Archive for the ‘IM’ Category

ContactAtOnce! in Deal with CarsDirect

September 22, 2009

Presence aware marketing platform ContactAtOnce! announced a deal with CarsDirect. The company, which provides chat modules that facilitate live conversations between merchants and consumers, has been moving deliberately through the auto vertical and adding partners. (It’s akin to Click2Call and could be PPChat if desired.)

CEO John Hanger said to me in an email, “CarsDirect is the latest vertical search site to license our solution, joining Cars.com, Cox AutoTrader, CarSoup.com, and roughly 35 other automotive sites including many local newspaper-sponsored automotive sites (e.g. San Francisco Chronicle, Houston Chronicle, Colorado Springs Gazette, etc.).”

However the company sees its technology broadly applying to many other SMB and local segments beyond automotive.

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The challenge with other segments is that you’ve got to have somebody willing to be there to chat with prospects. That makes the most sense in high-consideration verticals such as automotive, but also real estate and perhaps home improvement as well. There are probably others.

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MetaCarta Providing Local News to Vine

May 5, 2009

picture-43MetaCarta is providing local news to the recently announced Microsoft Vine:

MetaCarta, Inc., the leading provider of geographic search solutions, today announced that it has partnered with Microsoft to provide the MetaCarta Geographic Search and Referencing Platform to deliver map-based local news within the Microsoft Vine service. Microsoft Vine connects individuals to the people and places they care about most, when it matters. It helps people stay in touch with family and friends and enables them to send alerts when someone needs help. With the Microsoft Vine personal dashboard, people can get involved by creating groups, then sending them alerts and reports to stay in touch, informed and involved.

Among other things, MetaCarta takes unstructured data and associates it with a location. The technology behind its GeoSearch News site is what’s being used by Microsoft.

I’m still waiting to get access so I haven’t been able to use Vine. But there’s something very interesting here. Note the language used in the text of the release quoted above: “Microsoft Vine connects individuals to the people and places they care about most, when it matters.”

To me this implies broader long-term ambitions for Vine than just emergency communications.

Micosoft Releases an Interesting New Vine

April 28, 2009

picture-112Microsoft has created a very intriguing product in Vine, a kind of “unified communications” tool for emergency situations. The map-based, IM-like offering enables people to communicate during or about an emergency or public safety situation using multiple methods including mobile. Here’s what Microsoft says about it:

The Microsoft Vine beta connects you to the people and places you care about most, when it matters. Stay in touch with family and friends, be informed when someone you care about needs help. Get involved to create great neighborhoods, communities or causes. You select the people and places you care about most. Use alerts, reports and your personal dashboard to stay in touch, informed and involved.

I don’t have time to write more this morning but others have. It apparently can pull in feeds from Facebook and Twitter, as well as incorporate SMS and email. It has obvious, potential application in many situations other than emergencies. But it’s not clear to me what Microsoft intends with Vine. Is it limited to emergencies or is that the way to introduce it, with broader ambitions in mind?

In a vague way, it’s not unlike broader, map-based social net IRL Connect. But I haven’t been inside Vine or used IRL Connect much at this point.

More later . . . off to the YPA event.

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ContactAtOnce Rolling Along

November 18, 2008

picture-31After well over a year I finally caught up with John Hanger, CEO of presence-based marketing company ContactAtOnce (CAO). Launched a couple of years ago, the company has been quietly chugging along doing deals in the automotive vertical. Hanger told me that his company is now profitable.

Yesterday CAO issued a press release about its latest deal with Cox:

ContactAtOnce!, a leading provider of internet marketing tools that move online shoppers into live conversations with car dealers, today announced that Cox AutoTrader, one of the world’s leading providers of online and print automotive consumer information, has deployed the ContactAtOnce! dealer live chat service on CarShopSmart.com, the just-launched “web2.0” sister website of AutoMart.com. Cox AutoTrader/AutoMart online operations combined have more than 1 million new and used vehicles for sale and reach over 2 million car buyers monthly.

ContactAtOnce! powers graphical elements such as “drop-in business cards” that appear if a sales person at a dealership is available at the moment a site visitor is looking at a car. Site visitors are offered a variety of ways to contact the dealer, including chat and a phone number. Dealers appreciate ContactAtOnce! because all chat conversations are tracked and recorded, making it easy to measure the effectiveness of advertising and to conduct sales training. ContactAtOnce! dealer chat is simple to use and designed specifically for sales people who are not always at their desks.

CAO uses an IM-like client to capture potential leads on auto dealer sites. The client is also able to make a transcript of the interaction for later sales training purposes. The company has a couple of different revenue models but all involve licensing.

