comScore: The State of the Local Search Nation

On day 2 of the BIA/Kelsey ILM 2011 conference,  Gillian Heltai, Senior Director at comScore presented a series of interesting data points to attendees:

  • Total online searches grew 9% year-over-year to exceed 19.3 billion searches in September 2011
  • 2.8 billion of those searches were “local” (a growth of 9% from last year). Local searches growth is decelerating
  • IYP (Internet Yellow Pages) searches are down 20% year-over-year
  • 1.7 billion click-thrus to directories and regional/local content sites were generated from search in sept 2011
  • Top organic search terms by click-through rates: driving directions, white pages, yellow pages, maps, los angeles
  • 10% of US display ads are locally targeted
  • 3 of every 4 mobile subscribers own a device with GPS capability
  • Over one third own a smartphone
  • Mobile search usage grew 25% year-over-year with 26% penetration in September 2011
  • Search is the top activity of mobile browser users. Social networking is second.
  • 88 million mobile subscribers access local content on a mobile device, up 28% from a year ago.
  • Nearly 40% of mobile users access local content on their device in September 2011, compared with 75% for smartphone owners
  • 16.3 million smartphone owners scanned a QR code, 43% in a retail store, 42% from a product packaging.

Bob Pittman on Brand Building

Bob Pittman, CEO, Clear Channel Media Holdings (and MTV co-founder amongst other accomplishments) was the opening keynote speaker yesterday morning at the BIA/Kelsey ILM West conference in San Francisco.

In a search engine marketing world, where many people think brand advertising is dead, Pittman presented a compelling integrated marketing model (loosely based on the AIDA model) that shows brand building is key to generate sales. It goes as follow:

o Arouse a consumer’s interest in a product/service (through big reach and passion)
o Remind them of their interest until purchase (via reach and frequency)
o Allow them to research the product/service (via interactive apps with scale)
o Let them effortlessly find where to buy the product/service (dealer locators)
o Let them hear advertising messages when in the buying mindset
o Reinforce their purchase decision – retention
o Encourage and facilitate word of mouth – (via viral marketing  and social media)

He also explained that brand is the thing that happens when consumers are predisposed to buying your product and have stopped comparison shopping. That’s also an interesting insight.

In San Francisco Next Week for the BIA/Kelsey Conference

Next week, I will be attending the BIA/Kelsey ILM West conference in San Francisco. As always, they’ve put together a great line-up of speakers. Here are the presentations/keynotes I’m most looking forward to:

Day 1: Monday, Dec. 12

  • The opening keynote with Bob Pittman, CEO, Clear Channel Media Holdings. Always interested in hearing from radio station executives, curious about their Internet strategy.
  • The interview with Kara Swisher, Co-Executive Editor at the Wall Street Journal’s All Things Digital.  I want to know what she thinks of “local” and “local/social”. I am also curious about her point of views on local traditional media’s Internet strategy and execution.
  • The unveiling of the “Wave XV” of the Local Commerce Monitor. Always a lot of exciting data points.
  • The “New Wave of Local Lead Generation” panel
  • The “Facebook Next: Leveraging the Platform for Local” panel

Day 2: Tuesday, Dec. 13

  • The special comScore Research presentation on “The Data on Local Usage”
  • The presentation from Court Cunningham (CEO at Yodle), on “The Top-Level View on Local Sales”
  • The afternoon keynote with Matt Idema, Director of Monetization Product Marketing at Facebook

Day 3: Wednesday, Dec. 14

  • The fireside chats on Local Media Transformation with Mok Oh, Chief Scientist, PayPal and Bo Fishback, CEO and Cofounder, Zaarly
  • The last panel on The Future of SoLoMo

You can get a special $200 rebate if you signup with the discount code SEB

If you want to connect at the event (or in San Francisco), ping me at seb AT

The Benefits of the Real-Time Web for Consumers and SMBs

I moderated a panel yesterday at the Local Social Summit on the real-time Web and its impacts on the Local/Social space. Details here.

Don’t have much time to write a long post but one of the key insights that came out of the panel was:

Main benefit of the real-time Web for consumers: convenience. You get your needs/wants answered in quasi real-time, you live a more efficient life, etc.

Main benefit of the real-time Web for businesses: differentiation. It’s difficult for businesses to adapt to the demand of the real-time Web but those that will might be able to build a strong business on that differentiating factor.

BIA/Kelsey: U.S. local digital ad revenues rise to $23.3 billion in 2011

As I get prepared for two exciting days at London’s sold-out Local Social Summit 2011 this week, BIA/Kelsey just released an early taste of their latest U.S. Local Media Annual Forecast.


