Category Archives: HyperLocal

My Podcast Predictions for 2016: I’m on ‘The Digital CMO with Mike Orren’

Can the daily deals model recover? Will beacons be big in retail? Why is the home services space set to soar? How will custom deals be more sophisticated in the new year? And how can marketers decide which “unicorns” to bet on and which to ignore?

Speakeasy CEO and social and hyperlocal media pioneer Mike Orren interviews me — The Local Onliner — about what’s happening in local and media in 2016 for his new show, The Digital CMO. It runs about 34 minutes….Here’s the podcast link.

At BIA/Kelsey NEXT: Local’s New Linking Technologies and Intersection’s LinkNYC

We always like to call out the “laboratories” of locals, and efforts to embrace and leverage the latest technologies. At BIA/Kelsey’s NEXT conference Dec. 9-10 in Hollywood, we heard a lot from the laboratories, and their various goals.

Interestingly, most were not focused on simply extending media properties, or making them more efficient (except, perhaps, the automation and programmatic guys).

Instead, we saw a heavy focus on the new linking technologies, which take data from everywhere; personalizes it; and pushes it out across different channels, especially mobile. Google Now, Facebook, Microsoft, Groupon, Mogl, Intersection, Button, Orange, Quick.ly, Workwave, Retailigence and Wanderful Media were among the progressive companies presenting (and Local SEO Guide’s Andrew Shotland talked about Apple’s new focus on extending Apple Search across all its media and commerce channels). The linking efforts would ideally produce “a Tesla” from the combination of cost value, experience value and platform value, noted Cisco Research Fellow Andy Naronha.

Intersection – a new company formed by the merger of Control Group and Titan, and invested in by Google’s Sidewalk Labs — certainly has its eyes on the prize. CSO Dave Etherington said the company’s LinkNYC is a prototype project bringing data and media to the 3.5 million New Yorkers who don’t have access to broadband by transforming 7,500 payphones throughout the five boroughs to broadband machines. They’ll each feature a free gigabyte of Wifi, and access to digital services.

Intersection has a 15 year contract from New York for the project, which is projected to be funded by ad sales, and lets the city “reimagine real estate, technology and value…..wherever there is real estate. The more value you can bring, the more people will use it,” says Etherington, noting that the effort is working to “democratize the city” and will inspire new efforts by schools and hackathons. At the same time, ad revenue sharing is projected to bring in over $500 Million to the city’s coffers over the project’s first 12 years.

If it all works, it is definitely a better deal for New Yorkers than giving Disney the keys to a large part of 42nd street to help redevelop it, or Donald Trump the keys to the Commodore Hotel on a tax free basis to build today’s Grand Hyatt.

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Intersection’s Dave Etherington and Cisco’s Andy Noronha

NextDoor’s ‘Neighborhood Favorites’ Gets Closer to a Business Model

Next Door Media is soft launching a “Neighborhood Favorites” feature in a number of markets that should be highly attractive to users, and serve as its first attempt to charge businesses for promotion. The launches are in Alameda and Contra Costa counties in California; Collin County, Texas; and King County, Washington. Greg Sterling initially reported on the development on his blog.

There is reason, of course, to be skeptical. Hyperlocal concepts from AOL Patch way back to Family Education Network have typically relied on high penetration of local users, frequent newspaper-like visits, and active participation. None of them have come close to succeeding as local media.

Until now, there has been no reason to think that NextDoor, which was founded in 2010, would be different. A neighborhood site with just a few active neighbors doesn’t make it as media. Basically, given the problems in the hyperlocal space, the major reason we’ve continued to pay attention to Next Door is its ability to raise lots of money — $210 million at this point, giving it a $1.1 billion valuation.

The VCs have obviously been told something we don’t know. And what’s that? That a directional model will make more sense.

