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Mar 25 2006
Simplified Search's 'Sixth Man'
There are maybe eight firms out there enabling Yellow Pages, Web hosts, verticals and newspapers to sell simplified search distribution to local businesses. One firm, which is doing well under the radar, is Kevin Dufficy's Dufficy was in on all this early but hasn't taken any VC money, hasn't made any high-profile announcements and has kept things quiet as he plugs along -- tortoise style -- selling directly to local businesses.

He told me, in a recent email exchange, that things were going well. I look forward to catching up with him very soon.
Blog: Local Media Blog
posted by  Greg Sterling at  17:30 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]

Mar 24 2006
Google Adding Graphical Ads to Maps
A few weeks ago at SES, Google told me they were going to be allowing advertisers to add logos and graphical images to the mapping balloons that appear on Google Local. I looked for them but couldn't find them. Today, apparently, they started appearing. This blog has a screenshot. I was unable to find this ad (or other similar ads) on my own.

My understanding is that this doesn't cost anything beyond the keyword bid; it's a kind of a perk to marketers. (It's also an enticement to advertise.) Yahoo! has been doing a version of this for a long time, although the branding is not presented the same way.

This is really just the beginning. AdMission Corp. has a directories module (like a mapping balloon) that can host photos, chat, e-commerce, e-mail forms, even video. I would expect to see all those options and PPCall or click-to-call functionality integrated into these mapping balloons over time.

Just wait.

Blog: Local Media Blog
posted by  Greg Sterling at  17:19 | permalink | comments [1] | trackbacks [0]

Mar 24 2006
Mobile Advertising: Much Still Needs to Be Done
There's an incredible amount of hype and anticipation among marketers and the mobile industry in general around ad revenue projections and the anticipated size of the mobile TV/video market. This mostly bullish BusinessWeek article does a nice job of assessing the state of mobile marketing.

But, in reality, mobile is still years away. Most people don't want to pay for video (notwithstanding Apple's success to date) and don't even want advertising on their cellphones. Until the user experience is worked out, there isn't going to be massive mainstream usage of mobile for much more than voice and SMS.

That's not to say there isn't money to be made and users are totally immune to advertising on their mobile phones. But it must be presented to them in ways that are relevant, offer value, and are consistent with their needs and interests. Again, this goes to the overall user experience.

I'll be very curious what the panelists on the "Mobile Ads That Work Today" panel (3/28 at Drilling Down) have to say about their models, their learnings and their projections.


Related: Miva conducted a test involving 500 mobile phone users in the UK with "pay-per-text" ads on SMS/text messages. The test was in conjunction with Britain's leading directory assistance service, 118 118. Callers to the service who opted to receive the desired number via text also saw a contextually relevant ad as part of the message (after the desired number). Here are the (relatively impressive) results:

  • Nearly 60% of respondents who were sent the message recalled it, and 14% of these people used the additional number.
  • 93% of users said they would like to receive an additional number in future.
  • 75% of respondents said that they could see clear benefits in the service.
  • Just over 80% of respondents were also interested in an enhanced offer (such as a discount on goods or services) and the majority said that even if they didn't use it immediately, they would do at some point.
  • Half also said they would think about sending the information on to family and friends.
Blog: Local Media Blog
posted by  Greg Sterling at  12:15 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]

Mar 22 2006
Skyhook Wireless Offers Loki Local Toolbar
If you want to see something pretty cool, go to and download Skyhook Wireless' new Local Search toolbar. It's the first toolbar built around Local and it's got a bunch of really useful features:

  • It can automatically locate your position so you don't need to enter it when doing a search (you can change locations too)
  • It's got lots of local content "channels" (bookmarks) to quickly navigate to local news, shopping, mapping, restaurants, movies, Wi-Fi hotspots, traffic, etc. And those content channels can be personalized and expanded by users
  • You can set a preferred mapping provider so any lookups send you to either Yahoo!, Google, Ask or A9 maps.
  • Through an e-mail button you can share your location with others
Loki offers a kind of metasearch for local. I haven't fully explored all its capabilities, but it's the first new toolbar in a long while that justifies its existence. Certain of the features are "power user" tools, but that doesn't deprive it of being valuable to consumers generally.

Approximately 12% of Web search (according to comScore) happens through a toolbar. Everyone expects that number to grow over time.
Blog: Local Media Blog
posted by  Greg Sterling at  18:25 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]

Mar 22 2006
Local Matters Moving Toward IPO
Here's the press release.
Blog: Local Media Blog
posted by  Greg Sterling at  18:18 | permalink | comments [1] | trackbacks [0]

Mar 22 2006
More Publisher vs. Aggregator Drama
Cairo is a local shopping aggregator that was crawling ShopLocal's content as one of its sources. ShopLocal sued and yesterday a settlement was announced:

Cairo agreed to an order of the court preventing it from making further robotic or other automated access to ShopLocal's computers or websites, and Cairo has acknowledged ShopLocal's proprietary rights in its content.

