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Feb 2 2006
Simply Hired Is Simply Fascinating
A couple of days ago I met with Simply Hired. Beyond some interesting things that they were telling me about their roadmap, I was fascinated by the "vertical"' vs. "horizontal" search discussion we had.

My personal belief is that the more verticals there are, the more people will "default" to general search engines because they're overwhelmed and confused. However, there are lots and lots of interesting things going on in "vertical search" or verticals where search is the primary navigation tool.

Simply Hired is a "metasearch" engine for jobs (job search is inherently local), but on top of search results the company is building lots and lots of added value. In other words, aggregating the listings from multiple providers (including the big three) is just the beginning.

Look at this result for "marketing" + "new york." Beyond the filtering of results by selected criteria (e.g., location, education level, company size, etc.), one can save jobs, rate jobs, map jobs, virally e-mail jobs, do salary research and, perhaps most significantly, network via linked-in (find contacts who work or have worked at the company).

All these additional job-specific services illustrate the value verticals can bring to the user experience that is hard for general search engines to duplicate for many reasons.

As I've remarked before, we're seeing the development of an "ecosystem" in which the general/horizontal search engines are where many "verticals" are discovered by consumers and in the subsequent exploration or drill down within the vertical is where the potentially best hand-off is to the advertiser (or at least this is the vertical argument. But this is seemingly proven in IYP contexts; IYPs aren't a "vertical" per se, but see below.)

In this "vertical environment" is also where you're likely to find the bulk of local businesses going forward, for many reasons. (This applies to newspapers and Yellow Pages sites as well, which are obviously not "verticals" but stand in the same relation as verticals to general Web search in the broader structure of the ecosystem.)
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  05:12 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]



Feb 1 2006
Newspapers Are Mad at Search Engines
I saw this article this morning but was racing out to a meeting at StepUp.com and so I didn't have time to do a post earlier. From Reuters:

The Paris-based World Association of Newspapers, whose members include dozens of national newspaper trade bodies, said it is exploring ways to "challenge the exploitation of content by search engines without fair compensation to copyright owners."

Web sites like Google and its specialized Google News service automatically pull in headlines, photos and short excerpts of articles from thousands of news sources, linking back to the publishers' own site. Google News does not currently carry advertising.

"They're building a new medium on the backs of our industry, without paying for any of the content," Ali Rahnema, managing director of the association, told Reuters in an interview.

"The news aggregators are taking headlines, photos, sometimes the first three lines of an article � it's for the courts to decide whether that's a copyright violation or not."


While this attitude (and the frustration behind it) is certainly understandable, it's unlikely that a litigation-oriented approach will be successful as a strategy for newspapers in the long run.

This is a larger version of the Craigslist-Oodle aggregators vs. content producer debate. (And see Jakob Nielsen's anti-search screed as another salvo in this same debate.)

The newspapers (at least as represented in WAN's public statements) are frustrated that Google, Yahoo! and others appear to be reaping the benefits of their content creation while they struggle to maintain subscribers and defend against advertiser defections. But it's a mistake to simply say, by implication, our industry's challenges and problems can be attributed to news aggregators that take our content for free.

I'm quite sympathetic to newspapers and believe that news organizations have a critical role to play in democratic societies and thus need to succeed and thrive online (The N.Y. Times broke the NSA wiretapping story, not a blogger and not TV).

If the newspapers can collectively negotiate some financial/content licensing arrangement with news aggregators (one of which, Topix, is owned by newspapers) that's great. However, ultimately, they should focus on delivering value to their users and advertisers and working together to create networks to leverage their traffic � rather than on legal efforts to block or tax the collection and distribution of their content.

Litigation in this case is not a competitive strategy; it's a form of denial.

___________

Danny Sullivan at Search Engine Watch does a nice roundup of the coverage of the "newspapers want search engines to pay" story.

My colleague Mike Boland points me to this news aggregation aggregator. :)

And, from the other end of the spectrum, AT&T raises the toll road question again per Om Malik.







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



Feb 1 2006
'Need Something' Ad Campaign
My colleague Charles Laughlin posted about the YellowPages.com "Need Something" ad campaign when it officially launched earlier this week.

Here's more on the size and reach of the campaign from ClickZ. You can view the online ads here and the TV ads here.

I think both sets of ads are quite effective (in particular the TV spots are clever). It remains to be seen whether the campaign will have the desired impact and help burn the YellowPages.com brand into consumers' minds as a local search destination. At a minimum, I think they will get consumers who are currently unaware of the site to check it out.

