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September 30, 2004

Google replies to its China news issue

A few days ago, Google explained their position on news in China and the inherent censorship of certain news stories on the Chinese version of Google News.

Google News has also been looked into in the United States because of political bias reports.

Some people seem to think that the Google News algorithm is serving better political play and supportive articles for George W. Bush on searches for “Bush” than they do for John Kerry on searches for well, “Kerry.”

While the US version of Google News is giving results from all sorts of different news services, Google News China is practicing true censorship by excluding non-Government approved (non PRC) news resources.

Coming under fire from various blogs, free speech activists, and non-censored news channels, Google responded yesterday on their own Google Blog:

There has been controversy about our new Google News China edition, specifically regarding which news sources we include. For users inside the People’s Republic of China, we have chosen not to include sources that are inaccessible from within that country.

This was a difficult decision for Google, and we would like to share the factors we considered before taking this course of action.

Although Google News China does not include non-PRC news for those within the People’s Republic of China, Google does however offer non-PRC approved websites for Chinese web searchers on its Google China search engine. Google remarks:

For Internet users in China, Google remains the only major search engine that does not censor any web pages. However, it’s clear that search results deemed to be sensitive for political or other reasons are inaccessible within China.

What does this mean? A searcher in Beijing looking for Falun information may see the search results in Google, and perhaps even a Google cached page, but Chinese government blocks prevent searchers from directly accessing those sites.

More from the Google Blog on their Google News China development and difficult choices:

For last week’s launch of the Chinese-language edition of Google News, we had to decide whether sources that cannot be viewed in China should be included for Google News users inside the PRC.

Naturally, we want to present as broad a range of news sources as possible.

For every edition of Google News, in every language, we attempt to select news sources without regard to political viewpoint or ideology.

For Internet users in China, we had to consider the fact that some sources are entirely blocked. Leaving aside the politics, that presents us with a serious user experience problem.

Google News does not show news stories, but rather links to news stories.

So links to stories published by blocked news sources would not work for users inside the PRC – if they clicked on a headline from a blocked source, they would get an error page.

Source: Google and the Search Engine Journal

Posted by nakul at 02:38 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Vivisimo launches Clusty.com

Search engine upstart Vivisimo is trying to convince people that Google isn't the most efficient way to find things on the Web.

The little-known Pittsburgh company is taking aim at Google and other industry leaders like Yahoo Inc. with a new search engine called Clusty.com, scheduled to debut Thursday after four years of fine tuning.

The search engine's name refers to the clustering technology that Vivisimo has refined to sort search results into different categories related to the initial search request.

For instance, entering "San Francisco" into Clusty.com's search box produces a set of general results at the center of the Web page, with a list of more specific categories, such as "Bay," "Hotel," "Art," "University" and "Giants" featured at the left. Clicking on any of the subgroups delivers a new list of links in the center of the page while still preserving the different groups.

Other search engines, most notably Ask Jeeves Inc.'s Teoma.com, offer similar clustering approaches, but Vivisimo's approach has been hailed as the most sophisticated and user-friendly.

The clustering technology is meant to simplify online search by breaking down results into related categories instead of bunching them in a single listing that can span tens of thousands of links scattered across hundreds of Web pages.

"There is almost too much information on the Internet now," said Vivisimo CEO Raul Valdes-Perez. "We think we have a better way to differentiate the results."

Valdes-Perez's likens Vivisimo's clustering system to a book store that stacks its selections by subject matter or author instead of just scattering all the titles across a sprawling floor.

Vivisimo already has attracted a cult following among the online cognoscenti who use a sample search engine offered on the company's Web site. The site handles about 6 million search requests per month - an amount that Google processes in less than an hour on a typical day.

Despite its low profile, privately held Vivisimo turned profitable two years ago, Valdes-Perez said. The 20-employee company, seeded by a $1 million grant from U.S National Science Foundation, collects most of its revenue from licensing its technology to other Web sites.

Valdes-Perez, along with Vivisimo co-founders Jerome Pesenti and Christopher Palmer, decided the unusual spelling of the company's Web site frustrated visitors and prevented more people from discovering the clustering technology. That inspired the decision to launch a separate search engine under Clusty.com, which is expected to make money by displaying text-based ads common on other search engines.

Naming the new search engine Clusty probably wasn't the best choice, said industry observer Chris Sherman, predicting many people will confuse the site with Krusty the Clown from the TV show, "The Simpsons."

But Sherman does believe Clusty.com's approach will appeal to the widening audience of Web surfers who are becoming more discriminating as Google, Yahoo and Ask Jeeves add more bells and whistles to their own search engines.

"The search engine experience is becoming much richer," said Sherman, editor of Search Day, an industry newsletter. "The big question for (Clusty) is whether it will be able to generate enough buzz to get people to come try it out."

Clusty isn't relying solely on its clustering technology to make its mark. The site also is introducing a feature that offers customized index tabs devoted to Web blogs, or "blogs," online gossip and online auction giant eBay.

Supplanting Google as the Internet's search kingpin won't be easy, partly because the company's name - also once ridiculed as a silly - has become synonymous with looking things up online.

Google controls 36 percent of the Internet search market, trailed by Yahoo at 29 percent, according to the latest data from research firm comScore Networks. Software giant Microsoft Corp. hopes to make the market even more competitive with its own search engine at MSN.com.

Clusty also covers a small slice of the Web compared to the better-known search engines. The site will crawl 5 million to 10 million Web pages and draw upon the indexes of other sources to supplement its results. By comparison, Google crawls 4.3 billion Web pages.

"We don't think it matters if you are crawling 5 million or 5 billion pages because no one looks at more than a handful of the results anyway," Valdes-Perez said.

Source: Forbes

Posted by nakul at 02:35 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Will search engine advertising last until 2010?

Speaking before 100 people gathered for the Emerging Technologies Conference (ETC) at MIT, Eric Brill, a senior researcher at Microsoft, said the monetization model of Internet search technology could be at risk.

Brill said search technology will be a big money maker for Google and others in the short term, but he predicted the trend may not last long.

Brill's comments come on the heels of Google's highly successful IPO last month and bullish Wall Street reports this week that sent Google shares soaring to a high of $127.

"There's tons and tons of money to be made," said Brill. He acknowledged that Microsoft is intent on playing catch up with its own web search engine later this year yet projected that both companies could hit a fiscal wall.

"There are two fears here: The better we get at search, the cheaper the ads are," Brill said. "Another possible problem is it is cheaper and cheaper to build a search engine. It could at some point get commoditized."

His brief -- and targeted -- comments annoyed one ISV who sat on the M.I.T. panel, entitled Next-Generation Search.

"I have to disagree with Microsoft saying search engine is not a formidable task," said Liest Capper, CEO of Australian ISV Mooter, which developed a web search engine that tracks down data based on sophisticated user profiling technology.

The panel included representatives from Mooter and other web search innovators including Blinkx, Nexidia and Dipsie. Blinkx, of London and San Francisco, offers an IE plug-in that provides contextual searches of data stored on local drives and the web.

Nexidia, Atlanta, offers high speed phoenetic searching that is capable of searching data far faster and more accurately than other engines today, company executives said.

Dipsie is an ISV in Chicago whose web crawling and indexing engine will search well beyond the number of web pages Google and Yahoo index today, said Jason Wiener, of Dipsie. He estimated that those two leading search engines scour only 1 percent of all the web pages available on the Internet.

Dipsie's SEO offering will be announced to the market in the coming weeks, he said.

Brill had little to say about Microsoft's next-generation web search technology except that the traditional text-based hunt and peck search would vanish within three years.

"What's wrong is we have document-centric views" of search results, he said. "We're trying to take a more info-centric view of search." The Microsoft researcher, however, avoided a question by the panel moderator on Microsoft's search technology plans for Longhorn.

Microsoft recently acknowledged that it will delay the release of the next generation file system in Longhorn code-named WinFS and will instead offer enhanced and faster searching in the Windows client upgrade due in 2006.

Recently, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer acknowledged that web search -- and corporate data search -- is a big focus for Microsoft. At another event in the Boston area last month, Ballmer pointed to AltaVista as Search Version 1.0, Yahoo as Search Version 2.0 and Google as Search Version 3.0.

