Archive for the ‘Demographics’ Category

How UK Teens See Media

July 20, 2009

I ran across this article last week on how (UK) teens consume media. It republishes in full a report written by a 15-year-old intern at the London offices of Morgan Stanley. Here are some verbatim bits I found interesting (remember this is anecdotal opinion):

Radio: Most teenagers nowadays are not regular listeners to radio. They may occasionally tune in, but they do not try to listen to a program specifically. The main reason teenagers listen to the radio is for music, but now with online sites streaming music for free they do not bother

Newspapers: No teenager that I know of regularly reads a newspaper, as most do not have the time and cannot be bothered to read pages and pages of text while they could watch the news summarised on the internet or on TV

Internet: Most teenagers are heavily active on a combination of social networking sites. Facebook is the most common, with nearly everyone with an internet connection registered and visiting >4 times a week. Facebook is popular as one can interact with friends on a wide scale. On the other hand, teenagers do not use twitter. Most have signed up to the service, but then just leave it as they realise that they are not going to update it (mostly because texting twitter uses up credit, and they would rather text friends with that credit). In addition, they realise that no one is viewing their profile, so their ‘tweets’ are pointless.Outside of social networking, the internet is used primarily as a source of information for a variety of topics. For searching the web, Google is the dominant figure, simply because it is well known and easy to use.

YP/directories: Teenagers never use real directories (hard copy catalogues such as yellow pages). This is because real directories contain listings for builders and florists, which are services that teenagers do not require. They also do not use services such as 118 118 because it is quite expensive and they can get the information for free on the internet, simply by typing it into Google.

Mobile: 99% of teenagers have a mobile phone and most are quite capable phones. The general view is that Sony Ericsson phones are superior, due to their long list of features, built in walkman capability and value (£100 will buy a mid-high range model). Teenagers due to the risk of it getting lost do not own mobile phones over the £200 mark. As a rule, teenagers have phones on pay as you go. This is because they cannot afford the monthly payments, and cannot commit to an 18-month contract. Usually, teenagers only use their phone for texting, calling.

Nothing new here but more confirmation that the future is not like the past for media and publishers.

Foursquare and the LBS Biz Model

July 17, 2009

Picture 55TechCrunch offers a thoughtful post about some clever and spontaneous promotional uses of local-mobile social network/game Foursquare by local bars and clubs (discounts/coupons):

Plenty of others (including Google) are working on similar ideas surrounding location-based coupons, but the Foursquare idea has different potential because it’s a more proactive use of location-based services. On one level, Foursquare is more of a game, and some people use it to obtain a high score and get badges (for checking in certain places). That’s different from being in a place like a grocery store because you’re shopping as you normally would, and seeing a coupon pop up.

Foursquare, for those unfamiilar with it, rose from the ashes of Dodgeball, an early location-based social network that Google acquired, allowed to languish and then eventually shuttered. Google Latitude is a successor to Dodgeball in some respects.

Foursquare is clever and has the potential to be a “cult-like” hit with a select demographic group (read: college and early 20s) that goes out a lot, is intensely social in groups and has time on its hands. But because of the investment of time required and the initial complexity of learning how to “play,” it’s not a candidate for broad adoption and usage. That also limits its ability to make money from advertisers as well.

However all that may be just fine for Foursquare and may lead to brand sponsorships as well as local business promotions by bars, clubs and selected restaurants that cater to Foursquare’s users and audience. It’s very reminiscent of the now defunct online network MingleNow.

Is the Internet Destroying Your Family?

June 16, 2009

According to a report (via AP) on a new survey from the Annenberg Center for the Digital Future at the University of Southern California:

28 percent of Americans it interviewed last year said they have been spending less time with members of their households. That’s nearly triple the 11 percent who said that in 2006 . . .

[W]hen the center began its annual surveys on Americans and the Internet, only 11 percent of respondents said that family members under 18 were spending too much time online. By 2008, that grew to 28 percent.

In the first half of the decade, people reported spending an average of 26 hours per month with their families. By 2008, however, that shared time had dropped by more than 30 percent, to about 18 hours.

It’s interesting that (in the reporting on the report) TV is now a medium viewed as family friendly compared to the Internet, which is impliedly isolating and destructive of the family.

