Archive for the ‘Traditional media’ Category

NY Times Top Newspaper Online, High CPMs

June 16, 2010

Comscore has put out a ranking of the top newspaper sites online, as well as CPM rates by site category. Here are the charts:

Online newspapers have the highest CPM rates of the categories covered by comScore in the chart above. They don’t have the most impressions however. According to Nielsen and suggested by the graphic immediately above, social media (including blogs) now capture “one in every four and a half minutes online.”

The NY Times is planning to reintroduce paid access for its site. How this will affect CPM rates and traffic/revenues is uncertain at this point. While people might pay for global access across devices to NY Times content, it will be tough to get people to pay online. We’ll see how they execute the program.

Blogs and other free, ad-supported news sites may stand to gain from the Times retreat behind the paywall. And of course one of the challenges for the WSJ or the forthcoming paid version of the Times is SEO.

To paraphrase and borrow from the Times’ own Thomas Friedman: online all the news is flat. A paywall will put more pressure on the Times to maintain and even boost quality and offer more content and features. News online is largely a commodity. Many people will be fine getting it from Yahoo! or CNN if not the Times.

The Online Publishers Association continues to advocate on behalf of premium publishers with data/research and fight (perhaps a losing battle) against the the commoditization of audiences via ad networks.

Separately the Times plans, according to AdAge,  to create a “public beta testing site where it will experiment with new ideas and applications before deciding whether they deserve to go live on NYTimes.com. The Times expects to introduce the site, to be called Beta620, in July or August. The “620” refers to the paper’s street address on Eighth Avenue in New York.”

PwC Forecast: Internet Will Soon Be #2

June 15, 2010

In a write up of a media and advertising forecast being released by PriceWaterhouseCoopers, the WSJ says the report estimates that by 2014 the Internet will be the second largest US ad medium after TV. Accordingly it will be larger than newspapers:

The online ad business, excluding mobile ads, is set to expand to $34.4 billion in 2014 from $24.2 billion in 2009, according to the report, which PwC plans to release Tuesday.

Newspapers, meanwhile, continue to suffer from a decline in advertising revenue. According to numbers released by the Newspaper Association of America earlier this year, print advertising revenue dropped 28.6% in 2009 to $24.82 billion. The PwC report estimates that print advertising in newspapers will hit $22.3 billion by 2014.

PwC also predicts that mobile will grow from $414 million in 2009 to $1.6 billion in 2014.

At once this prediction is both unsurprising and shocking. And dare I say it: despite its targeting and tracking the Internet is a relatively bland, annoying and creatively ineffective ad medium. There are isolated exceptions to this, including paid search — which can be bland but has proven very effective.

So the Internet has replaced the “art” of traditional media advertising with the “science” of targeting. Maybe the world of mobile and tablets in particular can marry the two.

Here’s something that was brought to my attention along those lines: Ads on iPad Perform Six Times Better Than on Desktop.

Groupon, Sure. But Is It Sustainable?

June 11, 2010

The rapid rise of the “social commerce,” “group buying” or “social couponing” (whatever you want to call it) is sort of amazing to me. One interesting question that comes up in my mind is: Will the model that these sites offer start to “bleed” into other areas of local? Perhaps a better way to frame it is the following: will these types of sites put pressure on more traditional ad models being sold and promoted by other local sales channels, including TV, radio, print — even other online?

They’re not selling leads or clicks or even calls; they’re selling customers (albeit at a massive discount so margins disappear for the SMB in some cases). There are also others in the market like RedBeacon and HelpHive, among a few others, that are taking a commission on work actually performed. These sorts of models make “advertiser” acquisition much easier: “customers not clicks.” How widespread might this become? That’s a question I’m mulling over.

Lost Remote recently  highlighted an interview with Groupon CEO Andrew Mason in which he discussed how successful a Groupon promotion was for one particular business:

“[W]e recently featured helicopter lessons in Boston and sold 2,600 in four hours. To put that in perspective, this fellow has been in business since 1985 and in the quarter century leading up to his Groupon he had acquired a total of 5,000 customers.”

On the other hand here’s a recent article from the SF Chronicle about how one local business was overwhelmed by the demand Groupon delivered:

When Philz Coffee Inc. offered half-price $20 gift cards to users of the Groupon.com coupon site, the San Francisco chain of coffee shops figured it would get a few hundred takers. It got more than 2,000.

