Archive for the ‘Mobile’ Category

YPG Mobile App Sees 1 Million Installs

May 6, 2010

Canada’s Yellow Pages Group announced that it had passed 1 million downloads of its smartphone application:

Yellow Pages Group (YPG) marked a key milestone in its accelerated digital transformation as it delivered its quarterly results today. On the heels of a new brand identity, a heightened focus on digital innovation and recent upgrade of its YellowPages.ca mobile application, the Company announced the YellowPages.ca mobile app has achieved its first million downloads on smart phones . . .

Beyond the million users of the YellowPages.ca app, YPG also serves hundreds of thousands of people through its other mobile apps including Urbanizer (mood-based local search) and RedFlagDeals (coupons and offers), as well as through its mobile web service at mobile.yp.ca for mobile users without a smart phone.

Trulia Pushing Mobile in Newsletter

May 6, 2010

I just received the newest Trulia newsletter and it puts mobile front and center:

Trulia says that about 10% of its traffic comes from mobile devices. Zillow told me about the same number, spiking to 15% on weekends.

Trulia recently added rental listings, which CEO Pete Flint said were even more likely to be searched on mobile devices in his view. But this is clearly not a case where mobile is cannibalizing traditional PC search behavior. It’s very much a complement to PC usage and an illustration of how local sites need to offer good mobile experiences — to deliver utility but also to cement loyalty.

Yelp Says ‘Bonjour’ to French Market

May 5, 2010

BON-jour! Yelp is now available en Francais. Yelp.fr is the first non-English-language site for the company. The press release also says that “Yelp users everywhere will have the option to view Yelp’s interface in French or English, as well as write and access reviews in these supported languages via a link at the bottom of any business listing.”

Also:

The launch of Yelp France underscores the site’s increased effort towards broader availability in Europe. In April 2010, one million unique visitors consulted Yelp UK and Yelp Ireland, with the vast majority of that traffic coming from London. Reaching one million unique visitors after 16 months is an even faster growth rate than Yelp experienced in its first U.S. market of San Francisco and a strong indicator that Yelp is poised to gain the same type of traction in Europe.

Part of the $100 million from Elevation Partners was toward additional international expansion. Germany would be a logical next non-English European country. And in Asia I would imagine Japan would be first.

Groupon Buys Mob.ly, Opens Valley Office

May 5, 2010

Groupon has acquired mobile development shop Mob.ly, which has a number of A-List clients, and simultaneously opened its Silicon Valley office:

Groupon has announced the opening of an office in Silicon Valley to gain better access to the Bay Area’s technology talent, with a focus on Groupon’s mobile- and business-intelligence practices. The core of Groupon’s mobile team comes through the acquisition of mob.ly, a mobile-development firm led by former Yahoo! Senior Director of Product Management Mihir Shah and Yishai Lerner, former Director of Engineering at Carrier IQ.

This obviously indicates a big mobile push to come from Groupon:

The company recently raised more than $100 million at a valuation of over $1 billion.

Google’s UI Refresh & Local Filters

May 5, 2010

There are already lots of posts and articles discussing the update to Google’s UI this morning. Preceded somewhat by the old Ask 3D, and more directly by Yahoo! and Bing, Google is promoting a three-column format with various filters (search options) on the left.

There are a dizzying array of options and tools there (previously text, now expanded and mostly graphical). Most of this is “power user” stuff. It comes out of “Universal Search” and is a successor strategy in a way to the blended organic content Google has been displaying in the body of search results. To my knowledge all that remains as it has been and won’t change.

Danny Sullivan at SEL has a very complete discussion and roundup of all the new features. I’ve done a quick write up of the mobile version of all this at Internet2Go.

To illustrate the new look, here’s the query “solar energy” before and after (I’m not seeing it yet so I borrowed Brad Stone’s/NYT’s graphic):

But what about local? What are the local features here worth noting? Most prominently you can filter by “Maps.” Because I can’t see it yet on any of my machines, I’ll have to speculate that it simply takes you quickly into Local/Maps.

There’s also the existing ability to sort by “nearby,” based on IP address or you can specify a custom location alternatively. Those have been part of the “search options” for a few months.

However I just noticed a “social” filter, which has probably been there too. I just hadn’t noticed it. This is what my options look like for the query “sushi” (new UI not yet live for me):

Danny Sullivan mentioned that there was also supposed to be a “reviews” filter (which is not exclusively local of course). It had existed previously, but apparently “didn’t make the cut.”

