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Jan 30 2006
Google Adds Personalization to Toolbar Upgrade
Google went live tonight with version 4 of its toolbar for IE (Firefox version coming soon, I'm told). You can take a look at the laundry list of features and upgrades here.

Worth noting from my point of view are the following:

  • Bookmarks (the ability to add any page or custom search to the toolbar; it's the return of bookmarks to a degree)
  • Custom buttons (Google has created a bunch of custom buttons and an API to allow third parties to create them � a la "widgets")
  • Send to (ability to share Web sites through e-mail, SMS or publish on blogger). Yahoo! currently offers a comparable feature
  • Account sign-in (from the toolbar; creates another incentive to sign up for an account/Gmail)
Google also enables users to put Local, Froogle, Image Search, Video, News and Gmail (as mentioned) into the toolbar. Will this affect use of these services? It could well boost their visibility and, ultimately, their usage.

For example, I rarely use Froogle (except when I'm comparing it with other services for my work). But with the button always there, it's very easy to click over and use Froogle to do a quick product search, etc. No need to go to Shopzilla or Shopping.com or eBay for these sorts of casual lookups. Just click the button and execute the search. (It removes a step.) Same thing for local: click the button, do the search; it's more "elegant" than conducting a local search on Google.com and clicking the compass icon after the fact.

The previously much-criticized "Autolink" feature does some interesting things with Local, displaying all the addresses that appear on a map (e.g., "wine shops, Oakland, CA"') as a pull-down menu. That enables the user to quickly select a location if s/he knows it ("I want the one on Main," etc.).

Google has a new marketing (and to some degree branding) vehicle to build awareness for these various services (Local, Video, Froogle) through their (opt-in) presence on the toolbar. And the Google Pack "Updater" will notify users of changes and updates, etc. How about a Google Music or Google Travel button in the future?

We previously wrote about toolbars (in an ILM Client Advisory) as a driver of search market share and how they will become more strategic over time. Yahoo! had the greatest toolbar share, according to comScore (July '05: 51 percent of all toolbar searches). About 12 percent of all U.S. searches were executed through toolbars in July, an 8 percent increase over 2004, according to comScore.

I'm sure I haven't captured all the tricks the new toolbar can and will be able to do. But the thing that is most intriguing to me is the way in which the toolbar can house alerts/dynamic searches and could potentially become an RSS reader.

Third parties can create buttons (think blogs: "add to Google Toolbar"') or users can effectively plug feeds into the bookmarks feature. Therefore, it's possible to use the toolbar for all your feeds � something the "ordinary user" won't think about or discover in the near term.

But what that "ordinary" person might well do is set up a Google Alert for some term (e.g., "Kelsey Group") and plug that dynamic search result into his/her bookmarks. This is something that A9 now permits.

Imagine third parties creating buttons or feeds (as more sites are doing) for specials/deals/offers that can become buttons or persistent searches in the toolbar. It creates some very interesting possibilities.

Despite the 1,000,001 toolbars out there, Google and Yahoo! are dominant in terms of market share. They each offer somewhat different features and are thus complementary. Until now, one of the advantages of the Yahoo! toolbar over Google's was the custom buttons (Yahoo! gave you two). The new Google toolbar offers almost unlimited customization possibilities through buttons and bookmarks.

Yahoo!'s toolbar also has "anti-spy," a feature that the new Google toolbar doesn't offer (which I use to delete tracking cookies every day). Indeed, Google hasn't duplicated all the features on the Yahoo! toolbar, but it has eliminated the "customization gap" that existed and created a broader range of potential personalization opportunities.

In addition, the Google toolbar ties in to Google's personalized home page (for those registered and signed in) and to your "search history." In this way we start to see how the "Fusion" strategy might knit together some of these disparate elements (personalized home, sidebar, desktop search, toolbar).

Google right now has a "many doors" approach, in that users can access Google and search through any number of tools and utilities (personalized home, sidebar, toolbar, desktop search, etc.). Over time it will start to be clear to Google how users are predominantly tapping into its features and services, and the company will place emphasis accordingly.

Toolbars have been important, but we expect that over time they will become even more strategic. Yahoo! will not likely leave this development unanswered (at the very least I'd anticipate more custom buttons to be introduced).

So expect more competition and increasing levels of functionality on the "toolbar front" in the future.
___________

More from Chris Sherman at Search Engine Watch.

Here's some interesting discussion of tagging and bookmarking and the new toolbar at Search Engine Journal.
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  01:28 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]



Jan 28 2006
What's in a Name(TM)?
Almost everyone is using the term "social search" to describe a rash of "Web 2.0-style" offerings (whether product features or new sites) that try to blend community with another application (e.g., search, shopping, etc.).

