[Note to readers: This post has been updated -- see below.--DW]
Trying to sort through today's pile of industry reports to discern the trend lines is much like having to redesign a cranky website from the bottom up, though layers of spaghetti code. That said, here you have it:
- A Russian group has invested $200 million in Facebook for only a 1.96 percent stake in the company, indicating an overall valuation of roughly $10 billion.
- According to a British newspaper report, U.K. billionaire Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin Media, is considering purchasing Playboy magazine, which has a current market cap of ~$100 million. That would mean that Facebook, which was born in this century, is about 100 times as valuable as Playboy, which dates back to the middle of the last one.
- Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim, the largest creditor and poised to become one of the largest shareholders in The New York Times Co., says he believes the print publication will disappear but the paper's brand will live on and thrive in digital forms.
- Morningstar reports that what it terms the "economic moat" surrounding The Times has completely dried up. (That cannot be a good feeling, when your moat goes dry.) The Times has a current market cap of about $950 million, so according to the logic in this bowl of spaghetti, Facebook is roughly ten-and-a-half times as valuable as The Times.
- A prominent American journalism professor thinks Twitter is a danger to newspapers, not because it breaks news faster but because reporters and other staffers might give secrets away to the competition. (Translation: Jennifer 8. Lee's Tweets about an internal meeting at The Times recently.)
- Did you hear about that new "Social Media Editor" at The Times, Jennifer Preston? Jenny Lee emailed me this afternoon to tell me I was mistaken in the original version of this post when when referred to reports from other bloggers that the first move by Preston has been to crack down on the ability of Times staffers to use social media, without management's approval. "I can promise you she is definitely not 'cracking down.' I would be the first to know. :)" -- Jenny Lee.
- You've got to be a billionaire with billions to gamble in order to buy a newspaper or magazine. One of the other suitors for The Times, for example, has been Hollywood billionaire David Geffen. He reportedly wanted to take the company private and then turn it over to a non-profit organization to run. Maybe the League of Women Voters?
- Nobody with any business insight continues to hold to the fantasy that The New York Times Co. is not in very serious financial trouble.
- The same markets and investors who are circling around old media properties, seeking possible bargains, see clearly that social media like Twitter and Facebook are much more than simply the latest and greatest but ultimately passing fad. In its decision regarding The Times referenced above, Morningstar had this salient observation: "We think structural changes in the media environment, including an incipient generational shift in media consumption habits, have eroded the Times' economic moat."
- When you make a mistake on your blog, correct it as fast and with as much transparency as possible!