The Kelsey Group’s 2008 Local Media Trends: “A Pivotal Year for the Global Yellow Pages Industry”

The Kelsey Group (TKG) just released their 2008 Local Media trends. They believe 2008 will be a pivotal year for the global Yellow Pages industry. Here are the highlights:

  • Print local media: TKG wonders if the directory business will continue to be as recession-proof as it used to be, as more ROI-driven online local ad products are launched. For large US urban areas, they also talk about the creation of print opt-out plans, important market rescoping and the launching of new directory formats. They also expect higher cannibalization of traditional media sales, mostly from search engine click packages.

  • Online local media: 2008 is the year where user-generated content becomes a critical aspect of consumers’ decision-making process. Merchants will be widely invited to join that conversation as well. In addition, auto and real estate verticals will continue to develop in the local search context, new devices will lead to new sources of searches and local search inventory will increase drastically.

  • Sales: 2008 will continue to see the uphill struggle to build independent local sales channels.

  • ROI/Performance-based products: this year, we will see the beginning of the untethering of print and online usage and more use of robust ad reporting. TKG thinks that 2008 is the year where the promise of pay-per-call gets realized as multi-channel management becomes a critical success factor.

  • Verticalization: from a seller perspective, high ad spend categories will attract lots of sales competition from many different sources: SEO/SEM firms, newspapers, vertical sites, start-ups, etc. In national sales, we will see more ad localization.

  • New products: Video, Mobile and Outdoor, with a mention that “video is where the immediate action is”.

You can find the Praized blog’s 2008 predictions here.

What it means: As a regular attendee of Kelsey Conferences, I am usually well aware of most of the local media trends but there are a couple of surprises in there for me. First, the creation of opt-out programs for print directories in some US markets. I did not realize the pressure was high on US publishers to create these mechanisms. The second one is Outdoor as a new product. I wasn’t aware that local media companies were looking actively to sell “outdoor” products. In my mind, it’s the kind of interesting opportunity that’s always discussed but is never “low-hanging fruit” enough to execute. Will be interesting to follow. I also like the call to disconnect print and online usage. TKG was the first organization to warn directory companies not to couple print and online value for too long (back in 2001-2002). What they’re saying is: there used to be a time where bundling print and online usage was useful to sell but online is now strong enough to sell on its own.

How to SEO Local Video Advertising

Weblistic logo

I recently attended a short webinar from Weblistic, my friend Dick Larkin’s company. Weblistic helps SMEs generate more local leads from a very fragmented Web. They have not revealed too much about their secret sauce but yesterday, they showed how successful they were when search engine optimizing local video ads.

Their first assumption is that search engines are going to integrate video content within their universal search results. Google has already started to do so. Video is also a very fragmented market and opportunities to be found abound. Weblistic is placing bets on all major video sites and has created accounts at most of them. They use the “localvidsdotnet” handle on a variety of social video sites like YouTube, Yahoo Video, Guba, iFilm, and stickam. They then upload their local advertising videos and tag them with a variety of relevant keywords. Videos start appearing in the Google search engine results pages. In this example, Weblistic has managed to capture 7 of the top 10 positions for their merchant name. Cool isn’t it?

What it means: in a fragmented world, there will always be a business opportunity to defragment and simplify. The local video market is a good case study. Weblistic seems to understand that concept and is hoping to simplify Web SEO/SEM for small businesses.

Residential Search is About to be Disrupted

On Monday, Yahoo Search launched improvements to their search engine including something they call the “search assist“. Like some other bloggers, I wasn’t too impressed until one of my friends showed me how you could use it in the context of people search.

If you do a search for my name on Yahoo and trigger the search assist, you can now see concepts associated with my name. The keywords Linkedin, Facebook, Robert Scoble, local search, social networks, blog archive, online media and product management appear in the search assist screen. As my public face on the web is mostly professional, all these keywords are bang on and offer a good representation of who I am on the web:

Linkedin: I’m a heavy Linkedin user and the site has a great SEO strategy.

Facebook: I’ve blogged about Facebook a lot during the summer and some of my ideas had big impacts in the blogosphere.

Local search and social networks: my job and what I blog about.

