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Feb 23 2006
Google Page Creator
Yahoo! some time ago launched a free website offering for small businesses (to get their content and as a "foot in the door" for web hositing upsells). When I speak to Yahoo! about it, they won't reveal numbers but say the product has been well received.

Today Google launched something similar but somewhat broader: "Google Page Creator." Here's the official Google press dispatch:

The new product is Google Page Creator, a free, easy, browser-based tool for creating attractive web pages.

Web publishing can be complicated, expensive, and unsatisfying. Google Page Creator has been designed with ease of use in mind. Its unique interface enables users to edit and create pages just as they appear online, without knowledge of HTML or other computer programming languages. Combined with a simple one-step publishing process, users can create attractive, functional web pages in minutes - hosted by Google for free.

Google Page Creator is a web-based tool, meaning no download is necessary. Users need only visit http//pages.google.com and sign in using their Gmail account to begin creating and publishing their own web pages.


They're not accepting new sign-ups given the apparent demand today. Here's the quickie site I created in about 5 minutes. It's about as easy to use as blogging tools.

In order to get access to the product, you have to have an account (essentially sign up for gmail). Your gmail address becomes the first part of your URL, in my case: http://greg.sterling.googlepages.com/home.

This will certainly drive more gmail adoption (with people signing up for multiple accounts). There's also a "viral" option built into the system, "tell a friend," allowing you to email the url to third parties.

Our data reflect that about 42 percent of small business advertisers have websites. (Google would say this isn't just about SMEs in the way that Base isn't just about Classifieds.) And while everyone needs a web presence (no debate now), how extensive that presence needs to be is a real question. Do SMEs need full blow sites or do they simply need effective "landing pages?" Though Page Creator does seem to allow for the creation of multiple page sites that go beyond the "landing page" concept.

This product will do several things for Google potentially:

1. Drive more Gmail adoption and Google registrations
2. Create a more direct channel into the SME market (the tool is simple and the idea that I can have a site that gets indexed quickly in Google is appealing)
3. Create the ability to present a range of advertising options (including PPClick and PPCall) to SMEs through their admin "dashboards."

How will it impact traditional web hosting firms? It's too early to tell; but Yahoo!'s free product, and those that preceded it, haven't replaced "professional" websites. Yet the web hosting business is increasingly becoming a template-driven "commodity" business.

I think, however, over the longer term these free website products for both Google and Yahoo! have significant potential both as a channel to acquire content and as a platform to potentially upsell SME-advertisers into paid search and other ad products.

Is Google Page Creator perfect? Probably not; but upon very preliminary investigation it appears quite easy to use and "intuitive" and you get something that approximates your own URL.

Pretty nice.

_____________

Here's more from Chris Sherman at Search Engine Watch, including some skeptical speculation that this may be Google's effort to create a "MySpace" knockoff.
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  12:44 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]



Feb 22 2006
Tons Going On
There are many things happening that I'd like to write and post about, but I've been unable to because of travel. Yesterday I was at the NAA conference and moderated a very interesting panel on "free" classifieds. I attended another interesting discussion on local search and talked to many vendors in the exhibit hall. I hope to post a roundup late today.

Meanwhile, Search Engine Journal has a roundup of interesting news, and Om Malik blogs (as in the verb "to blog") about a new Google-Earthlink Wi-Fi partnership in San Francisco (and possibly beyond). Here's more from the Earthlink Blog.

Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  12:37 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]



Feb 20 2006
'Net Neutrality' and Future Growth
Today's N.Y. Times (reg. req'd) has a pro-"net neutrality" editorial:

If access tiering takes hold, the Internet providers, rather than consumers, could become the driving force in how the Internet evolves. Those corporations' profit-driven choices, rather than users' choices, would determine which sites and methodologies succeed and fail. They also might be able to stifle promising innovations, like Internet telephony, that compete with their own business interests.

Telcos and cable companies (correctly) perceive the Internet to be a threat to or, in some cases, already eroding their core businesses and are frustrated that their pipes are feeding the growth of their competitors. One of the not-so-hidden dimensions of these debates is the desire of some of those same providers to stifle or at the very least control the development of the Internet and thus protect their traditional revenue streams, which are more certain and generally predictable than their ability to compete in an open Internet marketplace.

While it's not entirely clear how all this would play out, it's quite possible that local and small business marketing online would likely be harmed by such fees. Yet in the same way that China will ultimately not be able to control the Internet and free speech (notwithstanding the current complicity of the big Internet brands) the ISPs/access providers will not be able to control the trajectory and growth of the Internet.

