October 2004 Archives
There have been several news stories about the imminent sale of the public company Marketwatch. I have also reprinted below a story about this sale from The New York Times.
Ironically I had just written about wsj.com and Marketwatch and the differences between a free financial Web site and a subscription-based site. The Times story below reiterates many of my points.
So why would Marketwatch put itself on the block? The answer is that just as wsj.com suffers from growing its traffic as a paid subscription site, so too Marketwatch suffers from being unable to grow organically without linking up with some larger pool of financial readers. The conundrum for online media publishers is being able to continue to gain new quality readers or greater mindshare so that advertisers will continue to support such sites.
While Marketwatch revenues have grown, it faces a steady fight for mindshare and readership with the myriad financial online sites. So with good numbers for the previous 12 months, this is a great time to sell. I am not suggesting that Marketwatch cannot grow over the next 12 months, but such growth would probably not duplicate the numbers for the previous 12 months. Thus the sale.
One of the reasons Jupitermedia moved into selling images online is because we, too, faced the above-mentioned difficulties. Now we have a great combination of a terrific online media business (subject, however, to the the ups and downs of advertising budgets) coupled with a powerful e-commerce business (selling images). The image business has been growing rapidly because of good execution on our part, but also because of the interest in images from the nearly 20 million unique monthly visitors who read our JupiterWeb properties.
A combination of Marketwatch with nytimes.com or wsj.com or some other online media group will be very powerful. And it will solve the problems outlined above for both the buyer and the seller.
Here's the NYT article:
MarketWatch, Web News Site, Is Up for Sale
By ANDREW ROSS SORKIN
Published: October 28, 2004
MarketWatch, the owner of a leading financial news site, CBS MarketWatch, is soliciting bids expected to be as much as $400 million for the company, executives involved in the sale process said yesterday.
MarketWatch, which quietly put itself on the block early last month, operates one of the few Web sites born in the late 1990's that has survived the bursting of the dot-com bubble amid a torrent of competition from more established news organizations.
Some of those media companies are among the suitors, including the CBS unit of Viacom; Dow Jones, which owns The Wall Street Journal; The New York Times Company; and possibly the Financial Times Group of Pearson, the executives said. Yahoo is also a suitor.
MarketWatch hired UBS to conduct the auction, the executives said. Final bids are due in the next week. A spokesman for MarketWatch declined to comment.
A successful sale would mean another rich payday for Larry S. Kramer, a former newspaper editor who created the site, then Marketwatch.com, for the Data Broadcasting Corporation in 1995. Mr. Kramer, who had been an editor for The Washington Post, The Trenton Times and The San Francisco Examiner, is now chairman and chief executive of MarketWatch and owns 148,000 shares.
His first big payday came when Data Broadcasting formed a joint venture with CBS and took the new Web company public. The initial public offering of MarketWatch.com was one of the fireworks of the Internet boom: its shares leaped 475 percent on their trading debut.
The free news site, now called CBS.MarketWatch.com, had 5.8 million unique visitors last month, according to Nielsen/NetRatings. The parent company, MarketWatch, has diversified beyond relying solely on advertising revenue from the site.
It created a separate business, selling licenses for its online financial software tools to other Web sites, allowing their users to chart stock prices and other data. The company also has several paid subscription newsletter products and is building a financial news service for big institutional investor clients with a partner, Thomson Financial, to compete with the Dow Jones Newswires and other financial news services.
MarketWatch reported third-quarter earnings yesterday that were double the previous year's, citing growth in online advertising revenue. Its shares rose 10 percent, to $13.71, in Nasdaq trading. The stock is up 78 percent since mid-August.
Dow Jones is considered the front-runner, the executives said, because of the savings it could squeeze by combining some MarketWatch operations with others in its company.
Dow Jones is particularly interested because acquiring MarketWatch would provide access to a wider Internet audience and a bigger slice of the online advertising market. Dow Jones's Wall Street Journal Web site requires a paid subscription and subscriber growth appears to have leveled off at about 700,000 users.
Dow Jones would also hope to convert some MarketWatch subscribers to paid subscribers of The Journal's site, the executives said. In addition, the company would be able to cut editorial and back-office functions that overlap, the executives said.
A spokesman for Dow Jones declined to comment.
Viacom has a 22.4 percent stake in MarketWatch as one of its original backers. It also provides in-kind advertising; the site's Web address is frequently mentioned on CBS programs.
Executives close to the process said CBS wanted to acquire MarketWatch to protect the brand value it helped create and to help expand its own news site, which links users to MarketWatch. Viacom has also been expanding its Web business; it recently bought Sportline.com.
