Social Map Startup Platial To Close Down


Here’s the rare geography-based startup that apparently isn’t doing so well: Platial, which billed itself as the ‘people’s atlas’ and let people aggregate stories, reviews and multimedia on maps, which they could embed on their own sites, is closing down its service. The company had raised at least $2.4 million in funding from big nameinvestors including KeyNote Ventures, Kleiner Perkins, Ron Conway, and Omidyar Network.

Platial had also purchased social mapping Frappr in 2007, saying that together the two companies would account for 25 percent of the map widgets on the web. Unlikely that statistic still holds, considering the popularity of Google (NSDQ: GOOG) Maps’ My Maps, which was released in 2007 and lets users annotate maps and embed them.

In a post, headlined ‘Geographic Euthanasia,’ Platial says its service may go offline as soon as tomorrow. “We are painfully aware that this is an incredibly short amount of time to dump this on people,” the company says. “The only response is a sincere apology.” Platial says it will provide more information about what drove the decision later. (We’ve asked the company and will update if we hear back).

Oddly, the decision comes as investors have been rushing to put cash into location-based startups. To give just one specifically map-related example: CultureMap, which runs a local online magazine in Houston (and plans to launch others soon) has raised a “low seven figures” round for its site, which centers its news entries around maps.

Platial’s shut down was first reported by TechCrunch earlier today.


Michael Steele Doesn’t Want Dems To Hurt Their Electoral Chances By Passing Health Care Reform, Apparently

Paul Begala, riffing on Napoleon Bonaparte, once said, "Never interrupt your opponent when he's destroying himself." That makes sense to me! What makes precious little sense is for the many Republicans who do not want to enact health care reform to be framing their opposition in such a way that they come off concerned about the Democrats' electoral future.

Yet, here's Michael Steele -- who I believe is in charge of the Republican National Committee or something -- attempting to stop the Democrats from hurting their chances in November:

"If that wasn't enough, when you come out of this thing and you're looking at the reconciliation fight that may loom ahead of us, it certainly will have represented a death panel for the Democrats this fall," Steele said on CNN.

There's really no rich tradition of one political party stepping in to help its opponents succeed in elections. Of course, for all I know, Steele would very much like to preserve the GOP's all-powerful Senate superminority, which is ably explicating his party's policy agenda. If you missed my liveblog of the Sunday morning political chat-shows, I took a moment there to describe how there is no better job in politics right now than being in the minority in the Senate:

Here's the basic job description on Craigslist:

--show up sometimes for work
--get paid, like, crazy dollars
--also get your palms greased by every special interest in the game
--occasionally get fellated by lobbyists whist straddling pommel horses made of rich creamery butter
--do no work, ever.
--solve no problems
--contribute nothing to public life
--every once in a while, stand up for a day so that unemployment benefits don't get extended, to poor people
--did I mention how awesome your own benefits package is?
--do this everyday
--eventually die and become a mummy that craves the blood of small animals

That seems like an easy way to make a living, so it's possible that Steele wants to preserve this, for his colleagues.

That said, while I don't claim to dismiss the possibility that there will be political benefits and political costs to passing health care reform, I sure hope the Democrats aren't seriously heeding the advice of Michael Steele. I have this funny feeling that he may not be entirely sincere.

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Michael Shaw: Reading the Pictures: Reuters Calling People Crooks Over … Toilet Paper??

Chile So-Called Looters Toilet Paper.jpg

First NOLA, then Haiti, now Chile.  

What I want to know is....

How many times must we suffer through this same kind of character assassination by the media in criminalizing behavior that, under catastrophic circumstances, is normal and expectable.  If this photograph showed Chilean citizens running from a store with boxes of brand new large screen TV's -- especially given widespread power outages -- that'd be one thing. But really!

Someone at Reuters should be slapped upside the head for running a caption simultaneously describing these people as "desperate and hungry" then labeling them -- twice, no less -- as "looters" for making off, yes, with bulk-size packages of toilet paper.

I mean, God forbid the staff at Reuters World Headquarters should ever find itself in a situation where a magnitude 8.8 earthquake has hit the city, the Pathmark across the street was standing open and in shambles, with little order in existence for miles, with people "having to go" and Cottonelle supply running desperately low.

Chile So Called Looters Milk.jpg

And then, my question for the AP regarding the "looter caption" they partnered with this one is: Just what's your position on milk?

