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Monday, June 29, 2009

More Time Online For Americans
Story from Biz Report

On average, American adults are now spending just under 4 hours each day online; that is an 81% increase over 2006 numbers, according to a new report from The Media Audit. Researchers have found that the Internet now accounts for more than 30% of a 'media day' for adults in the US.

This is good news for marketers, as long as the marketer can find the consumer at the right time. For many, the bulk of their online time is being spent with local or national newspapers. More than one hour each day is spent with online papers, according to the report, and the reach of these papers just keeps growing.

New Orleans Times Picayune reaches about 85% of the population while the San Antonio Express-News reaches just over 80% of their readership. Syracuse's Post-Standard reaches 84% and Buffalo News reaches 83% of their populations.

So, then, online newspapers could be a good place for local marketers to reach out to their customer base.

Bob Jordan, President of The Media Audit said, "Daily newspapers were the first to embrace a multi-platform distribution strategy amidst a period when consumers were spending more and more time with the Internet. And as a result, newspapers followed the way of the consumer. By doing so, they have broadened their reach to include younger consumers. And these consumers are buying new cars and driving sales for retailers who represent a significant portion of the newspaper industry's revenue."

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Yahoo's Carol Bartz: We're Not Google
Story from Mercury News

Yahoo Chief Executive Carol Bartz asked shareholders to stop comparing the Sunnyvale Internet company to Google, its biggest rival, at a sparsely attended and subdued annual meeting Thursday morning.

The meeting marked a break from the past, when shareholders have repeatedly voiced their disappointment with Yahoo's management and its failure to respond to competitive threats and increase the value of the company's shares. Last year, shareholders withheld support from the board of directors in record numbers after the company rejected a bid from Microsoft to buy Yahoo for $47.5 billion or $33 a share.

"I was hoping that the Microsoft deal would go through, not because I'm a big Microsoft fan but because I don't think the share price will get that high again," said Richard Hackenbery, who became a Yahoo shareholder in 1999.

Hackenbery and his wife, Marilyn, drove from Berkeley to the meeting, which was held at the Santa Clara Marriott, to hear Bartz, who became CEO in January, replacing co-founder Jerry Yang.

Yahoo's shares traded at $15.53 on Thursday, up 8 cents and up from a low of $8.94 in November last year.

At the meeting, Bartz said if and when there is a deal with Microsoft, they would announce it; otherwise, she had "nothing to say."

Yang, who sits on the board of directors and holds the title Chief Yahoo, attended the meeting but did not address it. He later chatted informally with shareholders. David Filo, the other co-founder, did not attend.

Directly addressing shareholders for the first time, Bartz said they should think of Yahoo as the largest online media company, "the place where millions of people come to check what is important to them every day and organize their lives."

She also described how she was streamlining Yahoo's organizational structure and shutting down poorly performing properties, which she described as "space debris."

When asked why Yahoo continues to lag Google in financial performance and employee productivity, Bartz said it was time to stop comparing the companies to each other because they have different business models. "Please, this direct comparison model to Google is not fair and is frankly not relevant," she said.

While Google is purely a search-advertising company, Yahoo SEO is only part of Yahoo's business, she explained.

Bartz also said that Yahoo did not have a "vision problem" but that it had an "execution problem," which it was working hard to fix.

"I was very impressed with her," said Marilyn Neuterman, a retiree living in San Jose. "She gave good, clear answers and conducted a nice meeting."

In formal business at the meeting, shareholders re-elected the board of directors and followed the company's recommendation on four additional proposals, including three that dealt with appointing an accounting firm, the stock plan and employee stock options. Shareholders vetoed a fourth proposal that would have given them a say on executive pay.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Google searches for ways to keep big ideas at home
Story from the Wall Street Journal

Search giant concerned on lack of formal process for reviewing '20 percent time'.

Google Inc. is revamping how it develops and prioritizes new products, giving employees a pipeline to the company's top brass amid worries about losing its best people and promising ideas to start-ups.

The Mountain View, Calif., company famously lets its engineers spend one day a week on projects that aren't part of their jobs. But Google has lacked a formal process for senior executives to review those efforts, and some ideas have languished. Others have slipped away when employees left the company.

"We were concerned that some of the biggest ideas were getting squashed," said Google Chief Executive Eric Schmidt in an interview.

Google can no longer afford to let promising ideas fall by the wayside. The Internet search giant's once-torrid growth has slowed. At the same time, it faces fresh competition from Microsoft Corp.'s new search engine, Bing, and start-ups such as Twitter Inc., which was founded by former Google employees.

In response, Google has recently started internal "innovation reviews," formal meetings where executives present product ideas bubbling up through their divisions to Mr. Schmidt, Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, and other top executives.

The meetings are designed to "force management to focus" on promising ideas at an early stage, Mr. Schmidt said.

The efforts have been behind several services that Google has recently unveiled, including software that allows companies to use Microsoft's Outlook email and calendar software while storing their data with Google. Microsoft said Wednesday the Google software interferes with an Outlook search function; Google disputed the severity of the problem, but said it is working to improve its software.

Another project, an imaging product that is based on facial-recognition software developed inside Google, is expected to be released this summer.

Google has also begun to give a few engineers broad leeway to start big projects of their choosing, Mr. Schmidt said. One result of this effort: Google Wave, a collaboration tool that the company previewed last month.

The moves are a shift for Google. Previously, its early-stage projects weren't systematically vetted by top executives. Employees with a new idea would lobby their bosses for resources and time. Once approved, a project could linger or die without getting much attention from senior management.

Google needs new products to jumpstart its growth. While it remains a juggernaut with one-third of all U.S. advertising dollars spent online, its year-over-year revenue growth has slowed from 56% in 2007 to 31% in 2008 and was just 6% in the first quarter of this year.

What's more, employees continue to leave Google as it evolves into a mature company with 20,000 workers."Most product managers evaluate [whether to stay] every six months," said Chris Vander Mey, a senior Google product manager who worked on the Microsoft Office integration.

While praising how Google has supported small projects like his own, he said he still expects to leave the company over time to explore other interests.

Google has taken cracks in the past at the retention problem. In March, it repriced millions of employee stock options whose value had been wiped out as Google's share price has fallen over the past two years. The company has also begun testing a mathematical formula to try to predict which employees are most likely to leave, based on factors like employee reviews.