As I've written before, there has to be a there there when consumers show up. And the site has made great strides in usability. Yet YellowPages.com must continue to develop itself as a consumer destination to be competitive over the long term. An intuitive URL and great brand are only part of the equation. Of course, Charles Stubbs and his team know this very well.

YellowPages.com is also being quite aggressive in developing a distribution network and recently announced a significant partnership with Yahoo! (an extension and expansion of the previous SBC, BellSouth deals).

Surveying the local online space, we can see not only growth and opportunity, but furious competition as well. It's a very exciting as well as perilous time for traditional media companies, including Yellow Pages publishers, trying to develop their online properties into real growth and revenue engines.

It's great to see YellowPages.com really putting the "pedal to the metal" (to use an old colloquialism) in promoting itself and trying to build consumer awareness.

I believe this campaign is coming at the right time and really has a shot at "priming the pump" but YellowPages.com must continue to innovate and focus on the user experience if it really wants the campaign to pay long-term dividends.
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  09:43 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]



Feb 1 2006
'Point & Search' Part II
Search Engine Journal covers the recent GeoVector/Mapion announcement about "point and search" mobile local technology in Japan.

From the GeoVector announcement:

With Mapion Local Search, users can now walk down the street anywhere in Japan and point at over 700,000 objects such as buildings, shops, restaurants, banks, historical sites and instantly retrieve information on what they are looking at or find what they are looking for just by pointing their phone. Just like one uses a mouse to click on an object on a computer screen and retrieve information, now users can Click on the Real World� using their mobile phone.

There's a company called NeoMedia, which has similar technology, that I wrote about awhile ago. And my colleague Mike Boland previously wrote about "point and search" mobile-local/visual model last year.

What's interesting � and exciting � about this is the way in which this kind of model potentially accommodates the limitations of current cellphones and is relatively "passive" for users.
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  08:57 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]



Feb 1 2006
Google Is Human
OK, not exactly. But yesterday's financial results showed the company was subject to the same pressures, market trends and unreasonable expectations that have confronted other Internet bellwethers such as Yahoo! and eBay.

I had expected Google to beat expectations. But the key word here is "expectations." If you look at what the company actually did, the results were impressive. Google revenues were $1.92 billion vs. $1.57 billion last quarter (22 percent growth, up from 14 percent vs. Q2). So revenue growth has accelerated.

These are very solid figures. They're just not mind boggling compared with Google's history of triple-digit revenue growth.

Google investors are a tough crowd � 86 percent growth (vs. last year) wasn't good enough. Admittedly, Google itself has conditioned expectations and set the bar pretty high with its past performance. But it's as if investors are saying the equivalent of "we expect a 100-point game every time" (to use a basketball analogy).

That's just not possible.

There are plenty of reasons to believe that Google's future performance will continue to be very strong. The company has consumer market-share leadership, which should continue for the immediate future at least. And, according to this MediaPost article (reg. req'd) citing an advertiser survey, marketers perceive greater value in Google advertising than in that of its main rivals:

About 71 percent of respondents said that search ads on Google were effective, compared to 62 percent who considered search ads on Yahoo effective and 49 percent who thought MSN search ads were effective.


In addition, WebSideStory asserts that search marketing produces double the conversions of other types of online marketing. Conversion here is defined as the percentage of visitors who click on a search result and go on to make a purchase or conduct a transaction of some sort. That percentage was 2.3 percent. (For every 100 consumers, 2.3 went on to spend money.)

So search can be expected to continue to attract marketing dollars. And it's still very much an "immature" medium; we estimate there are only about 475,000 to 500,000 such advertisers across the globe.

Moreover, the Internet is not going away. While there are challenges to growth on the advertiser side (bringing in more small businesses and so on) consumers show no signs of abandoning the Internet or search engines any time soon.

All these factors point to continued strong performance though perhaps not at the triple-digit levels of the past.

Google set up its bifurcated stock structure to partly insulate itself against the "whims" of the marketplace. (And it doesn't provide guidance for analysts.) That "insulation" isn't entirely working, as the company clearly feels the pressure to perform and explain why it didn't do better than expected.

That pressure should accelerate Google's efforts to diversify some of its revenues and roll out more new consumer and advertiser offerings this year.

Effectively, that means no letup in competition among the major brands (Google, Yahoo!, MSN, AOL), which, as one VC recently put it to me, "are in a feature war," and no rest for those of us who cover them.

____________

More analysis from Andrew Goodman at Traffick and extensive information and analysis from The Internet Stock Blog.

