Archive for the ‘Events’ Category

Why Yahoo! Should Consider Buying Zvents

June 1, 2010

Yahoo!’s interest in beefing up local news and location-based content should lead it to consider buying Zvents. Yes, Yahoo! owns events destination Upcoming. However Zvents has more data and an ad/distribution network that includes many of Yahoo!’s newspaper partners.

Zvents is really a platform and media play that Yahoo! could develop further in many interesting ways. It could also exploit Zvents’ data in mobile.

If I were Yahoo! I would buy the site and also put CEO Ethan Stock in charge of local for Yahoo!

Zvents has raised just over $30 million to date and so the acquisition price would likely be comparable to or slightly more than what Yahoo! just paid for Associated Content.

I have no financial interest or stake in this outcome; I just think it makes sense for Yahoo!

Advertisement Launches Events Site

January 15, 2010

I can’t tell if this is totally new, but it appears to be: has launched an events site:

This provides a new dimension to the service and new ad inventory. I haven’t spoken to so I don’t know if there’s a partnership behind this or these data are being crawled.  (Update: commenter below says this is Eventful data.)

Is “Local Search” a Solved Problem?

October 22, 2009

I was struck by a statement that Marchex EVP Matthew Berk made to me during a recent discussion about the company’s new SMB reputation management tool. I’m loosely paraphrasing but he said that it was difficult for him to admit (given that he built OpenList) but that local search was essentially a “solved problem.”

I was pretty surprised to hear Berk say this. But as I reflect I have to admit that there’s a way in which it’s true. If we define “local search” as directional queries for basic business data (name, address, phone number) and even category-based queries (e.g., “window repair, Millbrae”) I would tend to agree with Berk’s assessment.

The trusted recommendations, reviews and “word of mouth” part of this process is not yet “solved” or definitively concluded. In other words the local battle now may be shifting to social media or community development on local sites. Indeed, there’s lots of room for social media sites and what I’ve called “social directories” like Yelp to play. And there are clearly some “vertical” opportunities that are either wide open or relatively still open: home improvement, legal, medical, child care, among others. In the realm of local product search and local inventory data, there’s still a relatively “greenfield”  there too, although there are big barriers to entry.

But Google is pretty clearly the dominant player in “local search.” The company might not have “won” but if it hasn’t it will continue to be dominant for the foreseeable future. (We’ll see what Bing tries to do here to shake things up. And what about AOL’s allegedly big push into local?)

Picture 17

Source: TMPDM-comScore (2009), n=4,000

Before everyone gets upset — although please dispute what I’m saying if you disagree — let me say that there are exceptions and standouts that one can point to. There will continue to be a range of players with national-local reach that have strong visibility and usage: Yelp, Citysearch, Craigslist, some of the YP publishers and a few others. It remains to be seen how Facebook, Twitter and MySpace engage with local. MySpace has implemented classifieds and local 1.0. Facebook also has classifieds and lots of local businesses using it, but has not yet truly seized the opportunity that exists there. Twitter search (and its variants)  may yield some valuable local recommendations but that does yet truly exist. And as I said I also believe there will be continuing innovation in vertical segments.

Enough qualifying . . .

The part of the whole local equation that is definitely not solved in my mind is what might be called “local discovery.” I don’t know what I don’t know. This bleeds into recommendations and “local search” of course. But there’s a ton of stuff going on that I don’t know about and that I might be interested in: new businesses opening, local deals and specials, things to do and events, activities, etc. People have so far taken an Amazon-like approach to this space: those who looked at restaurant X also viewed restaurant Y. But that’s very narrow. And there are events sites/networks such as Zvents and Eventful. But the function that used to be performed mostly by the local print newspaper (e.g., trusted recommendations, upcoming events, things to do, etc.) is not well served online.

There are the email newsletters such as Daily Candy and Flavorpill, but I mostly ignore them because I have too much email to deal with.

We’re starting to see some interesting things in mobile emerge that try to address this “discovery” problem. But there are no great apps in this category at this point.

This entire “discovery” subject is quite elusive and unwieldy so I’m not sure whether we’ll see anything “horizontal” that addresses it. More likely are vertical and topic-specific approaches (maybe demographic approaches too). But there’s an opportunity here around “local discovery” that I don’t believe is being exploited well by anyone — yet.

Local Social Summit in London Nov. 3

October 16, 2009

Picture 24Dylan Fuller and Simon Baptist have put together a very interesting event in London on November 3. It’s called the Local Social Summit. As the name suggests, it explores the connections between local and social media. There’s also a dose of mobile in there too.

