Category Archives: Yahoo

Yahoo’s redesign: Will it keep users down on the farm?


Yahoo.com is perched atop a dangerous peak. Today it is huge, attracting 26% of all global Internet users. But Yahoo traffic is sliding according to Alexa and Quantcast, down 1.6% in the past 3 months and about 10% in the past 2 years — evidence of the movement of consumers away from single site portals to the long tail of web sites, blogs, social media and mobile.

So Yahoo is trying to get stickier. It’s about to relaunch with pop-up-style windows allowing you to update social networks such as Facebook or MySpace while still within Yahoo. Analyst Jeremiah Owyang and WSJ reporter Kara Swisher agree the inclusion of social media is a needed improvement.

Please kids, keep the party at home?

So why should a site with 120 million monthly visitors worry? Yahoo itself notes in its most recent annual report that mobile and social media fragmentation threaten any portal:

“The number of individuals who access the Internet through devices other than a PC, such as mobile telephones, personal digital assistants, smart phones, hand held computers, televisions, and set-top box devices, has increased dramatically, and the trend is likely to continue. Our services were originally designed for rich, graphical environments such as those available on the desktop and PC. The lower resolution, functionality, and memory associated with alternative devices currently available may make the use of our services through such devices difficult, and the versions of our services developed for these devices may not be compelling to users, manufacturers, or distributors of alternative devices…”

The Yahoo redesign could work. The fastest growing segments in social media are now adults 35+, a more conservative group that might be happy playing inside a Yahoo’d-everything portal. Since wealth is accumulated with age, this is not unattractive for advertisers. The relaunch will certainly boost ad revenue in the near term via banners next to the new pop-ups for Facebook and MySpace (social media users tend to refresh often; think of all those CPMs sucking in advertising cash).

Still, the portal strategy is growing outdated. There are nearly 4 billion people with cell phones now, and as those phones get smarter with hundreds of apps, new doorways online will continue to open. The Yahoo response feels a bit like inviting your teenage children to hold a party in your basement; they may spend more time at home now, but eventually the kids will move out.

(All Things D shares the history of Yahoo design evolution here.)

Yahoo! releases ideological search


Breaking April 1 news from Yahoo…

Scientists at Yahoo! today released Ideological Search, allowing users to control the ideology of their search results for the first time in search technology history. Until now, many Web search users were offended by the facts, pages, articles, and blogs in their search results that contradicted their own personal beliefs and values. Furthermore, search engines were often accused of being biased in one direction or another. Rather than try to comply with a hard-to-define “search fairness doctrine”, Yahoo! Ideological Search will allow its users to personally control the ideological perspective of their search. Users can now search with confidence, knowing that their search results will perfectly match their ideology, and no results will offend them…

We laughed. And then thought, hey, there’s a real market for this.

Sometimes with Google it’s flirtation, not a wedding ring


You didn’t marry your spouse on the first date — but didn’t that first kiss count? Of course it did. Online marketers need to realize the same and not just measure “the last click” when quantifying online advertising performance.

Web consultant Avinash Kaushik points out that marketers running paid search campaigns on Google, Yahoo or MSN need to evaluate search terms based on how they fit into the consumer purchase cycle. Some terms may appear initially to have poor performance … but be a required step to lure the customer to your door. He suggests:

1. Category keywords are used by consumers in the early consideration phase. These terms are typically numerous, have low costs per click, and low results in terms of conversion to leads or sales.
2. Category and brand keywords are used as consumers enter active consideration. Results begin to improve, but bids on these terms become more expensive.
3. High-cost brand keywords are dominant as consumers get close to purchase.
4. And so-called “conversion keywords” are the terms that consumers type in when they are most likely to submit a lead or make a sale.

His point is all the terms are needed to provide a sequence that guides customers from learning about you to considering you to actually buying. Marketers who hope to manage the entire process most effectively should examine metrics other than hard results; flirting may take more than a single click.

ABC News’ local iPhone portal play


Way back in the 1990s companies such as Prodigy, Earthlink, AOL and Yahoo were in a race to become your online “portal” — the single-stop-shop for you to get on the internet. The buzzword of the day was “stickiness,” meaning if you made your web site sticky, customers would return again and again.

About 2000 Google killed these arrogant hopes with its brilliant search engine, since then the main way consumers move online. Yet guess what? The portal play is returning on mobile handsets.

