Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Newspapers online growth stifled

The newspapers industries growth into online ad sales has slowed according to the Newsosaur. The results found that newspapers trailed are growing 20% slower than other online media companies.

While growth of 21% vs. an industry average of 26% isn't shabby; considering their long head-start and position; its a crying shame. This is 1) a demonstration that the newspapers are failing to deliver for advertisers and 2) an indication that the fragmentation in online sales companies is being successful in chipping away customers.

Problems for the Newspapers include:
  • Ability to perform on online product that makes sense for multiple price points
  • Salesmanship to demonstrate accurately quote customers
  • Reliance on top categories (real-estate, auto and jobs); the real-estate market slow down combined with the fragmentation in online destinations for cars and careers)
  • Inability to produce a viable product for 2nd and 3rd tier categories, such as plumbers and dentists.
Missing Real Online Product!
The newspapers haven't been able to crack an online product that truly works for their local advertisers. It's ironic that the local newspaper can handle an international company such as Toyota versus the local tutor in Orange County.

Therein lies the opportunity that many SEM and SEO companies have fulfilled. I am President of RelevantAds, which specializes in bringing local businesses online. We see first hand that the advertising dollars shifting away from print companies.

Local companies generally invest in just one advertising medium; however when going online they want to be found whenever relevant. The package must be simple; place my business any time there is a potential customer; and that is just what local search lets you do. A newspapers website doesn't have nearly the reach capable to deliver anything of value here.

Further Problems
Online ad sales is also a natural outcome given the fact distribution is also shrinking. Many reports indicate that traditional print media is shrinking in readship. The onslaught of blog feeds and Digg largely replacing the way that people read news. Altogether, the Newspapers have a daunting prospectus; local businesses need to shop for advertising elsewhere.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Facebook beats out Myspace

November 15th may be D-Day for mySpace. The social uprising of Facebook has pushed it up to the most popular site social network on the net according to Alexa.

Perhaps this progression is obvious considering that Facebook essentially gets all the mySpace users as they mature, graduate high-school and college. So in time, Facebook will win.

Although mySpace had already declared victory in the social network space over Facebook (Pete Cashmere reported on Mashable); it has became obvious that their growth rate would push them over the top.

Google vs. Microsoft

mySpace and Facebook are the states at battling it out here, but the cold war is between search giants Google and Microsoft since they supply hundreds of millions of dollars to mySpace and Facebook respectively. Microsoft has obtain a substantial advertising distribution in Facebook, desperately needed in order for the software company to sustain its mark online. However Google has responded by taking countermeasures which will stifle the growth of new social destinations and thereby prevent Microsoft from gaining more traction.

Can Facebook Gain Even Higher Ground?

Facebooks CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, has suggested that his site could take over Google in terms of popularity, however that is merely a dream since the majority of users use the internet for information retrieval (search). So Facebooks, market growth will now come more from increasing page views versus new registrations.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

OpenSocial - the end of new social networks?

The End of New Social Networks
Social websites are still popping up and gaining traction. Their continual rise and expansion has created a land-grab game between the major online property holders including Google, Yahoo and Microsoft and several 2nd tier organizations .

Google has already heavily invested in social clubs including MySpace for $900MM, YouTube for $1.65B among others. Their only intent is to simply lock in the advertising distribution on these sites.

While Google has established online dominance, Microsoft has got a big leg in by picking up Facebook ($240MM investment and advertising deal). While these sites are fighting it out, will there ever be an end to the next best social network taking gaining equity to the tune of millions of dollars? It's as if new ocean front property was developed in front your existing million dollar estates.

OpenSocial: What Is It?
In response, Google launched OpenSocial, a product standard that allows web programmers to incorporate 3rd party information tools and share their own content. Website owners will embrace the technology since it allows them to expand to the oer 250MM users in the OpenSocial network.

OpenSocial Reinforces Googles Market Dominance
On the surface OpenSocial is seen merely a response to the Facebook API. However the larger implication of OpenSocial is that is minimizes the possibility that a new or upcoming website could overtake a larger property in the OpenSocial network. The OpenSocial network partners will fortify their relative positions rather than be concerned about being displaced by competition.

