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Article from GigaOm.

Ross Levinsohn, appointed Sundayas interim CEO, doesn’t have to learn Yahoo — he’s spent the last 18 months immersed in it.

And he doesn’t have to learn digital media — from helping to create online sports powerhouses at CBS Sportsline and Fox, to building a $1 billion-plus digital portfolio for Rupert Murdoch, to launching and investing companies through his own private equity fund, he’s covered the digital media waterfront and then some.

He’s Hollywood and Santa Monica but he speaks fluent Silicon Valley.

Most important, he knows Yahoo is a media company — and he knows how to sell it that way. Of all the things he found when he joined Yahoo in late 2010, the most disconcerting was how much the company was doing right and how very bad it was at making that count. Here’s how he put it during an interview with paidContent last year as he emerged from a quiet period:

“I spent six months digging into the company making sure I’m not crazy — and I’m not crazy.

“Yahoo is the premier digital company in the world and embracing that isn’t a hard thing to do. That’s just fact-based. Tell me what other type of media can sit with you and say ‘I’ve got the top 19 #1 or #2 newspapers, I’ve got the top 20 shows, I’ve got the 19 of the top 20 radio stations, 19 of the top 20 magazines’?

“Duh. But you have to fully embrace that. You can’t half-ass that.”

Last fall, he took the stage at paidContent Advertising to pitch the company. The interview came just days after Carol Bartz, who hired him to head media and ad sales for The Americas, was fired. At the time, he was considered a leading internal candidate for CEO. He talked about Yahoo’s need for “a little bravado, a little swagger”:

“Yahoo is a huge, mature, gigantic business. Some of that is overlooked right now. Businesses grow at different rates. We’re 16 years old and we’ve been on top for 15 years. It’s hard to maintain that. When you think of entertainment and gossip, you think of TMZ, but OMG is twice as big with 30 million users a month and still growing. But no-one knows that.”

Levinsohn’s biggest coup at News Corp. was acquiring MySpace from under Viacom’s nose for $580 million in 2005. In hindsight, given how MySpace panned out, perhaps it was anything but a coup — but, at the time, it was transformative, and as big a statement as News Corp. could make about being in the digital game.

Here’s how Levinsohn described it when we talked about why MySpace wasn’t a fit for Yahoo in 2011:

“We bought a social networking site in 2005, before anyone knew what social networking was and now look at where social networking is — so if you look at the trendline we were way head of the game.

“When we bought it, it was doing about $1 million a month; 24 months later we were on a run rate to do $500 million a year. You’d have to say that was a pretty good trajectory.

“Users went from, when we bought it, to 70,000 signups a day (which I thought was astounding), to the month I left about 450,000 signups a day. So again, trajectory, unbelievable.”

Levinsohn was replaced at Fox Interactive when it switched from M&A to operating mode. He’s been battling against perceptions ever since that that he’s not an ops guy.

In addition to rebuilding the internal sales organization and partnering with AOL and Microsoft in a digital sales alliance, and with his top media exec Mickie Rosen setting up a series of high-profile original content deals, Levinsohn has been out telling that story. Not the one of the company that can’t shoot straight – the one about the media company at its core.

Since then, he’s interviewed Tom Hanks to promote a new Yahoo original, been on stage with Katie Couric at the Yahoo digital upfront last month and a few days later being photographed with Sophia Vergara during the White House Correspondents Dinner festivities. He upgraded and expanded an existing relationship with ABC News.

Levinsohn hasn’t left M&A behind but he insists Yahoo doesn’t need a big acquisition to fix its problems, although, if he could have found a way, Hulu would be a Yahoo property. Look at him to focus on making the pieces Yahoo already has fit better, pick up tuck-in acquisitions — and finally decide whether Yahoo should be in the ad tech business or sell it.

Until now, everything he’s done at Yahoo has been in the shadow of CEOs making the final decisions on resources and setting the overall tone. Now — at least for the interim — Yahoo is Levinsohn’s Pottery Barn. He told Yahoos in a lengthy internal e-mail Sunday:

“I know there is one thing we should definitely all be doing in light of this news, and that is to focus on the momentum we’ve created over the last few months.

“Many of you have heard me talk about the possibilities we have, and about the opportunities in front of us. In spite of the very bumpy road we’ve traveled, we are achieving genuine and meaningful successes in the marketplace every day and heading in the right direction.”

