Google Canada’s Free Website and Domain Name: Read the Fine Print

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.

Advertisements

Bell Canada Buys CTV Again and Reconfirms Content is King

I missed this huge media acquisition news while I was on vacation:

BCE Inc. has in one fell swoop remade Canada’s media landscape and set the stage for a fierce battle between the phone and cable companies over watching TV shows on something other than a television.

The telecommunications giant on Friday struck a $1.3-billion deal to take full ownership of CTV Inc., a move that breaks apart CTVglobemedia, gives control of The Globe and Mail back to the Thomson family and marks the exit of Torstar Corp. from the group, further shaking up an industry that is constantly being reshaped.

via Bell ushers in new era with CTV deal – The Globe and Mail.

What it means: I love this quote (in another Globe & Mail article) from Kevin Crull, Bell Canada’s President – Residential Services: “Mr. Crull said that he considers Bell more of an entertainment company than a straight communications company, reiterating Bell’s stated goal to be the largest TV provider in Canada by 2015. “You can’t separate entertainment and communications any more, because of broadband [high-speed Internet],” he said.” It’s definitely back to the future for Bell Canada as the company (under Jean Monty’s direction) had bought CTV in 2000. It had resold it under Michael Sabia’s rule. I personally thought Monty’s move was brilliant and I think this vindicates him.

I also think it clearly confirms that content is, once again, king. And it also makes me think about the Yellow Pages industry. Many industry CEOs state that their main asset is the sales force. I think senior management should not forget about content. Local search is all about breadth and depth of content, not just sales.

Yellow Pages Group Introduces Print Opt-out Mechanism

I missed the announcement when it came out a few weeks ago but [praized subtype=”small” pid=”7ac08d444f37191c8a97699e6530751c” type=”badge” dynamic=”true”] (YPG), Canada’s largest directory publisher, has introduced what they call a “custom delivery program”. This new program, part of their EcoInitiatives, allows consumers to receive more print Yellow Pages directory copies or to be removed from the distribution list. To do it, people can go online to http://www.ypg.com/delivery or contact YPG’s Distribution Call Centre at 1-800-268-5637.

For the US market, consumers can go to YellowPagesOptOut.com. This new national service, powered by the Yellow Pages Association, was launched two weeks ago.

What it means: smart move by YPG and the Yellow Pages Association. In my personal opinion, consumers that do not want to receive the print version of the local business directory are still a minority (usage of print directories is still very high) but it’s a very vocal minority. Giving those consumers the choice makes complete sense. For my Canadian readers, if you’re thinking of opting out, don’t opt-out completely. Keep at least the delivery of the Yellow Pages Neighborhood directory. In my neighborhood, because of the locally-relevant rich content, I find it is still a very useful product to find merchants.

Canpages Acquires Social Recommendation Site GigPark.com, Validates Praized's Model

[praized subtype=”small” pid=”58d245fd7e8f20800dee0ecd3af21f08″ type=”badge” dynamic=”true”], the second-largest directory publisher in Canada, announced Sunday night the acquisition of GigPark, a self-funded social recommendation site from Toronto, Canada. For Canpages, it’s the second local/social acquisition in two months. The first was Ziplocal in June. This acquisition is the latest in a series of “local media” technology/people acquisitions in the last few months. I noted five other ones in a blog post I wrote two weeks ago.

Interestingly enough, this is the kind of white-label enterprise technology Praized Media is proposing to directory publishers and other local media publishers worldwide. Yellow Pages Group, Canada’s largest directory publisher, is using our Answers module at answers.yellowpages.ca. We’re also currently deploying our real-time activity stream and real-time search technology within a major local portal and our technology stack has generated interest from about a dozen players in Canada, in the US and in Europe. Because of that, as co-founder of Praized Media, I was asked by a few people yesterday what I thought of this acquisition.

1) I am very happy for Pema Hegan and Noah Godfrey for this acquisition. Good work guys! I know how much work goes into building a startup. You’ll see, it’s actually fun working in the directory industry!

2) As a crystal-ball gazer, I am delighted to see directory companies fully embracing social media, even though it’s not our technology they end up using. As I’ve been writing about in the last three years, social media is key to the future of traditional local media firms. The “social” trend in the directory space is not a fad.

3) Reviews and recommendations are just the tip of the iceberg in social/local. The next evolution is “real-time”. Google is thinking about it, Twitter announced last week that they would support geo-location in their API which will allow developers to add latitude and longitude to any tweet and Facebook is bound to announce something very soon.

4) The acquisition of technology assets & people by local media publishers validate our core business model of working as technology providers to local media publishers. There is a clear need out there for our product offer and the Praized team is a world-class product & development team in the local/social technology space.

So, what to expect in the next 6 to 12 months?

