Archive for the ‘Email’ Category

Google Blows It with Buzz Rollout

February 13, 2010

In Google’s ongoing march to transform itself into a social media platform (and hold off Facebook) the company launched GMail-based Buzz last week. And to “jump start” the social network Google has cast the net too broadly, automatically assigning followers based on “most frequent” email contacts.

There are a range of privacy issues that Google has created and, in the words of the WSJ, is now “scrambling” to address. The launch was initially a “success,” as measured by visibility, media attention and of course “buzz.” However it quickly turned into a PR disaster as the privacy issues became apparent:

According to the GMail Blog Google has been trying to address those concerns:

We’ve had plenty of feature requests, and some direct feedback. In particular there’s been concern from some people who thought their contacts were being made public without their knowledge (in particular the lists of people they follow, and the people following them). In addition, others felt they had too little control over who could follow them and were upset that they lacked the ability to block people who didn’t yet have public profiles from following them.

Like Gmail’s chat service, Buzz helps you create a social network by automatically setting you up to follow the people you email and chat with most. You can change, delete or add any contacts you want to follow.

So here is some more information about how Buzz works, and some immediate improvements we are making today based on your feedback.

While the number of immediate users and activity is very impressive and shows Google’s “raw scale” — “over 9 million posts and comments. Plus … over 200 posts per minute from mobile phones around the world” — the rollout miscalculated the fact that most people don’t want to turn their email contacts into their social network and most people don’t want those contacts “public” or otherwise automatically exposed to others.

Again, Google is seeking to quickly address these issues.

On a personal note, I’m unlikely to use Buzz in any sustained way because it’s just redundant (vs. Facebook and Twitter). I want email to be email and unfortunately this whole experience has “tainted” GMail. I do think that Buzz has interesting utility in mobile however, which some mistake as new. (Socialight, Flook and others offer similar capabilities.)

The lack of clarity about what was happening and how to control it, how to change privacy settings and so on — the “involuntary” nature of the Buzz rollout — was and is the central problem. This resulted from Google’s desire to create immediate scale and usage.

The key thing that people want is choice; they want to consciously decide whom to connect with or follow and who follows them. They want that process to be more transparent as with other networks: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn.

Marc Rotenberg of the Electronic Privacy Information Center said it well in the WSJ piece:

“Google has generally been pretty savvy” about privacy considerations while rolling out new products, he said. “And still, they blundered big time.”

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(Google should de-couple Buzz from GMail or create that option.)

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Monster Execs Launch ClickFuel for SMBs

November 7, 2009

Earlier this month a new soup-to-nuts SMB marketing company, ClickFuel, launched. The company has a relationship with Intuit and may get some promotion there through its App Center integration with QuickBooks. Beyond this — and though quite polished — they’re going to struggle like everybody else to be heard in the noisy and confusing world of online marketing. The company promises DIFM across a range of needs: “Web design and email marketing to PPC and SEO campaigns.”

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The Boston-based company, launched by former Monster.com executives, is seeking to differentiate based on two factors: 1) a wide range of services and 2) human account support. Here’s the PR pitch I received: 

While myriad companies offer solutions, they aren’t focused on helping SMBs navigate the online marketing world. You either had to put blind faith in an expensive consultant- or take up valuable time to learn the ropes yourself. ClickFuel isn’t offering a do-it-yourself option. They have actual account staff that take time with the small business owner to personally set goals, explain strategy and then handle the execution. Most companies don’t integrate their online presence and execution with the kind of real human interaction you’d find with say, a consultant or offering like Hubspot. Despite being online-based, ClickFuel does.

They’ve built, specifically for small businesses, an online dashboard that allows the business owner to see actual analytics from their campaign, graphically, and explain complex terms and data in layman’s terms so there isn’t any confusion between what’s promised and what’s delivered- even for users who have never heard of terms like PPC or SEO. If they can access the internet- they’re up to date- but also have the option of talking to the account staff personally.

The mastermind behind this dashboard, Fuel Station, is Brian Farrey, former CTO at Monster.com who has been named by ComputerWorld as one of the country’s Top 100 CIOs and by Infoworld as one of the Top 25 Most Influential CTOs. Brian and Steve envision leveraging the “Monster model” that took job search from the paper classifieds to online and transform SMB marketing from Yellow Page-type methods to online for SMBs.

