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RealTime IT News

And Bingo was His Name-O

It's Friday night at the smoke-filled M&A Bingo Hall, and shirt and shoes are optional. Just pull up a seat, and let's recap some news and notables. If you missed the debut of M&A bingo, feel free to browse last week's column.

TheStreet.com headlined my game card last week, and some readers desperately tried to convince me that the struggling financial news Web site wasn't on the auction block. I do enjoy the compelling argument, but blame it on my magic eight ball. I shook it twice just to be certain. Same result. Outlook not so good.

The company has highly publicized its latest move to "free," but early signs suggest the upstart still doesn't get it. While much of the content will be given away, a good portion of the meat and potatoes will get socked away under a new site RealMoney.com. Only difference is, now subscribers get charged twice as much yearly for the same content. Some deal.

Other financial news sites build on early head-starts, while TheStreet continues holding some of its quality content hostage. For the time being, there's plenty of cash on hand, but not nearly enough to see it to the promise land of profitability. The company has already lost a crackerjack CEO, and its languishing stock price keeps institutional interest at bay and secondary offerings on the shelf.

Make no mistake, TheStreet is already tagged for sale - there just aren't any takers yet. But there will be once someone musters enough monopoly money and the inclination to get into the business of e-financial content. Most of its likely suitors boast brick-and-mortar stock prices and won't be willing to pony up a premium while getting saddled with the losses that TheStreet.com brings. This deal will likely have to be fed Internet currency. Once that happens, it's in the bag.

This week, Jimmy Cramer flipped his wig over Fox News' perceived backstabbing. He pulled the plug on TheStreet's weekly Saturday morning program, jointly produced with News Corp.'s sibling, waving the riot act all the way out the door.

Cramer's made a living at acting irreverent and off the handle, and this incident was no different. TheStreet's CEO Tom Clarke and the suits over at Fox took to the mat like a couple of Sumos. Clarke griped over the falling out with Fox, citing breach of contract and disparaging rumors.

But all of this was nothing more than a smokescreen to cloud the real issue behind this brouhaha. Cramer touting TheStreet.com's stock on the air last month, and News Corp. not acting like a better sugar daddy. The mouthpiece made an impassioned sales pitch to viewers about why TheStreet made a terrific buy. The comments ruffled feathers at both Fox and TheStreet, where even Editor-in-Chief Dave Kansas made his displeasure clear to readers.

It's not the first time Cramer's shoot from the hip comments have landed him in hot water with a media partner. In late-1998, sitting in on CNBC's Squawk Box, Cramer mused that he'd phoned his broker just prior to his guest TV appearance to find out whether shares of WavePhore were available to short.

WavePhore was a cyber-newcomer that had enjoyed its fair share of holiday irrational exuberance from armchair investors who were bidding up anything Internet. Following Cramer's comments, shares of the start-up shed nearly half its market cap. After traders and company officials bitterly complained, CNBC publicly suspended Jim.

Of course, he was right on the money, as he often is. But he suffers from a chronic foot-in-mouth disease that keeps many investors from fully appreciating his talents.

Cramer seems to insist on ignoring the most basic of his golden rules: neverl



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