1) Definitely expect more acquisitions and possibly some mergers. As Kelsey Group analyst Matt Booth said last week during a Kelsey webinar, local media publishers should try to put their hands on interesting companies and assets this year before the economy picks up again next year. The idea is to be ready with new, groundbreaking revenue-generating opportunities when good times come rolling again.

2) Also expect more rapid innovation in the space. Robert Scoble is quickly cluing in to the business potential of local recommendations in a post yesterday where he compared Facebook, Google, Twitter and Yelp. He says:

How will Facebook collect the cash? Well, go to Google and let’s do that sushi search for Boulder, Colorado again. Did you see how that list works? Facebook needs that list. Twitter isn’t even close. But what’s missing? PEOPLE! Imagine if this list, when it’s brought to you by Facebook, shows that #1 has been liked by 14 of your friends? Businesses get that for free. But what don’t they get for free? Yelp’s “offers.” Businesses PAY to “offer” things to customers to try to move up the list. So, if you’re the #3 business on the list, you might say “bring your iPhone in and you’ll get free beer.” Doing that will cost you money, both in the free beer and the advertising you’ll pay Facebook or Google or Yelp to try to move up the list. Google has the list. It doesn’t have the humans or the offers. Yelp has the offers but doesn’t have hundreds of millions of people. Facebook has hundreds of millions of people and the “like” system, but not the offers. So, who will get there first? Now you understand the battlefield. Who will win the war?

But he forgets that Yelp’s “offers” don’t scale. Yelp doesn’t have the “offers”. They don’t have a large enough sales force to make it a billion dollar business. It’s Yellow Pages, newspapers, coupon and other local media publishers that own the sales force. But then, like Google, local media publishers don’t have the social elements and interactions. It will be a natural one-two punch for any large company that assembles merchants (i.e. advertising) and consumers meshed in social interaction. I’m willing to bet this will come from directory companies if they move fast enough but I venture the window of opportunity is approximately 12 months before Facebook, Twitter or even Google crack the social local nut.

Update: Greg Sterling analyzes the transaction.

Canpages Acquires Social Recommendation Site GigPark.com, Validates Praized's Model

[praized subtype=”small” pid=”58d245fd7e8f20800dee0ecd3af21f08″ type=”badge” dynamic=”true”], the second-largest directory publisher in Canada, announced Sunday night the acquisition of GigPark, a self-funded social recommendation site from Toronto, Canada. For Canpages, it’s the second local/social acquisition in two months. The first was Ziplocal in June. This acquisition is the latest in a series of “local media” technology/people acquisitions in the last few months. I noted five other ones in a blog post I wrote two weeks ago.

Interestingly enough, this is the kind of white-label enterprise technology Praized Media is proposing to directory publishers and other local media publishers worldwide. Yellow Pages Group, Canada’s largest directory publisher, is using our Answers module at answers.yellowpages.ca. We’re also currently deploying our real-time activity stream and real-time search technology within a major local portal and our technology stack has generated interest from about a dozen players in Canada, in the US and in Europe. Because of that, as co-founder of Praized Media, I was asked by a few people yesterday what I thought of this acquisition.

1) I am very happy for Pema Hegan and Noah Godfrey for this acquisition. Good work guys! I know how much work goes into building a startup. You’ll see, it’s actually fun working in the directory industry!

2) As a crystal-ball gazer, I am delighted to see directory companies fully embracing social media, even though it’s not our technology they end up using. As I’ve been writing about in the last three years, social media is key to the future of traditional local media firms. The “social” trend in the directory space is not a fad.

3) Reviews and recommendations are just the tip of the iceberg in social/local. The next evolution is “real-time”. Google is thinking about it, Twitter announced last week that they would support geo-location in their API which will allow developers to add latitude and longitude to any tweet and Facebook is bound to announce something very soon.

4) The acquisition of technology assets & people by local media publishers validate our core business model of working as technology providers to local media publishers. There is a clear need out there for our product offer and the Praized team is a world-class product & development team in the local/social technology space.

So, what to expect in the next 6 to 12 months?

1) Definitely expect more acquisitions and possibly some mergers. As Kelsey Group analyst Matt Booth said last week during a Kelsey webinar, local media publishers should try to put their hands on interesting companies and assets this year before the economy picks up again next year. The idea is to be ready with new, groundbreaking revenue-generating opportunities when good times come rolling again.

2) Also expect more rapid innovation in the space. Robert Scoble is quickly cluing in to the business potential of local recommendations in a post yesterday where he compared Facebook, Google, Twitter and Yelp. He says:

How will Facebook collect the cash? Well, go to Google and let’s do that sushi search for Boulder, Colorado again. Did you see how that list works? Facebook needs that list. Twitter isn’t even close. But what’s missing? PEOPLE! Imagine if this list, when it’s brought to you by Facebook, shows that #1 has been liked by 14 of your friends? Businesses get that for free. But what don’t they get for free? Yelp’s “offers.” Businesses PAY to “offer” things to customers to try to move up the list. So, if you’re the #3 business on the list, you might say “bring your iPhone in and you’ll get free beer.” Doing that will cost you money, both in the free beer and the advertising you’ll pay Facebook or Google or Yelp to try to move up the list. Google has the list. It doesn’t have the humans or the offers. Yelp has the offers but doesn’t have hundreds of millions of people. Facebook has hundreds of millions of people and the “like” system, but not the offers. So, who will get there first? Now you understand the battlefield. Who will win the war?

