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December 12, 2007

Nielsen top 10 in 2007 lists: Seattle is 4th among blog readers

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano at 11:12 AM

Yesterday, the Nielsen Company -- famous for its TV audience measurements -- put out a series of top 10 in 2007 lists. There are close to 30 different lists covering most-watched TV shows, DVDs, movies, etc. View them yourself (13 page PDF.) Here are some that interested me:

Among major markets, Seattle/Tacoma had the fourth highest percentage of "adults who have used the Internet to read or contribute to blogs within the past 30 days." The top market was Austin, Texas, with 15 percent of adults reading/contributing; followed by:


Portland, with 14 percent
San Francisco/Oakland/San Jose, 13 percent
Seattle/Tacoma, 13 percent
Honolulu, 12 percent
San Diego, 12 percent
Dallas/Fort Worth, 12 percent
Columbus, Ohio, 11 percent
Nashville, Tenn., 11 percent
Colorado Springs/Pueblo, 11 percent.

The national average was 8 percent.

Among the most-purchased packaged consumer goods, measured by the "percent of homes who purchased each category within past year," fresh bread was the leader (97 percent), followed by refrigerated milk, toilet tissue, fresh eggs, cookies, ready-to-eat cereal, canned soup, chocolate candy, potato chips and batteries (86 percent).

The same list, if measured by sales instead of percentage of homes that purchased the category, is lead by carbonated soft drinks ($17.6 billion) and also includes cigarettes ($7.8 billion) and light beer ($5.1 billion).

With the exception of the bread, milk and eggs, it sounds a lot like the presumed shopping list of the stereotypical American gamer, including the batteries to keep the remote and wireless controllers charged up.

And what games were we playing? This list is based on "the percent of PC gamers playing title in the average minute." Nielsen also reports average minutes played per week, from April to November 2007.

No. 1, by a long shot, "World of Warcraft" with 0.792 percent of PC gamers playing in the average minute and 1,023 minutes played per week (I'm guessing that's per individual.)

Here's the rest of the list:


"The Sims," 0.177 percent, 298 minutes/week
"RuneScape," 0.147 percent, 688 minutes/week
"Halo: Combat Evolved," 0.145 percent, 451 minutes/week
"Halo 2," 0.131 percent, 466 minutes/week
"Counter-Strike," 0.114 percent, 504 minutes/week
"The Sims 2," 0.110 percent, 387 minutes/week
"Madden NFL 07," 0.103 percent, 407 minutes/week
"Grand Theft Auto," 0.084 percent, 399 minutes/week
"Counter-Strike: Source," 0.077 percent, 550 minutes/week.


Nielsen doesn't break out console titles, but it does give a list of the most-played platforms based on usage minutes, "a percent of all measured console minutes." Interesting to note that taken together, all the other consoles on the list (excluding the "other" category, which "consists of any other console systems found in the home") are used about as much as the PlayStation 2.

PlayStation 2, 42.2 percen;
Xbox, 13.9 percent
Xbox 360, 11.8 percent
GameCube, 7.1 percent
Wii, 5.5 percent
PlayStation 3, 2.5 percent
Other, 17.1 percent.

December 4, 2007

'The next wave of the Web will be friendship bracelets'

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano at 2:36 PM

"Won't you blog about this song?" Yes, I will. This is one of the funniest videos I've seen in a while.

Ring true to anyone?

October 2, 2007

Second Life is a thirsty existence

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 12:26 PM

Sometimes I'm sure you wonder if we make this stuff up.

But I seriously got a press release today announcing that Evian spring water is available in the Internet-based world "Second Life."

In case you don't already know, Second Life is this hugely popular alter-ego existence "inhabited" by almost 8 million people around the world.

And get this: Those people "will now delight in the virtual health and beauty benefits of the world's leading brand of bottled water."

That is virtually, not literally.

Within Second Life, people will find Evian vending machines. When a person approaches the machine, a pop-up message "will appear offering to give one's skin a second life."

I'm not sure what that means, but the release goes on to say that a resident who accepts the proposal will be offered a bottle of Evian Natural Spring Water and a skin, which leads to a total transformation -- the character becomes more defined, has better texture and is lit up in a more flattering way.

"Evian has always had its hand on the pulse of what's hot. With build-it-yourself virtual worlds, fantasy lands and video games increasing in popularity, we felt that Second Life was a fitting platform for Evian to make its virtual debut," said Jeff Caswell of Evian North America. "Everyone should be able to experience the many benefits that Evian has to offer whether they're in the real world or the virtual world."

In the real world, Evian notes that these transformations are not possible after drinking Evian, but promoting wellness and a healthy lifestyle is its 2007 advertising theme. Its tagline is "The most important body of water is your own. Fill with care."

Second Life is a thirsty existence

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 12:26 PM

Sometimes I'm sure you wonder if we make this stuff up.

But I seriously got a press release today announcing that Evian spring water is available in the Internet-based world "Second Life."

In case you don't already know, Second Life is this hugely popular alter-ego existence "inhabited" by almost 8 million people around the world.

And get this: Those people "will now delight in the virtual health and beauty benefits of the world's leading brand of bottled water."

That is virtually, not literally.

Within Second Life, people will find Evian vending machines. When a person approaches the machine, a pop-up message "will appear offering to give one's skin a second life."

I'm not sure what that means, but the release goes on to say that a resident who accepts the proposal will be offered a bottle of Evian Natural Spring Water and a skin, which leads to a total transformation -- the character becomes more defined, has better texture and is lit up in a more flattering way.

"Evian has always had its hand on the pulse of what's hot. With build-it-yourself virtual worlds, fantasy lands and video games increasing in popularity, we felt that Second Life was a fitting platform for Evian to make its virtual debut," said Jeff Caswell of Evian North America. "Everyone should be able to experience the many benefits that Evian has to offer whether they're in the real world or the virtual world."

In the real world, Evian notes that these transformations are not possible after drinking Evian, but promoting wellness and a healthy lifestyle is its 2007 advertising theme. Its tagline is "The most important body of water is your own. Fill with care."

Getty adds a soundtrack to its business

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 10:03 AM

Getty Images announced Monday that it has launched Soundtrack, a new music licensing service.

The Seattle company has been trying to expand its services while maintaining its its photo-imaging business. New entrants entering the business are posing a threat. I wrote a story recently about how the company laid off 100 employees to accomplish its financial goals.

The music service, available at gettyimages.com/music, was developed by Getty's recent acquisition of Pump Audio. It has more than 20,000 original tracks by independent artists and bands for use in broadcast and film production, advertising and other media projects.

Jonathan Klein, CEO and co-founder of Getty Images said:

"Our customers represent a variety of industries and they want quick and easy access to digital media -- imagery, footage and music -- that can be used in a myriad of ways. When we acquired Pump Audio in June, we made a commitment to develop dynamic and nimble new music platforms and tools which meet the growing content needs of our customers. The launch of Soundtrack is just the beginning of that strategy."

If this is just the beginning of its strategy, I guess we can expect more announcements to come. Stay tuned.

September 20, 2007

Cellphones trump TVs, but Internet No. 1

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 1:32 PM

Cellphones have become so essential, people would rather go without TV, but when choosing between cellphones and Internet access, the Internet wins, according to a new survey released this week.

JWT, a large U.S. advertising agency, asked about 1,000 people a number of technology questions earlier this month. The results show that cellphones and Internet access are playing a very important role in people's lives.

Asled how long people could go without Internet access, 15 percent of respondents said a day or less, 21 percent said a couple of days and 19 percent said a few days.

A lot of the findings seem to make a good business case for cellphone operators, as well as WiMax service providers such as Kirkland-based Clearwire and Sprint Nextel, which are all rolling out mobile Internet access.

"Mobility represents the next big shift," says Marian Salzman, JWT's executive vice president and chief marketing officer. "Older Americans are happy to sit in the same place to go online, while younger people expect to be able to connect anywhere at any time."

In fact, 48 percent of respondents agreed with the statement: "If I cannot access the Internet when I want to, I feel like something important is missing."

September 17, 2007

It's official: Too much Internet use can kill you

Posted by Kristi Heim at 1:46 PM

A man in China dropped dead after playing online games for three days straight, according to reports from Chinese media today and this story.

The 30-something man from Guangzhou died Saturday after being rushed to the hospital from the Internet cafe, the Beijing News said. Exhaustion was given as the most probable cause.


CANCAN CHU/GETTY IMAGES

Most of the customers at this Internet cafe in China are students.

It's hard to know how much of this is real and how much is state propaganda designed to discourage Web addicts. Chinese authorities have been cracking down on Internet content and Web-surfing activities, including banning new cybercafes and limiting the time users can spend playing games online.

As for this poor guy from Guangzhou ... maybe his avatar can live on in Second Life.

September 11, 2007

RealNetworks in better shape than Britney

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 5:20 PM

Britney Spears got a ton of attention at Sunday's MTV Video Music Awards for being out of shape and performing poorly.

That was far from the case for Seattle's RealNetwork's Rhapsody digital music service, which seemed to be on top of its game at the show.

Last month, Seattle-based RealNetworks and MTV Networks, a division of Viacom, announced a wide-ranging partnership in which the two companies will market and operate the Rhapsody service together.

The unveiling event was set to take place at the video awards, where Rhapsody was supposed to get a lot of airtime, as part of the partnership that required financial and other commitments by both MTV and RealNetworks.

I missed the show (it's hard when you don't have cable), but from what MTV and RealNetworks said, it sounded as if Rhapsody pulled off a pretty unusual stunt.

At this year's show, held at Las Vegas' Palms Casino, in addition to the main awards ceremony, MTV had several guest suites, where artists such as Justin Timberlake and Timbaland, Kanye West, Fall Out Boy and the Foo Fighters played for smaller audiences.

Rhapsody focused on these shows. When the awards show went for a break, Rhapsody streamed video from the suites live for a commercial.

The Foo Fighters, in one example, said in a shot: "Hear it at Rhapsody.com."


RealNetworks

A screen shot from RealNetwork's MTV Music Video Awards commercial.

The next screen said, "Think Foo Fighters."


RealNetworks

The next image in the same commercial.

Some integration of the two services has already begun, with Urge subscribers being allowed to log in to both Urge and Real's Rhapsody service, but the main integration of the two services has yet to occur.

September 10, 2007

Real's going online with reality TV

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 5:32 PM

RealNetworks launched a new reality TV series today on the Internet with the help of Warner Bros. Digital Distribution.

The series id called "On Set, On Edge" and follows the real life of filmmaker Vanessa Parise as she films a movie called "Jack and Jill vs. The World." The movie stars Freddie Prinze Jr. and Taryn Manning.

The first three of the 20-episode series are available now, and can be found under Real's Film.com at this page. I also found a blog that claims to have a sneak preview here.

If all goes according to plan, SuperPass subscribers can watch the first five episodes, as well as video diaries and behind-the-scenes features. Two new episodes will premiere each week on SuperPass.com.

The press release also talks about how there will be a lot of online components, including a blog that follows the show and provides commentary.

September 4, 2007

iPhones for sale in China, but no bargain

Posted by Kristi Heim at 10:05 AM

When the hottest electronics gadget in years meets the world's biggest producer of counterfeit goods, it just seemed inevitable that fake iPhones would spawn.

What's surprising is that some unauthorized iPhones sold in electronics markets in China's biggest cities, according to a Chinese news story, are actually more than double the price. It's not clear to me whether the iPhones in question are real or copies. The phones are manufactured for Apple by Hon Hai Precision Industry in Shenzhen, one of the cities where shoppers can find the unauthorized gadget for sale.

The fact that at least some people in China are willing to shell out $1,170 for this device speaks to the nature of the world's largest mobile phone market. Here's a good photo comparing a real iPhone with a Chinese version on the right.

While Chinese consumers seem unwilling to pay much for software, they're obsessive over the latest hardware. To keep trend-conscious users interested, new versions of mobile phones are released every six months, a much shorter time frame than they're updated here.

By the time Apple releases its iPhone in China in 2008, perhaps the country's more advanced mobile phone users will have moved on to the next craze.

