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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]



Feb 28 2006
A Conversation With Ask.com
This morning I had the chance to catch up with Daniel Read and Ryan Massie of Ask.com, as they ran around SES answering reporter and analyst questions about the site re-launch.

The site upon first glance appears to have some appealing aesthetic changes, but after a test drive (and a demo from Read, and Massie), it is much more than that. We will review the site and include a more in-depth look at the conversation in an upcoming Advisory, and a piece in next week�s Local Media Journal.

For now, if you are looking for one example of an enhancement from a user perspective, check out the new mapping engine. This is fresh on my mind as we�ve recently completed an Advisory that compares the user experiences of the major mapping engines (not including Ask, as the release fell outside our production timeline). The Ajax-based functionality first made popular by the dynamic panning (dragable maps) in Google Maps initial launch is taken to a new level by Ask.

Users can escape the once requisite address boxes to the left and move address locations by clicking and dragging. New points on a map can be added by right clicking, and up to 10 points can be marked and directions given (both walking and driving) between them all. Now-standard satellite maps are also included, along with closer aerial images taken from airplanes (more on the new mapping features from Greg's post earlier).

It�s this kind of functionality that is a hallmark of the portal wars in gaining market share. Ask�s main goal in essence is to change its image from a niche search engine where people go to ask questions every once in a while to a general engine where users go every day. In other words, it's becoming more like Google and Yahoo! (while maintaining enough differentiated qualities to keep it unique). Jeeves� forced resignation is part of that re-branding.

It will be an uphill battle to gain search market share from the sector�s current giants. But this is a good start.
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Mike Boland at  15:08 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]



Feb 27 2006
More on Google Click-to-Call
The New York Times has an interesting piece today on Google's click-to-call offering, and that of smaller companies such as eStara and Ingenio, that have offered pay-per-phone-call marketing products (the ad model built around the underlying click-to-call technology) for some time. What Google currently offers is not PPCall (it's not charging for it yet), but it is rather testing the click-to-call functionality on which a PPCall advertising model will be based - likely integrated with AdWords. We blogged about this two weeks ago, and wrote about it in the current issue of Local Media Journal.

PPCall as an ad model is attractive because of the large segment of SMEs that don't have a Web site, and those that prefer calls to clicks.

From the NYT article:

About 70 percent of those businesses do not have Web sites, so pay-per-click advertising makes no sense for them. But even those who do have sites often lack the sophistication or the time to manage a pay-per-click campaign, which can require considerable tweaking to outbid competitors without spending too much.

Pay-per-call advertisers must still manage campaigns, but the approach appears so effective that for many it is worth the effort. Judson Brady, the owner of Broad Street Flowers, an Atlanta-based floral service, said he paid Yahoo about $1.25 for each prospect who clicked on his search page advertisement, and 5 percent of those prospects ordered.

By contrast, Mr. Brady said he paid Ingenio around $4.15 for each call from a prospect � most of whom see the ads on AOL, which introduced its pay-per-call service last year. More than a third of the callers place an order. "We're lucky to break even on the pay-per-clicks, but with pay-per-call we'll make $25 profit per order," he said. "My only complaint is there's not more of it."


Google's entrance to the click-to-call world will vastly accelerate the adoption curve of the technology among SMEs as the company's reach, influence and brand recognition will help spread the message that pay-per-call marketing can be an attractive option for some businesses, as outlined above.

More importantly the tool will allow Google to tap into the segment of SMEs that don't advertise with AdWords, or don't even have a Web site (thus not being sold on the value of clicks). Combine this with Google's strategy to drive small business Web site development through its new free Web development and hosting service, and it becomes clear that Google is attempting to penetrate much further into local and SME markets.

It will be interesting to see how well it pulls this off.
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Mike Boland at  18:15 | permalink | comments [2] | trackbacks [0]





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