Microsoft, he said, will develop a next generation of search technology that would not only allow companies to search the Internet more effectively but search their computer networks, hard drives and e-mail more effectively.

Source: CRN.com

Posted by nakul at 02:33 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 29, 2004

Analysts have difficulty reading Google

With Google's quiet period having ended Tuesday, analysts whose firms took the company public can better evaluate reports and recommendations for investing in the high-flying search company.

But investors will find researchers' predictions of the company's revenue and earnings as wide-ranging as a Google search for "confusion." Analysts say the questions will remain until Google itself points toward some answers.

"Without management guidance, you're going to see more variance in the numbers," said Stephen Jue, an analyst at RBC Capital Markets. "When they report their third-quarter numbers, there's likely going to be a big surprise to the upside or downside."

Google, whose founders indicated in their IPO prospectus that they planned to offer little financial guidance to Wall Street, is expected to earn 26 cents a share for the third quarter on revenues of $452 million, according to a consensus of analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call.

But the range is large. Analysts' estimates vary from a loss of 9 cents a share in the third quarter to a net profit of 37 cents, according to First Call.

Compare that with Google's archrival, Yahoo. Analysts expect Yahoo to report a third-quarter net profit of 8 cents to 10 cents a share, according to First Call. Yahoo, which provides financial guidance to Wall Street, will report its third-quarter results Oct. 12.

"When a company does not provide guidance, it tests the measure of each analyst's work," said David Garrity, an analyst at Caris. "One approach is to size the market opportunity...and translate that into revenues and potential earnings."

Analysts are mixed on whether and to what degree Google's share price could suffer, if it misses analysts' estimates by a wide margin. After all, investors have previously been warned that the company does not plan to issue financial guidance to Wall Street and that it will be positioning the company for long-term growth.

"The stock will get hit equally hard (when compared with those companies that do give financial guidance), and I would not rule out the possibility it could be even more volatile," Garrity said.

Jue, however, said investors are expecting a lot of volatility in the stock, anyway, given that there is a small number of shares outstanding. Google has 271 million shares outstanding, compared to Yahoo's 1.4 billion shares. For Google, every couple million dollars in net income affects its earnings per share by 1 cent, Jue said.

"I think investors will be more forgiving, since Google said they are focusing on their long-term prospects," Jue said.

Issuing a value to Google will be difficult for investors, Heath Terry, a Credit Suisse First Boston analyst noted in his research report.

"Valuation is likely to be the most difficult issue for investors in Google for a variety of reasons, including the lack of transparency, the dual class structure (of the stock) and what is expected to be an unusually wide range of initial analyst estimates," Terry said in his report. Credit Suisse, one of the lead underwriters in the Google offering, initiated coverage on the company Tuesday with an "outperform" and placed a 12-month target on the stock price at $145.

Google traded Tuesday morning at $122.34, up $3.98 a share.

The company is expected to announce its third-quarter results the week of Oct. 18.

Source: C-Net News

Posted by nakul at 02:57 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

SEMPO adds three new board members

A press released was announced today from SEMPO that they have elected three new board members.

"The new SEMPO Advisory Board members are Chris LaSala, the Search Engine Marketing Channel Manager at Google; Neg Norton, the President of the Yellow Pages Integrated Media Association, and Safa Rashtchy; a managing director of Piper Jaffray and well known industry analyst."

In the press release it discusses Danny Sullivan's and Chris Sherman's resignation from sempo and then goes into more detail on the new board members.

SEMPO has made from some widespread discussion in many of the forums. Many of the posts I covered here in the past.

One such thread I did not mention as of yet is a thread named SEMPO Gone To The Dogs? over at SEW forums.

This thread was instrumental in the creation of a mock SEMPO site named SEMPO TAHOE.

The forum members are having a blast with this new site. I then started a thread named Will SEMPO Survive? with a poll that asks the question (not to SEMPO members but to individuals in this industry).

"How Long Will SEMPO Survive?". So far over 50% voted SEMPO Will Close within a Year, 17% said SEMPO Will Close within 3 Years and an other 17% said SEMPO Will Close within 90 days, only 11% so far said SEMPO Will Survive Forever.

This entry comes of way of an entry by Danny at the SEW blog named SEMPO Gets New Advisors & Parody Site.

Source: SEO Roundtable

Posted by nakul at 02:55 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Are Google News biased in any way?

Danny Sullivan posted a thread at SEW forums named News Search & Biases, where he points to an article written at OJR.org named Balancing Act: How News Portals Serve Up Political Stories.

The article discusses how Google News seems to be favoring the conservative papers over the more left-wing, liberal papers. The logic is as follows: Do a search at Google News on Kerry and your likely to see articles that are in opposition to Kerry.

Now do a search on Bush at Google News and you will find news that favors Bush. How is it that Google News, an algorithmic search technology, can be a conservative over a liberal?

The article gives an excellent theory as to the answer to this question.

They quote Ethan Zuckerman, former vice president of Tripod.com and now a fellow at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society, who offers a possible answer to this question.

Basically, he says that the main stream (conservative) papers often, when discussing Kerry, put “Kerry” in the title of the article.

Whereas, the liberal papers do not. In addition, the liberal papers often use Kerry’s full name in the article content and if you do a search on John Kerry as opposed to just Kerry in Google News, you will find more liberal papers discussing Kerry.

Source: Barry Schwartz,
Search Engine Roundtable

Posted by nakul at 02:54 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 23, 2004

Yahoo will acquire Musicmatch for $160 million

Yahoo and Musicmatch have signed a definitive agreement under which Yahoo will acquire Musicmatch for a purchase price of $160 million in cash.

The combination will substantially increase Yahoo’s music reach from 12.9 million to an estimated 23 million listeners . This extensive reach within an active and engaged music audience will make Yahoo! even more compelling for advertisers and record labels.

“Yahoo is committed to being a major player in digital music,” said Terry Semel, chairman and chief executive officer, Yahoo! Inc.

“This combination bolsters our strategy to capture the largest audience of consumers as they make the shift to digital music and supports Yahoo’s goal to give consumers the greatest choice, control and flexibility in how they interact with their music. This acquisition is one of several product innovations and new initiatives in which Yahoo will invest to build our music portfolio this year and in the future.”

Digital music sales are expected to grow rapidly in the near future, particularly with the increasing availability of broadband access. Music subscription sales are expected to grow from $113 million this year to $890 million in 2009, while digital downloads are anticipated to reach $803 million in 2009, compared to $158 million for 2004.

Yahoo is brining on an entire hoopla of music features to their network in this latest aquisition. MusicMatch’s assetts include Musicmatch Jukebox software, which allows consumers to play, burn, download, discover, and organize an entire music collection.

The online Musicmatch Radio network, which offers free and premium streaming access to more than 900,000 songs and more than 200 pre-programmed stations; and the Musicmatch Music Store a la carte song download service, which offers access to more than 700,000 tracks.

Most recently, the company introduced the Musicmatch On Demand streaming music subscription service, providing unlimited access to more than 700,000 songs from any computer as well as legal music sharing through its innovative “Send to a Friend” feature.

Source: Yahoo

Posted by nakul at 02:29 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 22, 2004

Search engine marketing for smaller retailers

Unreal Marketing Solutions thinks small e-tailers have to keep it real when it comes to search engine marketing.

That fact is a prime reason why the company is to launch a new hosted service designed specifically for small catalogers, chains and business-to-consumer e-commerce sites.

The service, which Unreal Marketing, a Philadelphia-based search engine marketing and interactive advertising agency, plans to launch later this year or in early 2005, will include software for reviewing, extracting and indexing products, indexing into search engines, and centralized reporting.

Pricing has yet to be determined for the paid inclusion portion, but will be less than the rate for larger retailers, which ranges from 35 cents per word to $3 and in different merchandising categories, says Unreal Marketing CEO Michael Stalbaum.

"Research we’ve seen indicates that almost 100% of small businesses see a web marketing presence as critical and 40% see search engine marketing as an important tool to drive traffic and convert sales," Stalbaum says. "There are a lot of small retailers who need these kinds of services now."

