Feedburner absorbed by the Googleplex

snipshot_e4ois186ous.jpgAccording to Mike over at TechCrunch — confirming a rumour originally reported by Sam Sethi, ex- of TechCrunch UK — Google is close to acquiring Feedburner for $100-million. If true, this is a deal that makes sense to me, as it does to my friend Tony Hung from Deep Jive Interests and to Ash from Watchmojo. Feedburner is a great service with tons of useful features — many of which will no doubt plug in nicely to Google’s Analytics and other website tools — and so it’s no surprise that someone like Google would want them, even at what amounts to a 10-times revenue multiple, according to Ash. Valleywag also had the rumour, and the price tag, in a post last week.


Geek News Central seems to think that we should be afraid of Google owning Feedburner, but fails to make a convincing argument that we should be any more concerned about Google than we are about our ISPs knowing which websites we go to. Ashkan from Watchmojo also seems to think the deal is something we should be worried about, but I don’t see it. Alarm:clock has a look at the synergies for Google.

Vancouver — something in the water?

Business 2.0 has a great piece about Kevin Ham, one of the world’s top “domainers” — Web profiteers who try to lock up domain names that expire or might someday become valuable. As the story details, Ham started trying to corner domain names the usual way and has since progressed to forming partnerships with entire countries such as Cameroon.

snipshot_e41d5jsm64i5.jpgHam, like his fellow multimillionaire domainer Yun Ye, is also based in Vancouver — and so is another multimillionaire Web entrepreneur who gets far less than his fair share of attention: Markus Frind, the boy genius behind PlentyOfFish.com, one of the world’s top dating sites, which he runs more or less single-handedly from his Vancouver apartment. Wall Street Journal columnist Lee Gomes spent an afternoon with Markus recently and wrote about how he runs “what may be, on a per-capita basis, the busiest, most profitable site on the entire World Wide Web.”

According to Gomes, the site makes somewhere between $5-million and $10-million a year from Google AdSense and affiliate links. And Markus told me recently that his site went from being the 140th most-visited site on the Web in Canada to number 30 in a matter of a few weeks, and is now in the top 10 — with more than 370 million pageviews last month. One guy (and a girlfriend who helps out part-time), a few servers and an idea.

Legless chihuahuas and social media

Lots of commentary on Techmeme today about Google’s new Hot Trends feature, which builds on the search engine’s previous Trends and Zeitgeist features by adding news and blog posts. Many people seem to pay particularly attention to the absurd or stupid things that people search for, including “legless chihuahuas” and “nose bidet.”

chihuahua.jpgFair enough. Don’t get me wrong. There’s no question that people search for plenty of ridiculous stuff — and yes, the Trends include lots of stuff about World of Warcraft, etc. But still, I think dismissing Google’s Hot Trends as a throwaway toy or a sideshow is missing something. And I think search guru Danny Sullivan made the point in a comment on Duncan Riley’s post at TechCrunch made the point pretty well: “legless chihuahuas,” he pointed out, were in the news; Oprah referred to a “nose bidet” on her show; and one of the other search terms was a radio contest question.

In other words, browsing through the search terms is a pretty good barometer of what people are interested in at a given moment. When I looked at the terms, Justis Richert was a popular term — because the porn actress who was born with that name happened to perform… well, a service for a state trooper while he was on duty (and still wound up getting a ticket, apparently). In other words, it was sparked by another news story.

Anyone who has spent any time running a news-related website knows that there are the stories you wish people were interested in, and then there are the ones that they really are interested in — and they aren’t always the same thing. For better or worse, Google’s Hot Trends and other traffic-measuring tools are a glimpse inside the mind of the people formerly known as the audience (as Jay Rosen called them). Get used to it.


A commenter here notes that Google’s Hot Trends could pose some competition for Technorati — and it certainly could for Technorati’s WTF (Where’s The Fire) feature.

Is Justin.tv the future of TV?

I know it’s kind of late, but this is a story I wrote for the Globe and Mail about Justin.tv (original is here).

It’s being called "lifecasting."

Justin Kan, who coined the term, is the 23-year-old co-founder of a San Francisco-based company and the "star" of an Internet video experiment called Justin.tv. He wears a small camera mounted on a baseball cap, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and the video is streamed to his website at Justin.tv.

justin.jpgEating, working, talking on the phone, shopping, at parties with his friends and co-founders – the camera is always on. When Kan is asleep, the camera is mounted on a tripod pointed at his bed. He even wears it when he’s going to the bathroom (although he tilts it up toward the ceiling).

