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Mar 1 2006
For Every Post There Could Be Six
There is so much happening (most of it interesting) in the "space" we affectionately call "Interactive Local Media" that for every post I do there could easily be five or six more. I could do nothing all day but blog and have the hotel staff slip me bread and water at occasional intervals. So, here are a number of things that have happened that I haven't been able to write about (not for lack of desire):

  • TrueLocal.com relaunched its TrueTarget local search ad program (covered by Search Engine Journal here).

  • Jambo has launched a "passive" PPCall advertiser acquisition program. Here's the release. Advertisers automatically receive phone leads from directories/search sites with which the company has relationships (e.g., InfoSpace). The merchant gets a prompt to accept or decline the lead. If she accepts, the call is billed to her existing phone bill. Putting aside some questions about this practice, from a purely strategic standpoint it eliminates some of the sales challenges of getting people to show up and sign up for the service.

  • eStara launched a deal with the newspaper Palm Beach Post called "talk to seller" where its VoIP/click-to call-system enables real-time phone communication between buyer and seller. This was what eBay had in mind in buying Skype. Expect to see more efforts, whether by phone or through IM/chat, to facilitate real-time communication between buyers and sellers (e-mail is so 2003) in local online marketplaces, whether classifieds, verticals or directories.

  • Meanwhile Ingenio continues to build out a network of major agency relationships as a channel to deliver PPCall to national advertisers.

  • Here's a BusinessWeek piece on privacy and government/corporate monitoring of blogs and social networks. Privacy is a hot issue here at SES � as is click fraud. And this Ad Age piece (reg. req'd) captures a heated session yesterday in which some SEM audience members squared off against the engines on the panel.

  • Mobile local search and content provider go2 put out a release reflecting 51 percent traffic growth from 2004. The most popular categories were "movies, restaurants, accommodations and other travel-related searches." In our view, mobile local search is clearly growing but not yet a mainstream application.

  • According to comScore, Google's market share grows while search volume growth slows. There were 5.48 billion searches in the U.S. market in January, compared with roughly 5 billion in December, a growth rate of 11 percent. Search volume growth has outpaced Internet growth in the past several quarters. But the market will need new high-speed users to keep its momentum and that depends on broadband conversions from dial-up or more Wi-Fi ubiquity.
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  10:20 | permalink | comments [1] | trackbacks [0]



Mar 1 2006
Google Video Ads
iMedia is reporting on the brief appearance of video ads in Google AdSense. iMedia quotes a Google press statement:

"Google is always considering new ways to provide value to its advertisers and we frequently run tests of potential new features and products. We are currently running a limited test of click-to-play video ads on select AdSense publisher websites. We do not have any additional details to share at this time."

Google can likely charge a premium for such ads in the move to diversify and increase revenues. It's unclear whether such ads can be geotargeted other than by selecting specifically local sites (but I'm getting ahead of myself).

Several things are interesting about this generally. It reflects the growing importance of rich media and video online and the need for all the engines to offer a full range of ad vehicles to clients. It also reflects Google's desire to grab marketer branding dollars. Branding in search has been something of a hard sell to date, but more branding dollars are making their way into search. (See Kevin Ryan's column today.) And the more marketers understand how consumers use search and the Internet more generally in the "buying cycle" the more branding money will flow online.

Some time ago, I wrote about SEM firm Impaqt's Intelligent Landing Page, which can host video and has a range of impressive capabilities. I spoke to them at their booth yesterday at SES. It has taken a while for marketers to understand how such rich media products can be used, but the company says that now they're getting traction.

While the Google video experiment is on AdSense and not search, I think we'll begin to see more dynamic products (such as Impaqt's landing page and ContactAtOnce's presence management solutions) sitting "behind" paid search as a way to enhance or maximize the value of those ads for marketers.

Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  09:49 | permalink | comments [3] | trackbacks [1]



Feb 28 2006
Edgeio: Taking Craigslist to the Next Level
As Mike Boland wrote earlier this week, Edgeio has launched. Here was the original posting I did a couple of weeks ago.

This is a very interesting site because one can publish local classified or services listings directly there or on a blog and Edgeio will "pick them up." In other words, I can set up my free blog (Blogger, Wordpress, etc.), list a bunch of items for sale and they will appear on Edgeio � no fees, nothing!

Here's how Edgeio does it:

Edgeio constantly monitors RSS enabled websites � today we are monitoring more than 25 million sites! Any item tagged "listing" and included in an RSS feed will be published on the edgeio website and through the edgeio network.

