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Feb 16 2006
MySpace Launches MVNO
MySpace, the supersite for teens, has announced the launch of its own branded "mobile virtual network operator" network. The service and phones will be powered/provided by Helio LLC, which is a joint venture of Earthlink Inc. and South Korean carrier SK Telecom Co. The service will reportedly use the networks of Sprint and Verizon. No specific launch date has been set.

The idea is that teens and others on MySpace can use the phones to access their personal pages and other content on the go.

Like the integration of Google or Yahoo! into forthcoming Motorola handsets, this has the potential to do some very interesting things. If successful (let's wait and see) it could help determine what the effective mobile ad models will be. It could also spur the launch of a 1,001 of these MVNOs, many of which are already in the works. It will also reveal the impact of social networks on mobile devices and could generate an entire range of new, similar applications or at least accelerate their development and deployment.

MySpace is smartly leveraging its hot brand to expand to other areas now, before it has a chance to cool or falter. There's a growing MySpace backlash because of the concern about sexual predators using the site to target teens and young people. This danger, if real, would be considerably exacerbated by a mobile MySpace.

Parents' growing concern/dislike for MySpace is only likely to boost its popularity in the near term, however. It is hard to imagine that MySpace will be as big three or five years from now. But it is possible the site will have "morphed" into something else with greater stability and staying power.



Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  10:05 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]



Feb 16 2006
Judy's Book Redesigns, Adds 'Structured Blogging'
I'm restraining myself from using the term "Web2.0," which really is on the cusp of cliche status. But Judy's Book has done some very interesting things to its site that if I were comfortable using that term ... might describe some of what they've done.

First, they've redesigned the site in a much more graphically dynamic way. That may disorient some users but it creates a very distinctive look for the site (maps are prominent) and takes it farther away from the realm of directory sites than before. It also differentiates the site from its closest cousin online, InsiderPages.

You can search for dentists or restaurants or hair salons as usual. But the site has also added a significant personalization component, "MyBook." MyBook is a personalized "home page" within JudysBook where users can see their questions, others' questions and recommendations in their area as well as a personal "directory" of local information, including local business contact information. It's the start page when I log in � essentially a blog. I can also upload photos and invite friends, etc. (similar in many respects to Yelp, Tribe or Yahoo! 360).

This change subtly and not so subtly shifts the emphasis of the site from one that is more "utilitarian," where I go to find a plumber or Ethiopian restaurant to something more like an online community where I might be inclined to spend more time and interact more extensively with people regarding things to do, places to go, etc., in my area.

But the clever folks at Judy's Book are mindful that some people already have blogs and so they've adopted an export, structured blogging feature that amounts to a kind of syndication strategy. From the press release:

Recognizing that many online authors already have a traditional blog, Judy�s Book has also made it easy for members to take their Judy�s Book content with them via a new �post to my blog� feature. This optional feature automatically formats Judy�s Book reviews in the hReview microformat, an emerging standard for online reviews, and reposts them to the member�s existing TypePad, LiveJournal, Blogger, or WordPress blog.

That "syndication" approach (also the "interoperability" with all the major blogging platforms) is also reflective of "Web2.0" trends. Syndication has been around forever, but there's an emerging understanding that the decentralized nature of online behavior requires new ways and strategies to reach people where they are rather than always trying to get them to show up at your door or trying to erect so-called "walled gardens," whether visible or invisible, to their use of other systems.

I tell people that every time I expect things to calm down in local, they just keep speeding up. One of the very interesting trends is the marriage of social/community and local, which is a natural of course (online word of mouth). And all the new attention, energy and competition in the space can only lead to consolidation in the near term.
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  08:48 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [5]



Feb 15 2006
Verticals and Local
Here's an interesting post I came across from the Internet Stock Blog (quoting the earnings call) on how local advertising is driving revenue growth at online wedding vertical/portal and directory site TheKnot.com:

Online ad sales constituted 57% of the company�s revenue for the quarter, and just over 50% of the year�s revenues (other revenue streams: merchandise sales and print publications). In the conference call, The Knot CEO David Liu made a number of statements indicating that localized online advertising in The Knot�s 69 local sites is a key factor behind the company�s ongoing growth:

Our local advertising continues its steady growth largely due to the fact that we do deliver measurable results to give our advertisers immediate payback from their investment on The Knot. A basic local listing on The Knot site goes for about $1000; still a bargain compared to the cost of the plain Vanilla yellow pages of advertising and in listing.

The average spend by our local advertiser is approximately $1400 as many local advertisers take advantage of the extras we offer above the basic listing. These include a premier listing on a category page like photography or banner on the front first stage of their online city guides, say for example, Atlanta � An incremental cost can still be below that of the yellow pages or their local newspaper.

Last April, we�ve raised our local rates by 10%, and plan a similar increase this April. Given our strong local revenue growth through 2005, our rate increases have in no way affected our customers� appetite for advertising with us�

We launched local advertising on The Nest in the fourth quarter and are now in ten of the 69 local Knot markets. Since advertisers seeking to reach newlyweds have far greater ad budget in many categories like automotive, financial services and real estate, related advertisers are already spending a growing proportion of their budgets online.


