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Our industry is ever-changing. Get insights and perspective from our experts as we share our knowledge and experience on how to successfully navigate the marketing landscape.

One Small Step for Bing '? One Large Step for Search

The social wars began in earnest among search's heavy hitters last year when Bing launched the first real time search platform, which aggregated tweets and Facebook status updates into a singular searchable interface. Google struck back swiftly, announcing a similar tool that went even further by actually integrating these social elements into the normal search results for queries that were relevant to recent events. While a significant development in the search world, this change had little material impact on the life of the searcher. Social media is an impactful research tool because it offers a personal connection with the people behind the information. When you take away this personal connection, as Google and Bing did in the early iterations of social search, the value of the information declines precipitously. With the announcement of their recent agreement, Facebook and Bing have taken a large step toward solving this problem. In mid'?October, Bing and Facebook announced an alliance in which Facebook will feed Bing their user data so that it can be integrated into the search results page. In addition to the traditional algorithm'?based results, Bing will now serve up 'Liked' results. These are pages that people within your social graph have 'Liked' in Facebook. While Facebook has indicated that they plan to open this information up to all companies (i.e. Google), there is no set timeframe for making this happen. Therefore, Bing will be given a significant head start to make real developments in the world of social search. Below are some thoughts to consider as companies digest this alliance: Make it easy to be 'Liked' (literally): The value of Like's is a hot topic, but this alliance certainly ups the ante. Therefore, don't make it hard for your audience to 'Like' your content. Put the Facebook 'Like' button front and center across your website and any other place possible where your content is displayed. Even if you already have a social sharing widget (i.e. ShareThis or AddThis) that includes Facebook, put the 'Like' button on as well. Make it easy to be 'Liked' (figuratively): Now more than ever, it is critical that brands remain relevant to their customer base. People are short on time and patience and will not waste either consuming information that does not apply. If the content you produce passes the relevance test it is likely that your audience will reward you with Like's and viral distribution. Drop the 'E' in 'SEO': This alliance does not mark the end of SEO, as some pundits would have you believe. Now more than ever, search is the primary way that people find information on the Internet. The difference is that those searches are happening in far more places than Google, Yahoo and Bing. Let's not forget that more searches happen on YouTube than on both Yahoo and Bing. To be successful, companies need to ensure that the fundamental principles of findability are woven into every piece of content they produce. This will broaden visibility in the universal search results as well as other social channels. People have always relied most heavily on the opinions of friends, family and other like'?mined individuals and social networking sites provide easy access to that sounding board. There is no question that the future of search will be more social and success in search and social will come to companies that truly understand and deliver a relevant experience to their consumers across all channels.

Who Has the Authority?