David Yoffie, a Harvard Business School professor who studies technology and e-commerce companies, said prioritizing is important for Google. While Google has launched hordes of new experiments,"in the absence of focus and promotion" few have turned into blockbusters, he said.

In the case of Google Wave, the company singled out Lars Rasmussen and Jens Rasmussen to test its approach to developing ideas.

The brothers, who are based in Australia, had been working on Google Maps. On the side, they were also thinking about creating a new communication system to replace email.

Messrs. Schmidt, Page and Brin were intrigued and gave the engineers a long leash."We said go do something really interesting and take as many resources as you need," Mr. Schmidt said. They gave the Rasmussens dozens of employees, he added, substantially more people than most early-stage projects.

To allow the duo to stick to their vision for the product, the top executives kept Wave secret from the rest of the company. Wave wasn't opened up to broader employee feedback until later in the development cycle.

Lars Rasmussen said the conditions freed his team from concerns such as fighting for engineers and removed pressure to integrate with other Google products."We knew we had to do something different," he said.

While Google has high hopes for Wave, which combines communications like email and messaging through a new service that updates in real-time, some are skeptical. Search analyst Danny Sullivan said he was "underwhelmed" by Wave and sees the service as a feature rather than a whole new way to share information. The service is scheduled to be released to the public later this year.

Other current and former Google employees see Wave as an exception. Sean Knapp, a former Google engineer, left the company in 2007 and started Ooyala Inc., a start-up that distributes and manages advertising around online video.

Mr. Knapp said Google managers offered him the chance to start the project within the company, but he declined. He worried he wouldn't feel the same pressure to succeed."If you're really aggressive, you want that sink or swim environment," he said.

Mr. Schmidt said it is "a fact of life" that some Google employees will ultimately choose the risk and reward of a start-up. But he added the company tries to make it possible to be "part of a start-up within Google."
Google Shares Some Secrets
Story from Mercury News

Google shared one of the closely guarded secrets of its success with a roomful of developers this morning, revealing the tricks it uses to get Web pages to load in less than a second.

At Google Its All About Speed

spidergas"We really think that if the Web gets better and the Web gets faster it is good for everyone," Marissa Mayer, a vice president of search products, told attendees of the O'Reilly Velocity Conference. From its launch in 1998, Google distinguished itself from competitors with a focus on speed. While Excite and Yahoo weighed down their home pages by turning them into massive portals, Google's page featured mostly white space.

For years, Sergey Brin, Google's co-founder, has joked that the reason was he refused to learn HTML, a computer language used to design Web pages. But there was another important motivation: White space loaded instantaneously. When Mayer started working at the search engine 10 years ago, she recalled, her boss closely monitored her code to make sure that she didn't add a single extraneous byte of data.

As Google grew, the number of Internet searches its computers conducted from several hundred thousand in 1999 to several billion in 2009. Speed became more important than ever. The home page was pared down and new products were vetted in a "latency lab" that measured how long a user would be forced to wait. The results sometimes led to surprising decisions. When Google launched an online payments system in 2006 called Google Checkout, engineers were instructed to render the blue shopping cart, which was the site's identifying icon, in painstaking HTML.

It was as if a newspaper, which use computers to produce each day's edition, had reverted to hot-type technology, which used massive machines to set type in a painstaking process. "Who would have thought that this big blob of HTML would load faster," Mayer said. "But the latency lab showed that it did."

It turns out that a delay as short of the blink of an eye — about 400 milliseconds — could turn users off. Last year, Mayer said, Google experimented by injecting a 400 millisecond delay into its delivery of search results. Searches per user started dropping. After six weeks, searches per user had fallen nearly 1 percent. That seemingly small figure represented several hundred million dollars a year in potential ad revenue, Mayer noted.

Mayer said Google has started sharing tips for speeding up Web pages, because it believes the faster the Web becomes the more people will ultimately use it — and use Google. In July 2009 Google unveiled a new Web site it had created for developers containing tutorials and performance tools. "Many Web sites can become faster with little effort, and collective attention to performance can speed up the entire Web," senior vice presidents Urs Hoelzle and Bill Coughran wrote in a blog post.

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Nielsen: Is It Time To Rethink Search?
Story from Biz Report

May search numbers are in and, while the numbers are much of the same, there is a new twist and it's called Bing. The question is, can Bing help to rethink and redefine search? Or is there no way for search engines to conquer the Google mountain?

mobile seoFirst, the numbers. Nielsen Online found that of the 9.4 billion search queries made in the US in May more than 5.9 billion of them were made on the Google engine; that is a 63% share. Meanwhile closest competitors Yahoo (1.6 billion search queries, 17% share) and Microsoft (890 million searches, 9% share) continue to lag behind. This despite the fact that Yahoo posted a 22% YoY growth spurt.

One thing going against Google is the amount of time spent on-site. Although more consumers are searching via Google, consumers are spending more time on Microsoft, Yahoo and AOL engines, in some cases hours more per searcher.

And then there is Bing. Debuting on June 1, Microsoft's new Bing engine immediately doubled the number of unique visitors to the MSN/Windows Live hub, pushing Microsoft's search share for that week up about 6%. However, after the relative newness wore off, consumers seemed quick to return to their old Yahoo, Google and AOL haunts rather than continue pushing Bing to the forefront.

So, is there simply too much of a lead by the Google's and Yahoo's of the world for a new engine - even a Microsoft engine - to fare well for a long period of time?

"I think that many of us can agree it is very optimistic to think of Bing as an entirely new piece of technology, but the point is that online search hasn't really changed during the last ten years. So in order for Microsoft, or any other competitor, to pick up search share in this market they will have to redefine what people think of search," said Jon Stewart, via Nielsen Online Blog.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Google Tricycle Snaps Views From Philly Campus
Story from Detroit News

A pedicab-like vehicle mounted with an 8-foot-high camera has been rolling around the pedestrian walkways of the University of Pennsylvania to collect panoramic images of the campus for Google Maps' Street View feature, which gives users detailed, street-level views of map locations over the Internet.

