The Kelsey Group Blog Local Media Blog 2006-03-22T18:25:41-05:00 Copyright 2004-2005 Ublog Reload 1.0.5 Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Skyhook Wireless Offers Loki Local Toolbar]]> 2006-03-22T18:25:41-05:00 2006-03-22T18:25:41-05:00 2006-03-22T18:25:41-05:00 and download Shyhook 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 email button you can share your location with others
Loki offers a kind of metasearch for local. I haven't fully explored all it's 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. ]]>
Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Local Matters Moving Toward IPO]]> 2006-03-22T18:18:04-05:00 2006-03-22T18:18:04-05:00 2006-03-22T18:18:04-05:00 release. ]]> Greg Sterling <![CDATA[More Publisher vs. Aggregator Drama]]> 2006-03-22T10:50:58-05:00 2006-03-22T10:50:58-05:00 2006-03-22T10:50:58-05:00 Cairo is a local shopping aggregator, which 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. ]]>
Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Online Shopping, Offline Conversions]]> 2006-03-22T10:07:58-05:00 2006-03-22T10:07:58-05:00 2006-03-22T10:07:58-05:00 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%) of search engine users purchased something directly after a query. What about the 75% 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% 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, Inc.
Brian Hand, CEO,
Catherine Kelly, Chief Technology Officer, HarvestINFO
John Kim, Sr. Director, Advertiser Product Marketing, Yahoo! Search Marketing
John Melideo, CEO, Jambo
Rob Wight, CEO, Channel Intelligence ]]>
Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Net Neutrality and AT&T]]> 2006-03-21T19:33:48-05:00 2006-03-21T19:33:48-05:00 2006-03-21T19:33:48-05:00 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., US Senator Ron Wyden's bill).]]>
Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Social Networks and the Elusive Marketer]]> 2006-03-21T11:10:59-05:00 2006-03-21T11:10:59-05:00 2006-03-21T11:10:59-05:00 piece about the challenges of social networks (a lot of rehash but a good general overview). The new bit is the mention of GoingOn (we did a quick post in July), which is a social networking "aggregator," in the same way that Meebo tries to give you one log-in for multiple IM memberships. And here's a piece in today's MediaPost (reg. req'd) that shows large marketers have been scared away from MySpace by the bad PR:

Of six panelists [on a panel at the "Revolutin in Television" conference in N.Y.] representing major advertisers and ad agencies, not a single one advertised with MySpace or other social networking sites. Reasons for avoiding MySpace include concern about its potential for criminal use, especially given recent well-publicized reports about sexual predators searching for victims on the site, as well as fears that user-generated content—including pictures and text with sexual overtones—will be offensive.

"I wouldn't be caught dead in that kind of environment," said David Cohen, executive vice president for Universal McCann Interactive, with a client roster including Microsoft, Johnson & Johnson, Lowe's Home Improvement, Wendy's International, and Sony Electronics. "You only have to look around for five or 10 minutes to find something offensive."

Dawn Hudson, president and CEO of Pepsi-Cola North America, echoed this sentiment, saying she was "interested" in sites like MySpace that feature user-generated content, but "we're being cautious because there's a blurring between advertising and content, and the content does rub off on your brand."
Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Microsoft and Vexcel]]> 2006-03-21T10:43:00-05:00 2006-03-21T10:43:00-05:00 2006-03-21T10:43:00-05:00 piece from CNET, Microsoft is seeking to buy Vexcel. This deal appears to be about a range of things all of which point to enhanced mapping (including 3-D mapping), which is where Erik Jorgenson said (at last fall's ILM:05) Microsoft was headed.

There's a ton of horsepower in this company and, if the deal is approved, it appears Microsoft will be getting a lot more than simply some mapping graphics capabilities.

Google recently purchased a company called @Last Software, which has a 3-D modeling tool/application SketchUp. ]]>
Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Google Finance Launches]]> 2006-03-21T00:12:00-05:00 2006-03-21T00:12:00-05:00 2006-03-21T00:12:00-05:00 portfolio tracking, for example.) And given Google's enormous traffic, the site should get immediate traction.

The idea is that users will search for a ticker symbol or other finance-related query on and be given a link to Google Finance, as well as other financial sites (just like mapping today). Then users will enter Google Finance, which is a very rich, structured environment put together from a combination of crawling and feeds from content partners. There appeared to be an enormous amount of content, from what I saw. And one thing that was particularly interesting is how Google links news to the fluctuation of share prices (actually plotting them on a graph). That's a great feature that has to be seen to be appreciated. The site will be a valuable resource for individual investors and analysts.

It's also interesting as part of the "verticalization of Google," as the company builds out specific user experiences around particular content areas to create more value for users and, ultimately, advertisers.

As is typically the case with Google beta products, there are no immediate monetization plans. But expect that it will be another source of valuable ad inventory for Google. Even though the company has said no graphical/display ads will run on Google domain sites, this would be a perfect area for rich media and graphical ads (like on Yahoo! Finance). And advertisers, I'm sure, would welcome that option too. We'll see.

According to comScore, Yahoo! Finance is the No. 1 global finance site with 31.4 million uniques. MSN's Money is second with 21.9 million, and AOL's finance site has 14.3 million global uniques. It will be interesting to see if Google's brand and traffic will enable it to grab usage from the existing leaders. As a latecomer, Google has a mixed track (traffic/usage) record in other areas, such as mail and shopping. But it has had great success with Maps and Local, for example.

More later when the site actually goes live. I believe the URL will be


Update: I just found a working URL. Here's the page for GOOG. I'm reminded that it also includes blog content, which is valuable. Manipulate the chart's horizontal scroll bar and see how the news changes — very interesting stuff. The site also remembers your most recent (company) searches. And it has discussions/community as well. These kinds of features make it "sticky" (to use the outdated expression).

Here's a plethora of news on the launch, with lots of detail from Danny Sullivan at SEW. And Battelle adds some interesting color and factual tidbits. Om Malik doesn't like it at all.

Tomorrow you'll be able to go to Google Finance and see how all the coverage boosted the company's share price. Neat, eh? ]]>
Greg Sterling <![CDATA[What Is Joga?]]> 2006-03-20T17:33:45-05:00 2006-03-20T17:33:45-05:00 2006-03-20T17:33:45-05:00 is an invitation-only social networking site from Nike and Google for soccer/football fans (you first need a gmail/google account). It's MySpace for soccer and it may be a "template" for other corporate promotional/vertical social networking ventures for Google and partners.

Here's more from BusinessWeek and Search Engine Journal. ]]>
Greg Sterling <![CDATA[KinderStart Take 2]]> 2006-03-20T15:37:40-05:00 2006-03-20T15:37:40-05:00 2006-03-20T15:37:40-05:00

On March 19, 2005, Plaintiff KSC’s Website suffered a cataclysmic fall of 70% or more in its monthly page views and traffic. Thereafter,’s monthly average of page views for the last 11 calendar months through February 2006 was a meager 30% of monthly levels prior to March 2005. Initially, KSC did not know why its Web traffic had dropped so dramatically — it had not been provided any notices, and certainly no advance notices, whether or why its Web traffic might decrease. Eventually, KSC realized that common key word searches on Defendant Google’s search engine no longer listed as a result with any of its past visibility.

By April 2005, Plaintiff KSC’s monthly AdSense revenue suffered an equally precipitous fall by over 80%. With the sharp fall-off in search engine referrals from, quite naturally and automatically click-throughs for the sponsored ads on would drop proportionately with the actual key word search traffic sent from Defendant Google.

Here is a very quick and incomplete summary of the claims:
  1. Violation of free speech rights under the U.S. and California constitutions: By blocking KinderStart, Google allegedly denied the company its free speech rights. (I think the legal basis for this claim is very dubious: "If I don't show up on page one of Google, my free speech rights have been violated!")
  2. Violations of the Sherman Antitrust Act/abuse of monopoly power (Google's got a big market share, but it's not a monopoly and hasn't acted in an anti-competitive way; search is the most competitive of industries)
  3. Two claims of unfair competition and unfair businesses practices under California law (these claims basically allege bad faith and deceptive manipulation of KinderStart's ranking and a related breach of contract argument)
  4. Breach of implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing (this claim basically alleges that the plaintiffs allocated "precious" Web real estate to AdSense ads and Google's alleged blockage of KinderStart denied them the benefit of traffic and thus AdSense revenues)
  5. Defamation and libel (among several ridiculous claims this is one of the most ridiculous; plaintiffs are effectively claiming the absence of their site on the first page of results is tantamount to defamation)
  6. Negligent interference with prospective economic advantage (and in this claim is the most telling of all the statements: "Defendant Google owed a duty of care to Plaintiff KSC to undertake all reasonable steps and actions to allow a continuous flow of referrals from the Google Engine onto the website." This is just an incorrect statement.)

Google has no legal duty to guarantee the placement or ranking of any site. One might argue that Google does have a duty not to unfairly punish a site that isn't violating any of its policies — and the absence of clarity/transparency about what may or may not constitute punishable behavior may be a problem and need to be clarified. Also, the complaint reflects frustration and anger over not being able to communicate with Google and rectify the situation — something that may need to be addressed internally.

I'm not an AdSense advertiser and there may be some language in the Ts&Cs of the AdSense fine print that plaintiffs can use to make some plausible claims about Google's obligations. But on the whole this complaint seems to me to be sour grapes and grasping at straws rather than making any legally enforceable claims.

At the center of all this is the question: What do search engines owe the owners of the sites they index? I would argue courts aren't going to insert themselves into this question, the answer to which is probably only "clear policies." Also, Google is not a monopoly, which the complaint seeks to argue and thus bring it under federal antitrust law.

But the biggest strike against the plaintiffs here is the fact that ruling in their favor would embolden sites whose rankings had declined to litigate. In the high-stakes cat-and-mouse game of search engine rankings, it would create a sense of "ownership" or entitlement to those rankings. Again, this would effectively kill organic search.
Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Competition Spurring Growth of Muni Wi-Fi]]> 2006-03-20T13:27:05-05:00 2006-03-20T13:27:05-05:00 2006-03-20T13:27:05-05:00 article (sub. req'd), cable companies and telcos have stopped trying to resist muni Wi-Fi and have jumped on the bandwagon:

AT&T Inc., the nation's largest telecom provider, put in a bid March 7 to build a wireless Internet service for Michigan's Washtenaw County with roughly 325,000 residents. Among cable providers, Cox Communications recently teamed up with two companies to offer wireless Internet access in some Arizona cities, and Time Warner Inc.'s Time Warner Cable has signaled interest in Texas.

The article cites Google and Earthlink's efforts toward enabling free or low-cost municipal Wi-Fi (Earthlink's isn't free) as the reason for the shift (and the lobbying failures of the telcos). Arguably, telcos help undermine their traditional businesses when they enable cheap or free broadband access. But the article says this may be a juggernaut that is becoming unstoppable. More than 50 municipalities now have wireless broadband initiatives.

High-speed Internet access is the single independent variable that affects a host of user behaviors beyond others. That's why there's a great deal at stake in whether broadband continues to grow. We'll be discussing those issues early on next week at Drilling Down with:

  • Chuck Haas, CEO, MetroFI
  • Brian Jurutka, Director, Marketing Solutions, comScore
  • Om Malik, Senior Writer, Business 2.0 Magazine
  • David Payne, Director, Development, EarthLink Municipal Networks
Greg Sterling <![CDATA[N.Y. Times Profiles Expo]]> 2006-03-20T11:49:00-05:00 2006-03-20T11:49:00-05:00 2006-03-20T11:49:00-05:00 profiles (reg. req'd) Microsoft's classified marketplace Expo and explores how and whether it will compete with Craigslist. Garry Wiseman, the product manager behind Expo, will be speaking at Drilling Down on the panel "The Ultimate Mashup: Classifieds, Local Listings and 'Social Search'," which should be one of the more interesting panels at the show. ]]> Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Campaign to Save The Mercury News]]> 2006-03-20T08:00:08-05:00 2006-03-20T08:00:08-05:00 2006-03-20T08:00:08-05:00 The Mercury News is a daily newspaper that publishes in the heart of Silicon Valley. It was Knight Ridder's "hometown" paper and one of its flagships. Now it's being sold by McClatchy. SiliconBeat alerts us to the "Save the Merc" campaign, which contends that the potential sale of the paper will have disastrous effects on the quality of its journalism and, by extension, the community.

Dan Gillmor, who will be keynoting Drilling Down, sounds off at length on the situation and argues why it might make sense for Yahoo! to acquire the paper:

This wouldn't be an expensive acquisition by Yahoo standards, and the paper's cash flow is still significant, so Yahoo's shareholders might willingly tolerate such an experiment. Certainly, if Yahoo really means to be a serious player in journalism, it could do a lot worse — way, way, way worse — than to employ the still terrific (if vastly smaller than it was) editorial staff of the Mercury News along with the already talented journalists who work at the company.

Yahoo could become the international test bed for the transition we all know is coming in print journalism. (One place it could start is fulfilling the promise of the under-utilized asset that Knight Ridder has failed to nurture.)

Again, the shift to online is clearly happening even though papers have some future ahead of them. Yahoo, better than most — if it cared — could help make that transition the kind that honors the reasons we all should care so much about the future of quality journalism. If Silicon Valley and environs aren't the best place in America to start, what is?


Here's a piece from today's NY Times (reg. req'd) about Dan, the McClatchy transaction and the situation at The Mercury News.

Here's CNET's blog community's responses to Gillmor's suggestion about Yahoo! buying the Mercury News. ]]>
Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Lawsuit Asks Google to Reveal Algorithm]]> 2006-03-20T07:20:30-05:00 2006-03-20T07:20:30-05:00 2006-03-20T07:20:30-05:00, a "search engine" for parents of young children, has sued Google on the basis that its organic search ranking apparently declined in March 2005, allegedly because it was unfairly "penalized" by Google. According to this Reuters article, the site lost "70 percent" of its organic traffic when it was "downgraded." The lawsuit seeks financial damages and asks that Google reveal the methodology behind its Page Rank algorithm.

Having read only the coverage and not the actual complaint, I'm struck by a couple of things that are amazing about this lawsuit. First, I think it's dead on arrival. I think the company probably knows this and either hopes for a nuisance settlement or is looking for publicity.

The suit contends that its rankings did not change on Yahoo!, MSN or other engines. But it seems to be saying that these other rankings don't matter, because Google is responsible for the lion's share of its traffic. There's a sense of both dependence and entitlement here — and how search engine rankings can be "life or death" for an online business.

If Google were truly the only search engine and there were some unjustly punitive action that was directed toward KinderStart (and provable), perhaps this claim might have a chance. (Even then the damages would be highly speculative.) But given that there is a competitive marketplace and other engines can equally be used to find KinderStart, it's unlikely that any court would rule in KinderStart's favor. Think about the precedent: It would be the end of organic search — every other site would litigate when its ranking fell. Finally, given that it's a trade secret, KinderStart is also audacious in asking for Page Rank to be revealed. There's zero chance that this aspect of the suit will succeed either.


Update: just found out that KinderStart is seeking to be certified as a class action (another one!). Still haven't found the complaint online (although I'm told it's there now). One of the implications of the suit is that Google should effectively be treated as a public ultility, in other words become a regulated monopoly. Again there's a sense of "entitlement" to an organic position here. I think the implications of finding in favor of the plaintiffs are just to sweeping. Once I actually read the complaint however, I'll post some amended thoughts.

Still haven't read the complaint . . . but another thought I had was: Why didn't these guys buy paid search on Google, then users presumably would've been able to find them when their organic link was down. There's an obligation on the part of injured parties to "mitigate" their damages. None of the stories I've seen have reflected that KinderStart attempted to or was buying paid search. To me that suggests a "failure to mitigate."]]>
Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Yahoo! Local — News]]> 2006-03-17T18:09:57-05:00 2006-03-17T18:09:57-05:00 2006-03-17T18:09:57-05:00 San Francisco; here's New York. In New York, Yahoo! gets its news from myriad sources, not just newspapers: New York Times, Newsday, WABC 7, WNBC 4, WCBS 2, New York Daily News, WBGO-FM. In San Francisco, there are many more sources.

How long before local news shows up in Yahoo! Local itself? Not long I would imagine. (Google will probably follow suit at some point.)

So how do newspaper sites compete now that there are two aggregators offering local news (Topix is owned by the newspapers)? Newspaper sites should become news aggregators themselves. They should leverage Topix and offer their own news plus news from other publications to build out a more complete offering. ]]>
Greg Sterling <![CDATA[10Ks Are Out]]> 2006-03-17T11:34:10-05:00 2006-03-17T11:34:10-05:00 2006-03-17T11:34:10-05:00 Google 10K and Yahoo! 10-K are out and people are poring over them for insights and interesting information. I don't yet have time to give either of them a careful look. But PaidContent has summarized some of the highlights of Google's filing here and Yahoo!'s here.


Related: Per Search Engine Journal ... Google AdWords Starter Edition: a simplified version of AdWords. Paid search simplification is a key to attracting a broader range of new advertisers, especially SMEs. More on this in the upcoming Local Media Journal. ]]>
Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Newspapers Starting to Move]]> 2006-03-17T09:00:44-05:00 2006-03-17T09:00:44-05:00 2006-03-17T09:00:44-05:00 online network. This is the "local search" portal for several Enterprise papers in the greater Boston area and obviously quite different from a newspaper site. There are four separate sites related to this portal (encompassing Enterprise's three local newspapers). "Wicked Local Plymouth" is one example.

I'm a fan of the UI, which is clean, simple and straightforward. I like the search and browse interface and I like the tabs (though some argue that people don't use tabs). I'm somewhat less enthralled with the way search results are presented. But it's a significant improvement over most newspaper sites' search capabilities and results. Planet Discover is behind the WickedLocal search functionality, which seeks to bring together "news, classifieds, real estate, jobs, products and services, cars, newspaper ad content from the publisher's three newspapers into one search results page." Here's the full press release.

In addition to the "local search" portal and component of the sites, Enterprise is experimenting with community and blogs. The relationship between blogs and traditional journalism on newspaper sites is still being worked out. (Blogs are more informal and flexible, for example.) Interestingly, The N.Y. Times has been adding blogs (reg. req'd) at a torrid pace.

As I have long said, newspapers have assets that neither directory publishers nor search engines can match in local. But directory publishers and certainly search engines aren't "conflicted" about executing online. Indeed, the culture of newspapers and a host of subsidiary issues have largely kept them from acting decisively and really making headway online to date. I'm encouraged to see significant movement starting to happen.

At the NAA show in Orlando last month, there was discussion on a panel I moderated about creating new brands/sites online to attract new advertisers and audiences. I argued that newspapers shouldn't walk away from their brands online. But there are some practical issues here that may justify the creation of new online sites. Newspaper brands are sacrosanct and newspapers may be scared to do anything too daring with their brands online. For that reason, and as a practical matter, it may be necessary to create new sites/brands to take some necessary risks.

I believe that newspapers have to recognize fundamental distinctions between the print and online products. They are not the same, and an effective and competitive local site is not merely an electronic extension of the print product.

Enterprise's approach, as well as that of McClatchy's or the Arizona dailies', among several others, may represent the "middle way" in creating a new, more compelling and effective user/advertiser offering while working with the internal "cultural" challenges of the newspaper industry and the inviolability of the newspaper brands.


Related: News Corp. is contemplating using MySpace as a "platform" to add community/social networking features to its newspaper sites. I read about this first in PaidContent, but the link trail goes back to the U.K.-based Guardian newspaper site. The paper quotes Murdoch:

"We see a great opportunity to combine the popularity of Intermix's sites, particularly MySpace, with our existing online assets to provide a richer experience for today's internet users."

While community is good for newspaper sites, execution is key.

Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Thursday Miscellany]]> 2006-03-16T12:10:45-05:00 2006-03-16T12:10:45-05:00 2006-03-16T12:10:45-05:00 writes up an investigation by ClickFacts that estimates approximately 35 percent of a single advertiser's paid search clicks from Google were "bogus." According to Walker's piece, 17% of the leads that came from Yahoo! were similarly dubious.

According to this N.Y. Times piece, Google is going use Base as a channel to deliver traffic and e-commerce to large European retailers. It's not entirely clear but it appears this is a version of what Amazon has done in hosting certain retailer Web sites. It's not a hosting deal per se. It's a way to display product information and presumably provide e-commerce to these retailers. As the article points out, there are those retailers that already have an online presence and won't necessarily need that kind of support, but who currently do heavy paid search marketing at Google.

Base and its uses are very much still evolving. Shopping/product information is one of the primary consumer interests online. With Froogle in the U.S., Google has adopted an "agnostic" approach to shopping, using partnerships with retailer aggregators and ShopLocal to provide offline retail/product information in addition to the customary e-commerce. (Remember e-commerce is only 2.5 percent of U.S. retail.)

More to come ...]]>
Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Round and Round: Bubble 2.0?]]> 2006-03-16T01:15:58-05:00 2006-03-16T01:15:58-05:00 2006-03-16T01:15:58-05:00 event in Reston, Virginia — by all accounts the best ILM conference to date (that is, until the upcoming one :) — the final panel "The Local Landscape: A Coming Bonanza or Bubble 2.0?" featured a very thoughtful group of VCs:

  • Randy Haykin, Managing Director, Outlook Ventures
  • David Horowitz, Principal, Comcast Interactive Capital
  • Isaac Kato, Principal, General Catalyst Partners
  • Warren Lee, Principal, Canaan Partners
  • Mike Orsak, General Partner, Worldview Technology Partners
While local was the starting point, the entire Internet and investment climate was the broader theme. Since that conference only 3 1/2 months ago, things have continued to speed up (if that's possible). More and more money is flowing into funds looking for a return. Om Malik and SiliconBeat tonight have posts about how Silicon Valley is awash in money. (If there's anyone out there who would like to send me a check, you know where to find me. :)

I spoke not long ago with a very smart managing partner at a high-profile VC firm who said he was almost compelled to invest "in anything that moves" because of the logic and economics of these funds and the marketplace now. I'm not by implication disparaging any of the investments described in the mentioned posts. I'm merely observing from the sidelines that it does seem that money is very easy to come by and there are more funders than there are takers — people are more skeptical and resistant to VC funding these days.

Round and round it goes and where it stops ... ?]]>
Greg Sterling <![CDATA[$100 Laptop + Writely + GDrive = Now I Get It!]]> 2006-03-16T00:09:33-05:00 2006-03-16T00:09:33-05:00 2006-03-16T00:09:33-05:00 laptop developed by MIT, with the backing of Google and AMD among others. It's now in production. I've written about it a bunch in the past and won't reproduce all those comments (or links) here. I said originally this is the realization or "second coming" of Oracle's Larry Ellison's "network PC" idea, which was a response largely to Microsoft's market position and power. Google cofounder Larry Page in his CES Keynote mentioned the low-cost machine as a way to overcome the first-world, third-world digital divide.

Bill Gates doesn't like the idea for several obvious reasons (neither does AMD rival Intel). But more importantly he doesn't think consumers will like it. In a somewhat related vein, Microsoft has touted Origami as a response to the size/power/functionality challenges of mobile computing (the price range is $799 to $999).

I do think consumers will be interested in the $100 computer (there's already considerable evidence). The current "hand-crank" design may have less appeal to certain consumer segments than it could, but design elements can be changed over time. Alternatively it may indeed turn out to be a product for emerging markets (I don't think exclusively so). That's still millions upon millions of potential customers.

The thing that struck me tonight about all this was that a kind of global vision for Google comes into focus. People have been speculating for the past couple of years about a GoogleOS or a GooglePC. There's no GoogleOS, per se — although there is GooglePack and the deal with Sun regarding OpenOffice. And now there's the Google acquisition of Writely. And then there's GDrive.

Let's put aside the major, major privacy issues that may prevent GDrive from really hatching into a full-grown butterfly. Having made that very important qualification, let's step back and look at the really big picture here:
  1. Low-cost computers that don't have big hard drives (say, the $100 laptop or a similar device)
  2. Ubiquitous high-speed access (see GoogleNet or FON)
  3. Web-based consumer software apps (e.g., GMail or Writely)
  4. Virtually unlimited personal online storage (GDrive)
Now you see where I'm going.

This is not to say it's the same place Google is going. But from one point of view it's certainly a compelling roadmap. Google thus would be the network and host most of the necessary software. Google and its allies would replace Microsoft as the primary computing platform — swapping the Internet for client-side applications. Microsoft sees the storm clouds on the horizon and that's why I among others believe it's pushing Live (in addition to the market segmentation value there).

The supreme irony of all this is that while Google genuinely wants to offer value to consumer-users it doesn't as clearly recognize how the realization of its vast ambitions would effectively turn the company into Microsoft (maybe it does), in terms of market domination and corresponding suspicion (which already exists). Microsoft, for its part, is now cast as the underdog and "good guy" when it comes to the Internet. That is an amazing turn of events — and not lost on the people in Redmond. ]]>
Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Ingenio Launches Online Campaign for PPCall]]> 2006-03-15T15:03:27-05:00 2006-03-15T15:03:27-05:00 2006-03-15T15:03:27-05:00 banner just appeared on the home page of John Battelle's site touting PPCall as more "cost-effective" than clicks. Here's the landing page.


The ad appears now to be down. ]]>
Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Amazon Implements Click-to-Call]]> 2006-03-15T14:37:52-05:00 2006-03-15T14:37:52-05:00 2006-03-15T14:37:52-05:00 WSJ [sub. req'd]). The article confuses "click-to-call" and "pay-per-phone-call" (one is infrastructure; the other is revenue model).

eBay has begun to do the same thing in Europe with Skype.

Click-to-call facilitates buyer-seller interaction or can drive leads, which can potentially be monetized on a per-call billing model (PPCall). Regardless of whether calls are individually monetized, click-to-call provides additional value through tracking of the relationship between the Internet and the ultimate offline transaction. ]]>
Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Local Effective? In a Word: Yes]]> 2006-03-15T14:10:39-05:00 2006-03-15T14:10:39-05:00 2006-03-15T14:10:39-05:00 summary of the findings in BtoBOnline. ]]> Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Web Growth to Stall? ]]> 2006-03-15T13:53:04-05:00 2006-03-15T13:53:04-05:00 2006-03-15T13:53:04-05:00 numbers, this Web version of a story to appear in next week's BusinessWeek takes a contrarian view: "Why The Web Is Hitting A Wall. U.S. Internet growth is stalling. And it's not just the old or poor who are living offline." ]]> Greg Sterling <![CDATA[A Different Sort of Local (Paid) Search ]]> 2006-03-15T13:34:11-05:00 2006-03-15T13:34:11-05:00 2006-03-15T13:34:11-05:00 post about a New York public policy group that has taken out ads on Google grading New York state legislators' voting records. Political spending online is an important and growing area of geotargeted paid search (and other local online marketing) that we don't currently cover. But it's an increasingly important area.

These legislators are all public figures and so there is no defamation/libel issue from a reputable organization publicizing their voting records. But like some of the trademark questions on the commercial side, imagine how paid search might be used to disparage or negatively affect the reputation of an individual or local business. We may see a day relatively soon when individuals with any degree of professional or public visibility need to manage themselves just like brands on the Internet and buy their own names as keywords to protect (as well as advance) their reputations.

Think about this scenario: I have a bad experience with a local mechanic or other local contractor and am unable to satisfactorily resolve the dispute. I walk away angry and so I launch a search campaign (supported by a free blog) to tell the world about this corrupt mechanic (in my opinion).

Whenever that mechanic is searched for in a certain geography, my ad comes up telling people not to go there. If I'm skillful I could have a material impact on that business' reputation and outlook. I get sued and — maybe — Google or Yahoo! or MSN gets sued too.

This is the lawyer in me spinning out scenarios that probably won't come to pass. But there would be no way to police this kind of thing on an automated basis. The engine would have to have a grievance procedure — a kind of internal private arbitration where parties complain, ads are brought down pending some sort of resolution, etc.

Anyway (I hope I'm not giving anyone any ideas).

Greg Sterling <![CDATA[AOL Begins Streaming 'Vintage' TV Shows]]> 2006-03-15T07:33:18-05:00 2006-03-15T07:33:18-05:00 2006-03-15T07:33:18-05:00 here. Like Live 8, this could prove an important moment for online video as broadband consumers get accustomed to watching full-length TV shows (as opposed to clips and shorts) on their PCs.

The viral elements (IM and e-mail) as well as the choice (the ability to watch any available episode) are noteworthy and strikingly different from conventional TV viewing. I must say, however, my limited experience with the site this morning was not entirely satisfying, but perhaps that's to be expected with a beta launch.

It's quite easy to see how contextually relevant, behaviorally or location targeted ads can and likely will be built around this, which shows the way for IPTV to some degree. One might argue that AOL is loading up too many distracting graphical ads around the experience already.

What will be important is how the public reacts to the content and uses the site.

Here's more from USA Today and Reuters, with some information about advertiser demand and future plans for a subscription-based download service. ]]>
Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Nielsen Says: Broadband Is Up (So Is Video)]]> 2006-03-15T06:42:35-05:00 2006-03-15T06:42:35-05:00 2006-03-15T06:42:35-05:00 Nielsen/NetRatings reported yesterday that broadband was still enjoying strong growth in the U.S.:

The number of active broadband users from home increased ... from 74.3 million in February 2005 to 95.5 million in February 2006 ... hitting an all-time high of 68 percent for active Internet users in February 2006 ... Overall Internet penetration in the US has stabilized over the past few years, reaching 74 percent at home in February 2006.

There's a lot at stake in whether consumers continue to adopt high-speed access and/or high-speed Internet access becomes more widely available (e.g., Wi-Fi hotspots, etc). Broadband/always-on access is the single factor more than any other that changes users' behavior and causes them to spend more time online doing more things, often at the expense of traditional media (though that typically depends on demographic and income/educational factors).

Rich media and video consumption also benefit from broadband. Here are Nielsen's data about the most trafficked U.S. video sites in February:
  1. MSN Video
  2. YouTube
  3. Google Video
  4. iFILM (now owned by Viacom/MTV)
Again, according to Nielsen:

MSN Video garnered 9.3 million unique visitors in February 2006, growing 44 percent over the previous year. YouTube and Google Video grew from relative obscurity in February 2005 to substantial players in February 2006, drawing 9.0 million and 6.2 million unique visitors, respectively. iFilm and Yahoo’s video search saw triple digit year-over-year growth in their visitation, drawing 4.3 million and 3.8 million unique visitors, respectively.


Here's more on the politics of broadband.

Vaguely related: Harris Interactive survey data on news media consumption by media type and user age category (as you might imagine, the younger the consumer the more it skews toward online).

Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Social Search and Shameless Plug]]> 2006-03-15T06:15:49-05:00 2006-03-15T06:15:49-05:00 2006-03-15T06:15:49-05:00
Anyway, "social networking" (or social search) has gone from marginal to almost mainstream in a little over a year. It's remarkable how almost every new start-up has a social media or community layer. On one level it's smart to leverage the community. (In people's heads is where most local knowledge is and social media in one sense is an extension of word of mouth.) Social media is one of the core elements of "Web 2.0." But skeptics tend to see social search/media as fashion and perhaps dressing up an offering that otherwise wouldn't be competitive or taken seriously.

Even though it was a late add, I think the Drilling Down panel "Social Search Is the New Black" will be one of the most compelling of the show. Social media is permeating virtually all the new sites being rolled out today, and a host of major media companies are seeking to build the next MySpace. Moreover, social search is at the core of Yahoo!'s strategy to differentiate from Google (see below), though Google is becoming more social at the margins.

I'm very pleased to say the speaker lineup on that panel will be diverse and very interesting:

  • Jeremy Zawodny, Technical Yahoo!, Yahoo!
  • Steven Marder, CEO, Eurekster
  • Chris DeVore , COO and cofounder, Judy's Book
  • Manish Chandra, CEO and founder, Kaboodle
  • Chris Tolles, VP of sales and marketing,
  • Andy Gadiel, CEO, JamBase
As with the majority of sessions at this year's conference it will be moderated question and answer and so we should be able to get into the "meet" (get it) of the issues very rapidly.


Search Engine Journal points to a Thomas Weisel Partners interview with Yahoo! cofounder Jerry Yang about, among other things, social search:

If I trust someone about SF restaurants, if I knew his filter, the searches would be better. Social Search. You start [with] people you know, but [then you have] broader people (b/c so many people have recognized that person as the expert). It is something that has a huge potential. It combines the user participation model and the algorithmic model. You have the 6 degrees of separation model … to run that as a service/technology is a challenge.

Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Activity in Redmond]]> 2006-03-15T05:21:50-05:00 2006-03-15T05:21:50-05:00 2006-03-15T05:21:50-05:00 here (video), here (Office Live's ad strategy) and here (MSN building ad network on internal sites).

Here's the Windows Live Local/Virtual Earth blog. And the Live main blog/site LiveSide.

In addition, this week the folks in Redmond are hosting an online Small Business Summit. But as far as I can tell from looking at the agenda, there isn't anything really practical on online advertising and marketing. It seems to be almost entirely about selling software. Yet wouldn't this be a perfect time to introduce AdCenter and other marketing vehicles from MSFT to small businesses? That content seems to be entirely absent ... Strange. ]]>
Greg Sterling <![CDATA[The Mapping Space Race]]> 2006-03-14T17:12:42-05:00 2006-03-14T17:12:42-05:00 2006-03-14T17:12:42-05:00 reports on Google's acquisition of 3-D rendering company @Last Software, which owns SketchUp. He also asks what it means for Google. In a word: maps.

Here's the company's Google Earth plug in. Google Earth already does rudimentary 3-D rendering of cities. Companies like GeoSim are already well under way in developing rich 3-D maps of cities for online implementation. And Microsoft is heavily investing in the same thing — even though the mainstream user population is still at driving directions. SketchUp may in fact become Google's answer to Windows Live Local's bird's-eye photography.

When you get rich 3-D mapping up and running on the Internet, there are all kinds of use cases and ad opportunities. Real estate or hotels/travel are two examples that come immediately to mind.

Here's what Google has to say about it. Here's what SketchUp has to say. ]]>
Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Google Appears to Lose to Justice Dept. ]]> 2006-03-14T15:52:01-05:00 2006-03-14T15:52:01-05:00 2006-03-14T15:52:01-05:00 Associated Press story (reg. req'd), U.S. District Judge James Ware indicated that he is going to order Google to comply with at least part of the Bush admin's request to turn over search records.

Yahoo!, AOL and MSN previously voluntarily complied to varying degrees with the same government requests. If the Bush administration were not in fact Big Brother, this ruling might not be such a concern. But given the administration's track record (i.e., domestic spying and lying about it), there may be some fallout for search engines, if people "grok" the implications.

According to a recent University of Connecticut survey, most Americans disapprove of the government gaining access to search engine user behavior. And 51% of respondents said that they were not confident that their search behaviors would remain private in the future.

While this won't affect basic search user behaviors (e.g., "iPod," "indian restaurants, Manhattan") it may significantly affect plans like GDrive that have major privacy implications.


Here's the WSJ (sub req'd) story.

eMarketer reports (via MediaPost) that consumers are "extremely" concerned about online privacy. ]]>
Greg Sterling <![CDATA[ Launches]]> 2006-03-14T12:10:41-05:00 2006-03-14T12:10:41-05:00 2006-03-14T12:10:41-05:00 yesterday. What is Vast? On first blush it's yet another free classifieds site, joining an already extremely crowded field. But if one looks closer it's much more interesting than that.

Naval Ravikant, the CEO and founder — he also founded — doesn't want to be a consumer destination and says, "I won't spend a dime on marketing." Like Edgeio, Vast can "pick up" listings from blogs but it also obtains data from the large aggregators (e.g.,, CareerBuilder) and — this is critical, according to Ravikant — the "vast" middle range of sites (e.g., individual Realtor sites) whose content typically doesn't make it into conventional aggregators' listings.

Ravikant called this realm "the middle tail." But you shouldn't think about Vast as a classifieds site. Think of it as a vertical-local search site. More categories, beyond typical classifieds, will be rolled out in the near future.

The entire site is based on crawling, with dynamically generated and contextually relevant navigation. Here's an example of Audis in my ZIP code. What Vast, as well as sites like, start to show is that crawling can create structure out of unstructured Web content. This makes potentially possible a whole new generation of local search sites.

Ravikant has a monetization stategy based on premium placement. But he says he has a long time horizon and a slow burn rate. Beyond the crawling strategy, which isn't yet perfected Ravikant admits, the really interesting thing is what you can do with Vast's API. It allows anyone — whether a blogger or a large publisher — to take a vertical index and plug it into a Web site. That would include the monetization when it kicks in.

That means, say, as an individual Realtor (assuming I had the chops to implement) that I could list all the homes for sale in my territory or a larger geography by tapping into Vast's API. Vast makes huge amounts of content immediately available, either horizontally or vertically, to anyone who wants to publish that content.

Vast will be a site and a company to watch both for its technology and capabilities, as well as it's "attitude." There's more to say, as always ...


Per John Battelle . . . a classifieds roundup by Gary Price of Ask (formerly SEW).

More on Vast from Paul Kedrosky. ]]>
Greg Sterling <![CDATA[DoubleClick Study Confirms 'Generic' Search Behavior]]> 2006-03-13T16:42:56-05:00 2006-03-13T16:42:56-05:00 2006-03-13T16:42:56-05:00 piece summarizes the findings of a recent DoubleClick survey of paid search and user behavior trends. Here's where you can download the report. Basically it confirms DoubleClick's finding in 2004 and separate comScore findings in the same year that reveal the volume of search queries are at the "category" level. Brand terms convert better and are used later in the "purchase cycle" but represent a minority of search queries. The earlier surveys suggested that roughly 75 percent of traffic is based on these "generic" or category terms (e.g., "digital camera," "notebook computer"), while less than a quarter of traffic is focused on brands or trademarked terms. These latest DoubleClick data reflect an even lower percentage of brand search queries (18 percent).

The irony is that the searches on the brand terms are "direct response" type lookups, while the "category" searches are brand advertising opportunities. This is why search may in fact be much more of a brand advertising medium than people had believed.

What we're calling the new "purchase funnel" is a lot more "ugly" and complex than marketers want to believe. This may even be more the case in local lookups, where a fragmented universe, offline media and word of mouth figure heavily — as does search. We'll try to get at some of that behavior in the Drilling Down panel "The New ‘Purchase Funnel’: Online Shopping, Offline Conversions."]]>
Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Interesting U.K. SME Survey]]> 2006-03-13T09:43:45-05:00 2006-03-13T09:43:45-05:00 2006-03-13T09:43:45-05:00 offers several conclusions about small-business behavior online. But what's far more intriguing is the consumer behavior that it reflects — and confirms.

Again, I don't want to put too much emphasis on this, but the survey confirms that most people don't go beyond the first or second page of search results. A third of respondents said they drill down "three pages or more." However, I'm skeptical about people accurately reporting their behavior; I believe they view far fewer results than that (see Enquiro's "heatmaps" research). (Microsoft's new site uses Ajax to avoid the concept of clicking on pages entirely.)

The market-share numbers the survey reveals are striking:
  1. Google — 89%
  2. Yahoo! — 6%
  3. Ask — 3%
  4. MSN — 2%
By contrast Hitwise reported that Google UK and together are responsible for 70% of U.K. Internet searches. Search, in second place according to Hitwise, had an 8% share.

We have long believed that SME behavior, when they act as consumers, is a leading indicator of their future behavior as advertisers. But the discrepancy between the heavy search-engine user behavior and the fact that "49% of respondents admitted that they do not submit their website to search engines" is consistent with the confusion and inertia about online marketing that still permeates the small-business marketplace. ]]>
Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Knight Ridder Goes to McClatchy]]> 2006-03-12T23:06:52-05:00 2006-03-12T23:06:52-05:00 2006-03-12T23:06:52-05:00 reporting that "Knight Ridder, the second-largest newspaper company in the United States, agreed Sunday night to sell itself for about $4.5 billion in cash and stock to the McClatchy Company ... Under the terms of the deal, McClatchy agreed to pay about $67 a share in cash and stock for Knight Ridder, these people said. About 60 percent of the payment will be in cash, while the rest will be in McClatchy shares."

A much smaller entity, McClatchy gets some new Internet assets (i.e., and ShopLocal) -- both McClatchy and Knight Riddder are part of Classified Ventures — and Knight Ridder stays with newspaper owners. Had private equity bought it I shudder to think what might have happened — slash and burn. (I may have spoken too soon as McClatchy plans to sell the Knight Ridder "flagships.")

McClatchy's Sacramento Bee (its flagship) has been experimenting with a directory collaboration at (powered by PremierGuide). While newspaper-directory alliances aren't really viable except in isolated pockets, and isn't perfect (and it's not the SacBee site), it's much closer to what I believe the newspapers should be doing to compete in local search than what most of them currently are.

It will be interesting to watch the Internet strategy evolve as McClatchy takes the helm of Knight Ridder. (The San Jose Mercury News folks clearly are diappointed by the plans to sell it and other CA newspapers.)


Related: The Newspaper Assn. America reported that Q4 print ad spending was flat, while online ad spending at newspaper sites was strong. According to the NAA, "spending for print ads in newspapers totaled $13.7 billion, up 0.4 percent versus the same period a year earlier, while ad spending online continued its double-digit growth in the fourth quarter, increasing by 32.5 percent from the same period a year ago to $552 million."

Here's the release, which breaks out spending by category.

Greg Sterling <![CDATA[MySpace Messenger]]> 2006-03-12T22:33:40-05:00 2006-03-12T22:33:40-05:00 2006-03-12T22:33:40-05:00 Om Malik. Here are the pages on MySpace. AOL is the IM leader, followed by Yahoo! and MSN, with Google a distant fourth. MySpace IM could ramp pretty quickly because the site has such critical mass among the IM demographic. It represents a potentially powerful ad/promotional vehicle for Fox — we'll see.

According to a late 2004 study (now likely outdated), the folks at Pew found that more than four in 10 online Americans IM, for a population then of about 53 million in the U.S. About one-fourth then used IM at work.

Paradoxically there's momentum toward interoperability, but launches like MySpace IM also point to general resistance toward open IM (not withstanding alliances like Yahoo!-MSN) and reflect an effort to maintain a "walled garden" around users. Companies such as Meebo are trying to address (leverage) the proliferation of incompatible IM systems while they're still incompatible. Now they can add MySpace to the list.

Here are some November 2005 data on IM trends/usage from an AOL-commissioned study. The research found that 38 percent of online consumers are sending as many (or more) IMs than e-mails. One-third of IM users send mobile IMs or text messages from their cellphones at least once a week. And, generally, IM usage is trending upward.

Google has merged IM and e-mail and I would expect to see all the majors do so. The distinctions between IM and e-mail are somewhat artificial anyway.

Expect a mobile version of MySpace IM to be rolled out quickly. ]]>
Greg Sterling <![CDATA['Nichification' of Video]]> 2006-03-12T07:05:31-05:00 2006-03-12T07:05:31-05:00 2006-03-12T07:05:31-05:00 article from The N.Y. Times (reg. req'd) does a nice survey of some of the trends in online and offline video. The world of niche TV (don't say "long tail") is coming and search engines — if they get their acts together — look to figure prominently in organizing what will be an explosion of video online. Last year we wrote about the transformation of TV from a mass medium into one that would have to rely increasingly on targeting to deliver value to advertisers.

TV (even cable) will be fighting for audiences in the years to come. It's going to be fascinating to watch.

At the upcoming Drilling Down event, we'll be exploring this fragmentation of traditional media audiences. In particular, the following session will address the fragmentation of TV/video:

1,000,001 Channels: But Is Anybody Watching?
TV used to be simple for everyone. But the newly fragmenting world of video search, mobile TV, on-demand cable and IPTV makes the range of potential consumer choices staggering. What are the new technologies that are rapidly turning TV from a mass medium to one that is highly personalized? What is the new consumer “video consumption” model, and what are the implications for networks, content producers and advertisers? Will a million “Wayne’s Worlds” and the potential “Tower of Babel” effect destroy the medium for advertisers or open it up to a range of exciting new possibilities, including some for SMEs?
Greg Sterling <![CDATA[eBay Invests in Community Site ]]> 2006-03-11T19:43:55-05:00 2006-03-11T19:43:55-05:00 2006-03-11T19:43:55-05:00 Here's more detail, from a recent article in BusinessWeek:

Founded in 2002, Meetup first gained national attention for launching Howard Dean's brief Presidential candidacy during the 2004 elections. The site had 54,000 Meetup groups listed last May, when it began charging a small subscription fee of up to $19 monthly to sponsor the groups. Since then the number of groups has dropped to just over 10,000.

In addition to eBay, the Omidyar Network, Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Esther Dyson, Allen & Co. and Sen. Bill Bradley have collectively obtained a 10% equity interest. Given the proliferation of "social media" sites, I would expect to see a roll-up or other consolidation in the space in the not-too-distant future.

Here's the Meetup release (scroll).

Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Interchange for Sale?]]> 2006-03-10T20:19:19-05:00 2006-03-10T20:19:19-05:00 2006-03-10T20:19:19-05:00 article:

Interchange Corp., owner of search engine, said on Tuesday that it has retained investment banking firm Merriman Curhan Ford & Co. to assist in reviewing strategic alternatives available to the company in connection with its national search business.

The article says "national" search business — not local. We'll investigate. ]]>
Greg Sterling <![CDATA['Skype Me' Appearing on eBay]]> 2006-03-10T19:35:57-05:00 2006-03-10T19:35:57-05:00 2006-03-10T19:35:57-05:00
The intrepid Om Malik is the source: read more. ]]>
Greg Sterling <![CDATA[MySpace PR: It Just Keeps Getting Worse]]> 2006-03-10T11:52:37-05:00 2006-03-10T11:52:37-05:00 2006-03-10T11:52:37-05:00
But now comes this story about how MySpace (and other networking sites) are being used to plan potential terrorist attacks. I'm not talking here about whether the underlying facts are true. I'm discussing the downward PR spiral that now seems to have MySpace firmly in its grip. So far it hasn't hurt the site's usage. But too much more negative press may hurt it as a potential promotional vehicle for Fox or brands that may want to get at its youthful audience.

There's been considerable talk of the risks of associating brands with user-generated content and social networks. They're unpredictable and volatile unlike traditional media. But the danger now for Fox and other potential advertisers is that MySpace becomes permanently associated with all this unseemly activity (regardless of whether the underlying allegations are factually correct).

This is a fascinating thing to watch from my point of view.


Here's a Vanity Fair piece on the founders and the history of MySpace. It's generally flattering.

Greg Sterling <![CDATA[New Borrell Data on Local ]]> 2006-03-10T09:51:25-05:00 2006-03-10T09:51:25-05:00 2006-03-10T09:51:25-05:00 here):

[P]aid search spending by local businesses will continue to grow for the next several years, climbing to 1.7 billion in 2007 and reaching $4 billion by 2010 — at which time it will account for 47 percent of local online advertising.

Whenever people start talking about local search they need to start with definitions. In fairness it's difficult for me to comment on the predictions and assumptions because I'm only reading an article on the report. But with that disclaimer ... The Kelsey Group local search (geotargeted search, Internet YP and mobile local search) forecast is $6.167 billion by 2010. If you fold in classifieds, (which is part of the same user behavior) our forecast grows to $9.9 billion in 2010. We don't include geotargeted display ads in this forecast or locally targeted ads that may appear on verticals (although the classifieds aspect does capture a good deal of this).

One of the things many people don't fully understand is the enormous complexity of the local market "on the ground" and the fragmented and complex consumer behavior patterns associated with local/offline buying.

Here's an interesting discussion from the MediaPost article:

To analyze the current state of local search advertising, Borrell researchers examined more than 2,100 paid links to appear on Google and Yahoo queries for city-related keywords — such as, for example, "Des Moines real estate." About 36 percent of such pay-per-click links were from local advertisers — up from 5.6 percent 18 months ago.

Search adoption varied by industry, with local real estate agents especially big users of search marketing. Nearly 50 percent of pay-per-click links in the real estate category were from local advertisers — up from 17.5 percent 18 months ago. At the low end of the spectrum, 28 percent of pay-per-click results in the local hotel space came from local advertisers.

I'm going to assume the accuracy of what the article says. Real estate is an especially interesting category for local businesses and is something of a leading indicator of future trends. But real estate may also be exceptional. It's a truly local business with limited "national" competition. And generally speaking you're not going to see a phenomenon of local businesses going straight to Google, Yahoo! or MSN in large numbers in the near future (over the long term all bets are off). You may see it in pockets and there are verticals and local markets in which the sophisticated local advertiser has the money and incentive to outbid a national aggregator or competitor.

Most of the search volume is at the "category level," which doesn't permit local advertisers to compete because the nationals will gobble up the meaningful, available inventory (which is quite limited). In the "tail," locals can compete more effectively for inventory — and those clicks convert better too. But most local small businesses will need to rely on third-party "enablers" (e.g., YP, newspapers, verticals, Web hosts) to get them into search results (whether organic or paid). They can't, won't or don't want to become search-engine marketers. Certainly we can point to exceptions — the upholsterer who pores over his site analytics — but this statement is true in the aggregate.

So while you may see lots more local ads on Google, Yahoo! and MSN (because they're more targeted and convert better) don't expect those ads to be dominated by small businesses any time soon.

Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Google and MSFT]]> 2006-03-10T09:34:40-05:00 2006-03-10T09:34:40-05:00 2006-03-10T09:34:40-05:00 more information. And here's a photo.

Getting the right form factor is one piece of the mobile-local search puzzle. We don't really cover hardware but we watch the "space" because if there's a device that offers a great user experience in mobile it may help local search on mobile devices take off. There's all kinds of conflicting information about whether consumers want a single device that does everything or whether they're happy with separate devices — e.g., phones for calling, other devices for e-mail/Web access.

It's challenging for one device to do everything equally well (people have complained about the voice quality of some versions of the Treo for example). But as someone who has traveled quite a bit lately it would be great to have a single item that was a phone, could access e-mail and offered an "on the go" PC replacement option.

Meanwhile Google does buy online word processor Writely. Clearly it's intended to be a Word alternative on the Web (and consistent with the larger GDrive discussion). Here's an excerpt from the WSJ (sub. req'd) this morning:

The Internet search company said that it has bought closely held Upstartle LLC, whose service lets users create, edit and share documents online. Terms weren't disclosed. Upstartle, based in Portola Valley, Calif., has four employees and was founded in late 2004.

The acquisition is part of Google's push into areas that compete with Microsoft. Google, of Mountain View, Calif., has used advertising revenue from Internet searches to support a host of free online services and software such as its Gmail e-mail service and Google Earth mapping software. Those services, in turn, are designed to attract more consumers onto its Web site and pull in more advertising.

To date, Google has played down speculation that it would extend that strategy to word processing and other services that compete with Microsoft's core personal-computer software business. The Upstartle deal is a step in that direction.

The Writely service has a spell checker and other features found on standard word-processing software such as Microsoft's Word, a part of the Office suite of programs installed on PCs. The difference is that Writely can be used by anyone with a Web browser, and it requires installation of no other software.
Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Google Adds Demo Targeting to AdWords]]> 2006-03-09T07:10:30-05:00 2006-03-09T07:10:30-05:00 2006-03-09T07:10:30-05:00
Here's more from Andrew Goodman and the Search Engine Watch Blog (with lots of information about the targeting capabilities). Goodman says it's more about site selection than true demographic targeting at this point:

Essentially what this means is an improved functionality for the site selection tool, only applicable to content targeting of the "site targeting" variety. It's not a major foray into targeting search ads by demographics, then (yet).

SEW speculates that this is intended to preempt adCenter, which was slated to begin an open sign-up on Monday. ]]>
Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Yahoo! Shines a Light on Subtleties of Search]]> 2006-03-09T07:00:10-05:00 2006-03-09T07:00:10-05:00 2006-03-09T07:00:10-05:00 panelist in Yahoo!'s first Search Light Award event. It brought together four finalist ad agencies to show how they'd integrated search marketing into their broader campaigns and to discuss and answer questions about their efforts.

The event was organized by Yahoo!'s Ron Belanger, formerly of Carat. iMedia's Kevin Ryan has a very detailed write-up of the event here. The winner was RPA Interactive for its Honda Element campaign (I voted for this one but they still didn't give me the car).

This event was great and helped bring together a number of things for me and send me down a path toward more "nuanced" thinking about search and how consumers interact with it — and some of the implications for marketers.

Search has historically been perceived as a direct response medium. More recently there's been a great deal of talk about it being a "branding" medium. Some skeptics believe this is merely a ploy to lure ad budgets online. Some time ago I tried to characterize it as something in between true awareness and direct response. Two older, relevant posts along those lines here and here (forgive the formatting problems).

In my observation, a majority of the folks at SES still want to see search marketing as direct response; it's a much less complicated animal that way. Also, tracking and ROI are more straightforward in that context. But in fact search and the way consumers interact with it is much more dynamic and complex. Here's a previous post about how local and national campaigns can serve both direct response and branding objectives based upon user behavior and the different stages of the "buying cycle" they appeal to.

The "integrated" campaigns presented at the Yahoo! Searchlight event really helped demonstrate to me the way that search often sits in the middle between some stimulus (traditional marketing) and a buying decision that happens elsewhere (usually locally, in the real world). Yet measuring the efficacy of search as a quasi branding tool is fundamentally challenging and figuring out what happens "after the click" is also challenging. Indeed, search doesn't get credit for all the transactions it actually affects because the tracking isn't being done (one of the reasons calls are important).