If you sort by “shopping” you’ll eventually be able to get to local product inventory information. It currently exists in mobile for a small number of large retailers and will be coming to the PC.

Some time ago Google changed the name of Maps to Local and back to Maps, citing consumer confusion over the idea of “Local.” However in mobile there’s a “Local” tab, which people “get.” In a way it would be better to have a Local icon/filter than a Maps icon. You could still have the maps icon at the top of the page. Local represents a broader sent of consumer intentions and use cases than Maps. However it would be problematic perhaps for Google to develop a new local filter.

Local is really a “horizontal vertical” — a more “narrow” category than general search that also happens to be broader than any other vertical, because it contains most other verticals. How to best reflect and represent this in this new set of UI changes and filters is both a daunting challenge and right now something of a missed opportunity.

AT&T Joins CityGrid

May 5, 2010

AT&T’s YP.com has joined the CityGrid network. (There was already a traffic deal between Citysearch and YP.com.) The NY Times uses that announcement to discuss Citysearch and its CityGrid strategy. Here are some interesting bits from the piece:

  • CityGrid now has 150 publisher sites: “Citysearch’s 18 million business listings and ads from 700,000 small businesses show up on 150 Web sites.”
  • Citysearch traffic has been declining: “Over the last year, the number of people logging on to Citysearch each month has fallen 24 percent, to 21 million.”
  • Citysearch has 200 ad sales people (Yelp is trying to grow to roughly 400 with its recent investment round.)

CityGrid was in development for some time — maybe years — and it’s a brilliant idea. However it was also something that the market was desperate for: a high-quality source of local traffic and monetization and alternative to Google (both “.com” and AdSense). Publishers, however, don’t have choose between CityGrid and AdSense; both can be used — as InsiderPages does.

Where.com and LocalAdXchange offer local ad networks/exchanges predominantly (though not exclusively) in mobile. ReachLocal also started a local ad exchange but I’ve heard nothing about it for many months. There are also other local-specific ad networks in mobile, such as Verve and LSN.

The yellow pages, because of their own inter-industry competition, missed the opportunity to come together and build this service themselves.

The key here is not the content or advertisers or the platform (though all are important) so much as it is the vision behind CityGrid and the willingness to “flip the model.”

Foursquare Deals on SnackSquare

May 5, 2010

Will Scott (of Search Influence) just let me know about a new site, SnackSquare, that appears to aggregate and present the deals/specials available via Foursquare (using the API):

This is very interesting as a way to expose deals from Foursquare. Of course most of these are “mayor” or “best customer” loyalty deals that regular folks can’t take advantage of. If, however, there are more services like this that develop you might see a broadening of couponing on Foursquare (happening already to a degree) to appeal to new customers.

Regardless, it’s an interesting effort.

Google Places Decal Virgin No More!

May 5, 2010

Today while stealing a few minutes to grab a burrito for lunch I saw my first Google Places decal “in the wild.” Sure I’ve been talking and writing about them for a long time (seemingly) but I’ve never actually seen one in the window until today.

The only use case in which the QR code makes sense (from my POV) is when a place is closed and the consumer is looking for reviews or other information about the business. Otherwise you could just go in and talk to someone, look at menus, etc.

From a marketing standpoint I think the Facebook “Like” SMS decal message makes more sense — although as someone pointed out to me recently the Facebook decal doesn’t explicitly reveal what happens if you comply. The subsequent messages do however.

Calling Angels: New Mobile Startup

May 4, 2010

I met today with a new startup in the mobile space that I would all-but-guarantee is going to be acquired by either a hardware OEM or major mobile competitor. The company hasn’t officially launched so I can’t identify who it is. Sorry; I realize this is kind of like Hotwire with hotel rooms. :)

I was impressed by a number of features that the company’s app offer and there’s broad mainstream mobile user appeal there too.

It’s the kind of thing that isn’t just another app; it rises above the noise because of some of the unique features it offers. The company is formally launching soon, first on Android and then on the iPhone. There’s potential global reach here. And there isn’t anything exactly like it — that I’m aware of.

There’s some roughness still around some of the edges, but the team behind the company has multiple successful exits and so on (you know).

