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Feb 15 2006
A Few Newsbits
Search and Win: A story that's circulating today is one about the prospect of MSN and Yahoo! "incentivizing" users to switch to their search engines with rewards and prizes. MSN is further along; Yahoo! floated what might be called a "trial balloon" on the subject. Nielsen's Ken Cassar thinks the general idea is "smart promotion." Others have been critical of the idea as one that smacks of "desperation." (This is the common journalist question: "Doesn't this suggest desperation?")

I wouldn't say it's a desperate move; I would say it's an effort to get attention and motivate users to show up and try the engine. Many people argue there's effectively no difference between the top search engines' results (Infospace disagrees). And there's plenty of data that says there's effectively no search engine "loyalty" out there. I think there's a great deal more nuance here, but it's a much longer discussion.

Here's my view: Prizes might be a good marketing hook, but they aren't going to win over users permanently or cement loyalty longer term. The search experience itself has to deliver value and be as good or better than the preferred engine (read: Google in many cases). There's also the danger of what might be called "search fraud" by users just seeking to fulfill requirements to qualify for incentives/prizes. This danger will diminish or destroy the credibility of the engine with marketers over time.

AOL the Conversions King: Analytics firm WebSideStory reported (consistent with a similar report last year) that AOL had the "best conversion rate at business-to consumer e-commerce sites" of the four major portals/search engines. Here are their data:

  • AOL Search (6.17 percent)
  • MSN (6.03 percent)
  • Yahoo (4.07 percent)
  • Google (3.83 percent)

The WebSideStory explanation of this (user demographics/intent) isn't entirely satisfying. However, one might explain the difference in the fact that Google is perceived as a starting point for research, while AOL, Yahoo! and MSN to varying degrees are destinations that keep people on their sites longer. According to Nielsen, here are the relative, average amounts of time (minutes) spent on each:

  • AOL Search (2:16:49)
  • MSN (0:37:29)
  • Yahoo (1:09:19)
  • Google (0:18:40)

Google Schadenfreude: Since Google missed the sky-high expectations of Wall Street in Q4, there's a distinct quality of "schadenfreude" (pleasure at the misfortune of others) in the air. Barrons caused a further decline in GOOG when it speculated that competition would weaken Google's market position this year. There's nothing new or especially thoughtful in the article. It's simply that investors may now be nervous about future performance and are selling (GOOG is off about $130 from its 52 week high).

Also, John Battelle, who owes Google quite a bit for his current status as best-selling author and search "guru," argues now that Google had "jumped the shark" given its appearance on Time magazine's cover.

Lining the halls of Google are high-profile magazine stories dating back to 2000. (The Time cover is nothing particularly special or significant.) Google will succeed, grow or fall to earth largely based on the actual value (quality of search, tools and services) it provides to users and how the competition stacks up. The danger as I see it is that Wall Street's distorted expectations will cause the company to do things (to produce growth/revenues) that are not in the long-term best interests of the user experience and, ultimately, the company.

Nokia Wi-Fi Phone: This week Nokia announced a Wi-Fi phone that offers can "travel" between cell and Wi-Fi networks. Carriers DO NOT LIKE this development and it's a parallel one to VoIP on the fixed-line side of the house. But because they do not control the handset makers and because there's competition and potential demand for these phones, this is a development that they cannot prevent. Thus there will be more pressure on wireless carrier revenues (both on voice minutes and data use). The only real question here is: Will Wi-Fi networks proliferate to make them real alternatives to cell networks on these phones?

PC vs. TV: Reported in today's MediaPost (reg. req'd) is a piece of research that argues consumers want to be able to watch movies and TV on their PCs and vice versa:

25 percent of Internet users are interested in watching downloaded TV shows and movies on their PCs, 38 percent expressed interest in watching that same video on their TVs.

WebTV was largely a failure because of the bad user experience. The opportunity this time is to build a Web-surfing capability into IPTV, cable, etc., that combines the best of both worlds.

This leads me to another "shameless plug" for our coming Drilling Down conference and the session:

Who Will Own the Living Room?
The battle for the living room has begun with cable companies, telcos and search providers, among others, seeking to control the pipe, the programming and the advertising channel to the local audience. Will people hook up their PCs (or Macs) to their TVs? Will telcos succeed in installing IPTV and gaining share versus entrenched cable companies? Or will cable providers, arguably in the dominant position today, extend their dominance in TV to local advertising delivered through the living room?
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  08:44 | permalink | comments [1] | trackbacks [0]



Feb 13 2006
Windows 'Expo' Replaces 'Fremont'
A little while ago I got a peek at the successor to Microsoft's classifieds marketplace "Fremont." The new site is being called "Expo" and offers a number of advancements and enhancements over the original incarnation of MSN classifieds. It was described as a "locally relevant social marketplace."

