When it comes to the Internet, News Corp. just loves to shop.
Conglom on Wednesday dipped into its new-media war chest to buy a stake in jobs site SimplyHired — the first of what could be several Internet buys this year for Murdoch & Co.
Fox Interactive Media prexy Ross Levinsohn told Daily Variety that the meta-service, which searches thousands of classified services and job boards, would be deployed throughout Fox Interactive properties, especially MySpace and IGN.
“When we looked at our audience, which is primarily young, and we looked to make an investment, it became clear that (SimplyHired) was one of the better applications for the category,” Levinsohn said.
He added the local focus of jobs sites could help News Corp. integrate the service throughout its online empire in more unexpected ways, such as on the Web sites of Fox-owned TV stations.
While company paid only a reported $3.5 million for an undisclosed stake in SimplyHired, acquisition shows how aggressive News Corp. wants to be on the Internet after mostly sitting out the dot-com boom.
Congloms remain attracted to the large clumps of users many newer new-media outfits are gathering. But congloms also believe they need to be wary of destroying the self-made quality that turned these sites into destinations in the first place.
News Corp. has been especially careful about channeling Fox content onto MySpace.
Almost immediately Wednesday, analysts began pouring forth names of other viral success stories that could be snapped up by congloms. Topping the list were Craigslist and YouTube.
Craigslist has built local cachet and infrastructure any conglom would covet. YouTube has proven remarkably popular in a short time with its mix of clips nets don’t — or sometimes do — want viewers to see.
“What all this really amounts to is mass media going in the direction of target marketing,” said Bruce Leichtman of Leichtman Research. “And it’s not a lot of money for these companies, so they get to be there without taking a big risk.”
Analyst compared the frenzy to the early investments the broadcast nets made in TiVo and Replay — a relative pittance that guarded against the services cannibalizing their biz.
One company suddenly unavailable this week was Facebook. The social-networking site, a kind of older-skewing cousin to MySpace that’s aimed at college students, had been in Viacom’s sights. Company recently made a reported $750 million offer.
But earlier in the week, Facebook received a $25 million infusion from venture-capital firm Greylock Partners, likely taking it off the block for now.
News Corp.’s SimplyHired stake would seem to signal that the well for top-tier sites is drying up.
But Levinsohn said that doesn’t mean the investment frenzy will slow. “We’re getting close to the end of the recognizable ones, but I have a list of 100 that you may have never heard of,” he said.