While I’m sure this company has some solid talent behind it and also useful tools, the claims make it sound a bit like the RedBeacon of SMB online marketing: announcing itself as though there weren’t already a ton of similar companies that had come before or currently circling the segment. For example, this incomplete list is from an old slide deck (though some may be now be gone or out of the market):

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The timing may be ripe; the local market is now ripe for online marketing in a way it wasn’t two years ago. And the company may succeed — ReachLocal appears to be poised for its IPO filing which will get everybody very excited — but it will take time, visibility and the ability to build trust around a brand.

The End of Email? Not Likely

October 12, 2009

Picture 21The WSJ offers a lengthy article today proclaiming the end of email in favor of other types of tools such as social networks and email successors such as Google Wave:

Email has had a good run as king of communications. But its reign is over.

In its place, a new generation of services is starting to take hold—services like Twitter and Facebook and countless others vying for a piece of the new world. And just as email did more than a decade ago, this shift promises to profoundly rewrite the way we communicate—in ways we can only begin to imagine.

Rather than being marginalized or eliminated I believe email is more analogous to radio, which at one time made room for movies that in turn made room for TV, and so on. I do use Twitter and Facebook to communicate in cases where once I would have used email. But the volume and frequency of email has not stopped or been supplanted by these sites. And Google Wave will need to incorporate email if it hopes to go mainstream, even though it offers much more functionality than conventional email.

Email is clearly evolving alongside these other communication platforms. IM didn’t kill email, although it’s used by younger people than email. In face IM has had to get used to Facebook.

I think we’re seeing a proliferation of tools that make online (and mobile) communication more fragmented and maybe segmented: I communicate with certain people via LinkedIn and others via Twitter or Facebook; still others with IM and yet another group with SMS. Email, however, is the lone platform that everyone is on. It is the “core” or standard communication vehicle that we all use — and likely will continue to use for some time. (There’s also the issue of attachments and other very functional uses of email.)

Someone will eventually build an integrated communications platform — having been discussed for many years — that allows one interface to receive messages from multiple inputs and is smart about the outbound methods it uses. Motorola’s “MotoBLUR” social software on its Cliq Android device points in this direction.

For now we just get more work and more information madness to enjoy. The PC and Internet were supposed to bring about the end of paper, the “paperless office.” Sure, paper has been diminished somewhat but there’s still paper everywhere. The same will be true for email.

Similarly, once upon a time, “computers” were supposed to create more leisure by enabling greater productivity. That now seems like an incredibly naive thought. The unintended consequence was, instead, the creation of cultural and institutional expectations of more productivity and more work — in the same amount of time. So much for promises.

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.

TheShack: Email->Video->FB Fan

August 5, 2009

Indeed, RadioShack is becoming “The Shack,” though perhaps it would’ve been better to use the French “Le Shack” instead. No matter.

I received this email today. It prompts you to watch allegedly hip/cool/humorous commercials hosted on Facebook. And while you’re there, why not become a FB Fan:

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On the one hand this sort of hand off from email to Facebook represents a strong approach to social media and customer acquisition. However, I’m already on the email list so in one sense it’s a wash. I’m more receptive to commercial messages in email than I am on Facebook — but that’s just me 🙂

Perhaps it’s a hedge against declining email open rates.

Borrell: Direct Mail Next to Go

May 21, 2009

OK, I “sexed up” the headline a bit but the newest Borrell report predicts that direct mail will suffer mightily (-39%) over the next five years as ad spending continues to shift:

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The firm sees email marketing taking a larger share of direct mail’s dollars and the local/SMB email segment growing significantly from where it is today.

Email marketing is underappreciated by many. My work with Opus Research has found that SMBs consistently rate email marketing as their most effective advertising tool. This is something that local media companies should bear in mind as they seek to diversify the suite of tools and services that they offer to their advertiser-customers.

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Do you agree that direct mail dollars will shift directly to email and that “local email” will see this kind of growth?

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Here’s more discussion of the numbers in MediaPost.

GMail’s ‘Friendster Moment’?

February 27, 2009

picture-232Friendster, the once undisputed king of social networking, suffered months of slow operations and technical challenges creating massive frustration and paving the way for MySpace to take over. Friendster has rebounded to some degree outside the US, but it’s done as a mainstream social media platform in the West.

Google’s recent challenges with GMail may be creating a Friendster-like moment or problem for the service. Its recent slow operation and semi-unreliability could start to threaten continued use of what is one of Google’s clear success stories.

Undoubtedly the company is mindful of the danger of inattention to the problems. But I’ve got to say as a user that it’s pretty frustrating.

There’s also danger to the overall Google brand if GMail continues to falter.

