Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Calling Angels: New Mobile Startup

May 4, 2010

I met today with a new startup in the mobile space that I would all-but-guarantee is going to be acquired by either a hardware OEM or major mobile competitor. The company hasn’t officially launched so I can’t identify who it is. Sorry; I realize this is kind of like Hotwire with hotel rooms. 🙂

I was impressed by a number of features that the company’s app offer and there’s broad mainstream mobile user appeal there too.

It’s the kind of thing that isn’t just another app; it rises above the noise because of some of the unique features it offers. The company is formally launching soon, first on Android and then on the iPhone. There’s potential global reach here. And there isn’t anything exactly like it — that I’m aware of.

There’s some roughness still around some of the edges, but the team behind the company has multiple successful exits and so on (you know).

They’ve raised a seed round of angel money and are looking for a bit more. If you’re interested in an introduction just email me and I’ll do an intro. There’s nothing at stake for me financially; I don’t get any bounty or deal from this.


Manta Emerges as SMB Marketing Channel

May 3, 2010

Manta may be the most important SMB site that you’ve never heard of. Manta sees itself providing business intelligence about and for small businesses. You can think of Manta as a cross between LinkedIn, Hoovers and, with a little Merchant Circle thrown in for seasoning.

The site offers Hoovers-like profiles of SMBs, but for free. The company has data on 64 million companies globally with 22 million of those located in the US. It also invites small business owners to claim and enhance their listings. And Manta encourages SMBs to connect with one another and provides “how to” and Q&A info as well.

Here’s the official list of features/benefits:

  • Update their company profile or add their company to Manta. (Get details.)
  • Connect to other Manta members to build business relationships.
  • Find sales prospects and partners.
  • Create and store lists and pipeline reports. (Get details.)
  • Get great tips and advice in our series of email newsletters.
  • Find thousands of market research reports.

There’s also an SEO angle here for SMBs who claim and enhance their listings. Although there are no formal SEM/SEO marketing programs being run that’s clearly something the site could offer its members. It’s something I suggested and discussed with CEO Pamela Springer.

Manta gets its data on SMBs from various third parties and then seeks to enhance that by getting the SMBs to provide additional information as mentioned. Manta says that it has 13 million monthly uniques. It also says it has one million registered users.

Manta could be a way to reach and market to SMBs (or prospect), as well as another way for SMBs to disseminate their information and market themselves across the Internet. Both of those models are as yet not fully developed however.

Google Certifications Musical Chairs

April 26, 2010

In light of the closure of the Google AdWords Reseller program I wanted to point out some of the changes that are going on in the Google certification world. Apparently Google is shuttering the “Google Advertising Professionals” program, which some saw as the alternative to Reseller.

It’s being replaced by a new Google AdWords Certification program. Search Engine Land has more detail; and so does Google.

One question I have is: how much do SMB advertisers (or other clients) care about these designations?

AR on Google Maps: Part Deux

April 26, 2010

Google started playing with “augmented reality” — I’m using the term here loosely — in the PC version of Street View several months ago, but now appears to be rolling it out more extensively. Local business listings now appear as small icons connected to their buildings in the Street View image.

The rest of this short post is on SEL.

WSJ Hooks up with Foursquare

April 26, 2010

The Wall Street Journal is another big media company to tie up with Foursquare in an effort to market itself on the go and boost its hip quotient

These are WSJ-centric badges and there’s a WSJ, Twitter-like follow page on Foursquare (same as other partners) that offer local tips:

The WSJ-Foursquare relationship is very much like similar partnership deals with the History Channel, Bravo TV, Canada’s Metro News. It’s now a kind of “template” — and it’s smart for everyone involved.

Like Twitter in the past, however, it’s not clear that Foursquare gets any direct monetary value out of corporate use of the site and brand association. For now that may be just fine. This adds to Foursquare’s credibility, visibility and brand. And it helps the site differentiate from others seeking to do similar things (e.g., Gowalla).

Craigslist Sex Ads Worth $36 Million?

April 26, 2010

In discussing the advertising of prostitution on Craigslist, The NY Times cites an unspecified source for the proposition that these ads alone will generate $36 million in income this year:

The ads, many of which blatantly advertise prostitution, are expected to bring $36 million this year, according to a new projection of Craigslist’s income.

I wonder how much “escorts” generates for the print yellow pages by comparison. Anybody know?