Unreal Marketing Solutions is a full-service interactive agency specializing in search engine optimization and online media. The company`s search engine marketing services, which include paid inclusion, natural optimization, paid listings management and keyword buying, are utilized by a number of Internet and multi-channel retailers such as Foot Locker, L`Oreal USA, and Artbeads.com.

Source: Internet Retailer.com

Posted by nakul at 02:28 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 21, 2004

Potential lawsuit to hit Google news site

Google went ahead with its news website, despite threats of legal action and allegations by local media of copyright infringement.

The controversies arose after the launch of Google's Hong Kong news on Thursday. The website for Hong Kong news cites news summaries and uses photos from local Chinese language media, including newspaper, radio and television, and provides hyperlinks to their websites.

In its own news report yesterday, Ming Pao said it had issued a letter through lawyers to ask that the US search engine giant stop such practices. Ming Pao said Google had not sought consent from the newspaper before using its news summaries, which it said might infringe copyright.

The head of RTHK's corporation communications unit, Sze Wing-yuen, said the government radio station would ask Google not to use its news until "the matter was cleared up". "We have to strike a balance between copyright and public interest," Mr Sze said.

The chief editor of Sing Tao electronic daily, Raymond Chan Wai-man, warned of "follow-up actions".

Google has been trading on Nasdaq since last month. Its stock rose 18 per cent above its initial public offering price on its debut on August 19, ending just above US$100 a share.

Kevin Pun Kwok-hung, associate professor in computer science and law at the University of Hong Kong, warned that Google might infringe copyright if the news summaries were detailed enough to make the material "copyrightable".

"There is a possibility of criminal liability under the Copyright Ordinance if a reproduction is carried out for commercial purposes and the party knows that it is an infringement of copyright," said Dr Pun, who specialises in information technology law.

The Customs and Excise Department said yesterday it would investigate if it received any complaints of piracy.

In a telephone interview yesterday, a spokeswoman for Google in the US, Debbie Frost, said: "We are a law-abiding company. We feel that if publishers do not want to be included in Google news for whatever reasons, they can always come to us and we can take them out.

"We are very respectful of their rights ... [But] we have no plans to do that [suspend the website]."

Ms Frost refused to comment on the legal issues but described Google's news service as a "digital newsstand".

"When you go to a newsstand, there are hundreds of newspapers and you are looking at the headlines and find out which one you want to read and to buy," she said.

"People read the headlines on Google and choose which website they want to visit. After you click on the link, you will be immediately taken to the website of a publisher. The information is not on Google but is on the publisher's website. Our role is to help you to find the website."

It was "very rare" for publishers to ask to be removed from the Google website, which she said was a convenient vehicle to channel readers to their websites.

"What we found over the past two years since we launched Google news is that publishers tend to like that and they can benefit from the extra traffic provided by Google," she said.

Source: Asia Media

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September 20, 2004

Fidelity Investments bought $549 mln of Google's shares

Fidelity Investments, the world's largest mutual funds manager, bought $549 million of stock in Internet search engine Google, about 23 percent of the shares sold in the company's IPO in August.

Boston-based Fidelity reported in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that it holds 5.21 million Google Class A shares. That's about 16 percent of Class A stock and 1.9 percent of Google's total shares outstanding.

Yesterday, CBS MarketWatch reported that Fidelity had originally bought 15.5 percent of Google stock.

Google, owner of the world's most-used Web search engine, and some of its early investors raised $1.92 billion in an initial public offering last month. Fidelity's bet on Mountain View, California-based Google could persuade other investors to buy the stock, analyst David Garrity said.

``Fidelity obviously got to their size by being relatively astute investors,'' said Garrity, an analyst with Caris & Co. in New York. ``You can't ignore that.'' Garrity rates Google shares ``average'' and doesn't own the stock personally.

Google shares today rose $3.02 to $105.33 at 3:59 p.m. New York time in Nasdaq Stock Market composite trading. The stock has risen 24 percent since the IPO.

Fidelity spokesman Adam Banker and Google spokesman David Krane declined to comment.

Google sold 19.6 million Class A shares for $85 each, raising $1.67 billion in the IPO, which was distributed through an Internet-based auction. The process was designed to give individual investors a chance to buy at the same time as institutions like Fidelity. Google then sold another 2.94 million shares to its underwriters, led by Morgan Stanley and Credit Suisse First Boston, bringing the total raised to $1.92 billion.

Google has 33.6 million Class A shares and another 237.6 million Class B shares. The company's 31-year-old co- founders, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, and other early investors hold Class B stock, which carry 10 votes per share in company elections. The Class A shares get one vote each.

The Fidelity Growth Company Fund owns 1.83 million Google shares, the filing stated. They were worth about $192.8 million at today's close. The filing didn't say what funds hold the rest of Fidelity's stake.

The Google stake is a relatively small investment for the $21.7 billion Fidelity Growth Company Fund, said Christopher Traulsen, an analyst with research firm Morningstar Inc. in Chicago. About 0.9 percent of the fund is now invested in Google stock, Traulsen said.

The Fidelity Growth Company Fund, managed by Steven Wymer, tends to place bigger bets on technology companies than most large- cap stock funds.

The fund had 33 percent of its holdings in information technology stocks on June 30, the most recent data released by the company. The Russell 3000 Growth Index had 28 percent in those types of stocks.

The fund's top holdings, as of June 30, included Microsoft Corp., Network Appliance Inc., Qualcomm Inc. and Red Hat Inc.

Wymer, who has managed the fund since January 1997 and has been with Fidelity for 15 years, is ``willing to be aggressive in the pursuit of growth if you look at the technology weighting,'' Traulsen said.

Wymer typically holds some companies like Google ``that are maybe younger and offer more rapid growth potential than some of the big names he owns at the top of the portfolio,'' Traulsen said.

Google earned $143 million, or 54 cents a share, in the first half of this year, more than doubling its net income of $58 million, or 23 cents, in the year-earlier period. Revenue more than doubled to $1.35 billion.

Internet Search Companies
The Fidelity Growth Company Fund has a 1.9 percent return in the last 12 months, ranking behind 72 percent of similarly managed funds, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Over five years, it has averaged an annual loss of 2.8 percent, placing it ahead of more than half its peers, the data show.

Fidelity's investment in Google could help boost the stocks of other Internet search companies, including Yahoo! Inc. and Ask Jeeves Inc., Caris's Garrity said.

Google generates most of its revenue by selling small text advertisements that appear above or next to Internet search results.

Fidelity's investment shows that among institutional investors ``there's a lot of confidence in the growth potential of online paid search,'' Garrity said.

Fidelity also owned about 7.9 percent of Sunnyvale, California-based Yahoo's stock as of June, according to Bloomberg data.

The mutual fund company could help support Google's share price over the next five months if it buys more stock that will come on the market, Soleil Securities Corp. analyst Laura Martin said.

Employees and early investors are restricted from selling some stock they received before the IPO for as long as 180 days after the offering. The first so-called lock-up agreement ended Sept. 2, allowing insiders to sell 4.67 million. The next lock-up expires Nov. 16. It will allow another 39.1 million Google shares to be sold.

That could potentially more than double the number of Google shares on the market, causing the price to fall, analysts including Mark Mahaney of American Technology Research in San Francisco have said.

Source: Bloomberg.com

Posted by nakul at 06:28 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 19, 2004

FMR holds 15.5% of Google class A stock

The parent company of mutual-fund giant Fidelity Investments, FMR, holds 15.5 percent of Google's Class A stock, according to a filing with the SEC.

FMR said it owned more than 5.2 million shares of the Internet search engine's stock as of Aug. 31.

The Fidelity Growth Company fund (FDGRX: news, chart, profile) owned 5.4 percent of the shares at the end of the month.

Mountain View, Calif.-based Google (GOOG: news, chart, profile) made its widely-anticipated public debut on Aug. 19.

Google stock ended Friday's session up $3.02, or 3 percent, at $105.33.

