Praized Media News: The Praized team in a Montreal Gazette Article

Montreal Gazette’s Roberto Rocha writes about the effervescent Montreal Web ecosystem today and the Praized team is featured. Excerpts:

But now Montreal is witnessing an Internet renaissance. New Web companies are sprouting up and venture-capital firms and “angel” investors who fund early-stage ideas are starting to pay attention, sowing the seeds of a new economic sector in the city. The activity is being driven not by government subsidies or by tax incentives, but by a desire to create something new and to meet like-minded people who see the Internet as the great new business frontier. (…)

Inspired by the collaborative nature of the Internet, local geeks with bright ideas started meeting at informal, community-organized events called BarCamps. The global movement that began in the Silicon Valley was the grassroots retort to stuffy, invitation-only tech conferences. In a BarCamp, computer whizzes show the first drafts of their garage projects to anyone who will listen. (…)

In a nondescript downtown office, Harry Wakefield and Sébastien Provencher are having one of their final meetings before taking their own startup, Praized Media, global. Their walls are barren save for an expanding pile of empty Guru cans by the windows and diagrams scribbled with the lingo of the new Internet economy – words like widgets, Ruby on Rails and tags.

“These kinds of get-togethers help good ideas bubble to the top,” said Provencher, who met his co-founders at YULbiz, a monthly gathering for business bloggers. Through their BarCamp connections, they assembled a team convincing enough to raise $1 million in venture capital from Garage Technology Ventures, a Silicon Valley VC firm that opened a Montreal office. Established industry groups “haven’t clued in to the fact that there’s a vibrant Web community here,” Provencher said. (…)

Praized Media is also mentioned in this list of Montreal networking venues and start-ups.

Who Will Own “Where”?

Most of my business readings this weekend have been various analysis of the potential Yahoo/Microsoft deal. Unfortunately, I haven’t been impressed by the level of the debate as many of the comments were all about “Microsoft is evil” and its corollary “Google is not”. I was hoping for more level-headed reflections but I think the involvement of Microsoft in the story created a highly-emotional environment in the tech blogosphere.

One of them stood out for me. Tim O’Reilly looked at the big picture and tries to extract some industry meaning, showing once again his crystal ball is one of the most polished in the industry. Talking about industry consolidation in general and Yahoo in particular, he offered:

The web companies that have a chance of surviving as independent entities are those that truly understand and exploit the rules of the new platform: harnessing collective intelligence to build rich troves of data that literally get better the more people use the application, running ahead of any possible competitor simply because of the network effects that pile on to keep them improving faster than any newcomer. Some of Yahoo!s properties (e.g. Flickr) have that characteristic, but Yahoo!’s business as a whole did not. It was ultimately a halfway house on the way to Web 2.0. It’s original business was based on a literal aggregation of user generated content, but it quickly became a more traditional content and services portal. Later companies like Google leapfrogged it by building services that tapped more directly into the native network effects of the Web.

The other important characteristic of the winners, of course, is that they tap into a data stream that really matters. Owning network effects around consumer photos, for instance, is much less powerful than owning network effects around paid search. So one of the key questions we have to ask ourselves going forward is this: what are the major data subsystems of the future Internet Operating System. Location, identity (and social graph), search (and not just web search but also product search, in which Amazon has a very strong position) come to mind. In a lot of ways, finding the data associated with the old vectors who, what, when, where, and how is a good place to start.

What it means: O’Reilly posits that local search (Location + Search) is one of the key elements of the future Internet Operating System. I completely agree with him. I would add that no one has locked the market yet. No one in that field is deeply embedded yet in the Web O/S. So, this still represents a major market opportunity. And the big question remains: who will own “where”?