It has got to be a good deal more than $36 million in the aggregate I would imagine.

Yellow Pages Claims Greatest Local Media Reach

March 24, 2010

Think that yellow pages is dead? You’ll have to modify that assessment argues new survey data from the Yellow Pages Association and two research partners (Burke, comScore). Announced as a new “Local Media Tracking Study,” the findings of this new survey assert that print and Internet yellow pages combine to produce the greatest audience reach of any medium for consumers seeking local business information.

The survey findings also argue that yellow pages are recognized as the most trustworthy and accurate source of local information by respondents. Almost 70% (67%) said “print or Internet Yellow Pages are the source they trust most for finding local business information, compared to 33 percent for search engines. ” Regarding data and listings accuracy, “print and Internet Yellow Pages similarly scored highest with 68 percent, followed by search engines with 32 percent.”

The survey data are based on a combination of Internet (80%) and telephone (20%) surveys with 8,062 US consumers in 2009. Here’s the top-line set of results, verbatim from the press release:

  • In total, consumers referenced print and Internet Yellow Pages 16.9 billion times in 2009
  • comScore found that Internet Yellow Pages continued to chart growth, increasing from 4.6 billion in 2008 to 4.9 billion references in 2009
  • Burke, relying on the new methodology combining Internet and telephone surveys for the first time, found that print Yellow Pages received 12 billion references in 2009

More findings:

  • The percentage of those surveyed who said they had used print Yellow Pages within the last month increased 12 percent over the course of the year, from 51.5 percent in the first quarter to 57.6 percent in the fourth quarter.
  • Respondents also turned to print Yellow Pages more frequently as the year progressed. In the first quarter, there was an average of 0.93 references per U.S. adult per week. By the fourth quarter, that had grown 19 percent to 1.11 references per adult per week.
  • Internet Yellow Pages saw an even sharper 20 percent growth during the year, with the percentage of adults that used Internet Yellow Pages within the past month growing from 31.6 percent in the first quarter to 37.9 percent in the fourth quarter.
  • The frequency of Internet Yellow Pages usage grew 24 percent from the first quarter (0.54 references per week per adult) to the fourth quarter (0.67 references per week per adult).

When I was shown this data, I was skeptical and asked for more in the form of age and geographic segmentation. Search engine usage in the data skews younger, while print and IYP usage is concentrated among somewhat older users. Here are the largest categories of usage of print YP, IYP and search according to the Burke findings (click to enlarge):

Source: YPA/Burke

Compare relatively consistent data from comScore (July, 2009) examining age segmentation and usage of different local media/sources:

I think that we can say a few things about all this:

  • These YPA/Burke findings are different than other data in the market showing search engines as dominant in local (e.g., comScore)
  • Search frequency is much greater than print or IYP frequency but the value of those YP lookups is potentially higher than search queries (depending)
  • Regardless of the precise numbers, print YP is clearly being used by a considerable number of people (SuperMedia has recently asserted growth in print usage owing to the SuperGuarantee product)
  • Consumers use a variety of source of information in local (the recent Kelsey data reinforce this)
  • The market has segmented somewhat by age and geography

The market is complex and seemingly getting more so all the time for both SMBs and consumers, especially with the advent of mobile. If you’re a marketer, it really pays to know your audience and customers and where they might be looking for your services.

No Posts Through Friday

March 18, 2010

I’m in Boston, but out through Friday for a family related event. So I’m not blogging here, SEL or at I2Go.

Happy Holidays to Everyone!

December 25, 2009

Have a great holiday everyone . . . And thank you to all the readers of this blog. I’m grateful to you all.

Are Stores Going Away? No

December 4, 2009

I was struck by a recent MediaPost article entitled “The Obsolescence Of Brick-and-Mortar.” I had to look at the date a couple of times because it had the flavor of a piece that might have been written in 1999:

Web sites will replace brick-and-mortar stores within five years. I realize that’s a bold prediction, but here’s why.

Brick-and-mortar retail stores selling everything from clothing to high-ticket items like flat-screen TVs will turn into warehouses where consumers can touch and feel the merchandise. Web sites, supported by search engines and site search, will become the cash cow for the retail store. Advertisers will have more of an opportunity to address consumers because many will spend the time online that they would have spent in the store. Tracking sales and pulling in data from social sites to target consumers with specific ads, coupons and discounts will become much easier for marketers.

