Another AOL Org Chart Shuffle: COO Partoll, Search Boss Kannapell Out

kim partollThis isn’t the long-rumored round of mass layoffs, but AOL boss Tim Armstrong did let go of two executives today: COO Kim Partoll is out, as is John Kannapell, SVP of search and local media.

Armstrong, who took over the Time Warner (TWX) unit earlier this year and is prepping it for a spinoff that’s supposed to happen by the end of 2009, doesn’t plan on replacing either executive, say people familiar with the matter. Instead, their work will be divvied up among other Armstrong lieutenants.

Partoll’s mobile responsibilities, for instance, will be given to new hire and former Yahoo (YHOO) exec Brad Garlinghouse, while Kannapell’s responsibilities will be handed to newish hire and former Google (GOOG) exec Jeff Levick. Armstrong himself will handle international duties, previously assigned to Partoll.

Kannapell’s departure isn’t a total shock, since he was listed as “acting head” of local during a reorg that Armstrong oversaw in June. But Partoll is a head-scratcher, since she was promoted to her new/old position during that same exec shuffle.

And what about those layoffs? Armstrong is almost certain to make some cuts at some point–and has told employees as much. But people familiar with the company say he hasn’t been focused on cost structure (i.e., cuts) until recently.

Measure This: Adobe Buys Web Traffic-Counter Omniture for $1.8 Billion

What do you do if you’ve got a grip on the Web/design software market? Expand into the Web measurement business, apparently. Adobe, whose Photoshop and Acrobat software offerings dominate the Web publishing business, will pay $1.8 billion to acquire Omniture, whose Web traffic measurement software is that industry’s standard.

Adobe (ADBE) is offering $21.50 in cash for each Omniture (OMTR) share. That’s a 25 percent premium over today’s closing price of $17.32–which includes a large run-up in the last few hours of the day, before trading was halted around 3:45 pm EDT. Good bet the folks at the Securities and Exchange Commission will take a look at that leap.

Release

Former CBS DJ Adam Carolla Gets a New Gig: CBS Podcast Host

carolla-shotEarlier this year, I wrote about Adam Carolla, who used to be a popular DJ for CBS Radio and now hosts his own popular podcast. My take: Carolla is even better on the Web than he is on the air, but I worried that he’d have a hard time turning his talent and Internet audience into money.

Turns out he’s figured out how to do it: By going back to work for CBS.

The broadcaster, which canned Carolla from his radio job earlier in the year, is now going to sponsor his podcast. It will promote the show, handle ad sales and let Carolla program his own Web radio station.

The press release announcing the deal describes it as a “partnership.” I’m trying to figure out if that means Carolla will become an employee again or if it’s a real partnership, whereby, say, he retains ownership of his show and shares revenue with CBS (CBS).

I’m guessing it’s the former, since selling ads for podcasts still requires a lot of work and not that much return. It’s much easier for CBS to sell ads against a local radio station with an audience of a million or more than for Carolla’s show, which reaches an average of 130,000 people at a time.

Still, Carolla’s show is frequently in Apple (AAPL) iTunes’s Top 10 podcast list, and someday, someone will figure out how to take advantage of its (relatively) small but dedicated audience. And the show already has one sponsor–Carolla has started doing a “live read” for Adam & Eve Stores, the “the nation’s number one source for all things erotic.”

Here’s an interview I conducted with Carolla in March, where he explains his not-entirely voluntary move to the Web and his attempts to turn it into a money-making venture.

And here’s the release:

CBS RADIO FORGES ONLINE PARTNERSHIP WITH ADAM CAROLLA

Popular Entertainer’s Podcast To Be Featured Across CBS RADIO Properties;
Carolla To Also Program His Own Streaming Radio Station, K-ACE

CBS RADIO today announced it has partnered with Adam Carolla, comedian, TV star, radio host, actor and entertainer to present his successful podcast to legions of listeners and fans nationwide.  “THE ADAM CAROLLA PODCAST” can be heard for free on-demand at www.adamcarolla.com and is additionally available for download on iTunes.

Promotion for Adam Carolla will appear across CBS RADIO’s portfolio of station properties with direct links to the entertainer’s dedicated website.  Once there, fans can listen to the latest audio rant from Adam, as well as sample archived podcasts.  Ad sales for the podcast will be handled by CBS RADIO.  Pre-roll, in-stream audio and live reads are available for local and national clients looking to reach Adam’s target audience of Men 18-49, among others.

In addition, an Adam Carolla focused radio station, called K-ACE, debuts on Monday, September 28, and will offer fans segments from Carolla’s popular podcasts interspersed with rock music and programming selected by Carolla, “The Aceman,” himself.  K-ACE can be heard via CBS RADIO’s streaming platform, Yahoo! Music Radio, AOL Radio, and on select mobile devices such as the iPhone, iPod Touch and the Blackberry.

“THE ADAM CAROLLA PODCAST” began in February 2009 and currently reaches over 130,000 listeners per show.  The podcast remains a constant in the Top 10 of iTunes’ Top Podcasts chart.  Carolla, famous for his rants on various outrageous topics, uses his podcast to broadcast his opinions, while hosting an assortment of influential and popular celebrities and friends, as he charms guests and listeners alike with his witty sense of humor and biting sarcasm.

