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Dec 8 2005
Yahoo! vs. Skype
The San Jose Mercury News broke this story today about Yahoo! planning to launch a VoIP platform that will allow users to make PC-to-PSTN (landline) calls and receive calls from any telephone line around the world for a fee. Its previous free voice service, by comparison, was integrated with Yahoo! Messenger and allowed users to make PC-to-PC calls only. This puts Yahoo! in competition with Google Talk as well as Skype, as the service will be similar to the latter��s SkypeOut and SkypeIn paid services. Yahoo!'s service will reportedly undercut Skype on price, given the size of its user base and its ability to negotiate low rates for minutes with phone companies. Most notably, the ability to call PSTN lines from a PC gets Yahoo! a step closer to a pay-per-phone-call model, which it is known to be testing. A more in-depth analysis will follow in the next Local Media Journal.

Blog: Local Media Blog
posted by  Mike Boland at  09:14 | permalink | comments [1] | trackbacks [0]

Dec 2 2005
Google Fatigued?
For anyone who can��t keep up with the dizzying torrent of service announcements from Google (or anyone wondering what $400+ a share gets you), CNET News provides a nice chart that summarizes its many products and (public) initiatives under way. Meanwhile, John Heilemann writes in his New York magazine column about the concept of Googlephobia: the growing fear and perception that Google is becoming a ��tool of U.S. cultural imperialism.��

Blog: Local Media Blog
posted by  Mike Boland at  16:40 | permalink | comments [2] | trackbacks [0]

Nov 29 2005
Online Mapping Outpaces Overall Internet Growth
comScore reported that, while Internet use grew 7 percent overall in 2004, online map site traffic increased 33 percent to 51.3 million. Mapquest held a 71 percent share of the market in September, according to comScore, while Yahoo! Maps followed with 32 percent, and Google Maps with 25 percent. The overlap in use across these sites accounts for the numbers not adding up to 100 percent. Google Maps has the most interactivity with the map itself and has recently fused the product with Google Local for more local and directory information. But it trails Yahoo! Maps, which has more local features and tie-ins with other products, and Mapquest simply because it has been around much longer. Mapping, like search, is a highly habitual online activity with which early entrants can have a signifigant edge. And, like search, gaining market share is a key part of the online mapping game because revenue potential is so closely tied to traffic. This explains the acceleration in feature development and integration over the past year.

But how to leverage these user bases in forming creative ways to monetize maps is also a key question for mapping providers. In the meantime, they want to have a solid base of users to hit the ground running when revenue models come to fruition -- both online and with wireless mapping and mobile directory applications, of which mapping will be a central component. These and other topics in mapping will be explored during the second day of ILM:05 (Thursday) in a panel titled "Maps, ��Mashups�� and Monetization."
Blog: Local Media Blog
posted by  Mike Boland at  20:17 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]

Nov 29 2005
Local Ad Placement Firm Launches
A new company called Centro launched today that purports to be a one-stop shop for national advertisers to buy ad space on local Web sites such as newspaper sites. It appears to be a local ad placement service for national advertiser display ads. The company��s president, Shawn Riegsecker, told Clickz News: "Search had SEM agencies that made search easy. We're trying to do for local what Overture did for search years ago."

The company has close to $10 million in advertising commitments for 2006, according to Clickz, from blue-chip national advertisers such as Allstate, American Airlines, Ford, Mercedes-Benz and State Farm. Competition for local advertising continues to heat up, making this a difficult field to enter. Centro will have competition from search giants as well as IYPs. The company hopes to differentiate itself by focusing on Web sites for local media, including newspapers, television and radio stations -- thus capturing a segment of the advertising market with a primary interest in these channels. The company��s success will hinge largely upon how this segment of advertisers values its service model in brokering local ad space. The good news for Centro is that online newspaper readership is on the rise, but competition from paid search won��t make it easy for the company -- or any other company that attempts to compete for local ad dollars.
Blog: Local Media Blog
posted by  Mike Boland at  20:07 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]

Nov 23 2005
More Newspaper Doom and Gloom
Editor and Publisher reported that more than 1,900 jobs have been cut from major and mid-sized newspapers over the past year. The cuts have included 500 jobs at The New York Times, 16 percent of Knight Ridder��s San Jose Mercury News staff, and 7 percent of the Houston Chronicle newsroom. And last week many of the Tribune Co.��s newspapers announced that future layoffs are likely. The entire list of layoffs by company is nicely compiled here.

Knight Ridder announced last week that it is putting itself up for sale because of poor stock performance and the bleak outlook for the newspaper publishing model in today��s media environment. Meanwhile, New York Times shares have declined 32 percent this year, while the Washington Post Co. stock has gone down 27 percent. Gannett and Tribune Co. stock have each declined 23 percent, and Belo Corp. is down 17 percent this year. Circulation, at the root of these valuation declines, has fallen 2.6 percent overall in the past six months, one of the biggest drops in 20 years. The good news for newspaper publishers is that newspaper-owned Web site traffic is growing 11 percent annually, according to Nielsen. That��s a faster pace than overall Internet growth. The takeaway for newspapers is that online is where the growth is. The advertising online may not yet scale to the degree of print publishing, but the traffic growth online can��t be ignored in light of record losses for print.
Blog: Local Media Blog
posted by  Mike Boland at  10:37 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]

Nov 23 2005
Search via Camera Phone
CNET News has this story about the advent of mobile visual search, a technology that lets consumers with camera phones use snapshots of products to receive various freebies as well as promotions and directional advertising. It is based on image recognition software that identifies specific patterns in images and has heretofore been used mostly in facial recognition applications for law enforcement and security. Now it has also found a home with mobile search, with cameras providing an extra tool for mobile phone users who are woefully trying to simulate Web search with 12 tiny buttons.