August 15, 2007

DirecTV tunes into powerline broadband

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 1:02 PM

DirecTV said today that it signed a wholesale agreement with Current Group to provide high-speed Internet service over electric-power lines, according to The Wall Street Journal..

The story said DirecTV will bundle Current's broadband and voice over Internet services under the DirecTV brand.

The satellite TV company also recently announced a partnership with Kirkland-based Clearwire to bundle its wireless high-speed Internet access with DirecTV's TV service. In addition, it also resells Internet access from AT&T, Verizon Communications and Qwest Communications.

DirecTV has lined up all these partnerships to better compete with telephone and cable operators that have started to provide the quadruple play -- that means, bundling together TV, phone, wireless phone and Internet access. Obviously, it's not placing any bets on any one technology.

High-speed Internet access is not technically possible over satellite, or at least the way DirecTV provides service today.

Broadband over power lines is a fairly new technology that allows customers to plug a modem device the size of a cellphone into an electric outlet and connect a cable from their computer for Internet access.

August 9, 2007

Pearl Jam concert lyrics censored by AT&T

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano at 9:29 AM

Pearl Jam was rocking out at Lollapalooza on Sunday, per usual, this time riffing on Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in the Wall" during a performance of "Daughter." Lyrics criticizing the president were cut from AT&T's Web cast of the event.

According to the Seattle band's Web site, the lyrics "George Bush, leave this world alone" and "George Bush find yourself another home" were censored.

The concert organizers did a bit of reporting to find out what the hell happened: "When asked about the missing performance, AT&T informed Lollapalooza that portions of the show were in fact missing from the Web cast, and that their content monitor had made a mistake in cutting them."

PJ was not happy:


This, of course, troubles us as artists but also as citizens concerned with the issue of censorship and the increasingly consolidated control of the media.

AT&T's actions strike at the heart of the public's concerns over the power that corporations have when it comes to determining what the public sees and hears through communications media. ...

If a company that is controlling a Web cast is cutting out bits of our performance -- not based on laws, but on their own preferences and interpretations -- fans have little choice but to watch the censored version.

What happened to us this weekend was a wake up call, and it's about something much bigger than the censorship of a rock band.

The band plans to post an uncensored version of its performance on its Web site soon.

Pearl Jam concert lyrics censored by AT&T

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano at 9:29 AM

Pearl Jam was rocking out at Lollapalooza on Sunday, per usual, this time riffing on Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in the Wall" during a performance of "Daughter." Lyrics criticizing the president were cut from AT&T's Web cast of the event.

According to the Seattle band's Web site, the lyrics "George Bush, leave this world alone" and "George Bush find yourself another home" were censored.

The concert organizers did a bit of reporting to find out what the hell happened: "When asked about the missing performance, AT&T informed Lollapalooza that portions of the show were in fact missing from the Web cast, and that their content monitor had made a mistake in cutting them."

PJ was not happy:


This, of course, troubles us as artists but also as citizens concerned with the issue of censorship and the increasingly consolidated control of the media.

AT&T's actions strike at the heart of the public's concerns over the power that corporations have when it comes to determining what the public sees and hears through communications media. ...

If a company that is controlling a Web cast is cutting out bits of our performance -- not based on laws, but on their own preferences and interpretations -- fans have little choice but to watch the censored version.

What happened to us this weekend was a wake up call, and it's about something much bigger than the censorship of a rock band.

The band plans to post an uncensored version of its performance on its Web site soon.

June 29, 2007

Craigslist and iPhone: a thoroughly modern pairing

Posted by Mark Watanabe at 4:58 PM

Caroline Davis and Erik Ball checked out the lines at the Bellevue Square Apple store and found the 21st century supply chain at work. You know, the one that involves Craiglist.

One 31-year-old man said he was waiting in line to buy two of them -- one for himself and the other to sell on Craigslist.

Then there was a teenager, who said he planned to sell both iPhones he planned to purchase on Craigslist. In fact, he had already posted an ad there in the afternoon and received four calls. He said he's selling the $499 model for $800. Nice summer job.

There were stories earlier in the week, of course, of people advertising on Craigslist to wait in line for iPhone seekers -- for a fee. Two teens in the Bellevue Square line had them one better. Each said they were getting $100 to wait for "a millionaire guy" -- the boss of one of their mom's friends. Would they like one for themselves? "It'd be really cool but we would only get it if our parents got it for us," one of them said.

June 25, 2007

Corbis gets into the microstock photo business

Posted by Kristi Heim at 11:14 AM

Corbis, the Seattle image company owned by Bill Gates, is entering the business of selling inexpensive stock photography over the Web with a new beta site called SnapVillage.

Microstock photography represents a new business model that is transforming digital media, but Corbis has come to it relatively late in the game.

Corbis said it's out to "break out of the mold" of existing microstock Web sites, making changes in the typical submission, pricing, searching and purchasing methods.

SnapVillage lets photographers set their own price for images, at $1, $5, $10, $25 or $50, and they can change picture prices any time. The site says it pays photographers a flat, non-exclusive rate of 30 percent per image or 30 cents a download for subscriptions sales.

That's right down the middle of iStockphoto's payment structure, which is 20 percent for non-exclusive sales, or up to 40 percent if iStockphoto is the sole distributor.

June 5, 2007

Comcast to add 280 jobs here

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 12:39 PM

Comcast, the Philadelphia-based cable operator, is hiring 280 new employees throughout Washington in the next three months.

As part of the hiring, the company is planning to open a new call center in Lynnwood by July. The center, which will eventually have more than 500 employees, will be the company's state headquarters. Two other locations are in Fife and Everett.

Comcast said hiring will take place in nearly all of its Washington locations, including Bellingham, Aberdeen and Spokane. The majority of jobs available are for front-line technicians and customer care representatives and engineering and sales personnel.

The jobs are expected to help fill demand for Comcast products and services, including the company's Triple Play package, which bundles together video, high-speed Internet and phone services for one price.

The Comcast hiring could be good news for the 260 employees who got word they're being laid off from their Alltel call center jobs by the fall.

Alltel Wireless, which acquired Bellevue-based Western Wireless two years ago, said in April that it was closing an Issaquah call center and eliminating 260 jobs.

At that time, it planned to close the Sammamish facility by fall with layoffs coming in two stages -- 89 positions in June and 159 in October. In addition, 12 positions will be eliminated in Bellevue, where Alltel continues to maintain an office of former Western Wireless employees.

I found 21 jobs available in Washington on Comcast's Web site.

Perhaps if Comcast moves quickly, these employees will still be looking for work. After Alltel announced the layoffs, I received two phone calls and one e-mail from other employers eagerly trying to hire the displaced workers.

May 31, 2007

RealNetworks introduces new RealPlayer

Posted by Kim Peterson at 1:25 PM

It almost seems like you can't mention RealPlayer without seeing someone wince. Too many bad memories of unnecessary software add-ons, buffering and a user interface that sometimes wasn't the most friendly.

RealNetworks is hoping to change that with a new RealPlayer, which it introduced today at the D conference in Southern California. (Release is here.) The new player will be out sometime in June.

If nothing else, the new RealPlayer is being recognized for one trait: It will let you download videos for offline viewing. The company said it will place a "download this video" button on Web sites to make it a one-click experience.

RealPlayer won't download rights-protected video, such as a movie trailer that a movie studio might want to keep control over.

The biggest part of this? YouTube. If Real makes it easy to download videos on the YouTube video sharing service, expect the new RealPlayer to become a lot less cringeworthy.

RealPlayer won't let you transfer those videos to a portable device yet. The company said it's working on that feature for future versions.

May 22, 2007

Could RealNetworks buy Sonos?

Posted by Kim Peterson at 10:48 AM

Business 2.0 columnist John Heilemann interviews John MacFarlane, the founder of Sonos, a Santa Barbara, Calif. company closely tied to Seattle's RealNetworks. The two companies are so tight, in fact, that Heilemann speculates that RealNetworks might buy Sonos one day.

Sonos makes an audio system that wirelessly beams music to speakers throughout a home. Sonos users can connect to RealNetworks' Rhapsody music service without having to go through a PC. For $10 a month, they have access to about 4 million songs to pipe through the home.

Sonos and Rhapsody are each other's killer app. MacFarlane tells me that Sonos customers use Rhapsody "more than 10 times as much as the average Rhapsody user." And, according to Rhapsody insiders, the service's churn rate among Sonos users is tiny compared with the overall figures.

Among those addicted to new music and new technology, the Sonos-Rhapsody combination wins raves so gushing they're almost too embarrassing to print.

MacFarlane tells Heilemann that he's received acquisition offers, but none was good enough to take.

May 21, 2007

Getty hires John McKay as its top lawyer

Posted by Kim Peterson at 1:24 PM

Getty Images said today it has hired John McKay, the former U.S. attorney for the Western District of Washington, as its general counsel. McKay was one of the eight U.S. attorneys fired by the Bush administration last year, and has been pretty vocal about the incident.

McKay replaces Getty's current general counsel, Jeff Beyle, who will become a senior vice president for business development.

"Thanks to recent events, I've come to appreciate even more the powerful role images play in shaping public perception," McKay said in a press release announcing the move.


May 18, 2007

Google's engineers coming to Seattle

Posted by Kim Peterson at 4:50 PM

Looks like Google is opening a new office in Fremont for its engineers. Up to now, the company's local sales office has been in Fremont and the engineering crowd (some 300 strong now) has been holed up in Kirkland.

Now, Google is planning to sublease about 60,000 square feet from Getty Images at the Waterside Building on North 34th Street. That's just a stone's throw from the sales office, also on the same street.

Amy Martinez has the details....

May 16, 2007

RealNetworks makes another mobile buy

Posted by Kim Peterson at 10:48 AM

RealNetworks continues to add to its mobile business, saying today that it paid $9 million in cash for an arm of Sony that offers music downloads and streams to wireless subscribers in eight European countries.

This follows Real's September acquisition of South Korean company WiderThan, which helps carriers sell music downloads and ringback tones.

I've asked the question before and will ask it again. After years of tough battles on the PC and Web, is RealNetworks on the verge of becoming a wireless company?

See our news story here.

May 15, 2007

Rob Glaser's 2006 salary: $3.8 million

Posted by Kim Peterson at 1:14 PM

RealNetworks Chief Executive Rob Glaser got some big salary awards over the past year, according to a regulatory filing by the company today. In March, the board approved a $325,000 cash bonus in addition to his $400,000 base salary.

He also received a $725,000 bonus in January related to his work on negotiating a $761 million antitrust settlement with Microsoft in 2005. That's the last of three payments totaling $2.9 million in bonuses he received because of the Microsoft deal.

Adding all of his bonuses, option awards and other compensation together, Glaser was paid $3.8 million in 2006.

May 11, 2007

TV: Cable vs. telecom

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 1:11 PM

I've been meaning to point out the significance of this since Tuesday. At an industry trade show, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts showed off new technology that enabled a data download speeds of 150 megabits per second, or roughly 25 times faster than today's standard cable modems.

The AP reported that the new technology is crucial because the industry is competing with a speedy new offering called a TV, as well as Verizon Communications' FiOS service, which is currently available in some areas on the Eastside.

Verizon's top speed is currently 50 megabits per second, but the network is already capable of providing 100 Mbps with what some people say unlimited potential. Comcast's current cable modem service is closer to the 6 to 8 Mbps range.

The new Comcast technology, called DOCSIS 3.0, was developed by the cable industry's research arm, Cable Television Laboratories. It bonds together four cable lines but is capable of allowing much more capacity. The laboratory said last month it expected manufacturers to begin submitting modems for certification under the standard by the end of the year.

The question is, why do we need such high capacity when people for the most part find their less than 1 Mbps connection sufficient?

The short answer is high-definition TV, which takes up a lot of bandwidth. If there are two TVs in the house watching two different HDTV channels, and someone is on the Internet, the system is going to get seriously bogged down. I thought I could actually tell you how much capacity this would require, but the numbers weren't readily at hand.