Kan isn’t wearing the camera because he thinks his life is all that fascinating; in fact, he freely admits that what he does most of the time isn’t interesting at all. And one of the few times that things did get interesting – when Kan went back to a woman’s apartment and the two wound up in the bedroom – the camera went dark, while a porn-movie soundtrack superimposed by the team back at justin.tv headquarters.

Kan and his partners didn’t fit him with a hat-cam because they think he deserves to be a celebrity. They’re doing it because they want to show how easy wearing a camera around all day can be. Kan says they want to create an army of lifecasters – actors, musicians, even "citizen journalists" who could follow political candidates around.

<a href="http://www.mathewingram.com/work/2007/05/22/is-justintv-the-future-of-tv/#more-1323” class=”more-link”>[click to continue…]

CBS buys Howard Lindzon’s brain

snipshot_e415m1plw7t6.jpgOkay, CBS didn’t buy Howard Lindzon’s brain — but it is paying a substantial sum (how substantial is still up for debate, since the original report of $5-million has apparently been denied) for what he helped to create with Wallstrip, the daily video-blog on Wall Street and finance hosted by the lovely and talented Lindsay Campbell. And apart from what appears to be some lingering bad blood between Howard and Duncan Riley — who has written about it for TechCrunch and 901am (sorry Thord), as well as his own blog — I think most people are happy to see Howard do well. He took a chance with Wallstrip, and it has paid off. And according to Fred Wilson’s post about the deal, CBS is not acquiring Wallstrip just for Lindsay (as Duncan and others have suggested) but for the expertise in developing and distributing online video, which is something CBS really needs to figure out. In any case, congrats to Howard and the team.

mesh tickets are lo-o-o-o-o-ng gone

Well, if you were hoping to make it to mesh on May 30th and 31st, I’m afraid you are out of luck — we are officially sold out. We’d love to invite more people, but the fire warden at MaRS Discovery District won’t let us 🙂

We are all looking forward to the great speakers and panels we have lined up, and we’re also pretty excited about the 15 Minutes of Fame entrants we’ve been getting. There are some great startups looking to pitch their ideas to mesh attendees, and it will be fun to see what kind of response they get. We’ll be announcing the winners soon.

If you didn’t manage to get a ticket, don’t despair — you can still come and do some post-conference meshing on the Wednesday night at the Distillery District. We’ve got a deal for anyone who attends the conference: if you head to the Boiler House at the Distillery District, you’ll get a complementary appetizer with any entree, courtesy of your friends at mesh.

And if you’re not a ticket-holder, come on down and have a few drinks with us on Wednesday night anyway. If it’s anything like last year, I’m sure there will be people meshing until the wee hours.

Helprin on copyright is copywrong

Writing in the New York Times, Mark Helprin says he thinks an injustice is being done to creators of artistic and literary works, because the copyright that protects them doesn’t last forever — unlike the laws that protect, say, ownership of physical property. If the government can’t simply take a person’s house once it is paid for (which it can, of course, but let’s leave that aside for the moment) then why can it take a man’s intellectual property?

stealthisidea.jpgAs mellifluous as Helprin’s writing may be, his argument on the topic — if one can even call it that — is as clanky and tone-deaf as any I’ve seen. At one point he writes that:

“Were I tomorrow to write the great American novel (again?), 70 years after my death the rights to it, though taxed at inheritance, would be stripped from my children and grandchildren”

and then asks why

“such a stiff penalty is not applied to the owners of Rockefeller Center or Wal-Mart” and why it is alright for the state to “sieze the property” of authors.

Like many others, Helprin has likely been seduced by the term “intellectual property,” which implies that ideas are (or should be) the same as objects. Once you begin to think of your creations — the words you have strung together in a particular way at a particular time — as property in the same sense that your house and car are , then you are well on your way towards a misunderstanding.

Helprin may believe that investing artistic works with the same qualities as physical property is “natural and becoming,” but saying it doesn’t make it so. Early lawmakers decided to treat them differently for a reason — because they are different. Taking someone’s property removes it from him forever. Copying someone’s artistic creation, or using it to create something artistic in its own right, is something quite different.

