Bits and Bytes for July 23, 2004

IAC/InterActiveCorp Buys ServiceMagic

InterActiveCorp has agreed to acquire lead generation site ServiceMagic, in a move to bolster its offerings to local service businesses. Terms of the all-cash deal weren’t disclosed.

ServiceMagic — which links consumers with residential contractors, real estate professionals and lenders — now joins the company’s Local and Media Services Group. Other companies in that group are Citysearch, Evite, Entertainment Publications and TripAdvisor. ServiceMagic boasts nearly 50,000 advertisers and says it has facilitated more than 2.4 million customer requests for home services.

“The migration of local advertising from offline to online has tremendous growth potential and is applicable to hundreds of industries, but has been realized by only a few,” said Anne Busquet, CEO of IAC Local and Media Services.

The transaction is expected to close in the third quarter of 2004.

MSN Expands Newsbot

Microsoft’s MSN is beta testing new regional versions of its personalized news search service, the MSN Newsbot. Added are Belgium, Ireland, Switzerland (French), the U.S. (Spanish), Indonesia, and the Philippines.

Previously, the Newsbot was available only in MSN UK, France, Spain and Italy. MSN hasn’t yet launched any of its own search technology in the U.S., though it has promised to do so by the end of the year. Company executives have said news search, blog search, and a natural language engine are in the works.

Bolt Redesigns Site

Bolt Media on Thursday launched a redesigned site to offer more services to members and enhanced advertising opportunities for marketers who want to reach Bolt.com’s 3 million monthly young adult visitors.

“Bolt is a place where community, content and blogging intersect,” said Aaron Cohen, CEO of Bolt Media. “As young people spend more and more time online, they need a ‘MyYahoo’ that is more about hanging out and hooking up. This is the essence of the new Bolt.”

Advertising opportunities on the new Bolt.com include high-impact media units, streaming video and immersive interactive marketing programs. In addition, Bolt offers its proprietary Connectors program, which utilizes the site’s most influential members to build buzz about brands.

Advertisers taking advantage of Bolt’s debut include Electronic Arts, Nike, Sony Pictures, Verizon Wireless, Kellogg’s, MSN, Old Navy, Warner Brothers, L’Oreal, American Legacy Foundation, Johnson & Johnson and Coca-Cola.

Online Advertising Big in UK

Online advertising had a record-breaking 2003 with a total spend of more than £350 million and a market share that reached 2.5 percent of total UK advertising spend for the second half of 2003, according to figures published this week by the Interactive Advertising Bureau UK and PricewaterhouseCoopers.

A survey of online media owners revealed the industry grew at 80-percent year-on-year. The Internet advertising market was valued at £353.6 million for 2003, up from £196.7m in 2002. In comparison with other media, spend in online is now two-thirds the size of that of the radio industry. The IAB and its members expect to double the size of the market every three years, which would give online a larger share of advertising budgets than radio by January 2007.

Among the key drivers accelerating the growth are strong audience growth, more standardized ad products, and the popularity of search engine marketing.

“The whole marketing industry is changing and online is at the heart of the new media mix that’s evolving,” said IAB Chief Executive Danny Meadows-Klue. “The Internet has tackled head-on the major challenges of media fragmentation, achieving cut-through, improving targeting, reaching at-work audiences and delivering accountability of client spend.”

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