This is good news for Google since they already has a monopoly of the advertising on the OpenSocial parter websites, so they've locked in revenue stability and allowed them to be less concerned about the "next best thing".

Of course the jury is not out yet as the OpenSocial standard has yet to take root and Facebook could be a hold out for adopting it. Nevertheless, with big names like MySpace, LinkedIn, Ning and others, the writing is on the wall.

Don't expect to see many more social networks popping up to a $10B valuation. Even if a new niche is found, it will likely be assimilated into the OpenSocial fabric and merely be embedded feature into myLinkedSpaceBook profile.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Operating System Under the Hood - Windows Automotive

"Where do you want to go today?" could again be Microsoft trademark. The software giant has deployed its mobile operating system to the car dashboard. Named Windows Automotive, the key benefits include:
  • Entertainment system control
  • Mobile Phone integration
  • Digital music player
  • Voice activated commands
  • Wireless integration with iPod
  • Address book, contact information

It's essentially a modified version of their PocketPC, Microsofts cell phone OS; a combination of Windows Media Player and Outlook. Its about time Microsoft makes some headway in getting passed the desktop.

Big Partners
Expect to see the Windows Automotive OS in Ford, Lincoln and Mercury which will have the OS pre-installed; however several other manufacturers are allowing the vehicle upgrade including: Acura, BMW, Daimler-Chrysler, Fiat, Subaru, Honda, Hyundai, Mitsubishi, Toyota and Volvo.

Where's Google?
It has been rumored that Google will release a mobile operating system. While the search giant doesn't specialize in OS software, they are interested in seeing their solutions, such as Mapping and collaboration freely used. Noticeably missing from the integration with Ford is mapping technology. While Microsoft is charging the automobile manufacturers and ultimately consumers for the software, Google would be likely give away their version by subsidizing it with mapped advertising.

Would you like the car with 6 or 8 cylinder; leather or cloth interior... and finally: Microsoft or Google dashboard?

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Facebook Revolution

What is Facebook?

Facebook is a social network that allows college students to share information about themselves such as contact info, photos, events and other social media. In order to immerse into the experience, users need to connect and verify their friends, acquaintances and schools.

Attaining the 25+ Age Demographic

While the company strives to grow both internationally and in the 25+ age group, the site is a school-centric social network. School graduates are seemingly left out of the mix having to create their own alma-mater groups and regional. The only users that it will largely have over 25 are those which have aged with the service. To escape that limitation, the site is allowing

Revolution Starts with Third Party Integrations

Recently Facebook has implemented programming tools allowing software developers to extend Facebook with new functionality and content sharing. Application integrations also allow partners to monetize, for example through ad-displays. User opt-in for the 3rd party application and then the tool displays on their personal profile page.

New Business Models

Other, mostly smaller social networks are getting involved by integration with Facebook. The opportunity to gain viral attention through a Facebook integration is seen as a shortcut to growth so any can integrate their functionality with Facebook. Companies like Slide are specializing and acquiring applications that specifically leverage Facebook users.

Major social sites, like LinkedIn or MySpace are apprehensive to open their doors to the Facebook integrations as it could compromise their authority as a destination.

Big Sites with Big Sights

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebooks founder and CEO has his sites on dominating in the US. In his address, Zuckerberg suggests that they can overtake Google in terms of popularity. While the services are not related to those of the search giant, the comparison rings well with potential investors.

Facebook is where people: talk, share, entertain, and spend a lot of time browsing... there we hopefully be able to derive endless applications to thrive on that.

Google is where users to go to find what they need; however the search giant is not known as being very responsive to the development community. It is rumored that Google is seeking to attain a level of 100% programmability; allowing anyone, users, developers, business development companies, to fulfill all their online desires. This Worldly intent, if successful, would not replace Facebook, but it would certainly put them in their place.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Local search kills online yellow pages

The online yellow pages sites: SuperPages, YellowPages, and CitySearch depend on user reach for their livelihood. In contract to social engines like Yelp which strive for page views; yellow page business advertisers expect high degree of reach, meaning exposure to a wide audience.

The problem is that the daily reach of internet yellow page sites has been consistently decreasing for over the past year.

