Below is a sampling of posts from the TKG blog, in case you missed any posts this week. Click below to read each post in full.
More Web 2.0 Ideas for Local Search Sites
Ok so I’m on a web 2.0 kick. I guess I’ve made it my New Year’s resolution to get more publishers and local search companies thinking about the broader meaning and business opportunities web 2.0 presents beyond, consumer reviews and online video. (read more…)
Larry and Sergey go to Washington
The New Yorker this week has an interesting piece by the prolific Ken Auletta, about Google’s growing efforts to fend off attacks from anti-corporate lobbyist groups and legislators (some of whom see the Internet as a “series of tubes“). (read more…)
A Christmas Story – “Three Yellow Pages Advertisers”
The recent hubbub over our “prediction” regarding print media usage – see my earlier blog has created an exaggerated picture of the perils facing printed Yellow Pages. While it is true print YP has some serious challenges, we often forget how well it still works for so many local businesses. Three recent personal experiences drove this point home to me. (read more…)
Out of Home Ramping Up
American Public Media’s Marketplace ran an interesting piece yesterday about the launch of – NBC’s foray into the expansive and growing out of home media market. According to the piece there are some 500,000 out of home display monitors delivering content and advertising into the aisles of large retailers, the seats of movie theaters and the gas pumps at gas stations. The piece points out that this out of home market might reach $2.5B by 2010. (read more…)
What the Heck Is Web 2.0?; Tech Heavyweights Debate
A few weeks ago, my colleague Michael Taylor sent me a link to a webcast of a panel discussion from last year’s World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. I finally got the chance to watch the session titled The Impact of Web 2.0 and Emerging Social Network Models, and wanted to extend the recommendation to readers of this blog. (read more…)
Yellow Pages Group the Latest to Marry Video and IYP
Canada’s Yellow Pages Group announced today that it will launch enhanced business profiles on Yellowpages.ca this spring, offering video ads and photo galleries. This joins U.S. IYPs Yellowpages.com, Yellowbook, Superpages and a growing set of local search sites that will offer video ads to small businesses. (read more…)
Grayboxx Grows Footprint, and a Personality
Local search and automated rating site Grayboxx announced a series of upgrades today, meant to enhance and expand the site as well as infuse some personal flavor (read: trust) to its core rating features. (read more…)
Linkedin as New Age Yellow Pages
Linkedin is a powerful and growing business network that recently reported topping the 17 million-member mark, making it one of the world’s largest business networks on the Internet. With a large base of business-focused members, finding ways to share vendors and service providers seems like a natural extension with the possibility of enhancing its revenue generation and profitability. (read more…)
Rural Verticals: The Shift of Small-Town Auction Advertising
Small-town newspapers and radio stations sometimes get into businesses that media companies in larger markets rarely do. They publish directories, develop Web sites, provide Internet access — you name it. (read more…)
Android Prototype Sightings at CES
The first devices that run Google’s much-anticipated Android mobile operating system made a few appearances last week at CES. Android along with the iPhone will erode the carrier control that has stifled innovation in the mobile world thus far. Now the adoption of open and standardized platforms (both Android and the iPhone’s SDK, which will be released next month) will open the floodgates of innovation and make it easy for third-party application developers to bring their apps to market. (read more…)
Ok so I’m on a web 2.0 kick. I guess I’ve made it my New Year’s resolution to get more publishers and local search companies thinking about the broader meaning and business opportunities web 2.0 presents beyond, consumer reviews and online video.
I came across a terrific post from LDPodcast, while not a business focused web site, it provided some very enlightened ideas on how sites can better generate timely, relevant and desirable content on their sites while engaging consumers in a meaningful way. Some of the ideas put forth (with my own local search spin) include:
Offering tools that allow advertisers to produce webcasts. Web casts are like live mini radio talk shows where 20-30 minutes of content can be shared with the ability to answer questions on a specific topic or area of concern. Companies like Webex or Blog Talk Radio provide excellent tools to make this service possible. Imagine housing webcast shows on timely topics such as buying a car, how to remodel a bathroom, tax advice, wedding planning and more on your local site. Allowing advertisers to produce these, offering a way to promote the webcast and linking a library of past shows to their profile page or listing would add quality local editorial content to a site.
