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Mar 10 2006
MySpace PR: It Just Keeps Getting Worse
If you're too successful then the media starts looking closely to find your warts. MySpace joins a long list of companies now feeling the real heat of negative press after a kind of Icarus climb to the sun. After many glowing industry stories about page views and time on site, etc., JupiterResearch came out and said that MySpace traffic/counts were inflated. Then the mainstream media backlash began. To date that's been focused on stalkers and pedophiles using MySpace to target potential victims.

But now comes this story about how MySpace (and other networking sites) are being used to plan potential terrorist attacks. I'm not talking here about whether the underlying facts are true. I'm discussing the downward PR spiral that now seems to have MySpace firmly in its grip. So far it hasn't hurt the site's usage. But too much more negative press may hurt it as a potential promotional vehicle for Fox or brands that may want to get at its youthful audience.

There's been considerable talk of the risks of associating brands with user-generated content and social networks. They're unpredictable and volatile unlike traditional media. But the danger now for Fox and other potential advertisers is that MySpace becomes permanently associated with all this unseemly activity (regardless of whether the underlying allegations are factually correct).

This is a fascinating thing to watch from my point of view.

_________

Here's a Vanity Fair piece on the founders and the history of MySpace. It's generally flattering.

Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  11:52 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]



Mar 10 2006
New Borrell Data on Local
Borrell put out its own new local search projections (covered in MediaPost here):

[P]aid search spending by local businesses will continue to grow for the next several years, climbing to 1.7 billion in 2007 and reaching $4 billion by 2010 � at which time it will account for 47 percent of local online advertising.

Whenever people start talking about local search they need to start with definitions. In fairness it's difficult for me to comment on the predictions and assumptions because I'm only reading an article on the report. But with that disclaimer ... The Kelsey Group local search (geotargeted search, Internet YP and mobile local search) forecast is $6.167 billion by 2010. If you fold in classifieds, (which is part of the same user behavior) our forecast grows to $9.9 billion in 2010. We don't include geotargeted display ads in this forecast or locally targeted ads that may appear on verticals (although the classifieds aspect does capture a good deal of this).

One of the things many people don't fully understand is the enormous complexity of the local market "on the ground" and the fragmented and complex consumer behavior patterns associated with local/offline buying.

Here's an interesting discussion from the MediaPost article:

To analyze the current state of local search advertising, Borrell researchers examined more than 2,100 paid links to appear on Google and Yahoo queries for city-related keywords � such as, for example, "Des Moines real estate." About 36 percent of such pay-per-click links were from local advertisers � up from 5.6 percent 18 months ago.

Search adoption varied by industry, with local real estate agents especially big users of search marketing. Nearly 50 percent of pay-per-click links in the real estate category were from local advertisers � up from 17.5 percent 18 months ago. At the low end of the spectrum, 28 percent of pay-per-click results in the local hotel space came from local advertisers.


I'm going to assume the accuracy of what the article says. Real estate is an especially interesting category for local businesses and is something of a leading indicator of future trends. But real estate may also be exceptional. It's a truly local business with limited "national" competition. And generally speaking you're not going to see a phenomenon of local businesses going straight to Google, Yahoo! or MSN in large numbers in the near future (over the long term all bets are off). You may see it in pockets and there are verticals and local markets in which the sophisticated local advertiser has the money and incentive to outbid a national aggregator or competitor.

Most of the search volume is at the "category level," which doesn't permit local advertisers to compete because the nationals will gobble up the meaningful, available inventory (which is quite limited). In the "tail," locals can compete more effectively for inventory � and those clicks convert better too. But most local small businesses will need to rely on third-party "enablers" (e.g., YP, newspapers, verticals, Web hosts) to get them into search results (whether organic or paid). They can't, won't or don't want to become search-engine marketers. Certainly we can point to exceptions � the upholsterer who pores over his site analytics � but this statement is true in the aggregate.

So while you may see lots more local ads on Google, Yahoo! and MSN (because they're more targeted and convert better) don't expect those ads to be dominated by small businesses any time soon.

Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  09:51 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [1]



Mar 10 2006
Google and MSFT
My colleague Mike Boland and I were up in Redmond yesterday. We were there to discuss local and various trends in the markets we cover. At lunch there was some casual discussion about project Origami, which "launched" today. Here's more information. And here's a photo.

Getting the right form factor is one piece of the mobile-local search puzzle. We don't really cover hardware but we watch the "space" because if there's a device that offers a great user experience in mobile it may help local search on mobile devices take off. There's all kinds of conflicting information about whether consumers want a single device that does everything or whether they're happy with separate devices � e.g., phones for calling, other devices for e-mail/Web access.

It's challenging for one device to do everything equally well (people have complained about the voice quality of some versions of the Treo for example). But as someone who has traveled quite a bit lately it would be great to have a single item that was a phone, could access e-mail and offered an "on the go" PC replacement option.

Meanwhile Google does buy online word processor Writely. Clearly it's intended to be a Word alternative on the Web (and consistent with the larger GDrive discussion). Here's an excerpt from the WSJ (sub. req'd) this morning:

The Internet search company said that it has bought closely held Upstartle LLC, whose Writely.com service lets users create, edit and share documents online. Terms weren't disclosed. Upstartle, based in Portola Valley, Calif., has four employees and was founded in late 2004.

The acquisition is part of Google's push into areas that compete with Microsoft. Google, of Mountain View, Calif., has used advertising revenue from Internet searches to support a host of free online services and software such as its Gmail e-mail service and Google Earth mapping software. Those services, in turn, are designed to attract more consumers onto its Web site and pull in more advertising.

To date, Google has played down speculation that it would extend that strategy to word processing and other services that compete with Microsoft's core personal-computer software business. The Upstartle deal is a step in that direction.

The Writely service has a spell checker and other features found on standard word-processing software such as Microsoft's Word, a part of the Office suite of programs installed on PCs. The difference is that Writely can be used by anyone with a Web browser, and it requires installation of no other software.
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  09:34 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]



Mar 9 2006
Google Adds Demo Targeting to AdWords
One of the big benefits and differentiators of MSN's new adCenter product was to be the metrics/targeting surrounding demographics and other information on consumers that it plans to offer to advertisers. Now Google has added demographic targeting in addition to its other options.

Here's more from Andrew Goodman and the Search Engine Watch Blog (with lots of information about the targeting capabilities). Goodman says it's more about site selection than true demographic targeting at this point:

Essentially what this means is an improved functionality for the site selection tool, only applicable to content targeting of the "site targeting" variety. It's not a major foray into targeting search ads by demographics, then (yet).

SEW speculates that this is intended to preempt adCenter, which was slated to begin an open sign-up on Monday.
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  07:10 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]



Mar 9 2006
Yahoo! Shines a Light on Subtleties of Search
I'm late writing about this but before SES I was in New York as a panelist in Yahoo!'s first Search Light Award event. It brought together four finalist ad agencies to show how they'd integrated search marketing into their broader campaigns and to discuss and answer questions about their efforts.

The event was organized by Yahoo!'s Ron Belanger, formerly of Carat. iMedia's Kevin Ryan has a very detailed write-up of the event here. The winner was RPA Interactive for its Honda Element campaign (I voted for this one but they still didn't give me the car).

This event was great and helped bring together a number of things for me and send me down a path toward more "nuanced" thinking about search and how consumers interact with it � and some of the implications for marketers.

Search has historically been perceived as a direct response medium. More recently there's been a great deal of talk about it being a "branding" medium. Some skeptics believe this is merely a ploy to lure ad budgets online. Some time ago I tried to characterize it as something in between true awareness and direct response. Two older, relevant posts along those lines here and here (forgive the formatting problems).

In my observation, a majority of the folks at SES still want to see search marketing as direct response; it's a much less complicated animal that way. Also, tracking and ROI are more straightforward in that context. But in fact search and the way consumers interact with it is much more dynamic and complex. Here's a previous post about how local and national campaigns can serve both direct response and branding objectives based upon user behavior and the different stages of the "buying cycle" they appeal to.

