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Mar 7 2006
MapQuest Joins the Mashups Crowd
AOL's MapQuest 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.com/openapi.

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.
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  10:45 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]



Mar 7 2006
Wetpaint: Wikis for the Masses
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?
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  07:13 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]



Mar 7 2006
The New AT&T and 'Net Neutrality'
Some have speculated that AT&T in its new, hypothetical post-acquisition position as the nation's dominant broadband provider might be tempted to pursue fees from companies (e.g., Google, Vonage, etc.) that use lots of "bandwidth." This is the essence of the "net neutrality" debate. In a November 2005 interview in 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.

Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  06:30 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]



Mar 7 2006
Cingular (ATT) Wireless Launches Video, But Consumers Say 'No Thanks'
Yesterday, Cingular (soon to become AT&T wireless, again), the largest U.S. wireless carrier, announced it would launch a new video service for a couple of new phones. For a flat fee of $20 per month consumers can access clips from a range of content providers including Fox, NBC and others. The service assumes Cingular's high-speed network, currently operating in many major U.S. cities.

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.
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  05:29 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]



Mar 7 2006
ShopLocal Redesign and the 'Offline' Future of Online Shopping
I have seen the future of online shopping and it's ShopLocal. OK, so maybe that statement is somewhat overblown, but it's essentially true. Newspaper-owned 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 Local.com 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 Cairo.com and Yokel.com. 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. StepUp.com 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. Shopping.com 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 Marketplace.com
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, StepUp.com
  • Brian Hand, CEO, ShopLocal.com
  • 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
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  04:30 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]



Mar 6 2006
2006: The Year of M&A?
Just the latest in what appears to be increasing M&A activity, NBC Universal announced that it is buying iVillage (soon to be Women.com) 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.
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  08:43 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [3]



Mar 5 2006
AT&T to Buy BellSouth
According to a story in today's 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 YellowPages.com (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.
Blog: Global Yellow Pages Blog , Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  12:36 | permalink | comments [1] | trackbacks [26]



Mar 3 2006
Fox/News Corp. Online Buying Spree Continues
From 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.
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  19:42 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [1]





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