CNET writes that with cable, in particular, there's only a limited amount of bandwidth, and because HD channels use six times as much bandwidth as standard-definition channels, cable and satellite companies have been slow to roll out local HD channels to subscribers.

Regardless of how you do the math, you could conclude the cable industry is worried if Comcast is quick to show off technology that may or may not be available for at least two years.

GigaOm has a good debate going here about the facts of Tuesday's demonstration.

May 9, 2007

One Getty exec retires, another promoted

Posted by Kim Peterson at 3:30 PM

Getty Images said today in a filing that its senior marketing guy, Jack Sansolo, is going to retire on June 1. He's not leaving empty-handed. Sansolo will receive $275,000 in cash, which represents his salary and the bonuses he would have received. In return, he has agreed not to do anything that would be in competition with the company for six months.

Getty also gave a big promotion to Bruce Livingstone, the founder of its iStockphoto subsidiary. And it spent $1.2 million two buy two of Livingstone's companies: Web site builder Evolvs Media and independent music site Paper Thin Walls.

Update: I couldn't figure out how music applies to Getty's business model, so I asked the company what was up with these two acquisitions. A spokeswoman gave me this response: "For now, we see them as a means to explore emerging business models in these spaces that we expect to be exciting to our customers and the industry as a whole."

May 8, 2007

SAS: Photosynth as an advertising platform

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano at 3:40 PM

One of the most interesting things I've seen from Microsoft in the last year is being pitched as the latest, greatest digital advertising platform. This after Bill Gates described for an audience of advertisers this morning the decline of traditional media business models.

I reported on Photosynth last August, a photo-viewing application that combines technology from University of Washington, Microsoft Research and a Ballard startup called Seadragon Software that Microsoft acquired in late 2005.

A quick reminder of what Photosynth is: The software organizes sets of pictures of a specific thing or place, such as St. Mark's Square in Venice, Italy. It matches up elements the photos have in common and uses that information to build a rudimentary three-dimensional map of the space, calculate the position from which each picture was taken and place each in the appropriate 3-D context.

Fluid navigation allows the user to glide from photo to photo and click on a specific element, a mosaic for example, to see other photos that contain the same element. It's like viewing a nonlinear slide show: The user has the freedom to move about the space and view the pictures in any order. It's a bit closer to actually being there. You can learn more about it and check out a preview here.

"This same technology can serve as a way of surfacing an entirely new form of advertisement," Microsoft technical fellow and Live Labs boss Gary Flake told the audience at the company's Strategic Account Summit this afternoon.

We've seen the zooming technology from Seadragon incorporated with Silverlight, the new Web-based video platform Microsoft is pushing. In examples here and at the Microsoft Mix conference in Las Vegas last week, it was used to smoothly zoom in to a super-detailed advertisement or high-definition image starting from a small thumbnail. It could be used to repurpose complex print ads on the Web, company executives have said.

Flake showed a "Photosynth" environment of a commercial space -- a home fixtures store with faucets, cabinets and other hardware.

"I can work my way around the space, navigate around, take a step back," he said, demonstrating the application, which runs in a Web browser. "Maybe there's a sink over here. I can look at that."

On the left, the program displayed Web content that changed to correspond to the specific products he zoomed in on in "the store."

"We've effectively created the ability to place hyperlinks from your physical store to your online store," he said.

The application is a step toward a vision of three-dimensional Internet that Microsoft has articulated for other products, such as its Virtual Earth mapping application. Eventually, these applications could be combined to allow you to "travel" through a three-dimensional rendering of the real world to find a store -- in its actual location -- and then go shopping there.

Flake put it in the context of online virtual reality worlds such as Second Life, where people navigate a made-up world in the guise of whatever avatar they want.

"This is maybe properly referred to as one-and-a-half life," Flake said. "It's consistent with physical reality, but also has the ability of being combined with the Internet and the Web content that's already there."

May 2, 2007

Digital media pitches at WSA forum

Posted by Kim Peterson at 4:48 PM

I sat through six presentations in the digital media part of the WSA's Investment Forum and Technology Showcase today. I was surprised how often advertising-supported business models came up in the discussion. The subject was addressed early that day in a panel (see Brier Dudley's blog for a full rundown of the lively debate).

At the end of the day, panelist Bill McAleer of Voyager Capital summed it up nicely: "There's only so much advertising-supported models that can survive and thrive."

So which ones will thrive? We'll have to come back in a year or so and see what happened to the presenters. For now, here's a quick rundown of who said what:

1. Smilebox. We wrote about this startup last year. The Redmond company, started by Andrew Wright, offers the ability to create slideshows and digital greeting cards. You can insert your own video and photos and then e-mail the creation to friends and family.

Smilebox now has 30 employees and is approaching 1 million installations of its software. Helped in part by a key partnership with Hallmark, Smilebox had 700,000 unique users in April and is expecting 825,000 users this month. Smilebox's product has some good viral distribution: Wright said that 40 percent of the people who receive Smilebox greetings go on to install the software.

2. Alphabet Lane. Chief Executive Villette Nolon said her company is going after people who are remodeling their homes and need help planning and finding experts. Founded in September 2006, the Seattle company has six employees and 12 contractors. It started a private beta site in February.

Nolon is planning to refine the Seattle version of the site and then take the model to 36 cities in the next 18 to 24 months. She's hoping to be profitable by 2009 and is seeking $500,000 in angel funding.

3. Flowplay. Yet another casual online game company in Seattle. This region is the headquarters for this growing industry. Chief Executive Derrick Morton (who, no surprise, came from RealNetworks' game division) said he's getting ready to launch a closed beta in late May.

Flowplay is targeting teenagers with a site that is part social networking and part gameplay. It's hoping to run a subscription model that costs $5.99 for premium PC access or $9.99 for mobile phone access. Teens who don't have credit cards can pay for the service by putting it on their phone bill. Flowplay said it will break even at about 80,000 to 90,000 subscribers and is aiming for $27 million in sales by year four.

4. Mixpo. An online video company selling to small business owners, not the consumer space. The company helps companies embed a player in their Web sites that can show photos and video. A business owner can add and delete files from that player without having to hire a Webmaster.

President Anupam Gupta, who previously worked in Microsoft's MSN/Windows Live group, said the technology would be perfect for real estate agents, travel agents, architects and designers. About 2,000 customers are using the product, and Gupta said he envisions a business model that relies on subscriptions and partner licensing deals.

5. RIPL. The panelists seemed a little mystified by RIPL and I have to admit that I was, too. Chief Executive Bill Messing, in his first public demonstration of the product, showed how users can create their own profiles with photos and widgets that showed what iTunes songs were listened to recently. Those profiles would go out to the users' friends, who could see a slideshow of the photos, along with ads.

RIPL is an example of a trend that I call a revival of push technology - particularly the way that ads pop up on friends' computers. But Messing said that this advertising will be useful and relevant. RIPL has completed a $2 million Series A round and is opening a $1 million bridge round to Series B funding, Messing said.

6. Yodio. Chief Executive Clay Loges said he thinks that voice is the "undeveloped frontier on the Internet." The basic idea is that people can call a phone number and leave a voice recording, and then go to their computers to get that voice file and publish it. You can mash it with photos or tag it, for example.

Loges showed an example of an e-mail message that featured a person's picture and a voice recording from that person. Yodio wants to sell those voice recordings, giving a percentage to the performer and keeping the rest of the money. But who would buy these? Maybe Yodio can hook up with Sanjaya Malakar now that he's free.

May 1, 2007

Earnings: Getty, HouseValues

Posted by Kim Peterson at 1:21 PM

A couple of companies reporting earnings today:

Sales were up but profits down at Getty Images, based in Seattle. The digital image company reported a record $213 million in sales for the first quarter. That compares to $201 million for the same period last year. Profit was $38 million, or 63 cents a share. That's slightly down from last year's profit of $39.3 million, or 61 cents a share.

Profit was hurt by the $4.1 million in fees Getty paid for a professional review of its stock option compensation practices. The Securities and Exchange Commission is also conducting an informal review of the company's stock option grants.

At Kirkland-based HouseValues, an online real estate company, first-quarter sales were $17.8 million, down from $23.2 million in the previous year. The company swung to a $1.2 million loss, or 5 cents a share from a profit of $1.8 million, or 6 cents a share, in 2006.

HouseValues launched a new consumer real estate portal today at HomePages.com, and it's selling advertising space to real estate agents who want to promote their listings. The company had fewer customers at the end of the quarter than it did at the end of 2006.

In other news, Isilon Systems said today that Mark Schrandt has resigned as vice president of engineering. The company didn't say why Schrandt left.

April 25, 2007

Isilon's first quarter earnings

Posted by Kim Peterson at 1:32 PM

Isilon Systems, a Seattle-based digital media storage company, reported a $3.8 million net loss for the first quarter of the year. That compares with a $4.5 million loss for the same period last year.

The company's sales were $21.6 million for the quarter, up from $10.4 million for the same period in 2006.

Isilon said the number of its customers has grown from 180 in March 2006 to 448 at the end of March 2007. It was the second-best quarter in terms of new customer growth in the company's history.

Andrew Heyward talks about the media

Posted by Kim Peterson at 11:26 AM

I sat down today with Andrew Heyward, who ran CBS News for nearly 10 years. These days, he's on the board of directors for The NewsMarket, a site that provides free video to media organizations and soon, bloggers. Heyward was meeting with Microsoft and other NewsMarket clients in downtown Seattle.

Here are some of his thoughts on the media and technology:

On how television news has changed lately:
The evening news landscape has seen radical changes, he said, with anchor turnover in all three major networks. And more than ever, television news is struggling with how to attract new audiences to the genre, and how to monetize that. Television news is a very traditional industry, he said, and now is seeing a dramatic expansion of experimentation.
"It's not yet clear what's going to emerge with the solid, substantive results traditional media has had for many years."

On how new technologies are changing television:
Television networks are streaming shows on their Web sites, which is very disruptive to the traditional model, he said. And then there's YouTube, which Heyward described as a fascinating phenomenon.
"Who would think that major media companies would have to consider their relationship with this completely democratic platform generated by the audience?" he asked. It's the ultimate iteration of power by the consumer, he said.

On personal news channels:
These days, Heyward said, people have seemingly infinite content available to them on the Web. They can create their own news environment, culling together news and video clips that they want to see. The role of editor has been usurped by the consumer, he said.
He called the practice "disaggregation," where news stories are now consumed as segments.
"Think about the Internet and the mouse compared to cable and the remote control," he said. "You're not at anybody's mercy anymore."

On changing economic models:
Heyward said his daughter uses the Craigslist classified site to find real estate and job leads. It's an appropriate example of how younger Web users are ignoring the traditional classified advertisement that has kept newspaper companies afloat for decades, he said.
"I'm not sure she's ever looked at a classified ad in the paper," he said. "I'm sure she hasn't."

What he misses about CBS News:
Heyward liked the camaraderie and the culture of friends and colleagues. But other than that, he said he's enjoying his new life as consultant. He said he can now look at the traditional and digital media industries with more perspective. It's hard to keep an eye on the map when both hands are gripping the steering wheel, he said.
"It's nice to be able to take a step back," he said. "You can see the broader picture."

April 24, 2007

Newsvine overhauls site

Posted by Kim Peterson at 2:17 PM

Seattle-based news site Newsvine unveiled its new site today, one that uses technology its team has spent months building.

Now, users can customize the Newsvine page by adding modules, the company said in a blog posting announcing the change. The site will also automatically detect a user's location (based on IP address) and offer local news and weather information.

The home page will now host any RSS feed, and a new version of the site is available for those extra-wide computer monitors out there.

The company also said it will soon debut a new politics feature that's election related.

April 18, 2007

Director leaves Isilon's board

Posted by Kim Peterson at 11:57 AM

Isilon Systems said venture capitalist Matt McIlwain resigned from its board yesterday, including his positions on the board's audit and compensation committees. Regulatory filing is here.

Isilon spokesman Jay Wampold said it was fairly standard for venture capitalists to get on the boards of early-stage companies that they fund and then leave as the company matures. Isilon had a $109 million public offering in December.

