free html hit counter December 2003 - Page 5 of 8 - John Battelle's Search Blog

#4: That Wonderful Honda Ad

By - December 15, 2003

When I saw this ad, I knew I was watching the future of online video advertising unfold.

Downloading the Future of TV Advertising
With a plink and a plunk and 86 moving parts, Honda reminds the ad world of the value of great content — and teaches it something about the power of interactivity.

By John Battelle, July 2003 Issue

In April 2003, Honda U.K. debuted an extraordinary two-minute television advertisement called “Cog.”Through the simple act of releasing a remarkable television commercial onto the Web, the U.K. wing of automobile giant Honda (HMC) has unleashed something of a typhoon in the advertising business. Though it has yet to fully play out, Honda’s ad proves the value of content and could stand as a turning point in the history of the television spot — proof that interactivity won’t kill television advertising, as many are now predicting, but may instead be instrumental in saving it.

Back in April, Honda U.K. debuted an extraordinary two-minute television advertisement called “Cog.” Aired only in the United Kingdom, the film — and that really is the best term for it — is a Rube Goldbergian ballet, a synchronized dance of 86 distinct parts from a Honda Accord that roll, pirouette, and fly along the floor in a mesmerizing production of meticulously intended consequence. The spot begins with a sequence of three cogs rolling along a plank; one falls to the floor, and a cam shaft rolls, setting an exhaust tube slowly spinning, which knocks three precisely placed grommets down the slope of a hood, and so on. (Download the ad for yourself at Honda UK.)
(more via link below)

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#3: Why Contextual Paid Ads Matter

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Oh, if only we had this three years ago, at

Putting Online Ads in Context
Overture and Google have figured out how to sell the Web. Paid search has already saved Yahoo — and your business might be next.

By John Battelle, June 2003 Issue

The long-awaited “30-second spot for the Web” — a way for ads to finally work online – may well be at hand. Overture (OVER), the company some say saved Yahoo’s (YHOO) bacon, will shortly roll out a service that opens up the entire Web to a new form of advertising. “It’s potentially revolutionary,” says Scott Moore, who oversees Slate and for Microsoft (MSFT). How revolutionary? Moore says using Overture’s new service, or one like it, could well push his sites to sustained profitability.

The breakthrough, which I’ll call “contextual advertising,” involves commercial links that appear adjacent to relevant content on websites. Say you’re at, reading a review of the Acura MDX. In place of banners for everything from cell phones to cars you don’t care about, you would see paid text links advertising the Acura website, the Edmunds auto comparison site, and leasing companies vying for your business. These are the same links you’d see if you typed “Acura MDX” into Overture’s client portals, like MSN or Yahoo.

Google also plays in this new market with an offering called “content-targeted advertising.” The beauty of both is their ease of use for publishers: Overture and Google automatically analyze the publishers’ pages and insert relevant links on the fly. All the publishers have to do is collect a check. It’s close to manna from heaven.
(more by clicking on link below)

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Piece #2: Please, Steve, Buy TiVo

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For this piece, I daydreamed about how TiVo might be saved by Steve Jobs. I wish this were the case. With cable coming on strong, I am not feeling so cheery about TiVo’s chances.

Is TiVo NeXT?
The beleaguered personal video recorder company is ripe for an Apple takeover.

By John Battelle, May 2003 Issue

Everyone who has TiVo (TIVO) loves TiVo; it is to television what Macintosh was to computing — a revelation. Which is exactly why Apple (AAPL) should buy TiVo and once again redefine the intersection of culture and technology.

Folks love TiVo for the same reason they loved the Mac in 1984 and the iPod in 2001: It gives control back to the end user. TiVo viewers call the shots regarding when, how, and — soon — even where they watch. Once content or access is purchased, the end user is in charge, just like with the iPod.

