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Feb 9 2006
Classifieds Search Forum
I was invited by SimplyHired's Dave McClure to moderate the SDForum's Search SIG event last night on classifieds and search.

Panelists were:


  • Bindu Reddy, Product Manager Google Base, Google
  • Craig Donato, Founder/CEO, Oodle
  • Keith Teare, Founder/CEO, Edgeio

The discussion was very candid and informal and revolved around the transition from traditional classifieds to online, the online classifieds business model (a question that wasn't fully answered to my satisfaction) and the coming impact of self-publishing and RSS on online classifieds (could be revolutionary).

To that latter point, this was the first time I got a look at Edgeio, which uses the tagline "listings from the edge" ("the edge" might be a fresh and worthy substitute for the somewhat tired term, "the long tail"). Among other things, Edgeio allows people to self-publish "listings" (stuff/services for sale) on their own sites, which then get picked up via RSS and distributed to Edgeio and beyond.

It has pretty significant implications if it catches on. Teare described the site as a kind of "middleware" in the process of publishing and distributing listings/advertising across the network (this is a cousin of former Tribe CEO Mark Pincus' vision articulated in his keynote at ILM:04). But the site's not public yet and so I won't go into it further.

The initial question I asked was, "What are classifieds; is there something fundamentally different about classifieds vs. other types of online advertising?" The answers were quite interesting, with Keith Teare arguing essentially that classifieds were just one form of "listings." Craig Donato (who wore a fabulous chartreuse shirt) made a powerful case that there were essential characteristics that distinguished classifieds (they're "perishable," they're local, fulfillment is offline). He argued that these traits required and justified a specific approach.

Bindu Reddy, who sought to emphasize that Google Base accepts classifieds content but is not "Google Classifieds," (I agree) said some fascinating things about how Google is experimenting with Base (e.g., tagging) and how the organization of content there may have broader implications for the next generation of Google search. (I also had another "vision" of Google's vertical future during her demo.)

Reddy and Donato agreed that PPCall was a model that would have more and more resonance and application in the local market, including with classifieds (and the Jambo deal reflects that in a traditional publication).

This was my first such event and I think they're very valuable (here's the calendar), though unfortunately only available to people in the Silicon Valley area. They were recording it for podcast, but I don't yet have a link. I'll post one if I discover it.

Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  08:38 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]



Feb 9 2006
Google Desktop Upgrade
Google launched an upgrade to desktop search/Sidebar. There were a number of feature enhancements (remote PC/file access, "undocking" of plugp-ins and sharing functionality). That's a very "quick and dirty" summary. The most interesting feature of the new enhancements from my point of view is the "social" or sharing dimension.

Users can send articles and "Web Clips" to one another via e-mail or IM or directly to each other's Sidebars. And there's some "wiki-like" functionality in that, in a few cases, people can be in the same module at the same time (think shared "to-do list"'). Right now that wiki/collaborative element is very limited, but it will likely evolve quickly as developers build more of these modules (which have become much more like Yahoo!'s widgets in this version).

Yahoo! has made huge bets on "social search" and other community functionality and Google has to date not done much in this realm. But the company is moving into tagging rapidly (e.g., Google Base) and these new "social" features of Sidebar create a community/viral dimension that Google hopes will boost adoption.

It's also interesting to start seeing many elements coming together with intersecting or overlapping functionality: the personalized home page, personal search history, the upgraded toolbar, Gmail + IM, Google Talk in Sidebar, etc.

You can start to see some set of these functions closing in on some sort of "center," although there won't ever be a single application I don't believe. But over time Google will get a sense of where the concentration of its users are and what they're doing and will emphasize those tools and applications accordingly.

_____________

Here's the official Desktop Google Blog statement.
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  01:16 | permalink | comments [1] | trackbacks [0]



Feb 8 2006
Google Goes Public with Print
Thanks again to John Battelle for pointing out that Google has gone "public" with its program to allow advertisers to buy access (via auction) to print advertising in some very high-profile magazines:

As you may know, as part of Google's ongoing effort to develop new opportunities for our advertisers, we've been running tests of ads in a limited number of print publications. Now, we're excited to test an auction of ad space in select magazines.