Of course all will depend on how many consumers show up and use Edgeio. But its distributed/decentralized publishing model is pretty radical in concept. In one sense it's simply another version of what search engines are doing by indexing sites. But what if Edgeio becomes really a hit and millions of people show up to use it? Perhaps as a trade or service business (accountant, cabinet maker, lawyer) I publish a listing and description of my services etc. on my blog and Edgeio picks it up and I get lots of leads. It's all free to me. I potentially can reduce my spend elsewhere.

Even if it succeeds wildly with consumers I don't think Edgeio will be "disruptive" in the near term. But the medium term could be a different story. I'm fascinated by the potential for RSS distribution both on the advertiser side and the consumer side. There's a great deal more to say there than I have time for now.

Keith Teare, Edgeio CEO, will be speaking on what should be quite an interesting panel at Drilling Down called "The Ultimate Mashup: Classifieds, Local Listings and �Social Search.' "

"Social Search" is the new black.
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  23:33 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]



Feb 28 2006
Newspapers Should Move Faster Part II
I was at the Topix.net booth tonight on the exhibit hall floor of SES talking to Chris Tolles and Mike Markson about Topix and the newspaper industry. Topix is owned by KRD, Gannett and Tribune. In addition to a relatively recent redesign (very nice), Topix has developed some interesting local-community features (see "forum activity" map, upper right). Here's a story on Ford cutting jobs and the related comments, for example.

I said to Chris, "Why don't the newspapers just add the entire Topix site/feed to their sites? It's better than adding a feed reader," which would have been one of the bullets in the previous entry but for my encounter with Topix this evening.

Local newspaper content could be presented in a primary position and then Topix site and news content could be imported/framed within the local newspaper "look and feel." Admittedly integration might present some issues, but it's clearly doable. And almost instantly these local newspaper sites would be very competitive with Google and Yahoo! news. They would become aggregators themselves (offering a feed reader would do the same but RSS is still too complex for the mainstream).

The community content (comments) that Topix has is gold � wouldn't the newspapers love to have that kind of participation on their sites? That could be added from Topix as well. Once people saw the comments that Topix has already compiled, they would likely be inclined to participate and comment themselves. This overcomes the chicken-and-egg problem of new community sites if the newspapers were to add this functionality tabula rasa.

That community content, once on the newspaper site, would also help jump-start local community participation in other areas across the newspaper site. This is huge, although my description of what I'm suggesting may not be entirely clear. Feel free to drop me an e-mail to discuss.

Why aren't the newspapers exploiting Topix's assets?
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  22:35 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [1]



Feb 28 2006
Newspapers Should Move Faster
I know that may be asking a lot, but time is of the essence. Lots of smart people who understand the Internet work at newspapers; they just can't get their organizations to move quickly. Among the various things that newspapers can and should do are the following:

  • Radically redesign their sites. Right now, they're not very "usable" other than editorial. Editorial is just a piece of what online newspapers should offer. Editorial is a great hook to get people to the site, but give them more stuff to do and see once they're there
  • Have great site search and offer blended results that are relevant to the query � so the users see the full range of content and advertisers
  • Offer aggregated news from third parties on the site in addition to "local news"
  • Have a comprehensive local marketplace that offers classifieds and services
  • Syndicate classifieds
  • Syndicate local business advertisers (like what the directory publishers are doing with Webvisible, Matchcraft, ReachLocal, Local Launch, etc.)
  • Add community tools (much more important than blogs)
  • Get rid of site registration (or create some real value in exchange for user registration)
I could go on but I won't here.

Online newspapers are a fundamentally different animal than the print product (sites like the WSJ may be exceptions) and need to be thought about differently.

Here's a case in point. My hometown newspaper is the San Francisco Chronicle (owned by Hearst). I know that its site is probably the best and most reliable source of local events, entertainment and restaurant information in my area. I KNOW this. But do I use the site? No. It's too painful. Content is buried. The site is cluttered. You don't need to be a Jakob Nielsen to know that the overall user experience is suboptimal.

Here are the search results for the query "home improvement." Now I'm sure there have been many articles written over time that pertain to interior design, hiring contractors, landscaping, the cost of kitchen remodels, etc. None of those articles shows up in the first page of results. (I'm sure there are advertisers that would love to be contextually presented next to those results, provided they were more relevant.)

Will I go beyond this first page? No. (See Enquiro's "eyetracking" research � a new round is coming out.) Will I come back to this site and look for anything other than editorial content again? No.