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Gmail is having more problems, reported by the BBC.

GMail Problems

February 26, 2009

I’ve generally been happy with GMail. I had a bunch of email addresses and started to use it exclusively a couple of years ago. But lately (forgetting about downtime) it has become slow and more frustrating to use:

  • Longer to upload
  • Longer to send
  • Longer to open/download new messages

I get the “still working” or “sending” message a lot these days. Is it me or are others experiencing similar things?

Another Way for Google to Get Location?

November 21, 2008

I was playing around with some of the new Google “themes” (as with iGoogle) for GMail and discovered that location is part of the thing:

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I wonder if Google will use this information (in addition to other methodologies it has) to influence content and/or adds it shows me. The answer right now is probably not. But it’s another place that Google is soliciting location information from users.

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Related: Google’s SearchWiki customized search tool/program may do something like this as well. Individuals using it, which will be a minority of Google users, may disambiguate local results themselves and give Google more feedback that will eventually improve the display and ranking of local information.

Related II: Google is going to try and get Chrome (which has location awareness baked in) pre-installed on PCs in the coming months.

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.

Yahoo! Mail Now Sends SMS Messages

August 27, 2007

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The new Yahoo! Mail is out of beta and has a number of interesting feature upgrades. For purposes of this post, the most interesting is the ability to send mobile text messages from the Yahoo! Mail client. I’ve written more at LocalMobileSearch.

Here’s more on the general news from CNet’s Elinor Mills and USAToday’s Jeff Graham.

New and Improved GMail for Mobile

November 2, 2006

Google

Google this morning released a downloadable application for Java-enabled mobile devices to improve the experience of reading Gmail on non-smartphones (it does work on certain smartphones). Gmail is already available via mobile phone, but this improves the user experience. Here’s the release.

I spoke to Google but haven’t tried it yet. However one of the highlights is that it resizes attachments for viewing, which wasn’t previously possible. And here’s a tidbit, which is arguably the most interesting part of the release:

Google and Sprint announced that Gmail for mobile devices can also be easily downloaded directly from the Sprint PCS VisionSM or Sprint Power VisionSM home page. Google and Sprint worked closely to ensure that Gmail is only a few clicks away for Sprint customers.

(Here’s the related Sprint release.)

The Sprint partnership seems to fly in the face of all the “carriers are scared of Google and Yahoo!” speculation.

Now Google doesn’t really market anything, but this it would seem to me is a big opportunity to generate more Gmail accounts. Gmail generally lags among the portals in terms of user adoption (Yahoo! is number one), although it’s the newest web mail in the market, save Live Mail. Google understands the opportunity here. And given the announcement with Sprint, it would seem that there’s a particular opportunity to get Sprint users to sign up for Gmail so they could take advantage of this new and improved user experience.

Yahoo! Mail was the number one mobile site in July according to Telephia. And of the top 10, three were email (the others were AOL and Hotmail). Clearly mobile email access is in important use case and, in my opinion, a “leverage point” for other mobile applications. Which is why those with an email relationship with a user have an advantage or head start in mobile.

And, it goes without saying, those who ultimately have an established relationship with an end user can capture mobile local search usage and serve ads against it. . .

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Related: Om Malik has a lengthy, positive review of the app. And here’s a similarly long review from MobileCrunch.

Is Email a Huge Advantage in Mobile?

September 26, 2006

Everyone is familiar with the “Crackberry” addiction — people who can’t stop checking their email on their Blackberries. There’s also Telephia data that reflects Yahoo! Mail was the number one mobile destination for US consumers. Email as a content category on mobile devices is also number one.

Wireless carriers are seeking to avoid being “disintermediated” by portals and search engines and working with private label partners to deliver wireless search and other mobile services. But without email will they be at a big disadvantage?

The fact of users wanting to access their email in a mobile environment may heavily predispose them toward the mobile services of their email carriers. Of course, in my view, user experience will trump all other considerations — people will gravitate toward what works in mobile. But all things being relatively equal, “owning” an email user will offer a huge advantage in developing mobile market share.

Right now that would put Yahoo! in the driver’s seat as the number one online email provider with an aggressive mobile initiative going. Microsoft won’t be far behind, with similar assets.

But MySpace is also a big email provider now and has 100 million registered users (and a smug attitude). AOL has lots of email users but is lagging in its mobile initiatives (except for MapQuest). Yet Google has such a strong brand in search that it may be able to leverage that without comparably broad adoption of gmail.