Source: CBS Marketwatch

Posted by nakul at 06:27 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 18, 2004

ThomasB2B launches new online advertising network

ThomasB2B.com will launch a new online advertising network which is based after similar ones from the likes of Yahoo's Overture and Google, but which differs in two key aspects.

First, it is focused exclusively on the business-to-business market; and second, it matches ads with search queries and content through predefined categories, not keywords.

As in the case of the Overture and Google ad networks, ThomasB2B.com advertisers build text-based ads with links to their Web sites. These ads, in turn, run on Web sites that participate in the ad network. Whenever a Web surfer visits an ad network Web site and conducts a search or calls up a page, ads that are contextually related to the topic of the search or the page are served up.

Following the Overture and Google models, a ThomasB2B advertiser decides how much it is going to pay each time someone clicks on its ad to go to its Web site, a model known as pay-per-click. This amount of money in turn determines which position that ad occupies when it runs, in relation to other ads. The more an advertiser pays, the higher the ad runs, a method commonly known as bid-for-position. Minimum bids are $0.25 per click.

However, by focusing only on the business-to-business market -- in other words, on companies looking to sell their products and services to other companies -- the ThomasB2B.com network has a narrower focus than the Google and Overture networks.

What ThomasB2B.com may miss in amplitude of scope, it hopes to make up for in the depth it expects to gain in the business-to-business segment, said Dan Savage, ThomasB2B.com's president and chief executive officer.

"We believe we're entering the era of specialized online advertising networks," Savage said. This development is comparable to the emergence of trade magazines, which cater to advertisers that find little value in marketing themselves through general-interest magazines, he said. "It's the beginning of a growing field."

More significantly, ThomasB2B.com has devised a taxonomy for matching ads with searches and content that eschews the common keyword approach, where for example ads about baseball would be served in pages and searches containing related keywords such as "bats," "world series" and "gloves."

Instead, ThomasB2B.com has its advertisers tie their ads to predefined business categories, which the company believes eliminates a common problem with the keyword method, in which a keyword's multiple definitions could result in an ad for, say, a baseball glove appearing in a page about winter gloves. "The problem with keywords is that words can mean many things," Savage said.

With the ThomasB2B.com category-based approach, an advertiser can be very granular and specific about the context of its ad. For example, ThomasB2B.com has over 100 categories for paper, including tissue paper, blueprinting paper or cigarette paper. There are about 10,000 categories in the ThomasB2B.com ad network.

ThomasB2B.com has a sophisticated query processor that takes natural-language search queries from affiliates and comes up with a category match, Savage said. The system to match ads to content on pages is still in development, he said.

Currently, ThomasB2B.com has signed about 10 sites for its network, but expects that number to grow to about 200 by the end of this year, Savage said.

At the ThomasB2B.com site (http://www.thomasb2b.com), corporate buyers can search for suppliers of products and services in seven different languages and find business directory listings on companies from 29 countries. These listings come from one of its owners: Thomas Publishing Co.'s Thomas Global Register Directory. The other partner in the ThomasB2B.com joint venture is FindWhat.com.

Source: Info World

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September 17, 2004

America Online to launch shopping search engine

America Online (AOL) will introduce a new shopping search engine called In-Store.com to go with the company's improved shopping section.

It will be AOL's first offering to consumers who want to research products side by side before buying. As a result, comparison shopping websites and search engines such as Yahoo Shopping, Google's Froogle, MySimon, BizRate and Shopping.com are about to face some new competition from an old online player.

An AOL spokesman would not comment on the impending announcement, but AOL executives who spoke on condition of anonymity said the new service had been in development for 18 months and would be accompanied by considerable promotion to AOL members, starting next week. "We've done a lot of heavy work to get back in the game," one executive said.

Analysts said it was too early to say whether AOL's new offering would have a meaningful financial impact this year. Other portals with shopping comparison features do not break out separate revenue figures for those features, but Shopping.com, which this spring registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission to offer shares to the public, said in its filing documents that it had earned $7 million last year on revenues of $67 million.

Consumers have yet to fully embrace comparison shopping. Only about 10 percent of online consumers visited a comparison site during last year's holiday season, and most of those people were shopping for consumer electronics, according to Patti Freeman Evans, an analyst with Jupiter Research. But the sites have enjoyed fairly strong momentum in the last year. The number of visits increased 13 percent over the previous year, according to comScore MediaMetrix, an Internet statistics firm.

The new shopping category also represents a shift in how AOL operates with advertisers, company executives and analysts said. Instead of charging advertisers on the basis of how many thousands of people view an ad, as it has in the past, AOL will collect a fee each time someone clicks on an ad.

In-Store will include elements of both a traditional online shopping mall, with an array of products and featured merchants, and a comparison shopping engine, which allows users to select attributes of, say, digital cameras, then choose from a short list of products that fit the bill.

Shoppers also can click to select a product category. On each page, a drop-down box called "Pinpoint Shopping" will help shoppers narrow a universe of more than 45,000 online sellers with combined inventories of 25 million items.

For instance, digital camera shoppers can narrow the field of 1,407 products by selecting the camera's resolution, zoom settings and price, among other attributes. Thus, when searching for a camera below $340 with resolution of at least 3.0 megapixels and zoom capabilities up to 3x, the search narrows to three cameras. For consumers who are unfamiliar with a particular merchant, the site will display customer ratings.

Shoppers can test a version of Pinpoint Shopping now, at PinpointShopping.com. The site also allows AOL members to save products to a single Web page, so they can compare them side by side or simply build a wish list - a feature that will be available to non-AOL users when In-Store rolls out.

In-Store.com will also automatically show repeat visitors a list of their most frequently visited stores, and users of AOL's instant messenger will be able to view products together and chat about them. Shoppers will also have the option of requesting e-mail alerts when prices on specified products reach a certain threshold.

According to Ms. Freeman Evans, who previewed an early version of In-Store, the new service "is a good first step."

"It's become the standard among portals," she said, "to have comparison shopping features, so they're catching up in the game."

Indeed, last year Yahoo started an aggressive counterattack against specialty shopping sites like Shopping.com, BizRate.com, PriceGrabber.com and NexTag, which were threatening to steal momentum from Yahoo Shopping. Google's entrance into the shopping category last year, with its Froogle service, also signaled its intention of competing with Yahoo on several fronts.

In the face of that competition, Yahoo introduced a handful of new features intended to help customers simplify their online shopping tasks, including a price-alert function, along with a service allowing users to save products they are considering.

Shopping.com, meanwhile, is quietly introducing a promotion in which it offers $10 rebates for purchases from certain merchants. According to Sarah Leary, Shopping.com's vice president for product marketing, the company is offering the rebate with about a dozen merchants, and will expand it to include "hundreds of merchants" later this month.

Sites like BizRate.com, Shopping.com and PriceGrabber.com have expanded the roster of merchants that they can search on behalf of buyers, in hopes that apparel shoppers, car buyers and others will also look to them for help. More shoppers means more revenue for the shopping sites from merchants, who typically pay a fee ranging from a few pennies to 50 cents or more every time someone clicks on their product.

Although AOL's entry could mean fewer customers for other sites, at least one company, BizRate.com, stands to benefit. According to Chuck Davis, chief executive, his company largely developed the Pinpoint Shopping function for AOL in exchange for a share of revenue when customers click on a merchant's product. He declined to say what that share was.

"This category is still in the second inning," Mr. Davis said. "So this partnership, I think, will help grow the category, and grow BizRate."

The new service will also turn from the cost-per-click approach that has dominated in recent years, thanks to the growth of Google's search advertisement program and that of Yahoo's Overture unit.

Now, retailers can avoid committing to, say, a banner ad on the home page or in the apparel category for a year, and can instead negotiate for the right to have their ad appear for limited time during peak shopping seasons. With enough merchants, AOL claims that its overall revenue will not suffer. Those advertisers will also be given the chance to swap out their ads on short notice if they are not performing well, AOL executives said.

To attract more merchant revenue, both from featured advertisers and from smaller merchants who appear in the shopping search results, AOL is making the service available to non-AOL members.

Ms. Freeman Evans, the Jupiter analyst, said: "This is a much more reasonable approach for AOL. It's basically brings them in line with the industry standard, so I can see them getting good traction with advertisers - especially because retailers want access to the AOL customer."