In this test, the control is in your hands: you choose the ad size, set your price, and decide how you'd like to use the space. There's no risk to you � you pay only if you win the auction.


Here's the page that features Martha Stewart Living.

The catch here is you provide the creative (a barrier for many smaller advertisers). But this is now step 2 (dMarc being step 1) in the process of Google becoming a "unified platform" for media buying � online and off.
__________

On Day 2 of Drilling Down, we'll have this relevant panel:

The Future of Local Media Buying: The Integrated Online-Offline Platform
Until recently, online marketing was regarded with skepticism and ambivalence. In 2005, led by paid search, online marketing in general came to be seen as a credible medium. While newspapers and Internet Yellow Pages have long been selling online advertising on their sites (and more recently into broader networks), the Google acquisition of dMarc suggests a potentially new, more integrated online-offline media future. It also directly brings the harsh light of performance-based marketing and Web analytics to a traditional advertising medium. The panelists will discuss these and other recent developments and what the near and long term will hold for online marketing and interactive local media.

Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  18:59 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]



Feb 8 2006
Yellow Book Buys Click Forward
I had heard a rumor earlier in the week that Yellow Book was buying Click Forward. Before I saw the release Loren Baker at Search Engine Journal confirmed it.

Click Forward was started by alumni of WebVisible, formerly SME Global Solutions. And like WebVisible, Local Launch, Reach Local, MatchCraft and Marchex (which just announced a search marketing distribution relationship with The Berry Co.), the company helps enable third parties (e.g., Yellow Pages publishers) to sell search marketing to local businesses in simplified form (flat pricing, guaranteed clicks).

The release quotes Joe Walsh, Yellow Book's president and CEO:

"We feel that Click Forward is the best of breed and is a natural fit within our portfolio of products," said Joe Walsh, President and CEO of Yellow Book USA. "By working with Click Forward, Yellow Book will be able to continue to connect buyers and sellers together in a way that will provide more choices to the consumer and a great return on investment for small business owners. The acquisition of Click Forward represents another step in Yellow Book's continued focus on the internet. With over 5,000 sales people nationwide, it makes sense for Yellow Book to innovate and expand its product offerings both in print and online."

Now Yellow Book can sell search clicks along with its other suite of traditional ad products (it fully controls the offering). The acquisition indicates just how far Yellow Book has come. Formerly a big skeptic of the Internet, Yellow Book is the first to bring one of these "simplified search" businesses in-house. This may set in motion events that result in more consolidation or similar acquisitions by other YP companies. We'll see.

The move is good for Click Forward because it was one of the smaller and less established players in this market. In addition to the YP publishers, expect more newspapers this year to offer similar products to their local advertisers.

As we've argued before, traditional media sales channels are the primary way that local businesses will get into paid search marketing � in the near term.

Here's the press release.


Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  09:54 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]



Feb 8 2006
PPCall Goes Offline With Jambo
According to a piece in MediaPost (reg. req'd), PPCall provider Jambo has announced that it will enable PPCall for LA Weekly:

The first slate of ads will be in the Feb. 9 issue, and will focus on Valentine's Day services, including florists, spas, limos. The ads will be sold through Jambo's own ad-selling platform.

So, you may ask, why is this a big deal? (It is.)

It's PPCall in a newspaper (Village Voice Media owns several weeklies throughout the U.S.). If it works, expect to see the Voice expand the program in its other publications, which puts some pressure on other, traditional newspapers to try this (or it will at least start them thinking about it).

We have argued that one of the really exciting things (and scary to traditional publishers) about PPCall is that it's a performance-based ad medium that can go anywhere in the offline/local world (outdoor, print, TV, etc.).

