Marc Canon, President of New Media, The Yell Group:

Here’s his presentation basically unfiltered.  Some great quotes in there:

Marc has worked at Switchboard, AOL Search, AutoByTel and Yell, so presumably he knows something about local search business models.  According to Marc, $14.7 Billion has been spent in local search in 10 years but it’s still not clear we’ve cracked the code on local search.  Totally agree.

Received Wisdom & Self-Evident Truths:

  1. We will understand our users better than the past
    Wrong – we still don’t know exactly why people do things
  2. We will migrate our advertisers online without loss
  3. Interactive local marketing will be more engaging and meaningful to users
    Who Knows? – ILM might be more useful but it’s not necessarily more engaging.
  4. Content quality and accuracy will still be critical
    Wrong – “good enough” seems to be good enough.  Most users don’t know just how bad the data or compare it from one site to another
  5. We will use traditional media to drive online usage
    Marc says he spent $40MM to disprove this one.  Use of local interactive media is “timeboxed”.  You need to do that search at a particular time to meet  a particular need.  When you are watching TV it doesn’t necessarily intersect with that timebox for the user.

Facts on the Ground:

  1. Search engines are the new browsers
    and they are moving downstream (to local media and local directories).  How do you move upstream to compete?  (Hint: SEO could help)  We all need to get used to paying taxes (meaning sharing our revenue with Google).  Focus on engagement instead of ownership (very important)
  2. Usage is agnostic and context is king
    your users are in a lot of different places – DA services, search engines, ad networks, mobile devices, etc. – the context is different depending on how the user is accessing your information.  You need to learn and accept the limitations of the platforma nd format your content and delivery to accommodate it.
  3. Information is getting smarter
    The querying space and the content space are converging.  Content developers are getting better at packaging their content up to match queries or else someone is doing it for them – e.g. iGoogle, Kosmix (federated search). Content is getting broken up into small pieces so they can be served up in context and its changing the way people are accessing and digesting it.  Own the context, not the content. Let the information find you.  Don’t build it, rent the framework – you can save a lot of $, someone can do it better than you and it’s changing all of the time.
  4. Publishers will sell what they don’t have
    He’s talking about niche networks and how geo will be applied to all niche networks over time.  Create only what you need and sell what you can.  Manage capacity, not scarcity.  Advertisers are not impressed with scarcity anymore because their is not a lot of scarcity. Focus on conversion.

For most SMBs, yellow pages advertising is a yearly Dirty Harry experience where they ask themselved how lucky they feel?

Cultural Anthropology:

Phase 1: Islands
Sites owned data and exercised strict editorial control (e.g. Yellowpages sites, AOL, WSJ, etc.)

Phase 2: Archipelagos
Site aggregrated data (e.g. Google, TripAdvisor, etc.)

Phase 3: Ecologies

The data lives everywhere via APIs, RSS, etc. (e.g. iGoogle, Dogtime, Glam, Yelp, etc.)

Ballistic Exercises

  1. Smart contexts, smarter content
    (e.g Huffington Post aggregation and prioritization of blog feeds)
  2. Voice search and navigation
    (Google Voice Search is “a rich company’s hobby”)
    This could be biggest sea change in how we interact with content but it still seems far off.
  3. Socially mediated content
    People will start to exert more control of businesses via social media (e.g. the Presidential Election)
  4. Dimensional consumption
    It’s hard to match customer experience v. monetization across a variety of verticals which is why Google will have a hard time competing against focused verticals.  Marc talks of an experience at AOL Search where changing just a few pixels could = +- $10MM in revenue.  So you have to tread lightly when you create custom experiences by vertical less you screw your business model.

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4 Response Comments

  • Mary Bowling  November 19, 2008 at 3:45 pm

    Andrew, I love the quote about us all having to get used to paying taxes. How true!

  • angusf  November 19, 2008 at 5:11 pm

    Hi Andrew

    Would love more details of the AOL search reference:

    Marc talks of an experience at AOL Search where changing just a few pixels could = +- $10MM in revenue.

    Could you explain more or provide a link?

  • Andrew Shotland  November 19, 2008 at 10:15 pm

    I think he was speaking more in general that making small changes to pages that are generating huge revenues could be very risky.

  • Lawn Service Dunwoody  September 24, 2010 at 9:57 am

    haha I love those bits of wisdom. Even google doesn’t know what people want.