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Three Questions for Peter Horan: New Google Deal Next Year

By - January 18, 2007

PeterhAs I posted yesterday, Peter Horan (image credit) is heading to IAC to run a suite of its media and advertising businesses, including Citysearch, Ask.com, and IAC’s other media assets. I emailed him three questions, here are his answers.

So, what drew you to this job?



The door was opened by a personal relationship. Jason Rapp lead the team at The New York Times that acquired About.com in 2005. During that process and the integration, we came to know, like and respect each other. Jason joined IAC in the fall as SVP of M&A and suggested that I talk to them about this job.

As those conversations progressed, I was very impressed with IAC and realized that this job would let me focus on several things that I am passionate about: the evolving relationship between search and content; developing mobile solutions; and local web products that work. We have the resources, the team, and the brands to really advance the state of the art in all of these areas. There’s also a proven sales team to help with the monetization.

It’s a unique opportunity.

Did you have a vision for what IAC needs, or is it more that you’re there to manage what already exists?



I am fortunate to be going into a situation where I can focus on growth and adding strategic value. There’s nothing to fix. Under strong leaders, the individual businesses have been doing well. The goal now is to bring together IAC’s amazing array of resources in new ways that benefit the consumer (and drive IAC’s share). Mobile and local solutions will be high up on the priority list. I will also be working to find ways to use search to help power other IAC business units.

Early this year, we will also be evaluating our options for monetization and distribution. I expect that to be a vigorous process. The initial overtures have been very interesting.

Hmmm. Can you unpack “evaluating our options for monetization and distribution” a bit more?



IAC’s Google contract comes up for renewal at the end of the year. The company has already started to explore options.

It will be one of my top priorities to make sure that we get the best deal for the company.

Economics will be a big part of that but so will distribution and other factors. Because this will be one of the most valuable parterships in play this year, we expect this to be a very vigorous process.

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Minority Report, Here Google Comes

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Minrep

I’m late to this, (Board meeting, travel, bleagh) but it’s fun to note Google’ patent application for display of ads on digital billboards. More here and here.

From ClickZ:

If patent filings are anything to go by, contextual advertising powered by Google will start appearing on digital billboards in a shopping mall near you.

The Mountain View, Calif. search marketing giant has filed a patent application for technology that lets local stores tie their stock control computers to a Google-powered ad network, a strong hint that the company is planning to expand expansion beyond Web, print and radio advertising.

The patent, filed December 21, 2006 with the USPTO (United States Patent and Trademark Office), covers systems and methods for allocating advertising space in a “network of electronic display devices.”

Put another way: the web will be everywhere, and everywhere there might be an ad, Google will be.

The Blog Merchandising Problem, or, Blogs, V 2.0 (2.1? 3.0?)

By - January 17, 2007

Merchamazon

Late last year, in my predictions post for 2007, I mentioned something I called, quite uninventively, “Blog 2.0.” More specifically I wrote:

“10. “Blog 2.0″ will become a reality. By this I mean that Version 1.0 blogsites, of which I think Searchblog is a good example, will begin to look dated and fade in comparison to sites that employ better approaches to content management, navigation, intelligent widgets and web services, etc.”

Well, that entry caught they eye of Martin Nisenholtz, head of NYT Digital. I was in NYC this past couple of days visiting colleagues and attending the wonderful “Evening of Wonders,” run by FM partner author Josh Foer. Upon hearing I was coming to town, Martin asked me to stop by. He wanted me to unpack what I meant by that brief reference. Turns out, we had a fascinating conversation, and it led me to want to think out loud with all of you about a problem I think most folks who either write or read blogs have.

Blogs are wonderful for reading a stream of consciousness, the ongoing dialog of the author(s) and the audience (though I have to say reading comments is far more of a pain that it should be.) One of the major strengths of blogs is their conversational immediacy, when one becomes a reader, and knows the flow and grammar of the site, the ongoing postings become far more accessible.

BUT…

A brief dip into nearly every blogger’s referral logs shows that a very large percentage of readers – nearly 40 percent in some cases – come directly from search – someone who put “steve ballmer throws chair” into Google, for example, and lands here.

Now, this person doesn’t have any frame of reference about Searchblog, or its grammar, audience, or ongoing conversation. He or she is most likely to hit the post in question, read it (perhaps), and move on. This site loses a potential new reader, and this community loses a potential new member, because, in the end, I, as the publisher of Searchblog, have done nothing to demonstrate to that reader the wonders and joy that is Searchblog. In short, I’ve failed to merchandise my site.

