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Aug 2010

Are businesses really embracing free advertising?

Posted in Business tactics | 0 Comments

I’m sure everyone’s read this week that there’s a distinct likelihood of The Social Network, the Facebook film, being swiftly followed by a film about Google. Googled: The End of the World as We Know It, the book about the company penned by one Ken Auletta, has been optioned for the silver screen by producer John Morris.

I can’t help but wonder how the CEOs and employees in question feel about these films. Sure, they might not be representing the most positive view of the company, but surely any press is good press? I know no one needs to call attention to Facebook and Google – that’s a done job, being the two of the most popular online destinations on the internet.

But why not make a statement? Embrace the fact that the films are the talk of the town? I’m looking forward to The Social Network and the drama and controversy that the film aims to convey. Mark Zuckerberg, the film’s protagonist and arguable founder of Facebook itself, doesn’t think the film will hold to the truth. However, doesn’t he realise that Facebook’s saturation of the planet’s population means hundreds of thousands of people are going to see the film anyway?

Google’s film, however, may be far more interesting. Google is, like Facebook, a monopolistic online entity. Their market-share hovers at around 95%, they’re rapidly spreading into every digital market and medium, from their search engine to books, television and domain management and registration. I have an account, a homepage, a domain, a YouTube account and a browser, all done by Google and used by me on a daily basis.

But the end of the world? Is this really bad market for them, or is it an opportunity for Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page to show off their PR muscle and demonstrate they’re serious, business-minded entrepreneurs whose determination meant they were able to place themselves at the centre of the internet. How many companies can lay claim to inventing a verb?

It’s an interesting, online-focused Russian doll concept to consider; the film’s advertised on sites, some of which using domains sold to them by Google, to talk about a Google movie that people will research using Google. No other company can claim to act as such a seller of information, and they could raise or sink the film depending on the complex, secretive algorithms they use to determine what comes first in their search engine – the excited Google critic, or the excited Google fan.

Both Google and Facebook have had their fair share of third-party controversy – Facebook has stalkers, kidnappers and rapists, and Google’s safe-search features aren’t always as “safe” as they proclaim. But what other companies will we now see drifting into the limelight? McDonald’s PR staff must’ve had minor aneurysms after Super-Size Me was released to the public, and they’re the most dominant fast-food chain on the planet – I discovered only last night that if you’re visiting the pyramids of Egypt and fancy a Happy Meal or a Big Mac, it’s only over the other side of these sacred architectural relics.

It begs the question; are you really coping with your critics as well as you could be? Everyone releases statements, denial-esque press releases, and product changes to respond to critics without actually responding. But what if Google’s founders sat down, tomorrow morning, and used Google Video to release a vlog of them discussing what they’d love to see discussed in the film. It calls attention to a film that could be dangerously critical, while making them seem involved in how they’re perceived by the public.

As with all the major shifts in the online sphere, time will tell on this one, but hopefully we’ll get a Google film that pulls no punches and stays neutral. The Social Network seems fun, but a little dramatic. An adaptation of a critical work of non-fiction about a company with monthly online visitors numbering in the billions deserves to be taken seriously, and the company should take the opportunity for a little serious marketing of their own.

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Aug 2010

What has Bing advert overload done to us?

Posted in Business tactics, Social Media | 0 Comments

Not sure about you, but the Bing adverts have, as of late, become one of my most despised advertising campaigns. The endless noise and dubious message that any other search engine is going to give you unrelated results, and the implication that we’ve all seemingly got some kind of mental disorder where tangential conversation techniques are the only way to go.

Allow me to de-bunk this marketing campaign, if you will.

First off, take a look at these figures. These were released in July 2010 – before and during the “information overload” advert campaign, which is still   going. Yahoo’s share of the UK search engine market has fallen by a couple percent, leaving it third to Bing.

This all sounds hunky-dory until you consider that their combined market share is still equivalent to what it was before. Bing has consumed part of Yahoo’s slice of the online pie, but Google’s still got the same amount of pastry, crumbs and cherries in sauce it had a year ago. Dominance over the market second-comer is not an achievement, not when you’re supplying the search technology for your competitor and their market share was below 5% to begin with.

But the advert asks an interesting question: what has information overload done to us? This is a valid question, and one that it’s taken a Microsoft ad campaign to make us ask of ourselves. Personally, information overload now means I’m learning more than I was ten years ago in my spare time. It means I can research and reference in the space of a minute, and nothing is too complex now as sites covering a single subject help us to study along a gradient of complexity.

