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Feb 17 2006
More on the Olympics and Online
There are a few interesting posts on the Lost Remote blog today that relate to our post yesterday about online vs. traditional broadcasting of the Olympic games. Read them here and here.
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Mike Boland at  16:34 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]



Feb 17 2006
Broadband: Growing but Slowing?
Here's a roundup of data by aggregator eMarketer on broadband adoption � now pegged at 61 percent of U.S. households, according to Ipsos. eMarketer summarizes that price is the major barrier to continued penetration in the U.S. market:

According to a new survey from the Yankee Group, the most common reason US consumers don't subscribe to broadband is that it's too expensive. Despite promotional price cuts for DSL (which often cover slower connection speeds and eventually expire, shooting the price up), broadband is more costly than dial-up, especially for truly high speeds. Presumably, dial-up consumers have little need for tasks beyond e-mail, IM and simple Web browsing, which are doable through broadband, and want to keep their monthly expenses low. Price isn't the only factor. More than 30% of consumers say that they just don't want broadband, and about 14% say they feel dial-up is adequate for their needs. Less than 10% are not able to get broadband access in their area.

However, municipal Wi-Fi efforts aim to provide no- or low-cost high-speed access to urban areas throughout the country. According to this article about municipal Wi-Fi in Boston:

In its 40-page report, the Boston Foundation further said: "Respected technology companies like Earthlink, Google, and Hewlett-Packard are extremely interested in partnering with local government to come to Boston to build a low-cost or no-cost system capable of providing affordable and reliable service." ... The question is no longer whether Boston is going to build a citywide Wi-Fi network, but rather how and when," the report, released Wednesday, stated.

And here's information on Chicago's new effort.

All the Internet consumer trends that TKG studies and writes about are tied to broadband adoption in one way or another (local search, the impact of online on newspaper and directory usage, VoIP adoption, etc.). That's why this question of how much more deeply BB will penetrate (and when) is of critical interest and importance. Companies such as Earthlink and search engines such as Yahoo! and Google recognize that they benefit from increased penetration and so are interested in facilitating access. (Yahoo! has DSL relationships with almost all the major telcos.)

For all these reasons, the first panel of our Drilling Down event is:

The Broadband Juggernaut: Slowing Down or Speeding Up?
High-speed Internet access is the backbone of the new consumer paradigm. It took a decade for broadband to reach �critical mass� in the U.S. Now we are witnessing the disruptive effects for traditional media and potentially for some newer technologies as well. While some predict broadband is slowing, others believe competition and new initiatives (e.g., municipal Wi-Fi) and technologies could drive high-speed access to nearly 100 percent penetration in the next several years. Which version of the future is correct? This panel will debate the potential scenarios and look outside the U.S. to higher-speed markets to see what the future might hold.

On that panel will be:

  • Chuck Haas, CEO, Metrofi
  • Om Malik, Senior Writer, Business 2.0 Magazine
  • David Payne, Director of Development, Earthlink Municipal Networks
  • Brian Jurutka, Director of Marketing Solutions, comScore
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  10:19 | permalink | comments [1] | trackbacks [1]



Feb 17 2006
Women.com: Taking Verticals Too Far?
When people have asked me about "vertical search" and the associated opportunity, I've argued that there is an opportunity but it's mixed. Because the general search market is locked up right now we're seeing a ton of companies offering a more specialized content experience with search as the hook or angle. It's also the case that some sites can offer something richer and deeper to users, as well as potentially more qualified leads to advertisers than come from traditional search engines.

Fundamentally, however, people cannot remember all these sites and don't want to have to. That's why search engines remain popular; they're the "front door" or gateway to all this content.

Some sites, such as the recently launched Healthline.com, are a mix of structured, proprietary content and broader Web search in a category specific area. Simply Hired and Indeed are examples of vertical search in the Jobs category. By contrast, I wouldn't call Cars.com a vertical search site. It's a vertical directory site with highly structured fields and content and it doesn't offer anything from the broader Internet. I would also not call TheKnot.com a vertical search site, though it uses search-based navigation.

Confused? Have another cup of coffee. Let's get away from all this semantic mumbo jumbo for a moment.

According to this blurb in PaidContent, iVillage plans to soon relaunch and rebrand as Women.com (a site/URL it bought for many many millions some time ago). According to quoted remarks from the earnings call:

"We anticipate launching the new search at the end of the second quarter 2006. Our objective with Search for Women is to enhance and further customize our users and advertisers experience by participating in the so-called vertical search marketplace ... this new product will allow us to promote iVillage brand by blanketing the Internet with add campaign promoting Search for the Women's Intuition."

PaidContent questions the move: "It will be branded 'Search for Women,' whatever that means."

Precisely: What does that mean? It might effectively mean nothing and be a dismal failure. It might simply be a branding/marketing ploy.

However, let's assume that this isn't simply a marketing ploy and that the new Women.com is going to try to provide a better Web-search experience for women in general � a daunting task given how broad a category "women" is. And calling "search for women" vertical search almost renders the term "vertical search" meaningless. (I make the same argument when people say Local is a vertical.)

