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From the Reader: The Past Week

By - August 07, 2008

I’ve missed a lot since my time away over the past ten days or so, here are the pieces in my reader I found worthy of noting:

Venturebeat on StumbleUpon’s “method behind the madness.”

Google’s assault on Baidu (Chinese market) through legal music search via ars

BBtv debuts “BBtv World.” Important journalism is not dead, it’s just evolving.

Mike on Ads: Is Google Taking Behavioral Data to Display? Well, if it is, then we have a lot to think about. And if it is not, its shareholders should sue.

The Yahoo shareholder meeting happened. Seems the board is intact. But this “tabulation error” is rather odd. First it looked like a strong vote of support for Jerry and Co. (85%). Then….not so much.

More when I get back from the gym….

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That Which I Missed

By - May 04, 2008

Last week was odd, I was engrossed in New York all week visiting FM clients. But there was a lot going on I wished I had noted. Here are some of the items I found worthy:

How does Google treat Right Media redirects? Hmmm.

Wikia Search May Have Trouble Achieving Critical Mass from TechDirt

A rather predictible iGoogle promotion. Come on, do we need famous artists to use an app?

History will prove, I am sure, that the Bush administration was, well, evil when it comes to transparency.

Eric on CNBC, unedited.

Google attempts to patent the idea of attention as currency. Well, OK, attention as currency for free TV. This is not a new idea.

Back. Nice Week to Take Off

By - April 14, 2008

So I missed a week of the Ring Cycle between Yahoo, MSFT, AOL, Newscorp, and Google. Wow. Somehow I think I’ll survive. Things I found interesting last week:

Yahoo crowing about an unbuilt platform and launches flickr video. Not sure this would have been the tack had the Ring not been Cycling. But it does strengthen their case about staying independent. Latest roundup from the NYT here.

I read about this story while in Europe. EU wants to slash search data retention period to six months

Google Apps – oops.

Fred on a new path to liquidity.

Rich on new crawlers in a brave new world.

The Journal on Sheryl Sandberg at Facebook.

I find this move by Google highly laudable: Google Comissioned To Monitor Illegal Amazonian Deforestation



He Wrote 200,000 Books (but Computers Did Some of the Work)

Google Now Fills Out Forms & Crawls Results

Worth Grokking

By - February 09, 2008

Wired 1.1 Masthead

I spent most of this past week in meetings or on an airplane. I missed some good stuff. Like:

* The 15 year anniversary of Wired was in late January. The first issue (which was one of the most amazing journey’s I’ve ever been on, creatively), is broken down here.

* Speaking of Wired, a co-founding editor, Kevin Kelly, is still writing amazing shit, this post is his latest missive.

The internet is a copy machine. At its most foundational level, it copies every action, every character, every thought we make while we ride upon it. In order to send a message from one corner of the internet to another, the protocols of communication demand that the whole message be copied along the way several times. IT companies make a lot of money selling equipment that facilitates this ceaseless copying. Every bit of data ever produced on any computer is copied somewhere. The digital economy is thus run on a river of copies. Unlike the mass-produced reproductions of the machine age, these copies are not just cheap, they are free….When copies are free, you need to sell things which can not be copied.

Believe it or not, this idea has important implications for the future of advertising online.

* Google launched a “Team Edition” of its Office Killer. Ars notices that it seems to want to sneak by the IT Department. Not a good idea.

* Ask works with Digg to launch a site called Big News.

* Everyone thinks social applications will thrive in a recession. I tend to agree, for different reasons. More on that later, I hope.

* Raises some very interesting issues.

Predictions 2008

By - January 01, 2008

Nostrada Related:

2007 Predictions

2007 How I Did

2006 Predictions

2006 How I Did

2005 Predictions

2005 How I Did

2004 Predictions

2004 How I Did

Has it been a whole year? I posted my predictions for 2007 on Jan 1, 2007, and here it is, the first day of 2008, and here we go again. This year I am going to organize my predictions by companies (just the big ones) and trends. I’m focusing on advertising and search markets and the largest companies in that space, as that seems to be what’s on our collective minds these days, and it’s what I seem to have focused on in the past, as I read through my past prediction posts.

