Lior Ron: Google Hotpot is About Collecting Relevancy Signals

At the BIA/Kelsey ILM East 2011 conference this morning, we heard from Lior Ron, the Group Product Manager for Google Places (including Maps and Hotpot).

A couple of interesting information points came out:

  • Google Places contains 50M places around the world
  • They felt they were missing “people” in the local equation and that’s why they launched Google Hotpot
  • Hotpot is all about organizing the web around people and places and is a local recommendation engine.
  • Hotpot now has generated more than 3M reviews and ratings (see this BIA/Kelsey post from last week for more data points)

Lior Ron said that Hotpot is not about Google building another silo or reviews site. It’s about collecting short signals to enable better ranking/relevancy. A few conference attendees were not convinced by that statement.

Seven Drivers of Interactive Local Success

In a short presentation yesterday afternoon at the BIA/Kelsey ILM East 2011 conference, Peter Krasilovsky presented several slides about the local media industry. In them was, I think, an interesting nugget of information: The seven drivers of interactive local success within a media organization.

They are:

  1. Strategic separation of business units. This is key to develop a solid new business that’s not encumbered by traditional thinking and conservatism. In the words of the BCG Matrix, it reminds me of the need to nurture “rising stars” that will eventually kill “cash cows”.
  2. Investment.  A must. In addition, risk-taking must be rewarded, not punished.
  3. Social media
  4. Search
  5. Geotargeting
  6. Multiple users and business touches. Fragmentation brings with it the need to re-aggregate to help advertisers make sense of the media/advertising/social media landscape and create substantial value.
  7. Mobility. Creates ubiquity, permanent access to the internet.

I would add Human resources to that list. You need visionaries/thinkers that can innovate and execute quickly. That’s a huge challenge for traditional media company today.

In Boston Next Week for the BIA/Kelsey Conference

Next week, from Monday March 21 to Wednesday March 23, I will be in Boston for the next BIA/Kelsey conference: Interactive Local Media East 2011.

Here are the presentations I’m most looking forward to:

Day 1:

  • Definitely the keynote from David Weinberger, author of “The ClueTrain Manifesto” and “Everything is Miscellaneous.” Definitely a huge inspiration for Needium (remember “markets are conversations”?). Can’t wait to get his insights on local and social.
  • The keynote from Evan Cohen, GM, Foursquare. The geo-local/social startup from New York has added a lot of interesting functionalities in the last few days.
  • The SMB panel. Good qualitative data always comes out of this discussion.

Day 2:

  • “The New Wave of ‘Hyper Relevant’ Media” panel with Tim Condon, Director, New Digital Ventures at Washington Post Co., Mike DeLuca, Senior VP at AOL Local, Matt Idema, VP at Yahoo! Local and Josh Resnik, VP and GM at Gannett Digital Media Network. Still a big believer in hyperlocal content and advertising. We haven’t seen much large-scale traction yet though. It will be interesting to get an update from these guys.
  • The discussion with Maz Sharafi, Senior Manager, Local Monetization, Facebook. Facebook doesn’t usually share a lot of new information. Maybe we’ll be surprised this time!
  • The “National Advertisers and Local Search” panel. I want to hear them talking about their social media strategy and tactics.

Day 3:

  • The discussion with Eric Eichmann, COO, LivingSocial. Interested in hearing what LivingSocial’s strategy is vs. Groupon’s. Also interested in getting their point of view on unsatisfied small merchant daily offer advertisers. I keep hearing about those informally. Is it just the point of the iceberg or is it minimal? Jim Moran from Yipit can probably contribute to the conversation.
  • Also interested in the “Deal Universe: The Big Picture for Coupons and Sales” panel. I’m a huge fan of coupons and I’m intrigued by the impact of daily offers on the couponing/promotion business.

If you want to meet and chat or if you’d like a demo of, don’t hesitate to e-mail me at seb AT

In San Francisco Next Week for the Conversational Commerce Conference

I will be in San Francisco most of the week next week for meetings and also attending Opus Research’s Conversational Commerce Conference. The conference is February 2 and 3 in the city.

Conference description: “Marketing and customer service are on a collision course. Social media now shine a bright light on customer service interactions, which increasingly have brand implications. Customer care can also offer valuable insights for marketing and product development. How many companies are adapting and turning this to their advantage? Still too few as old modes of thinking remain entrenched in organizations. Opus Research’s Conversational Commerce Conference (C3) brings together a diverse array of interested groups and stakeholders to discuss the new social media landscape and its joint impact on marketing and customer care. Beyond showing how these organizations must now collaborate, C3 will offer successful case studies and explore the new rules of engagement as companies deploy social media for marketing, sales and customer support.”

I’m speaking on the “A Parallel Universe: Social CRM for SMBs” panel on Thursday with Brendan King, CEO, Vendasta Technologies, Craig Donato, CEO & Founder, Oodle and Perry Evans, Founder and CEO, Closely, Inc. I’ll be sharing some of the insights we’ve generated since we’ve launched Needium, our social media lead generation service.

