As news of Osama bin Laden's death surfaced Sunday night, the web reacted immediately with a hailstorm of emotion. People took to their Facebook and Twitter accounts to report the news and voice their own opinions. NetBase Solutions found that the number of postings about Bin Laden on Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites surpassed those on Prince William's royal wedding and the Japan earthquake, according to the Wall Street Journal. Major news sites all saw huge spikes in traffic on the Monday after the news was announced, according to Hitwise, with ABCNews.com getting the biggest one-week increase in traffic (Monday vs. previous Monday) at 373%, probably due to an exclusive video they obtained taken of Bin Laden's compound. Other big gainers were MSNBC (257%), Huffington Post (245%), Yahoo News (200%), CNN (126%) and Washington Post (113%). Despite the hoopla around the web traffic boost, MediaMemo's Peter Kafka noted that Akamai traffic history showed it didn't come close to the peak traffic during World Cup matches last year. "Had this popped on a weekday, during daylight hours, it’s reasonable to think this would have been much, much bigger. Maybe not soccer big, though," Kafka wrote.
Once again, social media and Twitter in particular played a key role in breaking the news about the raid in Pakistan. One IT consultant, Sohair Athar, who unwittingly lived near the Bin Laden compound Abbottabad, tweeted about the helicopter landing and soon saw his Twitter followers jump from a few hundred to more than 100,000. The first credible tweet about Bin Laden's death came from Keith Urbahn, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's chief of staff, according to The New York Times' Brian Stelter. But Urbahn later pointed out that he learned about it from a television producer. In a Pew Internet survey, 47 percent of people under the age of 35 said they first heard about Bin Laden's death from television, while 21 percent said they got the news from the web. Among older age groups, far more people learned the news from television -- about 59 percent of those aged 35 to 64, according to TechNewsDaily. "What's unique about social media is that members are connected to each other on a mass level, allowing for both individual and collective voices to be heard when breaking news happens," communications professor Scott Campbell told TechNewsDaily.
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Earnings have been a mixed bag lately especially if you're a company not named Apple or Google. However, among more recent earnings announcements, Demand Media managed to stand out a bit from the crowd by beating analyst expectations, reporting revenue of $79.5 million, up 48 percent from the same period last year. But the content provider's positive news was tempered by gloomier reports that it was being hit hard by Google's algorithm changes -- code-named "Panda" -- which weeds out lower quality content. Demand said it plans to shutter a program that lets anyone publish on eHow and will bring in higher-quality feature stories, according to Reuters' Jennifer Saba. Following the announcement and earnings report, investors applauded the move, pushing Demand's stock up 18.3 percent. But can Demand's content efforts outsmart Panda? Quality control could be an uphill battle for a company derided as being a "content farm" of mass produced stories.
Meanwhile, MySpace's search income is bogging down News Corp., pushing its profit down by 24 percent. News Corp. reported a net income of $639 million, or 24 cents a share, down from $839 million, a year ago, according to MediaMemo's Peter Kafka. MySpace contributed to a $165 million loss within its unit due mostly to lower advertising and search revenue, and News Corp. is still eyeing some way to either spin off or sell the declining social net. In a similar tale of acquisitions bogging down heavyweights, AOL's earnings told us what investors really think of its HuffPo deal. The beleaguered Internet company's first-quarter profit fell 86 percent to $4.7 million, down from $34.7 million a year ago. CEO Tim Armstrong tried to paint the company's global display-ad revenue, up a modest 4%, as a success, rising for the first time in more than three years. At Washington Post, print declines stabilized a bit, while revenues at Washingtonpost.com and Slate were up 8%, with a 9% gain on display ad revenues and 6% growth in online classifieds.
Publishers were aghast at some of the strict terms that Apple laid down for subscriptions for the iPad. But it was nothing that some old-fashioned wheeling and dealing couldn't fix. In the end, Apple needs the magazine publishers as much as they need Apple. The key to making the deals work was that Apple backed off some of its demands, and will now share subscriber data with publishers and allow them to offer free iPad editions to print subscribers. While the Wall Street Journal's Russell Adams reported that Hearst had inked a deal to sell iPad apps for Esquire, Popular Mechanics and O for $1.99 a month or $19.99 a year, rival Conde Nast pushed to forward with its own deal to get content into iTunes even faster. A source told The New York Post's Keith Kelly that The New Yorker will become the first publication from Conde Nast to be available via subscription on the iPad, and it will happen as soon as this week.