Google Inc. has been using car-mounted cameras to prowl streets in the U.S. and around the world. The human-powered version allows coverage of pedestrian-only areas on campuses, in public parks and at theme parks, as well as along hiking and bicycling trails, as Google seeks to expand coverage of its maps.

The effort comes as Google faces complaints from many individuals and institutions that have been photographed around the world. Since launching in 2007, Street View has expanded to more than 100 cities worldwide.

Danny Sullivan, editor-in-chief of the industry news site Search Engine Land, called the new effort a good public relations move by Google.

"This is a nice way for them to say 'Hey, look, Street View: It's really warm and fuzzy,'" he said. "It's not just about taking pictures of people's houses. We can find these footpaths that people want to go on and walking areas, places people will like."

Officials say the photos of Penn's tree-lined Locust Walk mall and other places will allow prospective students and their parents to get a good feel for the campus, give incoming students a way to map out the best route to their classes -- and let alumni fondly remember their school days.

"We see this as an opportunity ... for people to see as much of Penn as possible from their computer," said Marie Witt, University of Pennsylvania vice president for business services. "Students can show their parents where they're living, where the student union is, where their favorite classroom building is."

The 250-pound vehicle, which resembles the pedicabs that carry tourists around Philadelphia and other cities, has the cyclist pumping the pedals up front, with the camera mounted on a tower in the back. On the rear is a red generator along with a large white chest that looks like it might dispense ice cream but actually contains the computer recording the digital images.

On Friday, the tricycle trundled through the Ivy League school quads enclosed by student housing buildings, along campus footpaths and Philadelphia apartments, drawing stares from students and employees.

"I think it's fantastic," said Caitlin Hanrahan, 28, a nursing student. "This campus is really confusing ... and when you try and explain to people how to get to the building, people get lost all the time. I think something like that, where you can see a picture of it and what you have to walk through to get there, would actually be really helpful.

Lyndsey Hauck, 25, eating Chinese takeout on a bench in front of a green campus pond, dove for her cell phone to grab a picture as the tricycle apparatus swooped by, ignored by ducks and turtles even after it got stuck on the path and needed a slight push.

"Pretty cool -- always kind of interested in how they've done it, so now we know," said her companion, Cody Strohl, 29, also a Penn employee.

The tricycle has also been cruising around other colleges and universities, including Penn State, San Diego State and the University of San Diego, Google spokesman Sean Carlson said.

It has also been seen cruising past Rome's Trevi fountain, at Santa Monica's Third Street promenade and pier and along a Monterey, Calif. bicycle trail. Soon, views will be featured from along walkways of theme parks such as Legoland near Carlsbad, Calif., Carlson said.

In other countries, privacy concerns have been raised about the images.

Mountain View, Calif.-based Google this week acceded to German demands to erase the raw footage of faces, house numbers, license plates and individuals who have told authorities they do not want their information used in the service.

Last month, Greek officials rejected a bid to photograph the nation's streets until more privacy safeguards are provided. In April, residents of one English village formed a human chain to stop a camera van, and in Japan the company agreed to reshoot views taken by a camera high enough to peer over fences.

Witt said university officials escorting the Google teams around campus were working to make sure privacy concerns were addressed. The company says faces and license plates will be blurred, and anyone can quickly flag for removal images they consider inappropriate by clicking a box on the bottom of each page.

One of the tricycle operators, Martin D.F. Angelo, 27, said the camera occasionally gets a leery reaction from older people but seems universally embraced by the young.

"The biggest disappointment that most people seem to voice is that we're actually going to blur out their faces," he said, "so they're not going to be Internet-famous or something like that."
!!! Attention Men: Gu1lty Pl3a From Sp@m K1ng !!!
Story from the Detroit News

Detroit -- A West Bloomfield man identified by a federal prosecutor as "the world's most notorious illegal spammer," pleaded guilty Monday to federal fraud and money laundering charges.

Alan M. Ralsky, 64, known as the "Spam King" for his years as a prolific and sophisticated e-mailer for hire, entered pleas before U.S. District Judge Marianne O. Battani to crimes that could cost him $1 million and put him behind bars for more than seven years.

Ralsky also agreed to help the government in future investigations in return for a possible reduction in his sentence.

For years, Ralsky has flooded the Internet with unsolicited promotions for everything from mortgages to male enhancement pills.

He pleaded guilty to being the mastermind of a scheme that boosted the value of "pink sheet" Chinese penny stocks by spamming tens of millions of Internet e-mail addresses with promotional messages.

When the prices rose, Ralsky and his co-defendants unloaded their stocks at a profit, according to government investigators.

It was alleged that Ralsky made about $3 million from illegal spamming in the summer of 2005 alone.

Also pleading guilty Monday were Ralsky's son-in-law, Scott K. Bradley, 48, of West Bloomfield; and co-conspirators James E. Fite, 36, of Culver City, Calif.; John S. Bown, 45, of Fresno, Calif.; and William C. Neil, 46, also of Fresno.

When indictments were handed up by a grand jury in January, the case was described by federal authorities as the largest criminal spam and Internet fraud action in American history.

"Using the Internet to manipulate the stock market through spam e-mail campaigns is a serious crime," U.S. Attorney Terrence Berg, the prosecutor in the case, said in a statement released Monday.

"This case serves notice that federal law enforcement has both the capacity and the will to successfully investigate, prosecute and punish cybercrimes."

The defendants from China, Canada, Russia and throughout the United States were accused of using elaborate software to send millions of spam e-mail messages daily between 2004 and 2006. Federal agents raided Ralsky's $750,000 home and other locations in September 2005, seizing computer equipment.

At that time, Ralsky told The Detroit News he wasn't a spammer, but described his work as "a commercial e-mailer."

...the case was described by federal authorities as the largest criminal spam and Internet fraud action in American history

But, John Mozena, a Grosse Pointe Woods resident and co-founder of the Coalition Against Unsolicited Commercial E-Mail, said it's the illegal actions of Internet buccaneers like Ralsky that clog e-mail boxes with junk mail and cause untold expenses for legitimate businesses.

"We are all paying the 'Spam Tax' because of spammers like Ralsky," said Mozena who helped law enforcement when it launched a three-year investigation of Ralsky.