“I nowhere near projected the amount of people that showed up,” said Philz President Jacob Jaber, who doesn’t expect to offer that kind of deal again. “We ran out of gift cards, and we just weren’t prepared for it.”

Philz Coffee’s Jaber decided his company is established enough to rely on word-of-mouth marketing. Most of Groupon users that pounced on the gift-card offer were already Philz customers, so it didn’t provide too much benefit, he said . . .

Too much demand and many buyers were already customers . . .

There’s little SMB education or “best practices” right now on how/when to use these sites and how to “acquire” new customers who take advantage of these offers. Over time I would also imagine there will also be mechanisms for managing offers to existing customers or weeding them out entirely.

I’m also starting to see Groupon ads on marquee sites, such as this ad appearing on NYTimes.com:

Yesterday I asked LivingSocial CEO and Co-founder Tim O’Shaughnessy to pick some winners in the segment (beyond LivingSocial). He said that Groupon would clearly be one because of its scale and momentum. Then he saw Gilt Groupe as another very interesting player. He also said he thought one of the larger European companies would move into the US and become successful.

I’ve had the debate recently with several people about whether the group buying model is sustainable. Right now these sites offer new business but I’m sure they’ll expand into CRM or loyalty programs over time as well. I suspect the model is sustainable although it will need to evolve somewhat over time — and some of the flaws identified above will need to be addressed.

I would also assume that Groupon is on a course to go public. But there are plenty of smaller companies that cannot and so there will be consolidation and/or M&A opportunities for traditional publishers (YP, newspapers) and others (e.g., IAC) that want to get into the game.

Facebook is also lurking here as a potentially major player. Right now Facebook really doesn’t have a product to sell to SMBs (notwithstanding Facebook Ads). This would be one that would also be extremely appealing to consumers; it’s a natural in a way.

Poll: Consumers Reject ‘Newspaper Bailout’

June 10, 2010

I was unaware of this but apparently the US FTC is considering some new taxes to support or subsidize traditional journalism and newspapers in particular. These could include new mobile phone taxes or taxes on electronic devices or news websites that utilize traditional news sources for much of their content (e.g., Huffington Post).

Consumers apparently don’t like this idea. I agree.

Rasmussen Reports conducted a telephone survey (sample size unknown) of US adults shows that most people are opposed to any such “newspaper bailout.” Here are the data:

  • 84% oppose a three percent (3%) tax on monthly cell phone bills to help newspapers
  • 76% oppose a proposed five percent (5%) tax on the purchase of consumer electronic items such as computers, iPads and Kindles to help support newspapers
  • 74% oppose the proposal to tax web sites like the Drudge Report to help the newspapers they draw their headlines from.

According to the survey, “10% favor the tax on monthly cell phone bills to help newspapers . . . 16% support the tax on consumer electronic devices, and 18% of adults favor placing an additional tax on Internet news sites.”

I don’t want to see traditional journalism further weakened. However I think new taxes to provide subsidies to for-profit media companies that are unable to compete successfully is completely misguided.

I no longer subscribe to print newspapers but when I travel I always look at them. I was struck the other day by how anemic USA Today looked to me. It was thin and narrow (to save on printing costs).

The cost saving measures that diminish the “look and feel” of print as well as its content hasten the demise of the traditional product. (USA Today is getting selected online articles from content farm Demand Media.) However journalism and print newspapers are not completely synonymous. There is a fair amount of overlap but the journalistic impulse and journalism will survive the decline of print.

The challenge is how to support professional writers and editors doing original reporting, rather than simply rewriting press releases or  creating “service journalism,” which is where Demand and Associated Content are playing.

While the iPad and its imitators may enable publishers to generate subscription revenues from electronic media, traditional  journalism doesn’t monetize well online (so far), making it hard to support full time reporters doing serious work.

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See related: NY Times’ Scoop App a Model for Others

Print YP Will Eventually Be ‘Opt-In’

June 6, 2010

AT&T started it but now Canada’s Yellow Pages Group has decided to stop delivering residential white pages directories:

The Yellow Pages Group has ended automatic delivery of the residential phone directory in seven major cities.

“An increasing number of Canadians, particularly in urban areas, use our online and mobile resources YellowPages.ca and Canada411.ca to find residential phone numbers,” Marc Tellier, president and CEO of YPG, said in a statement . . .

That move is expected to result in a reduction of more than five million copies – about 3,500 tonnes of paper – a year across Canada.

