free html hit counter December 2008 - Page 3 of 5 - John Battelle's Search Blog

OK, AOL Didn't Quite Work Out, But..

By - December 09, 2008

maybe we can save our publishing butts with Kosmix.

In 1998 Google founder Sergey Brin offered fellow Stanford University PhD students Anand Rajarman and Venky Harinarayan the chance to buy Google for $1m (£675,000). They said no.

A year later, with Amazon’s backing, Mr Rajarmand and Mr Harinarayan offered $300m. But Mr Brin, and Google co-founders Larry Page, refused to accept less than $1bn.

Today the Indian internet entrepreneurs have secured $20m of new funding from Time Warner for their own search site – Kosmix.

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Google Down Year to Year, Part Two

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The meme is growing

Internet search, which has so far served as a dependable source of growth for online advertising, could possibly see its first-ever sequential decline in the first quarter of next year, according to a Wall Street analyst.

That in turn will be a likely drag on Google Inc.’s revenue, Citigroup analyst Mark Mahaney said in a note to clients Monday.

Mahaney said that he’s sensing “nervousness” about the first quarter of next year, which could mark “the first negative sequential growth quarter ever for search.”

An Interview With @comcastcares

By - December 06, 2008

Comcastcares Pic

Perhaps the best example of a company leveraging new media to turn nasty customer complaints into happy customer evangelists is Comcast. Yes, you read that right, Comcast. This nifty piece of conversational jujitsu has been accomplished in large part by Frank Eliason, better known by his handle @comcastcares on Twitter.

I’ve been following Frank’s work on Twitter for a while, it seemed he was always listening to what folks were saying, and when folks (inevitably) ranted about Comcast service, he jumped in, and almost always seemed to fix the problem. Then it happened to me, in October, my service started acting deeply flaky, and I complained about it.

I quickly got a response, and when I moved to a new place last month, he helped again. Then just this weekend, my new Internet service started acting flaky again, and in ten minutes, Frank had assessed the problem and helped me fix it, calmly, intelligently, and in the grammar natural to social media.

I wanted to learn more about Frank and Comcast’s efforts in this area, so I emailed him and asked if he’d do an interview. Below is the result. Thanks Frank!

So question one: How did you end up being Comcast’s Twitter agent? Whose idea was it, and how long have you been doing it?

I started at Comcast back in September, 2007 managing a small service team. Starting on my 4th day we reached out to a few bloggers via phone after they made a post. Based on comments on the web, we were seeing success. Starting in December we started posting on a few blogs. This brought a new round of success. In February I was asked to create a team and make this a full time job. My title evolved to Director of Digital Care. Responsibilities included blogs, forums, and moderating our own help forums. At the time we started a daily newsletter. A VP from our Southwest Area, Scott Westerman (@ComcastScott on Twitter) responded one day in February that we should check out Twitter. We started watching it, reaching out via phone on occasion. In April we began to Tweet regularly.

The service we get in Twitter is superior, in my experience, to calling the support number. You quickly access the issue, you get things done – for example, sending a service rep out right away, or finding the right information to solve a problem. These things take forever and don’t work very well in traditional channels. Can this scale past Twitter? Are senior execs at Comcast paying attention to what you are doing?

We are working hard to improve the overall experience for all our communication channels. We view social media as simply another communication channel similar to phone, email or chat. I thank you for the compliment regarding my service, but I do know others with in the phone and email channels that are much better than I. One of the ways we are making the improvement is through improved tools. One of the tools is something called Grand Slam. Now I have been using this tool for awhile. It makes everything much easier. We are in the process of rolling this out to everyone. You can think of it has a dashboard of the technical aspects of your service. Everything is in one place. It also provides other diagnostic tools that are a click away. As a good example, here is a blog post from this week on Crunchgear:

I know from experience this is from this tool. She was able to analyze the signals which were good, but then she ran a ping test and most likely a traceroute to the modem to determine that something was incorrect. Not only is this good for the Customer it is also good for our technicians so we are looking to make the corrections at the right area.

This effort to improve the service for our Customers stems right from the senior leadership of Comcast. They are dedicated to seeing this happen. In terms of the work of my team, they are very supportive and they have cited my team as examples of what we should all be striving to do for our Customers.

The folks on Twitter might be called “influencers” in the world of tech media and the web. How are they different from other folks you’ve helped? Have you noticed an “amplification” effect of helping them in terms of the Comcast brand?

We monitor the entire web to assist when we can. This is done through searching blogs, help forums, other social media websites and Twitter. In terms of how many we helped, that is a little hard to completely assess because in Twitter we sometimes fully resolve via tweets. In forums and blogs we will provide a response if we can but sometimes we will call or shift to email. Our email address ( also sees a lot of activity from people that have located it on the web. We have estimate that since the start of the year we have assisted over 10000 Customers. This is based on the amount of emails we have resolved, the number of tickets we have worked with other areas to resolve, and analysis of some of our tweets. Since actively tweeting I have had 19,895 public tweets and 5,925 private tweets. I also have over 5500 followers.