"A huge percentage of e-mail is spam, which loads mailboxes and causes money to be spent on teams of experts bent on stopping it.

"Your computer can be hijacked and used in a 'botnet,' like a zombie, to send more e-mail without you even knowing about it until your service provider suddenly cancels your service.

"There is a large added cost to being on the Internet and we are all having to pay this cost for unscrupulous unethical people who are trying to hijack it to make money."

Ralsky is a former insurance agent who lost his license in Illinois and declared bankruptcy. He served three years probation for a felony conviction of falsifying bank records.

In the late 1990s, he sold his car to buy computers and launch a business sending bulk e-mail messages.

In 2002, Ralsky agreed to an undisclosed cash settlement to end a lawsuit against him by Verizon Internet Services, which alleged he twice paralyzed the network in 2000 with massive e-mailed pitches for items like diet pills and vacations.

He boasted of getting offers from colleges to lecture on his Internet practices.

Federal laws enacted in 2004 making electronic mail fraud a crime describe signs of illegal spam as including efforts to disguise the source and nature of e-mails, and using techniques to evade spam filtering programs.

"He was one of the bigger guys out there, but it's so hard to figure out who is actually doing this because of hidden identities, shell companies and offshore servers," Mozena said.

"In the end, I believe it was old-fashioned police work that caught up to Mr. Ralsky. The feds followed the money. They tracked his profits and that's a lot easier than trying to convince a judge and jury of the details of network topography in China."

Prior guilty pleas were taken from Judy Devenow, 56, of East Lansing, Francis Tribble, 41, of Los Angeles, Calif., and How Wai John Hui, 50, of Vancouver, Canada, and Hong Kong, China. No date has been set for sentencing. Ralsky and the others will remain free until then.

Monday, June 22, 2009

T-Mobile To Launch Google Phone In July
Story from USA Today

Following huge introductions of the Palm Pre and new iPhone 3G S, T-Mobile on Monday announces July availability of MyTouch 3G, the second phone on Google's Android operating system.

It's the first of 18 new Google-powered phones coming worldwide by the end of the year, Google says, declining to provide specifics. Tech and telecom analysts expect Sprint to have an Android phone by year's end.

T-Mobile has sold 1 million of its first-generation Google phone, the G1. That's tepid compared with the 21.2 million iPhones sold in the last two years, but T-Mobile says it's thrilled with the response. It expects the new phone to sell at a faster clip, and to outpace the competition in mobile SEO.

The MyTouch is smaller, can sync with Microsoft Outlook and has an improved battery, T-Mobile says. "We've addressed some of the concerns from customers," says Andrew Sherrard, T-Mobile vice president.

Current T-Mobile customers can order beginning July 8 for delivery later in the month. General retail availability is planned for early August.
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The touch-screen phone — made by HTC — sells for $199 with a new two-year contract. Sherrard says T-Mobile will offer a discounted rate for current customers but hasn't finalized pricing.

T-Mobile's selling point is personalization, with customizable menus, wallpapers and icons. A new program called Sherpa learns your favorite locations and preferences and makes recommendations accordingly. The phone also has instant access to Google services.

Even though the Android platform hasn't taken off in public consciousness as the iPhone has, "It's important to remember that globally, this is a market of billions and billions of users," says Andy Castonguay, a Yankee Group analyst. "There's plenty of room for lots of different players."

Google first announced Android in 2007. It gives the operating system to manufacturers for free. Google product manager Erick Tseng says getting phones from idea stage to manufacturer is an 18- to 24-month process. "What you're seeing now is the outcome of the development."

Google has 5,000 applications available for Android from its network of developers, and the list is growing, says Tseng.

Apple has a huge lead, with more than 50,000 applications available from about 20,000 developers, says Forrester Group analyst Charles Golvin. "But in the United States, there are probably more developers working with Google, after Apple, than any other mobile platform."

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Google's Grab For Display Ad Market
Story from Business Week

The search king aims to unseat Yahoo and Microsoft with new, ultra-targeted banner ads. Will Web publishers and online ad agencies bite?

organic seo search engine optimizationFor all its success selling text ads alongside search results, Google (GOOG) can't seem to make a go of it anywhere else in the ad world. In January, it shut down a two-year-old operation that sold print ads in newspapers. A few weeks later it abandoned an effort to buy and sell radio spots. And a TV ad project has been slow-going. To make matters worse, the economy has hit Google's mainstay search ads: First-quarter revenue growth of 6%, though better than many companies in the recession, is far below its high double-digit gains of years past.

In its hunt for new growth, the search giant is redoubling efforts to grab a bigger piece of the largest online ad market it doesn't control: display ads, the pictorial banners and videos that account for more than a third of the $40 billion online ad market. "Google has won the search battle, so its whole future is display," says Jay Sears, executive vice-president for strategic products and business development with online ad firm ContextWeb.

Google faces a tough challenge. Yahoo! and Microsoft's MSN have a huge lead in display ads, largely because they can put ads on their own pages of content, like Yahoo Finance and MSN Money. Google hopes to place more display ads on its YouTube site as well as on thousands of partner sites, from small blogs to The New York Times.


But it aims to do more than simply help BMW, say, plaster brand ads on car videos or car sites. The fastest-growing kind of display ads, called performance ads, work more like search. They allow advertisers to use data analysis and user-tracking technologies to match ads more closely to likely buyers and measure mouse clicks and other actions so advertisers pay only when ads deliver. Google spies an opportunity to apply its mathematical wizardry to make those ads even more effective. The idea is to make display ads useful knowledge instead of visual clutter. "It's like search—matching people with information they want," says Sergey Brin, Google's co-founder and president of technology. "It just happens to be promotional."

This summer, Google will begin demonstrating what may be its most potent weapon in this emerging battle: an overhauled version of the advertising exchange that it picked up in the $3.2 billion acquisition of DoubleClick last year. Ad exchanges are sort of like stock exchanges for online ads. Web sites put ad space up for auction, and ad agencies, armed with demographic and behavioral data about the people who visit those sites, bid to place ads for their clients' campaigns. Yahoo, Microsoft, and others also run exchanges.