So what are the trends in 2008?

Well, everyone I speak to is very worried that we’re in for a major economic downturn, and we all know that a key lagging indicator of a recession is a serious downturn in the advertising markets. 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. The markets will reward innovation and growth in new forms of advertising, and punish those who are seen as not having a strategy. (Recall that Google took off as an advertising business in the doldrums of 2002-2003).

This means it will not be an easy market for major public debuts. But we will see at least one, if not two new IPOs (for more see below).

2008 will also be seen as the year that proves Conversational Marketing as a new form of advertising (this is clearly a biased view), and by the end of the year, adding value to a customer’s life through marketing will be seen as a necessity as opposed to an experiment. This is the logical extension of the search marketing revolution to all forms of marketing, well beyond direct response and the fulfillment of declared intent.

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. For specifics, see below.

Another trend we’ll see is the continued erosion of the traditional mobile oligarchy. But despite the best efforts of Android, not much will get done this year. Don’t worry, though, by 2009, we’ll finally see a mobile web worthy of a serious development economy, one that looks a lot like Web 2 looked in 2005.

As for the Web 2 world, we’ll see a ton of venture funded companies go by the wayside. This is healthy and normal. It’s been a few years since the funding wallets opened, and it’s quite normal for companies that couldn’t get lift off by year two or three to close their doors. 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. This will be particularly true for media and advertising related businesses, who will find home at large media companies that are traditionally not eager to pay significant premiums.

Now, given these trends, on to the major advertising- and search-driven Web companies:

2008 will be the year Wall Street gets frustrated with Google. The company has incredible numbers, and will continue to impress, but analysts, tired of bidding up the stock, will start to question the company’s myriad ocean-boiling projects – after all, it’s merely trying to reinvent Health, Energy, Telecom, IT (both consumer apps and OSes), and a few other major portions of the GDP. Look for a few querulous analyst reports and even a few downgrades by the end of the year, as Wall Street finally comes out of its honeymoon stage with Google and demands that the company consolidate its control in marketes where profits are secure: Search and Adsense. Look for complaints about profits and integration (or lack thereof) with regard to Doubleclick, and at least one major product flop that gets analyst tongues wagging. 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.

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, in part due to a clarification of its approach syndicated advertising (ie, how it will beat Google by delivering better than AdSense can to key partners). All the the big players in the advertising platform business – Yahoo, Google, AOL, Microsoft – are looking to monetize the magic middle of web traffic – high volume, but low CPM. Yahoo has access to a ton of this traffic, but in 2007 it couldn’t seem to figure out how to make it pay (more). Right Media, Blue Lithium, etc, are all plays to this (as are aQuantive and Doubleclick and Tacoda and Quigo and…) In 2008, Yahoo will figure out a promising start. This is critical, because Yahoo will finally admit to itself that in the battle between Microsoft and Google, it is an increasingly minority player, and will need to bulk up to compete. By year’s end, Yahoo will have combined in a major way with another third party, and it won’t be either of the two aforementioned companies.

In 2008, Microsoft will fail to gain much traction in anything that is Web related. This will frustrate Wall Street and Microsoft’s employees to the point of several key executive defections. Sound like last year? Yes, with one key difference. 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. Yup, but this time, it will be as a public company that is majority owned by Microsoft, with fresh contracts to execute against MSN’s inventory, both owned and operated (O&O) and syndicated (Digg, Facebook, etc.). Yeah, I’m going out on a limb here, but what the hell.

Now, what about current media darling/punching bag Facebook? Ahhh, this is a tough one. 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 is not a new story, Google went through it in 2003-2005. But not many companies make the transition without serious collateral damage. Second, 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. In short, 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. 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. Also, look for Facebook to make a run at NetVibes.

And AOL? As with aQuantive, Platform A will go public, if the markets allow (see trends). 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.

Finally, what to make of Newscorp/FIM? 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? What about Dow Jones? 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 cut a very important deal in 2008 with regard to its future. This could even be – yes I’ll say it – a spin out of the company as an independent public entity.

