Yellow Pages, Yahoo Local, and Channel Conflict

As I mentioned earlier, I had the opportunity to dine with Lincoln Milstein and Peter Negulescu last night. Peter, or Petey as I like to call him, is an old friend who started with IBM and ran through all sorts of interesting companies, including Excite, before landing at the…

LocaldecksAs I mentioned earlier, I had the opportunity to dine with Lincoln Milstein and Peter Negulescu last night. Peter, or Petey as I like to call him, is an old friend who started with IBM and ran through all sorts of interesting companies, including Excite, before landing at the helm of SFGate (the San Francisco Chronicle’s digital arm), which got him just in the nick of time, to my mind. Lincoln was the number two guy at the New York Times Digital before jumping over to Hearst earlier this year.

The conversation wandered happily all over the place, but an interesting tangent focused on local search and its impact on the Yellow Pages. Given that Hearst runs a bunch of newspapers, including the Chronicle, and that the Chronicle has scores of ad sales reps and a strong brand in its local region (I know, “strong” is an arguable term, but let’s leave that one aside for now), I asked Petey why SFGate isn’t an aggressive player in the local online advertising market. While I can assure you Peter has very interesting plans in the content space, he chided me for my ignorance regarding the 800-pound gorilla of local markets – the Yellow Pages. “They have like 6-700 local sales people in every major region,” he told me. “They visit every merchant in town.” In other words, the Chronicle can never compete.

I then asked their opinion of an idea I have been turning over in my mind for some time – that of Yahoo becoming the new Yellow Pages. Stay with me here, it might take a while for me to explain. My idea is this: Given that Yahoo Local is a very well received service, and given that it basically builds a web page on the fly which describes a local merchant’s offerings, and given that that local merchant can upload basic content to Yahoo Local about his or her business for free, why isn’t Yahoo aggressively courting local merchants with, in essence, the equivalent of online Yellow Pages ads? Turns out, Yahoo *has* launched a rudimentary “premium” listings product (I covered it here), and I can imagine the day when that service becomes a real force in the local listings market, one that could eventually unseat the Yellow Pages, if Yahoo plays its cards right.

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News: Google Launches New Toolbar, Musings on Meaning of Beta

Spoke with Google product chief Marissa Mayer yesterday, who told me that Google is launching its third rev of its toolbar today. It's Windows only, and it's a beta: Google is not planning to auto-update current toolbar users until the bugs are worked out. I asked Marissa what the…

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Spoke with Google product chief Marissa Mayer yesterday, who told me that Google is launching its third rev of its toolbar today. It’s Windows only, and it’s a beta: Google is not planning to auto-update current toolbar users until the bugs are worked out.

I asked Marissa what the deal was with all the beta stuff at Google. More than 75% of their offerings are in beta, some have been there more than a year. She responded that Google was getting close to lifting beta from on a number of key products – Froogle and News were two she mentioned. But that beta means different things at Google. For client software like Desktop or Toolbar, beta is used more strictly, as in, this software ain’t ready for primetime, and we want some feedback to be sure it doesn’t bork your machine, and we intend to fix bugs and get it into general release as soon as possible.

For web apps, beta means something quite different. “We have a list of features we’d like to see in a product,” Mayer told me. Once that list is complete, the beta tag is taken off, even if the product is quite robust without them. As an example, she mentioned Froogle, which was launched without a “sort by price” feature. The product was simply not complete. When Mayer and Google feels it is complete, the beta tag will disappear.

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Yahoo Search Geek Interviewed

Over on Yahoo's Search Blog. Reiner Kraft is one serious search geek – more than 100 patents filed, apparently. From the interview: Q: Aren't you also finishing up your thesis? A: Yes, it's about domain specific search and is based on what I call iterative filtering meta search. The…

Reiner-Kraft-Sm

Over on Yahoo’s Search Blog. Reiner Kraft is one serious search geek – more than 100 patents filed, apparently. From the interview:

Q: Aren’t you also finishing up your thesis?

A: Yes, it’s about domain specific search and is based on what I call iterative filtering meta search. The idea is to leverage the search engine infrastructures to create a filtering mechanism that automatically helps you get documents for a specialized information need. For instance, we built a buying guide finder that helps you to find just buying guides.

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Firefox, MSFT

Firefox hitting 25 million downloads is getting lots of notice, but this is my favorite, from Scoble, Microsoft's leading blogger, who posted something of a pained congratulations note: "In just a few months your app has become one of the most used Windows applications in the world. My hat's…

FirefoxFirefox hitting 25 million downloads is getting lots of notice, but this is my favorite, from Scoble, Microsoft’s leading blogger, who posted something of a pained congratulations note:

“In just a few months your app has become one of the most used Windows applications in the world. My hat’s off to you!”

