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15,000 Words You Might Have Missed

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Book Open-8

One of my readers noted that I’ve written a lot of off-blog stuff, and I’m rather proud of it. And I’ve noted (in my “How did I do 2008” post) that I did not really make the progress I wish I had on my book. But working with partners like Amex, I wrote nearly 20 column-sized pieces – around 15,000 words – and nearly all of them are sketches toward the book I hope to write. Here are some of the pieces I wrote elsewhere this year:

American Express Open Forum Blog

It’s Time to Put This Myth To Rest

In which I argue that marketing works in social media.

Leadership In Troubled Times

When things go wrong, take responsibility.

As The World Turns..Inside Out

My opening post on the economic troubles this past Fall.

Think Local, Act Conversational – It Just Might Save Your Business

How conversant is your small business?

Product Development IS Marketing, And Vice Versa

The title says it all.

Take 48!

A new policy we put in place at FM, picked up on by the WSJ.

Every Great Business Is An Argument

What’s your argument?

Three Steps to Becoming A Web Conversationalist

Some tips on getting conversant.

More On Search and Your Business

A few “Search 101” tips.

Linking Search, Conversation, And Your Site

How it all fits together.

The Successful Business Owner Is a Great Conversationalist

How good are you?

You’re In the Media Business Now.

This is my core argument for all businesses, regardless of industry.

Future of Search – Sponsored by Reuters

Is Microsoft Cashback the Future of Search?

Where Microsoft got it right, and wrong.

A Search Is Not Just A Search

Toward a new interface in search.

Thought Leadership Series – Looksmart

Shifting Search from Static to Real-time

My Twitter moment.

Algorithms and Community: Voice Wins

At the end of the day, we’re people first.

What We Lose As Search Gets Personal

A case for a common search experience.

Predictions 08: How Did I Do?

By - December 30, 2008

Crystal Ball-Tm-Tm-Tm


2007 Predictions

2007 How I Did

2006 Predictions

2006 How I Did

2005 Predictions

2005 How I Did

2004 Predictions

2004 How I Did

Reading over my predictions for 2008, I was struck with one thing: It wasn’t a list. It was more of a narrative, making decoding how I did that much more difficult. After the narrative, I focused on the biggies – Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Microsoft, AOL, and Newscorp/FIM. I’ll have to keep that in mind when I post my predictions for 2009 on Jan 1 next year.

So to the task. I first made a list from the narrative, then went back and noted how I did under each item. I think on average, I did pretty well:

Pwc Chart Q3 08-1

1. (On online advertising) I’m going to buck all my colleagues fears, however, and predict that web-based advertising businesses will in fact enjoy significant gains in 2008. These gains, however, will not be evenly distributed.

I think this proved to be true. At least through Q3 2008, online advertising continued double digit year to year growth. Q3 was slower, to be sure, at 11%, but I think we’ll end the year with “significant gains.” Next year, well, that’s going to be another story, but we’ll get to that in my predictions 09 post.

2. It will not be an easy market for major public debuts. But we will see at least one, if not two new IPOs.

I got this partially right. The first part of the sentence was clearly correct. And the second, well, there were a couple new Internet/Tech related IPOs, including RackSpace (price in early August) and ArcSight (enterprise IT, priced in Feb), but they were certainly not in areas I’d call central to what I like to write about, or predicted (see below – I suggested that if the market allowed some big companies might spin assets out (it didn’t and they didn’t)).

3. 2008 will also be seen as the year that proves Conversational Marketing as a new form of advertising

I think this was absolutely accurate. For more on that, see the FM Blog, Chas’s site (FM’s Publisher), and the case studies and writings of scores of folks, including David Armano, David Churbuck, Deb Schultz, Shel Israel, Seth Godin, and of course, all the brands on Twitter.

4. 2008 will be the year of integration indigestion for the majors, and as such, it will mean M&A will slow down for those companies. All those advertising-based acquisitions in 2006-7 will have to start to pay off, and the results will be uneven to say the least.

I think this is pretty accurate. Sure, the majors made acquisitions, but nothing like what we saw in 2007. AOL did buy Bebo. But as for ad plays, results have been very uneven for Yahoo (Right Media, Blue Lithium, etc), and Microsoft (aQuantive, etc). Google seems to be doing better with DoubleClick, and it remains to be seen what AOL can do with Bebo and its earlier acquisition of Tacoda. continues to be a bright spot for the company.

5. …continued erosion of the traditional mobile oligarchy. But despite the best efforts of Android, not much will get done this year

Well, we saw a phone, but it hasn’t lit the world on fire. Google is using them as employee gifts instead of cash this year.

