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

These Are A Few of My Favorite Posts – 2009 Edition

By - December 30, 2009

Going through the past year in posts, I realized a few things. First, as with 2008, I wrote quite a lot off site. Second, I need way better navigation for this site, as it’s got six years of posts in it now, and even I can’t remember what the hell I said half the time. And third, I want to write more. A lot more. I’m expecting that will happen in 2010.

But I did get to write quite a bit in ’09. Here are some of the posts I’m most proud of.

January, 09

Predictions 2009 (drew the biggest single day crowd ever for Searchblog)

On Alice, Tik Tok, Marketing, CES, and Finding The Ground (in which I propose a our industry had found the bottom)

More on The Future of Print and Journalism

Why No Twitter Search from the Big Guys? (it came, ten months later…)

(Credit, Oil, IT, and) Paper Ain’t Free, So Don’t Waste It.

February, 09
Twitter = YouTube. (in which I submit that Google must buy Twitter. It did try…)

Wondering Out Loud: The AT&T Network (in which I wonder if AT&T is favoring the iPhone over other devices on its network)

Google Latitude (how *is* that going?!)

March, 09
An “Undifferentiated slush of results” (foreshadowing of things to come)

ExecTweets (the first brand marketing execution done with Twitter)
It’s Very Sorta Twitter (Facebook, That Is)

Tim Armstrong To Lead AOL – Further Thoughts

Can Google Find Its Voice?

“Search Is A Pencil” (Twitter is a pencil, Facebook, Photoshop)

The Conversation Is Shifting (in which I note how social is driving traffic around the web)

What’s In A Name? Thoughts on what a brand means – as a story.

April, 09
The Twitter Inflection

Will Yahoo And Microsoft Just Do It? If So, How? (well, it didn’t quite work out as expected, but it did work out!)

News: Google Lets You Put Yourself Into Results For..Yourself

Breaking: Newscorp to Buy Twitter for $750mm in Cash (April Fools)

May, 09
Liveblogging the Microsoft Search News (Bing)

Twitter’s Continued Inflection: Time For Facebook Connect (in which I urge Twitter to implement FB so as to fix its value prop to new users)

As It Inflects, Twitter Must Add Value to New Users, Faster

As We Head Toward A More Conversational Interface, Can AdWords Keep Up?

Earned Followers Are Better Than Junk Circulation

June, 09
Google v. Facebook? What We Learn from Twitter. (in which I urge Facebook to make all data open. It did…)

Twitter Bumps Ceiling

English’s Millionth Word: Web 2.0

July, 09
Questions On the Yahoo Bing Deal

The Year’s Half Over. So How Are My Predictions Tracking?

August, 09
I Blew It On Facebook

A Preview: This Year’s Web 2 Program (Newly Added Speakers!)

Don’t Be A Fan Platform Hater

On Using Search for Decisions

Tell Me This Ain’t Facebook, Er, Twitter, Er, Both.

Don’t Be A Player Platform Hater

Bartz: Yahoo Was “Never a Search Company”. Me: Bullsh*t.

Apple: Is The Worm Turning?

September, 09
On Facebook, Comments, and Implications

Why Are Conversations (With the Right Person) So Much Better Than Search?

Watch Out Google, Facebook Is Gaining in PPC

On Complements and Showdowns and TweetSense

The IPO Markets and the Internet: A Thaw’s A Comin

Web 2 Preview: DigitalGlobe: The World Is The Index

Search Frustration: It’s Still Hit Or Miss On Complex Decisions

October, 09
What “Tweet” Needs to Become: To Share a Moment

Search Does That. Social Does This. Give Me A Reese’s Cup Please

November, 09
I Have A Kindle Now. But I Won’t Read A Book On It. Discuss. (the second most active post this past year)

Just Give Me One Modal Dialog ….

Thanks For Flying With Us. Please Give Us All Your Money. (the third most active…)

OK, What the Real Phone Map Should Be

December, 09
Predictions 2009: How Did I Do?