“I’m thrilled to be back in business with my friends at CBS RADIO and feel like I’m at the vanguard of an exciting new technology,” says Carolla.  ”Now, if somebody could just tell me what the hell a POD is!”

“We are excited to once again be working with Adam Carolla providing our listeners with the same Adam that so many fans have come to know and love over the years,” says Chris Oliviero, Vice President of Programming, CBS RADIO.  “Adam has an uncanny ability to relate to everyday people in a funny and engaging manner, and the popularity of his podcast is a testament to that.

“This distinctive partnership showcases CBS RADIO’s commitment to growth in the digital space and highlights the accessibility, portability and cutting edge programming available on radio.”

Adam Carolla, who is best known for his work in television and radio, has previously hosted CBS RADIO’s “The Adam Carolla Show,” was co-host of the nationally syndicated radio call-in show “Loveline,” co-created, and executive produced and co-hosted Comedy Central’s ”The Man Show,” co-created, executive produced and was a character on “Crank Yankers,” as well as was a contestant on ABC’s popular series “Dancing With The Stars.” Carolla also starred, wrote and produced the award-winning indie film “The Hammer.”  He is currently writing his first book to be published by Crown in Fall 2010.  In addition to “THE ADAM CAROLLA PODCAST,” Carolla is host of “Carcast,” a podcast devoted to those who share Carolla’s passion and pastime of all things automobiles.

BusinessWeek’s Pitch to Investors: Buy Us, Then Fire Us

clint-escapesHow do you sell a business magazine that lost $43 million last year? Convince buyers that they could fire 20 percent of the staff without missing a beat.

That’s part of the pitch that Evercore Partners has been making to investors on behalf of McGraw-Hill (MHP), which wants to dump BusinessWeek.

The New York Times’s Stephanie Clifford gott her hands on the offering memo Evercore has been circulating to potential bidders, who are supposed to submit offers by today. Reportedly in the mix: Bloomberg; ZelnickMedia; New York Magazine owner Bruce Wasserstein; OpenGate Capital, which bought TV Guide last year for $1 plus debt; and Platinum Equity, which is bidding for the New York Times’s (NYT) Boston Globe.

In a story published yesterday, Clifford reviewed the magazine’s financials, which are miserable. Ditto for the magazine’s Web site. Today she points out Evercore’s plan to entice buyers: A ready-made layoff plan that would lop off 20 percent of the magazine’s staff.

The Evercore memo says the layoffs are actually “in process,” an assertion that seems to surprise BusinessWeek’s staff, which has seen no sign of layoffs. So best to interpret these numbers as suggestions, not plans. That said, here are Evercore’s suggestions:

In editorial, 55 of 217 positions are supposed to be eliminated. Of sales, 9 of 69. Of marketing, 6 of 26. Of technology, 8 of 33. Of circulation, just one of 19. And in the “other” category, 6 of 57. That’s a total of 85 eliminations among 421 jobs – about 20 percent – leaving 336 BusinessWeek employees.

“BusinessWeek will establish a leaner, entrepreneurial staff without affecting the brand, positioning of the franchise or revenue outlook. The eliminations of editorial staff are primarily in editorial support operations (makeup and copy desk), but also include a reduction in the number of journalists to reflect the smaller folio size of the publication. The positions eliminated in sales are primarily for sales support, but also include some consolidation of integrated sales account managers. The remaining positions eliminated are in other business support functions.”

A logical question: If these cuts are so easy to make, why hasn’t McGraw-Hill made them? I know that this strategy isn’t uncommon in auctions: Many moons ago, Time Warner (TWX) held off making cuts at its music unit so that a new buyer could do it itself, and that’s exactly what Edgar Bronfman Jr. and crew did once they got their hands on Warner Music Group (WMG). But the practice still baffles me. Anyone?

Viacom and Google Fight in Court, but Work Together to Keep Kanye West Off of YouTube

video music award taylor swiftYes, Viacom is still suing Google for  a billion dollars, because it says too many of its videos showed up on YouTube. But that doesn’t mean Viacom and Google (GOOG) can’t work together to prevent the cable giant’s videos from showing up on YouTube.

Want to see this in action? Go to YouTube and try to find a clip of the Kanye West/Taylor Swift/Beyoncé incident from Sunday night’s Video Music Awards. Everyone’s still talking about it (I don’t know why, really, but I guess I’m out of the demo), but if you want to watch it on YouTube, you’re stuck watching shaky, grainy footage created when people film their TV sets with a camcorder.

That’s the result of Viacom (VIA) and YouTube using the site’s Content ID system–which YouTube installed after Viacom filed suit more than two years ago. Content ID allows YouTube to track copyrighted material on the site as long as the copyright owner tells it what to look for.

It’s not a plug-and-play solution: On Sunday, Viacom had to have staff work through the night to provide YouTube with “reference files” from the live show so that the Google’s video service could find the offending clips and take them down.

