Tuesday, February 08, 2011

AOL Buys Huffington Post At $315 M; Zennie62.com Val $864,930


How much money is your blog worth?

Yep. You're reading that right, according to one website, that this blogger used for the first time (never saw it before) Zennie62.com is worth $864,930.

On Sunday night, well after the conclusion of Super Bowl XLV, and the emergence of the new NFL Champion, The Green Bay Packers, another event happened that, for moment, caught the attention of Twitter, becoming a top trend: "Huff Po."

That was because America Online just shocked the Internet world and purchased a blog site called The Huffington Post for a record $315 million, or to put it another way, almost a third of a billion.

Now, as I said in my video below, blog valuations will increase. No, the Huff Post sale to AOL in no way impacted the MyBlogValue.com estimate for Zennie62.com, but the simple fact is more and more blog owners have looked at their blogs as investment vehicles, and as online new traffic has increased and newspaper readership falls more and more, blogs are looked at as more than "legitimate" news sources. Now, they're solid revenue-generators.

Want more proof?  You may know that AOL also purchased TechCrunch for $30 million, and already owned Engaget after buying it and Jason Calicanis'  blog network for $25 million in 2005, but between 2005 and now, a wave of blogs have been purchased, or have been acquisition targets.  If you're wondering what the common draw tends to be, it's one person.  That is, the blogs and blog networks that have been sold were started by one or two people and came to be known by those personalties.  Perez Hilton of PerezHilton.com, and Michael Arrington of TechCrunch.com are the two best examples.

In Perez' case, his blog has been valued at as great as $38 million last year.   And while estimates of PerezHilton.com's actual worth vary wildly, there's no question that more often than not, the number falls between $20 million and $40 million.  And that's for a blog that's more associated with one person, and not a staff of bloggers, like TechCrunch.    Personality drives blog value.

AOL's Tim Armstrong was basically paying for Arianna Huffington as much as the gargantuan traffic levels The Huffington Post generates.  For all of the writers and bloggers, and recent staff additions like Howard Fineman, the "Huff Po" has always been seen for what it is: a child of Arianna Huffington.

Take a look at the list of the 25 most valuable blogs in 2009, and the majority of them are known for the work of a single person, or at best, a few people: Gawker Properties, Huffington Post, The Drudge Report, Perez Hilton, PopSugar, TechCrunch, MacRumors, SeekingAlpha, GigaOm, Politico, SmashingMagazine, SearchEngineLand, Boing Boing , ReadWriteWeb, SB Nation, Destructoid, Mashable, Alley Insider sites, slashfilm, The Superficial Network, Neatorama, Daily Kos , Talking Points Memo, VentureBeat, and Wowowow.com.

Moreover, many of the blog on that list have been acquired since then.

What Does This All Mean?

What this all means is that a hyperlocal blog like The Bay Citizen is less likely to fit in that group of blogs "ready to be bought" because there are two problems: established local news sites, and math. A hyperlocal blog or website is a slave to its population size. And established news websites are hostitle to, and don't seek to partner with, sites like The Bay Citizen. The only way to grow is for such a blog to stop being "hyperlocal" and be more "local," having a mix of civic-interest, and World-interest content. That's what Zennie62.com's built to do.

The New York Observer is a great example here, as well - actually a better one.  While it covers New York City, it really focuses on pop-culture and then asks "Who in New York is impacting World pop culture?"  Thus, it's not surprising to see posts on Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg next to posts on The Hotel Chantelle, and then a post asking "What Did Wil.I.Am: tweet at the Super Bowl?"

(I've tried to explain that hyperlocal's a stupid idea, but my thought now is to let the hyperlocal blogs just pass on because their founders just don't listen and some established news websites don't listen either.)

This also means that more local blogger have to team up, but with so much vanity it's hard to actually cause such a dynamic to happen: everyone seems to want what the other person has already built. But I think this current wave of very public blog acquisitions will force bloggers as a whole to stop being immature, start thinking of their blogs are the business units they really are, and seek their potential value sooner rather than later.

Stay tuned.

Art Schlichter's Alleged Ticket Scheme

Art Schlichter, former Ohio State All-American quarterback, is currently being investigated for the role he may be playing in an alleged sports ticket scheme that is raking in millions of dollars, according to CBS.

WBNS online, Central Ohio's News Leader, reports that sports fans were promised hundreds of thousands of dollar in sporting event tickets, but the money was never received.

