Archive for the ‘broadband’ Category

HomePages Print Success Shows Mkt Complexity

March 11, 2010

Print yellow pages are dying, no one is using them — right? Listen to Dick Larkin talk and you’ll hear a different story. He’s now the EVP of sales for American Marketing & Publishing, which publishes HomePages a mostly print yellow pages offering in six adjoining Midwestern states.

Larkin told me that the company has been growing like crazy and now has 350 titles and will be adding 50 more this year. He said they publish in towns that generally don’t exceed 40K residents.

We were discussing the company’s online products and Larkin was saying it was hard to make the economics work because the cost of print is generally reasonable and it’s working well, while online doesn’t deliver enough volume with enough precision to make a great deal of sense at this stage.

While there’s considerable Internet penetration in Larkin’s regions there apparently isn’t a ton of “hyper-local” search volume for HomePages. In addition the targeting at this stage doesn’t allow for the precision necessary in these communities (it’s coming and certainly present in mobile). That means there isn’t a ton of money to be made. He also said, somewhat paradoxically, that many of the company’s advertisers are small and used the example of a roofer who can only do 15 or so jobs in a year. For both the publisher in this case and the service provider a PPC product doesn’t make a ton of sense.

Larkin is looking at bundles, like counterparts at larger publisher organizations. But he’s also actively considering mobile and other options. Mobile is potentially compelling because it interacts with print in ways that the Internet can’t.

I used the example with Larkin of the “advantages of economic backwardness,” wherein a laggard can jump to the state of the art without the legacy infrastructure to worry about. While these territories aren’t economically backward there’s a kind of freedom to embrace something like mobile because there isn’t a huge investment in Internet products and the world is now ready for mobile marketing.

What’s fascinating to me about this discussion more broadly is the way that it reveals the market’s complexity. All the facile assumptions about print vs. online and so on are confounded by Larkin’s company, which in fact grew during the recession.

FCC: 22% Not Web Users (but Have Cellphones)

February 23, 2010

The US FCC has released a report, based on a survey of more than 5,000 US consumers in November. The survey captures attitudes and self-reported behavior about Internet adoption and broadband usage. Much of the report focuses on demographics and cost as a factor in the above.

However there are other interesting findings. Here are some I’ve quickly selected (verbatim from the report):

  • 78 percent of adults are Internet users, whether that means broadband, dial-up, access from home or access from someplace other than home.
  • 74 percent of adults have access at home.
  • 67 percent of U.S. households contain a broadband user who accesses the service at home.
  • 65 percent of adults are broadband adopters. The discrepancy of two percentage points between household and individual home use is because some survey respondents are non-broadband users but live with someone who, at home, is.
  • 6 percent of Americans use dial-up Internet connections as their main form of home access.
  • 6 percent are Internet users but do not use it from home; they access the Internet from places such as work, the library or community centers.
  • 22 percent of adults are not Internet users. They are the oldest non-adopting group, with a median age of 60, and include the highest share of Hispanics (at 20 percent). Some 84 percent have high school degrees or less and half live in households with annual incomes of $30,000 per year or less.

Of this last group of so-called non (broadband) adopters, “70 percent have a cell phone.”

Snapshot of online activities segmented by access type (click to enlarge):

Note that “local or community news” is the second most common type of activity online (according to this survey), even more than social networking.

Kindle Price Drop Not Enough

October 12, 2009

Last week, starting to feel the coming competitive heat and perhaps having exhausted the market for early enthusiasts, Amazon’s Kindle 2 saw a price drop from $299 to $259. The company also launched an “international version,” which works in “100 countries” and uses AT&T as behind-the-scenes network (vs. Sprint  in the US; CDMA vs. GSM).

Last week also saw discussion of Barnes & Noble’s forthcoming eReader, to be powered by Android. It joins a growing list and will reportedly have built-in WiFi and a six inch color display, which the Kindle does not. As I’ve written before, even before it has really started to go mainstream, the eReader market is already intensely competitive. Kindle is clearly the most visible device and the leader accordingly.

Picture 20

But Sony has a device that starts at $199 (apparently backordered), still $60 less than the Kindle. And others to gain attention in this initial “land grab” phase will likely go lower. In order to hold and grow its market Kindle will have to drop prices further and/or improve and expand the functionality of the device — in other words: color screen, better Internet access experience, maybe apps, etc.

