Who Will Own “Where”?

February 4, 2008

Most of my business readings this weekend have been various analysis of the potential Yahoo/Microsoft deal. Unfortunately, I haven’t been impressed by the level of the debate as many of the comments were all about “Microsoft is evil” and its corollary “Google is not”. I was hoping for more level-headed reflections but I think the involvement of Microsoft in the story created a highly-emotional environment in the tech blogosphere.

One of them stood out for me. Tim O’Reilly looked at the big picture and tries to extract some industry meaning, showing once again his crystal ball is one of the most polished in the industry. Talking about industry consolidation in general and Yahoo in particular, he offered:

The web companies that have a chance of surviving as independent entities are those that truly understand and exploit the rules of the new platform: harnessing collective intelligence to build rich troves of data that literally get better the more people use the application, running ahead of any possible competitor simply because of the network effects that pile on to keep them improving faster than any newcomer. Some of Yahoo!s properties (e.g. Flickr) have that characteristic, but Yahoo!’s business as a whole did not. It was ultimately a halfway house on the way to Web 2.0. It’s original business was based on a literal aggregation of user generated content, but it quickly became a more traditional content and services portal. Later companies like Google leapfrogged it by building services that tapped more directly into the native network effects of the Web.

The other important characteristic of the winners, of course, is that they tap into a data stream that really matters. Owning network effects around consumer photos, for instance, is much less powerful than owning network effects around paid search. So one of the key questions we have to ask ourselves going forward is this: what are the major data subsystems of the future Internet Operating System. Location, identity (and social graph), search (and not just web search but also product search, in which Amazon has a very strong position) come to mind. In a lot of ways, finding the data associated with the old vectors who, what, when, where, and how is a good place to start.

What it means: O’Reilly posits that local search (Location + Search) is one of the key elements of the future Internet Operating System. I completely agree with him. I would add that no one has locked the market yet. No one in that field is deeply embedded yet in the Web O/S. So, this still represents a major market opportunity. And the big question remains: who will own “where”?

I am attending the Kelsey Group’s ILM 07 conference next week in Los Angeles (e-mail me at seb AT praized.com if you want to connect). Taking a look a the various speakers and presentations, here are the ones I’m most looking forward to:

Kelsey ILM 07

Wednesday November 28

1) Industry Overview by the Kelsey Group Analyst Team. Always interesting and insightful.

2) Jake Winebaum, President, RHDi, CEO, Business.com. I’m dying to know how RHD will leverage Business.com in their core strategy.

3) Jay Herratti, President, Citysearch. Will Citysearch’s strategy change with Herratti on board?

Thursday November 29

1) Chamath Palihapitiya, VP of Product Marketing & Operations, Facebook. Will we learn about Facebook’s local strategy?

2) The “Localized E-Commerce” panel. I’m a strong believer in the “last-mile of local search” (local product inventory, in-store navigation, tuangou, etc.) but it’s very difficult to execute.

3) The “Future of Local Mobile” panel. As local and mobile is on the verge of exploding, this will either be an incredible panel or will be very boring.

4) A Conversation With Webpreneur Jason Calacanis. Now, this should be fun!

Friday November 30

1) Marchex and The Vertical Opportunity in Local. Marchex has some amazing local assets (localized URLs, VoiceStar, SEM platform, etc.). I’m always interested in learning more about their local strategy and how these assets work together.

2) Injecting ‘Social’ into Local Media. It’s the theme of the Praized blog…

For people attending, see you all next week!

(via the ClickzNews Blog)

I’m down here visiting the Kelsey Group’s “Drilling Down on Local ’07” event, and a few minutes ago Safa Rashtchy, sr. research analyst, Internet media and marketing, managing director for Piper Jaffray, finished up his keynote address regarding local search. (…)

(…) as this is a local show, he expanded on user interest trends to say that “Local search is the second most popular activity other than e-mail. You will have more and more focus on local search, whether it’s information or product searches that are happening. The adoption of local search by both local and search advertisers will see an increase.”

He also predicted a shift of users away from portals to search platforms, and said the inflection point for local search will happen when businesses finally get more of their inventory online. The first company to do so, he added, will “win” the business race.

“The navigation method from portals is changing from portals to search,” he said. “People are saying ‘we know what we want, help us to find where it is and don’t tell us what we want to buy.’” Rashtchy continued, “The trigger point [for local search] is likely to be when you have a large number of major merchants that have their inventory easily available online. I thought we might see something by now, but nothing significant has happened yet, but once we see a good part of inventory easily accessible online, we will see a shift.”

