Archive for the ‘Data quality’ Category

Localeze Upgrades Identity Management

June 3, 2010

The entire realm of local business data is morphing quickly into the more complex and nuanced realm of identity/presence management and reputation management. I learned this morning about yet another local reputation product that will debut in a few weeks.

And this morning Localeze announced that it had upgraded its Business Registration Manager:

[Localeze's] new and improved Business Registration Manager (BRM) which further validates listing ownership of a business’ online identity. The newly launched BRM establishes ongoing dialogue with verified business listing authors, creating trusted authorized relationships, which yield a high level of confidence in listings quality for local search platforms . . .

The BRM upgrade, which includes a new design and interface, allows users to quickly claim their anchor business listing identity (Name, Address, Phone Number) and enhance listings with descriptive keywords and links. The web application gives complete 24/7 access to update, revalidate, and manage local search business listings.

With the “Manage Listings” user interface, validators identify listings that need improvement based on a proprietary automated analysis and provide recommended corrective action. Through the BRM, Localeze will now proactively notify clients of the status of their listings with a monthly dashboard and link for them to correct and update their data, and re-verify their status as the authorized owner of the business listings.

Localeze is increasingly positioned as a one-stop shop for businesses to manage their identities and data across a wide range of local distribution partners. As I suggested in my previous post about the repositioning, Localeze now sees itself more like CityGrid than Infogroup.

Local Database to Become a Commodity?

April 18, 2010

TechCrunch, seemingly unaware of the the larger context of its suggestion, asserts that it’s time for an “open database of places.” This emerges logically out of the proliferation of local-mobile applications and the common-sense desire to have access to a single, accurate database of local businesses and points of interest (POI) that developers can rely upon. Trouble is, as TC points out, data is frequently regarded as a strategic asset.

Indeed, it is . . .That’s why the Telcos fought all the way to the US Supreme Court (Feist v. Rural Telephone Company (199)” to prevent third parties from gaining easy access to it. Feist made possible the various local databases that exist today and many of the sites that rely on local data. Without this decision there would likely be no Yelp or Foursquare.

This “open database” concept is different version of a similar conversation I had earlier this week with Localeze. We discussed the possibility that the local database would eventually become a “commodity.”

Placecast’s new Match API is an effort to reconcile all the conflicting local data being used by a growing number of players. If it gains widespread usage, what may emerge is a unified local database that can be “re-syndicated” for free or low cost. Regardless of whether this is the precise vehicle, the market is moving toward what TechCrunch is suggesting.

The three main local data providers, InfoUSA, Acxiom and Localeze, are trying to build enhanced datasets or developing new services on top of the base local data. (I wrote about this in the context of Localeze last week.)

All of them recognize that a time is coming when the local and POI data will be widely available for less money than it takes to access it today. Google, for its part, sees this data as strategic and so is collecting more of it itself (via Street View and UGC) and relying less and less on third parties (e.g., TeleAtlas). It’s possible too that Google would at some point seek to be that local data source. Witness the effect Google Navigation — which motivated Nokia to make its navigation free — has had on the PND/GPS market.

From the business side, it would also be great if there were a single database into which local businesses, national chains and other interested parties could enter, correct and enhance their information. However, despite several efforts toward this objective, it remains elusive. No single private company has been able to be the “single point of entry” or syndication for local data.

An effort to create a Wiki-based global directory of local businesses initially failed in the form of Yellowikis. Since that time Brownbook and Bizwiki have emerged, but they are destinations rather than open data providers. Citysearch is aggressively re-syndicating its local data and content though not providing an open database in the sense that TechCrunch is calling for.

Clearly the market wants a free or low-cost local database. So something will emerge that responds to that demand. The questions are:

  • When?
  • How will its accuracy be established and maintained?
  • What’s the business model to support it (e.g., donations, licensing)?

Bad local data can kill a local site or app. Conversely, giving everyone equal access to the same local data would not necessarily make all apps or sites equal; however it would put considerable pressure on the UI/UX and other variables to differentiate.

What do you think about all this and whether an “open local database” will come to pass?

____

Related from TC: CloudMade’s OpenStreetMap Surges On Wikipedia-Like User Passion

While this isn’t the same as local business data, perhaps it’s a “proof of concept” for an open-source local database.

Milo.com Hits 1M Users

December 9, 2009

I wrote up the announcement that Milo.com was out of beta with 1 million users over at SEL (also a bit of broader context and perspective too). Here’s a TV segment featuring Milo.com’s Jack Abraham:

Beyond the fact that it’s always interesting to see and hear entrepreneurs, the most interesting thing about this video is the way the whole thing is positioned and explained by the host of the segment.

