Internet news/analysis in brief

by: David Jackson

  • Sabre (ticker: TSG) announced that it would purchase UK-based travel site Increases competitive pressure on Expedia (still owned by IAC, ticker: IACI) and other travel companies that expect faster growth in Europe and Asia than the US.
  • Google (ticker: GOOG) continued its focus on mobile applications by purchasing social networking company Dodgeball alerts users by text message when someone in their network is in the same vicinity.
  • Search engine marketing company Fathom Online reported that search engine keyword ad prices rose 11% between March and April. Analysts re-iterated their positive ratings on search engine stocks Google and Yahoo (ticker: YHOO).
  • The Senate held a hearing about Spyware, following Eliot Spitzer's suit against Intermix (ticker: MIX) and panic about exposure to the issue among Internet companies. Sen. George Allen (R-Va.) and Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.) introduced a spyware bill that would impose civil and criminal penalties for the creation and distribution of spyware. Full coverage from Bambi Francisco.
  • WebMD Health Holdings, a spin-off from WebMD (ticker: HLTH) filed for an IPO. S-1 here. Proposed ticker: WBMD.
  • Yahoo and RealNeworks (ticker: RNWK) launched online subscription music services. Yahoo significantly undercut Napster's (ticker: NAPS) pricing, while RealNetworks bundled free songs with its offering. Walter Mossberg reviewed both and said that Yahoo now has the best subscription music service on the market. Napster's stock price tanked. JupiterMedia CEO Alan Meckler said that the only winner in the long term would be the consumer. (He's right that the distributors won't win because barriers to entry are too low; but plummeting distribution costs will help the music companies too.)
  • AOL (owned by Time Warner, ticker: TWX) launched a free web email service and gave email addresses to its AOL instant messager (NYSEMKT:AIM) subscribers. Key features: 2 GB of storage and the ability to see whether recipients have opened an email from you (if they too use AIM). Forrester's Charlene Li says the new AOL web email is "highly competitive with the offerings from Gmail, doubles what Yahoo! Mail offers in terms of storage and blows the Hotmail away". But the key point - missed by most analysts - is that AOL is finally trying to leverage its market leadership in instant messaging.
  • Ameritrade (ticker: AMTD), E*Trade (ticker: ET) and Schwab (ticker: SCH) announced disappointing trading volumes for April. Compared to March volumes, Ameritrade's were down 13.5%, E*Trade's 8.9%, and Schwab's 7%. Ameritrade cut its earnings outlook for the year; the stocks fell. E*Trade still seems to be trying to force Ameritrade into a merger. Full disclosure: at the time of writing I'm short SCH.
  • Ads in RSS feeds continued to garner attention. According to ClickZ, Sun Microsystems is using RSS ads on Slashdot, with technology provided by Feedster. But click-through rates from RSS feeds back to sites are decreasing, according to Pamela Parker. Feedburner CEO Dick Costolo: "If RSS popularity continues to increase, and it becomes less and less a vehicle for driving site traffic but more and more its own content-viewing medium, that presents an interesting situation to publishers".
  • Netflix' stock (ticker: NFLX) rocketed on news that Carl Icahn was elected to Blockbuster's board. Icahn has opposed Blockbuster's heavy spending on its online movie rental service that competes with Netflix'.