NICK DOUGLAS — Good deals are obvious. Great deals are not. News Corp's $580-million purchase of MySpace was "Murdoch's Folly" no more when Google paid $900 million to power MySpace search. In that spirit, here are the top nine business moves from 2006 that don't make sense — at first. Below, the video that started Deal #1.
- Amanda and Andrew go ballistic: "I apparently have been unboomed," said Amanda Congdon, host of Rocketboom, outing a behind-the-scenes feud with her producer Andrew Baron (video below). Critics (including me) thought the whole ordeal, with both Amanda and Drew slinging accusations and legal threats over the show's ownership, made these Internet stars a laughingstock. But at least it bought them some publicity while Baron found a more experienced host (who quickly won converts) and Amanda chatted with media companies and landed at ABC.
- Google buys YouTube: 1. Start site for cool legit reason. 2. Let a bunch of people use it to post Family Guy clips. 3. Pants dangerously close to being sued off. 4. Hop on Google's white horse, cut deals with those who almost sued you, hint at paying users in the future. Profit!
- HP promotes Mark Hurd: Hewlett-Packard tapped the CEO as chairman, replacing Patricia Dunn, dumped for her involvement in a spying scandal. Hurd quickly forgot all he'd learned before that point.
- Dave Winer quits blogging: Enemies cheered the promise that technologist and RSS innovator Dave Winer would stop blogging at Scripting News. But so did friends, who knew that if Winer stepped back from his constant updates and the fights they sometimes bring, he'd finally be able to return to the important work of — sorry, wait, he's staying until April. Turns out he does this all the time. And maybe that's clever, since it always fools those of us who haven't spent the last ten years reading this Armchair Everything.
- Mike Arrington throws a party: The TechCrunch founder threw parties before, but this year they finally broke the capacity of his ranch house. Arrington says he pulled in over $50k from TechCrunch 7, a long schmooze held at the offices of investment firm August Capital. Good thing his parties are so profitable, because that blogging thing ain't working out.
- Jason Calacanis ruins Netscape: AOL put the cocky Weblogs, Inc. founder in charge of its dying Netscape.com portal. No one's been able to keep the site's traffic from falling. Neither has Calacanis, say outside reports (which he and employee C.K. Sample dispute), but that's not what matters. Calacanis turned Netscape into a clone of social news site Digg and paid top users with AOL's money, thus turning a failure into a high-profile failure (did anyone know Netscape.com was even still up?). The gig kept Jason on the radar long enough to let him prepare his next project — outside AOL.
- Craigslist stays poor: "Poor" here means "raking in millions." Craigslist's founder and CEO have said (again and again and again and again) that they're not selling the company or milking the site for ad dollars. Instead they'll pull in mere tens of millions for their 22-person operation. After all, the billionaire life is for the fake humble, not the truly humble.
- Yahoo keeps Terry Semel: The CEO looked so close to retirement that when Valleywag heard the company was announcing something big, our publisher posted an obit for Semel's career. Too soon, it turns out, as Semel is still in charge of the newly reorganized Yahoo. Or at least he'll stick around until the changes are made. It's a lot smarter than putting a new CEO (read: CFO Susan Decker) in charge while the company's still on shaky footing; by the time Decker rises to the top, the exec team (including Decker, who will oversee one of the company's three divisions) will have sorted things out.
- Apple doesn't reinvent the iPod: Every time Steve Jobs stands in front of more than five people at a time, he's expected to finally introduce the iPhone or the full-screen iPod. The time may come for those products, but this year the iPod only gained a few gigs, went micro on the low end, and dropped the glassy look — nothing that renders a pod from January obsolete. Why wait? To give Microsoft's Zune some time to wallow before crushing sales with a new player early next year.