In another sign that news media ain’t what it used to be, a startup named Versa is launching a network for “sponsored” op-eds. Making its “Featured Perspectives” service possible, Versa just raised additional capital from The Omidyar Network, and other investors. As TechCrunch reports, Versa previously went by the name ElectNext, and specialized in publisher widgets that displayed contextual political data.
The New York Times' digital video department "has become an essential component of the company's growth strategy," but is facing a dilemma: "When you're in the business of the type of video that attracts advertisers who pay the big bucks, creating inventory turns out to be an extremely resource-intensive and time-consuming endeavor. Demand can therefore outpace supply," writes Joe Pompeo. Last year, in fact, the pub failed to deliver content for two big video deals -- one with Acura and the other with Microsoft. Pompeo surveys the problem and how the company is aiming to solve it.
Moms are still looking to print rather than digital media for special deals, with 78% of moms surveyed by Womensforum.com depending on print ads and 65% on supermarket circulars to find coupons. Meanwhile, 55% "said they often get coupons online, too," writes Christopher Heine.
Not wasting any time, Hale Global -- which recently bought a majority stake in Patch from AOL -- has reportedly laid off nearly two-thirds of the service’s editorial staff. And that may be a best-case scenario, considering that some Patch employees are suggesting to Romenesko that 90% of Patch staff are getting kicked to the curb. “Patch senior vice president/revenue Jim Lipuma has also left the company,” Romenesko reports. Officially, Hale Global and AOL created a joint venture to run Patch.
Last.fm, CBS Interactive’s Web radio unit, has tapped Spotify to offer users an on-demand track player. Per the pact, Spotify’s playbar is being added to the bottom of Last.fm's site, “where users can play and control any song in Spotify's catalog,” CNet reports. “The inability to play entire catalogs of artists -- something that requires onerous negotiations with labels to reach expensive licensing deals -- has long been a missing link of Last.fm's discovery service.”
Good news for Comcast in its Q4 returns: The cable provider and owner of NBCUniversal tracked a 26% increase in net income compared to 2012 numbers, to a total of $1.9 billion. And for the first time in more than 26 quarters, it added 43,000 TV subscribers, reversing a longtime downward spiral. "Comcast’s results met or exceeded estimates across most of its units," writes Ravi Somaiya.
Six-year-old magazine Pacific Standard is tracking its best-ever month of online traffic, 1.25 million unique views, with readers drawn to two different stories, one on online harassment of women, the other a human-interest/trend feature about artisanal toast. Sara Laskow profiles the print and online pub, which aims to overturn the idea that "thought-leader magazines get published on the East Coast, and that’s that."
Still no sign of an actual TV set, but big things are happening within Apple’s TV division. Apple’s Online Store just added an entire Apple TV section, while “the Apple TV is now promoted as a full product line alongside Macs, iPads, iPods, and iPhones,” 9To5Mac reports. The company is also reportedly working on a new set-top-box, “If Apple were to launch such a product in the near-future, it would make sense for it to have a dedicated, unhidden spot on Apple’s online store,” 9To5 reasons.
Satellite TV competitors Dish and DirecTV are partnering to sell customized political ads, using technology that lets them "send one commercial to a 50-year-old swing voter in Florida, while a neighbor would be beamed a different commercial at the same time even if both people were watching the same program," writes Liana B. Baker. In other words, addressable ads -- which could be sold as early as February "in the lead up to the midterm elections in November," writes Baker.
According to reports, Oprah Winfrey is considering retiring her post as permanent cover model for Hearst's O magazine -- an idea that causes some fun reactions from commentators here. Then there's this critique on a possible Oprah replacement: " If the publication does indeed choose to 'decorate big letter O’s, depending on the month,' they’re not trying hard enough," writes Richard Horgan.