Why Is An Internet Access Company Getting Into The Flower Business?

from the reverse-zapata? dept

If you lived through the first dot com bubble, you probably remember the story of Zapata. This was the former fish-oil company that suddenly decided it wanted to become an internet powerhouse. It put out an unsolicited bid for Excite.com and later announced that it was willing to pay millions for totally random web-based startups to build into its own Zap.com portal. It was a laughingstock of the dot com bubble -- highlighting a non-internet company's rather hamfisted attempt to be thought of as an internet company. However, the news that United Online is buying flower company FTD feels like a Zapata-like moment -- even if it's in reverse. United Online, of course, was formed from the merger of NetZero and Juno, two dot com-era "free/cheap" dialup providers. A few years back, it also bought also-ran quasi-social networking site Classmates.com, and more recently failed to spin that off into an IPO. United Online also bought an online "loyalty" points provider, MyPoints, which again, seems rather unrelated to its other businesses.

While you can understand why the company would want to diversify from crappy dialup internet access and a failed social network that no one uses any more, it still seems weird for it to get into the flower business. Yes, it's true that FTD does a ton of business online, but it's difficult to see what sort of "expertise" United Online has to offer FTD. It's even more odd when you consider that things like Barry Diller's attempt to build a conglomerate of disparate internet properties is being broken up, as he was unable to make whatever "synergies" appear. Maybe there's some explanation that makes sense for United Online, but it feels Zapata-like. It may not quite be fish-oil, but an internet company buying a flower company just doesn't seem right.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 2nd, 2008 @ 4:48am

    Haven't you ever watched a movie? All the great bad guys came from Sweden, and were in the flower business. This is just their initial bid into world domination. Soon the board of directors will all start saying "ya", and get a weird facial scar.

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 2nd, 2008 @ 4:58am

    Flower Powered Internet - WoOt!

     

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  3.  
    identicon
    Michael, May 2nd, 2008 @ 6:33am

    Does the first acquisition create the synergies, or the last? And which direction (offline buying online properties versus online companies buying offline properties) make the most sense?

    United's FTD bid might seem odd, but one of Liberty Media's latter ones (they bought..a online flower broker) raised no eyebrows. Liberty, of course, wanted to expand their TV presence (home shopping) with an online asset - maybe United buys five more media properties and then it starts looking right?

    Just thinking out loud.

     

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  4.  
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    Keybored, May 2nd, 2008 @ 7:56am

    Must be a slow news day

    Does anyone even give a crap about this, what's wrong with you?

     

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  5.  
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    jonnyq, May 2nd, 2008 @ 8:22am

    Flower wire services

    I know a little about this subject...

    Companies like FTD provide things to local florists. They provide a wire service - an "online" service for sending/receiving orders. They provide specialty containers. Some may provide point-of-sale systems (tied in with their wire service) They'll also provide some web-based services - custom/template web sites, a web interface to their wire service, etc.

    Most of that seems a little out of realm for a company like United Online, but not all. If their goal is to get more podunk florists (there are thousands of them) connected to the wire service (a la NetZero) maybe they have something to offer florists they couldn't already offer. I don't know exactly how the wire services work - they may actually be non-Internet based dialup services. Maybe United Online can offer some streamlining there.

    It may be smart, it may not, but FTD is hardly a "flower company" as much as it's a network service provider for a specialized market.

     

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  6.  
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    McMillan, May 3rd, 2008 @ 10:19pm

    The data is cool, the company that provides flowers and related services to about 20,000 retailers in the U.S., Canada, the U.K. and Ireland. Just like many people like use auction tools (such using listomax), there have many people like this way to buy flowers on internet.

     

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  7.  
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    paula, Jan 19th, 2010 @ 12:13pm

    Flower business will always be there, besides it should be good for PR. Next thing we hear will probably be even more irrelevant, like online company acquires a swimming pool installation company.

     

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  8.  
    identicon
    Leslie, Jan 21st, 2010 @ 8:09am

    That's the way the economy is today. Actually that's the way the world is - upside down. Companies want a stake in any business regardless of its nature, as long as there is a promise of a good return. Everything is expanding, boundaries are being stretched out. What used to be statewide is now global - or will soon be.

     

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