Exclusive: MySpace Gets a New Sales Boss–MTV Vet Nada Stirratt (Plus, an Internal Memo, Of Course!)

Nada_Stirratt

Employees at MySpace have been waiting to find out who their new ad sales boss will be, as BoomTown reported earlier this week.

And, here she is: Nada Stirratt, who until today was running digital sales for Viacom’s (VIA) MTV Networks. (You can read her goodbye memo to MTV colleagues below.)

It looks as if MySpace CEO Owen Van Natta is assembling a team of MTV veterans at his company, which he’s in the process of overhauling. In addition to Stirratt, MySpace has brought former digital guru Jason Hirschhorn over as chief product officer. And Courtney Holt, who runs MySpace Music, had run digital music for MTV before Chris DeWolfe, Van Natta’s predecessor, brought him on board last year.

Next week will be Stirratt’s debut in front of the entire advertising sales staff of MySpace, who are set to gather at a new seaside resort about 20 miles south of Los Angeles to get a first glimpse of the fresh direction the company is preparing to take under its new management.

The struggling social networking site has been trying to reboot its image, spur innovation in its product and–most of all–pull itself out of a too-long slump, even as longtime rival Facebook has seen explosive growth.

In late August, MySpace sales and marketing head Jeff Berman left the company as MySpace hired MediaLink, a New York- and Los Angeles-based media consultancy, to help get its ad sales business back on track.

That effort has been led by MediaLink President Wenda Millard, who is well known in the ad industry and was longtime leader of the ad sales force at Yahoo (YHOO).

Getting an experienced top ad exec in place will round out a recent spate of new hiring by MySpace, including a new CTO, Alex Maghen, who moved over from its MySpace Music joint venture, and a new CFO, Mark Rosenbaum.

This has been part of a wholesale flushing out of most of the top execs who worked under DeWolfe by Van Natta.

Now, with a new team of execs, the News Corp. (NWS) property is putting the finishing touches on a master plan, which will include a new redesign of its hopelessly messy interface and doubling down on a product strategy that will center on, said one source, “what we own”–namely, music and entertainment.

Music is the obvious key leverage point, the still-bright spot of MySpace, followed by adding big entertainment categories like movies, television, gaming, video and other pop culture arenas.

Once the rejiggered product is in place, it will be up to Stirratt to sell it to advertisers.

Until we see how she does in that key job, here’s her missive to MTVers:

From: Stirratt, Nada
To: MTVN Digital Advertising
Sent: Fri Oct 09 16:34:51 2009
Subject: Thank You for Everything

Hi Everybody –
It is with mixed emotions that I write to inform you that I will be leaving MTV Networks.  I have accepted the job of Chief Revenue Officer at MySpace and will be starting there later in the month.
The past 3+ years have been such a wonderful experience and I thank you for the extraordinary work you all have done to make MTVNetworks Digital stand for a best-in-class sales organization unlike any other in the business.  Truly.  We rocked the industry with our innovation, ideas, relationships and results.  And we had a ridiculous amount of fun along the way.
So thank you for everything.  And a special heartfelt thanks to my leadership team of Kevin, Brad, Jason and Heather: I have learned so much from each of you and will cherish your friendship.

Xo 
Nada

(Full disclosure: News Corp. also owns Dow Jones, which owns this site.)

The AP Tries a “Truthiness” Approach: “We’re Not Talking to Google” Means “We’re Talking to Google”

Colbert-truthinessFor a company that delivers information for a living, the Associated Press might want to work on getting its story straight. Earlier this year, AP chair Dean Singleton baffled the Web by channeling Howard Beale. This week, AP CEO Tom Curley told a group of journalists that his company wasn’t talking to Google about renewing its licensing deal. But they have been for months, and continue to do so.

In fact, reps from Google and the AP linked up in Manhattan on Wednesday to discuss the deal, which expires at the end of this year, people familiar with meeting tell me. That timing makes sense, since Google had flown in many of its top brass to New York for a series of internal meetings this week.

But that would come as a surprise to anyone that took Curley’s words, delivered after a speech in Hong Kong on Tuesday, at face value.