There will be tablets (Apple, Android) that tap into the apps available for their respective mobile handsets. This may prove to be a competitive advantage and could support higher prices. But the Kindle, without a developer ecosystem, apps, broader media capability or aggressive pricing, may find itself losing out over time to more fully functioning and cheaper models.

Indeed, we may even see the eReaders given away at some point — like PC printers — by publishers and/or retailers to accelerate the eBook market.

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Reader: Here’s another eReader from LG, which is solar powered.

Landlines That Do More

February 6, 2009

Verizon has introduced a device called the Verizon Hub in a bid to make the home phone more dynamic and prevent further declines of the wireline (wireless only households in the US are estimated to be at about 18% or so). It uses both a wireline and wireless broadband Internet connection.

picture-18

According to the press release:

Information will be at a family’s fingertips, literally from an easy-to-navigate touch screen with clear icons on the Verizon Hub. Families will start and end their days with nuggets of customized information from the Verizon Hub:

  • Check local traffic and weather in the morning before leaving the house
  • Update your calendar and automatically receive a text when an appointment changes or as a reminder not to be late
  • Get directions to the new site when the location for soccer practice is moved
  • Find the number of the new pizza parlor to order a pie
  • Preview the trailers from an upcoming movie that you might want to take the family to over the weekend, then purchase tickets using the Verizon Hub

The Hub is quite similar in intention and design (touch screen) to the AT&T Home Manager (a landline phone with a touch screen), which has received mixed reviews.

I haven’t used the Verizon Hub and it’s not clear how much the device costs — that will be a driver of success or failure. The “closed universe” of the AT&T Home Manager will be mostly unsatisfying. Beyond cost, the success or failure of these devices, will be the degree to which their screens offer real utility and something that approaches genuine Internet access.

Posts at SEL

November 5, 2008

I’m tired so I’m not going to post much here today. I was up too late last might mourning the loss of John McCain (kidding).

Earlier today I did three posts on a number of Google and search-related developments at Search Engine Land:

The White Spaces issue and decision is potentially significant because it creates more (free) spectrum for Internet access.

WiFi Triangulation and Geotargeting

January 25, 2008

One of the things I predicted for this year is advances in location awareness and geotargeting online. Along those lines . . .

I had a chance to catch up with Ted Morgan, CEO of Skyhook Wireless since the announcement of Maps with Location on the iPhone and the iPod Touch. Morgan said that the feature has already proven to be wildly popular with users and he’s seeing an impressive volume of usage already.

Morgan and I have in the past spoken of the potential for advertising and improvements in the general user experience if location detection is made passively available on the desktop. Skyhook is working with Mozilla, Opera, Safari and IE to try and get the requisite code “baked into the browser,” but Morgan believes that will take three years or so.  We also discussed that mobile browser location awareness may drive that back to the desktop.

The rest of this post is at LocalMobileSearch.   

Startup Aims to Revive SF Free WiFi Initiative

January 4, 2008

According to a story in this morning’s Wall Street Journal, startup Meraki is trying to succeed where Earthlink and Google failed: providing free WiFi to the residents of San Francisco:

The closely held Mountain View, Calif., start-up says the free San Francisco wireless project — which doesn’t involve city funding — is a test of technology it has developed for building low-cost, large-scale networks, generating some revenue from small ads viewed by users. Meraki last summer began offering free-Wi-Fi Internet access to residents of a roughly two-square-mile swath of San Francisco and says it currently has 40,000 users.

Meraki’s approach is to use lower-cost equipment and rely on consumer volunteers who install small Meraki boxes in their homes, known as “repeaters,” that help spread the wireless Internet signal. The playing-card-box-size gear, which Meraki provides free to San Francisco residents who contact it, can be attached to a window with suction cups and helps extend the distance the wireless Internet signal can travel. It needs to be plugged into an electrical outlet.

The Google-Earthlink effort was mired in city politics and then a troubled Earthlink backed away after the project appeared more costly than originally thought. The Meraki “distributed” approach is very different and appears to have the possibility of success if residents can see and understand the value of installing the boxes. I would think that they could pretty quickly.

