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Oct 27 2006
AT&T Success Story: Triple Play in Action
I am in the process of moving and somehow AT&T knew about it. A packet came in last week's mail branded as �AT&T Mover�s One Source.� I�m still not sure how the company knew I was moving. As a current AT&T DSL subscriber, perhaps they took note when I moved my service exactly a year ago and guessed right that I am a nomadic twenty-something urban dweller who will move again when my lease expires.

Either way, the packet is meant to make it easier for customers to move existing service and consider new bundled service options, or for prospective customers to switch to bundled services � which have benefits of cost and ease � while they are already moving. I was compelled to call because switching my DSL service was already on my growing to-do list (along with renting a U-Haul, hunting for boxes, etc.).

Upon calling I was offered Cingular Wireless service and promotions for switching and bundling my voice, data (DSL) and wireless services. This included saving almost $10 per month on my DSL and getting a wireless plan comparable in price to my current Sprint plan. The bonus here was the coveted Razr phone, offered free as a promotion to existing AT&T DSL customers. Given that my Sprint contract has been over for months and my friends laugh at me for my two-year-old Samsung phone (archaic in device years), I was an easy sell. So you�re looking at a born-again Cingular customer.

Now all three services will come with one bill and the total is just north of $70 (not counting long distance for the fixed line, which I don�t use anyway). And when AT&T IPTV service comes to San Francisco, I�m going to be hard-pressed not to consider adding it to this service (and billing) bundle. Given that I just spent a lot of time on a report on �quad-play� bundled services, I fully realize the economies of scale this will bring to telecoms and cable companies. But more than anything, this event drove home for me the sales, retention and consumer benefits that bundled services will have. Comcast earlier this week in fact reported strong third quarter earnings attributed to its bundling strategy.

How cable cos. and telcos market and promote these services, execute good customer service (as John Kelsey pointed out earlier in the week) and aggregate content to offer compelling video services will all determine who comes out on top. How they tie together all four services to become content and advertising distribution networks will likewise determine the leverage they will enjoy in the next-generation media environment.
Blog: Local Media Blog
posted by  Mike Boland at  00:49 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]

Oct 26 2006
Jigsaw Brings UGC to Professional Networking
Yesterday I had the chance to talk to Jigsaw CEO Jim Fowler. Part LinkedIn, part Wikipedia and part Hoovers, Jigsaw compiles user-generated contact information for business professionals. These data are invaluable to salespeople and recruiters who wish to bypass the gatekeepers that stand in the way of their targets, according to Fowler.

Fowler contends that he doesn�t directly compete with LinkedIn, however, and that adding a social networking component to the site would be at odds with reaching his target market.

�In a social network, you want your identity known and to openly share contacts and meet people,� he says. �Salespeople [conversely] get paid to call people they don�t know and ask them for money. It�s socially awkward, so it�s not conducive to a social networking model.� The shared contact information is therefore done on an anonymous basis and those who share contacts are identified only by screen names.

Supplying this coveted contact information for business professionals (sometimes C-level execs) has indeed proved rare and highly valuable to salespeople who don�t have a centralized place to find this info. The numbers speak for themselves, as the site has 131,000 registered users and 4.3 million contact records, the number of which is growing at a rate of 12,000 per day.

The company has interestingly followed a popular trend toward online social search and user-generated content. However, it is applying UGC to an area in which it is easier to motivate participation than it is in places where it has already been used, such as local ratings and reviews. Local social search sites have faced challenges in incentivizing user participation and building a consistent library of reviews across listings categories (some sites, such as Yelp, Insider Pages and Judy�s Book, have found creative ways to deal with this challenge, however).

UGC is a natural fit for Jigsaw�s model because of users' high valuation of this content and their inability to get it anywhere else. To motivate users to share business contact information, the company has developed a point system where users can only access contacts if they share the equivalent amount of contacts. This has been a driving force in building its vast and quickly growing records library. There can also be points gained for updating false or old information that any user comes across. This addresses a common challenge and major expense in business information databases (such as Hoovers or even InfoUSA) of ongoing data maintenance. Users' constantly policing this data (with an incentive to do so in this case), brings in the advantages of a wiki.