(emphasis mine)

Fascinating stuff. It shows that a vertical that can establish a strong brand and become a destination (not all can) has the ability to generate some strong revenue because of the very high-quality leads such sites can deliver � especially highly targeted local leads in the case of TheKnot.

And everyone selling to local advertisers is selling against newspapers and Yellow Pages.
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  18:03 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]



Feb 15 2006
Traffic 'Smackdown': Yellowbook vs. InsiderPages
In an admittedly self-serving e-mail, InsiderPages VP Andrew Shotland pointed me to Alexa traffic data that show basically that YellowBook.com and the newer online-only site are neck and neck.

YellowBook has been running a TV campaign during the Olympics, whereas InsiderPages relies on SEO/SEM, syndication and word of mouth. If the Alexa data are to be believed (and they're not as credible as some sources), then TV is delivering very limited value to YellowBook vs. other more "grassroots" techniques being used by InsiderPages.

But this may also go to the product itself. Take, for example, a query for "contractors, Chicago":

Here are the YellowBook results. Here are the InsiderPages results.

In many ways these products are comparable, although there are no "decision support" filters, reviews or other tools to help users choose between contractors on the YellowBook site, and InsiderPages has many fewer listings. While it's true that users can click "view ad" and see the print ad, which some argue does offer decision support, YellowBook.com is now essentially a White Pages product with some additional/enhanced features. In other words, I've got a "name in mind" and I'm looking for contact details.

Take a look at "contractor, Chicago" on Yahoo! Local. One can argue the data are incomplete here. But I'm focused right now on Yahoo! Local's filtering/drill down features (left column) as being examples of "decision support." They offer me several ways as a user narrow down the universe of potential choices.

The InsiderPages results have fewer of these features, but they do offer reviews (though sparse in this particular geography and category). Assuming no fraud, they offer insight and information about the business and thus help me decide which one(s) to contact.

This is not to say that reviews are mandatory to compete, but there need to be filters, sort features or other ways for people to get from the 100 or 50 or 20 listings to the three or the one.



Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  12:32 | permalink | comments [1] | trackbacks [0]



Feb 15 2006
Sober Review of Google Desktop and Privacy
Chris Sherman has a very balanced write-up of Google's enhanced destop search and its privacy implications.

My personal view is that Google has become highly sensitized to its perceived position in the market and the privacy issues swirling around the company. I've had several conversations about this with Google folks.

Anyway, privacy is a serious issue � especially in view of the U.S. government's domestic spying and illegal wiretapping. But critics should take a thoughtful, careful view and not simply react in a knee-jerk fashion.
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  10:59 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]



Feb 15 2006
Kelsey Group Forecast
We put out a press release this morning highlighting some top-level numbers from our forecast released to clients late last week. Here are some of the numbers featured in the release:

  • Global print Yellow Pages revenues will increase 1.5 percent from $26.3 billion in 2005 to $28.4 billion in 2010.
  • Global local search revenues (Internet Yellow Pages, local search and wireless) will increase 30.5 percent from $3.4 billion in 2005 to $13 billion in 2010.
  • Global classified advertising revenues will decrease 0.2 percent from $79.5 billion in 2005 to $78.5 billion in 2010.
  • Performance-based phone leads or "pay-per-phone call" revenues are expected to grow to $3.7 billion (in both online and offline media) by 2010 (this is U.S. only).
All percentages above are compound annual growth rates (CAGRs).

We added classifieds to the forecast this year because it involves the same user mind-set/behavior as Yellow Pages and Search: a user has a predetermined need/interest and is looking for a provider/seller to fulfill that need.

We also expanded the definition of "Local Search" to encompass online YP, search engines and wireless (mobile local) for similar reasons.

In the past we had been using the term "Local Search" in a broad sense to capture all these but simultaneously in a more narrow sense to refer to geotargeted lookups on search engines alone. That created some confusion in the marketplace. Also, the "form factor" between the IYPs and the local products of search engines are becoming virtually identical on the front end and the Yellow Pages Assn. has adopted the term "local search" as a branding/marketing vehicle as well. Ultimately, we probably will include classifieds engines in that category. But for now we declined to include them because of potential confusion and dilution of the term.
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  10:00 | permalink | comments [2] | trackbacks [0]



Feb 15 2006
A Few Newsbits
Search and Win: A story that's circulating today is one about the prospect of MSN and Yahoo! "incentivizing" users to switch to their search engines with rewards and prizes. MSN is further along; Yahoo! floated what might be called a "trial balloon" on the subject. Nielsen's Ken Cassar thinks the general idea is "smart promotion." Others have been critical of the idea as one that smacks of "desperation." (This is the common journalist question: "Doesn't this suggest desperation?")