True, we’re in a multi-platform world but physical stores and corresponding retail sales will not be cannibalized by e-commerce, which is and will continue to be a fly on the posterior of US retail — albeit a big fly. People fundamentally use the internet to research (“shop” for) products and look at reviews. In 96%+ cases they buy offline. The Internet is mostly a marketing platform accordingly. This is a fundamental fact that many (if not most people in the tech industry) have failed to see and accept.

That’s why location matters so much; offline is where all the spending — and Internet influenced spending — happens.

Let’s get over the e-commerce vs. offline discussion that characterized the early days of online. Now it’s really about how all these channels can work together to support sales, notwithstanding some of the lingering internal political-organizational issues among retailers. Clearly “multi-channel” sellers (e.g., Target) are at an advantage vs. “etailers” (other than Amazon and a tiny minority of others, e.g., NewEgg, Etsy, Zappos [Amazon]). The no-name, pure-play etailers are screwed unless they have:

  • Razor-thin margins and huge volume
  • Extensive inventory
  • Unique or niche products
  • Several of the above

Indeed, when taxes come to e-commerce (and they will) this will put even more pressure on the pure etailers. People don’t want to pay shipping and they don’t want to pay other costs associated with purchases (e.g., taxes, handling). Convenience and in some cases lower cost are the chief reasons people buy things online. If costs, such as sales taxes, are equalized I’m not going to buy stuff online unless:

  • It’s the middle of the night
  • I’m sending a gift to my mom in Southern California and I don’t want to physically ship it
  • The store is out of the desired item

Yes, e-commerce will continue to grow (ironically it may be boosted by smartphones) but as Jeff Bezos once said:

I think online ultimately will be 10 to 15 percent of retail. The vast majority of retailing will stay in the physical world because people have acute needs, they want things now.

If it gets to that point those will still be huge revenues, given that total retail in the US is just under $4 trillion annually.

Great CTO Available for Hire

October 28, 2009

I was talking yesterday to a very entrepreneurial CTO, who has run his own startup (which was acquired). He’s got another very interesting startup idea but is also open to working with an existing company.

I don’t get anything out of promoting him; I’m just doing a bit of a favor. Let me know if you’d like an introduction.

Where’s the Local AdSense Alternative?

October 5, 2009

In the Locals Only column today, Andrew Shotland asks the question “Where Is The Competitor To AdSense In Local Search?“:

Google has created a great thing with AdSense.  I work with several sites that generate thousands of dollars a month from of it and I have built an entire business that does nothing but help local search sites optimize their AdSense revenue.  I love it and so do my clients.  That said, it seems like the world is screaming out for a credible AdSense competitor that is not Microhoo and I think the local search world is the right place to start.

Because yellow pages-type search queries typically signal an intent to purchase locally, they have an extremely high value, particularly in relation to a lot of other types of ad inventory on the web.  Local search directories that generate a decent amount of traffic can make anywhere from $15 to $100 eCPMs just by participating in the AdSense program.  Perhaps this is why there are so many sites jumping into the local search game.

In the UK directory publisher Yell offers a version of “local AdSense” today. There’s also a local-mobile version in the US through V-Enable. Reach Local has a Local Xchange. And MediaTraks has an IYP exchange (don’t know if it’s still operating). Beyond this, I know of a couple of efforts to make something like this for the local PC Internet. We’ll see whether they in fact show up.

Been a Little Light Lately

September 5, 2009

I’m unable to keep up with all the information and demands right now, which is why things have been a little light here. I’ve been blogging as normal on SEL and LocalMobileSearch but I’ll get back to my usual output here shortly.

Also I’ve not been very inspired of late.

Kelsey: Online ‘Penetration’ Passes Print

August 25, 2009

While I was out the past few days the Kelsey Group put out new data from its online “Local Commerce Monitor” that said the following:

[P]enetration of digital and online media increased from 73% in August ’08 to 77% in ’09. Meanwhile, traditional media penetration lowered from 74% to 69%. (Penetration is defined as the percentage of SMBs using the given media, regardless of level of spend.)

In May, 2006 I asked “Will the Next Recession Drive Online Ads?”:

Assume we go into recession in the next couple years, my thesis here is that event will potentially accelerate the adoption of online marketing because of its relatively low cost compared with traditional media, its “accountability” and its perceived efficiency.