In the affected markets – Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, the Ottawa-Gatineau area and Quebec City – delivery of the Yellow Pages directory will continue on an annual basis.

Right now most YP publishers offer an “opt-out” policy with print yellow pages. If users don’t want to receive them they can request cessation of print YP delivery.

Yet the public doesn’t make the same distinctions between yellow and white pages that the industry does. White pages, for most publishers, are a “cost center” and deliver little or no advertising revenue. (There are some publishers in Europe for example that do make considerable ad revenue from print WP.) Print yellow pages generate the lion’s share of directory publisher revenue.

However consumers at large likely view white pages and yellow pages print directories in a very similar way. As I’ve argued in the past, pushing opt-in white pages means that relatively soon consumer, environmental groups and individuals will be calling for opt-in print YP (some already have). There’s a logic here that’s almost inevitable.

Regarding the white pages initiative, publishers are seeking to be good “corporate citizens” even as they act in their own self interest to reduce costs. I’m not trying to say that they shouldn’t make WP opt-in.

What I am trying to say is that they need to be mindful that the longer term impact of this move will be a similar call for opt-in YP. There are several things they can do in the interim:

  • Advertise the value of print YP both to the consumer and as a source of economic value to the community
  • Continue to invest in the directory to improve its utility
  • Integrate the print and digital products in several ways (websites, email addresses, SMS/QR codes)
  • Prepare for the coming day when print YP becomes opt-in. It may be three years; it may be seven years from now but it is coming

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Update: California State Senator Leland Yee just tried unsuccessfully to do this very thing. Yee accused AT&T of behind behind the defeat of the bill, which would have made home delivery of YP opt-in:

Yee, D-San Mateo, in February had trumpeted introduction of the bill, which would end home delivery of phone directories unless customers opt in to receive them. But when SB 920 came to a vote Thursday, eight senators decided not to weigh in — including the bill’s two co-authors and a few members who’d voted for the bill in committees. One of those earlier “aye” votes even turned to a no.

Will Yahoo Bite Local Newspapers?

June 1, 2010

Alan Mutter offers a provocative post on how Yahoo! may challenge local newspapers, who are some of the site’s primary partners:

Yahoo appears to be getting ready to produce local websites filled with original content that could compete with newspapers, posing a particular challenge to the hundreds of publishers who now sell advertising for the powerful portal.

The apparent intention to target the sweet spot for publishers was signaled last month when Yahoo announced plans to buy Associated Content for $100-ish million to gain access to some 380,000 individuals who are willing to write articles, take pictures and produce videos for rates starting at $2 per effort. The deal is scheduled to close later this year.

Insiders here in Silicon Valley say the odds are strong that a good number of those content producers will be deployed to cover local news in the hope of assembling ever-larger audiences for the premium-priced advertising that Yahoo sells via the rich user database it has amassed over the years.

No doubt some of the Associated Content writers (now indirectly beholden to Yahoo!) will cover local markets as Mutter suggests. However if Yahoo does something like MSN Local it won’t necessarily be an affront to newspapers. It could also provide newspapers with some additional distribution.

Yahoo! is unlikely to do something that would self-consciously compete with its newspaper partners. But it is true that if the company does a great job with local content sites online newspapers could suffer as a practical matter. Yahoo! has many more content and engineering assets than newspapers and has the capacity to produce sites or subdomains that are more user-friendly and utilitarian than most newspapers.

I could imagine a local content area that combines some of Yahoo! Local, with news, maps (from Nokia/Navteq) and content from other places on Yahoo! and third party sites.

Placecast Cleans Dirty Location Data

May 28, 2010

In the couple of months since Placecast launched its Match API the company has seen great traction and discovered how compromised much of the location data is “out there” — especially when it’s user-generated. The Match API “cleans” individual data sets and helps de-dupe and correct data where publishers are drawing upon multiple data sources.

Placecast CEO Alistair Goodman described it like a laundromat: dirty data in, clean data out. According to the press release out this morning:

Placecast is finding traction with its solution for cleaning and managing location-based data. The creators of Placecast MatchAPI announce that in fewer than 60 days since it was initially launched, more than 200 LBS-related companies have signed up to use the data management tool, including WCities, Socialight, Buzzd and AlikeList . . .

Initial experience with location-based companies using the MatchAPI platform reveals interesting insights about the quality of location data. Statistics from datasets uploaded indicate that when the Placecast MatchAPI platform cleans a data set, there is an average fault rate of over 8%, growing to as much as 40% in data sets with high proportions of user-generated content . . .

