Archive for the ‘Business’ Category

Google’s IYP killer

October 6, 2009

In Google creates a new simplified ad unit for local business, Greg Sterling takes a new advert for small to medium enterprise, i.e. the Internet Yellow Pages market, through its paces. Google has been trying to enter the SME market for a while, but from everything we’ve seen their churn has been horrific. This means despite the numerous incentives that Google throws at SMEs to get them to sign up to start Adwords — normally anything from €25-€200 free ads — most SMEs quit within their first year. Google has hinted for a while that it will start a simplified approach that will appeal to small business owners, but has not done much in the market apart from some opening moves in the Local Business Centre.

The classical trifecta are all there: a great landing page, transparent reporting and the ability to buy additional visitors and leads. What makes this particularly interesting (and confrontational to IYPs) is that SMEs can buy traffic and leads based on a ‘cat-locale’ i.e. a combination of location (business or search) and search categories. In addition, typical IYP product add-ons such as a click-to-call are included, except now of course the call ‘whisper’ (the brief introduction at the start of each call before it’s connected) says “This call is brought to you by Google” and the delivered lead is reported in your overview. As you’d expect, reporting also means you see where your clicks and leads are coming from. Pricing is flat rate and contracts can be cancelled quickly.

Google continues to test whether (as IYP wisdom says) you require a real sales force to get SME market penetration. It is interesting that Google’s basic problem is less in sales and more in retention — i.e. customer acquisition seems adequate but their churn is painful. IYPs have started investing, and in a number of cases, succeeding with fully automated solutions to deliver guaranteed click and lead products (common in Europe, but for how long, we shall see) and budget-based packages. If they can do it without customer care, why can’t Google? It seems more likely that Google’s go-to-market and product approach was wrong. Whether they can achieve the penetration they want only with online sign-up, or whether they’ll need to take on a larger cross-media advertising approach, perhaps combined with T-sales, remains to be seen. One positive side effect of Google’s approach up until now (at least for Google) is that although SMEs may not have stuck with Google they are unlikely to have gone back to traditional IYP products since the perception is radically altered once you’ve bought a few clicks at €0.50 each, i.e. Google SME products accelerate the market fragmentation, even if they are not themselves successful. In this way, they become part of the baying pack of dogs trying to bring IYPs down, even if they don’t become the new top dog.

Although this is only a test in a couple of US metros, I can’t believe that IYPs will take this lying down. Google is still pretty dependent on IYP and telco feeds in the US, so I’d expect US IYPs to kick them back where it hurts: this means war.


Yellow inspiration

November 11, 2008

According to Arbent’s interesting Inspiration in Yellow notes that the colour yellow is associated with:

  • (on the positive side) Joy, optimism, intelligence, idealism, hope and friendship
  • (on the negative side) Cowardice, hazards and dishonesty
  • (on the rather curious side) Air and femininity

And there was me, associating it only with custard, gold and large printed books. Oh, alright, I have a slightly longer list of associations than that.

The article actually looks a great selection of photography, printed pages, web pages, logos, product packaging and graphic design, with a yellowy theme running through them.

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incSpring: new identities from old logos

September 28, 2008

incSpring was a great idea, waiting to happen. The bidding process for graphic designs and digital identities is a wasteful one. Often two or three agencies or graphic designers are invited to bid, and they may each develop a logo, alongside other brand elements. Once one is chosen, they may often develop three possible choices, which may be iterated a few times. Along the way, work in progress builds up and is simply thrown away, once the final choice is made.

What happens to all those brand identities? They wind up for sale on incSpring.

If you are a hardcore brand process person, you probably feel very strongly that logos must fit closely with digital identities, and that digital identities must created for companies. The success of incSpring suggest that not everyone agrees. Often, a logo and a brand can be applied pretty successfully to a young company, especially when viewer of the logo is given some room for interpretation. And are the brand values of a new tech start-up really that different from each other?

incSpring has mostly logos for sale, although some include names, brand variants, domains and other brand elements. Compared to what you would pay for a fully designed logo (think in the tens of thousands of €s), these are dirt cheap. They range from a few hundred $ to as little as $2500.

Here is a simple logo — neatly incorporating a globe with the letters ‘M’ and ‘V’:

A snip at $2400.

One of my incSpring favourites:

A lot of logo joy there for just $500.

A new way of using a lightbulb for a creative or consulting company:
There are a few hundred logos to browse and play with.

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Yoskovitz: Be a Data Hog, Make More Money!

May 9, 2008

Ben Yoskovitz is known for his company Standout Jobs. In the article “Yoskovitz: Be a Data Hog, Make More Money!” he makes a good and simple case for collating lots of data, analysing it regularly and repeatedly asking Why? The approach reminded me a lot of my colleague Doug Brown, the executive in charge of operations in our Search Engine Marketing reseller division. Doug is constantly driving his team to build up data, analyse and test it, and then make interesting and useful predictions and conclusions.