Meanwhile, Time has made a deal with Apple to make all its iPad editions available for free to print subscribers. Those who subscribe to Time, Sports Illustrated, and Fortune magazines will be able to access iPad content through apps that authenticate them as subscribers, according to the WSJ. Before the deal, most magazine subscribers had to pay a fee to access iPad content. While Hearst might not be the first out the door with iPad subscriptions, it could be a step ahead on larger online ads. WSJ's Emily Steel reports that the company will soon start selling a large-size digital ad that AOL has been pushing. The ads, which are approximately four times the size of regular display ads, should allow advertisers to get more creative and will be offered on such sites as Cosmopolitan.com, Esquire.com, Goodhousekeeping.com and Marieclaire.com. Hearst will sell the ads to its clients and pay a technology fee to AOL, which cold help bolster the Internet company's sagging revenue.
When a screenshot from a Yahoo company webcast was leaked onto the web in December, the blogosphere was in a frenzy with the revelation that Delicious, the once-popular social bookmarking service Yahoo owns, was among a list of products that were expected to be shuttered. Now, lo and behold, the site has found a way to jump ship. YouTube co-founders Chad Hurley and Steve Chen announced they acquired it from Yahoo for an undisclosed sum. Hurley and Chen, who sold YouTube to Google in 2006, plan to make Delicious part of their new Internet company, AVOS. Most agree that the purchase is a win-win, with PaidContent's Joseph Tartakoff calling it "a move that likely signals a coming renaissance for the service." Delicious struggled to find a path to profitability and had been losing ground as a bookmarking service. Although the service has a strong community of loyalists, it's no longer a tech darling. Hurley and Chen, however, say they have big plans for Delicious and are offering to transform it into the "best information discovery service on the web," according to Wired News.
What's next for the social bookmarking site? Hurley and Chen haven't been completely clear about their plans, but they've said they hope to solve the problem of information overload. And industry watchers are saying that with the excess of information on the web today, there's room for someone to step in and help out in that respect. "If Google is the definitive search engine of today's Internet, and Bing is the 'decision engine,' then it's plausible that the Delicious of tomorrow could be a true 'discovery engine,'" said SearchEngineWatch's Paul Burani. And under the helm of Hurley and Chen, who are certainly no newbies to online ventures, Delicious could have a chance at revitalizing the social information discovery space. "Social bookmarks maintain some definite advantages over other ways to share links, such as Twitter," said MIT Technology Review's Erica Naone. "For one thing, they gather related topics together. Delicious can create a living, breathing archive of relevant information surrounding important key words."
With all the hubbub surrounding how much Facebook is really worth, it's easy to ignore the actual revenue numbers that the social networking giant has pulled in from display ads. On the heels of a Wall Street Journal report saying that Facebook is expected to exceed $2 billion in earnings (before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) this year, comScore came out with numbers showing the social network had 346 billion ad impressions in the first quarter of this year, up 17% from the third quarter of last year, and accounting for 31% of all U.S. online display ad views. And the second biggest publisher of display ads, Yahoo, is far behind at just 10%, according to comScore. That helped fuel more speculation about a coming IPO, according to a report in the Journal. That report noted that eMarketer estimated Facebook's ad revenues this year at $4.05 billion, up from $1.86 billion last year. One bullish analyst pegged Facebook's value on the market at $112.9 billion, and the Journal noted that the social network's ad prices were on the upswing, with Efficient Frontier finding ads cost 40% more per click.
In the world of mobile apps, there are two races happening. The Android Market is racing to pass the leader, Apple's App Store, in number of apps on offer. But at the same time, the Android Market is far behind in revenues because of the proliferation of free apps there. Germany's Research2guidance said the Android Market gained 28,000 new apps uploaded in April alone, compared with 11,000 for the App Store. With those numbers in mind, the research firm predicted that the Android Market will push past the App Store in total number of apps in August. But on the revenue side, research firm IHS Screen Digest found that mobile app sales will reach more than $3.8 billion this year with Apple's App Store accounting for $2.9 billion of that, or 76 percent market share. And even in 2014, when the market totals a projected $8.3 billion in revenues, Apple will still hold onto a whopping 60 percent market share, IHS found. While Android will gain a huge 300% in app revenues this year, Research in Motion's Blackberry will drop below Android in app revenues.
As one of my colleagues in the so-called 'mainstream media' told me, 'Social media, at least in this country, basically is the phone system on the old ‘Andy Griffith Show’: People listen in and half-hear things, then spread around rumors and gossip like manure.
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