While there’s all kinds of nasty stuff online that kids can find, I’d rather have my daughter engaged in some semi-constructive Internet site than passively sitting absorbing marketing messages from advertisers on commercial TV.

Has the Internet impacted your life and family in a negative way or positively?

AOL Buys Local Properties: Patch, Going

June 11, 2009

AOL CEO Tim Armstrong announced this morning that AOL had acquired “hyper-local” news site Patch (Armstrong is an investor) and Going.com, which began as a travel site but has turned into something like a combination of Yelp and Zvents.

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I would say these acquisitions represent AOL’s increasing commitment to the local segment (or the relationship between online and the real world, shall we say). The company has an extremely strong portfolio of local content and sites MapQuest (+Local), AOL Cityguide, When (Zvents), yellow pages, City’s Best, moviefone, etc. It also has strength in mobile as well. Many of these properties will eventually show up there. MapQuest has been on mobile for a long time and continues to improve and increase its presence on mobile devices.

TechCrunch has a copy of Armstrong’s “letter to the troops” announcing the acquisitions.

Demographically Targeted Search Engine Done

June 11, 2009

When it launched I thought the IAC-owned RushmoreDrive was an interesting experiment: a search engine targeting African Americans. This concept could be expanded to gay people, Hispanics, Asians, and so on.

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Apparently the engine is shutting down. So I guess it didn’t work (or have enough visibility to continue justifying its costs).

Jim Lanzone, former Ask CEO, told me at the time that he thought the premise was flawed and that it would be nearly impossible to execute well. But as a marketing concept I thought it was interesting. Given the failure of the site it will probably be some time before a similar experiment is tried again.

NebuAd Closure Warning to BT Industry

May 19, 2009

I predict it’s only a matter of time before the FTC steps in to regulate ad targeting online. Though it’s effective people generally don’t like behavioral targeting and the failure of NebuAd is strong evidence of that. According to the WSJ:

A court document filed Sunday revealed that NebuAd is assigning its assets to its creditors and will “cease to exist as an ongoing concern.” The document, which is part of a court battle between NebuAd and several Web users who sued the company for allegedly violating their privacy, further states that NebuAd has been winding down since late summer 2008.

“NebuAd laid off substantially all of its officers and employees in July/August 2008 and closed its office in Redwood City on or about Sept. 25, 2008,” according to the letter sent by both parties to U.S. District Court Judge Edward Chen in San Francisco.

It was in July that NebuAd’s chief executive appeared at a House hearing and admitted that his company could track peoples’ activity on multiple Web sites without their express permission.

For now the FTC has allowed ad networks and sites that use BT to self regulate. Yet here’s what FTC Commissioner Jon Leibowitz said in February:

In sum, almost all of us want to see self-regulation succeed in the online arena, but the jury is still out about whether it alone will effectively balance companies’ marketing and data collection practices with consumers’ privacy interests. A day of reckoning may be fast approaching.

Thus in my view the day is coming when very explicit opt-in permission requests will be required of publishers, search engines and ad networks for ad targeting purposes. This will also likely extend into mobile. That will present a potentially major problem for advertisers and publishers because, given the option, many people will instinctively say no to ads.

The industry has been greedy and increasingly aggressive in developing online ad targeting and BT in particular. Going forward, assuming BT Armageddon as I do, it will have to be replaced with other types of ad targeting that don’t rely on PIN or actual user behavior. Such replacement targeting methodologies include anonymous location and demographic targeting.

Center’d Relaunch a Fresh Approach to Local

April 29, 2009

picture-27When Center’d (formerly Fatdoor) launched last year it was effectively creating a novel category that hadn’t really existed in the local space or elsewhere for that matter: local planning. Tools allowed individuals and groups to plan events, travel and evenings out. The tag line was “people, places, plans.” I wrote at the time (10/08):

Center’d emerged from the flames of the somewhat ill-conceived Fatdoor. (Here’s my original post from April.) I had several conversations with Dulski before launch but haven’t talked to her much since then. The site essentially created a new category: local planning. The tag line is: people, places, plans.

Initially many analysts and tech bloggers didn’t know how to think about the site because it didn’t fit neatly into an established segment; it was a bit of this and a bit of that. But tech bloggers don’t matter as it turns out. Dulski told me that since launch and especially following a back to school campaign that Center’d did, it has seen great traction with 111% growth in September.