Indeed, while AOL has seen its subscriber base erode from a peak of 26.7 million in September 2002 to to 23.4 million last June as more users gravitate toward high-speed Internet services, retailers still covet the service's customers, because they tend to be more avid online shoppers than non-AOL users.

According to a March report by comScore, AOL members spent more than $15 billion online in the previous year - roughly 25 percent of overall online spending. And Ms. Freeman Evans said that more than two-thirds of AOL's members shopped online.

"That's a pretty high penetration," she said. "So it means a lot for AOL to enhance its shopping environment, which in the past was really not so great."

Source: NY Times

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September 16, 2004

Blog analytics and search engines

Intelliseek launches the first of its blog-analytics applications built on top of its BlogPluse analysis service.

Dubbed "Campaign Radar 2004", no doubt to coincide with this year's US presidential election, the software aims to track political buzz, trends and insights on popular blog sites.

Blogs, slang for Web logs, are diaries or journals published and shared by users online. The content posted in blogs usually contains "word of mouth" opinion and viewpoints on various topics.

Radar 2004 is being offered as a free Web service that draws on Intelliseek's BlogPlulse software which tracks over two million blogs per day. BlogPulse was launched in May this year to showcase Intelliseek's blog analysis competency. It analyzes and ranks key issues and phrases posted in blog content.

The new service will provide a daily list of hot topics and issues as well as two daily trend graphs (via the Blogsphere Campaign Radar) - one tracking the presidential candidates and the other campaign issues like the Iraq war and the economy.

Blogs represent one of the fastest growing areas of new content on the Internet. Companies, particularly marketing departments, are now looking to tap into blogs as an additional source of market intelligence.

"Bloggers serve as a form of early radar on key issues and trends," said Pete Blackshaw, CEO of Cincinnati-based Intelliseek.

Source: Computer Business Review

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September 15, 2004

BlowSearch adds multi-language search functionality

BlowSearch will provide users with the ability to obtain search results in Spanish, Danish, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Norwegian, Portuguese and Swedish.

Users simply have to enter a search term in a language other than English and BlowSearch will automatically provide results in that language.

In addition, users can set preferences that direct BlowSearch to search in a specific language. The Multi-Language search tool also offers adult filtering, spelling correction and the ability to highlight query terms in search results.

"As developers of online tools, we have to recognize the fact that the Internet transcends borders and languages.

It has a culture all its own," said Richard Kahn, chief operating officer of BlowSearch. "If you don't offer your online product in multiple languages, you're turning away potential customers."

BlowSearch's Multi-Language search is the most recent addition to BlowSearch's family of Internet tools.

BlowSearch also offers a proprietary Meta PPC search engine and the BlowSearch Toolbar, an application that runs within a Web browser.

The BlowSearch Toolbar provides access to BlowSearch services such as weather, a live ABC News feed and pop-up blocking, while visiting any site on the Internet.

Source: TMC Net

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September 14, 2004

Search marketers worry about Google and Yahoo

As various search engines offer analysis into the ROI and performance of marketers' keyword ad campaigns, some search marketers worry Google and Yahoo can obtain too much sensitive information about advertisers' businesses.

Last month, a customer questionnaire from Yahoo's Overture Services paid search unit ignited concern regarding its suggestion of a subscription program that would give insight into competitors' marketing tactics, including price per click, ad budgets and conversion information.

"We do not currently have any plans to use our conversion data for other purposes," said Gaude Paez, an Overture spokeswoman. "We're not planning on using the conversion data we get from advertisers and putting it into reports."

While many privacy advocates have raised issues related to search engines' access to consumer information, some marketers warn that search engines have access to a vast trove of sensitive business data. The idea of sharing sales information with marketing companies that also serve competitors leaves some marketers uneasy.

"The fact of the matter is Google and Overture already have more information than the average person wants them to have," said Lisa Wehr, president of Suttons Bay, MI, search engine marketing firm Oneupweb, which runs paid listings campaigns on Google and Overture. "I don't think most marketers understand the impact of how they can predict their businesses."

Many sophisticated marketers turn to search marketing firms and third-party tools to manage and measure their keyword campaigns. Google and Overture offer free tools for measuring how paid search ads in their network convert to sales.

These tools, geared to the tens of thousands of small and midsize paid search advertisers, work through the insertion of a tracking pixel on their confirmation page to record when a lead converts. The marketer is provided valuable sales data on its keyword campaign, but the data also go to the search provider.

Neither Overture nor Google would say how many marketers use their conversion tools.

Joshua Stylman, managing partner of New York search marketing firm Reprise Media, said conversion tools are very helpful for small marketers, who too often track their search campaigns only by clicks. However, search engines could easily use sales information to raise prices on high-performing keywords, he warned.

"We're relying essentially on finding inefficiencies in the market and exploiting them," he said. "Once those inefficiencies become visible, they're not as valuable."

Terms and conditions for advertisers posted on Google's and Overture's Web sites give the search providers the right to use advertiser information, including conversion data, on an aggregate basis.

Stylman said the differentiation between individual and aggregate data is not that important. For example, a list of keywords with a high conversion rate but low bid price for the mortgage industry would be just as valuable as those for a particular company.

"We see an inherent conflict in the person that owns the inventory having full visibility into the performance data," he said.

Paez said Overture does not use conversion data in pitching clients through its own sales force or for its keyword suggestion tool. She said Overture uses conversion data to develop new advertising products, such as its new keyword matching options.

A Google spokesman said the company uses aggregated conversion data for "general quality and business-related analyses." Its Smart Pricing effort to normalize pricing on keywords that convert differently adjusts click prices on Google's content listings based on several factors, including how well they convert.

Other search marketers say they do not think the data funneled through Overture and Google are a concern, because any misuse would alienate their advertiser base.

"Ultimately, their open auction model determines their fortunes," said Fredrick Marckini, chief executive of iProspect, a Watertown, MA, search marketing firm.

The need to gauge return on investment for search marketing is likely to grow, according to Jupiter Research. It is also likely to lead to more demand for conversion tools. Jupiter Research expects rising click prices will force more marketers to focus on wringing efficiencies from their search campaigns. A Jupiter Research survey found less than half of marketers use sales data to measure the success of their search campaigns.

"The whole point of increasing your efficiency, as a marketer, is to earn more money and get better margins," said Nate Elliott, a Jupiter Research analyst. "If you let the media sellers know how efficient you are, they can just raise prices on you and take away all the benefits from that work you've done."

Source: DM News

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September 13, 2004

Google still hiring engineers

Google has long prided itself on its extensive talent base of engineers, computer scientists and mathematicians who work with complex search algorithms for retreiving Web pages on the Internet.

You can’t miss the three new 50-foot-wide beige banners hanging from the ceiling of the Harvard Square subway station. But you may need a Massachusetts Institute of Technology degree to have the foggiest idea what they mean.

“(First 10-digit prime found in consecutive digits of e).com,” is all the banners say.

It may take a few seconds for commuters to realize there’s a math question being asked here. But T riders passing through this stop in the shadow of Harvard University may be more likely than average Bostonians to recognize “e” as an important irrational number — kind of a distant cousin of pi — widely used in calculus and other higher mathematics.

Rosemarie Yevich, an atmospheric chemistry researcher at Harvard who passed under the banners on her way to work Wednesday afternoon, was intrigued and planned to ask her daughter, Helen, a Harvard sophomore studying applied mathematics, what the expression meant.

“Either that, or I thought I’d check where I could find the answer. I thought I’d Google it,” Yevich said.

Instead, Yevich was delighted to learn from a reporter that Google itself is behind the ad. And because an earlier version began appearing on a billboard next to Highway 101 in California’s Silicon Valley in July, now you can use Google — as well as search engines like MSN.com, Yahoo.com, and Lycos.com — to search a variety of weblogs and Internet sites where the math challenge in the oddball ad campaign is discussed.