The Brewing Privacy Storm

What’s Up? (more thoughts on real time search)

Google Is Failing More

This is the Facebook Step We Expected: Default Public

What Are The Conversion Rates for Google’s “First Click Free”?

  • Content Marquee

Predictions 2009: How Did I Do?

By - December 29, 2009

Screen shot 2009-12-21 at 10.35.33 PM.png


2009 Predictions

2008 Predictions

2008 How I Did

2007 Predictions

2007 How I Did
2006 Predictions
2006 How I Did
2005 Predictions
2005 How I Did
2004 Predictions
2004 How I Did

First of all, it’s either silly or sublime that when you type (or maybe, given Google now personalizes all results, when *I* type) “predictions 2009” into Google my predictions from a year ago are ranked first.  

Of course, when you say “predictions for 2009” it’s second.   

But I’ve already ranted about how the personalization of search is screwing up our collective cultural conscience (search was our social glue, but it’s dissolving). Is anyone out there agreeing with me? Anyone?

Anyway. Welcome to my review of how I did in my predictions for 2009. It’s been a fun year, because I made some seriously big predictions a year ago, so tracking them is a bit easier than in the past.

So let’s get to it.

1. Macro Economy. I predicted: We’ll see an end to the recession, taken literally, by Q4 09. In other words, the economy will begin to grow again by the end of the year, but it won’t feel like we’re out of the woods till next year at the earliest.

I think I got that one right. Not very hard to predict, in hindsight, but remember, this was Jan. 09, and things really, really, really sucked eggs at that moment.

2. The online media space. I predicted: ….will be hit hard by the economic downturn in the first half, but by year’s end, will have chalked up moderate gains over last year in terms of gross spend. I think it’s possible that Q1 09 will be lower than Q1 08, marking the first time that has happened since 01, if I recall correctly.

Right again. Spending in fact declined year over year in the online space overall. But it has rebounded in the second half.

3. Google. OK, here’s one of the biggies. I predicted: Google will see search share decline significantly for the first time ever.

Now, I know many of you will say that I whiffed this one, because Google’s search share is higher now than it was a year ago. But before you toss me in the dustbin, remember this: Google did lose share in the middle of the year, though it gained it back. And to my mind, any lose of share is significant. So … call this one a wash. It didn’t last, but it did happen, for a while. Now, watch for my predictions in 2010. Because a lot of deals are up for grabs, and Microsoft does NOT like to lose. AOL, Ask…there’s about ten points right there that are a jump ball.

#3 goes on to declare: The media business is more than a demand fulfillment business, and Google must learn to create demand if it’s going to diversify. That means playing the brand game – a game that has long been owned by what we call “traditional media companies.” Google has become a significant brand advertiser in 2009, in fact, it’s a client of FM’s in the brand space. And if an ad on the home page isn’t about creating demand for a new product, I dunno what is. I go on to prognosticate: Google has a unique opportunity to become a new kind of branded media company. It will fail to do so, mainly for cultural reasons. I think the jury is still out on this. Google is trying to be so many things to so many people, it’s hard to say where it’s going to land. OS provider? Check. Browser vendor? Check. iPhone competitor? Check. Office suite player? Check. But brand that means anything but search? No check. Yet.

4. In this one I predicted: Google stock will soar in by Q3-4 of 2009, mainly because demand will pick up, and when demand picks up, it’s like rain on a field of newly sown wheat.

Well, here’s the chart:

Screen shot 2009-12-29 at 6.11.48 PM.png

I think this one is a big “check.”

5. Big one. I predicted: Tied to #3 above, Microsoft will gain at least five points of search share in 2009, perhaps as much as 10. This is a rather radical prediction, I know, but hear me out. I think Redmond is tired of losing in this game, and after trying nearly every trick in the book, Microsoft will start to spend real money to grow share (IE, buying distribution), while at the same time listening to the advice of thoughtful folks who want to help the company improve the product.