ABC News makes the latest bid with yet another “app” button for your iPhone. (Apps, on smartphones, are downloadable programs that allow users to leap online with a simple tap, and like the portals of yore create new opportunities for single content producers to try to make consumers stick.) ABC News has a nice offering, using the built-in GPS service in the iPhone to provide a feed of local news and weather … and hopefully get consumers to stick around for 20/20, Charles Gibson and all the corresponding ad impressions.

Funny thing is, this time portals may work. Standard web browsers look horrible on most cell phones, and one-button mobile apps give you just the content you want — weather, NY Times, Facebook — with one simple click. Pew notes that by the year 2020 (no connection to ABC!) mobile phones will be the most common tool for consumers getting online. You can almost hear Google gasp in frustration as the big PC browser that made its ad model so powerful starts to fade from tiny handset screens.

How this shakes out is anyone’s guess, as every content producer tries to create the ultimate single-button-widget for your handset. It also creates a devilish question for marketers — if you miss the right portal, you may get shut out from consumers, so which of the millions of potential online apps do you pick?

It’s all enough to make you hope Google creates a simple mobile operating system.

Metcalfe, say it ain’t so


This just in. BT researcher Bob Briscoe, math prof Andrew Odlyzko and programmer guy Benjamin Tilly say Metcalfe’s law is wrong. You know: the basic idea that the more people use something, the more exponentially valuable it becomes. One plane going to one place isn’t worth much; but knowing that plane can connect you to almost anywhere in the world is worth a lot. Robert Metcalfe, inventor of the Ethernet, dreamed it up and social media hyperbolists now tout it as gospel.

The value of a network is proportional to the square of the number of its users.

But Briscoe, Odlyzko and Tilly suggest that different types of networks have differing increases in value. Networks that can form groups — email lists, or Twitter, or MySpace — can explode in value as more join. Others, such as a network of users signing up for a cable system, grow more linearly.

To put this in plain English, if networks really did jump in value at an accelerated rate for every person or node you add, eventually adding one additional person to, say, Facebook would add value equal to the entire global economy. Briscoe and team note common sense tells you that can’t possible be true. Or, in a business sense, if adding to a network increased value exponentially, then every communication group in the world should merge with another one — since the combined larger network would be valued infinitely more than the two standing alone.

Look, if this gives you a headache, we’re sorry. Just assume the following: Not all social media bubbles rise forever, and not all 2n joined systems are worth (2n)2 or 4n2. Microsoft and Yahoo, are you listening?

(Illustration by Serge Bloch. Inspiration via Fake Steve.)

Yahoo yanks the wheels off your web site


Yahoo may soon make your web site irrelevant.

The search giant is percolating a new system that would lift entire blocks of copy and content from your web site to post in Yahoo results. This makes a lot of sense from a user’s perspective — think, if you were searching for movie reviews, wouldn’t it be nice to see all the top reviews about one film on one page? And this has been coming for a while. Search engines already lift titles and snippets of text and photos. Entire sections of your site popping into Google or Yahoo was bound to happen.

But from a marketer’s perspective, this is a disaster. Entire business models hinge on pulling people to sites. If people no longer need to click through to your site to read your content, then all your precious lead forms, phone numbers, designer-nuanced layout, usability-consulted pathways, even the ads on your site — it all goes away.

Yikes.

Stephen Baker over at BusinessWeek broke the story on March 13, after interviewing Prabhakar Raghavan, chief of research at Yahoo. Apparently Yahoo is cooking up new search results pages that will show blocks of information lifted from your web site, so that users can find what they want without having to click through to you.

Chris Brogan comments that while this may be beneficial to users — say, who could read all the car reviews they want on one single web page — it undercuts the entire web industry based on getting traffic. And even worse, it demolishes the third-party advertisers who buy space on all those web sites. Who in the world will want to buy into a Tremor Media or Advertising.com ad network of thousands of web sites, if users begin to ignore them to read everything on Yahoo?

Some may think this would undermine search engines’ overall utility to advertisers as well — but play it out all the way. If Yahoo makes organic clicks from its search results pages less likely, the only way to get traffic to your site from Yahoo will be to pay for PPC ads. And if the big advertisers who today are hot on vast ad networks find the long tail of hundreds of sites no longer performs, they’ll look to a portal — say, Yahoo — as the place to put ads. Now, only a cynic would suggest that Yahoo might consider diminishing organic clicks to other sites to build demand for its own ad inventory. Luckily, we are not that cynical.