McIlwain is a managing director at Madrona Venture Group, an early investor that owns about 16 percent of Isilon shares.

Isilon announced a customer win yesterday. The company will provide storage for NBC Universal's media programming, including television shows, movies and news. NBC Universal will also use Isilon when it covers the 2008 Olympic Games.

April 16, 2007

Amazon music download service in the works

Posted by Kim Peterson at 3:38 PM

Amazon.com is planning to launch a music download store in May, according to Billboard. The article implies that Amazon wants its store to sell unprotected MP3 files that don't come with the digital rights rules that accompany songs sold by other stores.

Amazon had planned to launch a digital music subscription service and its own handheld player, according to the article, but dropped those plans last year.

The trend is clearly moving away from digital rights restrictions on songs. EMI Group said earlier this month it would begin selling songs on Apple's iTunes store that were free of restrictions. But they'll cost $1.29 compared with iTunes' normal 99-cent fee.

thePlatform signs New Corp./NBC Deal

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 3:20 PM

Seattle-based thePlatform said today its technology will be manage and distribute content for the new online video venture forged among News Corp., NBC Universal and Comcast.

In the deal, Comcast's Comcast.net and Fancast.com sites will serve as key places for News Corp. and NBC Universal's online video venture. Comcast will also provide non-exclusive content for U.S. distribution on NBC Universal and News Corp's site from Comcast Networks, including E!, Style, G4, Versus and Golf Channel. It will also become the venture's first non-equity content provider.

thePlatform is a Comcast subsidiary, which provides broadband and mobile video publishing solutions.

Earlier this month, Kim Peterson wrote about how thePlatform was unveiling new tools that let companies create customized video players for Web sites and cellphones.

With the new software, thePlatform stepped out from its behind-the-scenes role of managing the plumbing of online video to offering an array of online video players for businesses to use on their own sites. The players can be customized down to the color and theme.

NBC Universal and News Corp.'s video site will launch this summer with full-length TV programming, clips and movies from more than a dozen networks and two major film studios. The content will be distributed on some of the Web sites, such as AOL, MSN, MySpace and Yahoo!

Getty to restate earnings

Posted by Kim Peterson at 3:09 PM

In a securities filing today, Getty Images said it found backdated stock option grants. The company will restate its earnings going back to fiscal 1998.

At issue is between $28 million and $32 million in non-cash compensation costs.

The digital image company is being investigated by federal regulators for backdating, the practice of falsifying the date it granted stock options to boost profit when the recipient cashes them in.

Getty was hit with two shareholder lawsuits last month related to the backdated options.

April 13, 2007

YellowPages opens Seattle office

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 2:37 PM

YellowPages.com, owned by AT&T, said it is opening a Seattle office.

The opening corresponds with analyst expectations that online advertising in directories will increase as more people turn to the Internet rather than a phone book for numbers and addresses. In fact, online directory ads are expected to increase by 31 percent in the next four years, according to the Kelsey Group, an analyst firm.

The company expects the Seattle office to open on April 23, with as many as 30 employees who will be signing up local advertisers.

Seattle and Denver are among the company's first offices to be opened west of the Mississippi, following new offices in Philadelphia, New York City, Boston and others.

YellowPages.com said Seattle was selected because a large percentage of people who use its site are from there.

YellowPages.com had more than 1 billion network searches last year.

April 12, 2007

CBS shows to be aired on MSN portal

Posted by Kim Peterson at 11:01 AM

CBS is releasing some of its previously aired television shows to AOL and Microsoft's MSN, and reportedly wants to keep 90 percent of the advertising revenue from those shows, according to the WSJ.

People will reportedly be able to watch the shows free. Shows include "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" and "NCIS."

OnRequest Images nabs $9 million

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 10:20 AM

Seattle-based OnRequest Images, which provides custom imagery online, said yesterday it raised a $9 million third round of funding.

New investor Menlo Ventures and existing investors Maveron and Frazier Technology Ventures participated in the round.

OnRequest Images will use the money to expand its sales and marketing efforts.

Menlo Ventures founder and managing director H. DuBose Montgomery will join the company's board of directors.

April 11, 2007

Steve Davis 2.0

Posted by Kristi Heim at 9:41 AM



Steve Davis is stepping down as chief executive of Corbis.

Now that Corbis CEO Steve Davis is going to spend more time writing, it's a good time to check out his blog, Creativity 2.0.

So far, he has been exploring a variety of topics related to digital media, including the rights of creators, the role of Google in archiving, Yahoo! and censorship in China and more.

It's hard to imagine a more wide-ranging career than the one Davis has had, from resettling refugees to learning Chinese language and law, advocating civil rights for gays and lesbians, working as an intellectual property lawyer and leading the private company of the richest person in the world.

He told me that a transformative moment in his life happened just out of college during a visit to a refugee camp in Thailand as Cambodians were fleeing from the Killing Fields. That inspired a fundamental interest in social justice, he said.

Now his career is coming full circle, but he resists the notion of "giving back." "I actually hate that expression," he said. "It suggest you've been taking all along."

Davis said he's thinking more about how to address the big problems of our time, such as climate change and global health. When he applies his full creativity to philanthropy, the results will be worth watching.

April 10, 2007

New chief at Corbis

Posted by Kim Peterson at 10:59 AM

Corbis, the Seattle image company founded by Bill Gates, said today that Chief Executive Steve Davis will step down to go to the "public service and philanthropic world." A spot at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, perhaps?



Gary Shenk

On July 1, Davis will be replaced by Gary Shenk, who has been serving as company president. Davis will continue to be an adviser to Corbis.

Before joining Corbis in 2003, Shenk was the founder and general manager of an arm of Universal Studios that oversaw media licensing. According to Corbis, Shenk brokered deals between studios and talent agencies and helped establish new formats for licensing.

Widevine expands copy protection to Flash

Posted by Kim Peterson at 10:32 AM

Seattle-based Widevine Technologies said today it has included Adobe's Flash format into its copy protection technology corral. That means Widevine can protect Flash-based video in addition to other formats.

Several years ago, Widevine made encryption software for video delivered over the Internet. It was a little too early to the game, however, and re-engineered its product for the more traditional cable and satellite operators. Now, it sounds like the market has caught up to Widevine's vision.

Widevine says its copy-protection system is used by video retailers and three television networks for delivering Internet video to PCs and other devices.

April 9, 2007

Avenue A/Razorfish got great digs

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 1:39 PM

Avenue A | Razorfish, the Seattle-based online marketing agency, was featured in the New York Times's Real Estate section today for having an innovative office building in Manhattan.

"Some potential tenants might have seen the C-shaped layout and imposing central staircase in a block of space at 1440 Broadway in Midtown Manhattan as design drawbacks. But Avenue A | Razorfish, an interactive marketing and technology services company, took the space and used those elements to create a modern, communal feeling."

Avenue A, a division of aQuantive, merged with Razorfish, a Web development business, in 2004. The story said they consolidated operations at 1440 Broadway from three separate locations in Lower Manhattan.

"With a client list that includes Victoria's Secret and the Ford Motor Company, it turned the 80,000-square-foot, three-story space into what seems like a group of neighborhoods with a town square at the center."

With the open floor plan, everyone's productivity skyrocketed, one exec said.

You may have had a chance to see this office before. The company encourages communication through other methods as well, most notably on the site Flickr, where photos are uploaded under the tag "AARF."

Check out this one.

Doubleclick sale good for aQuantive?

Posted by Kim Peterson at 1:37 PM

Suitors are reportedly lining up to woo DoubleClick, the digital advertising company, and that could be good news for Seattle's aQuantive, said Jefferies & Co. analyst Youssef Squali in a note last week, according to PaidContent. A sale could cause a ripple effect that leads to acquisitions of aQuantive and others in the industry, the note said.

Perhaps that's why aQuantive's share price has been creeping up over the past month?

Getting the MySpace vote

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 11:03 AM

Our political blogger David Postman brought up an interesting tidbit Friday about how MySpace will be holding a presidential primary Jan.1 and 2, before any of the official state primaries.

Users will be asked to vote for their favorite candidate (TechCrunch's Michael Arrington points out that MySpace has more members than Mexico has residents).

MySpace also launched an "Impact" section, which features bios on all the candidates and their stand on issues. It's pretty comprehensive and, in fact, it's hard to think of another user friendly site at this early in the game (traditional "voter pamphlets" are far from being out). The Impact site highlights a monthly category. Right now, the topic is "Environmentalism."

Postman does a good job pointing out that the site has some 65 million monthly U.S. visitors, 85 percent f whom are of voting age. Also, MySpace users 18 and up are three times more likely to interact online with a public official or candidate.

TechCrunch thinks the move would be even more interesting if made on Facebook (but aren't a higher proportion of those users more likely to be under 18?).

Apple: 100 million iPods sold

Posted by Kim Peterson at 10:49 AM

Apple said today it has sold 100 million iPods since the first model came out in late 2001. The company also said that there are about 4,000 accessories made specifically for the iPod and that 70 percent of 2007-model cars in the U.S. offer iPod connections.

April 5, 2007

More than 120,000 new blogs each day

Posted by Kim Peterson at 9:50 AM

Technorati has issued its "State of the Live Web" report today with a few bits of interesting data and observations. The highlights:

-More than 120,000 blogs are created every day. Unfortunately, as many as 7,000 spam blogs are also created each day.
-37 percent of all blog posts are in Japanese, compared with 36 percent in English. The third most popular language is Chinese, with 8 percent of posts, and 3 percent of posts are in Italian.
-Technorati tracks about 70 million blogs.

April 4, 2007

A9.com: It ain't pretty

Posted by Kim Peterson at 10:03 AM

Greg Linden links to A9.com's death spiral, as measured by Alexa.


Alexa


I wondered what would become of A9 after chief Udi Manber left for Google last year. Things weren't looking good as of October, when Amazon scaled back some of A9.com's key features. On Alexa's chart, you can see a corresponding traffic drop for that time period.

These days, is the company paying any attention to its beleaguered search engine?

April 3, 2007

Major League Baseball loves ads

Posted by Kim Peterson at 11:00 AM

Major League Baseball is going to sell online video advertisements and charge people subscription fees to view live games over the Internet. Usually, companies pick one or the other, offering ad-free subscription models or showing free content subsidized by advertisements. It's rare to make customers pay a subscription and then show advertising on top of that.

"I think it's being greedy," digital media analyst Phil Leigh told Investors Business Daily. "But the professional leagues are pretty accustomed to getting what they want."

MLB has a not-so-pretty history with local companies when it comes to showing games online. The league and Microsoft's MSN cut short a multimillion dollar contract in 2005 to show games on personal computers. Microsoft had reportedly agreed to pay a hefty $40 billion over two years in the deal.

RealNetworks ended its three-year contract with the league in 2003, saying that less than 2 percent of the company's revenue that year was from Major League Baseball sales, and that getting out of the business would save the company $5 million in 2004.

April 2, 2007

Crosscut launches

Posted by Kim Peterson at 2:40 PM

After two years of work, the online newspaper Crosscut Seattle launched today. Founded by David Brewster, the founding editor of the Seattle Weekly and a former Seattle Times columnist, the site describes itself as "an online daily newspaper for the Pacific Northwest."

Brewster writes on the site that Crosscut is an answer to a gap in quality local news.

"Readers and advertisers were flowing to Web products, so let's stop lamenting about declines in certain kinds of journalism and get with the sunrise part of the news industry," he writes.

Armed with a clever slogan, "news of the great nearby," Crosscut's debut issue is a robust mix of local news that links heavily to the Seattle Times, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and other newspapers. Readers are able to post comments to every story. There isn't a whole lot yet in terms of advertising, which is understandable at this point.

I broke the news about Brewster's venture last September in an article about online journalism. My guess is that Brewster is hoping to expand Crosscut to other cities in the future, depending on how Crosscut Seattle fares.

March 21, 2007

The Digital Revolution vs. compact discs

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 1:46 PM

In light of my earlier post on how phones are increasingly capable of playing music and being used as a standalone music player, this article in the Wall Street Journal today is interesting.

