The Kelsey Group Blog Local Media Blog 2006-10-27T00:49:45-05:00 Copyright 2004-2005 Ublog Reload 1.0.5 Peter Krasilovsky <![CDATA[Merrill: 20 Years Till Online Is 50% of Newspaper Revs]]> 2006-10-25T18:41:06-05:00 2006-10-25T18:41:06-05:00 2006-10-25T18:41:06-05:00
A new report from Merrill Lynch’s Lauren Rich Fine — covered by E&P’s Jennifer Saba — reinforces the lack of enthusiasm. Fine figures she’ll be long retired from crunching numbers before newspapers get even half their money from online.

“Even if the rapid [online] growth continues for the next few years, we don’t see online representing over 50 percent of newspaper ad revenues for at least a couple of decades,” says Fine (per Saba). Fine’s back-of-the-envelope projection assumes double-digit growth for online ad revenues through 2012, eventually slowing to 5 percent. Meanwhile, print advertising is estimated to decline 1.5 percent annually.

The only problem with Fine’s calculation, of course, is that she can’t responsibly incorporate a “tipping point” scenario, where online reaches such a level that print drastically falls off. It is a real problem that is looming over newspapers — especially considering that a single print user continues to be worth 10 to 20 online users. Such a tipping point is bound to happen within 10 years, don’t you think?]]>
Peter Krasilovsky <![CDATA[Yahoo! HotJobs, Newspapers Close to a Deal]]> 2006-10-24T23:22:25-05:00 2006-10-24T23:22:25-05:00 2006-10-24T23:22:25-05:00 HotJobs recruitment site with a consortium of “non-CareerBuilder” newspapers. The deal has been in the works since at least July. Apparently, it has become a high priority for new Yahoo! listings head Hilary Schneider, who was recruited from the embers of Knight Ridder, where among other things, she oversaw the company’s share of CareerBuilder.

A deal would help ease the doldrums that have seized Yahoo!. Since this summer, the portal has been hit with a mountain of bad news. Its contextual search service has suffered delays, it has entered a sales slump, it suffered a bad earnings announcement, it lost market share to Google, and it "lost" YouTube to Google.

Leading the newspaper side has been Dean Singleton and his lieutenant Eric Grilly at MediaNews Group. MNG has been emboldened by its takeover of The San Jose Mercury News and some of the other former Knight Ridder properties — and its apparent inability to buy into the CareerBuilder consortia.

My source told me that as many as 12 newspaper companies have been involved with the negotiations, but as few as six may end up participating. At this point, contracts haven't been signed.

One can assume that none of the CareerBuilder owners (Tribune, Gannett, McClatchy) will “quit” the alliance to join HotJobs. Then again, some of CareerBuilder’s affiliates might. One source told me that “Dean Singleton is the ultimate pragmatist.” This source could envision that Singleton would always seek as broad a distribution for his want ads as he could: even putting ads on Monster.

HotJobs has been led by Dan Finnigan, a predecessor of Schneider’s at Knight Ridder. It isn’t clear if he will remain in charge. Whether it is Finnigan or someone else reporting to Schneider, the effort will hinge on the ability to leverage the promotional might of newspapers and their online/offline synergies.

Here’s the playbook to level the playing field with CareerBuilder and Monster (if the deal is completed). The first thing they are likely to do is to re-brand newspaper recruitment sections as “HotJobs.” CareerBuilder has done the equivalent. The second thing they’ll do is build up a national presence, probably taking out expensive national ads and other marketing. HotJobs hasn’t been a contender in this area.

Over time, they might go “a step beyond” by integrating newspaper and Yahoo! content — a step that could lead to an even broader alliance. Separately, they may also step up the site's technology. For now, however, it is apparently “all about jobs.” ]]>
Peter Krasilovsky <![CDATA[Grayboxx: 50 Million Mentions Can't Be Wrong (Can They?)]]> 2006-10-23T22:46:50-05:00 2006-10-23T22:46:50-05:00 2006-10-23T22:46:50-05:00
Generally, the answer is: “Yes. I like them. That’s why I use them.” And that’s the premise behind Grayboxx, a new San Francisco Bay Area-based company that is “four to eight weeks” from being funded, and hopes to mine user data from a variety of sources to come up with “most popular” ratings (although in this case, “most popular” is translated as “most mentioned”).

Company founder Bob Chandra thinks the system is going to prove vastly superior to the ratings and review sites, like CitySearch, Judy’s Book, Insider Pages, Yelp and Kudzu. Unlike the others, he claims, it achieves a critical mass of reviews, without changing the essence of user meaning. Aside from popular categories like restaurants, most businesses on other ratings and review sites have just one or two reviews and many don’t have any, he says.

True, Google Base and MSN Live Expo have gotten closer to criticial mass by aggregating reviews from several of the sites. That helps. But they don’t always have enough, either.

So Grayboxx sounds like a good starting point. But by no means is it a perfect solution. Speaking personally, my Palm tends to only contain service providers, such as painters, electricians and termite killers. The only restaurants that I tend to list are a few upscale ones that require reservations — usually in cities where I travel on business, rather than where I live.

Although I have reviewed them on the ratings sites, I certainly have no need to list the Mexican restaurant that I go to every Friday night in my address book — Fidel’s. I also don’t list Linda’s Homemade Yogurt down the street, where I finish my pigout. If you want to follow in my footsteps, gastronomy-wise, you won’t get satisfaction from reading my Palm.

For that matter, I don’t actually tag the names of businesses in my PhotoShop, either. The best you will get out of me is a photo outside “The Plaza Hotel” in New York, where Redford and Streisand once stood. It would be kind of an aberration for me to tag, say, a Marriott Courthouse in Overland (even though I am a proud member of Marriott Rewards).

But you got to start somewhere, right? And the Grayboxx solution is certainly inventive — assuming it doesn’t alienate people by taking their address book and e-mail info — even in aggregate. The company also gets brownie points with me by hiring a marketing exec who has had some exposure to local sales — former SBC Senior Director of National Advertising Doug Threet. That’s kind of unusual for a Bay Area start-up these days; hats off to them. (Innocent question: Why would a VC invest millions of dollars in a local concept company that hasn't hired an executive or consultant without any kind of local experience, or even exposure to a local media company?)

With this in mind, I had a phone conversation with founder Bob Chandra. Chandra says I am probably atypical in my limited mentions of local businesses. In Grayboxx’s early testing, most address books alone yield three-to-five businesses apiece, providing aggregated review counts of 25 to 100 for businesses in the Bay Area, where the company has been doing some prototypes. On Yelp, he says, you might see just one or two.

Chandra says his ultimate ambition is to collect a base of 50 million reviews. He also plans to go vertical, with such products as a “home contractors” page and a “business to business” page — both areas of particular strength. His goal is do an "effective job" of providing ranked results in 3,000 categories; 600 of which he hopes "to provide at least 200 recommendations.”

To reach his numbers, Chandra is currently leaning heavily on a national data collector (whose identity he won’t publicly reveal, but if what he told me checks out, it is an interesting one). Looking forward, he envisions a number of additional sources for data, including the aforementioned photos, but also such sources as free directory assistance queries. One imagines there is real potential with that as well.

So what do I think? The company’s solution is kind of left field. And it isn’t going to be nuanced enough to plan a date. Based on sheer number of mentions, you’d probably end up at Applebee’s.

But Chandra disagrees. To paraphrase an old record cover, to him, basically, 50 million Elvis fans can’t be wrong — especially when they are weighted with some unique Grayboxx algorithms for negative comments, etc. “Please see our correlations with quality (user rankings and critics picks)," he says. "I invite you to conduct searches against Yelp or Yahoo!."

What else do I think? Assuming Grayboxx gets the right partners, and its concept goes over, I think it may well get over the serious hump of “critical mass.” And then it could be perfectly positioned to build its own review database, since it will be operating from something. I also think its chances are somewhat stronger in vertical categories, where it can go up against approaches like LinkedIn’s new Yellow Pages.

I just hope it doesn’t take its algorithms too seriously. This isn't about computers. Ultimately, review sites/social networks really are about individual taste. There’s nothing in Grayboxx that helps me with that. Yet.

Peter Krasilovsky <![CDATA[Hearst Invests in Jingle's Free DA ]]> 2006-10-23T14:47:58-05:00 2006-10-23T14:47:58-05:00 2006-10-23T14:47:58-05:00 Hearst Corp. is listed as a lead investor in Jingle Networks’ new US$30 million financing round, along with Goldman Sachs. Jingle is the two-year-old provider of 1-800-FREE411, an ad-supported, “free” directory assistance service. Other investors are repeaters from earlier rounds. They include Comcast Interactive Capital, Liberty Associated Partners, IDG Ventures Boston and First Round Capital. The new round of financing comes on top of earlier rounds, including US$26 million from Liberty Associated.

Free DA is currently something of a black hole. Most of Jingle's new money will probably need to go to subsidize money-losing calls, while the company perfects its automation and builds up the market, market share and its targeted inventory. Many calls to 1-800-FREE411 today, for instance, do not have any advertising. In addition, many calls revert to live operators, which is good service but highly costly. Earlier this month, the challenge of building the marketplace claimed InFreeDA, the provider of 1-800-411-METRO, one of Jingle’s highest-profile competitors.

Hearst’s investment suggests that it might seek synergies for free DA beyond the national advertisers that currently dominate the category (and which it reaches via its magazines). Hearst’s local properties include Hearst Newspapers and White Directory, an independent Yellow Pages publisher.

Hearst doesn't have much of a track record in pulling off cross-media “synergies.” The acquisition of White in 2003, for instance, might have led to a directory presence in various Hearst newspaper markets, which include Houston, San Francisco, San Antonio and Albany. But the development of such ties has been a non-starter. To this day, there is no apparent relationship between the divisions. Still, the appeal of free DA might provide another way in.

Peter Krasilovsky <![CDATA[Tribune: 80% of Online Revs From Classifieds ]]> 2006-10-20T18:39:01-05:00 2006-10-20T18:39:01-05:00 2006-10-20T18:39:01-05:00
That’s the problem with yesterday’s earnings reports from several newspaper companies. To be sure, online remains a bright spot in otherwise dour earnings. 3Q growth rates for online were 21.4 percent (New York Times Co.), 28 percent (Tribune) and 50 percent (Belo). And the growth is beginning to add up. Online revenues account for 7 percent of Belo’s total earnings from newspapers, for instance.

But online classifieds are cheap. They don’t really approximate the value of print ads. If they are inching up in share, it means that the high-value ads aren’t selling very well.

Tribune, for instance, reported during its earnings call that “roughly 80 percent” of its online revenues now come from classifieds. If that number was closer to 50 percent, it would be much healthier. In print, classifieds account for roughly 34 percent of earnings, industrywide (albeit 50 percent of profits).

Largely, the growth of classifieds’ share is due to the hearty rebound of real estate advertising and fairly neutral results from recruitment and auto. (yes, the real estate market is bad. That’s why Realtors are advertising again).

Perhaps the number is not as significant as it seems. It isn’t exactly clear what Tribune’s “80 percent” covers. Does it, for instance, include X percent from CareerBuilder, and other verticals? I couldn’t tell. Moreover, display categories such as real estate feature ads are sometimes lumped in with listings. Still, it is a concern, and suggests that the replacement of print dollars with online dollars continues to be a tough road to hoe.

Right now, major newspapers are laying off or buying out hundreds of workers, citing, as Belo did, an "Internet-centric" marketplace. Meanwhile, some of the online divisions are hiring. One newspaper that I know, for instance, is trying to jumpstart its tiny online division by hiring 80 to 100 workers. We’ll see whether the revenues it produces ultimately justify the faith in online growth. Whatever the amount, it can't be made up of "80 percent classifieds." ]]>
Peter Krasilovsky <![CDATA[Citysearch, San Diego Union-Tribune End Ties]]> 2006-10-18T21:30:03-05:00 2006-10-18T21:30:03-05:00 2006-10-18T21:30:03-05:00 Citysearch as the default city guide for its SignOnSanDiego Web site since 1999. The arrangement, one of several Citysearch struck with newspapers in that time period, gave The UT exclusive rights to sell Citysearch advertising in San Diego and also gave it default traffic whenever someone types in “San Diego” on the Citysearch home page. In return, Citysearch received licensing fees, the use of restaurant reviews and other UT/SignOn content, and some revenue share.

Such deals saw Citysearch through some lean times when it couldn’t count on advertising revenues. But now Citysearch has gone in a different direction, choosing to own localized sites in every major market across the U.S. (with the exception of Washington, D.C., where The Washington Post bought exclusivity from Citysearch in perpetuity).

Come Oct. 31, The UT will launch its own homegrown city guide. Already, the two longtime partners have started selling against each other. Citysearch publicly announced its presence to the San Diego ad community a couple of weeks ago at a rooftop party for media and advertisers in the historic Gaslamp district. It also announced a new local media partner: San Diego, an upscale city magazine.

We talked to Chris Jennewein, The UT’s VP for new media, about the change’s impact on his company. Jennewein noted that both sides have felt increasingly constricted in their relationship. The UT hadn’t been in any hurry to end the deal, however, because the switching costs were high.

Now that the break has finally occurred, Jennewein said The UT is eager to develop a truly local service that will stand out against Citysearch’s “national” approach. “They have a completely different model,” he said.

The new UT entertainment guide will be Open Source and will use as its primary vendor. It will also have “plenty of bells and whistles” that weren’t possible using the Citysearch platform, including the integration of SignOn’s new Internet radio station, and Flash audio-visual.

The end of the Citysearch deal means users won’t default to SignOn from Citysearch’s home page anymore. But Jennewein said that will have a negligible impact on SignOn’s traffic. It accounts for “less than 1 percent” of his entertainment guide’s traffic, he noted. Most of SignOn’s traffic from outside the area is generated from search engines.

As to whether he is worried about Citysearch’s competing sales force, Jennewein said only that he “is worried about every competitor, large and small.” But SignOn is on pace for record growth in usage and advertisers.
Peter Krasilovsky <![CDATA[CBS Stations Providing Video to Yahoo! News]]> 2006-10-17T19:45:12-05:00 2006-10-17T19:45:12-05:00 2006-10-17T19:45:12-05:00 Yahoo! local news page, links back to the local station sites and a revenue share from advertising sold by Yahoo!.

Under the deal, the CBS stations are receiving prominent placement of three video thumbnails on the right-hand side of Yahoo!’s local news page, above the ad. The left-hand side continues to consist of print sources — including text versions of various stories from local TV stations. Selected clips, such as the closing of New York’s CBGB nightclub or the Corey Lidle plane crash, might receive additional play if they are selected for Yahoo!’s national news page coverage.

We talked to Yahoo! News head Neil Budde about the deal. “It is about expanding the marketplace,” said Budde, who noted that Yahoo! has already had ties with CBS vis-a-vis 60 Minutes and the Nightly News. “We’ve been building local news for six to nine months” and also been developing the video channel. “Video and Local News are two things we’ve been focusing on. So the relationship with CBS makes sense.”

Budde emphasized that the deal has been specifically set up to avoid channel conflict. CBS and Yahoo! will split revenues from pre-roll advertising, but Yahoo! won’t pitch local businesses. While no specifics were released about Yahoo!/CBS advertising, pre-roll ads typically run $25 to $50. According to Budde, other station group owners are likely to be pursued by Yahoo! to expand beyond CBS’ 16 markets.

From CBS’ point of view, Yahoo! is going to provide a lot of additional promotion and distribution for its stations, which are really beginning to ramp up with “best of" contests, etc. Yahoo! News currently is getting just under 36 million users, compared with 8 million received by CBS, according to comScore. While it has been generally overlooked in the hubbub over Google’s deal with YouTube, Yahoo! is also a leading force in video. In September, Yahoo! had 50 million video streams — more than YouTube and MySpace.

CBS, of course, is not the only TV station owner putting clips on the Web. As reporter Mark Walsh writes in Media Post, NBC is also syndicating video clips from its 10 stations, as well as YouTube-like user-generated content in partnership with Motionbox.
Peter Krasilovsky <![CDATA[Centro's Spin: Online Newspapers Outreach Portals]]> 2006-10-16T18:50:01-05:00 2006-10-16T18:50:01-05:00 2006-10-16T18:50:01-05:00 in their own communities. But not so fast, says Shawn Riegsecker, a founder of Centro, an ad network dedicated to localizing ad buys for national marketers, such as GM.

“Any of the four portals have over twice the reach of a newspaper Web site in any community,” Riegsecker says. But according to comScore, "roughly half the portals traffic is made up of utilities such as Technologies/Applications/Mail." When this is stripped out to allow for an apple-to-apple comparison of content traffic, "guess what? The local industry, mostly made up of online newspapers, actually beats the portals from a reach perspective.”

Riegsecker acknowledges “the incredible advantage the utilities’ traffic gives the portals over the online newspaper industry with regards to reach and available inventory for sale.” But he adds, “it's a compelling reason for newspapers to do whatever they can in their communities to begin beefing up on as much utilities, applications and other services to increase 'usership' and inventory available for sale.” ]]>
Peter Krasilovsky <![CDATA[NAA's Melinda Gipson Joins GateHouse (Too)]]> 2006-10-16T18:48:32-05:00 2006-10-16T18:48:32-05:00 2006-10-16T18:48:32-05:00 April to join The Motley Fool.

Gipson’s contribution has been a major one. She hand-coded the association’s first Web site, wrote key books on how to sell online advertising (with analysts like me), and immersed herself in the development of newspaper ad networks, community building efforts and lately mobile content strategies. She has been a forceful and effective advocate for newspapers in every forum, whether inside the industry or in advertising forums.

At GateHouse, which is about to IPO, she will join other industry luminaries including Howard Owens, former online leader at The Ventura County Star and The Bakersfield Californian. Heading the online operation is Bill Blevins, who previously ran online ops for CNHI, a counterpart to GateHouse that is largely based in the Southeast.

A major part of Gipson’s new job will be the development of national ad and editorial capabilities. Initially, she plans to focus on bringing other community media companies in as GateHouse partners. “You don’t have to buy everyone” to work with them, she says. While local remains vitally important for the papers, they can leverage off of national services too, she says. “They need to connect to a bigger brand.” She will also be evaluating technology and tools for the company.

Is Gipson part of a newspaper industry brain drain — even though she, arguably, is just moving to "the growth part" of the newspaper industry? She doesn’t think so. While the list of people who have left mainstream newspapers is growing, Gipson says they are the ones who best understand the strengths of the newspaper industry and end up acting as ambassadors, just like former McKinsey consultants often support McKinsey assignments in their next jobs.

“Look, Hilary Schneider has taken an important job at Yahoo!. But she is working with newspapers on creating a job network,” notes Gipson. She hopes to play a similarly positive role.

