Thu, Apr 28, 2011 - Page 10 News List

Facebook launches discounts program

AFP, WASHINGTON

Facebook began offering a deals program on Tuesday similar to the online bargains made popular by Groupon, LivingSocial and other companies.

Deals on Facebook are initially only available in five US cities — Atlanta, Austin, Dallas, San Diego, and San Francisco — but the social network said it hopes to extend the feature to other cities in the future.

The move is the latest bid by the California-based social network to expand its revenue stream beyond advertising and an attempt to carve out a niche in the rapidly growing online bargain space.

Chicago-based Groupon, which offers subscribers coupons for discounts on a broad range of consumer goods and services, has enjoyed a spectacular rise since its founding in 2008 and rejected a reported US$5 billion takeover offer from Google last year.

Google is currently testing its own online coupon program, Google Offers, in Portland, Oregon.

While many of the offers on Groupon involve solo activities or purchases, Facebook, which has more than 500 million members, said its deals program will emphasize group activities.

“While many deals on Facebook offer discounts, it’s more important to us that you find interesting experiences around you to do with friends,” Emily White, director of local at Facebook, said in a blog post.

“We’ve worked with partners and local businesses to help deliver the best social activities,” White said. “And once you’ve found a deal you like, having the deal on Facebook makes it easy to share, buy and plan with your friends.”

Separately, News Corp is seeking more than US$100 million for Myspace and about half a dozen private equity firms and companies are expected to submit bids by the end of this week, the Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday.

The newspaper, citing “people familiar with the matter,” said the companies considering making an offer for Myspace include private equity firm Thomas H. Lee Partners, Redscout Ventures and Criterion Capital Partners, owner of the Bebo social network.

The Journal said News Corp has also had talks with a Chinese Internet company about a potential deal for the ailing social network.

It said online music video site Vevo had looked at a potential deal with Myspace, but the company’s interest had waned.

The News Corp-owned newspaper said News Corp. is seeking bids of no less than US$100 million for Myspace, which it bought in 2005 for US$580 million.

The Journal said News Corp expects to be able to announce a Myspace deal around June.

Facebook has grown to more than 500 million members while Myspace’s numbers have dwindled. Earlier this year, MySpace cut some 500 jobs, nearly half its staff.

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