free html hit counter January 2010 - John Battelle's Search Blog

The Friday Signal: Will Apple Flash Us, or Not?

By - January 29, 2010

The news today was still iPad driven, for the most part, with the question of whether Flash will be supported at its core. So far, the answer is no, and Adobe semi-officially chastised Apple in this post: Apple’s iPad — a broken link?. However, a site called 9to5Mac studied the iPad introduction video, and found that Flash must be working on the device, because it’s used on the, which was featured in the demo: The iPad has Adobe’s Flash on Apple’s video. This of course is important to marketers, as Flash is pretty much an industry standard for rich advertising. Is Apple really planning a total end around, as IAB CEO Randall Rothenberg warns in this post?

I’m not so sure. I’d wager Apple and Adobe are deep in negotiations right now, and I’d also wager part of it has to do with Flash’s execution in the Mac and associated operating systems. Why? Well, it’s not a secret that Flash is resource intensive and reportedly buggy on the Mac (at least, that’s what developers are saying). Perhaps Jobs is using the iPad as leverage to get Adobe to focus on his platform. Or, perhaps he really is spurning the company’s technology. Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, a Google exec (Hal Varian) damns the iPad with faint praise, reminding us all that Google and Apple are circling each other in the mobile device market like boxers calculating their first flurry of punches. And O’Reilly Radar has what I think is the best take on the iPad I’ve read so far: The iPad is the iPrius: Your Computer Consumerized.

Other interesting links today:

“Mommy, Where Does Content Come From?” 11 Easy Ways to Create Great Stuff (Open Forum) Content is critical to marketing in social media, without a doubt.

Social Media Marketing: How Pepsi Got It Right (Mashable) I love case studies. You’ll be seeing a lot more of them at the CM Summit in NY this June.

U.S. Advertising to Rise 3.5% in 2010, Barclays Says (Bloomberg) After a year like 2009, who doesn’t like a headline like that? Online, of course, will grow far faster.

Facebook Develops Conversion Tracking Tool: What’s A Fan Worth? (MediaPost)

Consumers Demand Engagement (eMarketer)

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The Thursday Signal

By - January 28, 2010

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The iPad announcement took two months to build up, so it’s not going away in one day. Today’s news is dominated by Monday morning quarterbacking around the device, and so far, the fanboys and tech blogosphere are, by and large, not pleased. The image at left represents a few of the stories I’ve been reading across the web. I’ve filed them away in a folder I call “Predictions Support”, as they all seem to support my thesis that the iPad would disappoint. Time will tell. And I still want one, and I’m not convinced there isn’t a counter story in there somewhere.

Meanwhile, there are a few deficits in the iPad that are material to the marketing business. First, the iPad does not support Flash. That’s just silly, unless Apple really thinks it can force marketers to create purely for its own distribution channel (or envisions the iPad as an ecosystem devoid of ads, which is possible). Second, it has no camera, though I’m sure camera devices can be added to it (and probably will be added natively in future versions). Third, as I predicted, it’s another orifice for Apple’s iTunes and App Store, so it’s not an open web device. Then there’s the unfortunate choice of name, which I think will fade over time. There are many other features (or lack thereof) that folks are finding fault with, for more, check this piece on Gizmodo.

My one line summary: The iPad was designed to consume media content in the framework of the social web, and drive Apple’s proprietary platform even deeper into the psyche of the consumer. Don’t count it out. More: Check Mate: Apple’s iPad and Google’s Next Move (O’Reilly Radar).

Other stories of interest:

Google Social Search Goes Live, Adds New Features (SEL) – Watch this space, and it’s the beginning of a sea change in how search works. My initial questions and response from Google: Google Rolling Out Social Search: But Does It Leverage Facebook?

Advertising: A Little ‘i’ to Teach About Online Privacy (NYT) – I am on the Board of the IAB and welcome this initiative. I only hope it becomes actually useful to consumers.