There was considerable hype and anticipation surrounding municipal WiFi, which seems to have all but disappeared in the past year. But efforts like this might revive the effort. Meraki, like other WiFi providers, serves ads to subsidize the costs of its network and the boxes. If the initiative succeeds in SF or other cities — Meraki is set to announce funding according to the WSJ — the company could build out what becomes one of the most precise and effective local ad networks.

Indeed, one thing that’s interesting here is the geotargeting precision that comes with WiFi; it makes location awareness much more effective both on the desktop and for mobile devices without GPS (even with GPS). Broader WiFi coverage also gives some number of people confidence to buy alternative wireless Internet devices (e.g., Nokia 810, iPod Touch) not tied to any wireless carrier.

One of the predictions that I previously made but neglected to include in the list I published the other day is that geotargeting and local ad networks will get much better and more precise this year.

Related: I saw this comment/speculation on the TechCrunch post:

Whether or not Meraki can prove that local ads will bring in enough money to cover its costs, though, is a different question. Meraki will show single-line text ads from Google that are localized as well as contextual ads from Yelp. Even Meraki CEO Biswas is not sure there is a big enough inventory of local ads to support an ad-driven model…

The answer is that if the location targeting is there and marketers “get” the value of the “last mile” that local represents the inventory will come. There are already hundreds of thousands of advertisers online that use local/geotargeting in some fashion (some of those are on display networks). There is in fact enough inventory now, if Meraki can tap it and there will certainly be more in the future if the company rises to a sufficient level of coverage and visibility.

One thing that people continue to misunderstand is that local is not simply about SMBs; it’s about retailers and brands as well. It’s about directing someone to where they can buy something or otherwise transact — offline.

Here’s some additional detail on the plan from the SF Chronicle.

AnchorFree and Improved Geotargeting

December 20, 2007

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I spoke with AnchorFree this morning about their hotspot ad network. The company says its current footprint represents:

  • 10,000 locations
  • 400,000,000 page views per month
  • 5,400,000 user sessions per month

Primarily at hotels, airports and cafes, the company serves banner ads that can be demographically, contextually and locally targeted. Peter Krasilovsky has some additional detail.

The company is something of a middleware provider that serves ads but doesn’t offer the access itself. Accordingly, one of the big challenges that we discussed was getting the existing providers of wireless Internet access to change their model and either reduce fees or eliminate them. AnchorFree EVP Mark Smith said that consumer usage goes way up when the service is free, which makes sense of course.

Right now the company works with existing ad networks like Specific Media and Yahoo! to provide banners. Geotargeted ads come mostly from national entities with local stores.

Beyond this what’s interesting is that AnchorFree’s geotargeting capability, because it’s WiFi, is down to the address. Reverse IP technology varies in its accuracy but doesn’t offer that kind of precision. Mobile is the other arena in which highly accurate location targeting is available (for example, Google’s My Location service).

This is one of the themes in local for 2008: greatly improved location awareness and targeting.

On Board WiFi from JetBlue

December 7, 2007

JetBlue is going to test in-flight WiFi with partners Yahoo! and RIM. According to Reuters, the access appears to be limited to Yahoo! Mail and IM and corporate email via WiFI-enabled BlackBerry phones.

If this is correct and you won’t be able to get any other Web-based email or Internet content it’s flawed from the start. While this arrangement will perhaps boost RIM and Yahoo! in some limited way, JetBlue will not reap the full benefit (PR, good will, etc.) from the program it could have if it were broader or more “agnostic.”

American Airlines, Virgin America and Alaska Airlines will offer broader Internet access for a fee next year. Here’s more from the NY Times.

WSJ: Google Will Bid for 700MHZ Licenses

November 30, 2007

The image “https://i2.wp.com/www.google.com/images/google_sm.gif” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.While Google had previously gone on record as saying it would “probably” bid for 700 mhz wireless licenses in the forthcoming January auction, the WSJ this evening says that the company will now definitely file with the FCC on December 3 for the right to bid . . .

The rest of this post is at LocalMobileSearch.

