Archive for the ‘Demographics’ Category

Sugar Buys BookFresh and FreshGuide

June 9, 2010

Female-centric content and ad network Sugar, Inc. yesterday announced the acquisition of BookFresh and FreshGuide (also part of BookFresh):

In its first foray into providing local editorial and advertising, Sugar Inc. ( today announced it has signed a definitive agreement to acquire FreshGuide Inc., which operates and BookFresh ( is an online women-focused city guide that provides access to exclusive daily offers from a well-edited selection of local businesses in beauty, health and fitness, dining, travel getaways and other relevant categories. BookFresh provides an online booking service for local businesses, such as spas and salons.

BookFresh began as HourTown and is an online booking platform for SMBs. I wrote about it and the segment previously:

FreshGuide was a second effort by BookFresh CEO Ryan Donahue and team and is a group-buying site, although Donahue describes FreshGuide as a cityguide (more fodder for TheDealMap and Yipit):

Donahue will now run local for Sugar. He said the following to me in an email exchange:

[I will be] GM of FreshGuide and run Sugar’s local business. I am excited to create a female-focused local advertising platform that will leverage the offers capabilities of freshguide and the online bookings capabilities of BookFresh. I think local advertisers with an interest in wooing women, will find that we offer a compelling combination of merchant tools and a hyper-targeted female audience.

Deal terms were not disclosed.


Deal Demographics: Wealthy Use Coupons

May 25, 2010

Seeking to dispel the notion of coupon users as lower income and/or education, and Harris Interactive released some interesting data yesterday on the demographics of coupon usage.

The data are drawn from a consumer survey (n=1,017) conducted in March. Here are the top-level findings:


  • 61% of respondents with a household income of $100,000 or more have redeemed a coupon in the past six months.
  • 39% in this income bracket have redeemed coupons printed from an online source in the past six months, making them nearly twice as likely to do so as adults with a household income less than $35,000 (21%).
  • Adults with college degrees are almost twice as likely to have used coupons in the past six months as those who didn’t graduate from high school
  • 77% who have used coupons in the past six months live in metro areas.
  • 51% of males have used a coupon in the past six months.
  • 36% of males responded that they even have a designated place to keep their coupons, and they’re just as likely as women to clip and tell: 18% of men have blabbed to a friend about a coupon they found online.
The survey also found that “even if economic conditions improve, eight out of 10 U.S. adults plan to continue to engage in couponing activities, according to the survey findings.”

These data are consistent with many other studies that show the popularity of digital (online, mobile) deals and coupons. The “stigma” associated with paper coupons largely goes away online and in mobile.

RelatedMMA: 21% Now Using ‘M-Commerce’:
Consumers are most interested in using their mobile phones to use discounts or coupons (30%) and to purchase content for their mobile phones (26%). Asians and young adults, ages 25-34 years, stood out as those most interested to use discounts or coupons (38% and 35% respectively were “very interested” or “somewhat interested”).

More on Facebook, Privacy & Data Mining

April 26, 2010

Here are two unrelated pieces on Facebook that I ran across nearly simultaneously:

The first is from the NY Times, about how high-school students and college applicants are trying to make it harder for colleges to find them on Facebook (using aliases), for fear of the adverse consequences of institutions knowing too much about them:

For high school students concerned with college acceptance, Facebook presents a challenge. It encourages making public every thought and every photo, an opportunity for posturing and bravado nearly irresistible to teenagers. But this impulse for display clashes with the need to appear circumspect and presentable to college admissions agents, who some high school guidance counselors have warned are likely vetting applicants by trolling the Web.

Whether admissions officers really do plumb Facebook is up for debate, said Dr. Frank C. Leana, a prominent independent college counselor in New York City whose services cost $1,000 (for a one-time consultation) to $9,000 (for ongoing counsel throughout the college process). His students believe they are being watched, he said, but “it’s really hard to know how accurate their suspicions are.”

One of the big pitches for the Open Graph is “making the Web less anonymous,” more transparent. But Facebook being the de facto identity management platform across the Internet is not so desirable to everyone, as the above article suggests. And young people do care about privacy it would appear — or at least that third parties not be able to access their information.

Real and open identity is good as an abstract matter until the “big brother effect” kicks in and others are passing judgment and denying jobs or college admissions, potentially because of one-too-many drunken party images on Facebook. While there’s no documentation of the latter, the fear is clearly present.