There has been an ongoing conversation on how to police a decentralized, borderless territory'the internet. Both our industry, and the public, has begun to question: who has the authority to govern the web? This week, we are continuing the discussion. Part II: Cable-ization The general public strives to avoid the cable-ization of the internet. Cable-ization? It's a term for following the traditional model for cable TV: offering premium content for a cost which creates tiers of viewers. Instead, most web users hope for net neutrality'an open and democratic Internet. (If you're looking for a more eloquent, yet slightly off-colored, definition, Jon Stewart should be consulted.) The battle to secure this utopia wages on.  So, why does the public care so much about internet freedom? a) People are worried about stifling innovation. A large company with a large budget can more easily compromise the success of smaller competitors. For instance, you're a web user with a small budget who believes you're the next Mark Zuckerberg. But, you're discouraged in your entrepreneurial pursuits as your competitors fly by you in the internet express lane. b) People are worried about the effect on their daily lives. Some web users prophesize of applications slowing to a crawl, or of outrageous 'pay for speed'? schemes. Others talk about an internet where content is moderated by the whims of network providers. And still others hypothesize a time where bloggers are silenced, and web access becomes political. Despite this (sometimes eccentric) fear, no one can seem to agree on where the FCC holds jurisdiction and at what point legislators should step in. Recently, Google and Verizon decided that, being such behemoths on the web, they should intervene. Googizon's joint proposal promotes a 'healthy and growing internet that can continue to be a laboratory for innovation'?. They believe that the FCC should be the main enforcer and disciplinarian when it comes to net neutrality transgressions. In the past, the FCC has been outspoken about their desire to regulate broadband providers and has searched long and hard for legal standing. Many people have argued that their suggestions are out of self-interest and are a step in the wrong direction. The dispute revolves around mobile, a topic which the duo conveniently avoided while crafting this proposal. But the issue of mobile is still imperative, since, as we all know, the majority of people will be accessing the internet from their phones in the foreseeable future. Consumers have looked to the FCC to help put some of the fears to rest. The House has also recently become involved (ominously, they fell flat on their faces this week). So, what's the solution? A Point of View I fall somewhere in between the spectrum of crazies'a free-market could eventually have some severe consequences on our online experience, but so could full government involvement. Regardless of the outcome, the marketing industry should be made aware of the potential cost of losing net neutrality. Most apparently, what's the effect on SEO?  If providers are free to moderate content, and you frequently advertise rich media, you are vulnerable to slowing load times, sinking SEO rankings, and increasing PPCs. On a macro level, competition is a prerequisite to advertising. The exception is if you are a well-established brand, than competition just demands more advertising dollars. A partitioned internet would be in your favor, deterring competition from easily entering your space. But, for everyone else, preserving this competition should be sacred. Ignoring our egoism for a moment, have we considered what precedents are being set by other countries; globally, how are we dealing with authority online? As the internet increasingly becomes a truly international space, we need to look beyond solving digital problems in a vacuum. Continue to follow our series on online authority over the next few weeks to tackle more of these issue and to participate in the conversation.

Who Has the Authority?

Should the Internet be governed? This is a very contemporary, and pivotal, choice that will guide the future of the Web. Over the next few weeks, we will be discussing the issues that are inspiring the industry to answer this question: who has the authority? Part 1: Online Privacy Recently, the FTC resurfaced an online privacy proposal which would establish a Do Not Track list. This legislation (think: telemarketers' Do Not Call list, but for digital) would allow online shoppers to opt-out of behavioral advertisements which 'follow'? them around the Web'storing cookies with information about their shopping and browsing habits. Ultimately, this list would be exhaustive, saving consumers from then having to make website-to-website opt-out decisions. Although, currently, there are many tools available to prevent sites from storing cookies (through plug-ins or browser settings), some sites'mainly Google'continue to log IP addresses which link consumers to their search queries. Despite this, a lack of privacy has become mainstream and acceptable. Consistently, now, users are making the choice to concede some of their privacy to public domain. A recent study proves this decreasing concern in digital security (only 54% of consumers are concerned with online privacy, versus 65% in 2008). From this changing consumer sentiment, open source intelligence is possible. 'Hackers'? have begun to compile publicly available information on a large scale. Most notably, a Boston-based start-up has begun an initiative to compile public information in order to predict future events. Predicting crimes that have yet to happen seems like something right out of 1984'and Google and the CIA are both investors in this web-monitoring company. My conspiracy theories aside, the bottom line is that, counter to intuition, many marketers are actually for the implementation of this protective legislation. They see the Do Not Track list as a concession of some control over to consumers'as well as a catalyst for best practices within the industry. Others however see a risk of hindering online experiences by limiting the way product recommendations and behavioral ads are crafted. Could this devolve internet advertising back a decade or could this be a method for instilling consumer confidence in a commercial Internet? A Point of View   Recognizing all these factors, I actively choose to give up some of my privacy for convenience. When looking through web history information Google had stored from my account, I can see every product I searched for over the past year, what sponsored links I clicked on, and accompanying trending charts of my activity. Undoubtedly intrusive, but 100% transparent. The advantages of targeted advertising are apparent (the advert provider knows what I'm looking for and continually improves upon their recommendation), and for me, and a growing number of consumers, this benefit of relevancy outweighs the cost of privacy. Being a relatively digitally savvy consumer, I know that with a few clicks I could make myself mostly untrackable online (and avoid exposure to Internet advertisements altogether) without the intervention of government regulation. However, it cannot be assumed that this is a task that the majority of consumers are capable of. It should be an industry-wide best practice to consider the consumer naivety that still remains and to pursue full disclosure within a digital strategy. As this dialogue continues, it is important that we remain educated as the Internet morphs into an increasingly intelligent entity. Need a suggestion on where to start? Check out the graphical exposure index the Wall Street Journal recently built which allows you to see how popular sites are actively monitoring their viewers.