They’ve raised a seed round of angel money and are looking for a bit more. If you’re interested in an introduction just email me and I’ll do an intro. There’s nothing at stake for me financially; I don’t get any bounty or deal from this.

New Vigor for Yahoo! Local?

May 4, 2010

I met briefly with Irv Henderson this morning as part of a Yahoo! breakfast associated with the Web 2.0 event in San Francisco. Henderson is VP of Product Development for Mobile and Local.

I was encouraged to hear his enthusiasm and some interesting ideas. For too long Yahoo! Local has just been languishing and I’m happy to see somebody taking ownership with some new creativity.

Henderson impressed me as a very thoughtful person and said that local is “an increasingly important area of search” for Yahoo! I neglected to ask him for a number (Google’s conservative estimate is 20%.) It’s also good to see Yahoo! connect mobile and local in a single individual. While these categories are distinct in many respects and the user experience and use cases are often different, there’s also huge overlap.

Henderson and I also spoke about how Yahoo! Answers, which just celebrated its billionth answer, is an underutilized asset. He gave me the impression we’d be seeing some interesting developments with that property.

Yahoo! also has more plans for the iPad, which were hinted at in an informal conversation with other mobile folks. And so I’m interested to see what appears in terms of new Yahoo! apps.

Yahoo! Mobile VP David Katz also informally told me that mobile advertising is going extremely well, although the company hasn’t put out any PR on that front in some time.

iPad 3G Arrives, MSFT & HP Kill Their Tablets

April 30, 2010

Apple is now shipping the iPad 3G, which should trigger another wave of sales for the now popular device. Meanwhile, curiously, HP has reportedly killed the much-hyped (Flash, “full Internet”) “Slate” tablet previewed by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer at CES earlier this year.

My belief was that the HP Slate was destined to fail as simply a netbook without a keyboard. HP’s acquisition of Palm and WebOS was undoubtedly directly related to the decision.

More curious and perhaps more disappointing is Microsoft’s decision to end the Courier tablet project. Engadget quotes a Microsoft representative:

At any given time, across any of our business groups, there are new ideas being investigated, tested, and incubated. It’s in Microsoft’s DNA to continually develop and incubate new technologies to foster productivity and creativity. The “Courier” project is an example of this type of effort and its technologies will be evaluated for use in future Microsoft offerings, but we have no plans to build such a device at this time.

Microsoft had previously denied the existence of the device. It looked “cool” and innovative so it’s too bad it won’t come to market. But there will be numerous other tablets (especially based on Android) coming out later this year.

The netbook market perhaps has “peaked” and tablets will potentially be taking their place (depending on several factors). Android tablets may (emphasis on may) be able to go “head to head” with the iPad on features and UX, but many of these devices will have to compete on price, which several computer OEMs have indicated they’re going to do.

The success of netbooks during the recession has brought the price of laptops down overall. It’s now hard to charge much more than $5oo or $600 for a laptop unless you’re Apple. A bunch of $250 tablets may put additional pressure on the PC market. But Apple will also be forced to lower iPad prices if competitiors are successful with lower-priced tablets.

All that remains to be seen.

____

Update: Got a note from someone “in the know” who disputes that HP is killing the Slate. We’ll see.

Yahoo! Lets Users Search for Menu Items

April 28, 2010

Are you hungry for a “Boston Roll” (as in sushi) but don’t know where to find one? Yahoo! is now letting people search for menu items and specific dishes and find where they’re served locally:

It’s quite useful and has broader implications in terms of how Yahoo might expand beyond restaurant menus. After all, menu items are just “unstructured data.”

I’ve got slightly more discussion over at SEL.

Urbanspoon Supersizes for the iPad

April 28, 2010

Urbanspoon’s new iPad app is the second entry on the new device from IAC/Citysearch. The first was the relatively undistinguished Cityseries app. But the Urbanspoon translation onto the iPad is a success.

While there’s a good deal more that can be done with the larger “real estate,” Urbanspoon has made the leap well and may reap rewards from being early in on the iPad — as it was on the iPhone (Yelp, take note).

Whereas the iPhone app is all about the “slot machine” experience, the iPad app is all about the map. The same carousel functionality exists here but it’s more discretely up at the top of the screen.

In general I find more “utility” here than on the iPhone version. And, as I said, there’s more than can be done with things like filters, favorites and neighborhoods.

