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 needium.com.

Facebook Phases Out “Places” but Adds Location to Status Updates and Other Shared Items

Facebook announced yesterday that they “are phasing out the mobile-only Places feature“, a check-in service that was introduced one year ago, and replacing it with the ability to add location to status updates, photos or wall posts.  As the announcement says:  ” Now you can add location to anything. Lots of people use Facebook to talk about where they are, have been or want to go. Now you can add location from anywhere, regardless of what device you are using, or whether it is a status update, photo or Wall post.” As Techcrunch adds, “Starting this week, you’ll be able to easily associate location with any update, even if you’re nowhere near the location.”

Another big change, again explained by Techcrunch: “Another location-related change: Facebook now prompts users to include a city-level location tag with all of their updates (for example, if I wrote this from New York City, it would prompt me to include that with a status update). You can disable this if you aren’t interested, but city-level location probably won’t present a huge privacy issue for most people.”

What it means:  A couple of thoughts: it completely makes sense that Facebook now enables location data to be attached to a shared message. Twitter does the same. Location is a data payload of a status update the same way a URL accompanies one. I also like the idea that most status updates on Facebook will now be geo-tagged at the city level. A huge amount of locally-relevant content will therefore be available for consumption by users but also by Facebook API developers.

As for the disappearance of the check-in, two prevalent thoughts are expressed by experts and pundits.  Most people agree that it either means Foursquare has won or that check-ins are useless. I think the answer is probably in-between. On a side note, this report (.pdf) published by White Horse and titled “Lost in Geolocation: Why Consumers Haven’t Bought It and How Marketers Can Fix It” generated four key findings:

  1. Location-based services have not yet reached the tipping point.
  2. The chief barriers today are a lack of clear benefit and privacy fears.
  3. Users are mostly young, active contributors to social networks.
  4. Marketers will need to create and test new geolocation experiences that are not generic but relevant to a particular brand and audience.

From a volume point of view, Facebook had managed to capture a solid number of check-ins vs. Foursquare. I’m a Facebook Places Editor which allows me to quickly see cumulative check-ins for some places. In Montreal, for example,

  • Helm (bar/brewery) has 341 check-ins on Facebook and 502 on Foursquare.
  • Hotel Le Crystal has 756 check-ins on Facebook and 351 on Foursquare
  • Centre des Sciences de Montreal (Science Museum) has 851 check-ins on Facebook and 715 check-ins on Foursquare
  • Brit & Chips (restaurant) has 342 check-ins on Facebook and 439 on Foursquare

Obviously, the sheer size of Facebook usage in Canada makes those numbers quite small (it probably should be 100 times more to be proportionate with Foursquare’s traffic) , but still people were doing the check-ins. Since I acquired my latest smart phone (a Samsung Galaxy S2), I’ve been finding myself doing more check-ins on Facebook than on Foursquare, probably because the friends I want to share my location with are already on Facebook. I’m going to make a prediction: expect the check-in to come back in one form or another on Facebook in the near future.

From a Needium point of view, we’ve found check-ins to be an excellent way to prove that a conversation leads to a conversion/sale/visit. So, we definitely like check-ins as a concept!

One last thought: the fact that Facebook wants you to add locations about “where they are, have been or want to go” reminds me of the past, present, and future concept I discussed in my temporal Web presentation. I wonder if they will start exploring this concept further?

2010's Most Important Events in Local/Social

Like last year, Mike Blumenthal asked me for my thoughts on what were the most important events in “local” in 2010. I obliged and Mike put together a blog post with my answers. In a nutshell, they are:

  1. The launch of Twitter Places
  2. Foursquare’s growth
  3. Facebook launches Places
  4. The launch of the iPad
  5. The rise of Groupon and the explosion of the daily offers space
  6. Groupon rejects Google’s purchase offer

Head up to Mike’s blog to read the rest of my post.

Is There A Mobile-Only Yellow Pages Company in Our Future?