The iTunes of the Publishing Industry

Google has historically been pegged as an enemy to the publishing industry for distributing articles free of charge. Despite this, publishers remain stuck in a relationship with search engines who act as facilitators'connecting readers to appropriate content. On the one hand, Google and other engines are a critical source of promotion. On the other, a lot of the time, Google (rather than the publisher's website) is the final destination for consumption. Last year, News Corp's Rupert Murdoch became so annoyed with search engines (majorly Google) 'stealing'? articles that he threatened to ban The Wall Street Journal from Google's syndication. However, the WSJ derives around 25% of their traffic from Google search, making Rupert's threat apparently empty. Rupert Murdoch has been proactive in his efforts to monetize digital news. Murdoch's The Times of London has recently, and unexpectedly, put all their content behind a pay wall. After implementing the wall, traffic fell 58% in five weeks. The jury's still out on whether going all-in was a good strategy for The Times, but now the industry has a test case to study. The Times has created a baseline from which to measure how quickly (or slowly) paid subscription can grow. Already we know that the remaining 33% of their loyal readers have a much higher engagement rate with the digital content, inducing higher conversion and a reason to raise ad rates. Alternatively, Time is also attempting to 're-train'? readers to pay for news, but by gradually weaning them off free material. Right now, we are seeing a lot of experimentation with different models (e.g.: subscriptions, pay per document, membership portals, etc). Even though consumers have shown to be willing to pay for other types of digital content (music, video, etc), it has yet to be seen whether they will open their wallets for digital news. Unfortunately, despite the 53% of Americans who consume their news online, only 7% of them claim to be willing to pay for it. Enter Google. While publications are failing to convert readers on their own, the company sees an opportunity to step in as the facilitator with their newest project, Newspass : a payment system which would allow content creators to charge their readers. The initiative would organize Google News search results by paid and unpaid material. Users would then provide one-click micropayments (through Google Checkout technology) for articles. Logistically, publishers would be able to use a single infrastructure for all channels (Web, mobile, tablet) and consumers would have a single log-in across all platforms. This model would allow both parties flexibility in terms of types of payment (long-term versus one-time). There, of course, will be revenue sharing between Google and the publisher'probably somewhere around 30%. As long as payment is a friction-less experience (meaning: a quick, single-click process where my payment information can be safely stored), I could imagine using Newspass to purchase online articles. Do you see Newspass as a viable solution to convert readers into paying customers? Would you use this Google service? Leave your response as a comment.

