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Lost the Intent?

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Perry Evans wonders, as he examines the new site-specific search SERPS (see here for context):

Have we lost the intent?

When a consumer uses search terms like walmart or, it’s one thing to “help the user” by giving them sub-site links, it’s an entirely other thing to use the site’s content and perform your own search, while showing competing ads. Shouldn’t this be a retailer opt-in scenario? Is there not an underlying TOS issue on the crawled content?

This feels like the user intent is being hijacked by Google’s intent.


By - March 23, 2008

And the lack thereof. We’re all living in the world of the Database of Intentions, except, apparently, the White House.

Older White House computer hard drives have been destroyed, the White House disclosed to a federal court Friday in a controversy over millions of possibly missing e-mails from 2003 to 2005….

… the White House disclosed in January that it recycled its computer backup tapes before October 2003. Recycling — taping over existing data — raises the possibility that any missing e-mails may not be recoverable.

Gee. I am sure this was not intentional.

Cautious Optimism

By - March 22, 2008

Hairy times in the overall economy, but in our corner of it, there are a few signs bearing cautious optimism.

Can't Lose For Winning: Google on Spectrum

By - March 21, 2008

Love the spin here from the AP, with which I do agree:

Losing the battle for a prized piece of the airwaves isn’t necessarily a setback for Google Inc.1

If anything, Thursday’s news that Verizon Wireless had won the government-run auction for a pivotal swath of spectrum may even have been the ideal outcome for Google.

That’s because investors no longer have to fret about Google straying from its main business of Internet search to spend more than $10 billion buying and building a wireless network.

Yet Google still positioned itself to profit from the newly available airwaves by ensuring the bids for the so-called “C block” escalated to $4.6 billion. Reaching that price triggered a provision that requires the new wireless network to accommodate all mobile devices, including equipment using a software package called “Android” that is supposed to give Google a better opportunity to sell more advertising.

Pre-Registration for FM's Second CM Summit, This Time, In NYC! (Searchblog Readers Only)

By - March 20, 2008


Last September my company, FM, hosted the first ever Conversational Marketing Summit in San Francisco. I wrote about it here. The event was a hit – sold out, good buzz, great speakers and attendees. I was proud (and very nervous about hosting our first event).

This year it’s back, and we’re doing it twice. First, in New York, the capital of brand marketing. That will be this June 9-10, as part of New York’s Internet Week (official site). Then we’ll do it again in SF this Fall – more on that event later.

But first, to our June event. If you read my rant on ad networks a few days ago, you know I’ve been thinking a lot about brand marketing, the online world, and conversational media. So it should not come as a surprise what the theme is this year. We’re calling it “New Brand Way”, and in our two days of conversation, we’re hoping to move the needle a bit on some sticky issues in marketing and media.

Logo 2

We’re selling only 300 or so tickets to this event. We’ve found that keeping the audience intimate makes for a really valuable use of everyone’s time. And those of you who’ve been to events I’ve run know we don’t waste folks’ time.

Readers of Searchblog get a chance to register early, and get a 25% discount. The code to use to get that big discount is JBAT25D. This discount won’t last long. We do events right, we spend real money on production, audio visual, and decent food (we’re doing it at the Ritz Carlton, after all). So get the discount while it’s hot!

Speakers include:

Jeff Berman, EVP – Marketing and Content, MySpace. Curious how MySpace’s plans to make money in social media? Me too!

Eileen Naugton, Director of Media Platforms, Google. Eileen is in charge of Google’s media monetization strategy, including YouTube. Yep, that’s a big job.

Matt Freeman, CEO, Tribal DDB. Matt is a leader in creating new forms of marketing online. See his interview in Ad Age here for more on his kind of thinking.

Michael Hoefflinger, GM – Partner Marketing, Intel. You know Intel Inside? The one with a billion dollars to spend each year? That’s Mike’s program.

Wenda Millard Harris, President, Media, Martha Stewart. Wenda is also Chair of the IAB and used to run Yahoo’s brand advertising sales. She’s got tons to say, as you might imagine.

Rich Silverstein, co-chair, Goodby Silverstein. Yep, he makes great 30 second spots. But his agency is also leading in online innovation. So what does he have to say about the future of our medium?

Mark Kantor, CEO, Graffitti Wall. Want to know how to succeed on Facebook? Talk to Mark.

Jonah Bloom, Editor in Chief, Ad Age….

….and many, many more.

Below are some highlights from my write up of the theme. If it reads like a post on Searchblog, well, you should not be surprised. In fact, what I’m pasting below is pretty much the beginning of my second post on ad networks and brands. But I’ll get to that later, maybe this weekend…


CM Summit New York

June 9-10, 2008

The Ritz Carlton Battery Park

“New Brand Way”

Close your eyes and imagine leafing through your favorite magazine – Vogue, perhaps. A two-page spread halts your progress – the image of a beautiful, sophisticated woman standing in the doorway of a crumbling Havana doorway, with an elegant brand – “Lancome” – etched in the lower right corner. Or perhaps it’s a spread in Fortune, an arresting montage of imagery featuring a Jaguar automobile, a model you’ve never seen before.

Now, open your eyes, and imagine the same experience online.

Having a hard time?

