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Feb 28 2006
Newspapers Should Move Faster
I know that may be asking a lot, but time is of the essence. Lots of smart people who understand the Internet work at newspapers; they just can't get their organizations to move quickly. Among the various things that newspapers can and should do are the following:

  • 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.

Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  21:56 | permalink | comments [1] | trackbacks [0]



Feb 28 2006
Fox Starting to Leverage MySpace as Backlash Gains Momentum
Today's MediaPost featured an 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.

Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  14:07 | permalink | comments [1] | trackbacks [0]



Feb 28 2006
Windows Live Local and Ask Upgrade Maps
Along with the launch of the new Ask.com yesterday, the company introduced an upgraded mapping product that now looks very much like Google Local and Windows Live Local. It offers aerial and "hybrid" views in addition to the standard mapping view. Here's my 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.


Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  13:35 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]



Feb 28 2006
Online Shoppers Convert Offline? What a Surprise
A new piece of 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.
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  13:02 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]



Feb 28 2006
Google to Step Up Efforts
A piece that appeared in the 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.

Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  11:44 | permalink | comments [1] | trackbacks [0]



Feb 27 2006
Ask Relaunches
I'm busy finishing my presentation for a panel on search engine user behavior later this afternoon at SES. But I wanted to chime in, as many others have already done, on the new Ask.com. 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.
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  09:30 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]



Feb 24 2006
Newspapers, Classifieds and Yellow Pages
I was at the Newspaper Association of America's Marketing conference a couple of days ago in Orlando, where it was a humid 80 degrees. I was unfortunately only there for one day, moderating a panel on how to compete with free classifieds, schmoozing and wandering the exhibit hall talking to vendors.

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 YourHub.com 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, Local.com, Tucson.com and Kudzu.com. 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.


Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  18:37 | permalink | comments [2] | trackbacks [0]



Feb 24 2006
Google Page Creator Take 2
I just received a briefing from Google on Page Creator, which was the "20%" pet project of Justin Rosenstein, project manager, who said he wanted to create a simple tool that would enable anyone to build a site quickly and easily.

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.
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  16:24 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]





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