free html hit counter December 2007 - John Battelle's Search Blog


By - December 28, 2007

I’m going to Disneyland! (yeeeeeaaaaaaah, say my three kids).

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Why No One Comments on Google News

By - December 27, 2007

TechDirt comments on the NYT’s story on the fact that pretty much no one is commenting on Google News stories, despite Google’s attempts to get folks to do so. Why is that, we wonder? Why, given that Google News is one of the largest, most successful, most important drivers of news reading in the world, why won’t we engage in a conversation around it?

It’s simple, really, and it goes to the heart of what Google is not good at: Community. Look at the comment threads on Digg, for example, or Ars Technica, or Boing Boing. Why are there such long, boisterous comment threads? Because we know that the news we are reading there was driven by human beings, and when we respond, those human beings are paying attention, and want to be part of the conversation. But Google News is driven entirely by a computer algorithm. There is no explicit community. No one goes there to engage in community. Even if one can argue, as one can with web search, that the News algorithm is derived from community actions, it is not subservient to them, as is Digg’s. In short, there are no stakeholders in the Google News community. It’s not a place people go to be social.

Once again, Google has shown its Achilles heel – computers are great at generating smart results, and terrible as proxies for community. This is also reflected in the company’s approach to policy around new community features like those at Google Reader, an asberger’s of sorts when it comes to understanding how people want to connect.

Update: Many of you noted in comments that Google News Comments are only for those in the stories. This is true, and I should have mentioned it. Clearly this would be different if anyone could comment. Even so, I think, it proves the point – folks who are in news stories do not see Google News as a place to connect to *their* story.

2007 Predictions, How Did I Do?

By - December 26, 2007

Crystal Ball-Tm-TmRelated:

2007 Predictions

2006 Predictions

2006 How I Did

2005 Predictions

2005 How I Did

2004 Predictions

2004 How I Did

Well, the time has come to review my predictions of a year ago. Overall, I think I did pretty well, but I’ve had to interpret a few liberally to give myself extra credit in a few cases. (Scoble has graded me here…). And away we go:

#1: “Thanks to Google’s dominance in search and media and a complacent DOJ, Microsoft will buy a better position in online media.”

While I suggested that Microsoft might buy AOL – I did not predict it’d buy aQuantive or invest in Facebook. But both moves are, in essence, Microsoft buying a better position in online media, so I’d give myself a “pretty much nailed it” on this one. I also said…

1. (a) If Microsoft does not buy AOL, Yahoo will, and failing that, AOL will go public, but the IPO will receive a lukewarm review.

AOL did not go public, but it made major moves to prepare that part of its business that can/should be public – it’s advertising platform, for an offering. It bought Tacoda and several other advertising businesses, renamed its offering Platform A, and put Dave Morgan in charge. Watch for it to go public or be sold in early 2008.

#2: “A major media outlet will predict that the “Web 2.0″ bubble has burst or deflated seriously. The prediction will be wrong.”

Well, a search for “Web 2 bubble” sure gets a ton of major media hits – The Atlantic, The WSJ, and many many more. But none said the bubble had burst. Instead, they suggested it would go out with…a whimper. I think I got this one wrong.

#3:Google will integrate YouTube into its main services.” I think I get a nailed it here (see how the Youtube Ninja is integrated into results?). In retrospect, seems very obvious, but there was debate about this in 2006.

#4: “Related to this, Google Video Ads will dissappoint until Q4 2007.” This is another nailed it. Across the industry, everyone is asking where the profits are with Google’s video strategy. Google did roll out its answer (see here), but no one knows if it’s working, and many claim it is not. I also wrote:

“Because advertisers in video have all sorts of structural reasons to not want to work the way Google wants them to work. Until the Fall of 07, when these differences will be worked out, and Google will have a slam dunk quarter in a form of advertising outside of text ads for the first time in its history.”

This prediction remains to be seen, when Google reports its earnings next month. We’ll see, but I’m guessing it will NOT be a slam dunk.

#5: “Yahoo will not regain its luster, but will take the steps necessary to do so by the end of the year.” I think I got this right. Yahoo’s board parted ways with Terry, and the company consolidated operations under Sue Decker. I think the company is poised to do well in 2008 if it can navigate its way between the big guns of Microsoft and Google.

#6: “eBay will have a major change in executive leadership.” I saw Meg at Web 2 this past October, and she mentioned that she was the longest running non founder still in a CEO role. It made me wonder when eBay was going to take the plunge and get a new CEO. Not that I am anti-Meg, I think she’s great. But it became very evident this year the company needs a new directon. While “a major change” did not occur this year (you can argue that perhaps Zennstrom leaving Skype was major), I still believe it’s a matter of timing, and the other shoe will drop very soon here. Net net: Didn’t nail it, but didn’t blow it either.

#7: “Amazon will continue to push beyond ecommerce into web services, the market will punish it for doing so, and by the end of the year Bezos will be forced to defend his investments as his stock takes a hit for those services’ failing to find traction.” I think I got the first part right, and the second wrong. The market has rewarded Amazon for its strategy, and while Bezos has been vigorously defending his play, it turns out folks generally agree with it.