Offer tools to create and post podcasts. Podcasts are generally short format audio or video segments that can cover specific topics, provide step-by-step instructions for common tasks, or answer commonly asked questions. Services like Audioblog and and Clickcaster offer simple easy to use online podcast tools. Advertisers could use these to simplify their customer service handling, provide education so consumers would be less intimidated to use their products or services, or enhance an advertiser’s perception as a local expert. Again, providing a way to promote the avialibility of advertiser podcasts and then linking them to the advertisers’ profile page or listing not only adds value for the advertiser but adds quality content to the site.
Offer common forms and instructions. Allowing advertisers to place forms and documents is a value added service. Rather than having to spend time at the doctor’s office filling out forms, consumers could go to their listing or profile page and download the forms to save time. Insurance agents could have application forms available, employers could post job application forms, and process instructions could be added to help prepare consumers for appointments.
Online scheduling. Offering advertisers applications that allow for online scheduling as well as developing a calendar system where common tasks and purchases could be scheduled would be valuable to both advertisers and consumers. Consumers could book pizza Fridays, oil changes, dry cleaning appointments, haircuts and many other tasks on a calendar system that would then push valuable offers to them a few days or weeks in advance and offer the ability to schedule appointments all in one place is a very engaging way to generate leads and book business.
Web 2.0 is about engaging consumers in a more personal and useful way while local search is about relevant local content and a means for linking local buyers and sellers. The ideas above provide the best of both worlds – additional services that could be monetized by publishers and local search sites, the development of quality local advertiser content that can be picked up by search engines, and real consumer value in the form of education and enhanced customer service. Let’s resolve to make this a web 2.0 year.
January 17, 2008
The New Yorker this week has an interesting piece by the prolific Ken Auletta, about Google’s growing efforts to fend off attacks from anti-corporate lobbyist groups and legislators (some of whom see the Internet as a “series of tubes“).
This ties closely to the net neutrality debate which asks whether or not telecos, as owners of the “tubes”, have the right to give preferential treatment to different sources of traffic (essentially killing what has traditionally been an innovation-friendly level playing field). But most of the anti-Google sentiment brewing in D.C. focuses on privacy concerns over its ad targeting.
It seems that privacy advocates fail to realize, however, that Google’s targeting methods don’t produce data that are read by humans or used for any kind spying. Google has too much on the line with its core PPC business to ruin everything by using cookie data for some “black hat” purpose. Indeed, the latter would be far less opportune than the welcomed (and quite lucrative) service it already provides.
To that point, I think there is also a failure to realize, as pointed out by Auletta, that Google ad targeting is viewed as valuable content in most cases by searchers. Meanwhile businesses appreciate the targeted and more cost efficient advertising opportunities. So all (most) parties involved are happy (except traditional media and ad agencies displaced by Google’s success).
So it would seem that this consumer advocacy lobbying isn’t even representing the true sentiments of its constituents. And for this reason these groups will probably end up crying themselves to sleep on this one. I’m all for consumer advocacy, but in this case challengers seem largely uninformed and driven instead by an irrational disdain (or fear).
Regardless of where you stand on these issues, it’s an engaging article (and in true New Yorker style, a bit long). Auletta also does a nice job outlining the corporate history of Google, some of its mobile efforts, as well as the often mentioned but seldom dissected ethos of its young founders.
Read it online here, or pick up the print magazine; it’s a great way to make 45 minutes go by quickly at the gym.
The recent hubbub over our “prediction” regarding print media usage – see my earlier blog has created an exaggerated picture of the perils facing printed Yellow Pages. While it is true print YP has some serious challenges, we often forget how well it still works for so many local businesses. Three recent personal experiences drove this point home to me.