I really do not help anyone different whether it be a person on the street, someone who randomly sends an email, or those I meet on Twitter. What people see with me is what they get. There are a number of people on Twitter that like to blog and certainly share their life events. We have built relationships and we are a part of their life so we have seen 1 or 2 blog posts about our efforts. But I am a simple service guy, that is not my goal or objective. I just want to help if I can.

But you are a director, right? What did you do before Comcast? How many people do you manage?

I am Director of Digital Care. Today (I manage) 7, but I am in the process of hiring 3 additional.
Prior to joining Comcast I was a manager of Quality Assurance and Customer Satisfaction for a bank. 

Congrats on hiring in this economy! Would you be willing to answer questions in comments here?


Thanks Frank!

I Want Shoes That Look Like THIS – I Plan to Link to New Search Tools Again

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Shoe Search

I’ve decided to start linking to new stuff in search that gets sent to me again, but be forewarned – I won’t be able to give it a full grokking. That said, a lot of new stuff has landed in my inbox, and it always bums me out to have to say “sorry guys I don’t have time.” So from now on, if something catches my eye, I’m going to link to it and give a (very) brief overview. If anyone out there wants to send me stuff, go right ahead, and know that whatever you mail to me I may borrow from to describe whatever it is you’ve built.

First up is Modista. It comes from Berkeley (GO BEARS) so perhaps that’s what tipped it for me. From the email:

We are two computer science Ph.D. students at UC Berkeley, and we’d like to tell you about our project.

Modista applies visual search to online shopping, but it’s very different from We use the technology to enable product discovery, so users can browse huge inventories quickly and effectively. It fundamentally changes the user experience: rather than navigating text-based menus and scrolling through lists of results, you can simply rely on your visual intuition.

As we all know, our ability to sort massive amounts of information using our visual cortex far outstrips our ability to sort using textual analysis. I really like this tool, but the real test is whether my wife will!

GOOG's A Steal Sez Analyst: Q4 Insight From Redacted Blog Post?

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A price target of 450! Wow, that’s like way above where it is now. Wait, where are we, in 2004?! Check this note from UBS (can’t link, bc banks are so 1991):

* Google highlights paid click growth and e-commerce activity

A recent post on the official Google Retail blog referenced some encouraging e-Commerce/paid click trends for the Black Friday through Cyber Monday period, both in terms of broader e-Commerce (cited from comScore) but also GOOG’s internally-tracked paid click growth for Cyber Monday in several key retail categories, many of which were up double-digits vs. the year ago period.

* GOOG paid click volumes up double digits y/y across key retail categories

According to the post, GOOG paid click volumes for Cyber Monday were up y/y in retail categories such as Department Stores (up 39%), Books & Magazines (up 28%), Comparison shopping (up 25%), Sports & Fitness (up 24%), Home Furnishings (up 14%), and Apparel (up 9%).

* Positive data (though it represents only one day)

It is not often that GOOG releases such data points, making it difficult to put this data into context. However, seeing key categories up 9-39% y/y is a positive, and indicates that consumers are still searching for retail products, deals and coupons. We remain cautious on the holiday/4Q outlook however (due in part to the five fewer days between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year), but it’s interesting to see GOOG releasing this type of data.

* Valuation: Maintain Buy rating, $450 Price Target

$450 target based on UBS VCAM DCF, and implies 21x our 2009 EPS estimate.

What the post does NOT say is that the post in question, which you can find here, used to have internal Google numbers, but they were redacted when someone at Google realized they were, well, perhaps giving away earnings for Q4. The post, which an astute reader capture before redaction, used to read:

This year’s Monday after Thanksgiving saw 2 million more consumers shopping online than Cyber Monday 2007, a 22% increase according to comScore. Consumers surfed, saw and shopped their way through the many discounts offered across the web representing a whopping 15% increase in spend over last year, the second heaviest online spending day ever! (comScore) Google paid click volume was also up, year over year, in categories like Department Stores (39%), Books & Magazines (28%), Comparison shopping (25%) and Sports & Fitness (24%). Even categories like Apparel (9%) and Home Furnishings (14%) were up. (Google Internal Data, Category Leaders)

If the Retail Pundits are right, the online holiday shop-a-thon will continue well into the Holiday Season.

I bolded the stuff that was redacted. Hmmmmmmmmmm……after some, er, Googling, I see SAI got this too...

Yahoo Search Insight

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Good insight from RWW on Yahoo Search plans:

Next year, Yahoo will introduce new technology to augment their Yahoo Search results: abstracts of key information alongside URLs. Instead of just offering a list of links, Yahoo’s search results will include machine-extracted information that is relevant to the URL returned. Sound familiar? The technology is very much like SearchMonkey, except for one thing: this time the technology is being built in-house and not by independent third-party developers.

Reader RupertG Writes…

By - December 04, 2008

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Reader RupertG writes: I’m not sure that there’s a huge great wobbly lump of wondermoney

sitting at the end of the real-time web search rainbow
]]> Read More Read More

Well, That Says It All

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From American Lawyer:

Google Inc. and Yahoo! Inc. called off their joint advertising agreement just three hours before the Department of Justice planned to file antitrust charges to block the pact, according to the lawyer who would have been lead counsel for the government.