Industry News

Microsoft and Yahoo Strike a Search Deal

Microsoft Yahoo DealIn the last 48 hours the web has been buzzing with the news of a Microsoft-Yahoo search deal that could potentially change the landscape of search forever. Although not final and more importantly, not approved by the regulatory commission, the deal would essentially make Microsoft’s search technology, Bing, the engine that powers all Yahoo search. There are other stipulations to the deal and a lot of technical specifics, but both companies feel they benefited from the deal and are looking forward to implementing the change as early as the beginning part of 2010. Google, however, might have something to say about the deal, as this essentially removes a search competitor from the market and makes it a two-horse race in the very lucrative game of search.

Here’s the basics of the deal and some links to more information:

The main component of the agreement involves search technology. Both Microsoft and Yahoo currently have their own search technology, or engine, that powers both the organic or natural search results and the paid or sponsored listings. Google of course has these technolgies as well. The deal gives Microsoft exclusive rights to Yahoo’s technology and puts Microsoft’s Bing as the driving engine behind all Yahoo search results. You’ll still be able to search on Yahoo just like before, but all the results will say “Powered by Bing”. Microsoft gets this technology for at least 10 years and is paying Yahoo for it.

Yes, this means Yahoo is giving up on search. Their CEO, Carol Bartz, would like us to think that Yahoo will do better if it can concentrate on its online properties like mail, news, sports, etc. It’s expensive to run search and Yahoo is now going to lease it from Microsoft so they don’t have to. With this deal, they’ll be two main choices in engines. Google, who has about a 70% market share, and Bing, which will power Bing, and all Yahoo search properties, with about a 30% market share. Steve Ballmer, the CEO of Microsoft, is considered a genius for pulling off a deal that eliminates a search competitor at a very low cost.
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Facebook Passes 250 Million Users

facebook-logo1Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO and Founder of Facebook, announced about a week ago that the social networking site now has over 250 million users. Just a few months ago, back in April of 2009, Facebook passed 200 million users. The growth of the site is pretty phenomenal and reinforces the fact that Facebook is the #1 social networking site in the world, although in the U.S. MySpace still holds a slight advantage. In the global market however, Facebook is more than twice the size of MySpace and continues to dominate in every category.

To give you an idea of Facebook’s adoption, the U.S. has a population of just over 300 million, and the world has about 6.7 billion people. That means in the U.S., with over 75 million users, 1 in 4 people have a Facebook page, with about half of those logging in each day. Worldwide, Facebook reaches about 4% of the popluation. You can see more Facebook statistics here.

One of the most interesting things about the growth of Facebook was not the fact that it had so many global users, but instead that those aged 35 and up were the fastest growing population of users and responsible for fueling much of the recent gains. That means the older population is embracing Facebook as a networking tool for business beyond simple social connections, which is definitely not the case for MySpace.
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Internet Saves Baseball in New York

empty-yankees-stadiumIn a time of general economic crisis, the Yankee organization has revealed that they are particularly out of touch with their target demographic. This disconnect was made evident by revealing stadium seats that go for an astronomical asking price. To that end, some of the luxury seats go for as much as $2500 a game, and the more “reasonable” seats were advertised as $1000 a game. For many club houses, that would constitute the price for season tickets. Even for a club as popular as the Yankees, there was an inevitable fan backlash to follow in the form of poor ticket sales.

Having to put their tail directly between their legs, team manager Hal Steinbrenner announced that those luxury seats would be reduced in price by almost half, making the seats $1250 and $650 respectively. While it’s a move in the right direction, it still reveals a general lack of understanding as to the demands of the average baseball fan.

Luckily for Yankees fan, Major League Baseball has partnered with Cablevision and YES, the Yankees cable network. This partnership means that Yankee games can now be watched online for a flat registration fee of $49.95 for the remainder of the season or $19.95 for any given 30-day period. This service will officially launch on July 8, 2009.