I wouldn't say it's a desperate move; I would say it's an effort to get attention and motivate users to show up and try the engine. Many people argue there's effectively no difference between the top search engines' results (Infospace disagrees). And there's plenty of data that says there's effectively no search engine "loyalty" out there. I think there's a great deal more nuance here, but it's a much longer discussion.

Here's my view: Prizes might be a good marketing hook, but they aren't going to win over users permanently or cement loyalty longer term. The search experience itself has to deliver value and be as good or better than the preferred engine (read: Google in many cases). There's also the danger of what might be called "search fraud" by users just seeking to fulfill requirements to qualify for incentives/prizes. This danger will diminish or destroy the credibility of the engine with marketers over time.

AOL the Conversions King: Analytics firm WebSideStory reported (consistent with a similar report last year) that AOL had the "best conversion rate at business-to consumer e-commerce sites" of the four major portals/search engines. Here are their data:

  • AOL Search (6.17 percent)
  • MSN (6.03 percent)
  • Yahoo (4.07 percent)
  • Google (3.83 percent)

The WebSideStory explanation of this (user demographics/intent) isn't entirely satisfying. However, one might explain the difference in the fact that Google is perceived as a starting point for research, while AOL, Yahoo! and MSN to varying degrees are destinations that keep people on their sites longer. According to Nielsen, here are the relative, average amounts of time (minutes) spent on each:

  • AOL Search (2:16:49)
  • MSN (0:37:29)
  • Yahoo (1:09:19)
  • Google (0:18:40)

Google Schadenfreude: Since Google missed the sky-high expectations of Wall Street in Q4, there's a distinct quality of "schadenfreude" (pleasure at the misfortune of others) in the air. Barrons caused a further decline in GOOG when it speculated that competition would weaken Google's market position this year. There's nothing new or especially thoughtful in the article. It's simply that investors may now be nervous about future performance and are selling (GOOG is off about $130 from its 52 week high).

Also, John Battelle, who owes Google quite a bit for his current status as best-selling author and search "guru," argues now that Google had "jumped the shark" given its appearance on Time magazine's cover.

Lining the halls of Google are high-profile magazine stories dating back to 2000. (The Time cover is nothing particularly special or significant.) Google will succeed, grow or fall to earth largely based on the actual value (quality of search, tools and services) it provides to users and how the competition stacks up. The danger as I see it is that Wall Street's distorted expectations will cause the company to do things (to produce growth/revenues) that are not in the long-term best interests of the user experience and, ultimately, the company.

Nokia Wi-Fi Phone: This week Nokia announced a Wi-Fi phone that offers can "travel" between cell and Wi-Fi networks. Carriers DO NOT LIKE this development and it's a parallel one to VoIP on the fixed-line side of the house. But because they do not control the handset makers and because there's competition and potential demand for these phones, this is a development that they cannot prevent. Thus there will be more pressure on wireless carrier revenues (both on voice minutes and data use). The only real question here is: Will Wi-Fi networks proliferate to make them real alternatives to cell networks on these phones?

PC vs. TV: Reported in today's MediaPost (reg. req'd) is a piece of research that argues consumers want to be able to watch movies and TV on their PCs and vice versa:

25 percent of Internet users are interested in watching downloaded TV shows and movies on their PCs, 38 percent expressed interest in watching that same video on their TVs.

WebTV was largely a failure because of the bad user experience. The opportunity this time is to build a Web-surfing capability into IPTV, cable, etc., that combines the best of both worlds.

This leads me to another "shameless plug" for our coming Drilling Down conference and the session:

Who Will Own the Living Room?
The battle for the living room has begun with cable companies, telcos and search providers, among others, seeking to control the pipe, the programming and the advertising channel to the local audience. Will people hook up their PCs (or Macs) to their TVs? Will telcos succeed in installing IPTV and gaining share versus entrenched cable companies? Or will cable providers, arguably in the dominant position today, extend their dominance in TV to local advertising delivered through the living room?
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  08:44 | permalink | comments [1] | trackbacks [0]



Feb 14 2006
IPTV News Roundup
The video and IPTV news inundation continues. Here is this week's roundup;

--"Punk'd" and "Beauty and the Geek" creators Ashton Kutcher and Jason Goldberg will team up with AOL to deliver five new programs exclusively on AOL.com.

-- ZDNet has an interesting piece on what John Nicol will do for MSN's video and multimedia efforts.

-- Business Week reports on Cisco's move into the IPTV space through this interview with senior vice-president Mike Volpi.

-- This interesting piece from Media Daily News explores the cultural differences that exist between traditional television ad sales, and the new IPTV paradigms emerging.

-- Disney spin-off MovieBeam announced (reg req.) an on-demand service that will make movies available through a special set top box the same day they're released on DVD.

-- Comcast has announced it will add geographically targeted ads to some of its video on demand content.

-- Olympic winning runs and highlights can be seen on the games' official site here.

-- Lastly, A Harris interactive study came out with some interesting numbers on how IPTV is being recognized and anticipated as an attractive alternative to cable and satellite.
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Mike Boland at  13:40 | permalink | comments [1] | trackbacks [1]





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