The “local search” content was present but was subordinated in a way to the planning tools. Now with the relaunch, the tag line has changed somewhat to: “Center’d helps you plan life’s activities.” Local search content is now much more squarely in front of users. The planning tools are still very much a part of the site experience. Events (from Eventful) are also a compliment to the business listings content.

The new site is directed toward 12 major markets at the outset:

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At the heart of the new site is a visually rich, user-friendly interface that sits on top of a sophisticated algorithm and classification scheme. Rather than plug queries into a search “box,” users:

  1. Pick a city
  2. Choose a style
  3. Select a category

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Icons representative of these choices are carried through the site to provide visual cues and aids to search results:

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Underlying “semantic” technology and machine learning allow incoming listings data to be classified into these various categories and sub-categories on an automated basis. They allow for non-standard “queries” like “kid-friendly shopping” or “recession busters.” Users may also do direct business name searches through the standard search box at the top of the page.

Center’d has also enlisted local bloggers to provide content to the site:

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The “gestalt” of all this is the “branded experience” that Center’d is creating for its audience of adults and parents. The visual appeal, demographic focus, planning angle, non-standard categories and underlying technology make the new Center’d a very interesting place indeed.

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Related: Here’s the release.

Transition: Another Side of ‘Local’

April 19, 2009

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This article from the Sunday NY Times magazine has some interesting and controversial “food for thought” about the future of the economy and local communities. The piece focuses on the “Transition” movement, whose central idea is that to be sustainable in a coming era of no oil, society will have to “relocalize” to feed itself, etc:

For a generation, the environmental movement has told us to change our lifestyles to avoid catastrophic consequences. Transition tells us those consequences are now irreversibly switching on; we need to revolutionize our lives if we want to survive . . .

[Transition movement founder Rob] Hopkins insists that if an entire community faces this stark challenge together, it might be able to design an “elegant descent” from that peak. We can consciously plot a path into a lower-energy life — a life of walkable villages, local food and artisans and greater intimacy with the natural world — which, on balance, could actually be richer and more enjoyable than what we have now.

A great deal of the “malaise” that afflicts us as a culture is built upon our collective use of things and consumables to satisfy what are essentially emotional and spiritual needs for community and connection to other people. The irony of most people’s lives is that they chase objects and material comfort only to discover — if they’re lucky enough to attain their objectives — that those “things” make false promises. The way we have defined success in the culture is quite impoverished overall. Don’t get me wrong, I’d like to have a money tree in the back yard and I recognize the foundational importance of material stability — i.e., Maslow’s needs hierarchy, which I largely accept.

Yet if we all had enough wealth to stop “working” or worrying about money we probably would behave differently and not continue chasing more money. We’d probably start working on personal creative pursuits, the collective good or doing something to help others. I tend, because of this belief, to be somewhat mystified when I read about Internet entrepreneurs who no longer have to work, but are working on their next startup.

One of the most important conversations that my now-deceased father ever had with me involved him asking me the question: “What would you do with your life if you had $10 million in the bank?” The ideas that came into my head were immediate and clear. Am I doing those things? No. Hopefully one day I will be able to.

Google & Sony in eBook Deal

March 19, 2009

picture-12Google is making 500K public domain books available through the Sony eBook Reader, which existed before Kindle but is quite a bit less elegant as a device. From today’s WSJ story:

In a strike against Amazon’s Kindle electronic book reader, Sony and Google plan to launch a partnership Thursday that will give users of the Sony Reader device access to more than half-a-million public domain books from Google’s ambitious book digitization project. The books will be offered to Sony Reader users free via the online Sony eBook store. The companies wouldn’t reveal financial terms of the deal.

To date, Sony has sold more than 400,000 of its $300 to $350 Readers. While Amazon hasn’t said how many Kindles it has sold, Citigroup estimates 500,000 of the devices sold last year and Barclays Capital projects the Kindle could bring $3.7 billion in annual revenue by 2012 . . .

For Google, the Sony partnership is an attempt to expand the reach of its online books service, from which it hopes to earn new advertising and subscription revenue. It also underscores how the Mountain View, Calif., technology giant, whose roots are in searching digital content, is now playing a greater role in distributing it — a move some publishers find unsettling.