Beth Lawton is filling Gipson’s shoes at NAA. Lawton will play a big role at the upcoming Connections Conference in Las Vegas Jan. 28-31.]]>
Peter Krasilovsky <![CDATA[Judy’s Book: Self-Serve Doesn’t Work, Other Lessons]]> 2006-10-12T18:19:39-05:00 2006-10-12T18:19:39-05:00 2006-10-12T18:19:39-05:00 Judy’s Book cofounder Andy Sack posts very candidly about the difficulties of launching a review/IYP site. Sack, who also founded Abuzz, one of the original review sites, and worked on Firefly, knows something about this subject by now.

Founded in 2004 at around the same time as Insider Pages, which just changed CEOs, Judy’s Book claims 1 million unique visitors; a national footprint; and content distribution deals with Google, Yahoo!,, and InfoSpace.

Issue No. 1 for Judy’s Book is achieving critical mass, market-by-market. “Momentum in any one location doesn’t transfer to others — you have to fight the same fight over and over,” writes Sack.

Getting repeat visits is tough, too. “Converting visits into signups, signups into repeat visits, & then into active use requires lots of money or passion or (best case) both at once.”

Despite the hype surrounding local online commerce’s arrival, Sack believes it remains very, very difficult to reach decision makers at potential advertisers — and to get them to write a check (something that my clients usually refuse to believe). “Self service for this market won't work — I think you need feet on the street to address this market,” he concludes. Another factor is the difficulty of good SEO, which is critical since 30 percent of Judy’s traffic is coming from Google. Google holds all the cards and they “keep changing the rules,” he says.

On the plus side, Sack says in a follow-up post that the user community has proved to be really responsive. “Consumers will do a *LOT* of work to get a deal (esp. something free).” He also notes that “people love to ask & answer questions on topics they care about.” (Thanks a lot to Niki Scevak’s Bronte Media for pointing to Andy’s Blog.)
Peter Krasilovsky <![CDATA[Citysearch Reboots: A Talk With EVP Scott Morrow]]> 2006-10-12T18:19:39-05:00 2006-10-12T18:19:39-05:00 2006-10-12T18:19:39-05:00 Citysearch has been around the local scene for so long that it often gets overlooked. But the IAC division plans a significantly higher profile in early 2007, with a relaunch of its site, a big push on local and national sales, and re-branding efforts that will do away with the “Yellow Pages” moniker, among other things.

The efforts will be headed by two recently recruited executives: CNET’s Scott Morrow, who is now exec VP, product and marketing, and’s Neil Salvage, who is now exec VP, sales. “We’re going to really position it in the market. It has been a few years since there’s been a crisp message,” said Morrow, during a phone interview.

For starters, Morrow said the site will be redesigned to convey more of a local flavor for users. Instead of a single look and feel for every U.S. market, local landmarks and other graphical things are going to find their way onto the site.

The site’s content will also feel considerably more local. Each of the top 10 markets has its own local editor, supplemented by freelancers. In all, there are 100 editors on staff. These efforts will be ramped up, along with some new deals with third-party content providers, such as city magazines and verticals.

San Diego Magazine, for instance, has been announced as a key player in San Diego, where Citysearch and the local newspaper site Sign On San Diego have broken off ties after a multiyear partnership. “Content is key to making the business work,” said Morrow.

There will also be a renewed focus on user-generated content. Citysearch actually pioneered “best of” contests, user reviews and other user content in the 1996 to 1998 timeframe. But during the intervening years, a lot of it has gotten stale. Recently, some 1997 reviews were spotted on some sections of the site.

By the end of the year, however, Morrow said that all time-sensitive reviews for restaurants and other categories will have been posted within the past 12 months. “It is really a Herculean effort,” he said. Other reviews, such as tourist destinations, will be kept on the site. “A review of the Statue of Liberty is probably still relevant” for several years.

Merchant information is also getting a fresh look. “It gets a bad rap” for being self-serving, but can be very useful if done properly, said Morrow. A dedicated sales team is going to take charge of capturing the merchant info, and will put it up within 24 hours. This might prove to be an advantage of Citysearch’s sales team, which Salvage is currently bulking up. Salvage has also created a national sales division.

The merchant info, however, won’t be part of something called “Citysearch Yellow Pages.” “Having category coverage in traditional Yellow Pages categories is essential to helping users,” said Morrow. “But there are legacy issues associated with ‘Yellow Pages,’ ” he said. “We are going to reframe it in a way that fits the brand.”

Morrow also sees “huge opportunities” with a host of mobile services, which have just been relaunched. But mobile won’t be affecting the bottom line anytime soon, he said. The market is just getting heated up. ]]>
Peter Krasilovsky <![CDATA[Executive Turnover at Insider Pages]]> 2006-10-11T19:36:05-05:00 2006-10-11T19:36:05-05:00 2006-10-11T19:36:05-05:00 Insider Pages founder Stu MacFarlane has been replaced as CEO by Mitch Galbraith, a veteran of Yahoo!’s small-business division who was recently brought in as VP of advertising. The change at the top appears to have been initiated by Insider’s investors, which include IdeaLab, Sequoia Capital and Softbank.

The turn of events is a surprise. In a conversation at SES Local just two weeks ago, MacFarlane expressed strong confidence in the local review/IYP site's prospects. He told me he had just sold his house in Manhattan Beach, near L.A. — the house whose recent remodelling was the inspiration for Insider Pages. He also said he was relocating his family to new digs in the Bay Area, where the company moved last year. Now the company is officially saying that MacFarlane didn’t really want to move. Whatever. (Explanations for executive departures are kind of a joke in the PR community, right?)

While Insider Pages has been an early leader among the IYP-driven social networks, and may still be, it appears to have recently lost ground to Yelp. Judy’s Book is another contender. Is it possible that the company, like others in the space, has unnerved its investors with a high burn rate? It is. Insider has had a number of expensive initiatives, such as its print “best of” guide, and the introduction of pay-per-call models at the local level. But this is just speculation on my part.

In an (unposted) release announcing the change, Sequoia’s Roelof Botha said: “Mitch brings just the right mix of business, advertising and online community-building acumen to help drive the next stage of growth at Insider Pages. We’re thrilled to have him taking the helm at this juncture.” In the release, Galbraith is given credit for Insider’s recent redesign, which “features a simpler, cleaner look & feel aimed at making the member experience quick and easy.”]]>
Peter Krasilovsky <![CDATA[Smalltown: Microsites as Substitute YPs]]> 2006-10-10T16:32:36-05:00 2006-10-10T16:32:36-05:00 2006-10-10T16:32:36-05:00 Smalltown, has launched a microsite service in San Mateo and Burlingame that serves as kind of a commerce-oriented city guide/Yellow Pages. The service has received $3 million in funding from Formative Ventures, a tech-oriented VC.

Micro-sites certainly seem to be “in.” Companies such as Premier Guide and EyeBallFarm are providing microsites as template-driven products, alongside a host of search-related services that drive leads to a business.

Smalltown’s service, however, isn’t specifically lead-driven. Instead, its approach is based on the idea that consumers will want to collect easy-to-update “Webcards” of businesses in their community, and will regularly return to the Webcard page to see what’s up, and to exchange reviews, comments, etc. They can also e-mail the Webcards to friends or associates.

As Smalltown puts it:

“Neighbors can share their reviews and recommendations, where pay-for-placement advertising is replaced by valuable merchant-generated information, and where all types of local content are integrated into one easy-to-use experience.”

As conceived by Smalltown, the Webcards have a free basic tier, but can be upgraded with photos, text, coupons and video. The latter is seen as especially valuable as videos become easier to produce and post. There is also an opt-in newsletter capability.

The upgraded tier is priced at $40 per month, which is higher than Yahoo! Local’s $9.95 tier for enhanced listings. But it is considered a sharp discount to other local advertising channels (Yellow Pages, Penny Savers and coupons).

To sell the ads, the company is hiring dedicated sales agents —one for every 200,000 people. Until it scales up, one sales agent may rep several adjacent communities.

To me, the Webcards have been elegantly designed, are fairly intuitive to fill out, and serve as attractive alternatives to difficult-to-maintain Web sites or template-driven services. I say as much in a press release distributed by the company. But we’ll see whether SMEs will value the functionality of the cards as virtually standalone products (although the company’s welcome tab will showcase "featured cards" and "events.")

My take is that lead generation is very much the thing right now, and that the service’s “look at me and come back often” approach is a little out-of-sync with the current marketplace. While they can be found on search engines, SEO and SEM aren’t the emphasis here.

Moreover, I think that Smalltown is going to have some difficulty generating traffic to the cards. Right now, its plan to drive traffic is based on viral, non-advertising techniques (sponsoring ice cream cones at fairs, etc.) The economics of relying on local sales agents selling low-cost products like this have also proved tough for other local online guides.

Another issue with Smalltown is that it is defining "local" within the city boundaries. Other local business sites are generally oriented around ZIP and proximity. This may or may not be a mistake. It can certainly be fixed.

Ultimately, Smalltown has developed a nice looking and easy-to-use ap. I look at it and my gut tells me it is nicer than most other local directory sites. It also has a nice URL that probably cost some real money. But my head tells me that to have any measure of success, it is going to have to be paired with sites that have strong media-like traffic … and can promise leads based on search results.

Peter Krasilovsky <![CDATA[Kinsley's Take on Tribune's Vision (or Lack Thereof)]]> 2006-10-09T20:10:05-05:00 2006-10-09T20:10:05-05:00 2006-10-09T20:10:05-05:00
In various comments, Kinsley said the Times is still one of the best newspapers out there. But he noted that it also has the worst Web site among major U.S. newspapers; that Tribune probably hadn't had any vision for the Times (or for Times Mirror), although it paid $8 billion for the company in 2000; and that there has never been any serious attempt to develop the national presence that would ensure long-term survival, despite footprints in Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington (via Baltimore) and New York. Kinsley also guesses that the Times will be sold within six months, although the results won’t be pleasing to a local owner.

Where did his comments appear? In the Times’ Current section on Sunday.

Kinsley, now the American editor of the Guardian (London), doesn’t provide inside dope on what really goes on behind the scenes. Truly, Kinsley’s idea of a successful newspaper is pretty much limited to one that is read by influentials in politics, culture and business (in that order). He couldn't care less about the success of the paper in selling full pages to car dealers in Orange County. For sure, it is a noneconomic view. For most newspapers, national is the gravy. Local is the bread and butter.

But his charge that Tribune lacked any vision at all for Times Mirror is one to seriously ponder. He scores some points. Aside from providing valuable scale for CareerBuilder, and other verticals, anyone can observe that the Times’ editorial and ad sales have been under-leveraged. The Times hasn’t even dominated in entertainment coverage, despite being located in the company town of the entertainment industry (in fact, it looks like The New York Times’ might steal a good portion of the market with its acquisition of Baseline, a leading entertainment database).

Perhaps the arrival as publisher of David Hiller, the very smart corporate lawyer who ran Tribune Interactive for a couple of years, might bring a new focus as Tribune tries to “right size” the Times’ economics while increasing market share. But it is hard to say.

Ultimately, Kinsley concludes that Tribune might want to get back to its provincial roots and just get rid of the Times. He also predicts that it will do a deal with a local magnate like David Geffen or Eli Broad.

“If I were Dennis FitzSimmons, chief executive of Tribune Co., and someone said, ‘Here is a large check. Take it and you will never have to think about the Los Angeles Times ever again,’ I would pinch myself, then grab it and scurry back to the Midwest before the buyer changed his mind or I woke up,” said Kinsley.

“But a sale to a local or locals is not likely to produce an equally happy ending for the buyer or for Los Angeles. Buying a newspaper is different from inheriting one,” he notes, referring to the built-in sense of noblesse oblige of The New York Times’ Sulzbergers or The Washington Post’s Grahams. Me, I think that part of it is overrated. ]]>
Peter Krasilovsky <![CDATA[CBS-TV Sites Launch 'Best of' Cities]]> 2006-10-09T20:10:05-05:00 2006-10-09T20:10:05-05:00 2006-10-09T20:10:05-05:00 CityVoter, a new company started by Forrester Research alum. The "best of" contests are using a tried-and-true format popularized by city magazines such as New York and Washingtonian and widely adopted by city guides such as Citysearch and Digital City. In this case, the best of sites are being branded as “The A List” and enable local residents to nominate local businesses in up to 90 categories.

The featured businesses will be able to populate information about themselves and will also be offered upsells such as coupons. Other local and national advertising will be sold around them.

CityVoter has launched with in Boston, an Owned & Operated station, as well as, a Gannett-owned CBS affiliate. The latter station launched with more than 600 nominated businesses. Other local media outlets are now being approached. Vista Print, which prints materials for SMEs such as business cards, is listed as an additional marketing partner.

A friendly Forrester writeup suggests that the “best of” format will eventually take over local advertising. “I think the CityVoter model finally replaces ye old Yellow Pages,” says analyst Shar VanBoskirk (ahem-cough-sputter-cough).

Readers know I’m not going to be so bullish over such a narrow ap. But over the years, it has proved to be a good format, and we know that TV stations are fine for partnering with content packagers. CityVoter seems to be off to a good start.
Peter Krasilovsky <![CDATA[Craigslist Adds Fees in 4 More Cities]]> 2006-10-09T18:39:16-05:00 2006-10-09T18:39:16-05:00 2006-10-09T18:39:16-05:00 adding $25 fees Oct. 22 for recruitment ads in four more markets: Boston; Seattle; Washington, D.C.; and San Diego. The markets join New York City, Los Angeles and San Francisco as cities where fees have been imposed on its mainstream recruitment ads. (In homebase SF, recruitment ads are $75.) Beyond an additional $10 fee for brokered housing in New York, ads remain free for “gigs,” “odd jobs,” domestic help and all other categories.

According to Classified Intelligence, Craigslist is already pulling in $30 million a year from such fees and is “sucking out” many millions more from newspapers and other recruitment sources that have seen a negative impact on their fee structure and overall ad units. San Diego Union Tribune reporter Kathryn Balint reports, for instance, that her newspaper’s Web site, SignOn San Diego, charges $350 for 30 days. charges $395 for 60 days, and San Diego charges $65 for 60 days.

If history is a guide, little friction should be anticipated from the imposition of the new fees. When fees were first imposed in Los Angeles and New York City in August 2004, for instance, the absolute number of ads in those markets dropped significantly, but the remaining jobs were of much higher quality. Both markets, of course, have more than recovered their original share.

Craigslist, of course, is rationalizing the need for fees as a means to help reduce clutter from spam and reposting ads to stay on top of categories. The explanation is apparently good enough to its users, which comScore says have increased 99 percent in the past year. Unique users have climbed from 6.9 million in mid-2005 to 13.8 million in mid-2006.

I think the “public interest” explanation is plausible, too. But is it churlish to note, once again, that after several years of fees, it is wearing a little thin? In my opinion, Craigslist would also serve its public by beginning to tackle its scaling issues and growing beyond its status as a dumb bulletin board. Ideally, it would help its users cut through the clutter by making its site more searchable and adding a few basic features.

It would also benefit its users more by reaching out beyond its urban cores. The site is practically useless in most suburbs, where much of local commerce actually occurs. And if the small-by-design company can’t handle such efforts, maybe the industrial-strength tech wizards at eBay, which owns 25 percent but has a “hands off” policy, can be called in to help? ]]>
Peter Krasilovsky <![CDATA[NAA Combines Print/Web Usage for Newspapers]]> 2006-10-05T18:51:08-05:00 2006-10-05T18:51:08-05:00 2006-10-05T18:51:08-05:00
That’s exactly what the Newspaper Association of America is up to with its newly released Fall 2006 Newspaper Audience Database, a free report that combines Scarborough print numbers with Nielsen/Netratings Internet numbers. (The Yellow Pages Association has made a similar case for its members.)

A prologue to the data suggests that “newspaper Websites increase the reach of the print product by an average of 12 percent across the Top 100 newspapers,” and that “with the Web sites, newspapers reach 16 percent more 18-24 year olds, and 19 percent more 25-34 year olds.”

Looking at the report, it is kind of stunning to see the heft of the combined Web/print numbers for the Top 100 papers. USA Today, for instance, leads the way with almost 7 million readers; The New York Times has 4.75 million readers; and the L.A. Times has almost 2.2 million readers. Oh, for the days of growth again!

The big numbers don’t really matter much. But there is, in fact, some relevance to putting the numbers together because it weights newspapers’ relative importance; something that isn't always considered. We no longer have to assume that two papers with equal print circulation are the same as each other, when one has a weak Web site and one has a strong one. This will become increasingly critical over the next year or so. And then ... less so.]]>
Peter Krasilovsky <![CDATA[Store Locators Becoming Key Marketing Tools]]> 2006-10-05T18:49:54-05:00 2006-10-05T18:49:54-05:00 2006-10-05T18:49:54-05:00 Expectations of The Cross Channel Customer,” a new study released by authoritative retail analyst Lauren Freedman of The E-Tailing Group.

Freedman found that more and more locators include store information beyond maps and directions, including standard things such as phone numbers and store hours, but also including services that directly impact the bottom line. Sales events, for instance, are increasingly featured, as well as the ability to save and personalize specific store information a la Agendize.

“Retailers, realizing the importance of store locaters as a destination, are building them more robustly with 50 percent of merchants including specialized departments, categories or services,” notes Freedman. This figure is up from the 40 percent found in the firm’s last survey in 3Q 2005. The report also found an increased amount of merchandising from within the locater. Fifty-six percent use it to highlight promotions within their locaters, versus 27 percent in 3Q 2005.

Freedman advises retailers to “take advantage of this heavily trafficked location to promote storewide sales, in-store events and seasonal activities.” In addition to locator info, the 26-page report provides proprietary survey data and analysis on a host of Internet retail extensions, including frequent buyer programs, coupons, gift cards, online product locators, inventory programs and in-store pickups.]]>
Peter Krasilovsky <![CDATA[Newspaper Next: Focus on 'Non-Consumers']]> 2006-10-03T20:38:17-05:00 2006-10-03T20:38:17-05:00 2006-10-03T20:38:17-05:00 released by the American Press Institute — or at least a stripped-down, free version of it (i.e., very little data). Included in the 91-page report is a playbook for evaluating and developing innovative services.

I previewed the $2 million project in July, and was very familiar with the analysis, since it didn’t vary much from earlier projects I had worked on in 2002-2003 as part of Borrell Associates. The basic takeaway remains the same: While newspapers are declining from mass-market to boutique status, their parent companies remain capable of leveraging their strength in local markets to produce new products for reaching the growing ranks of non-consumers.

“Portfolio strategy is not just an option for newspaper companies — it is THE option — a necessity for survival,” note the authors. “Newspaper companies can either become disruptor companies in themselves — or they can watch competitors do it — and see their local information franchise ebb away.”

While the essence of the analysis remains the same, some findings have been adjusted, based on present-day realities. Deemphasized this time around is the need for separate Internet operations, and the potential for premium-priced targeted advertising and using database marketing techniques.