But unlike the iPod, TiVo and systems like it are in serious trouble. The culprit is the entertainment industry. TiVo has an abeyant Napster-like quality — and the content business is scared silly that it will not only destroy advertising revenues but become the platform for video swapping on the Internet. Case in point: A coalition of entertainment companies recently sued TiVo competitor Sonicblue into bankruptcy.
(more by clicking on link below)

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My First Piece in 2.0

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I wrote this a year ago (there’s a three-month lag from writing to pub date with monthly magazines). I was sick of the press hammering the internet, with the presumption that everything we did over the past four years was a waste. Turns out, it wasn’t.

Alive and Well
From content providers to dog-food retailers, Internet business has moved to a new stage of stable growth. That’s the real story — so why aren’t we hearing it?

By John Battelle, March 2003 Issue

Any avid reader of the business press has seen endless variations on this tired theme: Internet business is dead. It was all a dot-con, and it dot-bombed.
Eager for an easy target and brimming with schadenfreude, many business reporters (and a few opportunistic book authors) continue to tear down the Net with nearly the same enthusiasm they displayed while building it up. But the facts tell a different story.
Let’s start with the flashing VCR clock of all dot-bomb maxims, the Internet pet-food industry. There’s no better proof of dotcom stupidity than the fact that venture capitalists funded not one but at least four pet-food websites at the same time. Thank God for us all, they are dead.
Except … they’re not. In fact, type “buy pet food” into Google and you’ll get scores of active merchants selling pet food online. I put in a call to one of them, Geoffrey Walker, CEO of Surprise: His business grew 22 percent last year, and he expects similar growth this year. In fact, he and his three or four biggest competitors — yup, there are still that many players in this category — are all doing well. As for, the now-defunct Sock Puppet company, Walker is thrilled about all that exposure, which let consumers know that they no longer had to lug around 40-pound bags of kibble. now redirects to Petsmart (PETM), whose stock price has rung up a 44 percent increase since a year ago. Woof! (for more click link below)

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Note: Column Upload to Commence

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Yeah, I’ve been threatening to post the past year’s Business 2.0 columns, and I’m about to start. I’ve decided to post then in sequence as full text posts to the home page, then classify them as “Columns” using Moveable Type’s “Categories” tools. That way, once they’ve moved off the home page, they will live forever under a “Columns” link on the left. This way, future columns can be posted and added to the list automatically.

(As long as I’m posting site notes, if you can’t see a picture in the upper left hand corner, make your browser wider by pulling the lower right hand corner to the right till the picture shows up….ahh, that’s better).

So take note, a blizzard of posts (well, about a dozen or so) will follow, and you may want to simply ignore them for the next little while.

Holiday Shopping: Froogle Update

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SearchDay summarizes Google’s recent update to Froogle. The update is not a total redesign, nor a clear statement by Google that it wants to jump in full throttle, like Yahoo has (Google has yet to take off the “beta” moniker). Shopping engines in the main present something of a challenge for Google – by their nature they invite commercially-driven presentation of results, and Google is best known for its “pure” or “natural” results. As Ninj pointed out to me last week, at Yahoo Shopping they believe that shoppers *expect* to be marketed to while in shopping mode – the metaphor she used was Yellow Pages. Those who paid more, have more credibility and larger ads, and that means something to shoppers. Such an approach is not exactly dead center to Google’s overall brand values, but neither does it directly contradict them. It is worth noting that the company updated Froogle in time for the holiday season and has been promoting it for several days in a row. To wit: the phrase “Shopping? Try Froogle – Google’s product search service” appears on the main page. Google product managers tell me it’s extremely difficult to get a promo for anything onto that home page, as they count every bit on that page, each additional bit slows down performance. Clearly, a decision has been made that this is important to the company, and by extension, to the company’s users.

Remember the Internet Generation?

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That’s what John Chambers of Cisco dubbed our nation’s youth back in the bubble era. Well, now that the internet is cool again, USA Today has come up with another moniker: The Google Generation. The author of this article, a child psychologist, makes a good point: “As members of the Google generation, today’s children have facts at their fingertips. They don’t need information fed through toys. They need to play and to become creative problem solvers.” I certainly agree with this. A quote used by the director of my kids’ school (originally from Socrates, I think) goes something like: “A child is a flame to be ignited, not a vessel to be filled.” She suggests holiday toys that do not entertain, but rather that provoke creative play. Her top ten: Play-Doh, building blocks, costume drawers, puppets, red rubber balls, books, crayons, paints, rhythm instruments and dolls.

