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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]



Feb 7 2006
A9's Udi Manber Reportedly Going to Google
A9's CEO (and last year's Drilling Down keynoter), Udi Manber, who famously told me "local search is not a solved problem," is apparently leaving for Google, according to John Battelle.

This is obviously a blow to A9 and raises a big question about its future in my mind. It's got lots of innovative features but almost no consumer traction.

________

Here's Battelle's updated post about it.



Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  17:46 | permalink | comments [2] | trackbacks [2]



Feb 7 2006
Online Influencing Offline
A new forecast adds further fuel to the local shopping fire (sorry). According to this article, Jupiter says:

The amount of money consumers spend online is expected to increase 75 percent by 2010, with the Internet influencing nearly half of all U.S. retail sales ... U.S. consumers are expected to spend $144 billion in 2010 from $81 billion last year ... Spending this year is expected to reach $95 billion.

comScore's full 2005 e-commerce number was $82.7 billion. Yet total U.S. retail spending was more than $3.5 trillion in 2004.

Thus e-commerce is about 2.5% of total U.S. retail spending. But we agree with the thrust of the Jupiter prediction that the Internet will influence an increasingly large number of total transactions (the overwhelming majority of which will be local/offline in physical stores).
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  15:36 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]



Feb 7 2006
Video Game Ad Placement Takes a Step Forward II
Advertising in video games has been on our long-term radar screen. It will take a while before it has relevance to local, but it's an interesting area where a lot of development is happening, and where an ad revenue stream could offset faltering revenue growth in the video game industry.

The latest news from the field is that in-game ad placement firm IGA has raised $12 million in Series A funding. The company places ads in computer and video games using its own ad network. A great deal will be told from the successes and failures of such early entrants in this space, in terms of market dynamics and sustainable business models. We'll continue to watch them closely for any signs of local ad models.
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Mike Boland at  12:56 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]



Feb 7 2006
Barriers to Mobile Adoption
Here's a long eWeek piece raising the question, "When o when will users take to the mobile Web in earnest?" Indeed, until they do there can be no effective mass mobile marketing.

My belief is that the user experiences that drive real adoption will determine what ad models ultimately work in a mobile context.

According to Forrester's data (cited in the article): 65,000 U.S. households, some 15 percent of mobile services subscribers accessed the Internet from their devices in 2005, compared to only 6 percent in 2004.

At that rate we're years away from any meaningful adoption. But there are lots of mobile marketing initiatives going on now. That's why we've set up the panel "Mobile Ads That Work Today" at Drilling Down '06:

Mobile Ads That Work Today
We keep hearing about wireless/mobile advertising and its potential. But The Kelsey Group argues that potential can�t be realized until there�s substantially more usage to create real value for those marketers. It�s a version of the chicken-and-egg problem of local search two years ago. MSN�s Erik Jorgensen said at ILM:05 that the majority of local search may be conducted on wireless devices in the future. In the meantime, how are carriers, device makers and ad networks dealing with the many challenges of the current wireless environment? Are there ad models that will actually work today or next year, and what sort of user experience will make them viable?

_________

Here's third-party data compiled by eMarketer on mobile usage in Japan and Asia. Of interest is that 76 percent of Japanese wireless users access the Web over their mobile phones. However, there may be cultural and historical factors here that prevent direct extrapolation to the European and, especially, U.S. markets.

Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  09:07 | permalink | comments [1] | trackbacks [0]



Feb 7 2006
'Social Search' and 'Review Fraud'
As user reviews and other forms of user-generated content become a bigger phenomenon online so does the prospect of what might be called "review fraud." Word of Mouth guru Pete Blackshaw of the newly formed Nielsen BuzzMetrics points me to an article in The N.Y. Times (reg. req'd) on review fraud in the travel industry and specifically with hotel reviews.

Recently Judy's Book introduced what it calls "TrustScore" to address this potential problem.

Having some system in place (that isn't too Byzantine) to ensure the integrity of reviews is going to be important as more marketers try and "game the system."

Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  07:34 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]





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