Localeze Steps Up Data Updates

December 9, 2009

Local data provider and content management platform Localeze is now starting to deliver updates to its 85 partners on a weekly basis — “one step closer to real time,” reads the press release. The company’s competitors update on a monthly or less frequent cycle.

As people are increasingly whipped into a frenzy by the concept of “real time” this move should gain notice and interest. But more importantly more frequent updates should improve the accuracy and quality of the database for publishers and end users.   

And rather than simply being a “data provider” Localeze has moved to become a “content management” partner for businesses with multiple locations. While it manages data for multiple-location businesses, Localeze gets SMB data and updates from partners which it then syndicates to its entire network.

There are many interesting and creative things coming out of Localeze and I’ve been told more are on the immediate horizon.

HelpHive Controversy: One Pissed Plumber

November 5, 2009

Seattle plumber Evan Conklin is very angry at HelpHive. He made his feelings plain in a comment on one of my posts about the company. Now the Seattle blog TechFlash posts that part of Conklin’s anger is about call tracking:

That was until last Friday when Conklin stumbled upon HelpHive, a Seattle online directory of local service providers. Conklin couldn’t believe what he saw. His business listing on HelpHive included a phone number, but it wasn’t the one he’d used for the past 30 years. It was a new number generated and controlled by HelpHive, a proxy number of sorts that the Internet upstart had set up to track calls it was passing on to the plumber.

Conklin was appalled with the idea that a third-party Web site could create a new phone number for his business, thinking that it was simply a way to get between him and his customer and to eventually start charging him for leads. “They have no right to do that,” said Conklin.”These guys are like vampires, sitting behind laptops siphoning off business.” 

The questions this dispute raises (again) are:

  • Who owns SMB data? (facts are public in the US and cannot be copyrighted)
  • Can companies swap in things like call tracking numbers (very widespread) or other similar lead capture devices without the consent of the business itself? 

We’ll see if Conklin goes so far as to file a suit against HelpHive. If he were to, does anyone know of cases in this area that may have resolved the question of whether call-tracking or similar devices can be used without an SMB’s prior consent?

infoUSA to Distribute Savings.com Coupons/Deals

October 12, 2009

Picture 2A potentially big deal for both parties, infoUSA and Savings.com announced a distribution relationship this morning:

[InfoUSA] the leading provider of data driven and interactive resources for targeted sales, marketing and research solutions today announced infoUSA customers can now receive enhanced content through Savings.com, the premiere destination for online coupons. Coupon data provides another level of granularity for Point of Interest (POI) listings and a more robust product offering for infoUSA customers . . .

Savings.com features deep discounts for major retailers in apparel, home goods, health and beauty, electronics, travel and all major retail sectors for merchants such as Target, Gap, Apple, Macy’s, Verizon, Best Buy, Home Depot and Travelocity, to name a few. Founded in 2004, the site now carries coupons and digital deals from over 800 brands and over 3,400 merchants.

This is interesting because volume/reach and inventory have always been a problem in the fragmented coupon space. There’s no question of consumer demand, although it varies somewhat by audience segment, the issue is finding the coupons for the stuff that you’re interested in. That has prompted efforts such as Ask’s recent coupon search vertical.

The infoUSA-Savings.com deal is also interesting because lots of the big publishers in local can add deals/coupons immediately through this opportunity. However most of Saving.com‘s deals are e-commerce oriented and not offline. So there’s a little bit of a conceptual disconnect there. However the content is quite valuable.

StreetView Now Offers ‘AR’ on the PC Browser

August 28, 2009

I just wrote about augmented reality in the new Yelp iPhone app (or update rather) and augmented reality in general. I was about to write about Google putting business info windows onto StreetView and it occurred to me that this is the same kind of thing — a kind of “augmented reality” for the PC browser — except you’re not getting information about businesses immediately in front of you on the street.

However it mimics the AR experience in a certain way:

Picture 57

The next step for this, which would truly align it with AR, is to pop up or enable the info windows as I “walk down” or move around Street View:

Picture 58

I should be able (hopefully soon) to walk down this street in the Marais district of Paris and click on a storefront or hotel and get the window (avec deals?). You can’t currently do that. But the new functionality certainly points in this direction.

EveryBlock Bought by MSNBC

August 17, 2009

Picture 11From the EveryBlock blog:

After considering a number of options (some wildly different from others), we decided that working with MSNBC.com was the best fit for our site and our team . . .

[I]t means that we’ll have resources to expand EveryBlock profoundly. MSNBC.com is the most-visited news Web site in the U.S. and is in solid financial shape in a time when news organizations around the world are struggling. We’re excited about the possibilities of pointing a massive audience at EveryBlock and having the resources to beef up our technological infrastructure and staff.

