FRANCO FAN: James Franco is probably used to signing autographs for giddy teenyboppers, but on Tuesday he found himself signing one for Vanity Fair editor in chief Graydon Carter. Of course, it wasn’t for Carter himself, who surely doesn’t get starstruck that easily — it was for his daughter, who Carter said was a fan. The occasion was a luncheon at Michael’s hosted by Franco in honor of author Adam Davies’ third book, “Mine All Mine.”
“We’ve had some long conversations at Elaine’s about writing,” said Davies of his actor pal, who will be pursuing an MFA in creative writing at Columbia University come fall, as well as simultaneously studying directing at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. So Franco wants to write novels? “Sure, why not?” he shrugged nonchalantly.
After 20 minutes of chatting, Carter headed off to his second lunch appointment of the day, with Time managing editor Jim Kelly (“We met 30 years ago this week,” Carter explained), while Franco left for a slightly less intellectual venture: a taping of MTV’s “TRL” to promote his stoner comedy “Pineapple Express,” opening this week.
Meanwhile, the rest of the guests, including Davies, were left waiting for their entrées as Michael’s waiters nervously attended to The New York Times’ restaurant critic Frank Bruni, seated in the back room at a table for four.
SWEET DEAL: DailyCandy has been scouting for a buyer for some time, and on Tuesday it finally found one. The free daily e-mail newsletter and Web site was picked up by Comcast Interactive Media, a division of Comcast. Sources close to the deal said DailyCandy was sold for about $125 million; executives on both sides declined to comment. Peter Sheinbaum, DailyCandy’s chief executive officer, said its roughly 2.5 million subscribers can expect the same kind of content, but he sees opportunities for expansion for different platforms, such as mobile. Comcast Interactive Media’s executive vice president, Sam Schwartz, said the company has been looking around for potential acquisitions, and DailyCandy could work well with the group’s properties such as Fandango.com and comcast.net. DailyCandy has 13 daily editions and was founded in 2000 by Dany Levy. Advertisers currently on the site include Bacardi, Absolut and NuvaRing. DailyCandy, which also was said to have been in talks with Viacom about a possible deal, has been working with the E network, a Comcast cable channel, and a spokeswoman said it will continue to do so. — Amy Wicks
NOW THE WEB COSTS MORE, TOO: Rupert Murdoch was pleased on Tuesday that his News Corp. reported its sixth consecutive year of profit gains — and then revealed plans to further increase those in the coming year by, among other things, boosting the price of wsj.com. On a conference call with analysts from Beijing, where he’s attending the Olympics — after announcing that he will be launching a string of TV channels in India — Murdoch said the online edition of the Wall Street Journal would increase in price, but didn’t say by how much. The Web site costs $89 a year. He said the goal is for all of News Corp.’s newspapers to be available in every way possible. “Dow Jones is at the forefront of the digital revolution,” he noted, with wsj.com as one of the leaders. Wsj.com has 1.1 million subscribers. The increase in the online price mirrors a rise in the print version, which recently went up to $2 a day.
News Corp. reported fourth-quarter net income up 27 percent to $1.1 billion. The increase was attributed in part to the sale of Fox Sports Bay Area and Gemstar-TV Guide International. Operating income rose 21 percent to $1.5 billion and revenues were up 17 percent to $8.6 billion. “All of our business segments generated year-over-year gains, with record profits reported at our satellite broadcasting, cable programming, film and television businesses,” Murdoch said. “Although we clearly face more challenging macroeconomic conditions in fiscal ’09, we’re well positioned to deliver continued, if somewhat less robust, growth.”
Meanwhile, over at MySpace, where the market is a bit weaker, home page takeover ads are on the rise — for example, Warner Bros. recently took over the MySpace home page, which resulted in 70 million streams of the trailer for “The Dark Knight.”
In the newspaper and information services division, operating income increased by $59 million to $262 million, with Dow Jones contributing $24 million. — A.W.