Until now, Google's and DoubleClick's ad-placement systems used different software, so ad agencies had to cobble together programs to place, monitor, and measure ads. In the revamped exchange, they'll be able to use the two systems seamlessly, making ad buys simpler. At the same time, Google is pushing Web publishers, which have been wary of putting prime ad space on the exchange for fear of turning it into a low-value commodity, to pony up more space. In return, Google is expected to give Web publishers more control over pricing and who can bid on the space.

Google will also help advertisers and agencies buy ads more easily and quickly: When ad space with price and audience demographics matches those advertisers set for a particular ad, the spot runs instantly. "The exchange will allow Google to make a go of it in display," says Michael Hayes, executive vice-president and managing director of digital for ad agency Initiative. "It really turns the business model on its head."

The exchange is part of Google's overriding goal to make display ads, which can be expensive to create and complex to manage, so easy that even the smallest businesses can use them. "Google's vision is to grow the pie for everybody," says Neal Mohan, Google's director of display products. For instance, Google introduced a free Display Ad Builder last fall that lets anyone use simple building blocks to create an ad.

Some 80% of those using it had never bought a display ad before. Marc Loge, who handles online ads for the Wilshire Grand Hotel in Los Angeles, had run search ads exclusively and didn't want to bother with display. But at Google's urging he quickly created a bare-bones ad and ran it on Google's Web sites. "We've gotten great returns—even better than search," says Loge.


At the same time, Google wants to bring onto the exchange more large Web sites, which control the bulk of display-ad revenues. DoubleClick's relationships with the biggest Web publishers may give it a leg up. "Google is very central to our strategy," says Curt Hecht, president of the tech development unit at VivaKi, ad agency Publicis Groupe's media and online operation.

Still, the exchange won't be an instant game-changer. Since exchanges require a new mindset at agencies and publishers, they may take time to catch on widely, says Mike Walrath, founder of Yahoo's Right Media exchange. And some think anything but search gets short shrift inside Google. "Display is still the redheaded stepchild of their ad initiatives," says Rob Leathern, CEO at CPM Advisors, which helps advertisers improve their online campaigns.

Insiders say that's partly why Google has seen a stream of departures of ad executives in the past two months who see more opportunities elsewhere. Most recently, David Rosenblatt, president of Google's display-ad efforts and former DoubleClick CEO, left in May. But Brin insists Google is serious. "Display is going to be a large business for us," he says. "It's not just an experiment."
Nielsen: Is It Time To Rethink Search?
Story from Biz Report

May 2009 search numbers are in and, while the numbers are much of the same, there is a new twist and it's called Bing. The question is, can Bing help to rethink and redefine search? Or is there no way for search engines to conquer the Google mountain?

First, the numbers. Nielsen Online found that of the 9.4 billion search queries made in the US in May more than 5.9 billion of them were made on the Google engine; that is a 63% share. Meanwhile closest competitors Yahoo (1.6 billion search queries, 17% share) and Microsoft (890 million searches, 9% share) continue to lag behind. This despite the fact that Yahoo posted a 22% YoY growth spurt.

One thing going against Google is the amount of time spent on-site. Although more consumers are searching via Google, consumers are spending more time on Microsoft, Yahoo and AOL engines, in some cases hours more per searcher.

And then there is Bing. Debuting on June 1, Microsoft's new Bing engine immediately doubled the number of unique visitors to the MSN/Windows Live hub, pushing Microsoft's search share for that week up about 6%. However, after the relative newness wore off, consumers seemed quick to return to their old Yahoo, Google and AOL haunts rather than continue pushing Bing to the forefront.

So, is there simply too much of a lead by the Google's and Yahoo's of the world for a new engine - even a Microsoft engine - to fare well for a long period of time?

"I think that many of us can agree it is very optimistic to think of Bing as an entirely new piece of technology, but the point is that online search hasn't really changed during the last ten years. So in order for Microsoft, or any other competitor, to pick up search share in this market they will have to redefine what people think of search," says an internet marketing consultant.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Don't Call It Bing in China... Unless You Like Pancakes
Story from WSJ

After a brief hiatus last week, software giant Microsoft's Bing search engine is back online in China.

Microsoft launched a Chinese version of Bing on June 1 at, marking the first time the company has offered a Web product specifically targeted at the 298 million Web users in mainland China. But unlike its American counterpart (and like many of the other international versions of Bing), Chinese Bing is still a bit of a shell at this point, without all of the handy features that are available on the U.S. search engine.

And in China, Microsoft prefers not to call it "bing," since that sound can have several meanings in Mandarin, depending on the tone and character associated with it. For example, this word: 病. Pronounced bing (fourth tone), it means "sickness" or "to be ill," something most people would prefer to avoid. Other "bings" mean ice, soldier and pancake.

The Chinese version has thus been named "biying" (必应) which means "must respond/answer" and which Microsoft is marketing it as a"decision engine"– something that will provide information to assist Internet users with their decision-making processes.

Initial reviews in China have been mixed. Some users have expressed disappointment after comparing the Chinese version of Bing with China's other leading search engines Google and Baidu, as well as with the U.S. version of Bing. On his blog, Franky Xu noted that though the company is trying to provide unique features exclusively for Chinese users, the localization of the product is poorly done. "It's impossible to go back to the original U.S. version directly through the Chinese site, but you can do that with Google," he said, adding that "some of the recommended keywords didn't make sense." One feature he missed from the U.S. version is the pop-up window that shows a preview of another Web site when the mouse cursor is hovered over a Web link.

Without additional context or background information, users have also been confused by the daily home page images. "The picture is beautiful, but very non-China" said one user (in Chinese)."I guess eight or nine out of ten Chinese have no idea where it is when seeing this."

One function that has won over many users in China is the video search, which allows videos to be played directly from within the thumbnails on the search result pages (a feature that's not available on Google or Baidu).

But industry analysts say this new move by Microsoft is unlikely to alter the competitive landscape in China, since Microsoft's share of the search market has been negligible. The market is currently dominated by Baidu and Google, with respective market shares of 59% and 30.6%, according to Internet research firm Analysis International. (Google boosted its market share to over 30% for the first time this year through its launch of music search and free download service, according to analysts.) Other major players in the market include Yahoo China and's Sogou.
Bing Features Yield Results
Story from WSJ

Google is to search what Kleenex is to tissues. Even if you're in the habit of using another search engine like Yahoo to look up something online, you probably say you "Googled" it because everyone knows what you mean. Microsoft Corp. is hoping you'll change your habits and start "Binging" for that which you once Googled.