For those that don’t have an iPad (yet), here’s a video of the new Urbanspoon app in action.

Facebook Offers Its Own Window Decals to SMBs

April 28, 2010

As I’ve pointed out before, Facebook started out as a local site — a closed network for high school and college students built around schools in particular places. Several years later Facebook is one of the Internet’s dominant companies, with more than 400 million users globally. It is now, according to Compete, Inc., the second most trafficked site on the Internet, possibly on its way to dethroning Google as number one.

In February Facebook said that “more than 1.5 million local businesses have active Pages on Facebook.” That figure was roughly double what had been reported just a few months before. My guess would be then that the 1.5 million is now closer to 2 million.

Several days ago I got a casual email from someone at Facebook saying that there would be something related to local coming out soon and that I should be hearing from another person on the PR team. Yesterday around dinner time I and some others received a note that a unspecified number of small businesses with Facebook Pages were given “Facebook stickers” (window decals).

The parallel to Google’s “Favorite Places” window decal is obvious. The Google window sticker includes a “QR” code. Scanning the Google QR code with your mobile phone takes you to the Place Page for the business (which now has a mobile-friendly version).

Yelp of course has had window decals for some time, though they’re not “interactive.” And before Yelp there were Citysearch and AOL and other window decals for local businesses.

Here’s Facebook’s version:

Beyond the fact of its existence, the interesting angle here is that by texting the short code you become what used to be called a “fan” of the business. Here’s the public page for “The Counter,” a restaurant in Palo Alto, California.

The integration of SMS into these decals, with the practical result that the SMB “acquires” a follower who then will receive status updates (and promotions) on his/her mobile phone, is very smart on several levels. There’s a much more tangible and immediate benefit to the SMB vs. Google’s QR codes: the business builds its “fan” base. Then it can market to those fans through their news feeds. What’s more, Facebook causes more people to link their mobile phones with their accounts (as a secondary benefit).

Heretofore Facebook had been focused on moving SMBs into Facebook Ads, and apparently many have used/tried them. But there are more things related to SMBs and local up Facebook’s proverbial sleeve. These stickers should be seen as “step one” of a new focus and move into the segment.

Milo Pushing into SMB Inventory

April 26, 2010

Late last week I spoke with Milo CEO Jack Abraham. He and I discussed the company’s efforts to move beyond major retailers and big boxes into SMB inventory. He acknowledged that this was a very long-term play and fraught with complexity because of differing inventory systems — or their complete absence — at the SMB level.

Earlier I had this same conversation with the folks at Clarinova.

Abraham said that the company currently had slightly more than 100 small retailers that it was working with in a variety of ways to get the data. He declined to elaborate on specifics. On the company’s site a “paw” icon represents a small retailer:

Other firms that provide local inventory data to varying degrees of comprehensiveness include Krillion and NearbyNow (still in the game).

Google of course recently announced that it would be working with retailers directly to provide this information to consumers online and on the go. A few years ago Google was working with StepUp (now part of Intuit) and ShopLocal to provide similar information but abandoned the effort because the data were uneven. Google’s effort can only boost the value of Milo and Krillion, as other e-commerce sites try to add local inventory information.

Milo has said also that it will be syndicating its data to third party sites.

WSJ Hooks up with Foursquare

April 26, 2010

The Wall Street Journal is another big media company to tie up with Foursquare in an effort to market itself on the go and boost its hip quotient

These are WSJ-centric badges and there’s a WSJ, Twitter-like follow page on Foursquare (same as other partners) that offer local tips:

The WSJ-Foursquare relationship is very much like similar partnership deals with the History Channel, Bravo TV, Canada’s Metro News. It’s now a kind of “template” — and it’s smart for everyone involved.

Like Twitter in the past, however, it’s not clear that Foursquare gets any direct monetary value out of corporate use of the site and brand association. For now that may be just fine. This adds to Foursquare’s credibility, visibility and brand. And it helps the site differentiate from others seeking to do similar things (e.g., Gowalla).

Could the iPad Get Better PR than This?

April 23, 2010

This is apparently now going viral, evidenced by me putting it up here in part. The video below features a 100 year old woman named Virginia who bought her first computer: an iPad. . .

No I don’t think the association of the centenarian with the iPad will scare away younger users.

Here’s the related article.

