Third White House Party Crasher Arrived With Indian Delegation

Talk about the party that never ends! Phew. Yesterday the Secret Service confirmed that there had indeed been a third “crasher,’ in addition to the Salahis, at last year’s White House state dinner. Though calling him a crasher seems a tad unfair since he was apparently brought along by the Indian delegation (the Indian prime minister being the reason for the dinner in the first place), and additionally did not show up with a reality film crew in tow.

The Secret Service has refused to identify the third party goer but the Washington Post is reporting he is Carlos Allen, a D.C. party promoter. Short version: Allen was apparently with some Indian businessmen before the dinner and was ferried along with them as well as some Indian officials to the White House after the Indian Embassy asked the State Department to provide transportation, something which the State Dept. is at pains to point out is not a usual service and is now “investigating.” The Indian Embassy, meanwhile, is also denying that Allen was part of the delegation however “but the spokesman did not respond to requests for comment about how Allen got on the van or if the embassy requested that the State Department add the Indian CEOs to the trip.”

Hmm, sounds like a lot of officials were inadvertently involved in allowing Allen into the party. Want to bet there are a dozen other similar stories dating back through the last two administrations of “uninvited” guests attending White House functions? Based on these details I would be there are. Meanwhile, if Allen did post pictures of himself at the event on his Facebook page (and apparently he does have a penchant for snapping himself with famous faces, that’s him up top with General Patreus, though not at the state dinner) they were removed lickedy split once the Salahis hit the news cycle. Additionally he shows no sign of desiring the Salahi cable spotlight, though lord knows that is probably about to change.


First M&A of 2010: Flixster + Rotten Tomatoes

280Flixster

Here’s the Flixster/MySpace deal Kara Swisher sussed out on Christmas Eve: News Corp. is handing over its Rotten Tomatoes movie review site, previously owned by its IGN unit, to the movie-centric social network and will get an equity stake in the combined company.

MySpace COO Michael Jones approves, which is good, since the Flixster/Rotten Tomatoes combo is supposed to link directly into MySpace.

This is part of News Corp.’s (NWS) turnaround/shape-up strategy for MySpace and the rest of its digital portfolio, which looked very valuable just a few years ago and is now in need of an overhaul. The media company is shedding noncore assets while trying to turn MySpace into a hub for entertainment that you share with your pals. Expect to see more announcements and product rollouts in the coming weeks.

From Swisher’s 12/24 story:

Several sources noted that this deal being contemplated is typical of the overall strategy at News Corp., which has been targeting digital units that are not an obvious fit inside the company any longer for sale or other disposition.

In fact, the deal is not unlike one News Corp. did recently, flipping photo-sharing Photobucket into mobile photo service Ontela, with the media giant holding a large equity position in the the new entity.

The possibility of linking MySpace and the combined social movie site is interesting and yet another signal of one of the new strategies of MySpace: “Playing on other platforms,” as one source described it.

For example, MySpace recently announced it was adding its data stream to real-time search results on Google (GOOG).

And, it seems dead obvious that MySpace is likely to adopt Facebook Connect sooner than later, perhaps beginning with a smaller implementation early next year.

Disclosure: News Corp. owns this Web site.

Here’s the official press release:

Flixster Inc. Acquires Rotten Tomatoes
From IGN Entertainment

Combination of Top Brands Creates a Leader in the
 Online Movie Space, Reaching 30 Million Monthly Moviegoers; IGN to Receive Equity Stake in Flixster

SAN FRANCISCO (January 4, 2010)–Flixster Inc., producer of the world’s largest online movie community at www.Flixster.com, today announced that it has acquired Rotten Tomatoes from IGN Entertainment. IGN, a division of News Corporation, will receive a minority equity stake in Flixster as part of the acquisition. Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

The combination of Flixster and Rotten Tomatoes reaches a huge global movie audience of an estimated 30 million monthly visitors worldwide across multiple platforms: on the Internet, through web-based social networks, and via mobile apps for the iPhone, Blackberry and Android devices.

Both Flixster and Rotten Tomatoes will continue to be available to movie fans as individual properties. Together, Flixster and Rotten Tomatoes give movie audiences an unprecedented total picture of movie trends and opinions, combining half a million reviews from leading critics with 2.3 billion user ratings and reviews.

“To use movie terminology, we think this is a blockbuster double-bill,” said Joe Greenstein, co-founder and CEO of Flixster. “It’s a huge step forward in our goal of connecting users to their own personalized world of movies on any platform they choose. We can’t think of a better pairing for movie fans and our technology partners.”

Flixster’s president and COO Steve Polsky added, “Rotten Tomatoes has built a fantastically well-known brand that moviegoers trust when making their decisions. Combined with Flixster’s social networking and word-of-mouth, we’re creating the leading movie destination on the Internet.”

“Joining Rotten Tomatoes with Flixster creates a company that can dominate the online movie category,” said Roy Bahat, president of IGN Entertainment, who will join Flixster’s board of directors as an observer. “This also enables IGN to focus on serving the male 18-to-34 audience–especially videogamers–and the advertisers looking to reach them.”