Top 10 Personal Branding Blogs (Lifescoop) – A good list of sites that help you dust off the brand that is you. One thing I’ve noticed is key to success in the media and marketing business is the realization that understanding your own brand is critical to helping others grow. At FM, we’ve helped scores of marketers get promoted, and we’re really proud of that.

Vivaki Ventures Is Done Chasing Equity Deals with Startups (Clickz)

Why Most Digital Ads Still Fail to Work (Ad Age)

Google Rolling Out Social Search: But Does It Leverage Facebook?

By - January 27, 2010

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Forget the iPad, today Google is taking another step toward its stated goal of “making search more social.” There’s a lot of goodness in here, in terms of features and approach, but it’s just silly to pretend you can do any of this without directly addressing the 400 million-person elephant in the room called Facebook. Put simply: I can’t figure out if this new service uses my Facebook social graph. And to my mind, that’s a problem.

From the blog post announcing the public beta of social search (first announced at Web 2 late last year):

We think there’s tremendous potential for social information to improve search, and we’re just beginning to scratch the surface. We’re leaving a “beta” label on social results because we know there’s a lot more we can do. If you want to get the most out of Social Search right away, get started by creating a Google profile, where you can add links to your other public online social services.

Indeed – a lot more, like make it really easy to use your Facebook social graph, the way tons of other sites and apps do. Why not just use Facebook Connect? Hang on a tick, the video giving us an overview of the service says once you create that Google Profile, you can add connections via Blogger, Twitter, and “any other online networks you might be a part of” (45 seconds in). Might that include Facebook?

OK dear readers, I’m going to do it. I’m gonna make a Google Profile, just to find out…. Well, I’m still a bit perplexed. You can add any URL as a “Link” in your profile, so I added my Facebook pages. However, once I got through the initial form (which was not simple – I had to fill out all the info I already did with Facebook and LinkedIn, and my own name is not available as a profile URL, not /johnbattelle, not jbattelle. Darn! I picked /johnlinwoodbattelle, so now you all know my middle name…) Er, anyway, there *was* a prompt to “Share It On Facebook” after all that…

Aha! Maybe this will get my Facebook social graph goodness into Google Social Search?

Not that I could tell. Just a simply “share on Facebook” implementation, declaring my profile to my FB pals. But no deep integration. As far as I can tell, my Facebook social graph will not inform my social searchin’ on Google. As I understand it from reading previous coverage of the product, Google social search *will* leverage FriendFeed, recently purchased by Facebook. But as far as I can tell, it does not leverage Facebook proper.

And that, to my mind, is just silly. Silly in the main, because as a consumer, clear, direct, and transparent integration with Facebook would be a huge *win* for my understanding of Google’s social searching. Wouldn’t it? Or am I missing something? (Besides the competitive issues, of course…)

I’ve pinged Google and other sources to find out if I’m just deeply in the dark….

Update: Google has provided me an answer to my initial question:

“If someone links to his Facebook account from his Google profile, Social Search may surface that user’s public profile page. These are the same public profile pages already available on a search of and other search engines today. While we’re interested to continue expanding the comprehensiveness of Social Search, we do not currently use your Facebook connections as part of Google Social Search.”

What I’d like to know then is this: Why not?

Why The Apple iPad Will Disappoint (The Obama Effect)

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(image ) While the world watches the next coming of Jobs, I reflected on my gut feeling as to the iPad, and why that feeling is inherently one of disappointment (see my predictions 2010 (#5) and my post earlier this week).  

And I’ll admit, this one is not entirely logical. But then again, I don’t always base my predictions (or my business decisions) on pure logic. Sometimes I just go with a feeling.

So what is my feeling about the iPad? Well, to be honest, it’s simply this: I want one. I want to play with it, I want it to work the way I want it to work, I want it to do everything I wish a device like this should do. I am the guy, after all, who wrote his master’s thesis on the Internet-connected tablet and its impact on the media business (yes, I really did. In 1991-92).