Last week, Microsoft announced Bing as the name of its new search engine. The company describes Bing as delivering more answers to your search queries directly on the search-results page, so you don't have to keep hunting around for what you want to find. And, like Google, Bing can be used as a verb.

I've been using Bing for more than two weeks now, and this search engine really did retrieve on-target, useful information on the first try. But what I like best about it is that it does so in a user-friendly manner that looks and feels more inviting than Google.

A feature called Hover displays a brief summary of each Web page when your cursor is hovering over the right edge of a link, and this can save you from visiting a useless page. As another time-saving feature, to further save searchers from clicking to another page, Bing answers medical queries by featuring information from the Mayo Clinic at the top of the results page. Videos on Bing start playing when you move your cursor over a thumbnail still image from the video, without requiring you to press play or go to a new page; the videos stop when you mouse elsewhere. A query about a company usually returns its customer-service phone number at the top of the results page. Shopping, restaurant reviews and travel are also significantly enhanced by Bing.

Google isn't going away. Both search engines stick to plain, white backgrounds and proudly proclaim the total number of results at the top of the page, a competition that Google almost always wins. Google also is steadily delivering more of its own useful data right in the results, but those efforts feel minimal compared with Bing.

It's a given that many people will try Bing once, get frustrated by the unfamiliar environment and switch back to Google. Others will use whatever their Web browser's search box is set to (Google, for many people) because they don't know how to change their options or they're too lazy to do so. Microsoft's Live Search engine has been replaced by

You can bring up Bing the old-fashioned way by going to This Web page is a perfect example of the search engine's engaging, attractive style. evokes the cover of a glossy magazine with a stunning photo that takes over the page. This photo, usually slightly off-beat and somewhat alluring, changes every day. If you move your cursor across the photo, blurbs filled with interesting text and Web links materialize on-screen to teach you something related to the photo. It's a shame that many people will never see the Web page because they search using the box built into their browser.

From this home page, you can dive directly into searching videos, like TV shows, news and sports videos, or browsing music by watching music videos arranged by artist, genre and popularity. I browsed through episodes of "The Office" and watched the "People Are Crazy" music video by country singer, Billy Currington.

The Bing results page has a left-side panel called the Explore Pane, which includes suggestions of terms and categories to select. A search for Abraham Lincoln, for example, showed links to speeches, childhood and library -- among others. The Explore Pane includes related searches of terms that people searching for the same thing as you also looked up.

The related searches were sometimes helpful, like "Paul McCartney Tour Dates" when I Binged the famed musician. But the related searches also could be confusing, like when I searched for my own name and found "Jan D'Esopo" listed as the top related search suggestion. (D'Esopo is a painter and sculptor who is active in Puerto Rico, according to Wikipedia.)

I tried comparing Bing with Google in side-by-side searches for tennis player Roger Federer. Bing showed me six colorful images of Federer atop its results page, along with an Explore Pane full of links to his biography, posters, quotes, blog and more. The third listed related-search term, "Roger Federer Shirtless," made me laugh.

Google didn't automatically embed images of the tennis great on its results page (for that, of course, you have to go to its Image search page), but it did display Federer's winning score for that day's French Open match -- information that was extremely useful to me.

Bing presents photos in a more eye-pleasing way than Google. The Roger Federer image search on Bing filled the page with images only -- none of the messy text descriptions that appear in the same Google search results. By selecting visuals in the top right of the Bing results page, I changed the size of the photos to small, medium, large or detailed. As I moved my cursor over an image, the image popped forward in a larger version with text details.

Microsoft wants people to use Bing for shopping, and the search engine brings product reviews right to the results page, making it look a bit like Amazon, complete with images, ratings and links to online stores. Bing Cashback, a money-rewards program that works with certain items, is less complicated than its confusing predecessor, but it isn't as clear as it should be.

For people looking up airline flights, Microsoft integrates a technology called Bing Travel into the search. This tool predicts whether a fare will go up or down in the future based on data aggregation and analysis. A built-in tool works similarly with hotels, analyzing data to tell if you're getting a good deal.

After I got over my initial resistance to Bing's unfamiliarity, I really enjoyed using it and found that searching with it was less of a chore and more of an interactive experience. Microsoft gives users a true service by bringing rich content directly to the search-results page.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Ad-Supported Internet Boosts U.S. Economy By $300 Billion
Story from Biz Report

How much of the US gross domestic product does the ad-supported Internet account for? Over 2.1%, according to a new study commissioned by the Interactive Advertising Bureau, Hamilton Consultants and a couple of Harvard Business School professors.

The ad-supported Internet generated $300 billion of "economic activity" in the US, found the report which analyzed the Internet economy and the economic and social benefits it afforded Americans.

As well as the 3.1 million jobs the Internet has spawned, it has also given Americans access to a wealth of information and technology, increased productivity, empowered entrepreneurs and driven innovation in business.

"The results of this study confirm the vast influence and driving importance of the ad-supported Internet to the overall economy," said Randall Rothenberg, President and CEO, IAB, in a recent announcement.

"By understanding the total contribution of the Internet to the U.S. economy, we can more accurately assess the impact of potential legislative changes on the Internet's operations, particularly the consequences of any actions that would alter ad-supported business models."
Marketers Shifting To Online WOM But Are Consumers?
Story from Biz Report

Hoping to cash in on the social networking craze sweeping around the globe, many marketers are pushing advertising budgets into social areas, hoping to cash in on online word-of-mouth (WOM) advertising. Marketers hope this will help them build brand, but will it?

According to the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) Brand Building Survey more than 40% of marketers are planning to increase their social networking/WOM efforts when the recession ends.

"The landscape for building brands was jolted by the severity of the economic downturn," said Bob Liodice, President and CEO of the ANA. "However, it is encouraging to see that marketers are preparing for the rebound with plans for increased media spending, strategically sound brand building investments and logical, expansive use of social media."

But is this a good idea? In theory it makes sense for marketers to push more dollars into the social space, but from a consumer standpoint this may not have as big an effect as brands are hoping for. Why?

