Classic. The record industry — or at least the big boys in the RIAA — get their first chance to air their sophisticated arguments in court as part of a high-profile lawsuit involving an individual who downloaded music, and what do they say? That even making a copy of a single song from a CD you paid for is theft. Mind-boggling.
This statement came from (no surprise) the chief litigator for Sony-BMG, the same gang that thinks installing a Trojan on your computer is a great business model. When asked whether it was wrong for consumers to make copies of music that they had purchased, Jennifer Pariser said: “When an individual makes a copy of a song for himself, I suppose we can say he stole a song.” Making a copy of a purchased song is just “a nice way of saying ‘steals just one copy’.” I guess we should pull all those law books out of the library and strike out any reference to “fair use” then. Nice work there by the RIAA. Of course as Ars Technica points out, this isn’t the first time they have made that claim, despite the fact that the courts have repeatedly disagreed.
This is almost like a follow-up to my previous post on TechCrunch and CNET (be sure to read the updates, because I added some worthwhile links), but PaidContent has a post up about a new report from Jordan Edmiston Group looking at M&A activity in the media sector: according to the report, the total value of media M&A during the third quarter was $95-billion, up 110 per cent from last year — and the largest single segment was online media, with 232 deals worth a total of $8.3 billion â€” up from 136 deals worth $5.7 billion last year.
Boy, Henry “I used to be a famous Wall Street analyst” Blodget is sure on a roll — or make that a troll. Today he’s got a post about how TechCrunch could be bought by CNET for $100-million or so. His post is actually a response to one by Doug McIntyre at 24/7 Wall Street, in which Doug hypothesizes about blog networks such as TechCrunch and Huffington Post and GigaOm and how much they might be worth to existing media entities.
Mike has a sarcastic response to Henry’s post here. And there’s no question that $100-million seems like a fairy tale price — a lot like Henry’s $2,000 Google post from yesterday. Still, the idea itself makes sense. TechCrunch or GigaOm would fit as a part of CNET or several other media entities. The ironic thing is that selling would probably be a mistake, because at the moment they are doing far better than most of the companies that would be thinking about buying them.
Is $100-million nonsensical or not? Let’s look at the numbers: TechCrunch says it has 1.5 million unique visitors a month — although a commenter below says those numbers may be high — and CNET Networks has about 10 million a month, according to comScore (Compete says about 6 million a month). But as we all know, it’s about more than just uniques, right? It’s about monetization.
CNET had revenue last year of almost $400-million, although it only made a profit of $7-million, which is pretty pathetic. No one except Mike knows what TechCrunch made last year (check below for some Valleywag scuttlebutt — I have no idea whether it is even close).
Still, CNET’s market cap is $1.2-billion. If you assume that someone could monetize Mike’s 1.5 million unique visitors better than CNET can monetize its uniques (which wouldn’t be a stretch) then you could easily come to the conclusion that TechCrunch is worth about 20 per cent of what CNET is worth — or about $250-million.
I’m not saying it is, I’m just saying $100-million doesn’t look all that crazy. Oh, and Mike? If you do a deal, Cynthia Brumfield at IPDemocracy has some advice for you.
Dan Farber of ZDNet (which is part of CNET) notes that the rankings at Alexa and (presumably) comScore only measure CNET.com, but CNET’s family of sites get 137 million uniques a month. That’s an order of magnitude larger than the numbers I was using. That suggests TechCrunch might be worth in the neighbourhood of $20-million. Still nothing to sneeze at.
Mike’s got a post up at TechCrunch about Henry “I used to be a famous Wall Street analyst” Blodget, in which he goes on at length about Blodget’s Google-related post at Silicon Alley Insider today — the one in which Hank argues that Google could hit $2,000 a share. Mike seems genuinely pissed that Henry is shooting his mouth off about such a thing, especially after the history, and says someone should “muzzle Blodget.”
The history, as pretty well everyone knows by now, goes more or less like this: in 1998, Blodget says Amazon is going to $400, it does so, stocks climb to the moon, then they crater, Blodget is investigated for fraud for misleading investors by publicly pumping stocks and privately dumping on them, etc. and agrees to a settlement in which he is barred from the securities industry for life.
