March 2008 Archives
I have been immersed in the Internet since 1990 when a librarian from the University of Maryland told me about the "next big thing" in information science. A few years later the Internet and multimedia - the World Wide Web. And the inventor of the Web was Tim Berners-Lee.
I am amazed these days how few people know anything about Berners-Lee (Sir Tim). I have been speaking about Sir Tim quite a bit because he has agreed to be a keynote speaker at our new Linked Data Planet trade show coming in June. In the course of many of these conversations I have learned that 9 out of 10 people have no idea about who Sir Tim is.
Therefore for those who want some background on the founder of the Web, check out this interesting interview from the Telegraph (England).
I am really excited that we have been able to get James Alexander, formerly of Adobe, to come over to Jupiterimages as General Manager and Senior Vice President of Jupiterimages.
James had a variety of senior jobs at Adobe as well as having created and sold an Internet company. I have known James professionally for a few years and he is the perfect executive to help take Jupiterimages to the next level. James has the rare combination of being business and tech savvy and at the sametime having intimate knowledge of the stock photo industry.
James will be driving the whole division, but will significantly expand our efforts in licensing, APIs and overall marketing. Stay tuned.
Several times I have written about my doubts on the longterm viabiity of social networking sites. I just read a terrific piece at Silicon Alley Insider about Facebook. This post is chock a block full of caveats about the future of Facebook and similar heavily visited social networking sites. The bottom line is that it is very doubtful that social networking traffic is valuable traffic in terms of making money. Take a look at the insights in this post and the references to an interesting essay in the venerable Economist from England on the same topic. One interesting thought: social networking sites and email are in the same boat. Lots of traffic but no means of making money.
And this brings me to the recent AOL announcement that it is purchasing the Bebo social networking business for $850 million. I do not know the people who run AOL. However I believe they have swallowed the social networking hocus pocus bug and then some with this purchase. Perhaps the Bebo purchase is the bellringer that the craziness over social networking is coming to an end? Sometimes it takes a really dumb acquisition to bring a bubble to an end. Silicon Alley Insider has some good thoughts on this deal as well.
Tim Berners-Lee was recently interviewed by The Times (London). The theme of the article is the Web of the future. Berners-Lee describes a future in which it is possible to conceive of a search application that could conquer Google! Many thought that Yahoo was invincible. Then along came Google. It could happen again.
And how does Jupitermedia fit into all of this?
We are fortunate to have Tim Berners-Lee as a keynote speaker at our upcoming Linked Data Planet tradeshow and expo this June in New York City (the show will also take place in Santa Clara, California in October). We also have a new Web site called Semantic Web which covers this field.
The program for Linked Data Planet is coming along nicely. It should be an exciting two days in New York City.
Today we announced that we purchased eStock Music. Now we have a leading position in the image microstock (used to be called micropayment) field with our Stockxpert operations as well as what could well be an exciting new micropayment area - music. eStock Music is a leader (I am not sure we have competition) in micropayment royalty free music. I believe that music has many of the same attributes as images in terms of being financially successful in the micropayment field.
Jupitermedia is already strong in the field of selling royalty free music with a variety of brands - notably RoyaltyFreeMusic.com. eStock Music is yet another way for us to play in all layers of the royalty free music field. Many in the financial community associate us with stock images, but we are much bigger than only images. We dominate in the fields of clipart and flash animations. We will have all of these diverse but related digital content offerings on the soon to be unveiled JupiterDigital Web site. Needless to say we are excited about our future offerings.
I recently suggested that Ziff Davis Enterprise had a public relations and business problem. Ziff Davis Media (one of three Ziff Davis branded media companies) filed for bankruptcy last week. The once great ZD name is sullied for the time being for all three ZD entities. Now ZD Enterprise, owned by the private equity firm Insight has a tarnished name. The knee-jerk reaction by the average ad agency and vendor is the following: "Oh you represent Ziff Davis, aren't you in bankruptcy?"
