January 2006 Archives
Nice to see several image blogs picked up on our HAAP Media investment announced earlier this week. One post made a good point about how we are very Internet-centric in our approach to the commercial image business. This is true. Down the road this whole business will be Internet-centric.
Stock Asylum's post was on the money too, but I am not sure what was meant by a "heavy" investment? If "heavy" means important and possibly having a positive economic impact, I am in agreement.
I am sure HAAP Media will have several interesting developments coming along shortly. Needless to say we will be arm in arm with HAAP in making these developments happen.
We announced today that we made an investment in a new area of the stock photo industry called "micropayments." Rather than explain the investment I suggest you read the link.
This is more than a mere investment for Jupiterimages. We will be working closely with the two founders of the HAAP sites to not only grow their prominence and already immense traffic, but to hopefully make stockxpert a highly profitable world micropayment brand. The other terrific benefit for Jupiterimages is that the community site is growing rapidly and shortly various Jupiterimages subscription brands will be advertised exclusively on the site (heretofore competitive micropayment brand ads were displayed). We believe this will further advance our worldwide sales.
Community has always been part of the Jupiterimages growth strategy. There is no ecommerce business in the world that would not gain sales by having a significant community position -- many "just do not get it." However, we have been busily building community with such sites as megapixel.net and graphics.com, and through our magazines and sister sites stepinsidedesign.com and dynamicgraphics.com.
I would be remiss if I did not mention that the two founders (Peter Hamza and Andras Pfaff) of HAAP Media built these properties while attending university in Hungary. This is yet another example of the brillance that we continuously observe of young entrepreneurs in today's Internet world. And amazingly the ideas just keep on coming!
I was reading Rafit Ali's blog and saw two comments of interest. One mentioned that Bart Catalane, the second ranking executive at Ziff Davis Media was leaving the company which follows on the heels of the ZD CFO leaving a few weeks ago. Rafit rightly quesitons if Bart's leaving is just business or is it a sign of further troubles at ZD? One has to think it is the latter as ZD will find it difficult if not impossible to ever escape from its mountain of debt.
The other comment was about a group of blogs that are being knitted together in the science field. This is a model that is a knock-off of Jason Calacanis' Weblogsinc that was recently sold to AOL. We must give credit to Jason for thinking up a blog business model that will be copied for years to come.
A variety of deals have been announced in the previous two weeks that deserve commentary.
CMP Media's acquisition of the trade show company Media Live had lots of interest for me since I once went head to head with their now defunct Comdex trade show in 2003. This is the company that completed the destruction of the once famous and important Comdex trade show. Two CEOs helped run Comdex into the ground: Fred Rosen and the Robert Priest-Heck. Neither understood what Comdex "was about" or what it needed to survive in the digital world. MediaLive still has the well regarded Interop trade show (which is but a sliver of what it was size-wise in the 1990s).
Another interesting footnote to the MediaLive deal is the financial disaster MediaLive turned out to be for the private equity side of the Thomas Wiesel investment bank based in San Francisco. I do not have the exact numbers but I believe Wiesel bought about $150 million of MediaLive bonds in 2003 thinking they had a financial bonanza. Little did they know that they had bought into a company that was worth a fraction of what they had invested. I have heard that CMP paid about $45 million for MediaLive. If true they over paid as well.
Warren Buffet Goes Internet
I was very excited to read today that Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Company bought BusinessWire. I believe this marks Buffet's first buy in the Internet space? If so it is nice to have the Omaha financial master making his first Internet buy? Perhaps this could be the start of other Internet purchases?
Just thought I would pass along an interview I did a few days ago with Sys-Con's Jeremy Geelan.
Also I want to send out a message to anyone trying to reach me or Jupitermedia via email. An ice storm knocked out our power at headquarters in Darien, Connecticut. Consequently our email has been down for more than a day. It should be restored shortly.
The beauty of Internet publishing is that an information void vanishes overnight. The advent of blogging has accelerated this fact. Whether it be in the form of a Blog or a Web site, most topics "get covered" rapidly.
One site I am enthralled with is auctionbytes.com. Owner and editor in chief Ina Steiner does a fabulous job covering the world of online auctions from the perspective of the auction user. Check out this terrific resource!
Auctionbytes is very much the prototype of the kind of VC investing we did at internet.com in the late 1990s until 2002. The idea was to find an extremely vertical topic that would hopefully become the center of information for that topic (such as auctionbytes covering the user of auctions). Our VC model today has proved to be successful, but unfortunately certain investors and banks that provided us our money back then got cold feet and withdrew funding in mid-2002. Just the other day HowStuffWorks got the backing of billionaire Carl Icahn. Our VC fund was HowStuffWorks' first investor, back in 1999, but unfortunately we were not able to help keep it afloat in tough times when our funding was withdrawn and we lost our equity position. And so it goes --- one cannot win all the business battles.
