Exciting news in the Canadian market a few days ago. Google announced they would offer Canadian small businesses (SMBs) a free website and .CA domain name via a program called Canada Get Your Business Online.
Excerpts from the release:
To help Canadian small businesses overcome the obstacles that are preventing them from getting online and fuelling Canada’s digital economy, Google is launching a new program called Canada Get Your Business Online that will provide free websites with a .ca domain, and free advice for businesses across Canada. (…) Google estimates that at least 1.2 million Canadian small businesses don’t have websites. (…) To learn more about the Canada Get Your Business Online program visit www.gybo.ca.
Google understands that if small merchants don’t have a website, they can’t really buy AdWords, Google’s core pay-for-performance advertising model. I thought to myself, what a great idea! An entry website is a commodity. By bundling it with a domain name and offering everything for free, you lock-in the small business advertiser and you are able to upsell them AdWords and Google Tags. For this purpose, they partnered with Yola, a free website-building technology provider.
In productizing Needium, I’ve been exploring entry-level website solutions in the last few weeks. We’ve found that SMBs who have a website perform better in social media. The site serves as the permanent anchor, where all your business information resides and where consumers coming from social media can read more about you and evaluate if you’re “real” or not.
It is with great hope I started creating a test Website on www.gybo.ca but I quickly became disenchanted.
After creating an account, you get to a page that offers you to register your free .ca domain name.
I went through the various steps to find an available domain name and you eventually get to a registration screen that asks you for credit card information “required to verify your identity”. That makes sense.
I was really surprised to read the following fine print on the page though: “This domain is completely free for the first year. Renewals start at C$38.95″.
Hmmmm… .CA domain names are usually $15 per year. That renewal price seems extremely expensive. Maybe you can register free the domain name and eventually transfer it to a cheaper domain name registrar? In the terms, Yola adds “Free .ca and .co.uk domains awarded through our Google partnership are not eligible for transfer or pointing.”
So, it looks like your “free” domain name is really just free the first year and it’s not transferable. Doesn’t sound like a good deal anymore, does it? This really disappointed me. I thought Google had made a move to really change the Canadian SMB landscape by offering a permanently free intro website and domain name. After all, they’ve made other game changing moves in the past and I was expecting the same. But not this time. So, caveat emptor.
October 8, 2010
I missed this huge media acquisition news while I was on vacation:
BCE Inc. has in one fell swoop remade Canada’s media landscape and set the stage for a fierce battle between the phone and cable companies over watching TV shows on something other than a television.
The telecommunications giant on Friday struck a $1.3-billion deal to take full ownership of CTV Inc., a move that breaks apart CTVglobemedia, gives control of The Globe and Mail back to the Thomson family and marks the exit of Torstar Corp. from the group, further shaking up an industry that is constantly being reshaped.
What it means: I love this quote (in another Globe & Mail article) from Kevin Crull, Bell Canada’s President – Residential Services: “Mr. Crull said that he considers Bell more of an entertainment company than a straight communications company, reiterating Bell’s stated goal to be the largest TV provider in Canada by 2015. “You can’t separate entertainment and communications any more, because of broadband [high-speed Internet],” he said.” It’s definitely back to the future for Bell Canada as the company (under Jean Monty’s direction) had bought CTV in 2000. It had resold it under Michael Sabia’s rule. I personally thought Monty’s move was brilliant and I think this vindicates him.
I also think it clearly confirms that content is, once again, king. And it also makes me think about the Yellow Pages industry. Many industry CEOs state that their main asset is the sales force. I think senior management should not forget about content. Local search is all about breadth and depth of content, not just sales.
August 28, 2009
I missed the announcement when it came out a few weeks ago but [praized subtype="small" pid="7ac08d444f37191c8a97699e6530751c" type="badge" dynamic="true"] (YPG), Canada’s largest directory publisher, has introduced what they call a “custom delivery program”. This new program, part of their EcoInitiatives, allows consumers to receive more print Yellow Pages directory copies or to be removed from the distribution list. To do it, people can go online to http://www.ypg.com/delivery or contact YPG’s Distribution Call Centre at 1-800-268-5637.
What it means: smart move by YPG and the Yellow Pages Association. In my personal opinion, consumers that do not want to receive the print version of the local business directory are still a minority (usage of print directories is still very high) but it’s a very vocal minority. Giving those consumers the choice makes complete sense. For my Canadian readers, if you’re thinking of opting out, don’t opt-out completely. Keep at least the delivery of the Yellow Pages Neighborhood directory. In my neighborhood, because of the locally-relevant rich content, I find it is still a very useful product to find merchants.
