Big Business Contemplates Its Next Moves

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This is Celia Hirschman with On the Beat for KCRW.

This week, big business dominates all.

First of all, the Washington Post reports that kids' interests are trending away from the online site, MySpace. It's been just a year since News Corp spent $580 million to buy MySpace and Google pledged $900 million to advertise on it. So why this change of heart from America's youth? I suspect kids don't want to be networking alongside their parents. The site remains very popular among adults, but the kids' interest is fading fast.

Google may have thought these disenchanted youth would be running over to YouTube but they might have put the cart before the horse. Anticipating the potential of the video entertainment site, Google sunk $1.6 billion into buying it. Just as the ink was just drying, the online network began pulling all their illegal videos. Kids watch YouTube because it is irreverent and rebellious. Take that away, and there's not much left.

Online, loyalty is fleeting, youth is fickle, and the Internet is very fast. To keep young people engaged, value, as perceived by them, must be delivered on a daily basis. Miss a step here and there, and you'll be forgiven. Miss steps consistently, and the young eyeballs move on. Once gone, it's much harder to win them back. Stickiness, the term that means keeping viewers on a website, is what the Internet is all about.

In other news, Clear Channel may still dominate, with the #1-rated radio stations in both Los Angeles and New York but their sagging stock prices won't fair well with stockholders. The corporate owners are said to be considering strategic alternatives to boost their shareholder's values. One of the current ideas would take the San Antonio-based company out of the public sector and into the private one. By selling Clear Channel to a consortium of investment companies, stockholders should yield a sizeable return.

The question is, if they do go private, will the programming philosophies change? Many insiders feel the Clear Channel programming model is actually turning radio listeners off, not on. Ever since the Eliot Spitzer payola investigations, commercial radio stations have taken a more conservative view, keeping new and up-and-coming artists off the air.

And stale air hurts the radio business. According to the New York Times, though more than 9 out of 10 Americans still listen to traditional radio stations, the amount of time people tune in has slid 14 percent. Clear Channel which currently owns over 1200 radio stations needs to reverse that trend. New exciting programming would help.

Isn't it ironic, that in an age where the Internet has grown exponentially, in the same era, terrestrial radio station ownership has been controlled by just a few companies.

And speaking of monopoly, another giant in the music business, Ticketmaster, has decided to take its business East – far East that is. Ticketmaster opened its first office in Bejiing, China this week in advance of the upcoming 2008 Olympics.

One wonders if small will ever be considered beautiful again.

This is Celia Hirschman with On the Beat on KCRW.