Just as soon as these potential fee structures were implemented, assuming Congress doesn't intervene to prevent it, alternative access paradigms would emerge. There's too much competition, too much consumer demand and too much at stake for it not to happen.
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  12:26 | permalink | comments [2] | trackbacks [0]



Feb 20 2006
MySpace: PR Nightmare in the Making
MySpace's phenomenal popularity with the teens and early twentysomethings generated a $580 million acquisition by the seventysomething Rupert Murdoch. Here are some truly impressive recent metrics on the site (according to comScore):

  • 24.2 million unique users in October 2005
  • 11.6 billion page views in October 2005
  • More page views than any destination other than Yahoo!, AOL and MSN.
  • Twice the page views of Google
But what goes up ...

Now the MySpace backlash has begun. Numerous stories about stalkers and sexual predators using MySpace to target teens have started to appear. While most users of MySpace at this point won't care about such stories, this is a PR nightmare in the making that threatens to take over the MySpace "success narrative."

Hence the consideration of a "MySpace Safety Czar." According to an article that appeared in the WSJ on Friday:

News Corp. is scrambling to make MySpace a safer place for young people. News Corp. plans to appoint a "safety czar" to oversee the site, launch an education campaign that may include letters to schools and public-service announcements to encourage children not to reveal their contact information. It also is considering limiting access to certain groups, such as "swingers," to those over 18; blocking search terms that predators could use to locate kids; and encouraging users between 14 and 16 to make their profiles "private," meaning they can only be viewed by people they already know.

"We're going to take some pretty dramatic steps to provide industry-leading safety," says Ross Levinsohn, president of News Corp.'s Fox Interactive Media unit, which includes MySpace.


As the Journal points out those measures might strike at the "cool factor" that has made MySpace such a hit among teens, who can be fickle and might not like the introduction of controls or restrictions. We'll see if the site can navigate this rough patch and regain control of its own story.
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  08:29 | permalink | comments [3] | trackbacks [0]



Feb 20 2006
Adieu Jeeves
Chris Sherman at Search Engine Watch writes up a bit of the history of Ask Jeeves now that the butler's retirement is here. This is something that has been well over a year in coming. The question now is whether jettisoning the Jeeves part of the brand will help the engine gain share. Ask has been in the fourth or fifth position in terms of search market share, depending on whose numbers you consult.

One of the motivations behind IAC's acquisition of Ask was that it was to be the glue in the IAC system that knit together the disparate brands into a network of sorts. That network or more coherent whole has yet to materialize, though an Ask search box has been added to many IAC properties (see, e.g., RealEstate.com).

IAC-owned Citysearch provides the content for the Ask local product. The city guide has historically had a very strong brand in the local space (mostly in the A&E category), though it is somewhat weaker today in my view. However, over time, I could see the Ask brand taking over and being a broader, more effective starting point for local search at IAC.

One of the things that was nice about Ask Jeeves was that it had personality, which probably was a detriment in certain quarters. But at least it was a differentiator. While Ask owns top-tier search engine Teoma, great search results aren't enough at this point. The challenge now will be how to make the experience at Ask.com different and compelling enough to grab share from its larger competitors.

I think that the answer lies in some mix of unstructured and structured data (especially in local). For example, if About.com hadn't already been aquired by The N.Y. Times, it would have been a good property for Barry Diller to buy and fold into Ask results.

_________

More from Search Engine Journal.

Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  08:01 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]



Feb 17 2006
Broadband: Growing but Slowing?
Here's a roundup of data by aggregator eMarketer on broadband adoption � now pegged at 61 percent of U.S. households, according to Ipsos. eMarketer summarizes that price is the major barrier to continued penetration in the U.S. market:

According to a new survey from the Yankee Group, the most common reason US consumers don't subscribe to broadband is that it's too expensive. Despite promotional price cuts for DSL (which often cover slower connection speeds and eventually expire, shooting the price up), broadband is more costly than dial-up, especially for truly high speeds. Presumably, dial-up consumers have little need for tasks beyond e-mail, IM and simple Web browsing, which are doable through broadband, and want to keep their monthly expenses low. Price isn't the only factor. More than 30% of consumers say that they just don't want broadband, and about 14% say they feel dial-up is adequate for their needs. Less than 10% are not able to get broadband access in their area.

However, municipal Wi-Fi efforts aim to provide no- or low-cost high-speed access to urban areas throughout the country. According to this article about municipal Wi-Fi in Boston:

In its 40-page report, the Boston Foundation further said: "Respected technology companies like Earthlink, Google, and Hewlett-Packard are extremely interested in partnering with local government to come to Boston to build a low-cost or no-cost system capable of providing affordable and reliable service." ... The question is no longer whether Boston is going to build a citywide Wi-Fi network, but rather how and when," the report, released Wednesday, stated.

And here's information on Chicago's new effort.