But back to the campaigns. Two of the finalists, Chase and Honda, were actually able to create search "inventory" by building search campaigns around unique elements in their traditional creative — terms that no one was bidding for but them. This was a very significant "takeaway" for me. Rather than having to relentlessly bid on "credit card," Chase was able to stimulate consumer searches for unique terms that appeared in its print ad campaign that no other company was competing for and thus were cheap by comparison. The implications of this are immediate and obvious.

And there were many more interesting aspects to the event and the campaigns presented. Another thing to think about is how brand and direct response marketers might soon be bidding against each other for the same terms but with different objectives and ROI calculations. Very interesting to consider.

One thing that is now clear about the Internet and search in particular: Consumers hear/read about or see something and they immediately or ultimately wind up online looking for more information. Where do they typically start? Search engines. That's not going to change soon and it's true even if it's just to plug a company name into the toolbar or search box to go directly to a site (essentially a White Pages lookup).

Rather than fear search, traditional marketers need to see search as an inevitable part of consumer behavior and leverage that behavior to maximize and extend the value of their traditional campaigns. If they don't their competitors will.

Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Web Bests TV in the U.K.]]> 2006-03-09T06:26:16-05:00 2006-03-09T06:26:16-05:00 2006-03-09T06:26:16-05:00 MediaPost write-up (reg. req'd) of data from a piece of TNS research in the U.K. that shows people (almost all ages) are spending somewhat more time online than watching TV:

The study, based on a February survey of 1030 British residents between the ages of 16 and 64, found that the average Web user spends 164 minutes — or almost three hours — each day online, compared to just 148 minutes watching TV.

According to the piece, U.S. residents spend roughly eqivalent amouts of time online and watching TV.

In a way the U.K. survey is not surprising. It's even to be expected since people can "surf" while they work but few can watch TV — so the Internet is much more available to people throughout the day. ]]>
Greg Sterling <![CDATA['Social Networking' Site LinkedIN Approaching Profitability ]]> 2006-03-09T05:22:08-05:00 2006-03-09T05:22:08-05:00 2006-03-09T05:22:08-05:00 White Paper back in late 2004, the question on everyone's minds then was, "but where's the business model?"

"Social networking" is a term that has less and less meaning now that "social media" is becoming quite mainstream (or at least a part of almost every new online offering). But one of the early sites, and something of a survivor in the space, LinkedIN announced that premium services had helped move the company toward profitability, which it will achieve very soon.

There were a number of sites in the business networking space, most of which no longer exist. Heavy credit must go to tireless (dare I say "relentless") :) marketer Konstantin Guericke, VP of marketing and cofounder of LinkedIn. And no, I'm not on his payroll. LinkedIN was quick and creative and able to establish critical mass. It's kind of like the MySpace of networking — although it existed before MySpace and right now that may not be such a compliment.

We use LinkedIN for our pre/post-conference networking and it has worked out nicely. If you're coming to Drilling Down and would like to take advantage of that, click here. ]]>
Greg Sterling <![CDATA[TV Ads, Call Tracking and Local Stores]]> 2006-03-09T04:46:17-05:00 2006-03-09T04:46:17-05:00 2006-03-09T04:46:17-05:00 and a speaker at last year's ILM show on "hyper-local" sites, pointed out an interesting article on a TV campaign being used (and tracked) by eBay drop-off store QuikDrop to build awareness and drive inquiries to the local QuikDrop outlets.

According to the article:

Consumers can respond to the ads by calling a toll-free telephone number, then leaving a voice-mail message that is automatically e-mailed as an attached audio file to an eBay listing expert in the nearest QuikDrop store, who returns the call and offers advice on many types of household items that sell well on eBay. QuikDrop has franchised stores in 24 states.

Apparently the TV campaign has been very effective. One of the most interesting aspects of it is how phone tracking is tied in both as a functional element of the ad (and routed locally) as well as a tracking tool to measure success.

Ironically, as search moves out of a pure direct response model, TV and other media increasingly will incorporate direct response elements in order to prove their effectiveness or lack thereof — as the case may be. ]]>
Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Google Click Fraud Settlement]]> 2006-03-08T19:39:36-05:00 2006-03-08T19:39:36-05:00 2006-03-08T19:39:36-05:00 AP story. According to third-party data compiled by eMarketer, SEMPO found that "the percentage of advertisers who say that click fraud, the artificial inflation of click through numbers, is a growing problem tripled in 2005, to 16%. Elsewhere, a survey by IntelliSurvey Inc. and Radar Research reports that, among respondents surveyed, 46% of all advertisers with 500 or more employees have been a victim of click fraud."

According to the AP story:

The proposed settlement ... would apply to all advertisers in Google's network during the past four years. Any Web site showing improper charges dating back to 2002 will be eligible for an account credit that could be used toward future ads distributed by Google.

This settlement must indicate that the case had some teeth because Google clearly has the resources to fight the case to the end. (Yahoo! was also a defendant and said it will fight.) This is also not a nuisance settlement at this dollar level.

One question is whether this settlement will bar future suits. There are a host of complex rules surrounding class-action litigation and who can be bound by settlements. It may be that this settlement was justified from Google's point of view because it will largely prevent — certainly at a class-action level — this sort of litigation in the future. (That's not entirely clear right now to me.)

The terms of the settlement appear to require actual proof of click fraud to get the credit and seem to extend to any Google advertiser over the past four years. So as a practical matter Google may wind up "paying" less than the stated potential value of the settlement.

And while this settlement may bar future legal action, it won't necessarily address advertiser concerns and complaints today; only an effective transparent policy on click fraud will do that. But Google knows that.


Here's Google's official statement.

Related (only generally): Here's the SEW blog's nice roundup of tidbits released intentionally and otherwise surrounding Google analyst day. ]]>
Greg Sterling <![CDATA[MS Live Begins a Big Push]]> 2006-03-07T18:37:03-05:00 2006-03-07T18:37:03-05:00 2006-03-07T18:37:03-05:00 and Live Labs/Ideas. Also the company bought Onfolio and is going to integrate the functionality into a toolbar and more generally into the experience. I haven't had a chance to "play" with any of these things yet (I just heard about them yesterday) and late today saw some screenshots, but they're provocative and interesting. I'm eager to see how these new tools function in practice.

In the abstract, most of the things that were described to me strike me as improvements that will probably appeal to sophisticated searchers but they may well have broader market appeal over time. It's difficult to tell entirely without using them. Along those lines, seeks to rival Google's Personalized Homepage and My Yahoo!. And I think there is an opening there for Microsoft if it can get the right mix of elegance, functionality and simplicity.

We'll see.

Another question is the relationship between the "Live" and MSN brands. Microsoft has too much traffic and too much invested to walk away from the MSN brand (one journalist asked that question today). Rather, Live and MSN will exist in parallel and we'll see what sticks. There will be some cross pollination of Live on MSN.

I think Microsoft also recognizes it now needs to create a new user experience to generate traction around search and related products. has yet to "move the needle" in terms of market share. That's because MSN Search hasn't shown itself to be obviously better or otherwise differentiated from what's already out there. Despite conflicting data on this point, I believe that search engine user behavior is now habitual and that there is loyalty. In addition, Live Labs is part of a larger corporate initiative to be more competitive and nimble online.


Here's Jeff Graham's story in today's USA Today. Here's the AP story. Here's the Reuters story this morning. Here Chris Sherman's write-up at Search Engine Watch. ]]>
Greg Sterling <![CDATA[In the Suddenly Hot Classifieds Space, Oodle Launches Partner Network]]> 2006-03-07T14:36:01-05:00 2006-03-07T14:36:01-05:00 2006-03-07T14:36:01-05:00 Oodle has launched a partner network and API for syndication of its listings. The first two members are Lycos and, a group of community classified sites operated by local media, including weekly newspapers, radio and TV stations in 40 metro areas. (Backpage hosts classifieds on the SF Weekly and Village Voice, among others.) Publishers are free to prioritize their listings above those provided by Oodle.

Suddenly everybody wants classifieds and the space is red hot with lots of competitors offering free listings coming into the fray: MS Expo and Edgeio are only the two most recent providers to join a growing list that includes Craigslist (mostly free) and LiveDeal (free to individuals).

What's interesting about Edgeio and now Oodle's offering (LiveDeal has something generally similar for local media sites) is the idea of syndicating classifieds to overcome some of the fragmentation of the local market and the obstacles to getting local destination traffic.

I'm writing a roundup of recent developments in the classifieds marketplace in this week's Local Media Journal. ]]>
Greg Sterling <![CDATA[RSS: 'S' Is for Shopping]]> 2006-03-07T11:14:07-05:00 2006-03-07T11:14:07-05:00 2006-03-07T11:14:07-05:00 column (reg. req'd) yesterday highlighted the personalized shopping potential of RSS. We first wrote about the mainstream importance and potential of RSS and alerts as a shopping tool last year:

Paid search has been enormously successful. Yet click rates are at an industry average of just 2.6 percent, in part, because of the challenge of serving truly relevant ads against search queries. But what if there were a way for consumers to indicate very specific requirements to search engines or Web publishers and receive exact results directly in their e-mail inboxes or RSS readers? The clickthroughs and corresponding purchases would likely be many times today’s paid search response rates.

A system of alerts would boost the value publishers and search engines can deliver to advertisers by providing greater targeting and distribution. This “alerts” functionality exists today but is not widely used for commercial purposes. Though there are prominent exceptions, technical challenges and a lack of consumer awareness have so far prevented the widespread use of alerts as a commercial or shopping tool. It’s just a matter of time, however, before alerts functionality is built out on all the shopping engines and later on a broader array of sites, including classifieds.
Greg Sterling <![CDATA[MapQuest Joins the Mashups Crowd]]> 2006-03-07T10:45:52-05:00 2006-03-07T10:45:52-05:00 2006-03-07T10:45:52-05:00 announced a new OpenAPI and a contest to create the best mashup using it:

As part of the OpenAPI launch, MapQuest also announced a Developers Challenge, in which Web developers can compete to build the most creative mashup that leverages the mapping and routing functionality of OpenAPI. The contest begins March 7 and runs through the end of March with the winner being announced in mid April. The winning contestant will receive a $1,000 cash prize, and a trip to the Where 2.0 Conference in San Jose, Calif., from June 13-14. For more information on the contest, including Official Rules and how to enter, go to

MapQuest informs me that it's the first to bring routing and directions to an API. The company also says it has the most reliable geocoding in the market and the integration of that geocoding into the API will make a difference to mashup developers.

Here's a hypothetical real-world example: Soccer moms/dads creating maps with routing to the next game location in a different town. Here's a concrete example with Eventful data and MapQuest's interface/API.

Related: Per Search Engine Journal, CNet reports on new Yahoo! mashup tools for developers. Some are map-based, some are not. ]]>
Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Wetpaint: Wikis for the Masses]]> 2006-03-07T07:13:52-05:00 2006-03-07T07:13:52-05:00 2006-03-07T07:13:52-05:00 SiliconBeat writes about a new wiki platform for the masses, Wetpaint. They're still ahead of the mainstream consumer marketplace, but community and online collaboration tools continue to gain momentum. And because we couldn't resist this issue (again), we've just added a new panel to Drilling Down:

Social Search Is the New Black
Almost every new startup includes a community or "social media" layer. Notwithstanding the success of MySpace (at least in being acquired for lots of money), do these new applications really offer something compelling for the end user or is this just hype and novelty? The Kelsey Group has described social networking/social media as a valuable "online word of mouth" feature that needs to be appended to or integrated into a pre-existing business model. Is "social" really the "future of search" as some have recently argued or merely a fad that will pass in time? ]]>
Greg Sterling <![CDATA[The New AT&T and 'Net Neutrality']]> 2006-03-07T06:30:27-05:00 2006-03-07T06:30:27-05:00 2006-03-07T06:30:27-05:00 BusinessWeek then SBC CEO Edward Whitacre said the following:

How concerned are you about Internet upstarts like Google (GOOG ), MSN, Vonage, and others?
How do you think they're going to get to customers? Through a broadband pipe. Cable companies have them. We have them. Now what they would like to do is use my pipes free, but I ain't going to let them do that because we have spent this capital and we have to have a return on it. So there's going to have to be some mechanism for these people who use these pipes to pay for the portion they're using. Why should they be allowed to use my pipes?

The Internet can't be free in that sense, because we and the cable companies have made an investment and for a Google or Yahoo! (YHOO ) or Vonage or anybody to expect to use these pipes [for] free is nuts!

Last Thursday Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden introduced legistlation "aimed at preventing high-speed Internet service providers from charging content companies extra so consumers have faster access to their Web sites or receive special treatment."

I predict that net neutrality will become central to some of the potential anti-competitive concerns that will be reviewed as part of the federal approval process of the acquisition. Here's what Whitacre told BusinessWeek regarding a potential takeover of BellSouth:

Is it a possibility that SBC would acquire BellSouth?
It sure would be nice, but it doesn't have much chance of happening because of market power, size, etc. I think it would be real hard to do. I don't think the regulators would let that happen, in my judgment.

Accordingly, I think those regulators will formally prohibit the new AT&T from exacting fees from Google and Vonage, et al. In an ironic way, the AT&T acquisition of BellSouth may end the debate over net neutrality and accelerate the imposition of formal legal controls to prevent fees.


More from USA Today on the issue.

Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Cingular (ATT) Wireless Launches Video, But Consumers Say 'No Thanks']]> 2006-03-07T05:29:03-05:00 2006-03-07T05:29:03-05:00 2006-03-07T05:29:03-05:00
Data services, including music and video, are seen as a growth area for wireless carriers that face the "commoditization" of their voice businesses. Yet, according to a recent RBC Capital Markets survey of 1,000 U.S. mobile phone users, solid majorities don't want music or video on their phones and, perhaps even more disturbing for the industry, more than 40 percent said they would pay for phones that prevented advertising/marketing.

This is just one study and there are competing data in the market. It's also the case that the younger the audience the more receptive to data services. But the survey illustrates that wireless carriers may be betting on segments that will take years to develop or not develop at all. ]]>
Greg Sterling <![CDATA[ShopLocal Redesign and the 'Offline' Future of Online Shopping]]> 2006-03-07T04:30:47-05:00 2006-03-07T04:30:47-05:00 2006-03-07T04:30:47-05:00 ShopLocal just relaunched with a new and improved design and interface. The site offers both online and local deals on a range of products. Consumers can browse newspaper inserts, content from merchant feeds and compare online and local deals.

I can see how much it would cost to buy that laptop online and, with a click, compare those prices to local retailers (with an emphasis on big boxes right now). However the site does increasingly offer true local business information. And that's an area ShopLocal is working to build out.

Froogle, CNet, Interchange Corp.'s and AOL's Pinpoint Shopping, which both distribute ShopLocal content, and ShopLocal's newspaper affiliates (e.g., Knight Ridder's Mercury News) offer local/offline shopping information. So do and But the major shopping engines and portal sites are going to need to introduce this "local shopping" content to be competitive over the long term. and Channel Intelligence are two companies working to provide that offline data about merchants and inventory information.

In its redesign, ShopLocal has done a good job organizing and presenting a huge amount of content and visual information in a clear and generally intuitive way. It cannot be disputed that consumers want this local shopping content. According to research conducted in 2005 by Yahoo!, in certain "commodity" categories, consumers may convert or transact online in as many as 50 percent of the cases (depends on the specific category). However, in "high consideration" categories that number drops to 30 percent or below.

The Kelsey Group's research indicates that with purchases over $500, where the Internet is the starting point, over 90 percent of the transactions finish offline. And, my favorite statistic these days: e-commerce represents only 2.5 percent of U.S. retail — despite the growing influence of the Internet over consumer shopping behavior. Clearly the majority of Internet-influenced transactions are happening and will continue to happen offline.

An indication of consumer demand for local shopping information is ShopLocal's rising U.S. traffic (per comScore, August 2005):
  1. sites (eBay)
  2. Shopzilla/BizRate sites (E.W. Scripps)
  3. Yahoo! Shopping
  4. NexTag sites
  5. inStore (AOL)
  6. PriceGrabber
  7. ShopLocal (Gannett, Knight Ridder and Tribune)
  8. Froogle (Google)
  9. CNET Reviews
  10. Monster
These data are now relatively old, so I would expect ShopLocal's ranking to be rising further.

At the upcoming Drilling Down event, we'll be exploring the relationship between the Internet and offline transactions in the panel, "The New ‘Purchase Funnel’: Online Shopping, Offline Conversions," featuring:

  • Kendall Fargo, CEO,
  • Brian Hand, CEO,
  • Catherine Kelly, Chief Technology Officer, HarvestINFO
  • John Kim, Sr. Director, Advertiser Product Marketing, Yahoo!
  • Search Marketing
  • John Melideo, CEO, Jambo
  • Rob Wight, CEO, Channel Intelligence
Greg Sterling <![CDATA[2006: The Year of M&A?]]> 2006-03-06T08:43:51-05:00 2006-03-06T08:43:51-05:00 2006-03-06T08:43:51-05:00 announced that it is buying iVillage (soon to be for $600 million. That marks three deals in four days: Fox Interactive Media on Friday, AT&T on Sunday and today NBC.

What it reflects, I believe, is that the Internet's credibility and centrality to the future of marketing and distribution have been firmly established and the larger traditional media players are starting to wake up to that and are getting scared about being shut out or having to rely exclusively on third-party relationships (e.g., Google, Yahoo!, Apple).

Fox and NBC want to control their fates (as do other major media companies) and position themselves as much stronger competitors going forward. They're trying to set that up by making acquisitions. What this means to me is that we're going to see quite a few more acquisitions this year.

By the end of the year, the online world could look quite different from how it does today.


Update: Hearst buys UK consumer health destination NetDoctor. Expect it to launch a US site in the not-too-distant future. ]]>
Greg Sterling <![CDATA[AT&T to Buy BellSouth]]> 2006-03-05T12:36:21-05:00 2006-03-05T12:36:21-05:00 2006-03-05T12:36:21-05:00 New York Times AT&T (formerly SBC) is near a deal to acquire BellSouth:

AT&T is expected to pay about $65 billion for BellSouth, the country's third largest phone company, which operates in a nine-state region in the Southeast. The price represents a 25 percent to 30 percent premium for BellSouth shareholders.

The Times is reporting that a deal may be announced as early as Monday. The combination would create (recreate) a communications giant with combined estimated Yellow Pages revenues of roughly $5.6 billion and approximately 3,800 sales representatives. Both AT&T and BellSouth have DSL partnerships with Yahoo! (both also have IPTV initiatives). AT&T has a market cap of $91 billion, while BellSouth is worth approximately $56 billion today.

There were numerous rumors of earlier, failed discussions between the two companies. And there has been considerable speculation in the recent past that the two companies would combine and spin off their directory divisions at some point in the future. It's not clear to me whether this deal, if it were to happen, would make that more or less likely. (My colleague Charles Laughlin would have a more nuanced perspective on that issue. However, telco parents have sold directory assets to pay down debt in many instances in the past.)

The Wall Street Journal (sub. req'd), says:

AT&T is targeting at least $2 billion in cost savings in BellSouth deal, said a person familiar with the matter Sunday ... The total equity value of the deal is at least $65 billion, plus the assumption of an additional $17 billion of BellSouth debt.

The two companies have a parternship in the newly re-energized (and Cingular, to become AT&T wireless). And I could imagine a combined company becoming more active and making some intreresting online acquisitions to better position itself on the Internet. In fact I could imagine a fairly major acquisition in the search space.

We'll go into all aspects of the transaction, including the competitive implications, if it's confirmed, later this week.


More from Reuters, MarketWatch, USAToday and many others. Here's another N.Y. Times piece (reg. req'd) that has a great deal more detail and some additional features.

Thus far in my "career" as a blogger I have resisted the urge to use the term "grok." But now I break that solemn vow with: Om "groks" the deal. ]]>
Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Fox/News Corp. Online Buying Spree Continues]]> 2006-03-03T19:42:04-05:00 2006-03-03T19:42:04-05:00 2006-03-03T19:42:04-05:00 Techcrunch ... FIM CEO Ross Levinsohn announces he's bought one of the companies on the list (scroll) and may buy more. More M&A to come ...

The company was NewRoo (a personalized news aggregation site). SiliconBeat has more. ]]>
Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Legal Category: Cause for Concern? ]]> 2006-03-03T19:12:08-05:00 2006-03-03T19:12:08-05:00 2006-03-03T19:12:08-05:00 blog on legal advertising, which basically argues with some anecdotal evidence that the print directory is delivering less value to lawyer-advertisers today than it has in the past:

I get calls every week from lawyers saying they’re not getting calls anymore from yellow page advertising. They don’t want to continue wasting their money, but they’re afraid to stop advertising and lose their spot. They want to know what’s going on and what to do.

I have no idea whether this blog is truly reflective of the feelings of lawyers generally or has any influence in the legal community. But the sentiments should be noted and are a cause for concern because lawyers spend more than $1 billion annually on print Yellow Pages and legal is, in fact, the top revenue category (lawyers-attorneys is the sixth most popular consumer category). ]]>
Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Friday Festival of News]]> 2006-03-03T15:10:18-05:00 2006-03-03T15:10:18-05:00 2006-03-03T15:10:18-05:00
In the most recent installment of their ongoing small business research, Wells Fargo and Gallup found (no surprises here) that small businesses preferred free word-of-mouth referrals and rated them more effective than paid advertising. (This is effectively what many of the "social networking" sites seek to offer.) Simultaneously, however, the survey also found that 57% of respondents expected to be advertising online over the next two years (up from 49% now). The survey found that of the 55% of SMEs that advertised in 2005, 67% of that group did so in a newspaper or local magazine. One of the problems here is that the release doesn't define "small business." I suspect that the definition extends to well beyond 99 employees. TKG research does not reflect that 49% of SMEs are spending money online. Instead it is closer to 15%, but we define "small business" as fewer than 100 employees.

According to this piece in MediaPost (reg. req'd) research firm Outsell found that online shoppers turn primarily to search engines and portals as a starting point in their research. Here's the data:

  • 58% Google, Yahoo!, MSN or AOL
  • 44% "online shopping sites"
  • 29% magazines
  • 23% word of mouth
  • 22% print newspapers
  • 14% TV (this is mysterious)
  • 8% online newspapers (generally bad user experience here)
  • 4% radio (again mysterious)
Directories were strangely absent. And without seeing the report or primary data it's hard to be clear on the significance of these findings except for the powerful influence of the major search/portal brands on shopping behavior. What people need to start getting at more clearly now is the relationship of these sources to one another in the entire "purchase cycle."

MTV parent Viacom plans to enter the "social networking" world in order to compete with News Corp.'s MySpace (per this Reuters article). The article quotes Viacom executives implying they'll make an acquisition this year. While social networking has been a stand-alone segment it's ultimately just a layer in a broader application. Perhaps there's hope for a Friendster acquisition yet.

Per John Battelle's blog, the Washington Post has teamed with Yahoo! (the N.Y. Times did the same thing with LookSmart's Furl) to offer's tagging and community features to users as a way to save, organize and share content. Here's the release. Definitely a nice feature to add, but it's not quite as broad as the TimesSelect's tool, which allows articles from across the Web (not just the site) to be saved.

Om Malik posts about how the mobile industry doesn't understand consumers and what they want from phones, citing research data.

More marketers are getting a clue and trying to launch integrated campaigns that use traditional media for branding and send people online for more information or to further the branding experience. Examples include a new TV campaign by (reported in MediaPost) and new MasterCard and American Express campaigns to debut during the Oscars.

Also per Battelle ... he points to a CNET story about Google's analyst day. Of interest to me is the statement: "Google Local is now the No. 3 site for classifieds." I wasn't there so I don't know the conext for that statement. I am unaware, however, of many people doing classified lookups (Jobs, Cars, Real Estate, Private Party merchandise) on Google Local. One could argue that Google Local should expand into classified listings and arguably has some listings that might be considered "classifieds" in a broad definition of the term. But I'm quite confused by the statement. Here is the October 2005 comScore traffic data on top classifieds sites:
  2. Trader Publishing Company
  5. Abracat Property
Finally, here's a Reuters story on ad execs' frustrations with growing media fragmentation and the complexity of now reaching audiences. That's the essential theme of this year's Drilling Down on Local event: Consumers have more devices, choices and control than ever, how do marketers and businesses respond?

Whew! Have a good weekend. ]]>
Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Ingenio's Ether]]> 2006-03-03T12:39:22-05:00 2006-03-03T12:39:22-05:00 2006-03-03T12:39:22-05:00 Ether. It's essentially a billing and payments infrastructure with scheduling and phone number provisioning. It allows anyone who sells advice/expertise to do so remotely over the phone using the system.

Ether takes the "negotiation" out of the process for sellers, which is a subtle but key element of the system. A seller sets a price and the buyer can accept or decline to pursue. The system uses 888 numbers (with unique extensions) to protect the seller's privacy. Ingenio sees Ether benefiting segments such as legal and financial professionals, therapists/coaches, accountants, computer support, authors/subject matter experts, etc.

SiliconBeat and other sites argue that the functionality isn't new. But I think the company has put together a nice suite of tools and services that essentially "e-commerce" enable certain kinds of service businesses. Ingenio isn't doing any marketing on behalf of the individual would-be users/sellers. It's up to the individuals to do that. The company instead envisions this as a module on a blog or Web site that helps manage a consulting relationship between a buyer and seller. Here's how it works.

There's some complexity in the process of connecting the calls — in circumstances when the expert is unavailable or doesn't want to accept the call — that will need to be tested and probably refined. Ingenio gets a percentage cut of the total value of the transaction. But, presumably, that's not a problem because this would all be incremental revenue for the provider/seller.

A very interesting thing about this is that it takes local service businesses and potentially extends their reach to a national audience. There might be some issues where a caller from state A contacts a seller/expert in state B and there are regulations governing the seller (think law or psychotherapy). But how all that plays out remains to be seen.

The service, built on Ingenio's patents and telephony infrastructure, is part of a larger phenomenon of using VoIP/telephony to provide leads or real-time connections between buyers and sellers via the Internet. Right now Ingenio is keeping PPCall and Ether separate. But there might be some synergy between the products going forward.
Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Local Search Performance and Google Click-to-Call]]> 2006-03-02T14:00:33-05:00 2006-03-02T14:00:33-05:00 2006-03-02T14:00:33-05:00
Patricia Hursh, president and founder of SmartSearch Marketing, was one of the panelists on the first panel and she presented an interesting case study on a national client (an ISP) that wanted to target regionally on Google. Her agency ran three campaigns. One was purely national; the second was "national" but used place name keywords and other geographic modifiers; the third campaign used no geographic keywords but relied on Google's IP targeting AdWords product.

The true national campaign performed the worst of the three. The "local keywords" national campaign performed better in terms of clicks (CTRs), but was more expensive than the national campaign. The "IP-targeting" campaign had the highest CTR and turned out to be the least expensive as well on a per-click basis.

She argued, however, that these three campaigns were not mutually exclusive because they each caught prospects/consumers that the others did not and because Google figures out which ad to serve depending on the query. There was also the branding value of the national campaign versus the more "direct response" quality of the local campaign. So in this case national and local ads could serve different potential objectives.

We talk about the higher CTRs and the more qualified nature of consumers who click on local/geotargeted ads. Sometimes I feel like I'm in an echo chamber so it's gratifying to see real-world examples from those "in the trenches" that validate these hypotheses.

Now to the Google click-to-call beta advertiser, who emerged during the second panel and is in the hotel industry. We didn't get into detail on the program but he characterized the performance as "great." Panelist Jake Baillie, president of TrueLocal, wondered aloud whether the performance of the product was affected in any way by the absence of competition. The marketer said he didn't think that accounted for it. But he did say that he thought the presence of the call option motivated consumers to go directly to the hotel rather than continuing to click around. It provided an immediacy for the consumer that made it correspondingly quite effective for the advertiser.

I made the comment that the presence of the call option had the potential effect of moving the consumer along the buying cycle more quickly. I'm going to follow up with him to learn more. ]]>
Greg Sterling <![CDATA[For Every Post There Could Be Six]]> 2006-03-01T10:20:54-05:00 2006-03-01T10:20:54-05:00 2006-03-01T10:20:54-05:00
  • relaunched its TrueTarget local search ad program (covered by Search Engine Journal here).

  • Jambo has launched a "passive" PPCall advertiser acquisition program. Here's the release. Advertisers automatically receive phone leads from directories/search sites with which the company has relationships (e.g., InfoSpace). The merchant gets a prompt to accept or decline the lead. If she accepts, the call is billed to her existing phone bill. Putting aside some questions about this practice, from a purely strategic standpoint it eliminates some of the sales challenges of getting people to show up and sign up for the service.

  • eStara launched a deal with the newspaper Palm Beach Post called "talk to seller" where its VoIP/click-to call-system enables real-time phone communication between buyer and seller. This was what eBay had in mind in buying Skype. Expect to see more efforts, whether by phone or through IM/chat, to facilitate real-time communication between buyers and sellers (e-mail is so 2003) in local online marketplaces, whether classifieds, verticals or directories.

  • Meanwhile Ingenio continues to build out a network of major agency relationships as a channel to deliver PPCall to national advertisers.

  • Here's a BusinessWeek piece on privacy and government/corporate monitoring of blogs and social networks. Privacy is a hot issue here at SES — as is click fraud. And this Ad Age piece (reg. req'd) captures a heated session yesterday in which some SEM audience members squared off against the engines on the panel.

  • Mobile local search and content provider go2 put out a release reflecting 51 percent traffic growth from 2004. The most popular categories were "movies, restaurants, accommodations and other travel-related searches." In our view, mobile local search is clearly growing but not yet a mainstream application.

  • According to comScore, Google's market share grows while search volume growth slows. There were 5.48 billion searches in the U.S. market in January, compared with roughly 5 billion in December, a growth rate of 11 percent. Search volume growth has outpaced Internet growth in the past several quarters. But the market will need new high-speed users to keep its momentum and that depends on broadband conversions from dial-up or more Wi-Fi ubiquity.]]> Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Google Video Ads]]> 2006-03-01T09:49:09-05:00 2006-03-01T09:49:09-05:00 2006-03-01T09:49:09-05:00 iMedia is reporting on the brief appearance of video ads in Google AdSense. iMedia quotes a Google press statement:

    "Google is always considering new ways to provide value to its advertisers and we frequently run tests of potential new features and products. We are currently running a limited test of click-to-play video ads on select AdSense publisher websites. We do not have any additional details to share at this time."

    Google can likely charge a premium for such ads in the move to diversify and increase revenues. It's unclear whether such ads can be geotargeted other than by selecting specifically local sites (but I'm getting ahead of myself).

    Several things are interesting about this generally. It reflects the growing importance of rich media and video online and the need for all the engines to offer a full range of ad vehicles to clients. It also reflects Google's desire to grab marketer branding dollars. Branding in search has been something of a hard sell to date, but more branding dollars are making their way into search. (See Kevin Ryan's column today.) And the more marketers understand how consumers use search and the Internet more generally in the "buying cycle" the more branding money will flow online.

    Some time ago, I wrote about SEM firm Impaqt's Intelligent Landing Page, which can host video and has a range of impressive capabilities. I spoke to them at their booth yesterday at SES. It has taken a while for marketers to understand how such rich media products can be used, but the company says that now they're getting traction.

    While the Google video experiment is on AdSense and not search, I think we'll begin to see more dynamic products (such as Impaqt's landing page and ContactAtOnce's presence management solutions) sitting "behind" paid search as a way to enhance or maximize the value of those ads for marketers.

    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Edgeio: Taking Craigslist to the Next Level]]> 2006-02-28T23:33:52-05:00 2006-02-28T23:33:52-05:00 2006-02-28T23:33:52-05:00 wrote earlier this week, Edgeio has launched. Here was the original posting I did a couple of weeks ago.

    This is a very interesting site because one can publish local classified or services listings directly there or on a blog and Edgeio will "pick them up." In other words, I can set up my free blog (Blogger, Wordpress, etc.), list a bunch of items for sale and they will appear on Edgeio — no fees, nothing!

    Here's how Edgeio does it:

    Edgeio constantly monitors RSS enabled websites — today we are monitoring more than 25 million sites! Any item tagged "listing" and included in an RSS feed will be published on the edgeio website and through the edgeio network.

    Of course all will depend on how many consumers show up and use Edgeio. But its distributed/decentralized publishing model is pretty radical in concept. In one sense it's simply another version of what search engines are doing by indexing sites. But what if Edgeio becomes really a hit and millions of people show up to use it? Perhaps as a trade or service business (accountant, cabinet maker, lawyer) I publish a listing and description of my services etc. on my blog and Edgeio picks it up and I get lots of leads. It's all free to me. I potentially can reduce my spend elsewhere.

    Even if it succeeds wildly with consumers I don't think Edgeio will be "disruptive" in the near term. But the medium term could be a different story. I'm fascinated by the potential for RSS distribution both on the advertiser side and the consumer side. There's a great deal more to say there than I have time for now.

    Keith Teare, Edgeio CEO, will be speaking on what should be quite an interesting panel at Drilling Down called "The Ultimate Mashup: Classifieds, Local Listings and ‘Social Search.' "

    "Social Search" is the new black. ]]>
    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Newspapers Should Move Faster Part II]]> 2006-02-28T22:35:21-05:00 2006-02-28T22:35:21-05:00 2006-02-28T22:35:21-05:00 booth tonight on the exhibit hall floor of SES talking to Chris Tolles and Mike Markson about Topix and the newspaper industry. Topix is owned by KRD, Gannett and Tribune. In addition to a relatively recent redesign (very nice), Topix has developed some interesting local-community features (see "forum activity" map, upper right). Here's a story on Ford cutting jobs and the related comments, for example.

    I said to Chris, "Why don't the newspapers just add the entire Topix site/feed to their sites? It's better than adding a feed reader," which would have been one of the bullets in the previous entry but for my encounter with Topix this evening.

    Local newspaper content could be presented in a primary position and then Topix site and news content could be imported/framed within the local newspaper "look and feel." Admittedly integration might present some issues, but it's clearly doable. And almost instantly these local newspaper sites would be very competitive with Google and Yahoo! news. They would become aggregators themselves (offering a feed reader would do the same but RSS is still too complex for the mainstream).

    The community content (comments) that Topix has is gold — wouldn't the newspapers love to have that kind of participation on their sites? That could be added from Topix as well. Once people saw the comments that Topix has already compiled, they would likely be inclined to participate and comment themselves. This overcomes the chicken-and-egg problem of new community sites if the newspapers were to add this functionality tabula rasa.

    That community content, once on the newspaper site, would also help jump-start local community participation in other areas across the newspaper site. This is huge, although my description of what I'm suggesting may not be entirely clear. Feel free to drop me an e-mail to discuss.

    Why aren't the newspapers exploiting Topix's assets? ]]>
    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Newspapers Should Move Faster]]> 2006-02-28T21:56:23-05:00 2006-02-28T21:56:23-05:00 2006-02-28T21:56:23-05:00
  • Radically redesign their sites. Right now, they're not very "usable" other than editorial. Editorial is just a piece of what online newspapers should offer. Editorial is a great hook to get people to the site, but give them more stuff to do and see once they're there
  • Have great site search and offer blended results that are relevant to the query — so the users see the full range of content and advertisers
  • Offer aggregated news from third parties on the site in addition to "local news"
  • Have a comprehensive local marketplace that offers classifieds and services
  • Syndicate classifieds
  • Syndicate local business advertisers (like what the directory publishers are doing with Webvisible, Matchcraft, ReachLocal, Local Launch, etc.)
  • Add community tools (much more important than blogs)
  • Get rid of site registration (or create some real value in exchange for user registration)I could go on but I won't here.

    Online newspapers are a fundamentally different animal than the print product (sites like the WSJ may be exceptions) and need to be thought about differently.

    Here's a case in point. My hometown newspaper is the San Francisco Chronicle (owned by Hearst). I know that its site is probably the best and most reliable source of local events, entertainment and restaurant information in my area. I KNOW this. But do I use the site? No. It's too painful. Content is buried. The site is cluttered. You don't need to be a Jakob Nielsen to know that the overall user experience is suboptimal.

    Here are the search results for the query "home improvement." Now I'm sure there have been many articles written over time that pertain to interior design, hiring contractors, landscaping, the cost of kitchen remodels, etc. None of those articles shows up in the first page of results. (I'm sure there are advertisers that would love to be contextually presented next to those results, provided they were more relevant.)

    Will I go beyond this first page? No. (See Enquiro's "eyetracking" research — a new round is coming out.) Will I come back to this site and look for anything other than editorial content again? No.

    Newspapers have a window of 12 to 24 months to work out some of these strategic and usability issues. I know that there's much going on "behind the scenes" but the process needs to speed up.

    ]]> Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Fox Starting to Leverage MySpace as Backlash Gains Momentum]]> 2006-02-28T14:07:38-05:00 2006-02-28T14:07:38-05:00 2006-02-28T14:07:38-05:00 article (reg. req'd) about Fox starting to use MySpace to promote a new show, "Free Ride." It had begun to cleverly "seed" the campaign by creating character profiles on MySpace last month and now there are going to be full-blown ads. In addition, the new network being developed by Fox, "My Network TV," will be similarly promoted on MySpace.

    It's too back Fox doesn't have a show called "backlash," because that would be a perfect promotional tie-in. Here's a Wired piece (just the latest in a series) that documents the growing PR problems of the much celebrated youth site.

    I wrote more generally about the PR problems of MySpace here.

    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Windows Live Local and Ask Upgrade Maps]]> 2006-02-28T13:35:21-05:00 2006-02-28T13:35:21-05:00 2006-02-28T13:35:21-05:00 hotel in New York. We're releasing a mapping report today and the Ask relaunch was too late for us to "stop the presses," but we'll review in the Local Media Journal.

    The fact that Ask has done this (in addition to Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft — MapQuest coming soon) means dynamic mapping is now "table stakes" for anyone who wants to be taken seriously in local. And that means directory publishers and newspapers need to tap into the APIs out there or build their own (probably not a good idea).

    Simultaneously, Windows Live Local has just added a "street side" view to its already rich set of mapping views. In my preliminary look at it tonight on the exhibit hall floor of SES, it appears to be a richer, more dynamic version of A9's block view, which has the novelty of several perspectives built into it (race car, sports car and walk). You can drag the cursor around and change views with relative ease. San Francisco and Seattle are the only two cities offered right now but I'm sure Microsoft intends for this to cover most cities across the U.S.

    One cannot yet move from the street level view to bird's eye. I expect that will come in time. But with this new set of tools Microsoft may become the first company to put all the potential map views together into a truly integrated experience. Visually the Windows Live Local mapping product is probably the richest on the market, although Microsoft has some work to do on the underlying mapping basics to get it completely right.

    On a somewhat related note, Microsoft's classifieds marketplace, Expo, is live. We wrote about Expo earlier right here.

    Garry Wiseman, who is in charge of Expo will be on the "mashups" panel at Drilling Down.

    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Online Shoppers Convert Offline? What a Surprise]]> 2006-02-28T13:02:42-05:00 2006-02-28T13:02:42-05:00 2006-02-28T13:02:42-05:00 research from iProspect, carried out by Jupiter says the following:

    Sixty-two percent of Internet users who researched products online during the holiday season used a search engine to do so, and nearly half (47 percent) of researchers ended up buying offline.

    The ClickZ article goes on to talk about the need to track these results. Of course. And offline tracking (especially given latency that often exists in these situations) is challenging. There are codes, offers and call tracking, etc. But it's a fundamental issue.

    Here at SES many of the search marketer attendees appear relatively "clueless" (to use the vernacular) about the bigger picture of search engine user behavior. They myopically see only SEM and online "conversions" or leads. But the real story is much bigger and more complex.

    The iProspect study hints at that larger picture. But we've been arguing for more than two years that the model "going forward" is search/shop online buy offline. E-commerce will continue to grow but it will NEVER be more than a fraction of traditional spending in the local market. Get it: NEVER.

    Right now at $90 billion, it's only 2.5% of total U.S. retail (that's right). But search and the Internet more generally will influence more and more of that offline buying. So the influence of search is growing much faster than e-commerce revenues. All this creates real complexity for everyone. Measuring search efficacy and calculating ROI becomes more challenging when you widen the lens on all this.

    The iProspect study says what it says, but it probably isn't truly representative of the ratio of online and offline buying. Of course all this is going to vary by "consideration level" and category: commodities are much easier to buy online than higher consideration items.

    The buying cycle is getting "uglier," more complex and is not at all linear. (This was my presentation at last year's Drilling Down event). But search and the Internet are becoming a larger part of that convoluted process.

    The bottom line is that marketers and search engines need to understand much more clearly how consumers are engaging with search and what their patterns are so they can respond appropriately.

    Yahoo! gets this and is doing the best job among the majors of trying to educate the marketplace and marketers about the bigger picture of the buying cycle. ]]>
    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Google to Step Up Efforts]]> 2006-02-28T11:44:03-05:00 2006-02-28T11:44:03-05:00 2006-02-28T11:44:03-05:00 WSJ today (sub. req'd) cites Google CFO George Reyes' remark that Google's growth "is slowing due to the 'law of large numbers' and it will need to find new ways to boost revenue." As one might expect, the stock took another hit.

    I think this means several obvious things for Google:

    • Pushing out more aggressively in other online ad vehicles (display, PPCall, etc.)
    • Trying to go after more SMEs, which is challenging though not impossible, for all the reasons we've discussed at length
    • Going offline. There's a big Jefferson Graham piece in today's USA Today about Google's "offline" (traditional media) efforts
    Unfortunate as slowing growth is for Google, it will make life much more interesting than it has been (how can it get any more "interesting?" you ask) — as Google takes some more "risks" and other companies are forced to react.

    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Ask Relaunches]]> 2006-02-27T09:30:23-05:00 2006-02-27T09:30:23-05:00 2006-02-27T09:30:23-05:00 The IAC-owned search engine has rebranded and changed its interface to be simpler and graphically more appealing. (Barry Diller spoke this a.m. at SES, which I missed because I was stuck in traffic for 2 hours from JFK.)

    Ask has vertically arrayed (no pun intended) all the different specialized content and structured search areas, including local. Interestingly, this approach makes them more prominent than they were in the old "horizontal" navigation scheme.

    Ask gained a tiny amount of market share, according to some of the numbers, over the course of the last year. We'll see if the new interface and the new brand will further boost usage of the engine. So far, I like what I see visually.

    Here's more detail from Search Engine Watch and Search Engine Journal. ]]>
    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Newspapers, Classifieds and Yellow Pages]]> 2006-02-24T18:37:17-05:00 2006-02-24T18:37:17-05:00 2006-02-24T18:37:17-05:00
    The panel I moderated was on competing with free classifieds and featured:

    • Tom Finke: Tribune Co.
    • Dexter LaPierre: The San Diego Union-Tribune
    • David Prizer: ANG Newspapers, CNP Northern Division
    • Fran Wills: Denver Newspaper Agency
    • Garry Wiseman: Microsoft
    This panel (and the conference) had a number of interesting takeaways for me.

    The panelists were fairly forthcoming about their successes and failures in their various experiments with free classifieds. Among the surprises were: 1) almost without exception they were unsuccessful in upselling from free ads and 2) they expressed that their newspaper brands carried a certain amount of "baggage" and they potentially needed to create new online brands to effectively compete online.

    The Denver Newspaper Assn's was such an example. While the creation of new brands may liberate newspapers from some of the constraints of the traditional newspaper form, it may be very destructive of the brand over the long term — especially, ironically, if these sites are successful.

    The point about newspaper "brand baggage" was not uniformly held by all the panelists but several of them did have that view. I personally believe that newspapers need to focus on the overall user experience online and that their brands are actually strengths to be leveraged in local markets. But I also believe the online product is fundamentally different from the print product and needs to be reinvented online.

    Unfortunately, there was not enough time to get into all the interesting facets of the conversation. We also didn't get into an important area: syndicating classifieds.

    The only non-newspaper person on the panel was MSN/Windows Live Expo's Garry Wiseman, who proved himself truly wise and walked away with tons of business cards after he made specific partnership overtures to the newspapers.

    While overall there was still a bit of the "deer in the headlights" quality to some of the discussions I had at the show, most of the people whom I spoke with were smart, aware of the market dynamics and the competition they face, and were ready to take chances and experiment to find out what will work. And there were lots of vendors ready to sell them lots of "solutions."

    There was also a local search panel later in the day with Google,, and I thought the panel was very good (I did not moderate). The not-so-subtext on the panel was how, with more effective sites and distribution online, the newspapers might more effectively compete with Yellow Pages for ad dollars.

    In general I think the newspaper publishers are going to come much harder at YP advertisers in the next couple of years. The question is execution ... but the intention is clearly there.

    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Google Page Creator Take 2]]> 2006-02-24T16:24:13-05:00 2006-02-24T16:24:13-05:00 2006-02-24T16:24:13-05:00
    As I indicated yesterday it's very easy — WYSIWYG — to use. It's about as easy or maybe easier than blogging software. And Rosenstein said that the 100 megs of storage is considerably more than most free blogging platforms offer.

    People like to attribute much more calculation to Google than actually exists in most of these product rollouts. And I'm somewhat guilty of that myself. I got carried away with the small business and potential strategic implications of this for Google. But I buy it when they say this was intended for anyone who wanted to build a site and that it was not specifically targeting SMEs.

    But now that it's here, let's see how SMEs respond.

    It's also the case that every teenager in America (or around the globe) could build a personal page on Google. That's an equally compelling alternative or parallel use case. That goes to Chris Sherman's MySpace comparison.

    It will be interesting to see how the product evolves after the first rounds of feedback. ]]>
    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Internet Adoption Flat?]]> 2006-02-24T14:56:01-05:00 2006-02-24T14:56:01-05:00 2006-02-24T14:56:01-05:00 article, Internet adoption is essentially flat in the US. The firm found 64% of US homes had Internet access, up from 62% in 2004. It also made the prediction that adoption would only grow 3% by the end of the decade.

    The at-home broadband percentage was 42 and dial-up claimed 22% of US households according to the research.

    There are lots of responses. Here are some:

    • In early 2004, Nielsen//NetRatings reported that 75% of US homes had Internet access (who's right?).
    • Approximately 80% of US workers have access to the Internet at work (Nielsen again). This is where lots of shopping and other non-work related online behavior happens. A 360 degree view of the American Internet audience must consider at-work usage also.
    • The most attractive demographic/income groups have broadband at home (well established)
    • If you segment to look at the attitudes and behaviors of younger consumers, you'll see quite different attitudes and quite a different relationship to the Internet and technology. Here the Internet is just assumed as a necessary ultility and communication tool.
    I would say no traditional media should take comfort from this research. Rather the concern needs to be on the online side and specifically about high-speed access. If it's not growing than the corresponding revenue models and related consumer behaviors might not grow as quickly. That's where the issue is. ]]>
    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Switchboard Gets a Facelift]]> 2006-02-24T12:25:57-05:00 2006-02-24T12:25:57-05:00 2006-02-24T12:25:57-05:00 site. Here's the release.

    More later. ]]>
    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[MySpace Backlash Part Deux]]> 2006-02-24T11:03:39-05:00 2006-02-24T11:03:39-05:00 2006-02-24T11:03:39-05:00 ABC) as Jupiter contends that MySpace's traffic and page view numbers are terribly inflated -- "a mirage." Is this just Jupiter being contrarian or is there really something to this?

    Here's the comScore data on MySpace traffic and usage (original post here):

    • 24.2 million unique users in October 2005
    • 11.6 billion page views in October 2005
    • More page views than any destination other than Yahoo!, AOL and MSN.
    • Twice the page views of Google
    This raises the larger -- and much debated -- question of the accuracy of the traffic data circulating in the marketplace. Who's right? ]]>
    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Yahoo! Answers with More Features]]> 2006-02-23T14:00:01-05:00 2006-02-23T14:00:01-05:00 2006-02-23T14:00:01-05:00
    Loren Baker at Search Engine Journal has written up some new features at Yahoo! answers, another component of the Yahoo! community/social search strategy. Here's a description of the changes/upgrades from the Yahoo! Search Blog.

    We blogged at length in the past about the local dimensions of Yahoo! Answers -- a word of mouth/recommendations tool with obvious implications for the local market -- here and here (don't read this one; it has unfortunate formatting errors).

    Of interest is the new distribution/marketing strategy being adopted that allows individuals to place a branded Yahoo! Answers module on a blog or website. There's also toolbar integration, which helps "distribute" it further.

    Also, answers used to "ping" answer-seekers via email, which was terribly awkward. Now you can set up an RSS feed to MyYahoo! or another news reader, which is a nice development. ]]>
    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Google Page Creator]]> 2006-02-23T12:44:37-05:00 2006-02-23T12:44:37-05:00 2006-02-23T12:44:37-05:00 offering for small businesses (to get their content and as a "foot in the door" for web hositing upsells). When I speak to Yahoo! about it, they won't reveal numbers but say the product has been well received.

    Today Google launched something similar but somewhat broader: "Google Page Creator." Here's the official Google press dispatch:

    The new product is Google Page Creator, a free, easy, browser-based tool for creating attractive web pages.

    Web publishing can be complicated, expensive, and unsatisfying. Google Page Creator has been designed with ease of use in mind. Its unique interface enables users to edit and create pages just as they appear online, without knowledge of HTML or other computer programming languages. Combined with a simple one-step publishing process, users can create attractive, functional web pages in minutes - hosted by Google for free.

    Google Page Creator is a web-based tool, meaning no download is necessary. Users need only visit http// and sign in using their Gmail account to begin creating and publishing their own web pages.

    They're not accepting new sign-ups given the apparent demand today. Here's the quickie site I created in about 5 minutes. It's about as easy to use as blogging tools.

    In order to get access to the product, you have to have an account (essentially sign up for gmail). Your gmail address becomes the first part of your URL, in my case:

    This will certainly drive more gmail adoption (with people signing up for multiple accounts). There's also a "viral" option built into the system, "tell a friend," allowing you to email the url to third parties.

    Our data reflect that about 42 percent of small business advertisers have websites. (Google would say this isn't just about SMEs in the way that Base isn't just about Classifieds.) And while everyone needs a web presence (no debate now), how extensive that presence needs to be is a real question. Do SMEs need full blow sites or do they simply need effective "landing pages?" Though Page Creator does seem to allow for the creation of multiple page sites that go beyond the "landing page" concept.

    This product will do several things for Google potentially:

    1. Drive more Gmail adoption and Google registrations
    2. Create a more direct channel into the SME market (the tool is simple and the idea that I can have a site that gets indexed quickly in Google is appealing)
    3. Create the ability to present a range of advertising options (including PPClick and PPCall) to SMEs through their admin "dashboards."

    How will it impact traditional web hosting firms? It's too early to tell; but Yahoo!'s free product, and those that preceded it, haven't replaced "professional" websites. Yet the web hosting business is increasingly becoming a template-driven "commodity" business.

    I think, however, over the longer term these free website products for both Google and Yahoo! have significant potential both as a channel to acquire content and as a platform to potentially upsell SME-advertisers into paid search and other ad products.

    Is Google Page Creator perfect? Probably not; but upon very preliminary investigation it appears quite easy to use and "intuitive" and you get something that approximates your own URL.

    Pretty nice.


    Here's more from Chris Sherman at Search Engine Watch, including some skeptical speculation that this may be Google's effort to create a "MySpace" knockoff. ]]>
    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Tons Going On]]> 2006-02-22T12:37:10-05:00 2006-02-22T12:37:10-05:00 2006-02-22T12:37:10-05:00
    Meanwhile, Search Engine Journal has a roundup of interesting news, and Om Malik blogs (as in the verb "to blog") about a new Google-Earthlink Wi-Fi partnership in San Francisco (and possibly beyond). Here's more from the Earthlink Blog.

    Greg Sterling <![CDATA['Net Neutrality' and Future Growth]]> 2006-02-20T12:26:20-05:00 2006-02-20T12:26:20-05:00 2006-02-20T12:26:20-05:00 editorial:

    If access tiering takes hold, the Internet providers, rather than consumers, could become the driving force in how the Internet evolves. Those corporations' profit-driven choices, rather than users' choices, would determine which sites and methodologies succeed and fail. They also might be able to stifle promising innovations, like Internet telephony, that compete with their own business interests.

    Telcos and cable companies (correctly) perceive the Internet to be a threat to or, in some cases, already eroding their core businesses and are frustrated that their pipes are feeding the growth of their competitors. One of the not-so-hidden dimensions of these debates is the desire of some of those same providers to stifle or at the very least control the development of the Internet and thus protect their traditional revenue streams, which are more certain and generally predictable than their ability to compete in an open Internet marketplace.

    While it's not entirely clear how all this would play out, it's quite possible that local and small business marketing online would likely be harmed by such fees. Yet in the same way that China will ultimately not be able to control the Internet and free speech (notwithstanding the current complicity of the big Internet brands) the ISPs/access providers will not be able to control the trajectory and growth of the Internet.