Digg is an Oligarchy (or Why Digg Must Constantly Update Its Algorithm)

Digg.com, the social news site, did a major algorithm update last week to tweak the way submitted content get to the front page of the site. As Kevin Rose explained, “As we’ve talked about in the past, Digg’s promotional algorithm ensures that the most popular content dugg by a diverse, unique group of diggers reaches the home page. Our goal is to give each person a fair chance of getting their submission promoted to the home page.”

digg

(Flickr picture by donlbe)

The reaction from Digg power users was scorching. Wired explains: “For those who missed it, several of the top diggers — including Andrew “MrBabyMan” Sorcini, Muhammad “msaleem” Saleem and Reg “Zaibatsu” Saddler, held an emergency chat/podcast to discuss their response to a recent change in the Digg algorithm which made it more difficult for veteran Diggers to get their submissions on the front page. After nearly a couple hours of debate, it was decided that they would boycott the site. They backed down from the plan, though, when Digg founder Kevin Rose and Jay Adelson showed up and talked them down from it.”

Now, why is Digg constantly updating their algorithm and making their power users angry? Let me explain…

Since their launch, Digg’s mission has been about democratizing the news by using the wisdom of the crowds. Jay Adelson repeated it a year ago in the company blog “Our goal is always to maintain a purely democratic system for the submission and sharing of information – and we want Digg to continue to be a great resource for finding the best content.” In addition, there have been multiple rumors around traditional news media firms wanting to buy the site. If you’re in traditional media, what’s sexy about Digg is that promise of real news democracy. It’s a very noble mission but, unfortunately for Digg, the site is currently not a democracy. It’s an oligarchy, where home page results are controlled by a few hundred individuals. If you’re not part of the “Digg club”, getting an article to the front page is a very difficult task. And no traditional media firm will want to buy a site that’s controlled by a small group of people, especially not for $300M (one of the rumored prices). So, for Digg.com, it’s “Democracy or Bust”.

Update: someone suggested we submit the post to Digg to prove (or not) the point. Here it is, if you want to “digg” it.

Update2: “Slashdot Founder Questions Crowd’s Wisdom” in the New York Times.

Local & Social Media Predictions for 2008

Yesterday, I wrote about what I thought were the most important news in 2007 in the local and social media space. Today, I’d like to propose my 2008 predictions, an always interesting exercise.

  1. The year of Identity. One of the big challenges of social media is having to sign-up and add your friends in a multitude of web sites. Expect 2008 to be the year where this problem becomes a major issue and gets potentially solved through identity interoperability initiatives like OpenID.
  2. Social is now everywhere and open. The last few months of 2007 have set the stage for a very social 2008. Any new major initiatives will include social elements by default and will use existing standards like OpenSocial, DiSo or Facebook.
  3. Fragmentation & personalization of media. Given the lower barrier to entry for new local/social projects, user and advertiser fragmentation will continue to accelerate in 2008. From a user point of view, this will lead to new personalization tools allowing consumers to create their own unique media view.
  4. The year of ad networks. As a corollary of point #3 above, given that user fragmentation will accelerate, an increasingly large number of ad networks will pop-up to aggregate consumers into a critical advertising mass. It’s all about advertiser defragmentation. Directory publishers will want to become ad networks themselves to push their ads outside of their core destination sites in order to increase their total reach.
  5. Content wants to be distributed. That’s the second corollary of point #3. Increasing user fragmentation requires content producers to atomize their content and push it in the fabric of the web. Think of your business in terms of content units or atoms (some inspiration came from Clay Shirky’s “fame vs. fortune” post from 2003).
  6. Social graph-based search. I am now a firm believer that social graph-based search will be the future of search (including local search) and we will see this concept gain some tractions in 2008. I think humans will always trust recommendations and advice from people in their “social network” (friends, family, colleagues, known experts, etc.) more than a machine. Online word-of-mouth is the biggest local search opportunity out there.
  7. More M&A activity in local. 2007 was quite active from a local M&A (Idearc buying Infospace’s directory business, Citysearch/InsiderPages, AT&T/Ingenio, Marchex/Voicestar, etc.) but I expect 2008 to be even more active given i) the need for directory publishers to execute on their strategies and ii) the need to aggregate traffic to increase advertiser ROI.
  8. Mobile: the year before the big bang. 2008 will be the year where a solid mobile development base (open devices, networks, platforms) is established leading to an explosion in 2009. Watch for the Google spectrum bid in January.

Local & Social Media Predictions for 2008

Yesterday, I wrote about what I thought were the most important news in 2007 in the local and social media space. Today, I’d like to propose my 2008 predictions, an always interesting exercise.

