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Feb 14 2006
A Whole New Kind of Speed Dating II
If anyone is interested to see how last night's TiVo event went that we blogged about on Friday, here is coverage from Thomas Hawk's Digital Connection.
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Mike Boland at  13:24 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [1]



Feb 13 2006
First Signs of Google Click-to-Call
Seth Godin (found via SEW) reports on a Google click-to-call option that is being served up with some sponsored links. He gives an example of sponsored search results that instead of links, include a small phone icon (same icon used to place calls in Google Talk) which can be clicked to open a small Ajax-based window for initiating a call between the user and a business.

A phone number must be entered the first time it is used, but it offers the ability to save that number so subsequent uses are easier (and truer to the term "click-to-call"). To see this in action, note that Godin's says to do a search for "Artisan Hotel" (without geographic modifier). I assume he did this from New York, because when I did this search from San Francisco, I ended up with different search results. The way around this if you are in a location that gives you geographically relevant links that don't include these click-to-call examples, just add a New York zip code, or the words "New York" (or just follow this link). Then you'll see what he's talking about and be able to give it a whirl.

Google appears to be testing it on a limited basis (which we already knew it was doing), but this is the first sign of it. It could be an intriguing cross-platform offering to entice existing AdWords customers, and more notably the large segment of SME advertisers that prefer calls to clicks and currently aren't "sold" on AdWords. On another level it extends Google's growing list of options and platforms offered to local and national advertisers that now include print magazines and radio, and will likely soon involve television or video (look for the company to acquire or develop something similar to Spot Runner soon). From a consumer facing standpoint, the user experience could likewise be groundbreaking given the sheer mass of Google users.

There will be a consumer adoption learning curve however, as there is with most new technologies, and which there certainly is with internet telephony. But it's important to note that this isn�t VoIP, as the click-to-call tool we�re talking about initiates a call between a business and a phone number that a user provides. But it�s certainly a step towards VoIP.

That little green phone icon that signifies click-to-call in these new search results is the very same one that represents a PC-to-PC call when it appears in Google Talk. The search click-to-call could evolve into something similar where instead of a call initiated between a business and a consumer land line, an outbound call is made directly from the user�s computer � building on the technology currently available in Gtalk.

Search as a point of entry into the whole Google experience, could therefore push along the mainstream adoption of VoIP overall because it will show mainstream consumers that VoIP isn�t so scary. This is the very strategy behind introducing VoIP in an IM context, as we pointed out in a recent advisory. Once it becomes mainstream, it can be fully leveraged and monetized across IM, email, search, local, and mapping products. And the advertising models built around click-to-call will be the monetization lever.

In the meantime look for those little green phone icons to start to multiply across the Googleverse.
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Mike Boland at  23:58 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [1]



Feb 13 2006
Windows 'Expo' Replaces 'Fremont'
A little while ago I got a peek at the successor to Microsoft's classifieds marketplace "Fremont." The new site is being called "Expo" and offers a number of advancements and enhancements over the original incarnation of MSN classifieds. It was described as a "locally relevant social marketplace."

My understanding is that site won't go live for a couple of months, which is a bit of a disappointment, but it offers some tantalizing possibilities. It's classifieds + community + chat + maps + personalization. (The site also features local events.)

Windows Live Local maps, including Birds Eye photography, is integrated into Expo, which will be especially relevant in the apartments/homes category. Chat, a really valuable feature, requires both buyer and seller to have MSN Messenger (and could become a promotional tool for Messenger). Microsoft has also integrated Expo with MSN Spaces -- you can present your listings via an icon on your Spaces blog (and there's similar functionality for Messenger).

I was told that Expo listings would be integrated into Live Local and I asked whether the opposite would be true. That is being considered. The business model is contextual advertising from Kanoodle right now; but may include premium placement and/or Craigslist-style charging for selected verticals like Jobs.

Basic listings are free (now standard for online) and they include the ability to add images. The listings set-up process, which requires Passport registration, was pretty simple and fast.

The product will launch in the U.S. but ultimately will be global and will thus compete with eBay's Kijiji sites. But right now Expo has more functionality. The challenge is getting the content and building the user base. But the huge installed Messenger base should jump start that process for Microsoft.

Given all the advanced capabilities and potential content richness it's quite possible that this product could become more popular than Live Local. (There's the beginning of a services directory.) But the opportunity for Microsoft is to integrate the two products to build a kind of "uber-local marketplace" (not very "Web 2.0" I realize), where both local business listings and classifieds information would reside.

That would create more convenience and utility for local users who don't, generally speaking, want to go to one site for this, one site for that and five other sites for the other thing -- if they can get all their needs met in a single location or destination.

For the time, the market share distribution of general Web search seems to be fixed. But local is still in its early stages and there's still lots of opportunity. Apple has proven you don't have to be first to market to become the market leader. So if Microsoft can build a great and complete local product it has a chance to differentiate itself and gain consumer traction, which has to date eluded it in the general search arena.



Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  17:34 | permalink | comments [1] | trackbacks [0]



Feb 10 2006
IPTV Quick Hits
News from the IPTV world continues to come at us with no signs of slowing, as the industry's many moving parts take form. There are content issues with rights and aggregation; technical issues with bandwidth and video delivery; and local and national ad delivery and the valuable targeting that IP technologies enable. These issues will be addressed at the Kelsey Group's Drilling Down on Local Conference in March in this panel;

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?

But for now, here are a few news bits from across the industry.

-- SlingShot Media was founded by former Yahoo! execs to act as a sort of Hollywood talent agency that will bring together talent and content for online and mobile distribution. The company's contacts in both Hollywood, and in the online world are hoped to create value in bringing the right content to the right online distribution channels. Given that content aggregation is an ongoing challenge with IPTV, this middleman or agent type of model could be one that grows (apart from the self published long tail type of content that will have a separate place among the Google Video-type offerings).

-- Videobomb.com has launched with an interesting model that is similar to the online news site digg.com, which places aggregated news items (without human editors) in order of popularity, or hits. The site hasn't been monetized yet but will likely be ad supported in the future.

-- NBC Universal has formed a content partnership with Aeon Digital which has an entirely new model for IPTV delivery. The service requires a one time fee of $299 for a set top box that connects to a broadband line. Users can then access on demand music, television, and movies for an additional fee. It also comes with a built in DVR.

This is somewhat similar to offerings by DaveTV and Akimbo, and like them it will face challenges to survive in IPTV's next generation. When telcos launch their IPTV services later this year, the IPTV world will be divided between their closed system service offerings (video watched on your television with a set top box and a range of channel choices), and video viewed on your computer screen that will encompass most of the long tail content out there.

Services such as Aeon fall somewhere in between, and have deficiencies when stacked up against Telecos and the online aggregators. Their revenue models also aren't as flexible, having only fee based content. Telecos and online aggregators by comparison have existing channels for ad delivery (including targeted and local ad delivery which will be an important attribute of IPTV), and fee based video on demand. As we've said in the past, this flexibility in charging customers will be important in experimenting with revenue models and consumer preferences.

--Lastly, Disney has expanded the video content available disneychannel.com by making full episodes of some kids programming available for free. It will be ad supported and allow advertisers the ability to stream full-length or customized spots next to content. More here
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Mike Boland at  12:10 | permalink | comments [1] | trackbacks [1]



Feb 10 2006
A Whole New Kind of Speed Dating
From the bizzare item of the day dept., TiVo is setting up a promotional event on Monday (close enough to Valentines day), that mixes speed dating and well, TiVo.

The event will match San Francisco singles with "their perfect TV compatable Valentine". Basically this means that they'll wear name tags that list favorite shows, and work the room with a list in hand that indicates who would be a good match for them.

So the idea is that the speed daters can "fast forward" through the crowd to find their TiVo-suggested match. Clever TiVo.

And don't worry, other TiVo trademarks have been worked in for maximum promotional bang for their buck, such as thumbs up and thumbs down stickers that singles can use to privately rate those they meet.

This likely isn't something that will take the dating vertical by storm, but it's a quirky item that's good enough for a laugh on a Friday.

And who knows, television for some is a central part of life and looking for a match that likes the same shows could prove an effective way to meet that special someone. But probably not. We'll see...
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Mike Boland at  11:08 | permalink | comments [1] | trackbacks [0]



Feb 10 2006
Jobs Classifieds: Crossing a Threshold?
It appears that something of a milestone has been reached (if the data are to be believed). According to this survey written up in MediaPost (reg. req'd), the Internet has become the primary hiring vehicle for employers. The research was sponsored by the DirectEmployers Association, "a non-profit consortium of over 200 U.S. employers and operator of the JobCentral.com employment search engine."

The survey reportedly found that the Internet was responsible for "51 percent of all hires in 2005, with the largest source of hires being the employers' own corporate Web sites, while newspaper classified advertisements were the source of only 5 percent of the new hires."

Ouch: bad PR certainly for newspaper classifieds. The NAA forecast that 2006 would see $18.14 billion in print classified revenues in the US. Just like Yellow Pages, the revenue is offline, but the growth is clearly online.

Here's how the survey broke down the distribution of online hiring sources:


  • Corporate Employment Web Sites: 21 percent
  • General Job Boards: 15 percent
  • Niche Job Boards: 6 percent
  • Social Network Web Sites: 5 percent
  • Commercial Resume Databases: 4 percent

These categories are quite broad; I assume that CareeBuilder (owned by newspapers), Monster and HotJobs fall into the "general job boards" category. But it's not clear. Sites like SimplyHired and Indeed, crawl corporate job boards (in addition to other sources) as does Yahoo!'s HotJobs. So there's more complexity probably in the actual market than the survey reflects.

