4Square & SMBs: First Survey Data at SMX

June 6, 2010

Will Scott, Matt Siltala, Chuck Reynolds and I collaborated on the first survey I know of that polls SMBs using Foursquare to promote themselves. This is not a random group of small businesses that may or may not have heard of Foursquare, this is 125 SMBs currently offering rewards and incentives on the LBS site.

We had a call about the survey results on Friday and they’re very interesting.

In some ways these businesses are very typical SMBs and in other respects they’re absolutely not. Will and Matt will be presenting the data as part of the #SMX panel “Location Services: The New Local Search?” on Wednesday.

Almost 50% of these respondents have a marketing budget of less than $2,500 per year. But the overwhelming majority have websites and Facebook pages. Another interesting fact: these businesses are geographically distributed all over the US, not just in the “broadband metros.”

Lots more interesting stuff on Wednesday.

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.

Yelp’s ‘Hidden’ PPCall Opportunity

June 6, 2010

Pay per call is not something that Yelp currently sells, to my knowledge. However this little bit of data caught my eye in a Yelp blog post last week:

Last month, over half a million calls were made to local businesses directly from our Yelp iPhone App. That’s about 1 call every 5 seconds to a business as a result of Yelp.

Imagine if Yelp were to start to monetize these calls. There are several challenges in doing that of course (e.g., they’d be intercepting calls going to those businesses arguably anyway). But the volume suggests the company has an opportunity with PPCall.

And when other smartphone platforms are included the call volumes could approach a million monthly calls.

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Related (though nothing about the data above): Mercury News interview: Jeremy Stoppelman, Yelp CEO

AT&T Now a Big Liability for the iPhone

June 5, 2010

AT&T has become a giant liability for the iPhone. While in other markets around the globe (e.g., the UK) multiple carriers offer the handset, in the US it’s still only AT&T. And despite the speculation and hope for a Verizon iPhone it’s quite likely that AT&T will remain the exclusive US carrier for at least the duration of 2010. I hope I’m proven wrong.

AT&T’s network and reputation have taken a big hit from iPhone users struggling to “get on” and who experience dropped calls — although it was just rated “fastest” by PC Magazine:

But PC Magazine also found AT&T’s network to be the “least consistent” of those it tested. Interestingly, AT&T’s 3G network was as fast as Sprint’s 4G network.

Speaking of Sprint, I remain a Sprint customer despite my desire for the iPhone because I won’t switch to AT&T. I got the EVO at the Google I/O event and intend to use it as my personal phone.

I’m an AT&T DSL customer at home and what a disaster that has been: inconsistent connection, slow speeds and poor customer service. (We all now know about the recent, ham-handed “cease & desist” episode re AT&T wireless.)

When my DSL went out earlier this week I switched to the EVO hotspot and was able to restore the various devices in our house for the several hours that DSL was down. That’s a great feature of the device.

As much as I like the EVO I would replace it with the forthcoming iPhone in a heartbeat if it didn’t mean I had to switch carriers to AT&T.

AT&T has rewarded its iPhone data users, as you know, with a complex, new usage-based rate plan. While financial analysts and the “industry” applauded the move to tiered pricing, it’s actually the opposite of what consumers want. Verizon may follow but Sprint and T-Mobile are holding the line for now.

So beyond the inconsistent service, the complex and opaque new pricing scheme will further “punish” iPhone users.

Cumulatively all these factors make AT&T a growing liability for the iPhone and limit its further penetration in the smartphone market. Apple, at least in its public statements, seems blind to this.

Harris Data on the ‘What’ & ‘Why’ of Social Media

June 5, 2010

Earlier this week pollster Harris published some interesting data from a consumer survey conducted in April (n=2,131) about social media attitudes and motivations:

[N]early two-thirds (64%) of online Americans use social media, and most social media users (84%) reveal information about themselves via social media channels.

Among the findings is also a discussion of the influence of reviews and their various sources (click to enlarge graphics).

While 84% of social media users are providing tweets and updates, more than 20% are discussing brands and products or generating reviews. The following charts show the relative influence of reviews by content source and by age group:

The hierarchy of review influence is:

  1. Friends & family
  2. Reviews from newspapers or magazines (experts/professional/editorial)
  3. One’s broader network
  4. Blogs/message boards
  5. Celebrity “reviews” (most influential on the 18-34 yr old group)

What Do You Think Is Going on Here?