As marketers, we love scale, and we demand safety and quality. But somewhere along the online way, we’ve forgotten about engagement.

Brand marketers are experts at using traditional media to build demand for their brands – over the past 50 years, we’ve perfected the art of the engaging spread, the irresistible 30-second spot. But when it comes to online, we have yet to find our footing.

Instead, we’ve funded the first ten-plus years of the commercial Internet with direct response dollars, pouring “branded display” budgets into ad networks and CPC vehicles. We’ve tried just about everything, to be sure, and we do buy display units on our favorite sites. Yet we’re often disappointed with the performance they deliver.

To paraphrase Wenda Harris Millard, Chair of the IAB, we must not trade our brands like pork bellies. Brands are not commodities, so why are we judging our online marketing by the standards of direct response? Is it, perhaps, because we can? Or, perhaps, is it because we don’t know how to measure that magic that occurs between a consumer’s ears when they first see the image of a beautiful woman standing in a crumbling doorway?

To keep building our brands, we have to go where the audience has gone. And every month, more than 600 million people visit conversational media sites – foreign lands when it comes to brand marketing. Or ….are they?

At the second Conversational Marketing Summit, our first in the brand capital of New York City, we’ll tackle this conundrum head on. What kind of marketing works in social media? Which of the lessons learned from marketing in traditional media apply when the audience joins the conversation? Why will we pay an $80 CPM to reach women, 18-34, in Vogue, but just $3 to reach the same audience online? What do we make of the promised new platforms from Google, AOL, Microsoft, and Yahoo? Are CPC networks simply harvesting the hard won brand value we’ve built offline? How does one create engagement and build brands in the context of conversational media? What are the online analogs to the executions we so love in magazines and television, and how do we execute them? Who’s already doing it right, and how?

It’s time to reclaim our brands online, and to declare marketers a full and fair participant in the burgeoning conversation that is the online media world. In short, it’s a New Brand Way online, and it starts at the CM Summit, New York. Join us!


I hope to see you guys there. And if you have input, thoughts, ideas for making this program better, please let me know. Thanks!

Google's Second Click Conflict Dominates SES Panel Today

By - March 18, 2008

Gooog Finance

At SES, while I was on a panel about universal search, Comscore today released some really interesting data. We spent the rest of the hour debating the meaning of if all. It was like getting muffins straight from the oven – no one has seen it, not even the product manager of universal search at Google, whose service the data analyzed.

You can find in the moment coverage of the news here. What I found fascinating about this – not just the data, but the chance to really think about universal search – is the age-old conflict that Google faces between being a pure navigation service – “We get you where you want to go” – and being a media company – “We get you to our properties, where we make more money if you stay.”

This conflict is very real, urgent, and present.

To pretend otherwise is to ignore the reality of YouTube, Google News, Google Maps, Google Local, the onebox interface, Knol, and everything else Google owns that represent the chance for them to make money the way every other media company in the world makes money – by competing for your attention and monetizing it with advertising. (I’ve been on about this for some time).

Google’s brand promise – to be neutral, to be above monetary interest – is in conflict with, well, the rest of Google’s brand promise, to be a superstar stock, to grow faster than any company in the history of the world. And all of that is in conflict with …. Google’s brand promise, to get consumers to the best answer, fastest, regardless of who owns the content. Because…sometimes, that content is now owned by Google. But how to prove that those neutral algorithms picked Google above all else, while avoiding the appearance of conflict?

Universal search interfaces break the ten year stranglehold of ten blue links and surface new media types – images, data sets (like stocks, weather, etc.), videos. In doing so, they also break the conformity of SEO – search engine optimization – and lay bare Google’s own editorial choices. Why when you search for stocks does Google Finance come first? Let’s be honest here. It’s not because some neutral algorithm chose Google Finance. It’s because Google owns that data. Google’s representative admitted as much on our panel today.

And, given that, can one reasonably ask why, according to Comscore’s data, the preponderance of results that come up in Google’s universal search are YouTube? Might it be because they are they best results? Sure. Might it also be because Google owns YouTube, which is madly trying to monetize the second, third, and fourth click with new models that it hopes to heck are going to pay off?

Sure. Yahoo’s been doing this for a long time. But then, Yahoo’s a media company, init? As I wrote in 2005:

“With its shortcuts Yahoo makes no pretense of objectivity—it

is clearly steering searchers toward its own editorial services, which

it believes can satisfy the intent of the search. In effect, Yahoo is

saying “You’re looking for stuff on Usher? We got stuff on Usher,

and it’s good stuff. Try what we suggest; we think it’ll be worth

your time.”

Apparent in that sentiment lies a key distinction between

Google and Yahoo. Yahoo is far more willing to have overt editorial

and commercial agendas, and to let humans intervene in search results

so as to create media that supports those agendas. Google, on

the other hand, is repelled by the idea of becoming a content- or editorially

driven company. While both companies can ostensibly lay

claim to the mission of “organizing the world’s information and

making it accessible” (though only Google actually claims that line

as its mission), they approach the task with vastly different stances.” (The Search, page 239-240)

At least, that used to be the difference between Google and Yahoo.

Google is in new and uncharted ground here. And mark my words, it won’t be easy for the company to navigate. But then, we knew that, right?