It reported that compact-disc sales for the first three months of this year plunged 20 percent from a year earlier.

One reason, the Journal said, is that music stores are closing, including Tower Records. In fact, one statistic really stood out -- about 800 music stores, including Tower's 89 locations, closed in 2006 alone.

What's more, the downward spiral is moving faster than the rise of sales of digital downloads.

Digital sales of individual songs this year have risen 54 percent from a year earlier, to 173.4 million units, according to Nielsen SoundScan. But that's not offsetting the 20 percent decline from a year ago in CD sales to 81.5 million units. (To me, the figures look better for digital sales, but it must be falling short of filling the gap because songs are purchased individually, whereas CDs are music purchased in bundles.)

I was just talking to a mobile digital music executive about this same topic Tuesday. He argued that overall music sales -- including ringtones, wallpapers and other mobile or online goods -- do offset the decrease of CD sales.

The WSJ covered that aspect, too, and apparently that is not the case.

It reported that even when sales of ringtones, subscription services and other "ancillary" goods are included, sales are still down 9 percent.

The WSJ did note, however, that some recording executives have questioned that figure, provided by a recent report by Pali Research.

March 19, 2007

InfoSpace replies to angry shareholder

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 4:03 PM

Executives at InfoSpace commented today on a shareholder's concern that the Bellevue company needed to cut costs and return capital in its large war chest to shareholders.

Last week, Sandell Asset Management asked InfoSpace to immediately return $300 million of cash, cut $15 million in costs and hire a financial adviser to evaluate the potential sale of the company in whole or in part. Then, it said it was going to nominate three directors at the 2007 annual shareholder meeting.

In a document filed with the SEC, Jim Voelker, chairman and CEO of InfoSpace, had this to say:

We are always interested in the views of our shareholders and appreciate those expressed by Sandell Asset Management in our conversations with them. We look forward to continuing our dialogue. Our board and management team are mindful of the mandate to deliver high performance and shareholder returns. We regularly review the company's business plan and the value inherent in that plan -- and will take a measured and decisive approach to continuing to do what we believe is in the best interests of all shareholders.

InfoSpace said it will also present recommendations regarding Sandell's nominees for directors in its proxy statement, which will be filed with the SEC and mailed to all shareholders.

InfoSpace has had difficult times after it was notified last year that its biggest mobile customer, Cingular Wireless, would be going directly to the music labels for content, rather than using InfoSpace's services. That caused InfoSpace to rethink its mobile strategy and lay off 250 employees to cut costs.

Today, InfoSpace is again more focused on its online portals, like Dogpile, and its mobile infrastructure business, such as search.

The stock fell 44 cents today, or 1.75 percent, to close at $24.70. Despite all the turmoil, that's only $3.69 below its high of $28.39 for the year.

March 16, 2007

Shareholder lashes into InfoSpace

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 9:47 AM

Earlier this week (second item), one of InfoSpace's shareholders sent a letter to the Bellevue company expressing concern over cost controls and the lack of capital return to shareholders from InfoSpace's large cash balance.

And on Thursday, Sandell Asset Management notified InfoSpace that it will nominate three "highly qualified independent candidates" directors at the 2007 annual shareholder meeting.

In its first request, Sandell asked InfoSpace to immediately return $300 million of cash, cut $15 million in costs and hire a financial adviser to evaluate the potential sale of the company in whole or in part.

InfoSpace has had difficult times after it was notified last year by its biggest mobile customer, Cingular Wireless, that it would be going directly to the music labels for content, rather than using InfoSpace. That caused InfoSpace to rethink its mobile strategy, and lay off 250 employees to cut costs.

Today, InfoSpace is again more focused on its online portals, like Dogpile, and its mobile infrastructure business, such as search.

March 12, 2007

Getty Images acquires Scoopt

Posted by Kristi Heim at 10:51 AM

The question of how Getty Images will respond to emerging competition from user-generated content was answered in part today with -- surprise! -- another acquisition.

Getty bought Scoopt, a 2-year-old Glasgow, Scotland, company that specializes in citizen photojournalism. The purchase price was not disclosed. Scoopt allows anyone with a camera to capture images and sell them on its Web site.

In one of the more famous examples, a bystander shot a picture of the Manhattan plane crash that killed New York Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle last October. The photos, e-mailed to Scoopt, eventually made their way onto the front page of The Times of London.

Getty said it will invest in technology upgrades and release news, sports and entertainment images from Scoopt that meets its editorial standards. I just tried looking up the most popular images on Scoopt's site today, and it's mighty slow.

Also interesting that Getty noted the need to "apply rigorous standards" to "validate the authenticity" of some of the works, many of which are coming from non-professionals wielding camera phones.

The voluntary code of ethics says: "Scoopt will always endeavour to protect you, but we can only do this if you tell us the whole truth about everything you submit."

Photographers who submit imagery to Scoopt retain copyright, but grant the company a 12-month exclusive license. Photographers get 40 percent of the royalties.

March 8, 2007

Music industry targets individuals in new round of lawsuits

Posted by Kristi Heim at 11:13 AM

Two people in Washington state have been sued by the Recording Industry Association of America for illegally downloading copyrighted music over the Internet.

The copyright infringement suits were filed in Seattle and Tacoma after the RIAA obtained the names of the individuals from their Internet service providers. The suit names a woman from Tenino and a man from Redmond, among more than two dozen lawsuits filed around the country, including three in Oregon.

The RIAA said the music was distributed using P2P services such as LimeWire. Record companies filed a lawsuit against the operators of LimeWire last fall, but the service continues to be available, calling itself "the fastest P2P file sharing program on the planet."

LimeWire's Web site notes the difference between legal and illegal file sharing using its service:

"LimeWire is legal software, but it is illegal for you to use LimeWire to share copyrighted files without permission."

In late 2005, Seattle-based Shared Media Licensing signed a deal with LimeWire and London's Magnatune record label to distribute works by Magnatune artists.

Here's a story looking at different views on P2P file sharing.

March 7, 2007

Getty Images' bid for Jupitermedia hits skids

Posted by Kristi Heim at 12:33 PM

Jupitermedia said today talks with prospective buyer Getty Images have stopped, sending its stock falling toward Pluto.

Connecticut-based Jupitermedia shares are down around 17 percent to $7.19.

Last week, Getty outlined a strategy around building entertainment content following its acquisition of WireImage. Jupitermedia is a little different, in that it is mostly a low-cost stock image bank that occassionally competes with Getty. Analysts thought a buyout would have strengthened Getty's position.

Inrix a possible acquisition target?

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 10:41 AM

The biggest competitor to Kirkland-based Inrix, which uses road censors and car locators to predict traffic patterns, was officially acquired today by Navteq, a provider of digital maps.

Navteq said it paid $177 million for Traffic.com, which also provides traffic information. The acquisition is pending approval by stockholders of Traffic.com.

Previously, Inrix commissioned a study by Frost & Sullivan to determine whether Traffic.com or Inrix provided more accurate traffic data.

Inrix said the study concluded that Inrix was the leading provider of real-time traffic information in the U.S.

If that's the case, it makes me wonder whether that make Inrix as a likely acquisition target.

March 1, 2007

Big Fish eBay update

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 3:13 PM

Earlier this week, we said Big Fish Games was auctioning off a chance for someone's photo to appear in its next Mystery Case Files game.

The auction is occuring on eBay.

Here's the update: Two days since it launched, the auction has attracted more than 8,540 visitors with 27 bids, reaching $540 at last check.

The auction will close March 8 at 3 p.m. The proceeds go to charity.

February 27, 2007

Big Fish drops eBay line

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 2:07 PM

Seattle-based Big Fish Games, a developer of casual games, said today that it is auctioning on eBay a chance to have your picture (and three friends' photos) used in the next episode of its "Mystery Case Files" series.

Gamers playing the sequel will try to find "hidden" characters in the game. Those characters will be the photos provided by the eBay winners.

The auction started this morning here and will close at 3 p.m. March 8. All of the proceeds will go Child's Play, a game industry charity that aids terminally ill children.

This afternoon, the highest bid was at $115.50.

According to Big Fish Games' Web site, the company has a history of charitable giving. It donates 5 percent of all profits to causes that help those in need throughout the world.

February 23, 2007

Hit the slopes and show it off

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 12:41 PM

When the forecast calls for a lot of white powdery stuff to fall from the skies, it's hard not to get a little bit antsy.

For some time, the Washington ski slopes have provided Web cams to visitors of their Web sites so they can check out the snow conditions. But now the Summit at Snoqualmie has an even more high-tech option.

The Summit is providing a site where riders and skiers can post home videos from the slopes. Some of the videos were obviously posted by the Summit and feature music tracks in the background, but others show look like 30 seconds from a cell phone.

I can see how this could really catch on with people vying to show off the best jumps and tricks. After all, typically the only people to catch it are the few taking the lift overhead.

Check out "Four year old Jarod's first time skiing," and "WHOOHOO," in which a snowboarder lands a sweet jump.

February 21, 2007

Getty Images to acquire Jupitermedia?

Posted by Kristi Heim at 10:57 AM

Though it might seem at first like an odd pairing, a report out today said Internet information company Jupitermedia is in talks to be bought by stock photo giant Getty Images.

Seattle-based Getty is in discussions to buy Jupitermedia for about $450 million, the New York Post said, in a bid to expand its offerings to Web site designers and online marketers.

Jupitermedia shares were up 24 percent in Nasdaq trading. The company's market value is about $287 million.

Jupitermedia includes Jupiterimages, which holds the rights to more than 7 million images online. Getty Images' other recent acquisitions include iStockphoto for an undisclosed sum, Pixel Images Holdings Ireland for $135 million and Laura Ronchi S.p.A. Italy for an undisclosed sum.

A Bloomberg report said a Getty spokeswoman declined to comment on the New York Post story.

February 6, 2007

RealNetworks goes to Brazil

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 10:26 AM

RealNetworks said today that it acquired Sao Paulo, Brazil-based Atrativa, a casual games Web site, to strengthen its already strong international game portfolio.

The acquisition allows Real to move into South America. Previously, it had a casual games footprint in Europe, China, Latin America and the U.S. Today, Real said it offers games to consumers through RealArcade, GameHouse.com, Zylom.com and Atrativa.com.br, accounting for more than 750,000 game downloads on a typical day.

The Seattle company said it purchased Atrativa for an undisclosed price at the end of 2006.

February 1, 2007

Comcast records a bundle

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 1:33 PM

Philadelphia-based Comcast, which provides cable TV, phone and other services in the Seattle area, hit a 10-year record for adding subscribers in a single quarter.

The Wall Street Journal reported that the record is a sign its strategy of bundling phone with cable and high speed Internet services is paying off.

In fact, GigaOM, the tech blog, reported that Comcast has almost hit $1 billion ($955 million) in sales from phone revenues alone.

The staggering figure shows that the cable giant is moving much more quickly onto phone company turf than vice versa, it wrote.

Comcast offers phone service through voice over IP, or by sending calls over the Internet. Comcast reported that it signed up 1.5 million digital voice subscribers in 2006. It has a total of 1.9 million, which GigaOM points out is roughly the number that independent VoIP provider Vonage has.

Mixpo mixes with Windows Live

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 11:30 AM

Seattle-based Mixpo, which helps users publish video, photos and audio online, said it is partnering with Windows Live to provide access to more than 120 million users of Windows Live Spaces.

The users will now be able to add media to their Space as an embedded blog entry or a gadget called a "Mixcard." For more information, check out Mixpo's site here.

"Rich media is an important way for people to share their stories with friends or
the world," said David Fortin, senior director of product management at Windows
Live. "Mixpo offers users the simple tools for publishing multimedia they want to
maintain control of, expanding the ways in which they can share their stories with
confidence."

Mixpo, which is funded by Madrona Venture Group, most likely secured this relationship with Windows Live through Anupam Gupta, Mixpo's COO. Prior to joining Mixpo in July, he worked at Microsoft for eight years,
most recently as the director of product management for Windows Live
initiatives.

