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Feb 9 2006
Yell's Irritation Over Rate Cap Issue
Yell Group just posted solid numbers for the first nine months of its financial year, which ends on March 31. Its U.S. unit, Yellow Book, continues to post double digit gains, even when acquisitions are taken out of the picture. Results were also good in the U.K., where overall growth was 5.6 percent, and the IYP Yell.com continues to accelerate, growing at 62.4 percent.

The mixed blessing is that in the U.K. Yell faces a looming decision from the Competition Commission on whether to end, minimize, maintain or intensify the rate cap that Yell now operates under. The decision is expected in August, and last month, the commission issued a glimpse into its thinking that suggests its options may have narrowed to either maintaining or intensifying the rate cap.

Yell executives, understandably in our view, have not done very well at hiding their irritation. Yell issued a stinging rebuke of the commission's statement, and has refused to back off since.

The commission seems to think that it can will a share shift into existence by curtailing Yell's ability to raise prices. We think the commission has invoked the law of unintended consequences by forcing Yell to grow through innovation and improved service (both good outcomes), and it has also given the publisher a bit of good news to bring into sales calls each year ("Good morning, prices are lower again this year!").

Rather than accept that pricing intervention has failed because it is fundamentally wrong-headed, the commission seems to think it will work sooner or later if only it causes Yell enough pain.

We see the U.K. as a competitive market, with BT and Thomson competing for share, along with a smattering of other smaller players. Is Yell strong? Of course. In the U.S., its division Yellow Book has grown as a competitive publisher by exploiting a pricing umbrella. In the U.K., that umbrella has been all but folded up by the regulators, leaving competitors out in the wet.
Blog: Global Yellow Pages Blog
 
posted by  Charles Laughlin at  11:28 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [3]



Feb 9 2006
SkypeWeb, Presence Management and PPCall
eBay-owned Skype today launched "SkypeWeb":

Skype, the global Internet communications company, today announced SkypeWeb, a Web presence feature that is already integrated into more than 50 Web sites in 20 countries around the world. SkypeWeb allows people to see Skype users� online status and call or chat with them from any Web site as well as Skype people from each site with the simple click of a mouse.

�With just a few simple steps we were able to incorporate SkypeWeb into our AppExchange platform,� said Adam Gross, vice president, developer marketing, salesforce.com. �In addition to free Skype voice calls, the SkypeWeb presence feature gives our subscribers the ability to know when their contacts and colleagues are available and online � all directly from within Salesforce."

SkypeWeb integrates Skype seamlessly and into any Web site. With SkypeWeb, Web administrators can easily enable all site visitors to talk for free over the Internet.


Here are the buttons.

There are potentially many things to discuss about this. One is the rapid "mainstreaming" of VoIP. But the thing I want to focus on is the local/PPCall aspect. There's no PPCall system in place yet (it's VoIP click-to-call) but a system like SkypeWeb could become an advertising vehicle for local businesses at some point. (ContactAtOnce distributes "presence management" icons/chat windows as an advertising tool today.)

According to the Skype release, "DBA.DK the number one Danish classifieds portal, is using SkypeWeb to show the Skype status of people who have posted classified ads."

This is the kind of functionality that eBay promoted when it bought Skype to enable communication between buyers and sellers. But as the classifieds forum I moderated last night made clear, calls are much more important to local sellers than to e-commerce vendors. Thus the local business implications of click-to-call (and the potential business model layer of PPCall on top of that) are immediate.

Microsoft suggested integration of VoIP as a layer on top of its Windows Live Local product when Live was launched last year in San Francisco.

It could well be that every Web site or landing/profile page associated with every local business will one day have such functionality. It could be free, subscription-based or performance-based (PPCall).



Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  09:32 | permalink | comments [1] | trackbacks [0]



Feb 9 2006
Classifieds Search Forum
I was invited by SimplyHired's Dave McClure to moderate the SDForum's Search SIG event last night on classifieds and search.

Panelists were:


  • Bindu Reddy, Product Manager Google Base, Google
  • Craig Donato, Founder/CEO, Oodle
  • Keith Teare, Founder/CEO, Edgeio

The discussion was very candid and informal and revolved around the transition from traditional classifieds to online, the online classifieds business model (a question that wasn't fully answered to my satisfaction) and the coming impact of self-publishing and RSS on online classifieds (could be revolutionary).

