Pinterest Cofounder Reportedly Leaving Company

Pinterest

Pinterest cofounder Paul Sciarra is leaving the company, according to startup community site Startup Grind.

Startup Grind notes that while Sciarra is listed as CEO and founder on Pinterest’s SEC filings, he’s primarily worked in a behind-the-scenes role while Ben Silbermann has served as the public face of the fast-growing company.

Sciarra’s departure was confirmed by “multiple sources inside the company,” Startup Grind says. A source familiar with the company tells paidContent that Sciarra wanted to remain CEO. I’ve requested a comment from Pinterest.


Lawsuit Says Circumstantial Evidence Enough To Prove e-Book Conspiracy

Crime City

The plaintiffs who are accusing Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) and publishers of fixing e-book prices say they don’t have to show an actual meeting took place. Instead, they say, indirect evidence like price jumps and a common motive are enough to establish an antitrust conspiracy.

The claims, set out in a new court filing, coincide with reports this weekend that the Justice Department is nearing a settlement in the e-book dispute.

The two-headed legal brouhaha is part of a long-running flap over publishers’ adoption of so-called agency pricing in 2010. Under this model, publishers set the price and retailers like Apple or Amazon take a commission.

So far, the plaintiffs haven’t been able to show hard evidence of a conspiracy—such as Apple and the publishing executives chomping cigars while poring over pricing charts.

But in the new filing, the plaintiffs say a 1939 Supreme Court case means that indirect evidence of price jumps and other “plus factors” is enough to establish a conspiracy. The case involved eight movie distributors found guilty of fixing screen prices.

In the e-book case, the new filing points to circumstantial evidence like:

  • A series of four deals in twelve days between Apple and the publishers

  • A trade association meeting at which senior executives from Hachette and Macmillan were seen together in a hotel bar

  • Similar terms in the contracts between Apple and the five publishers

An agreement among competitors to set prices is “horizontal price fixing” and an automatic violation of the Sherman Act.

The publishers have argued that there was no conspiracy and that they adopted the agency model independently because it made business sense. At the time, Amazon was selling e-books at below market prices; publishers feared the practice would train consumers to expect unviable prices.

The new filing also revisits Apple’s role in the alleged conspiracy. The iPad maker has pushed back against the antitrust claims by pointing out that, at the time, it had no power in an e-book market that was 90 percent dominated by Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN). Apple’s lawyers have also said that plaintiffs have “mischaracterized” comments by Steve Jobs about his relationship with the publishers.

In response to Apple’s defense, the plaintiffs said the company had a motive to be the hub of a conspiracy because:

The “situation that existed” was that Apple was late to the eBook market, Amazon had a very large installed user base, a strong appetite for discount eBook pricing, and Apple wanted to knock out a reason to buy a Kindle versus an iPad – the price of eBooks.  The scheme protected Apple from price competition from other retailers and increased Apple’s revenue per eBook unit sold compared to the wholesale model.

Finally, the filing recasts Barnes & Noble’s role in the affair. In a January complaint, the plaintiffs had implied that the bookseller may have supported the conspiracy because it wanted to protect the price of its hardcover books.

Now, the plaintiffs call attention to the fact that Barnes & Noble (NYSE: BKS) launched its Nook reader months before the iPad and that the publishers didn’t change their pricing system in response—the point appears to be that only Apple was big enough to broker a conspiracy. The new filing also repeatedly mentions reports that a Barnes & Noble executive has been deposed by the Justice Department. Earlier court filings stated that a publishing executive had tipped a law firm about the alleged conspiracy—it’s not known if that executive was from Barnes & Nobel.

If the reports of an impending Justice Department settlement are true, this would strengthen the hand of the class action plaintiffs and likely force a civil settlement. Under such settlements, lawyers typically pocket 25 percent of the payout while the rest is distributed in small amounts to consumers who claim it.

The e-book investigation is also before the European Commission and various state Attorneys General. The matter appears poised to come to a head in the next month.

eBooks Opposition to Dismiss Copy

Related


Magazine Publishers Start To Coalesce Around Better Digital Metrics

O, The Oprah Magazine from Hearst Magazines

Hearst is following Conde Nast’s lead and will start releasing metrics on its paid iPad editions, the company announced today. Separately, the Association of Magazine Media has released a new set of guidelines for digital metrics.

