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Feb 2 2006
Online Newspaper Growth a Bright Spot
Amid gloomy reports (WSJ sub. req'd) about the health of print newspapers, there's some very good news in online revenues and traffic growth for newspaper sites. According to Nielsen and the NAA:

Both the overall number and percentage of Internet users visiting newspaper Web sites hit new all-time highs in November 2005, according to a new report by Nielsen//NetRatings for the Newspaper Association of America. The data, which takes into account home and work Internet usage, shows that more than 55 million people visited newspaper Web sites in November, a 30 percent increase (42.5 million) from the same period a year ago.

The November visitors also represent more than one third (36 percent) of all active Internet users that month, the most of any month since NAA began tracking online usage in January 2004.

For the year�s fourth quarter, the monthly unique audience averaged more than 53.6 million and 35.2 percent of all active Web users. The time Internet users spend on newspaper sites also continues to rise as users� visits averaged 42 minutes a month during the quarter.


In addition, news content is the No. 1 type of content that users seek out online.

Separately, here's a piece in Ad Age (reg. req'd) about Neil Budde and Yahoo! News and the delicate dance he's doing with his traditional media partners:

�We�re not interested in setting up a full news service with a correspondent in the White House,� said Neil Budde at the Software & Information Industry Association meeting held at New York�s Cipriani restaurant on 42nd Street. Perhaps to calm the jittery nerves of some of the traditional-media pros in the audience, he added, �We want to be your partners.�
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  15:36 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]



Feb 2 2006
Google Click-to-Call (PPCall?)
Speaking of "click-to-call," here's a Mercury News piece on Google's "click-to-call" initiative. According to the article, the company is working with Florida-based VoIP Inc.

Click-to-call is not PPCall. There are many companies using click-to-call, which is about connecting calls between individuals and merchants. PPCall is a business model that can be built upon click-to-call. It seems, however, pretty certain that Google's rollout of PPCall is imminent.

Once that happens, or maybe before, we�ll see Yahoo! go live with PPCall and later MSN. Here�s a list of average PPCall prices (from several providers) in several top YP categories:

� Florists ($2.50)
� Lawyers ($10-$30)
� Towing ($8)
� Carpet Cleaning ($8)
� Travel ($8)
� Dentists ($5)
� Mortgage ($35)
� Cosmetic Surgery ($20)
� Auto Glass ($15)

The average click price at the national level at the end of 2005 was $1.43, according to Fathom Online's keyword price index.

Of course this also could be about Google offering calls to consumers and thus creating another revenue stream, a la Vonage or Skype. But that's less likely in the near term.



Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  11:47 | permalink | comments [1] | trackbacks [0]



Feb 2 2006
Yahoo! Local Provides 'Answers'
When Yahoo! Answers launched it was immediately clear that people would be asking for local recommendations and seeking answers to questions with local implications.

Now, consistent with Yahoo!'s strategy to push user-generated content from anywhere within Yahoo! to anywhere else relevant within the network, the company has started to integrate Answers information into Local.

Here's a San Francisco page that shows some of that content integration (middle of the page: "people are asking about.")

You can also find, among other information, local business content in Answers directly. (Scroll lower left for cities.)

Yahoo! is starting to reap the benefits of its multifaceted "social search" strategy and it could pay long-term dividends for the company. User-generated recommendations and referrals are uneven but often of very high quality or at least unique. That's because this is information (online word of mouth) that might not be available through search or otherwise online at all.
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  10:04 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]



Feb 2 2006
StepUp to the Future of Online (Local) Shopping
When StepUp launched a couple of years ago with the intention of delivering real-time inventory information and product availability to the Internet it was met with considerable skepticism, along the lines of "yeah, how are they gonna do that?" and "good luck."

But now that the company has a deal with Google to provide local shopping information, it's clear that other shopping search engines have to take notice. (CNet and Yokel offer versions of this.)

As we've pointed out before, e-commerce (though impressive and growing) is only 2.5 percent of all U.S. retail spending, according to the U.S. Commerce Dept. (Forrester has a somewhat larger number). It doesn't matter, however, whether the actual number is what the U.S. says it is or Forrester's larger projection. Even in the most "optimistic" scenario, online shopping is no more than 5 percent of total retail spending.

Yet our data show that 70 percent of local consumers (which is everybody ultimately) are using the Internet to find products and services locally. That doesn't mean they're not using other traditional media. However, it does mean they're online doing research and price comparisons � and then spend their money in a physical store (whether it's a mom-and-pop or a Best Buy).

So what does this mean? It means that consumers are generally not finding information about where they can buy products locally online or they're having great difficulty in doing so.

Google's decision to be "agnostic" about whether consumers buy something online or locally is smart, given consumer interests and behavior, and I would expect other shopping engines to follow suit this year.

If they don't they may put themselves at a competitive disadvantage and potentially leave money on the table. E-commerce isn't going to take over the world as everyone once thought; it's just one channel.

The far larger channel � but increasingly influenced by the Internet � is offline/local shopping.

__________

Some interesting data compiled by eMarketer on multi-channel/big-box retailers.
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  08:51 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]



Feb 2 2006
WLL Super Bowl Mashup
Here's a fun and timely one: The Windows Live Local Super Bowl mashup. (So there's a football pun/joke in there, but I'm going to leave it alone.)

Here's the official MSN/WLL word on the site:

[MSN has] created a Super Bowl mashup to help the thousands of fans expected to travel to Detroit for the game navigate their way around, look for parking, hotels and directions to the stadium, as well as find good places to eat, drink, or to pass the time before Sunday�s game ... [P]eople can view a map of Detroit with information on local attractions, such as the Motown Museum or the Detroit Opera House. Also, we�ve just added Detroit to the list of major cities with birds-eye aerial imagery.