Like Yellow Pages, this is what NextDoor is going to be adept at providing. Currently, the company’s “recommendations” – unorganized by business category – are getting one million posts a day from its 53,000 microcommunities, with 800,000 specific cites of businesses. Favorites will only be compiled and sent out to people in the immediate and adjacent neighborhoods, limiting their potential exposure to hype and scam artists. The ten initial categories being compiled are electricians, pest control, plumbers, HVAC, general contractors, dentists, auto mechanics, body shops, roofers and vetenarians

I suspect that when it can begin promoting its service, there will be a genuine viral effect on recommendations, and on new signups. And at that point, NextDoor can begin charging for access, analytics etc.

Here’s my personal story: The leaves are off the trees and completely cover my gutters. So I just called a gutter cleaner from someone who lives within a mile of me that was recommended on my Next Door community as “very good” and “inexpensive”.

I didn’t know where else I would have gotten that recommendation. Facebook, the various Facebook groups in my metro area; Angie’s List, Yelp and the local newspapers and Yellow Pages aren’t there yet. Their closest listings or recommendations would probably have come from Medford, a larger market — but that is 15 miles from me, and I suspect, would have at least doubled the cost.

Centro: Boost Demand Side Ads With Full Program, Not Just Programmatic

Chicago-based Centro, which helps provide targeted ad solutions to 13,000 publishers – 4,000 at any given time — says it is refocusing on providing publishers with complete Demand Side solutions that integrate first party data targeting, hyperlocal mobile tools, digital extensions and cross-channel capabilities.

Publishers increasingly want to provide greater reach for their advertisers than they can provide from their own-and-operated (O&O) properties, said Centro SVP Katie Risch and VP John Hyland in a discussion with BIA/Kelsey. “O & O solutions are becoming a smaller share of the mix.”

Centro DSP for Publishers, the new product offering, provides a wide range of mobile, display, video and social campaigns directly through Centro’s platform. An increasing amount of these efforts are automated. “Revenue is going towards self -serve,” said Risch and Hyland. “People don’t go back after they start with self-serve.”

To be sure, programmatic – an automated process of planning and placing ads on the platform – represents a big part of Centro’s evolution. Centro has committed 18 buyers specifically to support programmatic. But programmatic needs to be supported with other pieces.

“We are in an early iteration of programmatic,” said Risch and Hyland. It helps to “close the loop.” But “it doesn’t do enough to support the demand side of the business, which is critical for local targeting. The biggest challenge is how to drive demand. There has to be a human layer; a set of KPIs.”

Centro’s Brand Exchange, for instance, has enlisted 1,400 publishers. It allows auto dealers and other SMBs to call on the company to meet their needs for local inventory. With such services, “we are providing a cohesive media strategy, along with first party data.”

Ex Reach Local CEO Revisits Home Improvement; Groupon is Lead Investor

ReachLocal cofounder Zorik Gordon left the company last year after veering sharply to the left with ClubLocal, a consumer-facing brand that would collect home improvement pricing and reviews, and assign jobs to home improvement pros.

Now, Gordon and several ClubLocal alumnis are back with Serviz, a similar service that has launched in southern California after running a beta since February. Groupon is Serviz’s largest investor, with an undisclosed ownership share. ReachLocal, where much of the intellectual work was developed, still controls 19.8 percent of the company.

Groupon could theoretically apply its sales forces to recruit home improvement pros, but Gordon tells us that Serviz is being launched with its own sales forces. Most of the core concepts remain the same from ClubLocal –recruit consumers with convenience, price and service guarantees and a strong review base, and recruit home improvement pros with guaranteed work. “They are fundamentally on demand home services,” said Gordon. “”What we’ve done is focus on transparency, and transparency of pricing. Uber has shown what it takes to really hold and disrupt the conventional ecosystem.

The key differences this time take off from this theme: there is a focus on sole practitioners, who have more flexibility in their time and ability to charge, and ultimately, much lower prices. “You don’t need to charge $250 for a home visit from a home tech, who is being paid $15 an hour,” said Gordon.

Gordon acknowledges there is a lot of competition in the space, with the emergence of players like Thumbtack, Pro.com, Handy, Home Joy and even Amazon coming in, all building on a base that already has Angie’s List and Home Advisor.