What? Wait a minute, Battelle, you’re saying you WANT one, AND that it’s going to disappoint?

Yes, stay with me. Here’s why: When Apple introduced the iPhone, I really, truly did NOT want one. And it became a game changing hit. I eventually caved and got one (but don’t use it much), and I still have major reservations about the platform. When Amazon introduced the Kindle, I really, truly, did NOT want one. I eventually caved and got one (but don’t use it much), and I still have major reservations about the platform.

But the iPad? Oh, yeah – I really, really want one.

Which, to my mind, almost dooms the thing immediately.

Why? Well, because it can’t possibly live up to my expectations. I want one for entirely irrational reasons. I want one because it holds the promise of all that might be good, right, and perfectly executed in the world of computing, media, and culture. The iPad is the Obama of devices: It’s all hope, inspirational oratory, intelligence, and good intentions.

But as we have seen, a year later, reality (whether business or political) often gets in the way of intelligence. It looks like the iPad will adopt the iPhone approach to apps in full, so that’s one more distribution orifice created, for example.

In any case, I’ll probably get an iPad. And one year from now, I’ll probably be disappointed. Irrationally disappointed, but still, disappointed.

I guess we’ll see. I hope I’m wrong. I’ll probably be wrong. If I am, I’ll cop to it (and reset my gut to boot).

The Weds. Signal

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A brief Signal today till I can write later in the day, running to an early meeting:

20 Metrics To Effectively Track Social Media Campaigns (SEL)

Supreme Court’s Devastating Decision | Ronald Dworkin | NYRB | 26 January 2010 (Off topic, but I found this take interesting)

Social Is the Top Priority for Marketers in 2010 [STATS] (Mashable)

Yahoo CEO Eyes TV Ads, Acquisitions (GigaOm, Yahoo earnings spin: We compete with TV, not search!)

AT&T Planning To Launch Yelp-Like Site (SEL, Good luck with that!)

Microsoft, Hearst Join Media Consortium (Worldscreen via IWM, this is about measurement)

Oh, and Apple has an announcement, I hear. (Links)

The Tuesday Signal: Birth of Another Orifice

By - January 26, 2010


A light day in the media and marketing world, as it seems everyone is holding their breath, waiting for Steve Jobs and Apple to drop the next shoe tomorrow with the launch of the iPad (or iTablet or whatever it’ll be called). Speculation over the device dominates the news, with the NYT pondering its impact on “old media” business models (including its own), and endless rumors about its specs from the tech blogs. (including the apparently faked image at top.)

So allow me a few thoughts on Apple’s entry. First off, if iTunes and the iPhone are any indication, the iPad will be a closed system, controlled by Apple. As with the iPhone, only approved apps will get to play. And as with iTunes, only those who cut a deal with Apple will get distribution on the new device.

Which means, in essence, with the iPad Steve Jobs will create yet another orifice through which value must run.

A bit of background. Five and a half years ago, before the iPhone became, well, the iPhone, Steve Jobs famously decried the carriers’ business model as antiquated and anti-consumer, stating “we’re not very good at going through orifices to get to the end user.” I was at the conference where Jobs made that statement, and was impressed – thinking that perhaps, when Apple inevitably launched its iPhone, it’d have an open development environment mirroring the web. But I was wrong. (Steve left that tactic to Google and Android.)

Instead, Apple is playing to its core DNA, which is to obsessively control every part of the consumer experience, from the operating system and hardware design to the presentation and delivery of content. Hey, it’s worked really well so far, why change now?

Well, because I think this model will lose, in the end. Apple is right to obsess on user interface and design, but over time, open wins. As Tom Evslin put it back in 2007: “Despite his genius, Job’s biggest failures come when he forgets the value of letting other brains in.” Elegantly curated collective intelligence will always trump individual genius (at least on the web).