But it worked pretty well. Decent-quality clips of the Kanye incident were taken down fairly quickly, and the grainy shots had only generated some 700,000 views by Monday afternoon, according to video-tracker TubeMogul. Meanwhile, MTV’s official version was approaching two million views (it’s now above three million).

You could argue that both Google and MTV would be better served if the official clip was on YouTube. And one day, that might happen. But first, they have to settle their court case.

That looks less likely today than it did a week ago, by the way, because of the recent ruling in the Universal Music/Veoh case. Team Viacom says the case, which appears to be quite similar to its own, won’t have any bearing on the how the company proceeds, while the YouTube guys see it as an affirmation of their position. Translation: More legal back and forth and fewer Viacom clips on the world’s biggest video site.

Here’s one of the low-fi versions, by the way. Not recommended if you’re prone to motion sickness:

Paid Content, E-commerce and Turning the Knobs Down on Ads

New plans for paid content platforms, from players as varied as I.B.M., Google and NewsCorp, earned plenty of attention earlier this week. Some have boiled the story down to a potential battle for publisher-clients between Google and Journalism Online, the start up from Steven Brill, Gordon Crovitz and Leo Hindery which has been at the center of the paid content story all summer.

In that potential dust-up, it’s notable that the Journalism Online plan calls for taking a 20% commission on subscription revenues (plus a 3% commission on credit card transactions), while Google says it would charge 30% for clients using its revamped Checkout platform. Newspaper Association of America graphicThe plans were a response to a request for proposals from the Newspaper Association of America that published them in a report to its members this week.

Here are a two items that have been largely overlooked in the coverage so far:

First, the Journalism Online e-commerce model (available at the Nieman Lab) will let publishers change variables like the price of subscriptions or micropayments to fit their own markets. Publishers will also be able to turn the knob on advertising, apparently, changing settings so that “paid subscribers see fewer, different or no advertisements.”

Could this finally lead to the ad-free news that some consumers have sought for so long? The Journalism Online model does not aim to replace advertising revenue with subscriptions. Instead, the model says advertising revenue lost to the pay wall (and subsequent decline of unique visitors) by commanding a 30% cpm premium on the subscriber base that remains. Clearly, a no-ad product would come at a premium, but how much would publishers have to charge subscribers who want to turn that knob all the way down?

Second, Brill et al. say their platform will let publishers sell products against content. The 15th and last item on a list of product capabilities is the “ability to sell related goods via participating retailers (such as books within book reviews).” As we noted earlier, the UK’s Telegraph has developed an e-commerce platform that now accounts for roughly 30% of all revenues. They sell everything from home gardening products to panama hats. And, instead of erecting paywalls around general news content, they have subscriptions and micropayments for secondary products like fantasy soccer and puzzles.

Sadly, the Journalism Online plan does not provide an estimate of how much money news sites could make by selling products through a contextual e-commerce platform. But, if the Telegraph’s experience is any guide, what seems to be an afterthought here could become a significant revenue stream for the group that can pull it off.

How Perez Hilton and Blogads are monetizing Twitter

Yesterday afternoon, gossip blogger Perez Hilton, with his 1.3 million followers on Twitter, tweeted the words, “Sponsored: I love to mix bright colors with classic styles to shake things up! Tweet style tips to #gapstyletips to appear on CocoPerez.com!” A cursory search on Twitter shows hundreds of users issuing tweets using the suggested hashtag. And if you visit the CocoPerez site (a female-oriented blog that Perez recently launched) you’ll find a kind of talk box aggregating all these tweets with the GAP brand prominently displayed on top.

perez hilton sponsored tweets

Blogads CEO Henry Copeland told me in a phone interview last night that his company prefers this kind of community approach to sponsored tweets rather than simply having Perez blast out a single link to a sponsor (although he said that the advertising company is also selling more straightforward Twitter links).

“It definitely helps to have someone like Perez to tweet to spark the thing,” he said. “We also find that it can sustain itself because if you’re a reader of Perez Hilton and you see a box and right above that is a message saying tweet your dating advice” — another ad campaign run on Perez’s site — “then you’re very likely to do it.”

perez gapThe effectiveness of the campaign, he said, often depends on the size of the box, where it’s located, and how it’s “modulated.” In that sense, the advertising, though tied into Twitter, is very reliant on Perez’s popularity on his blog.

Copeland estimated that Perez can drive about 20,000 clicks on a sponsored tweet if it’s worded correctly. He said that he’s had no problem selling the Twitter component in ad deals, but so far it’s only been rolled into larger advertising packages.

“All the deals that we’ve had Perez tweeting for have been part of six figure deals,” he said.

I asked Copeland about the new FCC rules being talked about that will force bloggers to disclose any sponsored word-of-mouth marketing campaigns.

“Frankly, I think we’ve been going overboard,” he said. “Every tweet has the word ’sponsored’ either before or after it, and I think it makes it pretty obvious. Basically a fifth of the message is disclosing … I certainly think it’s very imporatant to not only disclose, but to make prominent the fact that it’s sponsored.”

Blogads, a North Carolina company, currently represents hundreds of bloggers across all niches for advertising. So far, the sponsored Twitter campaigns have remained almost exclusively with Perez, one of the most widely-trafficked blogs in the Blogads network.

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