November 22, 2012
In less than two weeks, BIA/Kelsey is organizing its ILM (stands for Interactive Local Media) West 2012 Conference, a must-attend for anyone in the local media space. Held from December 4 to December 6 in Los Angeles, the team has put another yet another great line-up of speakers and panelists.
As I will be attending, I’ve put together a list of “can’t miss” keynotes and panels:
Day 1 (December 4)
- The ILM West Kickoff: The View From BIA/Kelsey. That’s when the analysts share interesting data on “local”. Helpful for all those PowerPoint presentations you’ll be preparing in 2013
- Opening Keynote: Bill Gross, CEO, Idealab. Bill Gross. ‘Nuff said.
There’s also panels on venture capital, on sales transformation and on innovative startups. Those are often “hit or miss” but you never know.
Day 2 (December 5)
- The Google Executive Interview: Todd Rowe, Managing Director – SMB Global Sales, Google. Should be good.
- Keynote: Jason Finger, CEO, CityGrid. Definitely interested to hear what CityGrid is up to. They’ve been silent recently.
- SuperForum: Mobile’s Impact on Interactive Local Media: National to Local. Those 4 mini-sessions all focus on local and mobile.
- Afternoon Keynote: David Krantz, CEO, YP. Like CityGrid, interested to hear the latest news at YP.
- Targeting Local Audiences: Hollywood Shows the Way. Ah, I love when they bring new industries to the table. Lots to learn usually.
Day 3 (December 6)
- A Discussion With Ben T. Smith IV, CEO, Wanderful Media. This one should be very very interesting. Ben’s company has been very active lately, including a huge $22M funding roundfrom newspaper companies in September.
- Keynote Speaker: Dan Levy, Director, Global SMB Markets, Facebook. Facebook doesn’t usually share a lot of new information in these conferences, so stay tuned.
If you want to connect when I’m there, don’t hesitate to ping by e-mail: sprovencher AT gmail
In addition to the conferences, the event is great for networking. If you’re planning to attend and haven’t booked your ticket yet, Use my personal code to get $200 off the registration fees: ILMWSEB
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.
At the BIA/Kelsey ILM East 2011 conference this morning, we heard from Lior Ron, the Group Product Manager for Google Places (including Maps and Hotpot).
A couple of interesting information points came out:
- Google Places contains 50M places around the world
- They felt they were missing “people” in the local equation and that’s why they launched Google Hotpot
- Hotpot is all about organizing the web around people and places and is a local recommendation engine.
- Hotpot now has generated more than 3M reviews and ratings (see this BIA/Kelsey post from last week for more data points)
Lior Ron said that Hotpot is not about Google building another silo or reviews site. It’s about collecting short signals to enable better ranking/relevancy. A few conference attendees were not convinced by that statement.
January 11, 2011
Like last year, Mike Blumenthal asked me for my thoughts on what were the most important events in “local” in 2010. I obliged and Mike put together a blog post with my answers. In a nutshell, they are:
- The launch of Twitter Places
- Foursquare’s growth
- Facebook launches Places
- The launch of the iPad
- The rise of Groupon and the explosion of the daily offers space
- Groupon rejects Google’s purchase offer
Head up to Mike’s blog to read the rest of my post.
December 8, 2010
Excellent block of speakers this morning at the BIA/Kelsey ILM:10 conference with senior execs from both Google and Yahoo! speaking about their local strategy.
On the Google front, we first heard from Carter Maslan, Product Management Director, Local Search. He touched upon their mission (organize the world’s information geographically and make it universally accessible and useful), mentioned the new presentation of results in place pages released on October 15 and explained that local is not just one thing, it’s the various ways we lead our lives: critics, guides, tribes, events, news, products, offers, friends, credentials, and specialties.
The most insightful portion of the presentation was the Q&A session. There clearly seems to be pent up frustration between local resellers/local media publishers and Google and for the first time, we could hear very public grumbling. Probably caused by a series of Google moves including modifications to local search results pages, frustration with the AdWords reseller process and the tentative Groupon acquisition, I think the fragile coopetition equilibrium is threatened. “Elephant in the room” was mentioned by a few people. When Maslan was asked what was the role of directory publishers in the ecosystem, he said they could be the source of “credentialed businesses” as Google still has a lot of problems with listings spam. He mentioned that local ranking was based on three main dimensions: 1) the relevance of the place 2) the prominence of it 3) distance (depending on categories).
We then listened to Wesley Chan, Partner, Google Ventures. They are the investment arm for Google and are looking for great teams of entrepreneurs to back them financially and with intellectual capital. They are looking for financial returns, not for companies/projects that are strategic to Google. In fact, Chan clearly mentioned they are not grooming companies solely for Google acquisition and he hopes some of his investments will be acquired by Facebook and Microsoft! They love “local”, think it’s very early, that we will surprised many times in the next 10 years. They do all types of investments, from seed to mezzanine rounds. Chan spends 50%+ of his time on “local” opportunities. Again, more proof of the importance of local for Google.