Online media and product management: my job.

Robert Scoble: I discovered what Robert was doing with Facebook and blogged about it, creating an important Web meme.

Yahoo Search Assist

The people-search site Spock uses tags to convey the same kind of related information. Unfortunately, on a search for my name, the info is much more limited as it comes only from my Linkedin profile. It misses a large portion of my other online activities, most notably the blogging.

Spock

What it means: structured business data has always been the bread and butter of the directory industry but most publishers have put their residential search function on the side, not really caring about it. Be careful! Residential or people search is a great traffic driver into your ecosystem of web sites and many people are after that traffic. By introducing structured people search, Yahoo, Spock and others are making it much more relevant. Residential search is about to be disrupted.

Marchex’s Bill Day: It’s the Right Time for Investments in Local

As an interesting segue to my VoiceStar/Marchex blog post from last week, MediaPost offers an interview with Bill Day, their new Chief Media Officer in which he talks about the importance of local for Marchex. “Kaufman Brothers analyst Sameet Sinha questioned the company’s heavy investment in local search at this moment, after the announcement it would buy pay-per-call ad provider VoiceStar. It happened to be the first official day at work for new Chief Media Officer Bill Day, most recently at WhenU, but also a co-founder of About.com and one of the online pioneers of the ’80s at Prodigy. He was nothing but optimistic about the opportunity for local.”

Highlights:

Q: Why is the time right now for local? When we did it at About.com, it was too early. The interest area was the place to invest. Things have changed. First of all, many more people use the Internet. If you want to have a pro-sumer model, you need one that scales to be very comprehensive. Marchex is a leader. It already has thousands and thousands and thousands of sites. You also need a model that can get really really deep within those localities. I did a lot of diligence coming in and with the Yellow Pages advertisers now coming on, it suggests it really is a good time to invest in local. You have to invest to reap the rewards.

Q: What is the first thing you’ll do in your new job? The first thing is to focus on the continued rollout of our open list technology populating businesses down to the ZIP code level (editor’s note: e.g. 90210.com). I’m also talking to media companies in the local space. There’s a lot of business development I need to do to get the ball rolling.

Q: Who is doing local right? There are certainly sites that get parts of it right. I can’t point to one network that gets it right consistently. I don’t know anything countrywide. The sites that tend to do that are using very stale and automated generic content that is not good enough to get repeat visitation. I’ve looked at some of the WashingtonPost.com sites, what Sidewalk’s done for Digital Cities. We’re in a pretty open space for starting to do things that haven’t been done so far on the net–to truly create a broad, deep network of sites.

What it means: Marchex believes online revenue action in the future will happen on the local and hyperlocal front. They’ve acquired web real estate (local URLs) and local content. They have solid search engine optimization (SEO) expertise and they now want to introduce user-generated content. Using all of these tools, they’re building a large-scale local ad network. The only thing I would question is the quality of traffic coming from SEO, as not all clicks are born equal. Measuring ROI will become key when evaluating the quality of local search traffic but, as I believe a good chunk of the revenues in local will happen around pay-per-call in the next 5-10 years, the acquisition of VoiceStar makes complete sense strategically. That’s a great way to measure and prove local search ROI.

Web Cleaners: They Exist!

Following my post last Tuesday on teenagers and how they live their online lives very publicly, I was predicting the arrival a new job: the Web cleaner. To my surprise (you’ve got to love the clarity of my crystal ball!), the Washington Post talked on Monday about calling in pros to refine your Google image.

The article exposes the story of Sue Scheff, a consultant to parents of troubled teens, who came under cyber-defamation attacks in 2002. She would type her name in Google and find many pages attacking her personally. The article continues: “The stream of negative comments began in 2002 after a woman who had sought advice from Scheff turned on her. The postings appeared on PTA Web sites in Florida, where Scheff lives. On bulletin boards and online forums. There were even YouTube videos threatening her. She sued for defamation and won an $11.3 million verdict, but the attacks only got worse. In December, Scheff turned to ReputationDefender, a year-old firm that promised to help her cleanse her virtual reputation. She no longer dreads a Google search on her name. Most of the links on the all-important first page are to her own Web site and a half-dozen others created by ReputationDefender to promote her work on teen pregnancy and teen depression. “They created Sue-Scheff.net,” she said. “They created SueScheff.net. They created SueScheff.org. . . . They created my MySpace account, for God’s sake. I didn’t know how to do any of this stuff.”

