Rumor Mill: Google to Buy Bebo

bebo logoTechCrunch speculates that there’s a 51% chance that Google might buy Bebo—or maybe MySpace will snap up the smaller social networking company. Last year, it was Yahoo that was supposed to be making a $1B offer on Bebo. This year’s guesses are similar—$1B to $1.5B.

TechCrunch explains that the move would almost double Google’s social networking audience, with Orkut’s millions of members worldwide plus Bebo’s non-US English-speaking market. Erick Schonfeld also notes that MySpace could assure its worldwide dominance by buying the #1 social network in several English-speaking countries.

Bebo has an exclusive partnership with Yahoo for display and video advertising. They initially signed on to Google’s OpenSocial, but soon also accepted Facebook’s platform as well.

Ask.com Launches Social Media News Site BigNews

Search engine Ask.com just launched a news aggregation site called BigNews. The difference is that it integrates voting with what it calls “BigFactor.” BigNews is like Yahoo News or Google News except it’s broader – it includes video, images, and blog posts related to each story.

If you click through to the actual story you’ll see related stories from Digg, sorted by number of votes. I also noticed Wikipedia content relating to the story.

If you mouseover the “BigFactor” vote you’ll see a score. It also shows a quick rundown on how the story rates according to criteria like how new the story is, how much discussion has resulted from the story, and other measurements. BigNews feeds in top stories on Digg as well as Digg stories with no votes – so you can be the first to vote on them. Click “track” and you can subscribe to the newsfeed or put it in “MyStuff.”

Chinese Search Engines Sued over Pirated Music

Chinese search engines are being sued after ignoring copyright laws on music downloads. This isn’t new or surprising news because China is a bit of a free-for-all when it comes to copyright issues.

According to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), an association representing the recording industry worldwide, over 99 percent of all music files distributed in China is pirated. And of course, most movies and software in China are pirated too. While this is business as usual, and the record companies are trying to reign things in.

First, the biggest search engine in China Baidu, is being sued by three music industry giants. They’ll be up against Universal Music, Sony BMG Music Entertainment (Hong Kong), and Warner Music Hong Kong. They companies are asking a court in Beijing to order Baidu to remove all links to their music.

Hire a call center? Are you crazy?

Internet Retailer reports this month that more and more online retailers are outsourcing their calls. In fact, they predict that spending on outsourced contact centers will almost double within a few years.

In our experience with call centers, I have learned the hard way that you should be cautious, very cautious when choosing one. Here are some things we have learned over the years:

1) Place a lot of test orders. Your business reputation is on the line with agents that probably could not care less. You had better check up on them a lot. When you call and place test orders, you will be amazed by some call center agents–amazed that anyone can be that stupid. Just remember that those people are reflecting on your brand.

Yahoo Internal Letter: We’re Thinking

Jerry Yang sent out a company-wide letter to Yahoo employees today. But don’t worry, unlike lots of internal information over there, this letter wasn’t leaked. As Search Engine Land reports, the letter was filed with the SEC (in compliance with law).

The letter, addressed to “yahoos,” is a status report that appears to be aimed at reassuring employees that they are looking carefully at the alternatives.

Yang acknowledges that Yahoo needs to do what’s best for the company and its shareholders—and says they’re still contemplating Microsoft’s bid:

no decisions have been made about microsoft’s proposal. our board is thoughtfully evaluating a wide range of potential strategic alternatives in what is a complex and evolving landscape. and we’ve hired top advisors to assist through the process.

AOL Up for Grabs

Despite continuing to acquire other companies, including Goowy and Buy.At marketing network, it looks like AOL is seriously losing steam. Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes announced today that the company would be undergoing major restructuring.

Bewkes said that they’ve already begun to split AOL into two divisions, one focused on advertising (presumably still called Platform A, as announced in September). The other, which I think will retain the AOL brand and subscribers, will be spun off and possibly sold.

CNNMoney mentions some of the reasons that Time Warner is shedding the company it acquired eight years ago:

The company saw a 32% plunge in revenue at AOL, as it lost 29% of the subscribers it had a year earlier. Operating income at the unit tumbled 70% due to the sale of its Internet access business in Great Britain and France.

Will Social Networking Ever = Money?

Someone, somewhere is supposed to be raking it in from social media—but we never have figured out who that person is (unless it’s Mark Zuckerberg). We see the CEOs with their millions, and everyone wants in on the wave of the future, either in an IPO or working for the company behind the social network, or establishing their own.

But is there really any money to be had? Last week, social networking darling Facebook, still a privately-held and VC-funded enterprise, allegedly leaked its financial projections for the year. The outlook isn’t exactly what you’re hoping for in a company that is supposedly worth $15B:

2007 Revenues: $150 million

2008 Revenues: $300 to $350 million (projected)

2007 Headcount: 450

2008 Headcount: 1,000 (projected)