    Just as soon as these potential fee structures were implemented, assuming Congress doesn't intervene to prevent it, alternative access paradigms would emerge. There's too much competition, too much consumer demand and too much at stake for it not to happen. ]]>
    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[MySpace: PR Nightmare in the Making]]> 2006-02-20T08:29:18-05:00 2006-02-20T08:29:18-05:00 2006-02-20T08:29:18-05:00
  • 24.2 million unique users in October 2005
  • 11.6 billion page views in October 2005
  • More page views than any destination other than Yahoo!, AOL and MSN.
  • Twice the page views of GoogleBut what goes up ...

    Now the MySpace backlash has begun. Numerous stories about stalkers and sexual predators using MySpace to target teens have started to appear. While most users of MySpace at this point won't care about such stories, this is a PR nightmare in the making that threatens to take over the MySpace "success narrative."

    Hence the consideration of a "MySpace Safety Czar." According to an article that appeared in the WSJ on Friday:

    News Corp. is scrambling to make MySpace a safer place for young people. News Corp. plans to appoint a "safety czar" to oversee the site, launch an education campaign that may include letters to schools and public-service announcements to encourage children not to reveal their contact information. It also is considering limiting access to certain groups, such as "swingers," to those over 18; blocking search terms that predators could use to locate kids; and encouraging users between 14 and 16 to make their profiles "private," meaning they can only be viewed by people they already know.

    "We're going to take some pretty dramatic steps to provide industry-leading safety," says Ross Levinsohn, president of News Corp.'s Fox Interactive Media unit, which includes MySpace.

    As the Journal points out those measures might strike at the "cool factor" that has made MySpace such a hit among teens, who can be fickle and might not like the introduction of controls or restrictions. We'll see if the site can navigate this rough patch and regain control of its own story. ]]> Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Adieu Jeeves]]> 2006-02-20T08:01:14-05:00 2006-02-20T08:01:14-05:00 2006-02-20T08:01:14-05:00 Search Engine Watch writes up a bit of the history of Ask Jeeves now that the butler's retirement is here. This is something that has been well over a year in coming. The question now is whether jettisoning the Jeeves part of the brand will help the engine gain share. Ask has been in the fourth or fifth position in terms of search market share, depending on whose numbers you consult.

    One of the motivations behind IAC's acquisition of Ask was that it was to be the glue in the IAC system that knit together the disparate brands into a network of sorts. That network or more coherent whole has yet to materialize, though an Ask search box has been added to many IAC properties (see, e.g.,

    IAC-owned Citysearch provides the content for the Ask local product. The city guide has historically had a very strong brand in the local space (mostly in the A&E category), though it is somewhat weaker today in my view. However, over time, I could see the Ask brand taking over and being a broader, more effective starting point for local search at IAC.

    One of the things that was nice about Ask Jeeves was that it had personality, which probably was a detriment in certain quarters. But at least it was a differentiator. While Ask owns top-tier search engine Teoma, great search results aren't enough at this point. The challenge now will be how to make the experience at different and compelling enough to grab share from its larger competitors.

    I think that the answer lies in some mix of unstructured and structured data (especially in local). For example, if hadn't already been aquired by The N.Y. Times, it would have been a good property for Barry Diller to buy and fold into Ask results.


    More from Search Engine Journal.

    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Broadband: Growing but Slowing?]]> 2006-02-17T10:19:14-05:00 2006-02-17T10:19:14-05:00 2006-02-17T10:19:14-05:00 data by aggregator eMarketer on broadband adoption — now pegged at 61 percent of U.S. households, according to Ipsos. eMarketer summarizes that price is the major barrier to continued penetration in the U.S. market:

    According to a new survey from the Yankee Group, the most common reason US consumers don't subscribe to broadband is that it's too expensive. Despite promotional price cuts for DSL (which often cover slower connection speeds and eventually expire, shooting the price up), broadband is more costly than dial-up, especially for truly high speeds. Presumably, dial-up consumers have little need for tasks beyond e-mail, IM and simple Web browsing, which are doable through broadband, and want to keep their monthly expenses low. Price isn't the only factor. More than 30% of consumers say that they just don't want broadband, and about 14% say they feel dial-up is adequate for their needs. Less than 10% are not able to get broadband access in their area.

    However, municipal Wi-Fi efforts aim to provide no- or low-cost high-speed access to urban areas throughout the country. According to this article about municipal Wi-Fi in Boston:

    In its 40-page report, the Boston Foundation further said: "Respected technology companies like Earthlink, Google, and Hewlett-Packard are extremely interested in partnering with local government to come to Boston to build a low-cost or no-cost system capable of providing affordable and reliable service." ... The question is no longer whether Boston is going to build a citywide Wi-Fi network, but rather how and when," the report, released Wednesday, stated.

    And here's information on Chicago's new effort.

    All the Internet consumer trends that TKG studies and writes about are tied to broadband adoption in one way or another (local search, the impact of online on newspaper and directory usage, VoIP adoption, etc.). That's why this question of how much more deeply BB will penetrate (and when) is of critical interest and importance. Companies such as Earthlink and search engines such as Yahoo! and Google recognize that they benefit from increased penetration and so are interested in facilitating access. (Yahoo! has DSL relationships with almost all the major telcos.)

    For all these reasons, the first panel of our Drilling Down event is:

    The Broadband Juggernaut: Slowing Down or Speeding Up?
    High-speed Internet access is the backbone of the new consumer paradigm. It took a decade for broadband to reach “critical mass” in the U.S. Now we are witnessing the disruptive effects for traditional media and potentially for some newer technologies as well. While some predict broadband is slowing, others believe competition and new initiatives (e.g., municipal Wi-Fi) and technologies could drive high-speed access to nearly 100 percent penetration in the next several years. Which version of the future is correct? This panel will debate the potential scenarios and look outside the U.S. to higher-speed markets to see what the future might hold.

    On that panel will be:

    • Chuck Haas, CEO, Metrofi
    • Om Malik, Senior Writer, Business 2.0 Magazine
    • David Payne, Director of Development, Earthlink Municipal Networks
    • Brian Jurutka, Director of Marketing Solutions, comScore
    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[ Taking Verticals Too Far?]]> 2006-02-17T08:40:56-05:00 2006-02-17T08:40:56-05:00 2006-02-17T08:40:56-05:00
    Fundamentally, however, people cannot remember all these sites and don't want to have to. That's why search engines remain popular; they're the "front door" or gateway to all this content.

    Some sites, such as the recently launched, are a mix of structured, proprietary content and broader Web search in a category specific area. Simply Hired and Indeed are examples of vertical search in the Jobs category. By contrast, I wouldn't call a vertical search site. It's a vertical directory site with highly structured fields and content and it doesn't offer anything from the broader Internet. I would also not call a vertical search site, though it uses search-based navigation.

    Confused? Have another cup of coffee. Let's get away from all this semantic mumbo jumbo for a moment.

    According to this blurb in PaidContent, iVillage plans to soon relaunch and rebrand as (a site/URL it bought for many many millions some time ago). According to quoted remarks from the earnings call:

    "We anticipate launching the new search at the end of the second quarter 2006. Our objective with Search for Women is to enhance and further customize our users and advertisers experience by participating in the so-called vertical search marketplace ... this new product will allow us to promote iVillage brand by blanketing the Internet with add campaign promoting Search for the Women's Intuition."

    PaidContent questions the move: "It will be branded 'Search for Women,' whatever that means."

    Precisely: What does that mean? It might effectively mean nothing and be a dismal failure. It might simply be a branding/marketing ploy.

    However, let's assume that this isn't simply a marketing ploy and that the new is going to try to provide a better Web-search experience for women in general — a daunting task given how broad a category "women" is. And calling "search for women" vertical search almost renders the term "vertical search" meaningless. (I make the same argument when people say Local is a vertical.)

    Yet women are arguably the most important constituency online. They are driving e-commerce and online shopping and they're the ones writing the reviews on Judy's Book and InsiderPages and engaging in the "social networking" activities, much more so than men.

    So trying to grab the attention — and some of the wallet — of this group is wise. But what will provide (assuming again that it's Web search for women) that Google, Yahoo!, MSN, AOL, Ask or InfoSpace/DogPile cannot?

    I believe iVillage is working on that with Eurekster (I'm not 100 percent certain). After my meeting with Eurekster CEO Steven Marder, I recently wrote about about the company here:

    They're really an enterprise search B2B play that offers site search and more contextually relevant Web search. "Contextual" here means relevant to the user population of the site (teens, moms, sports fans, etc.). They do that with clickstream analysis of aggregate user query behavior. Initially Web search is weighted according to specific business rules, but the engine learns what the group thinks is relevant to particular queries. It's a different relevance paradigm that gets "smarter" over time., using Eurekster's engine/algorithm, at least in theory does offer a potentially differentiated search experience — one that is hypothetically more relevant because it's less "generic” and based on aggregated user behavior. So there is at least a potential value proposition here with some meaning (assuming I'm right about the relationship).

    But whether could become something like the "Google for Women" is another story entirely. (My words not theirs.) That's a hugely ambitious proposition. Let's see when iVillage relaunches in the second quarter.
    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Yahoo! Search Marketing Event]]> 2006-02-16T14:00:38-05:00 2006-02-16T14:00:38-05:00 2006-02-16T14:00:38-05:00 Search Engine Journal covers the upcoming Yahoo Search Marketing Searchlight Awards in N.Y. The program is highlighting the innovative work of agencies that have combined traditional campaigns with search marketing.

    I'll be racing from the Newspaper Association of America show in Orlando to N.Y. to be one of the "industry expert panelists" at the Yahoo! event. I was somewhat surprised and flattered to be asked to be on the panel. It promises to be interesting and fun.

    YSM's Ron Belanger, the organizer, likened the format of the event to "American Idol," though I'm sure it won't be as acerbic.

    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Office Live to Offer Free SME Sites]]> 2006-02-16T13:31:41-05:00 2006-02-16T13:31:41-05:00 2006-02-16T13:31:41-05:00 free basic Web sites to local/small businesses.

    I haven't set one up so I don't know how "robust" it is compared with what Yahoo! offers. It's pretty clearly a kind of "foot in the door" strategy to get SMEs on board.

    I've long believed that free Web sites could be an effective channel or way to get small businesses into paid search and other online marketing. It has to be both simple to set up and professional looking. Once the site is established, then there's a potential upsell opportunity.

    Web hosting is quickly becoming a commodity business, although switching is painful and inertia (especially at the SME level) probably means there isn't a lot of churn. ]]>
    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Podcasting and Local Music]]> 2006-02-16T10:47:29-05:00 2006-02-16T10:47:29-05:00 2006-02-16T10:47:29-05:00 blogs about Podbop, a site that combines podcasting and local. It allows you to hear podcasts of bands that are playing in the local market. One can search by artist or location. The site links to, which provides the venue information.

    Local events are a relatively still undeveloped area online — probably a feature or RSS-based feed rather than a stand-alone application or destination in my view. Along those lines Yahoo! not long ago acquired And IAC's Evite has pushed into local events as well.

    Jambase is another local music events and community site. ]]>
    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[MySpace Launches MVNO]]> 2006-02-16T10:05:10-05:00 2006-02-16T10:05:10-05:00 2006-02-16T10:05:10-05:00 MySpace, the supersite for teens, has announced the launch of its own branded "mobile virtual network operator" network. The service and phones will be powered/provided by Helio LLC, which is a joint venture of Earthlink Inc. and South Korean carrier SK Telecom Co. The service will reportedly use the networks of Sprint and Verizon. No specific launch date has been set.

    The idea is that teens and others on MySpace can use the phones to access their personal pages and other content on the go.

    Like the integration of Google or Yahoo! into forthcoming Motorola handsets, this has the potential to do some very interesting things. If successful (let's wait and see) it could help determine what the effective mobile ad models will be. It could also spur the launch of a 1,001 of these MVNOs, many of which are already in the works. It will also reveal the impact of social networks on mobile devices and could generate an entire range of new, similar applications or at least accelerate their development and deployment.

    MySpace is smartly leveraging its hot brand to expand to other areas now, before it has a chance to cool or falter. There's a growing MySpace backlash because of the concern about sexual predators using the site to target teens and young people. This danger, if real, would be considerably exacerbated by a mobile MySpace.

    Parents' growing concern/dislike for MySpace is only likely to boost its popularity in the near term, however. It is hard to imagine that MySpace will be as big three or five years from now. But it is possible the site will have "morphed" into something else with greater stability and staying power.

    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Judy's Book Redesigns, Adds 'Structured Blogging']]> 2006-02-16T08:48:26-05:00 2006-02-16T08:48:26-05:00 2006-02-16T08:48:26-05:00 Judy's Book has done some very interesting things to its site that if I were comfortable using that term ... might describe some of what they've done.

    First, they've redesigned the site in a much more graphically dynamic way. That may disorient some users but it creates a very distinctive look for the site (maps are prominent) and takes it farther away from the realm of directory sites than before. It also differentiates the site from its closest cousin online, InsiderPages.

    You can search for dentists or restaurants or hair salons as usual. But the site has also added a significant personalization component, "MyBook." MyBook is a personalized "home page" within JudysBook where users can see their questions, others' questions and recommendations in their area as well as a personal "directory" of local information, including local business contact information. It's the start page when I log in — essentially a blog. I can also upload photos and invite friends, etc. (similar in many respects to Yelp, Tribe or Yahoo! 360).

    This change subtly and not so subtly shifts the emphasis of the site from one that is more "utilitarian," where I go to find a plumber or Ethiopian restaurant to something more like an online community where I might be inclined to spend more time and interact more extensively with people regarding things to do, places to go, etc., in my area.

    But the clever folks at Judy's Book are mindful that some people already have blogs and so they've adopted an export, structured blogging feature that amounts to a kind of syndication strategy. From the press release:

    Recognizing that many online authors already have a traditional blog, Judy’s Book has also made it easy for members to take their Judy’s Book content with them via a new “post to my blog” feature. This optional feature automatically formats Judy’s Book reviews in the hReview microformat, an emerging standard for online reviews, and reposts them to the member’s existing TypePad, LiveJournal, Blogger, or WordPress blog.

    That "syndication" approach (also the "interoperability" with all the major blogging platforms) is also reflective of "Web2.0" trends. Syndication has been around forever, but there's an emerging understanding that the decentralized nature of online behavior requires new ways and strategies to reach people where they are rather than always trying to get them to show up at your door or trying to erect so-called "walled gardens," whether visible or invisible, to their use of other systems.

    I tell people that every time I expect things to calm down in local, they just keep speeding up. One of the very interesting trends is the marriage of social/community and local, which is a natural of course (online word of mouth). And all the new attention, energy and competition in the space can only lead to consolidation in the near term. ]]>
    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Verticals and Local]]> 2006-02-15T18:03:26-05:00 2006-02-15T18:03:26-05:00 2006-02-15T18:03:26-05:00 post I came across from the Internet Stock Blog (quoting the earnings call) on how local advertising is driving revenue growth at online wedding vertical/portal and directory site

    Online ad sales constituted 57% of the company’s revenue for the quarter, and just over 50% of the year’s revenues (other revenue streams: merchandise sales and print publications). In the conference call, The Knot CEO David Liu made a number of statements indicating that localized online advertising in The Knot’s 69 local sites is a key factor behind the company’s ongoing growth:

    Our local advertising continues its steady growth largely due to the fact that we do deliver measurable results to give our advertisers immediate payback from their investment on The Knot. A basic local listing on The Knot site goes for about $1000; still a bargain compared to the cost of the plain Vanilla yellow pages of advertising and in listing.

    The average spend by our local advertiser is approximately $1400 as many local advertisers take advantage of the extras we offer above the basic listing. These include a premier listing on a category page like photography or banner on the front first stage of their online city guides, say for example, Atlanta … An incremental cost can still be below that of the yellow pages or their local newspaper.

    Last April, we’ve raised our local rates by 10%, and plan a similar increase this April. Given our strong local revenue growth through 2005, our rate increases have in no way affected our customers’ appetite for advertising with us…

    We launched local advertising on The Nest in the fourth quarter and are now in ten of the 69 local Knot markets. Since advertisers seeking to reach newlyweds have far greater ad budget in many categories like automotive, financial services and real estate, related advertisers are already spending a growing proportion of their budgets online.

    (emphasis mine)

    Fascinating stuff. It shows that a vertical that can establish a strong brand and become a destination (not all can) has the ability to generate some strong revenue because of the very high-quality leads such sites can deliver — especially highly targeted local leads in the case of TheKnot.

    And everyone selling to local advertisers is selling against newspapers and Yellow Pages. ]]>
    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Traffic 'Smackdown': Yellowbook vs. InsiderPages]]> 2006-02-15T12:32:26-05:00 2006-02-15T12:32:26-05:00 2006-02-15T12:32:26-05:00 Alexa traffic data that show basically that and the newer online-only site are neck and neck.

    YellowBook has been running a TV campaign during the Olympics, whereas InsiderPages relies on SEO/SEM, syndication and word of mouth. If the Alexa data are to be believed (and they're not as credible as some sources), then TV is delivering very limited value to YellowBook vs. other more "grassroots" techniques being used by InsiderPages.

    But this may also go to the product itself. Take, for example, a query for "contractors, Chicago":

    Here are the YellowBook results. Here are the InsiderPages results.

    In many ways these products are comparable, although there are no "decision support" filters, reviews or other tools to help users choose between contractors on the YellowBook site, and InsiderPages has many fewer listings. While it's true that users can click "view ad" and see the print ad, which some argue does offer decision support, is now essentially a White Pages product with some additional/enhanced features. In other words, I've got a "name in mind" and I'm looking for contact details.

    Take a look at "contractor, Chicago" on Yahoo! Local. One can argue the data are incomplete here. But I'm focused right now on Yahoo! Local's filtering/drill down features (left column) as being examples of "decision support." They offer me several ways as a user narrow down the universe of potential choices.

    The InsiderPages results have fewer of these features, but they do offer reviews (though sparse in this particular geography and category). Assuming no fraud, they offer insight and information about the business and thus help me decide which one(s) to contact.

    This is not to say that reviews are mandatory to compete, but there need to be filters, sort features or other ways for people to get from the 100 or 50 or 20 listings to the three or the one.

    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Sober Review of Google Desktop and Privacy]]> 2006-02-15T10:59:19-05:00 2006-02-15T10:59:19-05:00 2006-02-15T10:59:19-05:00 Chris Sherman has a very balanced write-up of Google's enhanced destop search and its privacy implications.

    My personal view is that Google has become highly sensitized to its perceived position in the market and the privacy issues swirling around the company. I've had several conversations about this with Google folks.

    Anyway, privacy is a serious issue — especially in view of the U.S. government's domestic spying and illegal wiretapping. But critics should take a thoughtful, careful view and not simply react in a knee-jerk fashion. ]]>
    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Kelsey Group Forecast]]> 2006-02-15T10:00:36-05:00 2006-02-15T10:00:36-05:00 2006-02-15T10:00:36-05:00 press release this morning highlighting some top-level numbers from our forecast released to clients late last week. Here are some of the numbers featured in the release:

    • Global print Yellow Pages revenues will increase 1.5 percent from $26.3 billion in 2005 to $28.4 billion in 2010.
    • Global local search revenues (Internet Yellow Pages, local search and wireless) will increase 30.5 percent from $3.4 billion in 2005 to $13 billion in 2010.
    • Global classified advertising revenues will decrease 0.2 percent from $79.5 billion in 2005 to $78.5 billion in 2010.
    • Performance-based phone leads or "pay-per-phone call" revenues are expected to grow to $3.7 billion (in both online and offline media) by 2010 (this is U.S. only).
    All percentages above are compound annual growth rates (CAGRs).

    We added classifieds to the forecast this year because it involves the same user mind-set/behavior as Yellow Pages and Search: a user has a predetermined need/interest and is looking for a provider/seller to fulfill that need.

    We also expanded the definition of "Local Search" to encompass online YP, search engines and wireless (mobile local) for similar reasons.

    In the past we had been using the term "Local Search" in a broad sense to capture all these but simultaneously in a more narrow sense to refer to geotargeted lookups on search engines alone. That created some confusion in the marketplace. Also, the "form factor" between the IYPs and the local products of search engines are becoming virtually identical on the front end and the Yellow Pages Assn. has adopted the term "local search" as a branding/marketing vehicle as well. Ultimately, we probably will include classifieds engines in that category. But for now we declined to include them because of potential confusion and dilution of the term.
    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[A Few Newsbits]]> 2006-02-15T08:44:48-05:00 2006-02-15T08:44:48-05:00 2006-02-15T08:44:48-05:00 Search and Win: A story that's circulating today is one about the prospect of MSN and Yahoo! "incentivizing" users to switch to their search engines with rewards and prizes. MSN is further along; Yahoo! floated what might be called a "trial balloon" on the subject. Nielsen's Ken Cassar thinks the general idea is "smart promotion." Others have been critical of the idea as one that smacks of "desperation." (This is the common journalist question: "Doesn't this suggest desperation?")

    I wouldn't say it's a desperate move; I would say it's an effort to get attention and motivate users to show up and try the engine. Many people argue there's effectively no difference between the top search engines' results (Infospace disagrees). And there's plenty of data that says there's effectively no search engine "loyalty" out there. I think there's a great deal more nuance here, but it's a much longer discussion.

    Here's my view: Prizes might be a good marketing hook, but they aren't going to win over users permanently or cement loyalty longer term. The search experience itself has to deliver value and be as good or better than the preferred engine (read: Google in many cases). There's also the danger of what might be called "search fraud" by users just seeking to fulfill requirements to qualify for incentives/prizes. This danger will diminish or destroy the credibility of the engine with marketers over time.

    AOL the Conversions King: Analytics firm WebSideStory reported (consistent with a similar report last year) that AOL had the "best conversion rate at business-to consumer e-commerce sites" of the four major portals/search engines. Here are their data:

    • AOL Search (6.17 percent)
    • MSN (6.03 percent)
    • Yahoo (4.07 percent)
    • Google (3.83 percent)

    The WebSideStory explanation of this (user demographics/intent) isn't entirely satisfying. However, one might explain the difference in the fact that Google is perceived as a starting point for research, while AOL, Yahoo! and MSN to varying degrees are destinations that keep people on their sites longer. According to Nielsen, here are the relative, average amounts of time (minutes) spent on each:

    • AOL Search (2:16:49)
    • MSN (0:37:29)
    • Yahoo (1:09:19)
    • Google (0:18:40)

    Google Schadenfreude: Since Google missed the sky-high expectations of Wall Street in Q4, there's a distinct quality of "schadenfreude" (pleasure at the misfortune of others) in the air. Barrons caused a further decline in GOOG when it speculated that competition would weaken Google's market position this year. There's nothing new or especially thoughtful in the article. It's simply that investors may now be nervous about future performance and are selling (GOOG is off about $130 from its 52 week high).

    Also, John Battelle, who owes Google quite a bit for his current status as best-selling author and search "guru," argues now that Google had "jumped the shark" given its appearance on Time magazine's cover.

    Lining the halls of Google are high-profile magazine stories dating back to 2000. (The Time cover is nothing particularly special or significant.) Google will succeed, grow or fall to earth largely based on the actual value (quality of search, tools and services) it provides to users and how the competition stacks up. The danger as I see it is that Wall Street's distorted expectations will cause the company to do things (to produce growth/revenues) that are not in the long-term best interests of the user experience and, ultimately, the company.

    Nokia Wi-Fi Phone: This week Nokia announced a Wi-Fi phone that offers can "travel" between cell and Wi-Fi networks. Carriers DO NOT LIKE this development and it's a parallel one to VoIP on the fixed-line side of the house. But because they do not control the handset makers and because there's competition and potential demand for these phones, this is a development that they cannot prevent. Thus there will be more pressure on wireless carrier revenues (both on voice minutes and data use). The only real question here is: Will Wi-Fi networks proliferate to make them real alternatives to cell networks on these phones?

    PC vs. TV: Reported in today's MediaPost (reg. req'd) is a piece of research that argues consumers want to be able to watch movies and TV on their PCs and vice versa:

    25 percent of Internet users are interested in watching downloaded TV shows and movies on their PCs, 38 percent expressed interest in watching that same video on their TVs.

    WebTV was largely a failure because of the bad user experience. The opportunity this time is to build a Web-surfing capability into IPTV, cable, etc., that combines the best of both worlds.

    This leads me to another "shameless plug" for our coming Drilling Down conference and the session:

    Who Will Own the Living Room?
    The battle for the living room has begun with cable companies, telcos and search providers, among others, seeking to control the pipe, the programming and the advertising channel to the local audience. Will people hook up their PCs (or Macs) to their TVs? Will telcos succeed in installing IPTV and gaining share versus entrenched cable companies? Or will cable providers, arguably in the dominant position today, extend their dominance in TV to local advertising delivered through the living room?]]>
    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Windows 'Expo' Replaces 'Fremont']]> 2006-02-13T17:34:29-05:00 2006-02-13T17:34:29-05:00 2006-02-13T17:34:29-05:00
    My understanding is that site won't go live for a couple of months, which is a bit of a disappointment, but it offers some tantalizing possibilities. It's classifieds + community + chat + maps + personalization. (The site also features local events.)

    Windows Live Local maps, including Birds Eye photography, is integrated into Expo, which will be especially relevant in the apartments/homes category. Chat, a really valuable feature, requires both buyer and seller to have MSN Messenger (and could become a promotional tool for Messenger). Microsoft has also integrated Expo with MSN Spaces -- you can present your listings via an icon on your Spaces blog (and there's similar functionality for Messenger).

    I was told that Expo listings would be integrated into Live Local and I asked whether the opposite would be true. That is being considered. The business model is contextual advertising from Kanoodle right now; but may include premium placement and/or Craigslist-style charging for selected verticals like Jobs.

    Basic listings are free (now standard for online) and they include the ability to add images. The listings set-up process, which requires Passport registration, was pretty simple and fast.

    The product will launch in the U.S. but ultimately will be global and will thus compete with eBay's Kijiji sites. But right now Expo has more functionality. The challenge is getting the content and building the user base. But the huge installed Messenger base should jump start that process for Microsoft.

    Given all the advanced capabilities and potential content richness it's quite possible that this product could become more popular than Live Local. (There's the beginning of a services directory.) But the opportunity for Microsoft is to integrate the two products to build a kind of "uber-local marketplace" (not very "Web 2.0" I realize), where both local business listings and classifieds information would reside.

    That would create more convenience and utility for local users who don't, generally speaking, want to go to one site for this, one site for that and five other sites for the other thing -- if they can get all their needs met in a single location or destination.

    For the time, the market share distribution of general Web search seems to be fixed. But local is still in its early stages and there's still lots of opportunity. Apple has proven you don't have to be first to market to become the market leader. So if Microsoft can build a great and complete local product it has a chance to differentiate itself and gain consumer traction, which has to date eluded it in the general search arena.

    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Jobs Classifieds: Crossing a Threshold?]]> 2006-02-10T09:17:33-05:00 2006-02-10T09:17:33-05:00 2006-02-10T09:17:33-05:00 this survey written up in MediaPost (reg. req'd), the Internet has become the primary hiring vehicle for employers. The research was sponsored by the DirectEmployers Association, "a non-profit consortium of over 200 U.S. employers and operator of the employment search engine."

    The survey reportedly found that the Internet was responsible for "51 percent of all hires in 2005, with the largest source of hires being the employers' own corporate Web sites, while newspaper classified advertisements were the source of only 5 percent of the new hires."

    Ouch: bad PR certainly for newspaper classifieds. The NAA forecast that 2006 would see $18.14 billion in print classified revenues in the US. Just like Yellow Pages, the revenue is offline, but the growth is clearly online.

    Here's how the survey broke down the distribution of online hiring sources:

    • Corporate Employment Web Sites: 21 percent
    • General Job Boards: 15 percent
    • Niche Job Boards: 6 percent
    • Social Network Web Sites: 5 percent
    • Commercial Resume Databases: 4 percent

    These categories are quite broad; I assume that CareeBuilder (owned by newspapers), Monster and HotJobs fall into the "general job boards" category. But it's not clear. Sites like SimplyHired and Indeed, crawl corporate job boards (in addition to other sources) as does Yahoo!'s HotJobs. So there's more complexity probably in the actual market than the survey reflects.

    One must always be skeptical of sponsored research (which almost always has an agenda), but directionally at least these results are certainly accurate.

    More and more print newspapers (a la the Tribune Co.) will need to start offering "free" classifieds (with upsell opportunities) in order to be competitive. If the perception in the marketplace is that newspaper classifieds no longer "work," (which we may be approaching), there will be a precipitous decline in print classified advertising.

    It makes the issue of how newspapers respond to online trends, regarding classifieds in particular, quite urgent.

    Classifieds seem to be on everyone's minds these days. I just moderated a panel on classifeds and search and I'll be at the NAA show later this month doing the same. And then again at the Editor & Publisher conference in May. ]]>
    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Media Discovers Google 'PrintWords']]> 2006-02-10T09:06:36-05:00 2006-02-10T09:06:36-05:00 2006-02-10T09:06:36-05:00 WSJ (sub. req'd) and MediaPost (reg. req'd) today both have articles about the new, public auction of ad placements in major magazines on Google.

    We first blogged about it (after a tip from Battelle's blog) here on Wednesday.

    From the WSJ article:

    Google has been placing ads on behalf of its advertisers in three magazines and the Chicago Sun-Times newspaper in what it has characterized as tests. Last month, it said it would acquire closely held dMarc Broadcasting Inc., a Newport Beach, Calif., company that places ads on radio using an online system similar to Google's.

    Google has said it aims to integrate radio-spot buying into its AdWords program. Tim Armstrong, Google's vice president of advertising sales, said that if the print tests prove successful, print-ad buying would eventually be integrated as well. AdWords allows advertisers to bid on keywords, which Google uses to target ads to Web surfers, to set the price they will pay each time a consumer clicks on their ad.

    "The hope here is we'll have an integrated format for advertisers and agencies ... across multiple media," he said.

    Regarding Google print ads, "we know there's demand both from advertisers, agencies and publishers," Mr. Armstrong said. The current magazine-ad auction will allow Google "to work on the product itself and continue to roll it out and look at the results over time."

    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Eurekster and MyWeb 2.0.2 Part II]]> 2006-02-09T17:33:53-05:00 2006-02-09T17:33:53-05:00 2006-02-09T17:33:53-05:00 Eurekster. These guys were way ahead of the "social search" curve but confused users and the marketplace with their early positioning. People saw them as a complicated Google/Yahoo! competitor.

    They're really an enterprise search B2B play that offers site search and more contextually relevant Web search. "Contextual" here means relevant to the user population of the site (teens, moms, sports fans, etc.). They do that with clickstream analysis of aggregate user query behavior. Initially Web search is weighted according to specific business rules, but the engine learns what the group thinks is relevant to particular queries. It's a different relevance paradigm that gets "smarter" over time. But its nature, this is a vertical search engine par excellence.

    They get paid on a PPC revenue sharing basis by including Google and/or Yahoo! paid results on search results pages of their publisher partners. And Eurekster has offerings for large publishers and small publishers (e.g., bloggers). The interface of the "buzz cloud" (now a "Web 2.0" standard) is also interesting as a visual search/browse (even advertising) tool.

    Marder and I went into their roadmap a bit and there were some interesting possibilities on the advertiser side. He and I talked about local and its complexity, which is on their radar but not in the immediate future.

    The "genius" of Eurekster is that it's passive, meaning the engine serves up progressively more relevant results (than general Web search) on the basis of communal search behavior -- without any effort on the part of users.

    How does this relate to MyWeb? As Mike points out below, one might infer that MyWeb is growing slowly. One rumor behind the acquisition was that it wasn't about technology but about the gaining the large user community (and perhaps the talent behind it).

    I'm a huge fan of MyWeb and use it daily. I find it incredibly useful, but I'm not a mainstream consumer. I'm motivated to use it. But it takes affirmative effort to save and tag the pages (not that much really, but some).

    MyWeb, in addition to being a content repository, offers an alternative, human-edited index to Yahoo! search engine users (who are also MyWeb users). Eurekster does a very similar thing but in a way that is totally “passive” and invisible to the user (although it offers none of the "bookmarking" functionality).

    Here are my MyWeb wishes:

    • A simpler way to create groups (maybe multiple groups) within MyWeb -- there's an enterprise application waiting to happen here.
    • A way to search within categories/tags for content. The more content you save (I have 1,239 items) the more unwieldy the thing becomes; this would help solve that and make it even more useful.

    Despite all the “social bookmarking" buzz there’s a real question about whether sites like Wink and Kaboodle will catch on with mainstream users and become viable (which begs the question of what “viable” means in this context; maybe big enough to be acquired).

    The shared knowledge of the community is clearly a powerful asset to these engines/applications. But they need to be very simple and intuitive in order to generate large-scale adoption among what you might call "non-early adopters."

    Here's more from the Yahoo! Search Blog. ]]>
    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Privacy and Google Desktop]]> 2006-02-09T11:59:40-05:00 2006-02-09T11:59:40-05:00 2006-02-09T11:59:40-05:00 article by Jefferson Graham pushes the privacy angle: "will/should consumers be fearful of the privacy issues" associated with the new "search across computers" feature of Google Desktop?

    I spoke to Graham about this late yesterday and told him that I felt Google was being more sensitive to privacy concerns this time around than it has been in the past.

    I also told him I felt that how the issue is presented to consumers — much like a political survey — will determine how consumers react.

    For example, when Americans are asked about whether they are comfortable with Bush's wiretapping program directed at American citizens, a majority say "no." But with the more Orwellian spin of the Bush handlers — "terrorist surveillance program" — people are more inclined to support the illicit operation.

    In my view, the real concern with all the recent Internet privacy debate swirling around Google is not whether the company has my data on its servers as much as who can access that data through Google (i.e., the government). But unless that question is definitively resolved in favor of individual privacy there may not be a practical difference. ]]>
    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[SkypeWeb, Presence Management and PPCall]]> 2006-02-09T09:32:05-05:00 2006-02-09T09:32:05-05:00 2006-02-09T09:32:05-05:00

    Skype, the global Internet communications company, today announced SkypeWeb, a Web presence feature that is already integrated into more than 50 Web sites in 20 countries around the world. SkypeWeb allows people to see Skype users’ online status and call or chat with them from any Web site as well as Skype people from each site with the simple click of a mouse.

    “With just a few simple steps we were able to incorporate SkypeWeb into our AppExchange platform,” said Adam Gross, vice president, developer marketing, “In addition to free Skype voice calls, the SkypeWeb presence feature gives our subscribers the ability to know when their contacts and colleagues are available and online — all directly from within Salesforce."

    SkypeWeb integrates Skype seamlessly and into any Web site. With SkypeWeb, Web administrators can easily enable all site visitors to talk for free over the Internet.

    Here are the buttons.

    There are potentially many things to discuss about this. One is the rapid "mainstreaming" of VoIP. But the thing I want to focus on is the local/PPCall aspect. There's no PPCall system in place yet (it's VoIP click-to-call) but a system like SkypeWeb could become an advertising vehicle for local businesses at some point. (ContactAtOnce distributes "presence management" icons/chat windows as an advertising tool today.)

    According to the Skype release, "DBA.DK the number one Danish classifieds portal, is using SkypeWeb to show the Skype status of people who have posted classified ads."

    This is the kind of functionality that eBay promoted when it bought Skype to enable communication between buyers and sellers. But as the classifieds forum I moderated last night made clear, calls are much more important to local sellers than to e-commerce vendors. Thus the local business implications of click-to-call (and the potential business model layer of PPCall on top of that) are immediate.

    Microsoft suggested integration of VoIP as a layer on top of its Windows Live Local product when Live was launched last year in San Francisco.

    It could well be that every Web site or landing/profile page associated with every local business will one day have such functionality. It could be free, subscription-based or performance-based (PPCall).

    ]]> Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Classifieds Search Forum]]> 2006-02-09T08:38:04-05:00 2006-02-09T08:38:04-05:00 2006-02-09T08:38:04-05:00 SDForum's Search SIG event last night on classifieds and search.

    Panelists were:

    • Bindu Reddy, Product Manager Google Base, Google
    • Craig Donato, Founder/CEO, Oodle
    • Keith Teare, Founder/CEO, Edgeio

    The discussion was very candid and informal and revolved around the transition from traditional classifieds to online, the online classifieds business model (a question that wasn't fully answered to my satisfaction) and the coming impact of self-publishing and RSS on online classifieds (could be revolutionary).

    To that latter point, this was the first time I got a look at Edgeio, which uses the tagline "listings from the edge" ("the edge" might be a fresh and worthy substitute for the somewhat tired term, "the long tail"). Among other things, Edgeio allows people to self-publish "listings" (stuff/services for sale) on their own sites, which then get picked up via RSS and distributed to Edgeio and beyond.

    It has pretty significant implications if it catches on. Teare described the site as a kind of "middleware" in the process of publishing and distributing listings/advertising across the network (this is a cousin of former Tribe CEO Mark Pincus' vision articulated in his keynote at ILM:04). But the site's not public yet and so I won't go into it further.

    The initial question I asked was, "What are classifieds; is there something fundamentally different about classifieds vs. other types of online advertising?" The answers were quite interesting, with Keith Teare arguing essentially that classifieds were just one form of "listings." Craig Donato (who wore a fabulous chartreuse shirt) made a powerful case that there were essential characteristics that distinguished classifieds (they're "perishable," they're local, fulfillment is offline). He argued that these traits required and justified a specific approach.

    Bindu Reddy, who sought to emphasize that Google Base accepts classifieds content but is not "Google Classifieds," (I agree) said some fascinating things about how Google is experimenting with Base (e.g., tagging) and how the organization of content there may have broader implications for the next generation of Google search. (I also had another "vision" of Google's vertical future during her demo.)

    Reddy and Donato agreed that PPCall was a model that would have more and more resonance and application in the local market, including with classifieds (and the Jambo deal reflects that in a traditional publication).

    This was my first such event and I think they're very valuable (here's the calendar), though unfortunately only available to people in the Silicon Valley area. They were recording it for podcast, but I don't yet have a link. I'll post one if I discover it.

    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Google Desktop Upgrade]]> 2006-02-09T01:16:53-05:00 2006-02-09T01:16:53-05:00 2006-02-09T01:16:53-05:00 feature enhancements (remote PC/file access, "undocking" of plugp-ins and sharing functionality). That's a very "quick and dirty" summary. The most interesting feature of the new enhancements from my point of view is the "social" or sharing dimension.

    Users can send articles and "Web Clips" to one another via e-mail or IM or directly to each other's Sidebars. And there's some "wiki-like" functionality in that, in a few cases, people can be in the same module at the same time (think shared "to-do list"'). Right now that wiki/collaborative element is very limited, but it will likely evolve quickly as developers build more of these modules (which have become much more like Yahoo!'s widgets in this version).

    Yahoo! has made huge bets on "social search" and other community functionality and Google has to date not done much in this realm. But the company is moving into tagging rapidly (e.g., Google Base) and these new "social" features of Sidebar create a community/viral dimension that Google hopes will boost adoption.

    It's also interesting to start seeing many elements coming together with intersecting or overlapping functionality: the personalized home page, personal search history, the upgraded toolbar, Gmail + IM, Google Talk in Sidebar, etc.

    You can start to see some set of these functions closing in on some sort of "center," although there won't ever be a single application I don't believe. But over time Google will get a sense of where the concentration of its users are and what they're doing and will emphasize those tools and applications accordingly.


    Here's the official Desktop Google Blog statement. ]]>
    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Google Goes Public with Print]]> 2006-02-08T18:59:37-05:00 2006-02-08T18:59:37-05:00 2006-02-08T18:59:37-05:00 John Battelle for pointing out that Google has gone "public" with its program to allow advertisers to buy access (via auction) to print advertising in some very high-profile magazines:

    As you may know, as part of Google's ongoing effort to develop new opportunities for our advertisers, we've been running tests of ads in a limited number of print publications. Now, we're excited to test an auction of ad space in select magazines.

    In this test, the control is in your hands: you choose the ad size, set your price, and decide how you'd like to use the space. There's no risk to you – you pay only if you win the auction.

    Here's the page that features Martha Stewart Living.

    The catch here is you provide the creative (a barrier for many smaller advertisers). But this is now step 2 (dMarc being step 1) in the process of Google becoming a "unified platform" for media buying — online and off.

    On Day 2 of Drilling Down, we'll have this relevant panel:

    The Future of Local Media Buying: The Integrated Online-Offline Platform
    Until recently, online marketing was regarded with skepticism and ambivalence. In 2005, led by paid search, online marketing in general came to be seen as a credible medium. While newspapers and Internet Yellow Pages have long been selling online advertising on their sites (and more recently into broader networks), the Google acquisition of dMarc suggests a potentially new, more integrated online-offline media future. It also directly brings the harsh light of performance-based marketing and Web analytics to a traditional advertising medium. The panelists will discuss these and other recent developments and what the near and long term will hold for online marketing and interactive local media.

    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Yellow Book Buys Click Forward]]> 2006-02-08T09:54:02-05:00 2006-02-08T09:54:02-05:00 2006-02-08T09:54:02-05:00 Click Forward. Before I saw the release Loren Baker at Search Engine Journal confirmed it.

    Click Forward was started by alumni of WebVisible, formerly SME Global Solutions. And like WebVisible, Local Launch, Reach Local, MatchCraft and Marchex (which just announced a search marketing distribution relationship with The Berry Co.), the company helps enable third parties (e.g., Yellow Pages publishers) to sell search marketing to local businesses in simplified form (flat pricing, guaranteed clicks).

    The release quotes Joe Walsh, Yellow Book's president and CEO:

    "We feel that Click Forward is the best of breed and is a natural fit within our portfolio of products," said Joe Walsh, President and CEO of Yellow Book USA. "By working with Click Forward, Yellow Book will be able to continue to connect buyers and sellers together in a way that will provide more choices to the consumer and a great return on investment for small business owners. The acquisition of Click Forward represents another step in Yellow Book's continued focus on the internet. With over 5,000 sales people nationwide, it makes sense for Yellow Book to innovate and expand its product offerings both in print and online."

    Now Yellow Book can sell search clicks along with its other suite of traditional ad products (it fully controls the offering). The acquisition indicates just how far Yellow Book has come. Formerly a big skeptic of the Internet, Yellow Book is the first to bring one of these "simplified search" businesses in-house. This may set in motion events that result in more consolidation or similar acquisitions by other YP companies. We'll see.

    The move is good for Click Forward because it was one of the smaller and less established players in this market. In addition to the YP publishers, expect more newspapers this year to offer similar products to their local advertisers.

    As we've argued before, traditional media sales channels are the primary way that local businesses will get into paid search marketing — in the near term.

    Here's the press release.

    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[PPCall Goes Offline With Jambo]]> 2006-02-08T09:02:47-05:00 2006-02-08T09:02:47-05:00 2006-02-08T09:02:47-05:00 piece in MediaPost (reg. req'd), PPCall provider Jambo has announced that it will enable PPCall for LA Weekly:

    The first slate of ads will be in the Feb. 9 issue, and will focus on Valentine's Day services, including florists, spas, limos. The ads will be sold through Jambo's own ad-selling platform.

    So, you may ask, why is this a big deal? (It is.)

    It's PPCall in a newspaper (Village Voice Media owns several weeklies throughout the U.S.). If it works, expect to see the Voice expand the program in its other publications, which puts some pressure on other, traditional newspapers to try this (or it will at least start them thinking about it).

    We have argued that one of the really exciting things (and scary to traditional publishers) about PPCall is that it's a performance-based ad medium that can go anywhere in the offline/local world (outdoor, print, TV, etc.).

    Verizon has said it will test PPCall in the print Yellow Pages in special "generic" category ads. But I wouldn't expect other directory publishers to follow suit any time soon. There's too much potential risk.

    This Jambo deal has the potential to really take off and spread in the weekly newspaper world. It's a differentiator in their battle with other media and the Internet to set their advertising apart. And it might also be a weapon in the broader newspaper battle with free classifieds.

    I have been meaning for weeks to write about Jambo and workload has kept me from it.

    Expect to now see PPCall start to penetrate the offlline/traditional media world more rapidly. In The Kelsey Group's upcoming forecast we have performance-based advertising accounting for 10 percent of traditional "directional" ad revenues in 2010 (all of it call driven, obviously). In view of this deal, that might wind up being conservative.

    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Demo Happening]]> 2006-02-08T08:43:06-05:00 2006-02-08T08:43:06-05:00 2006-02-08T08:43:06-05:00
    The Washington Post's Leslie Walker has a rundown of some of the companies and their "demos."

    One company at DEMO with local in its blood is Transparensee. (CEO Steve Lavine has spoken at TKG conferences in the past.) The company has a search technology that helps unearth/discover related items that are similar to the user's initial query (restaurants, real estate, dating, shopping, etc.) It's a B2B enhancement for consumer-facing sites.

    And local is a prime application for the company's technology. ]]>
    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Spot Runner Announces Vertical Partner: Cendant]]> 2006-02-08T08:26:48-05:00 2006-02-08T08:26:48-05:00 2006-02-08T08:26:48-05:00 Spot Runner and Cendant Corp. Cendant is the parent of many familiar travel and real estate brands. For example, Cendant is the world's largest franchisor of real estate brokerage offices, 15,000 to be precise. It also owns Century 21 and Coldwell Banker, among other brands. Spot Runner is the recently launched cable TV buying platform for local businesses (think of it kind of like dMarc for local cable TV).

    Here's the WSJ's piece (sub. req'd) on the partnership:

    Under the deal, Spot Runner will create hundreds of TV commercials that local real-estate brokers and agents affiliated with Cendant's real-estate franchises can customize and then pay to have played in specified local markets. Spot Runner is creating special sites to sell TV ads to the more than 9,000 U.S. real-estate brokerage offices and 260,000 sales agents affiliated with Cendant's real-estate units, which include Century 21 and Coldwell Banker.

    Spot Runner will give those brokers and agents discounted rates, normally less than $500, on creating the custom TV commercials, which may include digital photos of properties agents send them. Spot Runner declined to disclose financial details of the arrangement with Cendant.

    I spoke to WSJ writer Kevin Delaney about the relationship and the final piece is sort of a "just the facts, ma'am" version of our extended conversation.

    One of the things he and I discussed was the challenge that Spot Runner faces. It's a great offering, but there's the difficultly of not only building awareness among local businesses but also getting them to show up and actually set up the campaigns, which is relatively simple to do. This is another version of the familiar "push vs. pull" debate about local businesses and online marketing.

    This "vertical" strategy (and it's not yet a "strategy" for Spot Runner, but may become one) is very smart because Cendant's brands and relationships give Spot Runner instant credibility with these local real estate franchisees. Cendant will also "push" (systematically market) the offering to those local Realtors.

    This goes a very long way to overcoming the inherent challenges of getting local businesses to show up and test the product.

    Kevin and I also discussed something of a paradox about Spot Runner and the Cendant deal. Even as large advertisers (think car companies) are questioning and, in some cases, abandoning TV for the Internet and as TV audiences are fragmenting, this cable TV advertising opportunity will be fresh and exciting for local Realtors. They haven't had the ability to buy TV and Spot Runner now makes that possible.

    I believe the partnership will be successful for Spot Runner and, with corresponding lessons learned, create a kind of "vertical template" for the company going forward. Other professional services categories are ripe for this: lawyers, doctors, accountants, etc.


    Spot Runner Chairman and Chief Executive Nick Grouf will be on the final panel at Drilling Down:

    The Future of Local Media Buying: The Integrated Online-Offline Platform
    Until recently, online marketing was regarded with skepticism and ambivalence. In 2005, led by paid search, online marketing in general came to be seen as a credible medium. While newspapers and Internet Yellow Pages have long been selling online advertising on their sites (and more recently into broader networks), the Google acquisition of dMarc suggests a potentially new, more integrated online-offline media future. It also directly brings the harsh light of performance-based marketing and Web analytics to a traditional advertising medium. The panelists will discuss these and other recent developments and what the near and long term will hold for online marketing and interactive local media.

    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Zillow Launches]]> 2006-02-08T06:55:49-05:00 2006-02-08T06:55:49-05:00 2006-02-08T06:55:49-05:00 Zillow, which apparently stands for "zillions of pillows" (or that's the genesis of the name/URL), launched today.

    The site is a very polished and sophisticated new entrant in the increasingly competitive online real estate market. Its primary — and somewhat amazing — attribute is that you can potentially look up the value of any residential property in most markets across the U.S. (The coverage is not total but impressively broad.)

    It also uses a map as its principal interface (similar to before it).

    For example, here's a valuation on the two-unit apartment I used to live in in San Francisco. And here's more detail on the property. (The owner recently sold it and I think the data reflected are generally accurate.)

    I got a briefing on the site from CEO Rich Barton, founder of Expedia, a couple of weeks ago and was very impressed by the "heavy lifting" he and his team had done to collect, distill, scrub and present all this data. That effort seems to erect fairly significant barriers to duplicating what they've done.

    The site is intended to provide, as Barton said to me, more "transparency" to both buyers and sellers about the value of homes as they're contemplating either side of the transaction. The site intends to support itself with advertising from Realtors and others associated with real estate transactions (mortgage brokers, moving companies, etc.).

    Impressive as Zillow is, the missing piece here is the for-sale listings themselves. In other words, Zillow currently doesn't allow would-be home buyers to look for homes for sale on the site (they have to go to HomeGain,,, Trulia or any number of other sites). So right now it's a tool that complements other sites that present MLS listings.

    Yet to make the site more complete it will eventually need to present this for-sale information. (It might also be a great platform for "for sale by owner" listings.) Yet Barton and co. have many interesting ideas up their collective sleeves for "phase II" and "phase III" features.

    Barton, who is also a partner at VC firm Benchmark Capital, and his team have grabbed a considerable $32 million in funding, which sets the expectations fairly high for them and Zillow.

    I anticipate that as word of Zillow gets out people will show up to check the values of their houses and their neighbors' houses out of curiosity. That will generate some good word of mouth for the site. Barton also indicated he's going to try to syndicate some of the data across the Internet (and perhaps to traditional newspapers).

    I got a question yesterday from a reporter about whether this would "disintermediate" the local Realtor. The short answer is "no." There's still too much micro-local knowledge that can't be embodied on the Internet (and the Internet can't really negotiate for you). But it may over time — depending on its success — put pressure on real estate commissions or enable some incremental number of buyers and sellers, where it's legally possible, to do the transactions themselves. We'll have to see. (Maybe appraisers will have something to fear from Zillow.)

    Real estate is a fascinating market and we believe something of a leading indicator of trends in local. There's a great deal of money circulating in the "real estate ecosystem" — $12 billion annually is spent on advertising, according to the National Assn. of Realtors. And consumers are using the Internet now as an integral part of their home-buying process: 77 percent, according to the same trade association's most recent data.

    It will be interesting to see how the public responds to Zillow, how the site evolves and the response of competitors. And undoubtedly it will ultimately be acquired.

    Another B2B map-based real estate site launched almost simultaneously: (which takes aim at Zillow in its press release). There's a lot of coverage out there. Here's more from the Seattle PI and SiliconBeat. ]]>
    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[A9's Udi Manber Reportedly Going to Google]]> 2006-02-07T17:46:29-05:00 2006-02-07T17:46:29-05:00 2006-02-07T17:46:29-05:00 John Battelle.

    This is obviously a blow to A9 and raises a big question about its future in my mind. It's got lots of innovative features but almost no consumer traction.


    Here's Battelle's updated post about it.

    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Online Influencing Offline]]> 2006-02-07T15:36:06-05:00 2006-02-07T15:36:06-05:00 2006-02-07T15:36:06-05:00 this article, Jupiter says:

    The amount of money consumers spend online is expected to increase 75 percent by 2010, with the Internet influencing nearly half of all U.S. retail sales ... U.S. consumers are expected to spend $144 billion in 2010 from $81 billion last year ... Spending this year is expected to reach $95 billion.

    comScore's full 2005 e-commerce number was $82.7 billion. Yet total U.S. retail spending was more than $3.5 trillion in 2004.

    Thus e-commerce is about 2.5% of total U.S. retail spending. But we agree with the thrust of the Jupiter prediction that the Internet will influence an increasingly large number of total transactions (the overwhelming majority of which will be local/offline in physical stores). ]]>
    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Barriers to Mobile Adoption]]> 2006-02-07T09:07:20-05:00 2006-02-07T09:07:20-05:00 2006-02-07T09:07:20-05:00 piece raising the question, "When o when will users take to the mobile Web in earnest?" Indeed, until they do there can be no effective mass mobile marketing.

    My belief is that the user experiences that drive real adoption will determine what ad models ultimately work in a mobile context.

    According to Forrester's data (cited in the article): 65,000 U.S. households, some 15 percent of mobile services subscribers accessed the Internet from their devices in 2005, compared to only 6 percent in 2004.

    At that rate we're years away from any meaningful adoption. But there are lots of mobile marketing initiatives going on now. That's why we've set up the panel "Mobile Ads That Work Today" at Drilling Down '06:

    Mobile Ads That Work Today
    We keep hearing about wireless/mobile advertising and its potential. But The Kelsey Group argues that potential can’t be realized until there’s substantially more usage to create real value for those marketers. It’s a version of the chicken-and-egg problem of local search two years ago. MSN’s Erik Jorgensen said at ILM:05 that the majority of local search may be conducted on wireless devices in the future. In the meantime, how are carriers, device makers and ad networks dealing with the many challenges of the current wireless environment? Are there ad models that will actually work today or next year, and what sort of user experience will make them viable?