Verizon has said it will test PPCall in the print Yellow Pages in special "generic" category ads. But I wouldn't expect other directory publishers to follow suit any time soon. There's too much potential risk.

This Jambo deal has the potential to really take off and spread in the weekly newspaper world. It's a differentiator in their battle with other media and the Internet to set their advertising apart. And it might also be a weapon in the broader newspaper battle with free classifieds.

I have been meaning for weeks to write about Jambo and workload has kept me from it.

Expect to now see PPCall start to penetrate the offlline/traditional media world more rapidly. In The Kelsey Group's upcoming forecast we have performance-based advertising accounting for 10 percent of traditional "directional" ad revenues in 2010 (all of it call driven, obviously). In view of this deal, that might wind up being conservative.

Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  09:02 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]



Feb 8 2006
Demo Happening
The DEMO conference, which has been described as a dating service for funders and start-ups, is under way in Phoenix. There's nothing inherently local about the show, but some companies that may in one way or another have an impact on the local arena are there.

The Washington Post's Leslie Walker has a rundown of some of the companies and their "demos."

One company at DEMO with local in its blood is Transparensee. (CEO Steve Lavine has spoken at TKG conferences in the past.) The company has a search technology that helps unearth/discover related items that are similar to the user's initial query (restaurants, real estate, dating, shopping, etc.) It's a B2B enhancement for consumer-facing sites.

And local is a prime application for the company's technology.
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  08:43 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]



Feb 8 2006
Spot Runner Announces Vertical Partner: Cendant
Also in the "real estate file" is a new partnership between Spot Runner and Cendant Corp. Cendant is the parent of many familiar travel and real estate brands. For example, Cendant is the world's largest franchisor of real estate brokerage offices, 15,000 to be precise. It also owns Century 21 and Coldwell Banker, among other brands. Spot Runner is the recently launched cable TV buying platform for local businesses (think of it kind of like dMarc for local cable TV).

Here's the WSJ's piece (sub. req'd) on the partnership:

Under the deal, Spot Runner will create hundreds of TV commercials that local real-estate brokers and agents affiliated with Cendant's real-estate franchises can customize and then pay to have played in specified local markets. Spot Runner is creating special sites to sell TV ads to the more than 9,000 U.S. real-estate brokerage offices and 260,000 sales agents affiliated with Cendant's real-estate units, which include Century 21 and Coldwell Banker.

Spot Runner will give those brokers and agents discounted rates, normally less than $500, on creating the custom TV commercials, which may include digital photos of properties agents send them. Spot Runner declined to disclose financial details of the arrangement with Cendant.


I spoke to WSJ writer Kevin Delaney about the relationship and the final piece is sort of a "just the facts, ma'am" version of our extended conversation.

One of the things he and I discussed was the challenge that Spot Runner faces. It's a great offering, but there's the difficultly of not only building awareness among local businesses but also getting them to show up and actually set up the campaigns, which is relatively simple to do. This is another version of the familiar "push vs. pull" debate about local businesses and online marketing.

This "vertical" strategy (and it's not yet a "strategy" for Spot Runner, but may become one) is very smart because Cendant's brands and relationships give Spot Runner instant credibility with these local real estate franchisees. Cendant will also "push" (systematically market) the offering to those local Realtors.

This goes a very long way to overcoming the inherent challenges of getting local businesses to show up and test the product.

Kevin and I also discussed something of a paradox about Spot Runner and the Cendant deal. Even as large advertisers (think car companies) are questioning and, in some cases, abandoning TV for the Internet and as TV audiences are fragmenting, this cable TV advertising opportunity will be fresh and exciting for local Realtors. They haven't had the ability to buy TV and Spot Runner now makes that possible.

I believe the partnership will be successful for Spot Runner and, with corresponding lessons learned, create a kind of "vertical template" for the company going forward. Other professional services categories are ripe for this: lawyers, doctors, accountants, etc.