While the stadium will still be conspicuously empty due to unrealistic ticket prices, at least the Yankees can console themselves with thoughts that all those fans are at home, watching the game on their laptops.
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Redefining Advertising through Social Media

social_mediaAdvertising is undoubtedly one of the primary ways that companies reach out to their customers, but the introduction of social media and online marketing has muddied these once-clear waters. After all, advertising used to be the representation of your company in the most positive light possible. It used to be gimmicks, catch phrases, and limited time promotions.

But with social media, the question becomes whether it’s even beneficial for companies to directly advertise through these venues. Essentially, people believe one of two things about social media advertising. On one side of the debate, people believe it’s beneficial for companies to present themselves through any available channels. And on the other side of this debate, people believe that social media venues are there primarily for people to be sociable. That is to say, they don’t want to be inundated with advertisements and promotions.

The people who take this latter position feel that coming into these new venues with advertisements blazing can actually harm a company image. They feel it alienates these companies from this core demographic, because the companies are simply not playing by the “social media rules.”
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Marketing in an Online Age

online-marketingIt’s becoming increasingly obvious that strategic online marketing is a vital part of successful businesses today. Whether it’s an interactive website, a viral campaign via YouTube, a Facebook page, or a Twitter account, companies are doing whatever it takes to keep up with the changing technology.

But it seems like many companies are falling into the trap of using the innovations of today with the mindset of yesterday. To that end, they might post regular updates to their Twitter account, but there is a line of red tape, approvals, and edits that are undertaken before any of that content hits the internet. Social media and online marketing, however, is all about instant communication. It’s about human interaction, which means for companies the ability to talk on a personal level with their customers.

But by closely censoring, monitoring, tweaking, and tailoring the content in these social venues, nothing appear genuine to the customer (or potential customer). Customers are savvy to when they are reading something that’s been worked over by a professional, and it puts them automatically on alert. We’re trained to basically dismiss anything we hear or see in more traditional forms of marketing such as television commercials, print ads, radio spots, or anything else. Through years of inundation, we’re trained to believe that an advertisement will say anything to get customers interested in the product, even if it’s not true.

But there isn’t that associated jadedness with online marketing (as of yet, anyway). When done right, there is a ring of honesty, truth, humanity, and personality in the messages through these venues. And this is exactly what’s often lacking in much of the generic ad copy created through the more traditional (or “old”) means.
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Trent Reznor Lashes Out Against Twitter

trent-reznorWhile it’s been awhile since Nine Inch Nails was in the public consciousness, front man Trent Reznor has apparently been busy drumming up controversy in the social media arena. Most specifically, Reznor is less than enchanted with Twitter and has made that fact abundantly clear.

Reznor originally utilized his Twitter account to have a venue where he could be, “more off-the-cuff, honest and ‘human.’” But he was quickly inundated with comments and responses to his updates that he found distasteful. This applied particularly to the disclosure of his love life with fiancée Mariqueen Maandig. While Reznor gushed about his newfound love, fans that followed the NIN icon lashed out.

While Reznor used to be known as the out-of-control, counterculture icon, fans found this new, more socially acceptable persona distasteful. While this didn’t prompt Reznor to entirely shut down his Twitter account, he did switch the account to a one-way flow of information. In this way, people can still receive instant NIN-updates, but fans and followers will no longer be privy to the personal messages from Reznor. He has remained adamant that this status won’t change until Twitter changes its blocking policy.

While Reznor might have a valid argument that celebrities are unfairly judged, followed, poked, prodded, and put under a microscope, there’s something a bit unsettling about his particular rant against Twitter. After all, Reznor voluntarily offered personal information through a widely public channel like Twitter. You can’t complain, then, when you receive comments from people within that public channel.
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Layoff Updates in the World of Social Networking

myspace-layoffsWhile layoff rumors abound in this economic climate, there is one company that has been hit particularly hard—MySpace. While they are a household name in social networking, MySpace can’t seem to justify being second best to Facebook—the more rapidly growing and popular of the two networking powerhouses. And the severity of the potential layoffs at MySpace makes that very clear.