Slow Death
Google Kills Yellow Pages
As I found before, the term yellow pages is dying in terms of consumer awareness. As well, the actual traffic to the internet yellow page sites is suffering. The writing was on the wall when Google Local first was launch, but the downward took effect when Google Local Ads were made available - allowing our company to place over 1,200 local business listings nearly overnight. The death nail was delivered with the inclusion of local business information in Google search results. Since Google introduced these features, a progressive downward slope has continued. It seems that as users have found the local business information in their search engine, the have weaned off of the traditional yellow page sites. Considering that over 81% of users start their internet experience at the search engine, I would expect to see the IYPs this pattern to continue.

Am I Stuck?
If you are a yellow pages advertiser, consider this like you would a stock ticker. There will not be a rebound or a valuable acquisition, so take a deep breath, get out of those contracts and get out while you can! If they try to hold your feet to the fire on a contract, I would be quick to point out that their product has lost over 50% of its reach in one year; perhaps you should even get a refund.

While there are multiple outlets for online advertising, search is the most effective and delivers the highest return on investment. The sooner you focus on Google, the better - having a long-standing history is beneficial for getting a tri-fecta, placed with higher ranking in Google Maps, Web results as well as Sponsored Placement.

About the Author
David Rodecker is President of RelevantAds, a service that gets local businesses online through local search. RelevantAds provides highly targeted search placement and advertising packages for small to medium size businesses and franchises across the United States.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Google Maps vs. Yellow pages, users have decided

The writing has been on the wall for years, Yellow pages is loosing place in the market. There have been surveys, speculations and studies, but here is a clear indication that users are taking notice.

Yellow Pages Loosing Brand Identification
If you haven't used it already, Google Trends is a nifty tool to view and compare the historical popularity of search terms. Here is a comparison of Google Maps (blue), Yellow pages (orange) and SuperPages (red):

Yellow Pages Google Trends
Keep in mind that Google Maps was rebranded in April 2006 (from Google Local) and users shouldn't really need to search for the term anyway since it is already linked in the local results as well as above the Google search box.
Yellow pages could as well be entered into the URL, but we know that 41% of internet users typing in a query to locate a website, rather than entering that name into the address bar (from DoubleClick/Harris Interactive).
Nevertheless, the trend is clear users Google Maps is taken over in brand penetration over Yellow pages. The yellow page brands such as Yellow book and Superpages aren't even close and moving in the same downward direction as the general term "yellow pages".

Search is Key Distribution
Google Property Popularity
Yellow page companies are not receiving enough user visible for their product make the jump online, however they still have a chance to deliver a viable product to their customers. How? Distribution through search engines. Google Maps is the largest growing section within the Google properties, growing over 20% in the last month according to Hitwise internet traffic sampling. Rather than spiting the competition, they will have to embrace, partner, and resell sponsored coverage in order to get results.

Advertising End Game
If only it as simple as writing a check to Google. Equally impressive as the Google Search algorithm is the AdWords marketplace. There are many dimensions in tailoring campaigns, monitoring and managing them to deliver effectively. Individual businesses either hire an online advertising specialist or spend hours managing it themselves; it takes uber technology powerhouse to properly manage 1000's of search marketing campaigns in scale.

RHDonneley has already acquired
a search optimization/marketing firm specializing in local listing and I'd expect to see others taking similar courses of action. Print media companies are concerned that buy working closely with Google that they will be ultimately marginalized by the advertising giant. Ultimately, though, they provide something that Google doesn't: reach. While Google is the brand name of users, advertisers are much more aware and trusting of their local newspaper, Chamber of Commerce, network or organization. Packaging, selling and delivering a simplified online advertising service to offline companies is the land grab opportunity at stake.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Local Business is Different Everywhere

Local businesses have to do a lot to be found online. Users have many options: SuperPages, Yahoo, Google, MSN, and dozens of IYPs that make up the majority of local search. Businesses are lucky to be accurately found, and even then they're not likely to have their preferred information presented. The problem and is real.