They’ve asked me to come and moderate several panels. Beyond me there will be quite a good group and interesting speakers, among them:

  • Praized
  • TrustedPlaces
  • Yell
  • Yelp
  • European Directories
  • adaffix/Yelix
  • Brownbook
  • BBC

It’s intended to be a small event and I’m told that it’s pretty close to selling out; there are roughly 21 tickets left. Those interested in attending should sign up here.

Burning Man, the iPhone and Technology

August 30, 2009

Picture 70The Burning Man festival has always been associated with geeks and technology — or for the last decade at least. But it’s with some ambivalence that I read Brady Forest’s post last week “Burning Man Gets an API.” Brady says:

The annual tech-art festival in the Nevada desert, starts on Sunday. Normally the attendees leave their phones and laptop behind, but this year that may not be the case. As I ride from Seattle to Black Rock City, NV I am getting SMS from friends on the playa. In anticipation of wifi and possible data connections Foursquare has rolled out Black Rock City as a city (@sfslim is already the Mayor of The Man). If AT&T’s service doesn’t work then attendees may be able to take advantage of OpenBTS’s local SMS project. Most of the attendees aren’t there, but the tech is already making its presence known.

On one level: “cool”  . . .

But Burning Man (which I’ve been to only once a few years ago) is also about getting away from the mundane — pretty far away (as you know if you’ve been). While having SMS connectivity is potentially very helpful to people trying to meet or find each other on “the playa” (as the denizens call the expanse of desert there)  the creeping integration of familiar tools and Internet technology into the experience threatens to take away some of the “otherworldliness” of the event.

I think it’s fine to distribute information via the Internet from Burning Man in the “off season,” but posting Facebook updates or tweeting from the playa — “whoa, cool car”; “just saw another naked middle-aged guy” — seems to trivialize it in my mind. Technology dominates our lives and there should be places where it doesn’t encroach or have center stage.

For those who haven’t been to Burning Man but are curious — go. It’s one of the most interesting experiences I’ve had and very hard to describe in the abstract.

Zvents adds to Partners with Media General

November 6, 2008

picture-231Another partner add for Zvents: Media General, which operates mainly in the Southern US. From the press release out this a.m.:

Zvents, the local search engine and paid listings ad network, announced today that Media General, Inc. (NYSE: MEG), the leading provider of high-quality news, information and entertainment in the Southeast, has chosen Zvents to power its Things to Do local search platform for Media General’s daily newspaper and television station Internet and mobile Web sites. This includes metropolitan newspapers, The Tampa Tribune, the Richmond Times-Dispatch, and the Winston-Salem Journal, 16 broadcast television stations throughout the region and more than 20 community daily newspapers. The Tampa Tribune and WFLA News Channel 8 are part of a converged market in Tampa launching Zvents on the Web portal,

Zvents isn’t just a “platform,” it’s a network.

The company has added a range of “marquee” partners of late, including AOL, Microsoft and Viacom/MTV. It also has relationships with scores of newspapers and AT&T (in mobile). All this must cause CEO Ethan Stock to throw his head back and laugh manically.

AOL Launches

November 3, 2008 (what a great URL) is AOL’s new events site, powered by Zvents. It launched this morning.

Interestingly, the AOL brand is almost nowhere to be found on the page, but the content will be integrated into other AOL properties, including MapQuest Local, AOL CityGuide, AOL Travel and other AOL sites. Apparently there’s a forthcoming widget that will allow people to embed events in their blogs, etc. Venues and individuals will apparently also be able to add events and listings directly to the site

It’s another coup for Zvents, which now has a fairly massive events distribution network. The two sites are almost carbon copies of one another, except that events for “Kids & Family” are emphasized on the site. (This is a critical category in my opinion — as a parent.)

Ads (display) will be sold by AOL’s Platform A division, which now claims 56 million users (mostly MapQuest) across what it’s calling “the AOL Local Network.” 


Default location is determined via IP detection. When users register they an personalize the site:

Zvents Gains Big New Round

September 30, 2008

Zvents announced a big, new funding round ($24M) from Nokia Growth Partners, NAVTEQ (also Nokia-owned) and AT&T. That makes about $31M to date approximately. The company now has an impressive partner list, including, MTV, MSN and lots of newspapers. 

The interesting question is: Where to now? Zvents clearly has aspirations beyond “events,” which the company defines very broadly. Here’s an indication from the language in the press release: 

Zvents powers a unified international search index for the partner network, on which local consumers everywhere can perform “what, when, and where” searches for millions of events, businesses, performers, and other activities in their areas. This unique search technology platform aggregates data via web crawling and extraction, user- and merchant-generated content, and dozens of data partnerships; and provides localized search relevance and ranking to individual media partners.