With the strong initial interest, Placecast is now rolling out a developer portal in order to continue to provide free services for correcting duplication and matching across different location data sets, two of the biggest challenges in building location-based services that scale. The portal is live at http://www.placecast.net/developer/

Alistair Goodman also corrected some faulty assumptions I held about the product. Placecast isn’t working with a master database and comparing individual data sets to that master list. Nor are they generating one — yet.

It would be hypothetically possible through the involvement of all these parties for Placecast to develop a common, clean LBS database. This is my speculation, however, and not anything Goodman said the company would be doing. At the present time it’s not sharing data among partners. But “collaboration” is one of the features or “values” in the Match API developer portal.

This master LBS database is, in a way, “low-hanging fruit” as a phase II for this product. There’s also the potential for a local ad network or “exchange,” which could eventually emerge from this as well.

Apple & Google Battle for ‘The Master Screen’

May 28, 2010

And now for the battle of the living room . . . blah, blah, blah.

However, the report from Engadget today that Apple TV 2.0 (or 2.5) would be more connected to the iPhoneOS, run apps, have new features/content and, most importantly, be super cheap ($99) is pretty interesting:

A tip we’ve received — which has been confirmed by a source very close to Apple — details the outlook for the next version of the Apple TV, and it’s a doozy. According to our sources, this project has been in the works long before Google announced its TV solution, and it ties much more closely into Apple’s mobile offerings.

The new architecture of the device will be based directly on the iPhone 4, meaning it will get the same internals, down to that A4 CPU and a limited amount of flash storage — 16GB to be exact — though it will be capable of full 1080p HD (!). The device is said to be quite small with a scarce amount of ports (only the power socket and video out), and has been described to some as “an iPhone without a screen.” Are you ready for the real shocker? According to our sources, the price-point for the device will be $99. One more time — a hundred bucks.

It’s the price point that’s the most compelling part of this.

In a long post at SEL I tried to second guess and predict what the price of the Google TV Logitech box would be. I came in at under $300 (probably $200 – $250). If in fact Engadget is correct and we see a $99 Apple TV box it’s going to force a corresponding price reduction or adjustment from Logitech and/or any other Google TV hardware partners (though not Sony). It’s very much like the smartphone market: you can’t hope to sell a subsidized smartphone in the US for more than $199 these days.

I was at a UBS conference earlier this week where a speaker argued that TV was now irrelevant because of the cloud and all the other screens we use for content. I quite disagree.

The living room (or family room) TV is arguably the “master screen.” And it’s going to morph into a multipurpose media center that includes Internet access, phone/video chat, social media, transactions, local search, apps, games and so on.

Things like yellow pages search on AT&T’s U-Verse or the “Visual 411″ widget for Verizon FIOS TV are going to seem very primitive by comparison to what’s coming.

Indeed, it’s time to prepare for the coming of “Internet TV” in earnest.

Google Algo Changes Drop ‘The Other Shoe’

May 27, 2010

Google’s first big shoe drop was the increasingly common appearance of a map + 7 in response to explicit and implicit local intent queries. That took away many of the “above the fold” SEO slots available to local sites such as yellow pages publishers. However, some of that real estate has been restored in the new Google interface:

Now the “other shoe” may have dropped as algorithm changes that may penalize undistinguished local directory sites start to have an impact. Monsieur Andrew Shotland explains:

Thanks to Vanessa Fox as always for eliciting grains of truth from Google.  At last week’s Google I/O conference Matt Cutts confirmed that there was an algo change at the beginning of May that will likely be affecting sites that generate a lot of long-tail traffic:

”this is an algorithmic change in Google, looking for higher quality sites to surface for long tail queries. It went through vigorous testing and isn’t going to be rolled back.”

I have already seen the impact on a couple of large sites that I monitor, as well as on smaller sites.  In the case of the large sites, the traffic has drifted downward, with a couple of extreme drops, and in the case of the smaller sites traffic growth has either flattened or slowed down to barely noticeable.

This shouldn’t surprise anybody in SEO land as unique content, good site architecture and strong backlinking have been the cornerstones of SEO for years.  That said, it appears that this algo change has raised the game to a whole new level.  It used to be that an authoritative domain could add pretty much any content, even duplicated content, it wanted to its site and with a little bit of effort get strong organic traffic. That does not appear to be such an open and shut case anymore.