1. On Christmas night as I was sipping eggnog, someone backed into my car. The following day I picked up the phone book, called one auto repair shop in San Rafael, CA and two days later the shop had authorization for a $2,500 repair. I am pretty certain that my single repair job paid for the entire month of print YP advertising for that auto shop.
2. My second lovely Christmas present was that a family of rats decided they liked our warm and cozy house. Time to pick up the print Yellow Pages once again. Out came the pest control technician to help us manage our new house guests. I asked the owner today how his Yellow Pages ad was working. His first comment was “not very well . . . you can’t believe how expensive it is”. So I asked him if he tracks his calls and of course the answer was nope, but he did know that most of his calls came from his Yellow Pages ad. Maybe it will take a couple of other houses on my block to pay for the month’s $2,000 Yellow Pages ad, but they now have me on the hook for $150 a month service. I’d say he’s not likely to downsize his ad anytime soon.
3. Finally, our third charming present this Christmas season was a stopped up toilet. I know the model here. The guys come out and they don’t leave until they’ve lifted $500 for me for 2 hours of sewer cleaning. If they fill 3, 2 hour slots per day, from the Yellow Pages ad, they’re breakeven by the first Tuesday morning of every month.
So, is print Yellow Pages usage declining? We have consistently said it is in decline and we will continue to collect data to inform our view. Is declining print Yellow Pages usage a problem for the print Yellow Pages industry? You bet it is. They know it and are adjusting their models and approaches everyday to manage through a difficult transition period. Are advertisers going to desert the book en mass – only if they’re looking to sabotage their own business. Look at all the Christmas presents I shared this holiday.
American Public Media’s Marketplace ran an interesting piece yesterday about the launch of – NBC’s foray into the expansive and growing out of home media market.
According to the piece there are some 500,000 out of home display monitors delivering content and advertising into the aisles of large retailers, the seats of movie theaters and the gas pumps at gas stations. The piece points out that this out of home market might reach $2.5B by 2010. The New York Times also covered the story here.
So does this matter to local? These emerging networks are IP based and as a consequence can push highly relevant content and ad messages to the targeted audience. The piece is certainly worth a listen and offers those in “local” yet another platform to consider. Besides, back in November, NBC changed the name of its affiliate network to NBC Local Media – hint, hint.
NBC is not the only network to play in this expanding space. Last year CBS bought Sign Story Digital Media and quickly re-named it CBS Outernet. This week CBS signed a partnership arrangement with RippleTV. In the press release here they talk about how “. . . this agreement represents a powerful marriage between CBS’ national reach and Ripple’s ability to target consumers at the community level”.
A few weeks ago, my colleague Michael Taylor sent me a link to a webcast of a panel discussion from last year’s World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. I finally got the chance to watch the session titled The Impact of Web 2.0 and Emerging Social Network Models, and wanted to extend the recommendation to readers of this blog.
It’s an impressive panel that includes:
- Caterina Fake, Founder, Flickr, USA
- William H. Gates III, Chairman, Microsoft Corp., USA
- Chad Hurley, Cofounder and Chief Executive Officer, YouTube, USA
- Mark G. Parker, President and Chief Executive Officer, Nike, USA
- Viviane Reding, Commissioner, Information Society and Media, European Commission, Brussels
Dennis Kneale, Managing Editor, Forbes Magazine, USA
Peter Schwartz, Chairman, Global Business Network, USA
I haven’t often seen this “challenger” role in a panel discussion, but I like the setup and the always-contrarian Dennis Kneale plays the part well.
About five minutes into the discussion, Bill Gates takes over to talk about 3-D mapping and search, which of course have lots of ties to local. Many of his thoughts also echo the speculations we’ve made (here and here) regarding 3-D mapping’s potential as a centerpiece of local search in certain verticals such as retail and real estate.