Well, it depends on how you do the math, but given the Yahoo deal, I think this one came true. Microsoft did indeed buy share, by doing the deal with Yahoo.


6. I next predicted: Yahoo and AOL will merge.

Oops. I whiffed here. It was a stretch. There’s always next year. I could have predicted that AOL would spin out, but that was so damn obvious I decided against it…

7. This one was predicated on #6, so another whiff: in the second half of the year, Microsoft will buy its search monetization from the combined company.

Microsoft in fact is doing search monetization FOR Yahoo. It could have gone the other way, but it didn’t. Sometimes the river card doesn’t turn your way.

8. OK, my big Apple prediction: Apple will see a significant reversal of recent fortunes. Well, it sure didn’t happen in sales or the stock, but I think it’s happening with Apple’s arrogant attitude toward its app store and network choices. I’d say this one was a push, not wrong, but not entirely right….yet.

9. I predicted: Major brands will continue to struggle with the best way to interact with “social media.” They will take budget reserved for media spending (IE buying banners and building out branding campaigns) and start to become publishers in their own right. This was kind of a gimme, in that my company (FM) is doing this for scores of brands, and 2009 was certainly a banner year (no pun intended) for brands as publishers. Open Forum, Starbucks, Microsoft Exectweets, Intel’s Lifescoop, P&G’s Petside, Asus WePC, and on and on….I’m sure I’m missing a bunch of examples. But I am quite certain this is a major trend and one that is only gaining steam.

10. An agency/publisher prediction: Agencies will increasingly see their role as that of publishers. Publishers will increasingly see their role as that of agencies. ….. It takes both agents to get good media made. A very subjective prediction which again, I think is truly happening. Of course, I can only state that as anecdotal fact. But if you’re in the agency or publishing business, I’d love your thoughts in the comments….

11. OK, the Twitter prediction. Now remember, on Jan 1 2009 it was not a slam dunk to say this: Twitter will continue its meteoric rise. This is a very hard prediction to make, because so much depends on the company’s ability to execute two crucial – and exceedingly difficult – new features: The integration of search into the service, and the monetization of that integration.

Now, Twitter did have its year of years, growing extraordinarily, but traditional measure of growth flattened and petered out by the second half of the year. Why? Well, third party clients, for the most part, and a failure of the company to convert its media darling status into long term usage. But Twitter has rolled out a cavalcade of new features in the past few months, most aimed at fixing the initial use case problem I’ve pointed out time and time again.

In this prediction I also said: By the middle of 2009, the integration of Twitter’s community and content will become commonplace in well-executed marketing on third party sites. Again, I think this one has occurred, many times over.

12. This is one of my favorites, the Facebook prediction: Facebook will do something entirely shocking and unpredictable. I am not certain what, but it won’t have a “status quo” year. It might be a merger with a traditional media company, a major alliance with Google, hiring a head scratcher as CEO, or something else at that level of “WTF!?” As I think about it, it might be as simple as making Facebook Connect truly open, and changing its policies to make it drop dead easy to get data out of the service.


However, I also predicted: Facebook will “friend” Twitter and the two companies will become strong partners. Well, you can now updated Twitter from Facebook, so that’s a start. But they’re not pals yet, so this one is not exactly a hit.

13. My mobile prediction: Lucky #13 is reserved for my eternal mobile prediction: 2009 will see the year mobility becomes presumptive in every aspect of the web. I’m not even going to try to defend this one. I think 2009 was the year mobile eclipsed the PC web in terms of what matters to our industry. If you disagree, I’ll see ya in the comments.