My understanding is that site won't go live for a couple of months, which is a bit of a disappointment, but it offers some tantalizing possibilities. It's classifieds + community + chat + maps + personalization. (The site also features local events.)

Windows Live Local maps, including Birds Eye photography, is integrated into Expo, which will be especially relevant in the apartments/homes category. Chat, a really valuable feature, requires both buyer and seller to have MSN Messenger (and could become a promotional tool for Messenger). Microsoft has also integrated Expo with MSN Spaces -- you can present your listings via an icon on your Spaces blog (and there's similar functionality for Messenger).

I was told that Expo listings would be integrated into Live Local and I asked whether the opposite would be true. That is being considered. The business model is contextual advertising from Kanoodle right now; but may include premium placement and/or Craigslist-style charging for selected verticals like Jobs.

Basic listings are free (now standard for online) and they include the ability to add images. The listings set-up process, which requires Passport registration, was pretty simple and fast.

The product will launch in the U.S. but ultimately will be global and will thus compete with eBay's Kijiji sites. But right now Expo has more functionality. The challenge is getting the content and building the user base. But the huge installed Messenger base should jump start that process for Microsoft.

Given all the advanced capabilities and potential content richness it's quite possible that this product could become more popular than Live Local. (There's the beginning of a services directory.) But the opportunity for Microsoft is to integrate the two products to build a kind of "uber-local marketplace" (not very "Web 2.0" I realize), where both local business listings and classifieds information would reside.

That would create more convenience and utility for local users who don't, generally speaking, want to go to one site for this, one site for that and five other sites for the other thing -- if they can get all their needs met in a single location or destination.

For the time, the market share distribution of general Web search seems to be fixed. But local is still in its early stages and there's still lots of opportunity. Apple has proven you don't have to be first to market to become the market leader. So if Microsoft can build a great and complete local product it has a chance to differentiate itself and gain consumer traction, which has to date eluded it in the general search arena.



Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  17:34 | permalink | comments [1] | trackbacks [0]



Feb 10 2006
Jobs Classifieds: Crossing a Threshold?
It appears that something of a milestone has been reached (if the data are to be believed). According to this survey written up in MediaPost (reg. req'd), the Internet has become the primary hiring vehicle for employers. The research was sponsored by the DirectEmployers Association, "a non-profit consortium of over 200 U.S. employers and operator of the JobCentral.com employment search engine."

The survey reportedly found that the Internet was responsible for "51 percent of all hires in 2005, with the largest source of hires being the employers' own corporate Web sites, while newspaper classified advertisements were the source of only 5 percent of the new hires."

Ouch: bad PR certainly for newspaper classifieds. The NAA forecast that 2006 would see $18.14 billion in print classified revenues in the US. Just like Yellow Pages, the revenue is offline, but the growth is clearly online.

Here's how the survey broke down the distribution of online hiring sources:


  • Corporate Employment Web Sites: 21 percent
  • General Job Boards: 15 percent
  • Niche Job Boards: 6 percent
  • Social Network Web Sites: 5 percent
  • Commercial Resume Databases: 4 percent

These categories are quite broad; I assume that CareeBuilder (owned by newspapers), Monster and HotJobs fall into the "general job boards" category. But it's not clear. Sites like SimplyHired and Indeed, crawl corporate job boards (in addition to other sources) as does Yahoo!'s HotJobs. So there's more complexity probably in the actual market than the survey reflects.

One must always be skeptical of sponsored research (which almost always has an agenda), but directionally at least these results are certainly accurate.

More and more print newspapers (a la the Tribune Co.) will need to start offering "free" classifieds (with upsell opportunities) in order to be competitive. If the perception in the marketplace is that newspaper classifieds no longer "work," (which we may be approaching), there will be a precipitous decline in print classified advertising.

It makes the issue of how newspapers respond to online trends, regarding classifieds in particular, quite urgent.

Classifieds seem to be on everyone's minds these days. I just moderated a panel on classifeds and search and I'll be at the NAA show later this month doing the same. And then again at the Editor & Publisher conference in May.
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  09:17 | permalink | comments [2] | trackbacks [0]



Feb 10 2006
Media Discovers Google 'PrintWords'
The WSJ (sub. req'd) and MediaPost (reg. req'd) today both have articles about the new, public auction of ad placements in major magazines on Google.