Andrew already sees this impacting YP publishers and others in the local space that have historically relied on SEO for traffic.

I also had conversation with Matt Cutts at I/O about this same general phenomenon, except I was thinking about and focused on Demand Media, Associated Content and the like. I wasn’t thinking about YP publishers.

If what Andrew is saying is playing out — and he’s observing it apparently — then local ad networks like CityGrid become even more important, as well as improved user experiences (for direct traffic) and brand building.

Social media and mobile also become even more strategic for branding and traffic (although in the case of mobile it’s all incremental right now).

YPG Promoting Video Advertising

May 27, 2010

Yellow Pages Group in Canada is making a push for video advertising — on third party sites (e.g., Yahoo.ca) on traditional TV and in newspapers.

The print newspaper ad promotes a free on-site shoot and low $77 monthly hosting price point.  Each of the ads show a phone number and point to a dedicated site promoting video advertising on Yellowpages.ca: GetFound.Yellowpages.ca.

On the site there is an image of a Yellowpages.ca profile page which hosts/houses the video but no mention print yellow pages that I could find.

The article (linked above) that alerted me to this campaign contains a quote from YPG corporate communications director Annie Marsolais, saying that it’s directed at non-YP advertisers:

While 40% of Canadians businesses have advertised with Yellow Pages, the campaign is aimed at the other 60%, said Annie Marsolais, director, corporate and marketing communications for Yellow Pages Group.

Consistent with YPG’s efforts to remake itself as a digital advertising company that happens to also publish a directory, it’s interesting to see the company emphasize and market a product without any reference print.

Live From Happy Hound: An SMB Story

May 26, 2010

Well, not exactly live but I was at Happy Hound yesterday in Oakland for the press event associated with the release of Google’s Economic Impact report.

Owner Suzanne Gotter has been a case study for Google AdWords for several years. At the event Google spoke and then Gotter spoke and told her story, which was impressive. She had a background in sales and marketing and so was, arguably, not the typical small business owner out of the gate. However confronted with an empty warehouse she used Google and AdWords to grow her business to 33 employees and now is opening new locations.

She said in total sincerity that the overwhelming majority of her new customers came from Google. How did she know? She asked them all.

Gotter said that when she opened several years ago she tried multiple forms of advertising, including magazines and, yes, yellow pages.

After the end of the press conference, I asked her about how the yellow pages performed. She said she took out quarter page color ads in three books. She added that it was expensive and while she did get calls and some walk-ins, she said the customers misunderstood the nature of her business (she’s not a kennel) and also didn’t want to pay and/or weren’t able to afford her services.

She initially managed her own Google AdWords account but now has an agency do it for her; she also no longer looks at her analytics because she’s too busy.

She spends about $400 per month on AdWords but now also ranks very highly in organic results:

She said that organic CTRs were about 5X AdWords clicks and Google confirmed that as a general matter. She was asked, “Now that you rank so well will you still buy AdWords?” Her answer was yes because she’s expanding her services and now adding locations. For awareness of the new services and locations she felt she still needed AdWords.

The agency she’s using now for search marketing is the same local ad agency she spoke with when she started the business. She told me they wanted to sell her a bunch of expensive, high margin offerings including outdoor. She couldn’t afford them and was skeptical. Back then the agency didn’t talk to her about search. Now that’s all they do for her.

Razorfish Outlook: Local Thoughts

May 26, 2010

Digital agency Razorfish just put out its 2010 global outlook report. Among a broad range of other topics, there was some interesting discussion of local (and mobile) in the document. Here are some largely verbatim excerpts:

We expect more money to go to mobile, particularly in local search. We are watching Google and Apple closely in the mobile space, and intend to test new ad platforms and measurement systems as they come online. 2010 will likely turn out to be the year of testing before mobile really takes off in 2011.

Will local online benefit from the “death of newspapers”?

With the “death” of newspapers, and a rise in location-based technologies, many are curious to see if advertisers will move more of their budgets to local online. Approximately one-third of our clients ask us to run local ads. For most clients these are small percentages of their outlays — they still use digital as a targeted mass media. Local mobile spending is still very small, and was tested by only a few of our clients. Interestingly, although the number of clients participating in local display and local search activities was about equal, local display spending was twice as large as local search spending. This may be due to there being more inventory available in local display, and at lower prices than search, rather than a preference for one or the other. We expect to see this change in the next year as newspapers continue to decline in circulation, the iPad and other devices like it bring newspapers back to life but in digital formats, and smartphone usage increases local search . . .

