Monday, 7 February 2011

AOL and the Huffington Post - Marry in haste, repent at leisure...

You know the thing that most annoys me about Big Business? It's the how crap they are... at business. AOL for example. This is the company that forked out £850 trillion on Bebo (I might be wrong on the exact figures but it was a helluva lot anyway. For Bebo. Bebo.) And they off-loaded that in June. I don't know how much they got for it. No-one does, they wouldn't say. They were doubtless - and rightly - too ashamed. Let's assume it was a couple of hundred quid on eBay. About the same price as a for-spares-or-repair Vauxhall Corsa. And they're at it again. This time it's a mere £315 million for the Huffington Post. What was Einstein's definitation of madness? Doing the same thing twice but expecting different results? The only thing a big company buying a digital business proves is that it's, like, already soooo over for its quarry. Big business can only catch up with the prey when it's on the point of exhaustion. When it knows it can't hack it in the wild anymore. Yeah that start-up might might still look as sleek and bouncy and as twinkly eyed as young Bambi but the heart is on the point of giving out.

When I was working at ITV (I was a teaboy. Oh, alright - a storyliner. Same difference) that company forked over £400 million notes for Friendsreunited. In 2008. Any child could have told them it was dead in the water by then, and had been for years. And because of the desperate scramble to be part of the net - to be with it, hip and happening dudes - the whole company nearly went under. Local journalists were fired in their dozens. The Bill was cancelled and drama as an idea was thrown into the gaping maw of Reality. For years. And they're looking to flog that. It'll be coming to a boot sale near you pretty soon. How much would you give for it? A tenner? Come on, it's got to be worth a tenner. OK five then...

And what is the Huffington Post? It's a a perfectly respectable online newspaper. It compares quite well with, say, The Yorkshire Post. It's whizzy and buzzy and gossipy and there are lots of video links and all that. Even though, right now, it does seem to be busy telling the world exactly how whizzy and buzzy and video linky it is, in a way that looks a bit insecure for a product ostensibly worth a third of a billion pounds.

I have a mate who is terrible - terrible - with money. Far worse than me, and that is saying something. One of his key ways of getting rid of his dosh was to buy memerobilia for movies and TV series. So he had a life size replica of a Lord of the Rings Sword, a full-size Dalek, Geekabilia of all kinds. He'd have these items for a few months, then next tremour along the financial faultline on which he lived would mean he would be flogging these goodies for a fraction of their worth just to buy eggs and milk, or to pay his rent. His friends used to despair. He had to have serious therapy in the end and it took personal bankruptcy and having to move back into his mum's spare room to drive him to that. And what did he learn in therapy? He learned that his dysfunctional relationship with money was because he felt worthless. He didn't deserve anything, so he got rid of anything he did have as soon as he could. And of course buying toys is a fairly crude way of telling the world that he got no love as a child.

What, I wonder, is the excuse of the AOL board? And should they be acting out their childhood angst in a way that might further fuck up the world's economy? Unless at some dark and deep level, that's actually what they want. Someone should get a hold of AOL and get them to the doctors quick. Or they'll be back in their mum's spare room.

It makes my blood boil, honestly. Capitalist bastards are horrible. Incompetent capitalist bastards are even worse.