June 4, 2010

This is an insignia that apparently appeared inside Mark Zuckerberg’s “hoodie” during his D8 interview (SF Weekly reconstructed it). As they say in the article this symbol appears nowhere on the site or in public Facebook materials otherwise:

Here’s the clip where Kara Swisher of AllThingsD jokes about it:

It was struck by it; it seems odd. What you think? Is it playful or sinister?

___

Update: An identical hoodie put up for sale on eBay by a Facebook staffer is now going for $510 (as of 11:26 Pacific time on Sunday):

RedBeacon Poised for National Rollout, Growth

June 4, 2010

I was an early critic of RedBeacon when it first launched. I  thought the site’s founders had created an elegant platform but were naive about the small business market. Here’s what I wrote last year:

I’ve got nothing against RedBeacon and wish them well. But they will find, like many others before them, that the local space is much much harder to crack than it appears from a distance. There are many failed startups in local. In most cases they failed because they didn’t realize how tough it would be to get businesses to advertise or sign up.

Since that time there have been many changes at the site and it has evolved considerably. I’ve been impressed with these enhancements and the “sensitivity” to the market shown RedBeacon’s management. I also recently compared RedBeacon to other lead-gen type sites (including ServiceMagic) and found it, while imperfect, to be overall the best of the several sites I examined.

Today after several weeks of trying I spoke to Ethan Anderson, RedBeacon’s CEO. What I learned in that conversation convinces me that RedBeacon has Yelp-like potential in the market and, as it prepares to close a funding round and roll out nationally, is poised for tremendous growth.

IAC-owned competitor ServiceMagic is on track to do $150 million (or more) in revenue this year. I can imagine that RedBeacon could approach those numbers in three years.

Anderson told me that the site is going to shortly announce some major partnerships and a self-service widget strategy that will enable any publisher or developer to embed a contextually relevant widget/lead-gen form on its site.

RedBeacon currently has a very generous revenue share that comes out of a 10% commission on the value of jobs actually performed. There’s another model that charges a flat fee to up to three businesses when an on-site consultation or estimate is required, in more complex jobs.

One of the keys to RedBeacon’s model is that it doesn’t need to sign up that many businesses in each category to reach “liquidity.” The company qualifies 12-15 businesses in major categories that the site feels are the best in the group — they do this by looking at other sites. Then they reach out to these businesses with a CPA pitch: you only pay a commission on jobs actually performed. “You’re buying a customer not a click,” is the essence of the conversation. This is analogous to Groupon’s pitch and model but the SMB doesn’t pay 50%; in this case it pays 10%.

This relatively small number of businesses required to populate each category means that each job request will receive several bids. Anderson told me the average is five. In my two experiences with the site (landscaping and fencing) I received more than that.

Anderson also told me that 50% of consumer come back and use RedBeacon within a month after booking a previous job. The company is also considering a loyalty program.

There were several other roadmap features and developments that Anderson described, but I don’t want anyone visiting me in the middle of the night so I’ll restrain myself.

Regarding the issue of communication between SMB and customer — an area of particular skepticism about the model from me and others — RedBeacon recently implemented chat on the site. Anderson said that about 70% of consumers are utilizing it. There was obviously a need for more direct, real-time communication with service providers and RedBeacon has accommodated that need. In addition SMBs and customers can communicate through email facilitated via the site to ask and answer questions as well.

In terms of whether SMBs “get it” or are sophisticated enough to take advantage of this platform, clearly enough of them do. Right now it doesn’t matter if 80% of the market doesn’t utilize or can’t utilize the system. Anderson just cares that there are a savvy group in each category and city that can.

He even told me that some SMBs have gone out and bought iPhones or Android devices so they can respond to RFP request from the field. RedBeacon has SMS notifications but is also working on mobile apps.

As the tone of his post suggests, I’m no longer the skeptic I was when they launched. Had the site not changed and evolved my criticisms would have remained, but RedBeacon is rapidly improving the service in anticipation of the coming national roll out.