#8: ” There will be a brief, somewhat irrational spurt of acquisitions related to “content”, in particular independent media sites with good demographics and a decent audience profile. I say irrational because by the end of the year, it will be clear why those sites were independent in the first place.” I think this is right, save the word “acquisitions”. There was a lot of noise in this market this year, a lot of independent media companies who tried to get sold, or wanted to be sold, or were looked at hard as acquisition targets. But save the odd Wallstrip deal, it was not to be. Why? Because the second part of my prediction also came true: Those with the money to buy realized they could not justify the prices that independent media creators wanted paid. Look for more predictions on where this is all going in my 2008 post.

#9: “Speaking of the content business, it will face a major test as two forces converge to undermine the pageview model: Ajax, on the one hand, and ad blockers on the other. Both will be addressed with alarm and alacrity by industry efforts.” I think I got this wrong. It is taking way longer than I thought it would for this issue to bubble up as a major problem.

#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.” I think this is definitely happening. First, Searchblog looks totally dated. And second, if you look at second order blogs like Mashable, or Ars, or MamaPop, you see that directionally, blogs are maturing into real publishing platforms.

#11: “One major Internet player will really screw up the privacy/trust issue, in a way bigger than even AOL did last year.” Oh boy, thanks for making me look like a genius, Facebook!

#12: “The Google founders will find themselves the subject of at least one major “takedown” piece in the mainstream media.” I think I got this wrong. I am stunned, honestly, that it has not happened, but then, Facebook took a lot of the focus away from Google, and the media may have shelved its traditional takedown approach due to its fascination with Mark Z. Also, the Google Guys have been very, very good at deflecting possible wealth-realted criticism by offering up a Greener Google angle to the story.

#13: “Mobile will finally be plugged into the web in a way that makes sense for the average user and a major mobile innovation – the kind that makes us all say – Jeez that was obvious – will occur.” As I said earlier to Facebook: Thanks Apple, for making me look smart.

#14: “Lastly, I will begin work on my second book.” OK, well, I have begun work. But not nearly as much as I want to do. Not even close. But I did outline some important ideas here and here and in an as yet unfinished proposal but…I hope to have more time to report and write this coming year.

Well, that’s it. To summarize, of the 14, I got ten or so mostly right, a few sorta right and sorta wrong, and at least two totally wrong. Not a bad scorecard. Here’s how I did in 2006, 2005, and 2004.

Smart Politician: Stand Up for Bloggers

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Ars has the story:

It’s not every day that a senator takes to the floor to defend “Internet blogs and other Web-based forms of media,” but Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) has done just that in his recent push to pass a Freedom of Information Act reform bill he has coauthored with two Republicans.

The Senate passed the OPEN Government Act last week (which builds on previous reform attempts), and the House followed suit on Tuesday of this week. The reforms in the bill make it easier for bloggers and other Internet journalists to make FOIA requests without paying fees, and they strengthen deadlines for agencies to respond to requests. Contractors who work for the federal government are now explicitly covered by FOIA rules, and a new FOIA Ombudsman will help resolve disputes outside of court. The legislation awaits President Bush’s pen.

Travel Heats Up Again

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Mike has the news on Kayak merging with Sidestep and raising tons of dough. I’ll be looking at Kango over the weekend, which recently relaunched.

Dog Bites Man

By - December 20, 2007

Emailed to me this AM:

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. (December 20, 2007) – Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) today welcomed the U.S. Federal Trade Commission’s clearance of its planned acquisition of DoubleClick Inc., a premier provider of display ad serving technology and services. Google announced in April 2007 a definitive agreement to acquire the company for $3.1 billion in cash from San Francisco-based private equity firm Hellman & Friedman along with JMI Equity and management.

“The FTC’s strong support sends a clear message: this acquisition poses no risk to competition and will benefit consumers,” said Eric Schmidt, Chairman and CEO, Google. “We hope that the European Commission will soon reach the same conclusion, and we are confident that this deal will deliver more relevant ads for consumers, more choices for advertisers, and more opportunities for website publishers.”

The acquisition was approved earlier this year by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and was recommended for approval by one of three Brazilian regulatory agencies. Google cannot close the acquisition until the European Commission, which is still examining the transaction, grants clearance of the deal.

In its clearance opinion released today, the FTC explicitly rejected any current or potential competition concerns. Google and DoubleClick are complementary businesses and do not compete with each other. Google’s current business primarily involves the selling of text-based ads, while DoubleClick’s core business is delivering and reporting on display ads. DoubleClick does not buy ads, sell ads, or buy or sell advertising space. Rather, it provides technology to enable advertisers and publishers to deliver ads once they have agreed to terms, and to provide advertisers and publishers statistics relating to those ads.

The FTC’s opinion also noted the robust competition in the online ad serving space, and Google’s acquisition of DoubleClick is just one of several recent transactions that underscore this strong competition. In recent months, several major transactions in the online advertising space were announced, including Yahoo’s acquisition of Right Media; AOL’s acquisition of ADTECH AG and TACODA; WPP Group’s acquisition of 24/7 Real Media; and Microsoft’s $6 billion acquisition of aQuantive and acquisition of AdECN Inc.

While the FTC’s opinion reaffirmed the law by noting that privacy concerns played no role in its merger review, Schmidt reiterated the company’s commitment to user privacy.

“For us, privacy does not begin or end with our purchase of DoubleClick,” Schmidt said. “We have been protecting our users’ privacy since our inception, and will continue to innovate in how we safeguard their information and maintain their trust.”

For more, see Danny’s coverage here. Apparently the FTC gives a shout out to the Database of Intentions. Cool!