This dispute is reminiscent of the flap that broke out between Craigslist and Oodle (not trying to suggest any legal analogy between the two situations). As I wrote before:

Ultimately there�s a longer, larger and more nuanced debate here about who owns the content, what is factual, what is proprietary and who has the right to publish it. The US Supreme Court case Feist v. Rural is the arguably �controlling authority� but it has yet to be tested in an Internet context. We may soon see one.

Quotes from Feist:

[F]acts are not copyrightable ... compilations of facts generally are. ... Factual compilations ... may possess the requisite originality. The compilation author typically chooses which facts to include, in what order to place them, and how to arrange the collected data so that they may be used effectively by readers. These choices as to selection and arrangement, so long as they are made independently by the compiler and entail a minimal degree of creativity, are sufficiently original that Congress may protect such compilations through the copyright laws. [citation omitted] Thus, even a directory that contains absolutely no protectible written expression, only facts, meets the constitutional minimum for copyright protection if it features an original selection or arrangement.

This protection is subject to an important limitation. The mere fact that a work is copyrighted does not mean that every element of the work may be protected. Originality remains the sine qua non of copyright; accordingly, copyright protection may extend only to those components of a work that are original to the author.

And ...

... [C]opyright in a factual compilation is thin. Notwithstanding a valid copyright, a subsequent compiler remains free to use the facts contained in another�s publication to aid in preparing a competing work, so long as the competing work does not feature the same selection and arrangement.

So ...

While one could forcefully argue that a search algorithm is proprietary and thus search results are a proprietary �compilation of facts,� could a site or search engine crawl/scrape another�s index, make some minor changes in the presentation of results and be perfectly legal in doing so?

It�s a provocative and as yet unresolved question.
Blog: Local Media Blog
posted by  Greg Sterling at  10:50 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]

Mar 22 2006
Online Shopping, Offline Conversions
Study after study confirms what we've known for a long, long time: Consumers do research online but make the overwhelming majority of purchases offline. This article in MediaPost, profiling a study done by comScore for Google, offers yet more evidence. From the comScore press release:

comScore Networks today released results from a new research study that confirms the importance of search in influencing offline buying. The results show that 25 percent of searchers purchased an item directly related to their query, and that of those buyers, 37 percent completed their purchase online. An even greater 63 percent completed a purchase offline following their search activity.

The study, sponsored by Google, entitled �The Role of Search in Consumer Buying� examined the impact of Web search (excluding comparison shopping sites) on consumers� holiday-related purchases completed online and offline during November and December 2005, across 11 product categories. The study reflects the searching behavior of 83 million Americans who conducted more than 552 million searches in the categories analyzed using one or more of the 24 leading search engines.

The emphasis in this release and in the article partly obscures something more profound. Note that only a minority (25 percent) of search engine users purchased something directly after a query. What about the 75 percent who did not? Their behavior is much more elusive, and at the end of some probably convoluted research process they're equally going to a physical store to make a purchase. All this confirms � I've written about this many times in the past � that calling search a "direct response" medium doesn't really capture the nature of how consumers interact with it.

These data and the results of other studies confirm both a potential ROI calculation challenge (in figuring out how to think about paid search spending) as well as a more fundamental tracking challenge. The behavior of that 75 percent is mostly invisible to marketers, but it may be equally influenced by search and/or other online media. We'll be talking about these and other issues related to online shopping and offling buying behavior next week on the panel:

The New �Purchase Funnel�: Online Shopping, Offline Conversions
Even though e-commerce may have reached US$90 billion in 2005, it represents just 2.5 percent of total U.S. retail. Yet the Internet is having a growing influence over offline consumer behavior. What is the precise nature of this new purchase funnel? Where do consumers start, and where do they typically end up online before buying offline? Is paid search truly a direct response medium? What categories of sites are the most effective sources of offline conversions? Will we see more search/shopping engines add local inventory information this year? These and other relevant questions will be explored in depth.

Kendall Fargo, CEO, StepUp Commerce
Brian Hand, CEO,
Catherine Kelly, Chief Technology Officer, HarvestINFO
John Kim, Senior Director, Advertiser Product Marketing, Yahoo! Search Marketing
John Melideo, CEO, Jambo
Rob Wight, CEO, Channel Intelligence
Blog: Local Media Blog
posted by  Greg Sterling at  10:07 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [1]

Mar 21 2006
Net Neutrality and AT&T
AT&T Chairman Ed Whitacre seems to be intent upon pursuing access fees for high-bandwidth sites/networks. This article discussing his keynote at the TelecomNEXT show in Las Vegas quotes him as dismissing the torrent of criticism that has come his way on the issue.

Net Neutrality will be one of the themes we explore on the broadband panel next week. My personal view is that any attempt to impose such fees will boomerang, if it's not blocked as a condition of the merger or via other regulatory initiatives (e.g., U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden's bill).
Blog: Local Media Blog
posted by  Greg Sterling at  19:33 | permalink | comments [1] | trackbacks [0]

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