To that latter point, this was the first time I got a look at Edgeio, which uses the tagline "listings from the edge" ("the edge" might be a fresh and worthy substitute for the somewhat tired term, "the long tail"). Among other things, Edgeio allows people to self-publish "listings" (stuff/services for sale) on their own sites, which then get picked up via RSS and distributed to Edgeio and beyond.

It has pretty significant implications if it catches on. Teare described the site as a kind of "middleware" in the process of publishing and distributing listings/advertising across the network (this is a cousin of former Tribe CEO Mark Pincus' vision articulated in his keynote at ILM:04). But the site's not public yet and so I won't go into it further.

The initial question I asked was, "What are classifieds; is there something fundamentally different about classifieds vs. other types of online advertising?" The answers were quite interesting, with Keith Teare arguing essentially that classifieds were just one form of "listings." Craig Donato (who wore a fabulous chartreuse shirt) made a powerful case that there were essential characteristics that distinguished classifieds (they're "perishable," they're local, fulfillment is offline). He argued that these traits required and justified a specific approach.

Bindu Reddy, who sought to emphasize that Google Base accepts classifieds content but is not "Google Classifieds," (I agree) said some fascinating things about how Google is experimenting with Base (e.g., tagging) and how the organization of content there may have broader implications for the next generation of Google search. (I also had another "vision" of Google's vertical future during her demo.)

Reddy and Donato agreed that PPCall was a model that would have more and more resonance and application in the local market, including with classifieds (and the Jambo deal reflects that in a traditional publication).

This was my first such event and I think they're very valuable (here's the calendar), though unfortunately only available to people in the Silicon Valley area. They were recording it for podcast, but I don't yet have a link. I'll post one if I discover it.

Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  08:38 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]



Feb 9 2006
Google Desktop Upgrade
Google launched an upgrade to desktop search/Sidebar. There were a number of feature enhancements (remote PC/file access, "undocking" of plugp-ins and sharing functionality). That's a very "quick and dirty" summary. The most interesting feature of the new enhancements from my point of view is the "social" or sharing dimension.

Users can send articles and "Web Clips" to one another via e-mail or IM or directly to each other's Sidebars. And there's some "wiki-like" functionality in that, in a few cases, people can be in the same module at the same time (think shared "to-do list"'). Right now that wiki/collaborative element is very limited, but it will likely evolve quickly as developers build more of these modules (which have become much more like Yahoo!'s widgets in this version).

Yahoo! has made huge bets on "social search" and other community functionality and Google has to date not done much in this realm. But the company is moving into tagging rapidly (e.g., Google Base) and these new "social" features of Sidebar create a community/viral dimension that Google hopes will boost adoption.

It's also interesting to start seeing many elements coming together with intersecting or overlapping functionality: the personalized home page, personal search history, the upgraded toolbar, Gmail + IM, Google Talk in Sidebar, etc.

You can start to see some set of these functions closing in on some sort of "center," although there won't ever be a single application I don't believe. But over time Google will get a sense of where the concentration of its users are and what they're doing and will emphasize those tools and applications accordingly.

_____________

Here's the official Desktop Google Blog statement.
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  01:16 | permalink | comments [1] | trackbacks [0]



Feb 8 2006
Google Goes Public with Print
Thanks again to John Battelle for pointing out that Google has gone "public" with its program to allow advertisers to buy access (via auction) to print advertising in some very high-profile magazines:

As you may know, as part of Google's ongoing effort to develop new opportunities for our advertisers, we've been running tests of ads in a limited number of print publications. Now, we're excited to test an auction of ad space in select magazines.

In this test, the control is in your hands: you choose the ad size, set your price, and decide how you'd like to use the space. There's no risk to you � you pay only if you win the auction.


Here's the page that features Martha Stewart Living.

The catch here is you provide the creative (a barrier for many smaller advertisers). But this is now step 2 (dMarc being step 1) in the process of Google becoming a "unified platform" for media buying � online and off.
__________

On Day 2 of Drilling Down, we'll have this relevant panel:

The Future of Local Media Buying: The Integrated Online-Offline Platform
Until recently, online marketing was regarded with skepticism and ambivalence. In 2005, led by paid search, online marketing in general came to be seen as a credible medium. While newspapers and Internet Yellow Pages have long been selling online advertising on their sites (and more recently into broader networks), the Google acquisition of dMarc suggests a potentially new, more integrated online-offline media future. It also directly brings the harsh light of performance-based marketing and Web analytics to a traditional advertising medium. The panelists will discuss these and other recent developments and what the near and long term will hold for online marketing and interactive local media.

Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  18:59 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]



Feb 8 2006
Yellow Book in Clicks Business
Yellow Book announced today that it has acquired Click Forward, a Coral Gables, Florida-based search engine marketing company. Terms were not disclosed. Yellow Book plans to use the assets gained through the acquisition to develop a local search product to sell through its more than 5,000 local sales representatives.

This deal is in keeping with Yellow Book's recent push to elevate its digital strategy to a higher level. The publisher has been accused by some in the investment community of paying too little attention to digital as it pursues growth opportunities in the traditional business. This acquisition certainly helps Yellow Book break out of the perception that it is all about print.
Blog: Global Yellow Pages Blog
 
posted by  Charles Laughlin at  10:35 | permalink | comments [2] | trackbacks [0]



Feb 8 2006
Yellow Book Buys Click Forward
I had heard a rumor earlier in the week that Yellow Book was buying Click Forward. Before I saw the release Loren Baker at Search Engine Journal confirmed it.

Click Forward was started by alumni of WebVisible, formerly SME Global Solutions. And like WebVisible, Local Launch, Reach Local, MatchCraft and Marchex (which just announced a search marketing distribution relationship with The Berry Co.), the company helps enable third parties (e.g., Yellow Pages publishers) to sell search marketing to local businesses in simplified form (flat pricing, guaranteed clicks).

The release quotes Joe Walsh, Yellow Book's president and CEO:

"We feel that Click Forward is the best of breed and is a natural fit within our portfolio of products," said Joe Walsh, President and CEO of Yellow Book USA. "By working with Click Forward, Yellow Book will be able to continue to connect buyers and sellers together in a way that will provide more choices to the consumer and a great return on investment for small business owners. The acquisition of Click Forward represents another step in Yellow Book's continued focus on the internet. With over 5,000 sales people nationwide, it makes sense for Yellow Book to innovate and expand its product offerings both in print and online."

Now Yellow Book can sell search clicks along with its other suite of traditional ad products (it fully controls the offering). The acquisition indicates just how far Yellow Book has come. Formerly a big skeptic of the Internet, Yellow Book is the first to bring one of these "simplified search" businesses in-house. This may set in motion events that result in more consolidation or similar acquisitions by other YP companies. We'll see.

The move is good for Click Forward because it was one of the smaller and less established players in this market. In addition to the YP publishers, expect more newspapers this year to offer similar products to their local advertisers.

As we've argued before, traditional media sales channels are the primary way that local businesses will get into paid search marketing � in the near term.

Here's the press release.


Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  09:54 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]



Feb 8 2006
PPCall Goes Offline With Jambo
According to a piece in MediaPost (reg. req'd), PPCall provider Jambo has announced that it will enable PPCall for LA Weekly:

The first slate of ads will be in the Feb. 9 issue, and will focus on Valentine's Day services, including florists, spas, limos. The ads will be sold through Jambo's own ad-selling platform.

So, you may ask, why is this a big deal? (It is.)

It's PPCall in a newspaper (Village Voice Media owns several weeklies throughout the U.S.). If it works, expect to see the Voice expand the program in its other publications, which puts some pressure on other, traditional newspapers to try this (or it will at least start them thinking about it).

We have argued that one of the really exciting things (and scary to traditional publishers) about PPCall is that it's a performance-based ad medium that can go anywhere in the offline/local world (outdoor, print, TV, etc.).

Verizon has said it will test PPCall in the print Yellow Pages in special "generic" category ads. But I wouldn't expect other directory publishers to follow suit any time soon. There's too much potential risk.

This Jambo deal has the potential to really take off and spread in the weekly newspaper world. It's a differentiator in their battle with other media and the Internet to set their advertising apart. And it might also be a weapon in the broader newspaper battle with free classifieds.

I have been meaning for weeks to write about Jambo and workload has kept me from it.

Expect to now see PPCall start to penetrate the offlline/traditional media world more rapidly. In The Kelsey Group's upcoming forecast we have performance-based advertising accounting for 10 percent of traditional "directional" ad revenues in 2010 (all of it call driven, obviously). In view of this deal, that might wind up being conservative.

Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  09:02 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]





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