Flixster already operates the leading embedded movie applications on Facebook, MySpace, Bebo, iGoogle, and for the iPhone, Android devices, Blackberry and Palm Pre. Together, Flixster and Rotten Tomatoes will be the most comprehensive, one-stop movie-information provider for both end users and technology partners, including: a database of more than 250,000 movies; 2.3 billion user reviews; 500,000 critic reviews; more than 20,000 trailers and videos; the well-known Tomatometer™ and Flixster Scores; unique movie news and editorial content; category-leading social-networking features; localized movie showtime information; theater maps; and online ticketing.

Prior to the acquisition, Flixster and Rotten Tomatoes partnered in several areas, including a recent deal that syndicates critic reviews from Rotten Tomatoes to Flixster’s online movie community, both on the Web and via Flixster’s mobile apps.

Since its inception in early 2006, Flixster has rapidly become the Web’s largest community for movie fans, with more than 20 million monthly users.

As the web’s leading aggregator of reviews from top movie critics, Rotten Tomatoes offers the most comprehensive guide to movies, and its Tomatometer™ rating-based on the published opinions of hundreds of film critics–is a trusted measurement of movie quality for millions of moviegoers. The site has also seen tremendous year-over year growth, with its monthly unique user base rising on average nearly 40 percent in each of the past five months compared to the same months in 2008.

The deal follows a series of moves by IGN Entertainment to refocus its efforts on building out its suite of game-related and men’s-lifestyle offerings. The company recently launched Game On, a videogames-dedicated portal on MSN, and its network of sites currently reaches the most concentrated audience of males 18 to 34 and technology influencers on the Web today.

The Web’s 10 Best Predictions for 2010

2010

When looking ahead at the next year, pundits turn into prognosticators. Bloggers covering all sorts of topics and industries are now giving their predictions for what’s to come in 2010. Conventional wisdom says to go the conservative route with these choices in order to avoid looking foolish when none of your projections pan out. At the same time, there’s a key difference between picking things that are realistically possible and those that are already on the road to happening. I’ve assembled my favorite predictions covering a variety of fields and what’s supposedly in store for the near future:

Recovering Economy: “Starting in Q1, unemployment will slip a half percentage point per quarter…We’re already seeing average work-week hours go up and number of temp workers go up. This is always the precursor to employers ultimately hiring new full-time employees,” says James Altucher at the Wall Street Journal. Once the jobs become available, though, the question could turn to how big a learning curve should be granted to employees adjusting back to the workforce.

Social Media Business: “Facebook will go public…Registrations are still growing nicely but showing signs of deceleration. Friendster’s remains and the slow fade at MySpace are warning signs of what can happen to a social-networking site after it peaks,”says Rick Aristotle Munarrizat at the Motley Fool. Each year, Mark Zuckerberg grows another year removed from his original college-aged audience and from the excitement of having his own venture.

Sarah Palin Politics:The only thing Sarah Palin will be president of in 2012 will be TV ratings. Palin will get a talk show as early as next year. We’re betting a startup like Lifetime or Bravo will make an offer she can’t refuse,” says Daniel Stone at Newsweek. It’ll remind America how likable the lady from Alaska was when she first arrived on the scene in September 2008, and viewers will find comfort in her television persona and presence.

Housing Decisions: “The threat of nuclear terrorism renews interest in living outside of large urban areas, further depressing housing prices in the larger metropolitan areas,” says a blogger at SeekingAlpha. This will re-define what real estate agents mean by “Location, location, location” as homebuyers put their safety at the top of their lists.

Foreign Affairs: There will be many strikes in the coming months, and many demonstrations on the streets of Athens,” says Barnaby Phillips at al Jazeera. Some Middle-Eastern countries are already hosts to protests against corruption, but Greece will emerge as a nation that demands international attention due to its financial crisis.

Presidential Liability: Michelle Obama will slip by her minders and say something outrageous. The MSM will not report it. Persons who refer to it will be denounced as racists,” says John Derbyshire in the National Review. The first lady has been relatively quiet throughout Obama’s first year in office, and she’s going to be used more going forward – with both parties bracing for it.

Internet Accessibility: “A little known technology company emerges to extend wireless across unlicensed bandwidths, with dramatic impact on the VoIP market,” says Rayne at FireDogLake. With Americans’ ever-increasing need for and reliance on wireless Internet, this service seems like a logical next step, and someone will make a major splash in the market when they figure out how to do it.

Television Technology: “TV goes 3D…The television industry is looking for the next big thing to sell us. 3D TV will be the next big push. 3D will also begin to creep into PC and console games. It might not be ready for primetime on any of these platforms, but 2010 will be the year that 3D starts to make serious headway,” says Tim Bajarin at PC Magazine. If Avatar is truly the “future of filmmaking,” then people will expect similar technology at home.