Mixpo also garnered some attention this week after presenting at Demo 07, an annual event in Palm Desert, Calif., that draws lots of investors and jouranlists.

January 26, 2007

Thursday's news roundup

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 10:05 AM

In case you missed it, several things of note happened Thursday -- InfoSpace sold a mobile games division, T-Mobile was awarded with J.D. Power's awards for customer satisfaction and DocuSign said it has hired a new CEO.

As part of InfoSpace's ongoing reorganization, it said Thursday that Twistbox Entertainment has acquired all of the assets of its U.S.-based mobile games studio located in San Mateo, Calif.

The division, formerly known as Atlas Mobile, made games that users play for a chance to win prizes. The companies said the studio will be fully integrated into Twistbox Games, headquartered in Dortmund, Germany, with studios in Germany, Poland and the U.S.

Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed. However, according to documents filed with the Securities & Exchange Commission, InfoSpace originally acquired Atlas Mobile on July 1, 2004 for $6.3 million in cash, plus acquisition costs.

Bellevue-based T-Mobile USA said Thursday that J.D. Power and Associates recognized the carrier as providing the best customer service in the wireless industry for the fifth consecutive reporting period.

It was recognized for having the best overall customer care performance for scoring highest in its voice-automated system; in having better than the industry average in hold time of 2 minutes or less; and for scoring high at the retail level.

Seattle-based DocuSign, which develops electronic signature services, announced Thursday that it has named Matthew Schiltz president and chief executive.

Previously, he held positions at General Software, CourtLink, OneComm and StatSci/Insightful.

DocuSign co-founder and previous CEO Court Lorenzini will continue at DocuSign as executive vice president of business development, focusing on strategic business relationships.

January 9, 2007

CES: News at local companies

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 12:54 PM

At CES, if you don't have a 16,000-square-foot booth like Microsoft, how do you get heard? With so much big stuff at the show, as our columnist Brier Dudley points out, here are a few of the smaller things Seattle-area companies want you to know about:

-- Bellevue-based VoiceBox announced today a joint venture with Nuance Communications to develop advanced voice navigation applications for the personal device, automotive and mobile phone markets. The goal is to develop and deliver something so accurate and intuitive that it further enhances the way people use navigation devices.

-- Seattle-based Volantis, which helps media content be delivered to mobile phones, said today that it launched Volantis Content Services. The service offers a tier of offerings that lowers the cost for content providers wanting to quickly launch a mobile presence.

In addition, Volantis said it was launching a more agressive push into the mobile advertising market by partnering with Bango, a mobile payment platform, and Third Screen Media, a mobile advertising software and services, to provide mobile billing and advertising capabilities.

-- Seattle-based RealNetworks made a series of announcements yesterday.
It said it has integrated its Rhapsody digital music services into the TiVo service to give TiVo subscribers access to more than 3 million songs on demand right from the TiVo remote. The service will be available starting later this year.

RealNetworks also announced a collaboration with Reigncom, which makes the popular iriver portable multimedia devices. Reigncom will bring two new Rhapsody portable players to market. The MP3 players will come Wi-Fi enabled and will allow consumers to download their favorite music over the air directly to the device. Both devices are expected to ship in the U.S. in the first half of this year.

January 5, 2007

Avenue A | Razorfish wiki winner

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 10:43 AM

Avenue A | Razorfish, the interactive marketing and technology firm that's part of Seattle-based aQuantive, said it has been recognized for an internally produced portal that links together 16 of the company's offices worldwide.

The portal uses wiki technology and was awarded a Portal Excellence Award at the Shared Insights Portal Conference in the "Best Team Collaboration Application" category, the company said today.

The Avenue A | Razorfish wiki was recognized for making use of innovative collaborative technologies such as Web-based discussion groups.

In a release, the company quotes Andrew McAfee, an associate professor at Harvard Business School, who wrote on his blog:

"I find that the sites I visit most often these days are ones that give me 'the latest.' They help me stay on top of the world, the blogosphere, and my personal network of people and content. This page does the same thing at the company level for Avenue A | Razorfish employees."

But maybe it's not just at the company level, bringing into question the amount of information a company wants to share. An update on McAfee's blog says the wiki is not as internal as the company thinks:.

After I posted on Avenue A | Razorfish's Enterprise 2.0 Intranet, a few commenters pointed out a potentially troublesome feature.
When employees (or anyone else, for that matter) add the tag "AARF" [Avenue A Razorfish] in del.icio.us, Flickr, or Digg, the so-tagged items show up within the company's Intranet. The intent of this feature, as I wrote, is to let employees easily and automatically make each other aware of potentially interesting content on the Internet.
Because these "AARF" tags are universally visible, however, other companies can also see them and take advantage of them. It would be technically straightforward for a competitor to scan del.icio.us, Flickr, and Digg for the "AARF" tag, thereby seeing what Avenue A | Razorfish employees are highlighting for each other.

Alex Barnett, a Microsoft employee who works with developers, posted on McAfee's site:

We'll, it's good for me . But is that good for AARF? Look, here is a sample. From a cursory look at the AARF tagged bookmarks, I can tell:
-- Someone is probably lobbying HR for Starbucks coffee machines at the office (I can't blame them...)
-- Someone is studying Second Life's audience size, probably as an opportunity to either establish their own presence for the agency, or collating info so they can advise clients
-- Someone is trying to figure out the ROI on blogging (rather you than me...)
-- Someone is interested in mobile social software apps

Avenue A | Razorfish's Ray Velez responded:

"anyone can use the aarf tag and associate it with a bookmark. This potentially lets us get information from a larger audience. Which may turn out to be a bigger spam issue more than anything else. The only information that can be gleaned from this is what we think is interesting in terms of websites out there. Check out Alex Barnett's post for a good explanation and yes I do like Starbucks coffee. If it's a site we want to keep behind a firewall we can make it private. The tagging algorithm and keywords we use internally to add metadata to wiki content and documents is completely behind the firewall."

For more discussion, check out the Nov. 27 blog post here.

The discussion is valid. How open do companies want to be on their innerworkings? Is it becoming increasingly difficult in the Web 2.0 world?

The debate is reminescent of how Jobster's Jason Goldberg aired some of his company's dirty laundry on his blog -- about how the company is going through a restructuring and laying off nearly half of its staff.

Goldberg is a huge fan of transparency.

Goldberg said during a call with the media to announce the layoffs that since the company was founded, he has blogged multiple times a day and has sometimes gotten positive or negative feedback.

"Sometimes I share too much or too little, but from the beginning I've taken a transparent approach, that's not typical of any private company."

January 4, 2007

More daylight on Daylife, plus a Seattle connection

Posted by Kristi Heim at 3:17 PM

Note: see update with response from Jeff Jarvis below.

The online news space is heating up with a new distribution vehicle called Daylife, which revealed it has more than two dozen investors, including the New York Times Company, and practically an all-star team of Internet content pioneers: Craig Newmark, Dave Winer and Jeff Jarvis, according to this post by Staci Kramer.

A few of the investors have ties to the tech world in Seattle.

Daylife's founder, Upendra Shardanand, co-founded Firefly along with Andy Sack. They sold the company, which developed personalization technology, to Microsoft in 1998. Sack went on to help create Judy's Book, the Seattle-based shopping recommendation site.

One of Daylife's angel investors is Mika Salmi of Atom Entertainment (formerly Seattle-based Atom Films).

Daylife looks a lot like Google News, since it, too, is an automated news aggregator. Daylife seems to have a more robust system of organization, though, since top stories have a whole page with quotes, photos, blog posts and other context. It also attempts to filter out redundant content into another area so you're not just looking at 300 variations of the same story.

Unlike Google News, Daylife is available only in English for now. It aims to make money through advertising revenue, and to be able to direct advertisers to a targeted news audience. It's not clear to me how that will work.

Daylife says it exists to help make "a healthier news industry, that is able to better serve the public." And, of course, to make money for all those high-profile investors.
-----------------

UPDATE: Jeff Jarvis responds below, explaining what sets Daylife apart from Google News and why it's too early for advertising.

He writes:

Daylife's analysis of the news will yield a number of benefits. One you can see now is the connections it exposes among newsmakers: Angelina Jolie's page can show you that she is connected to Africa and the U.N. and to Hollywood and stars -- and those links make it possible to navigate around the world of news apart outside the strict structure of new to date (that is, entertainment v. world vs. business). This analysis will yield other benefits as partners use the platform's API.
Also, importantly, Daylife is a platform. Your newspaper site or blog can use the API to present more relevant news to your readers, for example.
And we are using the platform to build what we hope is a refreshing experience of news on Daylife's own site, experimenting with such features as linking to stories via the quotes the system pulls out of articles.
Daylife does not have advertising today. It really makes little sense selling sponsorship to a brand new site that has only a day's worth of traffic. We have various innovative, we hope, advertising models we'll be rolling out in time.

Applied Discovery hits milestone

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 11:06 AM

Bellevue-based Applied Discovery, a division of LexisNexis, said today that it has reached a new milestone.

The company helps law firms conduct discovery electronically. Today, it said in 2006 it processed 1.16 billion pages of electronic documents, representing a 49 percent jump over 2005 and a 65,186 percent increase over pages processed in 2001.

The company said the benchmark provides solid evidence that the $1.5 billion e-discovery market expanded quickly in 2006 and is an indicator of industry growth trends in 2007.

Electronic discovery technology enables law firms to quickly and securely capture, review and assess digital documents online as part of the "discovery" process in most legal cases.

It said the increase is linked to the growth of using digital communications for corporate communications. For example, the majority of corporate documents today are digital, through the use of email, instant messaging and mobile phone text messaging.

LexisNexis purchased Bellevue-based Applied Discovery in July 2003 for an undisclosed amount.

December 18, 2006

Best Blogs of 2006

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 11:27 AM

And, no, sadly Tech Tracks didn't make the cut....

But, here's an entire list of winners in categories such as Best Blog, Best Liberal Blog, Best Conservative Blog, Best Photo Blog, Best Asian Blog, etc.

The best blog was the "Daily Kos," written by 35-year-old Markos Moulitsas ZĂșniga, who ponders political topics.

Nowadays, the blog receives about 20 million unique visits a month, he claims.

How do you become such a popular blogger?

He offers tips:

So how does a site get listed? Be noticed. Make a stir. Don't regurgitate the contents of a news story, but provide perspective or additional insight. Be clever, funny, original. Get away from the default templates. Get away from Blogspot. Create your own identity. Your own domain. Have attitude. Be self-confident. Participate in the comment boards at dKos or MyDD or Atrios or any number of other sites (a great way to demonstrate your writing acumen). Participate in group weblogs like Stand Down or the Political State Report.

These are good tips to have as the number of new blogs being created (about 100,000 a day) slows. With fewer being started, perhaps it will be easier to grab attention?

Gartner is predicting that blogging will peak in the first half of next year when the number of active blogs will level out at around 100 million.

Congratulations! You are a winner!

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 11:05 AM

Yes, you.

Time magazine -- in its infinite wisdom -- has granted the person of the year honor to YOU. Not Bill and Melinda Gates and Bono (2005), George W. Bush (2000 and 2004), The American Solider (2003), The Whistleblowers from FBI, Enron and Worldcom (2002), or Mayor of New York City Rudolph Giuliani (2001).

Time said: "You control the Information Age. Welcome to your world."

To be sure, there are individuals we could blame for the many painful and disturbing things that happened in 2006. The conflict in Iraq only got bloodier and more entrenched. A vicious skirmish erupted between Israel and Lebanon. A war dragged on in Sudan. A tin-pot dictator in North Korea got the Bomb, and the President of Iran wants to go nuclear, too. Meanwhile nobody fixed global warming, and Sony didn't make enough PlayStation3s.

"But look at 2006 through a different lens and you'll see another story, one that isn't about conflict or great men. It's a story about community and collaboration on a scale never seen before. It's about the cosmic compendium of knowledge Wikipedia and the million-channel people's network YouTube and the online metropolis MySpace. It's about the many wresting power from the few and helping one another for nothing and how that will not only change the world, but also change the way the world changes.

