Twitter Goes for Broke, if Broke Means “A Lot of Money”: New Funding Round at $1 Billion Valuation

twitter williams and stoneIs Twitter a billion-dollar company? It is now, according to its investors. People familiar with the company tell me it has raised around $50 million in a funding round that values the start-up, which has no real revenue to speak of, at about $1 billion.

TechCrunch, which first reported the funding, says CEO Evan Williams informed his employees about the new deal at a recent companywide meeting. I’m told the round is all but finished: “If the money isn’t in the bank yet, it will be soon,” a source tells me.

No word on who has invested in the company in this go-round, but it’s almost certain Twitter was able to entice new backers to join its existing investors: Silicon Valley logic dictates that each successive funding round should attract new money.

In February, Twitter raised approximately $35 million in a round led by Benchmark Capital and Institutional Venture Partners that valued it at $250 million.

And just to spell this out–Twitter’s new investors, along with older investors who have reupped, believe the company will ultimately be worth much more than $1 billion. In order to get a return on their money, they will expect it to hit $3 billion or more.

Feel free to debate the merits of Twitter’s growth prospects, and its chances of creating a real business out of all of those 140 character messages its users create.

But in retrospect, this funding round seems obvious: Twitter’s founders have insisted that they want to build the company on their own instead of selling it to the likes of a Google (GOOG) or Microsoft (MSFT), and they’ve already turned down Facebook. And if they weren’t going to sell, raising yet more money to give the company time and resources to build out a real business is the logical choice.

Here are Williams and co-founder Biz Stone talking to Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher at the D: All Things Digital conference in May. Discussion of the company’s future as a standalone business kicks in around the 31-minute mark.

News Aggregator Daylife Ties Up With Getty: $4 Million Investment

gettyDaylife, a news aggregator that launched a few years ago with a good deal of hype but has since retreated to the back pages, has landed another investor: Getty Images has bet $4 million on the company, which has raised some $15 million to date.

Getty’s involvement with Daylife is actually several months old. The amount of the investment, but not the investor, was previously disclosed in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing. Daylife announced the deal today in conjunction with another Getty tie-up–a deal to create photo-curating tools for online publishers.

Daylife formally launched in January 2007 with a good deal of buzz, due primarily to its high-profile investors, which included the New York Times (NYT), Craigslist founder Craig Newmark and Techcrunch’s Michael Arrington. The initial plan was to create both content-aggregation tools for publishers as well as a destination site, but the latter never took off and is now just a demo site for customers.

CEO Upendra Shardanand says the company has found traction as a white-label aggregation engine, though he won’t disclose revenue for the 26-person company. Clients include Gannett’s (GCI) USA Today, GE’s (GE) USA Networks and News Corp.’s (NWS) Sky News.

[Image credit: Tallest man in the world visits London, via Getty]

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: