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< — No offence to Google. I do not mean to imply that they actually are barbarians. These things happen when puns are involved. — >

The New York Times is reporting Google the winner in the competition to catch AOL, culminating in a $1 billion deal between Richard D. Parsons, CEO of Time Warner and Eric Schmidt CEO of Google around 9pm last night.

Now staring Richard ParsonsAccording to the NYTimes, the negotiations went down to the wire last night, resembling a scene from Barbarians at the Gate with a group from Microsoft in one room, a group from Google in another, and executives from AOL running between the two.

The deal gives Google a 5% stake in AOL but also sees Google agree to giving favoured placement to AOL content on the Google site. It is also an event of seismic proportions, solidifying Google’s place as the absolute dominant search entity. It also denies MSN the premium paid- advertising entry point needed to challenge that position.

Parsons called Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer this morning to break the news. When MSN enters the paid ad market, it will enter it way behind Google and Yahoo Search Marketing.

In the end, AOL gets a billion in the bank and some form of prominence on Google pages. Google keeps its biggest active rival off its back until the next deal comes along. We all get a lesson in irony as Microsoft gets a dose of karmic reality delivered by the owners of Netscape, a ghost from Microsoft’s past.

AOL, which has been likened to a greased pig, has apparently slipped out of Microsoft’s grasp and was last seen running south towards the Googleplex.

Earlier today, Reuters and the Wall St. Journal (no link – sub. req.) reported that Time Warner, owner of AOL, has entered exclusive talks with Google, effectively shutting out MSN at the last minute. The story is based on information from an unnamed source said to be close to the negotiations. A similar story that ran in the Journal last week said MSN was very close to a deal with AOL. Read more…

The greased pig of the search world is about to get caught. Apparently the pig is a prized ham after all.

Have you ever been to a greased pig catching contest? Almost twenty years ago, while hitchhiking my way across the vast Canadian prairies one youthful summer, I saw one and let me tell ya, it was better than watching donkey baseball. (another bizarre Canadian pastime. It’s best not to ask too many questions at this point eh?). Ok, here’s what happens. Read more…

An interesting phenomenon is coming to a monitor near you, perhaps the one you are looking at right now. The days of convergence are upon us. The trend towards the merging of media via the Internet is already causing significant cultural shifts as witnessed by the power bloggers have exercised in relation to TV and print journalism. What a difference an era makes. A decade ago, the traditional media set the pace by telling our stories and provided practical means of mass-communications. Today, the Internet provides a globally stable transmission line and the Web serves as both production studio and broadcast medium. The Internet’s growth and more importantly, the ease of access for anyone with a computer, a connection and a bit of talent, has pushed the majority of traditional media outlets into a period of survival strategy and planning. Read more…

The best known of all weekly alternative newspapers, New York’s Village Voice has been purchased by New Times Media. New Times owns eleven other large alternative weekly papers including The Pitch (Kansas City MO) and the Houston Press. The two publishing companies will be merged into a new firm, Village Voice Media. A part of the merger plan calls for the development of an Internet portal to compete with Yahoo and AOL.

David Schneiderman, current CEO of the Village Voice was yesterday named president of Village Voice Digital, the arm of the new company responsible for developing the portal. New Times Media also holds an Internet-based advertising agency known as the Ruxton Media Group.

The merger gives Village Voice Media access to seventeen of the largest urban markets in the United States, allowing them to compete on a more even playing field for both traditional and digital advertisers. The new firm will have a combined weekly circulation of 1.8 million papers and approximately 4.5 million weekly readers.

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Wednesday, October 12th, 2005

AOL Webcasts Green Day LA Show

AOL Webcasts Green Day LA show

AOL’s love affair with the pop-punk band Green Day continues with the live webcast of the band’s Los Angeles show last night. A replay of the entire Green Day concert is available at AOL. The show features ten songs, most of which were drawn from their latest CD, American Idiot. Read more…

Google and Microsoft appear to want many of the same things. Two years ago, when Microsoft saw that Google was threatening to dominate the Internet in much the same way Microsoft dominated the desktop, Microsoft began to move mountains to get into the search field. Since MSN released its own search tool earlier this year, the two firms have viewed the other as its chief rival and the competition between them has been tremendous. This summer, Google and Microsoft have been waging multiple battles across several fields from the courting of business in China to the courtrooms of King County. This week, a new battleground may be opening, this time in the Manhattan offices of Time Warner, the owner of AOL.

A September 15 New York Post article fueled speculation that Microsoft might be interested in acquiring a part of AOL and integrating it into MSN search. Today, rumours are circulating that Google is working to either block or outspend Microsoft’s bid. Compared with the other battles being waged between the two firms, the fight to own AOL could be a turning point for both companies.

It has been nearly six years since AOL purchased the Time Warner media empire for billions worth of stock certificates and just over five years since the bottom fell out of those stocks. Since that time, AOL has been the poor cousin in what had become the AOL Time Warner chain, performing so badly that the board of directors voted last year to remove the letters AOL from the corporate name.

In many ways, AOL has been synonymous with “second ran” for much of its existence. Its proprietary web browser, Netscape was all but destroyed by Microsoft almost ten years ago. Its user base, while still enormous, has been shrinking for several years. As an Internet Service Provider, most long-term web users liken AOL to training wheels for new-users. AOL has had few major successes in the past five years. The most obvious is the development of Firefox by the Mozilla Foundation, which AOL fostered but spun off two years ago. Another success, the reach of AOL’s advertising arm, is seen as the real prize being fought over by Microsoft and Google.

AOL provides Internet services to over 27-million people around the world. One of those services is a search-service and like most modern search services, AOL’s includes sponsored or paid advertising. Google provides search results and sponsored ads to AOL in an arrangement that supports about 12% of Google’s annual revenues. Google has long benefited from their partnership with AOL and will likely do whatever it takes to keep it.

Microsoft is very worried about the growth of Google and is determined to do whatever it can to emulate its success while hindering, slowing or stopping Google’s progress in key areas. A purchase of AOL would provide Microsoft’s MSN search division with two very powerful assets, the first being their own proprietary contextual advertising network, the second being a partnership of some sort with Time Warner (the world’s largest media conglomerate). The added bonus is the destabilizing effect of losing AOL on Google’s bottom line.

MSN needs to bulk up on its users if it is to be successful in paid-search. Gaining access to 27-million AOL members, along with millions of ICQ subscribers, CompuServe clients and AIM users, is a good way to very quickly increase an auditable user-base to serve paid-advertising to. Being able to tell potential advertisers that their ads might be viewed in the online editions of some of the world’s most popular print-magazines is a good way to boost advertising sales. Eating your competition’s lunch in the process is a priceless component to the deal that has obvious value in the long run.

In what might appear to be one of the highest stakes games of Monopoly ever played, AOL represents one of the few remaining high-power areas in which deals can be made, at least in the current configuration of the search game-board. Both Google and Microsoft would both see great benefits from an acquisition of AOL, including the virtual hobbling of the other.

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Wednesday, July 20th, 2005

Stats, Facts and Organic SEO

Everybody loves lists and statistics. From the annual Top100 movies of all time lists to the Top10 cities in which to live, even the simplest comparative studies can captivate people and inform pop-culture opinions. Folks use lists to prove points, gauge their own successes and get a reckoning on what’s going on around them. Read more…

The Rubicon has been crossed. Even for traditionalists, there is no going back. The Internet has finally become the world’s primary marketing tool, fundamentally altering corporate ad planning and spending. Momentum had been building around the online marketing sector for over three years but 2005 appears to be the year that mainstream marketers notice their universe has changed. Read more…

Twenty years ago, the lead singer of the Irish punk band The Boomtown Rats, Bob Geldof organized two concurrent concerts, one at Wembley Stadium, London, the other at JFK Stadium in Philadelphia, to send money and food to famine stricken Ethiopia. Known as Live Aid, the concerts were a follow-up to a global effort on the part of recording artists through the UK , US and Canadian Band-Aid recordings. On July 2nd of this year, musicians around the world will band together to do it again with five simultaneous concerts planned for London, Berlin, Rome, Paris and Philadelphia. Read more…

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