Research from Mintel indicates that offline WOM still trumps online for most consumers. After surveying a group of consumers, researchers found that 34% reported buying a product from a friend's recommendation but only 5% reported buying a product based on an online recommendation.

This doesn't mean that online WOM, display and social network advertising aren't working; likely they are simple working differently. It is most likely that these online efforts are impacting consumers by making them more aware of products, brands and services, but consumers are still most likely to listen to the advice and recommendations of their offline friends than they are in reading product reviews or trusting a 'friend' from an online network.
AdWords Suggests Additional Keywords To Marketers
Story from Biz Report

A new addition to the AdWords platform could help search marketers get more from their campaigns. Although similar to the old "Optimization" tab, Goggle has added an "Opportunities" tab.

The new tab is very much like the old optimization features in that it offers additional keyword suggestions to marketers beginning or tweaking their paid search campaigns. The main difference is that the old optimization tab gave marketers advice on changes to the text or display options within in ad; the new opportunities tab simply offers more keyword options.

Although this is a good idea, the key for AdWords, and all search really, is to keep the message short and to the point. Google offers this advice on the AdWords blog:

• Focus on low prices and savings
• Target ad groups and ensure the ad is relevant
• Make it simple for consumers to make a purchase
• Use value-related keywords

Search marketing has not been immune to the volatile economy, and many marketers have pulled portions of their search marketing budgets. Marketers pulled about 14% of their search budgets in January 2009. However, the medium is still proven to be a force for marketers because consumers continue to rely on search engines to find product information, store websites and manufacturer information.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Eye Tracking Bing vs. Google: A First Look

User Centric, Inc., a user research firm based in Chicago, offers a glimpse into the battle between the newly launched Microsoft's Bing and the powerful incumbent, Google. As part of an independent, non-sponsored study, User Centric used eye tracking technology to capture 21 participants' eye movements as they completed two informational (e.g., "Learn about eating healthy") and two transactional (e.g., "Book a last minute vacation") search tasks in each engine.

Preliminary findings revealed comparable amount of visual attention on organic search results and top sponsored links across both search engines. Sponsored links on the right, however, attracted more attention on Bing than they did on Google. On average, across all four tasks, 42% of participants looked at Bing's sponsored links on the right; by contrast, only 25% of participants looked at Google's right rail links. According to Gavin Lew, Managing Director of User Centric, "This finding is especially important to search engine marketers who are paying for these spots. Our results suggest that Bing may be able to give them more bang for their buck."

User Centric also investigated two features that differentiate Bing from Google - flyouts that appear when users hover over individual search results and a category list displayed on the left.

Two-thirds of the participants triggered a flyout at least once during their sessions, which shows that they are easily activated. User Centric's Chief Scientist and eye tracking expert, Aga Bojko commented, "It was unexpected that so many users new to Bing stumbled upon the flyouts despite their hidden state." However, less than a quarter of participants actually looked at the flyouts they had triggered. Bojko remarked, "Ignoring flyouts is likely due to a tendency to devalue motion as a source of information on the Web."

The category list attracted much more attention than the flyouts. Across the four tasks, about half of the participants looked at the list, including three who used the tool to refine their search. Each participant who clicked on the categories reused them on subsequent searches, which suggests potential value.

User Centric plans to further investigate the discoverability of flyouts and their value proposition, as well as other Bing sections, such as Images, Videos, and News.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Management Shakeup Continues At Yahoo

Yahoo announced the departure of Allen Olivo, senior vice president of global brand marketing. Olivo, who joined the company in 2006, will leave after a transitional period, said Kim Rubey, a company spokeswoman. He reports to Elisa Steele, chief marketing officer, who joined Yahoo this year from storage-computer maker NetApp.

The departure adds to an increase in executive turnover at Yahoo over the past year. Qi Lu, senior vice president of search and advertising technology, left Yahoo in 2008 for rival Microsoft. In February, Yahoo announced the departures of Blake Jorgensen, chief financial officer, and Marco Boerries, vice president of the mobile and television business.

The company trails Google in U.S. Internet searches.
Future of Search Engines - Eric Schmidt, Prognosticator
Google CEO Eric Schmidt's T.V. Doesn't Know Enough About Him
Story from CNN

Economic Conditions Reflected In Google Search Trends
What consumers search for, and how they do it, tends to mirror their financial health. Advertisers are taking note.
Story from Fortune Magazine

NEW YORK (Fortune) -- When the stock market goes up these days, your 401(k) isn't the only thing that will follow. So, too, does the volume of Google searches for economic terms.

In fact, Google (GOOG, Fortune 500) has found that queries for terms like "investments" closely mirror the performance of the stock market. And if you're spending a lot of time shopping around for a new credit card, you're probably a credit-worthy consumer that any card issuer would be happy to serve.

Google says these insights, gleaned from a new study about the way U.S. consumers shop for financial services, suggest that the way we search -- not just the keywords we search -- say a lot about us.

"The broader issue and the broader trends that we're seeing are that the financial landscape is really, really complicated," says Jon Kaplan, Google's financial services industry director. "The complexity of the financial situation right now is causing people to search more, and we see that."

The queries aren't just a bellwether for the economy but also a barometer of public sentiment. This tie between search and psyche has not been lost on advertisers, who believe they can market more effectively by capitalizing on this connection. Google has responded by scrutinizing the ways users search for products.

This intense focus on the psychology of search has emerged as sites like Google have become more integral to everything consumers do, says Shar VanBoskirk, an analyst with Forrester Research. "The search engine is supplanting content sites in many cases," she says. "People are starting any decision they make with a search."

Search terms. For online advertisers this means targeting ads to specific search terms is more important than ever. Google started hearing from financial companies that they were looking for the "right kind of customers." (Translation: Deadbeats need not apply.) These firms wanted to direct their ads to credit worthy people, says Kaplan. This prompted Google to look more closely at search funnels -- the path users take during the search process for a product.

Through research company Compete, Google undertook a study that examined the ways that a 2 million U.S. online consumer panel searched and shopped for credit cards between January and February 2009.

The research showed that people with high FICO scores, and thus the more credit worthy customers, shop around more but apply less frequently than lower FICO score searchers. Applications among high FICO shoppers increased significantly for those that searched at least 10 times.