The site has recieved some flak for breaking social contracts for how contact data should be shared, to which Fowler responds that this information is mostly public and that the site takes down any contact when requested (which is rare, he claims). Further, the site doesn't list home addresses, cell numbers or personal e-mail addresses (Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo! Mail etc.). "We don't touch personal information with a 10-foot pole," says Fowler.

The site has a few monetization strategies represented by different price points. Any user can register for free and begin accessing business contacts by gaining points (sharing contacts). There is also a $25-per-month price point, which buys a package of points. For time-constrained professionals who value this information highly, points can be bought in bigger packages. These companies or individuals � typically salespeople or recruiters � can spend up to thousands of dollars per year to buy this access.

The next step for the company is to use its information to enhance the business databases of CRM systems, which are highly dependent on updated contact data. Fowler foresees this as a cash cow for the company and a big initiative on its horizon. Lastly, the site has a big opportunity�based on the unique profiles of its users and its behavioral tracking abilities � to serve targeted advertising. Further, Fowler foresees offering points to users for providing detailed demographic information, which can then be used for more acute ad targeting across the system.

The good news, according to Fowler, is that revenues have been so strong from sales alone (undisclosed amount) that there hasn�t been a need to integrate ads yet. There is a lot more to the company's model, and we'll keep watching to see how it unfolds. You can sign up and browse its records database here. If you're as narcissistic as I am and you look up yourself first (kind of like Googling oneself [;)]), you'll likely find that you're already in there.
Blog: Local Media Blog
posted by  Mike Boland at  17:24 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]

Oct 25 2006
Merrill: 20 Years Till Online Is 50% of Newspaper Revs
In the past, financial analysts covering the newspaper industry haven�t paid much attention to online results. They�re more focused on quarterly results, which don�t have much to do with online. Indeed, despite several years of strong growth from online services, newspapers are still, typically, just getting 5 percent or so from online.

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?
Blog: Local Media Blog
posted by  Peter Krasilovsky at  18:41 | permalink | comments [1] | trackbacks [0]

Oct 25 2006
Yell Mines Banking, Packaged Goods Experience in New CMO
Yell Group has hired a new chief marketing officer, Helen Stevenson, a veteran marketing executive with experience in banking and consumer products.

Stevenson replaces Anne Franke, the CMO who left the U.K. directory company earlier this year, after serving as Yell's first CMO from early 2004. Franke reportedly left to run her own start-up business. Here is Yell's announcement of the appointment.

Stevenson spent nearly 20 years in marketing at Mars Confectionary, where Franke also had worked. Stevenson is joining Yell from Lloyds TSB, where she serves as group marketing director. She will assume her Yell UK post in November.
Blog: Global Yellow Pages Blog
posted by  Charles Laughlin at  17:40 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]

Oct 24 2006
Yahoo! HotJobs, Newspapers Close to a Deal
This isn�t officially confirmed, but Yahoo! is apparently close to finalizing a major deal that would pair its lagging 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.�
Blog: Local Media Blog
posted by  Peter Krasilovsky at  23:22 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]

Oct 24 2006
Whose Phone Is It Anyway?
Next time you refer to your cellphone, pause and ask yourself, �Is this a Sprint phone or a Nokia phone?� Seems a bit trivial, but how wireless phone subscribes think of their phones will become an increasingly material matter in coming years. Today�s Wall Street Journal carries an article about Vodaphone�s sourcing a Chinese company to build Vodaphone phones � hardly a surprise given that Nokia, the world�s largest maker of handsets, is also trying to earn the loyalty of wireless subscribers.

