Still speculating on who Fox Interactive has acquired, but won't reveal for a few weeks, Jeff Nolan is betting on Dogster, but also thinks that Tagged, Skobee or Meetro could be the target. Newsvine has also been mentioned. At this point, Newsvine gets my vote. It just launched, and has the characteristics of the social Web like Digg in a news context. I was talking with Mike Arrington prior to the Gillmor Gang taping, and he mentioned that Flock could be interesting--Fox having its own browser as an integral part of its portal. "It will be a young company, a technology play with the potential for lots of page views," Mike said. [Fox Interactive] is getting more aggressive in competing for smaller companies with Google and Yahoo." There is also a chance that the company Fox has picked up was in the 'room' at the event, but not on the presenter list.
Fox Interactive President Ross Levinsohn told me that Tagged wasn't it. I asked the Dogster's Steven Reading if his company was the lucky one, but he said no. Of course, he may be telling a white lie. Dogster has 200,000 members in its online pet owner community and has been profitable for eight months. Fox Interactive has hundreds of millions of visitors, and many of those people have dogs and cats (Catster). It's a decent adjacency mashup, but not exactly a great fit unless Fox is planning "American Dog Idols," a version of "24" with a dog hero or "The Simpsons" as portrayed by a family of dogs.
During his interview with Mike at the IBDNetwork event, Levinsohn talked about the process he goes through to acquire companies. He said he didn't go to business school, doesn't look at spreadsheets and basically goes on instinct. The primary question he asks is, "Will consumers use it?" He said that Intermix (Myspace) was acquired over a two-day period in Century City, CA. "I was scared to death, spending 580 milllion of someone elses money," Levinsohn said. "We are approaching it differently than anyone else out there. There is not another company on planet that could move with speed we have. Rupert [Murdoch] and [Peter] Chernin (Fox's #2] are fearless."
YouTube and Facebook have also been on Levinsohn's radar. He said that despite rumors to the contrary, he never talked with YouTube about an acquisiton. In regards to Facebook, he said that it would be very pricey, but that he and the social networking site founder Mark Zuckerberg talk a lot. "I don’t know that Mark wants to be bought, and it would be a huge number. I don’t know if we would do it."
Levinsohn also described the conversation he had with Chernin about whether to buy Myspace or IGN, a game site. Chernin asked him which one he preferred. Levinsohn thought about it and finally gave an answer, but he was enamored of both. Chernin's answer--buy both, which he did for over $1 billion. "At Fox Sports, we needed seven signatures to hire a $20,000 secretary. It's Rupert Murdoch's company--no other media company can move like that." He also noted that Fox's campus environment is much different from Google's and Yahoo's. Fox has movie stars, rather than engineers, walking around as an attractor for young entrepreneurs. "We are trying to transform to fit into an evolving world," he said. Expect to see more software engineers mingling with the stars as Fox continues its cultural mashup.