If Time believes that the Web 2.0 phenomenon is finally here, is it almost over?

In 1999, a year before the bottom dropped out of the dot-com rage, Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos was pronounced "person of the year."

Makes me wonder.

December 11, 2006

No more CDs, what's next?

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 1:49 PM

When you cover technology for a living, it's easy to get wrapped up in the newest, and almost always better, devices and products hitting store shelves.

But this story in the Washington Post today reminded me that the old way of doing things may perhaps have been better, or at least a better experience for the senses.

Paul Farhi, a Post staff writer, tests this notion regarding the closure of Tower Records, which is finally succumbing to the Internet.

He writes:

And isn't that better? Doesn't the digital universe give anyone with a computer and a credit card wider and speedier access to more music than any Tower could ever stock? Isn't it better when you never have to find a parking space or deal with one of those haughty, green-haired clerks who always gave your Beach Boys and show-tune selections a look that said, "Wow, you are such a geezer"?
No, it isn't. Not exactly.

Farhi writes that something is lost when you go online. When you go to the store, you fight for parking, you can physically sift through shelves of options and you can smell the people next to you.

That made me wonder. What other things has technology replaced for the worse? Maybe that's a bit harsh, but technology may have sterilized other experiences as well?

Were telephones better when they had cords and didn't leave the house? Does solving a calculus problem on paper feel better than punching numbers into a computer?

What do you think?

Second Life going a bit too far?

Posted by Kim Peterson at 10:33 AM

CNET's News.com site is interviewing an IBM exec in charge of technical strategy and innovation on Tuesday. Not really noteworthy until you get to the location of the interview: CNET's Second Life office.

You're invited to listen in, as long as you can follow these directions: "The interview is in the auditorium on the third floor of the CNET office, and the easiest way to get in is to fly to the open balcony to the right of the building's main entrance."

I find the Second Life phenomenon fascinating, but this strikes me as more than a little ridiculous.

On another note, I'm going to be out of the office on a leave of absence for the next three months or so. Happy holidays and see you in the spring.

December 5, 2006

Inrix expands traffic results to more areas

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 3:10 PM

Kirkland-based Inrix said today that it now provides traffic prediction services for more than 47,000 miles in 73 metropolitan areas.

This expansion became possible through the latest release of the company's new platform called the Inrix Traffic Fusion Engine. The company uses statistical techniques to predict traffic by aggregating events that affect traffic patterns and information derived from road sensors and GPS-enabled vehicles.

When Inrix first announced in May that it would be gathering information from fleet vehicles using GPS, it covered only 30 cities and 10,000 miles. Those markets included Miami, San Antonio and New York, each of which have had no data from road sensors.

The expansion means cities the company now covers include Cleveland; Hartford, Conn.; Knoxville, Tenn.; Tampa, Fla;, and Tucson, Ariz.

A complete list of Inrix markets and coverage maps is available here.

November 29, 2006

Google Answers going away

Posted by Kim Peterson at 3:04 PM

Google is shutting down Google Answers, a service in which live researchers would answer your questions for a small fee. And while the service will soon stop accepting questions, Google said it will leave the archived Q&As online.

The company doesn't give any reason for why it's killing Google Answers. Maybe it couldn't compete with Yahoo Answers, which is free.

Amazon's Mechanical Turk hits some similar notes, but that service is more task-oriented. It also pays people, though several requests up right now are paying fewer than five cents for completion.

November 28, 2006

Zune sales off? So says WSJ

Posted by Kim Peterson at 1:56 PM

The Wall Street Journal has an article today saying that Microsoft's Zune "falls off sales pace" for media players.

The one piece of evidence? That the Zune is not on Amazon.com's top 10 list for electronics yesterday.

That seems a little sketchy to me. After all, Zune is supposed to be selling at 30,000 retail locations, and to say that sales are off because of what one of them reports (yes, a big one, I admit) seems a little premature. Seems like it would have been worthwhile for the reporter to at least call some of the big electronics chains to see what's going on.

The Journal said that the Zune player was on Amazon's top 10 list after its Nov. 14 release, but yesterday had dropped to No. 76. iPods dominate the list, of course.

Analysts are expecting Zune sales at between 300,000 and 500,000 units for the holidays, according to the article.

The analyst firm PiperJaffray actually did some reporting on this issue and found that of clerks at 40 "big box" retailers, only 8 percent recommended buying the Zune and 75 percent recommended the iPod.

Isilon announces IPO details

Posted by Kim Peterson at 11:20 AM

Isilon Systems, a Seattle-based digital storage company, is looking to raise as much as $91 million in its upcoming initial public offering. The company has more details in a filing submitted last week to the Security and Exchange Commission. The filing doesn't say when the IPO will take place.

Isilon plans to offer 8.35 million shares at between $8.50 and $9.50 a share. It will likely be listed under the symbol "ISLN."

The company shared some interesting financial and customer information in the document, including:

-- It had a net loss of $19.2 million last year and $15 million in the first nine months of this year. As of Oct. 1 its accumulated deficit was $64.7 million.

-- It has a top-heavy customer list. Comcast and Eastman Kodak together represented 27 percent of Isilon's total sales for the first nine months of this year.

-- It plans to use some of the IPO money to repay $6.2 million in debt. The rest will go toward general corporate purposes.

November 21, 2006

Google shares hit $500 for the first time

Posted by Kim Peterson at 10:29 AM

Google shares are on a tear today, topping $500 for the first time. You can check the current share price here.

According to this AP story, investors appear to be thinking that Google will quickly announce ways to get more online advertising sales from its $1.65 billion acquisition of YouTube.

November 14, 2006

Bothell helping Apple connect iPods

Posted by Kim Peterson at 12:42 PM

Six airlines will begin offering passengers iPod hookups at their seats to charge their players and show iPod videos on seat back displays, Apple said today. There's a local connection to the news as well.

Apple is working with Panasonic Avionics, the Bothell-based subsidiary of Panasonic that produces in-flight entertainment systems for airplanes. Through its work with Panasonic, Apple said it wants to bring the iPod connectivity to more airlines in the future.

Starting in mid-2007, the airlines scheduled to roll out this connectivity include Air France, Continental, Delta, Emirates, KLM and United.

Not a bad announcement from Apple to counter the launch of Microsoft's Zune player.

November 13, 2006

Getty's CTO has left the company

Posted by Kim Peterson at 2:12 PM

Getty's chief technology officer, Patrick Flynn, left the company last Tuesday as part of the restructuring the company is undertaking to improve its bottom line. It doesn't look like that position will stay open.

In an SEC filing today, Getty said Flynn's departure was an "involuntary termination" under the terms of his 2004 employment agreement.

Here's what that agreement says happens in the case of an involuntary termination:

-- Getty will pay Flynn his salary and accrued bonus through the date of termination.

-- Getty will also pay Flynn a severance equal to his salary plus 50 percent of his bonus.

Flynn's 2005 salary was $307,500 and his bonus was $127,720, according to Getty's most recent proxy.

Redmond unaffected in first NBC Universal cuts

Posted by Kim Peterson at 1:48 PM

NBC Universal made the first round of cuts in its broad plan to cut 700 jobs. Last month, when the cuts were announced, the company said the impact to the Redmond-based MSNBC.com would be minimal, and it looks like that's the case for now.

At least 17 employees at "Dateline NBC" lost their jobs, Broadcasting & Cable reports, with most of the cuts in New York and some in Chicago and Washington D.C. Other employees have taken a voluntary buyout package.

November 7, 2006

RealNetworks' shares bask in earnings glow

Posted by Kim Peterson at 10:42 AM

RealNetworks shares hit a five-year high today, a day after the company reported solid sales and profit numbers for the third quarter. You can check the current stock price here.

The profit, once again, was skewed by some big payments from one-time rival Microsoft related to the antitrust lawsuit settlement between the two companies.

Quarterly profit was $42.2 million, up from $11.2 million in the year-ago period, and sales beat analysts' estimates to hit a record $93.7 million. If you take out the Microsoft payments and other factors, net income was $8.7 million compared with $6.3 million in 2005.

Today, Kaufman Bros. maintained its "buy" rating and raised its target price from $12 to $13.50. JMP Securities raised its price from $8 to $9.

Other analysts weren't so sure. The total number of RealNetworks' subscribers rose by only 50,000 from the second quarter of this year to 2.45 million, and about half of that increase was in music subscriptions. Music subscriber growth appeared to be slowing down, with 1.65 million subscribers compared with 1.625 million three months ago. Subscription sales represent more than half of Real's total revenue.

That sluggish growth in music subscribers adds some risk, according to analysts with Oppenheimer, who have a "neutral" rating on the company. Those analysts said the slowdown might show that consumers prefer downloadable music services and the end-to-end music systems such as Apple's iPod universe.

November 3, 2006

MSN Music death watch

Posted by Kim Peterson at 11:41 AM

The future of MSN Music has been in question since Microsoft said it would build a music ecosystem around its Zune products, the first of which is due out on Nov. 14.

Today, MSN Music posted a note on its customer service page saying that it will no longer sell music downloads starting on Nov. 14. The "buy" button that previously sold music for MSN will change to links that allow users to choose between the Zune Marketplace and RealNetworks' Rhapsody.

Why Rhapsody? This is probably tied to the antitrust settlement between Microsoft and RealNetworks, in which Microsoft said it would do more to promote its one-time rival's products.

What about the songs people bought on MSN Music previously? It doesn't look like they'll be able to use them with Zune, according to this site. The songs will work with devices that use the PlaysForSure digital rights system, but Zune isn't a part of that.

Sounds like MSN Music will still exist as a promotional site, and will feature music, videos and music-related news. But Microsoft probably won't pay much attention to it moving forward.

October 31, 2006

Avenue A | Razorfish buys Chinese agency

Posted by Kim Peterson at 10:29 AM

Seattle digital advertising firm Avenue A | Razorfish said today it has acquired e-Crusade, an ad and marketing agency based in Hong Kong and Shanghai. E-Crusade will become a subsidiary of the company, and marks AA|R's first real presence in China.

E-Crusade's clients have included Coca-Cola, Xbox, HSBC and Nike. It has 43 employees, is profitable and expects sales of $500,000 to $600,000 for the rest of this year.

Avenue A | Razorfish has made an initial cash payment of $2.95 million, and said the total purchase price will be paid in cash and based partly on how much profit e-Crusade makes over the next four years.

October 25, 2006

iLike goes into public beta today

Posted by Kim Peterson at 11:35 AM

The iLike service opens up to a public beta today, and you can check it out here. Although iLike is part of the San Francisco-based GarageBand, many of its developers work in the company's nondescript Capitol Hill office. Nearly everyone in that office has spent time at Microsoft, including Hadi Partovi, the former MSN portal boss who played a key role in the early days of Microsoft's Live.com strategy.

iLike hooks nicely into Apple's iTunes player and works with the massive list of songs you've listened to since you installed iTunes (yes, that list is out there). Plugging that list into its recommendation engine, it can suggest songs to you. Once you add friends, social networking style, to iLike, it tells you what your friends are listening to. It sends you to the iTunes music store or Amazon.com if you want to buy a song, and gets paid by Apple for doing so.

The service has a cute "are we compatible" test that looks at how well your music fits with someone else's, and that dating-oriented feature is sure to be a driver to the site.

How did a bunch of Microsoft guys end up working on an Apple feature? It's purely business, said Ali Partovi, Hadi's twin brother and the chief of GarageBand. Apple's iTunes dominates the digital media player market, so much so that people who don't even have iPods use it. If any other player came in a close second, iLike would have developed for it as well. But the team plans to have a Windows Media Player version in the future.

Here's GigaOM's review.

Earnings report: Amazon and Getty

Posted by Kim Peterson at 10:48 AM

Amazon's share price is up nearly 12 percent this morning, the day after the online retailer reported third-quarter earnings. The company beat analysts' expectations, even though its profit fell by more than a third.

Getty Images reported "disappointing" quarterly earnings, according to Chief Executive Jonathan Klein. Layoffs are in the works, he said, but it doesn't look like the Seattle office will be hit very hard.