It’s really just one more step in the evolution of users, not marketers, controlling content. RSS feeds already allow you to pull from blogs or news feeds you find interesting. Soon, you’ll get an instant RSS feed on any topic from a search engine.

Brogan notes that the only way for advertisers and companies to respond is to make their content portable, so that it can be passed easily along the web, perhaps with a few bread crumb trails leading back. Maybe the trick will be [click here for more information] to find [click here for lead form] ways to insert your real strategy [click here last chance!] into the message. We’ll see.

Microsoft chases searchers with WSJ


Microsoft is a distant third in U.S. web search traffic, with its 9.8% share far behind Google’s 58.4% and Yahoo’s 22.9%. To catch up, MSN just won a gold medal.

Information Week reports that Microsoft has landed the paid search business for the Wall Street Journal’s web sites, which include the sweet properties Barrons, MarketWatch, and AllThingsD. Advertisers who discounted MSN as a why-bother-me-too search option must now rethink that strategy, and as more money pours into MSN’s tiny text ads, the search results may get more relevant to consumers … creating a virtuous cycle of growing market share.

Or that’s probably the plan. All we know is one avoids the WSJ’s affluent audience at one’s peril. If your business thrives on paid keyword search listings, it’s time to look again at MSN.

Kevin Kelly puts contextual ads inside his book


OK, so you’ve read that content is moving to the free, channels are fragmenting, and all of this needs to be underwritten by advertisers (just like your free radio is now sponsored by paid commercials). And you probably get that as channels fragment into a million YouTube broadcasts, it’s getting harder for advertisers to get results … unless they can target effectively to drive up response rates.

Kevin Kelly taps a cool new solution. He’s giving away his new book, True Films: 200 Documentaries You Must See Before You Die, as a PDF download. The catch is, if you choose the option, contextual ads will be inserted in the side margins by the Yahoo! ad network. Yahoo can’t scan what you’re reading in real time, so the way it works is Kelly has submitted the PDF to Yahoo in advance, which codes each page … and then serves relevant, real-time ads to you as you hit a certain article.

We were skeptical at first, but the image above looks painless. The ads are unobtrusive, but targeted, and heck, if we’re reading about a certain film, we might click over to Netflix to get something related. Awesome convergence of targeted online ads with old-school, friendly print. (Tx Boing.)

Update: Learn more about the Ads for Adobe program here.

Get ready. Facebook is about to change advertising.


Here’s our prediction: Facebook will launch a new permission-based advertising model this winter that will begin monetizing its 30 million users. And the people who laughed at Mark Zuckerberg for refusing $1 billion from Yahoo, or last week a $10 billion valuation from Microsoft, will get it.

To understand what’s coming, look at recent history. Facebook has done only three things to ramp up growth. First, it opened doors beyond colleges to the entire public. Second, it launched News Feed, which updates your friends any time you do anything. And third, it freed its platform to software developers who in turn created thousands of wicked cool widgets.

Facebook got buzz about the open platform, but we bet News Feed is the killer app. Think what the feed does — any time you open Facebook, you get news updates from all of your friends and colleagues. Rather than have stiff editors at NYTimes or Slate tell you what’s important in the big world, your friends do with photos, videos, and news from your own social world. This is what makes Facebook unique.

Now, this past week Facebook announced it will tweak News Feed with a coming app that sorts your friends into categories. You can set up personal friends, work networks, church networks, family networks … and … we bet — trusted ad networks.

Why do we see this coming? Facebook has pressure. It’s sitting on $38 million from investors and has not yet found a clear way to make cash on its base. The banner ads that now appear on Facebook have extremely anemic click-through rates, and advertisers won’t sit still for online ads that don’t pay off in CPC or CPA. Users, after all, aren’t searching on Facebook like they are on Google; they’re socializing.

So Facebook needs advertising, it needs it to work, and it will need a new model. We predict the ad model will be a play on News Feed, with a group of trusted advertisers who can reach you only after you give them permission. Zuckerberg’s move will be brilliant. The ads will be targeted, but limited; users will have control; and hawkers won’t clutter up the Facebook ethos.

Call it permission-based Google. Call it advertising with only the brands you want to see. Heck, call it Adbook.

This app is coming, and it’s going to do exactly what Zuckerberg dreams: Create a social graph that replicates your real-world activity, this time, in the land of commerce.