Now, the authors steer clear of mandating separate Internet operations (a battle that has been largely lost) and focus more on reaching small businesses that typically advertise in the Yellow Pages (finally!); the development of niche products such as tourist and parent publications; and the possibility of collaborating with other newspapers to form regional and national marketing services.

My feeling about the analysis is the same as always. It is a little pretentious and can be frustratingly vague. But the core lessons of Disruptive Innovations (formerly "technology") remain essential. Moreover, publishers respect the Harvard pedigree, and really listen. If the analysis can help turn around newspapers (or for that matter, Yellow Pages), it isn't a bad thing.]]>
Peter Krasilovsky <![CDATA[Follow-Up on Merchant Circle's Misbehavior]]> 2006-10-02T22:17:19-05:00 2006-10-02T22:17:19-05:00 2006-10-02T22:17:19-05:00 Merchant Circle. I took all the comments off the blog after noting irregularities among them. Basically, I saw a deliberate attempt by one or more people to create a pseudo grassroots movement against Merchant Circle by writing lots of phony letters. I don’t like that.

But guess what? When it comes to Merchant Circle, it turns out there are lots of angry people. People I have known and trusted for many years wrote or called to let me know I had been overly sympathetic to the company.

Here is a note from a high-level exec in California ...

“I just saw your post on Merchant Circle. ... When I checked out the service (I signed up XXXX as a merchant) it basically spammed a bunch of nearby businesses that they had email addresses for in my name without me even knowing it.”

Here is another note from a colleague in Michigan I have worked with for many years.

“Thanks for writing this. I got one of those calls (‘You have received negative comments at Merchant Circle’). I panicked and raced to the site to find it was a marketing scam. I was so mad I’ll never do anything with them for any reason.”

In fact, Merchant Circle’s marketing efforts were far more extensive and misleading than I was led to believe. But there is something else. I now believe that I overreacted by roping all the commenters in together. There were at least three real commenters buried amid the other comments, and probably more. I apologize to them, and thank them for taking the time to warn the community of Merchant Circle’s misbehavior.

Cathy Hillen-Rulloda, who runs the Avante Gardens - florals unique blog, is one of them. I previously used a portion of her comments in my post because they were the most articulate.

Ms. Hillen-Rulloda has taken my mistake in stride. She thinks this should serve as a warning to small businesses that want to be taken seriously to start using their own domain names. “I’m not surprised that IPs and emails of small business owners didn’t jive. Heck, I see local florists using Hotmail, AOL and Yahoo email addresses on their sites — hardly professional or confidence inspiring to a consumer,” she wrote in an e-mail.

“Many small local businesses have a long way to go,” she continued. “It's too bad Merchant Circle couldn't figure out a way to demonstrate how they'd help — instead of using the fright tactics.”
Peter Krasilovsky <![CDATA[SES Local: The Long Tail in a Yahoo!/Google World]]> 2006-10-02T22:10:02-05:00 2006-10-02T22:10:02-05:00 2006-10-02T22:10:02-05:00 SES Local Conference in Denver Sept. 28. The 10-panel conference had about 225 attendees.

While 85 percent of local searches goes to the top 10 sites, 15 percent goes to niche and regionally strong local search sites, noted Localeze’s Gib Olander. “There is a long tail,” he said. “It is hard to cover all the sites offering local search.”

Marchex’s Gary Roshak echoed the gist of Olander's comments. “There is life after Yahoo! and Google, with plenty of inventory,” said Roshak, referring to the inventory shortage that typically affects major search engine categories. He added that the narrower focus of specialty sites — especially the localized domains that Marchex has been gobbling up — has become “increasingly relevant. Seventy percent of users type in URLs directly, rather than taking links from a search engine or from bookmarks.”

To LocalLaunch President Justin Sanger, the issue isn’t so much an inventory shortage as the challenge of integrating inventory with the needs of the advertiser — something that a consultative Yellow Pages sales force is especially well positioned to provide. LocalLaunch, of course, was recently sold to R.H. Donnelley.

With SEO, SEM, Pay Per Click, Pay Per Call, Profiles and other newfangled ad platforms, advertisers need to “productize their inventory,” said Sanger. “This requires blending mixed buys, pricing efficiencies, and data transfer efficiencies.”

The problem, however, is that many sites haven’t stepped up to the plate, technologically, and are unprepared. “Some organizations haven’t even put their APIs in place,” Sanger complained.

Local Matters CEO Perry Evans, meanwhile, characterized it all as “the battle for the lead.” SMEs will pay more and more for leads, making them an increasingly valuable customer, he said.

But it is a fallacy to start counting the 10 million to 12 million SMEs as shoo-in customers. Evans noted there are three types of SME customers: “winding up,” “winding down” and “coasting.” Obviously, only some of them are likely customers.

Chances to convert SMEs are better, however, if local media companies can show how they help convert the leads. “Certainly, it has been difficult to qualify a lead based on the criteria input to a search box,” he said. But a new generation of local products, such as neighborhood-centric services and “purposeful” shopping guides can go a long way. “Shopping is often the forgotten play.”

On the other hand, Evans feels that inventory control products, such as Intuit’s StepUp, are “something of a pipe dream. They don’t even know what they have (in stock) themselves.”]]>
Peter Krasilovsky <![CDATA[Yahoo!: 10 Million Flickr Photos Geo-Tagged]]> 2006-10-02T15:27:51-05:00 2006-10-02T15:27:51-05:00 2006-10-02T15:27:51-05:00 Flickr service, according to Yahoo! Local GM Paul Levine, who spoke at SES Local on Sept. 28 in Denver. Levine said that up to 10 million Flickr photos have already been geo-tagged since its introduction.

Geo-tagged photos are being used in other ways by Yahoo!. Levine noted, for instance, that they play a vital role in several of the new vertical sites being developed under the Yahoo! Local collection, such as “Late Night Eats,” “Fly Fishing Resources Bay Area,” etc.

Levine said the next challenge for Yahoo! Local is to geo-reference photos from cellphones. Y! Labs is currently developing methods using cell tower triangulation and other methods to enable photos to be geo-positioned and posted. Presumably, this will also have implications for Wi-Fi as well (and maybe even cut down on the rubbernecking that occurs after a car crash).

Separately, Levine gave some updates on Yahoo Local’s reach, noting that it now covers 80,000 ZIP codes and offers 60,000 city pages. It also has broken out 600 neighborhoods — a "next frontier" for local marketing that Yellow Pages companies like and are addressing by syndicating the neighborhood breakouts of

On the sales front, Levine emphasized that Yahoo! Local continues to rely heavily on sales channel partners, such as the Yellow Pages companies. It has at least 12. At the same time, many small businesses are beginning to approach Yahoo! directly. Levine said that more than 1,000 businesses in each of 25 categories have initiated advertising directly from Yahoo!. It makes me think that Yahoo!'s reliance on third-party sales channels might not last forever.]]>
Peter Krasilovsky <![CDATA[Revised: Merchant Circle Complaints]]> 2006-09-27T14:43:18-05:00 2006-09-27T14:43:18-05:00 2006-09-27T14:43:18-05:00 Merchant Circle is a new company that is designed to generate small-business traffic via SEO/SEM, free DA, enhanced listings and other state-of-the-art techniques.

When someone posts a review about a business in Merchant Circle, the company’s system automatically calls the business about it, hoping to generate interest in signing up for its service. To date, Merchant Circle tells me 40,000 businesses have signed up for a free level of service. Of those, a "very small percentage" have converted to a pay tier. No wonder the company is getting more aggressive, right? And those calls are apparently alienating people all over the U.S.

Here is a comment from "Cathy," who I've learned is a legit florist in Anaheim:

“A fellow florist received one of your ‘negative review’ calls today and expressed concern as to how she could possibly have deserved such a comment. Thankfully this blog spells out the marketing scam. I took a look at Merchant Circle and found the same erroneous data for my city and category as the widely seen in most Yellow Pages; fictitious ‘local’ listings for out-of-state call centers and the mis-categorizations of a number of businesses. No where does the site explain the source of the merchant ratings or make the raters accountable for their blemishing of the reputations of some excellent local businesses. No where can a company defend itself except the forced ‘claiming’ of their tattered honor and goodwill. That’s not marketing — it’s ransom. Unbelievable that the Chandler family or Disney would endorse these tactics.”

Here is a different sample from "Holly”:

"We received this call today too, with a recorded message that said we had "negative information". Went to the site and did not see any comments under our name. Glad I found this string of messages and know I am not alone, and it is definitely SPAM! Everyone should report them at: Click on "File a Complaint" and report them. After searching Google I found Merchant Circle's phone number: 650-352-1335. Hope this helps!”

This is awful, right? But not so quick. While the problems appear to be very real, some of the comments — not all — may not be. For one thing, the e-mails mostly come from people with just one name, just like the proud Afghani people: I send my regards to "Lisa," “Lynda,” “Ginger,” “Robert,” “Steve,” “Cindy,” “Erin,” “Matthew” and several others.

While the commenters typically have return e-mail addresses that have different ISPs and domain names, some have different IP addresses. Most tend to be “too interesting,” but have the same voice. Moreover, when I sent out three test e-mails for verification, none responded. (Yes, I should have done more). Moreover, few have phone numbers or Web sites attached to them.

The last straw was when I Googled “Merchant Circle.” This kind of grassroots campaign would typically have a call to action posted somewhere. But it doesn’t. The only thing you see is an article that I wrote a few months ago, when Merchant Circle launched.

It just doesn’t make sense that I am suddenly getting tons of comments from around the country for such an old article. Here is my take. Merchant Circle, a Rustic Canyon project launched by Ben Smith, the creator of Spoke Software, is dedicated to helping small businesses be successful on the Web. It has been very entrepreneurial, and has really thought through what small businesses need to get noticed on the Web.

I don’t know if it will be successful — and I have made no secret of being dismayed at the low level of security on the system for changing business information. But if it had some success, it would be good for the entire local online advertising industry.

Maybe it has been too caustic about the Yellow Pages industry in its attention-getting promotions and blog comments — who knows? I can’t imagine that a Yellow Pages executive would do something like this.]]>
Peter Krasilovsky <![CDATA[Spot Runner Signing Brands for Local Co-op Ads]]> 2006-09-26T13:54:03-05:00 2006-09-26T13:54:03-05:00 2006-09-26T13:54:03-05:00 Spot Runner, the year-old company that uses the Internet to inexpensively produce and place local TV ads for small businesses, has revealed some new directions. While it is still pursuing ad campaigns with local businesses, which number “in the thousands," it is also going after national brands that can partner with local stores or agents and split costs on a co-op basis.

According to VP Tim Lambert and business development executive Sanjay Sharma, Spot Runner has specifically landed co-op deals with two brands: Ortho-Clear, a “transparent dental alignment” provider that partners with local dentists and tooth-care companies, and DeBeers, the diamond company that partners with local jewelers.

Separately, Spot Runner is working with Cendant, the holding company for Coldwell Banker, Century 21, Sothebys and ERA, to resell TV campaigns for its assorted Realtors. Cendant, however, is probably acting more in a reseller capacity than providing co-op support, since it sees agent support as a profit center in itself. Whatever the arrangement, packages, including consultations, use of ad library video and customization, begin at about $500 a month. Entire campaigns can be done for about $1,500.

In addition to TV spots, Lambert and Sharma say the company is planning radio campaigns, since audio tracks have already been produced as a byproduct of the TV ad. Internet-based TV ads are also “definitely” being looked at. The company has about 120 people in its New York and L.A. offices, with the vast majority of those being “creatives” who customize the ads.]]>
Peter Krasilovsky <![CDATA[Long Live Classifieds? Some Reader Feedback]]> 2006-09-25T18:34:42-05:00 2006-09-25T18:34:42-05:00 2006-09-25T18:34:42-05:00 The Local Onliner. (It is worthwhile to look up the full comments.)

Jay Schauer, who heads Ad2Ad, a self-provisioning classified system for community and college papers, grouses that he’s “heard the hype” about Google Base killing off classifieds. “Here’s what GoogleBase isn’t going to kill: Classifieds."

The thing about 'classified ads' is that they are CLASSIFIED," notes Schauer. "You can quickly find a category (like 'Seasonal Items') and a classification (like 'Halloween Costumes') and hey-presto, the ads there are for those items and ONLY those items. What a concept.” Searches on Google Base, complains Schauer, often return a load of irrelevant links.

Schauer (a sometimes client) goes on to compare "the Death of Classifieds to the Paperless Office of the 1970s. Offices now use 10 times as much paper as in 1970."

Jeff Rapson, VP with Contraco's Search Initiatives, which is trying to help newspapers get into the SME space (like the rest of us), seconds Schauer’s views. “Presumably we’ll end up somewhere in the middle with a vendor that has successfully figured out B2C, C2C & B2B. Munging together the best of a shop/newspaper classifieds marketplace with the best of a IYP directory offering. TBD.”

Meanwhile, Tom Britt, publisher of At Geist, an online shopper/city guide in the Indianapolis area, thinks it is less an issue of newspapers vs. Yellow Pages than online vs. print. He also suggests that the success of online is going to hit Yellow Pages even harder and faster than newspapers.

“I think YP is in trouble,” writes Britt. “Their brand has been diminished somewhat because of competing print publications, not so much because of online local listings. Print is print, and people that use YP generally don’t think 'hey, why am I pulling this out of the kitchen drawer when I could run upstairs and search Google local listings to get the same information?'

Britt says he has found this to be the case with his own print publication, a monthly newsletter that is mailed to residents. On the other hand, his online newsletter attracts a totally different crowd, beyond the mailing list. "People either trust print or online, not typically both,” he writes. “That’s why I think online classifieds are important. To Meg’s point, classifieds are 'entry level e-commerce', but they also help in the web’s adoption by older, YP, consumers.” ]]>
Peter Krasilovsky <![CDATA[My Primer on 'Classifieds and YP Convergence']]> 2006-09-25T12:49:24-05:00 2006-09-25T12:49:24-05:00 2006-09-25T12:49:24-05:00
Here’s a quick rundown of my Top 10 points:

1. Newspapers have traditionally dominated the classified marketplace, but face deteriorating market share due to competition from vertical sites (i.e., Autobytel), niche sites (i.e., real estate brokerages), social sites (i.e., Craigslist) and especially, aggregators (i.e., Google Base).

2. Local fragmentation is getting so intense that Borrell Associates recently determined that major market newspapers like The Philadelphia Inquirer may only count on winning 15 percent of local usage.

3. The emergence of numerous competitors means that newspapers often lag behind the competition in the number of listings they provide. Ultimately, the ability to provide not only the most, but also the most relevant listings will be classifieds’ real currency.

4. To maintain usage levels, newspapers will have to develop new classified products and team up with other media and with aggregators like Oodle. A prototype arrangement might be the deal made this week when The New York Times agreed to provide its classifieds to The New York Sun, a free metro paper.

5. Where search engines like Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft fit in the mix hasn’t really been established. But they’ll seek to become master aggregators of free classifieds, while providing enough extra findability and tech features to upsell advertisers to a premium platform.

6. Technology enhancements are probably classified providers’ best weapons against relatively primitive free sites like Craigslist. Microsoft's Windows Live Expo, for instance, announced a $19.99 deal this week that will enable advertisers to upload photos and be searched based on numerous criteria.

7. EBay is another contender in the mix. But while CEO Meg Whitman says that she only sees classifieds as “entry-level e-commerce” and doesn’t envision adding a transaction capability, it seems inevitable that eBay will eventually go there. The ability to find an item, promote it with coupons and then buy it is the true future of many classified categories.

8. Against this backdrop, we see shopper pubs (like PennySavers) and specialty products (like home and car publications) being sold to traditional local media, including Yellow Pages. The challenge with these types of pubs is they generally have weekly or monthly frequency. This doesn’t necessarily position YPs in a medium that will be defined by the ability to be up to the minute.

9. Shoppers et al are doomed to be the first victims of the new Internet sites. They'll have trouble with their premium advertising models. But exceptions will occur when they win strong online distribution and can provide synergies with existing advertising (i.e., auto listings and auto services). Generally, this is what the YP players hope to accomplish by partnering with them in their “local ad hubs.”

10. It remains to be seen whether the power of YPs' distribution, brand and sales forces will add enough extra oomph to “rescue” these pubs, which are all about micro-level marketing. But they do give YPs a base to build on.
Peter Krasilovsky <![CDATA[Free Dunkin' Donuts Coffee From Yahoo! Local … Not!]]> 2006-09-22T13:00:33-05:00 2006-09-22T13:00:33-05:00 2006-09-22T13:00:33-05:00
When I signed on to Yahoo! tonight, it touted that I could print out a free 16 oz. iced coffee coupon from Dunkin' Donuts that I could use all day, just for making Yahoo! my home page (which it is). The promotion is "limited" to the first 850,000 people who sign up.

From a marketing perspective, what I really liked is the way the promotion gets people to use Yahoo! Local to find the nearest Dunkin' location. If it worked, it would have been habit forming, for both Yahoo! Local and Dunkin'.

The coupon printed out nicely. But I should have known better. When I searched for my nearest location (and then when that failed, for San Diego, and then for Los Angeles), I came up with a bunch of links that would let me become a Dunkin' Donut franchisee, buy used doughnut shop furniture and talk about doughnuts. I’m surprised there wasn’t a link to Homer Price and the incredible doughnut machine that would not turn off (one of my favorite children's stories).

Alas, there was no link to a local Dunkin'. In fact, there are no Dunkin' Donuts in Southern California. For me, the closest location is probably the outlet in Terminal 5 at JFK.

Yahoo! likes to tell advertisers it knows where people live (me, I live in Carlsbad, CA). It certainly has the registration info and has personalized my weather report. But sometimes I wonder. Is it possible that Yahoo! was simply teasing me or trying to get me to buy a Dunkin' Donuts franchise in Southern California? Dunkin' is, after all, on a nationwide expansion binge. It is possible.

But for now, I am mad at Yahoo!, I am mad at Yahoo! Local, and I remember that I never really liked Dunkin' Donuts or their watery coffee.
Peter Krasilovsky <![CDATA[BellSouth’s Harris: ‘Yes’ on YP Growth, Google Ties]]> 2006-09-21T18:26:28-05:00 2006-09-21T18:26:28-05:00 2006-09-21T18:26:28-05:00
Ike Harris, president of BellSouth's Advertising & Publishing Group, in comments at The Kelsey Group’s Directory Driven Commerce conference in Los Angeles Sept. 19-20, presented one scenario for the industry’s future. He suggested that print references might decline about 5 percent, but revenues could still grow 1.2 percent, due to Yellow Pages' continued ability to raise prices and add new channels. Meanwhile, online searches may grow at 27 percent, while search revenues may grow at 43 percent.

“Revenue per reference drives overall revenue growth due to strong ROI (return on investment),” which TMP estimates runs about $13 for every $1 invested.

