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The successful recipe of the Huffington Post

Three years after its launch by candidate-activist Arianna Huffington (bio here ), The Huffington Post is undoubtedly a success in the struggling editorial web world. With its 46 full-time staff and legion of bloggers, the site is poised to break even using only advertising revenue. In terms of audience, it is more popular than all but eight newspaper sites.
> the New Yorker explores the recipe of the Huffington Post, a mixture of strongly opinionated pieces and good basic journalism.

When Google reads your face

Let’s try a simple explanation: when you land on a web page, your attention is captured by a particular section of the page, a subject, a sub-story. Problem: the ad embedded in the page (on which you are extremely unlikely to click, let’s face it) is automatically served to you on the basis of the URL and of the general content. Google’s new patent refines this by adding a vast array of behavior components. Some sound realistic: cursor dwell time or volume up in an audio segment. Others are more futuristic: viewer eye direction, or even facial expression. But it gives an idea where Google is heading: very far.
> read the article by tech pundit Nicholas Carr
> and if you want to go to the bottom of it, you can always attack the original document filled on the US Patent Office

Would you compare your genome with mine?

Mixing genomics and social networking.That’s the pitch of 23andMe, a Silicon Valley startup. The company proposes a system where people compare their genomes. We can already foresee the conversations: “Hey, you have a predisposition to colorectal cancer? Great! Me too!”. “Oh, according to our respective genomes, we might develop Alzheimer together at the same age, isn’t it fantaaastic?!”. Meetic, Match.com will love it. Of course, mapping your 600,000 genetic variations for $999 also helps you to trace your ancestors. For the short-term, we have all the obvious business applications derivatives: from deciphering the genes to actually interpreting the results. Later, we’ll enjoy an endless stream of predictive medicine applications — hypochondria will finally become fact based. Companies like Navigenics are already on it. But there is also a darker outcome : gene-based social networking will also become the dream tool of eugenics.
> story in the MIT Technology Review

Geolocalized Social Networks

Ever heard of services called GyPSii in Europe, or Loopt in the US? Well, chances are your kids will. Unlike their parents, teenagers are less sensitive to the notion of privacy protection. Hence the success of social networks where 150m young people are putting their life online. The logical next step was to make the system mobile. This could be another killer app for cell phones: Loopt, calls itself “Your Social Compass”. For the moment, carriers are still struggling with regulatory issues: receiving unsolicited email can be an annoyance, broadcasting your exact location to others is quite something else. For now, geolocation can be made available to a group of friends — a rather extensive notion when social network become part of the formula. In the meantime, marketers salivate: imagine local advertising, mobile and dynamically pushed.
> story in the Wall Street Journal

US newspapers: Worst drop in ad revenue in 57 years

2007 was the worst year in terms of print ad revenue for American newspapers since record keeping began in 1950. Here are the main facts & figures to bear in mind from the Newspaper Association of America’s last report (tables here )
- Print advertising plunged 9.4% to $42.2bn from $46.6bn in 2006
- Losses are greater in the classified (-16.5%) than in any other area
- Internet revenue are jumping by 19% to $3.17bn
- In advertising dollars, the online gain (+$0.5bn) is peanuts compared to the total loss in print (-$4.4bn), classified loss (-$2.8bn) or the combination of national + retail ad (-$1.6bn).
- Cost cutting initiatives (in newsroom for example) won’t offset the ad and classified erosion.

Overall : for all indicators, the decline is worst than expected 18 months ago.Deterioration will continue this year (Bloomberg is mentioning a 20% drop in ads for McClatchy’s two biggest markets, California and Florida). Even if we remove the effect of the looming recession, transfers to the Internet are nothing compared to the deterioration of print. This is mostly due to poor per-reader monetization. The S&P Publishing Index reflects the situation: it lost 44% from its peak in June 2007 . And debt figures won’t help. Publishing-related bonds are falling sharply as explains Alan Mutter on his blog.

> read also David Carr’s column in the New York Times on the displeasure of newspapers owners.

Lagardère acquiring Doctissimo

Groupe Lagardère is acquiring the majority of the health specialized website Doctissimo. Lagardère Active Digital will get 53% of the capital and 58% of the voting rights of Doctissimo for about E70m that valued the company at E138m. By paying a 7.4% premium over the share price, and a multiple of 12 times the 2007 sales, the transaction seems way more reasonable than a year ago when Springer coughed up 21 times the sales for the French portal AuFeminin.com. Lagardère and Doctissimo agreed for a valuation in the low end of the E130m-E165m range set by analysts.
> story in Bloomberg
> and in Le Figaro