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Mar 8 2006
Google Click Fraud Settlement
Google has apparently agreed to pay the equivialent of $90 million (yikes!) to settle a click fraud class action. Here's the AP story. According to third-party data compiled by eMarketer, SEMPO found that "the percentage of advertisers who say that click fraud, the artificial inflation of click through numbers, is a growing problem tripled in 2005, to 16%. Elsewhere, a survey by IntelliSurvey Inc. and Radar Research reports that, among respondents surveyed, 46% of all advertisers with 500 or more employees have been a victim of click fraud."

According to the AP story:

The proposed settlement ... would apply to all advertisers in Google's network during the past four years. Any Web site showing improper charges dating back to 2002 will be eligible for an account credit that could be used toward future ads distributed by Google.

This settlement must indicate that the case had some teeth because Google clearly has the resources to fight the case to the end. (Yahoo! was also a defendant and said it will fight.) This is also not a nuisance settlement at this dollar level.

One question is whether this settlement will bar future suits. There are a host of complex rules surrounding class-action litigation and who can be bound by settlements. It may be that this settlement was justified from Google's point of view because it will largely prevent � certainly at a class-action level � this sort of litigation in the future. (That's not entirely clear right now to me.)

The terms of the settlement appear to require actual proof of click fraud to get the credit and seem to extend to any Google advertiser over the past four years. So as a practical matter Google may wind up "paying" less than the stated potential value of the settlement.

And while this settlement may bar future legal action, it won't necessarily address advertiser concerns and complaints today; only an effective transparent policy on click fraud will do that. But Google knows that.

__________

Here's Google's official statement.

Related (only generally): Here's the SEW blog's nice roundup of tidbits released intentionally and otherwise surrounding Google analyst day.
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  19:39 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]



Mar 7 2006
MS Live Begins a Big Push
Microsoft is busy rolling out a flurry of search-related upgrades. A dizzying array of tools and features are coming via Live.com and Live Labs/Ideas. Also the company bought Onfolio and is going to integrate the functionality into a toolbar and more generally into the Live.com/browser/search experience. I haven't had a chance to "play" with any of these things yet (I just heard about them yesterday) and late today saw some screenshots, but they're provocative and interesting. I'm eager to see how these new tools function in practice.

In the abstract, most of the things that were described to me strike me as improvements that will probably appeal to sophisticated searchers but they may well have broader market appeal over time. It's difficult to tell entirely without using them. Along those lines, Live.com seeks to rival Google's Personalized Homepage and My Yahoo!. And I think there is an opening there for Microsoft if it can get the right mix of elegance, functionality and simplicity.

We'll see.

Another question is the relationship between the "Live" and MSN brands. Microsoft has too much traffic and too much invested to walk away from the MSN brand (one journalist asked that question today). Rather, Live and MSN will exist in parallel and we'll see what sticks. There will be some cross pollination of Live on MSN.

I think Microsoft also recognizes it now needs to create a new user experience to generate traction around search and related products. Search.msn.com has yet to "move the needle" in terms of market share. That's because MSN Search hasn't shown itself to be obviously better or otherwise differentiated from what's already out there. Despite conflicting data on this point, I believe that search engine user behavior is now habitual and that there is loyalty. In addition, Live Labs is part of a larger corporate initiative to be more competitive and nimble online.

_____

Here's Jeff Graham's story in today's USA Today. Here's the AP story. Here's the Reuters story this morning. Here Chris Sherman's write-up at Search Engine Watch.
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  18:37 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]



Mar 7 2006
In the Suddenly Hot Classifieds Space, Oodle Launches Partner Network
Classifieds aggregator Oodle has launched a partner network and API for syndication of its listings. The first two members are Lycos and Backpage.com, a group of community classified sites operated by local media, including weekly newspapers, radio and TV stations in 40 metro areas. (Backpage hosts classifieds on the SF Weekly and Village Voice, among others.) Publishers are free to prioritize their listings above those provided by Oodle.

Suddenly everybody wants classifieds and the space is red hot with lots of competitors offering free listings coming into the fray: MS Expo and Edgeio are only the two most recent providers to join a growing list that includes Craigslist (mostly free) and LiveDeal (free to individuals).

What's interesting about Edgeio and now Oodle's offering (LiveDeal has something generally similar for local media sites) is the idea of syndicating classifieds to overcome some of the fragmentation of the local market and the obstacles to getting local destination traffic.

I'm writing a roundup of recent developments in the classifieds marketplace in this week's Local Media Journal.
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  14:36 | permalink | comments [5] | trackbacks [0]



Mar 7 2006
RSS: 'S' Is for Shopping
Bob Tedeschi's New York Times "e-commerce report" column (reg. req'd) yesterday highlighted the personalized shopping potential of RSS. We first wrote about the mainstream importance and potential of RSS and alerts as a shopping tool last year:

Paid search has been enormously successful. Yet click rates are at an industry average of just 2.6 percent, in part, because of the challenge of serving truly relevant ads against search queries. But what if there were a way for consumers to indicate very specific requirements to search engines or Web publishers and receive exact results directly in their e-mail inboxes or RSS readers? The clickthroughs and corresponding purchases would likely be many times today�s paid search response rates.

