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Mar 15 2006
Activity in Redmond
There's tons of stuff going on over at Microsoft. I can't keep track of it all. So ... Search Engine Journal has updates here (video), here (Office Live's ad strategy) and here (MSN building ad network on internal sites).

Here's the Windows Live Local/Virtual Earth blog. And the Live main blog/site LiveSide.

In addition, this week the folks in Redmond are hosting an online Small Business Summit. But as far as I can tell from looking at the agenda, there isn't anything really practical on online advertising and marketing. It seems to be almost entirely about selling software. Yet wouldn't this be a perfect time to introduce AdCenter and other marketing vehicles from MSFT to small businesses? That content seems to be entirely absent ... Strange.
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  05:21 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]



Mar 14 2006
The Mapping Space Race
Om Malik reports on Google's acquisition of 3-D rendering company @Last Software, which owns SketchUp. He also asks what it means for Google. In a word: maps.

Here's the company's Google Earth plug in. Google Earth already does rudimentary 3-D rendering of cities. Companies like GeoSim are already well under way in developing rich 3-D maps of cities for online implementation. And Microsoft is heavily investing in the same thing � even though the mainstream user population is still at driving directions. SketchUp may in fact become Google's answer to Windows Live Local's bird's-eye photography.

When you get rich 3-D mapping up and running on the Internet, there are all kinds of use cases and ad opportunities. Real estate or hotels/travel are two examples that come immediately to mind.

Here's what Google has to say about it. Here's what SketchUp has to say.
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  17:12 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]



Mar 14 2006
Google Appears to Lose to Justice Dept.
According to this Associated Press story (reg. req'd), U.S. District Judge James Ware indicated that he is going to order Google to comply with at least part of the Bush admin's request to turn over search records.

Yahoo!, AOL and MSN previously voluntarily complied to varying degrees with the same government requests. If the Bush administration were not in fact Big Brother, this ruling might not be such a concern. But given the administration's track record (i.e., domestic spying and lying about it), there may be some fallout for search engines, if people "grok" the implications.

According to a recent University of Connecticut survey, most Americans disapprove of the government gaining access to search engine user behavior. And 51% of respondents said that they were not confident that their search behaviors would remain private in the future.

While this won't affect basic search user behaviors (e.g., "iPod," "indian restaurants, Manhattan") it may significantly affect plans like GDrive that have major privacy implications.

_____

Here's the WSJ (sub req'd) story.

eMarketer reports (via MediaPost) that consumers are "extremely" concerned about online privacy.
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  15:52 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]



Mar 14 2006
Time and Money
I didn�t listen in on the analyst call that McClatchy CEO Gary B. Pruitt held yesterday, but there must have been some chuckles when, according to The N.Y. Times, �Mr. Pruitt, tried to persuade his listeners that newspapers remained vital parts of peoples� lives. He said that while 90.7 million people watched the Super Bowl, on that Sunday 124 million read newspapers.� Yes, well sure, and 175 million people had breakfast.

The fact is that newspapers are important to tens of millions of people, as is watching television, listening to the radio or using telephone directories. eMarketer reports today that we watched an hour more of television per week in 2005 than in 2004 and 14 more hours a week than in 1975. But we all know network ratings are declining because people have a lot more choices today than they used to.

Bridge Ratings completed a survey that found commuters who drive an hour or more a day and use their phones in the car listen to the radio 26 minutes a day now compared with 32 minutes a day in 2003. That 28 percent decline was matched by a 29 percent increase in in-car cellphone usage.

The message is not complicated, but it is subtle. The vast majority of us have a limited amount of money and we all have a finite amount of time. Consumers will balance their time and their money and use them both in ways that best provide for their information and entertainment needs.

At the Drilling Down on Local conference to be held March 26-28, this is one of the topics we will explore:

Mass Media to MyMedia: Profiling the New �On-Demand� Consumer
Each day it becomes more apparent that the Internet, on-demand video, wireless phones and iPods are creating a new global and local media universe � one that is highly personalized, customizable and not tied to time, place or even a single medium. The Kelsey Group will present new consumer research that outlines this emerging consumer paradigm and discuss the most significant implications for advertisers (national and local) as they try to reach these new, more empowered consumers.
Greg Sterling, Program Director, Interactive Local Media, The Kelsey Group

Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  John Kelsey at  12:54 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]



Mar 14 2006
Vast.com Launches
I got a chance to get a quick preview and overview of Vast.com yesterday. What is Vast? On first blush it's yet another free classifieds site, joining an already extremely crowded field. But if one looks closer it's much more interesting than that.

Naval Ravikant, the CEO and founder � he also founded Epinions.com � doesn't want to be a consumer destination and says, "I won't spend a dime on marketing." Like Edgeio, Vast can "pick up" listings from blogs but it also obtains data from the large aggregators (e.g., Cars.com, CareerBuilder) and � this is critical, according to Ravikant � the "vast" middle range of sites (e.g., individual Realtor sites) whose content typically doesn't make it into conventional aggregators' listings.

Ravikant called this realm "the middle tail." But you shouldn't think about Vast as a classifieds site. Think of it as a vertical-local search site. More categories, beyond typical classifieds, will be rolled out in the near future.