Well, that’s about it for now. I reserve the right to revise this a bit in the next week, as I’m still pondering this draft.

Oh, yes. I usually end with a prediction about my own work. Not FM, as I begged off that last year and will do the same this time. But as for my writing: 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.

Again, to all of you out there keeping me honest and helping me think out loud, thank you. Here’s to a great 2008!

Update: Some interesting reactions at HipMojo and Mashable, thanks to TechMeme for pointing it out.

2007 Predictions, How Did I Do?

By - December 26, 2007

Crystal Ball-Tm-TmRelated:

2007 Predictions

2006 Predictions

2006 How I Did

2005 Predictions

2005 How I Did

2004 Predictions

2004 How I Did

Well, the time has come to review my predictions of a year ago. Overall, I think I did pretty well, but I’ve had to interpret a few liberally to give myself extra credit in a few cases. (Scoble has graded me here…). And away we go:

#1: “Thanks to Google’s dominance in search and media and a complacent DOJ, Microsoft will buy a better position in online media.”



While I suggested that Microsoft might buy AOL – I did not predict it’d buy aQuantive or invest in Facebook. But both moves are, in essence, Microsoft buying a better position in online media, so I’d give myself a “pretty much nailed it” on this one. I also said…

1. (a) If Microsoft does not buy AOL, Yahoo will, and failing that, AOL will go public, but the IPO will receive a lukewarm review.

AOL did not go public, but it made major moves to prepare that part of its business that can/should be public – it’s advertising platform, for an offering. It bought Tacoda and several other advertising businesses, renamed its offering Platform A, and put Dave Morgan in charge. Watch for it to go public or be sold in early 2008.



#2: “A major media outlet will predict that the “Web 2.0″ bubble has burst or deflated seriously. The prediction will be wrong.”

Well, a search for “Web 2 bubble” sure gets a ton of major media hits – The Atlantic, The WSJ, and many many more. But none said the bubble had burst. Instead, they suggested it would go out with…a whimper. I think I got this one wrong.

#3:Google will integrate YouTube into its main services.” I think I get a nailed it here (see how the Youtube Ninja is integrated into results?). In retrospect, seems very obvious, but there was debate about this in 2006.

#4: “Related to this, Google Video Ads will dissappoint until Q4 2007.” This is another nailed it. Across the industry, everyone is asking where the profits are with Google’s video strategy. Google did roll out its answer (see here), but no one knows if it’s working, and many claim it is not. I also wrote:

“Because advertisers in video have all sorts of structural reasons to not want to work the way Google wants them to work. Until the Fall of 07, when these differences will be worked out, and Google will have a slam dunk quarter in a form of advertising outside of text ads for the first time in its history.”

This prediction remains to be seen, when Google reports its earnings next month. We’ll see, but I’m guessing it will NOT be a slam dunk.

#5: “Yahoo will not regain its luster, but will take the steps necessary to do so by the end of the year.” I think I got this right. Yahoo’s board parted ways with Terry, and the company consolidated operations under Sue Decker. I think the company is poised to do well in 2008 if it can navigate its way between the big guns of Microsoft and Google.

#6: “eBay will have a major change in executive leadership.” I saw Meg at Web 2 this past October, and she mentioned that she was the longest running non founder still in a CEO role. It made me wonder when eBay was going to take the plunge and get a new CEO. Not that I am anti-Meg, I think she’s great. But it became very evident this year the company needs a new directon. While “a major change” did not occur this year (you can argue that perhaps Zennstrom leaving Skype was major), I still believe it’s a matter of timing, and the other shoe will drop very soon here. Net net: Didn’t nail it, but didn’t blow it either.

#7: “Amazon will continue to push beyond ecommerce into web services, the market will punish it for doing so, and by the end of the year Bezos will be forced to defend his investments as his stock takes a hit for those services’ failing to find traction.” I think I got the first part right, and the second wrong. The market has rewarded Amazon for its strategy, and while Bezos has been vigorously defending his play, it turns out folks generally agree with it.