My partner in Web 2, Tim O’Reilly, has framed this discussion as a simmering “War for the Web.” I think he’s framed it right: everyone now understands that the web is *the* platform for business, and many are now busy applying very old school business models to this new platform: control distribution, control content, control identity, control any place where value accrues. It’s the orifices all over again, with Apple leading the way.

I think this is going to be a major theme for 2010 and beyond: how will the web be controlled? Or will it? Is the era of the messy-but-open web coming to a close?


Other links of interest:

Playing Games With Customers: Is Foursquare The Future Of Local Search? (Search Engine Land. It might be. It sure is interesting to watch…)

Google releases new Google Voice for iPhone (Reuters. Google is using HTML 5 to go around Apple’s refusal to let its iPhone app through the orifice)

Apple’s Tablet and the New Splintered Web (Ad Age. Points out how devices are forcing all manner of new approaches to web dsitribution)

Facebook Finally Lands “The World’s Biggest Marketer” (P&G to open office in Silicon Valley. I’m on P&G’s Digital Advisory Board and can attest to the company’s strong instincts to reach out beyond its traditional approaches).

Apple to Sell Ads on iPhones, iPods and iTablets? (Chasnote. This, IMHO, will be Apple’s undoing if they approach this wrong. It’s not in their DNA. Remind me to write a post about company DNA…)

Risk Avoidance and the ROI of Social Media, Insurance, Guitars and Tires (Forrestor. Money shot: Social Media is like corporate reputation insurance. You pay premiums in the form of building relationships, listening, responding, creating widgets, and building communities. And because you’ve done so, you’ve earned protection that can help should a PR disaster strike—you have an existing group of people who have affinity for your brand and an existing channel in which to reach them.)

The Monday Signal

By - January 25, 2010

Quite a weekend in marketing land, with a blast from Jason C. directed at Comscore. Sunday’s feeds were alive with responses (I think this summary from TheNextWeb is a good place to start), but it boils down to this: Jason fired off an angry shot at a easy target, but with a bit more nuance, one can see that this is not a simple issue. If it were as black and white as he lays it out, Comscore would have been out of business a long time ago. Measurement is not as easy as most folks think it is, and Google Analytics has trained nearly everyone to think they have more people coming to their sites than they really do. Certainly, Comscore will probably learn from this tempest and possibly change its tactics. But the company has a right to charge for its services, the market will decide if its approach makes sense. (Caveat: FM – and its partners – are Comscore customers).

Meanwhile, Comscore reported global search market trends for 2009. Money shot: The total worldwide search market boasted more than 131 billion searches conducted by people age 15 or older from home and work locations in December 2009, representing a 46-percent increase in the past year. This number represents more than 4 billion searches per day, 175 million per hour, and 29 million per minute. The U.S. represented the largest individual search market in the world with 22.7 billion searches, or approximately 17 percent of searches conducted globally. China ranked second with 13.3 billion searches…(makes one think about Google’s China decision, no?).

I found this NYT post on “controlled serendipity” worthy reading, it furthers a working thesis I have about how the social web is changing search, in particular discovery of content. While the premise is a bit shopworn (we’re all both creators and consumers of content!), it’s nevertheless true.

Other links:

Digg to Undergo Drastic Overhaul (Mashable)

Twitter Launches Location-Based Trending Topics (Mashable)

How Google Ranks Tweets (TechReview)

Death Of TV One Step Closer — YouTube Signs Live Sports Broadcasting Deal (BusinessInsider)

Factery Labs’ New Fact Engine: Just What Real-Time Search Needs (SEL)

Reaching Out to Conversationalists (AdAge/Forrestor)

App Usage to Soar in 2010 (eMarketer)

Search On: Google Does Pure Branded Advertising…

By - January 24, 2010

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for its core property, search. And it’s pretty good (it’s a series of well produced ads, on YouTube, natch). I’ve predicted for some time that Google would have to start brand marketing itself, but so far I’ve only seen product marketing for Adwords or Android. This is the first time I’ve seen a real ad for search. See it below. (I noticed this because the teaser banner, above, was running tonight on my own site through Adsense…)

