I'm not into Facebook. Seriously, I just don't get it.
Anyhoo, I'm not totally alone.
Indeed, 11 years ago this week, when AOL announced its $350 billion merger with Time Warner, I was asked to write an OpEd for the New York Times explaining what the deal between old and new media companies really meant. I said that AOL was cashing in its over-valued dotcom stock in order to purchase a stake in a "real" media company with movie studios, theme parks and even cable. In short, the deal meant AOL knew their reign was over.The permanence of formerly personal information now broadcast abroad will rank up there with tattoos as OMG-What-Was-I-Thinking Regrets a couple of decades from now.
The Times didn't run the piece. Of course, the merger turned out to be a disaster: AOL's revenue stream was reduced to a trickle as net users ventured out onto the Web directly.
Likewise, Rupert Murdoch's 2005 purchase of MySpace for $580 million coincided pretty much exactly with the website's peak of popularity. People blamed corporate ownership for the social network's demise, but the cycle had already begun.
Now, it's Facebook's turn. This week's news that Goldman Sachs has chosen to invest in Facebook while entreating others to do the same should inspire about as much confidence as their investment in mortgage securities did in 2008. For those who weren't watching, that's when Goldman got rich betting against the investments it was selling.
This time, Goldman is putting up some millions of its own -- as if this skin in the game means they couldn't be up to their old tricks. But the commissions and underwriting fees Goldman is earning for selling that other $1.5 billion of private Facebook shares could be enough to offset the cost of their own investment. And bets against Facebook could be leveraged any number of times. [More]