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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
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]



Mar 12 2006
Knight Ridder Goes to McClatchy
After much handwringing and anticipation, The N.Y. Times (reg. req'd) is reporting that "Knight Ridder, the second-largest newspaper company in the United States, agreed Sunday night to sell itself for about $4.5 billion in cash and stock to the McClatchy Company ... Under the terms of the deal, McClatchy agreed to pay about $67 a share in cash and stock for Knight Ridder, these people said. About 60 percent of the payment will be in cash, while the rest will be in McClatchy shares."

A much smaller entity, McClatchy gets some new Internet assets (i.e., Topix.net and ShopLocal) -- both McClatchy and Knight Riddder are part of Classified Ventures � and Knight Ridder stays with newspaper owners. Had private equity bought it I shudder to think what might have happened � slash and burn. (I may have spoken too soon as McClatchy plans to sell the Knight Ridder "flagships.")

McClatchy's Sacramento Bee (its flagship) has been experimenting with a directory collaboration at Sacramento.com (powered by PremierGuide). While newspaper-directory alliances aren't really viable except in isolated pockets, and Sacramento.com isn't perfect (and it's not the SacBee site), it's much closer to what I believe the newspapers should be doing to compete in local search than what most of them currently are.

It will be interesting to watch the Internet strategy evolve as McClatchy takes the helm of Knight Ridder. (The San Jose Mercury News folks clearly are diappointed by the plans to sell it and other CA newspapers.)

___________

Related: The Newspaper Assn. America reported that Q4 print ad spending was flat, while online ad spending at newspaper sites was strong. According to the NAA, "spending for print ads in newspapers totaled $13.7 billion, up 0.4 percent versus the same period a year earlier, while ad spending online continued its double-digit growth in the fourth quarter, increasing by 32.5 percent from the same period a year ago to $552 million."

Here's the release, which breaks out spending by category.




Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  23:06 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]



Mar 12 2006
MySpace Messenger
A new IM product is coming from MySpace (what isn't?). This is according to a post today from Om Malik. Here are the pages on MySpace. AOL is the IM leader, followed by Yahoo! and MSN, with Google a distant fourth. MySpace IM could ramp pretty quickly because the site has such critical mass among the IM demographic. It represents a potentially powerful ad/promotional vehicle for Fox � we'll see.

According to a late 2004 study (now likely outdated), the folks at Pew found that more than four in 10 online Americans IM, for a population then of about 53 million in the U.S. About one-fourth then used IM at work.

Paradoxically there's momentum toward interoperability, but launches like MySpace IM also point to general resistance toward open IM (not withstanding alliances like Yahoo!-MSN) and reflect an effort to maintain a "walled garden" around users. Companies such as Meebo are trying to address (leverage) the proliferation of incompatible IM systems while they're still incompatible. Now they can add MySpace to the list.

Here are some November 2005 data on IM trends/usage from an AOL-commissioned study. The research found that 38 percent of online consumers are sending as many (or more) IMs than e-mails. One-third of IM users send mobile IMs or text messages from their cellphones at least once a week. And, generally, IM usage is trending upward.

Google has merged IM and e-mail and I would expect to see all the majors do so. The distinctions between IM and e-mail are somewhat artificial anyway.

Expect a mobile version of MySpace IM to be rolled out quickly.
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  22:33 | permalink | comments [1] | trackbacks [0]



Mar 12 2006
'Nichification' of Video
This Saul Hansell article from The N.Y. Times (reg. req'd) does a nice survey of some of the trends in online and offline video. The world of niche TV (don't say "long tail") is coming and search engines � if they get their acts together � look to figure prominently in organizing what will be an explosion of video online. Last year we wrote about the transformation of TV from a mass medium into one that would have to rely increasingly on targeting to deliver value to advertisers.

TV (even cable) will be fighting for audiences in the years to come. It's going to be fascinating to watch.

At the upcoming Drilling Down event, we'll be exploring this fragmentation of traditional media audiences. In particular, the following session will address the fragmentation of TV/video:

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?
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  07:05 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [1]



Mar 11 2006
eBay Invests in Community Site Meetup.com
eBay (among several others) has invested in local community site Meetup.com. Here's more detail, from a recent article in BusinessWeek:

Founded in 2002, Meetup first gained national attention for launching Howard Dean's brief Presidential candidacy during the 2004 elections. The site had 54,000 Meetup groups listed last May, when it began charging a small subscription fee of up to $19 monthly to sponsor the groups. Since then the number of groups has dropped to just over 10,000.

In addition to eBay, the Omidyar Network, Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Esther Dyson, Allen & Co. and Sen. Bill Bradley have collectively obtained a 10% equity interest. Given the proliferation of "social media" sites, I would expect to see a roll-up or other consolidation in the space in the not-too-distant future.

Here's the Meetup release (scroll).

Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  19:43 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]



Mar 10 2006
Interchange for Sale?
According to this Reuters article:

Interchange Corp., owner of search engine Local.com, said on Tuesday that it has retained investment banking firm Merriman Curhan Ford & Co. to assist in reviewing strategic alternatives available to the company in connection with its national search business.

The article says "national" search business � not local. We'll investigate.
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  20:19 | permalink | comments [2] | trackbacks [0]





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