This Week's Buzz within the Digital Space

Google imitates Facebook. Rumors have been flying about Google's Facebook copycat product:  Google Me . The company has already tried and failed to foray into social networking by their own means (e.g. Google Buzz, Okrut). But I, personally, wouldn't mind a Facebook clone ' encouraging fragmentation in the market and a check on Facebook's power. Because of Facebook's privacy negligence, consumers are now looking for an open alternative. It's feasible that Google Me could be the right solution, at the right time - capturing Facebook drop outs who are fed up with the network's omnipotence. Google can now attempt to persuade their 900M loyal users to follow them to a more secure and democratic social scene. I see this resulting in one of two scenarios. Facebook is approaching saturation. Consumers may become sick of Facebook and try Google's clone out of rebellion'?¦ or Facebook may listen to our complaints, adapt, and maybe even expand their search functionality as an added crack at Google. And, Google should feel threatened.  In March, for the first time ever, Facebook had a larger weekly market share than Google, making them the most popular website in the country (at least for that week). Facebook is increasingly web users' portal of choice. From a consumer's perspective, I want to see competition in this space. Facebook, right now, doesn't need to fight for my loyalty (with clear and simple privacy settings, for example). If I want to socialize online, they're the easiest option; I'm stuck with them.  In the end, though, we only want to participate on a single social portal. Would you make the switch? Google challenges Microsoft. This week, Google acquired major travel search company ITA Software ' as well as revised their business strategy. The search engine giant now aims to focus on vertical search, which is (not coincidently) their rival Bing's main differentiating feature. For those who know the information they're searching for, and want to find it fast, Google is their go-to engine. Alternatively, Bing is promoted as a discovery tool. It's the difference between needing neutral results or filtered, customized outputs.  Many consumers rely on the Internet to make their travel plans (about 90M Americans in the past year), making travel search a huge opportunity with a huge audience. Google obviously wants to remain king of this vertical and sees Bing as a contender. But, Bing's 3% travel search market share seems very insignificant next to Google's 30%. The buy makes strategic sense. Purchase-orientated search is just another opportunity for Google to monetize ' potentially charging airlines and travel aggregators on a cost-per-action basis. And ITA Software, the company they've chosen to partner with, powers a part of Bing's search.

This Week's Buzz within the Digital Space

June 14th-18th Apple and Google are at it again. Apple has publicized an addendum to their licensing agreement which bans any ad provider that is affiliated with a mobile hardware or operating system company (most notably, Google's recently acquired Admob) from gathering user data on their platform. Data collection is such a vital component of digital advertising; without it, we are unable to evolve our marketing strategy to adopt to and serve consumer preferences. Although Apple now seems to have an unfair advertising advantage, can we really blame them for not wanting to facilitate and benefit their competitor? This interaction epitomizes the companies' differing strategies: closed versus open. Interest in 3-D technology continues to heighten. From 3-D World Cup coverage to 3-D gaming, digital headlines this past week were swarming with mention of 3-D innovation. Unfortunately, this technology appears to have a fatal flaw. Thinking back to the basics of product diffusion, will our desire to adopt outweigh the complexity of integrating 3-D tech into our lifestyle? Does 3-D offer a significant relative advantage to good ol' fashion 2-D? The possibility for consumer rejection is high'but the potential for adoption could have huge implications for the future of advertising. Three brave advertisers (Sony, Gillette, and Disney-Pixar) are attempting to target these early adopters'while paying a 30-40% premium for a 3-D spot. ESPN's 3-D channel premiered the first ads which were designed specifically for live 3-D programming on June 11th. Their experiment with 3-D ads is just the beginning. The television networks, the cable providers, the hardware producers, the ad producers, and the consumers must all be on board in order for this technology to take off. Consumers love iPad advertisements. The average user's interaction time with an iPad ad is 30 seconds and click-through rates have run between .9% and 1.5% (6x the traditional web benchmark for click-to-expand ads). Currently, we can only speak for the early adopters who are enamored with the device's functionality: including the interactive ads it serves them. But as publishers begin to experiment with the iPad and discover new methods to engage their user (see: Time's already evolving iPad application), mainstream participation could be in sight. Despite this success, similar to what was discovered during the early days of the Internet, an improved method for measuring participation must be established: click-through rates are no longer relevant. A new tool from comScore, for example, tracks what happens after a customer views an ad (do they do a product search? do they visit a B&M store?) by cross-referencing their metrics with offline data. If we continue to measure ad success based soley on CTRs, what will happen when the iPad becomes mainstream? CTRs will seem to deflate while that might not be a true indicator of a decrease in engagement.

