Companies have stupid fetishes about their names. Tribune Company isn’t The Tribune Company, it’s Tribune Company – no damned “the.” Time Inc. isn’t Time, Inc., we were informed when I worked there, it’s Time Inc. In a corporate dining room, there used to be a memo from one of the company’s founders with a rubber comma from a stamp taped to it, saying this is where the comma went. So now AOL is becoming Aol. and is making a big deal about adding the period. Good. That pixel will make all the difference.
Update: 30 minutes later, WSJ is also reporting along similar lines on outsourcing of print/publishing to AMI, though it doesn’t have anything on the sale. Edit will remain with Playboy (NYSE: PLA), while rest of the functions, including ad sales and distribution, will now be managed by AMI, it quotes CEO Scott Flanders (damn you Playboy PR, I asked you the exact same question earlier today). Flanders told WSJ the 5 year partnership will help return the mag to profitability by the end of 2011. Playboy has about 30 full-time employees working in biz ops and most would lose their jobs as a result. Flanders said he is open to outsourcing other parts of the biz, which in media context means someone else also taking over online and TV, not part of the AMI deal.
Our original post, slightly premature: The Playboy Enterprises deal is about to close, paidContent has learned, and the front runner is still Iconix Brand Group, the London-based owner of London Fog, Joe Boxer, Ecko Unltd and others. What isn’t clear is the structure of the deal, whether it is a full buyout—or if Playboy will be retaining any stake. The interesting part is the fate of the publishing assets: American Media Inc, the publisher of National Enquirer, Star and Shape, will be taking over the business operations of the magazine, including distribution and ad sales, we have learned.
Even if the sale was not to happen, our sources say, AMI would still have been managing it, though the edit would have stayed under Hugh Hefner, according to the backup plan.
What’s not in the AMI deal: online and TV, which makes things a bit confusing if Iconix, which has no experience in either, manages it (unless Playboy retains that stake as we mentioned above). AMI narrowly missed bankruptcy earlier this year, after coming to a last minute agreement with its lenders and shareholders. Playboy PR had no comment when reached this evening.
Playboy has said since February that it would be open to offers for a buyout. The company had reportedly reached out to several PE firms, although they balked at the company’s $300 million asking price. At one point, Virgin Group was also said to have been interested, although it later denied those reports.
While Playboy CEO Scott Flanders has said that the company’s iconic magazine will remain its “flagship,” he has also said that a big goal is to “accelerate the growth” of the company’s licensing business, which currently accounts for the vast majority of its profits.
Arianna stopped by Countdown with Keith Olbermann Monday night to talk about the politics behind the Senate's approach to health care reform, including recent comments by Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) and whether Democrats can afford to settle. Her view: "Without a public option, there's no real cost containment. There's no real competition for the health care industry. Why go for something that will not be real reform?"
They also discussed comments made by former DNC Chair Howard Dean in the Huffington Post, arguing that Democrats face only two options: a bad bill, or losses in 2010.
With New Moon sucking a bajillion dollars out of the world’s wallets this past weekend, don’t count on the vampire craze dying (errr, undying?) anytime soon. Perhaps this bonanza will help spur MTV to transform its vampire interstitial/web series, Valemont into a bona fide TV program.
Valemont co-creator and executive producer (and NewTeeVee Next Big Thing presenter) Brent Friedman of Electric Farm Entertainment wrote on ValemontCommons.com that his company is in “serious talks” with MTV to turn the show into a half-hourk on-air TV show (hat tip to Daisy Whitney’s Tweet). Friedman says MTV will run a strung-together, extended one-hour version of the show (the network already aired a half-hour version). Viewers will then be instructed to go online to watch the last 15 eps, which, Friedman says is the key. He makes the strong sell in a Valemont community forum post:
TV ratings on the special would be nice, but the key here is the clickthru rate from on-air to online. How many viewers get hooked by the end of the 1 hr. edition and migrate to MTV.com to watch the remaining 15 Eps will go a long way in determining the fate of Valemont. So if you want to help guarantee a Season 2, let’s overwhelm MTV with positive numbers this Sat night!
Liz Shannon Miller liked Valemont, and maybe more people will tune in with Friedman’s plea (the Valemont special will air on MTV on Saturday at 6 p.m.).
Despite this possible move to oldteevee, Friedman told us via email that he’s most excited about the deeper interactive plans Electric Farm is concocting for season two of the show. Stay tuned (both online and on-air).
Yet another Google (NSDQ: GOOG) property, Google Earth, is getting ads. The move comes as Google has introduced advertising over the last year to a set of its properties that were previously unmonetized, including Google Finance, Google Image Search, and even its “search suggest function”; the company has also lately emphasized geo-targeted advertising on Google Maps.
Digital Inspiration, which first reported on the Google Earth ads, points out that this is Google’s first foray into bringing AdSense ads to the desktop, since Google Earth is a desktop app. The tech site also remarks that Google explicitly forbids software developers from distributing AdSense ads via desktop apps and speculates that this could therefore be the harbinger of change in that policy. That, potentially, could lead to a proliferation of ad-supported free desktop apps.
In statement, Google says it is doubling down on the geographically-targeted ad market. “Google Maps and Google Earth create both strategic and indirect revenue effects for Google,” a spokeswoman says. “We continue to look for ways to expand revenue potential for both, including placing display text ads in Google Maps. We think geographically-targeted ads benefit people and create value for advertisers and are looking at ways to do that.”