in Europe Next Week

Flickr picture by Mollajo

I’m flying to Europe next week.

First stop is London to discuss with potential Needium resellers for the UK market. London is the biggest city in the world in terms of Twitter usage and this definitely shows in the Needium dashboard with more than 1 million geo-tweets per day. We’re looking to discuss with UK-based ad agencies, SEO/SEM firms, newspaper publishers, directory publishers, etc. interested in reselling the white-label version of our product.

Second stop is Majorca for the European Association of Directory Publishers (EADP) conference. I speak on the first day, topic is “Conversational commerce – Why You Should Care What @JoePublic Had For Lunch”. Should be fun!

If you’d like to meet me while I’m in London or at the EADP conference, send me an e-mail at seb AT needium.com

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Video of My Presentation at EADP 09: "Blended Search: Local Media Content Discovery"

Just found out that someone has uploaded the video of the presentation I gave at the [praized subtype=”small” pid=”d0cd79b106730bfb94dc00104bdb320c” type=”badge” dynamic=”true”] conference last May in Barcelona. Topic was: “Blended Search: Local Media Content Discovery”.

Watch it in three parts here:

Watch Part 1

Watch Part 2

Watch Part 3

You can follow with the slides on Slideshare.

My EADP Presentation: "Blended Search: Local Media Content Discovery"

I just finished giving my presentation at the [praized subtype=”small” pid=”d0cd79b106730bfb94dc00104bdb320c” type=”badge” dynamic=”true”] conference in Barcelona, Spain. Topic was “Blended Search: Local Media Content Discovery”. It explores blended/universal search as it currently appears in a local context in search engines and local search sites. I propose in the presentation that the evolution of blended local search and content discovery will be through real-time feeds.

You can see it on Slideshare. If you’d like a copy, please e-mail me.

Qype: "People + Algorithm Better than Algorithm" (EADP 2009)

Heard from Stephen Taylor, [praized subtype=”small” pid=”e05a4250d652484974e47fda5bd84b6b” type=”badge” dynamic=”true”]’s CEO, this morning in a presentation titled “Competition from new business models”. As most of you know, Qype is a social local site in Europe (we could say it’s the equivalent of Yelp there).

Here are some interesting data points about them:

  • The largest local review site in Europe (also present in Brazil) – 6 languages
  • Reviews in 140 countries (I think they allow anyone to add listings from any country)
  • 9M+ unique users in May 2009 (+350% in 12 months)
  • 1m+ reviews
  • They monetize using display advertising, Google AdWords, eCom and transaction revenues and premium business listings

As Taylor said, their business leverages the fact that anyone with a keyboard is now an author, that anyone with a browser is a publisher. With the rise of social media, presentation of facts/data is not enough to sustain an audience. It’s now about sharing, community, connecting with other people. I think he described it perfectly when he said “people + algorithm is better than algorithm”. Today, we’re in the fourth phase of the evolution of search (he calls it social search) which includes editorial, automation and topology.

As for future developments, Taylor offered the following advice: recognize where audiences are and he mentioned the long tail of the Web (smaller sites, blogs, forums, etc.). He said that’s where people are connecting. Qype is ready for those new opportunities via their open API currently in v1 (which exposes geo content). v2 will allow content to be written.

What it means: I think Qype is a very interesting company. They’ve been able to corral the voice of the European consumers. I agree with the future direction, of trying to embed yourself in smaller web sites. I was a bit disappointed by their monetization strategy. I was hoping they would have been further ahead in terms of sources of revenues.

The Wake-Up Call: "Unless We Change, on the Long Run, We Are Doomed to Disappear" (EADP 2009)

Fascinating morning at this first day of the EADP conference in Barcelona. We heard from a variety of top executives from European directory publishers but two of them stood out: Donat Rétif, CEO of Truvo (the multi-country publisher), and Alon Raz, VP head of customer division, at Golden Pages in Israël.

