eBay & Stumble Upon: Not such crazy math

With news largely being thrown into the category of: what are they thinking? eBay has confirmed month long rumors by  announcing that it was buying Web 2.0, new media companyStumble Upon for $75m.  Despite the confusion, the logic of the deal may actually make sense. 

deal valuationStumble Upon, which was founded in Calgary, Canada in 2001 is something of a computer-automated web surfing tool married to a community of users.  Either through their website, or browser-integrated buttons, users can ask for a new page and then the website will redirect them (a “stumble”) towards something related.  The sites in the system, however, are not purely random.  Web Publishers, like Metue for example, can buy placements from Stumble Upon that insure a certain number of page views from Stumble Upon users per day; just another form of website marketing. 

It is that paid search component, along with a feature launched in April called “Stumble Thru” which is likely what attracted eBay. StumbleThru lets a user move through the pages of a specific site with the same semi-randomness of full internet stumbling. In other words, they can “stumble” through the listings of eBay auctions, or products at eBay property, Half.com

While the pricing of the deal will raise some eyebrows, and the value of Stumble Upon in the eBay product portfolio will puzzle some, the deal is not completely illogical, nor is the price.  eBay spends a tremendous amount of resources keeping its site and name well publicized around the web.   Stumble Upon will be an asset in those ongoing marketing efforts.

Here’s a breakdown in more detail:
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Changing Interactions: Surface Computing and the Future

digital futureIMAGINE:  You open the fridge and you’re out of milk.  Rather than writing down a list, with your finger as a pen, you write the word “Milk” on a touch-sensitive area of our refrigerator.  An integrated computer recognizes the word and wirelessly it adds milk to an electronic grocery list on your computer.  Later, thanks to that list, Milk is delivered with your next online grocery order.  Or maybe, when in your car, you touch the paper thin screen on your dash and your Grocery List is available for review (because your car’s computer downloaded from your home PC, syncing lists you preset to make mobile).  Or maybe, the list is loaded to data on your mobile phone?

IMAGINE: You are watching TV.  You pick up a remote control to change the channel but instead of pushing buttons, a gyroscope in the remote recognizes the motions of your hand and translates those movements into actions on the screen.  Move your hand up, the channel goes up.  Move it left, the volume goes down.  And so on.  Imagine, touch a small screen on that remote, where the buttons should be,  and the movements of your finger act like a stylus to aid in navigation.  You can check your email overlaid over the commercial break in your favorite show.  You can look at the pictures a friend forwarded from a party last night.  …. Imagine

IMAGINE: Your alarm clock goes off in the morning playing music you preselected from your iTunes library.  You reach over to touch its screen (instead of slamming the snooze button).  On contact, the alarm goes off and the ten inch diagonal screen changes to show your email inbox, or an interface to iTunes…or your daily to do list.…imagine.

These kinds of dreams, and a whole lot more, aren’t far off from a technological standpoint. The gyroscopic motion-sensing technologies, for example, already exist commercially in the Nintendo Wii or in computer mice from Gyration.  The technology for ultra-thin displays has seen recent major developments and is being refined.  Touch screens are improving dramatically.  Even voice-based interaction is improving in leaps and bounds.

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CBS Buys More New Media: Last.fm acquired

CBS is serious about its online content.  That may not have been clear with last weeks confirmed purchase of news videolog Wallstrip, but with today’s announcement that they were buying UK based Internet radio company Last.fm it certainly is.

cbs last.fmNow, in addition to a sizable investment in IPTV company Joost, and an active content distribution strategy of its own, CBS will add a community driven music network that has more than 15million users spread around more than 200 countries.

In announcing the deal, CBS CEO Les Moonves said “[Last’s] demographics play perfectly to CBS’s goal to attract younger viewers and listeners across our businesses.”  With Joost, Wallstrip and now Last.fm, CBS is clearly trying to build that audience quickly. 

To acquire Last.fm, CBS will pay $280m in cash.  The founders of Last, which was started in 2002, will continue to run Last.fm independently but they will almost certainly be exploring joint efforts with the CBS Radio Division.

