? Gosh, I bet LOTS of folks from each side have an opinion on that. And if you keep both, well, then where's the cost savings? Same goes with news, email, etc. This sounds like the beginning of the 30 year war.

2 + 2 = 3

Can I think of another industry where two companies with rapidly declining marketshare and similar product offerings decided the best course of action was to combine and brute force their way to success? Why yes, our old friends in the newspaper world. It wasn't so long ago that our old friends at Knight Ridder got put into play and was bought up by one of their rivals, McClatchy for $6.5B. How'd that turn out? Right now, McClatchy's market cap is less than $1B - i.e. not so good for the company or its management.

To be fair, this is not a lone circumstance in the newspaper world. But it is a lesson trying to make the sum of the whole greater than the sum of the parts. Something Microsoft should be worried about.

The good news for Yahoo is that there are lots of old KR people working there now - many of whom were integral in running the company's auction. So, if the reports of the News Corp. bid (or other private equity bids) is true, Yahoo has some good house experience in running an auction.

I Smell Opportunity

The best news about this Microsoft Yahoo deal though is for everyone outside it. Deals like this take lots of time to complete - and as mentioned, the integrations are awful. So the real winners of this deal, IMHO, is everyone not associated with it. With two large players very distracted, the market is ripe for everyone else to move in. After all a good product plus strategic finesse will win out over brute force every time.

February 7, 2008

Local Boy Does Good

Kudos to Chris Tolles and the rest of the Topix team for not taking this Google local news thing lying down. It would have been pretty easy to let the "Google is taking over/ Topix is Toast" message proliferate. But instead some quick thinking and good messaging turned this Google product launch into a walking advertisement for Topix.

Chris' smart plan of attack, as told to Valleywag:

1. Analyze the strategy, not just the product.

2. Turn the obituary into an advertisement.

3. Position yourself outside the bullseye.

4. Act quickly to get your story out there and talk to people.

5. Have a sense of humor. At least I'm not at Yahoo.

Seems to have worked. Thanks to Google and Chris and team, Topix today became the dominant, established player in the local news world. The champ that the contenders need to beat. Shhhhh - don't tell your local newspaper. ;) Nice job Topix.

February 8, 2008

Yahoo: More Bankers Than Options

Silicon Alley Insider notes today that despite its recently announced layoffs, Yahoo is actually hiring. Well, they're hiring investment bankers anyway.
Not sure why the folks from Goldman Sachs and Lehman Brothers can't get the job done, but Yahoo has now added a third investment banker, Moelis & Company, to its advisory team.

So that's three sets of investment bankers for one deal. Seems like a lot. At his point, Yahoo really only has two options: (1) take the Microsoft deal; or (2) figure out a deal with Google to outsource search. If I'm a Yahoo shareholder, I'm voting for option #1. Option #2, while perhaps allowing Yahoo to stay independent, is a short term fix that both exacerbates their current long term problems (brand issues, display monetization, etc.) and creates new ones (integration, morale (what happens to the thousands of Yahoo search engineers?), ad system conflict, etc.).

But it just struck me strange that a company in play would have more bankers than it has options. Obviously bankers are there for one reason and one reason only: collect their exorbitant fees proactive protection against future law suits. The bankers first job in this situation: work the phones, see if they can scare up another buyer or otherwise scare up other strategic alternatives. If that process involves third parties, they then orchestrate the ensuing bake off.

If no outsiders bite though, they move forward by doing their due diligence and issuing a fairness opinion(s) to the Yahoo board. This opinion will state, more or less, that the deal is a fair one and the Board was reasonable in accepting it. That way when Yahoo shareholder sue (and believe me they will - there are strike suit lawyers probably sleeping in tents at the courthouse waiting to file), the board has a third party opinion to point to to satisfy the business judgment/ fiduciary duty rules.

So, why three bankers? Three reasons: conflict, conflict and conflict. Need someone to keep an eye on those keeping an eye on things. So what's this amount to? Yahoo: a company with more bankers than options - and that's not a good place to be.