As a final matter I asked Anderson about use of the phone and call tracking: would they consider it? He said they wouldn’t totally rule it out but right now he didn’t think they needed to implement it. Despite the fact that defies conventional wisdom, he may be right.

I would all but guarantee that a year from now (or in less time) the site will have several suitors hoping to buy it.

NY Times’ Scoop App a Model for Others

June 4, 2010

The NY Times now has four iPhone apps: its main site, real estate, crosswords and a new city and entertainment guide “The Scoop.” In my relatively quick perusal of it The Scoop seems to be a very useful New York restaurant, bar and entertainment directory.

It uses the paper’s editorial content and selectively extracts those listings and reviews that are relevant to the app, also taking advantage of location-awareness on the iPhone. Here are some screens:

This kind of app will give UGC sites a genuine run for their money. And, as you can also see, there’s great ad inventory for contextually and locally relevant advertisers — including rich media.

Other newspaper publishers could equally create mobile apps along these lines. For example the SF Chronicle should build an app around its popular “top 100″ restaurants guide.

Fail: What the ‘Insider’ Debate Misses re the iPad

June 4, 2010

John Battelle’s prediction about the iPad’s all-but-certain failure was itself a #Fail:

Apple’s “iTablet” will disappoint. Sorry Apple fanboys, but the use case is missing, even if the thing is gorgeous and kicks ass for so many other reasons. Until the computing UI includes culturally integrated voice recognition and a new approach to browsing (see #4), the “iTablet” is just Newton 2.0. Of course, the Newton was just the iPhone, ten years early and without the phone bit….and the Mac was just Windows, ten years before Windows really took hold, and Next was just ….oh never mind.

Later, after the announcement of 2 million in sales, he explains why he’ll be proven right eventually:

I think my prediction was right in the short term (when the iPad was announced, nearly everyone was disappointed at what it wasn’t, see the headlines from January, above), and I was totally wrong in the medium term (the thing has sold two million plus and probably has a shot at being Time magazine’s “man of the year” for 2010). However I still believe I’ll be entirely correct in the long term, in particular if Apple doesn’t change its tune on how the iPad interacts with the web.

But Battelle’s logic misses the larger point.

The iPad’s vulnerability is not to a more “open” tablet or system but to cheaper devices that ape its functionality. Neither Battelle nor the developers and blognescenti obsessing on the “open” vs. “closed” debate that surrounds Apple really understand the consumer mindset. They’re distracted by an “insider” argument that has little relevance to consumers.

Consumers don’t think like tech insiders, bloggers or developers, they think like buyers of products. They don’t care about “Flash” per se or whether HTML5 is “ready for prime time.” They don’t care whether Apple has to approve all the apps in the app store or whether Apple is “open” or “closed.” They want devices to work and be affordable.

Steve Jobs is absolutely correct when he says that consumers care about products. Jobs says Apple is trying to make “great products.” You can be cynical or not: whatever motivations Apple has or doesn’t have for rejecting Flash, if the company makes great consumer electronics people will buy them.

While some people are clearly annoyed that some Web video doesn’t work on the iPad and iPhone, people focus on “video” not Flash itself.

The iPad is a great product — if slightly imperfect. And it has done (with some help from Kindle) what Microsoft was unable to do with its hardware partners for years: establish the “Tablet PC” as a bona fide consumer category. Now 20 tablets or more are coming into the market on the heels of the iPad’s success. All but a very few of them will use Android because it’s really the only alternative they have. Windows 7 the PC version is unlikely to find success on a tablet — except in some narrow circumstances at the higher end  (e.g., laptops or netbooks with removable tablet screens). Nokia-Intel’s MeeGo is a possibility as well.

There will be two factors — and mainly one — in terms of whether these Android-based iPad challengers will succeed or fail: do they “work” and are they affordable? Very few consumers will be making buying decisions based on Flash itself or the idea that Android lives at the center of a more “open” ecosystem.

Retrevo’s consumer survey data (which earlier incorrectly interpreted iPad demand) echo the pricing variable as probably the most important in the Android challenge to the iPad:

Yelp Integrates OpenTable

June 4, 2010

In a way I’m surprised this didn’t happen earlier. But Yelp announced that it has integrated OpenTable reservations:

Beginning tonight, logged in Yelp users will be able to easily make a reservation without having to leave the site or create an OpenTable account. Yelp users who already have an OpenTable account will automatically receive credit to their OpenTable account, for their reservation — no need to log into both sites.