In other comments, Harris said he’s comfortable having BellSouth reps selling for Yahoo! and Google, but only so long as BellSouth/ maintains its own organic traffic. Otherwise, “we would be irrelevant” in the local community and have a weakened sales position. Harris also said that the Yellow Pages industry needs to “prepare for the next wave: wireless.” A key initiative will be to explore alliances with customer premise equipment (CPE) providers so Yellow Pages are included on cellphones, PDAs, IPTV, etc.
Peter Krasilovsky <![CDATA[AT&T's Payne: IPTV, Telco Roles for YP]]> 2006-09-21T17:40:14-05:00 2006-09-21T17:40:14-05:00 2006-09-21T17:40:14-05:00
Speaking at The Kelsey Group’s Directory Driven Commerce conference in Los Angeles Sept. 19-20, Payne said that “Yellow Pages has never been more relevant to AT&T.” He noted that YP must be considered “an integral part of business solutions,” which he termed "AT&T’s highest priority."

Rather than seeing IPTV as a separate venture, AT&T and other telcos should look at it as an additional channel for YP distribution, along with print, direct mail, the Internet and enhanced directory assistance. The set of channels reflects higher growth prospects and is being called “directional media,” as opposed to plain old Yellow Pages.

Currently, there are just 300,000 IPTV customers, but 8.7 million IPTVers are projected by 2010. “The deployment of video services provides critical mass” for YP, said Payne, adding that AT&T’s IPTV will have its own channel.

Payne acknowledged, however, that the long-term transformation into directional media will need other inputs beyond IPTV, especially on the sales front. “It is not a simple transformation,” he said. The salesperson must become the “customer point person for all data,” and “keep track of multiple product lines, lots of various packages.”]]>
Peter Krasilovsky <![CDATA[Windows Live Expo Adds Enhanced Classifieds]]> 2006-09-21T16:25:39-05:00 2006-09-21T16:25:39-05:00 2006-09-21T16:25:39-05:00 Windows Live Expo, Microsoft’s entry in the classifieds war, has upped the ante against Google Base, Yahoo! and the rest of them by signing with AdMission (formerly iPix) to use its Spotlight Ads technology.

While advertisers can still post ads for free, the Windows Live team is betting that high-value advertisers will pay $19.99 to upgrade to the Spotlight Ads platform. The platform, rooted in AdMission’s photo-and-virtual tour upload technology, enables advertisers to have a thumbnail photo of their product included in a banner or skyscraper format that is created on the fly, based on user searches.

The banners can present up to 15 competing thumbnails at a time, limited only by upload speed. When individual thumbnails are clicked on, they reveal extensive information about the product, and even enable “buy it now” transaction completions right on the site (although Microsoft isn’t using that capability). Users can also send selections to a friend.

Windows Live Expo is starting with Real Estate and Autos because they lend themselves well to high-value, highly visual offerings worth paying for. But the platform may eventually be extended to additional categories. Pets, for instance, have done well in other Spotlight Ads installations. Spotlight Ads is currently in use by several newspaper sites, including The Arizona Republic's and

I find it interesting that Microsoft isn’t relying on internal resources to develop the equivalent of Spotlight ads. It may be attributable, in part, to various patents that AdMission has on the technology. But it is also probably attributable to Microsoft’s current mania to publicly pit its internal teams against each others.

The result may be a series of fast moving, highly flexible products — but almost certainly guarantees branding confusion and overlap as well. Some people, for instance, may think to look for classifieds in Windows Live Local. Kate Kaye from ClickZ has more here (including quotes from me and Mike Boland).
Peter Krasilovsky <![CDATA[Microsoft adCenter Plays Up Geotargeting]]> 2006-09-15T19:07:11-05:00 2006-09-15T19:07:11-05:00 2006-09-15T19:07:11-05:00
For instance, retailers could reinforce print ads in the Sunday newspaper by launching an online campaign on adCenter between Saturday at 5 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Gender and age can also be added to the mix.

Also showcased was Microsoft’s ability to target local users via Web 2.0 apps, including its extensive mapping and directory mashups at Local Live. A local restaurant could advertise along your route home, or you can see what’s happening at a mall if you are stuck in traffic, suggested the rep.

Local retailers and other marketers also potentially benefit from Microsoft adLabs, a new collaborative resource that Microsoft has developed with centers in the U.S., U.K. and India. For instance, one lab capability detects online commercial intent on a scale of zero to one. Someone who is looking at reviews for TV sets might be given a 0.4 rating to purchase a TV. Another feature is a “search funnel” that predicts the next keyword a user might apply.

The San Diego-area agencies attending the briefing appeared to be open-minded toward using adCenter as a third outlet, in addition to their current buys on Google and Yahoo!. One, however, complained that using adCenter required a great deal of back and forth for every ad that is placed, while Yahoo! and Google offer relatively seamless, one-stop plays. “You have given us the equivalent of DOS instead of Windows,” she said (unfairly, I thought).

To this, the Microsoft reps responded that they are just getting started and that things will greatly improve. For now, they boasted that the Microsoft universe of Web sites has a higher cumulative rating than Google, better conversion rates, and much lower click-fraud rates because only Microsoft sites are being included at present.
Peter Krasilovsky <![CDATA[Cool Names for Location Services: R U ‘Geo Jam’n’?]]> 2006-09-15T19:04:51-05:00 2006-09-15T19:04:51-05:00 2006-09-15T19:04:51-05:00
POtainment for the point of entertainment (e.g., W Cities enhanced content).
Geo Jam’n for social networking apps (e.g., UPOC)
Games n’ Posses for local enhanced multiplayer games (e.g., Geo Universe by TikGames)

Astroth says his staffers hate the names as hopelessly unhip. Does it say something about me that I like them?]]>
Peter Krasilovsky <![CDATA[CTIA '06: Location-Based Services on the Cusp]]> 2006-09-15T19:02:58-05:00 2006-09-15T19:02:58-05:00 2006-09-15T19:02:58-05:00 CTIA Entertainment ’06 in Los Angeles this week.

“People always say that the local-based revolution is ‘18 months away,’ ” noted Mitch Lasky, senior VP at EA Mobile. “And the joke in my office is that every six months, we say it is just 18 months away.”

But this time, they seem to mean it — although it seems more likely that utilitarian features, such as traffic reports, will initially lead the way rather than more lucrative entertainment apps. “Location-based services will be huge for us,” said Lowell McAdam, executive VP and COO, Verizon Wireless. “And it opens up other possibilities, like advertising for restaurants, or downloading coupons for movies.”

For the mobile device industry, a lot of the appeal of LBS is that it scores big in the mobile device “war on iPods.” Maps and directions, point of interest and real time information all beat the iPod. So does the fact that mobile phones are always being carried by users, whether at work or play, and that they’re used for all kinds of social interaction.

“Location needs to be pervasive,” said Qualcomm Product Manager Arnold Gum. Gum noted that several apps are already “in place and popular.” These include:

Personal security: roadside assistance, e911, weather warning, child finders
Point of Interest: city guides, mobile YP, navigation, Traffic reroute
Enterprise: feet management, etc.

Looking up the road to “up and coming apps,” Gum said are the gravy apps:

Peer to Peer: buddy groups, geo market photo sharing, dating
Gaming: international gaming, geo-caching, location-aware games group
Commerce: mobile coupons, customer service

Other speakers noted that the appeal of LBS is clear enough: “You can get 20 x premiums for an LBS ad, but only if we can get to that point,” said Mark Teitell, principal, Mercer Management Consulting. “But how far beyond utilitarian can LBS go? What is the highest impact intersection? What is the new functionality that we need? And what is the impact of ads, and the average revenue per user that we can expect?”

Teitell complained that it is probably too limiting to confine LBS to mobile phones. Mobile PCs, auto-embedded devices and even the desktop should be considered part of the industry, he said. “How many times do people stand at the desktop printing out directions from MapQuest before they head out?”]]>
Peter Krasilovsky <![CDATA[What Does Schneider Hiring Mean For Yahoo! Local?]]> 2006-09-14T21:39:53-05:00 2006-09-14T21:39:53-05:00 2006-09-14T21:39:53-05:00 appointed former Knight Ridder Digital head Hilary Schneider as senior vice president of Marketplaces, a newly formed unit including Autos, Classifieds, HotJobs, Personals, Real Estate, Shopping & Auctions, Travel and Yellow Pages. Schneider’s arrival means that Yahoo! Local GM Paul Levine, who oversees Maps, Yellow Pages, city guide and classifieds (as well as Real Estate), will now have two people to report to: Schneider and Senior VP Jeff Weiner.

Schneider proved herself to be a hard charging yet creative executive at Knight Ridder, where she would have eventually competed for the top spot as CEO — had the company survived (and before that, at Red Herring and The Baltimore Sun). I can speculate that her decision to go with Yahoo! was an easy one on a personal level, since its location in Sunnyvale, next to San Jose, is close to her previous job and didn’t mean uprooting her family.

But the establishment of a new business unit to make room for Schneider, who is charged with creating an “overarching strategy for classifieds and listings,” might prove a little messy in execution. Potentially, it does away with the lines separating Yahoo! Local, Yahoo! Auto, Yahoo! Real Estate and other verticals. These units, of course, are about more than generic “listings,” as they’ve fully integrated Yahoo!’s extensive toolsets (maps, photos, reviews, RSS, news).

On the other hand, as a Yahoo! exec pointed out to me, it potentially makes way for more integration for Local with travel, real estate and the other services. What is emphasized is that Local will continue to be an important part of Yahoo!’s search strategy, as well as its emerging listings strategy. Me, I think Local continues to make sense as a unique category, and that Yahoo! does it well, even with the category overlaps.
Peter Krasilovsky <![CDATA[Libraries Take a Place in the Local EcoSystem]]> 2006-09-11T18:31:22-05:00 2006-09-11T18:31:22-05:00 2006-09-11T18:31:22-05:00 EPS report by Dan Penny and Rebeca Cliffe, libraries have a second life that may be just as relevant to the lifeblood of their communities. That second life makes them a combination B2B directory, city guide, social net, Meetup and Internet cafe.

Some, like The Brooklyn Library, have membership programs that include discounts with area merchants. Others have developed greasemonkey scripts that alerts users when they have a book that’s been searched on Amazon.

“As a physical building located at the center of a town, a library … fulfills a valuable role in being a focus for the community,” note the authors. “Many libraries have … developed social roles which are secondary to their original and most basic purpose: to collect and provide access to information content. Libraries have become notice-board providers, hosts of local association meetings, teaching spaces, and even places to meet friends.”

Online, libraries can drive their own traffic. “Keeping the library front of mind for its community as the place to go for information will be key to maintaining its relevance,” note the authors.

Trained librarians may not be front and center in the new social library. But, according to the authors, librarians still have a major role to play in the libraries’ resurgence. “The ability to set up, maintain and use tools such as wikis, blogs, portals and communication tools such as email and instant messaging will be important ways for librarians to foster a sense of community and identity for the virtual library.”
Peter Krasilovsky <![CDATA[Borrell: $7.7 Billion Local Online Market in '07]]> 2006-09-08T16:41:09-05:00 2006-09-08T16:41:09-05:00 2006-09-08T16:41:09-05:00
The report’s projections go through 2010 and are based on unique modelling that weights Borrell’s extensive surveying of local online companies with government growth data, and geographic and channel considerations.

You can get an executive summary from the Borrell site, but here are some highlights:

• Banners and Listings revenue will fall from 73 percent of local online spending in 2007 to 49 percent in 2010, while paid search will climb from 24 percent in 2007 to 44 percent in 2010. E-mail will similarly climb from 3 percent in 2007 to 7 percent in 2010.
• Fragmentation of local revenues is intense, especially in the largest markets. In Philadelphia, for instance, no single Web site will get more than 15 percent market share.
• On the Web, local advertising doesn't come close to approximating its traditional 50/50 parity with national advertising. Borrell projects that the local/national ratio of online revenues is currently 25/75 and will move to 30/70 by the end of 2007.
• Local revenues are fairly heavily concentrated in several sectors, especially in Real Estate and Autos. Together, they make up a third of all local online advertising.
• The prospects for Real Estate are especially bullish, with a depressed market forcing higher advertising budgets, and just 39 percent of agents currently advertising online.
• With revenues from local online sales more evident, half the surveyed local Web sites say they have added to their sales forces this year. Already, sales force headcounts are up 37 percent.

“The message for local Web site operators is clear: if you want to continue enjoying high revenue growth, start focusing on email and paid search applications,” says Borrell.

Borrell's findings aren't written in stone — they are only based on a model, flaws and all. And the flaws are certainly there. To me, the projections are media-centric, and Borrell doesn't apply the same level of scrutiny to directories and search as it does to local media channels. Also, my gut tells me that the projections are way too high for sites and other local verticals — this often happens in research when you try to add up a lot of players with teeny market share.

But ultimately, this is really valuable research. Does any other source data come close to its richness?

Peter Krasilovsky <![CDATA[Citysearch Claims Advertisers Bring in $6K Per Year]]> 2006-09-06T23:53:54-05:00 2006-09-06T23:53:54-05:00 2006-09-06T23:53:54-05:00 Citysearch says its pay-for-performance ad program is taking in an eye-popping "average" of $500 per month from advertisers, or $6,000 per year, according to a Sept. 4 article by Ann Meyer in the Chicago Tribune.

If the figure is accurate, that would be a big "wow." Citysearch currently claims 50,000 advertisers, so it adds up to $25 million per month, or $300 million per year. That would be more than Yahoo!'s and Google's local totals. It would make Citysearch the largest local online Internet company — ever. It would suggest that Forbes magazine should stop picking on Barry Diller's flawed Internet strategies. It would suggest that Citysearch is beginning to get more per advertiser than the Yellow Pages.

But hold your horses because we have a hard time believing it. Citysearch itself seems a little confused. A company spokesperson confirmed the "average" figure but to add to the confusion then added that this represents the average "cap" for local advertisers.

Oh, boy. Our understanding of such a "cap" is that this would be the ceiling on the amount of paid clickthroughs that advertisers would agree to pay for. I dunno; this doesn't make sense to me either. If Citysearch had such an incredible incentive to pump up the volume of paid clickthroughs, wouldn't it be spending its money on driving traffic rather than hiring a horde of new salespeople?

My guess: It is just a communications glitch. Citysearch probably didn't mean to convey a $500 "average" figure across the board, but rather wanted to note that it is getting $500 a month from advertisers in some of its best categories (spas, restaurants, etc.). After all, its minimum commitment from advertisers is just $49 per month ($588 per year). I bet more fall into this category. $588 x 50,000, by the way, adds up to $30 million, which is none-too-shabby.

But this is just a guess. I'll talk to Sales EVP Neil Salvage in a couple of weeks at Kelsey's DDC2006 show in L.A., and we'll straighten this out.

Peter Krasilovsky <![CDATA[Washington Post Reunites Curley and Holovaty]]> 2006-09-05T23:19:52-05:00 2006-09-05T23:19:52-05:00 2006-09-05T23:19:52-05:00
Curley transformed Morris Communications’ Topeka Capital-Journal into a highly interactive platform from 1997 to 2002 (with additional work throughout the Morris chain). Then together with Holovaty, a journalist with a computer programming background, transformed World Online, a TV and newspaper news and sports operation in Lawrence, Kansas, into what The New York Times called "The Newspaper of the Future" — complete with annual tours for interactive editors from around the country.

Serving as a judge on E&P and NAA panels for several years, it was always tempting to vote against the Curley team and get some new blood on the podium. But it would have been irresponsible. Curley’s sites were always the best in (small) category.

In 2005, the duo went separate ways. Curley joined Scripps’ Naples Daily News in Florida, proving he could be equally innovative outside a broadband, youthful college market. Holovaty, meanwhile, moved back home to Chicago, where he started as a side project, demonstrating new ways to map statistics that have been copied all over the country. At the same time, Holovaty began commuting (and usually, telecommuting) to Washington to work with the as editor of editorial innovations. One of his projects there has been a dynamic mapping of congressional voting trends, district by district.

Today, it was announced (via Paid Content) that Curley is coming to, his first big city platform. Theoretically, Holovaty will once again be working in Curley’s shop (unless Holovaty has had it with the commute and/or The Post). Curley’s title is VP of Product Development.

The rub on Curley, fair or not (and I think not) was that he spent his way to interactive success. That never made sense to me. Probably, he simply fought for budgets in his small towns. But here he will get his chance to shine in a major way.

It was also announced that Newsweek Editor Mark Whitaker has been named VP and Editor in Chief of New Ventures at Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive. It is hard to say whether it is a substantive position, since The Post has a tradition of kicking executives upstairs until they find new jobs.
Peter Krasilovsky <![CDATA[How I Used the Web for My Yosemite Vacation ]]> 2006-09-05T19:56:52-05:00 2006-09-05T19:56:52-05:00 2006-09-05T19:56:52-05:00
But I have never really been an early adopter of travel services, even for planning summer vacations. In fact, as recently as 1998, for a British Columbia Kayak trip, I found that I was the only person that didn’t find the Outfitter via the Internet. To add to my shame, the other kayakers were just Web “civilians”: retirees, writers, lawyers and stock brokers.

Since then, the Web has really become an integral part of all travel planning, early adopter or not. Last week, my wife and I took a six-day trip to Yosemite National Park. What we found is that it would actually have been unnatural not to rely on the Web. Our experience, however, was decidedly mixed.

First, it wasn’t easy to figure out what to do and where to stay. On the Web, there are many Yosemite sites, fake Yosemite sites, and other things … but at this point, no one has done a really good comprehensive site. There are, however, plenty of good boards for Yosemite (Trip Advisor is especially good).

I would have expected The Fresno Bee, a McClatchy paper, to have a good Yosemite site, since Fresno is Yosemite’s gateway. But no chance. The Bee did, however, have an excellent blog on Hiking The John Muir trail. The blog has everything … video, maps, the wisdom of the journalists. But for me, it didn’t have much actionable info.

Then I planned our route via Google Maps from our home in Carlsbad to Fish Camp, next to the park. I wanted to see how hilly it was, and Google Maps, via Google Earth, is great for that. But that was a big mistake: Google missed the vital turn and had us going 100 miles off track. It was a good thing my wife smelled a skunk, having previously consulted a 10-year-old AAA map.

We still, however, wanted a turn-by-turn print-out for the car. Old standby MapQuest gave us a perfect one (and Yahoo! Maps also was right on). However, none of the map sites provided information on the avalanche that had closed a key Yosemite route several months before. It would have been great if a news update had been integrated into the sites.

I was actually concerned about the closed road, and we called AAA. But it didn’t have the info either. (AAA has bungled the Internet revolution and is a shadow of its former self). Ultimately, the closing turned out to be for the El Portal entry, which did not affect my route. (And the “closing” has been upgraded to a 30-minute delay.)

Then we planned our hotels — camping sites being mostly unavailable for our almost last-minute planning at one of America’s favorite parks. We found The Tenaya Lodge just outside the Park via Google, and gave ourselves two nights at this plush resort, mostly because I wanted to use the touted pool. Then we moved on to The historic Wawona, inside the park for three nights. We got the availability information right online, and then called ahead to save the 10 percent online booking fee.