Finally, he predicted that mapping and satellite imagery will be coming an integral part of search. “Geographical representation of not just products, but also businesses, is more appealing — the visual aspect of it — and it will play well.” (…)

Safa recently announced he was leaving Piper Jaffray.

What it means: like Safa, I’ve recently become a strong proponent for graphical navigation in local search (through maps, images, etc.). I just love the Flickr geo-tagged image navigation interface (BTW, that’s a great source of local content). Safa also thinks that product inventory is also a killer app but I think it’s going to take a long time before we get to that place. I still think CrowdShopping (or Tuangou) can happen more quickly.

Read on Springwise.com this morning:

The power of groups, the clout that crowds can exercise to get what they want, is nothing new. What is new, however, is the dizzying ease with which likeminded, action-ready citizens and consumers can now go online and connect, group and ultimately exert influence on a global scale. Our sister website trendwatching.com just published a briefing about crowd clout, and defines the trend as follows: “Online grouping of citizens/consumers for a specific cause, be it political, civic or commercial, aimed at everything from bringing down politicians to forcing suppliers to fork over discounts.”

A fun example of consumers aggregating their intended purchases to get a bargain is tuangou, or team buying, which involves strangers organizing themselves around a specific product or service. Think electronics, home furnishings, cars and so on. These likeminded consumers then meet up in real-world shops and showrooms at a coordinated date and time, literally mobbing the seller and negotiating a group discount on the spot.

Popular Chinese sites that are enabling crowds to first group online and then plan for real world shopmobbing are TeamBuy, Taobao and Liba. Combined, these sites now boast hundreds of thousands of registered members, making money from ad revenues and/or commissions from suppliers who are happy to have the mobs choose their store over a competitor’s.

So who’s going to introduce this concept in San Francisco, Toronto, Sao Paulo, Barcelona or Sydney? The PR value from being the first to do this outside China will be priceless. And may we suggest that the future founders turn it into a hybrid online/offline model, going for maximum reach and visibility?

What it means: This is the next disruptive local search application. Giving the power back to the user for local shopping. It’s RFQ 2.0. It also connects online & offline. Sounds familiar? If you’re operating a traditional local media company, you know what I’m talking about. You’ll obviously need a critical mass of local users to make this work but, if you’re in that space already, you already have one of the key elements of success. Make sure you’re already working on local merchant inventory as well to have product content in your site. BTW, if you like this topic, quickly jump to Trendwatching.com to read the article on crowd clout and read about other opportunities.

Read on Springwise.com this morning:

The power of groups, the clout that crowds can exercise to get what they want, is nothing new. What is new, however, is the dizzying ease with which likeminded, action-ready citizens and consumers can now go online and connect, group and ultimately exert influence on a global scale. Our sister website trendwatching.com just published a briefing about crowd clout, and defines the trend as follows: “Online grouping of citizens/consumers for a specific cause, be it political, civic or commercial, aimed at everything from bringing down politicians to forcing suppliers to fork over discounts.”

A fun example of consumers aggregating their intended purchases to get a bargain is tuangou, or team buying, which involves strangers organizing themselves around a specific product or service. Think electronics, home furnishings, cars and so on. These likeminded consumers then meet up in real-world shops and showrooms at a coordinated date and time, literally mobbing the seller and negotiating a group discount on the spot.

Popular Chinese sites that are enabling crowds to first group online and then plan for real world shopmobbing are TeamBuy, Taobao and Liba. Combined, these sites now boast hundreds of thousands of registered members, making money from ad revenues and/or commissions from suppliers who are happy to have the mobs choose their store over a competitor’s.

So who’s going to introduce this concept in San Francisco, Toronto, Sao Paulo, Barcelona or Sydney? The PR value from being the first to do this outside China will be priceless. And may we suggest that the future founders turn it into a hybrid online/offline model, going for maximum reach and visibility?

What it means: This is the next disruptive local search application. Giving the power back to the user for local shopping. It’s RFQ 2.0. It also connects online & offline. Sounds familiar? If you’re operating a traditional local media company, you know what I’m talking about. You’ll obviously need a critical mass of local users to make this work but, if you’re in that space already, you already have one of the key elements of success. Make sure you’re already working on local merchant inventory as well to have product content in your site. BTW, if you like this topic, quickly jump to Trendwatching.com to read the article on crowd clout and read about other opportunities.

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