And here’s Google’s formal statement, issued this morning: “We believe it’s important to put our money where our principles are”:

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. (November 30, 2007) – Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) announced today that it will apply to participate in the Federal Communications Commission’s upcoming auction of wireless spectrum in the 700 megahertz (MHz) band.

As part of the nationally mandated transition to digital television, the 700 MHz spectrum auction — which begins January 24, 2008 — will free up spectrum airwaves for more efficient wireless Internet service for consumers. Advocacy by public interest groups and Google earlier this year helped ensure that regardless of which bidders win a key portion of the spectrum up for auction (the so-called “C Block”), they will be required to allow their users to download any software application they want on their mobile device, and to use any mobile devices they would like on that wireless network. The winner must ensure these rights for consumers if the reserve price of $4.6 billion for the C Block is met at auction.

“We believe it’s important to put our money where our principles are,” said Eric Schmidt, Chairman and CEO, Google. ”Consumers deserve more competition and innovation than they have in today’s wireless world. No matter which bidder ultimately prevails, the real winners of this auction are American consumers who likely will see more choices than ever before in how they access the Internet.”

Schmidt also praised the leadership of FCC Chairman Kevin Martin and his fellow commissioners for adopting the new rights for consumers earlier this year.

Google’s formal application to participate in the 700 MHz auction will be filed with the FCC on Monday, December 3, 2007 — the required first step in the auction process. Google’s application does not include any partners.

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Here’s more on the rationale and the process to come from the Google Public Policy Blog.

CBS’s New York ‘Hyper Local’ Ad Zone

November 20, 2007

CBS is engaged in an interesting experiment in New York. It has created a free WiFi zone that spans about 20 blocks. Anybody that has WiFi on a mobile device or a laptop will get access. CBS outdoor billboards and the New York MTA have provided the locations to support the zone.

Here’s the WiFi zone:

Wifi zone

But here’s what’s really interesting about the project:

The service features an ad-supported home page with breaking local and national news, sports, weather, music and a social network. The super-local focus lets users search for nearby shops, restaurants and entertainment . .

In addition to the MTA association, CBS partnered with several next-generation companies, including Tropos, BIG, Fon, Ning, Goowy, Veoh, Yelp, 1020, Aptilo and Can-Do Entertainment. The CBS Mobile Zone provides interactive ad opportunities for individual billboards.

Super local ad targeting has always been held out as an opportunity in public WiFi environments. However, I spoke to someone on Friday about the ad targeting technology that’s being tested here and it’s quite impressive (if I understood correctly).

Wireless Networks, Internet Grow

February 26, 2007

Amid an increasing body of consumer research showing that more Americans are using their mobile devices for more than just voice, The Pew Internet Project surveyed 1,623 U.S. adult Internet users in December, 2006. The survey broadly asked about wireless Internet access, whether on desktops, laptops or mobile phones.

The rest of this post is at SEL.

Free WiFi: Bring It!

December 7, 2006

The image “https://i1.wp.com/www.metrofi.com/images/logo.gif” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.Earlier in the week MetroFi announced the completion of the unwiring of Portland. The company has local sponsors and Microsoft is providing Portland local content: “local weather, news, top restaurants and nightlife, movies, events and Live Search.”

There are security concerns with free WiFi networks but I wish there were one in Chicago as I pay $6.50 per hour at the Hilton on Michigan Avenue. (By the way, don’t stay here if you can avoid it.)

Why Metrics Matter

November 21, 2006

Nielsen just released its October search market share data, which shows Yahoo! with higher year-over-year search growth than Google:

Nielsen

Any set of metrics based on a statistically significant market sample and tracked over time is going to give you directional accuracy. But at any point in time they may not be accurate. Right now, given the scrutiny focused on search market share, any fraction of a point change one way or another is going affect the fortunes of these companies — Yahoo! in particular.

Any perceived momentum for Yahoo! will be welcomed by the market. Any loss of share by Yahoo! would mean — in the context of a range of recent, negative PR — that the share price would likely suffer.

That’s why there’s so much at stake in getting these numbers right. (Here are the comScore search market share numbers.)

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Related: Om Malik has an interesting post on the Yahoo!-AT&T ISP relationship and why Yahoo! is probably quite grateful for it today.