Rétif started the morning with sobering thoughts about the industry. He talked about the fact that directory publishers are facing both cyclical and structural challenges. In terms of structural challenges, he mentioned:

  1. Online will not offset Print decline (usage, advertisers and revenues). He added that “the print product will not prosper in its current form” and “online directories will not be enough” to offset loss of usage and revenues in print.
  2. ROI is becoming increasingly important
  3. Large and small accounts behave differently (larger accounts are impacted much more)
  4. Significant variation in user needs, usage and revenue across categories
  5. The importance of search continues to grow

For cyclical challenges, he discussed about the fact that the recession means lower ad spending by SMEs, that print is more heavily impacted than online, and that everyone in the industry (including search engines) are feeling the pain.

Based on those thoughts, Rétif said the focus at Truvo is currently oriented around:

  1. User focus to grow user engagement and usage
  2. A rich network of traffic (first and third party)
  3. It’s about leads, clicks and contacts provided to advertisers (the end of the paid inclusion model basically)
  4. Simplicity in an increasingly complex world will be a differentiator

But this means having to radically transform organizations. In specific company departments, it means:

  • Sales needs to go from “product focused and infrequent customer contact” to “cross-media and related service adviser with account management”
  • Fulfillment needs to go from “shallow and with limited customer contact” to “deep expertise, frequent customer content with upselling”
  • Online needs to go from “an add-on to a print business – peripheral to the business” to “drives the organization, people, technology, process, etc.”
  • People (HR) needs to go from “majority of staff print focused and difficulties in recruiting” to “all online aware and skilled. Talent management focused”
  • IT needs to go from “closed and proprietary approach built on print systems” to “open (ex: APIs) and flexible approach enabling speed designed for new world”
  • Finance needs to go from “terms & processes designed for printed product” to “flexible payment terms with supporting systems and processes”

Rétif’s concluded by saying the directory publishing industry has strong assets (database, high customer retention, large experienced sales force, well-known brands, a collection of highly used directory products) but rapid and significant change is needed, moving from advertiser/product focus to customer focus, deepening the content and distributing it in a variety of ways, adapting sales and fulfillment capabilities and deploying agile technology and processes to support change.

Later in the morning, Elon Raz from Golden Pages, came on stage to tell us about their experience and it was eerily similar to what the Truvo CEO told us. Raz started by saying he thought Golden Pages had executed perfectly  on their online strategy but even with that execution, there was a problem, and that problem was the future. In terms of revenues, print is going down quickly, around 15-20% per year. Online average revenue per advertiser (ARPA) is far lower than print ARPA, large customers are not willing anymore to pay what they have paid in the past (large customers ARPA is down 36% in 2 years), and in many cases, directories are perceived as inferior to other media channels (ex: Google). He added that “the online business cannot compensate the loss of the print” .

They’re now deploying what they call a Second Step strategy involving these two elements:

  1. Value: create it, measure & manage it, communicate it
  2. New game: establish a new category of revenues, prepare it and attack

To change the rules of the game, they need to enter new territories while leveraging their assets. They consider their assets to be their sales force (1000 meetings/day), their customers (40K), their database (260K listings) and their brand. Golden Pages is good at “selling advertising”, “talking to plumbers” and “managing a sales force”. To some surprise, they clearly put a stake in the ground and declared their biggest competitive threat was Google. Most publishers say the relationship with Google is coopetitive but I think what Raz said openly what is said behind closed doors at most directory publishers, that the competitive aspects of Google are starting to outweigh the cooperative side.

So, where are they going? They’re going to enter what they call “the advertising area”, by selling customers an entire advertising solution (SEO/SEM, YP, radio, newspaper, direct mail, etc.).

Why are they doing it?