_________

Spot Runner Chairman and Chief Executive Nick Grouf will be on the final panel at Drilling Down:

The Future of Local Media Buying: The Integrated Online-Offline Platform
Until recently, online marketing was regarded with skepticism and ambivalence. In 2005, led by paid search, online marketing in general came to be seen as a credible medium. While newspapers and Internet Yellow Pages have long been selling online advertising on their sites (and more recently into broader networks), the Google acquisition of dMarc suggests a potentially new, more integrated online-offline media future. It also directly brings the harsh light of performance-based marketing and Web analytics to a traditional advertising medium. The panelists will discuss these and other recent developments and what the near and long term will hold for online marketing and interactive local media.







Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  08:26 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]



Feb 8 2006
Zillow Launches
Seattle-based Zillow, which apparently stands for "zillions of pillows" (or that's the genesis of the name/URL), launched today.

The site is a very polished and sophisticated new entrant in the increasingly competitive online real estate market. Its primary � and somewhat amazing � attribute is that you can potentially look up the value of any residential property in most markets across the U.S. (The coverage is not total but impressively broad.)

It also uses a map as its principal interface (similar to HomePages.com before it).

For example, here's a valuation on the two-unit apartment I used to live in in San Francisco. And here's more detail on the property. (The owner recently sold it and I think the data reflected are generally accurate.)

I got a briefing on the site from CEO Rich Barton, founder of Expedia, a couple of weeks ago and was very impressed by the "heavy lifting" he and his team had done to collect, distill, scrub and present all this data. That effort seems to erect fairly significant barriers to duplicating what they've done.

The site is intended to provide, as Barton said to me, more "transparency" to both buyers and sellers about the value of homes as they're contemplating either side of the transaction. The site intends to support itself with advertising from Realtors and others associated with real estate transactions (mortgage brokers, moving companies, etc.).

Impressive as Zillow is, the missing piece here is the for-sale listings themselves. In other words, Zillow currently doesn't allow would-be home buyers to look for homes for sale on the site (they have to go to HomeGain, Realtor.com, HomePages.com, Trulia or any number of other sites). So right now it's a tool that complements other sites that present MLS listings.

Yet to make the site more complete it will eventually need to present this for-sale information. (It might also be a great platform for "for sale by owner" listings.) Yet Barton and co. have many interesting ideas up their collective sleeves for "phase II" and "phase III" features.

Barton, who is also a partner at VC firm Benchmark Capital, and his team have grabbed a considerable $32 million in funding, which sets the expectations fairly high for them and Zillow.

I anticipate that as word of Zillow gets out people will show up to check the values of their houses and their neighbors' houses out of curiosity. That will generate some good word of mouth for the site. Barton also indicated he's going to try to syndicate some of the data across the Internet (and perhaps to traditional newspapers).

I got a question yesterday from a reporter about whether this would "disintermediate" the local Realtor. The short answer is "no." There's still too much micro-local knowledge that can't be embodied on the Internet (and the Internet can't really negotiate for you). But it may over time � depending on its success � put pressure on real estate commissions or enable some incremental number of buyers and sellers, where it's legally possible, to do the transactions themselves. We'll have to see. (Maybe appraisers will have something to fear from Zillow.)

Real estate is a fascinating market and we believe something of a leading indicator of trends in local. There's a great deal of money circulating in the "real estate ecosystem" � $12 billion annually is spent on advertising, according to the National Assn. of Realtors. And consumers are using the Internet now as an integral part of their home-buying process: 77 percent, according to the same trade association's most recent data.

It will be interesting to see how the public responds to Zillow, how the site evolves and the response of competitors. And undoubtedly it will ultimately be acquired.
_________

Another B2B map-based real estate site launched almost simultaneously: PropertyShark.com (which takes aim at Zillow in its press release). There's a lot of coverage out there. Here's more from the Seattle PI and SiliconBeat.
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  06:55 | permalink | comments [3] | trackbacks [0]





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