Yet women are arguably the most important constituency online. They are driving e-commerce and online shopping and they're the ones writing the reviews on Judy's Book and InsiderPages and engaging in the "social networking" activities, much more so than men.

So trying to grab the attention � and some of the wallet � of this group is wise. But what will Women.com provide (assuming again that it's Web search for women) that Google, Yahoo!, MSN, AOL, Ask or InfoSpace/DogPile cannot?

I believe iVillage is working on that with Eurekster (I'm not 100 percent certain). After my meeting with Eurekster CEO Steven Marder, I recently wrote about about the company here:

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.

Women.com, using Eurekster's engine/algorithm, at least in theory does offer a potentially differentiated search experience � one that is hypothetically more relevant because it's less "generic� and based on aggregated user behavior. So there is at least a potential value proposition here with some meaning (assuming I'm right about the relationship).

But whether Women.com could become something like the "Google for Women" is another story entirely. (My words not theirs.) That's a hugely ambitious proposition. Let's see when iVillage relaunches in the second quarter.
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  08:40 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]



Feb 16 2006
Video Launch Roundup
Here is yet another roundup of broadband video channel launches.
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Mike Boland at  17:41 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]



Feb 16 2006
Will The Olympics Go the Way of Live 8?
This USA Today piece explains that Olympics video content is perfect for online distribution. Much like the Live 8 event that AOL covered online to much acclaim, the Olympic games are filled with simultaneous events that happen sometimes on the other side of the globe. Some events only appeal to niche audiences � like the biathlon � and some viewers want to watch entire events rather than chopped-up retrospectives of each day�s events interspersed with montages, inspirational segments and Bob Costas.

So with the recent explosion in demand and media coverage of Web-delivered video, why don't we have all the Olympic events streamed Live 8 style to our desktops? (Some clips and highlights are currently available on nbcolympics.com, and live streaming video is available only in France and the U.K.) Well, NBC's broadcast rights compel the network to protect its television advertising. Remember, Live 8 rights were divided between AOL and MTV. And AOL had no conflict or worry of cannibalizing an offline channel or business model � only that of MTV, which of course belongs to a different media empire.

As an aside, CBS has made an interesting move along these lines by announcing it will webcast NCAA tournament games (perfect content for Internet distribution because of simultaneous games and all the other reasons stated above), despite the fact that it is the very network that will carry (and always has) the television rights. We blogged about it here.

Back to the Olympics: Comprehensive online coverage would have to happen with either NBC deciding the benefits will outweigh the loss in television viewers/ad dollars (fear of cannibalization) or the rights being restructured to include online and offline channels � a la Live 8. The latter is more likely, as it could bring the Olympics more money in rights distribution, but it won't happen until 2012 when NBC's current contract expires.

When that day comes, all the curling and biathlon fans out there can look forward to watching their events in their entirety and on demand. The pull aspect to this kind of viewing will also allow for better targeting and local advertising opportunities than is available from an NBC broadcast.
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Mike Boland at  16:51 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]



Feb 16 2006
Yahoo! Search Marketing Event
Search Engine Journal covers the upcoming Yahoo Search Marketing Searchlight Awards in N.Y. The program is highlighting the innovative work of agencies that have combined traditional campaigns with search marketing.

I'll be racing from the Newspaper Association of America show in Orlando to N.Y. to be one of the "industry expert panelists" at the Yahoo! event. I was somewhat surprised and flattered to be asked to be on the panel. It promises to be interesting and fun.

YSM's Ron Belanger, the organizer, likened the format of the event to "American Idol," though I'm sure it won't be as acerbic.



Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  14:00 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]



Feb 16 2006
Office Live to Offer Free SME Sites
Like Yahoo! before it, Microsoft is now offering free basic Web sites to local/small businesses.

I haven't set one up so I don't know how "robust" it is compared with what Yahoo! offers. It's pretty clearly a kind of "foot in the door" strategy to get SMEs on board.

I've long believed that free Web sites could be an effective channel or way to get small businesses into paid search and other online marketing. It has to be both simple to set up and professional looking. Once the site is established, then there's a potential upsell opportunity.

Web hosting is quickly becoming a commodity business, although switching is painful and inertia (especially at the SME level) probably means there isn't a lot of churn.
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  13:31 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]



Feb 16 2006
Podcasting and Local Music
SiliconBeat blogs about Podbop, a site that combines podcasting and local. It allows you to hear podcasts of bands that are playing in the local market. One can search by artist or location. The site links to Eventful.com, which provides the venue information.

Local events are a relatively still undeveloped area online � probably a feature or RSS-based feed rather than a stand-alone application or destination in my view. Along those lines Yahoo! not long ago acquired Upcoming.org. And IAC's Evite has pushed into local events as well.

Jambase is another local music events and community site.
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  10:47 | permalink | comments [1] | trackbacks [0]





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