February 11, 2008

Yahoo Should Buy the AP

Ok, it looks like the Yahoo world has turned upside down, desperate times seem to be calling for desperate measures. It's pretty clear that this pesky Microsoft thing ain't going away. If you want to stay independent, you need a plan.

Yahoo has one major issue: its brand stands for nothing in the eyes of the consumer. Put another way, how would you complete the following sentence: I go to Yahoo because its the best place for ____________. Stumped you, didn't I? That's not good. It means you have no brand. If you can't fix this, then you should be put in play.

So then, what's the answer? What should the Yahoo brand stand for? Hmmmmm. Search? Nope, it's already taken. Shopping? Somebody else owns that one too. Auctions? Please. Social networking? Video? Sports? Nope, nope and nope. All already owned.

With that, the good news is that there is one category out there that is so fragmented right now (by both market and structure) that it remains open: news. Fortunately for Yahoo, that is actually a natural play for them as well. Lots of people who go to Yahoo do consume the news there. It's not out of left field. So how do they go about winning this category? Easy. Here's my 7 step plan for Jerry and company:

1. Buy the AP. Its owned by a bunch of newspapers, so this won't be easy. But, given that newspapers are bleeding badly and have a love/hate relationship with the AP, they'll actually be open to this idea. And you can make the deal palatable to them by letting them continue to use the AP content for their print editions. That's all they care about anyway.

2. Reap the traffic. Include in the deal links and summaries of AP content for the localnewspaper.com sites. Of course all of those links will go back to Yahoo.

3. Stop the commoditization of news. Discontinue the online content distribution deals beyond links. Yes, even those with places like msn.com and msnbc. News is commoditized because of the co-operative ownership of the AP. With a single owner, this isn't an issue. Own the AP content - don't make it a commodity.

4. Outsource search to Google. You lost the search war. You're not building your brand on this anyway. Take the cash infusion from this deal and use it to finance your AP deal.

5. Paint the news purple. The AP goes beyond just print stories. They have video, radio, etc. All of a sudden you own THE source of news media in the world. Make sure it all reflects the Yahoo brand.

6. Make Yahoo = news. Wrap your identity around your site being THE place to stay abreast of the news of the world, I'm talking new homepage, new overall design. You've got the distribution and now you've got the content. Make it your brand.

7. Take it to Madison Avenue. I've written ad nauseum in the past how display advertising doesn't monetize at a high enough level. This deal doesn't solve this problem but it does make it a bit better. With so many products on your site, its hard to wrap a pitch (and thus a decent CPM) around what your selling. Advertisers are comfortable with AP content. They know what their getting. No brand concerns. An expected audience. Sell the news, not peanut butter.

That's it. Btw, the AP will love this. I've met with jim Kennedy and lots of people down there in the past and its always been apparent that they want their own web presence. With you being the most trafficked site on the net, they'll embrace this plan like a long lost child.

Seven easy steps and the next thing you know your brand grows, your audience grows and you actually stand for something. Sure beats the heck out of being known as the also ran search player.

February 13, 2008

Politics and Marketing: More Like 1796 than 1996

I think at this point we all know politics is really just marketing. (Note, I said politics, not policy.) As I watch this year's presidential campaign unfold, I find the similarities to be remarkable. Sure we use different nomenclature, but conceptually their the same.

  • In the political world we have parties, the business world companies
  • Companies produce products; political parties produce candidates
  • Companies try to win market share; political parties try to win votes
  • Companies have product positions; political parties have campaign platforms
  • Companies have tag lines and jingles; political parties: slogans and songs (Don't stop thinking about tomorrow!)
  • Companies live and die by exposure (PR, ads, signs, etc.); Campaigns, well, ditto.
  • Companies manufacture events for exposure; campaigns, again ditto (debates, conventions, etc.)