The site was a recipient of a $2 million Knight Foundation grant, so there are no investors to pay back.

According to the blog post EveryBlock will maintain its current site but we’ll probably see data rendered in various ways on the MSNBC site, in association with a range of story types. There may even be a mini-EveryBlock within MSNBC. I wonder also to what extent EveryBlock’s content will make its way into NBC’s “hyper-local” affiliate sites.

How much do you think the site sold for: $2 million, $3.5 million, $5 million . . . or more?

Can a Wikipedia for Cities Succeed?

June 19, 2009

I would never have predicted the success of Wikipedia itself so I certainly won’t dismiss WikiCity a new Wiki site for 22,000 US cities and towns that formally launched yesterday. According to the press release:

WikiCity is a project designed to make communities accessible, defining each not just as a dot on a map or a collection of statistics, but as a chorus of raucous, opinionated citizens falling in love with their hometown all over again. Much like Wikipedia, WikiCity is a free wiki, and anyone can contribute. However, WikiCity is different because it is designed to promote local community, commerce, tourism, and everyday life within the towns it serves – thus welcoming content that it typically not suited for Wikipedia.

Picture 10

Given that there are two people behind this, it won’t take much revenue to make it sustainable. The real question is whether people will become as engaged with WikiCity as with Wikipedia in terms of content creation. Probably so, as people take “ownership” of their communities.

Smaller towns is probably where this will see traction first.

Localeze’s New ‘Confidence Score’

April 28, 2009

Local search data and content provider Localeze has introduced what it’s calling the “Localeze Confidence Score.” The confidence score is the company’s statement to third party search engines and local directory partners about the accuracy of its local data and business records. The company is associating a confidence score with each of the millions of records it provides to those partners.

The rest of this post is at SEL.

BooRah Reviews Integrated into InfoUSA Data

November 11, 2008

picture-113InfoUSA has been busy enhancing its data. The latest installment of that process involves the intregration of BooRah’s ratings/review aggregation. According to the press release:

BooRah will provide ratings and reviews for approximately 150,000 of infoUSA’s restaurant listings. BooRah’s content will be linked to infoUSA’s individual record ID Numbers, which can then be added to infoUSA’s base record data including company name, address, phone number and category (SIC Codes).

BooRah co-founder Nagaraju Bandaru told me via email that the company has “map[ped] all our attributes for every one of infoUSA’s records.” Given the frequency of the changes/updates, the BooRah data updates will be provided to InfoUSA customers directly via a feed.

Google Maps Bounces Navteq

September 19, 2008

Mike Blumenthal alerted me to the fact that Google is now relying exclusively on TeleAtlas for mapping data. Mike has the scoop:

Google Maps has now switched their map data provision completely over to TeleAtlas from Navteq. Now the google Maps, the Google API and the Google Maps for Mobile all use the same underlying data. This switch was only a matter of time given Nokia aquisition of Navteq. Here is the announcement from Google’s Maps Guide Adam:

Hi Everyone,

I wanted to give you a heads up that Google Maps recently made some changes to the map data. Specifically, we have moved Google Maps over to use the same map data from Tele Atlas that is currently used by both the Google Maps API and Google Maps for Mobile. While most of the map will look the same, and in many areas it will improve, there may also be some cases where the data may not be optimal . . .

I know that Google was concerned about the ownership of Navteq by Nokia. And Google recently signed a new deal with TeleAtlas in which the latter gets the benefit of community edits to Google Maps data. I wonder if there was some exclusivity provision in that contract that we’re now seeing play out in this move.

Between the two companies, TeleAtlas was generally regarded as a stronger player in Europe, Navteq the better data source in the US. However, things may have changed.

Localeze Morphs into ‘Content Mgmt’ Company

July 9, 2008

As I previously said I spent a day with Localeze a few weeks ago and was impressed by the company’s vision for the future. Here’s the official announcement:

To close the gap between local search engines, businesses and ready-to-buy consumers, Localeze is redefining the foundation of local search and creating a new market — online content management. Accurate and enriched local business content coupled with broad, local search engine distribution is critical to solidifying the still-fragmented local search engine market and bringing meaningful local business results to consumers.

Localeze provides the deepest, richest and most accurate multi-sourced local business content, including content verified and enhanced by businesses themselves. This premium business content is distributed by Localeze to the largest network of local search engine partners in the U.S. (85 + sites), which captures 90 percent of U.S. consumer searches for products and services.