Do book publishers now follow the path of newspaper publishers: the electronic versions of their titles start to proliferate  at lower cost and their profits (already slim) start to evaporate? It also depends on how widespread the practice of reading books on these devices becomes. 

People could go either way; they could see eBook readers as frivolous during a recession or, paradoxically, as a way to save money on books because the electronic versions are somewhat cheaper. Eco-enthusiasts also might like the idea that no trees were harmed . . . I could imagine a market (in a few years) where people use these readers for “throwaway” fiction and non-fiction and spend money selectively on physical books — i.e., only those they want to keep. 

This ultimately might create challenges and problems for public libraries too. 

I’m curious about whether you think that Kindle, the Sony Reader or a range of new, yet to be released, devices will change the culture of reading and lead to the same kinds of erosions and crises for traditional book publishers that we’ve seen in other market segments.

The Women at Yahoo!

February 27, 2009

picture-211Prior to the appointment of Carol Bartz as the new Yahoo! CEO I was thinking about the fact that Yahoo! had more visible women in leadership roles than its chief rivals: Google, Microsoft, IAC, AOL, News Corp. Facebook has former Google exec. Sheryl Sandberg in the COO role now. 

But with the appointment of Bartz and Hilary Schneider in charge of North America, new CMO Elisa Steele, SVP  Joanne Bradford, Yahoo! is filled with women at the top. The new CFO could also turn out to be a woman. Wait and see. 

So what does this mean? Maybe nothing. But it may also be significant.

These women are very smart and their (presumably) greater facility with and understanding of relationships (employee, customer, etc.) may turn out to be significant if only behind the scenes. Witness Bartz’s new attention to customer service/advocacy. That may have nothing to do with her being a woman but I’m not so sure. 

There’s also the user-audience. From a commerce perspective, women (and moms in particular) are the most important audience online. I don’t imagine that Yahoo! will alienate boys and men. But it may be able (whether consciously or not) to appeal to women even more than it does today. 

These thoughts are rough and vague I realize. But I was just struck by all the women running Yahoo! and how it might turn out to make Yahoo! different and successful in ways that the company hadn’t even anticipated in its “gender-blind” recruitment and promotion of executives.

Hey BW: Don’t ‘Dis’ What You Don’t Understand

February 17, 2009

Here’s a general article on the local market from Business Week. Many people have seen it and emailed me about it.

It bothers me because it’s pretty superficial. And here’s a gem of a paragraph that no doubt captures the author’s personal experience and feelings (complete with dismissive tone):

What happened to the “everything is local” adage? The concept of local is morphing quickly in a world where instant global communications and social media widen our circle of friends and acquaintances to include the world. In essence, we’ve become national—if not international—citizens.

That is a bland and purely anecdotal observation that one might toss out a party without too much reflection. Beyond this, writer Lacy skips merrily through various local media, citing Borrell’s revised downward local forecast and newspaper troubles as evidence that local is not happening or in decline.  She also indirectly refers to the chronic challenges of SMB ad sales as evidence that there’s no there there.

Here’s the reality, which BW either doesn’t fully “get” or seem to want to explore in sufficient depth:

  • Local is about offline — money spent in physical places.
  • E-commerce is <4% of retail; 95%+ percent of product purchases happen offline. Increasingly those purchases start online.
  • 99%+ of service business transactions happen offline/locally (yet online is the place where more and more people go to find service businesses).
  • People may communicate via Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook to others around the globe but they live in physical places and when they travel they’re also in physical places, where they stay, eat, shop.
  • SMB advertiser acquisition is hard, yes — no dispute there (see the last two years of blog posts)
  • The central barrier to more geotargeted and local advertising by nationals has been the challenges of offline tracking in any given campaign

What about mobile? Except for gaming, mobile brings the relationship between the Internet and offline transactions into sharper relief. In fact, mobile is starting to reveal and teach people about the value of local online.

The angle should have been: there’s a big disconnect between online consumer behavior and advertiser understanding and/or ability to capitalize on that phenomenon.

There’s this bit too:

So if you’re an advertiser and want to reach a particular geographic region, good luck. You can target a group, whether it’s young singles, men between the ages of 35 and 50, or women climbing the corporate ladder—but increasingly, they’re scattered across the country, not lumped into one city vs. another.

