• Controversial right-wing columnist Robert Novak is dead at 78. [NYT]
• Sunday's hyped-up premiere of Mad Men attracted lots more viewers, as expected. Some 2.8 million people tuned in, up 33% from last year. [Reuters]
• Struggling studio MGM has dumped its CEO and hired a new one. [WSJ]
• Is Sam Zell going to walk away from Tribune? That's the rumor. [NYP]
• The president will speak at next month's Walter Cronkite memorial. [NYT]
• Steven Spielberg's new movie studio now has $825 million in the bank. The company says it plans to make 21 movies over the next four years. [WSJ]
• It looks like MySpace is buying the site iLike for "around $20 million." [DB]
• Newsday is under fire after rejecting an ad by the Tennis Channel that happened to be critical of the newspaper's parent company, Cablevision. [NYT]
• Irony alert: BusinessWeek, the struggling business mag desperately seeking a buyer, just launched a new website called "The Case for Optimism." [BW]
• Controversial right-wing columnist Robert Novak is dead at 78. [NYT]
This weekend's San Jose Mercury News profile of TechCrunch editor Michael Arrington, so obsequiously flattering that some wondered whether the writer was auditioning for a job at the tech blog, included an inadvertent slam. Evidence of Arrington's importance: According to TechCrunch marketing VP Sarah Ross, Arrington was considered for Vanity Fair's "New Establishment" power list, but didn't make the final cut. So he's sort of famous, right? Just one problem with that theory.If Arrington was, as his flack claims, considered and discarded from the main list, why didn't he show up on Vanity Fair's "Next Establishment," a collection of up-and-coming also-rans? Startup types like Ali and Hadi Partovi, the cofounders of music widget iLike, appeared there, though they're pretty much unknown outside the Valley. In this beauty contest, Arrington didn't even get the consolation prize. (Photo by Maria Avila/San Jose Mercury News)
Preeminent among the magazine world's kingmaking power lists is Vanity Fair's New Establishment, which appears in the October issue — on newsstands in L.A. and New York today, but not in the Bay Area for another six days. Silicon Valley gets similar short shrift: The names who make it there are predictable bigs like Steve Jobs and Larry Ellison, or Hollywood-crossover types like Jeff Skoll, eBay's first employee turned movie producer. Walt Mossberg, now employed by New Establishment perennial Rupert Murdoch, also squeaked in. The consolation prize Vanity Fair offers: Its "Next Establishment" list, reserved for the likes of Twitter's Ev Williams. It's a marvelous piece of New York media trickery — flatter the geeks by making them feel included, but corral them into a side room so the real power brokers aren't offended by comparison. True, the "Next Establishment" suggests that these are people who might matter in the future. But in saying that, Vanity Fair's editors are also sending the message that right here, right now, its "Next" nominees are nobodies. On this year's list:
Today at its F8 developers' conference, Facebook will announce a plan to give favored widgets more abilities to promote themselves on the site. The first two apps to get "preferred" status will be Causes and iLike. What does being a "preferred" widgetmaker mean? A source tells us that in the short term, Facebook will simply promote preferred apps in users' News Feeds more often, increasing their chances of spreading from friend to friend. "Basically, it is a subsidy program for their favorite darlings," says our source. Causes is an app backed by former Facebook president Sean Parker; iLike is a startup backed by Marc Bodnick of Elevation Partners, who is also a private Facebook investor and the brother-in-law of Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg. Our source also tells us that after top tier preferred apps, there will be a middle tier of "certified/approved/vetted" applications as well.
As CNET points out, it's all about the business ties. U2 lead singer Bono is the most stylish managing director at Elevation Parters, the Sand Hill private equity firm. Elevation cofounder Marc Bodnick is on the board of directors of iLike. Hence, the arrangement. Bonus for close students of the Valley's real social networks: Marc Bodnick's wife is Michelle Sandberg, the sister of Google executive Sheryl Sandberg, who's married to former Yahoo Music chief Dave Goldberg, who's an iLike advisor. Got that?
All the attention might be on Facebook's advertising aspirations, the Microsoft investment, and Google's OpenSocial initiative. But don't think Facebook has forgotten about MySpace, which still has a lock on the music market, thanks to bands which discovered the site as a way to connect with fans. One report has Facebook launching a long-rumored platform for musicians at the Ad:Tech conference.
On Friday we wrote about Facebook launching a possible iTunes competitor. We've now found a new, more compelling rumor from Rafat Ali of PaidContent. Instead of a music store, Facebook is said to be launching an artist platform to compete with MySpace's musician-friendly profile pages — a feature that has been a huge part of the social network's growth. Ali says that the platform includes iTunes integration for buying music through Apple's store, special profiles for bands, and unique widgets for music promotion, tour dates, and more, all within the clean Facebook interface.
Allfacebook.com is reporting a rumor that Facebook will take on Apple's dominant iTunes by introducing its own music store. Few details are provided, save that they are actively looking to hire someone to head the project and discussions with studios have been ongoing. Music applications such as iLike are popular on the social network, and digital music is a natural fit with the site's original college-kid demographic. But could Facebook really pull this off? At this point, we don't really know what a Facebook music store would be. We do know, however, what it's not.
ATHERTON — I'm told I left the party too early, but once Third Eye Blind started playing, Thursday night's iLike bash was pretty much over for me. Don't get me wrong — I like Third Eye Blind. It's right in tune with my utterly bland and more than slightly gay musical tendencies. But this is exactly why I will never, ever use a service like iLike, which makes a Facebook app that allows you to reveal your musical taste, or lack thereof, to your friends by posting songs, and find people with similar tastes by seeing who's going to concerts. Here's the thing: I know my taste in music is egregiously bad. I don't want to advertise the fact to the world, and if anything, I want to meet people who specifically dislike the music I listen to. That's all right, though — what I really wanted to listen to was the buzz in the room.
TIM FAULKNER — As mentioned previously, Facebook is having problems dealing with its sudden burst of attention despite seemingly manageable volumes of use. iLike, a music sharing and recommendation application currently the most popular with 4300+ users, provides a snapshot of this issue as well as the possibilities; the 90+ reviews, mostly negative, point to some of the larger concerns facing these applications and Facebook.