As Localeze’s core capabilities increase the likelihood of local businesses being found by consumers looking for specific products or services online, over 200 national brands rely on Localeze to enhance, optimize, manage and distribute their business content online. This year alone, the company saw a 95 percent increase in national brands signed.

Acxiom recently announced a deal with Moon Valley software to deepen and enhance its database. But what Localeze is doing is something of a shot across the bow of the industry. It’s no longer enough to simply provide “17 million points of interest” just as it’s no longer enough for local destination sites to simply reflect “name, address and phone number.”

Moon Valley’s Pete Ryan believes that we’re in the midst of a dramatic change in data aggregation, processing and distribution and that “user-generated content” (from consumers or businesses) is going to revolutionize the entire segment. That’s partly what Localeze is talking about and what Google’s recent “two-way” deal with TeleAtlas also represents.

‘Conversational Marketing’ for SMBs

July 3, 2008

TechCrunch has discovered some new anti-Yelp sites and calls it an indicator of Yelp’s success. To be sure.

Yelp is the poster child for the much larger phenomenon of consumer reviews of local businesses. That phenomenon is here to stay. Some businesses hate it but a majority, it turns out, embrace the phenomenon conceptually:

Attitude of SMBs toward user reviews

There are two issues: fairness and discovery for local businesses.

On the first point, Yelp, for its part, offers “Yelp for Business,” which allows communication between consumer-reviewers and local businesses through the site. But Kudzu, in my memory, was the first to allow businesses to respond to reviews publicly. (Yelp’s communication happens behind the scenes.) TripAdvisor has even started allowing hotels and B&B’s to respond to bad reviews.

The systems are maturing and, in some cases, we’re moving from pure reviews to platforms that facilitate SMB-consumer “conversations” or CRM capabilities.

But the challenge and problem of how to monitor all proliferating reviews out there is starting to be addressed too. There are at least three companies, in addition to MerchantCircle, that are building or have built the capacity to automate the collection of reviews from multiple sites. As part of that a couple of them are also trying to centralize the process of data completion/correction on multiple sites as well.

Moon Valley Software’s Pete Ryan described to me a product the company is rolling out that combines review monitoring — he likens it to a “clipping service” — with data correction for multiple sites. The proposition is this from the SMB POV: “here’s where your listings show up online and here’s what they look like.” If you correct and/or enhance your information once it will be distributed everywhere your listing appears.

Localeze has developed a version of this same value proposition for its customers.

Ryan and I discussed online reviews at some length but also the broader phenomenon of user-generated content and how it’s starting to positively impact data quality online. Managing the “local database” is becoming a “two-way” process. The recent Google-TeleAtlas deal is an example of that trend.

Getting the businesses and community engaged in correcting and completing local data — Yahoo! was really the pioneer here — is picking up steam. And UGC, in Ryan’s view, will ultimately revolutize the process of data collection and management, uncoupling it from its top-down, telco legacy.

The phenomenon of “conversational marketing” has now definitely arrived for SMBs.

Acxiom Seeks to Deepen Database

June 4, 2008

Data provider Acxiom has partnered with a company called Moon Valley to offer deeper content:

To provide more accurate, detailed information for its InfoBase-X Telephone Directories Online, Acxiom Corporation has entered into an agreement with Moon Valley Software, Inc. Moon Valley has developed proprietary software and technology that mines the Web for richer, deeper and more up-to-date business information.

This data will be incorporated into Acxioms existing online directory files to give local search engines the results their users want and need to make buying decisions. InfoBase-X is the largest repository of U.S. business and consumer marketing data in one source and powers Acxioms directory products.

The Web is going to have a lot but not all the relevant information that consumers want about businesses. Ultimately you have to go to the businesses themselves.

While this is a welcome move to improve the database, I just spent some time with Localeze and can say that Acxiom and InfoUSA will have some catching up to do.

___

See also: When Good Databases Go Bad

Google Q1 Results Challenge comScore

April 18, 2008

Publishers and site owners have long complained that third-party traffic measurement services such as Nielsen and comScore under-count their traffic and unique users. For example, Yelp sent me an email in late Feb saying that internally it shows more than 8 million monthly uniques, which was more than some of the third party services reported. See this early March comparison of Yelp, Citysearch and Local.com (per Compete):

compete march

I just a moment ago looked on Compete and, based on the earlier email, these numbers would now appear to correspond to the internal counting and trajectory of the Yelp numbers (not sure re Citysearch and Local.com).

compete data

According to the Wall Street Journal, comScore is taking some heat (and from investors) over apparent discrepancies between its metrics regarding declining paid clicks on Google and Google’s strong Q1 results. comScore itself tried to clarify there wasn’t necessarily a direct link between its data and Google’s performance. But Wall Street analysts, with some justification, continued to obsess on the paid click data.

