free html hit counter March 2009 - John Battelle's Search Blog


By - March 31, 2009

I’m traveling this week, and most likely quiet on the site, though one never knows. …. follow me on Twitter if you want the blow by blow, I’m in NY for an Amex small business event…I’ll post more on Twitter once I have details.

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That Which I've Missed While Paying Attention

By - March 27, 2009

Fridays have become days where I catch up on all that I’ve missed during a hectic week of travel and focused meetings with the team at FM and tons of really interesting partners.

The past week has been particularly rich in travel and meetings, which means I’ve not noted nearly all the things I’d like to here.

So in no particular order, here are a few thoughts about things I’ve seen lately.

First, I’ve been talking with Richard Rosenblatt at Demand Media quite a bit, he has a model that is really gathering momentum. A caveat, we share an investor in Oak, but it wasn’t Oak that created the lucky coincidence of Richard and I sharing a flight from LA to San Jose earlier in the week. Demand is based in LA, and like many successful companies there, is often overlooked up here in the Valley or out in New York. But Richard and his team are quietly building a major media company in the flats of Santa Monica. I won’t give away all of Richard’s secret sauce, but he has a content strategy that really groks search and social media (you can see on example of it here, with YouTube, and get a sense of what he’s all about here, in his talk at Web 2 last year).

Next, I met with the CEO and CTO of Aardvark this week. There is a really, really, really long post in that company and its platform, and how it changes the framing and the game in terms of mixing conversational interfaces, out-of-the box approaches to scale, and more. A few big ideas: leveraging the deep knowledge that is buried not in the web, but in each of our heads (real time, conversational search platform); building a service that is not in any way dependent upon becoming a destination; giving someone your email is the equivalent of allowing them to add something to your To Do list; the implications of the data that this service creates; and much more. My spidey senses go off about once every year or two. They are off the chart on this company.

I spent a good couple of hours at HP this week as well. FM has done business with nearly every division of HP over the past four years, and it’s remarkable to spend time simmering in the culture of a company that is, in just about every way possible, Really Grown Up. HP has more than 300K employees, but it was founded on the base principles (and with the base narrative) to which nearly every Valley startup aspires. Every time I visit I am struck by the sterility and grayness of the company’s initial appearance, and then how warm, innovative, and driven the people working there turn out to be.

Which leads me to Google. I’ve been getting a lot of feedback from folks about troubles and growing pains there, and have done a fair amount of thinking about it. I’ve been sort of hard on the company of late, but there is a much longer thought piece to be written along the lines of themes I’ve been all about for the past five years – how does the company become, well, more like HP? I met this week with Katie Stanton Jacobs, a former Google who is now Director of Citizen Participation at the White House. (How cool is that title?!). Our conversation reinforced my thinking about the pros and the cons of working at Google now. The company has a very hard transition to make, to my mind, in terms of talent retention and management style. But that’s not endemic to Google, it’s endemic to any great company that has reached the lofty position in which Google finds itself. And by the way, what Katie is doing – leaving a very good job with tons of stock to work for the government and try to really change the world – well that’s just really, really inspiring.

I gave a keynote earlier in the week at the OMMA conference, and then sat on a panel about social media. OMMA was pretty well attended, just as IAB was in February, reminding me once again that our industry, while deeply impacted by this recession, continues to be optimistic and focused on investment in the future.

While in LA I met with several large clients, including an auto manufacturer, a major New York agency and brand, and representatives of several large entertainment brands. I can’t say much about the meetings other than to report that while the economy may be in the dumper, there is still a lot of spending, a lot of innovation, and a lot of excitement about the future.

Earlier I met with the founders of Livescribe and am currently testing their Pulse pen. This device initially seems like a “nice to have” gadget but the implications are profound. Like Aardvark, it pushes the web and computing out of the boxes we are comfortable with. Ideas to note: the paper Internet; capturing the investment of hundreds of years of writing culture (in all its manifestations as reflective of our minds and fingers); binaural microphone and privacy/social implications; “pencasting” and the concept of “authoring a flash movie using pen and paper.” Mind bending. Both companies will be at our CM Summit, FWIW.

