Blog Network in Australia to Leverage Gawker Media’s Brands

(from The Australian)

With internet blogging on the cusp of becoming a commercial medium, a local publisher is attempting to create Australia’s first significant independent blogging network. Allure Media, which next week will launch its fourth blog since April, also has the licence to launch local versions of the Gawker Media portfolio of high-profile US blogs such as tech blog Gizmodo and celebrity gossip blog Defamer.

It is backed by the $40 million internet investment fund Netus, which is led by former Microsoft executive Daniel Petre, while News Limited (publisher of The Australian) has majority ownership. Netus operates separately from News, but the investment reflects thinking within traditional media companies that blogging is beginning to become mainstream, with some blogs attracting significant audiences and even advertising revenue.

Netus executive director Craig Blair said Allure, which started in January, would launch eight to 10 blogs in the next six months. It launched a local version of technology-in-action blog Lifehacker last week, and next week will unveil gaming blog Kotaku. (…) “For advertisers, this is a really good way of getting niche audiences. We’ll expect a business like Allure Media to break even within 12 months.”

According to Tim Hughes, former Netus executive, blogger and commercial director of HotelClub.com, advertising revenue on blogs would comprise less than 1 per cent of the $335 million online display market. “It will grow,” he said. “Great content with great readership equals the ability to monetise.” (…)

The highest profile independent local blogger making money is Melbourne-based Darren Rowse, who runs Problogger (a blog about how to make money from blogs) and a number of digital photography blogs that attract related advertising. Mr Rowse is also a co-founder of b5media with two other local bloggers. B5media, which is based in Canada after it secured $2 million in venture capital funding two years ago, has a sales team that sells advertising on nearly 250 blogs globally, organised into about 15 channels. “We contract bloggers around the world to write for us and we revenue-share with them,” MrRowse said. (…)

What it means: a couple of interesting insights. We see more and more of these blogging networks being built with the objective of reaching critical mass from a visitor, content and revenue point of view. I think it’s one of the best strategies right now to build a serious media business out of blogs. Those networks are usually managed like vertical magazines. Second, I like the fact that News Limited, a traditional print media publisher, is getting in that game via their investment fund. Smart. Third, I did not know Gawker Media licensed their brand in the world. That’s a great new revenue source!

Sensis to Sell Back Trading Post?

The Kelsey Group’s blog reports on a possible sale by Sensis of their Trading Post classified property.

After being one of the first directory companies to enter the classified market, Telstra’s Sensis has placed its Trading Post property for sale. According to a report in The Age, “Sensis paid $636 million for the fading publication three years ago, but after continuous revenue declines and senior executive departures, The Trading Post is back on the block for a price believed to be no higher than the telco paid in March 2004.”

The motivation to sell the property seems to have come after the departure of John King, who appeared to be the last major supporter of the venture. This is startling news given Sensis’ much touted strategy of bringing together businesses and consumers in an open trading environment. Sensis has had the golden touch with most of its ventures, so the failure of The Trading Post seems at odd with the company’s goal of being the local media of choice in Australia.

The The Age article adds:

It it is clear that revenue from the publication has been declining, despite growing revenue in the wider $10 billion Sensis empire. Sensis said revenues at The Trading Post were down 7 per cent in the six months to December. The sale of The Trading Post will be the latest in a long line of unsuccessful attempts by Telstra to diversify, including a number of dot-com ventures and troubled joint ventures in Asia. (…) Sources close to the company said attempts to centralise management functions at the previously independent publication had backfired. Broking analysts believe the group did not have the management skills to shift customers online from the weekly print publication.

James Kirby, editor of Eureka Report, adds in an editorial: ” With the planned sale of The Trading Post, Telstra is acknowledging it does not have the expertise in traditional media to recreate the publication as a successful print/online hybrid, which it must become to survive.”

What it means: in a really surprising move, Sensis seems to be interested in selling back their classified division they bought just a few years ago from Trader Corp. It’s a move I don’t understand. Did they paint themselves in a corner by promising to double revenues by 2010, a tall order indeed? In any case, in a world where the winner will be the
one who controls the data
, this is, IMHO, not necessarily a good move by Sensis.