And the list goes on and on. In the business world, because technology has created a fairly fragmented society, reaching a large number of people with product messaging has become increasingly difficult. Newspaper circulation is dwindling, same for TV viewership (and even when they're watching, they're not really watching the ads). Hitmaking is hard. And that's when your selling an IPhone - imagine if your product was a boring presidential campaign.

What of the internet you say? Well, good luck there. Google isn't built for hit-making and so far none of the other online ad products have shown they are any good at it. Your best bet for a hit these days is to try to go viral, but that's more art than science in my mind.

So if politics is really just marketing, won't future campaigns run into the same trouble future marketer's have? Are we already seeing the effects of this? Perhaps low voter turnout isn't a result of apathy but rather the world we live in? In 1960 when TV was (1) relatively new (i.e. a novelty), (2) pretty much the only form of in-home entertainment and (3) armed with three channels, from a marketing perspective, reaching 70 million people was easy. Everyone's attention was on the same thing. Accordingly, voter turnout was the highest in the past 50 years. Fast forward to today: does anyone watch debates anymore?

With politics being marketing, just like the business world, political parties will need to figure this out soon. As technology continues to evolve, I can only see our world becoming more and more fragmented. From a marketer's perspective, its more reminiscent of the way things were way, way, way back before the 20th century media revolution. The ubiquity of online distribution (and the disintegration of off-line) is turning the blog into the modern day form of pamphlet. Lots of content, but no critical mass of readers. Just like it was way back when. If your running the 2012 campaign and you want to get a message out, you might be better off going back to the strategies of 1796 not 1996.

February 14, 2008

Life Inside A Hostile World

With Yahoo taking its case for independence to its shareholders, Microsoft meeting with Yahoo shareholders, Yahoo considering alternatives with News Corp. and law suits starting to fly, my mind goes back to the summer of 1999.

I was a senior associate in the New York office of Brown and Wood. Our client, Grupo Mexico, was interested in buying a copper company called Asarco. Problem was Asarco had just agreed to merge with another company (Cyprus Amax) and a third company, Phelps Dodge, was also on the prowl. An innocent phone call from a partner asking if I had time to work on the deal pretty much kick started one of the worst 9 months of my life. 18 hour days were the easy ones. It was the all nighters, and the double all nighters, that really sucked. Why is this? Because public M& A deals are never done.

The problem is when you're a public company and you agree to a deal, it means nothing. Every deal has what lawyers call a "fiduciary out", which basically acknowledges the fiduciary duty the board has to public stockholders to consider other buy-out offers, even after signing a deal. If someone lobs in a higher offer, the board HAS to consider it.

If they take it, there's usually a pretty hefty break-up fee to be paid by the target to the original buyer . This fee is designed to compensate the first acquiror for its sunk costs (contractual liquidated damages, so to speak) but in reality there's a deterrent effort there as well. The trick is the fee can't be so big that it actually does deter other offers. Fine lines here.

Imagine trying to sell your house this way. It's no wonder that the law firms love this stuff.

Also, most times these types of deals have at least a partial stock component to them (i.e. the target companies stockholders receive part of their purchase price in acquiror's stock). In many instances the deal includes what's called a collar, which says that should the acquiror's stock dip below a certain level, the deal is either renegotiated or ended. In other words if Yahoo and Microsoft sign a deal and Microsoft stock tanks (as a result or otherwise), the deal may go up in smoke. Like I said, the fun never ends in public deals.

With Asarco, they originally sold the company to Cyprus Amax, then came the hostile offers from Phelps Dodge and Grupo Mexico. After those, Asarco had an auction which was won by Phelps Dodge and a deal was signed. Grupo Mexico countered with another tender offer, above the Phelps Dodge price, which, after much wrangling, was accepted. A few weeks later Grupo Mexico closed on the deal.

Life representing Grupo Mexico in the deal was rough from an hours perspective, but not as bad as it was representing Asarco. I remember when we were negotiating the final deal with the lawyer from Skadden, at one point he wearily said to me "this is the third time I've sold this company in the past few months, I really hope there isn't a fourth." Thankfully for him (and our client) there wasn't.