    Here's third-party data compiled by eMarketer on mobile usage in Japan and Asia. Of interest is that 76 percent of Japanese wireless users access the Web over their mobile phones. However, there may be cultural and historical factors here that prevent direct extrapolation to the European and, especially, U.S. markets.

    Greg Sterling <![CDATA['Social Search' and 'Review Fraud']]> 2006-02-07T07:34:28-05:00 2006-02-07T07:34:28-05:00 2006-02-07T07:34:28-05:00 Nielsen BuzzMetrics points me to an article in The N.Y. Times (reg. req'd) on review fraud in the travel industry and specifically with hotel reviews.

    Recently Judy's Book introduced what it calls "TrustScore" to address this potential problem.

    Having some system in place (that isn't too Byzantine) to ensure the integrity of reviews is going to be important as more marketers try and "game the system."

    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[GMail Integrates 'Talk']]> 2006-02-07T00:33:11-05:00 2006-02-07T00:33:11-05:00 2006-02-07T00:33:11-05:00

  • Potentially differentiate GMail
  • Offer the first (that I know of) browser access to IM/chat
  • Potentially expose more GMail users to Google Talk functionality and thus, longer term, potentially boost the Google Talk user base.
    Chat "transcripts" are archived like mail and will be scanned like mail and contextually relevant ads will be served against them. More GMail usage = more page views, more ads and more clicks.

    The presence awareness feature is a nice aspect of all this, as is the browser-based IM functionality. Here are the official FAQs.

    According to Nielsen traffic data cited by MediaPost (reg. req'd):

    Google's e-mail service is the fourth most popular on the Web, but lags far behind the three market leaders — Yahoo, AOL, and MSN Hotmail ... Gmail last month had 6.7 million users, compared to Yahoo Mail's 50.7 million, AOL's 34.3 million, and MSN's 31.3 million. AOL's instant messenger was the most popular IM service, wtih 52.8 million users — followed by MSN Messenger, with 27.2 million, and Yahoo Messenger, with 21.8 million.

    Now that it's live in my GMail account and I've had a bit of a chance to use it, I can say that the integration is very convenient and seems to work well. (Although it takes a little getting used to.)

    Here's a full write-up from The N.Y. Times today (reg. req'd) and more from Chris Sherman at Search Engine Watch.


    Google's running its own version of the "switch" campaign for e-mail.

    Update: I was corrected by a reader that Yahoo! has had browser-based chat for some time, though not yet integrated into e-mail. ]]> Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Hearsay Dept: 'Googster']]> 2006-02-06T19:26:23-05:00 2006-02-06T19:26:23-05:00 2006-02-06T19:26:23-05:00 SiliconBeat discusses an unsubstantiated rumor about a possible Google acquisition of now tainted "social networking" (read: dating) site Friendster.

    Back in 2003 Google reportedly made an offer for Friendster (in the $30 million range — also unsubstantiated). Friendster, riding high at the time, spurned the offer, according to hearsay.

    Yahoo! has been gobbling up every new social/"Web 2.0" site in sight. But Google has made few forays into this realm. It's own Orkut has enjoyed limited success.

    Highly unlikely, but we'll see what happens. And, by the way, "" is taken.


    One longtime "industry observer" I casually mentioned this to suggested that such rumors are usually started by the companies seeking to be acquired themselves as a last-ditch effort to create buzz.

    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Mobile Content in SB Ads]]> 2006-02-06T08:19:07-05:00 2006-02-06T08:19:07-05:00 2006-02-06T08:19:07-05:00 here. (You can also watch and vote for favorites at AOL.)

    I counted at least three ads touting mobile content: Motorola/Verizon, Sprint and ESPN; in other words, trying to promote mobile data usage and the phone as something other than a phone.

    The Motorola RAZR ad in particular was striking for its "meta communication." It showed a paperboy on a bike, delivering the newspaper and a homeowner (male) focused on his phone. When the newspaper flies into his yard the man picks it up and, without even considering it, heaves the paper back at the boy. The "tag" on the commercial was a promotion for Verizon content services (including "news and weather").

    The clear message of the commercial was: "you don't need the newspaper anymore now that you have mobile content on your phone." Ouch! — literally, as the paper hit the kid in the head.

    Next year will we see an ad for Google or Yahoo! Maps and other mobile local services?


    Here's more on the commercials from Search Engine Journal and from the WSJ (sub. req'd).

    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Google, Skype Invest in FON]]> 2006-02-06T07:19:16-05:00 2006-02-06T07:19:16-05:00 2006-02-06T07:19:16-05:00 FON? No it's not a Spanish dessert — that's flan — although it is based in Spain.

    FON is an effort to build a global Wi-Fi network of hotspots with existing broadband connectivity — "members" are referred to as "Foneros" (Arriba!). These can be established ISPs as well as individuals. Google, eBay/Skype, Sequoia Capital and Index Ventures invested $22 million in the effort.

    Here's an AP article explaining FON, as well as identifying some of the potential challenges to the realization of FON's objectives.

    Here are the FAQs and here are some of the interesting people (scroll) behind FON.

    Both Google and Skype have a keen interest in seeing Wi-Fi/broadband proliferate. Whether FON ultimately takes the place of the hypothetical GoogleNet initiative is unclear. And whether FON ultimately succeeds or fails, the development of low-cost or free-access broadband networks will undoubtedly continue.

    In terms of the local angle, obviously a Wi-Fi hotspot provides precise location information and would allow for more geographically relevant organic or paid search results (without a user inputting location information).

    Broadband is of critical importance to anyone whose business model is tied to the Internet. And we’ll be examining the state of and outlook for continued broadband growth on the panel “The Broadband Juggernaut: Slowing Down or Speeding Up?” on day 1 of Drilling Down.

    Here's Om Malik's post on the investment (he'll be speaking on the broadband panel mentioned above BTW).

    And here's more from SiliconBeat.

    Here's the latest on the Google "dark fiber" rumors. ]]>
    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Navigators Wanted]]> 2006-02-03T18:53:56-05:00 2006-02-03T18:53:56-05:00 2006-02-03T18:53:56-05:00 Reuters discusses the VW-Google partnership to develop a "prototype vehicle which features Google Inc.'s satellite mapping software to give drivers a bird's eye view of the road ahead." Nvidia is also part of the deal.

    There's lots to say about the long-term potential here: personalization, routing with brands and advertising on the map, click-to-call/PPCall and so on.

    Without too much imagination, one can imagine a range of interesting local and local advertising possibilities.

    Let's see if it makes it to market.
    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Online Newspaper Growth a Bright Spot]]> 2006-02-02T15:36:49-05:00 2006-02-02T15:36:49-05:00 2006-02-02T15:36:49-05:00 gloomy reports (WSJ sub. req'd) about the health of print newspapers, there's some very good news in online revenues and traffic growth for newspaper sites. According to Nielsen and the NAA:

    Both the overall number and percentage of Internet users visiting newspaper Web sites hit new all-time highs in November 2005, according to a new report by Nielsen//NetRatings for the Newspaper Association of America. The data, which takes into account home and work Internet usage, shows that more than 55 million people visited newspaper Web sites in November, a 30 percent increase (42.5 million) from the same period a year ago.

    The November visitors also represent more than one third (36 percent) of all active Internet users that month, the most of any month since NAA began tracking online usage in January 2004.

    For the year’s fourth quarter, the monthly unique audience averaged more than 53.6 million and 35.2 percent of all active Web users. The time Internet users spend on newspaper sites also continues to rise as users’ visits averaged 42 minutes a month during the quarter.

    In addition, news content is the No. 1 type of content that users seek out online.

    Separately, here's a piece in Ad Age (reg. req'd) about Neil Budde and Yahoo! News and the delicate dance he's doing with his traditional media partners:

    “We’re not interested in setting up a full news service with a correspondent in the White House,” said Neil Budde at the Software & Information Industry Association meeting held at New York’s Cipriani restaurant on 42nd Street. Perhaps to calm the jittery nerves of some of the traditional-media pros in the audience, he added, “We want to be your partners.”]]>
    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Google Click-to-Call (PPCall?)]]> 2006-02-02T11:47:31-05:00 2006-02-02T11:47:31-05:00 2006-02-02T11:47:31-05:00 piece on Google's "click-to-call" initiative. According to the article, the company is working with Florida-based VoIP Inc.

    Click-to-call is not PPCall. There are many companies using click-to-call, which is about connecting calls between individuals and merchants. PPCall is a business model that can be built upon click-to-call. It seems, however, pretty certain that Google's rollout of PPCall is imminent.

    Once that happens, or maybe before, we’ll see Yahoo! go live with PPCall and later MSN. Here’s a list of average PPCall prices (from several providers) in several top YP categories:

    • Florists ($2.50)
    • Lawyers ($10-$30)
    • Towing ($8)
    • Carpet Cleaning ($8)
    • Travel ($8)
    • Dentists ($5)
    • Mortgage ($35)
    • Cosmetic Surgery ($20)
    • Auto Glass ($15)

    The average click price at the national level at the end of 2005 was $1.43, according to Fathom Online's keyword price index.

    Of course this also could be about Google offering calls to consumers and thus creating another revenue stream, a la Vonage or Skype. But that's less likely in the near term.

    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Yahoo! Local Provides 'Answers']]> 2006-02-02T10:04:34-05:00 2006-02-02T10:04:34-05:00 2006-02-02T10:04:34-05:00 Yahoo! Answers launched it was immediately clear that people would be asking for local recommendations and seeking answers to questions with local implications.

    Now, consistent with Yahoo!'s strategy to push user-generated content from anywhere within Yahoo! to anywhere else relevant within the network, the company has started to integrate Answers information into Local.

    Here's a San Francisco page that shows some of that content integration (middle of the page: "people are asking about.")

    You can also find, among other information, local business content in Answers directly. (Scroll lower left for cities.)

    Yahoo! is starting to reap the benefits of its multifaceted "social search" strategy and it could pay long-term dividends for the company. User-generated recommendations and referrals are uneven but often of very high quality or at least unique. That's because this is information (online word of mouth) that might not be available through search or otherwise online at all. ]]>
    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[StepUp to the Future of Online (Local) Shopping ]]> 2006-02-02T08:51:55-05:00 2006-02-02T08:51:55-05:00 2006-02-02T08:51:55-05:00 StepUp launched a couple of years ago with the intention of delivering real-time inventory information and product availability to the Internet it was met with considerable skepticism, along the lines of "yeah, how are they gonna do that?" and "good luck."

    But now that the company has a deal with Google to provide local shopping information, it's clear that other shopping search engines have to take notice. (CNet and Yokel offer versions of this.)

    As we've pointed out before, e-commerce (though impressive and growing) is only 2.5 percent of all U.S. retail spending, according to the U.S. Commerce Dept. (Forrester has a somewhat larger number). It doesn't matter, however, whether the actual number is what the U.S. says it is or Forrester's larger projection. Even in the most "optimistic" scenario, online shopping is no more than 5 percent of total retail spending.

    Yet our data show that 70 percent of local consumers (which is everybody ultimately) are using the Internet to find products and services locally. That doesn't mean they're not using other traditional media. However, it does mean they're online doing research and price comparisons — and then spend their money in a physical store (whether it's a mom-and-pop or a Best Buy).

    So what does this mean? It means that consumers are generally not finding information about where they can buy products locally online or they're having great difficulty in doing so.

    Google's decision to be "agnostic" about whether consumers buy something online or locally is smart, given consumer interests and behavior, and I would expect other shopping engines to follow suit this year.

    If they don't they may put themselves at a competitive disadvantage and potentially leave money on the table. E-commerce isn't going to take over the world as everyone once thought; it's just one channel.

    The far larger channel — but increasingly influenced by the Internet — is offline/local shopping.


    Some interesting data compiled by eMarketer on multi-channel/big-box retailers. ]]>
    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[WLL Super Bowl Mashup]]> 2006-02-02T07:03:02-05:00 2006-02-02T07:03:02-05:00 2006-02-02T07:03:02-05:00 Super Bowl mashup. (So there's a football pun/joke in there, but I'm going to leave it alone.)

    Here's the official MSN/WLL word on the site:

    [MSN has] created a Super Bowl mashup to help the thousands of fans expected to travel to Detroit for the game navigate their way around, look for parking, hotels and directions to the stadium, as well as find good places to eat, drink, or to pass the time before Sunday’s game ... [P]eople can view a map of Detroit with information on local attractions, such as the Motown Museum or the Detroit Opera House. Also, we’ve just added Detroit to the list of major cities with birds-eye aerial imagery.

    I continue to be amazed by the "bird's-eye" imagery. Too bad it's not real time so you can actually see how many parking spots are left in that Historic Trinity Lutheran Church parking lot.

    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Simply Hired Is Simply Fascinating ]]> 2006-02-02T05:12:56-05:00 2006-02-02T05:12:56-05:00 2006-02-02T05:12:56-05:00 Simply Hired. Beyond some interesting things that they were telling me about their roadmap, I was fascinated by the "vertical"' vs. "horizontal" search discussion we had.

    My personal belief is that the more verticals there are, the more people will "default" to general search engines because they're overwhelmed and confused. However, there are lots and lots of interesting things going on in "vertical search" or verticals where search is the primary navigation tool.

    Simply Hired is a "metasearch" engine for jobs (job search is inherently local), but on top of search results the company is building lots and lots of added value. In other words, aggregating the listings from multiple providers (including the big three) is just the beginning.

    Look at this result for "marketing" + "new york." Beyond the filtering of results by selected criteria (e.g., location, education level, company size, etc.), one can save jobs, rate jobs, map jobs, virally e-mail jobs, do salary research and, perhaps most significantly, network via linked-in (find contacts who work or have worked at the company).

    All these additional job-specific services illustrate the value verticals can bring to the user experience that is hard for general search engines to duplicate for many reasons.

    As I've remarked before, we're seeing the development of an "ecosystem" in which the general/horizontal search engines are where many "verticals" are discovered by consumers and in the subsequent exploration or drill down within the vertical is where the potentially best hand-off is to the advertiser (or at least this is the vertical argument. But this is seemingly proven in IYP contexts; IYPs aren't a "vertical" per se, but see below.)

    In this "vertical environment" is also where you're likely to find the bulk of local businesses going forward, for many reasons. (This applies to newspapers and Yellow Pages sites as well, which are obviously not "verticals" but stand in the same relation as verticals to general Web search in the broader structure of the ecosystem.)]]>
    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Newspapers Are Mad at Search Engines]]> 2006-02-01T18:59:16-05:00 2006-02-01T18:59:16-05:00 2006-02-01T18:59:16-05:00 this article this morning but was racing out to a meeting at and so I didn't have time to do a post earlier. From Reuters:

    The Paris-based World Association of Newspapers, whose members include dozens of national newspaper trade bodies, said it is exploring ways to "challenge the exploitation of content by search engines without fair compensation to copyright owners."

    Web sites like Google and its specialized Google News service automatically pull in headlines, photos and short excerpts of articles from thousands of news sources, linking back to the publishers' own site. Google News does not currently carry advertising.

    "They're building a new medium on the backs of our industry, without paying for any of the content," Ali Rahnema, managing director of the association, told Reuters in an interview.

    "The news aggregators are taking headlines, photos, sometimes the first three lines of an article — it's for the courts to decide whether that's a copyright violation or not."

    While this attitude (and the frustration behind it) is certainly understandable, it's unlikely that a litigation-oriented approach will be successful as a strategy for newspapers in the long run.

    This is a larger version of the Craigslist-Oodle aggregators vs. content producer debate. (And see Jakob Nielsen's anti-search screed as another salvo in this same debate.)

    The newspapers (at least as represented in WAN's public statements) are frustrated that Google, Yahoo! and others appear to be reaping the benefits of their content creation while they struggle to maintain subscribers and defend against advertiser defections. But it's a mistake to simply say, by implication, our industry's challenges and problems can be attributed to news aggregators that take our content for free.

    I'm quite sympathetic to newspapers and believe that news organizations have a critical role to play in democratic societies and thus need to succeed and thrive online (The N.Y. Times broke the NSA wiretapping story, not a blogger and not TV).

    If the newspapers can collectively negotiate some financial/content licensing arrangement with news aggregators (one of which, Topix, is owned by newspapers) that's great. However, ultimately, they should focus on delivering value to their users and advertisers and working together to create networks to leverage their traffic — rather than on legal efforts to block or tax the collection and distribution of their content.

    Litigation in this case is not a competitive strategy; it's a form of denial.


    Danny Sullivan at Search Engine Watch does a nice roundup of the coverage of the "newspapers want search engines to pay" story.

    My colleague Mike Boland points me to this news aggregation aggregator. :)

    And, from the other end of the spectrum, AT&T raises the toll road question again per Om Malik.

    Greg Sterling <![CDATA['Need Something' Ad Campaign]]> 2006-02-01T09:43:30-05:00 2006-02-01T09:43:30-05:00 2006-02-01T09:43:30-05:00 posted about the "Need Something" ad campaign when it officially launched earlier this week.

    Here's more on the size and reach of the campaign from ClickZ. You can view the online ads here and the TV ads here.

    I think both sets of ads are quite effective (in particular the TV spots are clever). It remains to be seen whether the campaign will have the desired impact and help burn the brand into consumers' minds as a local search destination. At a minimum, I think they will get consumers who are currently unaware of the site to check it out.

    As I've written before, there has to be a there there when consumers show up. And the site has made great strides in usability. Yet must continue to develop itself as a consumer destination to be competitive over the long term. An intuitive URL and great brand are only part of the equation. Of course, Charles Stubbs and his team know this very well. is also being quite aggressive in developing a distribution network and recently announced a significant partnership with Yahoo! (an extension and expansion of the previous SBC, BellSouth deals).

    Surveying the local online space, we can see not only growth and opportunity, but furious competition as well. It's a very exciting as well as perilous time for traditional media companies, including Yellow Pages publishers, trying to develop their online properties into real growth and revenue engines.

    It's great to see really putting the "pedal to the metal" (to use an old colloquialism) in promoting itself and trying to build consumer awareness.

    I believe this campaign is coming at the right time and really has a shot at "priming the pump" but must continue to innovate and focus on the user experience if it really wants the campaign to pay long-term dividends. ]]>
    Greg Sterling <![CDATA['Point & Search' Part II]]> 2006-02-01T08:57:52-05:00 2006-02-01T08:57:52-05:00 2006-02-01T08:57:52-05:00 Search Engine Journal covers the recent GeoVector/Mapion announcement about "point and search" mobile local technology in Japan.

    From the GeoVector announcement:

    With Mapion Local Search, users can now walk down the street anywhere in Japan and point at over 700,000 objects such as buildings, shops, restaurants, banks, historical sites and instantly retrieve information on what they are looking at or find what they are looking for just by pointing their phone. Just like one uses a mouse to click on an object on a computer screen and retrieve information, now users can Click on the Real World® using their mobile phone.

    There's a company called NeoMedia, which has similar technology, that I wrote about awhile ago. And my colleague Mike Boland previously wrote about "point and search" mobile-local/visual model last year.

    What's interesting — and exciting — about this is the way in which this kind of model potentially accommodates the limitations of current cellphones and is relatively "passive" for users. ]]>
    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Google Is Human]]> 2006-02-01T08:08:01-05:00 2006-02-01T08:08:01-05:00 2006-02-01T08:08:01-05:00
    I had expected Google to beat expectations. But the key word here is "expectations." If you look at what the company actually did, the results were impressive. Google revenues were $1.92 billion vs. $1.57 billion last quarter (22 percent growth, up from 14 percent vs. Q2). So revenue growth has accelerated.

    These are very solid figures. They're just not mind boggling compared with Google's history of triple-digit revenue growth.

    Google investors are a tough crowd — 86 percent growth (vs. last year) wasn't good enough. Admittedly, Google itself has conditioned expectations and set the bar pretty high with its past performance. But it's as if investors are saying the equivalent of "we expect a 100-point game every time" (to use a basketball analogy).

    That's just not possible.

    There are plenty of reasons to believe that Google's future performance will continue to be very strong. The company has consumer market-share leadership, which should continue for the immediate future at least. And, according to this MediaPost article (reg. req'd) citing an advertiser survey, marketers perceive greater value in Google advertising than in that of its main rivals:

    About 71 percent of respondents said that search ads on Google were effective, compared to 62 percent who considered search ads on Yahoo effective and 49 percent who thought MSN search ads were effective.

    In addition, WebSideStory asserts that search marketing produces double the conversions of other types of online marketing. Conversion here is defined as the percentage of visitors who click on a search result and go on to make a purchase or conduct a transaction of some sort. That percentage was 2.3 percent. (For every 100 consumers, 2.3 went on to spend money.)

    So search can be expected to continue to attract marketing dollars. And it's still very much an "immature" medium; we estimate there are only about 475,000 to 500,000 such advertisers across the globe.

    Moreover, the Internet is not going away. While there are challenges to growth on the advertiser side (bringing in more small businesses and so on) consumers show no signs of abandoning the Internet or search engines any time soon.

    All these factors point to continued strong performance though perhaps not at the triple-digit levels of the past.

    Google set up its bifurcated stock structure to partly insulate itself against the "whims" of the marketplace. (And it doesn't provide guidance for analysts.) That "insulation" isn't entirely working, as the company clearly feels the pressure to perform and explain why it didn't do better than expected.

    That pressure should accelerate Google's efforts to diversify some of its revenues and roll out more new consumer and advertiser offerings this year.

    Effectively, that means no letup in competition among the major brands (Google, Yahoo!, MSN, AOL), which, as one VC recently put it to me, "are in a feature war," and no rest for those of us who cover them.


    More analysis from Andrew Goodman at Traffick and extensive information and analysis from The Internet Stock Blog.

    Here's Om Malik's Business 2.0 piece. ]]>
    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Muni Wi-Fi and Sling Bling]]> 2006-01-31T07:41:22-05:00 2006-01-31T07:41:22-05:00 2006-01-31T07:41:22-05:00 finalized its deal with Philadelphia to provide what amounts to wholesale wireless/Wi-Fi access that can then be resold to ISPs (which would then sell to consumers). So this isn't "free" Wi-Fi, but reportedly EarthLink would only be charging $9 per month as a wholesale rate — so retail costs could wind up being pretty low (given potential competition). Regardless, Philly wants to keep the ultimate costs under $20 for city residents. This is probably the model for municipal Wi-Fi "going foward" (rather than free).

    In addition, EarthLink is the latest to launch VoIP. We're likely to see an accelaration of VoIP adoption late this year or perhaps very early next year.

    Separately, per SiliconBeat, MetroFi is launching Wi-Fi for Santa Clara and Cupertino, California. This one is free and intended to be ad-supported. From the MetroFi press release:

    The MetroFi network also brings a new opportunity for local businesses to reach the community through a truly local internet advertising medium. Customers that are accessing the network will be shown a banner advertisement in the frame of the browser. Local businesses can take advantage of the local and regional nature of the network by providing links to their website, coupons or announcements to those that are guaranteed to be near their establishment.

    But here's a skeptical article that appeared in The Mercury News.

    And here's a totally unrelated development (also per the intrepid folks at SiliconBeat): Sling Media raised a whopping $46 million round of financing:

    Sling Media, Inc., a digital lifestyle products company, today announced it closed a $46.6 million round of financing. Goldman, Sachs & Co., Liberty Media Corporation and Echostar Communications led the financing round. Allen & Co. LLC, DCM — Doll Capital Management, Mobius Venture Capital, The Hearst Corporation and other undisclosed investors also participated in the financing ...

    Sling Media’s first product, the Slingbox™, is a breakthrough consumer electronics device that enables consumers to watch their living room TV programming from wherever they are by turning virtually any Internet-connected Windows-based laptop or desktop and any Windows Mobile-based PDA or smartphone into a personal TV. The Slingbox redirects, or “placeshifts,” a single live TV stream from a basic cable connection, cable box, satellite receiver or digital video recorder (DVR) to the viewer’s PC — located anywhere in the home or anywhere in the world, via the Internet.

    Why do we care about this? Because it's part of two important trends:

    1. Fragmentation of the consumer audience and increasing consumer control over media consumption
    2. The transformation of TV/video into a targeting medium

    Those are themes at this year's Drilling Down event. ]]>
    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Will the Real 'True Local' Please Stand Up?]]> 2006-01-30T04:29:50-05:00 2006-01-30T04:29:50-05:00 2006-01-30T04:29:50-05:00 True Local search engine has gone live in Australia. Its purpose is to compete with Sensis and it's "powered" by News Corp.-owned newspapers. This is an interesting thing for U.S.-based newspapers to consider, but perhaps impossible for them to pull off as a collective (sort of a approach).

    I suspect we can expect a similar launch in the U.S. in the near term, given all Rupert Murdoch's statements and his aggressive buying of online properties. The only problem is that there's already an established True Local search engine: So this launch reflects either arrogance or stupidity or some mysterious combination of the two.

    Unless they intend to build a separate local search brand in the U.S., which is possible, they can't think that they're going to be able to use that brand (indeed, the URL is gone). has been operating as a commercial enterprise for well over a year and has plans to expand its geographic coverage.

    While two brands or identical company names can exist in circumstances where they're in different businesses, they cannot where there is a "substantial likelihood of consumer confusion." And unless I miss my guess, two local search engines with the name "True Local" would probably be confusing to the ordinary consumer.

    So we've got a bit of a David vs. Goliath story here, unless, as I said, News Corp. creates a completely different local search brand in the U.S. Regardless, we can probably say with 100 percent certainty that News Corp./Fox will be getting into local search "stateside."

    Yet another player to stir things up (and cover). [:0] ]]>
    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[AOL Ready to Give BB Another Go]]> 2006-01-30T04:05:51-05:00 2006-01-30T04:05:51-05:00 2006-01-30T04:05:51-05:00
    AOL had limited success with this the first time around, so why is the company "giving it another go"? This Reuters article quotes Joe Redling, president of AOL access services:

    "What we've seen from early indications is that as we've moved customers from dial-up to broadband, we've seen significant improvements in member life ... It's really a long-term play to stabilize the membership."

    Despite the fact that AOL has been losing dial-up subscribers, it still has more than 20 million.

    And a high-speed offering will enable AOL to have a more direct channel into broadband homes, which are characterized by more disposable income and education. It may also more effectively enable the company to sell things like its TotalTalk VoIP offering (which is, of course, directly competitive with its telco partners' fixed line phone businesses). ]]>
    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Google Adds Personalization to Toolbar Upgrade]]> 2006-01-30T01:28:08-05:00 2006-01-30T01:28:08-05:00 2006-01-30T01:28:08-05:00 here.

    Worth noting from my point of view are the following:

    • Bookmarks (the ability to add any page or custom search to the toolbar; it's the return of bookmarks to a degree)
    • Custom buttons (Google has created a bunch of custom buttons and an API to allow third parties to create them — a la "widgets")
    • Send to (ability to share Web sites through e-mail, SMS or publish on blogger). Yahoo! currently offers a comparable feature
    • Account sign-in (from the toolbar; creates another incentive to sign up for an account/Gmail)
    Google also enables users to put Local, Froogle, Image Search, Video, News and Gmail (as mentioned) into the toolbar. Will this affect use of these services? It could well boost their visibility and, ultimately, their usage.

    For example, I rarely use Froogle (except when I'm comparing it with other services for my work). But with the button always there, it's very easy to click over and use Froogle to do a quick product search, etc. No need to go to Shopzilla or or eBay for these sorts of casual lookups. Just click the button and execute the search. (It removes a step.) Same thing for local: click the button, do the search; it's more "elegant" than conducting a local search on and clicking the compass icon after the fact.

    The previously much-criticized "Autolink" feature does some interesting things with Local, displaying all the addresses that appear on a map (e.g., "wine shops, Oakland, CA"') as a pull-down menu. That enables the user to quickly select a location if s/he knows it ("I want the one on Main," etc.).

    Google has a new marketing (and to some degree branding) vehicle to build awareness for these various services (Local, Video, Froogle) through their (opt-in) presence on the toolbar. And the Google Pack "Updater" will notify users of changes and updates, etc. How about a Google Music or Google Travel button in the future?

    We previously wrote about toolbars (in an ILM Client Advisory) as a driver of search market share and how they will become more strategic over time. Yahoo! had the greatest toolbar share, according to comScore (July '05: 51 percent of all toolbar searches). About 12 percent of all U.S. searches were executed through toolbars in July, an 8 percent increase over 2004, according to comScore.

    I'm sure I haven't captured all the tricks the new toolbar can and will be able to do. But the thing that is most intriguing to me is the way in which the toolbar can house alerts/dynamic searches and could potentially become an RSS reader.

    Third parties can create buttons (think blogs: "add to Google Toolbar"') or users can effectively plug feeds into the bookmarks feature. Therefore, it's possible to use the toolbar for all your feeds — something the "ordinary user" won't think about or discover in the near term.

    But what that "ordinary" person might well do is set up a Google Alert for some term (e.g., "Kelsey Group") and plug that dynamic search result into his/her bookmarks. This is something that A9 now permits.

    Imagine third parties creating buttons or feeds (as more sites are doing) for specials/deals/offers that can become buttons or persistent searches in the toolbar. It creates some very interesting possibilities.

    Despite the 1,000,001 toolbars out there, Google and Yahoo! are dominant in terms of market share. They each offer somewhat different features and are thus complementary. Until now, one of the advantages of the Yahoo! toolbar over Google's was the custom buttons (Yahoo! gave you two). The new Google toolbar offers almost unlimited customization possibilities through buttons and bookmarks.

    Yahoo!'s toolbar also has "anti-spy," a feature that the new Google toolbar doesn't offer (which I use to delete tracking cookies every day). Indeed, Google hasn't duplicated all the features on the Yahoo! toolbar, but it has eliminated the "customization gap" that existed and created a broader range of potential personalization opportunities.

    In addition, the Google toolbar ties in to Google's personalized home page (for those registered and signed in) and to your "search history." In this way we start to see how the "Fusion" strategy might knit together some of these disparate elements (personalized home, sidebar, desktop search, toolbar).

    Google right now has a "many doors" approach, in that users can access Google and search through any number of tools and utilities (personalized home, sidebar, toolbar, desktop search, etc.). Over time it will start to be clear to Google how users are predominantly tapping into its features and services, and the company will place emphasis accordingly.

    Toolbars have been important, but we expect that over time they will become even more strategic. Yahoo! will not likely leave this development unanswered (at the very least I'd anticipate more custom buttons to be introduced).

    So expect more competition and increasing levels of functionality on the "toolbar front" in the future.

    More from Chris Sherman at Search Engine Watch.

    Here's some interesting discussion of tagging and bookmarking and the new toolbar at Search Engine Journal. ]]>
    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[What's in a Name(TM)?]]> 2006-01-28T04:57:41-05:00 2006-01-28T04:57:41-05:00 2006-01-28T04:57:41-05:00
    Here's a post by Danny Sullivan (SEW) about a dispute between Judy's Book and presumably Yahoo! regarding Judy's Book's asserted trademark over the term "social search." Judy's Book has been granted the registered trademark to the term

    As Danny suggests in his post, "social search" is a little like a "generic term" that has been used for a few years with increasing frequency as the market has evolved.

    Now Judy's Book can send "cease and desist" letters to the host of companies directly or indirectly using the term in their marketing. If they do, it won't necessarily do anything for them; however, if they get a lot of coverage on this story that might be good for their consumer awareness.

    Judy's Book, which is run by smart people, will sink or swim not on the marketing value of the term "social search," but on the merits of the user experience it offers and the value it delivers to local advertisers (to which the company sells phone leads, otherwise know as "pay per [phone] call.")

    Speaking of which, the term "pay per call" has been TM'd by Ingenio. So everyone else in the phone leads business needs to use another term — and they're starting to.

    In the PPCall arena there might be a few more (marketing) reasons (than in "social search") to assert trademark rights over "pay per call." Yet, again, whether a service is called "pay per call," "pay per phone call," "phone leads," "performance calls," whatever ... the value delivered to Ingenio's advertisers and its partner distribution network will determine whether the company achieves its ultimate business objectives.

    "Google" and "Yahoo!" are essentially nonsense terms that have become mega-brands because of what they actually do and deliver for people.

    In fact, if you start a company today and you want your brand and your URL to be the same you have to "make up a word," as Richard Barton, CEO of new real estate site Zillow, told me today (more on Zillow later).

    Somebody needs to write a piece about all the distorted names and brands of new companies out there because all the URLs are taken. Case in point: Here's another new (health) search engine: Kosmix.]]>
    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[New Google SERP Display]]> 2006-01-27T10:42:22-05:00 2006-01-27T10:42:22-05:00 2006-01-27T10:42:22-05:00 screenshot of the test.

    More to come later. Precious little additional info in this article. ]]>
    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[]]> 2006-01-27T09:18:01-05:00 2006-01-27T09:18:01-05:00 2006-01-27T09:18:01-05:00 Gary Price speculating about and discussing the seemingly impending Google Music.

    Music and other potential vertical domains raise the broader question of how Google intends to handle "vertical search" going forward — separate sites for everything (video, local, shopping, music, travel, financial, etc.)? Although one might argue for a separate "media hub" that contained video and music, etc.

    Earlier I wrote about the current Google Music search as one indicator of how Google might be handling verticals and still maintaining the primacy of the domain:

    As I’ve argued before, Google is “ambivalent” about verticals — the company wants to push out as much as it can through results. It created “News,” “Local,” “Shopping,” “Blog Search,” “Video” and some other arguable “verticals” because it felt it needed to do so to offer the optimal user experience. But the company doesn’t want to keep doing this for every possible content area: Finance, Health, Cars, Jobs, Real Estate and so on.

    Google would really start fragmenting its audience, which is a big problem with local generally. So what does it do as it expands its “content” offerings and introduces richer data for each new area?

    It does what the company is starting to do in music and doing in weather. But an even better example is what it’s doing with movie showtimes. Google is offering what we might call “Page 2.”

    You get a tease or a set of links on top of the search results page (similar to Local now), and then you’ll be taken into a specialized content area. This is how Google will keep users going to (where most go anyway) and also offer a competitive “vertical” experience (Page 2), where the features and content can be tailored to the specific topic: Cars, Jobs, Real Estate, Movies, Finance, Music, etc.

    Google also starts to create very valuable ad inventory on these pages — inventory arguably much more valuable than that on

    This is, I believe, how Google solves and resolves the problem of maintaining its almost religious devotion to “one box” and while offering richer/deeper content and specific navigation — a vertical user experience — in particular areas, which it needs to do to maintain market share and, ultimately, deliver more value to marketers over the long term.

    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Bullish on InfoSpace]]> 2006-01-26T19:26:37-05:00 2006-01-26T19:26:37-05:00 2006-01-26T19:26:37-05:00 Dogpile, "what do they want to be when they grow up?" In other words, what's their business model?

    Here's a very bullish piece, originally published in The Motley Fool, that argues the model is healthy and InfoSpace is undervalued by the market:

    Last night, InfoSpace closed out 2005 in fine fashion. Earnings before one-time favorable charges rose from $1.40 to $1.60 per share, while revenues came in 36% higher to hit $340 million.

    Even after buying back $70 million worth of its stock, the company's cash balance remains strong, clocking in at $11.16 a share. Back that out to arrive at an enterprise value of less than $450 million. A leading and consistently profitable technology company at just 2.2 times 2005 sales? Let's put this into perspective. Last month, Motley Fool Stock Advisor pick Electronic Arts (Nasdaq: ERTS - News) agreed to buy online gaming upstart Jamdat Mobile (Nasdaq: JMDT - News) at more than 10 times trailing revenue.

    Adding a little more color to that particular acquisition, EA's buyout price of $680 million would be more than enough to swallow InfoSpace whole, yet InfoSpace's mobile revenues are nearly twice Jamdat's.

    While InfoSpace owns a very small share of the consumer search market, it has considerable mobile assets that are not as visible to consumers (or many in the industry for that matter). Separately, today, the company announced a multiyear renewal of its relationship with Yahoo! (search results and text advertising). ]]>
    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[MyYahoo! to Get Push It Deserves?]]> 2006-01-26T10:51:14-05:00 2006-01-26T10:51:14-05:00 2006-01-26T10:51:14-05:00 Om Malik reports that it may be ready to rise to the level of attention that it deserves internally.

    It’s really a potential personal dashboard for search, local, email, news, mobile, video, calendar, etc.—everything to help users manage what is now coming to be know as “the digital lifestyle.” Let’s see what evolves/emerges.
    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[TV Advertisers Cling to Oscars, SuperBowl]]> 2006-01-26T06:37:31-05:00 2006-01-26T06:37:31-05:00 2006-01-26T06:37:31-05:00 advertisers are clinging to large-scale “live TV” events that still draw large audiences, i.e., the “Oscars” and the Super Bowl. There’s something of a paradox going on: even as audiences shrink, TV networks (in certain cases) have been able to command advertising premiums and the Super Bowl is an example (rates are up from last year).

    But every day brings news of another video search/video sharing Web site.

    How is all this viral video and fragmentation going to ultimately impact TV advertising and the targeting strategies that must emerge to compensate for loss of audience reach? For example, what will be the contextual match for two guys driving naked through the San Fernando Valley or someone bored in his cubicle at work or two drunk teenagers at a party? And what brand advertiser or local business will want to be associated with those streams? (12-step programs? The Gap?)

    This is something we’ll be investigating at Drilling Down:

    1,000,001 Channels: But Is Anybody Watching?
    TV used to be simple for everyone. But the newly fragmenting world of video search, mobile TV, on-demand cable and IPTV makes the range of potential consumer choices staggering. What are the new technologies that are rapidly turning TV from a mass medium to one that is highly personalized? What is the new consumer “video consumption” model, and what are the implications for networks, content producers and advertisers? Will a million “Wayne’s Worlds” and the potential “Tower of Babel” effect destroy the medium for advertisers or open it up to a range of exciting new possibilities, including some for SMEs?

    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Live Labs]]> 2006-01-26T06:09:34-05:00 2006-01-26T06:09:34-05:00 2006-01-26T06:09:34-05:00 announced that it was creating a new research group “Live Labs”:

    MSN and Microsoft Research are creating a dedicated applied research division named Live Labs. Live Labs will be staffed by top researchers that will leverage the capabilities of MSN and Microsoft Research to work through prototyping new products and services. Microsoft will invite technologists and scientists to join the dedicated group. Live Labs will make it a priority to work in collaboration with academic researchers, industrial labs, government research labs and others and by offering opportunities for grants and fellowships to promote continued innovation in the industry.

    This doesn’t have to do with local per se, but this Live Labs “beta” site has been set up to document or reflect the progress of various Windows Live initiatives. Each separate initiative has an associated blog (e.g., Windows Live Local blog).

    There’s also something of a “culture shift” being undertaken in this effort. From the Live Labs “manifesto” by Gary William Flake, who’s in charge of the new effort:

    Inline with our vision, Live Labs’ near-term charter is to bootstrap a virtuous cycle in three parts: (1) empower Microsoft employees to more rapidly create great Internet technologies; (2) sponsor higher bandwidth exchanges of ideas and innovations between our internal partners, academia, and the Internet community; and (3) foster a community of people and projects which will inspire others to join us in this mission.


    Ostensibly, the charter of Live Labs suggests a dilemma: How can we simultaneously be small and agile but also influential enough to have a meaningful impact? Indeed, this is a dilemma that all organizations face as they grow and mature. Our answer is embarrassingly simple: We are a perpetual startup within Microsoft . . .

    There are a lot of elements that go into success (or failure) for a company and one of the underappreciated factors, in my view, is culture. And there’s an implied recognition in the manifesto that there needs to be some change within Microsoft for the company to more effectively compete online.

    Here’s more from Search Engine Watch.

    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Classifieds TV: Interesting but Flawed]]> 2006-01-25T18:00:24-05:00 2006-01-25T18:00:24-05:00 2006-01-25T18:00:24-05:00 MediaPost story (reg. req’d) from Monday about the SF Chronicle (owned by Hearst) launching a cable TV show devoted to classifieds advertising, which will also be streamed on the SF Gate site.

    Classifieds on “Chronicle Jobs TV” will be up to 30 seconds in length and will be divided into six categories: general, sales and marketing, professional, health care, skills and trades, and technology. In addition to appearing three consecutive days on the TV show, the ads will also be streaming at for a one-week period.

    The show is being created by Digital Media Classifieds, a Denver-based company that makes customized TV programs as well as Internet videos for online and print publishers. Company founder Evan Neubeiser said at least 100 newspapers nationwide have similar TV shows, and that many of them go beyond recruitment advertising to include categories like automotive, real estate, and rentals. Among his larger newspaper clients, he said, are the Houston Chronicle, the Arizona Republic, and the Dallas Morning News.

    In the broadest sense, this is in the same category as Spot Runner, bringing video distribution to local businesses. I like it as a unique offering but I think the cable TV piece is not what’s interesting and/or valuable about it. Rather the Web streaming is going to be far more potentially effective. The online distribution preserves the powerful “directional” aspect of classified advertising, whereas the cable TV version will dilute it somewhat.

    If you can make the economics work then it makes sense to throw in the cable TV as well. But I don’t know who’s going to be watching those shows on conventional TV—it’s a lot less efficient for users than the Internet.
    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[PEW: Internet Strengthening Social Nets]]> 2006-01-25T15:35:01-05:00 2006-01-25T15:35:01-05:00 2006-01-25T15:35:01-05:00
    45% of internet users – about 60 million Americans – say the internet has played an important or crucial role in helping them deal with at least one major life decision in the previous two years.

    This sounds a lot like Yellow Pages historical behavior and confirms earlier findings by comScore about the connection between “life events” and online consumer patterns. Here’s an earlier post about the same phenomenon. And here’s a MediaPost article (reg. req’d) specifically about the now year-old comScore findings.

    There’s probably lots of juicy stuff in the Pew report that I haven’t yet had time to digest. But the full report is available for download here.

    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[NY Times Revenues/Subscribers Growing]]> 2006-01-25T09:55:48-05:00 2006-01-25T09:55:48-05:00 2006-01-25T09:55:48-05:00 summary of the NY Times earnings call (revenues up 30 percent in Q4)—there are lots of datapoints about traffic/users, etc. And the ranks/rolls of TimesSelect paying subscribers (I’m one) continues to grow. I was really skeptical at launch, but there seems to be some momentum (now 156K online only subs in 4 mos, 390K total)

    The apparent success The Times is having in getting online only subscriptions is probably more a function of its brand strength and perceived unique content than a validation of the notion that online newspapers can charge for content. The Times is becoming much more than a “newspaper site” and doing lots of interesting things (especially with video).

    Here’s the full earnings release .
    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Craigslist Adds Another Paying Vertical]]> 2006-01-25T09:46:03-05:00 2006-01-25T09:46:03-05:00 2006-01-25T09:46:03-05:00 apartment rentals in New York. This adds a second category, the other being jobs, to its source of revenues. I believe that Peter Zollman’s Classified Intelligence has estimated annual Craigslist revenues at $10 million (that’s my memory).

    A long time ago now (about a year and a half ago), I was on a panel with Craig Newmark at Real Estate Connect, a vertical trade show produced by Brad Inman (founder of HomeGain and now I think he alluded then to considering the move, as much to deter spam and other unethical practices as to make money.

    The remarkable thing about Craigslist (among many things) is its “restraint.” As I’ve said to many people ... If Craigslist had VC money when it started it would not exist today. Slow and steady wins the race.

    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[eBay Building Pan-Media Platform?]]> 2006-01-25T08:45:27-05:00 2006-01-25T08:45:27-05:00 2006-01-25T08:45:27-05:00 MediaPost (reg. req’d):

    On Tuesday, some of the nation’s biggest advertisers got a pitch from a surprise media buying “solutions provider:” online auction service eBay. Details of the presentation, and the reaction of the ad executives—members of the Association of National Advertisers influential Television Advertising Committee—could not be discerned at press time, but executives privy to the meeting told MediaDailyNews that eBay was invited by the committee to present ideas for building an electronic trading system for buying and selling media.

    Recently Google purchased dMarc and Spot Runner launched. dMarc extends Google’s platform to a traditional, offline medium and may be the first move as part of a larger, consolidated media-buying platform the search engine is developing. And Spot Runner brings the efficiencies of the Internet to local cable TV ad buying.

    Clearly we’re starting to see the future of all ad buying—the Internet (or at least electronic platforms). Is eBay trying to get a jump on Google here? Perhaps. Regardless, this is extremely interesting and would now seem to be part of an emerging larger trend.

    We’re going to speculate about the future of media buying—and integrated online and offline buying in particular—in our final panel at this year’s Drilling Down event:

    The Future of Local Media Buying: The Integrated Online-Offline Platform
    Until recently, online marketing was regarded with skepticism and ambivalence. In 2005, led by paid search, online marketing in general came to be seen as a credible medium. While newspapers and Internet Yellow Pages have long been selling online advertising on their sites (and more recently into broader networks), the Google acquisition of dMarc suggests a potentially new, more integrated online-offline media future. It also directly brings the harsh light of performance-based marketing and Web analytics to a traditional advertising medium. The panelists will discuss these and other recent developments and what the near and long term will hold for online marketing and interactive local media.

    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Yahoo! Search Not 'Giving Up']]> 2006-01-25T07:56:50-05:00 2006-01-25T07:56:50-05:00 2006-01-25T07:56:50-05:00 Yahoo! Search response to the “controversy” created yesterday by the Bloomberg article in which Yahoo! CFO Susan Decker seemed to be saying Yahoo! was perfectly happy being No. 2 (to Google) in search:

    [W]e thought it made sense to briefly recap how focused we are in search and our passion to be the world’s leading search engine…

    We’re continuously innovating and finding new ways to help people connect to information and knowledge—part of our vision to help them find, use, share and expand all human knowledge. We’re working on literally hundreds of projects to improve search, and some of the most visible examples include My Web, Yahoo! Answers, and Open Shortcuts. We have also brought in some of the most innovative companies like Flickr and, to help bring the promise of social search and tagging to the rest of the world and advancing search beyond what it is today.

    Finally, we’ve turned Yahoo! Search into an open platform for innovative third-party developers—we’ve built the most comprehensive set of Web Services, allowing a new generation of applications to be built such as Rollyo and Eurekster and many others.

    There were lots of responses “across the dial” yesterday from surprise to dismay to “those clever devils” (thinking she was trying to lower Wall Street expectations).

    Clearly Yahoo! has done and is doing lots of innovative things, including in search. This response and all the reaction that flared from the article makes me wonder whether the remark was calculated or casual/off the cuff.

    As someone who talks to reporters now with some regularity, my experience is that it’s very easy for remarks to be taken out of context or for things to be misquoted (this happens a high percentage of the time).

    However, the reporter on the story, Jonathan Thaw, is a quite good and thoughtful writer from my perspective so it’s probably not a misquote. Regardless, the subsquent Yahoo! Search Blog response clarifies that Yahoo! doesn’t want to be seen as “giving up” in any way.


    More from the SEW blog.

    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Google Has Public Support — For Now]]> 2006-01-24T16:55:57-05:00 2006-01-24T16:55:57-05:00 2006-01-24T16:55:57-05:00 this AFP story:

    A survey from the Michigan-based Ponemon Institute, released Tuesday, indicated that approximately 56 percent of respondents believed Google shouldn’t hand over the information demanded by the Department of Justice. Nearly 90 percent of those polled were under the impression that their Internet searches were kept private.

    But this sentence underscores the high stakes and risks for Google:

    Of those who backed Google’s position, 41 percent contended they would stop using the Mountain View-based search engine if it yielded to the government’s demand.

    We’ll see if that actually happens if Google “caves.” Regardless, it opens a new chapter in the Internet privacy discussion given the public’s newfound awareness of the potentially discoverable nature of private search behavior.

    And here’s a piece from the NY Times (reg req’d) citing anecdotal examples of the “chilling effect” and paranoia starting to set in among some search engine users in the wake of the government’s effort to get at search engine data:

    Ms. Hanson, 45, immediately told her boyfriend what she had done. “I told him I’d Googled ‘rent boy,’ just in case I got whisked off to some Navy prison in the dead of night,” she said.

    I make jokes like this to friends during wireless phone calls. The reality of government action/reprisals is quite remote, but the paranoia and corresponding inhibitions that set in are the greater issue.

    Really disturbing stuff…

    And this willingness to participate in state censorship in China is very disappointing (though it should come as no surprise) given the strong “democratic” stand Google has taken in this country in resisting U.S. government strong-arm tactics.


    Here’s more on polling data and user attitudes from Gary Price at SEW.
    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Google: Improved Local Imagery]]> 2006-01-24T08:38:27-05:00 2006-01-24T08:38:27-05:00 2006-01-24T08:38:27-05:00 Official Google Blog:

    We’re always trying to improve the imagery in Google Earth and Google Local, but our latest update is bigger than usual. Not only have we added extensive 6-inch imagery for many parts of the U.K., but we’ve updated the Google Local database to match the coverage we have in Google Earth, and (drum roll, please) ... we’ve added two more zoom levels in Google Local’s Satellite mode! Now for many areas around the world you can see a lot more detail than you could before.

    As examples, Google is offering new and improved views of Buckingham Palace, the Statue of Liberty and the Sydney Opera House.

    I tried to find the identical landmarks in Windows Live Local to offer a comparison on this post and found it very difficult—it’s not a good tool for landmark search. One has to have the address first; but what’s the “address” of Buckingham Palace? (It’s Buckingham Palace, London SW1A 1AA, of course—not much of an “address.")

    I spoke to MapQuest the other day and, to my surprise, they said they were exploring options to offer something “at least as good” as what Microsoft was doing with aerial photography.

    All these tools will get better, including landmark search (which isn’t that great in Google either).

    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Yahoo! Content to Be No. 2 in Search?]]> 2006-01-24T06:36:56-05:00 2006-01-24T06:36:56-05:00 2006-01-24T06:36:56-05:00 Seattle Post-Intelligencer quoting Yahoo!’s CFO Susan Decker on the implied unliklihood that Yahoo! will gain any significant search share from Google in the immediate future.

    Recall, however, that overall Yahoo! is number 1 in terms of uniques (a position it has traded with AOL back and forth).

    What is amazing is that Google grew search market share (by all accounts) in 2005, a year of incredible competition. This year promises to be at least as competitive and Yahoo! may turn some attention from search per se to other assets (e.g., video, mobile, content creation, podcasting and so on).

    The Yahoo! Go strategy playing out will also be an important one to watch. (There have also been rumors that Yahoo! will seek to buy TiVO.)

    I would also make the unsolicited recommendation that Yahoo! devote more time and attention to MyYahoo (though the company recently “AJAX-ified“ the content modules). This is an application that is very strong (for the mainstream user) and should be leveraged sooner rather than later.

    On the advertising side, Yahoo! will likely try to continue to leverage its relationships with national advertisers—display ads were an area of growth for the company—and the success it has had in its initial trials with behavoral targeting. Yahoo! is also slowly developing its contextual product.

    Local is also an area of great strength and innovation for Yahoo! And, as mentioned, social media and community will continue to develop at Yahoo!

    We sometimes forget that there’s a great deal more going on on the Internet than search, even though search has become the driver or starting point for so much commercial and non-commercial activity.

    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Social Search Review]]> 2006-01-24T05:39:34-05:00 2006-01-24T05:39:34-05:00 2006-01-24T05:39:34-05:00 nice overview of Yahoo!’s “differentiation strategy” (vs. Google) using community and “social search.” (I believe JudysBook has tried to TM the term “social search.")

    We wrote about Yahoo!’s broader social strategy and how it related to local back in August last year and blogged a bit more about it in November.

    I also wrote previously here about how Yahoo! is integrating community across its site in Answers, Shopping, Trip Planner, etc.

    We’ll also be doing an update of our 2004 White Paper “Social Networking: Building a Better Local Online Marketplace” this year.
    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Jeeves' New Image Search]]> 2006-01-24T05:11:18-05:00 2006-01-24T05:11:18-05:00 2006-01-24T05:11:18-05:00 nice presentation.

    According to the recent Keynote Systems research on search user satisfaction, image search is playing a more significant role in the overall search picture (so to speak):

    Image search appears to have caught on quite quickly with consumers, with 63% of Yahoo! users and 56% of Google users turning to the image search areas of those sites when searching for an image. There is less awareness and usage of the local search tabs, with just 28% of Google users and 39% of Yahoo! users in the study turning to the local search function when conducting a local search although there is great appreciation for Google’s integrated local search results. There is significantly less consumer demand for the special product search functionality on all leading sites.

    As competitive as Ask’s functionality and search results are, the engine has struggled to differentiate itself and gain share. However, according to comScore, between November 2004 and 2005, Ask gained 1% market share:

    November ’04:

    • Google: 34.6%

    • Yahoo!: 32%

    • MSN: 16%

    • AOL: 9.1%

    • Ask: 5.5%

    November ’05:

    • Google: 39.8%

    • Yahoo!: 29.5%

    • MSN: 14.2%

    • AOL: 8.7%

    • Ask: 6.5% (+1%)

    At 5+ billion monthly searches that’s not insignificant. Still, if Ask is going to further break out it will have to do some fairly radical things to draw users away from the top three.