It’s not live so you can’t find it on the site yet. But here’s a screengrab from the Yelp blog post:

Yelp will presumably get an affiliate payment for every reservation it delivers.

Yelp competitor Urbanspoon recently introduced its own challenger to OpenTable called “Rez.”

WebVisible Documents ‘The Great Divide’

June 3, 2010

But for the mentions of “yellowpages.com,” “Yahoo” and “Facebook,” it plays like a commercial for Google. WebVisible’s “documentary” shows the gap between some small business owners and consumers in terms of how they find one another.

Some of the local business owners in the short film reference traditional media and yellow pages, while the consumers and a later group of SMBs interviewed only discuss smartphones, search engines, the Internet as resources they use to find local business.

WebVisible is also running a contest in association with the release of these shorts. The SMB winner will get three months of free ads.

Addafix Rolls Out in Denmark

June 3, 2010

Social caller ID and next-gen DA service Addafix (formerly Yellix) has launched in Demark. The company also operates in Austria and Germany. The caller ID function integrates with Facebook but also identifies numbers not among the user’s contacts through a look-up via a directory partner. In Denmark the partner is publisher De Gule Sider.

The business model is a revenue share based on local business lookups. As mentioned, in each country there’s a directory (yellow pages) publisher partner, which provides advertiser listings to Addafix for distribution.

Here’s Addafix’s discussion of how the business model works:

The caller unsuccessfully calls a pharmacy for instance, a pizza delivery service or a craftsman and receives additional data of the recipient such as other mobile or fixed line phone numbers. Furthermore, three alternative companies are displayed which are located within direct geographical vicinity of the dialed phone number. If a user dials a number of a plumber in Copenhagen and can’t reach the company because the line is busy, ADAFFIX will show additional contact information as well as three other plumbers nearby within seconds. Another call is initiated simply by pushing a button, contact details of companies can also be added to the contacts list on the mobile phone.

I asked CEO Claudia Poepperl if she could provide any additional color or data on how things were developing. Here’s the note I received:

All I can share with you at this point is that in the countries where we are live adaffix is one of the top mobile search traffic drivers for our publishing partners…it’s running in the background all the time and continuously generates local searches as phone calls happen…and a lot of phone calls happen all the time.

As I’ve said before it’s something of an unlikely success but the service has now won multiple awards and seems to be doing quite well.

Localeze Upgrades Identity Management

June 3, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

Citysearch Now Just One Publisher at CityGrid

June 3, 2010

Jay Herratti is now the CEO of CityGrid Media — not Citysearch. Kara Nortman runs day to day operations for Citysearch, InsiderPages and Urbanspoon, the three local properties owned and operated by the new entity CityGrid Media. There are also strategic investments in OrangeSoda and MerchantCircle.

I asked Herratti what he will be doing on a daily basis now? He laughed and said that he will primarily be helping evangelize and promote the CityGrid network and overseeing the ongoing development of its platform and infrastructure.

CityGrid has quickly emerged as the most prominent of the new group of local ad networks, which also include Where, Local AdXchange and to varying degrees LSN and Verve Wireless. However all of these are either exclusively or predominantly mobile ad networks, while CityGrid is “platform agnostic.” In addition, some of these use CityGrid to provide fill for their own networks. There’s also Google AdSense of course, as well as various more traditional ad networks that also offer geo-targeting. (Local.com’s white label IYP network is a version of this as well.)

CityGrid however is the most visible and arguably the best positioned of the bunch. It also offers the most direct alternative to Google AdSense for publishers, although CityGrid can be used beside AdSense as well.

According to the official material from IAC:

CityGrid aggregates more than 700K paying advertisers including YellowPages.com, SuperPages.com and Dex, and reaches over 140M unique users across more than 150 web and mobile partners including Bing.com, MapQuest, AOL and more.