A change-of-control provision in CBS's deal with MarketWatch could prevent future owners of the company from using the CBS name, the executives said. A Viacom spokesman declined to comment.
Yahoo, which has the deepest pockets, is interested in using MarketWatch to help bolster its Yahoo Finance area, which has little original content, the executives said. A spokesman for Yahoo declined to comment.
The New York Times Company, the executives added, is interested in adding to its digital properties, and would use MarketWatch to send more readers to its own site and would send Times readers to MarketWatch.
The New York Times is a partner of MarketWatch, using much of its data and its charting abilities in its business section; The Times's Web site also runs some articles from MarketWatch. The Times Company's last foray in the online financial news business - an investment in TheStreet.com - was unsuccessful. CBS MarketWatch discussed merging with TheStreet.com in 2000.
A spokeswoman for The New York Times Company declined to comment.
It remains unclear whether the Financial Times Group, publisher of The Financial Times newspaper, was planning to make a final bid in the auction. Its parent, Pearson P.L.C., owns a 22.4 percent stake in MarketWatch. The company indicated interest in buying MarketWatch in earlier rounds of the auction, the executives said, but its current position is uncertain.
Thomson, the parent of Thomson Financial, expressed interest earlier, but does not appear set to make a final bid, the executives said.
My previous post dealt with a bit of the history of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL online edition. I see that The New York Times online edition is doing some rejiggering, too. David Pogue, the leading writer at the "print" CONNECTIONS section, announced that his new blog and his reviews can now be read for free online with a free login (rather than having to pay for such readings).
Much like the wsj.com experiment in "opening the site," this action by the Times could be an admission that the stringent control of this fine site might be changing.
Here is Mr. Pogue's explanation of the aforementioned changes. It will be interesting to see how these experiments work for both august publications.
1. From the Desk of David Pogue: The Tech Section Reborn
I'm not saying that to anyone in particular, but to a Web site. It's http://www.nytimes.com/tech, which was reborn last week. Technology fans, Pogue fans and Circuits fans have a lot to celebrate.
Here are some of the changes you'll find in the new Technology section of The New York Times on the Web:
* I'm going to be a lot more involved. In addition to my two weekly columns (this one and the one that appears in the paper), I'll also be writing a daily blog entry, starting soon. I will point out cool links, focus on emerging tech trends, answer reader mail, share funny tech experiences, and so on.
Watch for a regularly updated list of picks and pans, too.
* And though it may be risking overexposure, I'll also be filming a one- or two-minute video each week. It'll be a great chance to show you on camera whatever it is that I've reviewed that day in Circuits, or to present topics that work better live than in prose.
In fact, I posted my first one today -- an on-camera review of the Oqo ultrapersonal computer, which I reviewed in print in Circuits today. You can watch the movie at http://www.nytimes.com/videopages/2004/10/13/technology/20041013_STAT_VIDEO.
All of this stuff is free.
* And speaking of free: The entire archive of previous Circuits articles is now FREE! Not just mine, but also Basics, Online Shopper, What's Next, Game Theory and more. The days of having to pay $3 per past article are over.
I'm thrilled by this development for two reasons. First, I've always
wondered why my reviews of new computers, gadgets and software cost money, when book reviews, movie reviews and restaurant reviews were a free resource for all. Second, it means that I can stop having to send out copies of past columns to readers who can't find them anymore, or bumming them out by saying, "You'll have to cough up the three bucks."
To browse a list of past columns, go to NYTimes.com/circuits. Under my photo on the right side, you'll see links to my six most recent columns. Or click More Columns to view the entire list, going all the way back to 2000. (This is the best method if you want something you remember reading, say, last month.) From there, you'll find links to archives of all the other Circuits columns.
Or, to search the full text of all columns, use the Search box at the top. Fill in the columnist's name plus the product you want, using plus signs before each word (+pogue +tivo) to ensure that your search
includes both terms.
* All of my e-mail columns are also online and free! At the moment, many of them do not, however, show up in the search results (The Times is working on it). The e-mail columns DO show up if you know the date. You just have to know the formula for the column's Web address.
For example, my October 7, 2004 email column would have this address:
(See how you have to put the actual day of the month, 07, in two different places?)
* The site has a new design with five buttons across the top: Technology Home, Circuits (the section of the paper I write for), Product Reviews, How To's, and Deals. The Reviews and Deals sections, in particular, are enriched by a new collaboration with CNET. You'll find both Times and CNET product reviews in this mix.
That's a lot of stuff, I realize. But take it slowly, experience in
moderation, and I think you'll find this to be a rebirthday well worth
Where's the party, anyway?