There are at least six lawsuits filed against Schlichter's partner in crime, Anita Barney, a woman from Dublin whose husband was the co-founder off the Wendy's restaurant chain.

WBNS' Paul Aker reported that Barney is also accused of writing bad checks to cover the debts. She was not reached for comments but her attorney said that she was conned by Schlichter. A text message from the football star said:

"it will help a lot of people and "this addiction is an (expletive)."

Aaron Rodgers On David Letterman, At Disney World

In case you missed it, here's former Cal Bears Quarterback and now Green Bay Packers Super Bowl XVL Winning QB Aaron Rodgers on The Late Show With David Letterman.

It was a full first day basking in the glow for the two-year Cal great, just 24 hours or so from beating the Pittsburgh Steelers 31 to 25. He was at Disney World that morning, in a parade in his honor. (The amazing photo by Nickel Media and posted on Flickr for blog use.)

Then, Rodgers flew to New York to be on David Letterman's show that evening, thus completing his East Coast swing.

On Letterman, while Rodgers explained how Cal Football Coach Jeff Tedford found him while scouting for Butte Community College tight end Garrett Cross. As Rodgers explained, Tedford saw him and called that evening to offer a scholarship.

But instead of continuing that conversation, Letterman went off on the idea that Rodgers supposedly played with "ex-cons and 25-year olds," the East Coast media line that was propagated during Super Bowl media week.

Because of that, Cal lost any hope of more Letterman glory. RATS!

I was waiting for Aaron to bring David back on course, but you know what? It's his moment.

But I can't help but think would Rodgers or for that matter Jahvid Best, have been more an advocate for Cal if they were four-year players? Moreover, what does this say about Cal overall that it's main would-be spokes people, it's players gaining a national spotlight, aren't really speaking up for it.

Something's wrong with this picture.


Oakland Video Blogger Video "My City : Oakland" Shows Kids Views

An interesting video I just ran across by Oakland YouTuber floralhoippietown, who wanted to provide a way for Oakland's kids to express how they see the city. The video is just over five minutes long, but presents a good example of how we can "see" our city through the eyes of the young.

If you have a similar video like this, email me about it. I'll feature it.

Priscilla Chan Victim to Facebook Stalking

Priscilla Chan is Mark Zuckerberg's girlfriend. College News reports that she and Zuckerberg have been victims of Facebook stalking and have taken out a restraining order against the stalker, Pradeep Manukonda, 31.

Time online reports that Manukonda followed Zuckerberg home and sent him flowers along with a handwritten letter.

TMZ obtained a Facebook rant that was sent to Zuckerberg's sister Randi:

Super Bowl XVL Ticket Fiasco - Patron Speaks On It And Dallas As Host

The Dallas / Arlington Ft.Worth - but let's just say "Dallas Super Bowl" - was marred by weather, bad planning, and a ticket fiasco so talked about it wound up in David Letterman's monologue last night on Late Night With David Letterman.

Now, a patron comes forward to talk, on video, about the Super Bowl XVL Ticket Fiasco and how Dallas performed as a Super Bowl game host: my long time friend Stuart Guskind, who was one of the 500 or so people to get tickets to seats that a fire marshall has not signed off on, for some reason.  (We talked using Skype live video, Monday. Guskind was in a Dallas restaurant and had his webcam and wifi-ready laptop with him, so we made a video interview on the spot, that I recorded from Georgia.)

"Stewie," as we call him, is part of a group of friends I've been to eight Super Bowls with, going back to the 2000 Super Bowl in Atlanta, where we met. That's where I met our mutual friend, and one of my best friends now, Beth, who worked for the NFL, and also for sports agent Leigh Steinberg; Stewie has been a family friend to Beth and her brothers. So, as a whole, we've seen a lot of Super Bowls.

But Super Bowl XVL was different. Generally, because I got to within eight NFL votes of bringing the Super Bowl to Oakland, the NFL has annually allowed me to buy two tickets at face value to the game. That's gold I've never took for granted. On two occasions, I've given one of my two tickets to Stewie or one of Beth's Brothers. (Yep, given it, not taken extra money for it.)

The only one time I've sold my Super Bowl tickets was for the Jacksonville game in 2005 and because just before it, my Mom called to say she was diagnosed with Breast Cancer - I called the NFL to let them know what I was going to do. (She survived, was later declared cancer-free, and I watched Super Bowl XVL with her at home in Georgia.)

