This Just In: American Idol May Be Fixed

Stoopid judges expose Idol as Quiz Show, 21st century edition. Wotta surprise. And who cares? It's pop entertainment, people.

    As Mr. Seacrest anxiously glanced offstage for help, Mr. Jackson, beside Ms. Abdul at the judges’ table, gently prompted her to make comments “just on the first one.” Confused, Ms. Abdul said to Mr. Castro, “I thought you sang twice.” After realizing what had occurred, she then explained that she got her notes mixed up and had meant her comments to be about the next singer, David Cook. But instead of repeating that she thought Mr. Cook had given an uninspired performance, she told him, “You were fantastic.”

AOL 1Q08 Ad Revenue Details

Some more details on AOL's ad business after I finally got to listen to Time Warner's 1Q08 earnings call.

Overall advertising was up 1% to $552 million. That's down 11% from Q4. Besides screwing up its sales force, management blamed that result on:
- $19M accounting difference a year ago
- Ad.com's biggest customer, Apollo (aka University of Phoenix) only spent $17M this Q versus $56M a year ago. Apollo generated $250M$215M in revenues for AOL last year.
- It got rid of $10M worth of bounty fees from an unprofitable sponsorship deal with Goldrush
- CPM compression was was "an issue of our own yield management" -- ie they sold too much network inventory instead of premium O&O inventory

Display ad sales on AOL's own properties were down 18% to $191 million. This was blamed mostly on the sales channel conflict between the network ad sales force and the AOL properties sales force, which should be fixed now (though full benefits beyond Q2). Users are flat (relatively good as AOL access business fades) and page views and pages/users were actually up nicely.

Third-party network sales were up 25% to $188 million. If you strip out Apollo and acquisitions, growth was "much higher."

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Time Warner Loves Day and Date VoD

A tidbit from Time Warner's earnings call. Warner Bros. et al are very pleased with VoD day and date trials. That is, releasing a movie to VoD at the same time it's released to DVD. (DVD used to have the earlier release window.) So much so it's planning to release "essentially all" its titles that way this year.

Time Warner maintains that DVD sell-through is not affected -- it even claims sell-through is up a bit because there's less competition with used rentals. VoD margins for the studio are in the 60-70% range, while DVD rental margins are 20-30%, it says. So, Blockbuster and Netflix are the only victims.

Adify snapped up

Adify got snapped up by Cox a few days ago for a reported $300 million. You may recall that I mentioned Adify in a recent post about vertical networks being all the rage right now.
Cox will use the Adify platform to help its own media outlets and partners build out networks online, a way to increase reach and revenue for all involved. Each partner will have a different group of little sites to manage, from blogs to fan sites. These small sites don't necessarily have the panel data available that newspaper and TV advertisers typically want, so there might be some difficulty for the sales department. The CPMs could be low until this is figured out.

TV Guide Talks Online Video Guide Strategy

PaidContent is wisely wondering about TVGuide.com's future if the proposed merger of TV Guide/Gemstar and Macrovision goes through, especially since Macrovision hinted it might unload the magazine. Meanwhile, among other things, TVGuide.com is attempting to establish itself as the guide to (professional) video content online. There'll be a lot of competition for that role.

Some things TVGuide.com is doing well

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You Only Hurt the Ones You Love, Part XIII

What's wrong with this sentence?

The marketing hoax is an attempt by the South Korean electronics company to overcome the commoditization of the television business.

Perhaps this is an attempt at irony; surely it's not an accurate description of LG's marketing strategy. LG is trying to combat TV price declines via design -- in this case, color. And promoting the idea via gimmicky marketing events, which to judge by the story, were largely successful.

If this is what happens when Murdoch takes over and threatens to fire a lot of editors, then I'm not impressed. C'mon guys, you're still my favorite newspaper.

Take It Away, Please

Well, it's only day one of NPR's new morning show, The Takeaway, but I'm distinctly underwhelmed. According to coverage in both the Sunday Times and the Journal the new show is an alternative to Morning Edition in major markets like New York and Boston that's supposed to feel fresher, using live co-anchors. Well, it felt like amateur hour today.

The Takeaway debuted at 6AM in New York with dead air. Former Morning Edition host Bob Edwards, himself booted in a youth movement, was supposed to intro, but WNYC botched the feed. The co-anchors don't have any chemistry or rhythm yet and constantly talk over each other. An interview with an ambassador from Zimbabwe -- these things can always be risky -- not only produced the standard non-answers, but the ambassador nipped back at the interviewer and made him look as overmatched as Lesley Stahl trying to smile through her sparring match with Justice Scalia last night on 60 Minutes. Much ballyhooed "interactivity" -- it used to be called talk radio, but no listeners were actually on the air -- sponsored maybe 5 responses during the 6AM hour.

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The Conflict of Interest of Change

Mary Beth Kemp

Both Agencies and clients have asked who and what type of agency will best drive the evolution to a more integrated and ‘connected’ agency.

I recently heard much frustration from one large advertiser who sees his primary agency partner buying - quite largely - into digital, mobile…yet the agency still delivers ad plans to his marketing team which are essentially 100% television-based. A strategic contradiction that hinders his company’s evolution, “don't they understand that they aren’t helping me move to digital?”

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Keeping Score: 1Q08 Online Ad Growth

Microsoft/MSN showed solid online advertising growth, growing 39% in Q1 worldwide to $619 million. If you subtract aQuantive's ad revenue of $47 million, it still grew 29%. MSN, however, suffered over $200 million in losses.

So, if you're keeping score, and my calculations are correct, worldwide online ad sales growth for Q1 is looking like this:

Google (ex-TAC) &nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp$3.75 billion, up 45%
Yahoo (ex-TAC) &nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp$1.1 billion, up 13%
Microsoft (minimal TAC included) &nbsp&nbsp&nbsp$619 million, up 39%

AOL still to come.

Wireless - Why am I paying to sign up? But they pay me to take the phone ...

So, I tried to switch service providers the other day. I really wanted to switch, but I couldn't figure out the math or get a deal that suited me.

I wanted to get a voice plan (ca. 900 minutes) and a data plan. I also wanted to be able to use at least two phones. (OK, yes, this story is about a GSM carrier.) Here are the problems I encountered:

1) The first thing I learned is that not all data plans (just data access) are equal. In my mind, a small screen phone with full browser vs. a medium-sized screen phone with limited browser (no email service) seemed comparable. Prices, however, were really different. Crazy.

2) They wanted me to pay them an activation fee for an account. I didn't want a subsidized phone. I was just a walk-in customer off the street who wanted a plan. They wanted me to pay them to become a customer. I asked them to waive the fee, but they wouldn't. I even waited around for a while (this works in the fruit markets in Morocco, and has been a successful tactic for me in the past at places such as Virgin Records, Best Buy, Good Guys, etc.) to see if they would change their minds. They didn't. I walked out. I have about five phones with service, and I'm not on contract (which I told them) so I had time.

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