Here's Om Malik's Business 2.0 piece.
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  08:08 | permalink | comments [3] | trackbacks [0]



Jan 31 2006
Muni Wi-Fi and Sling Bling
EarthLink has apparently finalized its deal with Philadelphia to provide what amounts to wholesale wireless/Wi-Fi access that can then be resold to ISPs (which would then sell to consumers). So this isn't "free" Wi-Fi, but reportedly EarthLink would only be charging $9 per month as a wholesale rate � so retail costs could wind up being pretty low (given potential competition). Regardless, Philly wants to keep the ultimate costs under $20 for city residents. This is probably the model for municipal Wi-Fi "going foward" (rather than free).

In addition, EarthLink is the latest to launch VoIP. We're likely to see an accelaration of VoIP adoption late this year or perhaps very early next year.

Separately, per SiliconBeat, MetroFi is launching Wi-Fi for Santa Clara and Cupertino, California. This one is free and intended to be ad-supported. From the MetroFi press release:

The MetroFi network also brings a new opportunity for local businesses to reach the community through a truly local internet advertising medium. Customers that are accessing the network will be shown a banner advertisement in the frame of the browser. Local businesses can take advantage of the local and regional nature of the network by providing links to their website, coupons or announcements to those that are guaranteed to be near their establishment.

But here's a skeptical article that appeared in The Mercury News.

And here's a totally unrelated development (also per the intrepid folks at SiliconBeat): Sling Media raised a whopping $46 million round of financing:

Sling Media, Inc., a digital lifestyle products company, today announced it closed a $46.6 million round of financing. Goldman, Sachs & Co., Liberty Media Corporation and Echostar Communications led the financing round. Allen & Co. LLC, DCM � Doll Capital Management, Mobius Venture Capital, The Hearst Corporation and other undisclosed investors also participated in the financing ...

Sling Media�s first product, the Slingbox�, is a breakthrough consumer electronics device that enables consumers to watch their living room TV programming from wherever they are by turning virtually any Internet-connected Windows-based laptop or desktop and any Windows Mobile-based PDA or smartphone into a personal TV. The Slingbox redirects, or �placeshifts,� a single live TV stream from a basic cable connection, cable box, satellite receiver or digital video recorder (DVR) to the viewer�s PC � located anywhere in the home or anywhere in the world, via the Internet.


Why do we care about this? Because it's part of two important trends:

1. Fragmentation of the consumer audience and increasing consumer control over media consumption
2. The transformation of TV/video into a targeting medium

Those are themes at this year's Drilling Down event.
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  07:41 | permalink | comments [3] | trackbacks [0]



Jan 30 2006
Will the Real 'True Local' Please Stand Up?
News Corp.'s True Local search engine has gone live in Australia. Its purpose is to compete with Sensis and it's "powered" by News Corp.-owned newspapers. This is an interesting thing for U.S.-based newspapers to consider, but perhaps impossible for them to pull off as a collective (sort of a YellowPages.com approach).

I suspect we can expect a similar launch in the U.S. in the near term, given all Rupert Murdoch's statements and his aggressive buying of online properties. The only problem is that there's already an established True Local search engine: TrueLocal.com. So this launch reflects either arrogance or stupidity or some mysterious combination of the two.

Unless they intend to build a separate local search brand in the U.S., which is possible, they can't think that they're going to be able to use that brand (indeed, the URL is gone). TrueLocal.com has been operating as a commercial enterprise for well over a year and has plans to expand its geographic coverage.

While two brands or identical company names can exist in circumstances where they're in different businesses, they cannot where there is a "substantial likelihood of consumer confusion." And unless I miss my guess, two local search engines with the name "True Local" would probably be confusing to the ordinary consumer.

So we've got a bit of a David vs. Goliath story here, unless, as I said, News Corp. creates a completely different local search brand in the U.S. Regardless, we can probably say with 100 percent certainty that News Corp./Fox will be getting into local search "stateside."

Yet another player to stir things up (and cover). [:0]
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  04:29 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]



Jan 30 2006
AOL Ready to Give BB Another Go
America Online has decided to make another push into broadband. Built on top of third-party partnerships with BellSouth, Time Warner Cable, Qwest and AT&T, the company will offer high-speed access across the U.S.

AOL had limited success with this the first time around, so why is the company "giving it another go"? This Reuters article quotes Joe Redling, president of AOL access services:

"What we've seen from early indications is that as we've moved customers from dial-up to broadband, we've seen significant improvements in member life ... It's really a long-term play to stabilize the membership."

Despite the fact that AOL has been losing dial-up subscribers, it still has more than 20 million.

And a high-speed offering will enable AOL to have a more direct channel into broadband homes, which are characterized by more disposable income and education. It may also more effectively enable the company to sell things like its TotalTalk VoIP offering (which is, of course, directly competitive with its telco partners' fixed line phone businesses).
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  04:05 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]





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