...Finally, what about this?

(photo 1: Marco Fredes/Reuters. caption: Looters carry merchandise they stole from a market in Santiago February 28, 2010. Chilean rescuers used shovels and sledgehammers Sunday to find survivors of a huge earthquake in Chile that unleashed a Pacific tsunami and triggered looting by desperate and hungry residents. photo 2: Natacha Pisarenko/A.P. caption: A man carries goods during looting in a supermarket in Concepcion, Chile, Sunday, Feb. 28, 2010. A 8.8-magnitude earthquake hit Chile early Saturday.)

Carson Daly Returns To Late Night After “Near-Death Experience”

Lost in all the Conan O’Brien/Jay Leno NBC late night drama was how it would affect the late, late night host Carson Daly.

Well he’s back, tonight, with a new Executive Producer (Stewart Bailey, formerly of The Daily Show), the same unique post-studio style, and a star-studded first week of Oscars-related guests (including Eli Roth, Giovanni Ribisi and Jeremy Renner). Coming off some great ratings during Conan’s last week (tied with Jimmy Kimmel in the 18-49 demo), Mediaite talked to Daly about his “near-death” late night experience, the jabs from other late night hosts, the “new” MTV and more.

Mediaite: You have a new EP and obviously there’s an all-new NBC late night lineup. But your show has been changing over the last year or two in general. What will your show be like when it comes back?

Daly: Well when Jimmy Fallon came on the air and took over for Conan, when Jay Leno was on there, it was going to be three late night shows that were in front of us. Three traditional guys wearing suits, telling jokes, sitting at a desk, interviewing people and we just felt like we wanted to really do something different. We did a special week where I was completely out of the studio, a new music week. And we just loved the way it felt. We shot it obviously with no audience, with a single camera, out in the streets and it immediately put me back to some of the stuff I did at MTV, and it just felt way more comfortable and the response to it was really good. So we just decided at that point that we would move forward and ditch the studio, and adopt this. Then the late night stuff happened and we were preempted for the Olympics. We have a new executive producer whose work I really love and who personally I met and got along with really well. We had this long talk about the history of Last Call and the new stuff we were doing, and Stewart was really into the new format and had a lot of ideas. And so we’re trying to launch the show, taking the idea of doing something new and bring it to the next level of that. We’re kind of hitting the reset button on March 1 and just continuing down that path of trying to be different.

“Being like the caboose of NBC late night, I sort of know my place at the network, and felt like I really had no business chiming in on it. So I just kind of laid low and let it all play out.”

Mediaite: You talk about the location shooting, and we’ve seen some of the guest list for the first couple weeks, with the Oscars as a big focus. What are some spots viewers will see in the first couple weeks?

Daly: We’re still kind of shooting right now. A little bit of everywhere. Jeremy Renner who’s up for best actor in The Hurt Locker is a guy who in his spare time flips homes. So we were like, ‘Hey can we tag along with you?’ and we went to this house he’s flipping and kind of squatting it actually. And just talked to him about The Hurt Locker there. So it varies from that type of thing to Giovanni Ribisi and I just sat down at this place Cinespace in Hollywood which is kind of this multimedia club and sat in a booth and rapped out. It’s just all over, which means I sit in traffic all the time.

Mediaite: You mentioned it before, the whole late night situation going on before the Olympics. What did you think about all the attention it brought to late night?

Daly: Well it was big news, and it became great fodder for all the shows. And typically when something like that happens, being like the caboose of NBC late night, I sort of know my place at the network and felt like I really had no business chiming in on it. So I just kind of laid low and let it all play out and really was just excited to get back to shooting new shows. There was a scenario where we would have been pushed off the schedule that didn’t happen and we’re just excited to get back. My whole thing was really just to sit quietly and let it all play out.

Mediaite: You seem to joke about it in the new ad, talking about a “near-death experience.” Was the situation that if Conan had taken the 12:05…

Daly: Yeah, well the schedule would have changed. It would have been Tonight Show from 12:05-1:05, Fallon from 1:05 to 2:05 and that would have pushed us off the schedule. That was a scenario that was in play. It felt like our fate was 50/50. And it just worked out that we’re back on. And thank God.