What he’ll have to decide now is whether to spend the next months acting as CEO or auditioning for it. Here’s Demand CEO Richard Rosenblatt’s advice, following a Forbes piece by outspoken Yahoo shareholder and tech writer Eric Jackson:

I agree Ross run it like you are the permanent CEO not interim. Own it forbes.com/sites/ericjack…

And, yes, that is the same Richard Rosenblatt who was the CEO that sold MySpace to News Corp., then bought back some of the pieces that helped build Demand Media.

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Article from SFGate.

“RootMusic, a San Francisco startup that helps artists such as Rihanna, Katy Perry and Arcade Fire connect with their Facebook fans, received additional venture funding Wednesday amid reports that the social-networking giant is close to offering its own music service.

RootMusic, which says it has about 32 million monthly active users for its BandPage platform on Facebook, announced a $16 million round of financing led by GCV Capital.

The platform adds a page for fans to hear and share songs, watch video and view concert dates. The company was started in March 2010, but already more than 250,000 bands around the world use BandPage, and usage has increased tenfold since January, said RootMusic CEO J Sider.

There have been various reports that Facebook is ready to release its own music service. On Tuesday, CNBC, Mashable and other outlets reported that Facebook plans to announce a music platform at its f8 developer conference in San Francisco on Sept. 22, with Spotify, MOG and Rdio as partners.

Facebook spokesman Larry Yu would not comment directly on those reports or what’s coming for f8, but said in a statement that “many of the most popular music services around the world are integrated with Facebook and we’re constantly talking to our partners about ways to improve these integrations.”

Sider said he views a potential Facebook music platform as complementary to BandPage.

“If something like this would happen, it would raise awareness that as a fan, (Facebook’s) where I should go first to find information.”

The Facebook music drumbeat might prove to be sour notes for former social-networking rival Myspace, which has been trying to reposition itself as a destination for music. Indeed, RootMusic’s slogan entices musicians to “Make the Move to BandPage on Facebook.”

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Article from SFGate.

“Just three weeks after its launch, Google+ is off to a strong start.

Google Inc.’s latest attempt to break into social networking circles attracted more than 20 million visitors in its first 21 days, according to the Internet measurement service comScore Inc. And there is a report that Google+ now has 25 million members.

To be sure, those numbers still don’t place Google+ in the same league as the more established social media stars, especially the current king, Facebook Inc., which has 750 million active users.

But Facebook has made enough mistakes in the past to leave the window wide open for Google+, which is still in its experimental stages, to barge through and become a serious contender for the crown, said Sam Hamadeh, CEO and founder of a Privco, a New York firm that monitors private companies like Facebook.

Facebook may have a big lead now, but the two has-been kings of social networking – Friendster and Myspace – are reminders that there’s no such thing as invincibility in the world of technology.

“People used to be on Myspace chatting all day, updating their pages,” said Hamadeh. “And before that, people were on Friendster nonstop. Before you knew it, the winds had shifted and once the winds shift, they shift very quickly.”

Officially, Mountain View’s Google hasn’t issued any updated Google+ numbers beyond those that CEO Larry Page revealed during a July 14 earnings call – 10 million members, more than 1 billion items shared and received in one day and 2.3 billion clicks of the “+1 button,” Google’s answer to Facebook’s “Like” button.

‘Just the beginning’

“We’ve learned a tremendous amount having just gone to field trial three weeks ago,” Vic Gundotra, Google’s senior vice president for social, said in a statement. “The team has been listening to users and moving really quickly to launch dozens of new features and updates to the product. We realize this is just the beginning. And while we’re thrilled with the reaction so far, we have a long, exciting road ahead of us.”

Hamadeh, citing sources inside Google, said the fledgling social network hit the milestone 25 million user mark Thursday night.

And Andrew Lipsman, a comScore vice president, said the 20 million visitors to Google+ in the first 21 days was “an extraordinary number.”

Of that total, 5.3 million were in the United States and 2.8 million in India. And people from the Bay Area and Austin, Texas, two of the most tech-savvy markets, were three times as likely to be on Google+, Lipsman said.

Right now, the main users are the tech-savvy crowd that is always at the forefront of new and emerging technology.

Of the total Google+ audience, 63 percent were men and 58 percent were between the ages of 18 and 34, comScore said.