YellowPages.com.au mobile advert

Flickr picture by Dale Gillard

The Yellow Pages Association just released new ComScore data regarding business directories access on mobile. Excerpt from the press release:

The number of mobile subscribers accessing business directories on a mobile phone increased 14 percent year-over-year to 17.3 million users in March 2010, extending the reach of Internet Yellow Pages beyond the personal computer. This increase outpaces 10 percent growth in the number of mobile media users who browsed the mobile web, used applications or downloaded content during the same time period.

US Mobile Local Audience

In addition, the data shows that while mobile browsing (10.8 million subscribers with 21% year-over-year growth) is still the most popular way to access business directories on mobile, applications are used by 4.2 million subscribers and are showing a 42% year-over-year growth. SMS is the other popular method.

Mobile Browser vs. App Access

What I think is the most exciting news in the release is the demographic profile of those users. “58 percent of those who access Internet Yellow Pages on a mobile device are 34 or younger.”

What it means: following my last blog post about GPS inside mobile devices (see Four out of Five Cell Phones to Integrate GPS by End of 2011), the rise of smart phones, the future explosion of Android phones, and the interesting demographics of mobile business directories users, I have to ask: can mobile become the platform of choice for a directory publisher in the future? What would it take? The survey says “The number of people accessing Internet Yellow Pages on a mobile device at least once per week increased more than 16 percent year over year to nearly five million in March 2010.” That’s good but I think the directory industry needs to build applications that would be used multiple times per day in order to build a scalable and successful mobile-only business. It’s not impossible but the industry needs to innovate and right now, that’s not happening. Should a big directoy publisher buy Foursquare or Gowalla?

Are Newspapers Outsourcing Core Features to Foursquare?

Megan Garber from the Nieman Journalism Lab explains in details how the Wall Street Journal uses Foursquare to offer geo-localized news:

[The Wall Street Journal] has also been making regular use of the Tips function of Foursquare, which allows users to send short, location based updates — including links — to their followers. The posts range from the food-recommendation stuff that’s a common component of Tips (“@Tournesol: The distinctively French brunches here feature croques madames and monsieurs and steak frites. After dining, check out the Manhattan skyline in Gantry State Park”) to more serious, newsy fare

via Location, location, etc: What does the WSJ’s Foursquare check-in say about the future of location in news? » Nieman Journalism Lab.

What it means: That’s a very nice implementation of geolocalized content within Foursquare. You can see more examples in the article. After reading it, something was bothering me (the same way the Facebook “Like” button bugged me) and I finally figured it out. I left the following comment in the Nieman blog: “what Foursquare is doing, newspapers could do themselves. It’s all about structured data. Most newspaper organizations have structured their content on topics/keywords/subjects but they forgot to structure it on geographical information (places, businesses, points-of-interest, neighborhoods, etc.). As soon as you have this 3D view of your content (vertical + local), you can syndicate it in a multitude of ways.”

We live in a fragmented/atomized Web now. We have atomized content, business models, functionalities, APIs. The smart internet companies are atomizing both content AND features/functionalities.  They become both media companies and technology providers. Their end goal is becoming a media. They use their technology to reach their end goal. That’s a very smart strategy. As a potential partner of these smart internet startups, you need to ask yourself if these functionalities are core business to you or not. If they are, DO NOT OUTSOURCE THEM to another media company! Do partner for content distribution though.

The Web is becoming more and more local. Newspapers should own the expertise of geo-localizing their content, displaying it that way within their mobile apps (or Web site) and then syndicating it to partners like Foursquare. It’s core business.

Game Mechanics: The Foursquare Example

On day 1 of the BIA/Kelsey Marketplaces 2010 conference, we heard from Jon Carder, CEO of MojoPages.com, talking about the importance of game mechanics in social systems. It’s a topic I’m especially interested in and I mentioned the importance of “reward systems” in my perfect local media company of 2014 post.

Carder mentioned the following:

  • Game mechanics is the new black
  • He defined them as “a series of rules and functions that tap into our primal response patterns to drive usage, sales, and /or referrals”.
  • He mentioned Foursquare and Groupon as good examples of new apps/sites using game elements.