Watching the series (which were uploaded to YouTube two months ago), it strikes me that Google is being pretty thoughtful here about what its brand means, and how search is changing in both its interface and its usage, and the power it has to change lives. Many Google properties are referenced, including mobile search, maps, universal search, YouTube, and more.
Update: I’ve now seen this campaign on the NYT as well, roadblocked. It’s truly a brand campaign: Google is not selling anything here other than its own brand – that ephemeral sensibility that resides between its customers’ ears.

Today's Signal

By - January 22, 2010

Why Do People Follow (or Fan) Brands? (eMarketer) This link has been passed around a lot this morning in marketing circles, despite the fact that the insights are pretty thin (people follow brands to learn about deals and “learn about new products, features or services.”) We’re all eager to understand what it is that might lead a person into “branding” themselves online. It’s certainly a new form of currency – even AdWords has products you can use to drive Twitter followers. But what are they worth, in the end? I’d love to see more substantial research on this. I think people follow brands because they feel connected to them for some reason. Same reason people engage with them in real space. And value creation creates connection. So create value for folks in the context of social media, and they’ll fan or follow you. Then keep giving them value.

Twitter Changes How It Suggests Users – This is an important step, but Twitter isn’t there yet in terms of really harnessing the power of its own ecosystem.

GOOG reports “strong” earnings, stock sags – Google is considered by nearly everyone as a bellweather company, as goes GOOG, so goes the USA. So even though the company reported a strong Q4, the topline revenue number did not crush Wall Street’s expectations. (It only beat them). Stock’s down 20 points as a result, reflecting concerns that perhaps Google can’t grow as fast as folks wish it would. Notable: Eric Schmidt says Google’s next huge growth business is display advertising. Always wondered what Google really means when it says that. Display does not equate to brand, mind you…

Hilary Clinton Speaks Out About Free Speech and China – Along with a number of other California based journalists, I was invited to come to DC to see this speech in person. I was eager to go, but just could not make the trip. As I have written many times in the past, I think this issue could become quite significant historically, and Google’s moves only increase the odds.

An Overview of Facebook’s “Brand Ads” (TBI Research) – Provides a good overview of how Facebook’s direct sold ads work, what the products are, pricing, etc.

Twitter Finally Begins to Address It's WTF Now Issue:

By - January 21, 2010


Twitter today killed its “suggested users” feature (which Ev said he’d do way back at Web 2 in October), and replaced it with a more sophisticated approach. In a blog post explaining the move, the company elaborates:

We’ve found that the power of suggestion can be a great thing to help people get started, but it’s important that we suggest things relevant to them. We’ve created a number of algorithms to identify users across a variety of clusters who tweet actively and are engaged with their audiences. These new algorithms help us group these active users into lists of users by interests. Rather than suggesting a random set of 20 users for a new user to follow, now we let users browse into the areas they are interested in and choose who they want to follow from these lists.

Yep. Back in May of last year I wrote:

It strikes me that a few more structured steps in the sign up process could really pay significant dividends for Twitter. Perhaps a “follow wizard” that asks a few questions, and makes suggestions based on input from the new user. Let us drill down by category: Business:Technology:Internet, or Health:Diseases:Cancer. The ontology isn’t very complicated – mapping users to it is a bit more complex, but not impossible.

It took a while, but it looks like Twitter is doing just that and even more, if the algorithms they’ve cooked up prove robust. I look forward to seeing how this changes newbies’ impressions of the service.

But here’s what I wonder – why can’t everyone do this? Is it limited to just new accounts? To my mind, it shouldn’t be. All Twitter users would benefit from this new feature….so hopefully Twitter will open it up to all of us.

Update: You can use the new features by navigating here.