When it comes to business news, there are usually a few good takeover or acquisition rumors floating around. They make good water-cooler conversations and fuel the tanks of curiosity. Sometimes the stories pan out and “unconfirmed sources” turn out to be accurate insider gossip, other times, the comments prove yarns worthy of super market tabloids.
Tuesday, the publishing industry was the day’s hot topic with two unrelated, and both unconfirmed, stories in the rumor mills and on the coconut telegraphs.
Culled from the “more likely than not category” was a story published by the New York Post about cross-town rival, the New York Times and their paid subscription service TimesSelect. According to the Post, the service, which includes access to news and archives and some editorial content, will be scrapped. The service had just about 221k readers paying $7.95 a month as of June.
Victim of the highly competitive and highly productive media industry which churns out more content than most readers can consume before the contents expiration date, the Post cited a “source briefed on the matter” as saying executives at the Times decided it was time for change, that content will be free so that audience access isn’t limited. The Post headline read “TimesSelect Content Freed” but it could have also been “TimesSelect, no longer selective.”
A spokesman for the Times didn’t deny the Post’s report but instead said they “continue to evaluate the best approach for the NYTimes.com.”
A second rumor on the day fell in to the category of “on the right track but a little premature.” In a number of blog posts that pointed back to Venture Beat (which itself pointed back to an “inside source”) there was a story circulating that publisher Forbes (which happens to also be the home of the newly unmasked and immensely popular Fake Steve Jobs) was acquiring New York based social book marking service Clipmarks for undisclosed terms.
The original article speculated that Forbes wanted the “save and share/save and annotate” functions of a social book marking (social clipping service) utility to offer as a feature presumably for its readers, or possibly internally for its staff (or both).
In an amusing twist, Clipmarks founder Eric Goldstein later used his company’s “clipping” service to debunk the rumor and leave an annotated clip to note the “article is a bit premature.” He said in his comment, “We have not been acquired by Forbes. However, for the past few months we have been meeting with people at all levels of Forbes” and then continued “In the coming weeks I hope/expect to have a more definitive announcement.”
While there isn’t a clear picture of a revenue model for how a service like Clipmarks makes money, the service does provide a novel feature that could be of value for some web communities (including news channels like Forbes) that might want to offer it as a service for their audience.
Murky as the revenue equation may be for Clipmarks, the hook for their flavor of social clipping services is that they allow users to capture bits of data smaller than a single page. With them it’s easy to bookmark a paragraph from a news article, instead of the whole thing and a viewer can annotate it comments. As a web service, these book marks and comments can be accessed from any computer. They can also be shared with friends and colleagues.
Over the course of the past year, there was a formation frenzy with these services starting and many are still toiling to gain users. They compete against more established interactive web-based bookmarking services like the popular pioneer in the space: Del.icio.us.
Generally social clipping services are a feature advancement beyond social bookmarking services but the names are often interchangeable buzzwords for referring to the same category of Web 2.0 companies. (For a more detailed look at Social Clipping Services from the back pages of Metue see here).
Based on Eric Goldstein’s comments, a deal could well be in the works, though it could be an investment or partnership rather than an acquisition. We’ll have to wait for that “definitive announcement” to know for sure.
Damned if that isn’t always the case with “unconfirmed sources” and the pesky rumor mills.