Getting A Second Opinion (On The Media: Friday, 26 June 2009)

When ABC broadcast its exclusive health-care-reform town hall meeting with President Obama on Wednesday, one group cried foul. The Media Fairness Caucus, newly formed with some 40 Republican House members, wrote to ABC News president David Westin to complain that Obama wouldn't, couldn't be challenged enough to satisfy them. Both Westin and Caucus head Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas weigh in.

Help us help hyperlocal news

For CUNY’s New Business Models for News Project, we would be very grateful if local blogs and sites filled out a survey to give us data in our analysis and modeling of the economics of hyperlocal news. The survey is here.

We are trying to find out how hyperlocal blogs and sites are doing their business today – how big they are, how big an area they cover, what’s working in advertising and what’s not. The data they give will be kept anonymous; that is, we’ll release it only in aggregate. We’ll also interview some of you to find out more.

Out of this, we are working to build models to show how to optimize the business of the hyperlocal news site: revenue opportunities, network opportunities, and so on. We’ll share that work on the site as it progresses.

As of today, we have a director, a business analyst, two business consultants, two journalism graduates, and six business students working on this effort. It’s serious. The more information we have to work with, the better they can serve the community. So if you have a local news blog or site, please fill out the survey and pass it along to others you know.


Why Razorfish Divestiture Now?

Back in 2007, we briefly reviewed the major M&A activity in the digital ad serving technology and digital agency spaces. Many of our panel observers felt that Google and Microsoft should immediately divest themselves of the agency parts of the DoubleClick/Performics and Aquantive/Razorfish acquisitions, to clear out some of the conflict of interest inherent in major agencies owned by the sellers of supposedly performance-based, impartial media platforms.

Google moved relatively quickly to divest itself of Performics, whereas Microsoft held onto the Razorfish business -- until now.

Amazingly, the $6 billion acquisition of Aquantive counted as Microsoft's biggest ever acquisition. Considering its size and clout, Razorfish (formerly Avenue A | Razorfish) has had a relatively quiet two years since then. Perhaps this can be chalked up to this mega-agency's DNA; its first go-round in Bubble 1.0 was in the fast-hiring, website-overbuilding, overvaluation heyday of 1995-2000. And the company still seems to favor slow-loading, expensive-to-build, semi-indexable pages. Like ALPO, a recent client win for Razorfish, could it be that Razorfish represents a previous era of overpackaged, overstrategized goods with the same old ALPO inside the can?

While some may ask why Microsoft is selling this business, Daily Finance reporter Douglas McIntyre proffers: "What it is doing with the company in the first place is anybody's guess."

Certainly, if the long delay in selling Razorfish was helpful in demonstrating that Microsoft's decision-making process was totally independent of industry opinion that they should divest sooner, the delay was effective. Unfortunately, the value of the asset may now be sharply reduced. But so are many assets... such as the parts of Yahoo Microsoft is still considering strategically partnering with or buying.

First, kill the lawyers – before they kill the news

Following the frighteningly dangerous thinking of Judge Richard Posner – proposing rewriting copyright law to outlaw linking to and summarizing (aka talking about) news stories – now we have two more lemming lawyers following him off the cliff in a column written by the Cleveland Plain Dealer’s Connie Schultz.

First note well that Schultz is married to U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown as she calls on her newspapers and employer (my former employer, Advance Publications) and fellow columnists to influence Congress to remake copyright. She should be registered as a lobbyist. No joke.

Schultz says that David Marburger, an alleged First Amendment attorney for her paper, and his economics-professor brother, Daniel, have concocted their own dangerous thinking, proposing the copyright law be changed to insist that a newspaper’s story should appear only on its own web site for the first 24 hours before it can be aggregated or retold.

Incredible. So if the Plain Dealer reported exclusively that, say, the governor had just returned from a tryst with a Argentine lady, no one else could so much as talk about that for 24 hours. A First Amendment lawyer said this.

They make vague reference to the hot news doctrine theAP has been trying to dig up from its very deep grave. Note that their definition of hot is the cycle of newspaper publishing, not the cycle of news itself. Look at how fast the Michael Jackson news spread. Under these guys’ scheme, TMZ would have had exclusive right to publish his death for a day. Well, except it’s not a newspaper. And what they care about is protecting newspapers.

Schultz and the Marbergers complain about what they call the “free-riding” of aggregators, et al. But they simply don’t understand the economics of the internet. It’s the newspapers that are free-riding, getting the benefit of links.

These newspaper people are the ones trying to act as if they own the news and can monopolize it. Those days are over, thank God.

: LATER: Schultz has responded in the comments here. I have responded in turn. And I have just sent this message to the office of her husband:

Please consider this a press inquiry:

I want to know Sen. Brown’s stand on his wife’s column in the Plain Dealer on attempting to rewrite copyright law to give newspapers a 24-hour period of exclusivity on the news they report.

Does the senator support this legislation?

What will the senator vote on this legislation?

Will the senator recuse himself from voting on this legislation, considering his wife’s role in lobbying Congress on the issue?

Is his wife registered as a lobbyist?