Yahoo! Mail the New MyYahoo?

September 14, 2006

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I’ve long thought that MyYahoo! was a strategic product that wasn’t being fully leveraged by Yahoo! — a kind of potential Internet “dashboard” that would help users organize their content, calendars, etc. While some people do use it that way, I don’t think it has lived up to this potential. (Others would argue that people just don’t customize things and so MyYahoo! isn’t as strategic as I’m claiming. Perhaps.)

Assuming the latter is true, Yahoo! Mail has the potential to become a mass market version of MyYahoo! and enable Yahoo! to leverage the massive Mail user base to drive usage of other services as well as search potentially. It’s sort of akin to AOL trying to leverage AIM, its most visible product.

This morning I went into Yahoo! Mail and found the company had opened up its email “beta” to the world. I found news in my inbox, which was initially disorienting but ultimately smart. Unconsciously I started reading the headlines.

Yahoo! has the number one mail product in the market and the number one mobile app in mail. Mail is a great opportunity to create the kind of “dashboard” experience I was talking about with MyYahoo!

Previously Yahoo! introduced RSS feeds into mail so it’s already a newsreader, although I suspect that feature has seen modest adoption (given the public’s general lack of understanding of RSS; it should be renamed “news” or “content” feeds).

Here’s what I think what Yahoo! should do:

  • Take the search bar and move it “down,” making it more visible and prominent within the Mail environment.
  • Take the most popular elements of MyYahoo! and the new Yahoo! homepage and integrate them into Mail as a startpage.
  • Make Mail, the new homepage and MyYahoo! similar doorways into content and search.

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Related: Yahoo! Mail blog discusses what’s new and forthcoming. Here’s a related piece from MediaPost (reg. req’d): “Display ads mushroom on Yahoo Mail.”

Where Are All the Ad Impressions?

June 20, 2006

This article in today's MediaPost (per data from Nielsen//NetRatings), says some amazing things about where the ad impressions are happening online:

E-mail properties proved popular with online marketers last month, garnering 49 percent of online ad impressions tracked by Nielsen//NetRatings AdRelevance–up slightly from 48.7 percent in April.

Specifically, Yahoo Mail accounted for the single largest proportion of May's ad impressions–38 percent–while MSN Hotmail garnered 8.6 percent and Juno Email on the Web drew 1.1 percent.

General community sites captured 16.3 percent of the impressions tracked last month by AdRelevance, compared to 16.1 percent last month. MySpace was the clear leader in this category, claiming 14.6 percent of all online ads served in May. Portals and search engines additionally accounted for 8.3 percent of May's online impressions, versus 8.4 percent in April.

(Emphasis mine.)

This is obviously part of what's at stake with email market share. According to Hitwise, the US email market share (May) distribution is as follows:

  • Yahoo — 42.4%
  • MSN/Hotmail — 22.9%
  • MySpace Mail — 19.5%
  • Gmail — 2.54%

Where's AOL?

A Plea to Google: Gmail Folders Please

June 1, 2006

I don't know if anyone at Google reads my blog and this isn't something I'd post at Search Engine Watch but Google if you're reading here goes: Please, please, please put folders into Gmail.

Since I left The Kelsey Group and while my site smi-research.com is being built I'm using Gmail and Yahoo! Mail. Yahoo! Mail (the new beta) is the more user friendly in the context of this discussion. Don't get me wrong, I like Gmail very much and generally think it’s very usable. I like the Gmail chat integration. I like the storage. And I appreciate that Google is subsidizing it with text ads. But managing the inbox is growing more challenging over time as is finding old mail. 

Google's approach is to group conversations, which can be very helpful to track the history of a discussion. But it's also easy to inadvertently delete a conversation where the most recent email is not meaningful but an earlier one is.

Google’s bias, obviously, is toward search as a navigational tool. That works great much of the time. But it’s not helpful in certain cases where I don’t remember the specific contents of the email – especially if I have frequent exchanges with a person.

My issue here is that there is effectively no way to categorize or organize old email. I have many projects and many emails related to those projects but in Gmail I can’t group separate exchanges with more than one person that are related to the same project. And by the same token I can't segregate emails on different subjects from the same person that are part of the same email string. The starring feature is helpful but not a substitute for some sort of folder system or other organizational schema. Yahoo! offers that functionality and is very user friendly with a great interface, with the exception of the very unfortunate display ads.

Help me. Please . . .Google . . .please. And while you're at it, please "Ajaxify" email (like Calendar) so I can drag and drop emails into folders.