The [praized subtype="small" pid="c4d2d76ecb2f9ad3c44c7561da14799dd0" type="badge" dynamic="true"] released this week their report on 2008 Actual Online Advertising Revenue (.pdf). Some highlights:
- Online advertising revenues in Canada have more than quadrupled over the past five years, and grew to $1.6 billion (net) in 2008, up 29% from the $1.2 billion $1.241 million reported in 2007
- Online is now 11% of all advertising revenue
- French language advertising revenues grew by 22% in 2008 to $317 million (net), and accounted for 20% of total Online ad revenues in Canada during 2008
- 2009 Forecast: Online advertising revenue in Canada will grow to $1.75 billion in 2009 – an estimated 9.2% increase over 2008 actuals
- Search advertising continues to lead in terms of share of dollars booked by Online Publishers ($602 million/38%), followed by Display ($490 million/31%) and Classifieds/Directories ($480 million/30%).
The report also explains what are the perceived industry challenges and opportunities going forward. The following have been identified:
- Coping with the severity of the economic downturn
- Demonstrating Display advertising’s return-on-investment (with or without a click) in response to growing Advertiser emphasis on performance-based (CPC/CPA) pricing models
- Training offline media sales forces to effectively integrate Online into cross-media sales proposals
- The commoditization of Online media by the growing number and increased market share of Advertising Networks.
What it means: very good growth in online advertising in Canada last year with 29%. An interesting particularity of the Canadian market is the large share of Classifieds/Directory online revenue, almost as big as Display ads. That’s definitely due in a large part to [praized subtype="small" pid="7ac08d444f37191c8a97699e6530751c" type="badge" dynamic="true"] who reported revenues of $247 million in 2008 (most of them in Classifieds/Directories I suspect). They officially represent more than 15% of all online revenues in Canada. Impressive results.
[praized subtype="small" pid="38350f4a561be91fb4e8550fb6eb4a16" type="badge" dynamic="true"] just release their Q1 2009 results. Excerpts from their press release:
“The first quarter was a tale of two solitudes: Harlequin delivered an excellent quarter of growth while our newspaper businesses confronted lower advertising revenues as a result of the recession,” said Robert Prichard, President and CEO of Torstar Corporation.
Revenue in the newspapers and digital segment was down 11 percent as the recession has hurt numerous advertising categories led by employment, real estate and automotive. While aggressive cost management across our newspaper businesses mitigated the impact of the revenue reduction, it has been insufficient to prevent a sharp drop in profitability. The newspapers also faced higher pension costs and newsprint pricing in the quarter which accentuated the reduction in profitability.
Newspapers and Digital revenue was $214.5 million in the quarter, down $27.1 million from $241.6 million in 2008…
Newspapers and Digital Segment operating loss was $4.8 million in the first quarter of 2009, down $17.2 million from an operating profit of $12.4 million in the same quarter last year. The segment realized labour cost savings from restructurings undertaken in 2008 that more than offset higher newsprint prices and higher pension costs in the quarter. However, the cost savings were not sufficient to offset the revenue declines.
Torstar expects that advertising revenue will continue to be soft through the balance of the year.
What it means: TorStar corporation, publisher of daily and weekly newspapers, is suffering from the cyclical and structural advertising slowdown in the newspaper industry. The good news for Torstar is that they publish books as well through their Harlequin division. That business is doing very well and is helping them weather the storm. TorStar has been experimenting in social media through their OurFaves.com initiative.
April 6, 2009
I’m a bit late writing about this news (Greg Sterling wrote about it here and the Kelsey Group guys here) but RHD has just released a series of DexKnows mobile apps & services. I recently had the opportunity to connect with Deborah Eldred, Director of Mobile at RHD, to discuss the new offer.
- Developed by MobilePeople
- Covers the whole mobile “value chain”: text messages, mobile browser version, downloadable client applications, iPhone application
- They looked at ComScore data to focus development on the most important phone models/carriers
- They developed a specific search “taxonomy” by looking at top categories in a mobile context. They also regrouped categories in three most-used metacategories called Gettin’ Grub (food & restaurants), Havin’ Fun (entertainment), Goin’ Places (travel)
- Search results are ranked by centroid, currently the center of the city, but eventually the user geo-location
I asked Deborah how the Dexknows offer was differentiated from other offers out there. She mentioned the following:
- Focused on relevant experience for mobile users (as opposed to advertiser-focused)
- Most important mobile categories have been grouped and surfaced on the home page
- People search (data provided by Whitepages.com)
- RHD covers the whole mobile value chain, from text messages to iPhone app
- They have great content in their in-region territory.
