Zuckerberg: "I’m not ready to talk about anything around location"

Nick Bilton, lead technology writer at New York Times, just live-blogged Facebook’s privacy announcement. Facebook unveiled a series of measures to calm consumers fears on the privacy of content posted on the very popular social networking site. I think it will satisfy many people. You can read more in the New York Times article or on Facebook itself. I did note an interesting Local/Social question from Bilton during the session:

[Bilton] asked about the company’s plans to roll out services that share your location and how it will avoid another backlash about this.

Mr. Zuckerberg: We are really going to try to not have another backlash. The settings that we announced today will apply to all the settings going forward. I’m not ready to talk about anything around location, frankly because it’s not done yet, and we’re not ready to talk about it yet. But we can say that the settings that you apply today will be set for those experiences. This one simple setting will control all of the new products that we launch when we move forward. This is something that we’ve never done before.

What it means: excellent question from Nick Bilton, knowing how sensitive geo-location information can be.  Read about Please Rob Me to understand the potential implications. But Facebook geo-location capabilities are coming! And it will probably be a game-changer.

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Highlights From the Most Recent BIA/Kelsey Local Commerce Monitor and User View Surveys

On day one of the BIA/Kelsey Marketplaces 2010 conference, Steve Marshall (Director of research at BIA/Kelsey) shared highlights from two studies they’ve been doing regularly for years, the Local Commerce Monitor and the User View.

First, the Q3 2009 Local Commerce Monitor. The survey measures where small and medium sized businesses (SMBs) are spending their advertising and promotional budgets and how their media usage and spending habits are evolving

  • Penetration of online media (77%) exceeds Traditional Media (69%) for the first time in Q3. That’s the percentage of SMBs using each type of media to promote themselves.
  • Newer businesses much more oriented to online media. For businesses created less than 3 years ago, 30% of their budget is dedicated to online. Overall average is 21.8%.
  • 32% of businesses plan to use social media and blogs to promote themselves in the next 12 months.

Second, the February 2010 User View. The survey focuses on how U.S. consumers are evolving their use of traditional and online information sources to find and locate local serving businesses.

  • BIA/Kelsey is seeing more and more fragmentation in local shopping. Consumers say they used 7.9 different sources to for local shopping information in the last year. That’s up from 5.6 in 2007.
  • 82% use Internet as Primary or Secondary source for product purchases smaller than $500
  • 45% use Internet to research non-routine purchases before buying
  • 27% completed most recent product purchase bigger than $500 online
  • Membership in social networks continues to explode: 67% are on Facebook, 30% on MySpace, 20% on Twitter and 14% on LinkedIn. Two years ago, only 16% were on Facebook and Twitter didn’t exist!

Social Graph-Based Commenting Systems

Over the course of the last two years, I’ve had the chance to meet with hundreds of traditional media company executives. Often, when talking about social media, one of the first “mental” hurdles that needs to be cleared is negative user comments. In merchant reviews, directory publishers are often afraid of negative ones especially as it pertains to advertisers.  In news comments, newspaper publishers are challenged by negative, sometimes aggressive readers. Certain types of news will inflame passion, attract “trolls” and become hard to manage. It’s sometimes an ugly world out there with racism, homophobia and misogyny.

But if you thought this only happens in traditional media websites, think again. Some of the “new guys” are facing the same problem. Last week Engadget, one of the top gadget blogs, had to turn off their commenting system to cool off troll attacks. Quoted in VentureBeat, Engadget’s editor Joshua Topolsky said:

“We have a huge readership, but the vast majority of our readers do not comment. But we’ve had an influx of new readers due to our iPad coverage last week, which blew away our previous [traffic] expectations. Unfortunately, we’ve also had an influx of readers who are very trollish. (…) They’re not coming here to talk about technology. They’re coming to incite arguments. They’ll post things like ‘VAIOs suck, Macs rule,’ or ‘Macs are gay.’ They’ll go off-topic and get racist or sexist just to be inflammatory.”

Engadget flipped back the comment switch after a couple of days and made a few changes including an option to “switch off the comments entirely if you don’t want to deal with them”. They also laid down a series of ground rules for community participation and provided answers to frequently asked questions.

Now, don’t think comments/reviews are going away! If consumers are not doing it on your website, they will find ways to express themselves elsewhere, on their blog, on Twitter or on Facebook. And you’ll need to start aggregating content back to your site (like Google is doing) to improve your user experience. User comments/reviews are very valuable and they serve to build your community, especially if they happen directly on your site.

