Sunday, January 27, 2008

Yet another medium

A couple interesting items from the video game biz. In one piece of news, we learn that Guitar Hero has racked up over a billion dollars in sales. I think that one of the factors that is too often ignored in discussions of the decline of the music and movie business is how much time and money their core audience spends on video games. A billion dollars is a lot of money diverted out of teens' entertainment budgets.

In another item, we find that EA is going to be making on-line games available for free, in an ad-supported format:

Electronic Arts is to release a free online version of the popular Battlefield game to be supported by adverts and micro payments.

The PC game, Battlefield Heroes, will be available only online later this year, and will not be sold in shops.

The move marks EA's first major attempt to tap into new sources of ad-driven revenue in Western markets.

The firm has a free version of its Fifa game in South Korea, earning more than $1m a month through in-game sales.

An inevitable development, I suppose, but also another contributor to media fragmentation. If you want to reach teen and young adult males, should you advertise on radio and TV, or on Battlefield Heroes?

Gannett's going back to school

Gannett is looking to buy another paper. Mildly interesting in an age when most folks are looking to sell them, but not earth-shaking news considering that Gannett already owns about a gazillion or so.

What's different is that this is a college paper:
The Coloradoan, a Gannett property, is negotiating with Colorado State University to create a strategic partnership with the Rocky Mountain Collegian, the state school's main student newspaper. In effect, Gannett would be buying the paper. As the rest of the newspaper industry takes a beating, Gannett's interest reflects the continued popularity of campus papers--and their importance to advertisers targeting young adults.

The negotiations are at a very early stage, according to a Colorado State spokesman, who said the university had not planned to sell the paper or otherwise enter new partnerships. Nonetheless, it's part of a broader Gannett push to acquire campus newspapers, including the Florida State FSView and Florida Flambeau in 2006, and University of Central Florida's Central Florida Future in 2007.

We commented here over a year ago that campus papers were one of print's few bright spots, since they are tightly targeted on a desirable demographic. But the idea of school papers being owned by media conglomerates still seems a bit strange.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Wal-Mart goes small against Tesco

It looks like Phoenix's East Valley is going to be the main front in the Tesco v. Wal-Mart showdown. Wal-Mart is opening small grocery outlets this summer in a direct challenge to Tesco's Fresh & Easy:
Wal-Mart will open small-format grocery stores in Arizona this year under the trade name, “Marketside”, going head to head with the new Fresh & Easy markets being rolled out in the US by Tesco, the UK grocer.

The new pilot stores are about 20,000 sq ft, a 10th of the size of the Supercenters that have been driving Wal-Mart’s growth over the past two decades.

The retailer has secured leases on four properties south-east of Phoenix, some of them only a mile from locations where Tesco is setting up its 10,000 sq ft discount grocery stores.

The stores, likely to be open by the summer, are the first new concept launched by the retailer in the US for a decade, and are being developed as the company slows its planned growth of Supercenters.

Too bad I don't still live in Phoenix -- this could be fun to watch.

Tesco enters department store biz

Tesco is planning to open large-format stores emphasizing hard goods:

Tesco is plotting an assault on the high street with plans to build department store-style shops to take on the likes of Debenhams, BHS and Marks and Spencer.

Britain's biggest retailer is looking for big sites in town centres to house its fast-growing non-food ranges - from jewellery and watches to household goods - alongside its groceries.

In a marketing document describing the multi-level town centre store as a "whole new concept", Tesco said the shops would sell food, televisions, clothing, homewares and toys over two or three floors, with escalators linking the levels.

Combined with the news (next post) about Wal-Mart opening small-format stores, it emphasizes the point that continued growth for the biggest retailers requires multiple formats and multiple categories.