There is a link here with highly iterative development. It comes down to generating and understanding feedback from a working system as quickly as possible and then being able to adjust your course as quickly as possible with the new information. Making the feedback small, incremental and falsifiable (as in test-driven development) is important. Each of these contributes to being able to translate the tests into next actionable steps.

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SpinVox Strategy

April 6, 2008

Great podcost and blog from msearchgroove on SpinVox. This company started out by translating voicemails to text. They have just got another $100m or so of funding to expand their offering into new languages and domains. Now, they are looking at use cases like listening to voicemails that mention “Let’s meet up in Covent Garden and have a bite to eat” which prompts your mobile to give you a list of great restaurants in Covent Garden and offer to book one. This is in contrast to a classic above the line approach of broadcasting ads at you. This is really contextual and personal: automatically relevant and because it’s purely opt-in, users are much more willing to transact.

SpinVox co-founder Daniel Doulton talks about implicit and explicit search. The latter is how most search engines work right now: a user needs to explicit state what he is looking for. The former is how search can add most value: by ‘listening in’ to our conversations, and looking at our day, and unobtrusively helping out. He reckons that this is the obvious reason why Google made their 411 play: voice is central to their strategy and way of making search really free-form. You see similarly pureplays in search companies like Powerset.

SpinVox allows you to note your blog, or your social networking product, then with a voice call add text to your site, or indeed add comments to someone’s site.

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Web 2.1

August 12, 2007

TechCrunch has an interesting article regarding German websites copying US originals (Web 2.0 in Germany: Copy/Paste Innovation or more?) . This is an idea that must have occurred to a few: take a reasonably rich country that likes to speak its own language, find a successful US idea and replicate.

The interesting thing is that this is actually successful, and that a US site takes time to localise and compete. Much of the success of a Web 2.0 site depends on user generated content and user collaboration, and without an initial critical mass of local users the site will not catch on locally. Perhaps as much as anything the local copies give their country a core cadre of native power users to collaborate, generate content and grow the site.

A new white pages?

May 25, 2007

GigaOM has an interesting article about a new social voice service.:
As GigaOM says, image “you meet someone and the only information you have about them, is their email address. You can go to Jangl website, and enter their email address. The Jangl system assigns them a temporary phone number, and allows you to leave them a voice mail message, which is then forwarded to their email inbox. They can choose to call you back, using Jangl assigned temporary number. You can do the same with someone instant messaging identity as well.”

As GigaOM says, this is an interesting way to start building a SIP directory.

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Flickr owns up

May 18, 2007

This is a great story of one user being enabled to do something wrong to another by a large web company: someone took Rebekka’s pictures off of Flickr and sold ’em. Yes, she has culpability in that loading good quality pictures without watermarks enables anyone to print and sell them (at admittedly some pretty small sizes). But you can also understand that this could never have happened without Flickr. And although it could have happened to anyone, that it happened to Flickr’s posterchild was particularly ironic.

She was understandably upset and complained to Flickr and the Blogosphere. They responded in sympathy. One of the incensed community then posted details of the offending user and what they’d like to do to them. This went a little far. Flickr pulled her photos and all the accompanying comments from their site.

It is evidence of the immense power of the user community, that a full apology from Flickr did not take very long.

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Local Guides: local social verticals

May 17, 2007

Perry blogged about the public beta of, in the wee hours of this (Dutch) morning. This continues Local Matter’s exploration into ‘local vertical’ through an ongoing dialogue with the user and enabling users to have better dialogues with other users. Using that special blend of search ontology and local features that makes LMi what it is, builds on this as well by introducing something to chat with: special lists, called guides. As Perry says: “The concept of local lists is central to this product. Consumers truly live on lists – lists organize Sunday errands, lists organize family and friends activities, lists bring structure to complex situations. Lists ease tension by giving consumers a sense of order and control! The very cool thing is that lists also make great conversation starters”. Lists with participation and collaboration are called guides.
Guides have two roles: they are the things that enable users to collate, sort, comment and share their local knowledge. They are also the integration of advertiser-generated content and user-generated content. They are wonderfully viral containers for passing on a symbiotic mix of advertiser and user.

It is interesting that traditionally in the directories industry, there has been an almost complete ignorance of users. This changed a little when we moved into IYP, as users become a greater focus, but they lived in a natural tension with advertisers. LocalGuides shows a way were both can help each other. I mean seriously: Google maps has got some great functionality to look at maps, but very little really useful content, and actually it’s a terrible search experience. Local Guides has got great content, great features and a search experience to encompass them both.

And yeah, of course, participation and collaboration is just our new old friend Web 2.0, and apart from the collaborative community, all the normal elements are there: mash-ups of Flickr pictures, YouTube videos, links and content aggregation. Except now, it’s so much more local.

But apart from all that theory, guides are a lot of fun. They are great ways of letting us all express our very local selves, and to dip our toes into pools of local knowledge. The best way to learn this is by trying out: the site is in public beta at

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The next step…

April 16, 2007

The next step for the ‘plex does not seem so far away.

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