The company, after all, has been the center of many speculations regarding their staff. One source used the word “massive” to describe the as of yet unproven layoffs, while a different source actually went so far as to put a number on that generic (albeit frightening) word. This alternate source placed the layoffs at anywhere between 300 and 500 employees.

Many believe these talks and the subsequent actions will help appease the already concerned shareholders. Despite a 2.39% jump in unique visitors during April and a report that puts them ahead of Facebook for videos, MySpace has been steadily losing the battle of social media dominance. And apparently, in today’s climate, that’s simply not good enough to justify a full staff.

Zombies Unite! Social Networking Hits Hollywood

colin-zombie-filmIf someone gave you $70, what would you do? Would you go on a very meager and very short lived shopping spree? Would you purchase a commemorative DVD box set of some kind? Or would you create a full length film that is wowing critics and audiences at Cannes, one of the most prestigious film festivals in the world?

That’s exactly what 30 year old director Marc Price decided to do with his pocket change. His zombie flick “Colin” cost just $70, and that includes every possible expense—the actors, the editing, the directing, the camera equipment, the make up, and everything else required to make a full length film.

But how did Price manage to stay so insanely under budget? Easy. He begged, pleaded, and hyped via the social network. Zombie films, after all, have a very loyal and very specific cult following thanks to films such as “Night of the Living Dead” and the more comedic turn “Shaun of the Dead.”

Price utilized this knowledge to rally fans of the genre through venues such as Facebook and MySpace. By posting the simple query, “Who wants to be a zombie?” they managed to get fifty people in full zombie regalia ready to be a part of the film for nothing other than the fun of it.

But there are lots of filmmakers and other various artists that promote their work on social networking sites and still don’t receive the acclaim and renown enjoyed by Price and his little movie that could. So what was his key to marketing success? Basically, he coupled the power of the social networks with an innovative and high quality product.
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Google Trike to Debut in UK

google-trikeIt’s no surprise that Google has made it its mission to map every part of the world in the most detail possible. Checking out Google Earth and its intensive and detailed satellite imagery will convince anyone of this mission. But Google has expanded its project to provide even more detailed and ground level images with its Street View application.

By driving a car with a camera mount through the world’s roads, Street View is a global mission to map the world’s roads. But it has become immediately apparent that this is problematic in certain parts of the world. While the USA has an abundance of wide streets and developed back roads, other parts of the world have notoriously narrow or non-car friendly streets. Just think of the constricted, cobblestone ways of Rome to get an idea of the issue at hand.

That’s why the Google Trike has made its debut. A bicycle mounted with recording equipment, this can gather the necessary footage even on the roughest terrain or narrowest road.

But the trike is also a way to win over reluctant regions such as the United Kingdom. After all, the UK has been notoriously opposed to Street View, especially after several well publicized incidents with the program. For one, the street level cameras caught the image of a naked child, and then a Street View car was actually stopped and harassed into leaving in a small UK village.
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International Pen Pal Correspondence Just Got Easier

google-translationWhile email has undoubtedly helped people connect with international friends, there is still a divide between people who don’t speak each other’s language. But Gmail and its latest features are currently helping its users bridge this gap.

This is because Gmail, already considered by many to be the most superior of all email providers, has recently announced the addition of translation capabilities. With a single click, Google Translate can convert an email from any language into a host of other languages.

While it won’t quite imbue us with the abilities offered by the fabled Babel Fish (Douglas Adams fans of the world unite!), Google Translate will work well enough for any Gmail user to be able to grasp what an email is saying in another language.

The applications for this feature are particularly useful for businessmen and women of the world, who can now communicate at a reasonable level with existing or prospective clients across the globe.

Interested Gmail users will have to activate this service, however, as Google Translate is a lab.