However, anyone who solves the puzzle (by combining the first 10-digit prime found in consecutive digits of e with “.com” and entering it into a Web browser) discovers that the website named for the solution, www.7427466391.com, only gives you directions to another website with another vexing math problem. Solve that, and you get to an internal Google page that praises “your big, magnificent brain” and invites you to apply for a job.

As long ago as the heyday of Wang Laboratories and IBM, big high-tech companies have often used mass-market media to communicate messages that only ultra-geeks can understand — and can feel proud they do.

“This Google ad works on a micro level, and it works on a macro level,” said Fritz Kuhn, a senior vice president of Boston advertising firm Hill, Holliday. “The target-audience people who are going to see it are going to say, ’That is my language, that is directed at me.’ For the rest of us, it just burnishes the image of Google: I can’t work there, but, wow, those guys are smart.”

Google, based in Mountain View, Calif., isn’t talking about the ads. But MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo said the banners went up late last week and will hang for a month.

“The limit to our growth is our ability to get the best talent on the planet and get them working on the toughest computing problems around,” Google engineering vice president Wayne Rosing said in a Reuters interview earlier this year.

E — formally known as the base of the natural logarithm — begins 2.718281828 and goes on forever. An indication of how much Google brainiacs love e: When they filed for their initial public stock offering, they put down as $2,718,281,828 the amount they hoped to raise.

The dull, mathematically dense banners seemed to attract few eyeballs Wednesday.

“It’s a good idea, but I think they’re going to miss an awful lot of people who don’t even want to look at it,” said Clare Putnam, 41, of Somerville, student program coordinator at Harvard’s Weatherhead Center for International Affairs.

Ed Arnold, 31, of Watertown, a drummer with the band Amun Ka, had no idea what the banner meant until a reporter explained it. But then Arnold said: “Advertising is all about targeting who you want to get. If they’re trying to get very intelligent mathematicians, that’s the way to go.”

Source: Express India and the NY Times

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September 12, 2004

Apprentice Web site hosted by Yahoo

Yahoo announces that it will produce, host and sell advertising for the "Apprentice" website, the reality TV show in which participants battle for a job working for Donald Trump.

Under the agreement with Mark Burnett Productions, producer of the show, Yahoo will host the site and manage all online advertising during the program's second season, which is slated to kick off on NBC on Thursday night, and its third season. The site went live earlier Thursday. During the first season of the show, NBC relied on a site it hosted itself.

Yahoo said advertising campaigns on the "Apprentice" site will include paid sponsorships, broadband video ads and banner ads.

The announcement is an extension of a previously announced deal between the two companies, whereby Yahoo is running "Apprentice"-related promotions across its HotJobs career site, including a special site for Trump wannabes hoping to apply for future seasons of the show.

The Internet portal said it will feature additional "Apprentice" content throughout its network of sites and hinted that it will announce other collaborations with Mark Burnett Productions, which also produces "Survivor" and "The Restaurant."

The "Apprentice" content will span six of Yahoo's Web offerings: Yahoo TV, Yahoo Messenger, HotJobs, Yahoo Search, Yahoo Finance and the company's Launch music portal.

"We chose to work with Yahoo because of its tremendous reach on the Internet, as well as its ability to develop a comprehensive and entertaining user experience," Mark Burnett said in a statement.

Each week, the "Apprentice" site will offer roughly 40 minutes of video footage not shown in the TV episodes but rather edited specifically for online audiences.

Yahoo said the content will include scenes of various tasks that contestants are given in order to prove their professional value to Trump and his assistants. Other site features will include a tour of the candidates' residence in Trump International Hotel & Tower, contestant bios and episode recaps.

In addition, one of the series' most notorious participants, Web entrepreneur Sam Solovey, who crashed and burned quickly during the show's first season, will pen a weekly column with play-by-play commentary of the show.

Yahoo has also extended the "Apprentice" theme to its instant-messenging software, creating a custom background for the application, as well as an audio clip of Trump's ubiquitous "You're fired" catch phrase for subscribers to direct at one another.

NBC says an average of 20.7 million people watched each week of the show's first season, which ended earlier this year.

It also estimates that 40.1 million viewers watched some of the show's finale. The broadcasting company has labeled "Apprentice" its best-performing new series in the last five years.

Source: C-Net News

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September 11, 2004

Yahoo to begin testing FareChase

Yahoo said it would begin testing a travel price comparison search engine called FareChase, as it further integrates Web search services into its offerings.

Available as a test to the general public as of Tuesday night, the site (http://yahoo.farechase.com) helps users find and buy flights on various airlines including America West, American Airlines, Delta Airlines and JetBlue.

The site also offers hotel room and car rental bookings.

Yahoo said it would collect user feedback for further development of FareChase.

Sunnyvale, California-based Yahoo last year spent $1 billion acquiring Web search technology to take on industry leader Google and future rival Microsoft Corp.

Yahoo has since been integrating its search technology in various sections of its site, including shopping and autos.

Upstart travel search sites such as SideStep and Mobissimo, which is also in testing, have recently sprung up to challenge established industry players like Orbitz and Priceline.com

Source: Yahoo

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September 10, 2004

Google's Browse by Name feature

Google's latest update of its toolbar includes a Browse by Keyword feature.

Looks like Google is trying to assure placement within the browser one step at a time. The latest update of the Google toolbar includes “browse by keyword,” meaning if I type in “how do I kill this hangover” into my IE URL field, I will get Google resutls for the response.


Keyword browser searches are not new, and most PC’s defulat with a partner for this function (HP/Compaq and Yahoo for example), however, Google adding it to the toolbar only kicks up the steam of the search browser wars.

SlashDot reports “The newest release of the Google Toolbar (Internet Explorer only) comes with a Browse by Name feature. It lets you enter keywords in the browser address bar, and when Google decides this is a sure bet you will be directly forwarded to the right page. Is this the return of Internet Keywords?”

Google toolbar seems to serve the number one most relevant site for this function. I would do otherwise, serving Google search engine results along with Google AdWords ads to further distribute the Google SERPS to users.

Source: Search Engine Journal

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September 09, 2004

Harris Interactive acquires WirthlinWorldwide

Harris Interactive has acquired WirthlinWorldwide, a privately held opinion research and strategic consulting firm, headquartered in Reston, VA.

The deal was completed with a combination of stock and cash valued at $41.8 million, and will add $50 million in annual revenue and 300 new clients to Harris Interactive. The combined firm will have over 1,000 employees and is expected to generate $210 to $215 million in revenue this fiscal year.

"I’m excited about the deep, consultative and strategic relationships WirthlinWorldwide has built with their clients. By joining forces, we can now introduce the added benefits of online research to the executives of 300 more companies," commented Robert E. Knapp, CEO of Harris Interactive.

"This combination expands our portfolio of products and services and injects a significant amount of intellectual capital into our organization. We are well on our way to achieving our goal of becoming a $500 million strategic market research firm in the next five years," Knapp continued.

"For over 40 years, I have been passionate about helping our clients build measurable value. With this merger, we can now arm clients with a broader and more powerful suite of world class research tools. The entire WirthlinWorldwide team believes the combined firm will be a significant force in the marketplace," said Dr. Richard B. Wirthlin, founder of WirthlinWorldwide.

"We have been approached by many suitors through the years, but none rivaled the Harris Interactive combination of intellect and innovation. They are true world leaders in online research," Wirthlin concluded.

Source: Harris Interactive

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September 08, 2004

Overture introduces Budget Smoothing

Starting in October, Overture will be introducing "Budget smoothing", a new feature in which its system makes adjustments to the frequency in search listings that are displayed based on the depletion of a specified budget.

For example, if you have budgeted €100,00 a day, our system will display your listings just enough so that you receive clicks that will total approximately €100,00 for the day.

The smoothing feature also regulates the display of your listings so that you receive clicks throughout the day, rather than burning through your budgeted amount in just a few hours.

Note that listings will be taken offline temporarily when our system identifies that you have reached your budget for a particular period.

Display of your listings will be automatically resumed when the system recognises that your budget will permit more click charges.

At all times, your click charges will equal €0.01more than the max bid of your next lowest active (online) competitor.