In order to get the most exposure to online consumers, businesses need to be well published on as many channels as possible. Unfortunately there is not silver bullet, meaning, you can't rely on any single destination or data provider alone. Even if your business record is verified and enhanced with InfoUSA, that information won't make it everywhere. It is up to the the business owner to provide information to every local business website out there.

If business owners publish information to destination on their own, the process is seemingly similar. Each requires a business name, phone number, category, description, hours of operation, etc. Now just repeat the process dozens of times to each valuable destination and local directory. At the very least it's time consuming, furthermore, if its not completed right or to the right sites, your might not get any response.

The chaos has prompted some to called for the standardization of local search information. A standard way to input and output business data. In it's ultimate incarnation, a standard might allow a local business to promote their deals to the whole internet from one place. Unfortunately it's not likely to happen any time soon, if ever.

Why? None of the heavyweight information providers will get behind it. Destinations such as Yahoo, Google, SuperPages, which have a large, growing databases of business content are not interested in bulk re-publishing. The destinations are very interested in user submitted information, but bulk publishing leaves the door open for spam. Unless there is substantial lead generation or other financial benefit, we won't find support from the search giants.

This leave the data conglomerates: InfoUSA, Acxiom, and Amacai. Supporting a standard would only be done if their clients asked for it. This might ultimately minimize their differentiation of data. Their customers are more interested in the mass amount and quality of data, not unification of data fields.

Besides lack of corporate support, there are technical issues why local search can't be standardized.

We have seen the search gorillas unite on some causes like sitemaps and anti-spam. While it's reasonable for a local business owner to supply their own data, they already did when purchasing their domain. A deeper look or revamp of the whois system should perhaps be considered. Given that whois information is already used in search, it is reasonable to expect that the basic local business information already exists there.

We will sooner see information alliances in other internet content services such as video… it's hard to see YouTube, Joost and the myriad of online video service supporting an open import/export of their content; don’t expect the same from the IYP’s.


The good news is that a few agencies focus on data syndication rather than privatizing your information. I am behind RelevantAds, which provides a service that provides rich information to a number of local search destinations and social networks. A key difference with the RelevantYellow versus other services is the inclusion of social networks such as Yelp, CraigsList and InsiderPages. In short, it ensures that local businesses get online.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Classifications of commercial websites

Web 1.0:
Sites = News/Articles/Entertainment
Advertising = Banners.

Web 2.0
Sites which advertisers like because they have a perceived or actual value.
Search Engine, Internet yellow page site, Directory, Lead gen-site, Classifieds

I've created a site which people like to use:
Email, Social Network, Online Game

Note that there is not a 3rd option: Mixed.
Only the top, well executed sites can pull off being both a consumer and business oriented site (ala Google, Craigslist). You cannot be "a social site that combines users and advertisers in a unique way..." as so many business plans these days content.

Sites which try to be Business and Consumer oriented generally fail at doing either effectively. History has shown, if you can build the users, advertising revenue will come. Pick your audience, love them and stick with them. Once you turn around and start pushing your users off to other sites (via ad feeds and sponsored links), it will lessen your value to users. Afterall, if the purpose of your consumer site to keep users satisfied on your site? If a sponsored ad is more engaging than your content, you've got a loosing strategy long-term.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Self Generated Content Threatens Traditional Media

Those familiar with internet publishing are well aware of the power of user generated content. Media and entertainment executives are now recognizing that the ability and eagerness of proprietors and individual users to create their own content as one of the biggest threats to their business. According to a new survey by Accenture, 57% of the respondents identified the rapid growth of user-generated content as one of the top three challenges they face today. And, 70% of respondents said they believe that social media, one of the largest segments of user-generated content, will continue to grow. The content comes from custom web sites, wikis, social-media blogs, amateur digital videos, podcasts, mobile phone photography and wikis.

According to the study:

  • 68% of the respondents said they believe that within three years their businesses will be making money on user-generated content
  • 62% said they believe their companies will make money through advertising and sponsorships of social media
  • 21% anticipate improved profits from subscriptions
  • 18% expect profits from pay-per-play offerings
  • 24% of respondents said they do not yet know how their businesses will profit from user-generated content.

End-users prefer to consume content that is organically originated from other users. Economic usage patterns show a purchase preference for this information as opposed to the traditional media.

