Friday News and Views

From the “bad ideas file,” Verizon wireless is going to test putting ads in 411 calls in the SF Bay Area apparently. Bad idea? Doesn’t Jingle already do that? Yes, the bad idea part is that the 411 service isn’t going free it’s still going to cost consumers on a per-call basis.

PaidContent characterizes Google as “frantic” in its efforts to halt potential lawsuits against YouTube, with cash and licensing offers. There’s something that doesn’t entirely ring true there because I’m sure Google had a bunch of conversations prior to purchase with media companies on the issue. Regardless, YouTube won’t be “Napterized.” I go back to Eric Schmidt’s remarks at SES re litigation (real or threatened) as a “negotiation in the courts.”

PaidContent also points out the struggle that the AT&T-BellSouth merger is having at the FCC. It may require some fairly major concessions by AT&T if it’s going to happen.

Looking for your “soulmate?” Yahoo! and Beliefnet have partnered for online personals. MediaPost (reg req’d) has more.

The NY Times does yet another article on Second Life. This one goes into great detail about the experience of being and spending money there.

Speaking of which, eMarketer has put out a global social network ad spending forecast: $1.1 billion in 2007 and $2.8 billion in 2010.

Barry at SEW points to a long flash demo at Ask, which takes a practical use case – planning a trip to Australia – to demonstrate the features of the “new” It features two “twentysomethings,” the target demographic, in the “commercial.” What’s interesting here is that it talks about “expert algorithms” and points out some of the advanced features of Ask, never mentioning Google by name. It clearly targets Google by implication, however (sort of an implied “Brand X”). But Ask and Google have traded places now: Ask was once for inexperienced searchers and now it has a range of advanced tools that cast Google as the engine for newbies.

The Ask “commercial” (flash demo) makes me think that the way to compete against Google is not so much on search features or relevance but on brand. Arguments about why “our algorithm is better” (unless it truly produces obviously better results) are wasted because they’re technical. Brand is the thing that now sustains Google and so if you want to compete you compete at that level. So how would you compete on brand? Think about the very successful Apple commercials that cast the PC as the dumpy, middle-aged guy. Think now about a similar campaign that would cast Google as less hip, too mainstream and so on . . .

Cingular says more than half of US cell phone users want their phones to play music. But an earlier mobile user survey by Pew and AOL cuts that demand estimate by half. I would tend to believe the AOL survey results rather than Cingular’s estimate.

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