  • 3 min read
  • June 22, 2010

This Week's Buzz within the Digital Space

June 14th-18th Apple and Google are at it again. Apple has publicized an addendum to their licensing agreement which bans any ad provider that is affiliated with a mobile hardware or operating system company (most notably, Google's recently acquired Admob) from gathering user data on their platform. Data collection is such a vital component of digital advertising; without it, we are unable to evolve our marketing strategy to adopt to and serve consumer preferences. Although Apple now seems to have an unfair advertising advantage, can we really blame them for not wanting to facilitate and benefit their competitor? This interaction epitomizes the companies' differing strategies: closed versus open. Interest in 3-D technology continues to heighten. From 3-D World Cup coverage to 3-D gaming, digital headlines this past week were swarming with mention of 3-D innovation. Unfortunately, this technology appears to have a fatal flaw. Thinking back to the basics of product diffusion, will our desire to adopt outweigh the complexity of integrating 3-D tech into our lifestyle? Does 3-D offer a significant relative advantage to good ol' fashion 2-D? The possibility for consumer rejection is high'but the potential for adoption could have huge implications for the future of advertising. Three brave advertisers (Sony, Gillette, and Disney-Pixar) are attempting to target these early adopters'while paying a 30-40% premium for a 3-D spot. ESPN's 3-D channel premiered the first ads which were designed specifically for live 3-D programming on June 11th. Their experiment with 3-D ads is just the beginning. The television networks, the cable providers, the hardware producers, the ad producers, and the consumers must all be on board in order for this technology to take off. Consumers love iPad advertisements. The average user's interaction time with an iPad ad is 30 seconds and click-through rates have run between .9% and 1.5% (6x the traditional web benchmark for click-to-expand ads). Currently, we can only speak for the early adopters who are enamored with the device's functionality: including the interactive ads it serves them. But as publishers begin to experiment with the iPad and discover new methods to engage their user (see: Time's already evolving iPad application), mainstream participation could be in sight. Despite this success, similar to what was discovered during the early days of the Internet, an improved method for measuring participation must be established: click-through rates are no longer relevant. A new tool from comScore, for example, tracks what happens after a customer views an ad (do they do a product search? do they visit a B&M store?) by cross-referencing their metrics with offline data. If we continue to measure ad success based soley on CTRs, what will happen when the iPad becomes mainstream? CTRs will seem to deflate while that might not be a true indicator of a decrease in engagement.

This Week's Buzz within the Digital Space (May 17-23)

 Undoubtedly, the buzz this week radiated from Google's third annual I/O (or 'Innovation in the Open'?) Conference. Techies indulged themselves on a two day binge of Google innovations. Here are a few highlights: The company (finally) unveiled Google TV. They reminded us that, despite industry-wide focus on the Internet and mobile communications, television is still king. Four billion users spend an average of five hours a day watching TV, while advertisers spend $70M annually trying to advertise to them. Several companies ' Sony, Intel, Adobe, and others'have collaborated with Google to build this technology which searches and delivers content seamlessly from both your tv and the Web. This 'smart tv'? seems intuitive, natural; why continue watching television on our laptop screens if we don't have to? As consumers, I believe making the jump to a 'lean-forward'?, engaging technology in our living-room won't be easy (but you'll have your chance to become an early-adopter Fall 2010). As advertisers though, it's hard not to be hopeful that Google TV catches on. There's an opportunity here to make traditional television content interactive. The new Android OS 2.2, Froyo, was revealed. Reasons why this improvement matters: it's super fast (Google claims its 5x faster than their previous OS version, making it the fastest mobile browser available), it has 'over the air'? capabilities (which allows you to download apps without syncing), and it also supports Flash. And Google didn't forget to remind it's audience of the impressive growth this product has seen - in fact, they're now activating 100,000 Androids a day! Google continues to differentiate itself from Apple. It goes without saying that Google TV is a direct response to Apple's, not-yet-so-successful, Apple TV. And the implementation of Flash into both of these new platforms positions Google in a much different, more-adapting light then their Adobe-cursing competitors. One of the keynote speakers made the competitive spirit obvious: 'If you believe in openness and choice, welcome to Android'?. Google helps Pac-Man turn 30. To celebrate our favorite pellet eating persona's 30th anniversary, Google transformed it's logo into an online version of the popular arcade game. Paralyzing productivity nationwide, the game was so popular that Google has decided to offer it forever. Check it out at www.google.com/pacman on your lunch break.