"One of the high level themes that came out of this is that people with high FICO scores are spending a lot more time shopping than they used to," says Kaplan. "There's a much longer time to conversion or application."

Consumers with better credit searched specific terms such as brands and rewards and were more likely to shop directly on an issuer's site. People with lower FICO scores applied to several different cards, utilized the term "best credit cards" at a third of the rate of higher FICO shoppers, and were more likely to use aggregator sites.

Ad strategies. In response what some of Google's advertisers have done is select search terms such as specific brands or "travel rewards," says Kaplan. Even though the consumer's search might not immediately convert into a credit card application, the company's ad is more likely to appear to a high FICO score searcher.

While the results are obviously useful to advertisers, VanBoskirk with Forrester notes that consumers prefer to see ads that are more relevant to them. But targeting shouldn't give advertisers the license to overly bombard searchers, she says.

Along with changing how companies direct their ads, Kaplan says the results of the study might also change the way they reach out to potential customers. The sheer volume of queries from consumers indicates that they're looking to more than just apply for an account when they search. They're also looking for information.

"Maybe one of the things that credit card companies should consider is doing some more educational content and comparison on their site," he says. "I think we'll see some more of that coming out as advertisers adopt this."
Google CEO Eric Schmidt Wants Newspapers To Survive
Story from Fortune Magazine

Metaphorically speaking, Google is killing the newspaper industry. Online news is quickly hollowing out the traditional paper - the Christian Science Monitor eliminates its print edition, Tribune Co. declares bankruptcy, Detroit's two dailies slash home delivery to three days a week - while Google rakes in advertising profits.

Turns out that Google CEO Eric Schmidt professes a passionate desire to lend a hand. In an interview with Fortune's Adam Lashinsky, he shares some thoughts on how newspapers might yet survive - and how Google (GOOG, Fortune 500) might help.

Is there some grand gesture Google can make to solve the newspaper industry's problems?

It's not obvious what the grand gesture would be. Google can't make the cost of newsprint go down. We also can't materially change the way consumers behave, and consumers are in fact moving their lives online. We have been able to send clicks to their Web sites, which they can monetize. So that provides some revenue. The problem is that doesn't provide enough revenue to offset the loss of the other revenue.
Maybe their time has just come and gone?

No. They don't have a problem of demand for their product, the news. People love the news. They love reading, discussing it, adding to it, annotating it. The Internet has made the news more accessible. There's a problem with advertising, classifieds and the cost itself of a newspaper: physical printing, delivery and so on. And so the business model gets squeezed.

So what else can Google do?

We have a mechanism that enhances online subscriptions, but part of the reason it doesn't take off is that the culture of the Internet is that information wants to be free. We've tried to get newspapers to have more tightly integrated products with ours. We'd like to help them better monetize their customer base. We have tools that make that easier. I wish I had a brilliant idea, but I don't. These little things help, but they don't fundamentally solve the problem.

How about just buying them?

The good news is we could purchase them. We have the cash. But I don't think our purchasing a newspaper would solve the business problems. It would help solidify the ownership structure, but it doesn't solve the underlying problem in the business. Until we can answer that question we're in this uncomfortable conversation. We need to get all print media on board with Google SEO.

I think the solution is tighter integration. In other words, we can do this without making an acquisition. The term I've been using is 'merge without merging.' The Web allows you to do that, where you can get the Web systems of both organizations fairly well integrated, and you don't have to do it on exclusive basis.

If not buy, how about just pump some cash into them, the way Microsoft famously once did with Apple?

There are no current plans to do that. The necessary criteria to get us to make that decision are not currently in place.

Are there other types of structural solutions that are possible?

Well, today you have these for-profit companies that are in a terrible business situation who support an important public good. What's an alternative way to support the public good? One is Pro Publica [the non-profit investigative journalism organization headed by former Wall Street Journal Managing Editor Paul Steiger and funded by, among others, the Sandler Foundation]. Plus there'll be consolidation. One scenario says newspapers become part of larger companies. [The Washington Post, for example, is part of a company that makes a considerable portion of its money in the education business]. They're clearly not going to fold because their value is too large.

What about, Google's for-profit philanthropic arm, which is investing in alternative-energy startups?
We didn't want to co-mingle philanthropy with business. We are in the advertising business.

But you do believe it's important that newspapers survive?

Not only do we believe that, but I've been outspoken about it because I want everyone to get that. The fundamental question you're asking is why does Google not write large checks to newspapers? We're careful at Google with our money. We write large checks when we have a great strategy. And we don't yet have that strategy.

What if the newspaper industry does go down?

To me this presents a real tragedy in the sense that journalism is a central part of democracy. And if it can't be funded because of these business problems, then that's a real loss in terms of voices and diversity. And I don't think bloggers make up the difference. The historic model of investigative journalists in any industry is something that is very fundamental. So the question is, what can you do about this? And a fair statement is, we're still looking for the right answer.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Discover Microsoft's New Search Services


As a valued partner in the Webmaster and Search community, we'd like you to be among the first to experience Bing™ and share some of its great new features. We also want to ensure you are aware of the existing and soon to be updated suite of tools available for you to power your site via

Bing is a new world of search services. It provides users with a powerful way to cut through the clutter and make more informed decisions. Among its new features:

  • Instant Answers: finds specific answers to informational queries, e.g. "What is 55F in Celsius" offers rich media and structured data and a general search term like “weather” yields a 5-day forecast for your location.
  • Preview: enables searchers to find out more information about a site by previewing individual results on the results page to reduce back-and-forth searching.
  • Best Match: delivers results with deep links and highly relevant information to help searchers to get the right information faster.
So what does this mean to you? The API provides webmasters and developers programmatic access to Bing, offering ever more open, flexible options for building or enhancing your site or applications. You can learn more about the API at By August 30, 2009 all use of the Bing API must reflect brand attribution. If you are interested in using the API, please familiarize yourself with our terms of use located here.

Feedback and support can also be found in our new blogs and forums We are in the process of updating our site with new content and tools and will let you know when it is live later this month.

Thanks again for your partnership and for using the API and Webmaster tools. We look forward to your feedback and continued partnership.

The Bing Team