“It has clearly captured the attention of the technorati and as usage incubates among this crowd it will likely continue to proliferate to a more general audience,” Lipsman wrote in a blog post.

High marks

That technorati has generally given Google+ high marks for its design and privacy protections, especially compared to Facebook. Analysts say Google+ can be compelling.

“My usage has subtly changed as more and more of my personal network joins, and I’m commenting as much privately as publicly,” said Charlene Li, founder of the Altimeter Group, a San Mateo technology research and consulting firm.

One major feature in Google+ is the ability to create specific, private groups, called “circles,” of friends or people being followed.

“Google+ has the advantage of not requiring that people be a member of the network in order to share with them. They just get updates via e-mail,” Li said in an e-mail. But whether Google+ becomes a hit with more mainstream audiences is still a question.”

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Article from SF Gate.

“Facebook tapped a major public relations firm to plant negative stories about archrival Google’s competing services, the social-networking giant acknowledged after being effectively caught red-handed by an online news site.

The episode highlights the increasing friction between two of the most prominent companies in Silicon Valley as they battle over talent, acquisition targets and now public perception. It also underscores the growing importance of strategic communications in the competitive arsenal for information companies, whose success depends on winning the trust of users.

But largely, it’s an embarrassing backfire for Facebook, as the clumsy PR stunt has grabbed attention instead of the issue the company was hoping to spotlight.

“This allows Google to appear to be the good guys and Facebook the bad guys,” said Carl Howe, analyst with the Yankee Group.

In recent weeks, public relations firm Burson-Marsteller reportedly shopped around stories that raised privacy concerns about Google’s Social Circle service to influential voices, including USA Today reporters and privacy blogger Christopher Soghoian.

The plan began to unravel after Soghoian posted the pitch online, revealing that Burson had offered to help write and place an opinion piece in the Washington Post, Politico and elsewhere. USA Today followed up with a story suggesting the firm was engaged in a “whisper campaign” to spread negative news about Google and concluded that the claims were “largely untrue.”

The mystery remained about which client was behind the PR effort until the Daily Beast reported that Facebook, when confronted with evidence, had fessed up.

Facebook mostly defended its actions Thursday, saying no “smear” campaign was “authorized or intended.”

“Instead, we wanted third parties to verify that people did not approve of the collection and use of information from their accounts on Facebook and other services for inclusion in Google Social Circles,” the statement read. “We engaged Burson-Marsteller to focus attention on this issue, using publicly available information that could be independently verified by any media organization or analyst. The issues are serious and we should have presented them in a serious and transparent way.”

Social features

Google has increasingly been weaving social features into its services, notably adding “social search results” that include things like the public Twitter updates from a person’s connections that might be relevant to a given query. Google pays Twitter for that information feed.

The initial pitch from Burson claimed that Google is also scraping data from sites like Facebook, MySpace and Yahoo, and revealing secondary connections – say, the friends of your friends – without the permission of users. Google didn’t respond to inquiries from The Chronicle.

Facebook has been on the receiving end of plenty of privacy criticism itself for, among other things, increasing the amount of information that is accessible without asking permission from members.

Burson both defended and apologized for its role in the incident. The company said it was raising fair questions, but acknowledged that the approach “was not at all standard operating procedure and is against our policies, and the assignment on those terms should have been declined.”

The fact that one tech company was pitching negative stories about another comes as little surprise to many journalists, but for the general public, it sheds a glaring and unflattering light on how parts of the industry operate. Big-league public relations is often a bare-knuckle affair, focused as much on bashing rivals as lauding oneself or clients.

Not uncommon

Different companies operate according to different standards, but it’s not uncommon for major businesses to attempt to draw the eyes of journalists to the questionable practices of rivals, by highlighting issues they might not have noticed or sharing damning documents.

“It is a staple of the political and public relations world to not only tell the attributes of your own client, but to voice the demerits of one’s opposition,” said Sam Singer, president of Singer Associates Inc., a crisis PR firm in San Francisco.

The major reason this incident became big news is that Burson didn’t disclose the client it was working for, a violation of standard industry practice, he said. The ethics policies of the Public Relations Society of America state that members shall: “Reveal the sponsors for causes and interests represented.”

Journalists readily take the off-the-record bait, often without disclosing the source of the information, because the information helps them produce scoops or uncover new angles.