    Here’s more from Loren Baker at Search Engine Journal.
    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[The Earnings Guessing Game]]> 2006-01-23T13:33:37-05:00 2006-01-23T13:33:37-05:00 2006-01-23T13:33:37-05:00 SiliconBeat and John Battelle raise the question (citing Yahoo! employee Amr Awadallah’s reasoned speculation) of whether Google will hit or fall short of estimates. I think the company will hit its targets (but it still may loose if it doesn’t exceed them).

    Eight days to go; we’ll see.
    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[ReachLocal Deal with FTD]]> 2006-01-23T12:51:15-05:00 2006-01-23T12:51:15-05:00 2006-01-23T12:51:15-05:00 reports on a large-scale deal between ReachLocal and FTD local florists:

    ReachLocal and FTD Florists are working together on a customized local search campaign in which 20,000 FTD merchants will be advertising on Google AdWords, Yahoo Search Marketing, IYP’s like SuperPages, and According to the agreement, FTD will implement all of its local search advertising through ReachLocal.

    Efficient Frontier manages these sorts of large campaigns for Reach. Last week I had a very interesting conversation with EF regarding paid search generally and local in particular, and related trends in automated management of search campaigns for local businesses.
    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Real Estate Roundup]]> 2006-01-23T11:50:01-05:00 2006-01-23T11:50:01-05:00 2006-01-23T11:50:01-05:00 Search Engine Watch discussing the proliferating tools in real estate search. It’s quite thorough and worth a read definitely. Real estate is one of the most interesting verticals since it’s map-intensive, involves offline transactions and local businesses and is being driven by accelerated consumer adoption of online applications. ]]> Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Elusive Millenials]]> 2006-01-23T10:13:02-05:00 2006-01-23T10:13:02-05:00 2006-01-23T10:13:02-05:00 NY Times (reg. req’d) from Sunday about the elusive “millenials” (people born between 1980 and 2000). If anyone believes that the consumer behavior model and the media landscape isn’t fragmenting and radically changing should read this article.

    This emerging consumer behavior model is the inspiration for the upcoming Drilling Down event.

    Here’s another NY Times piece on online “recommendations” (a cousin of what used to be called “social networking” and now is more appropriately and inclusively called “community"):

    This is the now well-documented “long tail” (I’m sorry for saying it again), in action:

    At NetFlix, the online DVD rental company, for example, roughly two-thirds of the films rented were recommended to subscribers by the site - movies the customers might never have thought to consider otherwise, the company says. As a result, between 70 and 80 percent of NetFlix rentals come from the company’s back catalog of 38,000 films rather than recent releases.

    A collaborative filtering mechanism (pioneered on a large scale by Amazon) is one solution to the emerging problem of media fragmentation—what’s interesting to me is what’s interesting to my friends/community/people like me.

    The so-called millenials are notoriously oriented toward community and use technology as a way to reach out to and manage their relationships with their friends. And to the extent that marketers can get into the fiber of those communities (which is Yahoo!’s meta strategy) it could pay off well. But whatever the “it” that is being marketed or sold is must be relevant and very highly targeted.

    For this audience, irrelevant marketing is ignored or, worse, destroys credibility.

    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Search Marketers Paying Too Much?]]> 2006-01-23T09:58:43-05:00 2006-01-23T09:58:43-05:00 2006-01-23T09:58:43-05:00 ClickZ). The thrust of this Kevin Newcomb piece is that the paid search auction model is flawed and inefficient for less sophisticated marketers:

    “We want to educate advertisers about the fact that in some sense they are being taken advantage of,” Ostrovsky said in a statement. “Under the current mechanism, if they don’t think carefully about their bidding strategies, they can end up paying a lot more to the search engines than they need to."

    This critique of general paid search may be especially true for local. Here’s what an A-list search marketing firm said about local keyword prices/buying:

    Geographic-qualified keywords have less inventory than generic words and phrases, which drives the bid landscape higher and forces all advertisers to bid more aggressively. This happens a lot with major metropolitan areas like NYC & San Francsico.

    There’s less competition on a national level. There are a lot of regional advertisers that bid aggressively using geo-qualified keywords only without any nationwide initiatives. In addition, a lot of these advertisers are not as educated on the space and many times end up creating extremely artificially-inflated markets for these keywords.

    So this is pretty consistent with what we’ve been hearing directly from the people on the front lines: people are bidding more for local because it converts better and for some of these “irrational” reasons also.
    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Tension Between On-Demand and 'Old' TV]]> 2006-01-23T05:54:35-05:00 2006-01-23T05:54:35-05:00 2006-01-23T05:54:35-05:00 MediaPost (reg. req’d) about the tension between “programmed” (read: scheduled) TV and the emerging model of “on-demand” TV (whether online or off). The theme: consumers still want programmed TV.

    Implied in this discussion is the idea that without programmed TV consumers won’t know where to point their TiVOs. There may be an analogy here between browse and search on the Internet. They’re complementary approaches to navigating content online. In this analogy, “‘browse” stands for the TV program schedule.

    Indeed, without some idea of “what’s on” online video consumers will have to guess and conduct random searches for content by keywords. (For past programming, i.e., “classic TV,” that works fine.)

    However a pure search (”on-demand”) model is inefficient for both consumers and advertisers because it completely fragments the audience (despite the success of search marketing). So the future, as the article suggests, is some mix of scheduled content produced by big media companies with high production values and—dare I use the term again—a “long tail” of both low-end professional and user-generated video content that people can search for as their whims or needs dictate.

    Of course it’s not quite as simple as all that, but at a conceptual level I think that’s what we’re in store for.

    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Google News: More 'Up Close and Personal']]> 2006-01-23T03:20:27-05:00 2006-01-23T03:20:27-05:00 2006-01-23T03:20:27-05:00 how it works:

    By signing in to personalized news and keeping Personalized Search enabled, you allow Google to track and save your news selections. Then, Google News can automatically recommend relevant stories just for you by using smart algorithms that analyze your selections. The algorithms compare your tastes to the aggregate tastes of other groups of similar Google News users. Simply put, we recommend news stories to you that have been read by many other users who’ve also read similar stories as you in the past.

    The more you use Google News while you’re signed in to your Google Account, the better your recommendations will become over time. Note that we cannot provide recommended news for you if you do not sign in to your Google Account or if you turn off Personalized Search component of personalized Google News.

    There’s also a new “most popular” button (which has long existed on Yahoo! news). Essentially, the new recommendations feature is like the passive RSS and news feeds/tracking that Google has been doing with its Sidebar tool.

    This is another incentive for users to “sign in” to Google (create an account).

    This and many recent initiatives like it are the fruit of Google’s effort, since early last year, to gather more personal and behavioral data about its users. It will be very interesting to see whether and how the recent privacy flap with the Justice Department has any long-term chilling effect on users’ willingness to register or otherwise offer their personal data to search engines.


    Here’s a Google announcement about News coming out of beta:

    I wanted to let you know that today we are announcing Google News is graduating from beta with a couple of shiny new features. When we introduced Google News in September, 2002 our goal was to enable readers to get a broader perspective and dig deeper into the news—perhaps reading ten articles on a topic instead of one.

    To do this, we developed a service that delivered news in an entirely new way by presenting it in “clusters” that displayed related articles in a single group. In only a few years, Google News has grown to 22 regional editions in 10 languages.

    In addition to taking Google News out of beta, we are also introducing personalized news headlines. By further integrating Personalized Search into Google News, users can now receive recommended news stories based on their past news searches and articles they’ve read, giving them suggestions for interesting stories to explore that they may not have discovered otherwise.

    Users who want to receive personalized news headlines simply sign up for Personalized Search. Then, whenever they’re signed in to their Google Account, they’ll see recommended headlines based on what they’ve read in the past. These results appear along the left hand column but users can also get a full page of recommended stories by clicking on the section. All of this is done automatically using algorithms: for example, we might recommend news stories to you that many other users have read, especially when you and they have read similar stories in the past.

    We have also added another new section to the left-hand column that shows the most popular recent stories in the Google News edition you are viewing. Now you can see the top stories being published by editors across the web, other stories popular with readers, and topics that you track or are interested in—all on one page.

    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[DCCI Becoming Telmetrics]]> 2006-01-23T02:26:34-05:00 2006-01-23T02:26:34-05:00 2006-01-23T02:26:34-05:00 DCCI changing its name to telmetrics—that appeared in Ken Clark’s YPTalk blog/newsletter. Call tracking will become more important and more central to integrated online-offline campaigns in the very near future.

    Call tracking will likely be the way that Google, for example, will measure the efficacy of its new radio inventory—at least the intended direct response component.
    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Chrysler and Local Click-to-Call]]> 2006-01-23T02:01:13-05:00 2006-01-23T02:01:13-05:00 2006-01-23T02:01:13-05:00 DMNews piece offers a case study of sorts on how Chrysler is having success connecting potential purchasers to local dealers:

    ...80 percent of calls generated through the click-to-call technology were transferred to local dealers. Of those calls, 15 percent closed the sale...

    There are many critics of click-to-call out there (they contend it requires a change in consumer behavior). But for my purposes this is an example of online-offline integration, which we should see a great deal more of, in various forms, in the very near future.

    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Local Video and Behavioral Boosting]]> 2006-01-23T01:41:48-05:00 2006-01-23T01:41:48-05:00 2006-01-23T01:41:48-05:00 broad ClickZ article about media fragmentation, consumer control and video coming to local. These are all themes of the upcoming Drilling Down event. Also eMarketer compiles data from Tacoda-sponsored research showing that behavioral targeting beats contextual. The data aggregator further cites MarketingSherpa regarding the relative effectiveness of different categories of online ads.

    According to a late 2004 MarketingSherpa poll, in order of effectiveness, it goes like this:

    1. Paid search

    2. Email “house list”

    3. Rich media

    4. Behavioral targeting

    5. SEO

    6. Contextual ads

    7. Affiliate marketing

    I am something of a behavioral targeting skeptic, especially given the “political” obstacles it faces re privacy. But these survey results do indeed suggest it works better than contextual ads, which is not that hard to believe. Behavioral targeting is “opaque” to the user and promises greater relevance based on their interests/actions.

    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Wisconsin WiMax]]> 2006-01-22T18:15:12-05:00 2006-01-22T18:15:12-05:00 2006-01-22T18:15:12-05:00 is coming to Wisconsin (and then beyond). Some form of broadband will likely cover almost 100 percent of the U.S. within 3 to 5 years. Why? Because there are many competitors seeking to provide that access. That’s also why incumbent telco surcharges for high-speed access will likely fail. ]]> Greg Sterling <![CDATA[The (Unintended) PR Genius of Google]]> 2006-01-22T16:35:18-05:00 2006-01-22T16:35:18-05:00 2006-01-22T16:35:18-05:00 act of resistance toward the Bush Administration’s effort to obtain porn-related search data, has now turned into something of a PR coup for Google. I don’t think this was a calculated move but there’s a great deal of good will being generated by Google’s thumbing it’s nose at the Justice Dept. subpoenas.

    Search Engine Journal quotes last week’s ABC News report and interview with Google co-founder Larry Page:

    “Our company relies on having the trust of our users and using that information for that benefit,” said Page. “That’s a very strong motivation for us. We’re committed to that. If you start to mandate how products are designed, I think that’s a really bad path to follow. I think instead we should have laws that protect the privacy of data, for example, from government requests and other kinds of requests.”

    In the same way that Google’s meteoric rise in search made Microsoft appear to be an underdog and thus generated sympathy for the world’s largest and most powerful software company, this legal standoff has generated sympathy for Google. The company was starting to experience a backlash that had been slowly building since Google went public in 2004.

    A growing number of critics had started to believe that the Mountain View-CA company had become too big and too powerful too quickly. It was starting to appear to some as a “Big Brother,” with too much data about too many things.

    And while the other portals and search engines have turned over data to varying degrees, with varying justifications and explanations, Google digging in its heels against the Bush Administration at a time when government overreaching and legally dubious behavior is all around seems almost heroic.

    Indeed, the move has generated a ton of news reports and PR (most positive), although the stock fell Friday amid the standoff and concern about potentially softening revenues. But Google’s stand, at least temporarily, has reversed the perception that the company is becoming Big Brother as it fights what to some is a more real version of Orwell’s shadowy political leader portrayed in his 1949 dystopian classic 1984.

    Again, I don’t think the PR angle was a calculated motivation; I think it was a secondary effect of wanting to keep its search data from disclosure. But by saying “no” to the Justice Dept. Google has raised the stakes and created some high drama that the world is now watching. And if Google now “caves” it may grab as many or more negative headlines and reactions for doing so than it gained for taking a stand.

    While I personally applaud it, Google’s decision was either very courageous or very arrogant—or a little of both.

    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Drilling Down: Targeting the 'On-Demand' Marketplace]]> 2006-01-20T08:10:38-05:00 2006-01-20T08:10:38-05:00 2006-01-20T08:10:38-05:00 Drilling Down” event.

    We finally (whew!) have the agenda online. It took so long because we had to cut about 10 excellent potential panels to squeeze it into two days with no breakout sessions.

    We’ll announce panelists (there’s still time, contact me) and keynote speakers very soon.

    It should be a very interesting show (I’m not just saying that) as we tackle our perennial local search theme with emphasis on some of the related developments in video, VoIP and wireless.

    We’ll have both national and local advertisers “live on stage” in what should be two very good sessions about the changing nature of marketing and the different “national-local” and “local-local” responses to that. The local advertiser sessions are always a hit and make for some great feedback and occasionally some surprises.

    We’ve also made the final session a wide-open discussion about the evolution and potential integration of online and offline media buying (which of course YP and newspapers have been doing) in the wake of the Google dMarc acquisition.

    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[JamBase: The Next MySpace?]]> 2006-01-20T07:26:38-05:00 2006-01-20T07:26:38-05:00 2006-01-20T07:26:38-05:00 live music and community site has quietly generated a solid business and extremely loyal following without funding and totally under the radar. Founded about eight years ago, the site has built a huge local music events database.

    Events is an immature piece of the local search product mix, although an important one ultimately.

    Founder Andrew Gadiel previewed for me some of the coming site features that may make it a good deal more like MySpace. The company has spoken with a couple of the major search players about providing its feed for live events, but has yet to do any deals as far as I know.

    It will be very interesting to see how the site evolves and to see, given the spectacular growth of MySpace, whether funders and others try and court JamBase at this still relatively early stage of its development.
    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Google, Bush and Privacy]]> 2006-01-20T06:20:31-05:00 2006-01-20T06:20:31-05:00 2006-01-20T06:20:31-05:00 NY Times (reg. req’d).

    Yahoo! spokespeople said none of the information revealed individual identities and thus did not violate individual privacy rights. The government claims—although given the history of this administration any claims must be viewed with skepticism at a minimum—that the search-engine data will enable it to defend the Child Online Protection Act of 1998 (which the U.S. Supreme Court previously blocked from implementation).

    It may well be that the information being requested by the Bush Administration can be provided without revealing any sensitive, personal information; I don’t have any insight into the technical issues nor have I yet read the subpoena(s). But I would defer to Danny Sullivan on this point who said:

    In particular, the Bush administration wanted one million random web addresses and records of all Google searches for a one week period. The government apparently wants to estimate how much pornography shows up in the searches that children do.

    Here’s a thought. If you want to measure how much porn is showing up in searches, try searching for it yourself rather than issuing privacy alarm sounding subpoenas. It would certainly be more accurate.

    Getting a list of all searches in one week definitely would let US federal government dig deep into the long tail of porn searches. But then again, the sheer amount of data would be overwhelming. Do you know every variation of a term someone might use, that you’re going to dig out of the hundreds of millions of searches you’d get? Oh, and be sure you filter out all the automated queries coming in from rank checking tools, while you’re add it. They won’t skew the data at all, nope.

    Moreover, since the data is divorced from user info, you have no idea what searches are being done by children or not. In the end, you’ve asked for a lot of data that’s not really going to help you estimate anything at all.

    There’s a bigger picture and a bigger struggle here. The government wants unfettered access to desired information about individuals’ behavior online and off and the NSA wiretapping and spying is reflective of that intent. As the NY Times piece points out:

    Whatever the courts ultimately decide on the pornography law at issue, however, Tim Wu, a professor at Columbia Law School, said the Google case pointed to a larger struggle for the identity of the Internet.

    “Search engines are at the center of that battle, both here and in other countries,” said Professor Wu. “By asserting its power over search engines, using threats of force, the government can directly affect what the Internet experience is. For while Google is fighting the subpoena, it’s clear that if they lose, they will comply.”

    The now discredited “Total Information Awareness” (TIA) initiative is being revived piecemeal through myriad techniques (search-engine subpoenas among them) and under myriad guises (Patriot Act, COPA, etc.).

    As EPIC points out, the TIA “was as envisioned to give law enforcement access to private data without suspicion of wrongdoing or a warrant.”

    The recent US Supreme Court decision this week to uphold Oregon’s assisted suicide law was about federalism, but was also widely seen as a rebuke to the Bush Administration’s unfettered exercise of executive power and discretion.

    One of the things that we all should be concerned about, liberals and libertarians alike, is whether the Internet will become a vehicle for creative innovation, communications and growth or whether it will become something else—a mechanism to monitor dissent and to help exercise social control (through intimidation or chilling of free speech).

    I realize that’s a “black and white” distinction but those who are interested in the health of the Internet and the society more generally (and more importantly) need to be extremely vigilant during these precarious times and speak out against unilateral assertions of anti-democratic authority whether they appear nakedly as such or in the guise of protecting children.


    Lots of material on the issue resides at the bottom of Danny Sullivan’s blog post I linked to above.

    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Touch Local to Challenge Thomson, Yell]]> 2006-01-20T06:12:33-05:00 2006-01-20T06:12:33-05:00 2006-01-20T06:12:33-05:00 Search Engine Watch blog identifies a new (to me) local directory/search site in the UK, Touch Local.

    Touch Local allows users to search locally and nationally and offers products (through a relationship with Yahoo!-owned Kelkoo) in addition to traditional, YP-style service listings. The site features ratings and reviews and the ability for businesses to update and enhance their information for free.

    Advertising options for local businesses include guaranteed leads packages, PPClick and PPCall.

    The site is relatively new and so content in some areas is sparse, but local ratings/reviews and product search capability appear to be two consumer differentiators from more established competitors (the dominant incumbent) and Thomson Local.

    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[I Love Coffee . . .]]> 2006-01-20T06:05:37-05:00 2006-01-20T06:05:37-05:00 2006-01-20T06:05:37-05:00 story that originally appeared in the New York Post. Yahoo! personals and Starbucks are reportedly hooking up to provide $10 Starbucks gift cards to people who register for Yahoo! Personals. As part of the promotion, Yahoo! will direct aspiring matches to the nearest local Starbucks.]]> Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Search Satisfaction Survey]]> 2006-01-19T11:29:36-05:00 2006-01-19T11:29:36-05:00 2006-01-19T11:29:36-05:00 Keynote. Briefly, here are some general and local highlights:

    For the fourth consecutive wave of the Keynote study, Google topped the Keynote Customer Experience Rankings, an aggregate ranking of leading search engines based on an analysis of 250+ metrics measured during the study. In fact, Google outperformed its competitors in all 13 business success drivers measured in the study, including those for general search quality, local search quality and image search quality.

    Yahoo! Search ranked second in the study, Ask Jeeves third, MSN fourth and AOL’s public site ranked fifth. Yahoo! performs most competitively with Google in the local and image search categories. When searching for local services or information, 82% of Yahoo! users reported task success, as compared to 83% of Google users, and 66% of Yahoo! users were very satisfied with their search as compared to 71% of Google users.

    More from Chris Sherman at Search Engine Watch.
    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Video and the Future of PPC]]> 2006-01-19T07:48:05-05:00 2006-01-19T07:48:05-05:00 2006-01-19T07:48:05-05:00 reports, among other things, that Microsoft will be seeking (at some undetermined point) to add video ads to PPC. As ContactAtOnce! has already shown, you can put dynamic ads and pop-ups behind a PPC campaign. Why couldn’t one also do that with a video module (turning search truly into a branding vehicle)?

    SEM firm IMPAQT had something similar in its “intelligent landing page,” which is video-enabled.

    It strikes me that building in more dynamic capabilities (e.g., PPCall, video, maps, etc.) behind or off PPC ads is inevitable given the centrality of search in the online user experience. It will be interesting to see what comes to pass as the medium evolves.

    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[iPod Phone Coming?]]> 2006-01-19T07:29:59-05:00 2006-01-19T07:29:59-05:00 2006-01-19T07:29:59-05:00 trademark applications suggest a mobile phone/iPod hybrid. Why do we care about this? Because an iPod phone that also permitted Internet access (as one would expect it to) could be the breakthrough device that would unlock the potential of mobile local search.

    The iconic status of the iPod and inherent consumer appeal—assuming Apple could pull it off elegantly—would drive immediate adoption of such a device and potentially accelerate usage of mobile data, we believe.
    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Search Key in VoIP Research]]> 2006-01-19T06:49:58-05:00 2006-01-19T06:49:58-05:00 2006-01-19T06:49:58-05:00 MediaPost (reg. req’d) and by Search Engine Journal.

    This study of VoIP awareness/research by consumers, though not yet a mainstream consumer category, shows that search is used early in the buying cycle (as well as later) and can function as a pseudo-branding medium at that early stage as well as a direct response medium later in the process.

    According to the Search Engine Journal write-up:

    The Yahoo SEM VOIP survey, commissioned by the National American Testing Organization, explored the role that Search plays in the research process for consumers seeking VoIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) calling solutions. Conducted in August of 2005 using a nationally representative sample of US adults with high-speed connections at home, Yahoo found that Search is the most trusted, essential information resource for consumers researching VoIP calling services.

    Traditional media (31%) and the Internet (28%) as the two primary sources used to drive initial awareness of VoIP technology, products and services; according to Yahoo survey results. Television spots (14%), banner ads (14%) and newspaper/magazine ads (10%) held the top three spots.

    Here’s another panel at Drilling Down that will address some of these interesting questions about the relationship of search to the purchase cycle and consumer buying behavior:

    The New ‘Purchase Funnel’: Online Shopping, Offline Conversions
    Even though e-commerce may have reached US$30 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 source 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.

    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[eBay: Record Revenues, Stock Falls]]> 2006-01-19T06:43:43-05:00 2006-01-19T06:43:43-05:00 2006-01-19T06:43:43-05:00
    More on the numbers from Also, Om Malik takes a look at Skype revenues (mostly from outside the U.S.).
    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Govt. Now Pursuing Google Data]]> 2006-01-19T06:17:43-05:00 2006-01-19T06:17:43-05:00 2006-01-19T06:17:43-05:00 John Battelle about the Bush administration’s efforts to get at users’ online behavior and search data. Battelle excerpts a San Jose Mercury News article on the Justice Dept. efforts:

    In court papers filed in U.S. District Court in San Jose, Justice Department lawyers revealed that Google has refused to comply with a subpoena issued last year for the records, which include a request for one million random Web addresses and records of all Google searches from any one-week period.

    The Mountain View-based search engine opposes releasing the information on a variety of grounds, saying it would violate the privacy rights of its users and reveal company trade secrets, according to court documents.

    Nicole Wong, an associate general counsel for Google, said the company will fight the government’s effort “vigorously.’’

    Google, to some, was starting to look like Big Brother; now it can say it is defending privacy against Big Brother. Indeed, government spying on private citizens’ communications means privacy is once again on the front burner.

    But this dispute isn’t just about privacy; it’s also about the First Amendment and potentially chilling free speech. I’m not going to go on at length about my strong personal views on this issue except to repeat myself:

    The “transparency” of online communications, Wi-Fi and wireless phone usage make it all the easier for unscrupulous commercial entities (or unscrupulous governments) to track our behaviors and even privately expressed attitudes (and that will only get easier going forward). And in a “free” country, that’s all really scary ... REALLY SCARY.

    Privacy (among other important issues like free expression) is something none of us should be complacent about. It’s up to those who have strong views on the subject to express them loudly and publicly or risk further erosion of the kind of rights and protections we all take for granted.


    More detail and thoughts from Danny Sullivan at Search Engine Watch.
    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Nielsen Search Numbers for Nov.]]> 2006-01-19T05:52:33-05:00 2006-01-19T05:52:33-05:00 2006-01-19T05:52:33-05:00 Nielsen reported that total search volume was flat at 5.1 billion (vs. October). The following were the search market share numbers:

    • Google: 46%

    • Yahoo!: 23%

    • MSN Search: 11%

    • AOL: 7%

    Here are the November comScore numbers:

    • Google: 39.8%

    • Yahoo!: 29.5%

    • MSN Search: 14.2%

    • AOL: 8.7%

    Here’s Hitwise:

    • Google: 61.8%

    • Yahoo!: 25.6%

    • MSN Search: 5.1%

    There’s some general consistency regarding the Yahoo! search numbers, but wide variation regarding Google. Nielsen is the middle number between the very high Hitwise and the lower comScore figures.

    Nielsen also reported that consumers are using “the search box” (this would apply to toolbars, which account for 12 percent of search activity per comScore) like “White Pages”:

    Web surfers often use search engines to navigate their way to common Web sites rather than typing the Web site’s URL directly into the address bar. Web users’ top search terms were popular, well-known Web site names, such as “ebay” and “google,” ... [and] 43 percent of online searchers use the search box much like an address bar. Leading the top 10 most popular search terms for November was “ebay” with 13.9 million requests, followed by “google” and “yahoo,” with 13.3 million and 8.0 million requests, respectively.

    So there are some interesting SEM (and trademark) implications of this behavior. But more on that later.

    Here’s Nielsen’s list of the top 10 U.S. search terms for November for the combined home and work audience (000):

    1. “ebay” 13,871
    2. “google” 13,301
    3. “yahoo” 7,997
    4. “mapquest” 7,431
    5. “” 6,528
    6. “” 4,062
    7. “walmart” 3,688
    8. “ask jeeves” 3,389
    9. “msn” 3,166
    10.”” 3,125

    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Google Ready to Fight BB Fees]]> 2006-01-19T05:30:07-05:00 2006-01-19T05:30:07-05:00 2006-01-19T05:30:07-05:00 public discussion by the telcos and perhaps other broadband providers about trying to charge fees/taxes/tolls to the Googles and Vonages of the world for the high bandwidth usage they directly and indirectly cause.

    Om Malik points to a CMP column that quotes a Google PR person, Barry Schnitt, saying:

    "Google is not discussing sharing of the costs of broadband networks with any carrier. We believe consumers are already paying to support broadband access to the Internet through subscription fees and, as a result, consumers should have the freedom to use this connection without limitations."

    I believe the telcos are not in the “political position” to effectively impose such fees. If they were to succeed, potentially unintended consequences would flow from their actions (i.e., development of alternative access paradigms, including free Wi-Fi).

    And Rupert Murdoch recently indicated he’s going to push broadband (or WiMAX) to consumers, so his DirecTV service doesn’t suffer in the hands of “triple play” competitors (cable, IPTV).

    At Drilling Down ’06, we’ll have a panel on broadband and some of the future scenarios:

    The Broadband Juggernaut: Slowing Down or Speeding Up?
    High-speed Internet access is the backbone of the new consumer paradigm. It took a decade for broadband to reach “critical mass” in the U.S. Now we are witnessing the disruptive effects for traditional media and potentially for some newer technologies as well. Yet there are predictions that broadband is slowing. But competition, new initiatives and new technologies could drive high-speed access to nearly 100 percent penetration in the next several years. Which version of the future is correct? This panel will debate the potential scenarios and look outside the U.S. to higher-speed markets to see what the U.S. future might hold.

    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Inflated Expectations, Inevitable Disappointment]]> 2006-01-18T16:14:03-05:00 2006-01-18T16:14:03-05:00 2006-01-18T16:14:03-05:00 net income doubles but falls short of estimates) ... But the company’s shares weren’t off as much as Yahoo! yesterday after missing analysts’ estimates by A PENNY. There were blog postings here and there and a few articles today that used the “B” word, as in bubble ... bursting. Or the more restrained: Is the air starting to leak out?

    The expectations for the top Internet firms—especially Google and Yahoo!—are, in my opinion, unreasonably high. A climate in which people expect these companies to produce triple-digit growth quarter after quarter is ludicrous and unsustainable. So maybe what we have is an expectations bubble. In fairness, those expectations have been fueled in part by the spectacular performance of these companies in the past 12 to 18 months.

    But in the current market of inflated expectations, disappointment is inevitable and when psychology becomes “reality” then you have a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy. Case in point: this recommendation shift from “hold” to “sell.” Indeed, if everyone starts to sell, that accelerates the leakage and—voila—the bubble effectively bursts.

    Clearly, it’s not as simple as that, but what is clear is that the stock market is driven by psychology (herd mentality) as much as it is by anything rational or empirical. I suspect that on Jan. 31, Google will beat estimates and everybody will be happy and buying once again.

    But everyone should be a bit more sober when predicting the gains and upside and similarly less reactive on the downside.


    Here’s a roundup of financial analysis about Yahoo! from the Internet Stock Blog.

    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Tribune Adds Video to Newspaper Sites]]> 2006-01-18T08:34:09-05:00 2006-01-18T08:34:09-05:00 2006-01-18T08:34:09-05:00 WorldNow, according to an article in today’s MediaPost (reg. req’d), to provide streaming video for all Tribune’s online properties (newspapers and TV).

    WorldNow also operates the Local Media Network, which offers video and other geotargeted ad opportunities to national advertisers across 140 local TV Web sites.

    I’d hate to argue that video is a must for local newspaper sites, but it may well be in the not-too-distant future.
    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Gannett + 4INFO]]> 2006-01-18T08:22:55-05:00 2006-01-18T08:22:55-05:00 2006-01-18T08:22:55-05:00 4INFO. Here’s more detail in the release. Gannett properties will gain distribution on the service as part of the deal. ]]> Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Local Developments]]> 2006-01-18T07:44:31-05:00 2006-01-18T07:44:31-05:00 2006-01-18T07:44:31-05:00 column all about local today (roundup of recent developments). (a joint venture with Canada’s Torstar, which owns book publishing and newspaper properties) went live this week. The site is being integrated into Torstar’s various newspaper sites.

    PremierGuide, one of the early local search platforms, has quiety built an impressive portfolio of clients: 130 newspaper, TV station and city portal Web sites, according to today’s release. Here’s a map of its customers across the U.S.

    In other Canadian Internet news, Search Engine Watch points to a Toronto Star report that Google has signed a multiyear deal with

    The multiyear partnership will provide users with content and search related advertising, while offering Google’s advertisers access to’s extensive reach across the country, the companies said.

    There were no disclosed terms. Many newspaper sites (and some TV and radio sites) are part of the network. Yellow Pages Group supplies the content for Google Local in Canada.

    News Corp., which has been pushing aggressively into online in the U.S., said it will launch a local listings site to challenge Sensis in Australia:

    The website will pull together the hundreds of thousands of business listings collected by News’s network of 100 community newspapers, along with ALS’s 700,000 listings.

    The News Corp.-owned papers will also feature the listings data on their respective sites.

    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[BeanPool Joins a Crowded Field]]> 2006-01-17T19:28:56-05:00 2006-01-17T19:28:56-05:00 2006-01-17T19:28:56-05:00 BeanPool has launched. It looks like they built this on blogger (same colors, etc.).

    Here’s the full release. Search Engine Journal offers a more in-depth discussion.
    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[The 'Other' Google Announcement]]> 2006-01-17T17:09:24-05:00 2006-01-17T17:09:24-05:00 2006-01-17T17:09:24-05:00 the other Google announcement today. This is about the ability of IM clients/systems to connect with one another. More from Om Malik.]]> Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Yahoo! Numbers]]> 2006-01-17T16:02:16-05:00 2006-01-17T16:02:16-05:00 2006-01-17T16:02:16-05:00
    Here’s the earnings call and related info. PaidContent offers a nice summary of the call. And here’s a bit more commentary from the Internet Stock Blog.
    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Google AdRadio]]> 2006-01-17T10:15:57-05:00 2006-01-17T10:15:57-05:00 2006-01-17T10:15:57-05:00 dMarc Broadcasting of Newport Beach, California. There’s a reported downpayment of just over $100 million and more than $1 billion if performance targets are met over three years. dMarc is a media buying service and digital automation provider for radio. Here’s how the company represents itself:

    As the parent company of Scott Studios and Computer Concepts, dMarc boasts the largest installed customer base for radio automation and digital systems, spanning thousands of stations across all markets and formats. Scott Studios is the radio industry’s largest digital air studio systems vendor in the US. Scott has a larger market share than the #2, #3 and #4 digital studio vendors combined. Computer Concepts, through its Maestro product line, is one of the radio industry’s most popular digital audio systems vendors.

    This is the first major public statement that Google intends to be a kind of one-stop shop for its advertisers. Spot Runner, the local cable buying service we wrote about last week, is a similar example of a kind of company—or at least a capability—that we would expect Google to also want to acquire to extend into TV.

    Google reportedly plans to integrate dMarc’s radio buying capability into AdWords, extending the platform into the “real world” and offering radio distribution (more geotargeting) to its advertisers.

    This is a fascinating development, for its competitive implications and because it points the way to a kind of new integration of online and offline media buying. This will undoubtedly be a year for more M&A from Google and its competitors.

    I was really skeptical of the Google $600 target, but if Google is able to extend into other advertising media it could well be justified as the company taps into more of marketers’ spend.

    Already we see two attempts at diversification this year from Google: video (pay-per-view/download) and radio. I would expect more such moves this year—and TV is definitely on the radar for Google.

    Universal McCann’s Robert Coen has projected that radio advertising will be worth approx. $16.1 billion in 2006.

    Lots of additional coverage here.


    Update: Spoke to VoiceStar about PPCall in radio advertising. The conversation was interesting for several reasons. Among them, we discussed how radio was both a branding and a direct response medium and how you need to use PPCall or call tracking to bring the analytics to the direct response piece of radio. Also, one question: How will the AdWords auction platform work with radio advertisers that are not used to that model?
    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[MLK Jr. Day]]> 2006-01-16T14:08:25-05:00 2006-01-16T14:08:25-05:00 2006-01-16T14:08:25-05:00 The New York Times (reg. req’d).

    And here’s bio info from Wikipedia. And here’s Google’s “I have a dream” homepage and search results.
    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Drilling Down on Local '06]]> 2006-01-16T13:20:33-05:00 2006-01-16T13:20:33-05:00 2006-01-16T13:20:33-05:00 show in March and I’ve had to defer people. Our agenda is done and we’re going though a quick final review. This is only a two-day event and we could have had (and originally did have) 10 more panels. But we have real time constraints and cutting stuff was very challenging.

    The formal agenda will be up later this week. People should take a look when it goes up (probably by late tomorrow or early Wed.) and then approach me. Some of the issues we’ll be tackling are below.

    • TKG Forecast Walk-Though

    • How, When and Where I Want It: Profiling the New ‘On-Demand’ Consumer

    • Online Shopping, Offline Conversions: The New ‘Purchase Funnel’

    • 1,000,001 Channels: Broadband Video and ITV

    • The New Networks: Alternatives to the Search Giants?

    • Behold the Omnibus Channel: Selling Everything to Everyone

    • Live from Ground Zero: SMEs in Their Own Words

    • The Broadband Juggernaut: Slowing Down or Gaining Speed?

    • Can You Hear Me Now: VoIP, Wi-Fi and Market Disruption

    • What Is the Mobile Ad Model?

    • Who Will Own the Living Room?

    • 2006: Year of the Tipping Point?

    • Free DA: A Flawed Model or Mo-Lo Made Simple?
    • ]]> Greg Sterling <![CDATA[A Few Quick Hits]]> 2006-01-16T05:32:47-05:00 2006-01-16T05:32:47-05:00 2006-01-16T05:32:47-05:00 AP story exploring the privacy implications of high-resolution online mapping. Nothing particularly new here except that the issue is getting flagged. We may be in an era of new privacy initiatives (we’ll see). The consumer zeitgeist may be moving in that direction (helped along by the NSA shenanigans).

      This story in MediaPost (reg. req’d) cites a shopping study by a firm called Questus about consumer abandonment of sites (1 in 3) once they hit registration pages. (To some degree this goes to privacy concerns, but it also argues by implication that newspapers should abandon registration. And it suggests some potential obstacles for behavioral targeting.)

      DA alternatives (Jingle Networks, 1800Free411Metro) are profiled in this article . We’ll have a panel on FreeDA at Drilling Down on Local: “Free DA: A Flawed Model or Mo-Lo Made Simple?”
      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[NeoMedia Linking Wireless and Real Worlds]]> 2006-01-13T16:38:46-05:00 2006-01-13T16:38:46-05:00 2006-01-13T16:38:46-05:00 NeoMedia, which has a range of product offerings. What we talked about, however, was a pretty compelling mobile ad infrastructure called “PaperClick," which links the wireless and physical worlds together.

      There are lots of marketers experimenting with SMS short codes, but this technology is broader, more flexible and has more interesting applications. While SMS campaigns have interoperability limitations across U.S. carriers, PaperClick uses the mobile Web, eliminating cross-carrier barriers.

      Through keywords or bar code entry via a camera phone, the company’s technology enables consumers with wireless devices to access targeted promotions, offers and coupons from anywhere—a cereal box, a TV commercial, a poster a billboard, a magazine, etc.

      Users are encouraged to set up an online profile that enables marketers to run different promotions for different market segments and profiles. So a message on a billboard or a cereal box might yield one promotion for you and a separate one for me based on our differing profiles.

      It also extends the life of otherwise “static” traditional media; the promotions can change “on the back end” even as the billboard creative remains the same over a period of weeks or even months.

      There are more narrow versions of this happening in Japan now. And this type of promotion-based wireless advertising model starts to look more and more viable and less and less like something that’s “cool” but still far off.

      We’ll cover this company and its offerings more in future writing.

      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Ads on the Map]]> 2006-01-12T14:19:00-05:00 2006-01-12T14:19:00-05:00 2006-01-12T14:19:00-05:00 Pamela Parker ClickZ story about Google putting sponsored links on the map itself. (Click one of the blue “pushpins.")

      We knew this day would come (and have been talking about it at the past several conferences). Yahoo! has been doing a version of this for some time with its sponsor “icons."

      Consumers will want some version of this and so it doesn’t risk destroying the user experience if it’s handled thoughtfully. Indeed, we would expect to see more of this as maps become more and more central to the local search experience.

      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[LiveDeal Announces Program for Nationals]]> 2006-01-12T14:07:44-05:00 2006-01-12T14:07:44-05:00 2006-01-12T14:07:44-05:00 LiveDeal announced a new program, AdTarget, that permits national brands and large advertisers to target its local users across the U.S. and Canada.

      This represents a new revenue stream for LiveDeal, which has been creatively diversifying as a technology platform and developing an affiliate network, in addition to being a consumer destination site.
      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[ Traffic Continues Growing]]> 2006-01-12T13:58:45-05:00 2006-01-12T13:58:45-05:00 2006-01-12T13:58:45-05:00 release that reflects continued traffic growth at Interchange Corp.’s destination. The company said that for the month of December 2005, reached 6.9 million unique visitors and over 33 million page views, up from 5 million unique visitors and 21 million page views in November 2005. has been adding content partnerships as well as new features to try and get ahead of the torrid pace of product development in the local search market.


      Update: is adding content into results. Here’s the release.

      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Not So Fast on the Newspaper Obit]]> 2006-01-12T13:45:44-05:00 2006-01-12T13:45:44-05:00 2006-01-12T13:45:44-05:00 Centro, wrote a thoughtful commentary in MediaPost (reg. req’d) that argues online editions of local newspapers are far from dead in the water and represent desired inventory from an advertiser perspective. I tend to agree, but there are still some big “ifs” looming.

      Yet as has been empirically established, local newspaper sites have reach, consumer brand affinity and the most desired type of online content—news.
      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[SuperPages Extends Distribution to MSN Local]]> 2006-01-12T13:36:16-05:00 2006-01-12T13:36:16-05:00 2006-01-12T13:36:16-05:00 SuperPages advertisers (horizontal links across the top) will appear in MSN local search results. This is an extension of Verizon’s existing relationship with MSN, which provides the listings for MSN Yellow Pages. Verizon has been working aggressively to expand its network, as have other online Yellow Pages publishers.

      Also very recently announced an expanded distribution relationship with Yahoo! very much like this.
      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[WSJ Roundup of New VoIP Phones]]> 2006-01-12T13:19:28-05:00 2006-01-12T13:19:28-05:00 2006-01-12T13:19:28-05:00 The Wall Street Journal (sub. req’d) has a piece today about the mainstreaming of VoIP through handsets that look and act like traditional cordless phones:

      A slew of new phones are heading to stores aimed at the millions of people who might like to try Internet calling but are put off by the prospect of sitting at a computer to make calls or hooking a phone to an adapter.

      Some of the new phones from makers like Panasonic, Motorola Inc. and Uniden America Corp. have built-in adapters and are preset to connect to popular Internet-calling services like Vonage and Skype. They communicate cordlessly with a base station that’s plugged into a computer or modem. Other devices will be able to shuttle automatically between operating as cellphones, cordless home phones or phones capable of working over the wireless Internet connections at many coffee shops and hotels.

      As VoIP become less like technology and more about just making cheaper calls—when you add Wi-Fi-enabled phones there’s additional incentive—it becomes an increasingly mainstream phenomenon.

      We wrote about VoIP and its implications last year. The expanding VoIP universe will be on the agenda at Drilling Down ’06.

      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[More Google Mobile Moves]]> 2006-01-12T12:16:57-05:00 2006-01-12T12:16:57-05:00 2006-01-12T12:16:57-05:00 announced button on Motorola phones, BlackBerry says it will support Google Talk IM (among others) and Google Local Maps.

      Separately, Google filed a patent application in the mobile space that appears to be about delivering calls vs. clicks to advertisers from a mobile device. Not being an engineer or a patent attorney, it’s challenging to read these things and comprehend their full scope. But it would seem to be about implementing PPCall from wireless as an ad model.

      Gary Price at Search Engine Watch Blog has more, including a link to the patent app. itself (makes for some nice bedtime reading).


      Updated: Google personalized home page for mobile
      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Cable Ad Buying for Local Business]]> 2006-01-11T12:51:36-05:00 2006-01-11T12:51:36-05:00 2006-01-11T12:51:36-05:00 Spot Runner launched today. It presents itself as an ad agency, but it’s really an Internet-based TV ad buying network. It’s totally local, and it’s potentially revolutionary (yes, that’s what I said), offering spot cable buying for small businesses.

      It’s a self-service platform where SMEs can choose markets, vertically specific creative (pre-produced TV commercials that can be customized), and then the desired distribution and scheduling (based on algorithm-driven recommendations). They gave me a demo last Friday, and it was very impressive. It sounds complex, but it’s not that complicated in actual practice.

      Started by the founders of Firefly and PeoplePC, it’s something Google or Yahoo! will probably look at and say, “Damn! I wish we’d done that; maybe we should.” And it’s something people should take a serious look at.

      These guys will be at Drilling Down ’06. We’ll have more to say later.

      Here’s a brief interview with the company’s cofounder Nick Grouf.

      Here’s the press release.

      More from SiliconBeat.

      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[News Survey]]> 2006-01-11T10:18:25-05:00 2006-01-11T10:18:25-05:00 2006-01-11T10:18:25-05:00

      • Fast Search & Transfer’s Stephen Baker points me to a results page on the Denver Post site to show FAST’s aggregation of content from disparate sources in a single page—my search was for “Home Improvement.” FAST doesn’t do UI design (they should). This is getting there ...

      • New mapping and transit site Hopstop (per MediaPost) takes geotargeting down to the block level (using Yahoo! Maps).

      • A new report argues that consumers don’t want to pay for content (iTunes notwithstanding) but would rather have ad-supported video. (There will undoutedly be both in the marketplace going forward.)

      • Local TV Web sites want to be taken seriously as ad vehicles and so commissioned a Borrell report to validate and promote that opportunity to the larger marketplace. (PremierGuide is providing local search and directory content to many of those local TV sites.) The bottom line for local TV sites is that they need to be part of a network (one way or another) to realize this ad revenue potential.

      • EU search engine and Google/Yahoo! challenger Quaero is announced. Billing itself as a next-generation multimedia search provider, it will have to be good and won’t be able to rely on anti-American hostility or pan-EU nationalism for traffic. We’ll see ...
      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Google Earth for Mac OS]]> 2006-01-10T16:46:55-05:00 2006-01-10T16:46:55-05:00 2006-01-10T16:46:55-05:00 This came out today. Here’s what they had to say about it in Mountain View at “the plex.”

      Today is the 10th day of January and I’m counting four product announcements (or their equivalents) so far—ahead of last year’s pace.
      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[MIVA Retains DB]]> 2006-01-10T14:16:10-05:00 2006-01-10T14:16:10-05:00 2006-01-10T14:16:10-05:00

      The press release states:

      [MIVA] announced that it has retained investment banking firm Deutsche Bank Securities to assist the Board of Directors in exploring and evaluating a range of strategic opportunities to enhance shareholder value. Deutsche Bank will help the Board analyze options including, but not limited to, the raising of capital through the sale of securities or assets of the Company, a recapitalization, strategic acquisitions, and the combination, sale or merger of the business with another entity offering strategic opportunities for growth.

      This may or may not mean the company is for sale. But in this market a quote from Woody Allen’s 1977 comedy Annie Hall is in order:

      “A relationship is like a shark, it has to constantly move forward or it dies.”

      In paid search if you’re not Google, Yahoo! or MSN, you’re in the same bind; it’s hard to move forward. LookSmart, Mamma, Enhance, Lycos, etc. all face the same challenge to varying degrees. That’s partly why LookSmart and Marchex (owner of Enhance) are building out vertical destination sites—to take control of their destinies.

      I would expect consolidation among the second-tier networks (the market and The Market will demand it). We’ll see.

      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[FAST Newspaper Deal]]> 2006-01-10T11:01:36-05:00 2006-01-10T11:01:36-05:00 2006-01-10T11:01:36-05:00

      This move toward a search-driven interface that can “surface” more newspaper content is a very positive step in making local newspaper sites more competitive as user destinations for more than just news (which is the hook and where it ends for many people today).

      They’ve got so many partners and have been so successful, the company may soon run out of prospects.

      Here’s the full release.

      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Google in Car]]> 2006-01-10T10:15:42-05:00 2006-01-10T10:15:42-05:00 2006-01-10T10:15:42-05:00 MediaPost per Forbes) that it would be working with Volkswagen to develop an automotive nagivation system based on Google Earth:

      VOLKSWAGEN AG AND GOOGLE HAVE entered into a deal to develop a prototype navigation system for cars, according to a report Monday. The prototype will reportedly integrate the search giant’s satellite mapping product, Google Earth, into VW’s cars.

      That probably puts Google in direct competition with one of its partners, Tele Atlas.

      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Knight Ridder Bidders]]> 2006-01-10T09:54:29-05:00 2006-01-10T09:54:29-05:00 2006-01-10T09:54:29-05:00 story (reg. req’d) about bidders for Knight Ridder. Potential suitors include:

      • Thomas H. Lee Partners, Bain Capital, Texas Pacific Group and Hellman & Friedman

      • Blackstone Group, Providence Equity Partners and Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co.

      • Gannett Co., Tribune Co., Freedom Communications and the McClatchy Co.

      There’s a lot at stake for the future of the industry hanging on which entity acquires the business and how it is subsequently managed.
      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Y! Center and G Updater]]> 2006-01-10T09:18:42-05:00 2006-01-10T09:18:42-05:00 2006-01-10T09:18:42-05:00 Charlene Li points out about Google Pack in her recent post—and this similarly struck me when when I downloaded it—Google and Yahoo! are developing direct channels onto the desktop in a way that, really, only Microsoft has done before. The hidden genius of Google Pack may be the updater that communicates with the user and notifies her of new software or software updates. Yahoo! has something similar in Yahoo! Central, which comes with Yahoo! Messenger:

      Yahoo! Central helps you to manage your internet default settings, such as default browser, email, and browser home page and search. Yahoo! Central collects and transmits information about each of your sessions to help us identify issues, evaluate how our program is used and provide our services. Y! Central will be set to alert you weekly about Yahoo! software updates.

      Clearly, this is nothing new. Software companies have done this many times in the past. But the power of Google and Yahoo! in the marketplace—and the intensity of competition between them and Microsoft—makes this something noteworthy.

      Now Google and Yahoo! don’t have to pull users to their respective sites to introduce new products. They can push those products directly to the desktop (or at least push notices to users). Of course, there are issues of trust and privacy. But think about the B2B side of this as well:

      “Hey SME you’ve tried our consumer products, now test drive our new simplified online marketing tool.” (No feet on the street needed.)

      Or a variation on that theme:

      “Here’s your small business dashboard” ... to manage your parallel universe (vs. MSFT) of SME tools and software.

      Imagine the possibilities ...

      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[AOL Buys V-Search Start-Up Truveo]]> 2006-01-10T06:15:13-05:00 2006-01-10T06:15:13-05:00 2006-01-10T06:15:13-05:00 Truveo:

      The acquisition of Truveo builds on the early leadership established by AOL in the video search engine arena, beginning with the purchase of Singingfish in November 2003 and continuing with the launch of AOL Video Search in June 2005. Truveo’s video search capabilities will be integrated with our search and video products in the coming months.

      Truveo had only just launched in September and boldly promoted itself as the best video search engine online. We blogged about it briefly here when it went live and it’s already been gobbled up.

      When I said “ripe for ultimate acquistion,” who knew that “ultimate” meant three-and-a-half months?

      Here’s more detail from Gary Price at Search Engine Watch . Here’s yet more from MarketWatch (scroll for Bambi Francisco video interview with Truveo CEO Timothy Tuttle)

      Here’s a TechCrunch September posting about Truveo.

      The online video news just keeps coming. In fact, more interesting stuff coming tomorrow!


      Here are some video facts and insights into AOL’s rationale in the “backgrounder” it provided with the press release yesterday:


      • 2005 marked the year video on the web arrived - and it will continue to explode in 2006:
      • Video streaming has consistently doubled year over year over the past few years and is projected to grow at this rate beyond 2009;
      • There were over 20 billion video streams in 2005 alone;
      • Challenge for consumers has been the absence of a good video search engine online. There’s simply no ‘TV Guide’ or ‘remote clicker’ to find the thousands of sites that have rich web video;
      • Consumers still find it difficult to find the videos they want to watch: 59% of those currently watching Internet video “discover online videos randomly while being on the Web”, and 53% of those not currently watching Internet video identified “ability to easily find my favorite types of video” as a primary motivator to increasing video consumption;
      • Also, no video search application anywhere on the web has emerged as the premier player;
      • All of this means there are huge opportunities in this space—for consumers, portals, advertisers, and others.
      • Truveo is the clear leader in the video search space, augmenting AOL’s very strong leadership position in online video:
      • Simply put, Truveo offers a completely new approach to video search;
      • The Truveo technology is unique, innovative, and unmatched - with a comprehensive index of up-to-the-minute video using proprietary ‘visual crawler’ techniques;
      • Truveo offers one of the most comprehensive, robust, high-quality video indexes on the web, allowing consumers to search for and discover hard-to-find video in real-time;
      • Truveo provides best-in-class search indexing, rich metadata, high-quality and constantly updated video content, a streamlined, visually-appealing search interface, and a powerful ranking engine - all on one screen;
      • As a result, Truveo hits the ‘sweet spot’ for consumer video making the experience more relevant, accurate, up to the minute, easy to use, simple and fun, powerful, compelling, and quick;
      • Internal testing shows that Truveo provides search results that are consistently better than others video search offerings on the web;
      • Truveo also possesses world-class search engineering talent - pioneers with remarkable experience in innovative search design and search indexing and who truly understand what today’s consumers seek in the online video search experience.
      • Truveo and AOL are a perfect match.a marriage of the best broadband portal with the best video search engine on the web - a remarkable breakthrough in the search arena.


      This bullet is worth noting:

      Truveo also possesses world-class search engineering talent - pioneers with remarkable experience in innovative search design and search indexing and who truly understand what today’s consumers seek in the online video search experience.

      Talent is what many of these early-stage acquisitions appear to be about now—technology but also buying to hire.

      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Yahoo! and Starwood Team Up for Free Wi-Fi]]> 2006-01-09T09:54:14-05:00 2006-01-09T09:54:14-05:00 2006-01-09T09:54:14-05:00 The Wall Street Journal (sub. req’d), Yahoo! will be testing free Wi-Fi at two Starwood-owned hotels:

      Seeking new ways to distinguish their respective brands, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. and Yahoo Inc. said they will begin a test of Yahoo Internet lounges in two Sheraton hotels today.

      Dubbed Yahoo Link@Sheraton, the lounges opening today in the lobbies of the Sheraton Boston and Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina will be part business center, part Internet cafe. They will have desktop workstations and space for guests to plug in laptop computers. Internet access, including wireless capability, will be free, the companies said.


      A couple of comments:

      It’s totally annoying to pay $9.95 or more—on top of $200 to $300 (or more) for a room—at a major hotel for slow or “cludgey” Internet access. I dance with glee at the prospect of free Wi-Fi. And if this relationship takes hold and proves to be successful, expect Starwood competitors (e.g., Marriott, Hilton, Hyatt) to try something similar.