Anyway, lesson here, if an when this Microsoft/ Yahoo/ news Corp/ whomever things happens, don't think its over. It's probably just the beginning. That's life in a hostile world. It ain't pretty.

February 17, 2008

Restoration Hardware = Customer Loyalty

Two years ago, right before we got married, Kelly and I moved into our current apartment. In the mind of my wife, new marriage and new apartment could only mean one thing: new furniture! For a month, at least one day of every weekend was burned spent in the various Bay area furniture stores looking, first and foremost, for a couch.

Despite the various cool, hip, trendy furniture shops we went to, we actually ended up buying our couch at Restoration Hardware. At the end of the day, they had the most comfortable couch we could find, in a style we liked and at a decent price. Sure we had to live with the embarrassment of being, well, hopelessly suburban - but we really liked the couch.

When we bought the couch, Kelly had a pretty long discussion with one of the clerks over style and color. The clerk managed to sell us the linen cream colored down model, assuring us that my wife's concerns that it would stain, wrinkle and lose feathers were unfounded. I, obviously, had no opinion on the matter.

Anyway, fast forward a few months, the couch arrives, I spend the greater portion of my free time on it, and a month or two after we have it, it already looks 10 years old. Yep, it's wrinkled, showing some slight stains and shedding feathers. Ugh. After a while it gets to be too much for Kelly, so she actually gets in the car and goes back to Restoration Hardware to see if they can do anything. I assume this is a fool's errand, and we're stuck with the couch until the next redecoration.

In the words of Fonzie, I was wrrrrrrrrr. Restoration Hardware, with little or no complaining, agreed to not only take back the couch we had (stains and all) for a full refund, replace it with brand new couch of a different style - but also take care of all the delivery hassles. No charge. Don't forget that like any furniture store, couches aren't inventory item. They're custom made. Hence, the usual 6 weeks waiting time for delivery after you buy one. I repeat: they took it back no charge. Wow.

I have a friend who used to work a as controller in the corporate office of Restoration Hardware. After a year, he left. He said on the creative side, it was a great place to work, on the finance side it was maddening. Taking back three month old wrinkled, stained couches for full refunds and replacing them no questions asked? I can see why. From a finance side, this is madness. But from a business side in every other sense, it is awesome.

I bring this up because fast forward two years later, Kelly and I are n the market for a bed frame and dresser. Guess where we went? Yep. Restoration Hardware. First and only stop. Needless to say, we're loyal customers for life.

February 20, 2008

I Like Sam Zell's Style

I think I told this story once before in this blog, but I'll tell it again. When Topix first started to talk with Knight Ridder way back when, we had a meeting with lots of the KR higher ups. At some point in this meeting, we asked one of the KR exec's something to the effect of "what markets are you not in right now that you want to be?" The exec's response: None.

Judging from the look of horror in our faces (can you imagine being in a business like online news and NOT look to grow outside your current geographic markets???), the executive felt compelled to explain to us that that's not how the newspaper business works. They have their markets, their competitors have theirs, and everyone lives happily ever after. Oh.

What the exec who said that didn't realize was that a strategy like that works well until something disruptive (like, i don't know, say......THE INTERNET?!) comes along. Then things must change.

With the internet/ blogging/ search engine revolution, media distribution became cheap and easy. Newspapers used to having a monopoly on these things were suddenly forced to (horrors!) compete. Different places to spend ad money jumped up, large audience footprints we established, more interesting ad products developed and, accordingly, newspaper revenue felt the pain. Previous luxuries of the business, like journalism, became re-characterized as cost centers, bait for readers if you will. And just like the old saying goes, if you're not catching fish, it's time to cut bait. And so has been the history of the newspaper for the past couple of years.

Anyway, fast forward a few years, KR no longer exists, NY Times stock sinks like a stone, Tribune gets sold off and the tombstone for the newspaper industry starts being chiseled. And that's that, right?

