24/7 Wall St. Ten Brands That Will Disappear In 2012

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8. MySpace

MySpace, once the world’s largest social network, died a long time ago. It will be buried soon. News Corp (NYSE: NWS) bought MySpace and its parent in 2005 for $580 million which was considered inexpensive at the time based on the web property’s size. MySpace held the top spot among social networks based on visitors from mid-2006 until mid-2008 according to several online research services. It was overtaken by Facebook at that point. Facebook has 700 million members worldwide now and recently passed Yahoo! (NASDAQ: YHOO) as the largest website for display advertising based on revenue. News Corp was able to get an exclusive advertising deal worth $900 million shortly after it bought the property, but that was its sales high-water mark. Its audience is currently estimated to be less that 20 million visitors in the US. Why did MySpace fall so far behind Facebook? No one knows for certain. It may be that Facebook had more attractive features for people who wanted to share their identities online. It may have been that it appealed to a younger audience which tends to spend more time online. News Corp announced in February that it would sell MySpace. There were no serious bids. Rumors surfaced recently that a buyer may take the website for $100 million. The brand is worth little if anything. A buyer is likely to kill the name and fold the subscriber base into another brand. News Corp has hinted it will close MySpace if it does not find a buyer.

9. Soap Opera Digest

The magazine’s future has been ruined by two trends. The first is the number of cancellations of soap operas. Long-lived shows which include “All My Children” and “One Life to Live” have been canceled and replaced by talk show, which are less expensive to air. The other insurmountable challenge is the wide availability of details on soap operas online. Some of the shows even have their own fan sites. News about the industry, in other words, is now distributed and not longer in one place. Soap Opera Digest’s first quarter advertising pages fell 21% in the first quarter and revenue was down 18% to $4 million. In 2000, the magazine’s circulation was in excess of 1.1 million readers. By 2005 it fell below 500,000 where it has remained for the last 5 years.  Source Interlink Media, the magazine’s parent, which also owns automotive, truck, and motorcycle publications, has little reason to support a product based on a dying industry.

10. Nokia

Nokia is dead. Shareholders are just waiting for an undertaker. The world’s largest handset company has one asset: Nokia sold 25% of the global total of 428 million units sold in the first quarter. Its problem is that in the industry, the company is viewed as a falling knife. Its market share in the same quarter of 2010 was nearly 31%. The arguments that Nokia will not stay independent are numerous. It has a very modest presence in the rapidly-growing smartphone industry which is dominated by Apple, Research In Motion’s Blackberry, HTC, and Samsung. Nokia runs the outdated Symbian operating system and is in the process of changing to Microsoft Window mobile OS which has a tiny share of the market. Nokia would be an attractive takeover target to a large extent because the cost to “buy” 25% of the global handset market would only be $22 billion based on Nokia’s current market cap. Obviously, a buyer would need to pay a premium, but even $30 billion is within reach of several companies. Potential buyers would start with HTC, the fourth largest smartphone maker in the world. Its sales have doubled in both the last quarter and the last year. HTC will sell as many as 80 million handsets in 2011. The Taiwan-based company’s challenge would be whether it could finance such a large deal. The other three likely bidders do not have that problem. Microsoft, which is Nokia’s primary software partner, could easily buy the company and is often mentioned as a suitor. The world’s largest software company recently moved further into the telecom industry though its purchase of VoIP giant Skype which has 170 million active customers. Two other large firms have many reasons to buy Nokia. Samsung, part of one of the largest conglomerates in Korea, has publicly set a goal to be the No.1 handset company in the world by 2014. The parent company is the largest in South Korea with revenue in 2010 of $134 billion. A buyout of Nokia would launch Samsung into the position as the world’s handset leader. LG Electronics, the 7th largest company in South Korea, with sales of $48 billion, is by most measures the third largest smartphone company. It has the scale and balance sheet to takeover Nokia. The only question about the Finland-based company is whether a buyer would maintain the Microsoft relationship or change to the popular Android OS to power Nokia phones.

Douglas A. McIntyre

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