Amazon will come in as a marketplace, and won’t be a direct competitor, he says. In fact, he hopes to participate in the Amazon marketplace. “No one is going to come to your house with an Amazon shirt,” says Gordon.

The other services range from what Gordon characterizes as directory listers, like Thumbtack and Pro.com; to low end service fulfillment players like Handy. Serviz will work at higher point in the value chain by focusing more on specialized service providers like HVAC and electrical. “We’re building a horizontal platform around higher end home services,” he says.

Zorik Gordon and Thumbtack CEO Marco Zappacosta are among the initial speakers appearing at Leading in Local: Interactive Local Media, Dec. 3-5 in San Francisco. Get early pricing now.

Merchants Helping Neighboring Merchants: Ex Constant Contacter Launches Alignable

One idea we’ve kicked around for a while is that merchants can generate business tips and customer referrals for neighboring merchants in a strip mall, or down the street. Why shouldn’t the cooking store people refer customers to the gourmet grocery? Or the hardware store people refer customers to plant nursery? At least, they can share tips about landlords, taxes, advertising and supplies.

At this point, several companies have tried it. It has been a leading premise behind the launch of local sites such as MerchantCircle and ShopCity.

The popularization of social media has led former Constant Contact executive Eric Groves to try it once again with Alignable, his new startup. Groves contends that there is vast local knowledge in pockets throughout communities. But many SMBs miss out on marketing opportunities because of the isolated state they operate in. “They never connect with people who are just 10 feet away from their dry wall,” he says.

Alignable makes it easier for merchants to share information; post calendar information; and other information. For SMBs, it is a growth engine, says Groves. What’s in it for him? Because there is generally so little overlap between the customer bases of neighboring merchants, the combined resources of hundreds and thousands of merchants represent a new way to reach a large quorum that could easily rival the reach of a local newspaper or broadcasters.

Informal surveys conducted by Alignable show that overlap rates between customer lists are generally less than two percent. A large community such as Austin, for instance, already has 700 businesses on Alignable. If the majority of Austin merchants were to signup, it would represent a combined reach of 1.5 million, Groves estimates.

Other fast-out-of-the-gate markets for Alignable include Denver, Phoenix and Oakland. In fact, the service is now available in 3000 communities representing every state, as well as Canada.

Looking forward, Groves sees opportunity not only to hook up neighboring merchants and their customers, but vertical players across the county. Health and Wellness has been an early winner, with MindBody Online serving as a strong partner for Alignable, says Groves.

Alignable is a member of the 2014 Future Stars, and will be part of Future Stars Alley at Leading in Local: SMB Digital Marketing Sept. 22-24 in New Orleans. You can register here.

DataSphere: Opportunity in Mobile Advertising for SMBs

The times are a changin’ when it comes to SMB customer acquisition. Non-traditional options – including the use of social media, mobile targeting and promotional calls to action – provide opportunities for SMBs looking to take advantage of shifts in consumer behavior.

Few companies have been as energetic in capturing this shift as much as Seattle-based DataSphere, which has quietly amassed 20,000 SMB accounts, making it one of the largest SMB marketing platforms.

Changing with the times, DataSphere is moving its focus away from buying ad space on local Websites. Instead, it has developed a set of services based on mobile ad networks, which can target customers on a geotargeted and just-in-time basis.

The company is also focusing on LocalSaver.com, a coupon portal; and the LocalSaver Network, a distribution network. LocalSaver goes beyond coupons to provide SMBs with enhanced features such as landing pages, updated listings designed to maximize consumer engagement and video. (DataSphere has built videos for 90 percent of its customers.)

The rise in mobile usage, in particular, has led to a major boost in SMBs’ use of geotargeting – and in the availability of geotargeted ad exchange inventory. Seventy percent of LocalSaver traffic is now lat/long enabled, says SVP Gary Cowan.

This is an edited excerpt of a new BIA/Kelsey client brief, “DataSphere: Leveraging Mobile Advertising and Changing Course with 20,000 SMBs.”