      Starwood is a global hotel chain:

      At December 31, 2004, our hotel portfolio included owned, leased, managed and franchised hotels totaling 733 hotels with approximately 231,000 rooms in 80 countries, and is comprised of 140 hotels that we own or lease or in which Starwood has a majority equity interest, 283 hotels managed by us on behalf of third-party owners (including entities in which we have a minority equity interest) and 310 hotels for which we receive franchise fees.

      So if it were to go global (or partly global), it would be a potentially significant deal. We’ll see.

      Notice also that Yahoo! is doing this without a partner provider. Where else might the company do this in the future?

      More at Search Engine Journal.

      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Forecast Time Again]]> 2006-01-09T06:17:52-05:00 2006-01-09T06:17:52-05:00 2006-01-09T06:17:52-05:00 write-up by Chris Sherman of the recent SEMPO survey that has lots of juicy data about search marketing. The organization offers figures for 2005 ($5.75 billion spent in U.S. and Canadian markets) and a forecast for 2010 ($11 billion).

      I’ll be putting together a “forecast roundup” for this week’s Local Media Journal.
      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Local Video Rising]]> 2006-01-08T12:28:47-05:00 2006-01-08T12:28:47-05:00 2006-01-08T12:28:47-05:00 SiliconBeat for unearthing, which is posting local videos from all over the U.S.—watch a couple of them and you’ll immediately see the local biz advertising and travel implications.

      Here’s what the site says:, a new Internet video destination, is seeking professional and independent filmmakers, who it pays for their work and creativity, to participate in an ambitious initiative which is chronicling the stories of American neighborhoods and places across the country through 2-5 minute short films made specifically for the Internet.

      Films should be artful and high-concept, focusing on the people, culture, history, local businesses and political landscapes across America. Importantly, the site is highly viral, as each film has it’s own unique URL which can be forwarded via email.

      There’s also a social dimension, which is very interesting and, of course, de rigeur for today’s Internet start-ups. SiliconBeat says distribution will come through and third parties (e.g., Yahoo!, MSN, etc.)

      As we said, 2006 is the year of video and that extends to local as well. We’ll have several panels on video and its implications for local at our next event in San Jose at the end of March.

      Will be following up with Brad Inman (founder) to learn more next week about TurnHere.

      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[The Wi-Fi Phones Are Coming]]> 2006-01-08T12:08:13-05:00 2006-01-08T12:08:13-05:00 2006-01-08T12:08:13-05:00 piece on a Wi-Fi “cell” phone, introduced at CES, that can split calls between cell and Wi-Fi networks. This comes on the heels of the new Skype-Netgear Wi-Fi phone .

      The article talking about UTStarcom’s new GF200 (discussed in the first link) points out that cellphone carriers will resist this and other Wi-Fi-enabled cellphones because of the negative revenue implications.

      Howard Frisch, director of Handset Product Management at UTStarcom, said it’s highly unlikely that existing cell companies will want anything to do with a phone that could slash their revenue.

      Accordingly, Frisch said in the article that Europe will be the first market to see adoption of such phones.

      Eventually most cellphones will be Wi-Fi enabled and this trend toward a phone that can work on any network (at home or out and about) will be the norm. The only question is when? We will see whether and how the incumbent U.S. wireless carriers can delay this inevitability—and they may be able to do so for some time.

      But this potential disruption is what I’m talking about when I say the “new” biz models (e.g., wireless) are less stable than many traditional media models and may be undermined surprisingly fast—from a historical perspective.

      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[comScore Search Numbers]]> 2006-01-06T18:19:34-05:00 2006-01-06T18:19:34-05:00 2006-01-06T18:19:34-05:00 here. Here are the highlights:

      • Google Sites —39.8%

      • Yahoo! Sites— 29.5%

      • MSN-Microsoft Sites —14.2%

      • Time Warner Network— 8.7%

      • Ask Jeeves —6.5%

      According to comScore, Google and were the only gainers.


      Americans conducted 5.15 billion searches online during November 2005, up 9 percent from November 2004.

      Google Sites garnered the most searches in November 2005 with 2.05 billion searches measured, followed by Yahoo! Sites (1.52 billion searches), MSN-Microsoft Sites (728.8 million searches), Time Warner Network (446 million searches), and Ask Jeeves (336.3 million searches).

      Yahoo! and Google continued to battle for supremacy in the toolbar search arena. Yahoo! Sites received 48.5 percent of toolbar searches, edging out Google’s 46.4 percent share. While Yahoo!’s competitive edge is noteworthy, toolbar search activity represented only 12 percent of total searches in November.

      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[More Google and TV]]> 2006-01-06T16:45:04-05:00 2006-01-06T16:45:04-05:00 2006-01-06T16:45:04-05:00 SiliconBeat directs us to a post by Robert X. Cringely about the value and strategic potential of Google serving ads on TV (contextual targeting). At a high level, it’s consistent with this report.

      On a related note, I took a briefing from a company today in the TV/cable ad space that is going to make a big splash next week when they launch (with a local angle). Sorry to tease (I hate when I read cryptic statements like this on other blogs), but it was relevant and I’m eager to talk about this company.

      It was a very impressive demo. More later.

      Have a good weekend.


      Here’s a pretty comprehensive overview of the Page keynote. Lots of interesting bits in there (incl. the $100 laptop).

      Here’s a post-Page keynote update on the Google Video announcement from AP .

      Google Video is now live (and I now believe [after playing with it] that people will ultimately pay to watch online video content)

      Here’s more on the “Google Pack” software download bundle—OpenOffice isn’t there.

      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Sour Grapes at the Big Pipes?]]> 2006-01-06T11:26:29-05:00 2006-01-06T11:26:29-05:00 2006-01-06T11:26:29-05:00 WSJ article (sub. req’d) details plans (and negotiations) to charge fees of content providers for priority high-speed delivery of broadband content:

      Large phone companies, setting the stage for a big battle ahead, hope to start charging Google Inc., Vonage Holdings Corp. and other Internet content providers for high-quality delivery of music, movies and the like over their telecommunications networks.

      One view of this is that the content providers/producers will want to ensure high-speed content delivery to consumers and so are motivated to cooperate. Another view is that this is partly about fairness but partly about sour grapes, as BellSouth, Verizon and AT&T (formerly SBC) see Google, Yahoo!, MSN, AOL, Skype and Vonage (among others) starting to encroach on their various businesses. They don’t want to be the “dumb pipes” that fuel the rise of their rivals.

      More from the WSJ article:

      The phone companies are motivated by a need to find new ways to make money from their networks as more and more customers turn to cable or Internet-based companies for less-expensive phone service. Further, the telecom companies argue that they have spent billions of dollars through the years to upgrade their networks so that users can effortlessly download content from Web sites such as Google and Yahoo—with little benefit to the phone companies themselves.

      “During the hurricanes, Google didn’t pay to have the DSL restored,” said BellSouth spokesman Jeff Battcher. “We’re paying all that money."

      There may be regulatory scrutiny of such efforts, but the more significant long-term unintended consequence of any such efforts by ISPs (if they’re implemented) is the development of alternative access paradigms (including free Wi-Fi). Any efforts of telcos to “tax” their rivals who rely on consumer access to bandwidth—and you can track the rise of search engines with the rise of broadband access—could spur development of those alternative access paradigms.

      Google, Yahoo!, MSN et al very self-consciously know that their growth is tied to unfettered, high-speed access (as well as new platforms). As The Journal suggests, a battle and intensifying competition is coming.

      As I argued before, the traditional media businesses such as print Yellow Pages may have greater staying power and profitability (quite ironically) than the “21st century” business models such as Internet access and wireless. I can hear the skepticism now—we’ll see.

      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Motorola 'Bakes in' G and Y!]]> 2006-01-06T09:31:31-05:00 2006-01-06T09:31:31-05:00 2006-01-06T09:31:31-05:00 announced that it will integrate Google and Yahoo! into handsets (“button on the phone’s keypad” ). A big deal—Motorola is the world’s second-largest handset maker—this will raise user awareness of mobile search (and especially Mo-Lo) and is more evidence of the coming ubiquity of these Internet mega-brands.

      Here’s more on Yahoo!’s everywhere (“Go ” ) strategy. Cingular (to become AT&T again) and Nokia have pending deals with Yahoo! Go.
      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[2006 Looks to be the Year of Web + TV]]> 2006-01-06T08:42:59-05:00 2006-01-06T08:42:59-05:00 2006-01-06T08:42:59-05:00 BIG year for broadband video and offline “on-demand” cable and, maybe, telco IPTV. The fierce competition among Google, Yahoo!, MSN and AOL in the online ad/search world is spilling over into the world of TV and offline media—or maybe blurring the picture between the categories.

      Here’s a N.Y. Times piece from today’s paper on the general subject. And here’s one from MediaPost on the just announced “Web-to-TV” AOL-Intel deal. Both require registration.

      Here’s more on Yahoo! and Google’s plans from PaidContent. And here’s what Terry Semel is set to introduce today— Yahoo! Go (beyond the browser).

      Here’s Reuters’ Eric Auchard’s write-up of the full scope of the Yahoo! announcement (including the wireless aspects) and related third-party deals.

      And here’s a Jefferson Graham USA Today Q&A with Terry Semel about his vision for TV-Web interaction (I dare not say “convergence").

      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Reported Google Video Announcement]]> 2006-01-05T09:27:19-05:00 2006-01-05T09:27:19-05:00 2006-01-05T09:27:19-05:00 WSJ (sub. req’d) has to say re Larry Page’s forthcoming CES keynote:

      Google Inc. plans to announce Friday that it will begin allowing consumers to buy videos from major content partners through the Google site and will also roll out a new downloadable bundle of software for consumers that could heighten Google’s competition with Microsoft Corp., according to people familiar with the matter.

      Under the major upgrade to Google’s video-search service, consumers will be able to pay to download and view videos, such as television shows, on their computers from Google content partners such as TV companies, people familiar with the matter say. Google plans to announce partnerships with some major players tomorrow, including CBS Corp. and the National Basketball Association, these people say. By virtue of Google’s huge presence online, the move could place Google in competition with other emerging powers in Internet distribution of video such as Apple Computer Inc.

      More later ...

      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[CES News Frenzy]]> 2006-01-05T08:17:57-05:00 2006-01-05T08:17:57-05:00 2006-01-05T08:17:57-05:00 news and releases are coming out of CES. Among the many news items worth noting is the Skype-Netgear Wi-Fi phone—no PC required.

      The phone will work:

      “ ... in a home, office, cafe, open public hotspot, or any open municipal wireless access point being deployed worldwide. The Skype experience remains the same, in that users can make free domestic and international calls, as well as host conference calls and chat, with other Skype users anywhere in the world, and to non-Skype users for a small fee. With this device, headphones or USB phones plugged into a laptop or PC are not required."

      We wrote about VoIP and its potential impact on the directory listings database, PPCall and other related subjects here.

      There are other such devices that enable consumers to use VoIP without going through a PC. Commoca offers one such device. AOL TotalTalk offers calling with an adapter on users’ current phones. These are just two examples of ways that consumers can tap VoIP without having to use a USB mic/headset to make calls via IM (which is a barrier to mainstream adoption).

      What’s particularly interesting about the Skype-Netgear phone is that it’s wireless and will work at home, Starbucks or anywhere there’s a high-speed connection. (Now think about municipal Wi-Fi and it starts to get really interesting.)

      The next generation of traditional cellphones will have Wi-Fi embedded (they’ll have to). Consumers won’t want to carry multiple phones. But what if there were one phone—maybe with a handset I could take with me and one that I left at home—that worked anywhere there was a Wi-Fi connection and on the wireless networks of the major carriers?

      You start to get the picture.

      In late 2006 or early 2007, the stars will start to align for VoIP and more U.S. consumers will begin adopting—unless PSTN telcos start lowering prices to prevent it. But Wi-Fi calling is where cable may have an advantage over telcos in the TV-data-voice-wireless bundled features war ("triple-quadruple play").

      More to come. Here’s a roundup of VoIP-related announcements (so far) at CES.



      Coverage of Gates’ “digital lifestyle"/IPTV/Vista discussion and announcements here and here and here.

      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[ISP Competition: 'Bring It On']]> 2006-01-04T13:07:09-05:00 2006-01-04T13:07:09-05:00 2006-01-04T13:07:09-05:00
      I have two contradictory thoughts: Being offline for most of last week gave me some much needed perspective that the Internet isn’t the alpha and omega of existence—of course, I already knew that intellectually— there are many more “human” problems (and pleasures) that should and do trump the questions of search engine market share and online demographics. However, admittedly, I am somewhat compulsively involved with the Internet and its many dramas.

      The Internet is now a utility and should be as reliable; it’s no longer a novelty. It must work all the time, and there must be redundant systems to ensure that it does. Right now, amazingly (because of my own “inertia"), I pay $61.90 per month for my Comcast “high-speed” Internet. I’ve considered switching to ATT-Yahoo!, but the speeds are slower (although so are the prices).

      Yet most of the time I don’t in fact get on at the promised superior cable speeds. Indeed, one of the amazing things I discovered during this little ordeal was that Comcast was actually rationing the signal strength to my house. That was revealed when one of the technicians removed the device constricting the bandwidth to boost the signal speed I was receiving.

      But enough of this griping ... Bring on the municipal Wi-Fi (GoogleNet, whoever; I don’t care). It can’t happen fast enough for me. Maybe that would put some fear into Comcast to deliver better service and better speed at more competitive pricing.

      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Google Pay-Per-View?]]> 2006-01-04T05:22:55-05:00 2006-01-04T05:22:55-05:00 2006-01-04T05:22:55-05:00 MediaPost (reg. req’d) about Google gearing up to potentially charge users to watch full-length videos.

      While more and more users are paying for content online, this move would (in my view) be premature. There’s too much competition out there and the broadband video market is too new (although it’s apparently working on the iPod) to institute a pay-per-view strategy.

      Speaking of such competition, Starz’s Vongo (a $9.95 subscription service as opposed to PPV) will soon permit movie downloads onto a variety of devices. Eventual consumer adoption of such services will largely put video rental companies out of business (and maybe Netflix too, unless they go forward with a similar service, previously “indefinitely postponed").


      This USAToday column looks at the long tail of video content and the role of user recommendations in driving that content (rehash, but timely rehash).

      Here’s Om Malik’s theory about Larry Page’s keynote at CES and Google Video

      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[More Than a Product a Week]]> 2006-01-04T04:53:00-05:00 2006-01-04T04:53:00-05:00 2006-01-04T04:53:00-05:00 Google Blog , the company introduced 77 new products in 2005.

      So there are 52 weeks in a year ... that makes approximately 1.4 product announcements per week. As I wrote last week, analytics firm Hitwise suggests that Google’s momentum (and share growth in the past six months) is partly tied to the introduction of many new products/offerings.

      I wonder if there’s a strategy in there somewhere: product rollout, frenzy of coverage, ubiquity of Google name reinforces usage, also drives market share gains, advertisers follow, stock gains (Hello $600!), et cetera, et cetera.

      I suspect there wasn’t a day in 2005 that didn’t see at least one article written about Google in the U.S. and abroad.
      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Traditional Media Audiences in Decline]]> 2006-01-04T04:42:51-05:00 2006-01-04T04:42:51-05:00 2006-01-04T04:42:51-05:00
      The currency, breadth, accuracy and ubiquitous availability of the Internet and online content are responsible for the trend, according to Burst (vs. one year ago):

      • 36.6 percent spend less time reading magazines

      • 44.1 percent spend less time reading newspapers

      • 44.0 percent spend less time listening to the radio

      • 43.6 percent spend less time watching TV

      The Kelsey Group’s next UserView consumer survey will be conducted this quarter. ]]>
      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Return of the Free/Low-Cost PC?]]> 2006-01-04T03:44:30-05:00 2006-01-04T03:44:30-05:00 2006-01-04T03:44:30-05:00
      How low can it go? The price of PCs, that is. The cheapest desktop PC I was able to find online was selling for less than US$300. That’s pretty cheap, but remember the era of FreePC and PeoplePC (now an ISP)?

      These and several other start-ups in the first round of the Internet offered free (ad-supported) PCs to consumers. The consensus was that the concept was flawed. (I had a friend who ran such a start-up and I almost worked for him.)

      But now, the US$100 laptop and the rumored “Google Cube” suggest the era of the free PC may be here again. The idea of an ad-supported PC is less preposterous today than it was seven years ago.

      Regardless, if it doesn’t get to free it will get close. Deflation (or something akin to it) is happening in the PC market.

      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Craigslist and the Revenge of 'Web 1.0']]> 2006-01-04T03:11:02-05:00 2006-01-04T03:11:02-05:00 2006-01-04T03:11:02-05:00 this posting at Search Engine Journal, “Craigslist has blocked the spidering and indexing of its classifieds sites from search engine robots.”

      This all began with the Craigslist-Oodle smackdown.

      What the blocking means is that individual Craigslist pages are not going to appear in search results—although several searches I performed did return specific Craigslist pages. Most “destination sites” would follow suit if they could, but since search is the “front door to the Internet” they cannot afford to lose the traffic and visibility.

      It’s like the old Pacific Bell/SBC (now at&t) YP ads (I’m paraphrasing from memory): “If it’s not in there, maybe it doesn’t exist.”


      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. Feist v. Rural is the arguably “controlling authority” (legal jargon), 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.

      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Google Maps in Gmail]]> 2006-01-04T02:31:01-05:00 2006-01-04T02:31:01-05:00 2006-01-04T02:31:01-05:00
      It’s a useful integration if, for example, someone provides an address as part of a party invitation (as happened several times over the holidays). It also makes users more aware of the ads to the right. And it probably also makes them somewhat more inclined to (over time) start clicking on those links—making that inventory more valuable, although it’s contextual rather than search.

      But it’s more than just addresses; here’s what Google has to say about it.
      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[CES: Google, Microsoft and Yahoo!]]> 2006-01-04T02:12:38-05:00 2006-01-04T02:12:38-05:00 2006-01-04T02:12:38-05:00 Google and Yahoo! join perennial CES keynoter Bill Gates on the podium.

      Yahoo! and Google are not (yet) hardware or traditional software companies. But Yahoo! is more and more a content company and has teamed up with hardware makers such as TiVo (which many believe Yahoo! will acquire this year); and Google is more and more, well, ubiquitous—the “GooglePC” rumor (officially denied by Google) being just the latest example of Googlephobia or Googlephilia (depending on your bias).

      Nevertheless, we should see some interesting developments this year in online/mobile video distribution and the further fragmentation of TV audiences.

      Here’s PaidContent’s ongoing CES coverage and highlights. More on convergence, cross-platform and hybrid devices and IPTV at CES from SiliconBeat.


      Here’s CNET’s take on why Google and Yahoo! are keynoting and why they’re not going into the hardware business.

      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[YouTube and Rupert Murdoch]]> 2006-01-04T01:47:27-05:00 2006-01-04T01:47:27-05:00 2006-01-04T01:47:27-05:00 blogged about hot video-community site YouTube . So did many people at MySpace, whose references to the site were apparently removed by Murdoch’s organization. (The site is perceived as competitive.)

      A backlash ensued and apparently the practice has been reversed. This is a fascinating example of “corporate media” confronting a very different set of rules ("Web2.0" etc.) online.

      It’s also a very precarious time for MySpace, which could go the route of Friendster if it’s not very careful—notwithstanding all the hype surrounding its metrics (page views, users, etc.) and the recent launch of its branded record label.


      Recently I spoke to a tech journalist who had some very interesting theories regarding why MySpace was able to generate these page views and time on site it boasts, which had little to do with music ...

      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Happy New Year!]]> 2005-12-31T23:10:15-05:00 2005-12-31T23:10:15-05:00 2005-12-31T23:10:15-05:00 Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Will 2006 Be a Breakout Year for Mobile?]]> 2005-12-31T22:54:44-05:00 2005-12-31T22:54:44-05:00 2005-12-31T22:54:44-05:00
      SiliconBeat on mobile couponing from Cellfire
      John Battelle writes about mobile initiatives, specifically Medio, in a couple of recent posts
      Here’s Search Engine Journal on Google and Opera for mobile devices

      Mobile is coming, but not this (2006) year. The pieces are still falling into place: network speeds, devices, databases. But they will fall into place. Then the question becomes: What is the business model to support it (fees, coupons, sponsorships, PPCall, PPClick or all of the above)? TBD.

      Also, there’s lots of interesting stuff going on with FreeDA now (e.g., inFreeDA, Jingle, 1-800-San-Diego and others)—but more on that later.

      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[The Marchex ZIP Destination Strategy]]> 2005-12-29T20:33:39-05:00 2005-12-29T20:33:39-05:00 2005-12-29T20:33:39-05:00 Stephen Baker at BusinessWeek asks whether Marchex’s previous acquisition of ZIP code-based domains will prove a meaningful local search strategy.

      The headline of the post is “Could zip codes burn Google in local search?” Short answer: no. Relatively speaking a very small percentage of users search for ZIP codes (as opposed to place names). The Marchex portfolio of ZIP sites is just part of a larger proprietary network the company is building to boost the quality of its traffic.

      The ZIP sites will need to be aggregated with some sort of “front door.” Otherwise, they’ll just catch occasional, random consumer searches but won’t make a meaningful impact on local search in general.

      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[FAST Doing Deals]]> 2005-12-29T18:21:42-05:00 2005-12-29T18:21:42-05:00 2005-12-29T18:21:42-05:00 Gary Price has a brief roundup of some recent Fast Search & Transfer enterprise search deals. FAST has become the de facto enterprise search platform for top-tier IYPs, verticals and newspaper sites.

      Of specific interest is the reported deal with Citysearch, once almost the only local game in town. Citysearch still has a very powerful local brand in the A&E space but has struggled to transform itself into a broader IYP.

      Citysearch last year lost some traction and mind share to local offerings from search competitors. The ability to surface more content more dynamically and effectively may help boost the city guide as it confronts intensifying competition in 2006.

      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Yahoo! Answers 'The Meaning of Life']]> 2005-12-29T12:18:12-05:00 2005-12-29T12:18:12-05:00 2005-12-29T12:18:12-05:00 Yahoo! Answers launched in early December, I decided just for fun to ask the question “What is the meaning of life?” to see what I’d get back. Just in time for the new year, and provided by the community, here’s the answer:

      Since birth, we are on a journey; a journey that God has commanded us to take. Imagine a huge tree in a middle of a long rough road in a hot day. This tree casts a shadow and provides food to the travelers. You will see people resting under this tree and their eye on the road thinking about their journey and you will see others occupied with what the tree has provided them and who forgot completly about their journey. The smart ones take only what is needed from the tree to help them in their travel while those who forgot, have wasted their time for nothing The road is your way to God. Life is the tree.

      There you have it! I didn’t make any of that up; it’s the real “answer.”

      Now, if Yahoo! Answers can tackle “the meaning of life” question, I’m fairly certain it can help me find a good pizza place in Berkeley.

      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Looking Back, Forging Ahead]]> 2005-12-29T11:49:25-05:00 2005-12-29T11:49:25-05:00 2005-12-29T11:49:25-05:00 CNET and Search Engine Watch round up the top Web and search stories of 2005 in their respective editorial opinions. It’s interesting stuff to reflect upon.

      In many ways, 2005 reestablished the “credibility” of the Internet and the efficacy of online—search in particular—as an advertising medium. In 2006 we’re likely to see many of the same trends and themes repeat themselves and become even more pronounced. On the local front, we’ll see more competition, consolidation, accelerated consumer adoption of the Internet for local lookups, strong movement by some newspapers online, more penetration of PPCall, more social and user-generated media, and further acceleration of online video and fragmentation of the TV audience.

      We’re working on our 2006 forecast and hope to have that ready in the relatively near future. (We’re expanding the scope of the forecast this year.)

      Meanwhile, here’s MediaPost’s (reg. req’d) write-up of Borrell’s 2006 forecast (which appears to be directionally accurate and reflect a strong perspective re online newspapers and local TV). I disagree with some of the numbers, as reported, and there appears, from the article, to be an incomplete understanding of the relatively complex dynamics of the Local Search Ecosystem (TM) and SME behavior.

      But we agree there will be growth; where and how are the issues.
      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[NSA Gives New Meaning to 'Spyware']]> 2005-12-29T08:54:41-05:00 2005-12-29T08:54:41-05:00 2005-12-29T08:54:41-05:00 National Security Agency has given new meaning to the idea of “spyware." And the warrantless surveillance of U.S. citizens’ online and offline communications raises critical new questions about privacy and what ISPs, telecoms, portals and others do and should be doing to afford reasonable privacy protection to private citizens.

      As a practical matter, privacy may be all but gone in this country (as anyone who has applied for life or health insurance can readily attest). Nonetheless, it remains an important value and people generally continue to be concerned about online security and privacy . Yet they are largely ignorant of whether or how they’re tracked or how their personal data (or e-mail) are stored and/or used by their ISPs and the sites they visit online.

      The “transparency” of online communications, Wi-Fi and wireless phone usage make it all the easier for unscrupulous commercial entities (or unscrupulous governments) to track our behaviors and even privately expressed attitudes (and that will only get easier going forward). And in a “free” country, that’s all really scary ... REALLY SCARY.

      Privacy (among other important issues) is something none of us should be complacent about. It’s up to those who have strong views on the subject to express them loudly and publicly or risk further erosion of the kind of rights and protections we all take for granted.


      More from the The Wall Street Journal (sub. req’d).
      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[More Detail on the AOL-Google Deal]]> 2005-12-28T17:20:31-05:00 2005-12-28T17:20:31-05:00 2005-12-28T17:20:31-05:00 John Batelle chased down Marissa Mayer, VP of Search Products & User Experience, to ask her a bunch of questions about the deal and what it means.

      From the exchange it appears that Google thinks the deal will broaden its network and create increased appeal for advertisers—and then there’s the unmentioned retention of AOL’s traffic and thwarting of MSN. Mayer suggests that display/graphical/rich media ads will appear on Google sites other than pure search results. And as many people have already read, Google can sell the 5% stake as early as 2008 in an IPO (or perhaps back to TW!).

      Google is making a push into display advertising (read: attracting branding $$), which is a definite area of growth for them (if they can do it right). And AOL may help in attracting certain categories of advertisers.

      Search is often touted as a branding medium, which it certainly is in part, but most national advertisers and, especially, the agencies aren’t convinced. And Google doesn’t (yet) have as credible an offering for brand advertisers as, for example, Yahoo! does.

      The deal also could boost Google Talk by, down the line, making it interoperable with AIM (the market leader). But AOL may be wary of giving away too many goodies (e.g., TW video archive) lest Google benefit too much by the deal.

      There’s also a link at the bottom of the Battelle post to another Mayer interview with SEW's Danny Sullivan.

      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Hitwise: Google's Share Growing]]> 2005-12-28T11:57:27-05:00 2005-12-28T11:57:27-05:00 2005-12-28T11:57:27-05:00 report ort ("research note") that tracks holiday shopping trends and search market share, among several other things. The company found:

      In the category it calls “search engines & directories sites,” Google, Yahoo! and MSN accounted for approximately 73% of the total market share in November. It’s not clear whether Hitwise includes all IYP sites (my assumption is yes; it lumps 1,700 sites into this category) but SuperPages was the only IYP to crack Hitwise’s top 15.
      Google sites had a net gain in traffic vs. Yahoo! Search and MSN Search ( Yahoo! and MSN have greater reach/traffic than Google in general).
      Google had a 61.8% share of total search volume in November; Yahoo! Search and MSN Search had shares of 25.6% and 5.1%, respectively, (comScore and Nielsen’s numbers aren’t quite as dramatic).
      The report suggests also that Google’s momentum (and share growth in the past six months) is partly tied to the introduction of many new products/offerings.

      Google’s growth in market share appears to be confirmed (though at different levels) by all three major tracking firms, which is striking given the frenzy of competition in the search space. Next year will bring continuing competition and product innovation. Given the intensity of this year and the Hitwise data, it’s hard to imagine anything in the immediate future to affect the balance of power in the general search space.

      Local is more wide open and another thing all together—expect competition to only increase there too.

      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[For Better Shopping Search, Ask the User]]> 2005-12-28T11:08:18-05:00 2005-12-28T11:08:18-05:00 2005-12-28T11:08:18-05:00 nice overview of new shopping engines and their differentiating features. Most noteworthy from my point of view is , which offers a "research" button and a “shop” button. (Click the links in the previous sentence to see the differences in the results for “digital camera.") Yahoo! (and others) have experimented with similar strategies.

      There’s considerable skepticism about consumers’ understanding of and willingness to use such tools, but I think they offer intriguing possibilities for delivering more relevant results—and “disambiguating” consumer intent—at each “stage” of the buying cycle. I wrote more about that in a previous post (scroll for discussion).

      I think there are several (not necessarily linear) stages of the purchase cycle that could be addressed in this way: general research (identifying the product/service), editorial/user reviews and product comparisons (features), price comparisons, and where to buy (online/off). This approach creates distinct ad inventory at each stage: graphical branding ads at the research stage, PPC (and coupons) at the price comparison stage and maybe pay-per-phone call at the buy (locally) stage, for example.

      Shopping/comparison engines will continue to gain momentum over time as e-commerce grows. But again, look for more "where can I buy it locally?" offerings on the main comparison engines going forward.

      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Google Base's New Interface]]> 2005-12-27T02:20:57-05:00 2005-12-27T02:20:57-05:00 2005-12-27T02:20:57-05:00
      When Google Base launched and people said it’s the “Craigslist killer” or the “newspaper classifieds killer,” I argued that might only be so if Google could create a user experience and expectation that trained people to think of Google as a source of classifieds-related information. Based on my discussions with Google, I formed the opinion that the company wanted Base to be the entry point for content and not necessarily the place for users to access that content.

      Now Google has apparently redesigned Base. The new interface starts to resemble the kind of user experience that WILL condition people to go there to look for classifieds and other related content. The display of that content on search results pages still needs considerable work, if Google does want Base to be a user destination, but see this post re Google’s vertical strategy (which could equally apply to the display of content on Base results pages).

      Only a fraction of Google’s traffic comes through its “vertical” sites (Local, Froogle, etc.). So the challenge remains how to efficiently and effectively push out the Base content to and existing Google verticals where most people will search, rather than creating yet another destination. Yet Google seems to be experimenting with creating a kind of “content marketplace” for users in Base.

      We’ll see how far it will go with that concept in the coming weeks and months.

      I didn’t talk about the “landing page” changes and controversy. But, apparently, there is controversy. The landing page (an interim page between the search result and the third-party content provider) is consistent with profile pages on Google Local and elsewhere on Google, but it does tend to de-emphasize the third party in the transaction.

      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Google Creating a 'Virtual Sales Force'?]]> 2005-12-23T16:26:25-05:00 2005-12-23T16:26:25-05:00 2005-12-23T16:26:25-05:00 flash/video presentation about Google's AdSense that appeared on a blog I was reading. Check out the video. It's not specifically directed to SMEs. But imagine an online sales presentation that was; it would be much more effective than this. More than 50% of SMEs have broadband Internet access, so this type of promotion/presentation becomes very feasible (set up and campaign management are another issue, however).

      On another note, Google has beefed up its personalized homepage and enabled the addition of different RSS feeds. One nice feature: The arrangement of the content "modules" is very easy to manipulate simply by dragging and placing them in the desired locations on the page. ]]>
      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Google: 'Alea Iacta Est' or 'Jump the Shark'?]]> 2005-12-17T18:27:06-05:00 2005-12-17T18:27:06-05:00 2005-12-17T18:27:06-05:00 Susan Mernit on her blog said the following about the AOL deal: [I]n a year, we'll be watching a very different Google--one that may have morphed into something alot more like AOL was back in the day, when they were fat and sassy and thought no one cared about search. John Battelle made the more dire prediction that Google's agreement to show image ads in search results and give "favored placement" to AOL content "throughout the site" potentially represented a watershed moment -- known in recent American pop culture lore as "jumping the shark" (originally referring to the 70s-80s TV show "Happy Days").

      There are two implied scenarios here, neither of them (according to Mernit and Battelle) favorable for Google's long-term health. The Caesar reference is mine and suggests that this deal coincides with a period -- how long is uncertain -- in which Google's market share dominance in search simply cannot be assailed or overthrown. But to continue my Roman Empire analogy (and to pick up on Battelle and Mernit's concerns), perhaps Google is, with this deal, showing the potential to undermine the user experience that got the company to where it is today: fast, clean and relevant (no paid inclusion) search results. If this moment is in fact akin to "jumping the shark," then an opening is created for a new Google to come in and do simply and elegantly what Google did several years ago when all the other search engines were corrupted by "overmonetization" or otherwise fat and lazy. Of course, this time, Google (or Yahoo! or MSN) won't allow a new Google to come into the market -- or will attempt to acquire new potential Googles before they can scale. (But recall how Microsoft allegedly tried to acquire Google early on and Sergey and Larry said "no"?) I'm not convinced that this deal will ruin Google -- the company is mindful of the consumer experience to an extreme degree -- but the rapidly evolving, hyper-competitive marketplace and the pressure to grow revenues may take Google in directions that the company never anticipated. Perhaps this is one. We'll see. _____________ Here's the "day 2" story in the NY Times (reg req'd)]]>
      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[ to Distribute InsiderPages PPCall Ads]]> 2005-12-17T09:28:52-05:00 2005-12-17T09:28:52-05:00 2005-12-17T09:28:52-05:00 release: Insider Pages, the community-based local-search engine, and Interchange Corporation, owner of, a leading local-search engine, today announced an agreement for the distribution of Insider Pages Pay Per Phone Call advertisers and merchant reviews on Insider Pages advertisers and merchant reviews will appear in relevant search results when a consumer types in a query for a local business, product or service. Here's more from ClickZ.

      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[AOL: It's Google]]> 2005-12-17T08:06:08-05:00 2005-12-17T08:06:08-05:00 2005-12-17T08:06:08-05:00 The N.Y. Times. This is obviously a big deal and may give Google access to coveted content assets from Time Warner. And although the contours and terms are not yet final, this is interesting (from the Times' piece): Google, which prides itself on the purity of its search results, agreed to give favored placement to content from AOL throughout its site, something it has never done before. In 2004, AOL earned about $300 million from revenue share payments related to clicks on Google PPC ads shown on AOL search results pages.

      The original "merger” between Time Warner and AOL was worth approximately $163 billion (combined value of the companies at the time). This investment, if extrapolated, would value AOL at $20 billion today. At today's market close, Time Warner's market cap was approximately $84 billion, while Google's was roughly $127 billion. This deal represents something of an easier "integration" than a joint venture with Microsoft would have been. Here's what the Wall Street Journal (sub req''d)said earlier today about the terms and implications of the deal: The deal would help Google sell more of the display ads that run on some of the Web sites affiliated with Google. AOL's big sales staff would begin selling such display ads for an unspecified number of Web publishers that have outsourced at least part of their ad sales to Google. In turn, Google, whose technology powers the AOL search engine, would allow AOL to directly sell search ads, which appear when users type key words in queries or when the words appear in the texts of Web sites...Google also would promote AOL's Web properties among ads that appear beside its search results, and include AOL's online videos among search results. It would extend by five years its deal to operate AOL's search engine, which was to end next year. Most interesting here is the idea of Google having a greater "branding" (display ads, read larger advertisers) opportunity and leveraging AOL's sales force. Also, as I mentioned above, display/distribution of some of AOL's video content assets would probably benefit Google in its bind to become a video search engine/portal. AOL also owns and I wonder if the latter's inventory or technology (e.g., behaviorial targeting, rich media) are contemplated to come into play in any way in this? The analysts and commentators who spoke with The Mercury News think the retention deal was mainly about PR rather than revenue for Google (interesting): Although losing AOL as a partner would not have significantly hurt Google's financial bottom line -- AOL was shrinking as a source of ad revenue -- it would have been a public embarrassment for the company, several observers said. ``I think this has more to do with stature than economics,'' said Ellen Siminoff, chief executive of search marketing company Efficient Frontier. ``I think it was shrewd of Google to go after it, because it doesn't allow anyone else to come after that business.'' Standard & Poor's Internet analyst Scott Kessler agreed. ``Internet searching is going to be big for Microsoft, and I think the last thing Google wants to see is Microsoft making a splashy debut with their former best customer,'' Kessler said. ``I think to some extent it's a land grab.'' Of course $1 billion is a lot to spend on PR. :) More from Reuters and many other sources. ]]>
      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[MSN Offers PC-to-Phone Calling]]> 2005-12-16T17:34:36-05:00 2005-12-16T17:34:36-05:00 2005-12-16T17:34:36-05:00 PC-to-phone calling (through MSN messenger). MSN is doing this in partnership with MCI (being acquired by Verizon).

      Here are the details: MCI and Microsoft are testing the service as part of a Windows Live Messenger limited beta with subscriptions initially available in the United States, and expect to jointly deliver the PC-to-phone calling capabilities to France, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom in the coming weeks. Once subscribed to the service, customers can place calls to and from more than 220 countries with rates starting at $.023 per minute to the U.S., Canada, the U.K. and Western Europe during the beta testing period. Upon sign-up, MCI Web Calling customers will receive up to one hour of free calls. Final pricing will be determined when the product officially launches in 2006. This is undoubtedly a prelude (at some future point) to PPCall (via VoIP) integration for local merchants through Windows Live Local. Here's more from AP. ]]>
      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Alexa API to Power Niche Searches]]> 2005-12-16T17:32:30-05:00 2005-12-16T17:32:30-05:00 2005-12-16T17:32:30-05:00 This is very interesting -- and we could see a proliferation of vertical search engines on top of this. No time to discuss extensively. Here are the opinions of: Danny Sullivan and John Battelle. Here's Susan Mernit and Om Malik. Here's the Wall Street Journal article (subscription req'd). Here's another discussion on Search Engine Journal.

      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Topix Adds User-Generated Content]]> 2005-12-16T17:24:35-05:00 2005-12-16T17:24:35-05:00 2005-12-16T17:24:35-05:00 has launched a redesigned site and added user comments and community features, turning the entire site into a blog of sorts. Here's more from SiliconBeat.

      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[StepUp the Latest Local Company to Get Funded]]> 2005-12-16T17:23:20-05:00 2005-12-16T17:23:20-05:00 2005-12-16T17:23:20-05:00 StepUp announced that it had received a $6.6 million series B round. From the press release: StepUp Commerce, Inc., the Internet’s local shopping service, today announced it has closed a $6.6 million funding round to further enhance its local shopping service for retailers. The round was co-led by Allegis Capital and Granite Ventures LLC and also included participation by the company’s previous investors. StepUp is using a variety of strategies to get local retailers online and distributed across the Internet. Local retailer information (offline inventory) is now in demand, partly because of recent moves by Google, CNet and others.

      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Nielsen: Google Tops in Search, Local Growth]]> 2005-12-16T17:21:28-05:00 2005-12-16T17:21:28-05:00 2005-12-16T17:21:28-05:00 Nielsen/NetRatings, there were 5.1 billion total search queries in October. Here's how Nielsen recorded search engine market share (U.S.):
      • Google -- 48 percent
      • Yahoo! -- 22 percent
      • MSN -- 11 percent
      • AOL -- 7 percent
      • Ask -- 3 percent
      Nielsen also said that Local Search queries increased by 19 percent during the same period.

      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[ Ads Furl Functionality]]> 2005-12-16T17:20:15-05:00 2005-12-16T17:20:15-05:00 2005-12-16T17:20:15-05:00 will be offering a tagging/bookmarking feature powered by LookSmart's Furl like The N.Y. Times). This is the latest in a series of moves (with more coming) to beef up the content and features of, among them: ShopLocal's content and PPCall ads from Ingenio.

      Earlier this week, Interchange announced that's traffic had risen drammatically: For the month of November 2005, reached 5 million unique visitors and over 21 million page views, up from 1.5 million unique visitors and 6 million page views in October 2005. Interchange paid about $700K for "" and if it can add the right combination of content and features -- which is still TBD in this evolving marketplace -- it may be able to be very competitive for consumer traffic (and ad $$). ]]>
      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[PriceGrabber Grabbed by GUS]]> 2005-12-16T17:18:11-05:00 2005-12-16T17:18:11-05:00 2005-12-16T17:18:11-05:00 GUS announced that it's buying California-based comparison shopping engine PriceGrabber. The online shopping site was No. 6 in terms of August U.S. traffic, according to comScore. The reported price was $485m (ÂŁ274m). Back when Shopzilla was acquired by E.W. Scripps in June, we speculated about whether PriceGrabber and/or NexTag would be next.

      Because of the proven business model and increasing traffic and revenues to shopping engines, by early next year there probably won't be an "independent" left (review comparison site will go at some point too). However, as I've recently written, the next wave in online shopping is offline inventory. Why? See "E-Tail Reality Check."]]>
      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[$100 Laptop Coming to Market]]> 2005-12-16T17:13:52-05:00 2005-12-16T17:13:52-05:00 2005-12-16T17:13:52-05:00 picture of the MIT-developed $100 laptop. The computer, created in partnership with Google and AMD, is set to roll out soon. Reportedly, Intel Corp. Chairman Craig Barrett (and AMD competitor) said users will not want such a device.

      Right. MIT had originally said it is for the people/children of the Third World and “won’t be available for purchase by individuals.” (Although that tune has recently changed and commercial versions are actively being explored.) The computer will be manufactured by Taiwan's Quanta, which is the world's largest maker of laptops. Here's what we wrote before about how these cheap laptops might revolutionize the market. ]]>
      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[What Does 'Google Music' Tell Us?]]> 2005-12-16T16:47:12-05:00 2005-12-16T16:47:12-05:00 2005-12-16T16:47:12-05:00 Reuters and SEW. When users search for, say, Madonna (the example used at SEW), they'll see some information: a picture and links to a page about Madonna and a link to the alliterative "more music results for Madonna." (Click that link and note the "search music" button.) My colleagues will read this and wonder, "Why the @#$! is he writing about this?" Well, beyond this being an interesting "content" play and a way for Google to serve more of its users' needs (and get some more ad revenues down the line), the move starts to clarify some things about what might be called Google's "vertical strategy."

      In addition to the new music feature, and with the introduction of "tools" such as "Google Travel" (see SFO to JFK) and Google Base, which many are convinced is a surrogate for Google classifieds (it's more complex than that), there is a growing question about how Google will manage and present all this "vertical" information. As I've argued before, Google is "ambivalent" about verticals -- the company wants to push out as much as it can through results. It created "News," "Local," "Shopping," "Blog Search," "Video" and some other arguable "verticals" because it felt it needed to do so to offer the optimal user experience. But the company doesn't want to keep doing this for every possible content area: Finance, Health, Cars, Jobs, Real Estate and so on. Google would really start fragmenting its audience, which is a big problem with local generally. So what does it do as it expands its "content" offerings and introduces richer data for each new area? It does what the company is starting to do in music and doing in weather. But an even better example is what it's doing with movie showtimes. Google is offering what we might call "Page 2." You get a tease or a set of links on top of the search results page (similar to Local now), and then you'll be taken into a specialized content area. This is how Google will keep users going to (where most go anyway) and also offer a competitive "vertical" experience (Page 2), where the features and content can be tailored to the specific topic: Cars, Jobs, Real Estate, Movies, Finance, Music, etc. Google also starts to create very valuable ad inventory on these pages -- inventory arguably much more valuable than that on This is, I believe, how Google solves and resolves the problem of maintaining its almost religious devotion to "one box" and while offering richer/deeper content and specific navigation -- a vertical user experience -- in particular areas, which it needs to do to maintain market share and, ultimately, deliver more value to marketers over the long term. _____________ Here's Google's official blog statement about the new service. ]]>
      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Widget Wars]]> 2005-12-16T16:23:53-05:00 2005-12-16T16:23:53-05:00 2005-12-16T16:23:53-05:00 Yahoo! Widgets, and it has greatly expanded the widget gallery (it seems). I love these widgets. They're fun. Strategic value: They give the company a presence on the desktop, beyond the browser -- blah, blah, blah. Now, Google has offered an API for its personalized homepage -- essentially a widget-making tool. This doesn't put "modules” (as Google calls them) on your desktop (that's for Sidebar). Rather it puts them on your Google personalized homepage. There are plenty of these that have a local dimension (maps, weather, transit schedules, etc.).

      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Top Searches Roundup]]> 2005-12-16T16:13:54-05:00 2005-12-16T16:13:54-05:00 2005-12-16T16:13:54-05:00 A9, AOL (here's its ongoing list), Ask Jeeves IQ, CNet's, InfoSpace's Dogpile, Lycos, MSN (needs to be updated), Google's Zeitgeist, Yahoo!; and here's the Buzz Index, more generally.

      Here's the Google Zeitgeist for 2004 (includes local -- scroll). You'll notice that these are all brands and stores without geographic modifiers. I don't know whether they originally included them. For example, how did Google determine they were local? Did they originally contain geo modifiers or was it that fulfillment largely happens offline? That would be what we refer to as an "implicit local search." If one takes an expanded (arguably more accurate) look at local in terms of implicit local intent (e.g., any searches falling in the top YP or classifieds headings), then user intent starts to open up and we see that the Internet and much of what users want from it is really local information: where to go, what to do, where to buy it. Even product and retail searches (see the Zeitgeist for 2004) are in some large measure local. For example, if only 2.5% of U.S. retail is happening online (2005), then people are searching online and buying offline (see the comScore/Overture study) -- and some large number of product searches ultimately have a local intent. Interesting, no? ]]>
      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Wi-Fi Phones May Challenge Traditional Wireless]]> 2005-12-16T15:36:17-05:00 2005-12-16T15:36:17-05:00 2005-12-16T15:36:17-05:00 a post about the inexorable spread of Wi-Fi and how "21st-century" businesses (i.e., ISPs and wireless) are going to be challenged and that currently fat revenues may dry up sooner than anyone expected.

      Now Vonage has announced a Wi-Fi phone that will enable calls from any Wi-Fi hotspot. There will be more such phones soon. So, eventually when we have nearly universal Wi-Fi, there will be unlimited calling for an extremely low cost at home and at hotspots (which can be as broad as a municipality or a giant rural area). But into the foreseeable future, Wi-Fi won't work when you're in the car. So wireless carriers will still have a role for some time. But, as a practical matter, traditional telcos and their wireless subs will feel more and more competitive pressure and downward pressure on pricing. However, bundling may protect subscriptions (voice, data, Internet) for a while. Recall Meg Whitman predicted that basic calling would be "free" in just a few years. ]]>
      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Gmail Mobile]]> 2005-12-16T15:24:30-05:00 2005-12-16T15:24:30-05:00 2005-12-16T15:24:30-05:00 Gmail access via mobile phones.

      Here are the details about the service from Google: Because every mobile device is different, Gmail Mobile automatically optimizes the interface based on the phone. Users can also view attached photos and documents from their phone, and reply-by-call to people whose phone number is stored in their Gmail account. Gmail messages are automatically synchronized, regardless of whether Gmail is accessed from Gmail Mobile or the web. Gmail Mobile is currently available for free for mobile phone users in the U.S. The service works with most web-enabled mobile phones. Of course, users have long been able to access Gmail from a Web browser (only those with "smartphones" or larger screens are having a reasonable experience, however). This is mobile e-mail "for the rest of us," who have normal/tiny screens. Just in time for the holidays, Google has also released a bunch of new Gmail features more generally:
      • Quick links that identify addresses and package tracking numbers in e-mails and displays them to the right of users' inbox so they can more easily access maps, directions or tracking information with a single click.
      • Gmail Web Clips, which appear at the top of the Gmail inbox and enable users to read Google News, a friend's blog, or any RSS or Atom feed from their Gmail account.
      • Anti-virus protection that automatically scans messages with attachments.
      • The ability to view attachments in HTML instead of downloading to the desktop or mobile phone.
      • A vacation auto-responder, which enables users to automatically notify people when they're away from e-mail or unable to respond.
      • The option to create contact groups (one of the most highly requested Gmail features)
      Gmail Mobile is of course about serving user demand for mobile e-mail access. But it's also about increasing wireless usage (the next frontier in Local) and growing the e-mail user base for Google more generally (by offering a more comprehensive and useful service). Gmail is now a kind of hub for Google. Google Talk and a range of personalized services (homepage, search) are all tied together through Google registration, for which e-mail is the motivating factor. The more registration data collected by Google, the more relevant search results (and ads) can potentially be. Here's general comScore data (U.S., August) on e-mail marketshare: Yahoo! -- 30% Hotmail/MSN -- 25% AOL -- 23.4% Gmail -- 1.8% ____________ Related: Here's a piece in USAToday about e-mail and online software trends. ]]>
      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Ingenio Fine-Tunes PPCall Features]]> 2005-12-16T15:17:27-05:00 2005-12-16T15:17:27-05:00 2005-12-16T15:17:27-05:00
      Ingenio explains:
      • Auto-bidding: Similar to the proxy bidding features popularized by Google and eBay, Ingenio Auto-Bidding allows advertisers to set a "max" price per call and will automatically update an advertiser's bid by $.01 until it reaches the max price point. This feature had been a top request from Ingenio advertisers.
      • Conversion Management: This process does two things (1) optimizes the relevancy of Ingenio ads to help distribution partners maximize revenue from Pay Per Call listings (2) helps advertisers fine-tune their Pay Per Call campaigns to produce better quality leads. It provides advertisers with continuous updates on ad performance and suggestions on how to modify their ads to improve call-through rates.
      In 2006 we should see Yahoo! and Google (as well as a host of new verticals) adopt PPCall officially. The Kelsey Group has forecasted that PPCall could be a US$1.4 billion market (or more) by 2009. ]]>
      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Classifieds Bits]]> 2005-12-16T15:15:59-05:00 2005-12-16T15:15:59-05:00 2005-12-16T15:15:59-05:00 apparently decided to no longer offer direct classifieds advertising and will instead become a distributor or aggregator of classified ads from other sources. Also the San Diego Union Tribune is apparently having good success with free classifieds (the program may be a model for other newspapers going forward). From the blog: The San Diego Union-Tribune is reporting that its free-classifieds program, in place since late August, is a "success." It allows private parties to place up to 12 free ads per year which go in the print edition and on the website. Free ads are permitted in the categories of merchandise, automotive, boats, jobs wanted, found pets, and found items; goods for sale cannot be valued at more than $5,000.

      The Tribune did not report on the financial success of its upsell efforts or whether there had been any secondary financial benefit to the free listings. Craigslist and, more recently, LiveDeal (which is partnering with newspapers, offering its platform) have de-facto established that basic online listings will need to be free to be viable. The revenue game then is about professional sellers and upsell opportunities. In addition to all the verticals, the major search engines have classifieds marketplaces or are in various stages of their development. Currently online classifieds in the major categories is approximately a US$2 billion market, whereas traditional print classifieds were worth almost US$17 billion (U.S. market) last year. ]]>
      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Google (Local) Lab at Heathrow]]> 2005-12-16T15:11:51-05:00 2005-12-16T15:11:51-05:00 2005-12-16T15:11:51-05:00 Google Blog. Some time ago Google created Google Space (a physical place in Terminal 1) where users can access the Internet for free while waiting to board flights, etc. Smartly, Google has used Google Space as a kind of ongoing focus group for Local (and Google Earth), it appears.

      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Yellow Pages Group Buys Trader Media]]> 2005-12-14T17:07:14-05:00 2005-12-14T17:07:14-05:00 2005-12-14T17:07:14-05:00 buying Canadian classifieds publisher Trader Media Corp. for C$436 million in cash and equity. This puts YPG on similar footing as Australia's Sensis, which owns classifieds publisher Trading Post. Classifieds and Yellow Pages content are complementary and together form the bulk of the commercial content of a comprehensive local offering.

      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Opera: The Rumored Google Browser?]]> 2005-12-14T16:39:46-05:00 2005-12-14T16:39:46-05:00 2005-12-14T16:39:46-05:00 Search Engine Watch blog (Gary Price), which points to Dirson, about Google possibly buying Oslo-based Opera. (Opera has an approximately 1 percent market share.) There's also lots of discussion in Gary Price's post about the history of the rumored Google Browser.

      Here's Om Malik's earlier post on the Google-Opera relationship and deal that made Opera free. Google's toolbar and desktop search apps (including Sidebar) are moving in on offering browser-like tools and functionality without being a browser per se. If this rumor proves to be true, it would allow Google more control over the "virtual desktop" (since that's what browsers are increasingly becoming) and more access to users/user behavior. There are both ad revenue and market-share implications if the company actually does this. ]]>
      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Google's Inaugural TV Spot]]> 2005-12-14T16:05:32-05:00 2005-12-14T16:05:32-05:00 2005-12-14T16:05:32-05:00 here's Google's first mainstream marketing effort (PBS TV commercial).

      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Another Municipality Goes Wireless]]> 2005-12-13T16:28:41-05:00 2005-12-13T16:28:41-05:00 2005-12-13T16:28:41-05:00 Pew report), there were skeptics arguing that broadband penetration will stall in the U.S. Not only is it not going to stall, it's going to eventually be free. (Consumers know this and are less and less willing to pay.) Anecdotal case in point: When I met with MSN's Erik Jorgensen, we met at Cafe de la Presse in SF. There were numerous Wi-Fi options, at least two of which were free. The choice was obvious. This article discusses another free municipal Wi-Fi initiative, this time in Arizona (Tempe).