Reporters shouldn’t dismiss such information out of hand, because sometimes it’s the only way it can be obtained, but they shouldn’t simply run with it either, said Joe Skeel, executive director of the Society of Professional Journalists.

“It’s like any tip you get anywhere,” he said. “It’s incumbent on every journalist to check out the facts and make sure it’s credible before going forward.”

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As a technology scout, I often look for new behaviors of consumers in order to predict technology evolutions. After some time looking into the GroupOn trend, I have started to form a mental understanding of sorts. The stakes are high and the social shopping trend presents a new prosperous businessmodel and most large online companies are making the move to harness the trend. Let me explain the separate parts that forms my picture and what it all means.

1. eBay – the online fleamarket.

Looking at what today is widely accepted as a stunning success and moneymachine – eBay took the private entrepreneur online. Craigslist and similar services continue to provide broad audiences for the private seller. The shift from paper to online generated a larger audience and more interest for the second-hand market.

2. Facebook – networking our life.

Through the introduction of online social networks like Friendster, MySpace, Bebo, Twitter and Facebook, personal networks got joined together online. The effects of “Faceboking” you social life is a transparency that newer been visible before. New “check in” services from GPS enabled mobile devices further expose our location and automatically connects us with unknown people on the same location.

3. iPhone – making applications smarter.

As mentioned above, “check in” services like “Places” on Facebook, Loopt, Gowalla and Brightkite brought the social context to the mobile device though their “check in” features. Together with Twitter and Facebook mobile, the social and contextual dialogue is more and more becoming a way of using the technology.

The New, New Market!

So, based on these three separate innovations,a new market is emerging – Social Shopping. Sure, not all new in its core – Amazon have for long had recommendation and 3:rd party providers of used products. But, if I look closer on the trend, and take into consideration the companies that have announced that they are testing similar products – it will be a fierce battle ahead.

GroupOn is the one stealing all the headlines right now, IPO rumors are spreading and the race is on for becoming the leader of the pack. Nr. 2 on the market – Living Social are playing catch up. Recently I was invited to sign-up for Facebook Deals, a service originally launched last year and currently going through updates similar to GroupOn and Living Social. Goggle is testing its Google Offers. Microsoft is using it´s Bing to for similar services.

What does it mean?

What does all this mean you might think. I fell it’s a contextual shopping trend that moves the web 2.0 into a truly social value experience. If you are shopping for something and have the mobile device, you will be able to utilize your location and seek out good deals close to where you are, when you want it. The technology evolution exemplified by iPhone and Android phones with location awareness embedded is the technology enabler. Facebook networks are the social context and audience for spreading the word and eBay entrepreneurs can chase deals and post them on the social shopping sites to generate a self-serving ecosystem that becomes a machine in it self.

One might think that this technology trend, contrary to social networks of relationships (which are personal and limited) like Facebook, have enough room for more than one or two major services. As the trend relies on action rather than relation, its a active usage and active user who drives the equation – on Facebook, it’s all a matter of who you know.

Implications

The biggest question for me is if Facebook will succeed in incorporating their Facebook Deals service into the private social networks as a natural extension of smaller, often local groups of a few hundred people, as seem to be the norm of the personal networks on Facebook. If they succeed, they will steal the market from the pioneers like GroupOn and Social Living and further solidify their position as the premier social destination on the net, if not Facebooks value will decline as a result and focus might shift. Google, Amazon and Microsoft will steal their fair share of the market place, as they own large audiences and often “host” a mature audience searching for little less cool and less hip offerings – with high trust and reliability.

The race is on!

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Article from SFGate.

“It’s been a big couple of weeks in mobile. Verizon Wireless finally got the iPhone. Hewlett-Packard unveiled the first fruits of its Palm purchase last year. Nokia, the world’s biggest maker of handsets, abandoned its once-dominant Symbian mobile software system and demoted itself to a kind of glorified contract manufacturer of Microsoft-powered devices.

The struggle for mobile dominance has entered a new phase. Why would Nokia throw out Symbian, with its 37 percent market share, in favor of software with less than one-seventh of that? Because recently hired Chief Executive Officer Stephen Elop is convinced that Microsoft has better odds of going up against the four other mobile powers – Apple, Google, Research In Motion, and HP – and making its new Windows Phone 7 software a center of gravity for the world’s programmers, manufacturers, and consumers.

“The game has changed from a battle of devices to a war of ecosystems,” Elop told investors at a recent London news conference.