  • Total local advertising revenues for 2011 will be $135.9 billion, down from the $136.2 billion it forecast earlier this year
  • Traditional media segments such as Yellow Pages and newspapers are experiencing the largest downward revisions
  • U.S. local online/digital advertising revenues will rise to $23.3 billion in 2011, compared with $22.3 billion predicted earlier this year
  • Local online/ digital advertising revenues will be 17.2 percent of total local advertising revenues in 2011, up from the earlier forecast of 16.4 percent. By 2015 that share will increase to 25.4 percent, up from the 24.7 percent originally predicted
  • The overall local media market will grow slowly over the next five years, at a compound annual growth rate of 1.7 percent, reaching $149.4 billion by 2015

The rest/details of the forecast will be revealed at their next conference ILM West 2011, in downtown San Francisco, December 12 to 14. I will be attending the conference. BTW, I just reserved my hotel using Hotwire and I found a 4-star hotel within walking distance for $109/night. See you there!

Twitter and the Local Ecosystem

I recently shared with a potential Needium partner the volume of local tweets we’re indexing daily in major (and some smaller) North American cities.

Atlanta, GA: 709,427
Austin, TX: 116,756
Calgary, AB: 60,603
Cary, NC: 153,315
Charlotte, NC: 171,001
Chicago, IL: 712,399
Cincinnati, OH: 110,975
Columbus, OH: 221,920
Commack, NY: 116,145
Creve Coeur, MO, 43,829
Denver, CO: 172,762
Des Moines, IA: 28,702
Fort Lauderdale, FL : 118,670
Indianapolis, IN: 224,871
Laguna Beach, CA: 58,186
Long Beach, CA: 113,404
Los Angeles, CA: 1,126,143
Miami, FL: 509,411
New York (Metro): 2,746,757
Ontario, CA: 59,705
Phoenix, AZ: 230,260
Redondo, CA: 66,490
San Bernardino, CA: 36,799
San Francisco, CA: 354,707
St. Louis, MO: 255,415
Tampa, FL: 125,341
Toronto, ON: 546,470
Vancouver, BC: 173,340
Washington DC: 551,126
West Palm Beach, FL: 31,665

London, UK (Central): 60,128 (more than 1M tweets per day when you index the greater London metro area)
Paris, France: 346,197

Remember: these are tweets PER DAY per city. As you can see, those numbers are quite impressive and we’re just starting to scratch the surface in terms of implicit geo-location. We’re adding new geo-clues like neighborhood names, points of interest, foursquare check-ins, etc. to help us increase that volume. And we’re slowly getting to a point where our community managers know what’s going in specific cities and neighborhoods.

As I wrote earlier this year, “With more and more people joining the service, Twitter will discover that its real utility is at the local level. Twitter will become the often-wished for democratic and commercial local space we’ve been expecting since the beginning of the Web. Citizens/consumers, merchants, politicians, and news sources/journalists becoming an intrinsic part of the same communication and relational system.” That’s even truer today as more people are joining Twitter (100M montly active users at last count), people use it more (250M tweets a day) and they geo-localize themselves more.

And yesterday, I was happy to see that people are starting to notice. Read what smart VC Dev Khare wrote yesterday:

Dev is probably using crude tools (maybe Twitter Search?) to retrieve the info and he’s starting to see “local” value. Imagine when we’ll be able to surface that information in a much more substantial way!

The same day, Mark Suster (a VC who invested in Twitter) wrote “We Have Only Scratched the Surface of the True Value of Twitter. Here’s What You’re Missing“.  He starts by explaining that there’s more to Twitter than “what am I eating for lunch?”. As my readers know, I wrote a whole presentation on “why you should care what @joepublic had for lunch” but that’s another story…

Mark goes on to talk about Identity, Object Communications, Predictive Data, and Augmented Data. A couple of quotes stood out for me:

“I believe that Twitter is becoming the most interesting and predictive dataset in the world and that every large company (and many small ones) will consume the Twitter stream in order to gain insights, determine actions to take and gain competitive advantage.”

“The future of data interpretations will be augmented. We will look at both the steam and the “meta stream.” We will want to augment with: location, demographics, affiliations, authority by subject area, gender, topical interests and a whole lot more.”

That’s it. That’s what makes Twitter such a powerful communication tool and even though, as the Wall Street Journal writes this morning “Web companies often upend industries but they can labor for years to fully make money on their revolutions”, social networking revenue is growing (eMarketer predicts this morning that “Worldwide social network ad revenues will surpass $8 billion in 2012 and approach $10 billion by 2013”) and will rocket past many online ad categories. As for Twitter, I believe they will find monetization success through local advertising. It’s too good an opportunity to pass.

The Right Place At The Right Time: My Panel at the Local Social Summit

I will be moderating a panel on day one of the next Local Social Summit happening in London on November 9 and 10 (it’s a two-day event this year). The panel is titled The Right Place At The Right Time: How The Real-Time Web Influences The “local” World.

Its description: The rise of the real-time Web is well documented.Propelled by both the social networking revolution and mobile device ubiquitousness, we’re seeing the birth of new user services and business opportunities. In this panel,  we will explore the time element in the local/social Web and will try to discover what kind of content works well in real-time, what are the benefits for consumers and what kind of business models can be deployed to leverage the
“time” dimension.