Like its facial recognition software forbearer, the mobile visual search application will be able to match object patterns with those scanned into a remote Internet-connected database and, in this case, send data back to the user who made a query, including music, videos, maps, etc. For example, the technology will allow a camera phone user to snap a shot of a movie billboard, which after it is sent to a database returns not only the film trailer but also locations of nearby theaters and promotions. The user can also buy movie tickets on the spot. This will have an adoption curve similar to any new technology, especially those associated with mobile directory applications and location-based services. But the application alleviates one of the problems foreseen with location-based services: users�� concerns of privacy and unsolicited advertising. Many models projected of location-based services involve sending users ads and promotions when they are near certain businesses in which they��ve either previously indicated an interest (opted in) or to which algorithmic behavioral tracking has targeted them. Both come with a degree of uncertainty. Mobile visual search on the other hand will serve up advertising (in conjunction with freebies such as movie trailers, ringtones, mp3s, etc.) to users who have indicated an explicit and immediate need that is more likely to result in a transaction. Such a transaction could be online or off, which will bring in different tracking metrics; but those will be figured out in time. The ubiquity of camera phones (expected to reach 90 percent penetration in the U.S. in the next three years, according to CNET) and imbedded GPS receivers will also affect the adoption curve. But this could be a powerful application in the mobile search and location-based services space, given that objects throughout the physical world can be used as links to directional advertising.
Blog: Local Media Blog
posted by  Mike Boland at  10:18 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]

Nov 9 2005
More on the Yahoo!��TiVo Deal: The Local Angle
The partnership between Yahoo! and TiVo will allow the latter's users to record programs from their PCs. This not only gives TiVo users an easier search and browse interface than their remote control offers, but it will also bring more users into the Yahoo! universe of offerings by introducing TiVo users to Yahoo!'s TV listings. The company hopes this will serve as a gateway to its other properties, as the name of the game for search portals these days is to attract users. Features are the carrot. TiVo already has a similar deal with AOL, so this isn��t anything groundbreaking. But a second part of the deal got my attention because of its implications for local: The partnership will be expanded in the next few months to have TiVo boxes store photos and other content from Yahoo! and call up local traffic and weather information through the television interface.

Traffic and weather aren��t the most easily monetized content, but it is a good first step to get users accustomed to using their televisions to search for local information. Yahoo! knows this and wants to get into the game early. Monetizable directional advertising could follow -- a point that is explored more in depth in the recent TKG White Paper, "From Reach to Targeting: The Transformation of TV in the Internet Age.�� TiVo currently has a feature where some ads for upcoming shows include an icon in the corner of the screen that signals users to push a button if they��d like to schedule a recording of that show. It��s not too much of a stretch to imagine this feature in the context of product ads, where a button is pressed to research or purchase a product. Furthermore, the expanded channel choices of television��s next generation (IPTV) is expected to open up vast advertising inventory. This will have a long-tail effect, which will give local and SME advertisers affordable and targeted advertising opportunities on television -- much like search engine marketing has given them on the Web. IPTV isn��t here yet, but TiVo is. Yahoo will be the first to migrate local search across the living room to TiVo box, and Microsoft has a television division hard at work developing the software that will run IPTV systems and search interfaces. Others will follow.
Blog: Local Media Blog
posted by  Mike Boland at  14:40 | permalink | comments [1] | trackbacks [0]

Nov 7 2005
Making VoIP a Household Name
Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) can save consumers and small businesses a lot of money with flat-rate service plans and a less costly technology to place calls. In a Web context, it promises to bring click-to-call functionality, which in turn opens the door for cost-per-call models that will mirror the economies and effectiveness of pay-per-click models in online directional advertising. But the problem is that no one knows about it. Well, most of the mainstream public doesn��t know about it. Twenty percent of U.S. adults believe VoIP is a European hybrid vehicle, and 10 percent think it��s a low-carb vodka, according to a September poll by Harris Interactive. Overall, 80 percent of respondents got the answer wrong. Enter the latest industry consortium with lots of money earmarked to spread the message.

VoIP companies (or those with their hands in the VoIP pot in some way), including Skype, Earthlink, Level 3 and Google, announced earlier today the formation of a marketing campaign to bring VoIP to the masses. A suggestion to this industry group: Try to convey the benefits and cost savings of VoIP �� but don��t mention VoIP. Mainstream consumers are naturally averse to technology acronyms, as shown by the Harris poll, and other technologies such as RSS. Eighty-three percent of RSS users are unaware that they are using it, according to an August study by Nielsen/NetRatings. We can mostly thank MyYahoo!, which has gained a leading (32 percent) share of the RSS readership market without mentioning the term RSS. Look at VoIP provider Vonage (not involved in today's announcement), which has assembled the largest individual VoIP subscriber base in the U.S., with a multi-platform advertising blitz that, you guessed it, never mentions VoIP. Vonage��s tagline is ��The Broadband Phone Company.�� Google, Yahoo! and MSN have integrated VoIP into their IM products without using the term. IM is a logical point of entry for the technology to gain traction before it is integrated into Web search, where it can then be monetized using click-to-call for ads in search results. With PPC, SEO and SEM for SMEs, the last thing directories need when selling mulit-platform advertising to small businesses is another acronym.
Blog: Local Media Blog
posted by  Mike Boland at  20:56 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]

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