Speaking of Summits, I did a lot of work on both the CM and Web 2 Summits this week. The lineups for both is really coming together. I don’t write much about how I do this kind of work, but it’s a lot like reporting – I make a lot of phone calls to a lot of people, and brainstorm about who might have something to say that will resonate with the program. This was a particularly fruitful week on both conferences, we’re nearly through blocking out the entire CM Summit program, and we’re very close to announcing the theme and initial line up of speakers for Web 2. Stay tuned, as they say.

Oh, and it was a big week for innovation with Twitter. With our partners McCann and Microsoft, we launched a first – ExecTweets, an experiment in collaborative publishing that reflects a lot of innovative (and ongoing) thinking – big props to Marc Ruxin at McCann and his partner at Microsoft Bill Capodanno, who both had the vision to lean into this program in a way that works for the Twitterverse, and are committed to ongoing iteration and learning.

We launched a second Twitter program yesterday as well – MarchTweetness, which is focused on college basketball, as you might expect, and big props go out to AT&T for also seeing the value of adding value to the Twitterverse.

Now, on to more writing, thinking, and Friday-ing. Hope yours is going well, and have a great weekend.

The Conversational Interface

By - March 25, 2009

I have been thinking about this a lot. How we are finally taking technology and making it serve our evolution, the two major breakthroughs of being human – our fingers – finely tuned gesticulation as a reflection of our minds – and our voices – again, finally tuned expression of our minds.

Pattie is on to something here.

This post is really a bookmark of sorts, for more thinking that I’ve been doing about how this relates to search, real time search, and interface.
Props to Jeff Kravitz (among others) who reminded me how important this is. Jeff is a wonderful photographer, check out his work here.

Searchblog – Now with FB Connect

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sblog FB COnnect.pngThanks to the hard working folks at Six Apart and Ivan at FM, Searchblog now lets you comment using your Facebook login. This makes it a lot easier to leave comments if you’re already on Facebook. Now, if I can only get the Facebook comments on my tweets of these posts to populate on this blog (hint hint, Facebook), the loop will be complete!  

New York CM Summit Lineup Posted, Registration Open

By - March 24, 2009

cmsny2009_colorlogolarge.jpgOur annual event in New York, The Conversational Marketing Summit, has just announced its initial lineup. It’s going to be very, very good. I host this event each year in New York and this year we are focusing on answering a simple question: What Works?  

Speakers include:

Fred Wilson, who I can’t wait to talk to about his investments in Twitter, Comscore, Tacoda, Boxee, Clickable, Etsy, Tumblr, and tons of other really intersting CM companies.

Bonnie Fuller, the world’s most successful women’s interest editor, who is striking out on her own, a la Arianna Huffington.

Speaking of which, Betsy Morgan, CEO of HuffPo, will also be on hand to discuss that property’s extraordinary growth.

Representing the majors will be Mike Hoefflinger, who left Intel (where he ran $1 billion of partner marketing programs) to head up product marketing at Facebook, and Eileen Naugton, who directs brand initiatives across Google.

Magid Abraham, CEO of Comscore, will give us insight on measurement, and we’ve got a pride of senior agency and media folks: Sean Finnegan, President and Chief Digital Officer of Starcom, Marc Ruxin, EVP and Chief Innovation Officer of McCaan, Richard Kang, EVP at MTV Networks.

And major brands will be well represented: Lou Paskalis, VP Global Media at American Express, Jen Walsh, Global Director of Digital Media for GE, Lucas Watson, Global Team Leader for Digital at P&G, and many many more.

And of course you know I love innovative companies, so joining us will be Max Ventilla, CEO of Aardvark, Oren Michels, CEO of Mashery, and Seth Goldstein, CEO of Social Media.

And that’s just a taste. Join me in New York, to kick off Internet Week, June 1-2. Register here !

Design and Google

By - March 23, 2009

Another note in the ongoing opera being written as folks leave Google, this one quite declarative. From a designer leaving Google and blogging about it:

When a company is filled with engineers, it turns to engineering to solve problems. Reduce each decision to a simple logic problem. Remove all subjectivity and just look at the data. Data in your favor? Ok, launch it. Data shows negative effects? Back to the drawing board. And that data eventually becomes a crutch for every decision, paralyzing the company and preventing it from making any daring design decisions.