Sensis to Sell In-Game Advertising

Interesting nugget of information this morning in MediaPost’s Online Media Daily:

In-game advertising network IGA Worldwide Inc. has expanded its global footprint to include two exclusive sales partnerships in Australia and Canada. IGA will be working with Sensis, Australia’s leading information resource and Access Marketing, an independent Canadian media company. The deal broadens IGA’s global reach, while creating opportunities for local and regional advertisers in Australia and Canada to reach gamers in the 18-34 demographic on IGA’s worldwide network. IGA Worldwide presently generates more than 200 million impressions per week.

The press release adds: ” The deals will see Sensis’ digital advertising arm MediaSmart representing IGA Worldwide’s in-game advertising opportunities exclusively in the Australian market, through games inside of IGA‘s Radial Network. The partnership puts MediaSmart in a strong position to capitalize on the distinctive in-game advertising channel which is poised for further growth in the Australian market and bound to play an influential role in future media buying. Sensis provides advertising services to thousands of leading Australian businesses and this partnership underscores the appeal of in-game ads as a way to reach consumers for businesses of any size.”

What it means: smart move by Sensis. Knowing full well that videogames are yet another media entry door, they are going to leverage their existing MediaSmart sales team to promote local and national advertisers via in-game advertising. A great way to reach the 15-30 year-olds.

Streetadvisor: a New Hyperlocal Site

Just found this information about a new Australian start-up operating in the hyperlocal space: Streetadvisor. More info in the Tomorrow’s Playgroung blog:

Streetadvisor allows you to enter your (or someone elses) street address (throughout 26 countries). As a browser you can view information (personal information – not a travel book’s opinion) about the street and the surrounding area. As a participant you can review your street/suburb across a 5 point characteristic scale.

– StreetVIBE
– StreetWIRED
– StreetHEALTH
– StreetVALUE
– StreetESSENTIALS

The site makes use of Google mapping to pin point locations.

What it means: I like the fact that you can search by street instead of neighborhood or city. A lot of commercial activities happen around very specific streets in a major cities and that’s usually an interesting way of identifying an undefined neighborhood. I like also the way they are concentrating on very relevant hyperlocal content like “peace & quiet”, “cell phone reception”, “traffic” and “parks & recreationals”. Now, StreetAdvisor faces the same problems all other local destination sites face: critical mass of content and monetization, but I like this first iteration.

iBegin Source: Q&A with Ahmed Farooq

About 10 days ago, iBegin released a new service called iBegin Source, “a comprehensive source of nationwide business data”. As I think this is a very innovative way of aggregating and licensing local business information, I contacted Ahmed Farooq to ask him a few questions.

Q: Can you tell the Praized blog readers about who you are and what you do?

A: I am the Director of Enthropia Inc, a web-dev firm located in Toronto. We have roughly 20 people working with us.

Q: What is iBegin Source?

A: iBegin Source is about raw business data. Buying business data is not cheap (and it is woefully inaccurate). We have made the data affordable and have coupled it with an open system (allowing for much easier updates), aiming for more accurate data.

Q: Where did the idea for iBegin Source come from?

A: It actually came as a defensive play. As we worked on iBegin City sites, we realized that we were (in essence) at the mercy of other data providers. We ended up creating our own dataset and even our own geocoder.

Q: What are the data sources for the iBegin database?

A: We seed with the usual suspects – telco records, federal/state agencies. We then supplement these with extra databases (restaurant databases, business license filings, registrations, change of addresses, other purchased databases, etc). In the first week we had roughly 50 user-submitted updates.

Q: iBegin Source could be quite disruptive. What has been the reaction so far of major local data providers like Acxiom, InfoUSA or Localeze?

A: They are watching us. Publicly they are shrugging us off, but once more and more updates come through our system, it will get interesting.

Q: I especially like the track back update mechanism, the idea that all iBegin Source partners will work together to improve the database in the long run (a la Wikipedia almost). We know how much of an issue that is in local search data. How many sites (using iBegin Source) do you think you’ll need to reach critical mass, i.e. constant improvements and best data source out there?