The CitySearch sales force now becomes the CityGrid Media sales force. It will be selling Citysearch as one of many properties in a much broader network. But that pitch is not far removed from what has been going on at Citysearch for some time. And because it owns or controls a considerable amount of its own traffic, CityGrid is in a stronger position than some of its independent sales channel competitors, which must get a substantial chunk or a majority of their traffic from Google.

A couple of years ago Citysearch seemed to really be faltering vs. Yelp, which had reinvented the city guide model that Citysearch helped pioneer. But a couple of acquisitions later and with the arrival of CityGrid the business has almost been totally reinvented. And in some ways CityGrid Media has a brighter future and is now more valuable to corporate parent IAC than Ask.com.

I asked Herratti what happens if “a 100 new sites” now come at him to become part of the network? Can they integrate them? Can they control quality?

He said that developer self-service will allow publishers to join CityGrid rapidly without the bottlenecks that would otherwise accompany the process. He also said that before anyone is paid there are quality checks that CityGrid does to ensure publishers measure up.

I asked about what happens to clicks and calls that come through the system from sites that have integrated (via self-service) CityGrid content and advertisers but have yet to be “certified” officially on the network? Herratti said those are free calls and clicks to the advertiser. Until approval of the publisher site there’s no charge to advertisers for traffic or leads coming through. Accordingly Herratti said that there was lots of “free” traffic to advertisers on the network.

I questioned whether small publishers and developers “could really make a living” off the revenue generated by CityGrid. Herratti was emphatic that they could: “Absolutely.”

Herratti said that Urbanspoon was a beta partner before it was acquired and they saw the revenue being generated there. “That’s one of the reasons we decided to buy them,” he explained.

Superpages Adopts Yext Rep Tool for Advertisers

June 2, 2010

SuperMedia’s Superpages indicated that it will make available the Yext reputation management tool to its advertisers over the next few months. I spoke with Superpages VP Robyn Rose, who said the company evaluated other reputation tools but preferred the comprehensiveness and simplicity of the Yext UI and product generally. It’s also free.

Superpages happens to be one of the local sites that Yext Rep tracks.

I asked Rose who she anticipated the primary user of the product would be. She opined that a vanguard group of savvy local advertisers would use Yext Rep. But she added that beyond this it would probably be Superpages’ sales and account reps who would initially tap the product and convey the information to advertiser-clients. Rose said that the capabilities that Yext Rep offers are of interest to Superpages’ advertisers; informal discussions with SMBs have indicated this to the company.

Reputation/presence management is quickly becoming a must-have capability for local publishers, even if most SMB advertisers might be inhibited somewhat in the use of these tools.

Competing products in the market specifically targeting SMBs include (not in any specific order of preference or priority):

  • Marchex
  • Yellowbot
  • Vendasta’s StepRep
  • MyRepMan from Moon Valley Software
  • Palore’s AmIVisible
  • GetListed
  • Citysearch is also reportedly developing one for its advertisers

I’m sure there are others that I’ve missed here. And there’s a large category of enterprise level “listening” or “buzz monitoring” services that have been around for several years.

Here’s my earlier, more comprehensive discussion of the Yext Rep tool: .

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Update: The TechCrunch piece that was just brought to my attention gets some of the information wrong BTW. (It’s not going to automatically roll out to all Superpages advertisers.)

Do You Trust Your Social Network?

June 2, 2010

Obviously the Facebook privacy row caused lots of people to discuss the question of trust on social media sites. One research firm (Vision Critical) conducted a survey of “4,000 randomly-selected adults in the US, UK and Canada” on the question of trust, privacy and social networks. The results came out at the beginning of last month.

There are a number of findings about trust and consumer attitudes toward various media categories. Here’s the relevant “slide” regarding the perceived trustworthiness of social networks:

You can click the image above to enlarge it. What it says is the following (the numbers vary by country but are generally consistent across the board):

  • I am very concerned about my privacy on online social networks: a majority said yes
  • I worry that online social networks are selling my personal information to advertisers: a slight majority said yes
  • I don’t mind online social networks using my personal preferences to target ads I see because it means they’ll be more relevant: only 20% to 25% said “yes” to this idea.

