free html hit counter October 2005 - Page 4 of 8 - John Battelle's Search Blog

A Gem

By - October 20, 2005

Reader David Gordon sent this link to me, from German publication Die Zeit, but in English. A gem, if you like your joints after midnight fare. Focuses on the man behind Teoma/Ask Jeeves and his quest to beat Google, but asks the Big Questions about search as well.

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"Comcast searches for way to be television's Google"

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Comcast GuideI just love that headline, from the Chicago Tribune.

From the article:

For Comcast Corp. Chief Executive Brian Roberts, the key challenge in today’s digital video world is how to become the Google of television.

Roberts, who heads the nation’s largest cable TV provider, said broadband Internet makes the traditional cable TV business obsolete. As a result, he said, Comcast is stressing its on-demand video service, which enables customers to view movies and programs whenever they want.

Well, I have to say, this is pretty clueful of Mr. Roberts, who has always impressed me as the most forward looking cable guy out there.

Part of Comcast’s strategy is to become more like Google by making it easier for customers to search for the video content they want, when they want. One part of that strategy is developing a more robust interactive TV viewing guide. Roberts stressed that these technologies must be easy to use.

Note to Roberts: If your current interactive cable guide (which I suffer through daily) is any indication, you have *a lot* of work to do on user experience/user interface. Comcast has never, ever, ever been in the user experience business, it’s been in the distribution business. If you’re serious about competing in search and experience, it’s time to get serious about UI/UE/HCI. Tivo, for example, is pretty good at this….yet even Tivo’s search is terrible by comparison to any web based search engine. I know there are design constraints to doing great search on a TV, but sheesh, this is structured search, for goodness sake. It should be *easier*!

More NewsCorp

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Murdoch-1Murdoch’s plans for the web have been much speculated about, for good reason – there’s a whiff of Diller about Murdoch, in that sense that whatever he ends up doing will matter a lot. Fortune has a Q&A up outside their traditional pay wall with Ross Levinsohn, the point man behind Murdoch’s web push. The interview was done by Adam Lashinsky, who also penned a piece on Murdoch last week in Fortune, which he reminds me is outside the pay wall as well. In it, he describes Murdoch’s Internet retreat last month, which I, among others, was invited to and presented at. From it:

“When you’ve got a big, expanding world economy, you’d expect a boom in advertising, and it hasn’t been there,” [Murdoch] explains a couple of weeks later in his Los Angeles office, a spacious fifth-floor redoubt overlooking the sprawling lot of his 20th Century Fox movie studio. Even as traditional ad sales failed to boom, he says, small in-house websites like and Britain’s Times Online started generating meaningful revenue on puny investments. “You start putting two and two together, and we decided to abandon our defenses and get offensive.”

Journal Focuses On Spam Blog

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This free link from the Journal focuses on a story that has grown over the past few months into a national discussion – what to do about spam blogs. Google’s blogger is a major culprit – some claim as much as 90% spam on that platform. From the Journal’s piece:

Spammers have created millions of Web logs to promote everything from gambling Web sites to pornography. The spam blogs — known as “splogs” — often contain gibberish, and are full of links to other Web sites spammers are trying to promote. Because search engines like those of Google Inc., Microsoft Corp. and Yahoo Inc. base their rankings of Web sites, in part, on how many other Web sites link to them, the splogs can help artificially inflate a site’s popularity. Some of the phony blogs also carry advertisements, which generate a few cents for the splog’s owner each time they are clicked on.

The phony blogs are a particular problem for Google, Microsoft and Yahoo because each offers not only a Web search engine focused on providing the most relevant results for users but also a service to let bloggers create blogs.

More: Tim Bray, Mark Cuban

Here We Go Again: Publishers Sue Google

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If this sounds familiar, it’s because the Author’s Guild sued Google last month. Now, the Publishers (via their trade group the AAP) are joining in. It seems Eric’s WSJ Op Ed was timed ahead of this news…

I really don’t get this. I have been both a publisher and an author, and I have to tell you, these guys sue for one reason and one reason alone, from what I can tell: Their legacy business model is imperiled, and they fear change. Of course, if they can get out of their own way, they’ll end up making more money. But that never stopped these guys – the MPAA, the RIAA, and now, the AAP.

Sure, I hear them when they complain about how Google has been seemingly arrogant, and how the company has presumed rather than politely requested permission. And maybe this truly is an issue of principle. I just called Pat Schroeder, who runs the AAP, and left word that I want to understand this better. Hopefully, she’ll call back. When she does, I’ll post more.

From the AAP release:

WASHINGTON D.C., October 19, 2005 –The Association of American Publishers (AAP) today announced the filing of a lawsuit against Google over its plans to digitally copy and distribute copyrighted works without permission of the copyright owners. The lawsuit was filed only after lengthy discussions broke down between AAP and Google’s top management regarding the copyright infringement implications of the Google Print Library Project.