      There is growing momentum around free Wi-Fi, making ISP incumbents upset, nervous and very angry in some cases. There will be a concerted legislative effort (Washington lobbyists at the ready) by vested interests to prevent municipalities from offering free Wi-Fi as it gains steam. What's astounding about all this is that the multibillion-dollar Internet access business has been around only for about 15 years and it's being disrupted (or will be shortly). Sure, "old media" models are being distrupted, but so are relatively new ones. In addition to the ISP business, think about how the wireless carriers may have business cut out from under them by Wi-Fi-enabled phones in just a couple of years. Indeed, even as Verizon seeks to shed its directory business, it's the "21st century" businesses (wireless, ISP, etc.) that ultimately may be much more vulnerable -- so ironically. Along those same lines, MySpace is king of the "social networks" now but what about tomorrow? Could that Rupert Murdoch US$580 million acquisition be worth a fraction of that two years from now? It happened to Friendster. And while MySpace is a different case, for the scadenfreude crowd it's tantalizing to think so. The larger point is -- even as I've argued that "inertia" applies to user behavior online -- there's tremendous economic instability being introduced by the Internet. I'm not an economist and I'm way out of my league in suggesting this, but it seems to me there's a much longer conversation to be had about how technological development, the Internet and related trends are being driven by traditional, structural incentives in the U.S. economy and how that very same economy is becoming more and more unstable as a result. There's something paradoxical, strange and fascinating going on and it's so big and so fast, it's very challenging to get one's brain entirely around it. _____________________ And now New York? ]]>
      Greg Sterling <![CDATA['Click-to-Call' vs. 'Pay-per-Phone-Call'—What's the Difference?]]> 2005-12-13T12:04:41-05:00 2005-12-13T12:04:41-05:00 2005-12-13T12:04:41-05:00
      Pay-per-phone-call (PPCall) is a business model -- the monetization of phone calls driven by the Internet. PPCall can be supported by an auction marketplace or sold on a flat-fee basis (same as clicks). Ingenio does the former; InsiderPages and Judy's Book do the latter. All are examples of PPCall. Click-to-call is a type of call-connection functionality wherein a user typically clicks an icon (here on [the phone]), which launches a module. Then she can input her phone number, and a call between that consumer and a merchant or professional is connected (both phones ring simultaneously). Click-to-call can support a PPCall billing model, but the two terms are not synonymous. ]]>
      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Offline Inventory Suddenly Hot—Online]]> 2005-12-13T12:04:12-05:00 2005-12-13T12:04:12-05:00 2005-12-13T12:04:12-05:00 The N.Y. Times (reg. req'd) about some of the new initiatives (i.e., Froogle Local and CNet) to provide offline inventory information to online shoppers. The central problem is infrastructure and accuracy. StepUp was the first to try and round up SMEs and do this (it's one of Google's partners). Others are now working on the challenge. (From a consumer standpoint, there are now several services that provide offline shopping information -- e.g., Froogle, CNet, ShopLocal, Cairo and Yokel.)

      Ultimately the data and infrastructure problems will be solved and it will become a necessity for comparison engines to have this information -- to be "agnostic" about where consumers buy. Amazon has been working on this online/offline issue for a while. In the near term, the site that can provide both online and offline information in the context of the best user experience will have a competitive advantage. An indication of consumer demand for local shopping information is ShopLocal's rising traffic (U.S. rankings, August 2005, comScore): 1. sites (eBay) 2. Shopzilla/BizRate sites (E.W. Scripps) 3. Yahoo! Shopping 4. NexTag sites 5. inStore (AOL) 6. PriceGrabber 7. ShopLocal (Gannett, Knight Ridder and Tribune) 8. Froogle (Google) 9. CNET Reviews 10. Monster]]>
      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[ Sites Threaten Newspapers—Maybe]]> 2005-12-13T12:03:43-05:00 2005-12-13T12:03:43-05:00 2005-12-13T12:03:43-05:00 MediaPost (reg req'd) writes about a new Borrell report about the potential rise of "independent local sites" as another threat to the newspaper industry (just add them to the list, right?). Well yes and no. T'he MediaPost piece focuses on the assertion that their "intuitive" appeal and URLs such as "," "" or "" may eventually trump local sites operated by newspapers. Because our ILM conference starts today, I don't have much time to go into this. I'll just say that the reality is somewhat more complicated.

      Many of these so-called "independent local sites" are not in fact going to offer meaningful competition for online metro dailies (or Google or Yahoo! for that matter) in the long run. But they have the as-yet-undemonstrated potential to do so. It's going to depend in the end on the user experience, the content and whether they're ultimately part of some larger network. And, in fact, many of the "" sites (e.g., are owned or operated by Boulevards New Media, which is itself a weekly/community newspaper initiative. Our last "UserView" survey of online consumer behavior indicated there was a statistically significant decrease in traffic to city guides, while there was a comparable rise in the use of search engines for local lookups. So the whole category of city sites is losing -- not gaining -- traction. But let's take the Boulevards sites -- again a newspaper initiative -- for example. Their UIs are pretty nice and they are part of a network. This means that over time, if the user experience and content continue to improve, the general Borrell prediction could have merit. If that comes to pass, however, they wouldn't just be a potential treat to the metro daily sites but also to Google Local and Yahoo! Local to a similar, hypothetical degree. At the moment, local is not a zero-sum game; in fact, just the opposite -- it's more and more fragmented. The Boulevards sites are right now positioned chiefly as travel sites (where I'm going rather than where I am) -- although they do have classifieds listings. They're less likely to be used by "locals" in their own city. Again, if this network, which is more like the old affiliate network before it was acquired by Local Matters, than Citysearch, creates a good user experience with good content people will use them. (They also become an acquisition target.) Local metro daily newspapers have traffic and brand equity, but they face loads of competition from a whole range of sites focused on local. Indeed, local metro dailies have many challenges in competing online (mostly internal), but right now these sites are just another -- and not particularly significant -- among them. ]]>
      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[GoCityKids Finds a Buyer]]> 2005-12-13T11:57:26-05:00 2005-12-13T11:57:26-05:00 2005-12-13T11:57:26-05:00 had been acquired by Viacom-owned cable channel Nickelodeon. I met with founder Clare Ellis years ago when the network of sites had just launched (in 2000). Her concept was great -- a Citysearch for families -- but her timing, through no fault of her own, was lousy. The bottom fell out of the economy shortly after the site was founded. GoCityKids survived largely on good will and through a network of volunteer editors who believed in the concept and valued the content, which was highly unique (at a network level). Among the really valuable elments of the site was its user-generated content (parent reviews), long before this was in vogue, and its local events guides, which were almost unique online. In my conversations with Internet companies in the local arena, I often pointed to GoCityKids in the context of discussing local events as a missing element. I'm glad to see the site will now get the resources it needs to deliver on its original promise.

      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[WLL: 'Bird's Eye' Impressive, Basic Maps Need Work]]> 2005-12-13T11:54:47-05:00 2005-12-13T11:54:47-05:00 2005-12-13T11:54:47-05:00 stunning (I can't wait for more coverage beyond the current 12 U.S. metro areas). The personalization features (Scratch Pad, etc.), layered proximity searches and, generally speaking, the navigation are also very nice. But the basic maps functionality has some kinks that need to be worked out. It's a beta product and so that's to be expected. I won't catalog those things here, but certain searches were not as easy to execute or as accurate as on Yahoo! and Google Maps. There was also inconsistency when using Firefox and IE. I'm sure the folks at MSN will be collecting feedback and addressing the problems so that when WLL comes out of beta, they'll get the basic mapping features right, in addition to the advanced functionality.

      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Inform to Simplify and Diversify]]> 2005-12-13T11:52:17-05:00 2005-12-13T11:52:17-05:00 2005-12-13T11:52:17-05:00 These guys launched several months ago with a host of super-charged features that proved well beyond what most users want from a news site. Product manager Julian Steinberg acknowledged this in our conversation even as he demonstrated the new audio and video content on the site. (Inform now says it's got more video content than any other news site.)

      Indeed, the volume of multimedia content is impressive as are the personalization and contextual search capabilities (although these are now more limited for simplification purposes) -- one can create highly customized news searches and feeds and even export those to alternative news readers. Most interesting to me was our discussion of Inform as a news aggregation "platform" for third-party sites (i.e., newspapers). The idea here is that Inform would enable all news sites to become aggregators in addition to offering their own content. NewsGator and Pluck offer a similar proposition. Online newspapers will ultimately need to do some version of third-party news aggregation to remain competitive over time. ]]>
      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Microsoft YP Patent Application]]> 2005-12-13T11:48:54-05:00 2005-12-13T11:48:54-05:00 2005-12-13T11:48:54-05:00 Gary Price over at Search Engine Watch has found a Microsoft patent application covering "electronic Yellow Pages."

      Gary posts the abstract: Abstract: A method and system for allowing a regional service merchant that is outside of a given geographical boundary, but services inside the geographical boundary, to be included in a result set of a search directed to a location inside the geographical boundary. Text and/or glyphs are returned along with the regional service merchant's business listing so as to explain to a user why a business not physically residing in the search area has been included in the result set. An application programming interface ensures that, if a business is listed as a regional service merchant, then the text and/or glyph is stored in association with the business listing.]]>
      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Yahoo! Devours]]> 2005-12-13T11:45:11-05:00 2005-12-13T11:45:11-05:00 2005-12-13T11:45:11-05:00 more and more and yet more. ______________ More analysis from the Internet Stock Blog.

      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Yellow Book Launches New Site]]> 2005-12-13T11:43:07-05:00 2005-12-13T11:43:07-05:00 2005-12-13T11:43:07-05:00 Yellow Book site. Without having tested the data thoroughly, I can't report on that side of things. (Several quick category searches in my area seemed to have accurate information and there were no failed searches.) The interface is much better and the site is fast. A welcome change from the folks who, until recently, were focused pretty exclusively on the print side.

      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Yahoo! Online-Offline Venture Down Under]]> 2005-12-13T11:34:58-05:00 2005-12-13T11:34:58-05:00 2005-12-13T11:34:58-05:00 ClickZ (and covered also in SEW blog). Yahoo! has entered a joint venture with Seven Network in Australia and New Zealand. The largest TV company in Oz, Seven has online and magazine assets as well.

      Here's the relevant paragraph in the ClickZ piece: Yahoo! plans to combine its global content, products and technology with Seven-owned content to create localized online media, entertainment, and ad opportunities online. Advertisers will be able to purchase combined offline and online sponsorships across Yahoo! Australia & NZ, the Seven Network and Pacific Magazines. This move reflects two things: 1) Yahoo!'s desire to be a powerful offline brand and 2) to offer a centralized media buy for both online and offline placements. (We might also say something about Yahoo!'s content aspirations being accelerated with this relationship.) With its TiVo relationship and its recent VoIP moves, Yahoo! is doing something vaguely similar in the U.S. Expect to see more such arrangements in the U.S. and Europe, through joint ventures or mergers/acquisitions. This sort of model is the future. Traditional media companies know they have to offer effective online ad opportunities (think News Corp.) and Internet companies (esp. Google, Yahoo! and MSN) know they need to -- eventually -- be able to offer a unified ad buy that includes both online and offline inventory. ]]>
      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Prelude to Another Acquisition?]]> 2005-12-13T11:29:58-05:00 2005-12-13T11:29:58-05:00 2005-12-13T11:29:58-05:00 piece from CNet saying that Yahoo! and blogging software provider Six Apart are today launching a product that allows Yahoo! small business customers/users the ability to create blogs on Six Apart's Movable Type software and then have them hosted by Yahoo! for $11.95 per month.

      Yahoo!'s 360 publishing platform appears to be having limited success (correct me if I'm wrong). At least in contrast to Google's Blogger it's enjoyed only limited success (Blogger is free). Yahoo!'s 360 is a blogging platform but also a way for the company to collect user-generated content and push it out to various points in its network. Conceptually, it's a brilliant strategy. But it may not be working well or fast enough for Yahoo! (Although this deal is aimed at small businesses, I suspect there is a consumer side to this.) Evidence of the company's' impatience may be its very recent acquisition of social search/bookmarking site Yahoo! has a very similar service in MyWeb (which I use and love). But there was considerable speculation that what Yahoo! was after was not necessarily the technology or functionality but the 300,000 loyal users and possibly the brand. Blogging is by the day becoming more mainstream and more and more an important source of content. Yahoo! has been on an acquisition tear lately, adding what it perceives to be strategic assets. So, I'm wondering whether this relationship then is a test drive for something else in the not-too-distant future. Hmm ...]]>
      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Drilling Down 2.0]]> 2005-12-12T13:21:35-05:00 2005-12-12T13:21:35-05:00 2005-12-12T13:21:35-05:00
      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Google Transit Trip Planner]]> 2005-12-09T20:36:09-05:00 2005-12-09T20:36:09-05:00 2005-12-09T20:36:09-05:00 Live Local launch (say that 10 times fast), Google releases Transit Trip Planner. More from Search Engine Watch and the Official Google Blog. Wasn't December supposed to be a slow month?

      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Taking a Break from Blogging for Baby]]> 2005-12-09T04:17:51-05:00 2005-12-09T04:17:51-05:00 2005-12-09T04:17:51-05:00 Just kidding! (Sorry eBay.) I'm not kidding about the baby part, however. So I'll be taking a break from blogging -- and sleep for a little while. I'll be blogging about the baby somewhere else of course. During my absence, my colleagues will continue their coverage of local media comings and goings.

      There were a lot of things I would have blogged yesterday (i.e., Jeteye CEO interview [really fascinating stuff], rise of AOL News, PlanetDiscover's recent wins, Viacom-Yahoo! and SmugMaps) and would be blogging more today. But it's literally off to the hospital. As California's now reviled Governor Schwarzenegger once famously said: "I'll be back." ]]>
      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Users Ask, Yahoo! Answers]]> 2005-12-08T12:36:25-05:00 2005-12-08T12:36:25-05:00 2005-12-08T12:36:25-05:00 SiliconBeat and Battelle both cover "Yahoo! Answers," an interesting new social media/community initiative from Yahoo!. The idea is that I can ask the community any question and, probably, get an answer. Google Answers is a similar service, but it's not free. (On some level the different approaches to "Answers" capture the cultural differences between Yahoo! and Google.) Questions can range from "Looking for a good spa in the SF Bay Area?" to "Can you recommend a book for a 70-something conservative man?"

      So there are both local and non-local angles. To use Hollywood speak, it's a bit of MyWeb meets Wikipedia meets meets the Berkeley Parents Network. The immediate question that arises is the Wikipedia question about quality control. Yahoo! has attempted to solve that by getting the community to rate the best answers (and by creating a system of points), assuming that once there's enough participation the correct answers will always or generally win -- except in matters of subjective opinion (e.g., books for 70-year-old conservatives). But what about "technical" questions such as health and law? This is another very interesting deployment of what now might be called Yahoo!'s "social media platform." Whether and how Yahoo! intends to integrate any of this content into other areas of the site is uncertain -- clearly there will be valuable local recommendations coming from this. Yahoo! 360 local reviews get associated with local businesses and appear in Yahoo! Local results. I would imagine the company will try something similar here. The SiliconBeat post alludes to tagging (a la Flickr, MyWeb) as a way for users to organize and share content. That's interesting but less interesting to me than the question I just mentioned: How will Yahoo! leverage relevant answers in other areas of the site? And here's a related question: With so many verticals, apps and services, how will Yahoo! expose these things to people and drive usage -- especially where "critical mass" is a critical component of the application? In some sense, we're seeing the "long tail" emerge within Yahoo! in some of these new applications and "verticals." As with the community layer on Yahoo! Shopping, Trip Planner and Yahoo! Autos Custom, the possibilities are starting to become endless, in terms of combining social content with structured content. (Think about all the potential maps mashups that could emerge from Answers eventually.) Now, having created a platform and a social media strategy, Yahoo! could create more and more of these tools/applications and "verticals." But each time it does, it faces the problem of exposing or promoting the tools and fragmenting the audience. What if Answers becomes a better source of local recommendations than Yahoo! Local? (It probably won't and I'm sure Yahoo! has an answer for me.) If the "back end" is sophisticated enough to cross-pollinate and integrate relevant content across applications and the Yahoo! network, then I say, go for it. Create more of these applications and see where the traction is. But if Yahoo! is just creating more silos and not leveraging that content in other areas of the site, then there's a potential concern, from a "strategic" perspective, that the company is creating something like a shoe store with too many shoes to choose from. So that was an awkward analogy, I'll admit, but you get the idea: potential consumer confusion. What's amazing and "cool" (there's that word I keep using lately) is the creativity that all the "Web 2.0" thinking and tools have unleashed. And among the Internet incumbents, Yahoo!'s at the forefront. We'll have to see where it all goes. ______________________ Here's more from the Yahoo! Search Blog. Update: Just spoke with Pete Barlas at Investors Business Daily and he pushed me to look at the advertising side of this. I suspect Yahoo! has no immediate plans to monetize, but a) this is a way to acquire new registered users and b) offers some very targeted (behavioral/contextual) ad opportunities down the line. Here's a case-in-point: think about weddings -- "Any recommendations for a florist for my wedding in Boston?" What florist (or caterer or photographer) wouldn't want access to that consumer? Or what about, "What's the best laptop for under $1,000?" Wouldn't Dell and HP want to get access to that consumer? Update 2: Forgot to mention that this is a version of sites like Wondir. ]]>
      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Google Bullish on PPCall?]]> 2005-12-08T09:05:26-05:00 2005-12-08T09:05:26-05:00 2005-12-08T09:05:26-05:00 John Battelle picked up a PaidContent post about Google product VP Jonathan Rosenberg's comments to a conference crowd. Among the statements summarized by PaidContent was one on PPCall: Pay per call: "Interesting model. ... Our general experience has been the more we show advertisers specifically the results we're delivering the more they spend. ... I think we will see cost per call increasingly more successful."

      This remark is out of context for me, so I'm going to draw inferences based purely on the post. But what's interesting is that Rosenberg appears to be saying two things: 1) Google likes PPCall and 2) something more interesting about analytics and SEM. Google's push into analytics is in part an effort to prove value to the advertiser. For most advertisers there's a chasm between the impression and click ratio and the ultimate lead or sale. Paid search marketing, despite being so measurable, still suffers a bit from the Wanamaker "I don't know which half" axiom of advertising. Call tracking, which PPCall offers as part of its service, closes that gap and really proves to advertisers (especially SMEs) that the Internet is driving real leads. ]]>
      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Windows Live Local Going Live]]> 2005-12-07T19:00:06-05:00 2005-12-07T19:00:06-05:00 2005-12-07T19:00:06-05:00 press release and more from Search Engine Watch.

      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Ingenio Adds Two More to Distribution Network]]> 2005-12-07T16:35:15-05:00 2005-12-07T16:35:15-05:00 2005-12-07T16:35:15-05:00
      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[E-Tail Reality Check]]> 2005-12-07T14:43:05-05:00 2005-12-07T14:43:05-05:00 2005-12-07T14:43:05-05:00
      Greg Sterling <![CDATA['Sophisticated' Searchers Favor Google?]]> 2005-12-07T14:30:11-05:00 2005-12-07T14:30:11-05:00 2005-12-07T14:30:11-05:00 John Battelle made reference to a search engine usage survey conducted by investment firm SG Cowen & Co. Today MediaPost (reg. req'd) reports on the same survey: People who have been online seven years or longer are far more likely to use Google for search than Yahoo!, MSN, or AOL, according to a new report by investment bank SG Cowen & Co. The study, based on a survey of 1,000 online users, found that 60 percent of those who used Google as their primary search engine had been online since at least 1997 ...

      Among the survey's top-level findings/conclusions are the following:
      • The longer a consumer has been online, the more likely he or she is to use Google as a primary search engine.
      • Google users are much more likely to have an annual household income of more than $60,000 than users of Yahoo!, MSN or AOL.
      The survey report also argues that Google and Yahoo! will increase market share going forward. The central conclusion of the report -- that the more sophisticated Internet users become, the more they're likely to use Google -- is, of course, an empirical question. The answer will be revealed in time. But it is a fascinating supposition and warrants a tracking survey. ]]>
      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Local Search Numbers and Windows Live Local]]> 2005-12-07T07:02:05-05:00 2005-12-07T07:02:05-05:00 2005-12-07T07:02:05-05:00
      We've estimated that Local Search is about 20 percent of overall search user behavior. Others have put out different numbers. comScore uses an admittedly "conservative" methodology in calculating Local Search -- the company counts searches that happen on local domains (e.g.,, Mapquest) and searches that happen with geographic modifiers of one sort or another (e.g., ZIP, city name). By that methodology, Larrison said that local was about 13% of search now. But we have long believed there is a great deal more search that has a local intent but is hard to quantify because it's ambiguous (e.g., "probate attorney" w/o a geo-modifier) and not being captured by the "explicit" way of looking at local. Larrison generally agrees, and I asked him to do a deeper dive on the question. Briefly, in his excellent presentation, he said that when you look closely at the user behavior (he gave a number of concrete examples), the real number is much closer to 35 percent or even 40 percent of search that is really trying to capture information that is in one way or another local -- offline fulfillment/services, offline shopping, classifieds-oriented searches and so on. We'll write more about this later, and it obviously merits further discussion and investigation. The second thing is Windows Live Local. Erik Jorgensen, general manager for MSN search, gave a keynote speech yesterday in which he demo'd "Windows Live Local" (different from "Fremont" -- the classifieds site). Windows Live Local, which hasn't otherwise been announced (and goes live next week), is a mixing of local data, community features and Virtual Earth. But now they're launching the Pictometry aerial oblique imagery as a part of that. Erik referred to it generally as "immersive imagery" and discussed how Microsoft is putting it at the center of their local strategy. What this is is mapping with angled shots taken from low flying planes. Erik showed some of the shots and the resolution plus the integration of data and tools (annotation, personalization) on top of the imagery made the entire package truly impressive. To use the vernacular, it was REALLY COOL. There's going to be a great deal of coverage of this when it officially launches and it shows how the mapping space continues to be really really hot. In fact, mapping has been at the center of several discussions here at the show -- all of which have been very interesting. There's lots more to talk about regarding Erik's presentation, but what it showed (together with Fremont) is that Microsoft has arrived as a player in local search in a potentially big way. ]]>
      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Bubbler: Making Websites Blog-Simple?]]> 2005-12-07T06:26:32-05:00 2005-12-07T06:26:32-05:00 2005-12-07T06:26:32-05:00 John Battelle for pointing to a piece on SiliconValleyWatcher about Bubbler, an application that appears to make building sites (and blogs) pretty simple. The company and its platform are worth watching.

      Although Yahoo! has introduced free sites for small businesses, the tools/sites are not as full featured as would be ideal (of course Yahoo! wants to sell full featured sites, not give them away). The website building/hosting business is starting to become a commodity business and so providers (Interland, Affinity, Vista, Yahoo!) are trying to differentiate in many cases by offering value-added services such as Web marketing (guaranteed clicks, etc.). TKG data reflect that about 42% of small businesses have Web sites. But if Bubbler or services like it make building and maintaining (robust) Web sites as simple as setting up and updating blogs, they will really be onto something. ]]>
      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[The AOL-MSN-Google Guessing Game]]> 2005-12-07T04:25:03-05:00 2005-12-07T04:25:03-05:00 2005-12-07T04:25:03-05:00 interviewed him on Friday, Jim Riesenbach, SVP of AOL's Search & Directional Media group, was not permitted to talk directly about what would be the outcome of the much covered negotiations for a stake in AOL. He turned the routine and expected question into a thoughtful answer about how AOL would not be sought after unless its new strategy were paying dividends -- so to speak. Today come two articles, one from The New York Times (reg. req'd) and one from The Wall Street Journal (subscription req'd). Both articles suggest that what will ultimately emerge from the negotiations is something far short of the ownership stake earlier envisioned.

      The WSJ piece says the following: Time Warner Inc. is closing in on an agreement with Microsoft Corp. to build an online-advertising service designed to compete with Google Inc., say people familiar with the negotiations. After months of on-again-off-again negotiations, the two companies are now focused on a deal that would combine advertising-related assets – with minimal, if any, money changing hands. An agreement is expected to be struck sometime before year-end, but it is still possible that AOL could choose instead to deepen its relationship with Google at Microsoft's expense. As of Monday, however, initial signs pointed to a Microsoft-AOL alliance, albeit one far less ambitious than many analysts and investors had expected. Here's what The N.Y. Times is saying: Time Warner is still in negotiations with Microsoft and Google over a variety of potential deals involving its AOL unit. But most of the possibilities under discussion do not involve either company's buying a stake in AOL, an executive briefed on the negotiations said yesterday. Rather, they would involve cooperation on Web search, advertising sales and possibly other areas, the executive said. If Google loses AOL distribution it will be a blow to the company (and to AOL revenues), and MSN will gain a powerful distribution partner and more credibility for its PPC engine. None of this will necessarily change or overthrow Google's search leadership position on the consumer side, however. If an actual sale does come to pass, it raises immediate questions about brands, products, culture and integration. That might be a bit more vexing for MSN-AOL than for Google-AOL. MSN and AOL both have strong positions in a number of overlapping markets (e.g., IM). Until any announcement, however, all this remains the stuff of pure speculation. ________________ More analysis from the Internet Stock Blog and Parsons says "AOL not for sale." ]]>
      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[What Do Google and Craigslist Have in Common?]]> 2005-12-06T13:29:17-05:00 2005-12-06T13:29:17-05:00 2005-12-06T13:29:17-05:00 John Battelle's blog regarding MySpace Classifieds. I don't have any insight into classifieds usage there, but casual observation indicates the postings are pretty thin (and one Battelle commenter says "it's not used much"). Over time that might change perhaps if Murdoch focuses more attention and energy on it -- but does he want to "cannibalize" the traditional product (he owns newspapers, remember)?

      So what do Google and Craigslist have in common? Craigslist is the "Google of Classifieds" and Google is the "Craigslist of Search" (I'm kidding about that). (Here's a good article on Craigslist from Fortune.) Both sites grew organically over time because they offered something that users perceived was missing elsewhere. They're both dominant in their respective arenas, and everyone is eager to topple them from their respective perches. It harkens back to the boxing days of yore -- e.g., "The Thrilla in Manilla." I can hear the taunting now ... Everyone has now decided that they need a classifieds play, partly from observing how powerful Craigslist has become (from MSN to eBay to MySpace) and partly because it's a big market -- $2+ billion online, $16+ billion offline (US). Online classifieds are already competitive and fragmented. More sites will mean not only more fragmentation, but also a likely reinforcement of the market leaders' positions (as search has become more competitive, Google has remained in the top position). That's the paradox of increasing competition: inertia. As with many other areas online, there are likely to be a handful of highly successful sites: verticals (Jobs, Cars, Real Estate, Dating); "horizontal" classifieds sites and aggregators (e.g., CL, LiveDeal, maybe Oodle); and a number of sites -- MySpace is probably in this camp -- for which classifieds are a sideline (LinkedIn is another). With the entry of MSN ("Fremont" aka Windows Live Classifieds) into online classifieds, 2006 should be a year of increasing competition and some greater clarity on how classifieds will or won't be integrated into Local Search -- and, most importantly, whether the newspapers are going to be competitive with online classifieds. ]]>
      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[The Hidden Variable Behind Success or Failure]]> 2005-12-06T13:20:45-05:00 2005-12-06T13:20:45-05:00 2005-12-06T13:20:45-05:00 article on Google's culture (, reg. req'd). Corporate cultures are sometimes covered in feature articles that don't get as much attention as the news analysis pieces that throw around hard numbers. But culture may be a bigger part of why a company (or an industry) succeeds or why it doesn't. Of course this all makes intuitive sense. But it's a bigger issue, in my opinion, than the occasional coverage suggests.

      Caroline Little, CEO of WPNI, in her ILM keynote Q/A acknowledged that one of the main challenges facing newspapers in competing successfully online was the legacy culture of print. And for years, the culture of the print Yellow Pages industry has not been oriented to succeeding online (that is quickly changing). One could argue that's why is now a separate organization/joint venture, rather than a unit of AT&T or BellSouth -- it needs to create a new culture to truly compete successfully. A Bloomberg reporter once questioned me about why MSN hadn't beaten Google to the satellite mapping punch when it had all the technology assets -- the TerraServer -- for years. She suggested it wasn't technology, but the culture (and vision implied) at Microsoft. Indeed, the recent restructuring of Microsoft suggests an effort to shake up the culture and make it more nimble. Obviously now Microsoft is working overtime to make up for lost time online. There are many more examples of companies I could discuss. But the point I'm making is that culture is the independent variable in success that rarely gets the attention it deserves, largely because its influence is hard to quantify -- literally and figuratively. ]]>
      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[TrueLocal Making Its Move]]> 2005-12-06T13:03:18-05:00 2005-12-06T13:03:18-05:00 2005-12-06T13:03:18-05:00 write-up (plus one of mapping site Metrobot).

      Recently, TrueLocal acquired the data services business of its parent, Geosign. The business licenses data to many of the large search players. Geosign remains the majority shareholder in TrueLocal and is remarkably successful, which gives TrueLocal the capacity to take the long view. In addition, TrueLocal has launched an ad product called TrueTarget, which offers simplified bidding for SMEs and limits inventory to businesses with a physical presence. No competing with local florists, for example. TrueLocal President Jake Baillie has a long history in search/SEO and with Geosign's backing has the luxury of being able to take a long-term, "organic" approach to building consumer and SME awareness. ]]>
      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Jupiter Analyst Launches Real Estate Site]]> 2005-12-06T12:57:13-05:00 2005-12-06T12:57:13-05:00 2005-12-06T12:57:13-05:00 Currently it offers only California real estate coverage, but eventually Scevak says it will have national scope.

      The superficial reaction is: This is a space getting seemingly more competitive by the day with new launches from Trulia, iGenHome, and so on, not to mention established real estate sites and classifieds providers such as Craigslist, LiveDeal and Oodle. But what differentiates Scevak's site is that it offers reviews of local Realtors and is focused on helping would-be sellers locate effective agents. It also offers access to agents' listing information, so it does have a consumer/buyer aspect. I joked with Scevak that being an analyst is a little like being a movie critic; it's probably more fun to be a filmmaker. We'll be following Scevak's efforts, and it will be interesting to see how the site evolves. ]]>
      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Monday Roundup]]> 2005-12-05T15:57:16-05:00 2005-12-05T15:57:16-05:00 2005-12-05T15:57:16-05:00 iGenHome -- sort of a marriage between and Trulia. SiliconBeat has a lot more info. Late last week, AOL brough it's mobile search out of beta. Supported by technology from Israeli company Infogin, which automatically renders traditional Web pages for small mobile phone screens, the service includes shopping and local (and Mapquest), among other services. It's ad-supported (including PPCall distribution).

      Sensis launched "click to call" last week in partnership with eStara. The release indicates that the functionality will be used to provide call connection and call tracking. There's a distinction between "click to call" and "pay per call." There's some confusion in the marketplace about the difference. The release mentions PPCall but doesn't say that Sensis is rolling that functionality in the initial release. LocalLaunch issued a release announcing its RegisterLocal site and "master business profile." We wrote about the product and its implications in the November 3 edition of the Local Media Journal. Here's an excerpt: RegisterLocal captures a set of local business data in a “master business profile," which is fairly extensive and can be distributed in whole or in part anywhere online. It could become the landing page of a pay-per-click or cost-per-call campaign, it could be the basis of a profile page in a directory site, or it could help populate a newspaper directory of local businesses. It could feed a local merchant database — or entirely replace one. There’s also a self-registration component and, for those businesses willing to do so, it becomes a direct channel too — search engines like that aspect of the product. RegisterLocal is a platform for delivering content to a range of distribution points online. Right now those include both search engines and directory sites. Eventually, newspapers and vertical sites could become part of a broader local network with multiple entry points.]]>
      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Verizon to Sell Directories]]> 2005-12-05T13:17:38-05:00 2005-12-05T13:17:38-05:00 2005-12-05T13:17:38-05:00
      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Thank You to ILM Speakers and Attendees]]> 2005-12-05T13:11:30-05:00 2005-12-05T13:11:30-05:00 2005-12-05T13:11:30-05:00 keynotes. Thanks again to the almost 100 speakers and the 450 attendees for coming, enthusiastically participating and helping to make this one of the strongest Kelsey Group events to date. We'll do it again in March (yikes!). If you have any critiques, suggestions or kudos you want to communicate, feel free to drop me an email:

      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[The Trademark Tango Redux]]> 2005-12-04T21:42:25-05:00 2005-12-04T21:42:25-05:00 2005-12-04T21:42:25-05:00 Global Yellow Pages Report -- a massive piece of work on the industry from my colleagues Charles Laughlin and Bobbi Luster -- and our ad uses the phrase "Yellow Pages." I was told by our marketing person that Google had pulled the ad because it used a trademarked term (in this case "Yellow Pages"). Problem is: Yellow Pages can't be trademarked in the U.S. (that is not the case elsewhere in the world). My understanding, based on the communication we received, is that someone saw the ad and complained (the purported trademark owner).

      Google and Yahoo! have put themselves in the position of being trademark police. I'm told by SEM firms that Yahoo! has historically been relatively strict and diapproved ads using trademarks. Google had previously washed its hands of the issue by saying it was a matter exclusively for private resolution. However Google, as my anecdotal example suggests, has recently injected itself into the role of trademark enforcer. I spent some time in an SEM/SEO discussion group asking about other people's experiences with trademark enforcement in an SEM context. There was a fair amount of confusion about what the exact policies were and how to respond. While this is a role that I believe Google is being forced (or eventually would have been forced) to play by all the litigation, my example illustrates the challenges and practical problems of assessment and enforcement on a day-to-day basis. Ours is a perfectly legal use; however, someone else -- whether mistakenly or maliciously -- has effectively blocked our legal use of the term Yellow Pages in the ad. For companies that rely heavily on search engine marketing, this kind of thing has potential financial consequences. Google, apparently, did not conduct its own internal investigation about the claim of an infringement (or if it did, it wasn't very thorough). A quick search on the term "Yellow Pages" reveals its use by all manner of companies. This would and should have been an indication of the potential illegitimacy of the claimant's assertion of ownership. Google is caught in a kind of double bind. The company must do something, but in undertaking to police improper trademark usage, a new set of problems (suggested above) is created. It is extremely difficult do this in a balanced way -- give trademark owners the ability to prevent improper use of their marks, while allowing others the ability to legitimately use them (e.g., brands) in ads where appropriate. That fine level of analysis is a judgment call that can't really be automated and requires human intervention -- and costs money accordingly. For the time being, at least, the company should publish policies and guidelines (as well as redress procedures) that are very clear. ]]>
      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[More Thoughts on Google Base]]> 2005-12-03T10:14:55-05:00 2005-12-03T10:14:55-05:00 2005-12-03T10:14:55-05:00
      Google gets all its content from crawling, and the company does that brilliantly. But what do throngs of consumers really want? Local information. Sure, more and more say they'll opt for the convenience and crowd avoidance of online shopping. But 95% (or more) of transactions still happen in the real world. Consumers increasingly use the Internet for research before they buy, but they still make purchases largely offline. And more broadly, what consumers are hungry for online is local news, events, services, restaurants and retail information. Where can I buy that stove or that camera -- today? Or if I buy it online can I pick it up locally today? Google Base becomes a way for Google to directly acquire a great deal more of that local content that the company cannot get through crawling. It's one of several strategies to get local information into the database (direct feeds from Citysearch and SuperPages are another). On Froogle I can buy online or, in the not too distant future, I'm likely to be presented with information about where I can buy something locally too (courtesy of Google Base). More generally, Google can take that local content (jobs, cars, real estate, products, etc.) and send it to whatever "distribution point" it considers appropriate (Froogle, Local, etc.). It becomes a way for Google to start providing comprehensive information to users, not just about online but also much more about the real world in which they spend most of their time. ]]>
      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Social, Local Search: Everybody's Doing It]]> 2005-12-02T18:18:50-05:00 2005-12-02T18:18:50-05:00 2005-12-02T18:18:50-05:00 Zipingo has been live since August, but generally under the radar. Intuit is trying to leverage its huge QuickBooks' SME user base to help generate reviews for Zipingo. The site says that users should: "Think of it as the yellow pages with customer ratings." (Sound familiar?)

      I first learned about this site from StepUp CEO Kendall Fargo (who was originally using a QuickBooks integration to provide real-time retailer inventory information -- now feeding Froogle Local), but was reminded of it today by Loren Baker at Search Engine Journal. Getting small business users to rate other local businesses through a Quicken/QuickBooks' integration is a good idea -- on paper -- but may be a problem in practice. The site is free (no advertising, at least for now), so the question has to be why? Is it a marketing vehicle for Intuit, or does Intuit conceive of it as a marketing vehicle (eventually) for some of the small businesses that use its accounting software? It doesn't seem to be about generating community among QuickBooks users (although there is some discussion to that effect on the site). So why is Intuit doing this? The answer probably is: "because we can." (In a certain way it makes sense for Intuit to try to do this given its massive user base.) It's also still somewhat novel to combine directory listings with user reviews. And there's still limited consumer awareness of local search sites. But with Kudzu, Backfence, Yelp, Judy's Book, InsiderPages and mainstream Yellow Pages sites like SuperPages adding user reviews (not to mention Yahoo! and Google), the "space" is starting to get pretty crowded. And InsiderPages and Judy's Book are starting to syndicate reviews to other sites, so we've got a kind of "review ecosystem" emerging. As I look into my crystal ball for 2006, I see some of these sites gaining more momentum but recognizing that they can't all be national players without being acquired or merging. Traditional Yellow Pages publishers or newspapers (or maybe other "traditional" media like the News Corp.'s of the world) will take a serious look at buying the sites that develop brands and enough review critical mass to have a meaningful user experience on a broad, multistate level. If the Zipingo folks are patient and take a long-term view -- and try very consciously to differentiate their product -- they might have something. But right now, it's a nice-looking me-too site that doesn't have a ton to offer. ]]>
      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Centro an Agency, Not a Network]]> 2005-12-01T09:37:29-05:00 2005-12-01T09:37:29-05:00 2005-12-01T09:37:29-05:00
      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Coming Soon: Windows Live Classifieds]]> 2005-11-29T20:50:34-05:00 2005-11-29T20:50:34-05:00 2005-11-29T20:50:34-05:00 argued that it's about much more than classifieds. But I can tell you with confidence that MSN is soon to enter the online classifieds market. The company has been working some time on a classifieds site that it will offer through the Windows Live portal. It's in "internal beta" right now. I got a quick demo a couple of weeks ago. The site sweeps pretty broadly and has traditional classifieds categories, as well as services. It also seeks to leverage community features so that it's not just a listings database but much more dynamic. I didn't see the live site in operation; I saw several screenshots (sorry I don't have any to share). The interface I saw was very nice and should give MSN/Microsoft an immediate presence in the now much more competitive online classifieds space. I expect we'll hear (and, we hope, see) more at ILM:05.

      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[The Way We Search Now]]> 2005-11-29T20:47:43-05:00 2005-11-29T20:47:43-05:00 2005-11-29T20:47:43-05:00
      So it's significant that real estate vertical HomeGain (owned now by Classified Ventures) has developed what it is referring to informally as "neighborhood maps." I spoke to Dan Martin at HomeGain recently, and he explained that the company had "mapped" 200 cities with more than 11,000 neighborhoods (I believe this is now U.S. only). This is what Dan said in an e-mail to me: We can now enable local searches for things like "Russian Hill apartments" or "sushi in Bernal Heights" [San Francisco neighborhoods]. To date nobody else we've encountered has developed good neighborhood maps on a national level. I think this could have immense value to folks in travel (think hotels), local search, real estate, yellow pages, etc. Analyzing data at the neighborhood level may also reveal insights that are not apparent when using zip code boundaries. For instance, Starbucks may want to put its shops in the center of a neighborhood or at the neighborhood junction points. HomeGain is clearly going to use this, but Dan also said he is interested in licensing this data/technology to others. ]]>
      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Craig the King of Classifieds]]> 2005-11-29T20:28:42-05:00 2005-11-29T20:28:42-05:00 2005-11-29T20:28:42-05:00 Pew, using comScore data, traffic to classifieds-oriented Web sites has grown 80% in the past year (much greater than the 7% growth of the total U.S. Internet population). Craigslist in particular had almost 9 million uniques in September.

      The top online classifieds sites (traffic volume) in September 2005 were the following:
      • Trader Publishing Co.
      • Abracat Property
      • Tribe Networks
      • Sites
      • Yahoo! Classifieds
      • MySpace Classifieds
      Trader Publishing had nearly as many uniques as Craigslist. But after Trader, and had less than half the traffic of Craigslist, and the numbers drop off considerably from there. The Pew report also found that about one in six online users in the U.S. had sold something online. Here are a couple of quick thoughts. Tribe is doing better than I thought, and look at PuppyDogWeb (who had ever heard of that site?-- obviously lots of people). And now the almost perfunctory statement: There aren't any newspapers represented here (although Tribe is partly newspaper owned, and and are owned by Classified Ventures). Print newspaper classified advertising was a $16.6 billion industry in 2004. What's going to happen to that revenue as more consumers (per the Pew/comScore data) shop for cars, jobs and real estate online? ILM:05 has a panel on classifieds, "The Future of Classifieds in a World of Free," featuring Steve Harmon, VP, Business Development,; Leif Welch, VP, Business Development, AdMission Corp.; and Peter Zollman, Founder, Classified Intelligence. It should be quite interesting. ]]>
      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[TiVo to Permit Ad Searching (Not Just Skipping)]]> 2005-11-29T20:19:22-05:00 2005-11-29T20:19:22-05:00 2005-11-29T20:19:22-05:00 transformation of TV (from reach to targeting) ... per the WSJ, TiVo is working with Comcast and others to enable users to "search" for ads that are more relevant to them: TiVo users will be able to set up a profile of products on their television screens by clicking on categories such as automotive or travel or typing in keywords such as "BMW" or "cruises." On a regular basis, TiVo will then download relevant commercials to TiVo recorders over the Internet or, for those users who don't have broadband, send the video via traditional broadcast signals. The commercials will appear on-screen in a folder next to the list of television shows TiVo users record.

      Advertisers will associate their ads, according to the Journal, with keywords and categories (a la Google AdWords/AdSense). Some version of this idea will ultimately be adopted by all DVR providers (unless TiVo rushes out and gets a "method" patent). And consumers -- who don't skip ads as much as conventionally thought -- will go for this. ]]>
      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Ingenio Adds Marchex to Network]]> 2005-11-29T20:09:39-05:00 2005-11-29T20:09:39-05:00 2005-11-29T20:09:39-05:00 building out a proprietary network of local and vertical destination sites, announced that Ingenio PPCall advertisers would appear on Marchex's network of sites. Marchex subsidiary TrafficLeader is a "simplified search" vendor to (SBC, BellSouth) and the Houston Chronicle, managing search distribution to local advertisers (and fulfillment) through their own sites and search engines. Read more in the release.

      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[ Adds Local Shopping Content]]> 2005-11-29T19:54:06-05:00 2005-11-29T19:54:06-05:00 2005-11-29T19:54:06-05:00 providing ShopLocal’s newspaper circular/FSI data to consumers through is fast and clean, but thin. Interchange recognizes the need to fill out's content to be truly competitive. This deal adds valuable offline retail/shopping data to the search engine. is the latest in a growing number of partnerships -- including Google -- for the newspaper-owed ShopLocal.

      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Centro Take Two]]> 2005-11-29T19:50:02-05:00 2005-11-29T19:50:02-05:00 2005-11-29T19:50:02-05:00 Integrent's new geo-targeted network Centro, below. When I spoke, now some time ago, to Integrent CEO Shawn Riegsecker (who's on a newspaper panel at ILM:05) he told me he wanted to build a newspaper-based local network that had the same quality and reach as a Google or a Yahoo!. With 1,300 local sites (including radio and TV), Riegsecker is well on his way. But others are building local networks too ...

      Simplified and centralized buying is what local needs to enable dollars to shift, commensurate with consumer behavior. Integrent is trying to make it simple for national advertisers to buy local outside Google and Yahoo!. However, when the dust settles, what will be needed is a meta-network to knit together all the disparate networks. ]]>
      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Google Testing PPCall]]> 2005-11-28T09:23:18-05:00 2005-11-28T09:23:18-05:00 2005-11-28T09:23:18-05:00 Yahoo!'s testing of PPCall, Google is testing "Click to Call." No phone numbers are exposed; the service connects advertisers and would-be buyers by clicking an icon. I was unable to find any of the ads live on Google, but Search Engine Journal (link below) has some examples in the mortgage category. This is obviously big news and has lots of implications. I don't have time to explore those (as we have in reports and various blog posts in the past) at the moment. We have projected that PPCall could be a $1.4 billion market by 2009.

      One of the problems with paid search (especially with less sophisticated advertisers) is that there's incomplete tracking. People see impressions and clicks, but they ultimately don't know how many of those clicks actually turned into real leads. This is less of an issue for e-commerce businesses. But for local businesses and others, it's a problem. Call tracking and PPCall help "close the loop." As we've said in the past, calls and clicks will be widely available as separate but complementary products going forward. More from Search Engine Journal. ______________ Update: Google has issued the following statement: Google is always considering new ways to provide value to its advertisers and we frequently run tests of potential new features and products. We are currently conducting a limited test of a pay-per-call model, but we don't have any additional information to share at this time (emphasis mine). So it is apparently a PPCall test. Still don't have any sense of who the vendor is. ]]>
      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Ask Goes Fishing for Video Content]]> 2005-11-23T13:51:51-05:00 2005-11-23T13:51:51-05:00 2005-11-23T13:51:51-05:00 GoFish.

      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[RHD Reported in Pursuit of Dex]]> 2005-11-23T10:50:32-05:00 2005-11-23T10:50:32-05:00 2005-11-23T10:50:32-05:00
      The Kelsey Report will issue an Advisory that explores the possibilities this deal represents, including the broader implications for the Yellow Pages industry. It is important to note that the deal is far from a certainty, based on the reporting out today. Dex Media CEO George Burnett will speak at a Goldman Sachs investor conference this afternoon, and we will listen in to hear what he has to say.

      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Digging Deeper Into the Data: Local Search]]> 2005-11-23T10:39:02-05:00 2005-11-23T10:39:02-05:00 2005-11-23T10:39:02-05:00
      In terms of the overall share of local searches (total volume was 447,829,790 local searches in 8/05), the comScore data reflect the following market share distribution: Google Sites -- 43.7% Yahoo! Sites -- 28.2% MSN-Microsoft Sites -- 13.7% Time Warner Network -- 7.5% Ask Jeeves -- 5.5% InfoSpace Network -- 0.9% Lycos -- 0.3% comScore separately breaks out IYP usage (231,678,352 lookups in 8/05). Here's the percentage breakdown of the data: Yahoo! Sites -- 27.6% Verizon Communications Corporation -- 25.5% Google Sites -- 11.6% -- 7.7% Time Warner Network -- 7.6% InfoSpace Network -- 7.0% -- 5.0% SBC Communications -- 2.4% Citysearch -- 2.4% Yell -- 1.6% BellSouth -- 1.4% Ask Jeeves -- 0.2% (The combined share of SBC, BellSouth and is 11.5%, 0.1% point below the "Google Sites.") There is some ambiguity here. Are the Google, Yahoo! and TimeWarner "local search" data, for example, the superset and IYP the subset? Or are these categories distinct? It's not entirely clear. In addition, comScore has traditionally been quite conservative in estimating local search volume (because of the inherent challenges in disambiguating queries -- is "probate attorney" a local search, for example?) Regardless, the quick takeaway from these data is that local search/IYP traffic is clearly growing. I'll be following up with comScore SVP Jim Larrison. He and I will be presenting data during the opening session of ILM:05, seeking to answer the question: How Much Search Is Really Local? ]]>
      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[More on 'Froogle Local']]> 2005-11-23T10:32:04-05:00 2005-11-23T10:32:04-05:00 2005-11-23T10:32:04-05:00 digital camera, San Francisco" -- just in time for Black Friday/Cyber Monday. Here's Google's statement: Thanks to a new feature in Froogle, Google’s shopping search engine, shoppers can now find that must-have gift at a store in their neighborhood without running all over town. Today Google announced the addition of local merchants’ content to Froogle By entering the item you’re looking for and your location information, Froogle will show locations nearby that offer the product and pinpoint the stores on a map. So, whether a user wants to order it online or run out and grab it for a holiday party the same evening, Froogle can help.

      Here's how local merchants, using Google Base, can upload inventory information. This is a way for Google to "carry" their inventory online without them needing to have a Web site (Google Base as a substitute/alternative Web presence). As CEO Kendall Fargo said to me recently about small retailers, "Their inventory is their Web site." Consumers clearly want local, offline shopping information (even though more will be avoiding crowds and lines this year). And everyone -- Yahoo!, Shopzilla, eBay's, etc. -- that wants to be competitive in the online shopping arena will eventually have both online and offline inventory information. Then the question becomes: How do the engines monetize those offline leads (or how do they get "credit" for them)? PPCall, call tracking, coupons? ]]>
      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[CNET Gets Into Local Shopping (Google Too)]]> 2005-11-23T10:30:35-05:00 2005-11-23T10:30:35-05:00 2005-11-23T10:30:35-05:00 announced that it is now helping consumers find tech gadgets in local, offline stores: CNET's innovative local shopping capability goes beyond today's standard local shopping services, which typically provide stock availability for a retailer, but not for a specific store. Product availability information, which is provided by Channel Intelligence (, is available for more than 1,600 of this year's hottest products, as determined by popularity on CNET, as well as availability at participating retailers, which include Best Buy, Circuit City, CompUSA, and OfficeMax. CNET also provides shoppers with total price of the product, including tax according to zip code, as well as links to reputable online retailers. ... And Google gets into the act as well (with a little help and a little additional help), offering local inventory information. But eventually Google hopes to obtain more of this local/offline information directly from local merchants via Google Base as well.

      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Late Night, Early Morning Fun]]> 2005-11-23T10:26:21-05:00 2005-11-23T10:26:21-05:00 2005-11-23T10:26:21-05:00 logo analysis. AT&T Wireless was acquired by Cingular, which then rebranded the service and will now, ironically, lose its identity in favor of ... at&t. If it weren't true, it would be worthy of a "Saturday Night Live" skit. Speaking of which, Om Malik points to a video of a funny "Saturday Night Live" parody of Steve Jobs and the perhaps too-rapid rollout of new iPods.

      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[The Google of Internet TV?]]> 2005-11-22T00:19:58-05:00 2005-11-22T00:19:58-05:00 2005-11-22T00:19:58-05:00 reported, BrightCove has received a $16.2 million investment from IAC, Hearst and AOL (and has a distribution deal with the latter). These guys want to do for video online what Google has done for PPClick advertising -- be at the center of a very powerful model.

      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Search Gains]]> 2005-11-21T12:18:30-05:00 2005-11-21T12:18:30-05:00 2005-11-21T12:18:30-05:00 most recent survey that the daily use of search engines had grown to 41 percent of the online population (59 million users). That's up from 30 percent in June 2004. The Pew data are drawn from telephone surveys, while the comScore data are from online panels.

      This most recent set of comScore search market-share data reflect the following:
      • Google -- 89.8 million uniques
      • Yahoo! Search -- 68 million uniques
      • MSN Search -- 49.7 million uniques
      • Ask Jeeves -- 43.7 million uniques
      • AOL Search -- 36.1 million uniques
      According to Pew, e-mail is still the most used online application -- with daily use at 77 percent. But search is gaining. Here's an interesting data point: comScore says users spend an average of 24 minutes per day with e-mail vs. about four minutes for search. (Yahoo! Mail and Gmail are thus important ad inventory.) Another striking thing is how Ask is not far off MSN in the comScore data. This increasing usage of search engines will mean increased PPClick revenues among the major engines. It also shows that search has become a kind of universal consumer doorway and distribution mechanism that all online advertisers -- whether directly or by proxy -- must reach. ]]>
      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Google Wi-Fi Now a Reality]]> 2005-11-21T10:14:59-05:00 2005-11-21T10:14:59-05:00 2005-11-21T10:14:59-05:00 hometown of Mountain View, California. Next up, San Francisco?

      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Now There Are Swickis]]> 2005-11-21T10:06:28-05:00 2005-11-21T10:06:28-05:00 2005-11-21T10:06:28-05:00 publishers, however. Along those same lines, the company has now launched swickis, which is a search box for small publisher sites and blogs.

      Publishers and bloggers can set up swickis on their sites for free. They first answer questions regarding the content of their sites, which then become a kind of contextual filter for search results. Readers can then use the search boxes to conduct related searches (tags appear identifying popular searches), which are customized to the site's content (and presumably the site community's interests). Here's an example of how it appears, on the Eurekster blog itself (also read the posts to gain insight into the company's thinking and rationale for the product). A contextual ad network is being built on top of this. Unlike the original consumer engine, this product probably has some "legs." Here's more from DMNews and Susan Mernit. Here's the company's release. ]]>
      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Google Base Part III]]> 2005-11-21T10:03:31-05:00 2005-11-21T10:03:31-05:00 2005-11-21T10:03:31-05:00 may ultimately have an impact on those sites. However, the company has a much larger and somewhat different vision for Google Base. (I've discussed this in my earlier posts.) People have also been saying how Google Base is a limited or comparatively poor user experience (I made some earlier comments along these lines).