Hearst, which charges separately for its magazines’ digital editions instead of bundling them with print subscriptions, will immediately begin disclosing to advertisers the total number of paid iPad editions sold each month. “As soon as possible,” it will share further data about “total time spent per reader per issue and average number of sessions per issue.”

For now, Hearst is only releasing digital data about the iPad editions of its magazines, not about other digital editions sold on platforms like Kindle and Nook. Meanwhile, Condé Nast is providing advertisers with data for iPad, Kindle and Nook editions.

In a separate announcement today, the Association of Magazine Media (MPA) released a new set of “voluntary guidelines to drive growth of advertising on tablets.” To start, the MPA recommends that magazine publishers release five metrics:

1. Total consumer paid digital issues
2. The total number of tablet readers per issue
3. The total number of sessions per issue
4. The total time spent per reader per issue
5. The average number of sessions per reader per issue

The MPA recommends that those metrics be released 10 weeks after the newsstand on-sale date for monthlies and seven weeks for weeklies. “Our research tells us that magazine readers continue to engage with their tablet issues as long as a month or more after the on-sale date of the publication and we need data that reflect this engagement,” said MPA president Nina Link.

Hearst, Condé Nast and the MPA’s moves come ahead of expected changes to the Audit Bureau of Circulations’ reporting format for digital editions. If the new standards are approved in a vote this summer, large consumer magazine publishers will be required to break down digital magazine subscriptions and single-copy sales by platform starting in July 2013.

Related


Securities Analytics Firm Data Explorers Acquired By Markit

Wall Street Bull

Data Explorers, an analytics and analysis firm which helps subscribers track short-selling in stocks, is the latest acquisition of financial data vendor Markit.

No deal terms were announced. It’s understood Data Explorers owner Bowmark Capital had been looking to sell the firm for the last year.

The company claims to track more than 85 percent of global securities transactions.

Markit wants to inject Data Explorers’ services in to its own, including adding new services for exchange securities, dividend forecasting and quantitative research.

London-based Data Explorers says it quadrupled revenue and tripled profitability over the last four years with global expansion.

UK Companies House data shows 2009/10 annual operating profit for Data Explorers Limited, one of the firm’s companies, down 65 percent on 46 percent lower revenue.

Market also acquired Wall Street On Demand, which provides visualisations for financial data, in 2010.


Securities Analytics Firm Data Explorers Acquired By Markit

Wall Street Bull

Data Explorers, an analytics and analysis firm which helps subscribers track short-selling in stocks, is the latest acquisition of financial data vendor Markit.

No deal terms were announced. It’s understood Data Explorers owner Bowmark Capital had been looking to sell the firm for the last year.

The company claims to track more than 85 percent of global securities transactions.

Markit wants to inject Data Explorers’ services in to its own, including adding new services for exchange securities, dividend forecasting and quantitative research.

London-based Data Explorers says it quadrupled revenue and tripled profitability over the last four years with global expansion.

UK Companies House data shows 2009/10 annual operating profit for Data Explorers Limited, one of the firm’s companies, down 65 percent on 46 percent lower revenue.

Market also acquired Wall Street On Demand, which provides visualisations for financial data, in 2010.


Orange Fancies Itself As GetGlue, Miso Social TV Rival

Family Watching TV

Orange is having a run at the nascent second-screen social-TV space already occupied by the likes of GetGlue, Miso, Zeebox and Intonow.

It is bringing TVCheck, its smartphone app for checking in to TV shows, from France to the UK.

TVCheck asks users to point their phone’s camera at TV screens to identify shows by cloud-based signal processing, so they can share their viewing habit to social networks and interact with shows on the phone.

The app has garnered nearly 100,000 downloads since release in France last year, Orange business development director David Nahmani told paidContent, declining to disclose remaining active users.

In France, Orange has both a popular IPTV service and a mobile network to which it could have allied TVCheck but hasn’t. Neither will the app be bundled with Orange UK handsets, Nahmani said.

The idea is to ensure all comers can use it. To that end, it will be available to non-Orange customers through both iOS and Android. But, minus, the carriage that Orange’s services could have given it, TVCheck may be challenged to compete with GetGlue and Zeebox in particular.

Nahmani told paidContent TVCheck’s USPs over rivals are in-buit gamification, simplicity and show recommendation features. The app can recognise TV ads so the door is open to potential commercial tie-ups - just as Zeebox recently launched - Nahmani added, but Orange wants to try gathering a user base before committing to a revenue plan.