Google has, unfortunately for Microsoft’s Bing engine, sealed the market shut, and if in ten years it became the West’s only search engine I wouldn’t bat an eyelid. After all, it works well for what I need it to. Make sure you’re preferring UK results (especially when shopping), stick Safesearch to strict to filter out the waves of immaturity in Google Images, and you’re laughing.

But what if it didn’t work so well? The problem with a monopolistic market share in technology is that consumers tend to flail in panic, en masse, when something goes seriously wrong. Take the iPhone 4, for example. One moment it’s the Messiah, the next we’ve digitally lynch-mobbed Apple to the point that the man at the head of the operation “decided to leave”.

“Digital lynching” is an interesting phrase, and one a colleague coined recently. Apple’s Anntennagate martyr, and HP’s CEO are suffering from the same melodramatic backlash from the public – social media tirades. Twitter has become the new forum for slamming public figureheads, and trending and hash-tags allow this to happen. But are big jobs suffering for it? If Google’s Android system is successfully sued and the funding goes down the toilet, the OS with it, will Twitter turn on Oracle, or Google?

It brings me back to thinking about Bing. Is it a good thing? Do we need a wider choice? I’d say so. Google’s a fantastic search engine, but when one company gets a monopolistic hold on the market, almost no one holds a hand up and says “stop”. However, if it was to happen in government, there’d be protests on the streets.

Tyranny is no different in business, the only change is that your money’s going to Apple for your phone, Microsoft (or Apple again) for your computer and Oyster for your travel (if you’re in London), rather than paying your taxes to whichever party is currently dominating the ballot box. Are we now more subsceptible to marketing than we ever were? Is Bing just another pusher? What has information overload done to us?

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Jul 2010

The true cost of a business’ social media integration

Posted in Business tactics, Online PR, Social Media, Web 2.0, Web Design and Usability | 0 Comments

Drifting through the web on a peaceful Monday lunchtime, I stumbled across possibly one of the most interesting and informative infographics I’ve seen. Created by Mashable, titled “Google’s Long History of Social Media Attempts” is an entertaining insight into one of the biggest web companies in the world, and its continued struggle for social media presence.

Reading down the years, a clear pattern emerges: Google have bought their way into more social media companies and invested in more projects than the majority of all businesses, globally. But for all their attempts to break the ice with the new generation of socially and digitally savvy teenagers and twentysomethings, something’s gone slightly awry. No one seems interested.

Now, for a company as large as Google, it seems almost absurd, doesn’t it? They’ve got millions, if not billions of dollars to spare on new projects, and everything they touch is hailed as a viable alternative before it’s even in alpha. However, putting successful projects such as Blogger to one side, Google are in a unique position – one of, if not the biggest web presence of any company in the world, but with all the social media success of a ten-year-old with a mobile dongle and a dream or two.

Google Me has been rumoured to be a direct competitor to Facebook. After severely underestimating the continued growth of the social-networking giant, Google now face a dilemma that is familiar to smaller companies like Bebo and the ever-falling-behind MySpace: how to get back into the face of the people.

It seems simple enough, but Google’s single greatest strength has simultaneously become its greatest weakness. The majority of internet searches go through Google’s famous search engine. But placing results for Google Me above Facebook, or even as sponsored links, could cause opinion to turn against Google and perceive the company as biased.

The same goes for small businesses – how to break into social media? If you’re a web company with Zuckerberg-esque aspirations, then you’ve got your work cut out. But you’ve still got a head-start over Google in terms of getting ranked higher and higher without it looking slightly too quick for the few cynics and conspiracy theorists.

You’ve also got, I’d wager, a smaller budget than the colossal entity that is Google. This also gives you an advantage – a smaller budget requires more careful planning, and less public humiliation when a big project falls through. An interesting look into Google’s inner workings tells many tales of failed projects and Google’s personal investment in the employees that push it further in the direction of global dominance of all online media.

If you’re a web-design company, maybe even just a solo entrepreneur, this seems daunting and, if anything, completely de-motivational. But never fear – you can network, you can join communities, and you can build up your web presence the way you want it to evolve. With countless failed projects behind their doors and a few too many beyond them, Google are now beginning to look like a company desperate to break into social media.