One must always be skeptical of sponsored research (which almost always has an agenda), but directionally at least these results are certainly accurate.

More and more print newspapers (a la the Tribune Co.) will need to start offering "free" classifieds (with upsell opportunities) in order to be competitive. If the perception in the marketplace is that newspaper classifieds no longer "work," (which we may be approaching), there will be a precipitous decline in print classified advertising.

It makes the issue of how newspapers respond to online trends, regarding classifieds in particular, quite urgent.

Classifieds seem to be on everyone's minds these days. I just moderated a panel on classifeds and search and I'll be at the NAA show later this month doing the same. And then again at the Editor & Publisher conference in May.
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  09:17 | permalink | comments [2] | trackbacks [0]



Feb 10 2006
Media Discovers Google 'PrintWords'
The WSJ (sub. req'd) and MediaPost (reg. req'd) today both have articles about the new, public auction of ad placements in major magazines on Google.

We first blogged about it (after a tip from Battelle's blog) here on Wednesday.

From the WSJ article:

Google has been placing ads on behalf of its advertisers in three magazines and the Chicago Sun-Times newspaper in what it has characterized as tests. Last month, it said it would acquire closely held dMarc Broadcasting Inc., a Newport Beach, Calif., company that places ads on radio using an online system similar to Google's.

Google has said it aims to integrate radio-spot buying into its AdWords program. Tim Armstrong, Google's vice president of advertising sales, said that if the print tests prove successful, print-ad buying would eventually be integrated as well. AdWords allows advertisers to bid on keywords, which Google uses to target ads to Web surfers, to set the price they will pay each time a consumer clicks on their ad.

"The hope here is we'll have an integrated format for advertisers and agencies ... across multiple media," he said.

Regarding Google print ads, "we know there's demand both from advertisers, agencies and publishers," Mr. Armstrong said. The current magazine-ad auction will allow Google "to work on the product itself and continue to roll it out and look at the results over time."


Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  09:06 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [2]



Feb 9 2006
Eurekster and MyWeb 2.0.2 Part II
I met with Steven Marder this morning, CEO of Eurekster. These guys were way ahead of the "social search" curve but confused users and the marketplace with their early positioning. People saw them as a complicated Google/Yahoo! competitor.

They're really an enterprise search B2B play that offers site search and more contextually relevant Web search. "Contextual" here means relevant to the user population of the site (teens, moms, sports fans, etc.). They do that with clickstream analysis of aggregate user query behavior. Initially Web search is weighted according to specific business rules, but the engine learns what the group thinks is relevant to particular queries. It's a different relevance paradigm that gets "smarter" over time. But its nature, this is a vertical search engine par excellence.

They get paid on a PPC revenue sharing basis by including Google and/or Yahoo! paid results on search results pages of their publisher partners. And Eurekster has offerings for large publishers and small publishers (e.g., bloggers). The interface of the "buzz cloud" (now a "Web 2.0" standard) is also interesting as a visual search/browse (even advertising) tool.

Marder and I went into their roadmap a bit and there were some interesting possibilities on the advertiser side. He and I talked about local and its complexity, which is on their radar but not in the immediate future.

The "genius" of Eurekster is that it's passive, meaning the engine serves up progressively more relevant results (than general Web search) on the basis of communal search behavior -- without any effort on the part of users.

How does this relate to MyWeb? As Mike points out below, one might infer that MyWeb is growing slowly. One rumor behind the del.icio.us acquisition was that it wasn't about technology but about the gaining the large user community (and perhaps the talent behind it).

I'm a huge fan of MyWeb and use it daily. I find it incredibly useful, but I'm not a mainstream consumer. I'm motivated to use it. But it takes affirmative effort to save and tag the pages (not that much really, but some).

MyWeb, in addition to being a content repository, offers an alternative, human-edited index to Yahoo! search engine users (who are also MyWeb users). Eurekster does a very similar thing but in a way that is totally �passive� and invisible to the user (although it offers none of the "bookmarking" functionality).

Here are my MyWeb wishes:


  • A simpler way to create groups (maybe multiple groups) within MyWeb -- there's an enterprise application waiting to happen here.
  • A way to search within categories/tags for content. The more content you save (I have 1,239 items) the more unwieldy the thing becomes; this would help solve that and make it even more useful.


Despite all the �social bookmarking" buzz there�s a real question about whether sites like Wink and Kaboodle will catch on with mainstream users and become viable (which begs the question of what �viable� means in this context; maybe big enough to be acquired).

The shared knowledge of the community is clearly a powerful asset to these engines/applications. But they need to be very simple and intuitive in order to generate large-scale adoption among what you might call "non-early adopters."
_________

Here's more from the Yahoo! Search Blog.
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  17:33 | permalink | comments [1] | trackbacks [1]





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