The second article, an interview of sales VP Mike Murphy by eMarketer, reveals some of Facebook’s ambitions surrounding data mining and ad targeting vis-a-vis the “Like” button. Here’s eMarketer’s summary conclusion of Murphy’s comments:

Whenever a person clicks to “like” something they see on the Web, that information will go into their Facebook profile and marketers will be able to use the information to target advertising within Facebook.

This is a key point: all off-site “Like” activity will factor into targeting on Facebook. In other words, Facebook is mining actions across the Internet for targeting on its site. Brilliant and/or creepy? A little of both I think.

What many (most) people don’t realize also is that “Liking” something across the Internet will enable marketers or publishers to push content and “publish into [users’] news feeds.” This requires prior approval but it may not be clear that people are signing up for an ongoing stream of information or marketing messages.

YPA Research Head Defends Print YP

April 5, 2010

Larry Small, Yellow Pages Association research director, defended the yellow pages (print) today in a column at Search Engine Land, and further unpacked the recent study I also blogged about:

In order to make an informed decision, however, local businesses need to be up-to-speed with current usage patterns as they relate to both traditional and new digital advertising options. They also should be aware of how Yellow Pages companies are integrating new platforms into their portfolios in order to deliver a hybrid model that maximizes consumer reach and drives business results. In some cases, one’s perception about how people are searching for business information and the services that Yellow Pages partners provide is different than the reality.

The bottom line is that that local market continues to fragment. The challenge for local businesses is to decide where to put their limited resources in that fragmented market, when they’re getting 10 calls a day from competing publishers and sales channels. The noise and confusion show no signs of abating.

Increasingly some of those SMBs will turn to self-service and free social media (FB, Twitter) and some will turn to group buying, which doesn’t represent an upfront cash outlay. But there remains a big opportunity for trusted third parties to manage the SMB ad spend across multiple platforms.

The challenge for traditional media and publishers of all stripes is how to prove the value of their more expensive traditional offerings (e.g., print) as usage further fragments, though remains strong among some demographic segments.

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.

SMBs Are Getting Older

March 7, 2010

Here are some interesting stats drawn from an article in the NY Times about people starting their own businesses at 50 and older:

  • More than five million Americans age 55 or older run their own businesses or are otherwise self-employed, according to the Small Business Administration. And the number of self-employed people ages 55 to 64 is soaring, the agency says, climbing 52 percent from 2000 to 2007.
  • Americans age 55 and above started 18.9 percent of all businesses created in 2008, compared with 10 percent in 2001. 

    ChaCha Search Data Provide Brand Insights

    March 5, 2010

    ChaCha has done a number of interesting things lately to expand its audience and utility, such as Facebook integration. The company is now seeking to offer marketers access to its data around brand affinity and purchase intent. ChaCha offers one of the most direct marketing channels to the youth market in the US and has fielded millions of questions about products and brands by teens and young adults (13-24).

    It recently commissioned an analysis of its data and queries to expose trends and preferences among its users. Here are some charts from a report released in conjunction with this analysis:

    There’s more data and discussion in the report. The idea here, however, is that ChaCha has a massive database of queries (like Google) that show trends, etc. The difference is that ChaCha’s audience is very demographically specific.

    CEO Scott Jones also told me previously that the company has great success with polls, which offers something like a massive youth focus group for brands.

    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.

    Social Network Users Older than You Think

    February 16, 2010

    Royal Pingdom offers a nice breakdown of the ages of the users of the various social networks. Here’s the “average” list:

    • Average social network user is 37.
    • Average LinkedIn user is 44.
    • Average Twitter user is 39.
    • Average Facebook user is 38.
    • Average MySpace user is 31.
    • Average Bebo user is 28.

    The largest age category across the social networking spectrum is 35-44. The data are from Google’s AdPlanner, which is based on estimates.

    Kaiser Report on Kids Scary for Print Media

    January 21, 2010

    The Kaiser Family Foundation has released its annual report on kids and their media use. There was a lengthy article in the NY Times about it yesterday. The report and related presentation are free and they paint a scary picture for most traditional media, except for TV (although TV is down) and, surprisingly, radio.