  1. The year of Identity. One of the big challenges of social media is having to sign-up and add your friends in a multitude of web sites. Expect 2008 to be the year where this problem becomes a major issue and gets potentially solved through identity interoperability initiatives like OpenID.
  2. Social is now everywhere and open. The last few months of 2007 have set the stage for a very social 2008. Any new major initiatives will include social elements by default and will use existing standards like OpenSocial, DiSo or Facebook.
  3. Fragmentation & personalization of media. Given the lower barrier to entry for new local/social projects, user and advertiser fragmentation will continue to accelerate in 2008. From a user point of view, this will lead to new personalization tools allowing consumers to create their own unique media view.
  4. The year of ad networks. As a corollary of point #3 above, given that user fragmentation will accelerate, an increasingly large number of ad networks will pop-up to aggregate consumers into a critical advertising mass. It’s all about advertiser defragmentation. Directory publishers will want to become ad networks themselves to push their ads outside of their core destination sites in order to increase their total reach.
  5. Content wants to be distributed. That’s the second corollary of point #3. Increasing user fragmentation requires content producers to atomize their content and push it in the fabric of the web. Think of your business in terms of content units or atoms (some inspiration came from Clay Shirky’s “fame vs. fortune” post from 2003).
  6. Social graph-based search. I am now a firm believer that social graph-based search will be the future of search (including local search) and we will see this concept gain some tractions in 2008. I think humans will always trust recommendations and advice from people in their “social network” (friends, family, colleagues, known experts, etc.) more than a machine. Online word-of-mouth is the biggest local search opportunity out there.
  7. More M&A activity in local. 2007 was quite active from a local M&A (Idearc buying Infospace’s directory business, Citysearch/InsiderPages, AT&T/Ingenio, Marchex/Voicestar, etc.) but I expect 2008 to be even more active given i) the need for directory publishers to execute on their strategies and ii) the need to aggregate traffic to increase advertiser ROI.
  8. Mobile: the year before the big bang. 2008 will be the year where a solid mobile development base (open devices, networks, platforms) is established leading to an explosion in 2009. Watch for the Google spectrum bid in January.

Nokia Bets on Local, Acquires NAVTEQ

(via eWeek and Reuters)

Nokia said on Oct. 1 it will offer $8.1 billion for U.S.-based digital map supplier Navteq in one of its largest takeovers ever, but its shares fell as analysts dubbed the deal “expensive.” The acquisition would give the world’s top cellphone maker—which is looking for new revenue sources as the cellphone industry matures—a stronghold in the navigation business, one of the fastest-growing segments in the technology industry.

What it means: in a deal that underlines the importance of mobile in the local space (and vice-versa!), Nokia makes its biggest bet so far and buys an important piece of the local search ecosystem. I think it confirms some of the things I was writing about last week in my When will Mobile Become the Next Big Thing? post.

The Praized Blog: One Year Anniversary

Today, I celebrate my first year of blogging. When I started, I had an objective of writing at least one blog post per business day. Mission accomplished! I now have written close to 300 blog posts on a variety of local search and/or social media topics. I’ve met many new friends and blogging has become a very important part of my professional life. I currently have 416 RSS subscribers and I think I’ve found my blogging “voice”.

To celebrate, I take a look back at my top 5 blog posts that generated the most comments and trackbacks in the last year:

1) “Robert Scoble is Media“, July 14, 2007. By far my most popular blog post. I stumbled upon a major meme with “I am Media”. Lots of people have talked to me about that one and have told me they now understand Facebook because of it. If any book editors are reading, I think this could be a great business book… 🙂

2) “What Micro-Blogging is All About?“, September 13, 2007. Re-reading one of my favorite Douglas Coupland book, I found this excerpt which poetically describes what micro-blogging is potentially all about. Mashing-up Douglas Coupland with Web 2.0 earned me some great reactions.

3) “Google Opens an Office in Montreal“, January 25th, 2007. Major buzz in the Montreal blogosphere as I was the first blogger to discover that announcement in Montreal’s La Presse.