Other important topics are discussed such as the government’s role in the Internet (ties to net neutrality); as well as thoughtful attempts to nail down the always elusive definition of “Web 2.0.” To Kneale’s point, I believe the term’s ambiguity simply comes from its overuse as a PR facade, and as a result has become essentially meaningless.
These panelists for the most part, cut through this clutter and some get close to an actual definition of what Web 2.0 is or should be. Nike’s Mark Parker, for example, characterized it as two-way interaction for media or product companies to tap into the wisdom of the crowds, compared with traditional media (i.e., broadcast, earlier online models), which involved more of a didactic content push.
To his point, on-demand content consumption that is at the heart of search, local search, online video and IPTV is increasingly becoming an expectation of consumers, and will continue to turn traditional media on its head. Meanwhile Flickr’s Caterina Fake contends that social graphs are serving to index all this content and make it searchable, sharable and socially relevant to users. Together, these things start to paint a picture of the new paradigms that are driving online media consumption — which is what some people mean when they say “Web 2.0″.
It’s a thought-provoking webcast to gear up for the next World Economic Forum meeting later this month in Davos. Watch the whole thing if you have an hour, or just take it in selective chunks (true to the media “snack culture,” which some might argue is a defining characteristic of Web 2.0). You can also download the MP3 file (podcast) and upload to your iPod and listen in the car or at the gym. Now that’s very, dare I say, Web 2.0.
January 16, 2008
Canada’s Yellow Pages Group announced today that it will launch enhanced business profiles on Yellowpages.ca this spring, offering video ads and photo galleries. This joins U.S. IYPs Yellowpages.com, Yellowbook, Superpages and a growing set of local search sites that will offer video ads to small businesses.
According to the press release, the offer includes:
1) A dynamic 30- to 60-second video profile of the business
2) A photo gallery where advertisers can showcase up to 10 photos
3) Business details, including location and contact information, hours of operation, products and brands, methods of payment, map and directions, etc.
Little is mentioned about price, but it will be interesting to see what YPG comes up with. All the IYPs mentioned above have launched various services and price points, and are experimenting to find offerings with the most salability to new and existing advertisers.
Having various price points will probably be the best strategy for IYPs given that they call on such a range of businesses (i.e., restaurant, dentist, car dealership) with differing needs and ad budgets. This will involve a sliding scale of price vs. personalization and manual attention, which will take form through relationships with various vendors.
There are and should be, in other words, lots of discussions taking place as we speak between video vendors and IYPs. Many are in the middle of a feeling-out process for brand-new territory, which could take a while. It will also take a while for sales rep training and execution, and for most IYPs to get it right. But you have to start somewhere, and the experimentation and product launches from the likes of YPG signal a genuine effort and perception of value.
At the higher end of the sliding quality/price scale mentioned above is TurnHere, which recently announced a vendor relationship with Superpages. I had the chance to talk to CEO Brad Inman and company yesterday about some of the directions in which TurnHere is moving. There are some exciting things happening, which I’ll save for an upcoming firsthand demo at the company’s East Bay (San Francisco) headquarters. Stay tuned.
Local search and automated rating site Grayboxx announced a series of upgrades today, meant to enhance and expand the site as well as infuse some personal flavor (read: trust) to its core rating features.
As we’ve written the company’s “implicit reviews” pull together disparate information sources to rate local businesses. The upside is that its algorithms base quality scores on factors across many different categories and locales, alleviating a perennial challenge of generating content outside popular categories (i.e., restaurants in New York).
The downside, however, is that the automated nature of the ratings misses out on the personal flavor and context that has been behind a great deal of the growing popularity of user reviews in local search. Indeed, this “social local search” is an offshoot of the larger phenomenon of social networking. Its appeal is correspondingly grounded in a certain degree of social interaction, which automated scoring of businesses largely lacks. Add the fact that Grayboxx can’t reveal its secret sauce (how exactly it comes up with these ratings), and there can be misgivings about the veracity of the scores.