Speaking of Municipal WiFi

November 15, 2006

MetroFi, whose CEO Chuck Haas predicted nationwide WiFi in “five years,” has signed a deal with Microsoft to deliver a local portal and incorporate adCenter technology (and geotargeted ads) for MetroFi’s soon-to-launch Portland WiFi Network. MetroFi won this contract in April and is going to initially deploy the free, ad-supported WiFi network in a two-square mile area in downtown Portland.

While there’s no mention of it, this probably means that SuperPages’ advertisers will get that distribution as well because that’s who is currently supplying the local ads (PPC, PPCall) to Live Local. I wonder also whether, eventually, Live Local 3-D would be part of this deployment. Right now the service is too slow to work on a WiFi connection, however.

GigaOm has some additional detail and here’s the AP story in the WSJ (sub req’d).

Mobile Search, Local and WiFi

November 15, 2006

Today’s Search Day article, “Coping with Convergence: Local Search Meets Mobile and WiFi, Part 1,” is a summary of a panel on mobile, local and WiFi from SES Local, which happened at the end of September. I wasn’t able to see this panel because I was moderating another one in the other room.

The panel featured:

  • Jed Rice, VP of Market Development for Skyhook Wireless
  • Joe Herzog, Director of Emerging Products for InfoSpace
  • Eric McCabe, VP of Marketing for JumpTap
  • Greg Gruse, senior VP of Content Services for Local Matters

The Relentless News Cycle

September 12, 2006

My six year old daughter has been forcing me to watch the film version of Fiddler on the Roof lately so pardon me if I complain a little . . . only a little. (Read with proper “shrugging” inflection.) I ask you, how can anyone be expected to have coherent insights into the parade of daily developments and announcements? I got briefed by no fewer than five companies today and six last Friday.

People tell me their announcement is under embargo. I tell them the best protection you have is that once we get off the phone I’ll forget everything you’ve said.

Joking aside, here are a few things that happened today that I don’t have a lot of time to go into:

InfoSpace, Inc. enhanced its GPS-enabled mobile search application Find It!. The company added spoken turn-by-turn directions (notice entry of voice interface into mobile here), a greatly expanded content library and a weekly update of content and listings. (I’m using the app now with more thoughts to come.) InfoSpace is also layering in relevant CPC/PPCall advertisers into search results. It offers a browse or search capability.

News Corp. is paying almost $190 million for a controlling stake in VeriSign’s Jamba/Jamster ringtone sales division. The company racked up $500 million in sales last year on the strength of the Crazy Frog ringtone (how is that possible?). MySpace + ringtones = $$. Here’s more from the WSJ (sub. req’d).

SpotRunner has another vertical partnership, this time with OrthoClear, Inc., a maker of orthodontics. According to press materials, “Spot Runner and OrthoClear will work together to help dental practitioners across the U.S. launch cost-effective and customized TV ad campaigns to promote OrthoClear’s invisible aligners in local markets.” SpotRunner has partnerships with ad agency JWT and Cendant Corp (owner of franchise real estate firms).

Right Media (of Right Media Exchange fame) has launched a private-label bidding platform for publishers Publisher Media Exchange (PMX) to auction “non-premium inventory” (stuff they have difficulty selling well). It enables the inventory to be more efficiently offered to a larger buying pool, including those in the the Right Media Exchange if publishers so desire. Clients for this product at launch include Community Connect, Fox Interactive Media, LookSmart, Six Apart, Tickle, Tribune and WomensForum. (There’s a very interesting discussion to be had about the emergence of these ad “exchanges.”)

Real estate seller review site Homethinking has upgraded and relaunched. Here’s the announcement. CEO Niki Scevak said in a note to me “We re-launched Homethinking.com around deeper map integration and have significantly expanded our coverage of real estate transactions to over 1.5 million. We are adding hundreds of thousands transactions a month and rapidly building up a useful data set on which to help consumers choose the best real estate agent.”

AT&T has launched a broadband TV (not IPTV) service. It costs $20 per month for any subscriber with a broadband connection. This is watching TV online. (But see AP-AOL survey.) Content is similar to that available on cable TV. No ads other than those that appear during the broadcasts. Somewhat strangely, mobile video content aggregator Mob is providing the content to the service.