When we got to The Wawona, we learned that we could have gotten an additional 10 percent discount if we were Yosemite Association members. We wish we had known that before we left. There should have been a link. Later on, I hit myself again when I realized I could have signed on to the Internet Café in Yosemite Village, for 25 cents a minute, to become members while we were still in the Park. This would have saved some $40 in hotel bills, while supporting the worthy non-profit. (OK, we joined anyway).

We used the Internet one other time, while still at The Tenaya. Thinking about getting home, we wanted to reserve a place to stay in Lone Pine, on the Eastern side of The Sierra Nevada Mountains (and half-way home to Carlsbad via an alternative desert route) I woke up early at 6am to gain access to the usually busy free terminal at the registration desk. Then I Googled it and misspelled “Lone Pine” as “Long Pine,” getting all kinds of bogus chamber of commerce info, etc. It is amazing the kinds of trash that is out there.

When I finally got it right, I had a listing of ten different hotels, without rates, and wrote down their toll-free numbers to get more info and make a reservation on the payphones down the hall. I could have booked online if I chose either Best Western or Comfort Inn, but I didn’t think I’d get as a good a deal. I was right, and got a great, family-owned motel via the power of the phone.

Bottom line: The trip to Yosemite is as special as everybody says. And the Internet really helped. But at the same time, the Internet services often only got us half-way there, or provided misleading information. Ultimately, I give the Webbiness of this year’s trip a “3” on a scale of “5.” Next year, I am sure it will be even better – and at the same time, I vow to become a savvier user. Back to work!
Peter Krasilovsky <![CDATA[TrueLocal Launches Sales Channel, Canadian Ops]]> 2006-08-25T17:46:31-05:00 2006-08-25T17:46:31-05:00 2006-08-25T17:46:31-05:00 TrueLocal, which provides enhanced listing info for franchisees and brands, is trying out direct sales via a five-person call center. According to Founder Jake Bailes, the call center will target specific verticals, market-by-market (i.e., tire stores in Tampa).

Bailes concedes that setting up a local sales channel has turned out to be a real challenge but thinks the new approach will bear some fruit. Advertisers already using TrueLocal via third-party sales number in the “thousands.” The average advertiser brings in $12 per month.

In addition to extending U.S. sales, TrueLocal, which is based in Toronto, is launching Canadian operations. “The competitive landscape is much narrower than in the U.S.,” he says, “but there is also a clear leader YPG.” A complete LocalOnliner profile on TrueLocal from April 2006 is available here.
Peter Krasilovsky <![CDATA[72% of German Businesses Have Web Sites (Maybe)]]> 2006-08-24T19:10:16-05:00 2006-08-24T19:10:16-05:00 2006-08-24T19:10:16-05:00
In Germany, the number is apparently much higher — 72 percent — according to a report commissioned by Germany’s Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology (which I read about via Joachim Bartels’ report for EPS). The report also notes that 58 percent of Germans are now online and that there are 10.7 million broadband connections.

Granted, Germany is home to SAP, Silicon Bavaria, etc., and it is an advanced tech center. But I still have a dated stereotype of the country as having many regions that have major infotech gaps (i.e., most of the “ost”). Here is an open question: Do 72 percent of businesses really have Web sites? Or are most of these just landing pages or other lesser media that T-Online and other companies have set up in hopes of upselling them later?
Peter Krasilovsky <![CDATA[Yahoo! Local: 'We Now Have a Dozen Resellers' ]]> 2006-08-24T18:42:03-05:00 2006-08-24T18:42:03-05:00 2006-08-24T18:42:03-05:00 Small Business Commando Tele-Seminar with Dick Larkin and Kelsey’s Matt Booth. “They help us reach advertisers that Yahoo! couldn’t ordinarily reach,” said Levine.

Among the resellers are AT&T and BellSouth, which have been selling Yahoo! for five years. Since then, 10 other resellers have hopped on board, including Dex (RHD), Website Pros, Cornerstone and Profit Fuel.

In other comments, Levine estimates that just 200,000 of the 12-16 million U.S. SMEs that advertise are currently using some form of Web Search — lower than many estimates. “It is only a handful.” In terms of usage and product innovation, we are only in the second or third inning. But “it is a great new canvass for more merchants to participate directly.”

While Levine emphasized that Yahoo! is committed to serving the advanced advertisers that want to manage their own keyword search buys and other services, the real key to Yahoo! Local’s success going forward is “to make it easier to use,” he says. “The one thing that unlocks Internet opportunity is to make a simple product.”

Levine also notes that cross-platform services, such as mobile search, will play an increasingly important role in local advertising. In fact, Yahoo! has formed a special “Connected Life” division to leverage some of those cross-platform opportunities. “There is an amazing future for accessing content on the phone.”

The Tele-Seminar was a redo from a newsmaking Aug. 2 event that had technical difficulties. Krasilovsky Consulting is providing strategic assistance to Small Business Commando in developing the series.
Peter Krasilovsky <![CDATA[Microsites Cont'd: Hard to Keep Customers' Attention]]> 2006-08-23T21:10:20-05:00 2006-08-23T21:10:20-05:00 2006-08-23T21:10:20-05:00 EyeBallFarm in offering Microsites.

Today EyeBallFarm Leader Jim Bonfield wrote in to our sister site, The Local Onliner, to offer blunt comments on some of the challenges that EyeBall has encountered with Microsites ( Full Disclosure: I’ve provided some strategic help to EyeBall, but it has done the Microsites on its own).

The biggest problem is getting the small-business owner’s attention. “A local pizza restaurant owner not only doesn’t easily warm to the idea of building his own ad message, but he/she may not even understand why they should even care,” says Bonfield. “‘I already have a Web site, Jim …’ They just want to sell more pizza.”

This is the case whether the Microsites, aka enhanced listings, are offered at a premium or for free. For instance, when Bonfield worked with Travidia, a tools vendor for local media firms, he offered a full set of free tools to more than 500 merchants in Citrus Heights, California.

“We provided many weeks of training,” he says. “But we still had to beg these merchants to log-in to our self-serve Adscripter and post text about sales and special events, etc. to the Microsite we had built for them. Once again, we were reminded that the pizza guy just wants to make pizza.”

“Local directories will work. Many are working well now,” adds Bonfield. But adding more elements to the sale is definitely confusing. “Hey pizza-maker, Can you FTP your .FLVs, .MP3s and .Wavs so I can stream them via Flash players, YouTube, Google Video, MySpace and Flicker?”

Bonfield’s solution is to “build a service in combination WITH the platform. The tech is incredible and DOES allow the pizza guy to do it themselves, but they don’t. So, we do it for them. WE aggregate their TV spots, Radio Ads, Print Ads, Direct mail pieces. WE convert them. We post them and buy THE RIGHT keyword ads on the search engines and deliver them a report at the end of the month that says ‘You spent $XX and made $YY.’ ”

Bonfield acknowledges that "It is not easy. It is not a high margin business and finding people to make this work every day is kicking me in the head. BUT this approach works. The ROI is clear, easy to replicate and hard to argue with. The full-service approach ultimately serves to greatly increase client retention because in the end they get what they wanted all along … they sell more pizza!”
Peter Krasilovsky <![CDATA[PremierGuide Launches Searchable Local 'Microsites']]> 2006-08-22T17:04:12-05:00 2006-08-22T17:04:12-05:00 2006-08-22T17:04:12-05:00 PremierGuide, a local search vendor that works with 250 newspapers, TV stations and geodomain sites, hopes to play with its new “Microsites.”

The PremierGuide microsites, like this one, are templated landing pages specially designed to be searched. Businesses can use them to populate their pages with info on service details, products carried, brands offered, amenities, business hours, credentials, qualifications, awards, testimonials, payment options and contact information.

An added feature is the ability to attach video and print ads to the page. Many businesses, such as car dealers and restaurants, have invested heavily in video and radio ads, and want to include the content on their Web presence.

PremierGuide’s effort is similar to an effort started in spring 2006 by Sacramento-based EyeBallFarm, to partner with Intelligent Direct Marketing to provide microsites for auto dealers. The sites not only include the dealer's marketing-oriented media, but in some cases their car inventory.

EyeBallFarm Leader Jim Bonfield tells us that his company is expanding beyond auto microsites and will soon be launching restaurant and retail furniture on the platform. He adds that “version 2” launches before Labor Day, with ads, a built-in blog, survey tools and customizable colors, fonts and Flash headers. The existing microsites are “getting huge organic ranking benefits that in some cases surpass the organic rankings of the client's actual site,” says Bonfield. He adds that a client recently told him that he has a “MySpace for local business.”

My take on the microsites are that they are going to be very useful. And one more reason, in addition to blog software, why full-fledged Web sites are increasingly passé. But from a small-business perspective, they'll also add to confusion in the sales channel over what to buy. ]]>
Peter Krasilovsky <![CDATA[More Details on eBay Motors' Local Launch ]]> 2006-08-22T14:51:36-05:00 2006-08-22T14:51:36-05:00 2006-08-22T14:51:36-05:00 last week, we’ve learned that eBay Motors is going full speed ahead with local. Now we have more info. Within four to six months, sources tell us that the auction leader will be launching a full-fledged, re-branded local auto site. The site will including a full range of auto-related listings, services (oil changes, detailing, etc.), coupons, a new look and feel, improved search functionality (product vs. listings) and significantly more content.

It gets better. The local vision of eBay apparently goes beyond autos and directly affects newspapers and Yellow Pages. Autos may, in fact, be just the tip of the iceberg for eBay and local. The company, which is looking to regain its growth profile, is said to be cooking up a major local initiative that will “encompass the entire category structure.”

If so, it will probably seek to leverage various classified holdings. The company owns 25 percent of Craigslist and has several international classified efforts, including Kijiji,,, Intoko, Netherlands-based, and German automotive classified site Our guess is that Craigslist isn't part of the mix — eBay has been strictly hands off. But expect to see aspects of the other services pop up here.

Our sources additionally tell us that a Wall Street Journal Online feature by Jennifer Saranow and Mylene Mangalindan on eBay’s local ambitions from November 2005 is still “pretty close to the mark.” The article notes that eBay is expanding beyond its traditional middleman role and will be “aiming to take over the phone book's customary role as the first place people turn to find local services from housecleaners to accountants.”

We asked eBay about all this. A corporate spokesperson only noted that “we cannot comment on speculation about what might happen in the future.”

Peter Krasilovsky <![CDATA[Ken Doctor: Save Newspaper Biz, Shrink Margins ]]> 2006-08-21T17:19:15-05:00 2006-08-21T17:19:15-05:00 2006-08-21T17:19:15-05:00
Doctor, previously a Knight Ridder Digital executive (and former client), talked to us about his newly published 47-page report, titled “Deadline with Destiny: Newspaper Industry Faces $20 Billion Gap.”

“A perfect storm of print circulation decline, accompanying pressures on print advertising and the rapid growth of lower revenue producing online news media is now hitting the industry,” says Doctor in his report. “The onrushing dynamics of time and money mean the newspaper industry has less than half a decade to remake its future. At best, (it is a) mature industry, with only modest growth — even if things improve substantially from the last couple of years.”

Doctor adds: “The industry needs to grow beyond its ‘mass’ success and acknowledge the new world of niches and extending the brand. The days of one-size-fits-all, mass medium products aren’t easily supported in a long-tail world of hyper-specific niche marketing.”

Nevertheless, newspapers aren’t over yet. ”It is a silly question whether they will ‘go away,’ ” Doctor said during our conversation. “Newspaper brands have historic credibility and power in their communities.” Moreover, he adds, their news content remains primary material for aggregators like Google News and Topix.

But revenue trends will force them to become smaller companies, maximize existing revenue streams and develop some new ones. If they just keep the status quo, at some point, “they will be 40 percent of what they have been; they will be a shadow of themselves,” says Doctor.

Online is the Change Agent

The biggest change agent for newspapers, of course, is the march of online services. As print declines, online has assumed its position as the fastest growing business in newspaper portfolios, with annual growth rates typically more than 30 percent. Still, online started from zero and only represents 5.5 percent of their overall gross.

Going forward, as online becomes more dominant, the challenge is for newspapers to use online to make up for their inevitable print losses. That’s easier said than done. Today, online is a cheaper medium, and online revenues are at least three times less impactful per reader than print revenues, notes Doctor (Borrell Associates estimates they are 10 times less impactful). Still, Doctor is reassured that recent, upward trends in pricing for recruitment print and online packages will become more the norm, across the board.

Beyond pricing, Doctor says newspapers have to be able give themselves some room to change. The focus on quarterly earnings and maintaining 21 percent profit margins by relentlessly cutting costs is killing them, he says. Profit margins should be readjusted for today’s reality. And Wall Street should accept it for what it is.

The worst that can happen is that a bubble hits the industry, says Doctor. When prices can’t be sustained, or alternatives develop, the market just deflates. It has happened before when newspapers are challenged. This is essentially what happened in Knight Ridder’s Venture Unit, he says. “They made a lot of money, and then they just pulled back. Now, of course, newspapers have a lot less money to invest.”

The key to avoiding bubbles is to move on to new models, while keeping sane margins in an acceptable zone that is lower than today's unsustainable 21 percent. This can be partly achieved by cutting costs where it is acceptable, such as on printing plants, which are less necessary in an age where online takes command.

Ten percent may be the low end of the appropriate threshold, argues Doctor. The Outsell Index of Top 100 Information Industry firms, for instance, maintains an average of 12.8 percent margins — and most of those firms don’t have editorial costs as a mainstay of their operations.

Ownership changes will also go a long way. For public companies that can’t go private, the best way to buy room is to become part of a more diversified organization. Diversified ownership takes some of the pressure off quarterly newspaper results and provides potential synergies, says Doctor.

Doctor notes that companies like Scripps have given themselves more options by purchasing companies like Shopzilla and developing cable TV networks. Today, just 28 percent of Scripps’ revenues come from newspapers. Industry-wide, newspaper revenues account for 54 percent of their owners’ revenues, down from 58 percent in 2003.

Other short-term solutions abound. McClatchy CEO Gary Pruitt, for instance, has pulled off an impressive sleight-of-hand by selling off Knight Ridder’s large, no growth markets and focusing on its high growth markets. But unless McClatchy is successful in making structural changes to the newspaper business, the high growth market strategy will only buy “a few years,” says Doctor.

Longtime readers know that my own favorite solution for local newspapers is to reposition them as local advertising centers, encompassing classifieds, directories, social networks and local search.
Peter Krasilovsky <![CDATA['EBay Motors 2.0' Ramps Up Locally]]> 2006-08-17T15:15:38-05:00 2006-08-17T15:15:38-05:00 2006-08-17T15:15:38-05:00 EBay Motors, which has more traffic than any other auto site, has just sold its two- millionth car. Of course, the status as traffic leader should be asterisked, as execs from Autotrader, Autobytel and are quick to point out. Most people come to eBay Motors to look for used auto parts, or maybe to ogle listings for rare Ferraris.

But eBay’s success in selling used cars can’t be as readily dismissed. This is especially true as American car buyers continue their swing toward private-party auto sales. According to research by Borrell Associates, private-party sales have now surpassed independent auto dealer sales.

With eBay Motors, eBay is going for the gold, ramping up its used-car sales by going local for the first time since the eBay Local Trading experiment in 1999-2000. In May, it launched tests of local listings in four markets: Chicago, Seattle, Miami and Washington, D.C. I couldn’t see anything, but logged-in residents of those markets apparently see a new section at the end of their search results called “Additional vehicles near [your ZIP code].”

Internally, the effort is being called “eBay Motors 2.0.” We’ll see. The company needs a hit, and apparently eBay Motors is one of its best prospects. (thanks to Interactive in Chicagoland and The Classified Intelligence Report for the lead).
Peter Krasilovsky <![CDATA[Industry: Google Coupons Validate, Create Opportunities]]> 2006-08-16T21:16:38-05:00 2006-08-16T21:16:38-05:00 2006-08-16T21:16:38-05:00
Premier Guide CEO Malcolm Lewis, for instance, says that “just because someone starts their search on Google doesn’t mean the search should end there too. Create the definitive collection of information about a local business and Google will send the traffic your way.

“If local media companies truly want to compete with Google etc. then they need to make a concerted effort to become a go-to site for local business content,” adds Lewis. “This means going deep for local businesses: creating and managing rich information about service details, products, brands, business hours, credentials, etc. It also means driving user-generated content like ratings and reviews. And it of course includes coupons. It’s not hard to create your own coupons (high margin) or simply distribute Valpak’s inventory (instant inventory, lower margin) like Google is doing.”

Merchant Circle CEO Ben Smith notes that Google has quietly been picking up reviews and coupons for a few months. “Our merchants certainly love it when their coupons get picked up this way by Google and other properties,” he says. Smith goes on to note that he is totally bullish on the prospects of working with Google and with the coupon companies. “Estimates are that ValPak has around 176K merchants who advertise with them,” he says.

“Our belief has long been that you have to be pushing to 1,2,5M merchants to really change the local game. ValPak is one approach to helping Google achieve that and frankly may be more successful than the prior efforts with the YellowPage sales forces.”

ZiXXo CEO Mike Hogan, who is directly threatened by Google's reach into coupons, wrote in to say that small businesses are selling themselves short if they only reach Google Maps. (Hogan also commented directly to The Kelsey Blog , see "comments"). "What Google does is it adds coupons to maps, Google maps. ZiXXo provides a syndication platform for adding coupons to everything: online newspapers, yellow pages, local search, maps, blogs, you name it."

Local Matters CEO Perry Evans wrote in to note that Google's coupon deal isn't doomsday, but it is a great wake up call. "Regarding this as a possible major threat to newspapers highlights the paranoia forming amongst the newspaper publishers who have reason to fear every new thing given their tough uphill business reinvention battle. However, every local media publisher has to learn how to 1) evolve into serious differentiated SEO/SEM participation, and 2) build differentiation and value into their own destination properties."

The venture capital community also weighs in. Clint Chao, general partner of Formative Ventures, notes: “The Google-ValPak deal is good validation that there’s lots to do to help local merchants. However, this deal still requires the local merchants to promote themselves online (is a bakery in Piedmont, CA, or a painter in Winchester, MA, going to do this?) so that people will find them in the first place. … I am not sure it solves the real problem (and opportunity, which is why we’re real interested in this space).”
Peter Krasilovsky <![CDATA[Reading Local Tea Leaves Via Job Changes]]> 2006-08-16T20:48:59-05:00 2006-08-16T20:48:59-05:00 2006-08-16T20:48:59-05:00
I don’t want to turn this into an Executive Turntable page or anything. But this summer, a review of my LinkedIn contacts and my rolodex shows me that a bunch of talented people have switched positions. Of course, I never say anything about my personal friends. But here are nine execs I admire who have moved along. See if you agree with my analysis.

