2008: The Changing Face of Newspapers

digital news transformationAs years end and the holiday cycle takes over, the pace of events downshifts to a crawl.  People rest, taking time with friends and family to reflect and recharge.  Vacation’s take over, businesses shutter.  Business events and politics, pause.  Similarly, the news industry reporting on it all, retrenches. In papers and on websites around the world, pages and mastheads usually dotted with zippy headlines and urgent ledes loan space to nostalgic recaps and forward projections; accounts of the year that was and prognostication for the year that will be.

It’s that time of year.

The lists of 2008’s highlights and shortcomings promise to be long.  Many will emphasize the historic U.S. elections and the plight of the global economy.  There will be talk of Wall Street’s upheaval and the auto industry’s implosion, Madoff’s mess and fortunes lost. There will be assessments of the Mideast, reference to oil and gas and the environment. There will be summaries of mergers and acquisitions, those that succeeded and those that failed, highlight reels and shames, box office booms and busts.

So goes the year end process.

In this fervent generation of lists, hopefully,  the news media won’t overlook reviewing itself.  History has yet to write the footnotes, but 2008 is a year that could end up standing out as a part of a watershed period in the evolution of print media, a year when Internet news became a more relied upon source than print (according to a recent Pew Internet survey), a time when digitally rooted upheaval may have finally reached such a pinnacle that it will begin to force the transformation of the industry.

Click to Read More

Walmart to Ring up iPhone 3G

walmart sells iphoneAs a retail brand, Walmart is as ubiquitous as any.  The chain’s stores have been the subject of movies, protests and debates, praise and condemnation. You’d have to live under a rock to never have heard of them.  The same is becoming true for Apple’s iPhone.  As a retail product, the industry-changing cell phone is well on its way to achieving a superstar level of awareness.  Now, the two will be available together.

For months there had been speculation Apple would introduce a cheaper 4GB model for sale through Walmart.  Confirming the relationship part of those rumors but debunking the rest, Walmart will join Best Buy as an distributor of the existing product line. Click to Read More

Warner Music and YouTube Not Hearing the Same Tune

record-rights-issue-sm.jpgIf you missed the headlines, Warner Music Group, the first of the Big 4 record labels to partner with YouTube has pulled off the site.  Accounts and press releases differ over culpability – whether YouTube bailed or Warner Music punted – but the material fact is the same.  From Bad Company to the B-52’s, James Blunt to Jane’s Addiction, the videos are down.  The reason is simple: money.

For several months, the two companies have been trying to renegotiate their expired license agreement.   Under the prior terms, its reported that Warner received either a fraction of a cent per video play or a share of any ad revenue generated alongside their content, whichever was greater. 

Neither, it turns out, was great enough. According to the New York Times, in 2008 less than one percent of Warner’s $639m in digital revenues came from YouTube; that despite the fact that music videos are among the most watched content on the site. 

According to Ad Age “Forty-seven of the top 100 most-watched creators on YouTube are musicians or labels.”

Click to Read More

Elevation Partners Backs Palm with Another $100m

palm metueIn June of 2007, private equity firm Elevation Partners announced they were committing $325 million and several experts, including iPod guru Jon Rubinstein, to turn Palm’s floundering ship around.  Palm’s CEO Ed Colligan predicted it would take about 18 months to chart the course.  Time’s about up.  It’s now been a year and half.  18 months, and many bad earnings cycles (including consecutive losses), have passed and the company’s inching up on the release of a new smartphone platform (dubbed “Nova”). With losses mounting, it’s an all or nothing gamble. A big move to redefine the brand and reclaim prominence.  Some question whether, in a down market, it will be enough even if Palm scores perfect. Some of the same wonder if it is too little too late to save the brand and restore the company. Palm’s biggest private investors aren’t among them.  Today, Elevation Partners committed another $100m.

Elevation’s one hundred million will buy them voting rights equal to about 11%.  Combined with their prior purchase, it will give the private equity firm 38% of Palm’s outstanding vote (on a converted basis). 

Click to Read More

Redstone Defaults on Debt, Lenders Look the Other Way

movie debtThere’s an old saying that says if you owe a bank a thousand dollars they own you but if you owe them a billion, you own them.  While the numbers in the saying vary, today, media mogul Sumner Redstone seems to have validated the theory of the adage: if you owe enough, you’re in control. 

Redstone’s National Amusements, the controlling shareholder of CBS Corp and Viacom Inc, had $800m out of a total $1.6b  in debt obligations due to be repaid Friday.   The bill wasn’t paid.  Instead, the 15 lenders provided National Amusements an indefinite extension, the New York Post reported.

Click to Read More

U2 Cashes out of Live Nation Stock

guitar moneyOver the past year, in an effort to establish exclusive, long term multiple-rights partnerships (so called “360” deals) with select A-list artists, Live Nation has dangled generous advance payments and equity as bait.  Some of music’s biggest names bit in to the lure.   Madonna, and Jay-Z, Shakira, Nickelback and U2 all signed up.  Now, it seems a couple of the deals may have been even more generous than Live Nation intended. SEC filings indicate U2 will be the first to cash in.

U2’s next studio album, “No Line on the Horizon,” is officially slated for a March 2nd  release. The band’s promotional and touring partnership with Live Nation won’t really pick up steam until then.  Still, before the revenue starts running, nearly $25mllion is going U2’s way now.

Click to Read More

Eidos on the Market? Who are Possible Buyers

eidos sale rumorsUK Gamemaker SCi Entertainment Group outbid Elevation Partners to acquire Eidos Interactive in 2005.  Less than two weeks ago, SCi filed papers to officially change their company name to Eidos – aligning the corporate name with their consumer face.  If ongoing trade rumors are any indication, however, there may be little need to rush out and print new letterhead.  Recent rumors have been circling that SCi/Eidos is on the block and the list of potential suitors includes EA, Ubisoft, Square Enix and Warner Brothers.  Other bigger game companies could be interested too.  Is there truth in the grapevine?

Click to Read More

Page 1 of 3123