LostRemote confirms Apple iTunes movie store, with some “on the one hand, on the other hand” from the Washington Post.

A new, cheaper ($150) smartphone from Nokia (E62) and Cingular hits the market. And finally, on the heels of the Loopt post, 3Jam launches one to many SMS. VentureBeat has more.

Is that enough for you? What do you want; I’ve got nothing left. Don’t ask . . .

We May Have Free Nationwide Wi-Fi Yet

September 6, 2006

Om Malik has a roundup of municipal and state-wide efforts to build out free or low-cost networks. The NY Times discusses a partnership to bring free (and fee-based) Wi-Fi to SiliconValley as a whole.

Broadly available, low-cost Wi-Fi means:

  • The Internet can push to near ubiquity in major population centers
  • Everywhere, always-on means more hours, more usage
  • Wi-Fi mobile devices can be used as phones (carrier voice MOUs and data revenues go down). And consumers can be more accurately targeted for LBS
  • Telcos and cable co ISPs (unless they’re building the Wi-Fi networks) have diminished power to enact Net non-Neutrality

But it also potentially means less data security and more nasty surveillance by crooked governments or private sector criminals.

Survey ‘Sobering’ for Full-Length Online Video

September 6, 2006

According to a new AP-AOL poll of over 3,000 US adults (including 1,347 online video users) only 20% of online video watchers (269) viewed or downloaded a full-length film or TV program:

Overall, more than half of Internet users have watched or downloaded video. News clips were the most popular, seen by 72 percent of online video viewers, followed by short movie and TV clips, music videos, sports highlights and user-generated amateur videos.

The survey also found:

  • Users of online video are drawn to its convenience and accessibility, but the bulk of them say their television viewing habits remain unchanged.
  • One-third of video viewers — higher among high-speed Internet users — say they watch more video on the Internet now than a year ago.
  • Urbanites and suburbanites — who have high-speed connections at home in greater numbers than rural residents — are more likely to have watched video online.
  • Forty-six percent of video watchers with high-speed service view video at least once a week, compared with 22 percent of dial-up users. Dial-up users also were more likely to complain about download times.

This is a classic case of “half-empty” or “half full.” Some people might argue 20% isn’t so bad and it’s still very early for online video. People are clearly watching more video online but it’s shorter form content, chiefly because the user experience for longer programming is simply not as good as TV. So there’s the opportunity for IPTV and on-demand cable: providing the choice of the Internet and video search with the traditional viewing experience of TV.

An alternative scenario is: I download video and then transfer it for viewing to a DVR or other device associated with my TV. That doesn’t exactly help portals like AOL Video/In2TV but it connects TV’s better user experience with the search functionality and choice of online.

TWX/AOL Results

August 2, 2006

If you’re interested to get the details, here’s Yahoo! Finance. You can also read the WSJ (sub req’d) article and David Jackson’s highlights at the Internet Stock Blog/Seeking Alpha. In addition, AOL also formally announced that it would give away email accounts, a free phone number and other services (as has been widely known):

The AOL transition is set to be completed in early September, and the services to be offered for free include e-mail, instant messaging, a local phone number with unlimited incoming calls as well as safety and security features.

According to the WSJ:

After peaking at 26.7 million U.S. subscribers in September 2002, AOL’s subscription base dropped 30% to 18.6 million in March.

The free strategy will likely accelerate the process of subscriber losses. More from the Journal:

Internal company forecasts made public in July indicate Time Warner expects the AOL unit to lose nearly $1 billion of operating profit through 2009 under the plan to offer the online service free. But the company is forecasting that growth in Internet ad revenue will partially offset the expected decline in subscription revenue and ultimately leave the company more profitable.

My view is that AOL has a huge consumer and advertiser opportunity with video given its TimeWarner ownership, its Truveo/SingingFish assets and access to premium content.

There’s also a potential VoIP opportunity with the free “inbound” phone number/VM. If that’s well promoted and easy to use it might help drive later adoption of AOL Total Talk. (Here’s a piece in the NY Times about Verizon and Qwest losing residential landline customers to VoIP.)
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Related: Loren Baker covers how YouTube is apparently more “sticky” than MySpace. Here’s the original story that appeared in The Guardian.