In any case, I believe a solution will soon be found to this problem and it will come because of strong identity systems and social graphs. I foresee a time when everyone will log-in using a “real identity” provider. Real identity systems make people more accountable. The other angle is the social graph, i.e your network of “friends”. Logging-in with a “real identity” provider will allow you to see comments from your network of contacts in priority and extend to a few degrees of separation. So, not only will people use their true identity to comment and contribute, they will also see the participation of their social graph first. Consumers will always have the choice to see everything and your friends will be able to recommend comments from strangers to you. Chris Sacca at LeWeb thought we would soon get rid of douchebags because of that. The big question here is: will the non-exposure to external viewpoints create groupthink? Solving one problem might create another…

Additional reading:

  1. Mashable discusses the Engadget situation here.
  2. ReadWriteWeb’s “Open Thread: Dealing With Real-Time Negativity
  3. Editor & Publisher’s “New Tools Aid in Policing Web Comments

Google to Embrace "Newsfeed" Revolution

Robert Scoble reports this morning that he’s now “heard from three separate Google employees that Google will release a news feed that will compete with Facebook and Twitter”. He gives an excellent description of the products that will serve as building blocks for that feed: Google Profiles and Google’s Social Circles Connections. Scoble says it’s a serious threat to Twitter.

On a related note, ReadWriteWeb makes the case that Facebook could soon become the world’s leading news reader because of the enormous size of the social network and the ease of sharing/commenting information.

What it means: yet more proof that my prediction that we would soon consume all local content in a real-time activity stream format will come true. Traditional media companies: when Google launches this newsfeed, don’t say you were not warned in advance. Embrace the real-time Web and the newsfeed format. It’s becoming a de facto Web standard.

Getting to the Next Stage: Praized Media Hires Siemer & Associates to Find Strategic Partner

One of the first things you learn when you launch your own startup is to actively monitor opportunities in the market and move quickly to leverage them. In my case, it happened three times in the last three years.

The first strategic move happened back in the fall of 2006 when Sylvain Carle, Harry Wakefield and I founded Praized Media to help local media companies leverage the rising force of social media and online word-of-mouth. I also started blogging about what I call “local 2.0,” the intersection of local search and social media. At the time, most people believed that this convergence would not happen. Three years later, it’s one of the hottest sectors.

We made the second key move in fall 2008. Having launched our first social local tools (for WordPress, Movable Type, Facebook and our hub site) a couple of months before, we were approached by a few major media players who signaled to us they would be interested in using the technology we had built within their own online platform. This gave us the confidence to develop white-label enterprise versions of our social local media software, which has been in the market since spring 2009. Building on the popularity of our initial module, we developed many more enterprise modules described here.

The third strategic move is happening now. Last fall (what is it with fall???), we were approached by two US investment banks who aspired to represent us if we ever wanted to find a strategic partner for Praized Media. A few companies also hinted to us that they might be interested in investing in or acquiring Praized Media. Based on that enthusiasm, Sylvain and I (along with our board) discussed the pros and cons of going to the altar with a strategic partner vs. continuing alone.

The market is super-hot for technologies like ours. In the last three months, there has been a flurry of acquisitions and funding events in the “social local” space (we’ve created a document listing them if you’re interested). We could go on the road and raise new VC money to fuel our growth, but anyone that has raised those kinds of funds before knows that this is a brutal process, even when your market is hot. It takes a lot of time and energy, and for small companies, the process forces you to take your eyes off the product/company development roadmap. At the core, Sylvain and I are product/technology guys and that’s what we want to do. In the last two years, we’ve built world-class real-time social local search technologies. We’ve assembled a five-star (pun intended) social local technology development team. We’re notable thought-leaders in our space.

The future of local media will be centered on Aggregation / Discovery / Social / Search and our technology stack enables that. We believe what we’ve built (team and technology) represents the cornerstone of the next-generation local media company (traditional or pure play), and we want to focus on building that vision with a larger organization.

For all those reasons, we have decided to hire [praized subtype=”small” pid=”858569eeccb433824aca7193236f55ce” type=”badge” dynamic=”true”], an investment banking firm in Los Angeles that specializes in digital media, to represent us in our search for a strategic partner. We’re obviously supported a 100% in this decision by our board and the whole team is excited by this new move. For our current customers, collaborators and service providers, it is business as usual as this does not impact our day-to-day operations (actually, it frees up more time!). Given current market conditions, we are extremely confident we will find the right strategic partner.