Sports Pardon: “I predict [Tiger] Woods will survive this self-created mess and the public will forgive him. What he did was a disgrace, but he remains the greatest golfer in the game and maybe the greatest ever,” says Cal Thomas at USA Today. If Tiger can get going again on the green, fans will disassociate Woods’ personal failings from the golfer’s professional prowess.

Music Listens:It’s been coming for more than a decade, but major labels are starting to grasp the digital opportunity…Expect 2010 to be the year that the bad press on the major labels starts becoming more favorable,” says Nick Crocker at Mashable. As all other industries are now following the lead of the consumers, the music business will have to adapt in order to survive, despite whatever growing pains and financial losses they endure at the beginning of the transition.


My Decade…Economically Speaking

LindzonPaul Krugman of the New York Times is calling this economic decade “The Big Zero .”

It was a decade in which nothing good happened, and none of the optimistic things we were supposed to believe turned out to be true.

Paul and I smoke insanely different tobacco. As an entrepreneur that has managed a hedge fund now for 11 plus years through bubbles and crashes, I almost take offense.

When 2000 started I was living pretty high on the hog. Stocks only went up and they did so 50 points at a time. By March of 2000, that party ended. In March of 2009, if the same stocks moved $50, they would have been -$49 and change. BUT, by December 2009, the S&P is only 28 percent below all-time highs.

That’s definitely SOMETHING.

This decade was all about two things, creative and greedy destruction. Both hit all-time highs in 2009. In ten years we will see dizzying new highs again.

Here is a list of great creative destruction and economic wonderous things we did not have a decade ago (thanks @gregory for the fast list, great post and super cool Listorious ):

Skype
Wikipedia
Gmail
Facebook
YouTube
Twitter
adWords
Amazon AWS
iPod
Wordpress
iPhone
Google Docs
Flickr
etc……………………

If anything, this decade did not see enough creative destruction…see AT&T.

As for creative greed , count me as a wounded, frustrated casualty. In 2000, I was way green and soft. When bad stuff happened to me I was a victim godammit! In 2009, when bad stuff happens to me, I blame myself. That’s a little growth.

In 2001, I was caught up in ‘collateral damage’ and I learned about diversification and humility. My lawyer was my best friend and saved/guided my ass (I love you Sara). I have written a few posts about it over the years . In 2009, I know that if my lawyer is my best friend, I am in trouble. That’s something.

Since my personal economic bottom in 2002, I have had many big victories . There was an insane amount of hard work, a lot of good fortune and a little luck. In 2005 I discovered blogging when I typed ‘term sheet’ into Google’s search box. I was directed to Brad Feld’s blog. I was inspired by Brad and his wicked blogroll of entrepreneurs and venture capitalists. That term sheet was one I was writing for an angel investment in GolfNow.com .

As you know though, blogging is a waste of time and of no economic value.

In 2006, I started Wallstrip. In 2007, Wallstrip was purchased by CBS. Booyah!

In 2008, I co-founded Stocktwits. In 2009, True Ventures and Foundry (yep Brad Feld) invested. In 2010, someone from Russia will invest bonker dineros. That’s just how shit will go down in the next decade of the web.

It’s not just economic progress. It’s global, thermonuclear economic progress. Who will be there with me? Krugman, will you?

Howard Lindzon is a hedge fund manager since 1998. He is also the creator of Wallstrip.com (purchased by CBS in 2007) and now the cofounder of Stocktwits.com. Howard is also a partner in Knight’s Bridge Capital Partners a Private Equity Firm in Toronto, Canada. He blogs at www.howardlindzon.com and tweets at www.twitter.com/howardlindzon


Comeback of the Decade: Reading

readingStudies say you are watching more TV than ever, even as you slurp up increasing amounts of Web video. Which means you must be spending less time on something else. Like reading, perhaps?

Nope. At least not according to a new study out of the University of California, San Diego, which says reading tripled from 1980 to 2008 “because it is the overwhelmingly preferred way to receive words on the Internet”:

From Wired’s summary:

Americans consumed 3.6 billion terabytes of information last year, averaging 11.8 hours of information consumption per day. Video and videogames constituted 55 percent of those bytes, but on average, Americans read 36 percent of the 100,500 words they consume each day, according to the San Diego study, which analyzed more than 20 data sources. The study doesn’t cover writing, but a simple glance at Facebook feeds reveals that we’re almost certainly writing more than we used to, as well.

Obligatory “to be sure” graph: To be sure, the study’s definition of “reading” is as broad as possible. So it’s not just talking about grappling with Pynchon, but many less demanding forms of “receiving words” as well. Like skimming this text. Or a text message. Or a tweet. Etc.

Also, there’s a good chance that you’re “reading” while you’re watching TV and maybe watching some Web video at the same time. The UC San Diego study allows for lots of multitasking.

Still, this isn’t bad news, right? As long as you’re reading, you’re reading. And the more you read, the better the chances we’ll avoid an “Idiocracy”-like dystopia.

[Image credit: suchitra prints]