With 4G, WiMax and future multi-modal phones operating off cellular and wireless broadband networks (T-Mobile became the first U.S. carrier to test this this week), the concept of �Whose Phone Is It Anyway� will become much more top of mind than it has ever been in the past. This becomes particularly true, it seems, as you move up the device functionality curve. Have you ever heard BlackBerry users call their beloved devices anything but BlackBerry (or CrackBerry)?

Blog: Local Media Blog
posted by  Neal Polachek at  23:11 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]

Oct 24 2006
World War III
Since there have only been 13 unassisted triple plays in the history of major league baseball, it�s highly unlikely that we will see one in this World Series. Nevertheless, a lot of the talk recently has been about a different kind of triple play, consisting of voice, data and video services. Throw in wireless and you have the quad play. In an Interactive Local Media Advisory released yesterday, my colleague Michael Boland asked the question, �Triple and Quad Play: Who Will Win the Bundled Service Battle?�

Coincidentally, The Times of Trenton has a feature story today about how �Verizon is on the Verge of its $1 Billion TV Rollout� Verizon predicts that by the end of this year (yes, that�s 2006) consumers in more than 100 New Jersey communities will have an alternative to cable television. My local cable company, the third owner of the Princeton franchise, has already sold me TV and Internet, and it would dearly like me to sign up for telephone as well. So it�s a horse race between the cable companies and the telcos, and we have the marketing rule of two competing services.

This war is not likely to end up like the Beta vs. VHS, Netscape vs. Explorer or the Allies vs. the Axis. There won�t be one final winner. However, from a technology perspective, this may be as close to WWIII as we�re likely to see in the next 10 years. They can only fight on price for so long before they reach an equilibrium and that won�t be the issue. They don�t want to get into overpaying for content and find themselves in an unwinnable civil war like Sirius vs. XM.

So who�s going to generate more revenues and profits? As Mike Boland points out, the tipping point may be the fourth leg of cellular. When you combine mobile search with online local search, he argues, �These will create exponentially greater opportunities to home in on consumers wherever they are using behavioral, contextual and geographically relevant targeting.� Honestly, that sounds incredibly complicated, but what it will all come down to at the end of the day is service. There was a time, back in the Bell System days, when no one had better customer service than the telephone company. That was because every telco manager was held accountable for service, and careers were made or lost based on measurable results. Cable companies have never had customer service built in as part of their culture.

Assuming reasonably similar prices, content and quality, good old customer service could end up making the difference. But even if, as is likely, unique products and personalized features are developed by the cable and telephone giants to differentiate their products, expect customer service to play a major role.

Blog: Local Media Blog
posted by  John Kelsey at  17:00 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]

Oct 24 2006
Mexican Telecom Enters U.S. YP Market
We recently learned that Tel�fonos de M�xico (Telmex) has acquired Enlace Spanish Yellow Pages, the largest independent Spanish-language Yellow Pages publisher in the U.S., for an undisclosed price.

Telmex, Mexico�s leading telecom and owner of that country's dominant Yellow Pages publisher, announced earlier this week that it has purchased an 80 percent controlling interest in Enlace, an affiliate of Louisville, Kentucky-based Blue Equity.

Telmex has renamed the entity Seccion Amarilla USA and will re-brand the U.S. directories with the Seccion Amarilla logo and name. Enlace publishes more than 32 Spanish-language directories in more than 18 states and offers online directories in all its markets. Blue Equity, a Louisville, Kentucky-based private equity firm, will retain an equity stake in the directory business, which it will continue to operate in conjunction with Telmex.

Telmex owns Anuncios en Directorios SA in Mexico, where it is the overwhelming market leader. This acquisition may signal a more aggressive roll-up of the U.S. Spanish language directory market by Telmex. The U.S. Spanish-language Yellow Pages market has attracted private equity capital in recent years, with Blue Equity and several rivals seeking to develop a scalable business within this niche.
Blog: Global Yellow Pages Blog
posted by  Charles Laughlin at  14:16 | permalink | comments [4] | trackbacks [0]

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