As I said in a comment on Mike’s post, I could be wrong, but I read Henry’s post as a sarcastic response to a reader who complained he was being too pessimistic all the time (can you blame him, given what happened the last time he was overly positive?). I think the point he was making was that it’s easy enough to throw a few multiples out there, a few back-of-a-napkin financial projections, and get to almost any number you want. Heck, that’s what analysts do for a living — as Blodget knows better than just about anyone.
I think Henry was having some fun with his reputation, and maybe trolling to get a reaction. And he sure got one.
Henry has an update on what he was up to (and a response to Mike) here, and Kara Swisher has a take on it as well.
I must have missed the news that Getty Images — one of the largest image-licensing firms around, next to Bill Gates’s Corbis — had bought a company called Pump Audio back in June and was getting into the music-licensing business. Then I read this morning on TechCrunch that PumpAudio has relaunched as part of the Getty site, offering a song-tracking and licensing tool called (what else) Soundtrack.
Although the service is starting small, with just 20,000 songs from independent artists, Getty says it wants to expand through deals with the major record labels and others — and knowing Getty, it is likely to do so with a vengeance. Maybe it will even get into the “crowdsourcing” of music, the way it did with photos by buying Calgary-based success story iStockphoto.com.
Whether Getty succeeds or not remains to be seen, but there’s no question that the music-licensing business needs some organization. Insiders — including Spiral Frog CEO Joe Mohen, who I interviewed for this recent piece — say the process of getting all the required performance and publishing rights for a piece of music is byzantine and in some cases almost impossible, since there are thousands of different publishers and no central repository of information. A real “goat rodeo,” as a friend of mine likes to say.
If Getty can help to bring some semblance of order to that process, it will not only benefit anyone who is trying to license music — including perhaps the folks at Saturday Night Live, who had to pull a hilarious video from SNL off YouTube because they apparently failed to get a license for an Aphex Twin song — but will also benefit (theoretically) the artists who make the music.
Say what you will about Valleywag (just don’t get Mike Arrington started) but Owen Thomas is a pretty smart guy, and I think he makes a good point amidst all the sturm und drang about Facebook and its market value, and how eBay’s $1.4-billion Skype-related writedown could affect the perception of that value (for more on that, just see this Techmeme thread or the Times Online blog).
It’s true that eBay’s writedown says a lot about the risks of paying bubblicious prices for things, and a $10-billion valuation for Facebook has certainly got more than a whiff of bubble about it. At the same time, however, Owen points out that there are just as many risks in not buying things. eBay is a great example of that too, having tried and failed to buy PayPal early on. And Yahoo has a boatload of missed opportunities, including Google and Facebook.
As for Microsoft’s hyperactive basketball-coach CEO, Steve Ballmer, his remarks to the Times about Facebook being a “fad” are just as likely to be an exercise in talking down the value of something before you buy a chunk as they are a thoughtful commentary on the company’s actual value. Or it’s possible that he really doesn’t get it.
In the end, I think Kara Swisher at All Things D probably has the right read on the situation: Facebook is likely to take some money, at a handsome valuation, but remain independent (unless $10-billion gets dropped off at Mark Zuckerberg’s flat, of course). If nothing else, MySpace shows the downside of being acquired too early.
From the New York Times comes word that Huffington Post, which started as a rag-tag collection of blogs and has become a new-media superstar, is hiring away the general manager of CBSNews.com, Betsy Morgan, and making her the new CEO of the Post. This is a big coup for Arianna Huffington and her team, and it’s probably no coincidence that it comes just before a U.S. election, one that the HuffPost and Jay Rosen’s NewAssignment.net have teamed up to cover.
It will be interesting to see where this new hire takes the site (Mike Arrington says that he smells an IPO). In any case, congrats to Arianna and the entire HuffPost team — which includes the lovely and talented (and Canadian) Rachel Sklar of Eat The Press — for creating something extraordinary.