Additional article highlights:

Charging anything from a few dollars to thousands of dollars a month, companies such as International Reputation Management, Naymz and ReputationDefender don’t promise to erase the bad stuff on the Web. But they do assure their clients of better results on an Internet search, pushing the positive items up on the first page and burying the others deep. (…)

Companies like IRM try to outthink Google. Search engines comb the Web with complex and ever-shifting algorithms, evaluating relevance and authority by looking at many factors: Is this a government Web site? How many people have linked to it? And so on. The point is, said ReputationDefender founder Michael Fertik, “Google’s not in business to give you the truth, it’s in business to give what you think is relevant.” The goal is to get Google and other search engines to seize on relevant sites that contain positive information on their clients and to downplay the rest. Google does not object in principle to people adding positive content to outrank the negative. But a spokeswoman said in an e-mail, “if you use spammy and manipulative techniques to get this positive content to rank highly, we may take action on it.”

What it means: wow! this is going to be big business in a few years. I would suggest that everyone working in search engine optimization today starts thinking about how this could positively impact their business.

Traditional Media Need Google and other Aggregators

Catching up on some interesting blog posts this week, I found this superb analysis by Publishing 2.0 about why newspapers should embrace online aggregators.

Highlights:

  • Many newspaper executives have made an enemy out of Google and other online aggregators who disintermediate newspapers and all other traditional media.
  • These aggregators drive a significant amount of traffic to newspapers.
  • The real fear is that aggregators are destroying the direct brand relationships that newspapers and other branded media have traditionally had with their audience.
  • The problem that newspapers and other traditional media brands have is that they still see branding as a function of controlling the distribution channel, rather than branding each unit of content that must now live and survive on its own in a disaggregated online media ecosystem.
  • The real missed opportunity for newspapers is in optimizing their content to convert user who find their way to newspaper content via search and other aggregators into subscribers and direct users of the brand. (there is an interesting example from The New York Times and some interesting data from Publishing 2.0 RSS subscriptions in the post)
  • Newspapers will also limit their growth by focusing only on their own content — the New York Times and many other mainstream media sites have embraced aggregation themselves, as blogs have done for years, by linking usefully to other sites, which only increases their value as a destination.
  • None of this will save newspapers from declining print circulation, i.e. it won’t turn young people who don’t read print newspapers into print readers. But it can help people discover the newspaper’s original content online — and if they discover it enough times, some of them will start going to these newspapers directly as a source. This is essentially a reinvention of the circulation department.

What it means: a couple of things. First, if you are traditional media, you need to re-think how you see your brand. There is a retail version of your brand (your destination sites) and there is a wholesale version of your brand (rss feed, SEO strategy, content licensing, etc.). Both are as important strategically. Second, the idea of branding content pieces in addition to your destination site is brilliant. Make sure you take that into account when working on your wholesale strategy. Finally, embrace search engines and aggregators to increase your reach.

First Quarter Newspaper Online Ad Revenues Up 22.3%

(via the Center for media research)

According to preliminary estimates from the Newspaper Association of America, advertising expenditures for newspaper Web sites increased by 22.3 percent to $750 million in the first quarter versus the same period a year ago. Advertising on newspaper Web sites made up 7.1 percent of total newspaper ad spending in the first quarter compared with 5.5 percent for the same period a year ago. (…) Advertising expenditures at newspapers and their Web sites totaled $10.6 billion for the first quarter of 2007, a 4.8 percent decrease from the same period a year earlier. Spending for print ads in newspapers totaled $9.8 billion, down 6.4 percent versus the same period a year earlier.