Why is this happening:

Internet destinations are rapidly expanding and this includes custom websites, social networks and directories. Search engines, such as Google and Yahoo do a fantastic job of identifying the pertinent information. just about anyone with a valuable and distinctive message can have their content found online.

Getting Business Owners Online:

This study is further evidence that proprietors and individuals need to take control of their public marketing. Businesses can take that information directly to consumers, bypassing the media giants completely. Businesses are recommended to utilizing a variety of websites such as Yahoo Local, Craigslist, SuperPages, Google, Yelp, business directories and a business profile page to regularly publish information such as to company information, current events and special offers and promote coupons.

(source: IQ Reports)

Friday, February 16, 2007

Top 10 Problems with Donald Trumps Wealth Expo

I'm up late product developing, TV's on in the background. IT was 30 minutes of banter and fake testimonials, here is one snip from DT himself. Being too lazy to flip the channel, after hearing for about 20 minutes people saying how easy it is to become a millionaire and that they are now living care free and working less, I decided to rant...

While the concept of a learning to make money expo is great, these guys are trying to make it out like they have the secret formula that can easily be learned. Sorry, people, but all of these guys who built wealth did it with unique creativity, luck, skill and yes, knowledge. Here is my beef with the deceptive Wealth Expo marketing:

  1. Truth. Are these actors for real, "ANYONE" can do this? Even if that were true, the implication would then be that tens-of-thousands who attend would then be in competition with Trump, et al., afterall, they all just shelled out $100 to follow after him.
  2. Catch. True, knowledge based trade secrets are never given away. Indeed, the presenters do get paid well I'm sure, but the amount is still minor as compared to their wealth. No, they're not going to give away a coveted secret to repeatable income. The fact is, they're selling you well established, old knowledge.
  3. RISK. Unless Trump cosigns your loan, there is a risk in getting into real estate. Real Estate investors that were around 30 years ago are not doing the same things now as they did then. Trump has changed his investment portfolio significantly over the years and continues to. Is he able to teach you how to constantly adjust your investment portfolio.
  4. Help Needed. "I now have 2 or 3 investment properties and making a passive income", was a quick testimonial from a prior attendee. Do you really believe Trump is buying "a" condo these days or even 2 or 3? No, he's building and maybe managing them! And guess what, you're buying them! It sustains an artificial demand where there wasn't before and raises the price. We are still in a real estate bubble, they are of course interested in seeing new recruits to keep it going.
  5. Expensive Movie. Cost is shown $499 then reduced to $99 "if you act quickly". Who are they kidding? Only nationwide conference charge that level of pricing. These are metro conferences for 10,000's persons should cost a fraction of that... clearly the profit margin is huge.
  6. Lazy Americans. One of the presenters said: "I don't work anymore and I can tell you how to do the same thing..." If that we're even theoretically true; wouldn't that mean that all of America would become a lazy bunch of people, with nobody actually doing the work.
  7. Hire Immigrants. (With all the lazy Americans, we might need to). If these real estate professional think that can easily teach their methods, why wouldn't they reduce the ticket price and hire the best attendees!
  8. Apprentice. Trump hangs out for 60 minutes afterward. It would be really cool if he visited the exhibition hall, talking to the emerging companies; in fact I would have my company be a sponsor! In reality, he patronizes the audience for an hour (remember they shelled $100 for a ticket) and probably half the questions are "How do I get on The Apprentice"... Here's a hint; if you're at this conference, your probably not his ideal candidate!
  9. Scale. Are we going to see tens-of-thousands of new people in Real Estate every year these guys come to town... opps, I forgot, we already do! But probably a fraction of the new agents, loan officers, etc. got their credential after attending this.
  10. Learn Real Estate and Ebay. Wow; quite the diversity in wealth formulas. I didn't hear about it in the 30 minute TV ad, but the Wealth Expo website said "Become an eBay entrepreneur"

Anyway all that being said, I'd like to jump in and speak at the event. I have a great product for stay-at-homers to sell! Coincidentally, we're waiting to hear back from LearningAnnex if there are any sponsorship opportunities available.