A system of alerts would boost the value publishers and search engines can deliver to advertisers by providing greater targeting and distribution. This �alerts� functionality exists today but is not widely used for commercial purposes. Though there are prominent exceptions, technical challenges and a lack of consumer awareness have so far prevented the widespread use of alerts as a commercial or shopping tool. It�s just a matter of time, however, before alerts functionality is built out on all the shopping engines and later on a broader array of sites, including classifieds.
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  11:14 | permalink | comments [1] | trackbacks [0]



Mar 7 2006
MapQuest Joins the Mashups Crowd
AOL's MapQuest announced a new OpenAPI and a contest to create the best mashup using it:

As part of the OpenAPI launch, MapQuest also announced a Developers Challenge, in which Web developers can compete to build the most creative mashup that leverages the mapping and routing functionality of OpenAPI. The contest begins March 7 and runs through the end of March with the winner being announced in mid April. The winning contestant will receive a $1,000 cash prize, and a trip to the Where 2.0 Conference in San Jose, Calif., from June 13-14. For more information on the contest, including Official Rules and how to enter, go to mapquest.com/openapi.

MapQuest informs me that it's the first to bring routing and directions to an API. The company also says it has the most reliable geocoding in the market and the integration of that geocoding into the API will make a difference to mashup developers.

Here's a hypothetical real-world example: Soccer moms/dads creating maps with routing to the next game location in a different town. Here's a concrete example with Eventful data and MapQuest's interface/API.
______

Related: Per Search Engine Journal, CNet reports on new Yahoo! mashup tools for developers. Some are map-based, some are not.
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  10:45 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]



Mar 7 2006
Wetpaint: Wikis for the Masses
SiliconBeat writes about a new wiki platform for the masses, Wetpaint. They're still ahead of the mainstream consumer marketplace, but community and online collaboration tools continue to gain momentum. And because we couldn't resist this issue (again), we've just added a new panel to Drilling Down:

Social Search Is the New Black
Almost every new startup includes a community or "social media" layer. Notwithstanding the success of MySpace (at least in being acquired for lots of money), do these new applications really offer something compelling for the end user or is this just hype and novelty? The Kelsey Group has described social networking/social media as a valuable "online word of mouth" feature that needs to be appended to or integrated into a pre-existing business model. Is "social" really the "future of search" as some have recently argued or merely a fad that will pass in time?
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  07:13 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]



Mar 7 2006
The New AT&T and 'Net Neutrality'
Some have speculated that AT&T in its new, hypothetical post-acquisition position as the nation's dominant broadband provider might be tempted to pursue fees from companies (e.g., Google, Vonage, etc.) that use lots of "bandwidth." This is the essence of the "net neutrality" debate. In a November 2005 interview in BusinessWeek then SBC CEO Edward Whitacre said the following:

How concerned are you about Internet upstarts like Google (GOOG ), MSN, Vonage, and others?
How do you think they're going to get to customers? Through a broadband pipe. Cable companies have them. We have them. Now what they would like to do is use my pipes free, but I ain't going to let them do that because we have spent this capital and we have to have a return on it. So there's going to have to be some mechanism for these people who use these pipes to pay for the portion they're using. Why should they be allowed to use my pipes?

The Internet can't be free in that sense, because we and the cable companies have made an investment and for a Google or Yahoo! (YHOO ) or Vonage or anybody to expect to use these pipes [for] free is nuts!


Last Thursday Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden introduced legistlation "aimed at preventing high-speed Internet service providers from charging content companies extra so consumers have faster access to their Web sites or receive special treatment."

I predict that net neutrality will become central to some of the potential anti-competitive concerns that will be reviewed as part of the federal approval process of the acquisition. Here's what Whitacre told BusinessWeek regarding a potential takeover of BellSouth:

Is it a possibility that SBC would acquire BellSouth?
It sure would be nice, but it doesn't have much chance of happening because of market power, size, etc. I think it would be real hard to do. I don't think the regulators would let that happen, in my judgment.


Accordingly, I think those regulators will formally prohibit the new AT&T from exacting fees from Google and Vonage, et al. In an ironic way, the AT&T acquisition of BellSouth may end the debate over net neutrality and accelerate the imposition of formal legal controls to prevent fees.

________

More from USA Today on the issue.

Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  06:30 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]



Mar 7 2006
Cingular (ATT) Wireless Launches Video, But Consumers Say 'No Thanks'
Yesterday, Cingular (soon to become AT&T wireless, again), the largest U.S. wireless carrier, announced it would launch a new video service for a couple of new phones. For a flat fee of $20 per month consumers can access clips from a range of content providers including Fox, NBC and others. The service assumes Cingular's high-speed network, currently operating in many major U.S. cities.

Data services, including music and video, are seen as a growth area for wireless carriers that face the "commoditization" of their voice businesses. Yet, according to a recent RBC Capital Markets survey of 1,000 U.S. mobile phone users, solid majorities don't want music or video on their phones and, perhaps even more disturbing for the industry, more than 40 percent said they would pay for phones that prevented advertising/marketing.

This is just one study and there are competing data in the market. It's also the case that the younger the audience the more receptive to data services. But the survey illustrates that wireless carriers may be betting on segments that will take years to develop or not develop at all.
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  05:29 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]





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