Hmmmm. Maybe not. Maybe there is a hero in this story. When Tribune is sold its buyer is actually someone NOT in the media industry. Someone who is untainted by the political/ emotional baggage of the past. A fresh set of eyes and a strong personality. Someone who understands the need to actually forget about past glories and question everything and anything. And not to be nice about it. That last part is key, by the way.

Sam Zell seems to be that guy. Turning around a sinking ship is hard business. There are lots of tough decisions ahead and more enemies than friends to be made along they way. I like what he's doing though. He's ruffling feathers. Making people uncomfortable. From what I've seen he's trying to message out that newspaper employees should stop worrying about nonsense like Pulitzers and start worrying about things like monetization, advertisers, CPM's, audience packages, etc. High mindedness is a luxury of successful businesses, not failing ones. This guy may just be the exact kick in the pants that the industry needs.

Now with that, ruffling feathers is only half the job. There still needs to be strategic decisions made around product, distribution, monetization, etc. I don't know where he'll come out on those. But shaking off the ghosts of the past and looking at the business with fresh eyes is certainly a good start.

February 22, 2008

Experience Ain't Everything

From George Will's latest column:
The president who came to office with the most glittering array of experiences had served 10 years in the House of Representatives, then became minister to Russia, then served 10 years in the Senate, then four years as secretary of state (during a war that enlarged the nation by 33 percent), then was minister to Britain. Then, in 1856, James Buchanan was elected president and in just one term secured a strong claim to being ranked as America's worst president. Abraham Lincoln, the inexperienced former one-term congressman, had an easy act to follow.

Yet another reason why I am bullish on the new Sam Zell Tribune.

February 25, 2008

Does Brand Advertising Belong on the Web?

No need to go into too many details here - we all know the web was made for direct response advertising. People click links, buy stuff from those clicks, fill out forms with personal information, etc. - CPC and CPA advertising thrive. It's audience packaging and CPM pricing - the heart and soul of the traditional offline ad business - that struggles online. With measurable alternatives, amorphous selling points like demographics and engagement become less attractive and are priced accordingly.

With that, nonetheless everyone seems to be convinced that at some point brand advertising will migrate to the web. Ford will soon realize that its F-150 commercial is not reaching much of an audience on TV and will have to migrate to where the eyeballs are. Since there is no precise level of measurability for TV brand ads, there will be no similar expectations once they reach the web. Or so the story goes.

But what if they're wrong? What if brand doesn't make it to the web? What if it turns out that certain advertising mediums lend themselves to certain methods of advertising and, despite as much as you want to try, there's no cross over. Direct mail has been around for a long, long time and no one expects brand advertisers to start migrating there. It's a direct response medium and doing a brand campaign on a bulk letter basis seems, well, silly.

So what if Ford, et. al. concludes the same about the web? There are alternatives out there. I hardly even turn the TV on anymore, yet the Apple brand ads are ubiquitous in my life. Same with movies - somehow, someway I manage to hear about most movie openings without seeing the trailers on TV or on the web for that matter. There are brand alternatives - billboards, radio, bus stations, etc. - out there. TV's audience may be shrinking but effective brand messaging can still be done without being online.

Brand advertising is a balancing act between controlling a message for a period time (30 seconds in TV world) while at the same time being packaging up in a few words (ex. the quicker picker upper). In other words, the fact that Dodge is "ram tough" doesn't mean much to me unless I have a context. A quick glance at a banner doesn't provide that context. To that end, it seems like video games are a better platform for brand ads than the web. But, again to my point, would anyone expect a direct response migration to video games?

The newspaper business since its inception has been all about packaging a local print audience for advertisers. No measurability, no expectations, no ROI calculation. Newspapers move to the web, do things like gather registration data, geo-IP target, etc. all in an effort to localize their web audience for their advertisers. Guess what? Advertisers aren't interested in buying their local web audiences. Different medium, different form of advertising.

I guess I'm wondering what happens if brand advertisers come to the same conclusion.