Recently appointed CEO Steve Weitzner of Ziff Davis Enterprise acted on Friday to try put out the "rumor" fire that anything ZD was tainted or bankrupt. His letter or plea will probably fall on death ears. A tainted name or brand is difficult to clear.
It will be interesting to see how Ziff Davis Enterprise handles this dilemma?
BtoB media power in the 1990s was epitomized by Ziff Davis. Yesterday, what remains of ZD filed for bankruptcy. The history on this mess is profound. Lots of mistakes were made. None of the mistakes were made by the Ziff family that sold the business in 1994 for a ton of money to the private equity firm of Forstmann-Little. A year or so later Forstmann sold the company for about a $1 billion profit to Softbank. Softbank then went about methodically destroying a great company.
I will not go into all the odd and crazy things that Softbank did to start ZD on the road to destruction, but will highlight one point. In the late 1990s Softbank decided to sell ZD. It made a series of sales. Perhaps the most disastrous sale for the future was that of the Web properties, ZDnet.com, to Cnet and allowing Cnet to continue to use the ZD online brand! While ZDnet still exists, it has become a lost goldmine in the Cnet empire. More importantly, however, Ziff Davis had now lost its Web assets, not to mention an important part of its brand.
Along came Willis Stein Partners of Chicago to buy the remaining parts of Ziff Davis (less trade shows and ZDnet). I wrote in the now defunct Business 2.0 magazine in September of 2000 that Willis Stein had made a huge mistake in buying ZD for approximately $780 million (In this article I also predicted that United Business Media of England would rue the day they had purchased CMP Media - another tech trade magazine publisher - for $920 million). My main reason for concluding this was that ZD lacked Internet clout since these assets now belonged to Cnet. I also saw that tech trade print magazine publishing was facing ultimate death. But Willis Stein had just made a financial killing with a consumer magazine company and thought it could do the same with ZD. Little did they know that they were buying into a swampy future in which advertising would begin moving to the Web. And little did they know that they would never be able to overcome the loss of ZDnet (since Willis Stein was clueless about the future of the Internet).
Further confusion. ZD recently sold off its Enterprise assets to Insight Venture Partners. This means that presently there are three ZD-like entities in the arena: Ziff Davis Media (bankrupt); ZDnet.com (part of Cnet); and ZD Enterprise (independent). Perhaps the Insight folks should consider changing the name of their new property?
As an aside: In the summer of 2005 I offered to buy through Jupitermedia all of Ziff Davis (this included the Enterprise portion as well as the part that went bankrupt) for assumption of the then $350 million of debt. I was turned down. The seller felt that a fair price was $850M cash and assumption of debt. I laughed. End of story.
Periodically I check myself out on Google. I came across this piece from 2001. 9-11 is what we all remember about 2001, but it was also another rotten economic time - particularly for the Internet business. We had the Internet value bust from the 1990s and lots of naysayers were down on the future of the Internet. (And I must add once again that my friends at J.P. Morgan Private Bank closed down our Internet Venture Funds and at this time believing the stories about the death of the Net.)
Today we have a bad economic time again. Nobody doubts the Internet this time around but I do think many pundits believe "we have seen it all." I suggest "we ain't seen anything yet" as far as the Internet goes. And this is why I am pleased to trot out the above link from 2001.
Cycles are the key to understanding history and business. One should not get bogged down by the here and now. Rather look book and forward and keep the faith. Things are never as bad nor as good as they seem.
TechCrunch had a good post about Linked Data and social networking. The theme: who owns the a "list of friends." Tim Berners-Lee, the father of the Web, weighs in strongly on the issue - the list of friends belongs to the user and not the social networking site.
Jupitermedia is covering the emerging field of Linked Data and the Semantic Web better than anyone else on the editorial side. We have the Semantic Web site, the Semantic Web Zone on DevX and a new trade show called Linked Data Planet (Berners-Lee is the keynote speaker at the inaugural event).
Linked Data and the Semantic Web are terms you will be reading more and more about. And you can keep up to date best with this rapidly developing hot field at Jupitermedia.