But he forgets that Yelp’s “offers” don’t scale. Yelp doesn’t have the “offers”. They don’t have a large enough sales force to make it a billion dollar business. It’s Yellow Pages, newspapers, coupon and other local media publishers that own the sales force. But then, like Google, local media publishers don’t have the social elements and interactions. It will be a natural one-two punch for any large company that assembles merchants (i.e. advertising) and consumers meshed in social interaction. I’m willing to bet this will come from directory companies if they move fast enough but I venture the window of opportunity is approximately 12 months before Facebook, Twitter or even Google crack the social local nut.

Update: Greg Sterling analyzes the transaction.

Yellow Pages Group Represents 15% of All Online Revenues in Canada

The [praized subtype=”small” pid=”c4d2d76ecb2f9ad3c44c7561da14799dd0″ type=”badge” dynamic=”true”] released this week their report on 2008 Actual Online Advertising Revenue (.pdf). Some highlights:

  • Online advertising revenues in Canada have more than quadrupled over the past five years, and grew to $1.6 billion (net) in 2008, up 29% from the $1.2 billion $1.241 million reported in 2007
  • Online is now 11% of all advertising revenue
  • French language advertising revenues grew by 22% in 2008 to $317 million (net), and accounted for 20% of total Online ad revenues in Canada during 2008
  • 2009 Forecast: Online advertising revenue in Canada will grow to $1.75 billion in 2009 – an estimated 9.2% increase over 2008 actuals
  • Search advertising continues to lead in terms of share of dollars booked by Online Publishers ($602 million/38%), followed by Display ($490 million/31%) and Classifieds/Directories ($480 million/30%).

The report also explains what are the perceived industry challenges and opportunities going forward. The following have been identified:

  • Coping with the severity of the economic downturn
  • Demonstrating Display advertising’s return-on-investment (with or without a click) in response to growing Advertiser emphasis on performance-based (CPC/CPA) pricing models
  • Training offline media sales forces to effectively integrate Online into cross-media sales proposals
  • The commoditization of Online media by the growing number and increased market share of Advertising Networks.

What it means: very good growth in online advertising in Canada last year with 29%. An interesting particularity of the Canadian market is the large share of Classifieds/Directory online revenue, almost as big as Display ads. That’s definitely due in a large part to [praized subtype=”small” pid=”7ac08d444f37191c8a97699e6530751c” type=”badge” dynamic=”true”] who reported revenues of $247 million in 2008 (most of them in Classifieds/Directories I suspect). They officially represent more than 15% of all online revenues in Canada. Impressive results.

Torstar Corporation First Quarter Results: Newspapers and Digital Down 11%

[praized subtype=”small” pid=”38350f4a561be91fb4e8550fb6eb4a16″ type=”badge” dynamic=”true”] just release their Q1 2009 results. Excerpts from their press release:

“The first quarter was a tale of two solitudes: Harlequin delivered an excellent quarter of growth while our newspaper businesses confronted lower advertising revenues as a result of the recession,” said Robert Prichard, President and CEO of Torstar Corporation.

(…)

Revenue in the newspapers and digital segment was down 11 percent as the recession has hurt numerous advertising categories led by employment, real estate and automotive. While aggressive cost management across our newspaper businesses mitigated the impact of the revenue reduction, it has been insufficient to prevent a sharp drop in profitability. The newspapers also faced higher pension costs and newsprint pricing in the quarter which accentuated the reduction in profitability.

(…)

Newspapers and Digital revenue was $214.5 million in the quarter, down $27.1 million from $241.6 million in 2008…

(…)

Newspapers and Digital Segment operating loss was $4.8 million in the first quarter of 2009, down $17.2 million from an operating profit of $12.4 million in the same quarter last year. The segment realized labour cost savings from restructurings undertaken in 2008 that more than offset higher newsprint prices and higher pension costs in the quarter. However, the cost savings were not sufficient to offset the revenue declines.

(…)

Torstar expects that advertising revenue will continue to be soft through the balance of the year.

via Torstar Corporation Reports First Quarter Results – Yahoo! Finance.

What it means: TorStar corporation, publisher of daily and weekly newspapers, is suffering from the cyclical and structural advertising slowdown in the newspaper industry. The good news for Torstar is that they publish books as well through their Harlequin division. That business is doing very well and is helping them weather the storm. TorStar has been experimenting in social media through their OurFaves.com initiative.