1. Tim Lambert, VP of sales at Spot Runner. Tim formerly was head of Yahoo! Spot Marketing, head of sales at HotJobs and head of sales at KRD. I can understand this move totally. Spot Runner, a Web-based service that places small-business ads on cheap TV slots, is one of the most exciting opportunities in local sales.

2. Sandhi Kozsuch, director of broadband and digital at Cox TV. Sandhi was formerly SVP at WorldNow. I’ve been warned not to read too much into this move, since Sandhi is a good old boy and is going home to the South and to Cox, an alma mater. My sources also tell me that WorldNow continues to be a fast-growing Web site builder for TV stations. But Sandhi has definitely been the face of WorldNow and a great ambassador for television stations in their interactive efforts. The move does makes me wonder, just a little.

3/4. Mark Canon, chief product officer at Autobytel. Mark had previously been in charge of search at AOL, and before that, a leader at Switchboard. AOL is a challenging place to work these days. The way I see it is that Autobytel is a great turnaround situation, and President Jim Riesenbach, who arrived from AOL in late spring, has recruited some of his best people to join him out West in Irvine, CA. Not a bad move if you can afford the real estate here. Also joining Autobytel as VP of business intelligence is Arthur Brodeur, who held the same position at AOL Search.

5. Ron Stitt, VP of digital media and Internet operations at Fox TV Stations/MyNetwork TV. Ron had previously been in charge of Web sites at ABC-owned TV stations. This move tells me Fox convinced Rob that it is totally serious about building up its TV station Web site business.

6. Bill Blevins, VP of Gatehouse Media. Bill had been VP of CNHI, and before that he used The Fredericksburg Star-Telegram as his interactive laboratory. Bill is probably the leader in transforming community newspapers into Web enterprises. Why wouldn’t he jump for the chance to join a company that is going public, and where he reports directly to top management?

7. Tony Lee, EVP at Adicio. Tony had been Publisher at Dow Jones’ CareerJournal. Adicio is one-third-owned by Dow Jones, and Tony has been in a great position to witness its expansion from “Careercast” to a broad vertical program. Plus, the company let him stay in NJ.

8. Andy Vogel, GM, BackFence Chicago. Andy had been in charge of digital strategy with The Journal Review in Milwaukee and is the writer of “Interactive in Milwaukee: Laverne and Shirley don’t work here anymore!” Longtime members of the Kelsey community know Andy from Nextron. Now the blog is Interactive in Chicagoland. My take is that the BackFence job was too fun to resist … although the development of a social network business model is, by all standards, a real challenge.

9. Greg Stuart, CEO of the Interactive Advertising Bureau, to … where? After five years, in which he oversaw the rise of IAB from a disaster zone to a shiny Cadillac, Greg has told everyone he is leaving this winter to avoid conflicts of interest. He’s been a leading voice in getting advertisers to focus more on the local opportunity.
Peter Krasilovsky <![CDATA[TV Stations Better YouTube Themselves]]> 2006-08-11T15:29:30-05:00 2006-08-11T15:29:30-05:00 2006-08-11T15:29:30-05:00 YouTube. Long term, we know it isn't a business because of the copyright issue. But the site's success demonstrates real demand for aggregated on-demand video — including local video. I like what columnist Terry Heaton says this month in The Digital Journalist about its possible impact on local TV stations:

“ ... the biggest threat to local television isn't DVRs or VOD. It isn't audience fragmentation, the decline of the 30-second spot or bad programming. It certainly isn't the internet or the difficulty of finding that killer online application to support an old business model. And it isn't being cut out of the network supply chain by direct-to-consumer distribution. The biggest threat to local TV is outside technology companies moving into the local entertainment and information space unchallenged by existing local media. This is a very deadly part of the iceberg, because local media companies either don't see it coming or believe they are immune to such competition.

... Embracing the multi-platform universe is only a small part of staying in business in the years to come. It's the metaphorical tip of the iceberg for two reasons. One, the biggest business disruption isn't coming from multiple platforms; it's the drift from mass media to personal media. And, two, if multi-platform is a broadcaster's only strategy, he or she is assigning him or herself to the content-provider (only) space for the future. The real opportunities are on the aggregation side (think, not just in making content available everywhere.”

Peter Krasilovsky <![CDATA[Yelp Adds Mobile, Partners With Palm Treo]]> 2006-08-10T16:52:01-05:00 2006-08-10T16:52:01-05:00 2006-08-10T16:52:01-05:00 Yelp, a social network/Yellow Pages hybrid, has launched a mobile version for the Palm Treo as part of a broader marketing relationship between the two companies. Terms are not being disclosed, but cash and tech support have likely been provided in exchange for Yelp's “optimizing” for the Treo, and for advertising the Treo relationship on the Yelp site, its weekly member newsletter and live member events.

Palm clearly hopes that some of Yelp’s local cache and utility can be extended. It has been several years since Palm’s first successful, but less formal, partnership with Vindigo, a premium city guide that launched in 1999 and is now distributed primarily by wireless carriers. (Vindigo is currently owned by While mostly under the radar, with no press releases issued in 2006, Vindigo claims to have 100 national advertisers.)

Yelp’s Web site provides a number of plausible scenarios for using the mobile edition:

• You just left dinner with some friends and need a nice nearby bar/lounge to sit, chat and digest.
• You've been meaning to try that new restaurant and, feeling spontaneous, you pay 411 to get the phone number to make a reservation for tonight.
• You find out that the restaurant is booked solid, so you need to find other nearby eateries that other folks liked.
• You're out of town for business, and as a cab zips you from the airport to your hotel, you're wondering about some fun shops to pick up a unique souvenir for the honey.

By going mobile, Yelp joins the ranks of the biggest IYPs and local-oriented search engines with mobile browsing and/or SMS text services. including AOL, Google, MSN, Yahoo! and Direct competitors such as CitySearch, Judy’s Book, Insider Pages and BackFence do not appear to have launched any type of mobile editions.

Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman confirms that the Treo relationship was the impetus for Yelp adding mobile to the mix but notes that any Web-enabled mobile device can use Yelp services such as maps, directory info and reviews. Only images of Yelp’s reviewers and reviewed businesses have been specifically tailored for the Treo. Speaking personally, he’s been accessing Yelp on his Razr. I tried out the mobile service on my PC, and it worked fine, albeit a little slow.

Hometown San Francisco remains Yelp’s largest market, with 150,000 reviews. Chicago and New York run second and third, with Boston, Los Angeles and Seattle the next largest markets. More detail on the company is available from a Local Onliner profile in March 2006.
Peter Krasilovsky <![CDATA[Google Deal Makes Fox Less of a Local Player?]]> 2006-08-08T19:32:02-05:00 2006-08-08T19:32:02-05:00 2006-08-08T19:32:02-05:00 alliance with Google. The three-year, nine-month deal gives Google a place on MySpace’s upcoming toolbar, and the right to place ads on every page of almost every Fox site, including MySpace, IGN,, and assorted Fox TV and news properties (but not Sports, which stays with MSN). In return, Fox gets a guarantee of $900 million — if it meets certain traffic levels.

The question for me is whether Google’s money means the end of Fox’s nascent efforts to build up its local properties. Lately, there has been increased chatter, including from Murdoch himself, about heating up the local TV station Web sites. There are also nascent local efforts at MySpace, which has an underdeveloped classified section that someday might be positioned for local sales beyond used guitar amps and iPods. And then there is, which caters to the national interest in local college and high school sports teams but could be developed for local users as well.

I think my tentative answer is “no,” Google doesn’t kill Fox’s local efforts. But don’t expect to see Fox develop local sales channels either; especially where Google can do the job more efficiently. Also, don’t expect to see Fox buy its own search engine, such as a PremierGuide or

Fox could have used its TV stations and Web sites to sell local ads on such an engine and drive traffic. But with the Google deal, that just won’t happen. Instead, Fox will be pumping on all cylinders to meet its traffic obligations to Google.

According to HitWise, Google gets 10.8 percent of its traffic directly from MySpace. In some ways, then, the deal is defensive because it seeks to keep MySpace’s young users using Google, rather than wandering to other engines. That's a strategic issue. But other than that, it really seems like a healthy marriage, where both sides can expect to grow without inhibiting one another’s ambitions.
Peter Krasilovsky <![CDATA[IYPs Adding Info by Neighborhood ]]> 2006-08-07T18:05:29-05:00 2006-08-07T18:05:29-05:00 2006-08-07T18:05:29-05:00 to license technology that will enable them to show listings by neighborhood name. The IYPs currently only show geo-information by city name or ZIP code.

Sorting directory info by neighborhood names sometimes makes more sense as cities may be broken up by physical and cultural characteristics, says UrbanMapping founder Ian White. “In Washington, D.C., the city is broken up by quadrants. In London, it may be the first couple digits of a postal code. But in Boston, it is broken up by the Charles River. Neighborhoods are not the 'end all and be all,' but they are inherently unstructured,” he says.

White’s multidisciplinary team of five sorts out neighborhood information by culling over geographic information systems and other disciplines. These disciplines potentially include — and this is interesting — “information design, urban planning, materials science, software development, color theory, cognitive psychology and cultural anthropology.”

To date, the company's neighborhood-level info is available for 300 U.S. and Canadian cities. In Los Angeles, for instance, a portion of downtown may be broken up as “Echo Park,” “Silverlake,” “Los Feliz” and “Hollywood.”

Besides neighborhood-level info, mass transit accessibility can be mapped by the same techniques. The company’s Web site notes that “habits and tasks are influenced by access to public transportation.” In addition to offering station point data, routing and scheduling can easily be integrated into the sites.

While and are the first large companies to license the technology, White says a “top four portal” is also coming on board, as well as a major real estate value added reseller.

Currently, UrbanMapping is available to clients on a licensing basis. But White envisions that neighborhood-level information could enhance the value of certain leads. A SoHo vegan restaurant that is found by a tourist at The Mercer Hotel looking for something nearby should be willing to pay a premium. That tourist probably doesn’t know many SoHo street names.
Peter Krasilovsky <![CDATA[Grads Not Heading to Local Media (or Reading it) ]]> 2006-08-07T15:06:44-05:00 2006-08-07T15:06:44-05:00 2006-08-07T15:06:44-05:00 survey of new communications grads by The University of Georgia. Even though grads aren’t especially big consumers of news in any medium, they are optimistic that media jobs will be there for them.

The UGA survey found that 75 percent saw a TV news program “yesterday,” less than 60 percent read a paper, and 50 percent heard news on the radio. These figures are on par with “civilian” use rates. Are the newly minted communications professionals all using the Internet for news instead? Not really. Less than 60 percent typically read news online on any given day.

Looking forward, eight of 10 believe that “most people” will get their news from the Internet in 20 years. Still, that doesn’t mean that Internet sites are where they want to work. Just 6.3 percent of the new communication grads interviewed for an Internet job this year. Less than 19 percent applied at a daily, 18.4 percent applied for a TV job, less than 23 percent applied at a PR agency, and 22.3 percent applied at an ad agency.

One more finding: Most don’t believe that newspapers and TV nets will collapse. Two-thirds expect current TV nets to survive 20 years, and three-quarters said major cities will have "at least one newspaper" in 20 years.
Peter Krasilovsky <![CDATA[Shift in CareerBuilder Stake Ends Equal Role of Papers]]> 2006-08-03T20:22:06-05:00 2006-08-03T20:22:06-05:00 2006-08-03T20:22:06-05:00
The agreement values CareerBuilder at $1.55 billion, at $85 million and at $72 million. McClatchy will use the money to retire debt from its purchase of Knight Ridder; Tribune and Gannett, on their end, will leverage their increased shares to heavily invest in CareerBuilder in the U.S. and overseas — something McClatchy may have been reluctant to do.

Mixed feelings go with the deal — and not just because of the money, which may not have been enough. TKG had the potential to drive a new era in the newspaper industry. For the past couple of years, whenever someone had an industry cure — business directories, social networks, contextual search, whatever — winning support from TKG was always the most desired result. Sometimes, however, it meant flying on separate trips to Chicago, San Jose and northern Virginia. TKG, by design, never had a central office.

TKG, of course, could have been held together, with McClatchy taking Knight Ridder’s role. But the partners had somewhat conflicting agendas. Moreover, McClatchy had less leverage with the other partners after disposing of key papers in Philadelphia and Northern California. (In fact, the first move of the new owners of Philadelphia Media Holdings was to quit CareerBuilder for Monster.)

Still, thoughts were entertained of how to keep TKG alive as “TMG.” McClatchy CEO Gary Pruitt was reported to have put together a plan to sell some of the Knight Ridder shares to several additional newspaper companies to form a broader industry consensus, while giving McClatchy the cash it needed to pay the banks. But as it turns out, Tribune and Gannett, scarred by the lessons of past newspaper consortia disasters like CareerPath and NCN, were determined to go their own way, with McClatchy taking on a minority role.

Did McClatchy settle for too little? Pruitt is considered a financial whiz, but questions have been raised, in particular, as to CareerBuilder’s $1.55 billion valuation, especially given Monster’s $5.17 billion valuation. It is kind of baffling, given that CareerBuilder has surpassed Monster in several key criteria (i.e., postings and revenues). Last quarter, CareerBuilder generated $172 million in market revenues in the U.S., $9 million more than Monster’s take in the U.S. and Canada combined.

Jupiter analyst Niki Scevak, in a toughly worded, “R” rated post titled “Highway Robbery at CareerBuilder,” calls CareerBuilder one of the underappreciated jewels of the Internet. He argues that “it is absolutely mind boggling that McClatchy could have made such a strategic mis-step.”

Some financial analysts who closely followed the deal agree that the valuation was low. But the discrepancy is not as great as it appears when you take out Monster’s worldwide revenues and its career education and promotions divisions, which account for a small part of its value but a significant share of its growth scenario (think about Kaplan’s incredible effect on The Washington Post Co.).

Editor and Publisher notes that Prudential Equity Research analyst Steven Barlow estimated CareerBuilder to be worth around $2 billion, based on the valuation of with a market cap of $5 billion. He pointed out that MediaNews Group, which has assumed several Knight Ridder properties in Northern California, was shut out of the process — a different outcome than the research firm expected.

Merrill Lynch analyst Lauren Rich Fine estimated CareerBuilder’s value at $1.7 billion, also partially based on Monster. E&P reports that Fine mentions the disparity “likely lies in the profitability of the two companies.” Monster’s operating margins are just over 20 percent while CareerBuilder, which has spent very heavily to win market share, is still in the red.

Perhaps Monster is tremendously overvalued? I don’t really have the answer. In any case, Pruitt said in a company press release that McClatchy got what it needed out of the deal. “The transactions for CareerBuilder, and highlight the value of the equity investments we acquired from Knight Ridder, which we now believe have a value of $1 billion compared to the $500 million we initially assigned to them.

“Our newly announced partnership in CareerBuilder, and the use of the proceeds of these transactions to reduce our debt, position McClatchy extremely well as we move aggressively to apply our tested operating strategies to all McClatchy newspapers,” added Pruitt. “Our attention now turns entirely to operating and growing our leading local media businesses in 30 premium markets around the country."
Peter Krasilovsky <![CDATA[Yahoo! Local Talks Merchant Offerings]]> 2006-08-02T16:08:43-05:00 2006-08-02T16:08:43-05:00 2006-08-02T16:08:43-05:00
Levine said there is nothing mysterious about the relationship between rankings and buying enhanced listings. The inclusion of custom information in the profile, including photos, custom tag lines, etc., simply makes many listings more attractive for consumers. In fact, Yahoo! is emphasizing its wide array of integrated social tools (Flickr,, etc.) as a major differentiator.

“It is an opportunity for merchants,” said Levine. “The more they participate, the more likely they are to be on the first or second page” of listings. “The onus is on the merchant to get the message out. Consumers want to find what they are looking for quickly,” he added.

In addition to enhanced listings, which cost $9.95 per month, Levine said that Yahoo! Local’s “featured listings” have really improved traffic for merchants. The featured listings have six positions at the top and bottom of the page, with 50 percent rotation. The north listings at the top are 50 percent more expensive than the south listings. They are priced from $50 to $300 per month, based on position, region and category and are offered via both self-serve and channel partners.

Looking ahead, Levine said he envisions more of an emphasis on geotargeted and mobile products. “The litmus test is when it becomes easier to SMS than to call 411,” he said. “That’s the point when you’ll see people really use these services.”
Peter Krasilovsky <![CDATA[ IAC Focuses on Ask/Citysearch,]]> 2006-08-02T00:59:23-05:00 2006-08-02T00:59:23-05:00 2006-08-02T00:59:23-05:00 Ask is priority No. 1, and a key part of that development is the integration of Citysearch’s listings and content, according to IAC execs speaking Aug. 1 on the company’s quarterly earnings call.

“There is no question that [Citysearch] has the best local content and its breadth and depth,” said IAC Chairman Barry Diller. “Its quality puts anyone else to shame. Getting that content into Ask ... is high up on the list. In the next four to six months, it ought to be on there, and [a] fairly smooth” transition.

There was no discussion on the call, however, of literally folding Citysearch into Ask. Such a scenario could harm Citysearch’s extensive syndication with other portals.

During the call, Diller expressed general satisfaction with Citysearch’s progress. He cited its stream of new products, including map products, new review capabilities and mobile services, and once again claimed that the site gets 21 million unique visitors per month (although comScore says it is more like 14 million, and Nielsen/NetRatings says it is 11.26 million).

The site also has “aggressive sales efforts” boosting its merchant count to 50,000, up 9,000 since May and 57 percent from last year. Citysearch’s sales, incidentally, are now led by Neil Salvage, former head of sales of

Separately, IAC also cited progress with its division. While the real estate industry is in a funk, IAC President and COO Doug Lebda said that over time, will have a different story. IAC expects to spearhead industry change in which the business will turn less on agents acquiring leads and more on branding, SEM, technology, efficient lead processing and integrated services, such as mortgage loans. “It isn’t just about leads” but a more comprehensive solution, he said.

Agents, however, will be expected to take a substantially smaller share from IAC. Currently, typical Realtors get roughly 60 percent of the take, with inexperienced agents getting less and the experienced breadwinners, who account for the lion’s share of sales, getting up to 80 percent. But IAC envisions more of a 50/50 split for agents, who will be fed leads, so their experience level and community involvement won’t matter as much.

“We’re seeing great agents wanting to come to this platform,” said Lebda. “We’ve got fantastic tools, great technology, very good training … it is unique in this market.” He noted that “our real estate strategy is anything but traditional.”

Lebda said that IAC currently has 130 real estate contractors working in Portland, Denver, Seattle and Salt Lake City. Together, they have gotten 270 real estate contracts from buyers “over the past few months.” If my math is correct, that is a little more than two sales per agent, or projected out, eight sales a year. But most of the agents have probably just been put in place, so it isn’t accurate to do a three-month average. A good Realtor, of course, probably brings in 20-plus sales a year.]]>
Peter Krasilovsky <![CDATA[UrbanBaby Exec: Local Moms + CNET Makes Sense]]> 2006-08-01T22:01:42-05:00 2006-08-01T22:01:42-05:00 2006-08-01T22:01:42-05:00 UrbanBaby Cofounder John Maloney wrote in to comment on my “Local Baby Site” post yesterday. I had complained that I was “confounded” by CNET’s acquisition of, since CNET is basically a real good tech site that's heavily skewed toward geeky men.