My panelists:

People that have been reading this blog and following my Twitter feed know that I’ve been interested in the real-time (sometimes called the Alive Web)and the temporal Web for a few years now.

On day two, I’m also on a panel titled Can Social Media Be Outsourced? headed by Jonathan Ewert from Codero. I’m looking forward to that discussion as well!

It should be an excellent conference with speakers from Yelp, Foursquare, European Directories, Decarta, Mueller-Medien, the BBC, in addition to Greg Sterling, Dennis Yu and Perry Evans.

The organizers have provided me with a 20% discount to my readers but I hear there are less than 20 tickets left. So, hurry up if you want to join us. I will be in London the whole week. If you want to meet, ping me at seb AT

On Steve Jobs

Flickr picture by Luc Legay

I was a wide-eyed 12 year-old when I saw a personal computer for the first time in my life, an Apple II that belonged to my best friend Hugues’ uncle. Every Saturday night, we knocked on his uncle’s door and asked him if we could play with his computer while he was having dinner with his wife. “We’re going to be very quiet!” we would always tell him and he would let us come in and enjoy this new piece of technology. Ah, the hours we spent playing Odyssey! One or two years later, my friend received the computer as a gift and we kept plugging away, playing games but also learning to code. We were uber-Apple fans! And the arrival of new products like the Lisa in 1983 and the Mac in 1984 sent us in a frenzy. They were too expensive for teenagers but we could dream!

Steve Jobs’ passing yesterday brought me back to this seminal era. Being exposed to great technology at an early age made all the difference. It made me who I am and it propelled me into a technology career. Many people thinks Steve Jobs’ legacy was created in his second run at Apple, with the creation of the iMac, the iPod, iTunes and the iPhone but I really believe his first run from the ’70s to 1985 had the biggest impact on me.

Thank you Steve for imagining the future, my future.

Today’s Strategic Imperatives For Directory Publishers

Flick picture by disoculated

Yesterday, I gave an interview to the Globe & Mail about Canada’s Yellow Media / Yellow Pages Group, the incumbent directory publisher and my former employer (I worked there from 1999 to 2007). Even with the challenges they’re facing, I’m still a fan of the company (and of the industry in general) but the interview gave me the opportunity to put in writing what I think are the core strategic imperatives today for any directory publisher, not just Yellow Media. The list won’t surprise anyone in the industry but it’s always good to remind ourselves what they are.

  1. Change the culture. “Internet culture” must truly permeate every aspect of the organization. Concepts like speed of execution, innovation, quick iterations, coopetition, risk-taking, failing fast must become second nature (other people on Twitter & Google+ suggested “internet culture” also meant constant learning, openness, willingness to help each other out, adaptability to constant change, sharing, crowdsourcing, diversity, immediacy, learning, and expectation of access)
  2. The sales force. I believe the sales force is now the major asset of all directory publishers and this sales force needs to be able to sell print directory products as well as a variety of online products including third-party ones like Google AdWords or Facebook advertising. This means recruiting and training are critical success factors. I use to believe the brand was a major asset but not anymore.
  3. Reinvent the Print. I still believe print business directories have legs and they won’t die tomorrow (and by the way, stop it with “Yellow Pages are dead” please, nothing ever dies, it just becomes niche). Even I still use the neighborhood book once in a while. But the book needs to be reinvented to become more locally relevant, more about the consumer. As Francis Barker (SVP at Dex Media at the time) said in 2004 at a BIA/Kelsey conference, print books design should be influenced by online local search patterns/usage. I’ll add that they now should be influenced by mobile local search/discovery apps. On a related note, book distribution in apartment and office building should be improved to avoid the PR disaster pictures like this.
  4. Continue investing in the Web. Beef up your dev and product management team, invest in R&D, try things. Facebook has shown that you can continue innovating even when you have huge consumer usage and ad revenues.
  5. Focus on mobile.  The Web is extremely fragmented and some players like Google and Facebook have managed to capture gigantic market shares. There’s probably a bigger opportunity to support the franchise by focusing on mobile and launching various vertical apps. Directory publishers need to invest and build up their mobile team and technology.
  6. Get serious about social media. I’m obviously biased because of the work I’m doing on Needium, but the time for experiments in social media is over. This is serious business now both from a consumer and an advertiser point of view.

Am I forgetting anything?

“Google+ is all about protecting its search business” – Robert Scoble

Commenting on a recent Google+ story on Techcrunch, Robert Scoble wrote : “I believe Google+ is all about protecting its search business. It is scared that Facebook is going to become a search engine. It already sort of is. A lot of people are moving behaviors over to Facebook that they used to do in search. Instead of Googling “sushi san francisco” we’ll just ask our friends “hey, where’s the best sushi in San Francisco.”

What it means: Looking at this through the filter of the consumer purchase decision process (see below), this is extremely significant. By expressing needs/problems in social media and having people/companies come to them with solutions, consumers bypass “search” and go straight to purchase. This is a serious threat to companies like Google who have built a huge ad business based on search.