Your advantage comes from your unknown status. By lacking the stigma of a money-wasting corporate entity and focusing on one specific idea rather than anything with even the remotest prospect of serious monetisation (Jack of all trades, master of none), you can put forward ideas in a less critical environment. Public reaction, especially via the web, is crucial to the initial success and the build-up and expansion that follows.

But social media maintains its presence in society, a theory confirmed by The Social Network, the film about Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook’s rather controversial history, that will debut later this year. Taking Facebook off the internet and into the cinemas places it in the hands of yet another audience, and the genius of it is that it was never officially commissioned or sanctioned by Facebook in any way whatsoever. Hopefully, Google will be in the front row taking notes along with web-design graduates.

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Mar 2010

Facebook creeping up to Google: Part 1.

Posted in Blogging | 0 Comments

A few weeks back I talked casually about whether or not Facebook could seriously challenge Google’s web dominance. In that instance I was talking about unique user hits for each website and it was Google that was streets ahead but admittedly Facebook was gaining ground. At the time I really didn’t believe Facebook would, or could, threaten Google as the number one website—at least not for a while yet.

I thought I should touch on that subject again this week and next week as there have been some significant stories coming out concerning Facebook’s growth over the past month.

It all started with a report earlier this month from Inside Facebook that estimated Facebook’s revenue for 2010 should surpass $1 billion in just it’s 5th year of existence. Of course this figure is dwarfed by the fact that Google’s annual revenue is around 21 billion, but that’s not really the point. The point is, when you look back over reports of Facebook’s annual revenue you will see an impressive pattern emerging.

According to many reports in 2007, Facebook earned $150 million in revenue, in 2008 that number grew to an estimated $300 million and by 2009 it was between $600 million to $700 million. That is at least a 100 per cent increase each year.

The scary thing for people like Google is that Inside Facebook expects that trend to continue. It must be said that while all these figures are unsupported by Facebook and should be treated simply as estimations they certainly are mouthwatering and I guess you could say where there is smoke, there is fire.

Inside Facebook also categorised Facebook’s 2009 revenue into four key areas: brand advertising, Microsoft advertising, virtual goods and performance advertising. Of the four, performance advertising was Facebook’s number one cash cow accounting for approximately $350 million. Brand advertising was also valuable pulling in around $250 million.

For a while now people have questioned Facebook’s ability to convert their popularity into serious dollars. What cannot be questioned is their ability to innovate and if these figures are anything to go by, their innovation surely has been effective.

Mashable’s Ben Parr believes that, “As Facebook improves its performance advertising algorithms, hires more staff to deal with brands, and really pushes Facebook Credits as a platform (and takes a 30% cut). Those factors combined make it very possible that Facebook joins the $1 billion club in 2010.”

I personally didn’t think it was possible for Facebook to compete with the Google empire let alone surpass it, after reading these figures I’m not so sure.

Facebook is growing up quickly and I agree with Ben who says “It still has a long way to go before it reaches profitability levels that can rival those of tech giants like Google. If it can crack the social media revenue nut though, it could pave the way for monetization for thousands of other websites and apps.”

Once this happens the game will surely be on.

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Feb 2010

Facebook overtakes Yahoo in the US

Posted in Blogging | 0 Comments

Facebook has become the second most popular website in the US according to Web analytics research by Compete.

The social media giant moved up one spot in the rankings pipping Yahoo for monthly usage in the United States. Internet juggernaut Google managed to maintain its strangle-hold on the number one spot but some of the statistics coming out of the study will no doubt have them looking over their shoulder.

Compete reported that Facebook had 133 million unique visitors in January 2010, ahead of Yahoo who had 132 million. Google’s web dominance was evident as they recorded a staggering 147.8 million unique users. I also must mention that while Twitter only had 21.79 million it’s rapid growth will surely be causing some concern at the top.

The question now is whether or not Facebook can mount a serious challenge for the top spot? Don’t be ridiculous, right? Not possible? Well actually, if you look at Facebook’s growth trajectory, it may not be out of the question.

Interestingly, Facebook does trump Google in one of the findings and it does it by some margin. Compete revealed that when it comes to the amount of time people actually spend online, Facebook is king. The website held a whopping 11.6% of all time spent online compared to 4.25% for Yahoo and 4.1% for Google.

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Jan 2010

Do Androids Dream of Google Phones?