(Google said in the earnings release, however, that paid clicks grew “approximately 4% over the fourth quarter of 2007.”)

I never directly reviewed the recent, controversial comScore reports themselves but have read the data in third party discussions. For its part comScore appears to have been incorrect on the raw numbers and was perhaps mistaken to not put enough caveats around its data. However, financial analysts were insufficiently sophisticated about the metrics and user behavior to be more “restrained” and “sober” about it in their corresponding “notes.”

There’s also a herd mentality that exists in such situations; and there’s some segment of the population that would have liked to see Google stumble and be proven an “ordinary company” not immune from the pressures facing others. That created a certain receptiveness to the declining clicks information.

However, I’ve always felt that the focus on paid clicks was misplaced as an indicator of whether Google was suffering from the larger problems of the economy. The better metrics would have been query volume and market share (comScore discusses this to some degree in the “clarify” link above). Paid clicks is a function of ad coverage and search volume. If search volumes had declined (which they haven’t) or Google had been losing market share (which it hasn’t) then these concerns would have been more justified.

Because there’s no “cost” to consumers to click on ads, clicks are not necessarily going to suffer in a recession. What will likely suffer are certain kinds of commercial queries. For example, if I put off buying the new car then I might not be doing as many searches for cars. That in turn will translate into fewer paid clicks. However, in the aggregate, query volumes were not going down (as comScore said):

The most puzzling data element is that Google’s U.S. paid clicks dropped sequentially by 7%, while, at the same time, its total number of search queries grew by 9%. At the same time, Google’s market share of all search queries grew slightly from December, and its annual query growth remains very strong. All indicators point to the company continuing to do very well as far as consumer usage and competitive position.

Some questions are approrpiate to raise about whether comScore’s methodology needs some fixing. Yet there should be no schadenfreude. Third party measurement is critical to industry credibility. Simultaneously, everybody has to take all the numbers, whatever their source, with some perspective and see them not as literal truth but rather as directional indicators.

Innovectra Loses VP, Launches Widgets

April 10, 2008

http://www.innovectra.com/IMAGES/innlogo.gif

David Dague who was the VP of Marketing for local search platform and marketing services provider Innovectra has joined Localeze, which is doing some very interesting things and looks to be in transition from pure data provider to something else . . .

At Innovectra, Dague was instrumental in the developmet of the company’s local SEM product LeadStream.

For its part Innovectra, now led by Thomas Lewis, recently launched mobile/widgets and couponing as promitonal and syndication offerings that it can provide to its publisher partners.

Uppereast Responds to ‘Mapspam’ Post

April 6, 2008

I was contacted in email by the CEO of Uppereast.com Steve Georghakis who took exception to my post and characterization of his site’s appearance on Google as “spam.” I offered him the opportunity to write a post explaining the situation and offering his perspective. Instead, he gave me permission to excerpt part of his email.

Here’s the explanatory chunk of the email:

We did nothing inappropriate.  Google is the company controlling the way their data is displayed.  We have been a successful hyperlocal company for quite some time and have many revenue streams.  We do leverage affiliate relationships where is makes sense, as I believe pay-for-performance relationships are appropriate.  We run a clean, upstanding business and literally have hundreds of local advertising customers that love us.  Our site traffic from end users has increased steadily and we remain the most trusted source of hyperlocal business and local living information for the Upper East Side available anywhere.  We literally have people that walk the streets and manage the data.  This costs me money, but it’s worth it to our end users.  I had viewed Google’s Local Maps display of our information as beneficial to end users, because I know our data is more accurate than the data that is typically bought from big data service providers.  The links, where possible, brought the end user deep into a page which was presumably relevant to what they are after (e.g. hotels listings brought them right to a reservations page).  I can understand, however, that some people would rather be brought to a hotel’s URL, rather than ours.  This is not something we can control.  Google needs a process to ensure that they display the business owner’s information over a trusted source like ours (and also need to figure out how to leverage us over the business owners’ information for business closings).  It’s a complex business process, resulting in a complex technical challenge.

My characterization of the Uppereast links (all 10 results on Google.com for the query “New York Hotels”) as “mapspam” was perhaps premature and unfair. I didn’t reach out to Uppereast. However I did ask Google for a comment though I haven’t yet heard back. Yet the concentration of links from a single site certainly appeared irregular and to break with Google’s apparent policy to put “first party” content front and center in local.

As the quoted text above indicates, however, perhaps Google is relying heavily on third party content in selected situations. Here are two related posts on the subject:


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