Here are Curley’s comments, recorded by an attendee at the Hong Kong meeting and transcribed by Zachary Seward at Nieman Journalism Lab:

Someone asked Curley if Microsoft (MSFT) was willing to accept the AP’s demands. “They have said very strongly that they would,” Curley responded. A bit earlier, he said of Microsoft, “They know how to have a conversation.” And what about Google? “I’m not talking about Google (GOOG),” he said. “We haven’t talked. We haven’t talked. We haven’t talked with them in any serious way.”

AP spokesman Paul Colford says he has nothing to add to Curley’s comments. But I’ll try to make a case on his behalf: Maybe this is one of those “depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is” situations, where Curley doesn’t consider the talks the two sides have been having to be “talks”. Alternate proposal: Maybe Curley is going for “truthiness” instead of “truth”.

I guess that’s possible. The recurring story I’ve heard from sources on both sides of the negotiations, which have been going on for months, is that they’re not moving very far.

The problem: The AP has a list of demands, which start with more money and move on from there, including assurances that its copy will receive better treatment than secondary outlets. And Google hasn’t expressed much interest in changing the existing agreement. The company is “quite happy” with the deal they have now, Google CEO Eric Schmidt told reporters on Wednesday.

I understand why Curley would want to play up his talks with other portals, as well as the notion that he’s willing to pull his cooperative out of the world’s biggest traffic generator. Per above, I don’t think those are particularly effective tactics, but I understand them. But that’s different than creating an alternative reality altogether.

Conde Cuts Continue: 15 at Digital, More to Come

conde-nast-buildingConde Nast, which shuttered four magazines this week, has said it won’t be cutting any more titles. But that won’t be the last of its cuts: The publisher is looking to take out roughly 25% of costs at each of the magazines it publishes, so it is very likely that’s going to lead to layoffs in many cases.

Today’s example doesn’t come from a magazine per se, but from the company’s digital group, which let go of “more than” 15 people, MediaWeek reports.

You should see a trickle of these reports in the weeks to come, and from other publishers as well: Employees at Time Warner’s Time Inc (TWX), for example, are bracing for cuts this fall, or in early 2010, and my former colleagues at Forbes expect to hear about another set of layoffs in the next week or so. And whoever wins the bidding for BusinessWeek will almost certainly take an axe to that company’s payroll.

The Secret of Chad Hurley and Steve Chen’s Famous “Two Kings” Video. Revealed!

chad hurley and steve chenRemember the era-defining video that Chad Hurley and Steve Chen made three years ago? The one where they looked simultaneously giddy, groggy, and perhaps a tiny bit intoxicated, and announced that they had sold their video site to Google for $1.65 billion?

That clip, it turns out, is an unlikely homage to…wait for it… the artist formerly known as Puff Daddy. Really!

Go ahead and look at the first two clips at the bottom of the post. Note Hurley’s reference to “salt and pepper” and “two kings getting together”. See? In the Diddy clip, too. Who knew? (OK, so at least one of you did).

Anyway, Hurley references both clips in a blog post he’s published this morning commemorating the anniversary of the sale. He also announces that the site is now serving up “well over” 1 billion video views a day (last month Comscore (SCOR) estimated YouTube was doing 10 billion views a month in the US.)

And there’s also some general talk about the site’s evolution: Rather than focus solely on short clips, it’s also working to bring in movies and TV shows, etc. Nothing you didn’t know already.

Expect to hear more meaningful — but equally upbeat –  talk about the site’s progress next Thursday, when Google (GOOG) announces its Q3 earnings.

Last quarter, Google executives went out of their way to talk up the site, and CFO Patrick Pichette said YouTube could start generating significant profits soon. This week, CEO Eric Schmidt also made a point of praising the YouTube deal, and the site’s performance during a New York press conference.

Here, once again, is that famous clip.

And here’s the one Hurley was apparently referencing.

And here, once again, is the most popular clip in YouTube’s history:

Has YouTube Finally Figured Out How to Play Nicely with Big Media?

YouTube snuck up on big media, then scared the hell out of it, then tried to do business with it, more or less unsuccessfully.