That’s where today’s announcement comes in. In addition to expanding the number of data sources aggregated to come up with its preference scoring, it has also infused user-generated review functionality. This will come in the form of aggregated reviews from Yelp and Citysearch, as well as an upcoming feature for users to write reviews directly into Grayboxx. This should help personalize the experience more so it doesn’t rely only on the merits of its automated ratings.
Today’s announcement also includes an official nationwide launch. Before this, the company has slowly rolled out in a number of mid-sized U.S. cities and attempted small, localized publicity events for each. Now that it is on a nationwide scale, it should be able to learn more about its own model and find out where it best “fits.” Founder Bob Chandra believes this niche is cities with populations from 100,000 to 1 million — those that the Yelps and Citysearchs of the world aren’t serving as well.
Overall, the company’s main goal going forward should be to continue to add sources of flavor and context to alleviate the challenge of a lack of personality in its core rating system. After a suggestion that video could represent an opportunity to add this “color,” Chandra replied that it could be in the site’s long-term future but nothing is on the books currently.
As we suggested in a past interview with Chandra, he’s also now thinking more seriously about licensing out the preference scoring to IYPs or other local search destinations that are interested in rating local businesses with more breadth. We’ll have to wait and see if prospective partners — and more importantly, users — bite on this promise.
Gannett has named PointRoll chief Chris Saridakis as its new senior vice president-chief digital officer, reporting to longtime vet Jack Williams, who has been named president of the division. PointRoll is a rich media ad agency that Gannett purchased in June 2005 for $100 million. Since then, it has incubated new revenue pools, such as political advertising, corporate communications and pharmaceutical testing recruitment. If widely adopted, these would represent radical new directions for the newspaper and TV giant.
Gavin O’Malley at Online Media Daily interviewed Saridakis about the new appointment. Saridakis, who previously worked at DoubleClick, noted that PointRoll has moved from being a rich media evangelist to executing local, national and behaviorally targeted campaigns. “Most of our successful rich media ads at PointRoll, in terms of time spent with brand and interactivity, have some element of sight, sound and motion wrapped in an interactive envelope,” he said.
Going forward, Saridakis said plans include partnerships, acquisitions and custom development. “We can harness all of Gannett’s breadth in location and depth of local content to success,” he said. “The opportunity I have at Gannett is to take a leader like Gannett and help it transform into a leader across all mediums, print, TV, Web, mobile, etc.”
Linkedin has become a valuable resource for connecting business professionals. Recently Linkedin has added a professional services feature that allows members to share their business contacts in specific service categories. The new “Services” tab allows users to find people via recommendations from colleagues. You choose someone from your network, select which category you’re recommending them for, then fill in additional information related to the work you’ve done together. If you then want to find a graphic designer, career coach, consultant or even a child-care provider, you can browse the new section and see how the members of your network have ranked particular service providers.
Linkedin is a powerful and growing business network that recently reported topping the 17 million-member mark, making it one of the world’s largest business networks on the Internet. With a large base of business-focused members, finding ways to share vendors and service providers seems like a natural extension with the possibility of enhancing its revenue generation and profitability.
Business projects often involve multiple partners where companies seek various businesses to bid and often require recommendations as part of their selection process. Being able to tap into a network that provides insights on how to approach projects and who to contact is a valuable resource and a smart way to leverage Web 2.0 features and functionality.
This type of social/business linking approach is one Yellow Page publishers could adopt. With vast databases of local business information and a strong link to local communities, directory publishers could encourage users to share their experiences related to kitchen remodeling, home improvement projects, purchasing a home, planning a wedding or setting up home health services. They could then link the providers used with ratings of each that could be shared with others needing similar services. Imagine approaching an unfamiliar project with no vendors in mind, then visiting a publisher site where they offer consumer advice, step-by-step instructions and locally endorsed vendors (via consumer reviews) who can help complete the task. That would be a powerful use of the local community as well as a stronger linking of buyers, influencers and sellers.