Now imagine instead, that when that person comes from search, they are greeted with a box that pops up and is informed by the search referral information that we all carry with us as we click away from Google or other search engines. That box surfaces a smart search based on the referral – perhaps it shows the reader other posts I’ve written about Microsoft, or Google and Microsoft, or senior executives in the Internet industry. Perhaps it shows me the top five *other* posts folks read who *also read* that Steve Ballmer Throws A Chair post. You know, the kind of merchandising a good site like Amazon does all day long (from what I can tell, search referral boxes were pioneered by Cnet, for credit where credit is due). Now, wouldn’t that be cool, just for a start? Sounds hard to do, right? But actually, it shouldn’t be. The information is all there. It’s just not organized properly.

Cnet Box

But giving potential new readers a tour of Searchblog is not the only reason to think about merchandising the site. In fact, it’s not even the primary one. The real reason to think about solving this problem is to solve what I as a regular reader of many sites find most frustrating: it’s nearly impossible to navigate these sites past the home page.

Sure, some sites, including this one, make lists of “most active topics” or “my favorite posts” that we stick on our templates. These static navigation boxes help a bit, but they fail utterly to solve for a reader’s implied or specifically declared intent. And finding anything specific on a blog site is, well, a pretty poor experience. I’m not saying blog search technology sucks, I’m saying it simply doesn’t work very well. Often you find far too many posts for the keywords you enter, and there’s really no context for the ones you do find.

Now, I know what many of you are thinking – this is the problem that tagging will solve. OK, sure, let me know when that happens. For now, tagging strikes me as one more signal lost in a ton of noise – it’s up to publishers to take that signal and make something useful from it.

And as long as we are talking about signals, there are so many other ones I’d love to have at my fingertips, signals I as a publisher can weave into useful context and navigation for my readers. Links to a particular post, for example. Why can’t I have, easily, a list of all my posts sorted by how many links each has, or by a matrix of links crossed with authority of those links? How about the number of comments? Or the number of pageviews each post has received? With all of these signals, plus tags, I can start to really build useful navigation elements for all my readers, past, present, and future.

But it’s way too hard to get all this information and harder still to know how to use it. I know it’s out there, in bits and pieces, but it strikes me that no one company is really motivated to address this problem in a way that benefits bloggers. I have high hopes for Feedburner, now that it bought BlogBeat, and perhaps I’m missing some dead obvious widgets that do all this and more for any particular site. For that reason, I’d love to work on this issue with what resources FM has to throw at it. But first, I need to get smarter on the possible solutions. What say you, Force of Many?

Peter Horan Joins IAC As Head Of Media

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I’ve known Peter for a long time, he was at IDG when I was running the Standard. Only a couple of months ago we met to talk shop (and Google, of course) as he was running AllBusiness.com, an interesting restart of sorts (it’s been around the funding block more than once). Now Peter has taken a big job at IAC. Jim Lanzone at Ask.com, for example, will report to him, as will many others. I’ve sent him an email and hope to run a short interview here.

comScore Releases December Search Rankings

By - January 16, 2007

comScore releases the December rankings for search engines; and here are the results.

Picture 1-44In December 2006, Google gained .4 share from November, to lead with 47.3% market, and Yahoo! went up .3, continuing with the second largest share of 28.5% . Microsoft share dropped .5 points to 10.5% share, Ask fell .1 points to 5.5% share, and Time Warner share shrunk by .2 points, to close at 4.9% share.

In addition, comScore notes that:

• Americans conducted 6.7 billion searches online in December, up 1 percent versus November. Annual growth rates in search query volume remained strong with a 30-percent increase since the same month a year ago.

• Google Sites led the pack with 3.2 billion search queries performed, followed by Yahoo Sites (1.9 billion), MSN-Microsoft (713 million), Ask Network (363 million), and Time Warner Network (335 million).

WikiSeek

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WikiSeek launches today. I am traveling, so will not be able to take a look till later…

Vertical Search: Wazap

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Game search engine Wazap nets $7.9 million, Venturebeat reports. That’s a lot of money for a niche search engine, but gaming is a hot market…

Tacoda Integrates Comscore Data

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Tacoda

Dave Morgan, founder of Tacoda, emailed me to let me know about news from his company and Comscore. From the release:

TACODA®, the world’s largest behaviorally-targeted online advertising network, today announced that it has entered into a multi-year licensing agreement with comScore Networks® to integrate comScore data with its existing massive Audience Networks™ database of behavioral insights. The result will be actionable data that will reveal unique insights about online audiences that will allow advertisers to design stronger media plans and produce and place more relevant online marketing messages.

Google integrated Comscore data a while ago, but does not have the behavioral approach championed by Tacoda. (note: Tacoda is one of many partners of FM, my day job).