Now, three years after Google (GOOG) plunked down $1.6 billion for the video site, it seems to have figured out an approach that works for at least some big players: Hand over a chunk of the site to content creators, who get to control it, sell ads on it, program it with their stuff, and share some of the ad dollars.

It’s a pretty straightforward compromise: YouTube gets some of the ad dollars that “premium” content — stuff you’d see on a TV screen, basically — can generate; content-creators get access to the the gazillion eyeballs that the world’s biggest video site attracts. Examples: See the pacts that Sony (SNE), Disney (DIS), Time Warner’s (TWX) Turner, Warner Music Group (WMG) and Universal Music have hammered out in recent months.

And that sounds like the deal that YouTube and Britain’s Channel 4 have reached. Telegraph:

YouTube and Channel 4 have been in talks for at least the last six months and a contract is expected to be signed imminently. The Telegraph understands that Channel 4 has negotiated the right to sell its own advertising around its content on YouTube and share the revenue with the Google-owned site.

A senior television source close to Channel 4 said: “It was key for Channel 4 to be able to sell the advertising around its own inventory so it could extract maximum value from the deal and retain commercial control over its own property.

“When the Channel 4 content formally appears on YouTube, it will be branded exactly the same way as it is on the Channel 4 website. It will be a fully Channel 4 branded space and look as if someone has picked up 4 on Demand (Channel 4’s online catch up service) and put it on YouTube.”

.,.The partnership will be the first formal arrangement YouTube has agreed with a British broadcaster in which the majority of its content will be shown in full on the video-sharing site.

No comment from YouTube. If the report doesn’t pan out, I’m assuming it won’t have any impact on anyone reading this in the U.S.: The Web is worldwide, but these content deals tend to be specific to various territories, which means you won’t be able to watch British programming from the States. Fair enough: My non-US readers always gripe about not being able to watch Hulu clips.

Twitter Down, Again, Just Like the Old Days

Unless the 400+ people I follow on Twitter have all gone mute at the same time, I suspect that something’s wrong with Twitter, since I haven’t seen a new message for the last hour or so. A quick scan of Facebook indicates that other people are seeing the same thing – we’re Tweeting, it appears, but into a void. How meta!

Twitter’s status site, designed just for instances like these, confirms it: “We’re currently diagnosing the causes of an unplanned site outage that happened a few minutes ago. We are recovering from this issue now and apologize for the interruption in service.”

I’m confident we’ll survive this crisis if we all band together. And perhaps go out for a walk – it’s really nice today in New York. The semi-serious point here is that this stuff used to happen to Twitter all the time, and happens much less now. But the pressure is on Twitter — users are increasing, and so are expectations — to make these outages even less frequent. Counterpoint: Even mighty Google (GOOG) is prone to this kind of thing.

Look Who’s Selling Warner Music’s Videos on YouTube: Veoh’s Sales Team

green_day_Last month Warner Music Group (WMG) won the ability to sell ads on its YouTube videos. Next step: Getting someone to sell ads on its YouTube videos, since the music label doesn’t have its own sales team.

Warner is handing those duties over to Outrigger Media, a New York-based rep firm that specializes in Web media  (Outrigger’s preferred description: “Internet video sales and marketing firm”), the companies announced today. (Oddly, Warner’s release goes on and on without ever once mentioning Google (GOOG) or YouTube once. Go figure.)

I’ll admit that I hadn’t heard of Outrigger before this morning, but I had heard of its CEO, Mike Henry, an ad sales veteran who was previously running ad sales for Veoh, one of the many video sites that aimed at becoming the next YouTube during the past few years. Turns out Henry is still running ad sales for Veoh — it has outsourced its ad sales business to his new company.

Warner’s strategy is different than the one that its rival Universal Music is taking with Vevo, the “Hulu for music videos” joint venture it has launched with Sony (SNE), with help from YouTube. Vevo is creating its own in-house sales force, to be led by Nokia and and Viacom vet David Kohl.

I can understand Warner’s reluctance to build one of its own — if you really want to do this stuff right, you’re looking at 20,30 people — but it seems that long-term, if the labels have a future, it’s going to be primarily as a sales and marketing force, and you’d want to make a bet on that now. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.