(emphasis added.)

Gaming, brands and LBS

As gaming and social intertwine with location based services, the opportunity for brands to be relevant and meaningful parts of the interaction are growing. We expect to see growth in this category not only from brands focused on entertainment, but truly all brands who have a product or service that can be an integral part of a gaming, social, or local experience.

As these predictions make clear, 2010 will be about much more than a few hot platforms. While things like mobile and social are expected to make headlines, there are a number of other developments that will grab the attention of marketers and agencies alike. From infrastructure plays like ad verification systems to local online advertising, 2010 is shaping up as a year in which change in online media will make itself felt both in front of and behind the scenes.

While this is educated speculation to some degree it also reflects the perspective of an agency managing client budgets with knowledge of where ad spending is going.

Newspapers Turn to Content Farms for Copy

May 24, 2010

Increasingly it appears that newspapers are outsourcing content — good old fashioned writing — to content farms. Associated Content, just acquired by Yahoo! for about $100 million, has online newspaper deals. And so does rival Demand Media. According to a BNET article appearing last week:

Demand Media has just announced to its freelance writers and editors two new content deals that further its reach into traditional media. The company is about to partner with Hearst Newspapers to produce content for two web sites run by two Hearst papers: the San Francisco Chronicle and the Houston Chronicle . . .

For its normal web pieces, a typical Demand Media rate for an article of a few hundred words is $7.50, with copy editing paying about $3.50 an article, according to many freelancers I’ve communicated with who work for Demand. To make a reasonable amount of money per hour, writers have to research and compose multiple articles an hour, setting a difficult pace.

Content Farms are being used as a kind of back-door SEO strategy but also to perform core writing functions (now) that used to be done by staff writers. The chief attraction is the low cost of these services as well as the volume of content they create.

The writers are (self) exploited. Many of them may be competent and know something about which they’re writing but the system, with its low payments, rewards speed — not quality.

This is lamentable and will tarnish the newspaper brands using services like Demand to turn out the mediocre copy — intended to capture and generate display ad page views. If this is the mindset now and what newspaper publishing has become about then let them crash and burn.

In the end Google will be compelled to deal with content farms — the new spam — and everyone relying upon them will be punished in one way or another. In retrospect these strategies will look penny wise, pound foolish.

Newspapers Step Up SMB Outreach

May 23, 2010

A number of newspapers have been offering SMB marketing packages for some time. Chief among those is McClatchy, which has had a long-standing relationship with WebVisible.

Now Matt McGee is reporting at SEL that Gannett’s local marketing arm (“Gannett Local“) is offering a new suite of marketing tools for local businesses, which includes SEO, email, web presence, display and other online marketing:

With the power of Gannett, the company behind USA Today, The Arizona Republic and azcentral.com, we can jump start your advertising. What can we do for you?

  1. Build traffic to your business and your website by getting you great placement on Google, Yahoo and Bing
  2. Help your customers find you by getting your business on Google Maps
  3. Ensure you stay top-of-mind through attention-grabbing advertisements in The Arizona Republic, the largest local newspaper in Arizona

Matt points out that the service is being fulfilled by OrangeSoda (which is now partly or majority owned by IAC). However there are likely other fulfillment partners in the mix as well, given the range of services above.

With the more aggressive entry of newspapers into local online market a noisy market grows louder for SMBs who are getting calls from ReachLocal, Yodle and WebVisible, as well as yellow pages, Groupon, and now newspaper sales channels.

One question is whether the local newspaper will be “trusted” or perceived as more credible by local businesses. OrangeSoda has a very strong reputation for SEO services and so the SEO core of the Gannett Local product could be effective.

ReachLocal, which just went public raised approximately $54 million out of an anticipated $100 million. The stock has gone up somewhat since last week and the company now has a market cap of $414 million.

Yell (Finally) Buys UK’s TrustedPlaces

May 20, 2010

UK directory publisher, and parent of Yellowbook in the US, Yell.com  has acquired social directory site and Yelp competitor TrustedPlaces. According to the press release out this morning:

The combination of Yell’s database of over two million businesses with TrustedPlaces’ proven expertise in generating recommendations from local consumers represents a major shake-up of the fast-growing local reviews market.

It will drive strong benefit to Yell’s 399,000 mainly small business advertisers, through generating additional leads and providing a richer online interaction with existing and potential new consumers . . .

