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Mar 3 2006
Legal Category: Cause for Concern?
As I was doing some research on attorney spending online I stumbled across this 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).
Blog: Global Yellow Pages Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  19:12 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [1]



Mar 3 2006
Friday Festival of News
And away we go ...

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 del.icio.us'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 Cars.com (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:
  1. Craigslist.org
  2. Trader Publishing Company
  3. Cars.com
  4. Apartments.com
  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.
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  15:10 | permalink | comments [1] | trackbacks [1]



Mar 3 2006
Ingenio's Ether
A couple of sites are reporting on the beta launch of Ingenio's 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.
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  12:39 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [1]



Mar 2 2006
Local Search Performance and Google Click-to-Call
I moderated two panels on local at SES this morning. Both were very interesting and took slightly different perspectives on Local Search. Both had tactical aspects and we were lucky to have an advertiser in the room that was part of the Google click-to-call beta test (more on that in a moment).

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.
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  14:00 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]



Mar 1 2006
For Every Post There Could Be Six
There is so much happening (most of it interesting) in the "space" we affectionately call "Interactive Local Media" that for every post I do there could easily be five or six more. I could do nothing all day but blog and have the hotel staff slip me bread and water at occasional intervals. So, here are a number of things that have happened that I haven't been able to write about (not for lack of desire):

  • TrueLocal.com 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.
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  10:20 | permalink | comments [1] | trackbacks [0]



Mar 1 2006
Google Video Ads
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.

Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  09:49 | permalink | comments [3] | trackbacks [1]



Feb 28 2006
Edgeio: Taking Craigslist to the Next Level
As Mike Boland 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.
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  23:33 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]



Feb 28 2006
Newspapers Should Move Faster Part II
I was at the Topix.net 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?
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  22:35 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [1]





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