Getty's dealing with some very serious, and potentially long-term, customer issues. As more advertising and media moves to the Internet, the company is seeing more demand for cheaper images -- not the high-quality, ready-for-print imagery the company has made its name (and money) on. Getty has moved to meet that demand by acquiring Canadian company iStockphoto, but there are lots of competitors out there as well.

October 23, 2006

Layoffs at Getty Images

Posted by Kim Peterson at 11:44 AM

It's highly unusual for a CEO at one company to dish the dirt about a competitor's layoffs in his blog. But that's what Alan Meckler, the CEO of JupiterMedia, did on Friday:

A bonanza has landed at our frontdoor. We are always looking for talented individuals who have worked in the creative and tech space of the stock photo industry. Such individuals are difficult to find.
Recently, however, we have hit the motherlode. Our friends at Getty Images are terminating (as we hear it) 10% of their workforce worldwide. And thus the bonanza.

Today, a Getty spokeswoman confirmed "a very small reduction in some areas," but was quick to point out that the company is also hiring. The spokeswoman wouldn't give specific numbers, but we hear the offices in New York and London will be hardest hit.

More information on this will come from CEO Jonathan Klein tomorrow during the company's third quarter earnings call, scheduled for 2 p.m.

Update: According to Photo District News, at least 28 employees will be laid off.

October 20, 2006

Marchex: A new face on the board

Posted by Kim Peterson at 1:50 PM

Marchex said today that director Rick Thompson has stepped down from the board to devote more time to his job as a vice president at Microsoft. Thompson is a corporate VP in a division at Microsoft that covers eHome, the Tablet PC and the hardware groups.

Marchex has replaced Thompson with Anne Devereux, an advertising exec who is currently chief of two divisions within monster ad agency Omnicom Group.

October 17, 2006

Windows virus gets into iPods

Posted by Kim Peterson at 3:59 PM

D'oh! Who let the Windows virus into the iPod factory? Apple Computer said today that a tiny number of video iPods that shipped after Sept. 12 contained a Windows virus named RavMonE.exe.

On its technical support page, Apple said it has received fewer than 25 reports of the problem. Still, the company takes the opportunity to get a little dig in at Microsoft:

As you might imagine, we are upset at Windows for not being more hardy against such viruses, and even more upset with ourselves for not catching it.

The virus affects only Windows PCs and current anti-virus software should get rid of it, Apple said.

October 16, 2006

Steve Jobs talks about the Zune

Posted by Kim Peterson at 12:05 PM

Steve Jobs is utterly unfazed by the Zune. Or so he says in this Q&A with Newsweek. Some excerpts:

Microsoft has announced its new iPod competitor, Zune. It says that this device is all about building communities. Are you worried?

In a word, no. I've seen the demonstrations on the Internet about how you can find another person using a Zune and give them a song they can play three times. It takes forever. By the time you've gone through all that, the girl's got up and left! You're much better off to take one of your earbuds out and put it in her ear. Then you're connected with about two feet of headphone cable.

Do you think that it's fair to the customer that the songs they buy from Apple will only work on iTunes and the iPod?

Well, they knew that all along.

At one point you were saying, "When our customers demand it, that's when we'll consider interoperability."

Nobody's ever demanded it. People know up front that when they buy music from the iTunes music store it plays on iPods, and so we're not trying to hide anything there.

Sony's new e-book reader reviewed

Posted by Kim Peterson at 12:00 PM

Slate takes a look at Sony's new $350 electronic book reader and says that it's spiffy if all you want to do is read books. But if you want to search through the book or write in the margins, this is not going to be your product.

The reader is reportedly going to start showing up at Borders stores later this month. Sony is also opening up an online e-book store with some 10,000 titles.

It's official: Loudeye is gone

Posted by Kim Peterson at 10:01 AM

Loudeye is no longer a Seattle-based public company. Cellphone giant Nokia said today it has completed its acquisition of the digital media company, and as a result trading of Loudeye's stock has been suspended.

Shareholders will receive $4.50 in cash for every share of Loudeye they own. The company will go on to be mostly a European-focused unit of Nokia. Loudeye had only a handful of employees in Seattle at this point; most were in Europe.

The press release announcing the closure is here.

And for old times' sake, here's a writeup of Loudeye's $72 million initial public offering in 2000. Loudeye's stock would lose most of its value in that first year, and founder and chairman Martin Tobias went on to quit the company in October 2001. The company began crumbling in a very public way by 2003, and it became a matter of time before something more dramatic and final were to happen.

By the way, Tobias blogged his reaction to the news when the acquisition was announced.

October 11, 2006

Loudeye shareholders approve merger

Posted by Kim Peterson at 12:52 PM

Class-action lawsuits be damned: Loudeye shareholders met today and approved the company's acquisition by Nokia. About 58 percent of shareholders were present in person or by proxy, and here's how the vote went down:

For: 52 percent of shareholders (90.6 percent of votes cast)
Against: 5 percent of shareholders (7.8 percent of votes cast)
Abstain: 1 percent of shareholders (1.6 percent of votes cast)

The official closing of the deal could take place by Monday, Loudeye said in a regulatory filing.

October 10, 2006

Hard bargaining at RealNetworks

Posted by Kim Peterson at 2:36 PM

RealNetworks said last month it was acquiring South Korean company WiderThan for $350 million. Today in a regulatory filing it revealed a little of the back-and-forth negotiating over the price, which ended up at $17.05 per common share.

According to the filing, representatives of Real and WiderThan talked by phone on Sept. 9, and WiderThan said it was not pleased with Real's original asking price of $16 per share. WiderThan was hoping for something more in the range of $17.50 a share.

Later, Real said it would go as high as $16.75 a share, but WiderThan was still angling for more, saying its board would not be able to accept such a low price. No deal was reached.

The following day, WiderThan said it would only consider offers above $17 per share. After more discussion, both sides settled on a price tag of $17.05 per share.

WiderThan helps carriers sell ringback tones and full-track music download services. Ringback tones are songs a person hears while waiting for a call to be answered.

Another class-action suit against Loudeye

Posted by Kim Peterson at 10:37 AM

Loudeye said today that it is the target of another class-action lawsuit. We reported last week that the company had been sued in federal court for allegedly portraying its business as more healthy than it actually was.

The second lawsuit was filed Friday in King County Superior Court against Loudeye and Nokia, which is buying Loudeye for $60 million in cash. The suit claims that Loudeye and its executives breached their duties, with help from Nokia, in negotiating and entering the buyout deal. The suit is asking that the merger be stopped.

Loudeye said in a regulatory filing today that it will vigorously fight the lawsuit.

Another class-action suit against Loudeye

Posted by Kim Peterson at 10:37 AM

Loudeye said today that it is the target of another class-action lawsuit. We reported last week that the company had been sued in federal court for allegedly portraying its business as more healthy than it actually was.

The second lawsuit was filed Friday in King County Superior Court against Loudeye and Nokia, which is buying Loudeye for $60 million in cash. The suit claims that Loudeye and its executives breached their duties, with help from Nokia, in negotiating and entering the buyout deal. The suit is asking that the merger be stopped.

Loudeye said in a regulatory filing today that it will vigorously fight the lawsuit.

October 9, 2006

RealNetworks' new music player unboxed

Posted by Kim Peterson at 12:52 PM

Engadget gets hold of one of the new Sansa e280 digital music players, and has lots of pictures of the "unboxing." This is the player that SanDisk has been developing with RealNetworks, and it has Real's Rhapsody brand on the packaging and the device.

Google's music deals

Posted by Kim Peterson at 11:50 AM

A month ago, YouTube turned industry heads by announcing it had received the rights for its users to use copyrighted content from Warner Music Group. Warner would upload all of its videos to YouTube and let users loose on a free-for-all to do what they wanted with the content. They could use Warner's music in their videos, for example, without fear of retribution.

It was a fascinating deal that seemed to be a boon for both companies. YouTube gets out of what could have been a nasty copyright infringement suit and Warner gets tons of exposure and goodwill.

Imagine the fun people could have mixing Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy" video with their own, or competing in a contest similar to Stephen Colbert's current Green Screen Challenge.

Today, Google matched YouTube's deal with Warner and raised it one with Sony BMG.

Right now, Google users can stream Warner's music video collection and buy those online for download for $2 each. Google said it's working on technology that will let users incorporate Warner content in their own videos that they upload. The Sony deal seems a little more conservative -- no talk of selling videos for download, for example -- but it promises to also give users content to play with.

Speaking of Google and YouTube, the New York Times is reporting that Google could announce a deal to buy the video-sharing darling for $1.6 billion as early as this afternoon. Some critics have said that anyone who buys YouTube will be facing copyright infringement lawsuit chaos. The music deals cut seem to take some of that pressure away.

Update: Google did make its move this afternoon, buying YouTube for $1.65 billion in an all-cash deal.

October 5, 2006

Loudeye hit with class-action lawsuit

Posted by Kim Peterson at 5:23 PM

Shareholders filed a class action lawsuit against Seattle-based Loudeye and its executives in federal court Wednesday, claiming that the digital media company misrepresented the state of its business. You can view the lawsuit here.

Between May 2003 and November 2005, the suit claims, Loudeye reassured investors about its business when in fact it was "suffering from a host of undisclosed adverse factors." It was only after this period that investors learned of the real troubles at Loudeye, the suit claims. Loudeye's share price tumbled during the period the suit refers to.

The suit seeks unspecified damages. Loudeye, which is in the process of being sold to cellphone giant Nokia for $60 million in cash, has not responded to the filing yet in court.

Update: Loudeye submitted a regulatory filing today that said it intends to "vigorously defend against the claims and allegations in the complaint," and that doing so may require significant attention and resources of management.

Starbucks on iTunes

Posted by Kim Peterson at 3:19 PM

Starbucks did not pay Apple Computer to get some prime real estate on the iTunes Music Store.

The two companies announced today that artists from Starbucks' Hear Music catalog will be featured in a special "Starbucks Entertainment" area within the iTunes store.

There was no mention of any collaboration between the two companies when it comes to Starbucks' in-store experience. Starbucks spent two years testing the feasibility of CD-burning kiosks in 45 stores in Seattle and Austin, Texas, only to pull out of most locations in May.

Perhaps today's announcement is a step toward having iTunes-enabled kiosks in stores for people who want to plug in their iPods. The big problem with that scenario would be giving the iPods permission to transfer the music back from the device to a user's home PC -- something Apple has been reluctant to do in the past.

Brier Dudley's take on the announcement is here.

Update: A Starbucks representative called to say that the company did not in fact pay Apple for the iTunes placement. But the company would not elaborate further on what kind of deal took place.

RealNetworks partners with SanDisk, Best Buy

Posted by Kim Peterson at 10:38 AM

RealNetworks is expanding its partnership with Best Buy. Working with music player maker SanDisk, the companies are going to debut a new music system based on RealNetworks' Rhapsody music service.

Best Buy is opening a Rhapsody-powered digital music store. SanDisk is launching the Sansa e200R Rhapsody digital music players on Oct. 15. The players are designed to work seamlessly with the Rhapsody service, and ultimately make a competitive run against Apple Computer's dominant iPod/iTunes combination. RealNetworks will also have to compete against Microsoft's upcoming Zune music system on store shelves.

It doesn't hurt to have one of the biggest electronics retailers in your corner for that fight.

RealNetworks partners with SanDisk, Best Buy

Posted by Kim Peterson at 10:38 AM

RealNetworks is expanding its partnership with Best Buy. Working with music player maker SanDisk, the companies are going to debut a new music system based on RealNetworks' Rhapsody music service.

Best Buy is opening a Rhapsody-powered digital music store. SanDisk is launching the Sansa e200R Rhapsody digital music players on Oct. 15. The players are designed to work seamlessly with the Rhapsody service, and ultimately make a competitive run against Apple Computer's dominant iPod/iTunes combination. RealNetworks will also have to compete against Microsoft's upcoming Zune music system on store shelves.

It doesn't hurt to have one of the biggest electronics retailers in your corner for that fight.

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