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INTERNET SPACE
Yahoo! shareholders back revamped board
by Staff Writers
San Francisco (AFP) July 12, 2012


Internet media firm buys faded social news site Digg
San Francisco (AFP) July 12, 2012 - Faded social news star Digg announced Thursday that it has been bought by online media company Betaworks in a move aimed at reviving the firm's cache.

The terms of the deal were not disclosed but online reports estimated the purchase price at $500,000.

Betaworks said in a blog post that it had acquired the core assets of San Francisco-based Digg and planned to merge them with its News.me service for sharing articles on iPads, iPhones and by email newsletters.

"The News.me team will take Digg back to its essence: the best place to find, read and share the stories that the Internet is talking about," Betaworks founder John Borthwick said in a blog post.

"We are turning Digg back into a startup," the post continued. "Low budget, small team, fast cycles."

Digg was founded seven years ago by Kevin Rose, who took a position with Internet titan Google earlier this year.

"John understands the real-time nature of the Web and how to capture and surface trends as they occur," Rose said in a statement. "Given his experience with bit.ly, news.me and Chartbeat, I can't wait to see what he does with Digg."

Digg became a global sensation as an online venue for submitting news stories that climbed or sank in rankings based on votes, referred to at the website as "diggs."

More than 28 million stories have been submitted to Digg since it launched, chief executive Matt Williams said on the company's website.

Digg fell out of favor as people shifted to rival services and social networks Facebook and Twitter to share news with friends. Industry figures indicate about seven million people visit Digg each month.

About half of the Digg team was hired away early this year and the Betaworks acquisition reportedly included no employees.

"Over the last few months, we've considered many options of where Digg could go, and frankly many of them could not live up to the reason Digg was invented in the first place -- to discover the best stuff on the Web," Williams said.

"We couldn't be happier to announce that the next generation of Digg will live on with the team from Betaworks."

Williams said that he will be joining premier venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz as an "entrepreneur in residence." The firm was among the Digg backers.

News.me was launched early last year as a way for people to easily share when friends at Twitter or Facebook are reading.

Yahoo! shareholders on Thursday endorsed the struggling Internet firm's overhauled board of directors and called for a fresh plan to compete against rivals such as Google and Facebook.

Voting at the California company's annual gathering of stockholders took only minutes, with the 11 members of the Yahoo! board approved along with a set of proposals that included compensation for top executives.

Eight of the directors have been on the board for less than six months and were added as the result of a battle with activist investor Daniel Loeb, who won seats for himself and selected allies.

There was no announcement about a new chief executive despite intense speculation that interim CEO Ross Levinsohn would be tapped for the job.

"The past year has been one of significant change among the leadership of the company," Levinsohn told shareholders at the gathering in a hotel near the company's headquarters in the city of Sunnyvale.

"We have made meaningful progress to move Yahoo! forward."

The progress included partnerships with major television and radio companies as well as online music service Spotify, said Levinsohn.

Yahoo! boss Scott Thompson was ousted less than two months ago in the face of controversy about an inflated resume, resulting in a truce in a proxy war with shareholder Loeb.

"In the last five to 10 years, we have missed some serious opportunities to monetize online properties including search and that has disappointed shareholders," a stockholder told Levinsohn during the meeting.

Levinsohn repeated the vision of becoming a "premier digital media company" that capitalizes on its audience of approximately 700 million monthly visitors through advertising on content ranging from finance to celebrity gossip.

"A strategy based on becoming the world's biggest tabloid is not sustainable," complained a shareholder during a question-and-answer session with executives.

"You are behind the ball, and you've been behind the ball regardless of which CEO show up," he continued. "As a consumer I have given up on this company."

Levinsohn countered that the strategy of combining high-quality content from partners with Yahoo! generated programming -- the company launched its own White House bureau for US election coverage -- shows promise.

"I am enthusiastic about what we can achieve," Levinsohn said. "We are working hard to expand the content and programming we offer our users on every screen and the ability of advertisers to reach the users they covet."

Yahoo! told shareholders that they would be the beneficiaries of at least $4 billion the company expects to receive later this year as a result of a deal to sell a chunk of its stake in Chinese e-commerce titan Alibaba.

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