In its overall content strategy, it almost seems that CBS is positioning itself to compete Click to Read More

DRM-Free iTunes goes Live

Over the last few days Metue has posted speculation about a DRM-Free iTunes launch and what it might include. All signs pointed to it being imminent, and it in fact, was. iTunes Plus, Apple’s name for higher quality, digital rights management free music officially launched today. A full press release is available on Apple’s website.

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FTC Looking Deeper at Google/DoubleClick

With a purchase price of more than $3b a little regulatory scrutiny was to be expected for the pending DoubleClick and Google deal.  Yesterday the New York Times confirmed such scrutiny was ongoing, and official.  According to the article, the Federal Trade Commission (instead of the Justice Department) was conducting a review and had issued Google a Second Request which is a formal request for answers to a list of detailed questions.

The news or review, regardless of which agency administered it, was expected.  Google stated back in April when the deal was announced that they’d studied the anti-trust issues, expected regulatory scrutiny, and weren’t concerned. 

Given the stakes for the acquisition are high, and also the fact that, in this transaction, you have two companies coming together that each handle a tremendous volume of consumer behavior related information, a Second Request and a detailed review is not a shocker.

DoubleClick, which provides display advertising (video or graphic banners), displays its advertising across a wide range of independent web properties and through “cookies” has the capacity to track which sites a web surfer has visited. Google, in contrast, as the leading search engine, has the capacity to track what web searchers users have made. Google reportedly keeps that date for up to several years as well.  A combined company could pool this information and theoretically that could be problematic, so it warrants a check-up.

Realistically, however much privacy concerns irk and scare consumer watch groups, privacy concerns are not likely to do more than stimulate debate.  Both sites have clear privacy policies and neither is doing anything outside industry practice. Click to Read More

Top 10 Beatles Songs For an Apple announcement?

Yesterdays post about Apple, iTunes and speculation about the up coming release of DRM-Free music was popular and got a lot of hits. 

Apple has a tendency for showy announcements so I’ve predicted that DRM-Free songs will be released on iTunes in a  high profile way (speculatively alongside the iPhone launch, and with the announcement of the availability of the Beatles catalog being released too)

That got me thinking.  Beatles song Lovely Rita played during a prior iPhone announcement.  If my guess is right, what Beatles song will play next?  If any Beatles song will play in the background during an announcement of DRM-Free music, the launch of the iPhone, or roll out of the Beatles songbook to the digital domain, what would it be. 

With so many classic songs, and obscure ones, out there, the choices are many. 

The email lines are open for an impromptu poll. I’ve created an email account for just this at beatlespoll@metue.com  Send a message, or a leave a comment on the site (If your comment doesn’t post immediately, don’t worry. First time posts are moderated to prevent spam).

metue top ten

  10. Rocky Raccoon

  9. Dear Prudence

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DRM-Free iTunes Launch?

The distribution of Digital Rights Management Free ("DRM-Free") music has been the subject of much debate, and high hopes over the last few months. Many, including me, believe requiring the inclusion of DRM protections on music downloads hinders online music sales, is built on faulty logic, and ultimately, ends up hurting the music industry.

itunes unlockingIn February, Apple’s CEO, Steve Jobs, in a detailed essay explained his position and openly called for DRM-FREE music to be made available by the labels. Inspired by his speech, Metue also ran an article on the seeming paradox in the industry; specifically the contradiction between offering 90% of music DRM free (CD’s) and 10% restricted (Online Music).

In early April, two months later, EMI, one of the "Big Four" Record companies, answered Mr. Jobs call and broke ranks to announce that it would allow higher quality DRM-Free songs to be sold side by side with the already encoded songs on iTunes. (EMI, which is currently in the process of going private, has also since announced a similar deal with Amazon for their upcoming music store.)

Now almost June, another two months later after EMI’s announcement, Apple news website MACNN, has run an article citing sources familiar with negotiations, that a launch of EMI’s catalog of DRM Free music is finally ready and imminent. According to the post, the time lapse since the announcement was necessary to encode and host the entire catalog so that it could be launched completely, in its entirety, rather than gradually. The article also states that it was only last week that the contracts were finalize.

Given the significance of DRM Free music to Apple, and its leader’s open position on it, I wouldn’t expect a quiet roll out so I’m betting against something this week. Click to Read More

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