MySpace Sale Update –

Pop star Justin Timberlake is part of a group that said Wednesday it will buy MySpace from News Corp., a bid to add some cool to a social network that has been losing it for some time. 

Timberlake will become a part owner and play “a major role in developing the creative direction and strategy for the company moving forward,” according to Specific Media, the company that he will partner with.

The deal is for $35 million, mostly in Specific Media stock, according to a person familiar with the matter. The deal values MySpace at a fraction of what News Corp. paid for the site six years ago and paves the way for the layoff of about half of the 500 workers, the person said. As part of the exchange, News Corp. will receive a private equity stake in Specific Media.


Amazon Drops California In Growing E-Commerce Affiliate Tax Law War

In the ongoing state-by-state battle over tax collection on affiliate website sales, this afternoon Amazon warned thousands of affiliates their revenue streams would be shut off if a tax bill would be signed into law. Mere hours later,Governor Jerry Brown signed the bill, signifying tough times ahead for many online business owners.

States are scrambling for cash, so it’s no surprise they see a pot of gold in e-commerce sales. Brick and mortar sites – such as Wal-Mart – that have failed to grasp the opportunities Amazon created with programs (like Affiliates) are out for blood.

Essentially, certain states have grubbed for tax money by passing laws that expand the definition of physical presence. They are specifically targeting e-commerce sites that work with affiliates – more specifically, websites that partner with Amazon as Affiliates to earn commissions from individual sales.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos believes the actions of the states to be unconstitutional and that this should be resolved at the federal, not the state level.

Last year Colorado signed a new law that extended nexus to e-commerce affiliates. The law required online retailers like Amazon to give Colorado residents a bill on how much they owe in sales tax on web purchases, and provide summaries of individual web purchases to the state. Amazon responded, as like with California, for better or worse, by cutting off its Colorado affiliates.

Score 1 for Amazon!!!

Casting for “Lincoln” Taking Shape

David Strathairn has been set for a key role in Lincoln by director Steven Spielberg. He’ll play William Seward, Abraham Lincoln’s Secretary of State, an outspoken abolitionist and a core member of Lincoln’s wartime cabinet. He joins Daniel Day-Lewis as Lincoln and Sally Field as Mary Todd Lincoln. The DreamWorks film has been set to begin production this fall in Virginia for a late 2012 release through Disney’s Touchstone label.

Two-time Academy Award winner Daniel Day-Lewis will star as the 16th President of the United States in DreamWorks Studios’ Lincoln to be directed by Steven Spielberg.  Sally Field will also star as Mary Todd Lincoln.”

“Daniel Day-Lewis would have always been counted as one of the greatest of actors, were he from the silent era, the golden age of film or even some time in cinema’s distant future. I am grateful and inspired that our paths will finally cross with Lincoln,” said Steven Spielberg.  “Throughout his career, he has been exceptionally selective in his choice of material,” added Stacey Snider, “which makes us feel even more fortunate that he has chosen to join with us for Lincoln.”

Tommy Lee Jones, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Hal Holbrook, James Spader, John Hawkes, Tim Blake Nelson, Bruce McGill and Joseph Cross are in negotiations to join the cast of DreamWorks Studios’ “Lincoln,”As well.  Tony Kushner wrote the script based on Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals and Kathleen Kennedy is producing with Spielberg.

Smells like Oscars to me!

MySpace: FOR SALE?

An inside source at MySpace disclosed to news sources that over a third of its staff is to be cut in the coming days. At the same time, MySpace may be sold (there are currently 2 bidders) and News Corp is trying to get this deal done by Thursday (!) to make quarter end.  News Corp wants $100 Million (really), but realistically, the bids will be much lower.

Stay tuned…!  In other news…

Over 150 members of staff will be shed this week — according to these insider sources — although the timing has yet to be confirmed with a statement from the company, which is so far not saying anything.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise, with nearly half of its staff being let go earlier on this year. 

Though MySpace is not used by the very vast majority of the Generation Y nowadays, the memories of ‘once was’ will resonate through this entire demographic.

It is hard to think of a time without Facebook, but there was. MySpace filled that gap — with flashing animated GIFs as wallpapers and nothing but user generated content; without the need for definitive expression or linear articulation.

News Corporation acquired a sinking ship when it bought it in the first place. But the Generation Y have since said their short goodbyes to the network in favour of more business-oriented and structured sites — particularly Facebook and LinkedIn.

Death of a Threat: Netflix CEO Joins Facebook Board… It Matters (NFLX)

Netflix, Inc. (NASDAQ: NFLX) was under some worries before when Facebook announced that it was going to get into video delivery of selected movies.  In a SWOT analysis, the Facebook issue always fell under the O and the T as opportunity and threat alike.  This no longer appears to be a threat.  Facebook has announced today that Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix will join the Facebook board of directors.

MarketWatch has a full backgrounder on the news here.  Facebook is obviously gearing up its team for an upcoming IPO.  It is one of our Top 17 IPOs To Watch in 2011.

Why this matters is complex, yet simple enough.  There was a thought that it is only natural for Facebook to get into digital distribution of films.  The outfit has even announced some limited streaming deals already.

If Facebook wanted to get deep into the video distribution business, it has hundreds of millions accounts already.  The movie studios have already shown over and that they are all just about willing to take the arms-dealer business model and deal with anyone who will pay under a contract to deliver movies.

The only real difference is over who gets the new releases first.  For Facebook to get into the video delivery business, all it has to do is to buy more bandwidth.  Still, partnering with Netflix is a no-cost or low-cost solution that could come with extremely high margins.

Big Blackberry App Producer Bails

Seesmic might have the sweetest Twitter app for Blackberry, but the Blackberry’s appeal isn’t sweet enough. Seesmic is discontinuing support for its Blackberry app on June 30.

Research in Motion, the company that makes the Blackberry, is going through a rough spot right now. But things must be pretty bad if Seesmic bailing. This is Seesmic, folks! They’ll build an app for any platform, evenWindows Phone 7.

The truth is that startups can only support so many mobile platforms. Other mobile developers might be feeling the same pressure to drop Blackberry or never create an app for it in the first place. Seesmic is definitely not alone in its assessment of the platform. Mobile Roadie recently concluded the same thing: the Blackberry is too hard to develop for and engagement is low.

What are Seesmic Blackberry users to do? On its blog, the company encourages “those effected by this change to try out Seesmic for Android, iOS and Windows Phone 7.” In other words, get a new phone.

Taco Bell’s behavioral puzzle – “We haven’t even been able to give away the food, never mind figure out how to sell it online”

Speaking to a group of Northwestern University marketing students, Yum! Brands Chief Public Affairs Officer Jonathan Blum shared the story of recent Taco Bell promotion flop that shows the difficulty the chain has had turning social media into a viable business model. Said Blum: “We haven’t even been able to give away the food, never mind figure out how to sell it online.”

Over the course of a year, the number of friends on Taco Bell’s Facebook page rocketed from 500,000 to 6 million fans. Sounds great. Then, in the middle of an ongoing unflattering lawsuit about the quality of its beef, Taco Bell decided to offer those 6 million fans a free taco — no strings attached. They didn’t need to buy anything. They were already Facebook fans, which means they had already paid the very minor costs of “liking” Taco Bell. It was an offer from a company that Blum says wanted to tell its fans, hey, come and get a free taco.

Two hundred thousand people did. Almost 97 percent on passed on free grub they supposedly “liked.”

Cases like that explain why the bulk of Taco Bell’s marketing budget goes to television (and some radio) ads. Social media remains a small part of the budget because the company hasn’t figured out how, in Blum’s words, to use it to “make the cash register ring.”