The suit, which seeks a declaration by the court that Google commits infringement when it scans entire books covered by copyright and a court order preventing it from doing so without permission of the copyright owner, was filed on behalf of five major publisher members of AAP: The McGraw-Hill Companies, Pearson Education, Penguin Group (USA), Simon & Schuster and John Wiley & Sons.

The suit, which is being coordinated and funded by AAP, has the strong backing of the publishing industry and was filed following an overwhelming vote of support by the 20-member AAP Board which is elected by, and represents, the Association’s more than 300 member publishing houses.

Update: Pat and I have swapped calls and hope to speak later today or in the morning. And Google has issued a short response:

“Google Print is an historic effort to make millions of books easier for

people to find and buy. Creating an easy to use index of books is fair use

under copyright law and supports the purpose of copyright: to increase the

awareness and sales of books directly benefiting copyright holders. This

short-sighted attempt to block Google Print works counter to the interests

of not just the world’s readers, but also the world’s authors and


MSN AdCenter Gears Up

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MsnadcenterMSN’s answer to Yahoo and Google’s ad platform has been a long time coming, but they are finally gearing up here in the US (MSFT launched AdCenter in Singapore and France – an alpha of sorts – earlier in the year). Today marks AdCenter’s pilot launch in the US – you can go here to sign up to be a charter advertiser (no guarantee they will take you…). Microsoft claims to already have 500 folks signed up (word of the recruitment leaked out a week or so ago and here is the site of one of them, JenSense), and I am not surprised. I am sure that advertisers will flock to a well-considered new avenue for search advertising.

No, the question is not “will advertisers want to test AdCenter?” And the question is also not “will Microsoft innovate in massively scaled advertising platforms?” – I think the clear answer there is yes. (Microsoft is offering audience targeting, for example, and what I have been told by many is far more detailed reporting). Advertisers will very much want to try out AdCenter. Why not? If it works, great! If it doesn’t, no harm, no foul, it’s CPC!

The real question, to my mind, is will Microsoft have enough traffic of good intent to satisfy advertisers’ demand – or put another way, will Microsoft get to scale on the traffic side of the equation? To do so, it needs to enter the syndication business. Microsoft needs more than MSN Search traffic if it is going to compete. It has to learn to play nice with others – and partner with the long tail.

Yahoo has already made a play for the long tail with YPN, and Google is king of syndication with AdSense. For now, AdCenter is only available for MSN Search. But if Microsoft is going to truly compete, it has to compete for the rest of the web’s inventory. Of course, it can get a big head start by stealing AOL from Google….either as an acquisition, or just as a deal. As I’ve said before, AOL was the deal that made Google, well, Google, and it was the deal that drove Overture to profitability. Microsoft has plenty of cash, and a very keen desire to win. This is what is fueling all sides in the AOL Poker game.

In any case, I certainly look forward to seeing how folks respond to Microsoft’s entry into the field. And we’ll all be keenly watching how Microsoft competes for traffic of good intent….

Yahoo Earnings

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(Updated, with chart at left from Safa) Yahoo just announced earnings. Apparently, they were quite good – but then, that’s what the Street expected. The chart at left shows how, in general, Yahoo beat Street expectations, but the stock is not up sharply in after hours trading, mainly, I sense, because folks pretty much priced this in already.

From Yahoo’s announcement:

• Revenues were $1,330 million for the third quarter of 2005, a 47 percent increase

compared to $907 million for the same period of 2004.

o Marketing services revenue was $1,160 million for the third quarter of 2005, a 46

percent increase compared to $797 million for the same period of 2004.

o Fees revenue was $170 million for the third quarter of 2005, a 55 percent

increase compared to $110 million for the same period of 2004.

• Revenues excluding traffic acquisition costs (“TAC”) were $932 million for the third

quarter of 2005, a 42 percent increase compared to $655 million for the same period of


• Gross profit for the third quarter of 2005 was $810 million, a 41 percent increase

compared to $574 million for the same period of 2004.

• Operating income for the third quarter of 2005 was $270 million, a 57 percent increase

compared to $172 million for the same period of 2004.

• Operating income before depreciation and amortization for the third quarter of 2005 was

$385 million, a 48 percent increase compared to $260 million for the same period of


• Cash flow from operating activities for the third quarter of 2005 was $440 million, a 65

percent increase compared to $267 million for the same period of 2004.

• Free cash flow for the third quarter of 2005 was $345 million, a 71 percent increase

compared to $202 million for the same period of 2004.

• Net income for the third quarter of 2005 was $254 million or $0.17 per diluted share

(including a net impact of $16 million, or $0.01 per diluted share, related to the sales of

investments). For the same period of 2004, net income was $253 million or $0.17 per

diluted share (including a net impact of $129 million, or $0.09 per share, related to the

sale of an investment and an associated tax benefit).