If you’re interested in discussing more the opportunity, you can contact Siemer & Associates at (310) 496-4510 or info@siemer.com.

Twitter's Ineluctable March Towards Local Relevancy

Multiple news in the last few days points towards Twitter and Facebook becoming serious forces in the world of “local”.

First, in yet another chapter of Twitter’s improvements to become locally relevant, it has started rolling out its “local trends” for a series of US cities and ome countries (probably based on the ones with the most usage).

Twitter Local Trends Techcrunch screenshot

Screenshot source: Techcrunch

On a related note, the Kelsey Group analysts issued five predictions for 2010 and one of them is “location and geotargeted advertising will represent a long-elusive revenue stream for Twitter and for third parties that mash up Twitter streams and location data.” They also suggest Facebook will also “integrate automatic location detection
into the status updates” .

Third, supporting the permanent shift of user behavior towards sites like Facebook and Twitter, Forrester reports that “a third of all Internet users in the U.S. now post status updates on social networking services like Twitter and Facebook at least once per week.”

Fourth, David Hornik, a well-known American investor, recently attended a Procter & Gamble (P&G) outreach event in Silicon Valley. Asked what they thought of Twitter, Hornik writes: “To P&G, Twitter is a great broadcast medium — it is best for one to many communications that are short bursts of timely information — but as good as it is for timely information, the P&G folks do not view it as particularly relevant to what they are doing on the brand building and advertising side. For those things that Proctor & Gamble thinks are most interesting and important, they do not believe that Twitter will ever approach the value they can get out of a Google or Facebook.” This reminds me of what big brands think of Yellow Pages as a medium. They don’t understand it but it’s still drives business for millions of advertisers. Twitter will be (is?) all about the same thing. And for the record, I’ve always thought packaged-goods companies could have made a killing with Yellow Pages by making their product information locally-relevant…

Fifth, Hitwise’s traffic reports in Australia (as reported in ReadWriteWeb) show that “For perhaps the first time ever, social networking sites have surpassed the traffic search engines receive”. That would explain why in the long run Google is afraid of the new conversational capacity of sites like Facebook and Twitter. And why they’re racing to
introduce
social functionalities within Google Maps.

What it means: Twitter and Facebook are both on their way to becoming serious local discovery and communication tools. It is happening.

Twitter's Ineluctable March Towards Local Relevancy

Multiple news in the last few days points towards Twitter and Facebook becoming serious forces in the world of “local”.

First, in yet another chapter of Twitter’s improvements to become locally relevant, it has started rolling out its “local trends” for a series of US cities and ome countries (probably based on the ones with the most usage).

Twitter Local Trends Techcrunch screenshot

Screenshot source: Techcrunch

On a related note, the Kelsey Group analysts issued five predictions for 2010 and one of them is “location and geotargeted advertising will represent a long-elusive revenue stream for Twitter and for third parties that mash up Twitter streams and location data.” They also suggest Facebook will also “integrate automatic location detection into the status updates” .

Third, supporting the permanent shift of user behavior towards sites like Facebook and Twitter, Forrester reports that “a third of all Internet users in the U.S. now post status updates on social networking services like Twitter and Facebook at least once per week.”

Fourth, David Hornik, a well-known American investor, recently attended a Procter & Gamble (P&G) outreach event in Silicon Valley. Asked what they thought of Twitter, Hornik writes: “To P&G, Twitter is a great broadcast medium — it is best for one to many communications that are short bursts of timely information — but as good as it is for timely information, the P&G folks do not view it as particularly relevant to what they are doing on the brand building and advertising side. For those things that Proctor & Gamble thinks are most interesting and important, they do not believe that Twitter will ever approach the value they can get out of a Google or Facebook.” This reminds me of what big brands think of Yellow Pages as a medium. They don’t understand it but it’s still drives business for millions of advertisers. Twitter will be (is?) all about the same thing. And for the record, I’ve always thought packaged-goods companies could have made a killing with Yellow Pages by making their product information locally-relevant…

Fifth, Hitwise’s traffic reports in Australia (as reported in ReadWriteWeb) show that “For perhaps the first time ever, social networking sites have surpassed the traffic search engines receive”. That would explain why in the long run Google is afraid of the new conversational capacity of sites like Facebook and Twitter. And why they’re racing to
introduce
social functionalities within Google Maps.

What it means: Twitter and Facebook are both on their way to becoming serious local discovery and communication tools. It is happening.