>>> NEXT PAGE: Daly on the Letterman and Kimmel jokes, the “new” MTV and new media.

iPhone’s Missing Feed Reader

Shawn Blanc on the state of iPhone feed reading apps. In short, there are a bunch that are pretty good, but not one that’s great. (I’m still using NetNewsWire, but I keep trying all the others when they release new versions.)

AOL Offloading Affiliate Marketer, ‘Reviewing Our List Of Assets’

Aol Goldfish

Bit by bit, AOL’s once-ambitious Platform-A (NYSE: AOL) network is de-emphasising refocusing. The latest example - AOL (or should that be “Aol”?) is disposing of, the affiliate marketing network it bought two years ago.

London-based affiliate marketer Digital Window, which is majority-owned by a JV of Axel Springer and PubliGroupe, is buying the company, saying it will combine the offering with its AffiliateWindow, price comparison site ShopWindow and content customiser ContentWindow for customers in the UK, USA and Scandinavia. The announcement was made by Digital Window and not AOL and came as a surprise. No price disclosed.

AOL formed Platform-A in 2008 - during an 18-month advertising acquisition binge including Tacoda, Quigo,,, AdTech and Third Screen Media - to offer full-service online ad services to its own properties and third parties. But the unit’s leadership has changed plenty after new CEO Tim Armstong’s AOL-wide review, renaming it AOL Advertising.

The changes are more than just cosmetic - now Armstrong’s AOL, through the former Mediaglow division (now AOL Media) is placing emphasis on being a niche web content publisher and, some might say, downplaying its ad proposition.

Earlier this month, Armstrong said AOL Advertising is preparing a new ad platform. It’s likely any remaining parts of AOL Advertising will want to focus on selling ads on AOL’s own burgeoning array of niche sites - but perhaps it’s curious to scrap an affiliate marketing unit when ecommerce sales, unlike the advertising economy, are still proving healthy.

Reuters: “ has annual sales of more than 40 million euros and about 70 employees.”

Update: Pieces of AOL emailed statement…

“Since last year, AOL has been moving through a process that started with strategy, then focused on structure, and has more recently been centred on aligning our costs with the company’s strategy and structure.

“Since July of last year, AOL has been focused on executing its strategic initiatives. As part of that execution plan, we are reviewing the list of AOL assets as they relate to the core strategy.

“ is a company that has been successful in the marketing services space and will benefit from being owned by a group that is operating in the marketing services industry. Our goal going into this process was to find a viable option for the business and employees to thrive and we believe the partnership offered by Axel Springer AG and PubliGroupe clearly meets that goal.”

Update 2: Spokesperson says: “We did not take this decision lightly. We want to be a bigger and bigger success in the marketing services industry and that is not our core focus area going forward.” Says AOL is not downplaying its advertising operations, just refocusing on premium digital ads.

EchoStar Acquires Mexican Satellite Operator Satmex In $374 Million Deal

Echostar Logo

Looking to expand its footprint into Latin America and beyond, EchoStar (NSDQ: SATS) is acquiring a stake in Mexican satellite company Satmex in what will ultimately be a $374 million cash deal. EchoStar’s existing Mexican partner, MVS Comunicaciones, the operator of the Dish Mexico satellite TV service, is assisting the Englewood, Colo.-based company through a joint venture. Together, EchoStar and MVS Comunicaciones will acquire all of the outstanding stock of Satmex.

The deal initially calls for EchoStar and MVS to put up $267 million in cash. At the deal’s closing, which is expected by Q3 2010, the companies have pledged up to $107 million in cash on top of that initial amount. When it’s all completed, Satmex says it will buy back all of its outstanding Senior Secured Notes for cash. The companies’ announcement did contain some caveats. In particular, the approval of Satmex’s bondholders, some of whom have indicated opposition to the EchoStar offer, is required.

Satmex was founded in the mid-1980s as a government-owned entity. It went private in 1995. While Dean Olmstead, president of EchoStar Satellite Service, said that the deal is part of a plan to expand the satellite provider’s reach into South America, Satmex CEO Patricio Northland also sees the opportunity to cast its net beyond Mexico.

EchoStar, which spun off its Dish Network unit into a separate company in December 2007, hasn’t done many major acquisitions. Perhaps its most notable purchase before Satmex was the $380 million purchase of Sling Media in Sept. 2007. In addition to international expansion, EchoStar and Sling, along with the Dish Network, have been promoting a set of products similar to the cable industry concept of “TV Everywhere,” though the efforts are a year behind what was originally planned. Release