I have long been a fan and a critic of The Wall Street Journal online edition. Several years ago I questioned the subscription strategy for this site. Dow Jones' defense was obtaining some 700,000 paid subscribers. This admirable number looks good until one realizes that millions of readers would have been reading wsj.com every day if in fact the site had been open.
I had suggested a combination of an open site as well as paid areas. The New York Times online edition took a form of the approach I suggested and apparently it has been very successful (although I think the Times should make it a bit easier to get information without registration).
Rafit Ali, a master blogger, pointed out the other day that Dow Jones will be opening wsj.com to all readers for a week in early November. The lifting of the subscription veil can only mean that things are not terrific as wsj.com. I am sure that the test is for advertising purposes. It will be interesting to see what happens with readership and then what Dow Jones decides to do down the road.
Unfortunately for Dow Jones, no matter what happens with the test, they have lost millions of readers forever. Users tend to bookmark favorite sites. Sites such as marketwatch.com were able to thrive for the previous 5 years or so because of the Dow Jones subscription position. I believe it is now too late for Dow Jones to regain lost readership to a site such as marketwatch and a host of others.
I had to be at the Javits Convention Center today in New York City for several meetings. The convention taking place is called PhotoPlus Expo (a VNU production).
My meetings went well. BUT, what a relief to go to the Javits and see a robust and terrific trade show! PhotoPlus is vertical. It covers professional camera equipment, peripherals and services. It also attracts consumers, but I would suggest that these consumers are of the "prosumer" variety -- in other words consumers who spend money.
Activity at booths was wall to wall. Presentations at the Adobe booth were crushing. But it was the same at any booth that offered presentations.
By the way, I think many readers know that Jupitermedia is in the business, among other things, of selling stock photos. Obviously I was at PhotoPlus for meetings in and around this space. Stock photos (we also sell images such as clipart and animations) sold online just might be one of the best businesses every created. The digital age allows one to sell ones and zeroes over and over again in an efficient and hugely profitable manner. There are many nuances to the business, but fortunately we have acquired great image businesses with fabulously talented people. I have been going to school, so to speak, with this "talent" and am just now feeling that I know the image business. The opportunity is great for Jupitermedia and I am spending most of my time growing our JupiterImages division.
Rich Westerfield often comments on trade show doings and he recently posted part of my blog about the DigitalLife show that took place in New York City last week. Rich once worked with me at Mecklermedia and helped put together our Internet World trade shows. It is good to see Rich commenting on the trade show arena.
A bit more about DigitalLife. The folks that put this gem together are the same trio that brought the events world the "wonderful" Business4Site show last June. This trio of experts was hired by ZiffDavis to develop cutting edge trade show properties. I wonder what the next great idea will be?
I had an opportunity this afternoon to check out the new DigitalLife trade show produced by Ziff Davis at the Javits Center in New York City. The show started on Thursday and continues through Sunday.
Everytime I go to the Javits Convention Center I cannot help but remember how Internet World (a show I once owned) used to fill every square inch of the Javits and had revenues of over $17 million. I know that I will never have a show of that size or success again and I know that I should never measure another show by Internet World standards.
However, when I see a show like DigitalLife, all I can do is cringe and wonder what the creators were thinking of when they thought up this idea. Did they think that buyers would be present or did they go through all this effort to attract the metropolitan area school population. A few highlights and thoughts:
1. You walk into the entry hall and it takes five minutes to figure out that registration is essentially a ticket booth kiosk and paying $15.
2. You ask the ticket taker who is attending the show: the answer: "it is for high school kids."
3. You then take a look at the entrance to the hall and you think that you are back at high school and some company has come to school to give away cool t-shirts or other gizmos.
4. You walk the exhibit hall and note that the big draws are booths where one can play games and demo equipment. You look some more and say to yourself that no exhibitor could have done more than $10 worth of business over four-days.
5. You continue walking the hall and become amazed that companies such as Microsoft, Toshiba, BenQ, Intel and others would spend the time and money to be at such a show. I talked to Toshiba personnel and heard: "lots of interest, but no business."
6. You start looking for the booth in which you are scheduled to meet someone and find out that there are no booth numbers, no row numbers and essentially no way to find a booth. Even the show directory does not list booth numbers. Fortunately the show floor is small enough that it only takes three minutes or so to get to my appointment.
There is a big sign at the exit announcing dates for the 2005 show. I wonder if it will take place as I find it hard to believe that any exhibitor would contemplate spending a dime to exhibit again.