Here's a post by Danny Sullivan (SEW) about a dispute between Judy's Book and presumably Yahoo! regarding Judy's Book's asserted trademark over the term "social search." Judy's Book has been granted the registered trademark to the term

As Danny suggests in his post, "social search" is a little like a "generic term" that has been used for a few years with increasing frequency as the market has evolved.

Now Judy's Book can send "cease and desist" letters to the host of companies directly or indirectly using the term in their marketing. If they do, it won't necessarily do anything for them; however, if they get a lot of coverage on this story that might be good for their consumer awareness.

Judy's Book, which is run by smart people, will sink or swim not on the marketing value of the term "social search," but on the merits of the user experience it offers and the value it delivers to local advertisers (to which the company sells phone leads, otherwise know as "pay per [phone] call.")

Speaking of which, the term "pay per call" has been TM'd by Ingenio. So everyone else in the phone leads business needs to use another term � and they're starting to.

In the PPCall arena there might be a few more (marketing) reasons (than in "social search") to assert trademark rights over "pay per call." Yet, again, whether a service is called "pay per call," "pay per phone call," "phone leads," "performance calls," whatever ... the value delivered to Ingenio's advertisers and its partner distribution network will determine whether the company achieves its ultimate business objectives.

"Google" and "Yahoo!" are essentially nonsense terms that have become mega-brands because of what they actually do and deliver for people.

In fact, if you start a company today and you want your brand and your URL to be the same you have to "make up a word," as Richard Barton, CEO of new real estate site Zillow, told me today (more on Zillow later).

Somebody needs to write a piece about all the distorted names and brands of new companies out there because all the URLs are taken. Case in point: Here's another new (health) search engine: Kosmix.
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  04:57 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [4]



Jan 27 2006
New Google SERP Display
No time to discuss now. Check out a screenshot of the test.

More to come later. Precious little additional info in this article.
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  10:42 | permalink | comments [1] | trackbacks [0]



Jan 27 2006
Music.Google.com?
As Google more and more becomes a "media company," media opportunities cannot be missed. Here's Gary Price speculating about and discussing the seemingly impending Google Music.

Music and other potential vertical domains raise the broader question of how Google intends to handle "vertical search" going forward � separate sites for everything (video, local, shopping, music, travel, financial, etc.)? Although one might argue for a separate "media hub" that contained video and music, etc.

Earlier I wrote about the current Google Music search as one indicator of how Google might be handling verticals and still maintaining the primacy of the Google.com domain:

As I�ve argued before, Google is �ambivalent� about verticals � the company wants to push out as much as it can through Google.com results. It created �News,� �Local,� �Shopping,� �Blog Search,� �Video� and some other arguable �verticals� because it felt it needed to do so to offer the optimal user experience. But the company doesn�t want to keep doing this for every possible content area: Finance, Health, Cars, Jobs, Real Estate and so on.

Google would really start fragmenting its audience, which is a big problem with local generally. So what does it do as it expands its �content� offerings and introduces richer data for each new area?

It does what the company is starting to do in music and doing in weather. But an even better example is what it�s doing with movie showtimes. Google is offering what we might call �Page 2.�

You get a tease or a set of links on top of the search results page (similar to Local now), and then you�ll be taken into a specialized content area. This is how Google will keep users going to Google.com (where most go anyway) and also offer a competitive �vertical� experience (Page 2), where the features and content can be tailored to the specific topic: Cars, Jobs, Real Estate, Movies, Finance, Music, etc.

Google also starts to create very valuable ad inventory on these pages � inventory arguably much more valuable than that on Google.com.

This is, I believe, how Google solves and resolves the problem of maintaining its almost religious devotion to �one box� and Google.com while offering richer/deeper content and specific navigation � a vertical user experience � in particular areas, which it needs to do to maintain market share and, ultimately, deliver more value to marketers over the long term.


Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  09:18 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [7]



Jan 26 2006
Bullish on InfoSpace
I've heard it occasionally said about InfoSpace, which owns metasearch engine Dogpile, "what do they want to be when they grow up?" In other words, what's their business model?

Here's a very bullish piece, originally published in The Motley Fool, that argues the model is healthy and InfoSpace is undervalued by the market:

Last night, InfoSpace closed out 2005 in fine fashion. Earnings before one-time favorable charges rose from $1.40 to $1.60 per share, while revenues came in 36% higher to hit $340 million.