I could go on, but as BoingBoing notes, Lawrence Lessig has set up a wiki to craft a response to Helprin here, and there is already more than enough rational argument there to counter the author’s position and then some.

Online ad business drowning in cash

tvadvertising.jpgSo Microsoft is buying aQuantive, an online ad company, for $6-billion in its largest acquisition to date — the largest since the $1.4-billion purchase of Great Plains Software in 2001, as far as I can tell. Is aQuantive, which I had never heard of until this morning, worth twice as much as Google paid for Doubleclick not too long ago? Hard to say. Paying twice a company’s market cap is pretty huge. Obviously, the beast from Redmond can afford it, since it probably generates $6-billion in free cash flow every couple of months. But does this remind anyone of the big optical-networking acquisition frenzy of the late 1990s, with Nortel and JDS Uniphase and that whole crew? Just asking.


ZDNet has some background on aQuantive, in which the only name I recognize is Razorfish, a legendary money-sucking dot-com bubble company that eventually got acquired after the bubble popped. Just for the record, the company’s revenue last year was $442-million, which makes Microsoft’s bid almost 14 times revenue. My friend Paul Kedrosky warns of the dreaded “winner’s curse” that often comes into play in auction-style scenarios. And Ashkan Karbasfrooshan, who knows a thing or two about online advertising, argues that aQuantive is well worth twice what Google paid for Doubleclick.

Applegate: Much ado about nothing

I know that $4-billion is a big number. And yes, I know that’s how much Apple’s shares fell during the blog scandal known as “Applegate,” in which Ryan Block of Engadget ran an internal Apple memo saying the iPhone and Leopard would be delayed (for which Ryan has apologized). And I know that it may have been an attempt by someone to game the stock, as my friend Paul Kedrosky — who is wise in the ways of the stock-market force — has suggested.

snipshot_e41dxc3p50bv.jpgBut I still think it’s the proverbial tempest in a stock-pot. Could someone theoretically have lost money if they traded on Ryan’s post? Theoretically — in the same way they would have “lost” money if they had sold Apple two weeks ago or a month ago, and in the same way that they “lost” money if they bought Yahoo stock hoping Microsoft was going to buy it after the New York Post rumour from awhile back. Anyone who sold on the Engadget news is a momentum trader, and/or a nervous Nellie, and therefore deserves whatever they got. The stock was back where it began within an hour of the rumour, and Engadget’s fake memo post only survived uncorrected for a matter of minutes. That’s hardly a capital crime.

The fact is — as Howard Lindzon of Wallstrip (how’s that takeover deal going, Howard?) points out in the comments section over at TechCrunch — stocks go up and down every day, in some cases by large amounts, based on rumours and trader talk and (in some cases) the weather. Day traders can make and lose lots of money on those gyrations, but for the most part it is noise.

The fact that Engadget’s fake memo moved Apple so much is an indication to me of just how volatile the stock is, another sign that expectations are getting overdone. And as Mike Arrington suggested, anyone — blogger or “real” journalist — would have done exactly what Ryan did. The difference is that traditional journalists likely wouldn’t have corrected it so quickly.

ClubPenguin: That’s a lot of herring

snipshot_e4ufvcdnb3u.jpgI didn’t get a chance to write about this yesterday when it broke, but I think it’s pretty amazing (if true) that ClubPenguin is talking with Sony about getting acquired for somewhere in the neighbourhood of $500-million or so (TechCrunch says $500-million, but PaidContent says that the price is closer to $450-million). Om Malik has some details here. Either way, those are pretty amazing sums of money for a company that has only really been around for a year or so. As my Globe and Mail colleague Barrie McKenna wrote in a story last fall, the company was started by a couple of guys in the relatively sleepy (at least when I was there last) resort town of Kelowna, B.C.

Parents with kids, the founders deliberately chose not to include advertising on the site, and in fact haven’t advertised the site either — growth has been entirely through word-of-mouth. Judging by the speed with which it spread through my family, from eight-year-old daughter to friends and cousins, it is the childhood equivalent of Facebook (as is its cousin Webkinz, also a Canadian success story aimed at kids, which Om says Disney has looked at).

Two big questions remain: Can ClubPenguin keep growing at a rate fast enough that it makes $500-million look like a good deal? And can the company find a partner that has the same philosophy about marketing to kids?