Through its search service, Zvents creates for local businesses the opportunity to promote their locations online in ways that match their established media buying patterns. Events motivate consumers to engage with local businesses – a fact that local advertisers have utilized in print promotions for decades. The Zvents network is an enormous online distribution channel by which merchants can distribute these proven, effective marketing messages to engage local consumers. The Zvents network supports a paid listings model which enables merchant self-service, multiple local sales forces, and agencies to quickly and easily sell and syndicate local event and business listings.

Placecast in LBS Ads Deal with Eventful

September 4, 2008

Among the many flavors of online ad targeting, there are geotargeting, behavioral targeting, contextual targeting and demographic targeting. 1020/Placecast aims to subsume most of these under the concept of “place,” which is not the same as location in the mind of CEO Anne Bezancon. Place is more specific but also broader and potentially incorporates more elements — time of day, demographics, context — in addition to location.

This morning the company announced a “cross-platform” ad deal with Eventful, which includes desktop (including email) and mobile (Eventful has an iPhone app). According to the release:

Placecast enables Eventful to segment site visitors based upon the location of specific events, significantly increasing advertising revenue opportunities through premium location-based inventory. In addition to advanced targeting, Placecast brings the expertise of a dedicated sales team, which collaborates with Eventful’s direct sales force.

Placecast adds a new dimension to audience targeting by using location-based information provided by publisher sites. This allows advertisers to deliver messages customized to a specific audience and a specific location, increasing the relevancy of these ads and therefore the value of the publisher’s inventory. Using proprietary targeting algorithms, Placecast delivers more relevant ads by matching publisher data with information specific to an event venue in which a user expresses interest. For example, a user checking Eventful’s site for the next Coldplay concert in New York City would see an ad for Scion with the address and link to the closest Scion dealership, while a user looking for outdoor activities in San Francisco would see a localized ad for Subaru.

Placecast tries to use any available location-aware technology or data to deliver place-based ads. In the example provided above, there’s a combination of demographic and local targeting going on, based on the younger demographic profile of most Eventful users.

As the technical barriers to location awareness come down — more on that later — the challenge becomes having enough of the right kind of ad inventory to serve ads that can take full advantage of Bezancon’s notion of “place.” (There’s probably enough “local” ad inventory today in one sense but it’s not centrally available for all to tap into.) This will require dynamic delivery of ad creative, such as what Yahoo is seeking to do with ShopLocal/PointRoll and Publicis (in mobile). Ads will need to be parsed into components so that they can be changed on the fly, depending on the audience, location, behavior, etc.

That dynamic, templated ad model is still somewhat experimental. By contrast the beauty of search is that it’s directional and so there’s some manifestion of consumer interest and intent — and the system doesn’t have to work quite as hard to deliver relevant ads.

Zvents, MTV Team Up on College Sites

August 26, 2008

MTV, which is developing a network of “Campus Daily Guides,” has partnered with Zvents to offer events, local content and ads on a series of local sites targeting college students. Here’s an example site for George Washington University in Washington, DC:

There are currently 25 sites in the US, with an equal number more expected to launch by the end of the year.

These sites are potentially very effective marketing vehicles and could become widely used, depending on how well MTV manages them and develops their content. If it’s done thoughtfully and well it could become a powerful “hyper-local” cityguide network for twenthysomethings. If done cynically or in a perfunctory way, it could fall flat.

In any event (so to speak) it’s another good distribution deal for Zvents in the company’s quest to evolve and broaden its reach.

Zvents Formally Announces MSN Deal

August 4, 2008

Hopefully I didn’t blow the embargo, but last week I wrote about Zvents’ integration into MSN Cityguides. Today the relationship was formally announced:

Microsoft selected Zvents to power the Events, Venues and Performers platforms for MSN City Guides, because the Zvents Media Platform infuses MSN City Guides with new character and capabilities for identifying and delivering information about local things to do. Zvents partners with hundreds of media channels to distinguish the local search experience with verve and detail what’s currently happening in any locale. The broad scope of the Zvents Media Platform is enriched with highly targeted advertising that relates specifically to an individual’s search for things to do. Local advertisers can deliver specific information to audiences looking for promotions, event, and business listings that relate to unique interests and searches.

Zvents Adds MSN to Its Roster

July 29, 2008

Zvents is now being integrated into MSN Cityguides:

Zvents on MSN 1

Zvents on MSN 2

Zvents is actively trying to broaden the definition of “events” to include promotions/sales and happenings that don’t fall into conventional performing, arts or sports and entertainment categories — as a prelude to further local expansion.

More such partnerships are on the way.