Posted in Business tactics, Uncategorized | 0 Comments

Rumor has it the estate of the late author, Philip K Dick, has issued a cease and desist to the Google conglomeration over their usage of the term ‘Nexxus’ for their new Google Phone. According to PC World online, Dick’s daughter find there is an obvious connection between the usage of Nexxus and her father’s book ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep’. Seeing as the operating system used on the phone is called ‘Android’, one could argue that it’s not a huge leap from one to the other. Being a huge fan of the movie Blade Runner, I often find myself looking for tips of the cap in current movies, products, and books, either to Dick’s book or to the movie Blade Runner. You can easily find nods within the movie Minority Report (based on the 1958 book of the same name by Dick) to the noir style employed by Scott in BR. It’s easy to see the similarities in the fun and colorful Besson movie The Fifth Element, as well. As for products,  the light saber umbrella pictured here was the only product I could find before Google gave me one of these. I find myself tiring ever so quickly of the Google empire, but I did stumble across something fun on mashable this afternoon as I was getting ready to write this post. That’s one Google product I’d be willing to pay money for.

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Dec 2009


Posted in News | 2 Comments »

SpiesIt’s a word I have dismissed from my vocabulary (and now, apparently, my spelling as well). It’s a subject that crops up every once in a while. This past week I caught a FB status update of a friend of mine. She mentioned that she’s getting ready to read the Privacy Act, she actually followed ‘Privacy Act’ with ’2001′, which is good because I was thinking ‘Isn’t that a Tom Clancy book’? The comments following her post quickly cleared up that silliness (I’m quite the spy/action book reader, truth be told) and I moved on. Almost within the same surfing breath, I came across an interesting piece on expectation of privacy.

The post quotes and comments on Google, Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt’s ideas and beliefs on privacy, and FB. There’s some pretty interesting stuff in there. For me, I’m not so young that I don’t recall a life pre-internet and ‘letting my stuff all hang out’ (virtually speaking), but I’m not so old that I freak out every time I happen to search something on Google or order something online. There is something Eric Schmidt says that speaks to people like me: ‘”If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place”…I don’t have any secrets. By design really. Well, not many of them. Of course, this comes from a girl who thought about doing a one woman comedy show on her love life. So I might not fall within the privacy-concerned median. Of course, there is something else he says, directly following that sends just a little shiver up my occasional-downloaded-pirated-movie self: “But if you really need that kind of privacy, the reality is that search engines, including Google, do retain this information for some time. And it’s important, for example, that we are all subject in the United States to the Patriot Act. It is possible that that information could be made available to the authorities.”

It’s an interesting read. Thought provoking?

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Nov 2009

Murdoch vs. Google

Posted in Business tactics | 0 Comments

newslaptop2 (1)So Rupert Murdoch has had enough of Google and intends to slam the door on the search engine’s access to his news websites.

Earlier this week in an interview with Sky News Australia Murdoch finally bellowed the words he has been mumbling for years. When asked by Sky’s political editor David Speers why News Corp has not stopped Google users from accessing his news pages, Mr Murdoch replied: “I think we will.”

Murdoch proclaimed that, “There’s not enough advertising in the world to make all the Web sites profitable. We’d rather have fewer people coming to our Web sites, but paying.”

With these few sentences Murdoch has sparked frenzied debate, as much about his mental state, as the future of online news content.

Has this great man finally lost it? Is ol’ Roop starting to show his age? Or, is this all part of some master plan and a continuation of his genius?

Personally, I’m a little confused on this one. Is there something that I’m missing here? I write this with the utmost respect Mr. Murdoch, but… I can’t see how this could possibly work.

We live in a world where people now expect to consume their daily news for zilch.

We walk into the train station, we get handed a paper, or two, containing all we could possibly need to know about the days news, sports, weather and gossip for free. If that’s not enough, we can then browse through thousands of reputable news sources for free, read through Twitter and Facebook for free, and when the day comes to an end we get handed a freshly printed evening paper for…yep, you guessed it, F.R.E.E!

What does he expect us to do?

Murdoch argues that people will get what they pay for with his websites. He has promised premium reporting for those who choose to subscribe.

“Quality journalism is not cheap, and an industry that gives away its content is simply cannibalising its ability to produce good reporting.”

The way I see it is, sure, people do value quality journalism. But they value free a lot more and, to be honest, the reporting standard isn’t half-bad.

According to reports on Techradar, these pay-walls could be erected as soon as April, 2010.

So, will it be premium or freemium?

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