If this sounds familiar, it’s because it sounds like the very cultural rift I predicted in January would keep the company from being a truly media (and human) driven player (not that it has to be, mind you, just that it’s in the media business and will struggle with this dichotomy).

I’ve often compared the paths of Google and Microsoft, so his closing quote caught my eye as interesting:

Google was a massive aircraft carrier, and I was just a small dinghy trying to push it a few degrees North.

An "Undifferentiated slush of results"

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I love this piece in Ad Age if only for the way it characterizes Google’s results, at least in the eyes of a troubled traditional media world:

Major media companies are increasingly lobbying Google to elevate their expensive professional content within the search engine’s undifferentiated slush of results.

Many publishers resent the criteria Google uses to pick top results, starting with the original PageRank formula that depended on how many links a page got. But crumbling ad revenue is lending their push more urgency; this is no time to show up on the third page of Google search results. And as publishers renew efforts to sell some content online, moreover, they’re newly upset that Google’s algorithm penalizes paid content.

“You should not have a system,” one content executive said, “where those who are essentially parasites off the true producers of content benefit disproportionately.”

Where “true producers,” of course, are media companies that make packaged goods content. On the other hand, there is a point here. And the piece is worthy of the read.


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execetweets.pngThis morning marks the launch of ExecTweets, a platform my company has built working with Microsoft, its sponsor, and Twitter. I’m proud of the work here, it reflects a lot of thinking about how to use conversations like Twitter to fuel what I hope is a value-added experience. In this case, we’re filtering for business-realated content from senior execs in various industries, like retail, healthcare, government, and more, and we’ve created a platform for community conversation, voting, input, and recommendations. (FM blog post here).

It’s a first effort, and we’re already working on the next iteration. Microsoft has been a great partner because they understand the concept of marketing as conversational media, not just as “campaigns to be flighted.” And it’s been great to work with Twitter, which in its blog post announcing ExecTweets notes: “our focused commitment to Twitter itself means we don’t have much time or resources to build these interesting topical experiences. It turns out the folks over at Federated Media have both the resources and the expertise. So if you’re a major brand and you want to sponsor a topic-focused social media experience with Twitter, we suggest Federated Media—they’ll fix you up right.”

Appreciate the shout out. And yes, as Mashable notes, this is partially a business model for Twitter, but it’s not one of the major legs of the stool, (directionally, it is for FM, but it’s not a cornerstone for Twitter – more of my thoughts on TweetSense and other Twitter models here). Twitter has a history of promoting applications and projects they think are interesting, relevant, or valuable regardless of any financial arrangement. Federated Media felt that Twitter should share some of the revenue associated with ExecTweets since this project is made possible using their open platform.

We hope to do a lot more projects along these lines, please let me know what you think, and how we can improve them.

Comparing Twitter Growth to FBook, GOOG

By - March 21, 2009

It’s Twitter’s third birthday, and there’s been lots of chatter about Twitter’s growth lately, so I thought I’d try to find some context.

Google (officially) launched in Sept 1998

Three years later it had nearly 18mm US uniques (comscore)

Facebook launched in mid 2004

Three years later it had nearly 27mm US unique users (comscore)

Twitter launched in March 2006

Three years later it has (roughly) 8 million US uniques users (compete)

Interesting to note the velocity of growth in Twitter’s chart, it’s clearly picking up. But even with a much larger Web audience than Google had back in 1998-2001, Twitter is not yet tracking to Google’s (or Facebook’s) early growth. But if it keeps growing like this, it just may.

Also worth noting: Twitter is a distributed service, leveraging a lot of “instances” of Twitter (Tweetdeck, Twhirl, SMS users) and I have heard that nearly half of its “users” don’t even hit the main site at any given time….

I should add, the numbers are not all from the same source, Comscore’s Google numbers come from old Media Mextrix info, and I could not find any current Comscore info on Twitter on the Comscore site. If you have better numbers, leave em in comments and I’ll add to the post!