14. OK. My last one, well, I whiffed on it – mostly. It was my book prediction. I said: “Lastly, I promise, I will have sold my book and will be hard at work on it. And yes, still running FM too. I think I have a way to do both.” Well, I didn’t sell the new book to anyone, mainly because once I do, I have to write it. And I can’t do that till I feel like FM is really, really in great hands. And guess what…it is. I am still running it as CEO, but now I have a wonderful President/COO, Deanna Brown. And she is a true partner and pro, and I am feeling very, very good about 2010. So give me half a point there…

So, adding it all up, I’d say I did a 10.5 out of 14. What do you think? Did I do alright? And do you agree with my interpretations?

Happy Holidays and New Year to all of you. I can’t wait for the next year. I really think it’s going to be a big one for all of us.

That's an Ad.

By - December 26, 2009

Google pushing Chrome on the home page.

Screen shot 2009-12-26 at 4.25.08 PM.png

A Slew of Interesting Publishing Tidbits

By - December 17, 2009

Worth mentioning…

Videos showing traffic patterns at the

News on Gravity, seems to be an updated take on forums/groups from ex Myspace folks.

Yet another reader from the publishing industry, this one called Mag+. They get this part: “Let the Web be the Web.” Indeed.

New AOL editorial chief Saul Hansell late of NYT explains how AOL is a journalistic enterprise and has some words for how the sausage got made at the Times.

Anthropology Comes to Facebook

By -


Reading about this study using Facebook data (original link) gave me some hope that we may see true insights from third party academics doing high integrity fieldwork on top of the Facebook data. My wish for Facebook is that it welcome such work, create parameters and ensure privacy, but allow researchers to really dig in. Much could be learned. The linked study is internal research, however.

“I think it will be transformative,” said Duncan Watts, a Yahoo research scientist who recently used Facebook to conclude that people often have inaccurate beliefs about the political convictions of their friends. “In sociology for the last 100 years, we’ve had the theory, but it hasn’t really been possible to test it, because so much of what is important to sociology is individuals interacting to produce” families, friendships and social groups.

Fast Flipping Off Amazon's Kindle

By - December 16, 2009

Screen shot 2009-12-16 at 1.45.25 PM.png

Everyone knows Kindle is a closed development platform (IE, there’s not an app environment that lets developers make the Kindle platform better). Today I saw the news that Google has doubled the number of publishing partners who are now leveraging the company’s “Fast Flip” e-reader software, and it got me to thinking.  

First, Fast Flip is software that runs anywhere the web runs, including mobile apps. It has an Android and iPhone version, and I’m sure there will be a RIM version soon. And when Apple’s tablet comes out, and any other ebook/netbook competitor to Kindle, I’m sure Fast Flip will be there. Fast Flip is a web native app, and it plays nice with the web, from what I can see. And Google is clearly interested, as a company, in fostering developers to build out on its various platforms, from Android to Chrome to Google’s App Engine.

To my mind, this means Google is now in competition with Amazon not just for books, but for all professional publishing products. While it’s true that publishers can and have developed versions for Kindle, the fact that it’s not an open platform means Amazon has a chokehold on what gets to be on the device. I doubt FastFlip will ever live on the Kindle – though it’d be a win for all if it did, I imagine. And I also doubt that the Kindle, anytime soon, will work in an easy way with the web ecosystem, the way FastFlip seems to (I need to use it more, but it makes sharing and social actions easy, for example).

Another way to think about it is that both Kindle and FastFlip are operating systems for reading packaged goods content. Hence, they compete for the marketplace of people who need those services. Of course, the web is the underlying OS, but FastFlip works like a newsstand of sorts, letting you easily browse products and dive in when you want.

As I noted in my earlier Kindle rant, I find a e-reader like the Kindle ideal for reading periodicals. I wonder, might Fast Flip might steal that market away from Amazon? Might FastFlip become an OS standard on next generation e-readers, netbooks, and mobile phones? A lot depends on whether publishers feel like they can trust Google as an newsstand agent. That’s an open question, to be sure.

I’m not as up to speed on this stuff as I’d like to be, so if I’m missing something, let me know.