“We can imagine premium=access content, premium voting, advertising - but all those activities will come later,” Nahmani said.

He is trying to strike partnerships with broadcasters which he hopes might want to include interactive features relating to their shows in the app - again, just like some others apps are doing.


Current Unplugs Keith Olbermann

Keith Olbermann

Maybe Keith Olbermann should have given more thought to setting up his own outlet following his departure from MSNBC (NSDQ: CMCSA) last year. The lightning rod of an anchor was supposed to give Current.TV a jolt of viewership and energy. Instead, he’s out of the Al Gore-Joel Hyatt network after less than a year on the air—and a lot of wasted energy all around.

In a joint message featured on the front page of Current.com, Gore, the network’s chairman, and Hyatt, who took over again as CEO in recent months, tell viewers:

We created Current to give voice to those Americans who refuse to rely on corporate-controlled media and are seeking an authentic progressive outlet. We are more committed to those goals today than ever before.

Current was also founded on the values of respect, openness, collegiality, and loyalty to our viewers. Unfortunately these values are no longer reflected in our relationship with Keith Olbermann and we have ended it. 

We are moving ahead by honoring Current’s values. Current has a fundamental obligation to deliver news programming with a progressive perspective that our viewers can count on being available daily—especially now, during the presidential election campaign. Current exists because our audience desires the kind of perspective, insight and commentary that is not easily found elsewhere in this time of big media consolidation.

They also introduced his replacement, former New York Gov. Eliott Spitzer, and went on at length about the wonders of an election-year Current sans Olbermann. (Safe to say, after his performance with Sean Parker at SxSW, the former VP won’t be doing his own interview show any time soon.) What they don’t really address is their own role in a hiring that seemed like a stretch when you got beyond Olbermann’s liberal status and his following.

Olbermann’s reply via Twitter was swift, a series of 11 tweets summed up in one long statement promising legal action:

I’d like to apologize to my viewers and my staff for the failure of Current TV.

Editorially, Countdown had never been better. But for more than a year I have been imploring Al Gore and Joel Hyatt to resolve our issues internally, while I’ve been not publicizing my complaints, and keeping the show alive for the sake of its loyal viewers and even more loyal staff. Nevertheless, Mr. Gore and Mr. Hyatt, instead of abiding by their promises and obligations and investing in a quality news program, finally thought it was more economical to try to get out of my contract.

It goes almost without saying that the claims against me implied in Current’s statement are untrue and will be proved so in the legal actions I will be filing against them presently. To understand Mr. Hyatt’s ‘values of respect, openness, collegiality and loyalty,’ I encourage you to read of a previous occasion Mr. Hyatt found himself in court for having unjustly fired an employee. That employee’s name was Clarence B. Cain. http://nyti.ms/HueZsa

In due course, the truth of the ethics of Mr. Gore and Mr. Hyatt will come out. For now, it is important only to again acknowledge that joining them was a sincere and well-intentioned gesture on my part, but in retrospect a foolish one. That lack of judgment is mine and mine alone, and I apologize again for it.

Olbermann and Hyatt gave every appearance of a meeting of the minds when I interviewed them together at paidContent 2011. They were still in a honeymoon phase and Olbermann, who stayed off video for several months between MSNBC and Current, was months away from launching his show. That show involved rebuilding studios, hiring a New York staff and more. 

It was an attention-getting move that caused some to think again about Current and certainly hiring Olbermann put the network, which has yet to have its real break through, in the spotlight. But it also put it on the hot seat. Building a network on ideals, worth a shot. Hinging it on one volatile personality, not so much. Olbermann is right when he points to a resume that show how long he’s worked with some people and when he challenges his labeling as peripatetic. He’s also charming, amusing, incredibly bright, knows his baseball, reads James Thurber stories out loud, and has seen the Book of Mormon an unfair number of times.

But he’s also had a series of confrontations and missteps that often make the story more about him, than about any network or its goals.

Al Gore and Joel Hyatt knew that when they courted him. Whatever the reasons for the ultimate split—and I doubt it’s as one-sided as either party wants it to appear—they had to know honeymoons end.

As for Olbermann, he may miss cable networks for a while but he always has the Net.

Olbermann and Hyatt spoke at our paidContent 2011 conference, where they explained how Olbermann joining Current was a match made in heaven.