I do have a bit of free time on Monday and Tuesday for additional meetings.  I am also available to meet during the conference. If you’d like to connect, please send me an e-mail at seb AT

12 Interesting "Local" and "Geo-Location" Conferences in 2011

I was asked by a Quora user to list “What are the best digital events focusing on ‘localisation’ this year?”. I answered on but thought it would be a good idea to share with my blog readers as well.

Here is my top-of-mind list of interesting conferences/events with strong “local” and “geolocation” angles in 2011:

  1. Conversational Commerce Conference (Opus Research), February 2011
  2. Local Online Advertising Conference (Borrell Associates), March 2011
  3. Interactive Local Media East (BIA/Kelsey), March 2011
  4. Newspapers Association of America conference (MediaXchange), March 2011
  5. Yellow Pages Association Conference, April 2011
  6. Where 2.0 Conference (O’Reilly), April 2011
  7. European Association of Directory Publishers Conference, May 2011
  8. European Association of Directory Publishers Congress, September 2011
  9. Directional Media Strategies (BIA/Kelsey), September 2011
  10. Asian Directories Publishers Association Conference, November 2011
  11. Local Social Summit, November 2011
  12. Interactive Local Media West (BIA/Kelsey), December 2011

Check out GeoLoco ( as well. They haven’t announced anything yet for 2011 but they probably will.

I’m sure I forgot a few. Please let me know in the comments and I’ll add them to the list.


Other related conferences:

ILM:10 – Google, the "Elephant" in the Room

Excellent block of speakers this morning at the BIA/Kelsey ILM:10 conference with senior execs from both Google and Yahoo! speaking about their local strategy.

On the Google front, we first heard from Carter Maslan, Product Management Director, Local Search. He touched upon their mission (organize the world’s information geographically and make it universally accessible and useful), mentioned the new presentation of results in place pages released on October 15 and explained that local is not just one thing, it’s the various ways we lead our lives: critics, guides, tribes, events, news, products, offers, friends, credentials, and specialties.

The most insightful portion of the presentation was the Q&A session. There clearly seems to be pent up frustration between local resellers/local media publishers and Google and for the first time, we could hear very public grumbling. Probably caused by a series of Google moves including modifications to local search results pages, frustration with the AdWords reseller process and the tentative Groupon acquisition, I think the fragile coopetition equilibrium is threatened. “Elephant in the room” was mentioned by a few people. When Maslan was asked what was the role of directory publishers in the ecosystem, he said they could be the source of “credentialed businesses” as Google still has a lot of problems with listings spam. He mentioned that local ranking was based on three main dimensions: 1) the relevance of the place 2) the prominence of it 3) distance (depending on categories).

We then listened to Wesley Chan, Partner, Google Ventures. They are the investment arm for Google and are looking for great teams of entrepreneurs to back them financially and with intellectual capital. They are looking for financial returns, not for companies/projects that are strategic to Google. In fact, Chan clearly mentioned they are not grooming companies solely for Google acquisition and he hopes some of his investments will be acquired by Facebook and Microsoft! They love “local”, think it’s very early, that we will surprised many times in the next 10 years. They do all types of investments, from seed to mezzanine rounds. Chan spends 50%+ of his time on “local” opportunities. Again, more proof of the importance of local for Google.

Jeremy Stoppelman (Yelp's CEO): "Mobile is the Future of our Business"

Excellent keynote to start the first day of the BIA/Kelsey conference. Jeremy Stoppelman, Yelp’s CEO, shared with us a lot of interesting data points regarding their business.

  • How they define what they do: “connecting people with great local businesses”
  • 14 million local reviews as of today
  • Top review categories: 26% restaurants, 24% shopping, 9% beauty and fitness.
  • Expanding geographical coverage: France, Germany, Austria this year, more coming soon.
  • Yelp currently has 39M unique visitors vs. 26M last year (per their Google Analytics).
  • Monetization model: video ads, paid (ranking) ads, daily offers (what Stoppelman called the “transaction business”)

The CEO then discussed the main traffic drivers for Yelp mentioning search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing and he also listed Facebook as a great source of Web traffic. He talked about how search engine optimization (SEO) in the local space (read Google…), is becoming problematic. He doesn’t think Yelp (and other local media sites) will be able to rely on Google for traffic down the road but the good news is that the industry is heading towards “mobile”. People don’t search on mobile, they use applications. At Yelp, mobile is a startup within a startup and it’s been very successful. 30% of their total traffic comes from mobile now and a business is called every 5 seconds.

He also shared his strategies for driving distribution on mobile:

  • Leveraging your web assets
  • Store promotion
  • Partnerships
  • Battle for on deck

When prodded at the end of the session, he mentioned that “Mobile is the future of our business”.

What it means: Looking at Yelp, it looks like they are becoming a more mature business (with all the good and the bad that comes with being “mature”). Google’s moves in local is definitely a threat but their move into mobile is creating huge opportunities for them. Monetization is probably still problematic (it’s very difficult to monetize merchant reviews) but “daily offers” might be a great way for them to speed up revenue generation. I think they are a good example of the strategic importance of mobile in local/social.