Some background reading on all of this: (Credit, Oil, IT, and) Paper Ain’t Free, So Don’t Waste It.

Twitter Does Zeitgeist

By - December 15, 2009


I wrote my first book after seeing Google Zeitgeist eight years ago. Maybe Twitter’s first ever “Trends” will push me to get off the damn couch and finish my second.   

Nah. After reviewing them, it’s clear that Twitter’s first trends release is, well, a bit predictable. But I am sure there is really interesting data locked behind that rather obvious facade….we just can’t see it. Yet.

The Brewing Privacy Storm

By - December 14, 2009

We’re pushing it as an industry, I think. Google making all search personal and its leadership claiming privacy is for those with something to hide. Facebook pushing all data out into the world (and ticking off Danny, of all people). The advertising ecosystem leveraging more and more data, but not thinking hard enough about how that data is controlled. All of this is drawing the attention of major media and the folks who read it – IE, Congress.

We’re getting a bit ahead of ourselves.

And we need to stop and take a breath before something happens we’ll all regret.

I’m heartened by all the privacy dashboards that Google, Yahoo, Facebook and others are creating and making available. But I think it’s time for us as an industry to really stop and think about this issue and address it. Because we can’t afford a conservative (and I mean that in the catholic sense of the word) backlash on this issue.

Just leaving a note here on this, as much to remind myself to spend time on this issue in the new year as anything…

What's Up?

By - December 13, 2009

Screen shot 2009-12-11 at 12.40.58 PM.pngScreen shot 2009-12-11 at 12.40.48 PM.png

(This piece was written for the BingTweets blog and is part of an ongoing exploration of search underwritten by Microsoft. See my series on the interplay of search and decisions here, here, and here. I wrote the piece below before today’s web-wide conversation about content farms, but I think it’s related. We need new frameworks for search, and real time points us toward one potential path.)


The rise of real time search (just this past week, Google rolled Twitter, Facebook and Myspace data into its results) has everyone buzzing. Of course, BingTweets was the first real time mashup from a major player in search (and Microsoft has already announced its intentions to go further), but we’re just at the start of where real time search might go. What might things look like a few years from now?

In my last BingTweets post (Decisions Are Never Easy) I posited the idea of a real time service that connects us to each other based on expertise. So if I wanted to talk with someone who was an expert in buying classic cars, the service would find that expert and connect me to him or her.

I think real time search is a step toward building an ecosystem that makes such a service possible. But we have to get out of our current modes of understanding search interfaces to really grok how this might work. At present, we still see search as a modal dialog box, where we type in a request, then wait for an answer. As different search interfaces develop, new opportunities arise. We’ve seen a fair amount of innovation in search interfaces lately (here’s more on Pivot, for example), but real time data presents a significant challenge.

We can see the challenge in the companies most directly responsible for feeding data into the real time search index. Twitter recently changed its opening question from “What are you doing?” to “What’s happening?” That subtle shift invited a much more robust set of potential responses to be poured into the service (and subsequently parsed by search services). And Facebook just this week announced it will make all of its members’ status updates part of its universally public feed. Its question? “What’s on your mind?”

I recently heard from a reliable source inside Facebook that there are 40 times more status updates daily on Facebook’s network than on Twitter. That’s a lot of data to parse, whether you are a search service, or a consumer of that service’s product. What might it look like?

Well, start with the use case. Why might we want to query a real time search index? My first answer is simply this: To find out “what’s up.” Now, there are nearly endless refinements of that general concept: What’s up with the smoke I can see in the mountains behind my house? What do people who bought the Palm Pre recently think of their new phone? What bands are playing in Chicago this weekend that I might like? What’s up with Jahvid Best, will he play in Cal’s bowl game? All of these questions are variations on the theme of “What’s up?”

Given the right approach to interface, algorithms and filters, all of these queries can be answered by real time search.

(more at BingTweets….)