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This is a case of a startup casting about for the right industry for its product, getting early traction in the auto vertical and successfully building on that early success. CAO took roughly $1.5 million in investment capital and so now is more “nimble” in terms of potential exits in a down market. In addition, the company has about 12 FTEs and some contractors and thus a fairly low overhead. Again a positive in the current economic climate.

Finally, Hanger told me that CAO is ready to start expanding into other verticals and is testing with several non-automotive sites. I’m pleased to hear success stories like this in the midst of so much bad news.

Teens Live in the Real World Too

June 17, 2008

New research from OTX (n=750, US teens 13-17) has found that teens prefer the real world to online. The survey found that teens are spending an average of 11.5 hours per week online, with roughly 24% spending 15 hours per week online.

Here are the “top online activities” for teens according to the OTX findings:

  1. Use Instant Messaging
  2. Visit social networking sites
  3. Send and receive email
  4. Use a search engine
  5. Visit virtual community sites

Yet the study also found that, contrary to popular perceptions, teens would rather live in the real world:

Would you rather

Have a lot of “real friends” 91%
Have a lot of “online friends” 9%

Date someone you know from school 87%
Date someone you meet on the Internet 13%

Shop in a store 82%
Shop online 18%

Watch a full length program on TV 81%
Watch a full length program online 19%

No television for a week 74%
No Internet for a week 26%

Get information from the Internet 71%
Get information from traditional media like TV, magazines, or newspapers 29%

Give up cell phone texting 71%
Give up Internet access 29%

Get your locker vandalized 63%
Get your personal homepage of profile vandalized 37%

Be limited to a TV antenna for watching TV 63%
Be limited to a dial up connection to access the Internet 37%

IM your friend 54%
Call your friend 46%

There are a few things to point out here:

  • Teens would rather shop in a store (a social activity) than online (an isolated activity)
  • They’d give up the Internet before text messaging
  • They prefer the Internet to traditional media as an information source
  • They’d rather IM than talk on the phone (as a group)
  • They’d rather watch “full-length” video on TV than online

This is a single study but what emerges from these findings is that teens regard the Internet as a tool rather than a lifestyle as many have suggested. It also shows that most are grounded in the real world and have a reasonably healthy perspective on technology.

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Correction: as was pointed out to me, I read the data incorrectly. It appears that teens would rather give up text messaging before the Internet. This is somewhat contradicted by data from the Pew Internet Project showing cellphones would be the last item of technology people would give up (vs. TV, Internet). That was in my head as I wrote this.

I suspect the teens equated the Internet and IM and would prefer to give up SMS before IM. I’m somewhat skeptical of the result as presented and believe the wording of the question probably influenced the finding.

Multiplied Building Out Local Search Partners

June 6, 2008

Canada’s Multiplied Media continues to do deals with a range of content providers and publishers in local. Most recently the company added the ability to purchase movie tickets through its IM-based Poynt application. I spoke to CEO John Lowe the other day and he described a long list of deals in the US, Europe and Latin America in the pipeline.

Using Poynt takes a little getting used to but here are what some of the results look like:

poynt movies

poynt map

The service will also be available in mobile at some point. 🙂

The idea is that IM is a medium that serves well over 300 million people on a global basis and that it is a neglected but potentially very effective entry or distribution point for local search content. The challenge will be to get people to add the service to their preferred IM client (as a contact) and then get them off their “search” habit.

Multiplied Media in Deal with T-Info

May 16, 2008

Multiplied logoMultiplied Media has announced a deal with Deutsche Telekom (DeTeMedien) in Germany to distribute local search content there on its Poynt IM and mobile platform. This is the company’s first EU deal and similar to deals in the US (e.g., with Idearc/Superpages). It’s a new distribution channel (IM) for the content on T-Info’s local search site: Suchen.de.

I love the slogan: Die Lokale Suchmaschine fur Duestchland (the local search engine for Germany).

Multiplied Adds Movie Search

March 3, 2008

Canada’s Multiplied Media has added movie search to its IM-based local search application Poynt. The application is currently available on AIM and Microsoft Messenger. It attempts to reach the 70+ million users on the two IM systems. Superpages is the YP data provider, while other partners provide other types of content.

movie search

rollover

Beyond the fact of it being on an IM platform, one of the aspects of this application that makes it unique is the option to collaboratively conduct searches with others in real-time in the IM window. It’s also an application that complements IYP usage and may be able to reach some younger users that might not be inclined to use an IYP.

On the other side, there’s something of an awareness challenge in getting people to add Poynt to AIM or Messenger and start thinking about IM as a local search platform.