A: The trackback is just one element of our ‘update mechanism’. Based on a churn rate of 3 million, I believe we need 1 million updates a year (2500 a day) to blow the rest out of the water. This number is a combination of user-submissions and trackback updates.

Q: iBegin Source feels like an open source project: for example, you source content from users, the more people use it, the stronger it becomes and it’s free for non-commercial usage. Yet, it’s not structured like other open source project I know (I’m thinking of Music Brainz). Have you thought about setting up iBegin Source as a non-profit organization before launching it or in the future?

A: Data acquisition is expensive. Very expensive. iBegin Source would simply collapse on a non-profit model. The best we can do is what we have now – a free download for non-commercial usage, hopefully pushing enthusiasts and hobbyists to build interesting local sites. We also intend on award free commercial licenses to the most intriguing sites.

Q: Do you think you’ll have a hard time convincing local search partners to work with you given that you already operate a local search destination site?

A: Some people do get confused. I’m sure TrueLocal has that headache too. But what better demo of our data and what you can do with it by showing it off on our own sites? Mind you, we are only in one four cities (two of them Canadian), and in none of the major US markets.

Q: Right now, you offer data for the whole US market. What countries are next?

A: On the drawing board are Canada, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, UK, Italy, and a few more. Estimated time of arrival is unknown at this point.

Thank you Ahmed!

iBegin Source: Q&A with Ahmed Farooq

About 10 days ago, iBegin released a new service called iBegin Source, “a comprehensive source of nationwide business data”. As I think this is a very innovative way of aggregating and licensing local business information, I contacted Ahmed Farooq to ask him a few questions.

Q: Can you tell the Praized blog readers about who you are and what you do?

A: I am the Director of Enthropia Inc, a web-dev firm located in Toronto. We have roughly 20 people working with us.

Q: What is iBegin Source?

A: iBegin Source is about raw business data. Buying business data is not cheap (and it is woefully inaccurate). We have made the data affordable and have coupled it with an open system (allowing for much easier updates), aiming for more accurate data.

Q: Where did the idea for iBegin Source come from?

A: It actually came as a defensive play. As we worked on iBegin City sites, we realized that we were (in essence) at the mercy of other data providers. We ended up creating our own dataset and even our own geocoder.

Q: What are the data sources for the iBegin database?

A: We seed with the usual suspects – telco records, federal/state agencies. We then supplement these with extra databases (restaurant databases, business license filings, registrations, change of addresses, other purchased databases, etc). In the first week we had roughly 50 user-submitted updates.

Q: iBegin Source could be quite disruptive. What has been the reaction so far of major local data providers like Acxiom, InfoUSA or Localeze?

A: They are watching us. Publicly they are shrugging us off, but once more and more updates come through our system, it will get interesting.

Q: I especially like the track back update mechanism, the idea that all iBegin Source partners will work together to improve the database in the long run (a la Wikipedia almost). We know how much of an issue that is in local search data. How many sites (using iBegin Source) do you think you’ll need to reach critical mass, i.e. constant improvements and best data source out there?

A: The trackback is just one element of our ‘update mechanism’. Based on a churn rate of 3 million, I believe we need 1 million updates a year (2500 a day) to blow the rest out of the water. This number is a combination of user-submissions and trackback updates.

Q: iBegin Source feels like an open source project: for example, you source content from users, the more people use it, the stronger it becomes and it’s free for non-commercial usage. Yet, it’s not structured like other open source project I know (I’m thinking of Music Brainz). Have you thought about setting up iBegin Source as a non-profit organization before launching it or in the future?

A: Data acquisition is expensive. Very expensive. iBegin Source would simply collapse on a non-profit model. The best we can do is what we have now – a free download for non-commercial usage, hopefully pushing enthusiasts and hobbyists to build interesting local sites. We also intend on award free commercial licenses to the most intriguing sites.

Q: Do you think you’ll have a hard time convincing local search partners to work with you given that you already operate a local search destination site?

