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Mar 2 2006
Broadband Growth in 2005
Broadband numbers were up in 2005, according to Leichtman Research Group, and reported by Om Malik. We'll get into this further in an upcoming advisory on triple- and quad-play offerings of cable and telecom providers. We'll also hold a related session at the upcoming Drilling Down on Local conference. Hope to see you there:

The Broadband Juggernaut: Slowing Down or Speeding Up?
High-speed Internet access is the backbone of the new consumer paradigm. It took a decade for broadband to reach �critical mass� in the U.S. Now we are witnessing the disruptive effects for traditional media and potentially for some newer technologies as well. While some predict broadband is slowing, others believe competition and new initiatives (e.g., municipal Wi-Fi) and technologies could drive high-speed access to nearly 100 percent penetration in the next several years. Which version of the future is correct? This panel will debate the potential scenarios and look outside the U.S. to higher-speed markets to see what the future might hold.
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Mike Boland at  13:35 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]



Mar 2 2006
LocalConnect Launches
Search Engine Journal reports on a new product from Local.com that is basically a branded search engine that publishers can plant on their sites. This eliminates the need for publishers to invest in the development of search functionality on their sites, and it integrates Local.com advertisers with publishers' ad listings. It could be an attractive tool for any local site or blog publisher that wants to integrate a paid local search advertising. We'll write more on this later.
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Mike Boland at  13:15 | permalink | comments [1] | trackbacks [0]



Mar 2 2006
InfoSpace Interview
PaidContent has an interesting interview with Jim Voelker, CEO of InfoSpace. It covers among other things the company's merging of its search and directory and mobile divisions. Read it here and listen to it here.
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Mike Boland at  12:47 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [1]



Mar 2 2006
Viacom Gets Social
An addendum to the previous post: If the social networking space is indeed saturated, it just got a little more so. Viacom has announced it could launch what seems like a "me too" social network this year that will target young people.

In doing this, the company can leverage other assets in its media empire such as MTV and have a natural advantage in appealing to younger generations (at least more so than one might think Fox could). But it could be a day late.

Read about it here.
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Mike Boland at  12:38 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]



Mar 2 2006
Social Networking Bubble?
Despite the perceived success of MySpace, there are skeptics of social networking business models. BusinessWeek brings up the possibility that we�re in a social networking bubble that is reaching saturation while ad models remain somewhat shaky.

From the article:

For many sites, the challenge begins with persuading advertisers that their investment will be rewarded with sufficient views by users. What's more, with so many social networks vying for attention, retaining users can be problematic. Amid these difficulties, some observers anticipate a brighter future for smaller niche networks that bring together users with common interests.

Chris Charron, a vice-president at Forrester Research, says some advertisers aren't all that interested in social networks. User-generated content, which dominates these sites, is a tough sell to companies that can't control the material with which their brand is associated. That's all the more the case when content is racy, as personal profiles often are.


Though the page view and retention issues may not apply to MySpace (yet), the site�s average user age is 18 and it largely appeals to a teenage demographic that can be somewhat fickle and swayed easily by effective viral marketing:

... members have little loyalty to any given social network and will switch if something better comes along, or when pals jump ship, the article says.

This statement has some truth but forgets the fact that social networks do have some degree of stickiness, as users have a sunken time investment in having set up their personal, pages, preferences and networks among which their username and other attributes are known by their friends. In other words, the name of the game for competitors of MySpace � such as the newly launched Tagged � is not to attract each user away from MySpace, but to attract a critical mass of networked users that will create a domino effect of others that will follow. It is after all a social network.

The article brings up the potential of more niche-oriented networks such as TripConnect, which brings social networking and user-generated content to the travel vertical. The business case here is that it is easier to attract advertising and easier to contextualize it around user conversations:

Raj Kapoor, a managing director at Mayfield Fund, which led a $7 million investment in teen-focused Tagged, concedes that no one has developed an ideal way to target ads around user-generated content. "At the end of the day advertisers want to find a way to do it," since teens spend so much time browsing their peers' profiles, blogs, and other dispatches.

But with something more niche-oriented like TripConnect:

�The site uses social networking in such a way that users are "directly influencing each other's purchase decisions," he notes. That's "not something you find when people are chatting about bands."

So are vertically oriented social networks better off than broader ones? The same question faces search, online shopping and even classifieds. The question is still being hammered out in those more mature industries where lots of factors weigh in, so it will be a while before a clear answer is discerned about social networking models. But if we are in a social networking bubble, an impending shakeout will get us closer to an answer.
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Mike Boland at  07:37 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [1]



Mar 2 2006
Video Game Advertising Takes a Step Forward III
There continues to be business activity in the embryonic field of video game advertising. As we�ve reported in the past here and here, this could be an interesting area to watch because of the repeated exposure that ads could receive, the attractive demographic of gamers, and the IP targeting capabilities of online games that could eventually follow the success of local online advertising.

San Jose Mercury News Tech reporter Dean Takahashi reported yesterday on the latest development in the field. Two former executives of mega gaming company Sega, will join the executive ranks of new video game ad company Adscape (think of it as a tech-savvy ad agency for video games).

It will split ad revenues with game publishers and it �promises to weave advertising into both video game landscapes and their embedded communications.�

From the article:

For instance, Gilbert said, in a game in which a player goes to a cell phone store, the store could have real-world models of cell phones on display. If the player likes the phone, he could click a button and order one on the spot or step out of the game and go to a Web site for more information.

� In another example, he said players could communicate with friends from inside the game using the game's own messaging system, or conduct online financial transactions while they're still in a game.


The advantage of video game ads is that they can be well integrated and even involve products used within game play, as opposed to just being displayed somewhere. For example, Splinter Cell, a popular action game, has Sobe vending machines from which game characters can power up.

And with online gaming and Internet-connected consoles growing in use, it could create a fertile situation for delivering targeted ads and even bring in e-commerce capability for an immediate conversion. A great deal is yet to be developed (technologies and business models) in this space, but we�ll keep an eye on it.
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Mike Boland at  07:05 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]



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]





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