Of note in the first quarter of 2007, classified advertising fell 13.2 percent to $3.4 billion with the following detailed information:

  • Real estate advertising fell 14.2 percent to $953 million
  • Recruitment dropped 14.3 percent to $975.3 million
  • Automotive was down 20.1 percent to $751.3 million
  • All other classifieds were down 0.5 percent to $699.3 million

What it means: clearly, growth in online advertising revenues at newspapers does not compensate for loss of print revenues. Especially important are drop in automotive, real estate and recruitment (three verticals that are really strong online). What’s most important at this point is making sure newspapers increase the traffic to their web properties by all means (distribution agreements, search engine optimization, launch of new verticals and hyperlocal sites, etc.).
The creation of forced Print/Online bundles might also help them sustain their total revenues while online monetization improves in the future.

How Weather.com Became the Eight-Most-Trafficked Media Site and What This Means for Directory Publishers

Adage.com discusses how Weather.com (The Weather Channel’s web site) managed to become the eight-most-visited media site with 37.8 million unique visitors (March 2007, Nielsen/NetRatings).

1) Focused on one thing, weather, and the URL brand says it all.

2) “It’s primarily a reference site, a genre that does very well online”.

3) Search engine optimization (SEO) and marketing. “Lately it has seen its distribution through widgets growing as well.”

The article adds that Weather.com ranks eighth in mobile search according to M:Metrics.

What it means: if I put this article in the context of directory publishing, this makes me think that there’s no reason why a directory publisher could not see its traffic explode through smart strategic online moves. Directories are reference sites and they usually focus on one thing: finding a person or finding a business. Those are things you do multiple times during one week. But I think one of the killer apps directory publishers have is their residential search (this might come as a shock to many people!). “Find a Person” is like weather information! This is clearly a under-exploited segment today (under-exploited by directory publishers) and could serve as a locomotive to increase local business searches. But you’d need to have strong SEO and syndicate your “find a person” content via widgets and other affiliate programs.

Hitwise: 25% of Newspapers Sites’ Traffic Comes From Search Engines

(via MediaPost)

According to a new Hitwise report, 25% of the traffic coming to newspapers Web sites arrives from search engines.  This comes on the heels of a custom Nielsen//NetRatings study for the Newspaper Association of America (NAA) showing record traffic numbers of 59.5M unique visitors to these web sites in March.

Challenges:

1) Monetization is not happening as fast as that traffic growth.  “While online ad revenue has been growing, our share of that revenue is not in synch with our reach into the audience,” said Randy Bennett, vice president of audience and new business development for the NAA.”

2) User fragmentation.  “Info from the Hitwise report revealed that news consumption is beginning to fragment, with the share of visits to the top 10 News and Media Web sites (which include newspapers like The New York Times) declining by almost 4%.”

Solution?

“According to Bennett, building awareness of that reach and making it easier for advertisers to buy bundles of local and national ads are key steps toward securing more ad revenue.”

What it means: as Martin Nisenholtz of New York Times Digital said this week at the YPA Conference, the “walled garden” era is dead.  Search engine optimization is a key strategic element if you run a media operation.  Search engines are entry doors to web content and because of their extensive reach, you want to be found in them.  But SEO is not enough.  You need to have a specific syndication strategy to disseminate your content, your brand and, hopefully, your business model throughout the web.

 

 

Beyond Google: Social Media Engines First, Other Search Engines Second

Danny Sullivan from Search Engine Land dropped a bomb on the SEO world last Wednesday by firmly putting a new stake in the ground:

“…over the past few weeks, I’ve found myself more and more thinking that if you want to go beyond Google as a search marketer, the other search engines that matter first are the “social media search engines.” After them come the other major general purpose search engines like Yahoo, Microsoft and Ask.”

“Search marketers should tap into search engines — and that includes the social media search engines. Neil Patel’s Forget ABCs – The Social Media Alphabet Is DNRS (…) is an excellent introduction to some of these players, for those not up on social media search engines and social media optimization. (…) They are traffic powerhouses you can’t ignore.”

What it means: Wow! Social Media (Digg, Techmeme, Del.icio.us, possibly MySpace, etc.) are now considered to be the second biggest source of traffic after Google for certain types of sites (news, blogs, etc.). Which means Social Media Optimization (discussed in the Praized blog in November) should now be a key element of your traffic strategy. Are you properly leveraging these sites?