GCI said investing $8 million in Cozi social network

The Seattle start-up offers a free Web service that helps busy families manage schedules, share information and stay in touch, Gannett said in announcing the deal this morning. Cozi was founded in 2005 by former employees of Microsoft, Expedia and Amazon, and claims more than 600,000 family members.

Terms of the deal weren’t announced. But leading technology blogger Michael Arrington of TechCrunch says he thinks Gannett invested $8 million. GCI gets a minority stake, and a seat on the board of directors. “There’s a significant overlap with genealogy sites like Geni, as well as some of the life story sites we’ve profiled from time to time,” Arrington says. “But I haven’t seen anything quite like Cozi, which also has mobile and Outlook syncing to keep everyone on the same page.”

The Cozi deal follows Gannett’s other, overly timid investments in technology start-ups, and recalls last year’s deal with Schedule Star.

Corporate politics aficionados will note that Michael Maness, Gannett’s vice president of innovation and design, is quoted in Cozi’s press release. That suggests he hasn’t been completely shunted aside, as Chief Digital Officer Chris Saridakis tightens his grip on GCI’s growing digital operations.

Should Gannett seek bigger technology deals — like Rupert Murdoch’s savvy purchase of MySpace? Leave a note in the comments section, below. To e-mail confidentially, use this link from a non-work computer; see Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the green sidebar, upper right.

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16 Responses to “GCI said investing $8 million in Cozi social network”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    Here’s the PC Magazine review from August 10, 2007, where Cozi gets 3.5 out of 5 stars and rated “good”:

    http://tinyurl.com/5u8mbx

  2. Anonymous Says:

    Moves like this are not the solution that will save Gannett or any other newspaper company. This is another example of Gannett “chasing the tail” of the Web 2.0 era by buying into businesses outside their core competencies. It could be argued the only good online investments have been those in the classified arena (Careerbuilder, apartments,and cars.com) Reason #1 this investment won’t work is that Gannett largely does not operate in what are considered “high-tech” markets.They are going to push this product to… readers in Sheboygan, WI?

    The sad reality, IMO, is that the answer to their problems is right there in front of their faces. Gannett has lost sight of what it is they are – a news and information creator/compiler. Fixing the business end only requires gaining back control of the distribution of their work. AP has it right. Fair Use should be fought.

  3. Anonymous Says:

    to Anon @ 9:08am

    Show me a successful pay-for-content model online anywhere

    Seriously. Anywhere.

    Even the porn sites have had there core business (the revenue model that built the web) turned upside down by YouTube and Google.

    AOL tried the whole ‘walled garden’ of premium content. You see how well that worked for them – and they owned the pipeline!

    I’m not saying that COzi is the solution to GCI’s problems. I am saying that stomping our feet and insisting that our old paid content model won’t turn back the clock.

    This isnt a question of the quality of content – or professional vs. UG – it’s a sea change in consumer expectations. Consumers now expect free content – we need to figure out how to monetize quality content in this new environment.

  4. Anonymous Says:

    Agreed Anon @ 9:29. Here is a great primer on free as the new business model:

    http://tinyurl.com/2okqbk

    And if you’ll note … cozi.com is a free tool.

    Still, Wall Street seems underwhelmed by news of Gannett’s $8 million investment. GCI is down 39 cents / share on early, heavy trading.

  5. Anonymous Says:

    Unfortunately, I don’t think there is any way to originate news coverage — a very expensive undertaking — and make a profit through free distribution.
    Where content is free or mostly free, the Internet is a great money-maker. But Internet advertising can’t support a business model in which the content comes at great cost.
    That’s why everybody wants to aggregate, but nobody wants to originate.
    Have Dubow and company ever really opened up the books to show how Gannett’s online operations will make money without receiving free content courtesy of the print side of the company?
    What happens to online when print can’t pay its own way anymore?