Overture has modified its Advertiser Terms & Conditions to reflect the above changes. We strongly suggest you review the new version of our T&Cs as your continued use of Overture constitutes acceptance of the modified Advertiser Terms & Conditions.

However, if you choose to discontinue listing with Overture under these terms, please note that Overture has the right to close your account as we are not able to continue offering our service under the old Terms and Conditions.

Source: Overture / Germany

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September 07, 2004

30% of online visits come from search engines

More than 30.3 percent of U.S. visits to music retail websites in July 2004 resulted directly from search-engines.

According to a new report from Hitwise, the world's leading online competitive intelligence service, this high rate of search-driven music shopping compares with 19.2 percent for the overall retail category. July 2004 visits to music retailers from search engines and directories have grown by 49.0 percent versus the same period a year ago.

"Search engines have long played a vital role in helping consumers navigate the Internet, however they now are playing a monumental role in connecting music fans with music retailers," said Bill Tancer, vice president of research, Hitwise.

"For music shoppers, search engines and directories offer an effective and comprehensive means for locating music products and seeking the best deals. For the music retailers, a major new customer-acquisition platform has arrived.

And with the increasing popularity of the Internet for music distribution and listening, retailers have no choice but to engage it."


Highlights of the August 2004 Hitwise Online Music Report (All findings based on July 2004 monthly data unless noted otherwise):

-- Among the top 100 search terms, 50 percent of search queries that resulted in visits to the Hitwise Music retail category were brand related (i.e. "bmgmusic"); 21 percent were navigational (included a URL, i.e., "www.columbiahouse.com"); and 29 percent were generic in nature (associated keywords, i.e., "music downloads").

-- Over 53 percent of search queries resulting in visits to music retailer sites consisted of three or more words, compared to 48 percent for overall online retailers (for the 4 weeks ending June 19, 2004). According to Tancer this demonstrates that online music shoppers tend to more specific in their search goals.

-- Within the music-retail genre, download sites increased 20.6 percent in market share of U.S. visits during the period of January 2004 to July 2004, while traditional music retailers lost market share at a rate of 9.1 percent. Nonetheless, as of July 2004, traditional music retailers captured 3.9 times the amount of US visits than music download sites.

-- The predominant demographic of visitors to online music retail sites is between 25-44 years of age and earning a household income of $30,000 to $60,000. While females represent 49 percent of all visitors to the retail-music category, women are heavily represented on several major music catalogue sites: www.bmgmusic.com (60 percent) and www.columbiahouse.com (58 percent).

-- Sony promoted its new music download service Sony Connect (www.connect.com) through a joint promotion with McDonald's. As a result, Connect's market share of U.S. visits skyrocketed 1,426 percent (week ending May 29 compared to week ending June 19), jumping from number 68 to eight in the 'Shopping & Classifieds - Music' site ranking.

This increase pushed Connect ahead of leading competitors - such as iTunes, Napster and Walmart Download - for the following three weeks. Sony Connect received 9.5 percent of its traffic from search engines for the week ending August 28, 2004, well below the average (21.3 percent) of the entire music retail category for the same week. -0- *T Hitwise Data Number of words per search query resulting in visits to the Music retail category for the 4 weeks ending June 19, 2004.

Source: TMC Net.com

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September 06, 2004

Google actively hiring in Bangalore, India

Google is actively hiring for the recently opened research and development centre in Bangalore India, its latest engineering facility outside its California headquarters.

The company, which hit the news for its IPO plans recently, is expected to hire about 100 professionals initially. Legendary for hiring practices, Google says, ‘‘We’re looking to hire talented software engineers, top programmers and visionary computer scientists.’’

Sample this: Google on its website has posted resumes for one to understand what kind of experience they are looking for. They say the hiring standards in India will be exactly the same as in the US, which includes a rigorous, technical interview.

Earlier, the search engine had been careful to clarify to the press that they are not outsourcing. ‘‘We will not take any jobs away from US workers,’’ Google had emphasised.

The R&D centre in Bangalore, which now seems poised to be fully functional, means business. The Bangalore office’s charter is to innovate, implement and launch new Google technologies and products. ‘‘Anything is fair game and the team here gets to decide its agenda.’’

The focus will be on fundamental areas of computer science, including information retrieval, distributed systems, machine learning, data mining, theoretical computer science, statistics and user interfaces.

Google promises India a one virtual campus wherein Bangalore professionals can relocate to other centres worldwide; and also, an engineer can rise to be a vice-president ‘‘purely based on technical accomplishments. No need to get into management to advance career’’.

Presently, Google has 21 offices worldwide, the ones outside of the US primarily being sales offices. More than 1,000 employees work at Google, about half at technical, or engineering related jobs.

Google hit the news recently with its Initial Public Offering that is expected to value the company at as much as US$25 billion.

Source: Express India.com

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September 05, 2004

Google's AdSense now letting up to three ads per page

Google is now allowing its AdSense publishers place up to three contextually targeted ads for each web page in a specific site.

Google AdSense had always stuck to their guns about one AdSense ad per web page, however, web users may be getting used to AdSense amnesia and glancing over the text ads, which have become normal web advertising over the past year.

Google announced their multiple ad units news in their AdSense publisher’s newsletter:

“To provide even more value to your users, and to help you further monetize your web pages, we’re allowing publishers to place up to three ad units on every web page.

Our system will automatically recognize the additional ad units, and will serve unique ads to each.

Your ad units can each have different color palettes, formats, and alternate ad URLs, providing you with the flexibility you need to incorporate Google ads into your site design.”

Source: Google

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September 04, 2004

Wotbox launches eight country-specific search engines

Wotbox, an independent search engine better known for its advanced geo-targeting technology, launches eight country-specific search properties.

Wotbox, which displays a flag of the country of origin next to each result on its search pages, is growing and has launched a new search engine for eight major countries.

It also offers many other advanced features including allowing users to zone in and search only in their chosen country.

“The logical next step on from this was to create a fully localized version of Wotbox for each country.”

Says Director Mike Nott, “We’re trying to give international users more choice by providing another local search option for them. We also wanted the interface for non-english sites to be in the native language, making it easier for local users.”

The new country-specific Wotbox sites are for:

Australia - http://www.wotbox.com.au
Canada - http://ca.wotbox.com
France - http://fr.wotbox.com
Germany - http://www.wotbox.de
Italy - http://www.wotbox.it
New Zealand - http://www.wotbox.co.nz
Spain - http://es.wotbox.com
United States - http://www.wotbox.us

Source: Search Engine Journal

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September 03, 2004

Microsoft to dispute Google in the search race

A spirited Steve Ballmer said yesterday that Microsoft is really determined in challenging Google for leadership in the search business.

"It'll be a lot of fun for the rest of you to watch," Ballmer shouted to the delight of several hundred guests at a meeting of the Massachusetts Software Council in Boston.

Ballmer, who took over as chief executive from cofounder Bill Gates in 2000, came to Boston for meetings with customers. He also visited the Timothy Smith Foundation, which runs computer technology centers in the Roxbury area. There, Ballmer and Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino unveiled a donation of $400,000 in Microsoft products.

At the software council meeting, Ballmer scoffed at the idea that the technology industry's boom times are over. "The next 10 years will bring more positive changes . . . than the last 10 years did," he said. Then he listed a host of challenges the industry has not met.

For example, Ballmer wondered why many of his listeners were jotting down notes as he spoke. "Why isn't this meeting being recorded electronically?" he asked. "Why isn't it being broadcast on the wireless network in this room? . . . It's just a question of software."

Ballmer also pointed to healthcare, which he called "one of the least computerized businesses in the world."

And despite those ever-present ads on the Internet, Ballmer said, online advertising can still be vastly improved, to produce systems that consistently show Internet users exactly those ads that might interest them.

"I see a world of incredible possibility and opportunity," Ballmer said. But he conceded that Microsoft has barriers to overcome. There's the long-delayed new operating system, code-named Longhorn.

Last week, the company set a deadline of late 2006 to complete the new software, but gave up on including a new technology for managing data files. It was once one of Longhorn's key selling points, but Microsoft officials decided it was too complex to finish Longhorn in time.