Buzz on Maps, Suggest Gets More Local

April 22, 2010

Google Buzz has been available on Maps for mobile devices, but now Google has made it possible to access Buzz on Maps for the PC. In addition Google is rolling out localized Search Suggest for Maps in more places around the world.

You access the “Buzz layer” on Maps by selecting more, which reveals the various places people are posting about:

Picture 90

The rest of this post is at Search Engine Land.

YPG Launches ‘Urbanizer’ Mobile App

April 21, 2010

Yellow Pages Group yesterday introduced a nouveau iPhone app called “Urbanizer.” It’s highly social, focused solely on restaurants and very nicely designed. Yellow pages branding is almost non-existent. The app is intended to appeal to a young, urban demographic that might not associate the yellow pages with “cool” restaurants and entertainment.

The app incorporates data from YPG’s CanadaPlus cityguide as well as recent acquisition Restaurantica. It utilizes Facebook Connect to build the social graph into the app as well as to broadcast information back through the Facebook news feed. One of the novel dimensions of the app is the ability to make restaurant choices by “mood.”

The rest of this post is at Internet2Go.

Adaffix Something of an Unlikely Success

April 20, 2010

When I first heard about addafix, founded by former mobilePeople exec Claudia Poepperl, I thought that the company’s model was somewhat “tortured.” It’s a mobile “caller ID” app for smartphones that enables you to link your Facebook friends’ photos to your phone’s contacts and see their pictures when they call  you.

The business model, however, has nothing to do with that service. By contrast it taps into yellow pages.

When you make a call, if there’s no answer or the call doesn’t connect otherwise, you’re shown three alternative businesses in the same category, in the same area or that service the same area. These business listings are yellow pages advertisers and addafix is paid a revenue share on calls it sends through to them. There’s a bit of a disconnect between the consumer and advertiser propositions — sounds a little forced right? Yet the company keeps rolling along.

Currently the advertising aspect of the service is only available in Germany and Austria. What’s also interesting is that, as with coupons or offers, this won’t look like advertising to consumers. It’s a search model that takes advantage of the phone’s location awareness and the user’s calling behavior to recommend alternative businesses nearby.

The reason I’m writing this at the moment is because this morning I received a press release from Claudia that showed 25% of calls to local businesses don’t connect and that consumers are open to “substitution” in those cases:

25 percent of all calling customers are not able to speak to an actual person. Blocked extensions, answering machines, nonexistent numbers or simply a slightly displaced handset are some of the many reasons that lead to these circumstances.

Non-answered calls mean a loss of customers and revenue. More than 63 percent of customers trying to call a business in vain, claim to be willing to switch to another company – as long as there are other options available. This is where adaffix comes into play, offering its customers a plethora of relevant businesses, which are geographically located nearby. Even for established and existing customers the willingness to switch to another company is still at a staggering 38 percent.

The press release also contains some interesting information about the categories of businesses in Germany and Austria where calls are most “unanswered”:

The “top five of non-reachable businesses” in Germany during workdays are clearly restaurants, leading the way with 18 percent failed phone pick-up rate, followed by lawyers at 10 percent, family physicians, internal medicine specialists and hotels at 9 percent and dentists at 4 percent. The rest is distributed among a wide variety of other business types. On weekends the figures turn out to be different: restaurants, cafés, governmental institutions for health and social work, pizza delivery services and intensive-care units are ranked among the top 5.

A similar situation has been shown in Austria, however in slightly different genres. From Monday to Friday adaffix has proven the following: taxi services lead the score with 5 percent of unanswered phone calls, followed by insurance companies with 4 percent, banks at 3 percent, physicians at 2 percent and car dealers at 1 percent. The remaining percentages are divided among other business types. On weekends the statistics looks different: taxi services take to top spot in the ranking yet the other four spots are being made up of various gastronomy areas, such as pizza places, pizza delivery services, traditional restaurants and Chinese restaurants.

There has always been a problem with SMBs answering the phone and various startups have tried to address it in various ways. Some, including FastCall411, have tried sending out calls/leads simultaneously to multiple businesses.

Addafix has the advantage of being a mobile application. When consumers do a lookup and make a call from a mobile device it’s often because they “need it now.” Thus their receptiveness to nearby alternative businesses on the handset is going relatively high especially in categories where they just need the service and aren’t going to be highly discriminating (e.g., taxis).


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