In the Bay Area Next Week for BIA/Kelsey's ILM:10 Conference

Next week, I will spending the week in San Francisco and in Santa Clara for a series of meetings and BIA/Kelsey’s ILM:10 conference. The conference is being held in Santa Clara December 7, 8 and 9. The agenda is jam-packed with interesting topics and speakers. I’m looking forward hearing the following people speak:

Tuesday, Dec. 7

  • Opening Keynote: Jeremy Stoppelman, CEO, Yelp. I’m interested in hearing about Yelp’s recent usage and revenue growth, to see if it can maintain its relevancy in a Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare world.
  • The Big Money in Local ” panel with Dev Khare, Vice President, Venrock and Kara Nortman, VP, M&A, IAC/InterActiveCorp. I want to know what kind of investments they are looking at today, probably no Groupon clones… 🙂
  • Stephen Weis, VP, Digital Sales, Hearst Newspapers (participating in “Traditional Media, Revolutionary Thinking” panel). Hearst owns very interesting local properties in newspapers, directory publishing and online. Curious to hear how the integration is working and where they’re finding economies of scale and synergies.

Wednesday, Dec. 8

  • The “Google at ILM 2010: Refocus on Local/Location Services” session with Wesley Chan, Partner, Google Ventures and
    Carter Maslan, Product Management Director, Local Search, Google. Recently, Google has been signaling their huge interest in “Local”. It will be interesting to hear it directly from them.
  • The “Pandora: The New World of Local Radio” presentation with Cheryl Locagnero, Senior VP of Advertising Sales, Pandora and
    Brian Mikalis, VP of Performance Sales, Pandora. We rarely talk about music and radio at the Kelsey conference. I think we could learn a thing or two from these guys…
  • The presentation from Matt Idema, VP, Yahoo! Local. Are they still a player in local? I think they still are but they need to tell their story to the industry. This will be a good opportunity.
  • The presentation from Jim Sampey, COO, Cox Target Media. I just want to know his thoughts about group buying and what’s their strategy and execution plan there.
  • The “Checking In on Location-Based Services” presentation with Andy Ellwood, Director of Business Development, Gowalla and Gillian Heltai, Director, comScore. Are location-based services a business or just a feature?

Thursday, Dec. 9

  • The keynote address from Steven Johnson, I’ve heard him speak two or three times already and he’s always sharing leading-edge insights. Definitely looking forward that presentation.
  • The “Facebook Spotlight: Working With Facebook ” session. Facebook is now a must in “local”. It will be interesting to hear where they are in terms of strategy, how they integrate places, check-ins, deals, etc. in a cohesive way.
  • The “local sales” panel with Court Cunningham, CEO, Yodle, Todd Rowe, Head of Global Channel Sales, Google and Geoff Stevens, Executive VP and GM, Global Business Development, WebVisible. Local sales is hard. Curious to hear about their success and discuss retention rates as well.

On Monday December 6, I’ll also try to attend Mobile Monday Silicon Valley to hear about “2010 Year in Mobile Review and 2011 Predictions”

If you’d like to connect while I’m in California, send me an e-mail at seb AT

What, Where and Now When? Time and Local Search

Today is the second edition of the Local Social Summit conference in London. I’m keynoting in the afternoon and will talk about “What, Where and Now When? – Time and Local Search”. Description: In the last 18 months, the rise of the real-time Web has created many interesting business opportunities but is this only the tip of the iceberg? Is the real-time Web hiding a bigger, more strategic opportunity? Is the temporal Web the next big revolution after “location”? Seb will present his latest thoughts on the subject.

You will find the presentation on Slideshare.

It’s a follow-up to the first presentation I did this week: Opportunities With Real Time Local Search and Content

Categorizing the Consumer Activities on a Merchant Listing

Eitan Ackerman from Amdocs just presented “IYP Search Case Studies – A Global Tour” at the IYP SearchMeet conference. I was particularly intrigued by one of his slides that details all the activities/actions a consumer can take when looking at a Yellow Pages listing online. They are:

  • Search to call: I am looking for the merchant’s phone number, often a core element of a business directory site.
  • Search to book: I want to schedule an appointment or make a reservation.
  • Search to purchase: I want to buy the product online (e-commerce)
  • Search to navigate: I want to get to the store and I’m looking for the address, map, driving directions, etc.
  • Search to additional information: I’m looking for hours of operations, brands carried, etc.
  • Click to save: I want to save/bookmark the information in my personal address book for future use.
  • Click to share: I want to share the merchant information with friends/contacts via e-mail, social networks, etc.

What it means: I like this categorization of activities because it tells us about potential proof of value points to measure advertising ROI. It’s also a way to look at future business models (pay-per-call, pay-per-action, transactions, etc.). Did Eitan forget anything?

(Picture from the BIA/Kelsey Web site)