As for Super Bowl XVL, I knew it was going to be a spread out affair, and elected not to go last fall. Beth and her brothers didn't go either. That left Stewie, who took his son to his first Super Bowl experience; as you will learn, it didn't go all that well. Stewie and I talked about it for a good 30 minutes on video (I took the most usable Skype files as the recording signal kept going up and down for a time.)

So how was it for Stewie?

"We've been to about eight or nine Super Bowls (together) Zen," he said, "this was the worst." It was the worst set up I've ever seen at a Super Bowl. They were short on staff, there was no sign-up leading to gates, there were gates that were not open, people were stuck two hours waiting to get it, older people who were handicapped had a difficult time trying to get it, and if they weren't in a wheelchair, forget it. If they had a cane to walk with, they stood in line like every other slob did. It was awful. It was terribly set up."

The Fire Marshall Ticket Fiasco And Ticket Brokers

Stewie's experience was marred, first, by a Dallas cab driver strike. The shortage of cabs from the hotel he stayed at The Sheraton North Dallas (where, Stewie says, the staff was "unbelievably awesome"), to the stadium, caused him to pay $300 to get their on game day.

At first, he didn't have Super Bowl tickets, and ticket brokers, who he says "took over the Super Bowl" and ruined it for patrons, were charging upwards of $3,800 for a single ticket! Guskind was fortunate enough to happen upon a woman who won her tickets via a lottery and sold two of them to him for $1,500 each - still higher than the $800 face value, but better than what others were paying brokers for their tickets.

So he had his tickets for $3,000 and spent $300 to get to Cowboys Stadium because of gouging cab drivers, but his troubles were just beginning.

He tried to buy a ticket to The NFL Tailgate Party: an event annually held before the game on stadium grounds for the "NFL Family." I've been to three parties of this kind: in Atlanta, San Diego in 2003, and Miami in 2007, and only once did I pay a scalper the price of $50 to get a ticket. Yeah, $50 in San Diego and from a person who was waiting for people to show up, they didn't come, and I refused to pay $100 for a tailgate ticket, so I talked him into the $50 price.

Stewie wasn't so lucky. This is another example of where ticket brokers have taken over the Super Bowl.

"Brokers were charging $1,500 to $2,000 a ticket to get into the tailgate party," he said. Stewie managed to spend $200 for two tickets, so that was $400. But the way the NFL Tailgate Party - a giant pre-game event with top name performers, all the gourmet food you can eat, and celebrities everywhere -  works, you have to have your Super Bowl Game ticket and the NFL Tailgate Party Ticket to get into the it. That's where things got weirder still for Stewie.

"We wait in line for an hour," he says "we get in, we get the pat down, go in, and it (the Super Bowl tickets) comes up declined. So the supervisor comes over and says 'We've got a problem with your tickets.' From what we hear, the fire marshall hasn't signed off on your seats. So she says 'We can't allow you into the stadium.' I say 'Hold on, I've got tickets for the Tailgate Party, she says 'We don't care. We can't let you in. Your tickets have not been signed off on.' I was like, 'Hold on. You're telling me that the tickets, that we got, that someone got from the NFL; I paid for these - they're not fraudulent."

She agreed but said she could not let he and his son in. Stewie said "I'm not waiting in line again. She said 'Sir, you need to leave.' (He says) Listen, I'm not leavin'. I just waited in line for an hour-and-a-half, I'm not waiting another hour-and-a-half to get back in." Then the stadium supervisor says to Stewie that he has to go to something called "The NFL Ticket Teissuance Lot" to get reissued tickets.

Stewie said - and rightly because there's no such thing as an "NFL Ticket Reissuance Lot," she made that up - "I'm not leaving." The Supervisor said that if he didn't leave "We're going to bring the police over here, and they're going to arrest you."


The stadium screws up and threatens to arrest him, rather than help him.

So - as I predicted while Stewie was explaining what happened - they sent him to "Lot 11" and no one was there. And another security guard said the stadium people were sending patrons to Lot 11, but they needed to go to Lot 4, clear on the other side of the massive Cowboys Stadium. It took he and his Son another 20 minutes or so to walk over to Lot 4.

But once they got to Lot 4, it was fenced off. So another security guard sent them over to a trailer: the NFL Ticketmaster Trailer. That's where he got some help because Stewie says the Ticketmaster people were dealing with other patrons who were sent to them, even though it wasn't their problem. But, unlike the Cowboys Stadium people at the NFL Tailgate Party, the Ticketmaster people were kind enough to make some calls and try and help Stewie and his son.