He suggested a good game system needs four must-have elements (action, goal, scoreboard and reward) and three nice-to-have (competition, clock and social). Here’s how it applies to Foursquare:

  • Action: the check-in is the action
  • Goal: get the most check-ins
  • Scoreboard: you can see total check-ins and unlocked badges
  • Reward: unlock badges
  • Competition: people compete to become Mayor of a place
  • Social: you can broadcast your activities on Facebook and Twitter, telling your friends about your badges/mayorship

Dennis Crowley (Foursquare): Check-ins Will Be "Commodity by the End of the Year."

Silicon Alley Insider revealed this morning that Facebook is working on a “check-in” functionality similar to the one you can find in Foursquare or Brightkite (and now Yelp). When they reached Dennis Crowley, Foursquare cofounder, he said:

For his part, Foursquare cofounder Dennis Crowley told us he fully expects Facebook and others to launch “check-in” functionality, making it “commodity by the end of the year.”

via Facebook Is Working On A Foursquare-Killer.

What it means: if you’ve been following my recommendations closely, you know that “check-in” is one of the features of the perfect local media company of 2014. It’s already becoming a “commodity”, a must for any local media company mobile products. Check-ins also represent interesting data that should be added to merchant profile Web pages (like Yelp is doing).

TellMeWhere: Europe's Foursquare?

This morning, I had the chance to sit down with Gilles Barbier, CEO and co-founder of TellMeWhere (Dismoiou in French), a Paris-based European social Yellow Pages service. As with any ratings/reviews service, people can find places (see Le Louvre profile page for example), read the basic information, see the map and pictures, rate/comment on the place, see what others have said and discover related places. So far, although well executed, it’s not very different feature-wise than a lot of ratings/reviews sites like Yelp or Qype.

Mobile as a differentiator

Where it gets really interesting is with their iPhone application (they also have an Android one). The beautifully designed (both from a user interface and user experience) app is where the rubber really hit the road for the young startup founded three years ago. Launched in July, the mobile version has been downloaded more than 400,000 times (on a total of 2 million iPhones in France).

TellMeWhere iPhone Application Home

Features include:

  • Location-based business search
  • Ability to rate/comment places and broadcast your comment on Twitter/Facebook
  • See feedback from other users and your friends
  • See recommendations based on your tastes
  • Great integration of Facebook Connect with instant account creation based on your Facebook information
  • Push of your activities to your friends’ phone and possibility for your friends to answer you back via SMS
  • Integration with Google Maps
  • Integration with the iPhone camera allowing users to take a picture and upload it right away to the place profile page

TellMeWhere iPhone Application recommendations

The release of their iPhone application has created a lot of user traction. Barbier asked me to pick a small town in France just to prove the breadth of usage. I chose Venasque, a small 1000-inhabitant village in Provence where I stayed last spring. I think there are only a dozen businesses in the village. TellMeWhere had two votes in their system. They even had a few activities in smaller towns in Canada. And now they’re on the verge of releasing version 2.0 of their mobile application of the iPhone and it will include check-in functionality (like Foursquare) and an activity stream of everything your friends are doing to enable real-time discovery. You can see a video of the new application here.

TellMeWhere iPhone Application Place Profile

Barbier shared with me that they’ve now realized their mobile applications (built in-house) have become strategic for the small 7-employee company. The combination of mobile + local + social (utilizing an existing identity system like Facebook Connect) is a winning formula.

Mobile will be disruptive

And this is where, in the future of local search, mobile wins (as opposed to the Web). I finally see the light and now realizes that mobile will probably be the great disruptor it was always supposed to be. Why? Because, as Barbier said, mobile usage is real. It’s grounded in real life, with your day-to-day local usage and your social graph. That’s how you build usage. In web-based local search, it’s all about search engine optimization (SEO) these days as it’s very expensive to build new brands. It’s traffic coming from Google and other search engines from users with little loyalty. And with the Mountain View goliath hosting more and more content on their own site, I suspect that strategy will soon go off its rails.

Real-time business model

As for TellMeWhere’s business model, they’re monetizing using “special offers”. Merchants can claim their listing and submit deals/coupons/special offers (the best way to monetize real-time local as I’ve often said). It’s a pay-per-action model (or as Barbier coined it “pay-per-visit) where merchants only pay when the user displays the coupon on their phone on location. With geo-location, it’s easy to verify if the user was really on premise or not when he displayed the coupon. Barbier told me he can charge 4 euros to restaurants each time someone uses a coupon. Sounds like a good model.