Of course there are now dozens of studies that confirm this has happened and that traditional media have suffered across the board.

Let’s come back now to the Kelsey data. This is a significant milestone to be sure. The Kelsey Group has done this survey over the past several years and the trend dimension is significant. However I would use some caution in generalizing to the entire US SMB population. Many articles will be tempted to do this.

The sample size was 302 SMBs. In fact there is no “representative sample” of small businesses. In an online survey I conducted a year ago (8/08, n=1084) among US SMBs (via LMS/Opus Research) 53.8% on average said they had a website (we didn’t define “website,” so it could have meant to them any online presence). When asked about “online marketing” they said the following:

Picture 23

Admittedly these data are now a year old. I’m not suggesting they contradict the Kelsey findings; I’m saying that people should use caution in generalizing too broadly from the Kelsey data. One much always be careful in doing this when discussing the “small business market” as a monolith.

The other interesting bit that came out in the Kelsey press release is this:

According to the study, SMBs decreased spending on advertising and promotion by 23.5 percent, from $2,734 (reported in August 2008) to $2,092 (reported in August 2009). As a percentage of total advertising for the SMBs surveyed, digital/online has increased from 22 percent to 36.8 percent over the past year. In spite of the overall decrease in spending on advertising and promotion over the past 12 months, on average, SMBs increased spending on Web sites and profile pages by 26.8 percent, from $608 in 2008 to $769 in 2009.

There are two “takeaways” here for me:

  • Overall “ad” spending is going down
  • Spending is going into non-advertising areas

On the first point, we’ll have to see what happens after the recession ends. On the second — this is something I’ve discussed a number of times before — we’re seeing SMBs spend money on things that don’t count as “advertising” (e.g., sites, SEO) although they do constitute “marketing” expenditures. The overall $2,092 spend is off from the roughly $3,500 to $4,500 pre-recession average print yellow pages spend (which includes national advertiser spending).

Stepping back, the Kelsey data are no doubt accurately reflective of larger directional trends in the market and are symbolically and psychologically significant — akin to when consumer use of the Internet for local information surpassed print yellow pages.

However it’s important to point out that these findings still don’t change the fact that most SMBs remain confused and ill-equipped to manage their own online marketing.

MerchantCircle Crosses to the Consumer Side

June 16, 2009

Picture 1There are many people who may never forgive MerchantCircle for its early “robocalling” customer acquisition strategy. I’m told by the company that’s not happening any longer. But let’s put that issue aside for the time being because MerchantCircle is doing some really interesting things that are worth discussing.

As background for the rest of this post, I was recently told by Darren Waddell, MerchantCircle’s marketing VP, that the company now has 750K small businesses that have claimed a listing or are engaged with the site’s services to some degree (this is obviously not an advertiser number). He said that “member” number would be over one million before the end of the year.

While many of these merchants aren’t doing a great deal on the site (or may have shown up only once), there are many thousands of SMBs that are very actively using it to market themselves. And that’s turning into spontaneous Twitter recommendations in some cases:

Picture 39

Another impressive statistic: Waddell said “We’re driving 35 million page views, 17 million uniques per month of local traffic.” All of this is coming through SEO/search traffic.

As a result of this traffic the site is making a fair amount of money off ads that are getting very attractive CPMs vs. the rest of the market. All the SEO-based traffic the company is receiving has, according to Waddell, brought its customer acquisition cost down to nearly zero.

There is a range of advertising products that the company is selling to SMBs, from fixed fee to performance-based PPCall and PPC (WebVisible is a partner). According to Waddell, while there are several ad programs and products, there’s an overall emphasis on simplicity and low cost. Most services utilized by merchants are free.

Now, in order to enhance the value proposition for SMBs, MerchantCircle quietly expanded into consumer content. The new program is called “Neighbors” and it offers consumer-users a profile and personal “dashboard” where they can connect with one another, collect coupons, track merchants, generate favorite lists and reviews.