Initially, TrustedPlaces reviews will be added to Yell’s business listings, leading to full integration under the Yell.com domain.

The company also expects that the techniques and technologies that have made TrustedPlaces successful in the UK will be shared with other Yell Group operating companies in the US, Spain and Latin America.

Under the deal, Sokratis Papafloratos, chief executive and co-founder of TrustedPlaces, is joining Yell as head of social products in the UK.

This is a smart move by Mark Canon, Matthew Bottomley and company. It complements what they’re doing with Yell.com and provides reach to a younger and more “urban” demographic; it’s sort of like AT&T’s Buzz.com. The difference is that TrustedPlaces is an established site with an existing following.

Among the social directories in the UK, there are three main players: Qype, Yelp and TrustedPlaces. These three sites, I would imagine, had more traction in selected verticals with specific demographics vs. the more traditional Yell. The company will also have the benefit of Sokratis Papafloratos’ thinking about social media across its European properties and in the US to some degree.

I was urging Yell to do this in 2007:

Yell has pushed its digital properties in many interesting directions: products, mobile, classifieds. Though weighted down by regulatory controls in the UK, it also benefits by being the sole owner of the yellow pages brand.

Yell might want to look at acquiring or developing a property like TrustedPlaces to complement its traditional online directory product — if that isn’t an oxymoron.

TrustedPlaces had developed a strong property but was challenged to sell effectively to small businesses. I had this conversation a number of times with Papafloratos over the past couple of years. Most US local startups were in the same position; however emerging local ad networks such as CityGrid help take some pressure off by helping monetize page views and lookups.

As part of new digital-centric momentum and strategy, Yell recently did a major overhaul of its site, introducing several useful new features but most dramatically providing street-level photography to make the site more engaging and challenge Google Maps in greater London and several other UK cities.

TrustedPlaces has (or had) a partnership with the newspaper-owned LocalPeople, a network of “hyper-local” community sites. It isn’t clear whether that will continue beyond any existing contract period. It’s also not entirely clear whether the TrustedPlaces domain and brand will remain after “full integration under the Yell.com domain.” I would hope that the company doesn’t shutter the property.

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Yell’s CEO and CFO are leaving the company. This is an appropriate time for a leadership change given the larger context of advertising in the UK around Yell and the shift more aggressively into digital.

Yellowbook a Leading Android App

May 18, 2010

I was playing around in the Android Market last night and noticed that Yellowbook’s app is one of the top free apps — period. That was impressive to me.

It’s the top app in the “Shopping” category and a top 10 app (#10) among all free apps.

Even though there are still fewer Android than iPhone users, it has got to be the top mobile platform for the company.

This demonstrates that mobile can be a potentially meaningful driver of direct traffic for YP publishers.

DexOne Boosting Video Ads

May 11, 2010

Dex One put out a release that says the company is making a bigger push with video:

Dex One recently made video a standard part of its online Enhanced Pack service – thus bringing video to Enhanced Pack clients at no additional charge. This enables these clients to have video, as well as prominent ad placement, logos and other images on DexKnows.com . . .

There are no hard numbers in the release but Dex I’m sure sees video as a potential differentiator for consumer-users of DexKnows and SMB advertisers. It may also be part of a retention strategy.

The most interesting part of the release in my view is the pricing discussion:

Dex One recently made video a standard part of its online Enhanced Pack service – thus bringing video to Enhanced Pack clients at no additional charge.

Making video a line item that has to be considered separately is probably a deterrent vs. saying “step up to the enhanced pack and you get video for free.” That makes it simpler to buy and sell.

There’s a fair amount of empirical and survey based evidence of video’s effectiveness and appeal but I’m wondering if anyone has direct experience as a SMB advertiser or on behalf of a client.

Tomorrow: Evolution of the YP Product

May 10, 2010

Why did AT&T shift away from a brand (“yellowpages.com”) that the company paid handsomely for ($100M?) several years ago? What types of “vertical” content is the company building into its consumer sites?

These and many other questions I will endeavor to explore tomorrow on a free webinar called The Evolution of Local Discovery.”

Join me, Greg Isaacs and Todd Rose from AT&T Interactive for a discussion of the evolution of the yellow pages. I’ll be providing data and commentary on the market in general and AT&T will discuss YP.com and Buzz and some of its thinking behind where the company is going with its consumer offering. AT&T is moving with the market and trying to diversify traffic sources and consumer offerings. It’s fascinating to watch.