I continue to be amazed by the "bird's-eye" imagery. Too bad it's not real time so you can actually see how many parking spots are left in that Historic Trinity Lutheran Church parking lot.

Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  07:03 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]



Feb 2 2006
Simply Hired Is Simply Fascinating
A couple of days ago I met with Simply Hired. Beyond some interesting things that they were telling me about their roadmap, I was fascinated by the "vertical"' vs. "horizontal" search discussion we had.

My personal belief is that the more verticals there are, the more people will "default" to general search engines because they're overwhelmed and confused. However, there are lots and lots of interesting things going on in "vertical search" or verticals where search is the primary navigation tool.

Simply Hired is a "metasearch" engine for jobs (job search is inherently local), but on top of search results the company is building lots and lots of added value. In other words, aggregating the listings from multiple providers (including the big three) is just the beginning.

Look at this result for "marketing" + "new york." Beyond the filtering of results by selected criteria (e.g., location, education level, company size, etc.), one can save jobs, rate jobs, map jobs, virally e-mail jobs, do salary research and, perhaps most significantly, network via linked-in (find contacts who work or have worked at the company).

All these additional job-specific services illustrate the value verticals can bring to the user experience that is hard for general search engines to duplicate for many reasons.

As I've remarked before, we're seeing the development of an "ecosystem" in which the general/horizontal search engines are where many "verticals" are discovered by consumers and in the subsequent exploration or drill down within the vertical is where the potentially best hand-off is to the advertiser (or at least this is the vertical argument. But this is seemingly proven in IYP contexts; IYPs aren't a "vertical" per se, but see below.)

In this "vertical environment" is also where you're likely to find the bulk of local businesses going forward, for many reasons. (This applies to newspapers and Yellow Pages sites as well, which are obviously not "verticals" but stand in the same relation as verticals to general Web search in the broader structure of the ecosystem.)
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  05:12 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]



Feb 1 2006
Newspapers Are Mad at Search Engines
I saw this article this morning but was racing out to a meeting at StepUp.com and so I didn't have time to do a post earlier. From Reuters:

The Paris-based World Association of Newspapers, whose members include dozens of national newspaper trade bodies, said it is exploring ways to "challenge the exploitation of content by search engines without fair compensation to copyright owners."

Web sites like Google and its specialized Google News service automatically pull in headlines, photos and short excerpts of articles from thousands of news sources, linking back to the publishers' own site. Google News does not currently carry advertising.

"They're building a new medium on the backs of our industry, without paying for any of the content," Ali Rahnema, managing director of the association, told Reuters in an interview.

"The news aggregators are taking headlines, photos, sometimes the first three lines of an article � it's for the courts to decide whether that's a copyright violation or not."


While this attitude (and the frustration behind it) is certainly understandable, it's unlikely that a litigation-oriented approach will be successful as a strategy for newspapers in the long run.

This is a larger version of the Craigslist-Oodle aggregators vs. content producer debate. (And see Jakob Nielsen's anti-search screed as another salvo in this same debate.)

The newspapers (at least as represented in WAN's public statements) are frustrated that Google, Yahoo! and others appear to be reaping the benefits of their content creation while they struggle to maintain subscribers and defend against advertiser defections. But it's a mistake to simply say, by implication, our industry's challenges and problems can be attributed to news aggregators that take our content for free.

I'm quite sympathetic to newspapers and believe that news organizations have a critical role to play in democratic societies and thus need to succeed and thrive online (The N.Y. Times broke the NSA wiretapping story, not a blogger and not TV).

If the newspapers can collectively negotiate some financial/content licensing arrangement with news aggregators (one of which, Topix, is owned by newspapers) that's great. However, ultimately, they should focus on delivering value to their users and advertisers and working together to create networks to leverage their traffic � rather than on legal efforts to block or tax the collection and distribution of their content.

Litigation in this case is not a competitive strategy; it's a form of denial.

___________

Danny Sullivan at Search Engine Watch does a nice roundup of the coverage of the "newspapers want search engines to pay" story.

My colleague Mike Boland points me to this news aggregation aggregator. :)

And, from the other end of the spectrum, AT&T raises the toll road question again per Om Malik.







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



Feb 1 2006
'Need Something' Ad Campaign
My colleague Charles Laughlin posted about the YellowPages.com "Need Something" ad campaign when it officially launched earlier this week.

Here's more on the size and reach of the campaign from ClickZ. You can view the online ads here and the TV ads here.

I think both sets of ads are quite effective (in particular the TV spots are clever). It remains to be seen whether the campaign will have the desired impact and help burn the YellowPages.com brand into consumers' minds as a local search destination. At a minimum, I think they will get consumers who are currently unaware of the site to check it out.

As I've written before, there has to be a there there when consumers show up. And the site has made great strides in usability. Yet YellowPages.com must continue to develop itself as a consumer destination to be competitive over the long term. An intuitive URL and great brand are only part of the equation. Of course, Charles Stubbs and his team know this very well.

YellowPages.com is also being quite aggressive in developing a distribution network and recently announced a significant partnership with Yahoo! (an extension and expansion of the previous SBC, BellSouth deals).

Surveying the local online space, we can see not only growth and opportunity, but furious competition as well. It's a very exciting as well as perilous time for traditional media companies, including Yellow Pages publishers, trying to develop their online properties into real growth and revenue engines.

It's great to see YellowPages.com really putting the "pedal to the metal" (to use an old colloquialism) in promoting itself and trying to build consumer awareness.

I believe this campaign is coming at the right time and really has a shot at "priming the pump" but YellowPages.com must continue to innovate and focus on the user experience if it really wants the campaign to pay long-term dividends.
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  09:43 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]





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