The following image is a screenshot of a community page from MerchantCircle’s Tulsa OK site:

Picture 42

Here’s an image of the consumer dashboard:

Picture 41

The dashboard enables the consumer-user to track (tabs across the top):

  • Coupons (I’ve collected from various merchants)
  • My reviews
  • Merchants I’m following (more on that in a moment)
  • Lists I’ve created and my “friends” (on MC). Here’s a snapshot of new lists created by consumers in San Francisco:

Picture 48

On to following; users can “follow” merchants in the same way that one has Twitter followers. Note the follow link under the phone number in the profile below:

Picture 47

After I click to follow, I’m connected to that business and it can directly communicate with me:

Picture 50

Picture 51

In much the same way that MerchantCircle has sought to create a social network of merchants, it has now begun that same work on the consumer side. But the object here is not so much to link consumers to one another as generate more interaction between consumers and merchants and stimulate demand, further activity and content creation. The content and pages populated by consumer-users in turn become more fodder for Google and SEO as well. The company appears to have hit some sort of inflection point with traffic from SEO.

Currently the way that MerchantCircle prompts consumers to join the Neighbors program is through the reviews process. When consumers land on a page via organic search results, some number of those users wind up writing a review of a local business on one of MerchantCircle’s merchant pages. Those review writers are then targeted by MerchantCircle for the Neighbors program:

Picture 41

Picture 42

Picture 43

MerchantCircle is also part of Facebook Connect. And if users log in with their Facebook username and password, their actions and activities on MerchantCircle are broadcast back to through their news feeds on Facebook.

If MerchantCircle is successful in getting consumers to join, create reviews, clip coupons and follow businesses, it will build considerable additional value for its merchants at no cost to itself. Waddell says that the SMBs active with MerchantCircle (mostly in smaller markets) and consumers may not line up 1:1 at the start. But given that MerchantCircle is making money and has been so successful getting SMBs to join, at the rate of 20K per month, it can afford to take the long view.

Telmetrics: Traditional Media Complement Online

May 27, 2009

Picture 8Telmetrics released call and URL tracking data that show how print YP and online complement one another in some interesting ways. The company “measured consumer Web activity generated by more than 1,200 print Yellow Pages ads from November 2008 through April 2009. Each [display] ad included both a unique URL and phone number.” The URL redirected in most cases to a business website.

The story has always been print YP vs. online. But the more complex consumer reality is that print (traditional media) often drives online and search. Telmetrics data reveal that.

Here are the topline data:

  • On average, URL visits represented 44 percent of leads, while call traffic generated 56 percent of leads
  • Tracking unique URL activity in addition to call measurement shows a 78 percent increase in the overall leads driven by print Yellow Pages
  • Select categories including Automobile Dealers and Florists, demonstrated significantly higher volumes of Web activity
  • Ads for Automobile Dealers resulted in 184 percent more clicks than calls, while Florists generated 126 percent more clicks

I spoke with Telmetrics CEO Bill Dinan yesterday about these findings. He told me that they weren’t able to measure the overlap between people who visited a site and may have subsequently picked up the phone. He also told me that in anecdotal interviews with consumers following the collection of this data consumers often said they were less inclined to consider a business that didn’t offer a URL in its print YP ad. He was surprised by the degree to which consumers came to the print book expecting to be directed to an Internet site.

I also asked Dinan about his theories about why certain categories might generate more clicks than calls. He said he thought that circumstances in which people needed to consider inventory or get more information (especially to see an item or product) drove more URL visits.

There are lots of studies from among others Google and SEM firm iProspect that show how people use multiple media to get information. These same studies also show how traditional media stimulate or generate online search behavior or other lookups.

What’s interesting here is that people are coming to the print book as a starting point and going off to the Internet, consistent with those studies, to get more information in almost 50 percent of cases. So rather than an island separate from the Internet, print YP is being shown here to be a complement and even a driver of online activity.

ReachLocal Xchange Revisited

April 23, 2009

picture-731I spent a bunch of time with ReachLocal co-founder Rob Wright on the Ad:Tech exhibit hall floor (in a blood-sugar deprived state) getting a demo of the new ReachLocal Xchange product. Rob took me through the sales/advertiser facing screens as well as the publisher side of the exchange. A few things are now much more clear than when I was just looking at an press release and exchanging emails with Reach.

Reach has built an impressive platform (from my lay perspective). It can accommodate virtually any type of ad unit on any publisher site (online or mobile), where publishers do their own ad serving. Reach doesn’t (yet) have ad serving capabilities for smaller publishers.