In the near term, Microsoft's biggest challenge may be the perception that its software is riddled with bugs that let computer vandals seize control of sensitive systems or infect them with viruses.

"That's a major impediment," said Ballmer, "and so we as a company have made security our job one priority."

Ballmer urged those in the audience to install the latest "service pack" for the Windows XP operating system. The service pack is mainly a set of modifications to Windows XP that are supposed to make it far less vulnerable to vandalism.

Meanwhile, Ballmer left no doubt that Microsoft has targeted Internet search services for the kind of all-out competitive push that the company once used to seize dominance in Web browser software.

Despite Google's popularity, "the search market is still quite fragmented," Ballmer said, and existing tools still generate lots of useless results. Ballmer said Microsoft plans to invent new search technology that will change this, and make life more difficult for Google and other rivals.

Source: Boston.com

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September 02, 2004

FAST licenses its search technology

FAST is expected to license its search technology for online directory sites.

FAST said it would begin offering its FAST AdVisor search application to online directory sites like ThomasNet and Norway's Findexa and to career sites such as CareerBuilder. The FAST AdVisor search platform can sort both database and Web content while letting users drill down for more information by category.

FAST sees the chance to use its enterprise search expertise already tapped by clients like AT&T, Dell and IBM to help online directories compete with new local search engines from Google and Yahoo. Google and Yahoo introduced sites in recent months that integrate Web search, maps and directory content to connect users to local information.

"This allows e-directories to give end users a much more robust experience and at the same time allow the e-directories to compete," said David Isaacson, a product manager for Oslo, Norway-based FAST.

FAST AdVisor has several advertising-related features. It lets the site determine for itself when an advertiser listing is shown, setting parameters such as the amount bid for placement or the length of time as an advertiser.

Isaacson said Internet directory sites have advantages over search engines in the emerging local search space. Directories already have vast databases of local business information as well as large sales forces to introduce small businesses to online advertising.

"We think coming in and helping the e-directories with that technology really puts them in a much better position," he said.

The 23.7 million U.S. small businesses are seen as prime candidates for the expansion of search marketing beyond the roughly 200,000 now using it. According to The Kelsey Group, the market for local search marketing could reach $2.5 billion in 2008. Jupiter Research, however, thinks it will grow much more slowly, anticipating $824 million in 2008.

Source: DM News

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September 01, 2004

Google to develop Instant Messaging?

If you believe some comments made recently in forums, discussion boards and blogs, Google would be developing an instant messaging solution.

The gist of the speculation is that in addition to leveraging its existing assets and expertise in search technologies, IM would allow Google to complete a communication platform that includes Gmail (its Web mail system) and Orkut (its community networking portal).

Reports also indicate that Google's IM platform and client would be based on the open source Jabber protocol.

Google officials were unavailable for comment to either confirm or deny the rumor.

“I would love to see Google get involved in the IM world. They have enough pull on the Internet to possibly convert people en masse to Jabber, which is what Jabber needs.” --Sean Egan, lead developer, Gaim.

The Jabber Software Foundation (JSF), however, was available for comment. Peter Saint-Andre, executive director of the JSF, told InstantMessagingPlanet">InstantMessagingPlanet.com that the JSF always welcomes implementations and deployments of the Jabber protocols, which is also known as the Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol (XMPP).

"It is all speculation at this point, but if Google should choose to offer an IM service based on Jabber/XMPP technologies, they would be a welcome partner in the Jabber community's continuing efforts to ensure interoperability in instant messaging," Saint-Andre said.

He went on to detail that many high-profile companies such as IBM, HP, SUN and Oracle have already adopted Jabber/XMPP technologies, though he admits that the Google adoption would have a different sort of impact. "Google's impact would perhaps be more dramatic as their offering is likely an open, consumer-oriented service and their brand recognition is obviously at historic levels," Saint-Andre said.

Members of the instant messaging community, including the leading open source instant messaging client implementation Gaim, are enthusiastic about the opportunities that Google may bring to Jabber/XMPP.

"I would love to see Google get involved in the IM world," Gaim lead developer Sean Egan told InstantMessagingPlanet.com. "They have enough pull on the Internet to possibly convert people en masse to Jabber, which is what Jabber needs. Gaim and plenty of other clients already support Jabber, so Google's IM users would have a wide selection of clients as soon as it launched."

"This could potentially be what brings Jabber into the eye of the general public," Egan said.

Part of the wild speculation surrounding the Google IM rumor also supposes that beyond being a potential tipping point for Jabber, a Jabber-based Google IM platform would supplant the already established public IM clouds of AOL, MSN and Yahoo.

Radicati Group Market Analyst Genelle Hung, however, doesn't buy into that hype despite the support a Google IM platform would inevitably get. "There would probably be a lot of grass-roots support — especially with consumers being unhappy with the 'big 3' [AOL, MSN, Yahoo!] for constantly changing their protocols and thus causing third-party clients such as Trillian and Gaim to break," Hung said.

"An IM client based on open standards and APIs might be just what is needed to push further for IM standards and interoperability. However, I cannot believe that everyone on the other clients would hop over to the Google IM service anytime in the near future (should it happen) as IM is one of the "stickiest" and most loyalty-inducing features on the market today."

Jabber Software Foundation's Saint-Andre also agrees that a Jabber-based Google IM product wouldn't force the other IM services into nonexistence. He said he also sees a potential for industry standardization based a Jabber/XMPP Google service.

"In the short run, it is difficult to see why the IM services provided by AOL, Microsoft and Yahoo would disappear simply because Google started its own IM service," Saint-Andre said. "On the other hand, Google entered the search engine market at a time when Yahoo! dominated a very crowded market. Moreover, the existence of an open IM service offered by a company of Google's stature would combine with the large number of enterprise deployments to put significant pressure on the existing consumer services to offer true server-to-server interoperability."

IM Security and management vendor FaceTime Communications sees the situation somewhat differently. FaceTime Chief Technology Officer and Vice President of Products Jonathan Christensen said he believes that the recent move by the MSN, AOL and Yahoo! to allow for interoperable enterprise gateways is a simple fact that should not be overlooked. Christensen explained that big three vendors have now made a move to standardize on SIP/SIMPLE and open source Jabber protocol XMPP is not part of that equation. SIMPLE, Christensen argues, already has a lot traction, owing to its SIP roots, that cannot be overlooked.

"If Google were to announce and run a Jabber-based system , rather than a tipping point for Jabber it would just be another point of fragmentation in the marketplace and another force potentially slowing consolidation in the industry," Christensen said.

That said, Christensen does recognize the fact that Jabber Inc has recently announced that it was working on providing an XMPP to SIP Gateway, to allow for interoperability on IBM's Lotus IM product (SameTime). It's unclear and unknown at this point if Google would go with a commercial implementation from Jabber Inc or work with the open source version of Jabber from the JSF.

Outside of speculation, there is a currently little known reality about Google's current IM capabilities. It actually already has an IM tool and it's publically avaialbale — it's not even a Google Beta or a Google Labs project.

Google though its acquisition of Blogger last year also acquired a company called Picassa, which also offer an instant messaging service. The IM technology is called Hello and is currently focused on instant messaging between people to share pictures and now to post pictures to a blog. Hello is currently available only for Windows and uses a proprietary protocol.

Source: Internet News.com

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Microsoft delays new Windows search feature

Microsoft will release its long-awaited update to its Windows operating system in 2006, but without its advanced file search capability, the company said last week.

The Redmond, WA, company said the new operating system, code named Longhorn, would come without WinFS, a system designed to search for information scattered throughout a computer in different file types.

Microsoft was expected to combine desktop search with the Web search engine it is also building. Instead, it will release a test version of WinFS with Longhorn, in a delay the company characterized as a "tradeoff" for making the operating system available quickly.

The combination of desktop and Web search is seen as a key to Microsoft cutting into the lead established by rival Google in search. Google is reportedly working on its own file search system.

Ask Jeeves in June bought Tukaroo, a startup that makes software to search users' hard drive, local network and Internet.

Microsoft's MSN unit aims to release a Web search engine by next summer to compete with Google and Yahoo. The company has pledged to spend $100 million on its search efforts.

Source: DM News

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