    Not surprisingly, Internet (especially social networking) and mobile are key areas of focus of these kids. And 84% of them have Internet access at home, many in their bedrooms. The press release summarizes the high-level findings. Here are a few noteworthy charts from the report:

    While TV dominates media usage, there is considerable media multi-tasking during TV use (read: people only partly paying attention). Print media are just — to put it bluntly — screwed unless as these kids mature they spend more time with print. Don’t bet on it. Finally 25% of computer time is spent with social networks.

    There are lots of implications for publishers and marketers, although there’s no discussion of advertising in these slides or in the larger report. Where are marketers going to be able to most effectively market to young people in the US? On social networks, in games, on mobile phones (SMS) and radio to some degree. Magazines may offer some effective marketing opportunities in selected cases. However, online “share of voice” is going to be tough; there’s lots of clutter and noise. Thus mobile may turn out to be the most effective tool for reaching youth accordingly.

    TV is going to offer mixed results; it’s the largest audience (though it continues to fragment) but people aren’t paying attention to ads for the most part.


    Related: Owners of digital readers actually read more books:

    Among active readers who own an e-reader, about 48% reported reading more books as a consequence of having such products, as compared to those who do not own an e-reader where only 15% reported reading more books (44% vs. 23%, respectively for magazines); 36% percent of the books read by people with e-readers represent incremental consumption—meaning more than one-third of the books read on e-readers would not have been read in print

    Search & Sex for Those 18 and Under

    December 17, 2009

    Unlike the major search engines that make their year-end “top searches” lists family friendly, Symantec puts out what they see as the raw data. Here’s why it’s scary these days to be a parent of younger kids — especially girls:

    While YouTube, Google, and Facebook showed up in the top three of both boys’ and girls’ search terms, boys’ #4 search term was “sex” while girls’ #4 was Taylor Swift. However, girls were still interested in the term “sex,” coming in at #5 on their list. Boys’ top 25 search terms were mainly comprised of social networking sites, shopping sites, adult terms, and games. Girls also showed interest in social networking sites, but their top 25 search terms focused more on music, TV, movie, and celebrity-related terms.

    (emphasis added.)

    Then there’s also this, about “sexting” on mobile devices (from Pew survey data): 

    • 15% of cell-owning teens ages 12-17 say they have received sexually suggestive nude or nearly nude images of someone they know via text messaging on their cell phone.
    • Older teens are much more likely to send and receive these images; 8% of 17-year-olds with cell phones have sent a sexually provocative image by text and 30% have received a nude or nearly nude image on their phone.

    Placecast Survey: 42% Interested in LBS Offers

    October 15, 2009

    1020 Placecast has been doing the great “alert shopper” series and now has released online survey data on mobile shopping behavior and consumer interest in deals/alerts on mobile devices. I’ve written the data up at Internet2Go (formerly LMS). What the study finds is that a large percentage of mobile users (18-34) are in fact open to influence via deal alerts on their mobile handsets.

    Picture 30

    More Bad News for Behavioral Targeting

    September 30, 2009

    I’ve argued many times now, there’s momentum toward some sort of regulation of behavioral targeting. And now in my best “Yoda” voice: regulation is coming, prepared must you be. More support for regulation comes in the form of a new survey reported in the NY Times:

    About two-thirds of Americans object to online tracking by advertisers — and that number rises once they learn the different ways marketers are following their online movements, according to a new survey from professors at the University of Pennsylvania and the University of California, Berkeley.

    The professors say they believe the study, scheduled for release on Wednesday, is the first independent, nationally representative telephone survey on behavioral advertising.

    Here’s what the report itself says:

    • Contrary to what many marketers claim, most adult Americans (66%) do not want marketers to tailor advertisements to their interests. Moreover, when Americans are informed of three common ways that marketers gather data about people in order to tailor ads, even higher percentages—between 73% and 86%–say they would not want such advertising.
    • Even when they are told that the act of following them on websites will take place anonymously, Americans’ aversion to it remains: 68% “definitely” would not allow it, and 19% would “probably” not allow it.
    • A majority of Americans also does not want discounts or news fashioned specifically for them, though the percentages are smaller than the proportion rejecting ads.
    • 69% of American adults feel there should be a law that gives people the right to know everything that a website knows about them.
    • 92% agree there should be a law that requires “websites and advertising companies to delete all stored information about an individual, if requested to do so.”
    • 63% believe advertisers should be required by law to immediately delete information about their Internet activity.
    • Americans mistakenly believe that current government laws restrict companies from selling wide-ranging data about them. When asked true-false questions about companies’ rights to share and sell information about their activities online and off, respondents on average answer only 1.5 of 5 online laws and 1.7 of the 4 offline laws correctly because they falsely assume government regulations prohibit the sale of data.
    • Signaling frustration over privacy issues, Americans are inclined toward strict punishment of information offenders. 70% suggest that a company should be fined more than the maximum amount suggested ($2,500) “if a company purchases or uses someone’s information illegally.”
    • When asked to choose what, if anything should be a company’s single punishment beyond fines if it “uses a person’s information illegally,” 38% of Americans answer that the company should “fund efforts to help people protect privacy.” But over half of Americans adults are far tougher: 18% choose that the company should “be put out of business” and 35% select that “executives who are responsible should face jail time.”

    People are saying very explicitly that they don’t want targeted (read: relevant) ads. Also, look that the punitive attitudes in the bullets at the end.

    There’s a clear difference between attitudes and behavior. People don’t want to be tracked but the do respond to targeted ads and deal offers, etc.

    This survey will be taken as conclusive proof of the need for regulation — conclusive. The only question will be about the burdensomeness, the disclosure requirements, etc. Search advertising will be largely unaffected (although data retention will be an issue for search engines). It’s display that will suffer as a result.

    Who disagrees with me?


    Thanks Kevin Lee for pointing me to the IAB self-regulation statement. But as George Bush the first might have said, “That’s not goin’ ta do it.”

    The Alert Shopper Part 2: Moms

    September 24, 2009

    Picture 1591020 Placecast continues with its fascinating series “The Alert Shopper.” Part of that is empirical research with Harris Interactive, which will be released soon I’m told. But more fun and interesting in a way is the video interview series that the company has done: people “on the street” discussing their shopping behavior.

    Part two is about moms (mostly in their 40s) and their attitudes toward sales and email. Basically the “takeaways” from the information on the video are:

    • They don’t really pay attention to commercial email (and are thus not influenced by it accordingly)
    • They mostly don’t online research prior to shopping (the cost of the purchase would be an interesting variable to explore)
    • They’re often unaware of and/or indifferent to sales
    • They have their phones while shopping and use them in various ways (call spouse, use smartphone for research in one case)

    This is a limited group of people so be cautious in generalizing, but it’s pretty interesting stuff. The buried inference is that these folks are going to be receptive to mobile marketing while shopping. More on that later.

    Nielsen: 19% Drive 81% of Coupon Usage

    September 11, 2009

    According to Nielsen, a category of consumers it calls “coupon enthusiasts” account for the lion’s share of coupon-related purchases in America:

    Eighty-one percent of the units purchased using manufacturer coupons came from just 19 percent of U.S. households during the twenty-six week period ended June 27, 2009.

    The most avid users, called “coupon enthusiasts,” are households that purchased 104 or more items using manufacturers’ coupons. The 10 percent of shoppers that fall into this category accounted for 62 percent of manufacturers’ coupon units. They also accounted for 16 percent of total unit sales making them a very attractive and important consumer target.

    Nielsen also reports “that more and more consumers are using coupons for both food and non-food items. In Q4 2008 non-food redemptions were -3 percent. However, in the second quarter of this year redemptions for non-food items were up 46 percent. Food coupon redemptions were +21 percent in Q4 2008 and increased 27 percent in the second quarter of 2009.”

    Putting aside the growth figures, the takeaway is that there’s a minority of users who are the heaviest coupon consumers — although the recession has broadened the usage of coupons.

    These data refer to traditional coupons. In mobile, coupons have different demographic appeal than traditional paper coupons. And earlier this month Scarborough Research found that among the ways US consumers get coupons, newspapers remain the top source but SMS (and email) now have overtaken “Internet sites.”

    Zumbox: (Direct) Mail Replacement

    August 25, 2009

    Picture 38I ran into some folks from Zumbox at Web 2.0 or another conference (it’s all a blur lately). It’s a pretty audacious idea: a digital mailbox associated with every US address. The idea is to tie the digital mailbox geographically, physically to offline locations rather than to email, which could be anywhere in the world.