6. As for the Web 2 world, we’ll see a ton of venture funded companies go by the wayside


7. We’ll also see an uptick in acquisitions, as the boards of companies that that thought they were worth tens or hundreds of millions of dollars decide to settle for decent returns.

Also true, but I sense I was a bit early on this. I think this will happen more next year.

Now for the company specific predictions. First, Google:

1. 2008 will be the year Wall Street gets frustrated with Google.

Sometimes, a picture says it best:

Goog 2008

It’s clear the bloom came off the Google Wall St. rose in 2008.

2. Google will continue to struggle with its display advertising business, at least as it is traditionally understood, in part due to a culture conflict between its engineering-based roots and the thousands of media-saavy sales and marketing folks the company has hired in the past two years

I think this clearly occurred (note Armstrong’s acknowledgement of this issue here, Comscore noted that Google had just 1.5% of the display market by June), but with the appointment of David Rosenblatt as President, Display, I expect the conflict to be resolved, at least temporarily. I do not believe, however, that this issue is anywhere near off the table. To do display right, you have to act like a publisher.


1. Yahoo, meanwhile, will spend most of 2008 trying to figure out what to do with what it bought in 2007, and attempting to articulate a strategy that is anything but “we have 500 million users, so we must be important.” By mid year, it will have succeeded.

Well, I was right about the first part, and very, very wrong about the second. I guess I was just too optimistic that Yahoo would get its shit together by mid year. Both the bear hug that was the lost Microsoft deal, and then the goat rodeo that was the lost Google deal, killed any clarity at Yahoo. But I do believe there is a comeback story to be written there. It just won’t be Jerry writing it.

2. By year’s end, Yahoo will have combined in a major way with another third party, and it won’t be either [Microsoft or Google].

In a funny way, I was right about the key part here – that Yahoo would NOT combine with either Microsoft or Google, though it clearly tried to do both. I was intonnating it might combine with another biggie, and the one I had in mind was AOL. This almost happened by year’s end (hey, there are a few more days…) and clearly I think WILL happen early next year – Yahoo needs a CEO first, most insiders agree.


1. Microsoft will fail to gain much traction in anything that is Web related

I think I nailed this one.

2. In 2008, Microsoft will finally figure out what do to with aQuantive, and by the end of the year, it will be clear what the company must do with it: Let it free.

While I am not sure I nailed this one, the key folks at aQuantive did leave recently, and what I’ve heard about the integration there lead me to believe this could have happened, but now, I think Microsoft is committed to the platform it is building off the service.


1. First, the company will suffer from a serious identity crisis, as it realizes it must change its core DNA from tech- and founder-focused startup to media-focused Real Company with Lots of Employees

This one is really hard to prove, but I think it’s arguably very true. All the anecdotes I’ve heard about the company in the past year (the employee stock repricings, the rumors of a hiring freeze, early founders leaving, etc.) point to this conclusion.

2. the company will find itself stuck in the hell of pre IPO preparations, again, like Google in 2003-4. This will frustrate company leaders to the point of looking for a CEO whose job is, in essence, to talk to Wall Street. But until Facebook figures out a way to justify its lofty valuation, this hire will be stymied.

I think the markets let Facebook off the hook on this issue, for this year. I asked Mark about his role as CEO at Web 2, and he seemed content to stay in the position. Instead, he brought in Sheryl Sandberg from Google. However, if Facebook wants to go public late next year (assuming a recovery), I think this will remain an issue.

3. the most important short term focus for the company in 2008 will be solving for the Social Ads quandry. (By this I mean how to build the equivalent of a AdWords and AdSense for the “social graph.”) Though it will take promising steps, the company will fail to get it just right, at least by the end of the year and all by itself, but it will still find itself profitable and on the path toward an 2009 IPO

I think I got this right. However, I have no idea if the company is profitable anymore. It was a year ago, but it’s hard to say now. I do know the company has not significantly grown its employee base (it’s at around 7-800), but the service itself is growing very, very quickly, and all those servers are damn expensive. I think Facebook stands on the brink of solving the social ads issue, but it has yet to do so. Facebook Connect is key to this. We’ll know a lot more when and if we see a public filing next year.

Twitter Fail Whale-300X225

4. By mid 2008, there will be very serious rumors about an acquisition battle over the company between Google and Microsoft. But Facebook will play the middle, and most likely cut a deal with a third party, which despite the strong relationship with Microsoft, could well be Yahoo or a smaller but growing company that looks a lot like Facebook.

Always the subject of takeover rumors wrt MSFT and GOOG, Facebook worked very hard to make me look like a genius when it tried to acquire Twitter last month. Alas, Evan decided to make this prediction a tantalizing “almost.”


1. Platform A will go public, if the markets allow. The rest of AOL will be sold or folded into Time Warner in ways that, regrettably, will finally signal the end of the original Case-ian dream.