Even after buying back $70 million worth of its stock, the company's cash balance remains strong, clocking in at $11.16 a share. Back that out to arrive at an enterprise value of less than $450 million. A leading and consistently profitable technology company at just 2.2 times 2005 sales? Let's put this into perspective. Last month, Motley Fool Stock Advisor pick Electronic Arts (Nasdaq: ERTS - News) agreed to buy online gaming upstart Jamdat Mobile (Nasdaq: JMDT - News) at more than 10 times trailing revenue.

Adding a little more color to that particular acquisition, EA's buyout price of $680 million would be more than enough to swallow InfoSpace whole, yet InfoSpace's mobile revenues are nearly twice Jamdat's.


While InfoSpace owns a very small share of the consumer search market, it has considerable mobile assets that are not as visible to consumers (or many in the industry for that matter). Separately, today, the company announced a multiyear renewal of its relationship with Yahoo! (search results and text advertising).
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  19:26 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]



Jan 26 2006
MyYahoo! to Get Push It Deserves?
MyYahoo! is a powerful strategic asset that has been languishing to some degree. Now Om Malik reports that it may be ready to rise to the level of attention that it deserves internally.

It�s really a potential personal dashboard for search, local, email, news, mobile, video, calendar, etc.�everything to help users manage what is now coming to be know as �the digital lifestyle.� Let�s see what evolves/emerges.
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  10:51 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]



Jan 26 2006
TV Advertisers Cling to Oscars, SuperBowl
As TV audiences fragment, advertisers are clinging to large-scale �live TV� events that still draw large audiences, i.e., the �Oscars� and the Super Bowl. There�s something of a paradox going on: even as audiences shrink, TV networks (in certain cases) have been able to command advertising premiums and the Super Bowl is an example (rates are up from last year).

But every day brings news of another video search/video sharing Web site.

How is all this viral video and fragmentation going to ultimately impact TV advertising and the targeting strategies that must emerge to compensate for loss of audience reach? For example, what will be the contextual match for two guys driving naked through the San Fernando Valley or someone bored in his cubicle at work or two drunk teenagers at a party? And what brand advertiser or local business will want to be associated with those streams? (12-step programs? Monster.com? The Gap?)

This is something we�ll be investigating at Drilling Down:

1,000,001 Channels: But Is Anybody Watching?
TV used to be simple for everyone. But the newly fragmenting world of video search, mobile TV, on-demand cable and IPTV makes the range of potential consumer choices staggering. What are the new technologies that are rapidly turning TV from a mass medium to one that is highly personalized? What is the new consumer �video consumption� model, and what are the implications for networks, content producers and advertisers? Will a million �Wayne�s Worlds� and the potential �Tower of Babel� effect destroy the medium for advertisers or open it up to a range of exciting new possibilities, including some for SMEs?

Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  06:37 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]



Jan 26 2006
Live Labs
It appears that everyone is the world of search is opening new labs. Google has been announcing new research labs here and there for the past several months; Yahoo! earlier this week announced research labs in Spain and Chile. And last night Microsoft announced that it was creating a new research group �Live Labs�:

MSN and Microsoft Research are creating a dedicated applied research division named Live Labs. Live Labs will be staffed by top researchers that will leverage the capabilities of MSN and Microsoft Research to work through prototyping new products and services. Microsoft will invite technologists and scientists to join the dedicated group. Live Labs will make it a priority to work in collaboration with academic researchers, industrial labs, government research labs and others and by offering opportunities for grants and fellowships to promote continued innovation in the industry.

This doesn�t have to do with local per se, but this Live Labs �beta� site has been set up to document or reflect the progress of various Windows Live initiatives. Each separate initiative has an associated blog (e.g., Windows Live Local blog).

There�s also something of a �culture shift� being undertaken in this effort. From the Live Labs �manifesto� by Gary William Flake, who�s in charge of the new effort:

Inline with our vision, Live Labs� near-term charter is to bootstrap a virtuous cycle in three parts: (1) empower Microsoft employees to more rapidly create great Internet technologies; (2) sponsor higher bandwidth exchanges of ideas and innovations between our internal partners, academia, and the Internet community; and (3) foster a community of people and projects which will inspire others to join us in this mission.

and

Ostensibly, the charter of Live Labs suggests a dilemma: How can we simultaneously be small and agile but also influential enough to have a meaningful impact? Indeed, this is a dilemma that all organizations face as they grow and mature. Our answer is embarrassingly simple: We are a perpetual startup within Microsoft . . .

There are a lot of elements that go into success (or failure) for a company and one of the underappreciated factors, in my view, is culture. And there�s an implied recognition in the manifesto that there needs to be some change within Microsoft for the company to more effectively compete online.

Here�s more from Search Engine Watch.

Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  06:09 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]





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