    The company just raised $8 million after a successful trial in a town in Illinois. Zumbox describes what it is seeking to create (or has created) as “a nationwide paperless postal system.” It literally aspires to replace conventional mail.

    To work it needs massive adoption. This is perhaps the biggest “chicken and egg” challenge I’ve seen to date. It won’t have credibility unless it has widespread usage but it won’t have widespread usage unless or until it has credibility. Yet if the company succeeds or partly succeeds (I’m not sure what that means right now), the spoils are potentially huge:

    • Fees from senders/mailers (less than USPS) but massive at scale
    • Control over direct mail

    How much is direct mail worth? By some estimates between $50 and $60 billion annually. Yes, but in electronic form direct mail would be easier to avoid. But targeting algorithms, demographic data and other tools would make it potentially more relevant. And in one version of this company’s future consumers specify the kinds of “offers” they want to receive. Rather than the 1% traditional direct mail response rates you start to see 5%, 10%, 20% or more hypothetically.

    For marketers costs would be a fraction of what they are today — and it’s “green.” Everybody’s happy, right?

    These guys are climbing Mt. Everest but I admire the ambition.

    MapQuest Integrates Census Data into Maps

    August 10, 2009

    Picture 67MapQuest has integrated premium datasets into its enterprise product. The data include:

    • US boundaries (including neighborhoods)
    • US Census Data (2000):-Broken down by Block, Group, Tract, ZCTA, City, County and State
    • Premium Business Listings:-13+ mil US and 2+ mil Canada Business Listings
    • US Public School Locations: -Includes over 102,000 public schools.
    • US Traffic: Incident and Flow data

    Picture 68

    As I’ve said before, as this “offline” demographic data makes its way online, tied to more precise location awareness, location-targeting becomes audience targeting.

    Demographic Segmentation and Social Media

    August 2, 2009

    A recent study of social networks (n=5,000) from Anderson Analytics probes usage and loyalty to the top social networking sites. (Data are US only.) The company estimates roughly 110 million social networks users out of an online population of roughly 190 million, or about 57% penetration of the online population.

    Which network is the most valuable:

    • Facebook — 75%
    • MySpace — 65%
    • LinkedIn — 30%
    • Twitter — 12%

    Which network could you “probably do without”:

    • Twitter — 43%
    • MySpace — 35%
    • Facebook — 29%
    • LinkedIn — 29%

    Usage overlap:

    Picture 13

    These data are ominous news for MySpace in my view. Accordingly, users could abandon MySpace for FB with minimal “switching costs” because lots of people are using both. This is what largely happened to Friendster. As that site stumbled, people switched to MySpace. However MySpace is used by younger audiences than Facebook overall.

    Average age of users:

    • MySpace — 29
    • Twitter — 33
    • Facebook — 34
    • LinkedIn — 36

    Gender differences: “By a margin of 55% to 45%, there are more women than men using social networking sites regularly.” LinkedIn apparently skews male, while FB skews female:

    • Facebook: Males (44%) vs. Females (56%)
    • LinkedIn: Males (57%) vs. Females (43%)

    Here is eMarketer’s compiliation of the Anderson data:

    Picture 14

    And here are the asserted reasons why people are using these sites:

    Picture 15

    As the chart immediately above suggests, there’s limited commercial intent among users. It’s not surprising then that social networks have a mixed track record as ad vehicles (as other data show). Still Anderson found that half of users have “followed a commercial service, product, or brand”:

    • 50% of participants said they have followed a commercial service, product, or brand on a social networking site
    • 46% report saying something positive about a brand on a social networking site
    • 23% have said something negative about a brand

    Local News Briefs: Google TV, Twitter Suit & More

    July 28, 2009

    Here are some items I don’t have time to blog about in more detail:

    YPG’s ‘Demographic’ Vertical: PrimeLiving

    July 23, 2009

    I wasn’t aware of this before . . . YPG in Canada has created (or maybe had it for some time) a demographic destination:

    Picture 22

    Part yellow pages, part cityguide it targets seniors. We’re about to see massive “verticalization” of the yellow pages industry online (and in mobile perhaps). But this demographic approach is also an interesting model for publishers.


    Sebastien Provencher also points out that YPG has a legal vertical:

    Picture 30