Markets did NOT allow. And for now, AOL remains a continual cultural thorn in the side of a rapidly deflating Time Warner. We’ll see if Yahoo and Time Warner can agree on the right price/structure to put the two companies together.


1. Major problems will become apparent by early in the year, and those problems have to do with structure: Who is really in charge of “Fox Interactive”, and what does that mean?…. There will be a battle for control over all of Newscorp’s interactive assets, one that will limit the company’s ability to execute any clear strategy. That said, MySpace will make a comeback of sorts, and look for it to…

I have to admit, I have no idea if this prediction was true, as I was not close to the company’s internal issues this past year. Any readers have insight? In any case, the lack of a clear strategy was, well, quite clear until it….

2. …cut a very important deal in 2008 with regard to its future.

…until MySpace finally cemented its play in the music space, its core driver, in an very strong move to battle iTunes. It took a while to get a CEO, but that was announced last month as well.

And lastly, my personal prediction:

1. I will be back at work on a book, at least a couple days a week, by mid year. This is simply too important for me to ignore, it’s literally a physical urge I feel now. 2008 will be the year it becomes real for me.

While I wrote a fair amount on the topic of the new book in the past year, in particular in partnership with FM’s clients like American Express, Reuters, and Looksmart, I really did not make any progress here. I am quite unhappy about this, but not defeated. I have plans to figure out how to do this in 09. Really.

Well, that’s my scorecard. I think I got more right than wrong.

How do you think I did?

Top Posts 08

By - December 29, 2008

Here are top posts of 08 for Searchblog, judged by comments. As I review them, I realize that despite my endless complaining about not having time to write this year, I did get some riffs in. Not all of them made the top ten, so I added some of my personal faves at the end.

1. Considering Heresy: Buying a PC

I have an update on this coming, yes, I did buy a PC. Two in fact.

2. Google: Making Nick Carr Stupid, But It’s Made This Guy Smarter

This was very widely picked up, and I still think I’m right!

3. A Brand New Searchblog

I forgot it was this year that Searchblog got a much needed update. Thanks again, Ivan!

4. I Support Barack Obama

And I’m proud to say it again. Amazing how many comments one gets if you write about politics or booze.

5. Danny’s Right: Firefox Is Too Google Biased

This story is not even close to being over.

6. WTF?!

In which I discover I am the first John on Google. Well, WAS the first John.

7. Help Me With a Google-Backed Panel Friday: On CrowdSourcing

In which I crowdsource a panel about crowdsourcing. Yeah, I know.

8. Updated: Exclusive: A Look at Google Ad Planner Data Vs. Comscore

This story had a lot of legs for the middle of August.

9. Chrome: This Is Web OS, Make No Mistake

Another way to get a lot of comments is to claim something is an OS, then watch the OS purists yell at you.

10. Google’s Second Click Conflict Dominates SES Panel Today

This continues to be a central axis of conflict for Google – should it act more like a media company?

And a few of my favorites which were well commented, but did not make the top ten:

Predictions 2008

About to do my “How Did I Do” post…

When Doesn’t It Pay To Pay Attention To Search Quality?

In which I point out that Google has an, er, media issue, again.

Google Loses Trust – Do YOU Trust Google?

In which I point out that Google has a trust issue.

The Web Is Stealing Searches From Microsoft Office

In which I point out that Microsoft’s Office hegemony is falling to search.

The Rise of Independent Media Brands Online

In which I point out that the best stuff on the web is not being created by Big Media Companies.

Privacy: The Frog Boils, Slowly

Searchblog readers, they likey the privacy issue.

Web 2 Conversations: Jerry Yang

Noted: The Battelle curse continues.

Another Call For Search Literacy

I love this topic.

What’s This Fascination with Ad Networks? (Or, the Online Media Business Will Be About Brands First, Technology Second)

In which I point out that ad networks are not an end in and of themselves.

From Static to Realtime Search

A current fascination

The Inbox, Part Two: Facebook Has An Ambient Awareness Problem


Thanks for helping me do this Ivan!

On Marketing in Social Media, and Meals

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Pete Spande, who runs the East for FM and therefore toward whom I am favorably inclined, has written a brief but very true post on the myth that marketing in social media should somehow be free. It’s not free, just like throwing a great social event isn’t free, but it can be very efficient and it can certainly help get marketers to their goals, if done right.

Social Media Marketing is like entertaining in the physical world. If you want to share an experience with a group of people (either personally or professionally) you need to go to where the people are and get their attention or entice them to come to you. In either case, you have to invest something to get a return.