Every single ad network offers layers of targeting based on location and audience segment. And geotargeting is only getting more precise (see Geode, Windows 7, Chome, etc.). In fact, as I’ve argued repeatedly in the past, the better local gets the more it becomes demographic targeting. Everything, including geo and demo targeting, is even more precise in mobile.

We’re in a recession; everything is down including local. And local is harder than other segments because of some of the factors mentioned above. SMBs are hard to sell to and they don’t spend lots online. But there are millions of SMBs online in various forms today.

As I’ve argued before, from consumer behavior perspective, local/offline is a much, much bigger deal than anything else going on online.  It’s just often hard for people to see it.

A Bunch of Stuff I Didn’t Get To

February 4, 2009

Here are some items that I’ve been meaning to get to but haven’t been able to:

  • Urban Mapping opens up its mass transit API to developers for free.
  • Razorfish’s Digital Mom report is full of great data about Mom behaviors online. Remember, moms are the most important (from a commerce perspective) constituency online
  • PaidContent reports on the NYTimes seeking additional ways to make money including potentially changing for content. The recession may be a good time to test out subscription models — again.
  • IAC’s ServiceMagic unit bought Market Hardware, which is a web development/hosting and marketing firm targeting SMBs that takes a vertical approach to customer acquisition. Peter Krasilovsky has additional numbers a detail. Congratulations to Market Hardware CEO Brian Kraff who built a real business over a period of several years.
  • ServiceMagic had Q4 2008 revenues of just over $25 million. Indeed it and Citysearch are among the stronger units at what remains of IAC. One question in my mind is will Citysearch start offering MarketHardware’s web development capabilities?
  • Google has apparently been testing this feature since 2007 but now offers a “show products” plus box:

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For those that offer local store inventory data, will we start seeing that sort of thing as well? ShopLocal has some interesting things up its sleve in this area.

Pew: Interesting Age-Activity Segmentation

January 28, 2009

The folks at Pew have taken their survey data from the last two years and turned it to a report that segments Internet activity by generational category. Who IMs, uses social nets, watches video, uses search, writes reviews?

All these questions and many others are answered in the report, which is quite interesting. I’ve written it up in slightly more detail at SEL.

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While the young are into social networks and older users are more into online banking, everyone uses email and searches.

Google Chrome Is Out of Beta

December 11, 2008

Here’s my SEL post and here’s my post on “location in the browser.”

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Chrome ads, prompting people to download the browser, were all over YouTube in the form of “overlays” on Thursday.

Trulia + Placecast = More Local Ads

November 20, 2008

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I missed this yesterday: 

Today, leading real estate site, Trulia.com, and interactive media company, 1020 Placecast, have announced their partnership, using location information to target specific audiences for advertisers and deliver more relevant messages to them on Trulia.com.

Placecast adds a new dimension to audience targeting by using location information as the key to relevance. In Trulia’s case, the starting points are the real estate locations in which users express interest. Placecast’s proprietary targeting algorithms correlate these with dozens of other demographic, psychographic and geographic data points. 

Placecast is using location/place as a proxy for all sorts of other things, much in the same way that I’ve spoken about neighborhood targeting as the key to unlocking demographics online. 

If I understand this then, there will be many other types of ads that will start appearing on Trulia, beyond industries and activities “adjacent” to real estate.

Gannett Buys Social Media Firm

November 17, 2008

picture-42Last week Gannett bought Ripple6, a company that offers a platform for social media and online communities. Very much like its earlier PointRoll acquisition, Ripple6 will serve Gannett and Gannett-owned properties (e.g., MomsLikeMe) as well as continuing to do third party deals.

According to the press release from last week:

Ripple6 currently powers Gannett’s MomsLikeMe.com sites, which recently rolled out in 80 local markets across the country and have more than one million moms visiting each month. The company also powers social media properties for Procter & Gamble and the soon to be launched MixingBowl.com, Meredith Corporation’s social network around meals and meal planning. Ripple6 will continue to offer its solutions to third party publishers independent of Gannett.

Gannett has probably been the most progressive of the newspaper companies with social media. And this appears to be a smart buy for many reasons. Gannett has also been smart in cultivating a network of “mom sites.”

