Friday, September 09, 2005
SOCIAL NETWORKS: Minnesota Public Radio's parent invests in Boston-based Gather.COM
"American Public Media Group is the controlling shareholder of Gather Inc, a forprofit company that will provide community and commerce services to the public radio audience. Gather also has a content license agreement with MPR."
Originally posted by rali from PaidContent.org, remediated by yatta on Sep 8, 2005 at 12:05 AM
Minnesota Public Radio Invests in Social Networking Startup
: This is the first such investment from a public broadcaster that I've heard of: American Public Media Group (APMG), parent company to Minnesota Public Radio, has invested almost $1 million in the for-profit, Boston-based Gather.com. The new venture is a social networking website devoted to creating an online community of public-radio listeners.The site, which has a beta version up now, will formally launch in December. It is designed for public radio's older, more sober audience...APMG may add several hundred thousand dollars more during the next round of financing, which aims to raise about $7 million more. In the first round, along with APMG's million, CEO Thomas August Gerac added slightly more than $1 million as investment.
ORIGINAL ARTICLE AT:
Last update: September 6, 2005 at 10:10 PM
MPR parent invests in networking website
By Deborah Caulfield Rybak
Minneapolis Star Tribune
Minnesota's largest public-radio network, which recently launched the cutting-edge "Current" radio station, is again venturing into trendy waters -- this time on the Internet.
American Public Media Group (APMG), parent company to Minnesota Public Radio, has invested almost $1 million in the for-profit, Boston-based Gather.com. The new venture is a "social networking" website devoted to creating an online community of public-radio listeners.
"We think we can take audiences beyond what we give them in public radio and connect them with a whole lot of people who have similar interests," said Bill Kling, president of APMG. "We hope there is a point where they actually get involved in activities with each other -- to take a tour of Italy, or live in a compound in Santa Fe."
"We can't do that in public radio," he said.
Gather.com, set to launch in December, will operate along the same principles as MySpace.com and Friendster.com -- fee-free sites where people can establish their own home pages listing their personal and professional interests, keep blogs and communicate with other site members. Revenue is generated by selling advertisers space on those venues.
Social networking sites, with their young-skewing participants, have become red-hot commodities of late. MySpace, which has almost 30 million members, recently was purchased for $580 million by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp.
However, Gather may be different. MySpace caters to teens and young adults and has been described as having the personality of a teenager's poster-papered, music-filled bedroom. Gather, designed for public radio's older, more sober audience, might more resemble the parents' book-lined study.
Although Kling said he didn't want to stereotype potential participants, he described them at various times during an interview as "smart people who talk politics," and "people who are thoughtful and interesting and fun."
Jack Flanagan, vice president at Comscore Networks, which tracks website performance, called Gather "an interesting concept," considering that social networking sites skew much younger than public-radio audiences.
"The top end of MySpace's audience is [age] 34," Flanagan said. That's about the bottom end of public radio's audience, so "it doesn't seem like something that would translate perfectly," he said.
However, audiences with higher-than-normal levels of income and education are attractive to advertisers, so Gather "will be an a good opportunity to apply a proven model to an older audience," he said.
Kling developed the idea with Thomas Gerace, an Internet entrepreneur who invented a method of helping advertisers better track their online performance. Gerace will oversee the website's operation in Boston.
The venture is being partially funded through Greenspring, APMG's for-profit arm, which owns Minnesota Monthly magazine, and, until they were recently sold, Twin Cities AM radio stations KLBB and KLBP.
Kling said APMG has invested $985,000 so far and may add several hundred thousand dollars more during the next round of financing, which aims to raise about $7 million more in venture capital. "The [APMG] board put a cap on at $1.2 million," he said. Gerace has invested slightly more than APMG, Kling said, although APMG retains controlling interest.
The last time MPR launched a for-profit business was in 1987, when it created Rivertown Trading, a mail-order catalogue company. Rivertown was criticized for blurring the lines between nonprofit and for-profit businesses, and Kling was criticized for taking a salary from the operation. MPR sold it in 1998 to Dayton Hudson Corp. (now Target) for $120 million.
Kling has been named Gather's co-founder and board chairman. His two top APMG executives, Tom Kigin and Jon McTaggart, also are board members. While none of them will draw a salary, the trio, plus 10 other members of APMG senior management, have been offered the opportunity to buy shares in the venture, Kling said.
Kling said he doesn't expect that Gather will prompt a replay of the Rivertown Trading experience: "We have done it very carefully. There are special committees in place to be sure that there are no conflicts."
Kling added, "Our challenge is to make sure that people understand that this is being done for the same reason that we produce public radio: For the advantage of our audience. We want to develop and strengthen content and to give audiences new experiences. If there's something wrong with that, then there's something wrong with public radio."
Staff Writer Terry Fiedler contributed to this report.
Deborah Caulfield Rybak is at firstname.lastname@example.org .
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