Pete argues there are various ways to get this done. Many marketers take his first approach (pull out all the stops), usually by attaching themselves to well known celebrities (come hang with LeBron in our Officially Sanctioned NBA social media play! (ooops, this site is no longer active!).

This approach (have the Foo Fighters play! Let folks know Britney will be showing up!) usually fails, and has given social marketing a bad name inside many major brands. “Hey, we tried a deal with (Facebook, MSN, Google, etc) and while a lot of people showed up, no needles really moved, and it all seemed to dissipate as quickly as it started.”

That’s because this approach is pretty much more of the same old sh*t – create a social media execution that has very little value as an organic community, pay a large site a fair chunk of dough to push traffic at it, and then watch as the traffic bounces off it as if it were a heat shield.

There’s another way to do it. A few in fact. I’m particularly a fan of two approaches: First, finding the true leaders of a community you care about, and engaging them in a dialog about how best to join the conversation they lead. What you come up with just might be something like HP’s VoicePosts, Intel’s embedding code and support of BB’s OffWorld, or American Express’ Open Forum.

Secondly, I like the approach of determining you have something valuable to add on your own, and you might become a publisher in your own right, as long as what you build is truly valuable. That’s how you end up with Microsoft’s CrowdFire, or Asus’ (or come to think of it, American Express’ Open Forum again.)

Social media marketing is about brands acting, well, social. Which means they need to show up to the party with a nice bottle of wine, if that’s what the party calls for. They need to come ready to have a dialog, and add value to the event. Of course, if they show up with Britney, we won’t complain, if she respects the vibe of the community. If she can’t, well, she probably shouldn’t come in the first place.

Google Zeitgeist 2008

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Google Zeitgeist 2008

Somehow I missed this – came out earlier in the month. Google took a global approach this year, interesting to see top rising results I’ve never heard of before. Wish they were natively linked by Google, but they were not.

Fastest Rising (Global)

1. sarah palin

2. beijing 2008

3. facebook login

4. tuenti

5. heath ledger

6. obama

7. nasza klasa

8. wer kennt wen

9. euro 2008

10. jonas brothers

Here’s the US version: – Fastest Rising (U.S.)

1. obama

2. facebook

3. att

4. iphone

5. youtube

6. fox news

7. palin

8. beijing 2008

9. david cook

10. surf the channel

Google News – Fastest Rising (U.S.)

1. sarah palin

2. american idol

3. mccain

4. olympics

5. ike (hurricane)

A Biosphere of Minds

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From the wonderful Kevin Kelly:

While we have not yet made anything as complex as a human mind, we are trying to. The question is, what would be more complex than a human mind? What would we make if we could? What would such a thing do? In the story of technological evolution – or even biological evolution – what comes after minds?

The usual response to “what comes after a human mind” is better, faster, bigger minds. The same thing only more. That is probably true – we might be able to make or evolve bigger faster minds — but as pictured they are still minds.

A more recent response, one that I have been championing, is that what comes after minds may be a biosphere of minds, an ecological network of many minds and many types of minds – sort of like rainforest of minds – that would have its own meta-level behavior and consequences. Just as a biological rainforest processes nutrients, energy, and diversity, this system of intelligences would process problems, memories, anticipations, data and knowledge. This rainforest of minds would contain all the human minds connected to it, as well as various artificial intelligences, as well as billions of semi-smart things linked up into a sprawling ecosystem of intelligences. Vegetable intelligences, insect intelligences, primate intelligences and human intelligences and maybe superhuman intelligences, all interacting in one seething network. As in any ecosystem, different agents have different capabilities and different roles. Some would cooperate, some would compete. The whole complex would be a dynamic beast, constantly in flux.

Make you think of anything?

Of Note: Semantic Search Expert Dr. Rudi Studer

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From the Yahoo Search blog. Worth a read if you’re into this stuff. I think we’re going to see some breakthroughs in this area thanks to new services like Twitter and others adding a layer of real time data.

So far, semantic technologies have been used in commercial products for data integration, enterprise semantic search and content management, etc. I expect this area to grow, but prospectively I see more and more potential for business opportunities in the combination of the social web and semantic technologies as well as in the context of mashups. An area that is also still largely unexplored is the area of advertisements in the context of semantic search.

Twitter Launches People Search

By - December 23, 2008

Twitter People Search


This is huge for Twitter. As search becomes totally incorporated into the Twitter interface, the service will hit a critical inflection point. Search as its interface is the problem and the solution, and it’s great to see the progress being made (yes, finally). Twitter people search.

As for why I am so all over search as key to Twitter, I’ve got a much longer post in me about that, but at the end of the day, it’s way too hard to figure out how to make Twitter useful for “normal people” – IE those not in the ourosborosphere. Search will help solve that, and at the same time, create the inventory for TweetSense to emerge.