Note the use of “Windows application.” Winning by moving the goalposts, is what I think that’s called.

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Is Yahoo In the Content Biz?

Yes. At least, it is getting into the business, cautiously at first, with partnerships like this one, with Showtime. Watch this space. It is going to get interesting….

Yes. At least, it is getting into the business, cautiously at first, with partnerships like this one, with Showtime. Watch this space. It is going to get interesting.

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Search and Immortality

I've riffed on it before. At a New Orleans based exhibition, an artist has taken it one step further. Wired reports. Sullivan said he wanted to create an urn that was visually interesting, allowed some user interactivity and referenced the physical body. He decided that his remains will be…

HydriolastI’ve riffed on it before. At a New Orleans based exhibition, an artist has taken it one step further. Wired reports.

Sullivan said he wanted to create an urn that was visually interesting, allowed some user interactivity and referenced the physical body. He decided that his remains will be integrated into a computer processor. A virtual agent running on the computer that contains his ashes will scour the web for mentions of his name. As the mentions increase, an on-screen image of Sullivan will morph into an image of his younger self. But if the mentions decline, Sullivan’s image will age, deteriorate and eventually fade away.

In the gallery, a prototype Ego Machine is presented on a computer display. Sullivan realized that since this is a project in perpetuity its results might be imperceptible during a brief visit to the gallery. To make it more interesting for viewers, Sullivan decided to allow people to consciously feed or starve his ego, either at the gallery or online.

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The G-Bay Economy

Reading Bizweek (yup, the print edition) earlier this week, I noticed this article, titled "Keywords for Ad Buyers: Pay Up." (BTW, it's entirely too hard to find this stuff on B'Week's site, but that's another issue.) In the article, Ben Elgin notes Google's extraordinary earnings, then adds that Google…

Googlebot EarthReading Bizweek (yup, the print edition) earlier this week, I noticed this article, titled “Keywords for Ad Buyers: Pay Up.” (BTW, it’s entirely too hard to find this stuff on B’Week’s site, but that’s another issue.) In the article, Ben Elgin notes Google’s extraordinary earnings, then adds that Google has the enviable position of pricing power:

What accounted for the outsize profits? The high prices Google charges for search keywords, for one. Industrywide, they were up an average of 43.7% last year, according to search marketing firm iProspect.com Inc. And the most sought-after words have become far more dear: “background check” rose 258% in a year. On the day of the earnings announcement, Google CEO Eric E. Schmidt told analysts: “There does not seem to be price resistance” from advertisers.

But the pricing power cuts two ways. Elgin goes on to give eBay as an example, quoting CEO Meg Whitman:

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GOOG Surprises Em Again

It was no black monday – the stock went up yesterday (WashPost), despite heavy trading, and is making a run today as well. From the WP piece: "There is so much demand for this stock it is amazing," said Tom Taulli, co-founder of Currentofferings.com, which tracks initial public offerings….

HappytraderIt was no black monday – the stock went up yesterday (WashPost), despite heavy trading, and is making a run today as well.

From the WP piece:

“There is so much demand for this stock it is amazing,” said Tom Taulli, co-founder of Currentofferings.com, which tracks initial public offerings. “It doesn’t seem to let up.”

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Sell Side (Or PDA) Gets a Boost

The meme is accelerating, as Ross Mayfield put it in an email to me today. He pointed me to this piece by Dave Morgan, Tacoda's CEO, in ClickZ, and this presentation (note: PDF download) which Dave also created. Cool! Excerpts: Advertisers just want results. Going forward, they'll be happy…

The meme is accelerating, as Ross Mayfield put it in an email to me today. He pointed me to this piece by Dave Morgan, Tacoda’s CEO, in ClickZ, and this presentation (note: PDF download) which Dave also created. Cool! Excerpts:

Advertisers just want results. Going forward, they’ll be happy to open up their advertisements to distribute them to any publisher who wants them, so long as the publisher delivers to the right audience under the right environmental controls and is willing to be paid on a performance-only basis. This clearly takes PPC advertising to the next level and changes the tradition media selling equation.

…Media owners of all types have long lamented ad brokers and marketing service companies buy their media, optimize it, then don’t share the margins. Print publishers and TV stations can’t do anything about it, but Web publishers can. Sell-side advertising would greatly complement CPM-based brand advertising and could become a significant revenue channel.

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