#8: ” There will be a brief, somewhat irrational spurt of acquisitions related to “content”, in particular independent media sites with good demographics and a decent audience profile. I say irrational because by the end of the year, it will be clear why those sites were independent in the first place.” I think this is right, save the word “acquisitions”. There was a lot of noise in this market this year, a lot of independent media companies who tried to get sold, or wanted to be sold, or were looked at hard as acquisition targets. But save the odd Wallstrip deal, it was not to be. Why? Because the second part of my prediction also came true: Those with the money to buy realized they could not justify the prices that independent media creators wanted paid. Look for more predictions on where this is all going in my 2008 post.

#9: “Speaking of the content business, it will face a major test as two forces converge to undermine the pageview model: Ajax, on the one hand, and ad blockers on the other. Both will be addressed with alarm and alacrity by industry efforts.” I think I got this wrong. It is taking way longer than I thought it would for this issue to bubble up as a major problem.

#10: “Blog 2.0″ will become a reality. By this I mean that Version 1.0 blogsites, of which I think Searchblog is a good example, will begin to look dated and fade in comparison to sites that employ better approaches to content management, navigation, intelligent widgets and web services, etc.” I think this is definitely happening. First, Searchblog looks totally dated. And second, if you look at second order blogs like Mashable, or Ars, or MamaPop, you see that directionally, blogs are maturing into real publishing platforms.

#11: “One major Internet player will really screw up the privacy/trust issue, in a way bigger than even AOL did last year.” Oh boy, thanks for making me look like a genius, Facebook!

#12: “The Google founders will find themselves the subject of at least one major “takedown” piece in the mainstream media.” I think I got this wrong. I am stunned, honestly, that it has not happened, but then, Facebook took a lot of the focus away from Google, and the media may have shelved its traditional takedown approach due to its fascination with Mark Z. Also, the Google Guys have been very, very good at deflecting possible wealth-realted criticism by offering up a Greener Google angle to the story.

#13: “Mobile will finally be plugged into the web in a way that makes sense for the average user and a major mobile innovation – the kind that makes us all say – Jeez that was obvious – will occur.” As I said earlier to Facebook: Thanks Apple, for making me look smart.

#14: “Lastly, I will begin work on my second book.” OK, well, I have begun work. But not nearly as much as I want to do. Not even close. But I did outline some important ideas here and here and in an as yet unfinished proposal but…I hope to have more time to report and write this coming year.

Well, that’s it. To summarize, of the 14, I got ten or so mostly right, a few sorta right and sorta wrong, and at least two totally wrong. Not a bad scorecard. Here’s how I did in 2006, 2005, and 2004.

Catchin' Up

By - November 19, 2007

A Monday morning catch up, given I was offline a lot last week:

More details on Jimmy Wales’ search play, and a rumor about it looking a lot like social networking.

Facebook rumored to be making its first major M&A play, in China. (TC) But wait…it was just a rumor. I still am curious how FB makes acquisitions with anything but cash, given that massive valuation from Microsoft. Will it close another few hundred million so it has a real cash war chest, I wonder?

TC also wonders about a new approach to magazines from Google, based on a recent patent.

Google loses another early employee, Gokul Rajaram. (SEL)

Amazon introduces the Kindle. I’m not sure about this. I’ll grok it as it comes into the world naturally. That is to say, I don’t plan on buying it, but if folks I respect keep telling me how wonderful it is, I will.

Google Flickr-izes its index. Er, Picaserizes.

Rumors, more rumors, this one that Google wants Skype.

Obama got game when it comes to Net related policy.

…more when I get a minute. Which recently is never.

Links for now…I know, I know…

By - November 06, 2007

But I need more time to post on Facebook’s stuff. I was at a meeting in San Jose when it broke. I mean, WHO COMMUTES IN THE VALLEY? MY *GOD*, it took me nearly three hours to get from San Jose to Marin at 5 pm today. Who does this every day? Any of you?

Anyway….some fun links for the day:

Henry on the Google economy.

The Facebook press releases.



Forbes on Facebook. And the Merc. Mark Z: “marketers are going to be part of the conversation” – sheesh, where have I heard that before?

Search your genome, baby.

Yahoo says sorry for China, in a way.

Newspapers are sorry that Google exists, in a way.