      After chatting with Google about it, I think the company is not that focused on the Google Base user experience (although there undoubtedly will be refinements). Google isn't going to create hundreds of competitive vertical experiences around the data it collects. My belief is that Google is profoundly ambivalent about verticals and wants to avoid them if it can. Google really wants to funnel or channel the data it collects from Base to existing Google sites. (That's not to say that Google won't face UI and other challenges in presenting this data.) This is a big deal but content that might otherwise appear in classified listings on Craigslist or elsewhere is just a piece of the larger vision. ]]>
      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[eBay the New YP Competitor?]]> 2005-11-21T10:00:50-05:00 2005-11-21T10:00:50-05:00 2005-11-21T10:00:50-05:00 Yellow Pages Today in Austria, where he heard someone talking today about how eBay is a burgeoning Yellow Pages competitor. Quite coincidentally, in today's Wall Street Journal, there's an article about eBay and Google Base. Specifically the article discusses how eBay may become a directory alternative as the company seeks new sources of growth. (Recall what eBay said about how Skype/VoIP would enable the company to pursue "entirely new lines of business" and help facilitate communication with offline businesses).

      From the article: EBay is aiming to take over the phone book's customary role as the first place people turn to find local services from housecleaners to accountants. While eBay Inc.'s focus for now is on auto services like oil changes and brake jobs, its goal may be to connect consumers with local businesses of all kinds. This could signal a major shift in the way consumers shop for such services and greatly affect pricing and competition among local shops. Recall that eBay also owns Web building and online marketing services provider ProStores. So eBay would appear to be angling for a soup-to-nuts hosting and marketing "solution" for SMEs, be they product sellers or, now, local service businesses. ]]>
      Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Short Takes for Friday]]> 2005-11-21T09:53:43-05:00 2005-11-21T09:53:43-05:00 2005-11-21T09:53:43-05:00
    • Judy's Book grabs US$8 million in series B funding from Mobius Venture Capital, with contributions from Ignition Partners and Ackerley Partners.
    • Google 10Q facts (sliced and diced by PaidContent): "'AOL is responsible for roughly 10 percent of all [Google] revenue. That's down from 12 percent in 2004 but still real money -- and a real reason to both to Keep AOL and keep it away from the competition." Also, International is almost 40 percent of Google revenues, up from 35 percent a year ago. Google-owned sites were responsible for 56 percent of revenues, while Google's partners (AdSense) contributed 43 percent.
    • Cingular is using InfoSpace's wireless platform for its new MEdia Net service, a personalized content portal. Billed as a "next generation mobile services platform," here's the release.

    • WAND Inc. announced the development of a new "local search taxonomy," consisting of roughly 750,000 terms.
    • I received a correction from Marc Hayes, founder of ContactAtOnce!, who wanted me to point out that the company offers "presence management" marking, using IM as one of many modalities. A skyscraper ad integrating their technology can be seen here (car dealer, scroll right).
    • According to measurement firm Hitwise, local search in the U.K. grew by 13 percent vs. last year. (which is behind Google Local in the U.K.) was the most popular local site, with a 64 percent market share. and each had 5 percent. According to Hitwise, Google Local search has not made a significant dent in the market, but its popularity is growing in part because of Google Maps integration.
    • According to SiliconBeat venture capital firm Greylock Partners invests more in local shopping aggregator Cairo, a competitor to ShopLocal (both will be at ILM:05).
    • The US$100 laptop is unveiled. I wrote about it here previously.
    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Judy's Book Adopts PPCall]]> 2005-11-21T09:44:20-05:00 2005-11-21T09:44:20-05:00 2005-11-21T09:44:20-05:00 ZiffLeads.

    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[CNET Japan Innovation Coverage]]> 2005-11-21T09:43:13-05:00 2005-11-21T09:43:13-05:00 2005-11-21T09:43:13-05:00 CNET Japan Innovation conference.

    Search Engine Journal's Loren Baker is covering most of the sessions:

    ]]> Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Google Getting Into Real Estate?]]> 2005-10-24T08:38:53-05:00 2005-10-24T08:38:53-05:00 2005-10-24T08:38:53-05:00 HousingMaps, Yahoo! Apartments, HomePages, Trulia and now Google may be seeking to combine real estate listings and related data with Google Earth and/or Google Local. (Thanks to John Battelle for pointing to the article on the San Jose Mercury News site.): Commercial real estate's largest data provider is working with Google to integrate its vast stores of building information with the Google Earth interactive satellite mapping service. Newspapers must (MUST) get into this game (dynamic maps + real estate listings) in a bigger way. Some of this is novelty, but much of it is about true improvements in the user experience. HomeGain (owned by KRD, Gannett and Tribune Co.) will probably be the vehicle. But we'll see.

    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[News Aggregation Supersite Launches]]> 2005-10-22T12:32:25-05:00 2005-10-22T12:32:25-05:00 2005-10-22T12:32:25-05:00 Inform unveiled itself. I spoke to CEO Neal Goldman a couple of weeks ago and got a demo of the site, which was very impressive. I don't have a great deal of time this morning to run through the site's features, but here's what makes it different:
    • Comprehensiveness: Algo + some human editorial selection of sources (especially for blogs).
    • Dynamic navigation and contextual search. The contextual search and refinement capabilities are extremely advanced and impressive. One can do much more exact and refined news-related searches than on general search engines.
    • Personalization: There's a lot now and more coming. You have to register for the personalization features, which include the ability to save articles and create a personalized directory of content or sources/feeds. There's no Furl/MyWeb capability, however, which would be a very nice feature.

    The blog content aggregation is much more limited than the news content right now. It's not a blog search engine per se. However, it does contain considerable blog content from top news-oriented blogs. And users can add any site/feed they want so it becomes, effectively, a substitute for a newsreader. Stories that span multiple pages are presented in their entirety in a single window (the site doesn't send readers back to the original source sites). Ads appearing on those sites also appear with the news content. (Subscription/registration required content is gated and presented as it would appear if one navigated directly to the content site.) How does this affect newspaper sites? Inform would argue that it is going to surface a great deal more newspaper content pages (and related ads) than would otherwise be the case and gives newspapers more distribution accordingly. But there's also the chance that this takes existing news agregation (i.e., Google News, Topix, etc.) to a new level, to the point where I never need to visit a newspaper site again. (That's true for national but not local news necessarily.) (There's a long digression here that I won't go into about the value of newspaper brands and how to maintain them over time.) Goldman disagrees with my "devil's advocate" position and believes this helps news sites and news content gain exposure (and page views) they might otherwise not get. It's another instance of the same debate that came up last week when Craigslist barred Oodle from scraping its listings (aggregation vs. destination). This is a very powerful tool and, in a way, the real fulfillment of the "personal newspaper" that was discussed hypothetically years and years ago, as the way people would be reading news in the future. What's the business model? There will be some premium services, and the site has its own advertisers for pages that it "owns" (as opposed to those where the news content and associated ads appear). There are critics who think it's too complex and confusing (, for example). I might agree that's there's a lot here and it's not fully intuitive for mainstream consumers. But I think these guys wil get that -- I had a discussion with them about duplicative personalization elements -- and simplify over time. The newspapers (or other news media) are going to ultimately be compelled to buy this site. It's just a question of how long do they wait. ]]>
    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Destination-Aggregation Smackdown: Craig vs. Craig]]> 2005-10-21T16:44:26-05:00 2005-10-21T16:44:26-05:00 2005-10-21T16:44:26-05:00 John Battelle reported first yesterday, CL has apparently blocked Oodle CEO Craig Donato's classifieds aggregator from crawling and indexing CL's listings. Currently, the local marketplace accounts for a large percentage of Oodle's listings (haven't done the count, but it's significant). It's a bit of a surprise that CL, rather than, for example, would do this. But, on the other hand, consumers need not visit CL if they can get CL + everything else from Oodle. This is the central dilemma for all "destination sites" that permit their content to be scraped and presented by aggregators. Indeed, this is the dilemma for directories and newspapers in pushing their content out to search engine results.

    Does it represent more traffic for the destination and its advertisers, or does it ultimately reinforce the value proposition of the aggregator/engine and thus "disintermediate" the underlying content/destination site? The answer is "yes" to both questions. It does deliver more traffic, but it also reinforces the aggregator's consumer value proposition, to some degree, at the expense of the underlying site. It's quite a dilemma, but it's one that must be negotiated by any site that doesn't have enough "organic" traffic to satisfy its advertisers or that needs to build awareness and usage (almost everyone). CL is in the enviable position of having an extremely strong brand and huge traffic in its major markets. In other words, it doesn't need Oodle. So it decided to make CL the only place users could access its listings (notwithstanding Housingmaps, which is more about fun than money). So this is a blow to Oodle but potentially not one that is insurmountable for the site. Travel site/aggregator Orbitz, for example, is widely used but doesn't include Southwest or JetBlue flights. So Oodle could well continue and succeed (ultimately, I believe it will be acquired by the newspapers)/ The larger issue here is openness versus the "walled garden." America Online abandoned the walled garden (and is in the midst of a big ad campaign telling the world). But a stealthy new version of that model and thinking -- what I call the "invisible walled garden" -- still widely exists at search/portal sites (i.e., comprehensive feature sets intended to keep users within the system). There's also the example of the Yahoo! and MSN IM agreement, but one could argue that was defensive. There's a philosophical debate and also a power struggle that are text and subtext here. Defining Web 2.0 (now something of a cliché), people argue that it's about openness and interoperability. But the real politic of the Internet is still about who's got the eyeballs and who needs them, who's got the advertisers and who wants them. The whole MSN-AOL-Google-Comcast courtship dance falls into this category as well. ____________________ More dialogue and debate from the Oodle blog. ]]>
    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Google'$ Earning$]]> 2005-10-21T10:39:19-05:00 2005-10-21T10:39:19-05:00 2005-10-21T10:39:19-05:00 official release: Google reported record revenues of $1.578 billion for the quarter ended September 30, 2005, up 96% compared to the third quarter of 2004, and up 14% compared to last quarter. Google reports its revenues, consistent with GAAP, on a gross basis without deducting traffic acquisition costs, or TAC. This quarter, TAC totaled $530 million, or 34% percent of advertising revenues. Reactions:
    • This is about their market share
    • This can't continue can it?
    • Ohmigod!
    And this, this a.m.: (per Reuters): "First Albany and Lehman Brothers went further, upping their price targets to $450 a share."

    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Yahoo! Earnings and Local Acquisition]]> 2005-10-19T13:34:14-05:00 2005-10-19T13:34:14-05:00 2005-10-19T13:34:14-05:00 Eric Auchard (Google is up next). Also Yahoo! acquired Whereonearth per John Battelle (and the Yahoo! search blog). More thoughts on this later. For now, see the Reuters general overview. As serious as the major search engines and portals are about Local, Yahoo! is putting a major effort behind it (it acquired local events/community site just two weeks ago).

    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Abierto vs. Cerrado]]> 2005-10-19T13:31:02-05:00 2005-10-19T13:31:02-05:00 2005-10-19T13:31:02-05:00 a fascinating post at SiliconBeat about the brewing debate, ignited in part by the Craigslist objection to Oodle's scraping. I had a conversation about the whole thing with Healthline's Tony Gentile the other day on why Indeed (jobs aggregator) is OK and Oodle is not from Craigslist's point of view. He thought it might be the feed (Indeed) vs. scraping (Oodle) method of content acquisition.

    And here's an entirely different and very interesting take on the issue from "Perry" (Evans?) in response to my earlier "Smackdown" post (scroll to 3): I’m not sure this is a simple just “what’s best for consumers”. The underlying “contract” with the consumer that supplies the content, and the publishing mission and model of the aggregators are very important, imho. CraigsList has won an admirable trusted position with the consumer, in part on the assumption of a community which is understood and proven to not violate some (mysterious!) “order of things” that has controbuted to their amazing success. Craig should rightly be careful to sort out its (implied or real) contract with its users, and it’s up to “him” to gauge the terms by which those community covenants are assimilated across the net . . . ]]>
    Greg Sterling <![CDATA['Contextualizing' a Local Search]]> 2005-10-19T13:25:48-05:00 2005-10-19T13:25:48-05:00 2005-10-19T13:25:48-05:00 Hilton Hotel in downtown Atlanta -- and then perform category-based local searches in relation to that point. This is the main way I use Yahoo! Maps.

    Right now I need to find a place to eat, for example, and these are my options. At the moment, there's no one else I'm aware of that allows me to do this type of a local search. I wish this sort of "search within a search" or proximity search were more widely available because it's the way people actually think about local ("what's near here"). Wireless holds the promise of this kind of search, but mobile local search still has a long way to go. ]]>
    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Real Estate, Maps and Meta Search]]> 2005-10-17T10:51:50-05:00 2005-10-17T10:51:50-05:00 2005-10-17T10:51:50-05:00 SiliconBeat has identified another interesting mapping/real estate "mashup" (Google Maps) + meta search. There's a lot happening with maps, and real estate is the leading edge of practical, monetizable apps. Check out Trulia (proving how hard it is to get good domains these days). And watch for (coming very soon). At last year's ILM:04 show we had a mapping panel, but all the panelists were fairly circumspect and cautious about mapping and monetization scenarios. Now that we're starting to see them, this year's panel at ILM:05 (scroll) should be quite interesting.

    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Healthline: Vertical Health Search]]> 2005-10-17T10:51:48-05:00 2005-10-17T10:51:48-05:00 2005-10-17T10:51:48-05:00 SiliconBeat thoroughly covers the new launch of this health search engine/destination. Blogger and sometime Kelsey Group conference panelist Tony Gentile disappeared from the radar, and this is where he landed as VP of product. Vertical search is about niches generally. So is health a niche? Not really. According to the Pew folks, eight in 10 U.S. Internet users have looked for health-related information online. That's why there's more than US$30 million in venture funding behind it. ______ More specifics from Search Engine Watch

    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[More on GoogleNet]]> 2005-10-17T09:58:05-05:00 2005-10-17T09:58:05-05:00 2005-10-17T09:58:05-05:00 Search Engine Watch blog on Google's bid to provide free Wi-Fi to San Francisco. We've discussed the implications of such a service before. It would allow for super precise location targeting, among other things (e.g., Wi-Fi ubiquity also would promote VoIP). More details here also.

    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Craig Blocks Oodle]]> 2005-10-14T14:07:50-05:00 2005-10-14T14:07:50-05:00 2005-10-14T14:07:50-05:00 Search Engine Watch. I'm in a meeting (secretly blogging) and will write more later.

    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[HomePages: The Next Level]]> 2005-10-13T11:18:19-05:00 2005-10-13T11:18:19-05:00 2005-10-13T11:18:19-05:00 It's real-estate mapping and accompanying monetization taken to the "next level," with a great deal of local info built around the map. Unlike mashups such as, HomePages has complete MLS information. There were a couple of bugs for me, but it's a very rich product. We'll see a lot more like this soon. Waiting for newspaper-owned HomeGain to do this and then supply that functionality to newspaper sites.

    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Yahoo! Seasons News Search With Blogs]]> 2005-10-12T10:55:45-05:00 2005-10-12T10:55:45-05:00 2005-10-12T10:55:45-05:00 news search with a dash of blog search. (This is probably not a full-blown Yahoo! blog-search offering.) In this example for "local search," see the right column. Yahoo is also integrating Flickr content and audio/video results.

    While integrating all these different types of content into search results may prove challenging from both a technical (though I wouldn't know) and UI perspective, integrated search is ultimately better than what might be called "balkanized search" -- lots of different, segmented sites. I believe that most users want convenience and simplicity (and some comprehensiveness), and that argues for integration. In some not-too-distant future, from a user perspective, there will be no difference between blog content and traditional news sources. The publishers/content creators themselves are already starting to blur those lines. As a user, I just want information, and sometimes opinion, and so it makes sense to integrate blog search into other content results, which now superficially exists on the major engines. The specialized blog search engines are valuable for "power users," who may be looking for specialized content. But when it comes to local, as we've said before, there's more and more valuable user-generated content residing in blogs that needs to be captured and surfaced for consumers to benefit. This also argues for some sort of integration. In terms of new and improved news search, a company called Inform (recently mentioned on SiliconBeat) is doing some interesting and sophisticated things with news and blog search. I believe the official launch is next week. Here's more from Search Engine Watch and AP's Mike Liedtke about Yahoo! News Search. ]]>
    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Tagging Sneaks Into Google Search History]]> 2005-10-12T10:55:21-05:00 2005-10-12T10:55:21-05:00 2005-10-12T10:55:21-05:00 search history functionality, which can also now be added as a content module to the personalized home page (Fusion). This new tagging capability allows users to create a directory of sites, which can also be annotated.

    Google explains: When browsing your Search History, just click the star next to one of the search results listed to create a bookmark for that website. Once you've starred a site, you can click the "Edit" link to add labels and notes for the site. This makes search history much more useful, but still not as useful as Yahoo!'s MyWeb. See also, TimesSelect (based on Furl) and, which perform similar functions. Furl, and MyWeb all share a "social search" dimension -- users can see what others have saved (Jeteye takes this concept further in interesting but complicated ways). It will be intriguing to see if Google tries to move into this social search realm as well. ]]>
    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Slow Ad Shift Buys Newspapers Time]]> 2005-10-12T10:46:29-05:00 2005-10-12T10:46:29-05:00 2005-10-12T10:46:29-05:00 Editor and Publisher) reflects that national advertisers have not in fact abandoned newspapers and are shifting ad dollars to the Internet more slowly than widely perceived: The report found that, indeed, more than one-third of ad dollars flowing out of newspapers are moving to the Internet. The 48 advertisers spent roughly the same in 2004 as in 2003 on newspaper advertising; however, they upped their Internet spend by 29%. . . Yet, the shift is happening sporadically.

    Assuming the report is accurate, this buys newspapers some time to create truly compelling online offerings. (Though there is the problem of shifting offline revenues online where ad models and price points are different.) Still, there's a lot of pain to go around in the industry right now. Despite the belt tightening, there are lots of innovative things starting to happen online with newspaper sites. Just to point to one, the NY Times is using LookSmart's Furl to create a MyWeb-like content repository that can save content from anywhere online (if you download the toolbar). This is a service that has little or nothing to do with newspaper editorial content, and it helps justify the TimesSelect service. The irony is that all these third-party aggregation sites that are siphoning readers from traditional newspapers rely on those same newspapers as content providers. For these and other reasons -- newspapers play an important role in democracy -- I'm hoping the newspapers figure out all this local search stuff. At ILM:05, we'll have a panel (among other newspaper speakers) called Newspapers 2.0 (scroll) that will seek to expose and discuss some of the more interesting developments in the online newspaper space. Caroline Little, CEO of Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive, will also be a keynote speaker. ]]>
    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Yahoo! and MSN in Reported IM Deal]]> 2005-10-12T10:39:50-05:00 2005-10-12T10:39:50-05:00 2005-10-12T10:39:50-05:00 others are reporting that Wednesday Yahoo! and MSN will announce consumer IM "interoperability." The conventional wisdom being widely repeated is: This now puts pressure on AOL, the IM leader, which has twice the market share of either Yahoo! (No. 2) or MSN (No. 3).

    I don't necessarily agree (unless you haven't yet adopted an IM platform or you're registered on multiple IM clients). But it does point to a time (coming soon) when there will be true interoperability among IM clients (Google Talk is based on the open Jabber protocol). With almost 49 million U.S. users (according to comScore), AIM has emerged as an important strategic asset that AOL is trying to leverage to introduce other services and AOL Search. Yahoo! is reportedly also trying to use IM to extend its reach. From our point of view, IM is most interesting as the front door or "foot-in-the-door" for mainstream VoIP adoption. That's the bigger picture, and more interesting longer-term implication, of the recent IM upgrades and flurry of activity. TKG clients can read more here. ________ More: Om Malik's take.]]>
    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Consumer Reports Is Dead; Long Live]]> 2005-10-12T10:32:24-05:00 2005-10-12T10:32:24-05:00 2005-10-12T10:32:24-05:00 announced it had passed the 2 millionth subscriber milestone, which is quite impressive considering that consumers still resist paying for content online. CR's online success goes to the power of its trusted brand, its relatively unique content, and some skillful SEO and distribution deals. However, earlier today I got an email solicitation presenting me with a "deeply discounted" offer ($20 per year versus $26) to subscribe to Consumer Reports, the print magazine. No way.

    I previously got the magazine, and I naively assumed that by subscribing I'd also get access to the online articles and product reviews. Wrong. There was an additional subscription fee. When I found that out, I promptly subscribed to the site and let the magazine lapse -- never to renew. The site, which has all the content archived in browse and searchable form, is so much better than a pile of dusty magazines in the corner -- "Honey, where was that issue with the stoves?" There's no question about the relative value of the two products. Eventually, CR may figure out that, in order to keep the magazine going, it will need to bundle the two offerings for one "low, low price" -- as it should have done originally. That would have kept me subscribing to the print magazine . . . to get access to the site. But, to date, CR hasn't done it that way. I don't have any subscriber data to see if .org is cannibalizing print. I would imagine it is or will, if it hasn't yet, as happened with me. Reading magazines is generally more enjoyable than reading articles online (in my view). But CR is different; it's not entertainment. It's purely "utilitarian" content (product reviews). So I want to search for the desired information, find it and get on with my purchase process. The site is much better suited to that behavior than the magazine. CR may be somewhat unique because it doesn't rely on advertising. It may also, paradoxically, emerge as both something of an example and a cautionary tale for other traditional publishers. ]]>
    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Students, Parents and Search]]> 2005-10-12T09:57:33-05:00 2005-10-12T09:57:33-05:00 2005-10-12T09:57:33-05:00 MediaPost) about students' and parents' use of and attitudes toward traditional media and the Internet (specifically search engines). I haven't got lots of time to write about this, but here's the top level . . .

    College students rated search engines as the best source of information, friends and family were next, and traditional media was third. Parents were also heavy users and true believers in search: When the parents were asked where they go for information, 73 percent said they used keyword searches. That was more than the number who said they turned to retail stores (53 percent), TV ads (39 percent), and newspapers (15 percent), but less than those who turned to friends and family (94 percent), baby books (88 percent), baby Web sites (86 percent), baby magazines (82 percent), and doctors and hospitals (79 percent). These data may ultimately reflect that the Internet and search in particular put the consumer-user in "control" or at least provide a sense of control over the information and its delivery. So "credibility" in part might be a result of the fact that most traditional media (e.g., TV) "push" data and in this media-savvy culture are considered inherently less credible and, indeed, are greeted with increasing skepticism. One interesting contrast: The students trusted "friends and family" (word of mouth) less than search engines, while parents turned most to that category -- although they were heavy users of other information sources as well. ]]>
    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[MSN AdCenter Wants SMEs for Beta]]> 2005-10-10T11:17:55-05:00 2005-10-10T11:17:55-05:00 2005-10-10T11:17:55-05:00 MSN's Search Blog: From: Yusuf Mehdi As you know, we launched MSN adCenter --our next generation advertising platform -- in France and Singapore last month. This was an important first step to delivering our global vision to connect advertisers to consumers in a more meaningful way. Now, as we prepare to launch the US pilot of MSN adCenter, we need your help in getting your friends and family to apply to participate in the self-service offering for small-to-medium businesses . . .

    This pilot represents a unique opportunity for small and medium businesses to be among the first to experience the more powerful tools and wide-ranging benefits of MSN adCenter . . .If you know a business-owner who would be interested in advertising their business on MSN Search, please forward this email to them and encourage them to apply to participate in the US Pilot by completing our online registration form at Of course, it depends on how one defines "small business" -- the U.S. SBA goes up to 500 head count, which ultimately renders the definition meaningless. (Almost 90 percent of SMEs have fewer than four employees, and almost three-fourths have no employees.) But "self-service" and small business have so far been like oil and water. A day is coming when that won't be true. But the offerings need to be much simpler and more dynamic (something like this). It will be interesting to see what emerges from the pilot in terms of any innovations in self-provisioning. ]]>
    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Yahoo! Podcast Portal]]> 2005-10-10T11:15:34-05:00 2005-10-10T11:15:34-05:00 2005-10-10T11:15:34-05:00
  • Podcasts are another species of user-generated content (assuming they're created by individuals rather than traditional content publishers/creators).
  • They are part of the "long tail" phenomenon and further fragment the mainstream media audience.
  • Together with satellite radio, they have the potential to substantially disrupt commercial and local radio over time. Yahoo! launched a podcasting portal tonight, adding its weight to the gradually increasing awareness and momentum surrounding this phenomenon.

    ]]> Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Google Reader Take Two]]> 2005-10-10T11:15:16-05:00 2005-10-10T11:15:16-05:00 2005-10-10T11:15:16-05:00 Google Reader for the past 72 hours, my initial "hands-on" reaction is very positive. (Critiques: "Labels" aren't working for me, and there's no way to search within the reader -- yet.) But overall it's very easy to use and provides a clean and intuitive way to add, read and manage feeds. The interface and, specifically, the easy and effective navigation -- whether moving between blogs/feeds or within them -- is very nice.

    I used to have eight or nine blogs on my Firefox toolbar, and now I've put them all into Google Reader. The conventional wisdom is that the public doesn't know what RSS is, and the number of users who read news and other information this way is very small. However, Michael Bazeley at SiliconBeat cited a Yahoo! study that contends up to 31 percent of those online are using or encountering feeds yet are unaware of that fact. The new Google Reader enters an already crowded field, including MyYahoo!, IAC's Bloglines, NewsGator, Pluck, the Firefox browser (and soon IE), among many others. Here's FeedBurner's data on RSS reader market share (as of January 2005): Aggregator Name (Market Share Percentage) 1. Bloglines (32.86%) 2. NetNewsWire (16.95%) 3. Firefox Live Bookmarks (7.78%) 4. Pluck (7.20%) 5. NewsGator Online(4.45%) 6. (not identified) (4.07%) 7. FeedDemon (3.83%) 8. SharpReader (3.27%) 9. My Yahoo (2.58%) 10. iPodder (2.42%) 11. NewsGator (2.23%) 12. Thunderbird (2.13%) 13. RSS Bandit (1.12%) 14. NewsFire (1.05%) 15. iPodderX (1.02%) 16. Sage (0.71%) 17. FeedReader (0.67%) 18. RssReader (0.54%) 19. LiveJournal (0.46%) 20. Opera RSS Reader (0.45%) The market for readers is young and still wide-open. (At a certain point of market development, however, people won't want to switch readers because they'll be too invested in one -- similar to email.) When IE7 incorporates an RSS reading capability (a la Firefox), we'll see what impact it has on these other products. And now back to Google . . . Google needs to find a way to better integrate and leverage some of its related but now separate products: i.e., News, Blog Search, Sidebar and its personalized home page. I'm not suggesting all these should be folded into one. But having too many "parallel" products will fragment the audience and weaken what might otherwise be a stronger, consolidated offering. Regardless, the new Google Reader is a nice addition to the tool set. _________________ Related: RSS and newspapers . . . I've argued that online news is being "commoditized" (except for local news) by news aggregators. To the extent that RSS readers catch on with mainstream audiences that will further accelerate the process and also minimize or eliminate the distinction between blogs and traditional news -- to an online reader it will all be information. And while sources are important (and will continue to be) in terms of credibility and trust, I might spend less and less time on news or other content sites and more time with my efficient reader that pulls together and helps me manage the information overload. ]]>
    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Google (RSS) Reader]]> 2005-10-07T16:55:46-05:00 2005-10-07T16:55:46-05:00 2005-10-07T16:55:46-05:00 Google Reader earlier today. It joins an already crowded field of RSS readers (and Google's personalized home page and sidebar apps have RSS/feed readers embedded in them; over time integration will be key). RSS readers have implications for newspapers as destination sites. Over the phone, and without having seen it until about 30 seconds ago, it sounds like it has a great many nice features. Google says it's easier to use and more intuitive than most of what's out there. It's search-driven and allows users to "search for new content" (MSN's has a similar feature) and subscribe to feeds without any understanding of RSS, Atom feeds or XML. I'll have more to say after I use it a bit. Here's what Google had to say officially. More explanation of how it works here, from Google.

    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[GoogleNet Inches Closer to Reality]]> 2005-10-07T15:59:46-05:00 2005-10-07T15:59:46-05:00 2005-10-07T15:59:46-05:00 rumor, then the Wi-Fi VPN, now confirmation of a bid to provide free Wi-Fi across the city of San Francisco (per Reuters): "Google has submitted a proposal to offer free, wireless Internet access (Wi-Fi) to the entire city of San Francisco," Google said in a statement. The Wi-Fi access could be funded through online advertising, a Google spokesman said.

    Om Malik did the original reporting on the GoogleNet story and has some more information on his blog: "Google officials say San Francisco residents (and visitors) will enjoy a free 300 kilobits per second, always on connection anywhere in the city. As part of its proposal, the company says it will be offering wholesale access to other service providers, who will offer higher throughput connections to their customers. Google says it plans to use its own authentication services." At least "officially," this then becomes more of an infrastructure play than a pure competitive offering, although one has to see it as competitive with other service providers, which currently have built lucrative business models around access. (Why would I pay Comcast or SBC, for example, when I can get it for free? -- unless there's something scary or obnoxious about the entire offering.) More from Malik: “San Francisco will be a true test bed for location based services and applications,” says Chris Sacca, principal of new business development at Google. While the initial use of location-based services might be limited to more-focused and targeted advertising, the potential of location-based services is immense, officials said. Sacca pointed out that the network bid was in line with Google’s thinking on delivering answers anytime anywhere to anyone, and looking beyond a desktop PC." On to the familiar bulleted list of some of the implications (I've written others here):
    • This shows that Google sees its growth depends to some degree on keeping broadband momentum going and wants to take that into its own hands
    • Location-based ad targeting/services go without saying (but Google has a range of things in mind beyond more location accuracy)
    • Potential revenues from wholesaling access to third parties
    • If GoogleTalk ever develped a PC-to-Phone capability (it's PC-to-PC now), this would make Google effectively a telco (a la Skype)
    Assuming this gets built out, it would be a lab for Google to test new products and services (as company spokespeople suggested). Clearly, if it worked, the effort would be to roll out the offering on a larger geographic scale (U.S. and beyond?). If the company is going to try to do this with municipalities, there will be lots of bureaucratic headaches and legislative barriers thrown up by entrenched telco competitors (as has been the case in Philadelphia). But Nitin J. Shah, CEO of Feeva, which has been associated with the GoogleNet rumors (Shah will be speaking at ILM:05), told me that working with municipalities across the country would potentially be much more challenging than just trying to build a network privately. (Feeva has two hotspots in SF.) Everyone will be watching this -- it goes without saying. ______________ More from SiliconBeat and read Om Malik's full post.]]>
    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[ Quietly Building a Juggernaut]]> 2005-10-07T15:45:27-05:00 2005-10-07T15:45:27-05:00 2005-10-07T15:45:27-05:00 MediaPost.

    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Semel: 'Google Has No Plan']]> 2005-10-07T15:44:23-05:00 2005-10-07T15:44:23-05:00 2005-10-07T15:44:23-05:00 piece in which he quoted Yahoo! CEO Terry Semel who reportedly said the following about Google at the show: "So far they don't seem to have a plan, but maybe they do," Semel said Thursday during a question-and-answer session at an Internet conference. "Maybe magic will happen tomorrow."

    Yet Google contends it does have a plan -- to bring together content and functionality (search); it's called "Fusion." Right now, Fusion is officially about the personalized home page, but it probably is a product roadmap that extends beyond that. The amusing or strange or ironic or purely coincidental thing here is that Yahoo!'s product strategy is similarly called FUSE: find, use, share, expand. Is this a zeitgeist or "great company minds think alike" thing or is it, as Semel suggested in his talk, that Google is self-consciously adopting a similar strategy to Yahoo!? Not exactly. When you dig down the two companies may be using similar phrases to describe what are ultimately different strategies. At the highest level, Google is emphasizing personalization, and Yahoo! is emphasizing content and community (though not to the exclusion of personalization). Google is an "aggregator"; Yahoo! is a destination. (Of course these crude statements don't fully capture what's going on at these complex companies.) There is, however, a kind of "regression toward the mean" going on, with both companies and the larger competitive marketplace clearly influencing the other's strategies and product development. ]]>
    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[More 'Upcoming' for Yahoo! Local]]> 2005-10-07T15:39:41-05:00 2005-10-07T15:39:41-05:00 2005-10-07T15:39:41-05:00 announced that it had acquired (a Flickr-like events calendar that is user-driven). This is going to bolster Yahoo!'s already very strong Local product by adding more user-generated content in the events area. The events RSS feed in Yahoo! Local is a great piece of functionality, but the data right now are limited and incomplete. This will substantially improve that aspect of the product. But more broadly (as I wrote in "Yahoo! Building Social into Local"), Yahoo! is building and buying an impressive array of "social search" assets that the company can deploy and leverage across its network -- not just Local.

    More after I get briefed by Yahoo!'s Local GM Paul Levine (who will be part of "The Role of User-Generated Content and Community" panel (scroll) at ILM:05). UPDATE: So I just spoke with Paul Levine and principal Andy Baio for about 15 minutes. Upcoming had been a part-time project but will now get the resources it needs/deserves, and Yahoo! will attempt to integrate this with the many other socially oriented things it's doing across the network. The challenge, of course, is how to bring it all together in an elegant way. Regardless, it's more muscle for Yahoo!'s FUSE strategy: find, use, share, expand.]]>
    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Ning: Another Social App with Local Aspects]]> 2005-10-07T15:36:18-05:00 2005-10-07T15:36:18-05:00 2005-10-07T15:36:18-05:00 Marty Himmelstein for alerting me about Ning, a social-media tool that covers a bunch of topics but has a local content area. Here's a fairly extensive discussion from SiliconBeat. It's time to throw away skepticism about user-generated content (for those who remain skeptical) and embrace the concept. The question now becomes separating the meaningful from the trivial apps in this area. (Here's yet another Zvents.)

    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Mashup: Google Maps + Google Local]]> 2005-10-07T15:27:39-05:00 2005-10-07T15:27:39-05:00 2005-10-07T15:27:39-05:00 Local out of beta and combined it with the surprisingly popular Google Maps in a single "map-centric" interface. Here's a search for "wine shops in Greenwich Village New York." Brett Taylor, who's the new product manager at Google for Local and Maps (now that they're combined), said that Google had taken user feedback and "combined the best elements of both products" in the new Google Local.

    There's nothing radical here, just incremental improvements. Google has added a "details" tab that allows users to see more information about a business/listing without clicking through to a site. With its "map-centric" appearance Google Local and MSN's Virtual Earth now share a very similar interface. Earlier this summer Yahoo! launched a new and improved version of its local product, which also gives prominence to maps. Yahoo! Local has a broader range of content than either MSN or Google at this point. What about ads on the new Google Local? The answer is: yes. They'll be served in the left column above and below the organic results/listings. But what about monetization of the map itself? Google declined to comment. I think one of the true innovations of Google Local (beyond the aesthetics of the map) was the "one box" search (as opposed to category/name and location boxes) -- though it doesn't always recognize location. However, it allows for a less structured, broader range of searches than users would typically consider in the familiar "two box" environment (where they're prompted to do White and Yellow Pages-style searches). Google is probably a bit ahead of local search users in the one-box approach. But it does permit this sort of non-traditional local search. Taylor said that as a something of a concession (my words) to the existing culture of local search, in which the two-box model predominates, Google would offer both approaches. The two-box search is available under the "find businesses" link beside the main search field. No facile "who will win" predictions from me. Like the broader search market, local will continue to be an area of rapid development and innovation among all the players in the coming six to 12 months. All this innovation is good for users and makes for better and better products. I just hope there aren't any more announcements this week -- I pray to the PR gods . . . ]]>
    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Process Patents and 'Post Search' Ads]]> 2005-10-07T15:06:32-05:00 2005-10-07T15:06:32-05:00 2005-10-07T15:06:32-05:00 business "process" or "method" patents. Some of them strike me as overly broad, some are interesting and important, and some are just stupid (that the U.S. government would allow such patents). There's lots of litigation ahead -- maybe I should go back to being a lawyer -- to resolve conflicts in ambiguous patents that run up against real world companies' technologies and business models.

    What brought this up (beyond too much coffee this a.m.)? Here's an interesting post by Search Engine Journal's Loren Baker about Google behavioral targeting and personalization patent filings (with a bunch of local/geotargeting implications too). Meanwhile "post-search" (a form of behavioral targeting) provider AlmondNET already has patents that may bump up against some of the things that Google wants to do (according to speculation in the SEJ post). Yahoo! has also been experimenting with behavioral targeting. If they in fact conflict -- and I'm not trying to argue that point -- the government should deny the application(s). But given the complexity and ambiguity of these types of filings it probably will not. Then what you have is tantamount to an IP litigators full employment act. That's the problem with the whole category of method patents. ]]>
    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Dex Becomes RHD's Online Strategy]]> 2005-10-07T14:39:13-05:00 2005-10-07T14:39:13-05:00 2005-10-07T14:39:13-05:00
    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Topix 'Contextual News' Links]]> 2005-10-07T13:54:14-05:00 2005-10-07T13:54:14-05:00 2005-10-07T13:54:14-05:00 Topix, which has a number of third-party, local news distribution deals with the likes of AOL and Citysearch, among others, launched a very interesting offering recently. Unfortunately, I don't have a great deal of time right now to discuss it. It basically pushes a bunch of contextually related news links to participating news sites that appear beside editorial content. Participating sites include The LA Times, The Chicago Tribune, The San Jose Mercury News (their parents' are owner-investors in Topix) and others.

    In other words, readers who want to read more news about the same topic can click one of the links and be sent to the Topix site where there are many more stories on the same subject. Reportedly, the terms of these deals involve a revenue share (presumably if the user clicks on sponsored links on the Topix site). This is a very interesting twist on contextual advertising. Here are some links (courtesy of Chris Tolles, Topix's VP of Sales and Marketing ) where you can see the content/contextual modules in action: Business, Sports, Home & Garden (scroll to the bottom) and Entertainment (scroll to the bottom). Here's more complete coverage from ClickZ. ]]>
    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Why Not Just Steal a Successful Site?]]> 2005-10-05T08:42:35-05:00 2005-10-05T08:42:35-05:00 2005-10-05T08:42:35-05:00 Silicon Beat points to a site that exactly duplicates Craigslist's look and feel and listings presentation (it actually uses Craigslist's listings). If you can't think of a better model, why not just steal one? This speaks to the power that the Craigslist brand now carries (the brand is chiefly the user experience in this context).

    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[CPA to Fight Click Fraud]]> 2005-10-05T08:42:28-05:00 2005-10-05T08:42:28-05:00 2005-10-05T08:42:28-05:00 Carat's Ron Belanger (with whom I shared a long table at the iMedia Summit in January) suggests that some paid-search networks adopt a cost-per-acquistion/cost-per-action model to combat click fraud.

    Regardless of whether the named engines/networks adopt his advice, I believe we'll see more and more CPA models popping up over time. Part of this will be driven by advertiser demand and part of it by the publisher/network's efforts to differentiate from larger competitors (per Belanger's argument). For example, imagine a new shopping engine. How would it compete in an extremely crowded field? One way would be to offer a cost-per-coversion model as a differentiator. As more and more CPA (or equivalent) models pop up, PPC/CPC models will face pressure. Ultimately, however, CPM, PPC/CPC and CPA will all live side by side, because they address different advertiser objectives. _______________ Related: Webpronews (per Battelle's post) reporting on a recent click fraud survey finding near 30% click fraud levels, which I don't entirely believe. ]]>
    Greg Sterling <![CDATA['UGC' Exploding in the 'Blogosphere']]> 2005-10-05T08:42:20-05:00 2005-10-05T08:42:20-05:00 2005-10-05T08:42:20-05:00 BBC), "the number of blogs is doubling every five months." I met last week with the folks (Stu MacFarlane and Andrew Shotland) at Insider Pages who told me that it took the company less than two months to almost double the number of user reviews on its network of sites.

    All this indicates the rate of user-generated content on the Internet is growing at an accelerating pace. Yahoo!, for example, has made a big, big bet on organizing user-generated content (Flickr, MyWeb, 360) as part of its fundamental value proposition going forward. There's enormous value in that content, but it's dispersed and generally hard to find. For example, the blog about the perfect places to stay in Costa Rica may exist but in planning my trip to Costa Rica it may be next to impossible for me to find that right now. Whoever can organize and leverage that content (especially in local) will be rewarded in many ways. _____ Related: Yahoo! said to launch blog ad network tomorrow. More from the NY Times. Yahoo! reportedly testing blog search in Korea. ]]>
    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[A Content Cold War?]]> 2005-10-03T11:39:57-05:00 2005-10-03T11:39:57-05:00 2005-10-03T11:39:57-05:00 Open Content Alliance (OCA) is a digital library effort that seems to have been set up to rival Google Print. According to the site: The Open Content Alliance (OCA) represents the collaborative efforts of a group of cultural, technology, nonprofit, and governmental organizations from around the world that will help build a permanent archive of multilingual digitized text and multimedia content. The OCA was conceived by the Internet Archive and Yahoo! in early 2005 as a way to offer broad, public access to a rich panorama of world culture.

    Who's a part of the OCA?
    • Adobe
    • European Archive
    • HP Labs
    • Internet Archive
    • National Archives (UK)
    • O'Reilly Media
    • Prelinger Archives
    • University of California
    • University of Toronto
    • Yahoo!
    This appears to be a self-conscious effort that thumbs its virtual nose at Google. Not much more to say on my part. But others have plenty to say: Search Engine Watch, NY Times, Battelle, SiliconBeat, Search Engine Journal, News ]]>
    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Silos Aplenty]]> 2005-10-03T11:05:41-05:00 2005-10-03T11:05:41-05:00 2005-10-03T11:05:41-05:00 Yahoo!'s content network, combined with Ask's new direct pay-per-click service (and the ramping of pay-per-call) reflects the emergence of multiple online advertising silos. (Let's not forget MSN.) The whole online advertising proposition is becoming more complex, even as it becomes more important. SEM firms that stand between large and small marketers and the increasing complexity of all these networks will correspondingly be more important going forward.

    Speaking of pay per call . . . one of the provocative datapoints that The Kelsey Group pulled from its most recent SME advertiser research (Wave VIII of the Local Commerce Monitor) indicates that by an overwhelming majority small business advertisers (71%) would rather pay for calls than clicks. I'd share more, but people I work with wouldn't want me to do that. More of this data will be presented at The Kelsey Group's upcoming Directories/Yellow Pages conference in September. _________ Related: Yahoo! Publisher Network]]>
    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[$100 Laptop: A Revolution in the Making]]> 2005-10-01T09:58:53-05:00 2005-10-01T09:58:53-05:00 2005-10-01T09:58:53-05:00 GoogleNet and San Francisco, I wanted to chime in on this story of the $100 laptop (the other side of the equation). The story has received a ton of coverage. But if this can be brought to market and it's more than a toy, it's a revolution in the making. It's billed as an educational tool for children in third world countries, but first world consumers would be snapping them up.

    MIT (sponsor of the whole initiative, with some help from corporations such as Google and AMD) says they "won't be available for purchase by individuals." Regardless of what MIT says, don't believe it -- the demand will be too great. (There's already a bill in the MA legislature to deliver the laptops to all children in Massachusetts.) Here's how MIT describes the machine: The proposed $100 machine will be a Linux-based, full-color, full-screen laptop that will use innovative power (including wind-up) and will be able to do most everything except store huge amounts of data. These rugged laptops will be WiFi- and cell phone-enabled, and have USB ports galore. Its current specifications are: 500MHz, 1GB, 1 Megapixel. Don't say, "how lovely for those children." Think about it: it's very cheap, it's an Internet connection and a cellphone (assuming Wi-Fi, which is where GoogleNet comes in) and it doesn't run Windows. It won't have an 80 gig hard drive (but someone will develop that later, rest assured). This is the second coming of Larry Ellison's "network PC" idea (and maybe eventually the free PC). Don't want to take your laptop when you travel, but your cellphone is too limited? Here's a device that starts to answer the question. Your kids could put this machine in their backpacks. (Think about branded versions of this machine from, say, Disney.) The computer is a commodity now (all but Apple's machines, which are fashion/lifestyle products), but this would radically accelerate that process. In fewer than 10 years, we may well have free computers and free access to promote advertising and other services. At the very least we will probably have ubiquitous computing and universal access to go with it. ]]>
    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Broadband: Plug 'n' Play]]> 2005-09-30T09:39:29-05:00 2005-09-30T09:39:29-05:00 2005-09-30T09:39:29-05:00 Pew says: Growth has slowed and will be flat. Nielsen says it's up and continuing to grow: "Two out of every five Americans has broadband." Rumors about a national (U.S.) Google WiFi network still are vigorously circulating. To make a very simple, self-evident statement, the continued growth of a range of Internet products and services (not to mention search) hinges to a large degree on continuing broadband adoption (let's put aside wireless for the moment).

    In July, a WSJ story (cited by Reuters in this excerpt) reported the following: Google Inc. , Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Hearst Corp. are investing about $100 million in Current Communications Group, a start-up that offers high-speed Internet connections over electricity lines, The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday. Current Communications, of Germantown, Maryland, uses a technology that sends Internet signals over regular power lines, the newspaper said, citing people familiar with the situation. Now there's this related development: A new chip developed by Matsushita in Japan allows ordinary electrical outlets to become high-speed connections without any Ethernet connection. This gives new meaning to "plug 'n' play." The totality of technological developments, including those above, combined with competitive pressures in the marketplace, argue that broadband growth in the U.S. (and around the globe) will continue until it reaches very high penetration rates (time is the only true "X factor" here). South Korea, the most wired country in the world, for example, has almost 100 percent Internet penetration, about 75 percent of which is through very high-speed connections. Broadband growth = growth of broadband consumer behavior patterns, which The Kelsey Group and others have documented fairly extensively. ]]>
    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Local Matters at DEMO]]> 2005-09-30T00:50:45-05:00 2005-09-30T00:50:45-05:00 2005-09-30T00:50:45-05:00 DEMO conference is happening in SoCal this week (not there, trying to get some writing done) and there are some interesting developments that concern local: Local Matters announced its next-generation local search platform. I saw a very early version in January of this year and it was highly impressive. I'm waiting for the busy and elusive Perry Evans to update me. I just got the update: very nice interface and functionality. I'll write more later. Jingle Networks launched "free 411." I'm writing more about this for the Local Media Journal. But basically this is free-to-consumer, ad-supported directory assistance combined with a PPCall ad model. No Web site, no landing page is required; it's purely phone based. The company is launching with an impressive list of advertisers, but when consumers call for non-advertisers, they'll hear a "switch pitch" offer for a competitor if that competitor is a Jingle Advertiser. The company has a very ingenious sales channel as well. There are of course challenges, which I'll discuss later.

    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[So Many Stories . . .]]> 2005-09-29T09:47:55-05:00 2005-09-29T09:47:55-05:00 2005-09-29T09:47:55-05:00

  • SEM Reach Local announced a deal with TMP Directional Marketing (whose parent Monster Worldwide owns, which is the largest Yellow Pages agency, to offer all of TMP's 600,000 locally oriented businesses access to Reach Local's platform and marketing distribution. According to the press release, "ReachLocal will offer TMP clients its patent-pending online marketing platform as part of an overall service that includes complete search engine campaign set-up and management, simplification of online media buying across multiple online publishers -- including Google, Yahoo and Verizon SuperPages -- and robust campaign reporting with sophisticated phone call and web activity tracking." So, obviously, this is a huge deal for Reach and potentially brings many thousands more local businesses (or local offices of national brands) into local search.
  • Meanwhile over at TMP's sister company, Monster Worldwide's CEO Andrew McKelvey was quoted as saying that Monster is not going to grow by taking share from its primary competitors (newspaper-owned CareerBuilder or Yahoo!'s HotJobs), but by taking business from print newspapers. CareerBuilder is the category leader. Print recruitment revenues were $4.6 billion in 2004 (NAA), while online revenues were approximately $800 million (Kelsey Group).
  • At MediaPost's OMMA East conference in New York, going on now, there was a local search panel yesterday. According to the write-up, the big takeaway seems to be: limited inventory captured by national advertisers = barriers to local business access to local search inventory/opportunities. Yes, and? (There are plenty of other barriers too, the article mentions a couple.) As the YPA's Neg Norton (who was on the panel) apparently suggested, most true local businesses will only get access to desirable search inventory through intermediaries (e.g., YP publishers, local SEMs, newspapers, Web hosts). I had dinner with the Insider Pages crew here at DDC last night. And those guys are doing a great job of driving traffic on behalf of local advertisers. ServiceMagic and HomeGain are some other examples of intermediaries driving local search traffic on behalf of SMEs. As I've alluded to, there's a kind of "local search ecosystem" that has emerged. The story is much more complicated than the media are generally reporting (or typically interested in reporting).
  • Jupiter released a wireless study yesterday -- leading with another anti-local search headline -- that indicated users were not willing to pay for local content on their cellphones. Again, in fairness, I haven't seen the report. The release doesn't entirely make sense; although I suppose they are talking about subscription services specifically for local content. I agree; I certainly wouldn't want to pay for such services on top of the already too-high cost of my wireless minutes. Yet ad-supported models on wireless devices are fundamentally tricky for too many reasons to go into now; however, it's very clear that users want local content on their cellphones above almost any other type of content. Local content/search on wireless phones is a big opportunity but nobody's yet figured out the user experience that will drive adoption (that then could yield monetization scenarios).
  • Yahoo! released findings from a global youth study about media habits and attitudes. The research (with 13- to 24-year-olds in 11 countries) was massive and has tons of interesting findings. Among them that personalization is a key element of the youth culture's expectations of media. This echoes Jerry Yang's "from mass media to my media" keynote interview comments at SES in New York earlier this year. The research also shows the importance of community, wireless and the rise of the Internet generally. I'll explore the findings more in the next Local Media Journal.
  • Platform provider Innovectra announced the launch of Alltel Local online. Alltel is a YP publisher based in Lincoln, Nebraska. The company will enable Alltel sell PPC and PPCall programs to the local merchant base it serves. I'd like to go on, but I've got to prepare for my panels today. ]]> Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Local Action and Google Classifieds]]> 2005-09-29T08:34:39-05:00 2005-09-29T08:34:39-05:00 2005-09-29T08:34:39-05:00 press release. What this does is provide more complete local coverage in Google results. For Google's partners it will mean additional distribution. Google's competitors already have classifieds, typically organized as separate subdomains. What will be interesting to see is whether Google tries to create a special classifieds marketplace separate from search results (a la Google Local). eBay has made a big push into classifieds lately and several classifieds aggregators have emerged (e.g., Indeed, Oodle). And then, of course, there's Craigslist. Here are some questions:
    • What form will this ultimately take?
    • How will it affect newspapers (competition, distribution or both)?
    • What about direct advertiser relationships?
    There are probably plenty of verticals eager to deliver a feed to Google for the promise of traffic. All this remains to be seen. I'll do more on a full range of things later tonight.

    Greg Sterling <![CDATA[Manic Monday News Roundup]]> 2005-09-27T11:04:51-05:00 2005-09-27T11:04:51-05:00 2005-09-27T11:04:51-05:00 DDC2005. I'm still working furiously to get some things accomplished before I join them tomorrow. So, for now, here are some quick hits on the news today:
    • MSN's AdCenter formally launches today in France and Singapore (in '06 in the U.S.): the much-touted demographic targeting is built on Hotmail (and Passport) registrations. Here's the press release. AdCenter should compel more data/analytics about targeting and ad performance to be integrated into the Yahoo! (which has more registered users and has experimented with demo-behavioral targeting) and Google programs in the future (and potentially call tracking).

    • The IAB and PricewaterhouseCoopers put out their report on the first half of 2005. Internet advertising revenues (U.S.) were a reported $5.8 billion, which was a 26% increase over the same period last year. Search was the largest revenue category: 40% of the total at $2.3 billion. Interestingly search maintained the same share but grew by $500 million vs. the same period last year when it was worth just over $1.8 billion.
    • InfoSpace announced the launch of a new Mobile-Local (Mo-Lo) Search application. Leveraging its carrier relationships and InfoSpace/Switchboard content/search assets, the app uses GPS and other methods to locate users and offer a range of local services. The online search and directory players, as well as carriers and a range of other technology companies (and DA-related providers), are working overtime to make Mo-Lo Search work. Nobody's cracked the code and it's unclear when that will happen. ("Waiting for Wireless" [re the user experience] is on the ILM:05 agenda.)
    • Late last week the folks over at The Pew Internet & American Life Project issued a report that takes a generally bearish look at the near future of broadband adoption in the U.S. The document asserts that 53 percent of U.S. Internet households now have a broadband connection (there are a range of numbers in the marketplace -- TKG's is 57 percent). However, it also asserts that 32 percent of the adult U.S. population does not use the Internet at all and that virtually all the pent-up demand for high-speed access has now run its course in the U.S. Accordingly, the Pew report suggests dramatically slowed growth for broadband absent structural or dramatic government policy changes to promote further adoption. (For many reasons, I believe broadband will continue its growth.)
    • Yahoo! is going to create original finance content with some marquee names. That, plus Yahoo!'s recent news "acquisition" of Kevin Sites + Lloyd Braun + Terry Semel = more original content on the way.
    • Speaking of content, Google Video