The deal's ad math I understand. UrbanBaby enables CNET to add more young and affluent women to its demographic mix. It makes CNET a more appealing site for advertisers. But what’s next — iVillage adding a link to The World Wrestling Federation site? MTV linking to AARP? Slate being added to MSN? Generally, I like to think that sites stand for something.

Maloney begs to differ — and I appreciate the time and thought he put into his reply. (He also reminded me that UrbanBaby won The Kelsey Group’s LISA award for "Best Local Vertical" under my watch in 2000.)

Maloney wouldn’t put it this way, but basically he thinks I am out of date. CNET broadened its orientation beyond tech more than a year ago, adding such sites as Webshots, a shared photo community.

Moreover, the sale is not just about UrbanBaby cashing in and CNET being opportunistic. CNET’s team understands “affinity brands and audiences, and has a great track record for nurturing and developing them,” he says.

Besides, UrbanBaby is not “just” a baby site. “UrbanBaby reaches a passionate group of women — who happen to be in the midst of a major life event. These women use our site and boards as the primary source for both parenting and all the others things that are happening in their lives.”

And UrbanBaby's local ad sales, from internal sales channels, do very, very well. “I can't speak specifically to the revenue breakdown, (but) it's safe to say local plays a key part of it. We have dozens of recurring local businesses as clients, many of which have renewed annually for the past 3-4 years,” he says. Some advertisers have “moved their marketing dollars away from local print.”

I haven’t really changed my mind about CNET being a good fit for UrbanBaby. But you can. UrbanBaby is a real good site and a pioneer every step of the way. And I have absolutely observed women's growing use of tech sites — even though this isn't about technology. Thanks again for the insights, John.
Peter Krasilovsky <![CDATA[E-Commerce Portals Invest in Local Baby Sites]]> 2006-07-31T18:31:17-05:00 2006-07-31T18:31:17-05:00 2006-07-31T18:31:17-05:00, an e-mail-oriented baby-care tip sheet, was sold to CNET, and LilaGuides, a print-oriented local baby guide that features user reviews, was sold to The Knot, the marriage-oriented e-commerce portal.

UrbanBaby is currently in seven markets, with a special emphasis on New York City. But it has plans on the drawing boards to enter 19 more. LilaGuides sells its pocket-sized print guides for 23 markets, and has collected 32,000 Zagat-style reviews in those markets. The guides list for $16.95 but are provided for free in many markets if parents submit 10-plus reviews. While LilaGuides only uses online to collect reviews, it expects to ramp up its online platform.

Both sites feature local content but haven’t really established local sales channels. With deeper pockets, and possible integration into existing content — The Knot has city/regional guides in key U.S. markets — we’d expect to see both partner with local media and commerce companies to fully leverage the local component.

The Knot’s interest in a baby site makes sense to me. It is a logical extension. What CNET is ultimately going to do with a baby site past tech reviews of baby monitors, however, is kind of confounding. ]]>
Peter Krasilovsky <![CDATA[Monster Eyes Smaller Papers]]> 2006-07-31T13:29:03-05:00 2006-07-31T13:29:03-05:00 2006-07-31T13:29:03-05:00 Reuters. McKelvey also said the Philadelphia deal was opportunistic and that no other newspapers are waiting in the wings.

"Would we consider a newspaper in California, or a newspaper in the Midwest? Sure," McKelvey told Reuters. But it would more likely be a paper in a small- to mid-sized market, where papers have maintained a commanding lead over Monster and other job portals, but could benefit from their superior technology and national advertising.

"The local marketplace is tough, particularly when you get into C and D markets,” said McKelvey. “So what we're looking at is, would it make sense to partner with some newspapers in those markets, because we're really not there now."]]>
Peter Krasilovsky <![CDATA[College Papers: Growing Part of Local EcoSystem?]]> 2006-07-28T19:20:01-05:00 2006-07-28T19:20:01-05:00 2006-07-28T19:20:01-05:00 LiveDeal and Ad2Ad have begun working with various college paper networks. College communities are an excellent target for used goods, right? But otherwise, there isn’t much action — especially considering that there are 1.9 million users of college papers registered online.

A recent survey of college newspaper readers by Y2M Youth Media and Marketing Network, however, suggests that the college papers ought to rev it up — especially at the local level.

Y2M’s survey, with 7,500 respondents, including 2,925 undergrads, suggests that college papers’ focus on national and world events as “practice journalism” doesn’t sit well with their readers. Ninety percent of the readers, in fact, rely on the college papers for local and campus news.

The respondents are also clamoring for more local advertising. Sixty-four percent want more local restaurant ads, 57 percent want more recruitment ads, 51 percent want more local entertainment ads, and 50 percent want more local store ads.

One of the oddities of the Internet’s impact on college papers is that on campus/near campus readership has actually been dwarfed by national readers such as alumni. The percentage of “local” readers compared with “national” readers, in fact, has fallen from 43 percent to 35 percent between 2005 and 2006.

But “local” readers still make up the most regular readership, both in print and online. Seventy-seven percent say they look at either the print or online edition of the college paper at least once a month, with almost half indicating they look at the paper at least twice a week.

The online edition is increasingly popular, especially among undergrads. Twenty-four percent of undergrads look at the online edition at least twice per week, and 33 percent look at it at least once a month.

One area that has fallen, however, has been the use of classified ads in the papers' print and online editions. Y2M suggests these markets are beginning to fall sway to Craigslist and other free listings. Perhaps this is something that the deals with LiveDeal and Ad2Ad will begin to alleviate.
Peter Krasilovsky <![CDATA[Yahoo! Local, Kelsey Execs Join Event ]]> 2006-07-28T01:40:05-05:00 2006-07-28T01:40:05-05:00 2006-07-28T01:40:05-05:00 Small Business Commando Dick Larkin for a Tele-Seminar next Wednesday, Aug. 2, at 2:30 p.m. EDT/11:30 a.m. PDT.

The event will look closely at small-business marketing on the Internet. Booth will provide a proprietary snapshot of current small-business usage and spending, while Levine will discuss how Yahoo!’s suite of local apps (flickr,, mobile search, etc.) are being leveraged, and trends in small-business marketing.

Yahoo! is sponsoring the event (i.e., it is free). We’ll try to make sure there is a lot of useful info. Sign up here.
Peter Krasilovsky <![CDATA[Monster Finally Makes Its Newspaper Deal]]> 2006-07-25T18:32:59-05:00 2006-07-25T18:32:59-05:00 2006-07-25T18:32:59-05:00 Monster has finally broken through the newspaper blockade, making a deal to launch a new Philadelphia-specific job site Aug. 14 with the new owners of The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Daily News and The newspapers and Web site were bought last month by Philadelphia Media Holdings from McClatchy. Previously, they were anchor properties for Knight Ridder.

Philadelphia is the nation’s fifth-largest market with a metro size of 6.2 million. The loss of its newspapers could represent a significant blow for CareerBuilder that will not easily be made up. We’ve been hearing about some type of deal for a couple of weeks. This is it.

Monster has been pitching newspaper alliances for years but has always been considered a camel under the tent. The only significant newspaper it ever landed was The Honolulu Star Bulletin, a relatively obscure title.

No love, either, has been lost between Monster and the newspaper industry (although there were always rumors that Monster was in negotiations to be purchased by a major newspaper player). The recruitment site’s primary marketing pitch has always been that newspapers were going down, and it was grabbing the lost advertisers (and then some). Monster’s ultimate success, of course, is the poster child for the decline of newspapers.

In recent months, the situation has changed. Monster has lost significant ground to CareerBuilder, and the Knight Ridder papers have changed hands. Other newspaper companies are said to be considering a pact with Yahoo!’s Hot Jobs.

Another factor that might have influenced the deal was an influential report last month by Paul Ginocchio of Deutsche Bank indicating that newspapers that were not affiliated with a major national recruitment site had lower returns and market share. Of course, Ginocchio’s report was based on newspapers that had affiliated with CareerBuilder. It seems likely, however, that the same results will apply to Monster. Who's next?
Peter Krasilovsky <![CDATA[Murdoch to TV Stations: Go Local, Develop Web Sites]]> 2006-07-25T13:46:33-05:00 2006-07-25T13:46:33-05:00 2006-07-25T13:46:33-05:00 interview with The Hollywood Reporter’s Diane Mermigas, emphasizes that broadcasters need to push harder on local and take their Web sites more seriously. “Broadcasters will be more successful if they commit more to local, [and if] they do a lot more news, and they do it a lot better,” he said.

“We've been at that for more than a year now at our own stations, and we're getting some movement in the ratings. The future of local stations is very good provided they remain true to their roots, be very local, have their own local Web sites and do all that properly. And if they are aligned to a leading television network, they are going to be in good shape.”]]>
Peter Krasilovsky <![CDATA[GateHouse Files for 'HyperLocal' IPO]]> 2006-07-24T21:07:46-05:00 2006-07-24T21:07:46-05:00 2006-07-24T21:07:46-05:00 filed last week for an IPO that will enable it to buy and develop clustered “hyperlocal” media properties in the Northeast, Western, Northern, Midwest, Southern Midwest and Atlantic regions, including newspapers, directories, traders, shoppers and locally focused Web sites.

GateHouse, which operates in 285 markets in 17 states, is currently the leading publisher of community papers in New England. After a $460 million spending spree this spring that bought out Community Newspapers Inc. and Enterprise Newspapers, it literally surrounds Boston (and The Boston Globe). Altogether, GateHouse has 231 weeklies, 117 shoppers, 75 dailies and more than 230 related Web sites, and it serves more than 125,000 business advertisers. In addition, the company has opportunistically produced niche publications that address specific local market interests such as recreation, sports, healthcare and real estate. Over the past 12 months, it has created more than 90 niche publications.

The Internet is seen as a special opportunity. In New England, the company has developed WickedLocal as a possible prototype for the entire chain. In June, the company quietly named Bill Blevins as Internet head. Blevins had previously run Internet operations for Community Newspaper Holdings Inc. in Birmingham.

The filing notes that GateHouse is “well positioned to increase our online penetration and generate additional online revenues due to both our ability to deliver unique local content and our relationships with both readers and advertisers. We believe our local brands and unique local content make our sites a 'must visit' destination for our local audiences. This presents an opportunity to increase our audience penetration rates and advertising market share in each of the communities we serve.

“Centralizing our technology and building a network of websites will allow us to aggregate classified advertisements and build online classified products in areas such as real estate, automotive and recruitment. We will also have the ability to sell traditional online advertising locally and nationally. Finally, we will generally be able to share content across our organization within this network. This gives each of our publications access to technology, online management expertise, content and advertisers that they could not obtain or afford if they were operating independently.”]]>
Peter Krasilovsky <![CDATA[Local Business Blogs Still Uncommon]]> 2006-07-24T19:37:46-05:00 2006-07-24T19:37:46-05:00 2006-07-24T19:37:46-05:00 Eye Ball Farm, for instance, has developed a blog template for one of its Sacramento insurance clients. It will be used by all 23 agents in the local office and will (theoretically) help foster deeper customer relationships.

But in the scheme of things, local business blogs — and business blogs in general — barely register. Initial results from Bloggers, a Portrait of the Internet’s New Storytellers, a new survey on blogger habits by The Pew Internet & American Life Project, indicate that less than 5 percent of the blogger universe focuses on “business” themes. That’s the group that I’m interested in.

Another 15 percent of bloggers say they make money on the Internet, but seven of 10 of those do so by “selling items.” Fifty percent sell ads, 33 percent solicit funds via tip jars, and 20 percent sell premium content. The survey did not have a question that would enable, for instance, a veterinarian or local attorney to say he indirectly makes money from his blog via its promotional power.

Pew’s survey is based on a small but statistically representative base of 233 phone interviews with bloggers. Nationwide, Pew says that bloggers make up 8 percent of the population, or 12 million, and that 39 percent of Internet users, or 57 million, regularly read blogs.

We asked Pew Director Lee Rainie about the results, which seemed under-representative, and from the questions asked, more focused on matters of personal expression than practical things. Rainie agreed that “some of the most interesting, important blogs are business-focused. But in our sample, this was such a small fraction of what we were picking up that I doubt we would have gathered enough data to say anything consequential.”

Rainie added that “if anything resembling a ‘business bloggers association’ or some such professional or trade group comes into existing I would love to query the membership about how they use their blogs and their experiences. In the meantime, you could help us learn more on this front by coaxing your business-focused blogger buddies to fill out the online version of this survey. We might return to the subject if we get a big enough response.”

Well, we have our marching orders …

BLOG Question 26: What would you say is the MAIN topic of your blog?

37% — My life and personal experiences (diaries, journals)
11% — Politics and government
7% — Entertainment (movies, music, MP3 blogs)
6% — Sports
5% — General news and current events
5% — Business
4% — Technology (computers, Internet, programming)
2% — Religion/Spirituality/Faith
1% — A particular hobby
1% — Health (general health, an illness)
18% — Other
3% — Don’t know/Refused

Peter Krasilovsky <![CDATA[39 of 40 Top Newspapers 'Video Enabled']]> 2006-07-18T20:16:46-05:00 2006-07-18T20:16:46-05:00 2006-07-18T20:16:46-05:00 Broadband Directions, a consulting firm headed by Will Richmond, a former executive with Continental Cable’s Highway 1 initiative.

According to the report, almost half the sites feature a mix of original video and third-party video, such as AP Video and New England Cable Network. The other half is entirely dependent on third-party video. Two of the 40 sites focus solely on original video.

Richmond says “it is too early to tell what works yet.” What is available generally has “sub-optimal navigation” and the story-telling isn’t well-integrated. But it is essential for newspapers to begin experimenting with video to reconnect with younger audiences, compete with Internet news organizations and capture cross-platform opportunities, he says. Broadband Directions is giving a free, one-hour Webinar on Thursday, July 20, at 1 p.m. EST.
Peter Krasilovsky <![CDATA[AgendiZe: Multi-Platforms Boost IYP Ads]]> 2006-07-18T20:11:10-05:00 2006-07-18T20:11:10-05:00 2006-07-18T20:11:10-05:00 AgendiZe.

The AgendiZe platform, in use by True Local, YPG of Canada, Bermuda Yellow Pages, Gotya of Austria, Scaret in Sweden and QDQ Media of Spain, enables consumers to cut and paste ads from IYP Web sites to Instant Messaging, SMS, Desktop notes, personal information managers, printers, Skype Out VoIP voice calls or e-mail. Recently, social networking functionality was added to the service, giving it some Web 2.0 flair. For instance, users can freely exchange reviews, ratings and embedded coupons.

According to company literature, the use of additional platforms boosts advertising recall by 700 percent and conversion (i.e., calls and store visits) by 25 percent. The claims are impressive enough, at least, to convince investors this spring to provide a new round of roughly $1.9 million (1.5 million euros).

It also set in motion the development of a U.S. strategy by advisor Pat Marshall, the former Verizon SuperPages chief. Marshall’s efforts are being supported by three salespeople in Dallas.

The AgendiZe platform is perfect for “the ‘pending transactions’ or ‘discovery’ phase,” says Marshall. Several years ago, Verizon tried to provide similar functionality on SuperPages, enabling users to move ads to their mobile phones — but nothing as extensive as AgendiZe, he notes.

AgendiZe also provides full tracking capabilities showing what platforms ads are being sent to — an important feature now that companies such as Verizon have moved to pay-for-performance billing, says Marshall. “They are having trouble monetizing their advertising as quickly,” since they need to first meet their click-through goals. The problem with pay for performance, unenhanced by AgendiZe's features, is “it’s all on the balance sheet, not fresh income,” he says. ]]>
Peter Krasilovsky <![CDATA[Newspapers Mull Yahoo!/HotJobs Tie]]> 2006-07-14T14:47:39-05:00 2006-07-14T14:47:39-05:00 2006-07-14T14:47:39-05:00 CareerBuilder has led to other newspaper companies wanting in on the national recruitment action. As Paid Content reports, CareerBuilder "had a great second quarter with network and affiliate revenues up 42 percent over last year" and in some respects is beginning to run away from Monster.

A number of newspaper companies, including Hearst and MediaNews Group, have been meeting to discuss their best approach vis-à-vis recruitment, but also in other areas. Sources tell us that options include buying into CareerBuilder as junior partners or trying to buy an independent career site such as Adicio. A third option was to team up with Yahoo!, where HotJobs has been an underachiever.

Many of the newspaper companies in the meetings have been down the joint development path before (i.e., CareerPath, CareerSite), and the prospect of being a junior partner to Tribune, Gannett (and possibly McClatchy) lacks appeal. There is some hatred between the companies, which have felt disrespected by Tribune-Knight Ridder-Gannett execs. But there is also envy. If they were invited into the CareerBuilder consortium, they would probably jump for it.

All this makes the possibility of a Yahoo! tie the most scintillating. Moreover, former Knight Ridder executive Dan Finnigan is GM of HotJobs and would theoretically be sensitive to their needs.

Of course, the Yahoo! option would represent a broad alliance, and would create a permanent "in" for Yahoo! Local. But that might just be facing reality.

Jon Fine of BusinessWeek independently got wind of the newspaper discussions and does a great job poring over the angles. Following are excerpts from his piece.

“Newspaper companies would build a network within what is one of the Web's top destinations and win a crucial concession in today's search-engine economy: getting a cut of the ads sold around search results of their content. It's a sore spot for publishers that this doesn't happen now.

"Help-wanted is the quick cash," says one executive involved in the discussions, "but news search is the long-term future." At least one newspaper executive involved in the discussions says he nurses hopes that Web surfers eventually will pay small fees —micropayments, in Web parlance — for some newspaper content. And there's a push to get the newspapers an equity stake in the venture.

But another newspaper executive who is familiar with the negotiations says the focus is on more immediate concerns. "In a more search-centric world, how do you guarantee better distribution?" he asks. "That's what a number of these talks are about."

Peter Krasilovsky <![CDATA[Cox’s ‘Kudzu’ Directory Adds 3 Markets]]> 2006-07-14T00:59:19-05:00 2006-07-14T00:59:19-05:00 2006-07-14T00:59:19-05:00, its hybrid Yellow Pages/Review site in San Diego, Phoenix and Las Vegas this fall. It also says that its inaugural site in Atlanta, which launched in October 2005, now has over 2,000 paying clients and more than 40,000 reviews.

Nationally, the site competes in a crowded category that includes Insider Pages, Yelp, Judy’s Book and Backfence, not to mention “traditional” Internet Yellow Pages sites, city guides and various newspaper directory sites. Locally, it hopes to dominate.

