December 10, 2009
In the most-awaited session of the afternoon of Day 1 at LeWeb, Michael Arrington (from TechCrunch) sat down with Marissa Mayer, Vice President, Search Products and User Experience at Google to discuss a series of hot topics like recent Google innovations, mobile and the newspaper industry.
On recent innovations:
- Mayer says Google is focused on future of search and they expect different modality of search, not just through keywords. That’s why they launched Google Goggles this week which is basically image recognition (you take a picture and Google tells you what it is). See this example. They also expanded voice search to Japanese and added the “What’s nearby” mobile functionality. Mayer thinks that people will eventually talk to their phone or take a picture to make a search. They also added real-time results (from Twitter, blogs, Facebook, MySpace, etc.) to regular search results, which drastically increases the relevancy of Google search results.
- On Google Chrome, she mentioned the release of Chrome Extensions which allows anyone to add functionalities via plugins in the Chrome browser (like Firefox). She said there are “tens of millions of Chrome users”.
- On Google Wave, Arrington stated “there’s something there” but wondered if we needed more “training”. I think most people are unsure of the value of Wave today and that’s why the Techcrunch founder asked the question.
On mobile searches:
- Mayer says they’ve grown tremendously on smart phones. Asked by Arrington if their total share of mobile searches over total searches was in the 1 to 5% range, she answered “slightly higher than that”.
- Arrington started by saying we all understand the dire situation of print media and mentioned Eric Schmidt recent vision piece in the Wall Street Journal. He then asked Mayer: “What’s your vision?”. The VP from Google answered with a question: “how do you get users more engaged with news online?” She continued by stating that if we could build a news site from scratch today, it would probably look very different than what we have today. She then mentioned The Living Stories experiment they’re doing with the New York Times and the Washington Post. “What if the story was alive? Not just the print version posted online.” She added that the Web ”puts pressure on the atomic unit of consumption. The article is the atomic unit.” She then suggested we could aggregate all news story on the same topic on one page, like Wikipedia, to help with discovery in Google.
- She closed that topic by suggesting “personalized stream of news”, probably on your mobile phone, would be interesting. The stream would be filtered according to your social circle, location, the news brands you like, the writers you like, and the important news you should know about (she called them “veggies”).
- Asked if newspapers will move fast enough, she thought so and mentioned the New York Times and Washington Post are very progressive partners and very interested on how they can reinvent themselves.
- On Murdoch, Mayer mentioned the partnership with MySpace. Asked if she thought News Corp would pull their content from Google, she answered ”I hope not” as it would impact comprehensiveness of their results set. She added ”we have to respect the content owners. We would respect his will.”
- Finally, Arrington asked if Google would consider paying for content, Marissa Mayer proposed that they already have programs for content monetization through Google Adsense and their display ads network.
See more on Techcrunch.
September 6, 2007
(via the Washington Post)
HBO said on Tuesday it has acquired the rights to a short-form documentary shot entirely within Second Life, as entertainment companies increasingly turn to virtual worlds as a source for new content. “My Second Life: The video diaries of Molotov Alta” purports to tell the story of a man who “disappeared from his California home” and began issuing video dispatches from Second Life.
The popular virtual world, which has its own currency and a growing economy, has drawn millions of users who create alter egos called avatars and interact with people from around the world. HBO, the premium channel owned by Time Warner Inc, paid a six-figure sum for the rights, Douglas Gayeton, who made the film, said in an interview. Gayeton, who uses the avatar Molotov Alta in Second Life, said the documentary is scheduled for release in 2008.
Second Life has hosted dozens of real world companies in the past year, usually as a means of promoting products like cars or movies. However, Hollywood has been increasingly interested in using worlds like Second Life as virtual movie sets, a process known as machinima. (…) The pilot episode of “My Second Life” is available on YouTube.
