Saturday, December 27, 2008

Vertical Search vs. Google

I have blogged in the past about how Gogole's PageRank algorithm is providing decreasingly useful search results, and how vertical search is much more targeted and useful. The main issue here is that most searches are context-driven, for example when you type in a word and hit search, are you looking to buy something, a definition, or a review?

The vast majority of my searches are vertical searches from the Firefox search toolbar. I have installed the following search engines into the dropdown:

Amazon
Dictionary.com
EBay
Facebook
Google Maps
IMDb
LinkedIn
MySpace
Songza
TheFind.com
Thesaurus.com
WhoIs Lookup
Wikipedia
Yelp
YouTube
Mycroft (to find more search engines to add!)

For example, if I hear of a new artist on the radio and want to check out more tracks, I select Songza. If I want to check out their fan presence I select MySpace. And if I want to buy tracks or the album, I select Amazon. Picking the search vertical and then typing the search term is much more efficient than typing in the search term, looking at what Google returns, processing the results, and then going from there.

Although I have an engineering-oriented mindset when approaching search, there must be quite a few people performing searches in a similar way since both Firefox and IE have dedicated prime toolbar real estate to an extensible search box. Why wade through an unpredictable, interim web page when you can go straight to what you're looking for?

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

2009 is the Year of "Off-Domain"

I had an interesting conversation with one of our partners today, and noticed that we have started using "off domain" as a shorthand phrase when discussing reach outside of a source website. For example, "Foo.com now has 40% of their impressions off-domain," meaning that 40% of Foo.com's user interactions are occurring outside Foo.com itself, on Facebook and MySpace social widgets, blog widgets, and other types of widgets.

Off-domain metrics will be the numbers to watch in 2009 in order to grow impressions and engagement. Doubling your site's traffic is virtually impossible, but for many websites a successful social widget campaign can easily accomplish that task.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Video Glows through the Online Ad Nuclear Winter

BusinessWeek and The Huffington Post both wrote yesterday that online ad spend is going into the gutter, in particular on social networks. I have blogged quite a few times about how the banner/display ad business has not been showing results, so it is no surprise that they are the first plug that gets pulled in a downmarket.

On the other hand, EMarketer just published numbers, that "video ad spending will run counter to overall economic developments, rising by 45% in 2009 to reach $850 million." Why? Video ads work. People don't mind watching video prerolls before good video content, while they blithely ignore banner ads.



I am in full agreement with BusinessWeek and The Huffington Post that banner ads do not work at all on either social networks or websites. eMarketer's data shows that ad spend growth will be in video advertising, which bodes well for companies with video content, and especially well for social networks, where videos are one of the most viral types of content.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

An Article is to a Newspaper as a Track is to an Album

A thought occurred to me today while reading Virginia Hefferman's latest The Medium column in the Sunday New York Times, one of the best columns covering transitions in the media industry. Her article Content and Its Discontents laments how old media is becoming decimated. Yes, clearly reading a magazine or newspaper cover-to-cover is very old school, or as Jon Stewart poignantly nailed it with a joke newspaper entitled "Cincinnati Dump Accompaniment". But does it necessarily mean that content is dead just because newspapers and magazines are effectively dead? A newspaper column is to a newspaper as a track is to an album.

The music industry has gone through a very similar transition as newspapers and magazines. Albums are definitely dead. Labels are pretty much dead. But music is flourishing! Fans can purchase tracks for a $1. A band of two like Ghostland Observatory or Trifonic can create amazing music that used to take bands of at least four. Distributing a music video means an upload to YouTube, not a deal with MTV. Artists connect directly with their fans on MySpace. Launching a new band means converting a few bloggers who love music instead of faceless label executives. Music spreads virally through social networks as fans post the music to their profiles.

Perhaps content has become irrespective of medium in our multi-channel world. I would read Virgina Hefferman's column if it was a blog, on nytimes.com, a note on her Facebook page, or part of the paper Sunday NYT (the last paper product that I actually read!). Does content die with its old school medium? It hasn't happened for music or video, it shouldn't happen to thoughtful written analysis. With hyper-targeted advertising, soon a columnist should make as much money from a blog and speaking/consulting work based on the blog, as he or she would be paid by an old media entity such as the NYT.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Social Networks: Go Native or Go Nowhere

There has been a lot of noise in the marketplace about widgets on social networks. But the truth is that the majority of these widgets are simple Flash or content widgets that aren't capable of taking advantage of the true viral power of social networks.

We just launched a new version of iWidgets that allows content owners to syndicate their content into social networks like Facebook with multiple views as well as action-based newsfeed updates. These are critical features for developing a viral application. As great as technologies like Flash are for multimedia development, they fall far short on social networks.

Below are screenshots of a widget showcasing content from the E! television show Girls Next Door, which, I should add, although it seems misogynistic, apparently its primary demographic is women age 20-35.

The widget lets a fan show off who their favorite Girl Next Door is, and brings in the latest video clips about that girl. When the fan makes her selection, a post is made to their newsfeed which tells all her friends about her favorite girl next door. Facebook will soon allow additional impressions of such newsfeeds to be purchased on friends' homepages to accelerate virality. iWidgets makes action-based newsfeed postings like this a drag-and-drop snap.



In addition, the widget has multiple views, one for the popular Facebook Wall tab, which is absolutely necessary for Facebook placement today:


As well as a view for a Fan Page or a Profile's Boxes tab:


There is also a view for installing the app as its own tab on a profile or a canvas that is clickthrough to from the other views:


With the new views feature, iWidgets widgets can be placed in prominent locations like Facebook's Wall tab. In addition, we're delivering to publishers the ability to create action-based widgets where people can tell their friends what they are doing with the widget via newsfeeds, so the content can spread through the social graph. These are unique, viral features that no other widget platform provides!