December 7, 2010
Google’s failed attempt to purchase fast-growing Web coupon provider Groupon has not deterred the Internet search giant from the local advertising market. In fact, Susan Wojcicki, a Google senior vice president who oversees its advertising business, said that cracking the local ad market is the her biggest priority.
“That is my biggest focus,” said Ms. Wojcicki, one of Google’s early employees who was interviewed during the D: Dive Into Mobile event at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in San Francisco. “How can we enable you, when you’re walking around, to find out the best local offers around? As an advertiser, how can I find out if someone saw my ad and went to a store? The local market is a huge market, we’ve always wanted to be in it.”
What it means: if anyone had any doubts about the importance of local for Google…
Excellent keynote to start the first day of the BIA/Kelsey conference. Jeremy Stoppelman, Yelp’s CEO, shared with us a lot of interesting data points regarding their business.
- How they define what they do: “connecting people with great local businesses”
- 14 million local reviews as of today
- Top review categories: 26% restaurants, 24% shopping, 9% beauty and fitness.
- Expanding geographical coverage: France, Germany, Austria this year, more coming soon.
- Yelp currently has 39M unique visitors vs. 26M last year (per their Google Analytics).
- Monetization model: video ads, paid (ranking) ads, daily offers (what Stoppelman called the ”transaction business”)
The CEO then discussed the main traffic drivers for Yelp mentioning search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing and he also listed Facebook as a great source of Web traffic. He talked about how search engine optimization (SEO) in the local space (read Google…), is becoming problematic. He doesn’t think Yelp (and other local media sites) will be able to rely on Google for traffic down the road but the good news is that the industry is heading towards “mobile”. People don’t search on mobile, they use applications. At Yelp, mobile is a startup within a startup and it’s been very successful. 30% of their total traffic comes from mobile now and a business is called every 5 seconds.
He also shared his strategies for driving distribution on mobile:
- Leveraging your web assets
- Store promotion
- Battle for on deck
When prodded at the end of the session, he mentioned that “Mobile is the future of our business”.
What it means: Looking at Yelp, it looks like they are becoming a more mature business (with all the good and the bad that comes with being “mature”). Google’s moves in local is definitely a threat but their move into mobile is creating huge opportunities for them. Monetization is probably still problematic (it’s very difficult to monetize merchant reviews) but “daily offers” might be a great way for them to speed up revenue generation. I think they are a good example of the strategic importance of mobile in local/social.
December 7, 2010
Unless you’ve been living on a deserted island in the last 10 days, you’ve heard about the presumed $6 billion Google bid to buy Groupon, the leading daily offers player. Groupon walked away from the opportunity on Friday and will probably do an IPO in the next12-18 months (like Facebook). I gave a couple of media interviews last week on the phenomenon, one in the Montreal Gazette (here and here) and the other one in La Presse (in French), but I didn’t have the chance to blog about the story yet. Let’s fix that.
Why did Google want to buy Groupon and at such a huge valuation? For a couple of reasons.
1) Google wants to make sure they’re not seen as one-trick poney by Wall Street. Because they’re a public company, they need to show huge growth to meet expectations and expand into many ad vehicles. At their last quarterly call, they highlighted the success of their display ads business. Groupon is rumoured to have annual revenues of $2 billion and it certainly would have added interesting top-line revenues and great growth rates. Not sure Google would have liked the lower margins than what they have in search advertising, but it is what it is.
2) Google wanted to buy a local sales force. Groupon is present in more than 300 metropolitan markets and 35 countries and they’ve used their capital to scale the sales team and acquire regional players in Europe and Asia. Google has signaled many times in the past couple of years that they haven’t been satisfied with their large volume local sales channel partners (read Yellow Pages) and they’re probably wondering about having their own local sales force. Over the years, many rumors have surfaced about Google buying Yell and other large directory publishers. With the Groupon acquisition off, directory publishers stock has risen in value. According to The Street, “Three small-cap companies soared on Friday. Dex One Corporation ended nearly 49 percent higher, boosting its market cap to $335 million. It owns Yellow Pages and White pages directories. Meanwhile Supermedia, which pushes Superyellowpages.com and other local ads, soared 20 percent on a huge spike in volume. Its market cap is still just around $105 million. And Local.com, a business search engine and ad network, added 8.3 percent with a $90 million market cap.”
Both Supermedia and Dex One still have huge debts pushing the total cost of an acquisition higher (probably $3 billion +). Interestingly enough, Greg Sterling reported yesterday that Yell was thinking of selling Yellowbook, their US arm. Good timing!
Could a transaction to buy a directory publisher happen? Yes, it’s possible but I wouldn’t say it’s probable. There’s probably an underlying culture clash issue, trying to match Google with a Yellow Pages company. Google will probably be tempted to look at other options before including building their own sales force. After all, if Groupon did it, Google has all the capital it needs to create their own. It might take 12-24 months, but it would probably cost less than $3 to $6B required to make an acquisition. Could they look at ReachLocal? They had 641 salespeople as of Q2 2010 and a much smaller market cap / debt (under $1B). Maybe. One thing is sure. Google will make a strategic move in that field in the coming months.