Regardless, it is wonderful to see people like Ina Steiner making a critical success with her site. Auctionbytes illustrates how there is still a bright future for good Internet ideas.
Rupert Murdoch announced yesterday that News Corp. intended to create the next "great portal" by making a huge investment in its recently purchased myspace.com. Never sell Rupert Murdoch short. Do not forget that mixed in with all of his great financial and asset purchases over the years, the longest shot paid off. That was the idea that he could create another great television network in the USA when he launced the Fox Network in the 1980s. The odds against him were immense. Yet he pulled it off and today Fox is the equal if not better than the original big 3 (ABC, NBC and CBS).
Back in 1994 I predicted at an IBM press conference at an Internet World trade show that there would one day be 5 large portals and that one might even "be worth $1 billion!!" I predicted that AOL would be one of the portals, but had no idea what the others might be. I added that I was sure that Rupert Murdoch would take his Web site Delphi and turn that into a super portal. However, he dumped Delphi soon after and here we are today.
So can Rupert do it? I doubt it. I think he can make Myspace much larger and very profitable, but I think that getting the necessary "mindshare" to use Myspace is near impossible to obtain at this stage in Web history. One way to jump start such a concept would be to buy something such as Cnet.com. Cnet has lots of great communities and these appeal to all ages. Take Cnet and combine it in some fashion with Myspace and then you have something.
Myspace by itself will develop nicely and be quite powerful. But it lacks mega-mindshare. I doubt that even Rupert Murdoch can get mega-mindshare without jump starting Myspace with another large acquisition.
The Sunday New York Times (January 8, 2006) has an article by Andrew Ross Sorkin entitled "Is Google A Good Candidate For Rational Exuberance?" Some comments, but let me first add a few caveats: 1: I own Google stock and have mentioned this in previous posts; 2: I have known Safa since April of 1999 when he was a junior analyst at Piper on the Jupitermedia (then called internet.com) IPO; and 3: I do not know Andrew Ross Sorkin, but he did interview me twice in 2003 about our attempt at displacing Comdex with a trade show cdXpo; 4: I have no idea how much Google is worth or where the stock price is going and do not suggest that anybody should buy Google because of this post.
In the above mentioned article Sorkin mentions that Safa is obscure. Perhaps to Andrew he is obscure, but Safa has been the top analyst for Search stocks since 2001. He is probably one of the top two or three Internet stock analysts in the USA. Also Safa must be given credit for being the first analyst after the Spring 2000 Internet stock crash to realize that paid keyword listings was going to be the killer application of Internet advertising. While I do not have the exact date, I believe that in late 2001 Safa made a recommendation through Piper Jaffray that his followers purchaser GoTo at about $4.00 per share. GoTo.com became Overture which was then sold to Yahoo for close to $2 billion. I thought Safa was nuts at the time, but recent stock history shows that Safa was way ahead of his time and is to be commended on realizing the birth of a new wave of advertising that has swept the world.
Let's wait until December 2006 to see the outcome of Safa's estimate. Certainly by then we will know if Google's price is irrational or rational. In the meantime, it is clear that paid Search continues to drive Google. As it obtains more readers it adds more services. While not all of these services will be as successful as paid Search, they can possibly generate additional revenues at very little increased cost. They are services that require software development time, but for the most part, once launched, are frictionless ecommerce vehicles bringing high margin dollars into Google's treasury.
I had thought about making some tech predictions for 2006, but decided against such a post. But Dave Radin of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette ran an article today that included me among many prognosticators for the New Year. So here it is.
Several Jupitermedia executives traveled out to Sioux Falls, South Dakota with me yesterday to visit with our new employees. It is quite a journey to get to Sioux Falls from the New York metro area, but the journey was well worth the time.
Many readers know that we recently purchased animationfactory.com. We felt it was a great fit with many of our other properties. The visit confirmed all of our feelings and more.
The AF team is loaded with talent and ideas. The staff was bubbling with enthusiasm. Over the coming months we will roll out several new AF products not to mention greater image production.
Back to travel notes. We feared a great plains snowstorm would restrict our movement in South Dakota. Instead we had a glorious sunny day. Now we are in Ottawa, Canada and the snow we feared in South Dakota has found us and blanketed this lovely city with about 8 inches of Canadian snow. Regardless we visit our Hemera team in Gatineau, Quebec this morning and then back to New York.