  • The advertising market for SMEs is unaddressed. Only large firms work with ad agencies.
  • Google is not active in that field in Israel (focused solely on AdWords).
  • It’s a huge market, approx. 3 times Golden Pages sales volume.
  • It’s natural, they possess the relevant assets.
  • Gaining a leading position may strengthen their relationship with customers

They intend to become the largest advertising agency in Israel. The sense of urgency is there. As Raz said “shifting to online is insufficient! The Yellow Pages business alone cannot sustain the shift from print to other means. We have to be where Google isn’t. We have to bind the customer with services. Unless we change, on the long run, we are doomed to disappear. We could become irrelevant on an horizon of 5 to 7 years”

What it means: Wow. First time I hear directory publisher executives openly say that online directories revenues will not be sufficient to cover the loss of print revenues and that the future is possibly at risk. I’m a firm believer though that online revenues at directory publishers can cover the loss of print revenues but they need to be much more aggressive and much more innovative with their online initiatives, to build up usage on their own network of sites. They also obviously need to continue aggregating traffic from third party and re-sell it ad-network-like.  Elon Raz says publishers should go “where Google isn’t”. I agree but as I said in this post, publishers should go where Google is thinking of going (and where the online market is growing) and in my mind, that’s the real-time world and social media. As Rétif said, “Get prepared now to take advantage of the economic recovery and recognize we will be operating in a changed world”.

Speaking at the EADP Conference Next Week in Barcelona

I will be in Barcelona next week, at the [praized subtype=”small” pid=”d0cd79b106730bfb94dc00104bdb320c” type=”badge” dynamic=”true”] conference, to speak about “Blended Search”. The conference is happening at beautiful [praized subtype=”small” pid=”fe88067181f3c2b456ee063861fe1985″ type=”badge” dynamic=”true”] in the Marina district of Barcelona.

You can see the agenda here.

If you’re attending (I hope you are!) and would like to chat, send me an e-mail: seb AT praizedmedia.com

Photo from the hotel’s website

My Next Events: Kelsey, YPA, EADP

I thought it was a good opportunity today to list the next three events I will be attending.

1) The first one is [praized subtype=”small” pid=”66afa9c1b5e4cd2f613f200ec61d955d” type=”badge” dynamic=”true”] ‘s MarketPlaces 2009 conference in Los Angeles. Definitely looking forward hearing Jeff Berman (President, Sales and Marketing at MySpace) talk about verticals and local, Jay Herratti (CEO, Citysearch) discuss the latest Citysearch initiatives (maybe some fresh Facebook Connect data?) and Chris LaSala (Director of Local Markets, Google) talk about any Google Local initiatives. The conference is on March 16, 17 and 18 (yes, in 10 days!) at the [praized subtype=”small” pid=”d919d1d277951c5164c26320a00b783fe1″ type=”badge” dynamic=”true”].

2) I will also be attending this year’s [praized subtype=”small” pid=”85bbe9714ba1f95167e8691d35364b0a8c” type=”badge” dynamic=”true”] conference. Believe it or not, it will be my first time after almost 10 years in the industry. They invited me to speak on a blogger panel with my friends Mike Boland and Greg Sterling. Can’t wait to hear Carol Johnson (COO, Sensis Yellow and White Pages) talk about “Sustaining Yellow and White Pages Growth” and Malcolm Gladwell talk about “Outliers”. The conference is April 26, 27 and 28 at the [praized subtype=”small” pid=”2824998ee1a44bb195b97335593818ba2c” type=”badge” dynamic=”true”].

3) Finally, a month later, I will be in sunny Barcelona at the EADP conference. I will be talking about “blended search”. Their line-up of speakers is amazing with many CEOs and Head of New Media divisions speaking at the event. The conference is May 28 and 29 at [praized subtype=”small” pid=”fe88067181f3c2b456ee063861fe1985″ type=”badge” dynamic=”true”] (probably the most beautiful hotel I’ve ever stayed in!).

If you want to sit down and chat at any of these events, send me an e-mail seb AT praizedmedia.com !