What it means: happy to see that directory publishers are releasing new mobile apps. Obviously, in the medium/long term, it is a critical component of the distribution mix. But I think, in the short term, it plays an important perceptual role with the sales team and advertisers.
March 16, 2009
According to CTV’s Chris Abel, CanPages.ca, the local search site of [praized subtype="small" pid="58d245fd7e8f20800dee0ecd3af21f08" type="badge" dynamic="true"], the independent Canadian directory publisher, has launched its own Street View feature. CanPages has partnered with San Francisco-based MapJack to deploy this technology in Canada. Abel says it’s very similar to Google Street View but includes new features such as ”a fullscreen mode and paths that explore pedestrian walkways as much as they do the streets ruled by cars and trucks.”
You can see it in searches in Vancouver, Whistler, or Squamish (all in British Columbia). As for future expansion, “the company plans to expand to include Street Views of Toronto and Montreal next, followed by as much of Canada as possible.”
In the last few days, an ad for a video camera operator has appeared in a Quebec job site, making people think Google was going to capture Quebec City in Street View. It’s possible but I suspect it might be an ad for the first French Canadian street view deployment of CanPages.ca.
What it means: looking at the introduction of new features inside the CanPages.ca site in the last 6-12 months, it’s clear that the exec team there has identified feature gaps inside YellowPages.ca, the main property of Yellow Pages Group (and directory incumbent in Canada) and are trying to differentiate themselves via those new features. It’s a good strategic move. On the other side, YPG has a mapping agreement with Microsoft and I’m fairly certain the Redmond giant is also taking street view pictures (many people on Twitter have reported seeing the Microsoft vehicle taking pictures). This will certainly be easy for YPG to deploy once it’s available in Canada. As I reported a few weeks ago, the new DexKnows.com has a nice integration of Google Maps and Street View.
February 24, 2009
The same day, both the Kelsey Group and IAB Canada released ad revenue numbers forecast for the US and for Canada respectively. As you’ll see, if my US friends thought the mobile ad market was nascent in their country, they’ll be surprised by how insignificant it is in Canada (although it’s difficult to compare apple-to-apple as the IAB mostly covers 2006 and 2007 revenues).
First, highlights from the Kelsey numbers:
- U.S. Mobile Ad Revenues will grow from $160M in 2008 to $3.1B in 2013 (81.2% growth per year)
- U.S. Mobile Local Search Ad Revenues will grow from $20M in 2008 to $1.3B in 2013 (130.5% growth per year)
- The percentage of mobile searches that have local intent will increase from 28 percent in 2008 to 35 percent in 2013
- There are currently 54.5 million mobile Internet users in the United States, representing 25 percent of online users
- Approximately 15 percent of iPhone applications are local.
IAB Canada also released the results of their first “Mobile Advertising Revenue Survey/Report” covering the mobile Web market in Canada. Highlights:
- Revenues grew from $1.1 million in 2006 to $2.66 million in 2007 (or growth of 143% year-over-year).
- Standard SMS is by far, the dominant Mobile advertising vehicle generating almost $2 million (or 75%) of the total $2.66 in net revenue in 2007.
- Revenues are expected to almost double again in 2008, to $5.2 million.
- Mobile search revenues in Canada in 2007 were 0$ (!?!)
The IAB also asked mobile marketers what would be the expected challenges for the next 12 months. They mention:
- The small size of the Internet-enabled Mobile audience
- The constraints posed by the current Carrier/Provider business model
- The Low levels of Advertiser/Agency understanding and comfort with Mobile as a viable advertising medium
- The ability/need for Mobile marketers to demonstrate Mobile’s return on investment from the get-go.
What it means: we knew we had it bad in Canada in terms of the mobile ecosystem (expensive data plans, smart phones are just starting to arrive, etc.) but I didn’t think it was that bad. US mobile ad revenues for 2008 are expected to be 30 times higher than in Canada. And it’s really nothing compared to the revenues generated by the mobile telecommunications industry in Canada. According to StatCan, revenues of the wireless telecom segment in Canada totaled $12.8 billion in 2006 (thanks to Ianik Marcil for providing me the data source). Clearly, “thar’s gold in them thar hills” but we need better conditions for the ecosystem to thrive in the long term.