By the time the Ticketmaster people figured out where to send him, there "was a group of about 400 to 500 irate people who just stood in line for an hour-and-a-half to two hours and just experienced the same thing we did. So there's ready to be a riot going on." he said.

So the NFL had put a tent up to help them, but that was another quarter-mile away, in an outer lot away from the stadium, and accessible via a foot bridge. (Man, the miles are starting to pile up, here.)

So once they get to this tent, "There are three NFL guys standing their. Said 'Ok we are here to get our tickets reissued.' (They said) Oh, no. We don't have any tickets for you." So Stewie asked "What are you going to do?" And the answer he said he got back from the NFL people at the tent was "We don't know."

Stewie was confused by the whole deal. After waiting for another 20 minutes, an NFL person made a call and told the crowd that developed, "Everybody in Section 426 to 430 (he said 126 to 130 in the video, but corrected himself as he talked) you're OK to go in," and then, Stewie says, "He runs away. He literally ran away."

Stewie's tickets were in Section 429 A, upper deck level. The Sections that were the problem were Sections 426 to 430, a special set of bleacher seats installed because the Dallas North Texas Super Bowl people wanted to break the Super Bowl game attendance record.

And those seats, Stewie said, were "very dangerous..and extremely steep and a little rickety.  The hall ways between the bleachers were too narrow."  He contends that the narrow passage way, combined with a lack of signage along the Cowboys Stadium stairwells, would have made it chaotic to get out of the place in an emergency.

Because of that, and the weather and staffing issues, and the cab strike, the Dallas Super Bowl 2011 was a "terrible experience" for Stewie.  He doesn't want the Super Bowl to return to Dallas, even though he thinks Cowboys Stadium itself is amazing.  I think Dallas deserves another chance, but then, unlike Atlanta in 2000, I wasn't there.

What Can The NFL Do?

The big question is what can the NFL do to avoid this problem in the future?  Well, let's take a look at what happened according to what Stewie said.  The first problem was with the lack of crisis management training to the staff at the NFL Tailgate Party.  Had the Supervisor took it upon herself to really help patrons in trouble, the "Lot 11 diversion" would not have happened.  She also treated Stewie (and perhaps others) as if they did something wrong, when they did not.

It reads and sounds like the  Supervisor at the Tailgate Party was just passing the buck, which made the ticket problem morph into a service problem.  Ticketmaster is to be commended for having people who cared enough to help, but she could have done that too.

The other problem was with the cabs and the weather and how Dallas handled it.  The Texas habit of treating cold weather as this weird thing that happens, rather than something they are prepared to deal with, has, after decades of inaction, finally caught up to them - and at a time when great planning matters most.  

Snow is a part of life in Dallas.  There should be snow-removal machines in abundance, and not just for Super Bowls.

And The Super Bowl Ticket Brokers?

Now on the matter of ticket brokers and Super Bowls, that's a hard nut to crack, but the best thing the NFL can do is have an online Super Bowl-only secondary ticket market system that has a price limit for tickets posted there.

The system would, at least in theory, deter brokers from reselling them there because the profit margin would be eliminated, and it would give those patrons who really can't use their tickets and don't want to gouge people a place to go and sell them.  

As for the seat problem at Cowboys Stadium, it reads like a last minute decision made more by the Stadium, and not the NFL.  In fact, it feels like the NFL staff may have balked at the decision to add the seats.  Knowing NFL Special Events as I do, it's hard to see them just rubber-stamping the decision to add the new seats.  

I think that's why the fire marshall was brought in so late; it seems the NFL was harmed by a last minute decision by the Dallas and Cowboys Stadium hosts all to break an attendance record that, with all of that drama, it reportedly didn't break after all.  

Stewie told me that some of the people who were part of his "fire marshall" group were sent downstairs to a basement in Cowboys stadium, where they watched the game on tape-delayed big screens and had access to a special bar.   All the better to get drunk and stew about what happened to them.

Oh, and getting transportation out of the stadium wasn't much better.  Stewie spent another $200 for a van ride back to the Sheraton.   So if you're adding this all up, that's about $4,000 - not including the hotel room - that he spent for this Super Bowl.     I've never spent anywhere close to that for any Super Bowl game week.