A: Some people do get confused. I’m sure TrueLocal has that headache too. But what better demo of our data and what you can do with it by showing it off on our own sites? Mind you, we are only in one four cities (two of them Canadian), and in none of the major US markets.

Q: Right now, you offer data for the whole US market. What countries are next?

A: On the drawing board are Canada, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, UK, Italy, and a few more. Estimated time of arrival is unknown at this point.

Thank you Ahmed!

Australia: Google and News Corp Partner to Launch Google Maps

Following the launch of Google Maps in Australia, people were left wondering when business listings would be added to the site. Wonder no more. Google has announced it is partnering with TrueLocal.com.au, a News Corp local search property, to get the required business data for Australia.

“We are putting our entire database of business, paid and unpaid, into the Google database,” News Digital Media operations chief Nick Leeder said. “We also provide Yahoo Local with data for their local search product but ideally we would like to see people use Truelocal.”

“Google’s launch introduces yet another cashed-up media player to the local search market and further highlights the increased level of risk that Telstra will face as search revenues migrate from print to online,” Macquarie Equities analyst Andrew Levy said. (…) The deal with News is understood to have been signed more than six months ago but Google was prepared to wait until it had its product right, people familiar with the project said.”

The Google blog provides some examples: “The next time you’re looking for an address, tiger meat pie in Sydney, cafes in Melbourne, or how to get to the beach, Google Maps can help you find the answer”

Finally, Lisa Barone over at Bruce Clay Inc. says that “local search engine optimization has just hit Australia in a really big way”

(Via Australian IT, The Google Blog, and the Bruce Clay Blog.)

What it means: I’m surprised it’s not Sensis (Telstra’s business directory division) that ended up providing data for this launch. Then again, maybe the major Google/Myspace ad deal (MySpace is owned by News Corp.) influenced the outcome. Or maybe they just did not want to do the deal with Google. We might never know.

Google wants to put Australians on the map

As a follow-up to my Google Maps Australia post, my friend Eric Baillargeon points me to a Sydney Morning Herald story describing a cool Australia Day marketing stunt to promote the launch of the new service:

“On Friday [January 26, 2007], an aircraft hired by Google will be doing a series of low-level swoops over parts of Sydney, photographing the ground and waters below. The three-seater plane, decked out in Google livery, will have special permission to fly at an altitude of 600m. Providing the photographs turn out to be good enough quality, the images will be integrated into Google Maps, the free online mapping service used by millions of people around the world.”

“Usually, people aren’t aware when they are caught in aerial photographs that later end up being used in Google Maps. This time however Google actually wants Sydneysiders to do whatever they can to make themselves visible. The company is encouraging people to wear something distinctive, hold up a sign (face-up), draw in the sand, or even arrange themselves into a “fun formation”.

“This is the first time we have tried this on any scale,” said Mr Rasmussen, one of the original developers of Google Maps, who is based in Sydney. “We have no idea whether it will work, but we thought it’d be fun to try.” A map with times of the flyover can be found at http://www.google.com.au/australiaday2007/ and will will be updated with any changes to the schedule on the morning of January 26.”

“The images, however, will take up to another six weeks to make it on to Google Maps. “It’s a bit of an experiment and if it’s a success, we’ll probably do it in other places [around the world],” Mr Rasmussen said, indicating that Google would work on organising similar flyovers in places like Paris on Bastille Day or over cities in the United States on Independence Day.”

What it means: what a great way to have consumers embrace your new service! They will be embedded in it!

Google maps is now officially live in Australia

Found this news on Peter Crowe’s Localandmaps.com:

“Since May 2006 Australians have been able to view street and satellite maps on Google Maps although they have had to go to the US URL (maps.google.com) to do so. The Australian URL (maps.google.com.au) now resolves.”

Main elements:

  • You don’t need to mention Australia in your searches anymore (it assumes so by default)
  • They haven’t launched their Australian local search and driving directions functionalities, only maps.

What it means: Google continues the worldwide deployment of its local product. As Peter says on his blog: “The big question now is when will the fully featured maps product (with business listings) be available in Australia? “