First up, and near and dear to my (old) heart, are a few articles on how yellow pages and local search companies are continually trying to reinvent themselves to compete in a digital world.
- The first piece describes how the Yellow Pages Group in Canada has been undergoing some major changes and expansions lately, from corporate rebranding, to M&A, to offering small businesses search marketing and website-building/hosting services. YPG isn't the first or only yellow pages publisher to get in on the SEM for SMEs game, but some other recent announcements by Google represent a significantly changing landscape for all authorized AdWord reseller partners. In essence, Google (who have never been especially keen to practice full transparency themselves), are now requiring that resellers divulge full click, impression, and spend data to advertising customers. Some transparency advocates might hale this move as necessarily good for advertisers and consumers, but many people with firsthand insight into what SMEs actually want out of digital advertising would say that this is simply adding an unnecessary level of complexity for small businesses, when all they really want is to generate sales leads as simply as possible. While this new transparency requirement might not be good for SMEs, it is also questionable whether it's ultimately good for Google, who rely heavily on reseller partners for their 'last-mile' connection to small businesses. By essentially forcing these resellers to reveal their markup margins to AdWords customers, Google may be alienating the very companies that generate a high percentage of sales for Google's own ad products.
- US-based SuperMedia meanwhile is taking a slightly different tack. Instead of increasing the variety of advertising offerings for small businesses, they aim to help SMEs track and manage their online reputations. The idea is that the proliferation of social networks has made it harder than ever for small businesses to be able to stay on top of what consumers are saying about them. This value-added service is SuperMedia's attempt to hold onto businesses customers who might be thinking of spending their advertising dollars elsewhere.
- Also, it wouldn't be a discussion of online advertising if we didn't mention social media like Facebook and Twitter, who are also trying to get their own pieces of the pie. One speculative article describes how Twitter's API will soon be able to insert sponsored tweets and trending topics into the stream. Twitter will share revenues with application developers. Meanwhile, here is a Google blog entry looking into why consumers become fans of brands on Facebook. The short answer: to get discounts on products.
- It's no secret that former yellow pages customers (and users) now have a wealth of alternatives to choose from to meet all their needs, including social networks. However, despite the growth of online advertising and ecommerce, the fact remains that the vast majority of searches performed and dollars spent relate to goods and services in the real world. This piece highlights some of the other emerging players in the online-to-offline search and advertising market.
- For most people, the real world is basically the neighborhood they live in. The term 'hyperlocal' has been a buzzword for a few years now. While it hasn't quite lived up to its own hype, it still refuses to die. This article from Wired describes how one of the platforms in AOL's attempt to reinvent itself is Patch, a property acquired last year. The concept behind Patch is itself a reinvention of the olden days of the web: Professional writers and editors creating (not just curating) mountains of content, scattered across 500 local sites. The whole point is to win a major slice of the $20billion local online advertising market, or what Patch says is the "the largest commercial opportunity [on the web] that has yet to be won". But doesn't this seem like deja vu? If memory serves, this is exactly how newspapers came into existence. And how well does that labor-intensive industry seem to be faring right now?
- If you're going to subsidize people's internet access buy hoping that they'll buy stuff, it's not going to work. This is why a. some coffee shops are taking wi-fi off the menu, and b. companies that give away ad-supported broadband/wi-fi/etc. are always going out of business.
- If you want to maximize your chances of getting people buy your stuff or respond to your ads, give them choice. This is exactly what Microsoft and Yahoo have been trialling, with good results.
Finally, here's some more analysis on what Google TV means for television and tv advertising. The main point is that when you've developed a reputation for disrupting industries, incumbents in as-yet undisrupted industries are naturally wary of you. However if you are smaller player struggling to knock an incumbent off its perch, working with Google seems like a good idea.