I continue to be fascinated by sites such as MomsLikeMe, which target parents and women in particular. Eventually such sites may have enormous currency in the local market (in some pockets they already do) because they’re more trusted than other categories of local sites and, to a lesser degree, have more “personality.”

While parents and moms in particular are already the most important audience for many local sites, the mainstream local sites often don’t tailor their look and feel, tools or messaging to reflect that.

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Editor & Publisher reports on the American Press Institute’s recommendations for the newspaper industry, “Saving an Industry in Crisis.”

Center’d’s New Category: Local Planning

October 23, 2008

Because of the apostrophe in Center’d, it turns the possessive version of the company’s name into something quite awkward. That bit aside, I caught up with Jen Dulski, CEO of Center’d a week or so ago. I was appropriately picking my 9 year old daughter up from school. I say appropriately because busy parents is the group — specifically moms — that the site is directed toward. 

Center’d emerged from the flames of the somewhat ill-conceived Fatdoor. (Here’s my original post from April.) I had several conversations with Dulski before launch but haven’t talked to her much since then. The site essentially created a new category: local planning. The tag line is: people, places, plans. 

Initially many analysts and tech bloggers didn’t know how to think about the site because it didn’t fit neatly into an established segment; it was a bit of this and a bit of that. But tech bloggers don’t matter as it turns out. Dulski told me that since launch and especially following a back to school campaign that Center’d did, it has seen great traction with 111% growth in September. 

The relevant blogging community turns out to be the “mommy bloggers,” (e.g., Manic Mommies) which Center’d has scored well with. It has also done well with mom-oriented publications such as RealSimple

What’s special about Center’d is the way the site pulls information about local venues and events already scheduled in your area. Events are searchable by category: sports, arts, family, festivals, conferences, etc. This is helpful information to have at your fingertips whether you’re looking to attend a fun event or simply avoid planning one on an already popular date.

Dulski knows her audience and Center’d has apparently been making gains across the US with word-of-mouth, not just in the SF Bay Area. And what’s interesting to me about the site is that it takes a demographic approach to local. It’s a category buster. 

The lesson here for others is: build your site around use cases or the needs of specific populations rather than building products in the abstract that respond more to online competitors than real-world situations. 

Dulski and I also spoke about a number of forthcoming things on the site and frankly I don’t remember what I can and can’t talk about — so I won’t. I’ll just say there’s more to come.

Pew: Internet Eats into TV Time

October 20, 2008

TV continues to be the medium where Americans spend most of their media time. But the Internet continues to make inroads against TV.

At a recent conference on online video I moderated a panel on video monetization strategies. At the outset I asked how many people in the audience had seen the Tiny Fey impersonation of Sarah Palin on SNL. With only a couple of exceptions almost everyone in the room raised their hands. Then I asked how many had seen the skits on the show itself vs. how many had seen them on the Internet. As I expected the majority had watched the clips on the Internet and not on TV. That’s indicative of the shift going on. 

Source: Forrester Research (2007)

The Pew Internet people put out a report last week on Networked Families (.pdf).  One of the findings in the data is how people are shifting time from TV to the Internet (especially among younger people):

The key TV demographics are watching almost 30% less TV according to these findings. Bad news for TV (and TV advertisers) in general.

Update: I misstated what the data say above. What it actually says is that 29% of 18-29 year olds are watching less TV, rather than watching 29% less TV.

Obama Ads Appearing in Video Games

October 14, 2008

Amazing. GigaOM has the story:

Last week we noted unconfirmed sightings of an “Obama for President” billboard in the Xbox 360 racing game Burnout Paradise. Today we’re able to report that it is, in fact, an official advertisement placed by the senator’s campaign team.

Image Credit: GigaOM

My only question: are the young males who play the game old enough to vote? :)

Yadahome on the iPhone

October 13, 2008

Parent-oriented local destination site Yadahome is wisely promoting coupons at a time when coupon use is growing dramatically

Source: Harris Interactive (fall 2008) (full survey results .pdf)

The site also just launched an iPhone application that integrates with the desktop site. 

The site seeks to differentiate partially on the basis of a user-friendly and novel interface:

One of the more interesting things I discovered about Yadahome is that it was started by Maurice McKenzie, former of Friedman, Billings, Ramsey and Signal Hill capital.


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