CultureMob: Events and Recommendations

May 23, 2008

CultureMob logo

The local events segment is now relatively crowded. There’s Zvents, Eventful, Yahoo/Upcoming, Citysearch, Thrillist, newspaper sites,, among others, as well as numerous specialized events “verticals” (e.g., local wine events or Jambase). Yet “events,” which can be defined in various ways, is an important piece of the local puzzle.

I recently became aware of a new site CultureMob, which has a strong social element and is also offering events recommendations to registered users. Zync, which was not long ago acquired by uLocate, was trying to do something similar with recommendations. CultureMob is currently live in four US cities: Seattle, Portland, Phoeniz, Denver.

Local events is also interesting because an area where “discovery” is more important than “search.” Mobile is also an important platform for events.

Zvents Rising

April 16, 2008

zvents logoAt the recent Urban Mapping Local Summit in Las Vegas I had dinner next to Ethan Stock, CEO of Zvents. I’d met Ethan at an NAA conference but much more formally in a booth. Under the influence of several glasses of wine (me) he and I chatted about a range of interesting topics, funding, local, etc.

Stock is very thoughtful about the issues and problems in local — in general the event offered some of the more interesting conversations about the local Internet I’ve had.

Zvents more broadly is a very interesting company and the roadmap stretches beyond what is there today. For example, shopping is an intriguing category that offers considerable potential. But that’s just one area.

Zvents has done a range of deals with third parties (e.g., newspapers) and so is making money. Although they’re one of several companies in the local events segment — all events are local by definition — they have a reasonable chance of realizing some of those larger ambitions.

Superpages Adds Local Events

February 29, 2008

Maybe this has been on the site for weeks and I haven’t seen it but Superpages now features a listing of local events:

Superpages events

The events data are provided by American Towns, which hosts the actual listing.

What’s interesting about this to me is the way it further expands the yellow pages “use cases” beyond core service business listings. One of the IYP efforts has been to develop traffic through biz dev and third party relationships. But improving site usage frequency is an equally important initiative.

Online Event Sites Proliferating

August 24, 2007

Online events as a category is literally and figuratively a microcosm of the local space itself. There’s now lots of fragmentation and no single comprehensive source of data (Ethan Stock of Zvents would probably argue that point).

Even two or three years ago, local events used to be entirely the realm of print newspapers with little competition from online. Now there are a host of competitors showing you local events. Here’s the very partial top-of-mind list (alpha order):

  • AOL City Guide
  • Attendio
  • Citysearch
  • DiscoverOurTown
  • Eventful
  • GoCityKids (Viacom-owned)
  • Google Calendar (Public Events)
  • Meetup
  • Ticketmaster
  • Yahoo! Local/Upcoming
  • Yelp (just launched this week)
  • Zvents

And there are a host of events in the music space, including Oodle’s Bandtracker and the independent Jambase. Indeed, every ticket site is an events site. Speaking of which, UK-based ticket-search site Tickex recently launched in the US. CEO Richard Robinson recently told me that he’s aiming to be the “Kayak of ticket search.”

Beyond this partial list above, every local newspaper site and independent city guide or tourism site has events. And there are many niche event sites, such as LocalWineEvents.

Like the experience of online travel booking and trip planning, this is both good and bad. It gets into the “paradox of choice” discussion again. Where there was once little or no good information, now there’s arguably too much. In that context, sites that already have trust and brand momentum will likely do well in this segment.

New Ask Mobile App. Launched

May 11, 2007

Ask has launched a new GPS-powered mobile application that contains content from Citysearch and Evite (and other IAC properties in the future). In the quick overview I received, I was impressed with its many features and capabilities. But the most interesting and impressive aspects of it from my point of view involve the integration your contacts, the application’s content and tools and GPS, allowing me to send my location information very simply to many people simultaneously through my contact list.

In a certain way the current (and intended future) integration of these IAC brands and content under the Ask mobile application is more successful than anything IAC has yet been able to do online.

Here are a few screenshots:






Here’s Ask’s own description/discussion of the service on the Ask blog.

Yahoo!’s Upcoming Gets an Upgrade

April 19, 2007

UpcomingEvents is an important but historically neglected area of local search, previously the almost exclusive province of newspapers and printed weeklies. Now there are a range of startups and more established sites providing local events information. They include Socializr, Attendio, Eventful, Zvents, Citysearch, AOL Cityguide, Heyletsgo, Jambase, the various ticket sites and Yahoo’s Upcoming, among others. And this doesn’t include all the online newspaper calendars and entertainment guides.

When Yahoo bought “social events calendar” more than a year ago the site was basically three guys, a cool idea and some software, but not lots of data. The events information is entirely provided by the community. And Yahoo! has greatly upgraded and improved the site since the acquisition.

The rest of this brief post is at Search Engine Land.