  • 3 min read
  • May 24, 2010

This Week's Buzz within the Digital Space (May 17-23)

 Undoubtedly, the buzz this week radiated from Google's third annual I/O (or 'Innovation in the Open'?) Conference. Techies indulged themselves on a two day binge of Google innovations. Here are a few highlights: The company (finally) unveiled Google TV. They reminded us that, despite industry-wide focus on the Internet and mobile communications, television is still king. Four billion users spend an average of five hours a day watching TV, while advertisers spend $70M annually trying to advertise to them. Several companies ' Sony, Intel, Adobe, and others'have collaborated with Google to build this technology which searches and delivers content seamlessly from both your tv and the Web. This 'smart tv'? seems intuitive, natural; why continue watching television on our laptop screens if we don't have to? As consumers, I believe making the jump to a 'lean-forward'?, engaging technology in our living-room won't be easy (but you'll have your chance to become an early-adopter Fall 2010). As advertisers though, it's hard not to be hopeful that Google TV catches on. There's an opportunity here to make traditional television content interactive. The new Android OS 2.2, Froyo, was revealed. Reasons why this improvement matters: it's super fast (Google claims its 5x faster than their previous OS version, making it the fastest mobile browser available), it has 'over the air'? capabilities (which allows you to download apps without syncing), and it also supports Flash. And Google didn't forget to remind it's audience of the impressive growth this product has seen - in fact, they're now activating 100,000 Androids a day! Google continues to differentiate itself from Apple. It goes without saying that Google TV is a direct response to Apple's, not-yet-so-successful, Apple TV. And the implementation of Flash into both of these new platforms positions Google in a much different, more-adapting light then their Adobe-cursing competitors. One of the keynote speakers made the competitive spirit obvious: 'If you believe in openness and choice, welcome to Android'?. Google helps Pac-Man turn 30. To celebrate our favorite pellet eating persona's 30th anniversary, Google transformed it's logo into an online version of the popular arcade game. Paralyzing productivity nationwide, the game was so popular that Google has decided to offer it forever. Check it out at www.google.com/pacman on your lunch break.

The Collective Voice of Content Creators Can be Deafening

The completion of my Spring semester has finally arrived'so, naturally, I'm in the market for a vacation getaway. The amount of information that exists online for a prospective traveler is enormous'and, quite frankly, overwhelming. Just Googling 'best vacation spots Mexico'? leaves my head spinning. My results page is filled with user-driven sites which claim to consolidate fellow travelers' tips, warnings, and praises. This is helpful because consumers trust their neighbors, their peers, their family and friends, right? Not quite. Laid out before me are hundreds of thousands of conflicting opinions which are (supposedly) authentic, free from marketers' sales pitch. With almost no criteria in mind (other than that my vacation fit within my student-sized budget), I don't know where to begin. I scroll down my results page to a popular travel website and search Cozumel. To my horror, up pops 50,340 user reviews, retelling experiences that range from paradisiacal to crummy. How can such a huge amount and range of consumer opinions be organized and effectively presented? So far in my search, I have had a few interactions which have actually aided, rather than terrified. For example, in true AMP style, Tripadvisor.com features a Travel Inspiration configurator which prompts the user to enter two criterion and spits out a list of relevant destinations. After considering that a two-question configurator could be helpful, I wondered why, with all the information Google knows about me, couldn't my search results be more accurate? After all, between my search history and all the Google or Google-owned services I utilize daily, doesn't my search engine know my gender, employment status, income bracket, marital status, previous vacation destinations, interests'?¦ and so much more? There's a clear trend towards relevant and personalized advertising, but, I also want relevant and personalized search results that lead me, as a consumer, to relevant content'and ultimately, a successful purchase. The technology I'm looking for sounds a lot like Semantic Web: an Internet which is able to push information towards me without my having to ask for it. We're moving towards Web 3.0 and, as we do, marketers must be there to provide simple ways for users to mine this huge amount of content themselves. Fellow users' opinions are not always, like in the case of my vacation planning, favorable and manageable. Harnessing the collective voice of a global team of content creators is the challenge. Do you have an active Google account? Go to: google.com/dashboard if you're curious about what Google knows about you!

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