We first blogged about it (after a tip from Battelle's blog) here on Wednesday.

From the WSJ article:

Google has been placing ads on behalf of its advertisers in three magazines and the Chicago Sun-Times newspaper in what it has characterized as tests. Last month, it said it would acquire closely held dMarc Broadcasting Inc., a Newport Beach, Calif., company that places ads on radio using an online system similar to Google's.

Google has said it aims to integrate radio-spot buying into its AdWords program. Tim Armstrong, Google's vice president of advertising sales, said that if the print tests prove successful, print-ad buying would eventually be integrated as well. AdWords allows advertisers to bid on keywords, which Google uses to target ads to Web surfers, to set the price they will pay each time a consumer clicks on their ad.

"The hope here is we'll have an integrated format for advertisers and agencies ... across multiple media," he said.

Regarding Google print ads, "we know there's demand both from advertisers, agencies and publishers," Mr. Armstrong said. The current magazine-ad auction will allow Google "to work on the product itself and continue to roll it out and look at the results over time."


Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  09:06 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [2]



Feb 9 2006
Eurekster and MyWeb 2.0.2 Part II
I met with Steven Marder this morning, CEO of Eurekster. These guys were way ahead of the "social search" curve but confused users and the marketplace with their early positioning. People saw them as a complicated Google/Yahoo! competitor.

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. But its nature, this is a vertical search engine par excellence.

They get paid on a PPC revenue sharing basis by including Google and/or Yahoo! paid results on search results pages of their publisher partners. And Eurekster has offerings for large publishers and small publishers (e.g., bloggers). The interface of the "buzz cloud" (now a "Web 2.0" standard) is also interesting as a visual search/browse (even advertising) tool.

Marder and I went into their roadmap a bit and there were some interesting possibilities on the advertiser side. He and I talked about local and its complexity, which is on their radar but not in the immediate future.

The "genius" of Eurekster is that it's passive, meaning the engine serves up progressively more relevant results (than general Web search) on the basis of communal search behavior -- without any effort on the part of users.

How does this relate to MyWeb? As Mike points out below, one might infer that MyWeb is growing slowly. One rumor behind the del.icio.us acquisition was that it wasn't about technology but about the gaining the large user community (and perhaps the talent behind it).

I'm a huge fan of MyWeb and use it daily. I find it incredibly useful, but I'm not a mainstream consumer. I'm motivated to use it. But it takes affirmative effort to save and tag the pages (not that much really, but some).

MyWeb, in addition to being a content repository, offers an alternative, human-edited index to Yahoo! search engine users (who are also MyWeb users). Eurekster does a very similar thing but in a way that is totally �passive� and invisible to the user (although it offers none of the "bookmarking" functionality).

Here are my MyWeb wishes:


  • A simpler way to create groups (maybe multiple groups) within MyWeb -- there's an enterprise application waiting to happen here.
  • A way to search within categories/tags for content. The more content you save (I have 1,239 items) the more unwieldy the thing becomes; this would help solve that and make it even more useful.


Despite all the �social bookmarking" buzz there�s a real question about whether sites like Wink and Kaboodle will catch on with mainstream users and become viable (which begs the question of what �viable� means in this context; maybe big enough to be acquired).

The shared knowledge of the community is clearly a powerful asset to these engines/applications. But they need to be very simple and intuitive in order to generate large-scale adoption among what you might call "non-early adopters."
_________

Here's more from the Yahoo! Search Blog.
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  17:33 | permalink | comments [1] | trackbacks [0]



Feb 9 2006
Privacy and Google Desktop
This USA Today article by Jefferson Graham pushes the privacy angle: "will/should consumers be fearful of the privacy issues" associated with the new "search across computers" feature of Google Desktop?

I spoke to Graham about this late yesterday and told him that I felt Google was being more sensitive to privacy concerns this time around than it has been in the past.

I also told him I felt that how the issue is presented to consumers � much like a political survey � will determine how consumers react.

For example, when Americans are asked about whether they are comfortable with Bush's wiretapping program directed at American citizens, a majority say "no." But with the more Orwellian spin of the Bush handlers � "terrorist surveillance program" � people are more inclined to support the illicit operation.

In my view, the real concern with all the recent Internet privacy debate swirling around Google is not whether the company has my data on its servers as much as who can access that data through Google (i.e., the government). But unless that question is definitively resolved in favor of individual privacy there may not be a practical difference.
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  11:59 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]



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]





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