Actually, it’s the same game that created the most valuable franchises in tech history, from IBM to Microsoft to Facebook. All successfully established themselves as “platforms,” in which countless entrepreneurs and programmers developed products and applications that gave value to customers and profitability to shareholders – sucking oxygen away from rivals all the while.

Platform leaders

In the 1960s, IBM trounced Sperry and other mainframe manufacturers by creating a soup-to-nuts stack of hardware, software and services.

In PCs, Microsoft erased Apple’s early lead by signing up hardwaremakers to create cheap machines, and software companies to develop Windows versions of everything from word processors to Tetris.

Facebook vanquished social networks such as MySpace by repositioning itself as a platform – a decision that led to the creation of gamemaker Zynga and other app companies that keep Facebook’s 500 million users hanging around.

What’s different this time is scale.

“Mobile is the biggest platform war ever,” said Bill Whyman, an analyst with International Strategy & Investment. More smart phones were sold than PCs in the fourth quarter, and sales should reach $120 billion this year. That doesn’t count billions more in mobile services, ads, and e-commerce.

This war will probably last for some time, too. Unlike with PCs, where the unquestioned victor – Microsoft – quickly emerged and enjoyed years of near monopoly, no one has a divine right to dominance in mobile. Microsoft crushed its competition by forcing people to make a choice. There were far more software applications for PCs, and most didn’t work on Macs. The more Microsoft-powered machines out there, the more people wrote software for them, the more people bought them, and the bigger the whole system became. Economists have a name for that phenomenon: “network effects.”

Appealing products

All cell phones can talk to each other and handle the same websites and e-mail systems, so winning means making products that function more effectively and appealingly. That sums up Apple’s success.

Steve Jobs figured out long ago that when people spend their own money, they’ll pay for something a lot nicer than the unsexy gear the cheapskates in corporate procurement choose. While others competed on price, Apple focused on making its products reliable and easy to use. Once customers buy an iPhone and start investing in iTunes songs and apps, they tend to stick with the system and keep buying – even though there’s no proprietary lock on the proverbial door.

Apple’s huge sales volume makes carriers and suppliers more likely to agree to its terms. The software that powers everything Apple makes – all variations of the Mac operating system OS X – is as intuitive to developers as Angry Birds is to app shoppers.

The result is economic leverage of staggering power. To create a blockbuster, Apple doesn’t need to spend billions on a start-from-scratch moon-shot of a development project. It just needs to tweak a previous hit.

Take the iPad, which is in many ways a large iPod touch. Apple won’t say how much the iPad cost to develop. Consider these numbers, though: In the year that ended Sept. 30, during which Apple introduced the iPad and the iPhone 4, the company spent $1.8 billion on research and development. Over the same period, Apple’s revenue increased by $22.3 billion. Nokia spent three times as much as Apple on R&D – $5.86 billion – and increased revenue by just $1.5 billion. No wonder that Apple, whose share of total global mobile-phone sales is only 4.2 percent, gets more than half the profit generated by the industry, according to research firm Asymco.

Fast-growing Android

Even Google, Apple’s mightiest rival, got only a $5 billion increase in sales on its $3.4 billion R&D budget. It does have plenty to show for its efforts, though: Its Android platform is growing at a blistering pace. In the fourth quarter, according to research firm Canalys, twice as many Android devices shipped as iPhones.

“Google is being far more aggressive in building its platform than Microsoft ever was,” says Bill Gurley, a partner at Benchmark Capital.

Barring big surprises, the other contenders – RIM, HP, and Microsoft – are in for a slog: too dependent on mobile devices to give up, yet lacking the tools to make much progress. All lost market share in 2010 and have far fewer apps available for their devices.”

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Here is a good weekend article around youth online behaviours well worth a reading. The SF Chronichle article points out that Twitter has failed to catch up among the young, Myspace invites for blogging in contrary to Facebook that is more of a staus/ short message socializing forum.

Questions that I get from this is how to reach the youth with businessmodels, enabling profits, advertising etc. Also, if the lifecycles of products are as shorts as a few years, what happens with existing, but declining businesses?

Gerbsman Partners are able to provide leadership in this questions, please contact us for more information.

“Teenagers and young adults spent less time blogging during the past three years as social networks like Facebook became more popular, according to a Pew Research Center study released Wednesday.

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