If you’d like to hear more and ask questions, listen in on the free session (and get my slides) — tomorrow at 1 Eastern, 10 Pacific.

SMBs Need a Lot of Help Online

May 10, 2010

I attended The [California] Governor’s Conference on Small Business and Entrepreneurship last thursday at the Oakland Convention Center. One of the sessions I sat in on was about social media and online marketing. It was the mirror of an identical session in the morning that I was unable to attend.

The panelists included representatives from Google, Yelp, Twitter (where I got the sticker), Cafe Press and the California Restaurants Assn. Each panelist got to talk for about 5-10 minutes and then there was a Q&A session.

While there was some sophistication, the Q&A session revealed just how much help most SMBs need. Yelp’s Vince Sollitto, who was on both panels, said that the earlier session had a higher level of sophistication and greater engagement.

I took a lot of notes but I’ll summarize and provide a few observations.

More people in the room had a facebook page than were AdWords advertisers. But about 3/4 of those in the audience were on LinkedIn.

Google’s Claire Johnson spoke repeatedly about claiming listings on Places and about search marketing. It became clear however that most of these folks were very far away from search marketing.

Most of those in the audience were familiar with and used Yelp as consumers, but only a few had used the business tools. Yelp’s Sollitto said Yelp had 31 million uniques and 10 million reviews. He addressed the issue of negative reviews by saying, “negative reviews are an authenticator” and provide credibility — ironically. Not sure if those in the audience bought the argument. When he cited the URL, biz.yelp.com, however, lots of people wrote it down.

Francesca Helina of Twitter talked about tweeting “on the go” and discussed Twitter apps as the best and most convenient way to tweet. She hinted at a number of services for SMBs to come and discussed Twitter’s window sticker. She briefly mentioned Promoted Tweets, but focused on the free service. She referenced two accounts (@smallbiz and @Francesca) where marketing on Twitter and best practices would be showcased.

John Goddard of the California Restaurant Assn said that 73% of CA restaurants were independent. He talked about how many have adopted social media and Twitter in particular. “A lot of chefs are blogging” and building social media strategies around their blogs, said Goddard.

I was somewhat surprised to see how many in the audience were using Google alerts (roughly 1/3) as a basic form of reputation management and review monitoring.

Café press extolled the virtues of search marketing saying “30% of our business from Google search.”

The moderator, a woman from Palo Alto Software, threw around tips and jargon that were generally way over the heads (from my perspective) of the audience. Indeed, most of the discussion from the podium was more advanced than the people in the room — sometimes painfully so.

This is an extreme example, but one woman asked for advice on what types of content would make her website (which she hadn’t developed yet) interesting. This reflected to me the very basic level of understanding — or lack thereof — of online marketing possessed by some small businesses.

One older woman, selling Japanese medicinal herbs, talked about her frustrations with consultants who made big promises about SEO and high rankings (There’s a ton of that going on out there.)

I conduct surveys of SMBs and talk about their issues frequently in the abstract. But it’s very helpful to be in a room like this from time to time to see the challenges they confront in a very direct way. For them the world is only getting more complicated and, while there is growing awareness and sophistication in some quarters, the smallest SMBs need a lot of help — a lot.

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Related: Google offers a co-branded (with the SBA) site/tutorial on online business marketing fundamentals.

American Towns: ‘Fastest Growing’ Hyperlocal

May 10, 2010

Last week AmericanTowns.com put out a press release that asserted the company was the “fastest growing hyperlocal digital media company in America”:

  • Having achieved profitability at the end of 2009, AmericanTowns reported that revenues grew an additional 35 % during Q1.
  • According to Quantcast, AmericanTowns ranked in the top 800 websites in the US in Q1, and one third of its traffic was from “regular users.”
  • Revenues continue to be driven by local advertisers seeking local customers, at over 75% of advertising revenues.

The release also promotes a partnership with non-profit “Meals on Wheels.” Here’s the quote:

AmericanTowns is our second largest source of web traffic, second only to Google for referral visits,” explained Michael Flynn, Director of MOWAA.

AmericanTowns is a slow and steady network that doesn’t get lots of attention but has been gaining and growing largely “under the radar.” It would make a good acquisition for a newspaper publisher or other local media player (or online player). For example if Local.com were sitting on a mountain of cash it would make sense for them to acquire the company.

Yahoo could also probably do some interesting things with the network. And AOL might be a logical acquirer. Then of course there are the yellow pages publishers . . .


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