Reach is carefully managing who gets to plug into this. All publishers are approved on a case-by-case basis. By the same token, Reach is doing some outbound sales to selected publishers. On the advertiser side, Reach is not currently going to allow other sales channels to plug into this exchange. For example: a YP publisher could receive ads but not use the system for additional traffic for its advertisers. No other sales entity or channel (except the company’s reseller partners) can use the platform. That could change down the line but for the time being that’s the policy.

Here are Reach’s answers to the reader questions that arose in the wake of my previous post:

Q: Banner exchanges worked (right media) because there were standard ad units, ad tags and measurement. How will this work in local where you have search, display, and mobile?  No one has figured this out for national why would local be first? The Xchange provides a standard way for local businesses to provide campaign information, including creative, to media publishers so that they may traffic these campaigns in their systems as they do today.  Where necessary (for instance, where a media publisher is not set up to provision hundreds of IOs at smaller dollar values, as is typical for the SMB market), ReachLocal will be providing a standardized IOs to the publisher and, possibly, providing ad serving directly.  The ReachLocal Xchange will support multiple ad types and pricing formats that can be integrated into 3rd party publishing systems.

Q: What is the point of the app exchange? If SMBs do not want to self serve, who will be using these apps?
The ReachLocal  Xchange for Solutions is inclusive of products and services.  As an example, web and banner design would be considered a service, while online chat and online scheduling would be considered a product. Products and services can be purchased by our sales force (Internet Marketing Consultants) in the ReachLocal Xchange on behalf of the SMBs, because it is our experience that small businesses will not self-service.

Q: Why is fox the anchor tenant. Social networking inventory is proven to be the lowest value ad inventory on the web?
Social networking is just a portion of the Fox Audience network (Fox News, Fox Sports, Fox local O&O sites and other premium local inventory) that is available through their network. In addition, we will be leveraging remarketing and other behavioral targeting capabilities afforded by the network. The Fox Audience Network is a great complement  to the existing  network of display publishers we are currently working with.

Q: Will the exchange be open to all buyers; e.g., can WebVisible advertisers buy ads through WebVisible on the exchange?
ReachLocal currently provides online marketing solutions to hundreds of partner resellers, including advertising agencies and vertically-focused online marketing companies.  They will have access to the ReachLocal Xchange for their advertiser clients.  WebVisible is not currently a ReachLocal partner reseller.

Q: How are all of the SEM campaigns set up if the advertiser comes from outside the reach network?
We’re not quite sure we understand this question, but if this is referring to the hundreds of partner resellers with whom we work today to provide SEM services, those partner resellers have access to the ReachLocal platform to provision and view reports on their SEM campaigns.

Q: What is the exchange fee?
There are no fees associated with joining the ReachLocal Xchange.

MySpace + Citysearch = MySpace Local

March 31, 2009

picture-110Citysearch has shown new energy and creativity in the recent past, with its redesign, new verticals and integration of Facebook Connect, which makes the site more “social.” Now it has teamed up with MySpace for “MySpace Local,” which puts Citysearch data into a local destination hosted on MySpace . . . that also integrates all the social contacts and features of MySpace.

TechCruch has a preview of the beta product. Beyond MySpace users, the intention is to have MySpace Local to be a destination that can be accessed and discovered through search as well.

As Michael Arrington points out in his post, this creates potentially huge amounts of new geotargeted ad inventory for MySpace, with a rev share to Citysearch one assumes. It also represents more distribution for Citysearch merchants and advertisers as part of the latter’s network strategy. All of this will of course translate into mobile, a big battle ground between MySpace and Facebook.

It’s one facet of a larger “local” strategy for MySpace, which includes SMB advertising. I spoke about all this with former Yahoo! search marketing exec. Warren Kay, who’s now at Fox and spearheadin local and SMB initiatives on the advertiser side.

In a way we could see this as analogous to the Oodle marketplace on MySpace or Facebook. And it will be interesting to see whether and how Facebook responds. Facebook also has a big opportunity in local that hasn’t been developed.

More after I get a “look under the hood.”


More from PaidContent and Forbes (“MySpace’s Yelp Envy.”)

Sorry: Hit by Spam

March 10, 2009

Off topic: I got hit by a spam email that came from someone I know asking me to sign in to see a video on a site called FastForward. I signed in using my Google username and password. Now all my Gmail contacts are getting the spam.

I’m sorry. But I’m hearing from a lot of people I haven’t spoken to in some time 🙂

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.


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.