The entire site is based on crawling, with dynamically generated and contextually relevant navigation. Here's an example of Audis in my ZIP code. What Vast, as well as sites like Openlist.com, start to show is that crawling can create structure out of unstructured Web content. This makes potentially possible a whole new generation of local search sites.

Ravikant has a monetization stategy based on premium placement. But he says he has a long time horizon and a slow burn rate. Beyond the crawling strategy, which isn't yet perfected Ravikant admits, the really interesting thing is what you can do with Vast's API. It allows anyone � whether a blogger or a large publisher � to take a vertical index and plug it into a Web site. That would include the monetization when it kicks in.

That means, say, as an individual Realtor (assuming I had the chops to implement) that I could list all the homes for sale in my territory or a larger geography by tapping into Vast's API. Vast makes huge amounts of content immediately available, either horizontally or vertically, to anyone who wants to publish that content.

Vast will be a site and a company to watch both for its technology and capabilities, as well as it's "attitude." There's more to say, as always ...

_________

Per John Battelle . . . a classifieds roundup by Gary Price of Ask (formerly SEW).

More on Vast from Paul Kedrosky.
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  12:10 | permalink | comments [2] | trackbacks [0]



Mar 13 2006
DoubleClick Study Confirms 'Generic' Search Behavior
This N.Y. Times (reg. req'd) piece summarizes the findings of a recent DoubleClick survey of paid search and user behavior trends. Here's where you can download the report. Basically it confirms DoubleClick's finding in 2004 and separate comScore findings in the same year that reveal the volume of search queries are at the "category" level. Brand terms convert better and are used later in the "purchase cycle" but represent a minority of search queries. The earlier surveys suggested that roughly 75 percent of traffic is based on these "generic" or category terms (e.g., "digital camera," "notebook computer"), while less than a quarter of traffic is focused on brands or trademarked terms. These latest DoubleClick data reflect an even lower percentage of brand search queries (18 percent).

The irony is that the searches on the brand terms are "direct response" type lookups, while the "category" searches are brand advertising opportunities. This is why search may in fact be much more of a brand advertising medium than people had believed.

What we're calling the new "purchase funnel" is a lot more "ugly" and complex than marketers want to believe. This may even be more the case in local lookups, where a fragmented universe, offline media and word of mouth figure heavily � as does search. We'll try to get at some of that behavior in the Drilling Down panel "The New �Purchase Funnel�: Online Shopping, Offline Conversions."
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  16:42 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]



Mar 13 2006
Yell Pursuing TPI
A Reuters report today reveals that Britain's Yell Group has taken formal steps toward submitting a bid for the 60 percent stake in the Spanish publisher Telefonica Publicidad e Informacion currently owned by Telefonica. Yell has retained Goldman Sachs to advise it on the potential bid. You can read the Reuters item here.

If this takes place, it would be a departure for Yell, which has focused all of its acquisition energy and capital on enlarging its U.S. directory business, Yellow Book. However, Yell has in the past indicated a willingness to look at deals on the European continent as well.

TPI is also expected to attract bids from private equities, which have not lost their fervor for directory deals. Less clear is the degree to which France's PagesJaunes is interested in the deal.

TPI, which reported 2005 group revenues of 654 million euros, is the leading publisher in Spain with directory operations in Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Puru, and a competitive DA operation in Italy.

Yell is the market leader in the U.K. and the largest independent publisher in the United States. It also contends with a rate cap in the U.K. that does not appear to be going away any time soon. This may help explain its interest in finding new acquisition targets.

Blog: Global Yellow Pages Blog
 
posted by  Charles Laughlin at  11:42 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]



Mar 13 2006
Interesting U.K. SME Survey
A Web-hosting firm in the U.K., Fasthosts, conducted an online survey of 2,000 U.K. small businesses in January and February (as a marketing vehicle for its own services). Indeed, one must always take such surveys with a "grain of salt" because the respondents are typically self-selected. Yet the results of the survey are interesting. The survey offers several conclusions about small-business behavior online. But what's far more intriguing is the consumer behavior that it reflects � and confirms.

Again, I don't want to put too much emphasis on this, but the survey confirms that most people don't go beyond the first or second page of search results. A third of respondents said they drill down "three pages or more." However, I'm skeptical about people accurately reporting their behavior; I believe they view far fewer results than that (see Enquiro's "heatmaps" research). (Microsoft's new Live.com site uses Ajax to avoid the concept of clicking on pages entirely.)

The market-share numbers the survey reveals are striking:
  1. Google � 89%
  2. Yahoo! � 6%
  3. Ask � 3%
  4. MSN � 2%
By contrast Hitwise reported that Google UK and Google.com together are responsible for 70% of U.K. Internet searches. MSN.co.uk Search, in second place according to Hitwise, had an 8% share.

We have long believed that SME behavior, when they act as consumers, is a leading indicator of their future behavior as advertisers. But the discrepancy between the heavy search-engine user behavior and the fact that "49% of respondents admitted that they do not submit their website to search engines" is consistent with the confusion and inertia about online marketing that still permeates the small-business marketplace.
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  09:43 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]





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