All the Internet consumer trends that TKG studies and writes about are tied to broadband adoption in one way or another (local search, the impact of online on newspaper and directory usage, VoIP adoption, etc.). That's why this question of how much more deeply BB will penetrate (and when) is of critical interest and importance. Companies such as Earthlink and search engines such as Yahoo! and Google recognize that they benefit from increased penetration and so are interested in facilitating access. (Yahoo! has DSL relationships with almost all the major telcos.)

For all these reasons, the first panel of our Drilling Down event is:

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.

On that panel will be:

  • Chuck Haas, CEO, Metrofi
  • Om Malik, Senior Writer, Business 2.0 Magazine
  • David Payne, Director of Development, Earthlink Municipal Networks
  • Brian Jurutka, Director of Marketing Solutions, comScore
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  10:19 | permalink | comments [1] | trackbacks [1]



Feb 17 2006
Women.com: Taking Verticals Too Far?
When people have asked me about "vertical search" and the associated opportunity, I've argued that there is an opportunity but it's mixed. Because the general search market is locked up right now we're seeing a ton of companies offering a more specialized content experience with search as the hook or angle. It's also the case that some sites can offer something richer and deeper to users, as well as potentially more qualified leads to advertisers than come from traditional search engines.

Fundamentally, however, people cannot remember all these sites and don't want to have to. That's why search engines remain popular; they're the "front door" or gateway to all this content.

Some sites, such as the recently launched Healthline.com, are a mix of structured, proprietary content and broader Web search in a category specific area. Simply Hired and Indeed are examples of vertical search in the Jobs category. By contrast, I wouldn't call Cars.com a vertical search site. It's a vertical directory site with highly structured fields and content and it doesn't offer anything from the broader Internet. I would also not call TheKnot.com a vertical search site, though it uses search-based navigation.

Confused? Have another cup of coffee. Let's get away from all this semantic mumbo jumbo for a moment.

According to this blurb in PaidContent, iVillage plans to soon relaunch and rebrand as Women.com (a site/URL it bought for many many millions some time ago). According to quoted remarks from the earnings call:

"We anticipate launching the new search at the end of the second quarter 2006. Our objective with Search for Women is to enhance and further customize our users and advertisers experience by participating in the so-called vertical search marketplace ... this new product will allow us to promote iVillage brand by blanketing the Internet with add campaign promoting Search for the Women's Intuition."

PaidContent questions the move: "It will be branded 'Search for Women,' whatever that means."

Precisely: What does that mean? It might effectively mean nothing and be a dismal failure. It might simply be a branding/marketing ploy.

However, let's assume that this isn't simply a marketing ploy and that the new Women.com is going to try to provide a better Web-search experience for women in general � a daunting task given how broad a category "women" is. And calling "search for women" vertical search almost renders the term "vertical search" meaningless. (I make the same argument when people say Local is a vertical.)

Yet women are arguably the most important constituency online. They are driving e-commerce and online shopping and they're the ones writing the reviews on Judy's Book and InsiderPages and engaging in the "social networking" activities, much more so than men.

So trying to grab the attention � and some of the wallet � of this group is wise. But what will Women.com provide (assuming again that it's Web search for women) that Google, Yahoo!, MSN, AOL, Ask or InfoSpace/DogPile cannot?

I believe iVillage is working on that with Eurekster (I'm not 100 percent certain). After my meeting with Eurekster CEO Steven Marder, I recently wrote about about the company here:

They're really an enterprise search B2B play that offers site search and more contextually relevant Web search. "Contextual" here means relevant to the user population of the site (teens, moms, sports fans, etc.). They do that with clickstream analysis of aggregate user query behavior. Initially Web search is weighted according to specific business rules, but the engine learns what the group thinks is relevant to particular queries. It's a different relevance paradigm that gets "smarter" over time.

Women.com, using Eurekster's engine/algorithm, at least in theory does offer a potentially differentiated search experience � one that is hypothetically more relevant because it's less "generic� and based on aggregated user behavior. So there is at least a potential value proposition here with some meaning (assuming I'm right about the relationship).

But whether Women.com could become something like the "Google for Women" is another story entirely. (My words not theirs.) That's a hugely ambitious proposition. Let's see when iVillage relaunches in the second quarter.
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  08:40 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]



Feb 16 2006
Yahoo! Search Marketing Event
Search Engine Journal covers the upcoming Yahoo Search Marketing Searchlight Awards in N.Y. The program is highlighting the innovative work of agencies that have combined traditional campaigns with search marketing.

I'll be racing from the Newspaper Association of America show in Orlando to N.Y. to be one of the "industry expert panelists" at the Yahoo! event. I was somewhat surprised and flattered to be asked to be on the panel. It promises to be interesting and fun.

YSM's Ron Belanger, the organizer, likened the format of the event to "American Idol," though I'm sure it won't be as acerbic.



Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  14:00 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]





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