  6. Anonymous Says:

    AP’s attempt to make bloggers and others pay for excerpting stories — it wants to charge for anything quoted over four words (I’ve seen the pay scale) is ridiculous. AP does not get to decide what “fair use” is. The courts do, and have. This effort will fail; AP’s management looks stupid and clueless. (Wait — isn’t one of AP’s top guys a former Gannett exec?)

  7. Jim Hopkins Says:

    @11:20 am: To answer your question, former USA Today Publisher Tom Curley is now CEO of the AP.

  8. Anonymous Says:

    Interesting that Maness gets the board seat and quote rights. This was a project that was created by a group in a leadership program that was literally handed to him. Talk about throwing a bone to the lap dog.

  9. Anonymous Says:

    Anon @ 11:30a

    Not terribily fair – while this was developed as part of a leadership program, the much maligned DIG group did the heavy lifting to build a business case and justify the investment

  10. Anonymous Says:

    Is this now the nature of Gannett’s so-called innovation? To figure out how we can buy a few shares of somebody else’s innovation? What happened to the DIG taking employees’ suggestions and building on those things? That’s the way the DIG was presented to employees. Now, it looks like the DIG has turned into nothing more than an in-house group of consultants that tells the company what “innovation” products the company needs to buy.

  11. Anonymous Says:

    The real tragedy is that before Gannett bought it, The Press was getting into the Internet. It had an Internet access division, was designing and building Web sites and developing programming to automatically move our news stories onto the ‘Net.

    Big problem was that the department was run by someone who would go off in meetings and was absolutely bonkers. According to the editors who worked with her, she thought she knew what news on the ‘Net was supposed to be.

    When Gannett bough the Press she rubbed Collins the wrong way and add that to his being technologically illiterate, it meant the department had to be destroyed. The manager disappeared and the group dispersed throughout the company and the Internet was used to put a 25 cent surcharge on classified ads.

    That’s when I moved on to work on the Web.

    If Collins had only had the forethought, Gannett could’ve been ahead of the curve and developing programs to put news on the ‘Net and, maybe, been the company whose software was the standard in the industry.

  12. Anonymous Says:

    I think the DIG underestimated the creative ideas Gannett employees would suggest. I read the BB … there were some darn fine ideas on there from the rank and file. NONE of them were ever implemented. What a joke. It was like the employees actually responded and their jaws dropped leaving them wondering…now what should we do?

  13. Anonymous Says:

    Maness sees the DIG as his opportunity to further push things the way he wants them to go. He has no interest in employee ideas unless they allow him to twist one so that he can push one of his ideas. Sorry for the maligned DIG people who did all the heavy lifting on Cozi, but I would bet Maness wasn’t among them. He just likes to take the credit.

  14. Anonymous Says:

    Don’t forget SCJ’s pet child, the Best Practices web site. There were a lot of solid ideas-in-action on that site.

    Sadly, though, it became a venue for publisher’s to suck up or, worse yet, oust overworked executives / managers who were “underperforming.”

  15. Anonymous Says:

    There were some solid ideas on Best Practices for a while. Unfortunately we couldn’t implement most of them because of operational differences between papers. Then things got so tight that no one had time to develop better practices because they were too busy covering 3 other desks. For our Directors it was a performance issue if they didn’t submit something to the site each month but of course the publisher wanted to see what we wanted to submit ahead of time. If it wasn’t fabulous then it was back to the drawing board to put some spin on anything! The Group Pres kept a close eye on the site and we heard about it if our contributions weren’t as much or more than other papers. As a result there are a lot of half-baked ideas on there dressed up like best practices.

  16. Anonymous Says:

    A note about best practices. My editor often liked to trot them out to me as something I should do. I would research them by calling the paper and I would talk to the people who would have to do them and I would often find the ideas were concepts that either were not implemented or did not work. As Dick Thien once told me “If your Mother says she loves you, check it out.”
    Isn’t it great we are deceiving ourselves as a company so we look good to our superiors and sending people dow the wrong path. We should only trot out best practices is there are proven results.

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