The "integrated" campaigns presented at the Yahoo! Searchlight event really helped demonstrate to me the way that search often sits in the middle between some stimulus (traditional marketing) and a buying decision that happens elsewhere (usually locally, in the real world). Yet measuring the efficacy of search as a quasi branding tool is fundamentally challenging and figuring out what happens "after the click" is also challenging. Indeed, search doesn't get credit for all the transactions it actually affects because the tracking isn't being done (one of the reasons calls are important).

But back to the campaigns. Two of the finalists, Chase and Honda, were actually able to create search "inventory" by building search campaigns around unique elements in their traditional creative � terms that no one was bidding for but them. This was a very significant "takeaway" for me. Rather than having to relentlessly bid on "credit card," Chase was able to stimulate consumer searches for unique terms that appeared in its print ad campaign that no other company was competing for and thus were cheap by comparison. The implications of this are immediate and obvious.

And there were many more interesting aspects to the event and the campaigns presented. Another thing to think about is how brand and direct response marketers might soon be bidding against each other for the same terms but with different objectives and ROI calculations. Very interesting to consider.

One thing that is now clear about the Internet and search in particular: Consumers hear/read about or see something and they immediately or ultimately wind up online looking for more information. Where do they typically start? Search engines. That's not going to change soon and it's true even if it's just to plug a company name into the toolbar or search box to go directly to a site (essentially a White Pages lookup).

Rather than fear search, traditional marketers need to see search as an inevitable part of consumer behavior and leverage that behavior to maximize and extend the value of their traditional campaigns. If they don't their competitors will.


Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  07:00 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]



Mar 9 2006
Web Bests TV in the U.K.
Here's a MediaPost write-up (reg. req'd) of data from a piece of TNS research in the U.K. that shows people (almost all ages) are spending somewhat more time online than watching TV:

The study, based on a February survey of 1030 British residents between the ages of 16 and 64, found that the average Web user spends 164 minutes � or almost three hours � each day online, compared to just 148 minutes watching TV.

According to the piece, U.S. residents spend roughly eqivalent amouts of time online and watching TV.

In a way the U.K. survey is not surprising. It's even to be expected since people can "surf" while they work but few can watch TV � so the Internet is much more available to people throughout the day.
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  06:26 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]



Mar 9 2006
'Social Networking' Site LinkedIN Approaching Profitability
When we wrote our "social networking" White Paper back in late 2004, the question on everyone's minds then was, "but where's the business model?"

"Social networking" is a term that has less and less meaning now that "social media" is becoming quite mainstream (or at least a part of almost every new online offering). But one of the early sites, and something of a survivor in the space, LinkedIN announced that premium services had helped move the company toward profitability, which it will achieve very soon.

There were a number of sites in the business networking space, most of which no longer exist. Heavy credit must go to tireless (dare I say "relentless") :) marketer Konstantin Guericke, VP of marketing and cofounder of LinkedIn. And no, I'm not on his payroll. LinkedIN was quick and creative and able to establish critical mass. It's kind of like the MySpace of networking � although it existed before MySpace and right now that may not be such a compliment.

We use LinkedIN for our pre/post-conference networking and it has worked out nicely. If you're coming to Drilling Down and would like to take advantage of that, click here.
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  05:22 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]



Mar 9 2006
TV Ads, Call Tracking and Local Stores
Donna Bogatin, CEO of VIPOffers.com and a speaker at last year's ILM show on "hyper-local" sites, pointed out an interesting article on a TV campaign being used (and tracked) by eBay drop-off store QuikDrop to build awareness and drive inquiries to the local QuikDrop outlets.

According to the article:

Consumers can respond to the ads by calling a toll-free telephone number, then leaving a voice-mail message that is automatically e-mailed as an attached audio file to an eBay listing expert in the nearest QuikDrop store, who returns the call and offers advice on many types of household items that sell well on eBay. QuikDrop has franchised stores in 24 states.

Apparently the TV campaign has been very effective. One of the most interesting aspects of it is how phone tracking is tied in both as a functional element of the ad (and routed locally) as well as a tracking tool to measure success.

Ironically, as search moves out of a pure direct response model, TV and other media increasingly will incorporate direct response elements in order to prove their effectiveness or lack thereof � as the case may be.
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  04:46 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]





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