4) “Chronology of a Successful Facebook Group: The “Save Business 2.0″ Example“, July 19, 2007. Chronicling my efforts (with Colin Carmichael) to save Business 2.0 magazine using Facebook. That one was a lot of fun and offered some great learnings. We unfortunately did not save the magazine (I got my last issue today…)

5) “Web 2.0 Startup Praized Media Inc. Secures $1,000,000 in Seed Funding“, September 18, 2007. The announcement of our seed round of financing was welcomed by the local search blogosphere.

I’d like to start my second year of blogging by thanking all my Year 1 readers! Thanks and here’s to another 300 blog posts! 🙂

If you’re not a RSS subscriber, click here to add my feed to your favorite reader.

Web 2.0 Startup Praized Media Inc. Secures $1,000,000 in Seed Funding

Today is a special day. I’m very happy to announce that our company, Praized Media Inc., has received $1M in seed funding from Garage Ventures Technology Canada. Yes, Praized Media is much more than an industry blog and today, we lift some of the veil (just a bit) covering our stealth initiative. After spending the last year talking about local and social in public, we’ve now taken the plunge and are becoming full-time Internet entrepreneurs.

There’s not much we can tell today. I’ll let Harry’s quote in our press release do the talking: “Praized is a social media company developing software that connects blogs, social networks, and local search in ways never seen before, says CEO Harry Wakefield.” The company is currently operating in stealth mode and expects to launch its product in key target markets early next year. This investment is going to allow us to really grow this business”.

If you want to be part of the beta test, sign up for an invite on our home page.

And if you have what it takes to be our Lead Engineer (Ruby on Rails and much more), we want you on the team!

Finally, don’t worry if you’re an avid reader of the Praized blog, I will still be covering and offering my take on Local 2.0 in the future. It’s not going away!

BTW, if you want to follow the evolution of our company, we’ve created a “Fans of Praized Media” Facebook group that you can join.

Breaking News: Infospace Sells Online Directory Business to Superpages

Just bumped into a friend while checking in at the hotel of the Kelsey Group Conference. He tells me Infospace has just sold Switchboard.com to Idearc (Superpages). Turns out Infospace has sold its whole online directory business to Idearc.

Excerpts from the Reuters article:

InfoSpace Inc said it agreed to sell its online directory business, including Switchboard.com, to Yellow-pages directories publisher Idearc Inc for $225 million in cash.

“What we did here was pick an asset that really the market was not valuing at all and turned it into real cash,” Bellevue, Washington-based InfoSpace’s CEO Voelker said by phone.

The 47 employees in the directory business are going to be offered jobs in Idearc, Voelker said.

The online directory business contributed about $17 million to the company’s first-half 2007 revenue of about $157 million.

The Kelsey Group blog has more info.

What it means: traffic consolidation. Superpages.com continues to build its online reach and frequency through this acquisition.

VoiceStar Acquired by Marchex for $28M

TechCrunch has the news. Highlights:

Marchex total anticipated investment to acquire VoiceStar will be $28 million, consisting of approximately $20 million in transaction consideration and $8 million in company investment. Specifically, transaction consideration consists of approximately $12.9 million in cash consideration and Marchex will issue approximately $7.1 million in restricted stock that is subject to vesting over two-and-one-half years from closing to certain employees of VoiceStar; and company investment consists of $8 million relating to products, infrastructure, human resources and other items through 2008. The acquisition is expected to close by October 1, 2007.

What it means: brilliant acquisition. I am a strong believer in pay-per-call especially in a local context. Big question mark: will Marchex leverage the VoiceStar technology for their network of local web sites (thereby competing directly with directory publishers, who are the biggest customers of VoiceStar) or will they continue to sell VoiceStar as a platform? In any case, congrats to my two friends Ari and Todd who started VoiceStar a few years ago !!!

Update: Peter at Local Onliner has more info about Marchex’s strategy: “We can now also add proprietary pay-per-phone-call advertising units to our network of local Web sites, which allows us to increase the direct monetization of our own properties,” notes Marchex’s Peter Christothoulou, per press release. The release also notes that VoiceStar “increases Marchex’s ability to directly monetize its… network of Web Sites, lessening its dependence on third-parties and increasing….. revenue (via) call-based advertising units.”