During the summer Jupitermedia launched a chat and discussion site called SearchEngineWatchForums.com. Traffic is growing daily and there are now almost 2,000 members. Page view traffic has surpassed 20,000 per day. When combined with the 120,000 daily page views for our well established SearchEngineWatch site and the nearly 50,000 daily readers of our Search email newsletter, Jupitermedia blankets the search world.
Search is a great topic to "own" editorially. Search continues to evolve and as a publisher Jupitermedia must continue to match this evolution with additional editorial products.
Take a look at the Forums area. Some of the best ideas about Search appear there daily.
It is not surprising to this writer that TechX is over and done with as of today. I predicted it weeks and months ago. It is also not surprising that the people who glommed this thing together are going to try again with something called C3 (perhaps this stands for Cebit failing 3x?). C3 is a real corker. It brings together the founders of the old PC Expo, with the team that ran Cebit into the ground with the team behind the ridiculous model of TechX. The only thing missing is the team that thought up the weirdo show called Business4Site. These are all nice people behind these shows (except for a few), but please: horizontal trade shows are over. C3 would have better luck as a Broadway musical ---particularly if they can get Mel Brooks to write the book and get Nathan Lane to be the keynote speaker.
I wish C3 luck, but I will be planning the obituary as I conclude this post.
It is rare to see any trade show come back from the dead. But we are associated with just such a show by the name of ISPCON.
A bit of history: ISPCON was started in the early 1990s by the publisher of Boardwatch magazine (no longer published). In 1998 my old company, Mecklermedia, purchased Boardwatch magazine and the ISPCON trade shows for $29 million. Mecklermedia was sold to Penton Media in November 1998. The key assets of that sale were the Internet World and ISPCON trade shows.
Fast forward to 2002 and Penton Media is in financial trouble. And both of these trade show brands cease operating --- an amazing decline as their aggregrate revenue in 2000 was in excess of $50 million!
Internet World no longer exists in any form other than as a Web site. But ISPCON was purchased and resurrected by its former head of booth sales, Jon Price. Jon then turned around and sold Jupitermedia a 49.9% interest in ISPCON. Together (though most of the credit belongs to the talented Mr. Price) we have made ISPCON a powerful brand once more. ISPCON runs twice per year in the USA and the next iteration takes place in Santa Clara in November. This show has over 80 exhibitors and more to come. Our first joint effort in the spring of 2002 had but 20 exhibitors.
ISPCON is now very profitable with terrific growth prospects as ISP's have had their businesses energized with the coming of WISPS (wireless ISPs) and the relationship of VoiP to this industry.
Part of the success goes to the traffic Jupitermedia has on its many ISP related Web sites, related email newsletters and discussion lists. This traffic gives us the advantage of very low promotion costs to a very targeted audience of wireless and ISP professionals. Of course we do this over and over again with our SES shows and now we are using this model to grow our image businesses.
This is all very exciting. ISPCON is a marvel in that it runs counter to all other tech shows that have died over the previous four years. Once again, a needed vertical focus combined with a powerful online audience have resulted in economic success.
It is always flattering (even when posts are not flattering) to be mentioned or to be the subject of a blog. Tom Watson wrote a piece about me a few weeks ago that just came to my attention.
Tom is a great writer. I liked his writing and thoughts so much that many years ago I purchased atnewyork from Tom and his then partner Jason Chervokas. Tom and Jason remained with atnewyork for a few years and then went on to bigger and better things. Atnewyork continues to thrive under the excellent leadership of Erin Joyce and a team of professional journalists based in New York City.
Tom understands "my" model. If I had written his post, I would have added that we are doing the same types of deals with JupiterImages. We see images as content. We have been amassing the largest ownership position of digitized images and blending this content with a number of community sites and other informational sites where graphics and creative professionals reside. The latest example of such a site is our acquisition today of megapixel.net. More acquisitions are coming of both the image sites and the community sites.
Tom says my blog has some crankiness to it. Alas, it does. I feel it is my duty to tell it the way I see it. And while I have made enemies, I feel it is my duty to tell readers what I think of other companies, individuals and ideas. As for Tom: I only have praise of a man who is a terrific reporter and fine person.
I have been in Tokyo for two days and return home tomorrow. I have had many meetings with companies in the Internet space. Internet confidence is strong once again in Japan. The Japanese economy is rebounding after 12 years in the doldrums and it appears that the Internet economy is getting stronger too.
Search is the talk of Tokyo. Our April 2004 SES (search engine strategies) was a resounding success. The April 2005 show should triple in size. Search Engine Optimization firms are sprouting across Japan as more and more companies are concerned with their search engine rankings.
Cell phone games are the rage in Japan. I am not familiar with this business and doubt that this business has developed in America, but I suggest it should be there soon.