Newspapers have a window of 12 to 24 months to work out some of these strategic and usability issues. I know that there's much going on "behind the scenes" but the process needs to speed up.

Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  21:56 | permalink | comments [1] | trackbacks [0]



Feb 28 2006
Fox Starting to Leverage MySpace as Backlash Gains Momentum
Today's MediaPost featured an article (reg. req'd) about Fox starting to use MySpace to promote a new show, "Free Ride." It had begun to cleverly "seed" the campaign by creating character profiles on MySpace last month and now there are going to be full-blown ads. In addition, the new network being developed by Fox, "My Network TV," will be similarly promoted on MySpace.

It's too back Fox doesn't have a show called "backlash," because that would be a perfect promotional tie-in. Here's a Wired piece (just the latest in a series) that documents the growing PR problems of the much celebrated youth site.

I wrote more generally about the PR problems of MySpace here.

Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  14:07 | permalink | comments [1] | trackbacks [0]



Feb 28 2006
Windows Live Local and Ask Upgrade Maps
Along with the launch of the new Ask.com yesterday, the company introduced an upgraded mapping product that now looks very much like Google Local and Windows Live Local. It offers aerial and "hybrid" views in addition to the standard mapping view. Here's my hotel in New York. We're releasing a mapping report today and the Ask relaunch was too late for us to "stop the presses," but we'll review in the Local Media Journal.

The fact that Ask has done this (in addition to Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft � MapQuest coming soon) means dynamic mapping is now "table stakes" for anyone who wants to be taken seriously in local. And that means directory publishers and newspapers need to tap into the APIs out there or build their own (probably not a good idea).

Simultaneously, Windows Live Local has just added a "street side" view to its already rich set of mapping views. In my preliminary look at it tonight on the exhibit hall floor of SES, it appears to be a richer, more dynamic version of A9's block view, which has the novelty of several perspectives built into it (race car, sports car and walk). You can drag the cursor around and change views with relative ease. San Francisco and Seattle are the only two cities offered right now but I'm sure Microsoft intends for this to cover most cities across the U.S.

One cannot yet move from the street level view to bird's eye. I expect that will come in time. But with this new set of tools Microsoft may become the first company to put all the potential map views together into a truly integrated experience. Visually the Windows Live Local mapping product is probably the richest on the market, although Microsoft has some work to do on the underlying mapping basics to get it completely right.

On a somewhat related note, Microsoft's classifieds marketplace, Expo, is live. We wrote about Expo earlier right here.

Garry Wiseman, who is in charge of Expo will be on the "mashups" panel at Drilling Down.


Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  13:35 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]



Feb 28 2006
Online Shoppers Convert Offline? What a Surprise
A new piece of research from iProspect, carried out by Jupiter says the following:

Sixty-two percent of Internet users who researched products online during the holiday season used a search engine to do so, and nearly half (47 percent) of researchers ended up buying offline.


The ClickZ article goes on to talk about the need to track these results. Of course. And offline tracking (especially given latency that often exists in these situations) is challenging. There are codes, offers and call tracking, etc. But it's a fundamental issue.

Here at SES many of the search marketer attendees appear relatively "clueless" (to use the vernacular) about the bigger picture of search engine user behavior. They myopically see only SEM and online "conversions" or leads. But the real story is much bigger and more complex.

The iProspect study hints at that larger picture. But we've been arguing for more than two years that the model "going forward" is search/shop online buy offline. E-commerce will continue to grow but it will NEVER be more than a fraction of traditional spending in the local market. Get it: NEVER.

Right now at $90 billion, it's only 2.5% of total U.S. retail (that's right). But search and the Internet more generally will influence more and more of that offline buying. So the influence of search is growing much faster than e-commerce revenues. All this creates real complexity for everyone. Measuring search efficacy and calculating ROI becomes more challenging when you widen the lens on all this.

The iProspect study says what it says, but it probably isn't truly representative of the ratio of online and offline buying. Of course all this is going to vary by "consideration level" and category: commodities are much easier to buy online than higher consideration items.

The buying cycle is getting "uglier," more complex and is not at all linear. (This was my presentation at last year's Drilling Down event). But search and the Internet are becoming a larger part of that convoluted process.

The bottom line is that marketers and search engines need to understand much more clearly how consumers are engaging with search and what their patterns are so they can respond appropriately.

Yahoo! gets this and is doing the best job among the majors of trying to educate the marketplace and marketers about the bigger picture of the buying cycle.
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  13:02 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]





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