MIVA, formed from the combination of FindWhat and ESpotting, was the first network to adopt PPCall and is a marquee player abroad, but it has stuggled in the U.S. of late. The company has now apparently retained Deutsche Bank to explore "strategic opportunities."
The press release states:
[MIVA] announced that it has retained investment banking firm Deutsche Bank Securities to assist the Board of Directors in exploring and evaluating a range of strategic opportunities to enhance shareholder value. Deutsche Bank will help the Board analyze options including, but not limited to, the raising of capital through the sale of securities or assets of the Company, a recapitalization, strategic acquisitions, and the combination, sale or merger of the business with another entity offering strategic opportunities for growth.
This may or may not mean the company is for sale. But in this market a quote from Woody Allen's 1977 comedy Annie Hall is in order:
"A relationship is like a shark, it has to constantly move forward or it dies."
In paid search if you're not Google, Yahoo! or MSN, you're in the same bind; it's hard to move forward. LookSmart, Mamma, Enhance, Lycos, etc. all face the same challenge to varying degrees. That's partly why LookSmart and Marchex (owner of Enhance) are building out vertical destination sites—to take control of their destinies.
I would expect consolidation among the second-tier networks (the market and The Market will demand it). We'll see.