Google, India, Yahoo, Paul

By - December 13, 2003

I spent most of yesterday working on the book, talking to folks at Yahoo, Google, and with Paul Saffo. I met with Terry Winnograd, who was Larry Page’s professor at Stanford, worked with Larry and Sergey early in the project, and is still on Google’s technical advisory board (scroll down). While I was there I ran into Yossi Vardi, who is always a joy to see. The man is always beaming, and this was no exception, he was touring Google’s new building with Sergey and telling enthusiastic stories about Sergey’s recent trip to Israel (Yossi of course played host). In any case, internationalization is clearly a theme at Google. The company recently announced a new R&D center in India. I asked David Krane (Director of CC) why, and he said he company can’t expect everyone to come here, and there’s a lot of talent in Bangalore. Makes sense.

Terry is an energetic man, he was a founding member of CPSR and has done a lot of work on natural language and HCI (human computer interface). He recently took a sebbatical from Stanford to work at Google full time, and is now moving back into the academic life. I won’t go into all we discussed (gotta save something for the book!) but it was a good meeting, and I heard some funny tales of the early days, among other things.

At Yahoo I met with Srinija Srinivasan, Yahoo’s Editor in Chief. She’s been there almost since the beginning, and we had a robust and lengthy conversation about the role of editorial in search, the role of the directory at Yahoo (very interesting) and challenges ahead for the industry and the company. I really enjoyed Ninj, as she is known. She’s only 32, but has spent nearly 9 years thinking about this stuff as EIC at Yahoo. Prior to that, she worked on Doug Lenat’s CYC project, which for those of you unfamiliar with it was a very brave, arguably foolish, and ultimately unsuccessful attempt to solve AI’s “brittleness” problem. CYCorp still exists, applying some of its early work to corporate data issues.

Lastly, I spent the early evening with Paul Saffo, who is a walking idea machine. Paul is something of a metaphor graffiti artist – he could earn a living tagging metaphors across anything that catches his fancy – wait a minute, that *is* how he makes a living. He came up with a few really good ones as it relates to the Database of Intentions and various other Big Ideas in my book. Hint: Think Middle Ages.


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Marchex, a Seattle-based SEO/Pay per click firm headed by folks from Go2Net, has filed to go public. Here’s a story on it. This is interesting in many ways – the company is not profitable (though it is cash flow positive), and it’s not well known, but it’s in the search/advertising space, which is feeling overheated. Worth watching.

Glimmers of Hope In Video Search

By - December 12, 2003

One of my more inchoate but deeply felt rants has to do with the role of video in our culture. I’m convinced, for reasons I can’t properly articulate, that as a culture we’ve hobbled ourselves by refusing to make video – in particular the incessant stream of television so omnipresent in our lives, a more citation-friendly, searchable, and conversational medium. What I’ve always wanted was the ability to approach video much as we now approach text – it can be searched, annotated, cut and pasted, linked to, etc. I want to be able to say “Hey, remember that great rant by Jon Stewart on Halliburton?” and then link to it or email it to a friend. I hint at some of this in various 2.0 columns.
Of course there are many technical and legal issues with the implementation of such a dream. Fist, bandwidth is still too expensive for most mere mortals to be hosting massive libraries of video. Second, the numbnuts at the MPAA. And third, video must be logged and tagged to be searched – it’s not a self-tagging medium like text.
But there is hope. For issue one, there’s the optimism (if not the politics) of folks like Gilder. For issue two, there’s folks like Larry Lessig. And for three, there’s closed captioning (it’s a start!), and the work of lesser known but really exciting companies like ShadowTV (thanks for the link, Gary!).Worth grokking, and good to know smart folks are on the case here.