Last month, News Corp unloaded yet another one of its digital businesses under Fox Interactive Media, the Fox Audience Network (FAN), to The Rubicon Project, an internet advertising technology company. Rubicon gets FAN’s propietory ad server engine, their self-serve banner advertising platform known as MyAds, and about one-hundred tech staff to run this stuff. In return, News Corp gets 20-odd percent of Rubicon’s shares and one massive headache less.
FAN is the third major digital asset ejected from News Corp’s bloated stomach since Rotten Tomatoes was sold to Flixster (Jan 2010) and Photobucket ‘merged’ with Seattle mobile imaging start-up Ontela (Dec 2009). So why is Murdoch doing this? Because News Corp has no idea:
- How to do digital
- How to make those online-offline ‘synergies’ work
- Privately believes it can kill the web if it tries hard enough to ignore it.
To be fair, they are not the only ones projectile vomiting indigestable digital acquisitions. Viacom took a 92% loss on Xfire.com when it sold the moribund MTV subsidiary to Titan Gaming in August 2010 (acquired for $102M in 2005). MTV never understood how to monitize the property or integrate Xfire into its legacy media house. Not to mention that Frankenstein’s monster of companies, the mother of all genetically dysfunctional unions between old & new media – AOLTimeWarner. The name alone is enough to make you nauseous. It’s pretty obvious by now: Legacy Media can’t hold their liquor.
The Internet is defined by immediacy, democratization and responsiveness, aspects that apparently don’t agree with old-school content curating companies. They like their soup thin and tepid, not too much salt. Dealing with a Web that is hotter than a street vendor’s bowl of Sriracha and napalm spiked chili-con-carne is not really their thing. The Web, by its very nature, is – lets just say it – vulgar. It’s complicated. Unruly. It doesn’t obey the laws of print, tv or radio advertising. Hence the current cascade of divestments. Digital media is incommensurate with the peculiar metabolism of Murdoch, Redstone and Bewkes.
I predict that poor MySpace will be the next victim of their involuntary bowel spasms. News Corp is dying to cure itself from this bad case of indigestion. Hopefully they find a large enough bucket…