“It's not sexy stuff, but getting more useful every day,” said Kudzu GM Tom Bates in an e-mail exchange. “There really isn't another place here to get this kind of stuff.” And “it is all self-provisioned.”

Plenty of New Features

Among the site’s recently added features in Atlanta are a “virtual house” where users can click on parts of the house, room by room, to get appropriate directory listings. Clicking on a fish aquarium in the master bedroom, for instance, leads to listings for pet stores. Clicking on the rug leads to listings for maid services.

The site also enables direct comparison between merchants in specific categories, so readers can check features and user ratings at a glance. Another new feature is a “talk back” feature for merchants that have been reviewed. All of it is compelling.

So far, most of the “talk back” appears to be positive, but sometimes it … isn’t. One reviewer, for instance, gave RK Heating & Air Conditioning a single star on Kudzu’s five-star system and urged readers to “be careful when dealing with this company. They will threaten lawsuits against you.” RK talk backed that the reviewer “does not have anything better to do than slamming people. We have contacted our attorney today and will be taking legal actions against her for slandering our business!” Maybe the drama will draw recreational readers in, a la Craigslist.

New features that are coming up include video, deals and a ‘What to pay guide.’ It is "a survey we commissioned on pricing for key services in the market,” said Bates.

With, Cox appears to be maintaining its tradition of making each service stand on its own, rather than depending on existing media channels. But the site has recently been integrated into, the Web site of Cox’s Atlanta Journal-Constitution, where it should get good synergies. It will be interesting to see what kinds of similar synergies will be explored in San Diego, Las Vegas and Phoenix, each of which are Cox Cable TV markets (hence the addition of video?).
Peter Krasilovsky <![CDATA[Topix Provides Localized Ads via ShopLocal]]> 2006-07-12T10:27:05-05:00 2006-07-12T10:27:05-05:00 2006-07-12T10:27:05-05:00 Topix, the news aggregator owned by Tribune, Gannett and (probably) McClatchy, is teaming up with ShopLocal to distribute its retail ads to users on a hyperlocal basis. ShopLocal, a provider of onliner circulars and other local ad services, is owned by the same consortia. “They have the pricing information and we have the impressions,” says Michael Markson, Topix's VP of business development.

The first customer for the service is Walgreens, which has 5,000 drugstores around the country and frequently has different promotions for different locations. The ads, which have been branded as "Smart Media" by ShopLocal, are sold on a premium CPM basis.

Initially, the ads will be served by ZIP code to users of Topix’s local news aggregations. More than 50 percent of Topix’s 7 million unique visitors access local news. Eventually, Markson says, the service may be expanded to reach all its users, since Topix can identify users by location, whether they are checking out “Tallahassee news,” “The World Cup” or “Diabetes.”

Markson notes that the new deal with ShopLocal is just the latest variant on advertising for Topix, which serves as a skunkworks for its owners. The site is an outlet for Google AdSense and also hosts CitySearch ads, and as of last month, free classifieds. “We are getting 300 to 500 (classified) posts a month,” he says. Topix is also taking in-orders from advertisers, generally very small advertisers such as Laundromats.

While advertisers might lump Topix into the “aggregator” slot along with Digg and, Markson says the site is actually more representative of local populations around the country, rather than just the digerati. “Just look at our forums. You’ll see red” levels of concentration all over, he notes.

The deal definitely pushes the envelope. If successful, ShopLocal is likely to take its "Smart Media" efforts to other distributors, in addition to Topix. On the cautionary side, however, efforts to work with national retailers to provide local “adversioning” have largely failed in the past. The question for me is: Are the retailers ready this time?
Peter Krasilovsky <![CDATA[Online Real Estate Ads Hit $2 Billion]]> 2006-07-11T15:31:07-05:00 2006-07-11T15:31:07-05:00 2006-07-11T15:31:07-05:00 Borrell Associates. The report predicts online will jump to 32.1 percent of all real estate spending by 2010, with most of the increase coming at the direct expense of newspapers, real estate publications and direct mail.

But online’s growth isn’t all cannibalism. Newspapers actually made US$244 million from online real estate advertising in 2005, adding 5+ percentage points to their total real estate revenues. Overall, newspapers account for 14 percent of online real estate revenues — leading all other media, with the possible exception of Google.

While impressive, that’s a far cry from the 40 percent share of real estate advertising that newspapers command in print today. Borrell expects newspapers to lose an additional 33 percent of their market share in real estate advertising by 2010. Borrell notes that the size of the increase in real estate’s overall online advertising doesn’t begin to gauge the Internet’s huge impact on the business since it is so much cheaper and more efficient.

The report also includes results from a survey of 531 agents, as well as extensive analysis of the impact of Web 2.0 players on the industry. The survey reveals that 61 percent of agents still don’t advertise on the Web, and 87 percent don’t make keyword buys. But tellingly, newer agents are much more dependent on the Web. Sixty-four percent of newer agents advertise online, compared with 36 percent of agents with 10+ years' experience.
Peter Krasilovsky <![CDATA[IAC’s Entertainment Book Focuses on Online]]> 2006-07-10T18:44:20-05:00 2006-07-10T18:44:20-05:00 2006-07-10T18:44:20-05:00 Entertainment Book is beginning to make more use of online coupons and exploring better synergies with other IAC divisions.

Traditionally, the book has relied solely on direct-to-consumer sales. Local books are typically sold for $24.95 to $45, and proceeds are split with nonprofit sales channels (i.e., the Boy Scouts).

Merchants, meanwhile, have basically gotten a free ride. In return for agreeing to honor two-for-one coupons and similar offers, they haven’t paid for inclusion. And their results have been strong. According to IAC’s marketing materials, 75 percent of Entertainment members have tried a restaurant as a result of being included in the network. Additionally, 82 percent of customers return to a venue that they were introduced to by Entertainment.

The value proposition has attracted more than 67,000 merchants in 215,000 merchant locations, populating 159 local editions.

Up until now, that’s been sustainable. But going forward, IAC is pushing the Entertainment Book to better leverage the Internet. Specifically, it hopes the book will build more value by increasing online usage of offers, provide better marketing information to its merchants, and drive traffic to and from other IAC divisions. Merchants that participate in an online coupon program, for instance, are given access to detailed reports that track their ROI, daily redemption numbers and customers’ purchasing habits.

Users, meanwhile, are required to provide tracking info by activating discount cards. Users are then sent regular coupon e-mails.

In addition to relying on its own book buyers, IAC gets its IAC-member companies, as well as other marketing companies to provide their customers with online coupons as “thank you” presents. (For instance, I just received thank you access to a year's worth of Entertainment Rewards from AT&T).

Focus on Driving More Usage

“We are focusing … on developing our online capability to drive more usage,” said VP of Business Development Peter DeMaris, in an e-mail exchange. “Our goal is to increase the number of times a consumer uses our product — either by using the book or accessing our offers online.”

DeMaris went on to emphasize that “we are 100 percent focused on the consumer value proposition.” Front-of-the-book ads, for instance, are selected from merchants that provide the best value. “No one can ‘buy in’ to that space. It has to be great consumer value,” he said.

But DeMaris also sees more opportunity in kind of a virtuous circle with other IAC properties — such as HSN, Cornerstone Brands, ShoeBuy, CitySearch, ServiceMagic and Evite — that can promote more book sales and online coupon usage. “IAC is increasingly growing the volume of traffic” and leads for book purchases. As time goes on, Ask will become an increasingly important part of this effort, he said.
Peter Krasilovsky <![CDATA[Backfence Adding Chicago]]> 2006-07-07T19:07:43-05:00 2006-07-07T19:07:43-05:00 2006-07-07T19:07:43-05:00 Backfence, the hyper-local news and information site operating in several Washington D.C. suburbs and the Bay Area, is expanding. Chicago will be its third metro area, and it is continuing to go deeper into the suburbs of its existing markets.

I was motivated to write to Backfence by a curious help wanted ad in Paid Content for “BackFence: General Manager, Chicago Area Local Community Web Sites.” CEO Susan DeFife responded. “Chicago is Market 3. After Labor Day.” DeFife added that the fifth D.C. community (Chantilly/Fair Oaks) launches Monday, July 10, and there will be “five more” D.C. suburbs up and running by January.

Meanwhile, the Bay Area Backfences, built on the remains of Bayosphere, will also see more sites. “Four more communities are coming to the Bay Area before the end of the year,” said DeFife.]]>
Peter Krasilovsky <![CDATA[ Sold to NBC ]]> 2006-07-07T01:17:50-05:00 2006-07-07T01:17:50-05:00 2006-07-07T01:17:50-05:00 is being sold to NBC. The sale marks the official end of an era for a service that at one time was determined to bring Friendster-like social networking to the local level via various city “tribes” run by newspapers, which wanted to piggyback a Craigslist-like service on top of it.

Started by serial entrepreneur Mark Pincus (whom I have occasionally worked for), Tribe won funding from The Washington Post Co., Knight Ridder and The Mayfield Fund. The newspapers probably gave less than $1 million each. Their input resulted in Tribe experimenting with new placement for CareerBuilder recruitment ads. Knight Ridder was among the owners of CareerBuilder.

Playing around on the site at the time, one could see KR and Post executives filling out profiles and participating in a number of tribes … at least before they got bored. Knight Ridder Senior VP Hilary Schneider famously reported on her Bay Area knitting club and its power to drive users to specialized knitting shops at a Kelsey Group conference in San Jose a few years ago.

Ultimately, neither newspaper company ever managed to launch a local version of Tribe. The Post never really tried, and Knight Ridder, after an initial effort to integrate Tribe with classified systems in Philadelphia, simply gave up. In recent years, Pincus’ role has shrunk and new executives have turned the site into a social gaming site, but without strong results.

According to reporting by Paid Content, NBC is likely to use the platform to power its own, iVillage-oriented social network. NBC, of course, would be well-positioned to establish its own local tribes — perhaps as a way to develop a classified business. That's certainly a good growth area for television stations. But I wouldn’t count on it.

Paid Content also reports that the sale price may have been around $50 million. If it was anywhere near that price, KR (now McClatchy) and The Post may have actually turned a profit on their failed experiment.]]>
Peter Krasilovsky <![CDATA[DSL Usage Surpasses Cable Modem]]> 2006-07-06T19:32:26-05:00 2006-07-06T19:32:26-05:00 2006-07-06T19:32:26-05:00 The Pew Internet & American Life Project.

Pew Director Lee Rainie, speaking June 29 at The Media Giraffe conference at The University of Massachusetts in Amherst, said it was clear by Pew’s fall 2005 survey that DSL had taken over the top spot. The primary reason was related to the telcos' heavy discounting of DSL plans compared with cable modems. Some services are now available for as low as $16.95 per month, while cable is typically above $44.

While DSL leads cable modem, the usage habits of DSL and cable modem users is largely undifferentiated, said Rainie — except for the coincidental factor that people who are connected at cable’s faster speeds tend to be heavier users of Internet services, such as general news and hyper-local services. For instance, 43 percent of the U.S.’s 87 million broadband users use the Internet as their primary source for news, compared with 35 percent of the general population.

Rainie made several additional observations about Internet content usage. For instance, 50 million Americans don’t seek out news from a specific service but “bump into” it a la headlines provided by the portals and other locations. Another 10 percent seek out news from alternative sites such as news blogs, international sites such as and Aljazeera, pure-play alternative sites and list services. The pursuit of alternative news tends to be elevated when there is important, controversial news, such as the Iraqi war.

As for the “Fox factor,” where citizens seek out news that is slanted to their own political preferences, Rainie said it is actually a mixed bag. Just 31 percent of Americans seek out “straight” news, while 26 percent look for news that shares their point of view. But an additional 21 percent seek out news that challenges their point of view.

But back to the finding that DSL has taken over the top spot … a few years ago, one would have thought that a telco-product would provide strong synergies with Yellow Pages, VoIP and other services. The reality is that most telcos have turned over their front pages to Yahoo! or MSN. While the telcos share in the proceeds from premium services such as music subscriptions, neither of those portals are pushing telco products. If nothing is done, the lost opportunity for Yellow Pages and VoIP with DSL could be compounded further as the telcos begin introducing their IPTV platforms.
Peter Krasilovsky <![CDATA[British Columbia Site Pursues Alternative Ads]]> 2006-07-05T20:39:52-05:00 2006-07-05T20:39:52-05:00 2006-07-05T20:39:52-05:00 The Tyee, a community site based in Vancouver, BC, is pursuing a rich base of community advertisers and foundations left behind by the “establishment” views of CanWest, the publisher of The Vancouver Sun and other Canadian titles.

CanWest is a local business booster in Vancouver that supports the upcoming Winter Olympics, Real Estate developers and the (conservative) Liberal Party, explained publisher David Beers. That opens up an opportunity for an alternative voice, he said.

Beers was speaking on a panel I ran on “community site sustainability” at Media Giraffe, a community journalism conference held June 29-July 1 at The University of Massachusetts in Amherst. Beers emphasized that while The Tyee (an Indian term for British Columbian salmon) is a liberal voice, it is intended to be every bit as mainstream as traditional newspapers.

“Indy media is not my model,” said Beers, noting that indy media such as alternative weeklies “have no impact on the media ecology of British Columbia.” Instead, The Tyee is entrepreneurially seeking support from donors, foundations, governmental cultural entities and local alternative advertisers.

Some of The Tyee’s initial funding came from a venture cap fund that has traditionally supported Labor Party initiatives. “They see the potential for long-term alternative media,“ said Beers. Other funding came from philanthropy-minded organizations.

“Philanthropists of all stripes are interested in The Tyee,” Beers said. “Or in parts of The Tyee. Maybe parts can focus on, say, local agriculture,” given the province’s high interest in organic farming and slow cooking.

The site has also partnered with The British Columbian Book Association, a $16,000 contract that has been matched by a government grant to promote Canadian culture. In addition, the site has Google ads and people donated $36,000 to keep the site going.

Now, with claims of 200,000 visits and 1 million page views a month, Beers said that The Tyee is ready to solicit advertising. “Unless you have 200,000 users,” you can’t really sell reach, he says. The advertising revenue will enable the site to hire staffers and promote itself.

Advertising is being sold for CPMs between $3 and $8 for an audience that Beers described as better educated and more sophisticated but with lower household income due to lifestyle priorities. Advertisers on the site today include a labor union, a writer’s symposium and a folk music festival. Beers added that The Tyee's next step is to add a local directory, which will probably launch in 3Q.
Peter Krasilovsky <![CDATA[API’s ‘Newspaper Next’ Previews at Media Giraffe]]> 2006-07-05T19:22:17-05:00 2006-07-05T19:22:17-05:00 2006-07-05T19:22:17-05:00 Newspaper Next project is nearing completion on six innovation test beds and getting ready to share its findings with the rest of the newspaper industry in September, according to Managing Director Steve Gray, who spoke June 29 at the Media Giraffe conference held at The University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

Newspaper Next is being conducted in partnership with Innosight, a consulting firm associated with Clayton Christensen, the Harvard Business School professor who authored “The Innovators’ Dilemma.” It is a successor project to newspaper industry studies conducted in 2002-2004 by Clark Gilbert, a Christensen protégé from Harvard Business School, and Borrell Associates.

According to Gray, a survey of 500 newspaper publishers revealed that 28 percent see trends in the industry as “good.” The other 72 percent, however, think trends are “bad.” But “they don’t know what to do.”

The answer, said Gray, is they have to “innovate or fade away.” In order to defy being disrupted by Craigslist and others, they have to figure out a way to reach nonreaders, such as commuters and younger audiences between the ages of 18 and 34. With retail advertising shrinking, newspapers also need to zero in on the small-business turf traditionally served by Yellow Pages publishers. Specifically, they’ll need to start focusing on “overshot” advertisers that require better targeting, a clear return on investment via lead generation and cheaper, self-service advertising capabilities.

In Richmond, Virginia, for instance, The Times Dispatch sells advertising to 3,500 small businesses. But that leaves 12,500 non-advertisers on the table. “That’s the growth potential. Newspapers are nicely positioned for this last rush,” said Gray. “But not if they don’t reframe the issues.”

Test Beds Lead the Way

To help figure out the industry’s future directions, most of the Newspaper Next project has been focused on six test bed projects. These include:

1. A Boston Globe project to study profitable leads and sales to the small-business community
2. The Dallas Morning News’ development of a one-stop information portal for mothers
3. A re-org by Gannett to leverage new media benefits for news and advertising
4. The Richmond Times-Dispatch's project to develop insights into small-business research needs that businesses can’t do on their own
5. A project by The New Jersey Media Group to rethink key information and community engagements to attract non-readers
6. Enterprise Media’s development of the Wicked Local city guide, local information aggregation and federated search.

At least some of these efforts were partially or fully under way before being swept into the Newspaper Next project. Whether original or not, the goal here is to take their learnings and try to extend them to the rest of the industry.

Gray movingly concluded his presentation by noting that the way he felt about the industry was the way he felt about dropping his son off at college: Sitting behind the driving wheel, he was depressed as a soon-to-be empty nester. His son, however, was excited, seeing all kinds of opportunities awaiting him at college. Gray said he knew he had to get to the mental space that his son was in so he could continue their close relationship. The same goes for newspapers and their changing business models.

Jarvis and Rosen: Project is ‘Intellectual Fraud’

The reaction of Media Giraffe attendees to Gray’s presentation, however, was decidedly mixed. Several said they’d just assume that newspaper corporations die, and that someone else would pick up the baton of journalism.

“I could not bring myself to care about Gannett the way you care about your son,” said Ed Lenert, a journalism professor at The University of Nevada, Reno. Tom Rosenthiel, the director of The Project for Excellence in Journalism, also expressed disdain for the corporate influence of news. “Who cares about Gannett?” he said. “I’m talking about people who work in the newsrooms. The authenticators.”

Well-known industry bloggers such as Jeff Jarvis and Jay Rosen expressed disdain for the project itself. At a lunch table that I shared with the two blogosphere celebs, both had fun railing at the “intellectual fraud” being perpetuated by both Innosight and the newspaper companies participating in the project. They seemed to believe that the corporate news barons remain bent on preserving profit margins and are largely uninterested in genuine innovation that would reconnect the newspapers with their communities.

A side of me agrees with Mssrs. Jarvis and Rosen. Working on these kinds of projects, you sometimes get the sense that the data doesn’t matter. The results have to fit a preconceived mold — in this case, what Clayton Christensen came up with 15 years ago.

But another side of me says that Jarvis and Rosen, by nature, may have it in for consulting firms like Innosight that set up projects designed to have a motivational impact on their clients — as if these firms cut into their own thought leadership. That is an easy position for them to take, of course. Both have been gainfully employed: Rosen is a professor at NYU, and Jarvis was, until recently, the well-paid head of Advance Newspapers’ online arm.

What I’ve seen firsthand, however, is that publishers greatly value the objective third-party analysis contained in these projects and that these projects really do begin to put innovation into motion. If the innovations are sustained, and goals are accomplished, that’s good enough for me.