February 26, 2008

Chatterbox

I thought I'd give this new Google chat feature a go on my blog. My IM link and status is below my picture....note though that since I use Gmail for work I'm pretty much always logged into it - so my status button is almost always "available" even though often times I'm not. In other words, don't be offended if I miss your IM.

February 27, 2008

Sad Day in the Burgh

If football is a religion in the city of Pittsburgh - which it is - then the minister of the congregation for as long as I can remember has been Myron Cope. As the local radio color commentator for the Pittsburgh Steelers for the past 35 years, Myron's name was as synonymous to Steeler football as Rooney, Bradshaw, Swann and Cowher. Sadly, Myron passed away this morning. An entire city will miss him.

It's not too often that someone can be so distinct and good at their job as a commentator that their presence often actually transcends the event they are commentating on. Myron was one of those people. My childhood memories of Steeler's football certainly include the Super Bowls and the great wins, but they also include the Terrible Towel (an invention of Myron's that has been copied many times over by many other teams), his holiday songs ("Deck the Bronco's their just yonkos") and his, well, interesting turns of phrases (hmmm ha!).

Those who aren't from Pittsburgh probably can't relate to this entry. Myron's whiny, nasaly voice and heavy Pittsburgh accent were never suited for the national scene. As a result he was never exposed to the masses. But for those of us who were lucky enough to live in Pittsburgh during the past 30 years, his is a voice we won't likely ever forget.

A taste of Myron below:

February 28, 2008

About.com: The NY Times Flagship Property

The recent personnel changes at about.com got me thinking about that company again. That company being of course About.com's owner, the New York Times Company.

A few years ago it was big news when the Times bought About.com. They certainly paid a hefty price for it - $410 million. I remember at the time we were in the process of selling Topix and we looked at that number with envy. Since that time About.com made the deal look like a good move, increasing its revenue from $34 million in 2005 to $102 million in 2007. Based on this, it was a bit surprising when reports surfaced last months that the Times was looking to get rid of About. Not surprisingly, it turns out those reports were wrong though.

Whatever. All that's well and good. But what I find deliciously interesting about New York Times and about.com is the juxtaposition of two companies that really couldn't take more different approaches to the online content business.

On one hand you have the grey lady. All the news that's fit to print. The embodiment of the fourth estate - the government watchdog famous for its long history of distinguished journalism. This is the paper that fought for the standard of libel laws, bravely published the Pentagon Papers, and pretty much set the standard for journalism in the US. A more admired content brand does not exist.

On the other hand, you have about.com. About.com, is, well, a spam farm. It's model is to have its 500 authors create content on a host of popular topics which are then set out in the About.com SEO drift nets. These nets manage to snag 31 million uniques every month, 80% of which comes from search engine traffic. There's no breaking reporting here, no in-depth investigations. Controversial publications includes such matters as buying your first guitar, how to save money when you move and 5 myths about the middle east. Not quite the Pentagon Papers.

So here's groundbreaking original reporting and search engine spam both living under the same corporate roof. Nice. And here's the best part: as far as online audience and online revenue goes, About.com is the clear winner of the two. It's not even close. About's 30 million uniques are probably at least 3 times, if not more, the audience of nytimes.com. Don't believe me? Here, check out the chart from compete:

And you wonder why newspapers are cutting all those news room jobs. Now you know - online, the game is changed. In a world where limited distribution made all the consumer choices reside in the a 10 foot long new stand, newspapers and magazines could focus their energy on competing via quality content. Ad sales folks had life so good that they could afford the highminded indulgences of reporters, knowing that that at the end of the day it would be ok because the bills would be paid. Not anymore. That approach isn't working. Give the people what they want.

The other day Valleywag questioned why Martin Nisenholtz would want to take over the helm of a company like About.com. Doesn't surprise me at all. Like it or not, right now About.com is the flagship property of the company.

UPDATE: Valleywag is now reporting that About.com is being shopped around by NY Times....

About February 2008

This page contains all entries posted to Marksonland in February 2008. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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