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.

Filed Under: ,
Companies: ftd, united online

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Why Is An Internet Access Company Getting Into The Flower Business?”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Michael (user link) says:

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.

jonnyq says:

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.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...