Quit Facebook day was largely a failure, with only 35K joining (out of more than 500 million members globally):

Let’s assume the survey results above are somewhat representative of the larger population of Facebook members. The failure of more of them to quit may reflect ambivalence about the site: people don’t want to leave the party but they may be acting in a more cautious and circumspect way regarding what they’re doing and sharing.

Has your behavior or have your attitudes about posting/sharing on Facebook changed at all in the wake of the recent Open Graph/Social Plug-ins privacy controversy?

Disney Selling Toy Story Tix on Facebook

June 2, 2010

As the NYT is reporting, Disney has begun to sell movie tickets on Facebook for the upcoming Toy Story 3:

It points toward all sorts of commerce that might take place on Facebook.

I’ve long believed that Facebook is ideally positioned as a “social shopping” platform. But this is just the beginning of transactions on the social network, which could eventually become a significant source of revenue for Facebook in addition to advertising.

Snapfinger Points toward ‘M-Commerce’ Future

June 2, 2010

The lines between online and offline commerce are blurring. The idea of “buy (or reserve) online” pick up in store is fairly well established today. Open Table is a cousin of that for the restaurant industry: online inventory management, offline fulfillment.

In the same vein, a company called Kudzu Interactive (no relation to local directory Kudzu), which owns site/app Snapfinger, just announced a new $7 million round, for a total of $11 million to date. As you may have read the company enables “remote ordering” (online, mobile) from chains and franchise restaurants for “in-store” pick-up:

The company integrates at the point of sale with the restaurant, like Open Table. And like Milo with independent local retailers, Snapfinger is working to bring independent restaurants into the system:

Snapfinger enables users to access more than 28,000 restaurants from leading national chains such as California Pizza Kitchen, Outback Steakhouse, and Boston Market, as well as local independent restaurants currently in its network. The product uses location-based technology to find nearby restaurants and enables the user to order food and complete the payment transaction in a matter of minutes. Snapfinger is fully synchronized with the restaurant’s POS (Point of Sale) system, ensuring order accuracy, real-time menu updates and accurate prep times.

Snapfinger has competitors such as GrubHub, among others, and several chains offer their own mobile ordering apps: e.g., Pizza Hut, Chipotle. Because of their convenience, however, it’s likely that centralized ordering will win out over individual restaurant apps for most consumers. Regardless the idea of mobile inventory/ordering/purchasing for offline pick-up will continue to gain steam as consumers overcome security fears.

Kudzu Interactive/Snapfinger is a company (and app) that, as it grows, will become increasingly attractive as a takeover target — including by OpenTable.

Google’s Matt Cutts on ‘May Day’ Changes

June 2, 2010

Last week Andrew Shotland identified traffic drops being experienced by some local publishers. I blogged about the phenomenon in .

Here’s what Le Comte de Shotland observed from the “May Day” algorithmic update that Google began phasing in around the first of last month:

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.

Matt Cutts addresses the issue, though doesn’t discuss local sites in particular:

Summary: It’s an algorithm change, it’s automated, it affects “long-tail” searches more than “head” searches, and it’s more or less permanent. Cutts says, in effect, beef up your content (and quality) to rank higher if you’re a bland long-tail site.

MyRepMan: Yet Another Strong Reputation Tool

June 1, 2010

My tour through the various SMB presence and reputation management platforms continues. Late last week I spoke with Pete Ryan and Damian Rollison of Moon Valley Software. They showed me their MyRepMan product, which has been in development for the past couple years. Another impressive product, it appears to me to be the broadest one I’ve encountered in this growing area.

Among the things it does, MyRepMan identifies the presence or absence of business listings on relevant local sites and scores each business. It provides detail from individual directories and search engines. It captures mentions and reviews and also seeks to integrate paid advertising placement into the dashboard.

Here are some screenshots to illustrate most of this functionality (click to expand):

Like the YellowBot reputation product, StepRep and maybe even Yext, MyRepMan has more “horsepower” than most SMBs can be expected to utilize. Indeed, a tiny subset of the overall population will take advantage of all these tools have to offer. The primary audience for most of these products may turn out to be sales or account reps working with SMBs and not SMBs themselves. Moon Valley in fact developed MyRepMan as a sales aid for one of the yellow pages publishers.

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Moon Valley’s Damian Rollison offers his own overview of the MyRepMan product and its capabilities.


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