I think TellMeWhere has everything to become Europe’s Foursquare. The application is beautifully executed and is easy to use. Current usage seems to show a very positive trend. They have traction in France and other francophone countries and want to go after the rest of Europe and the English-speaking world. You should definitely check out their iPhone application if you want to see a great social/local mobile app.

Update: Gilles Barbier tells me version 2.0 of his application has been approved by Apple and is now available for download.

TellMeWhere: Europe's Foursquare?

This morning, I had the chance to sit down with Gilles Barbier, CEO and co-founder of TellMeWhere (Dismoiou in French), a Paris-based European social Yellow Pages service. As with any ratings/reviews service, people can find places (see Le Louvre profile page for example), read the basic information, see the map and pictures, rate/comment on the place, see what others have said and discover related places. So far, although well executed, it’s not very different feature-wise than a lot of ratings/reviews sites like Yelp or Qype.

Mobile as a differentiator

Where it gets really interesting is with their iPhone application (they also have an Android one). The beautifully designed (both from a user interface and user experience) app is where the rubber really hit the road for the young startup founded three years ago. Launched in July, the mobile version has been downloaded more than 400,000 times (on a total of 2 million iPhones in France).

TellMeWhere iPhone Application Home

Features include:

  • Location-based business search
  • Ability to rate/comment places and broadcast your comment on Twitter/Facebook
  • See feedback from other users and your friends
  • See recommendations based on your tastes
  • Great integration of Facebook Connect with instant account creation based on your Facebook information
  • Push of your activities to your friends’ phone and possibility for your friends to answer you back via SMS
  • Integration with Google Maps
  • Integration with the iPhone camera allowing users to take a picture and upload it right away to the place profile page

TellMeWhere iPhone Application recommendations

The release of their iPhone application has created a lot of user traction. Barbier asked me to pick a small town in France just to prove the breadth of usage. I chose Venasque, a small 1000-inhabitant village in Provence where I stayed last spring. I think there are only a dozen businesses in the village. TellMeWhere had two votes in their system. They even had a few activities in smaller towns in Canada. And now they’re on the verge of releasing version 2.0 of their mobile application of the iPhone and it will include check-in functionality (like Foursquare) and an activity stream of everything your friends are doing to enable real-time discovery. You can see a video of the new application here.

TellMeWhere iPhone Application Place Profile

Barbier shared with me that they’ve now realized their mobile applications (built in-house) have become strategic for the small 7-employee company. The combination of mobile + local + social (utilizing an existing identity system like Facebook Connect) is a winning formula.

Mobile will be disruptive

And this is where, in the future of local search, mobile wins (as opposed to the Web). I finally see the light and now realizes that mobile will probably be the great disruptor it was always supposed to be. Why? Because, as Barbier said, mobile usage is real. It’s grounded in real life, with your day-to-day local usage and your social graph. That’s how you build usage. In web-based local search, it’s all about search engine optimization (SEO) these days as it’s very expensive to build new brands. It’s traffic coming from Google and other search engines from users with little loyalty. And with the Mountain View goliath hosting more and more content on their own site, I suspect that strategy will soon go off its rails.

Real-time business model

As for TellMeWhere’s business model, they’re monetizing using “special offers”. Merchants can claim their listing and submit deals/coupons/special offers (the best way to monetize real-time local as I’ve often said). It’s a pay-per-action model (or as Barbier coined it “pay-per-visit) where merchants only pay when the user displays the coupon on their phone on location. With geo-location, it’s easy to verify if the user was really on premise or not when he displayed the coupon. Barbier told me he can charge 4 euros to restaurants each time someone uses a coupon. Sounds like a good model.

I think TellMeWhere has everything to become Europe’s Foursquare. The application is beautifully executed and is easy to use. Current usage seems to show a very positive trend. They have traction in France and other francophone countries and want to go after the rest of Europe and the English-speaking world. You should definitely check out their iPhone application if you want to see a great social/local mobile app.

Update: Gilles Barbier tells me version 2.0 of his application has been approved by Apple and is now available for download.