What it means: There was a lot of excitement around Second Life in the last 12 months but it seems to be dying down. Wired even said: “The Internet will eventually be full of such 3-D environments; Second Life might even be one of them. But in the meantime, it’s just slurping up corporate dollars and delivering little in return.” But I wonder: maybe the big potential currently is leveraging Second Life in the real life?
August 13, 2007
As an interesting segue to my VoiceStar/Marchex blog post from last week, MediaPost offers an interview with Bill Day, their new Chief Media Officer in which he talks about the importance of local for Marchex. “Kaufman Brothers analyst Sameet Sinha questioned the company’s heavy investment in local search at this moment, after the announcement it would buy pay-per-call ad provider VoiceStar. It happened to be the first official day at work for new Chief Media Officer Bill Day, most recently at WhenU, but also a co-founder of About.com and one of the online pioneers of the ’80s at Prodigy. He was nothing but optimistic about the opportunity for local.”
Q: Why is the time right now for local? When we did it at About.com, it was too early. The interest area was the place to invest. Things have changed. First of all, many more people use the Internet. If you want to have a pro-sumer model, you need one that scales to be very comprehensive. Marchex is a leader. It already has thousands and thousands and thousands of sites. You also need a model that can get really really deep within those localities. I did a lot of diligence coming in and with the Yellow Pages advertisers now coming on, it suggests it really is a good time to invest in local. You have to invest to reap the rewards.
Q: What is the first thing you’ll do in your new job? The first thing is to focus on the continued rollout of our open list technology populating businesses down to the ZIP code level (editor’s note: e.g. 90210.com). I’m also talking to media companies in the local space. There’s a lot of business development I need to do to get the ball rolling.
Q: Who is doing local right? There are certainly sites that get parts of it right. I can’t point to one network that gets it right consistently. I don’t know anything countrywide. The sites that tend to do that are using very stale and automated generic content that is not good enough to get repeat visitation. I’ve looked at some of the WashingtonPost.com sites, what Sidewalk’s done for Digital Cities. We’re in a pretty open space for starting to do things that haven’t been done so far on the net–to truly create a broad, deep network of sites.
What it means: Marchex believes online revenue action in the future will happen on the local and hyperlocal front. They’ve acquired web real estate (local URLs) and local content. They have solid search engine optimization (SEO) expertise and they now want to introduce user-generated content. Using all of these tools, they’re building a large-scale local ad network. The only thing I would question is the quality of traffic coming from SEO, as not all clicks are born equal. Measuring ROI will become key when evaluating the quality of local search traffic but, as I believe a good chunk of the revenues in local will happen around pay-per-call in the next 5-10 years, the acquisition of VoiceStar makes complete sense strategically. That’s a great way to measure and prove local search ROI.
March 12, 2007
(via the Los Angeles Times)
News organizations confronted with declining revenue and increased competition are entering an era of more limited ambition in which they will drop a broad worldview for more narrowly focused reporting, according to an annual review of the news business being released today by a watchdog group.
The Project for Excellence in Journalism reports that the struggle to create sustainable media brands is driving “hyper-local” coverage in newspapers; encouraging citizen journalism on the Internet; and giving rise to opinion-driven television personalities like CNN’s Lou Dobbs and Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly. “The consequences of this narrowing of focus involve more risk than we sense the business has considered,” said the report from the project, an arm of the Washington-based Pew Research Center. “Concepts like hyper-localism, pursued in the most literal sense, can be marketing speak for simply doing less.”
The review describes print, radio and television news operations as weathering “epochal” changes — with audiences splintering so radically that is has become difficult to accurately measure new viewing and reading habits. Daily newspaper circulation declined 3% in 2006, for instance, but the increase in online readership is more difficult to quantify. The three television networks collectively lost an additional 1 million viewers — about the average in each of the last 25 years — but YouTube and other online services created a new delivery vehicle for the networks’ content.
Traditional newsrooms remain the primary source for information, and the report suggests that news organizations need to be more aggressive about mining revenue for their work. The old-line media may have to form consortiums to force Internet “aggregators,” which compile content from other sources, to pay licensing fees for news and information, the report says.
Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism, said that most news organizations would have to shrink their staffs but that much more thought needed to go into how the reductions are made. “The current thinking, hyper-localism, seems problematic,” he said in an e-mail response to a question. “In an era of globalism, how can you suggest that the L.A. or Boston market does not need its own specialized foreign reporting that informs the local economy, the local culture and more, in a way that is different than what generic wires would cover?”
Respected newspapers such as the New York Times and Washington Post have placed high hopes in replacing declining print advertising with ads on their websites. Indeed, as audiences online have expanded, newspapers have seen their online revenue grow by more than 30% a year. But the Project for Excellence report suggests that the boom in online news audiences and income has begun to wane. A Pew Research Center study cited in the report found that the number of Americans who said they went online for news every day declined to 27% in June 2006, compared with 34% in June 2005. (…)
Today’s report says that the loss of about 4,000 newspaper journalists since 2000, combined with the smaller number of pages devoted to news, “suggest that American newspapers have reduced their ambitions.” Newspapers have traditionally served a “complete diet” of news to the public and alerted television, radio and other media to stories, the report found, suggesting that more study is needed to determine “what is lost and what is left uncovered.” (…)
The Project for Excellence report says that the ethnic media sector is one of the few experiencing solid growth. Spanish-language newspaper circulation, for example, jumped 900,000 to 17.6 million in 2005. That was the most recent year with available data. (…)
What it means: is hyperlocal all about reduced ambitions or increased relevancy and differentiation? I think it’s all about the latter. I personally believe that we will see a polarization between what I now call hypernational news sources (very credible news organizations that cross borders like the ones I mentioned here) and hyperlocal ones (very relevant local news and content sources). Those in between will possibly lose a lot of their former luster. Smart news organizations will own one or two hypernational brands and a multitude of smaller hyperlocal brands. Hypernational content will flow into hyperlocal vehicles.
February 14, 2007
Journalism Fan just sent me a note to le me know Arthur Sulzberger is going to address his staff today to discuss the comments he made to Ha’aretz last week. I found more details on the New York Observer’s web site.
Here is in essence what Sulzberger is going to be talking about:
“We are continuing to invest in our newspapers, for we believe that they will be around for a very long time. This point of view is not about nostalgia or a love of newsprint. Instead, it is rooted in fundamental business realities: Our powerful and trusted print brands continue to draw educated and affluent audiences.
“Traditional print newspaper audiences are still significantly larger than their Web counterparts. Print continues to command high levels of reader engagement. And, of course, we still make most of our money from print advertising and circulation revenue. And yes, I remember what I said here last year and what I was supposed to have said last month at Davos about not having a printed product in five years time.
“So let me clear the air on this issue. It is my heartfelt view that newspapers will be around–in print–for a long time. But I also believe that we must be prepared for that judgment to be wrong. My five-year timeframe is about being ready to support our news, advertising and other critical operations on digital revenue alone …whenever that time comes.”
It was a gaffe, but also an epiphany. The New York Times is the newspaper of today. As it happens, today is when people read the newspaper. (…) And even as the American newspaper industry is preparing for the day the Internet kills it off, The Times has made itself into the dominant newspaper on the Web. It has gotten there by trial and error—and the trials and the errors are both ongoing—but the basic premise has held: It is the paper, only without paper. (…)
It’s easy, except it’s not. The Washington Post is a soup of cryptic links, bobbing in and out of view. Dailies in cities like Boston, Philadelphia and San Francisco are still hidden behind “portals” (please resize your newspaper to fit this window). It’s not that nytimes.com is immune to fads or bad ideas. There are tepid blogs and cornball videos and if-you-insist podcasts strewn around the site. They will likely go away, piece by piece, as the real experts in those media—following The Times’ example—claim their own share of the Web audience. In the meantime, you can ignore them, and read the paper.