Category Archives: Money

MyTime to Compete for Scheduling, SMB Services

We’ve long seen scheduling as a possible anchor for SMB marketing services (coupons, leads, promotions, analytics, upsells et al). Obviously, we are not alone. More than 75 players are positioning themselves to lead the way in scheduling, including MindBody, Booker, Intuit, ReachLocal, Yodle, Square, GenBook, Agendize, Schedulicity, Moon Valley Software, MaxiPage, Hakema and others.

An alternative approach to the space has been taken by PingUp, a new player that just launched this week, and three- year- old MyTime. Both players have focused primarily on searching, aggregating and confirming online appointments from scheduling providers, while adding in marketing services as an additional layer.

From its inception, however, MyTime has also positioned itself up as an intermediary and a media and commerce channel in its own right. Now, MyTime has crossed the line, armed with a new round of $9.25 Million from Khosla, Upfront Ventures, shopping mall giant Westfield and others — on top of $3 Million raised in 2012.

While it will continue to aggregate and work with other scheduling providers, the 100 person, San Francisco-based company will also compete directly against them via two products: MyTime Scheduler, a sophisticated scheduling program.; and MyTime Marketplace, a “fully responsive consumer destination to find and book appointments with nearby service businesses.”

The services cost from $9.99 to $39.99 a month, depending on the number of employees supported and types of services taken. The pricing is seen as significantly lower than other scheduling software providers.

Anderson notes that the launch of MyTime’s Scheduler and Marketplace products is a natural extension of its appointment aggregation service, which is already driving “nearly one million people” a month to its Web site and mobile apps. He contends that the company’s efforts have also been set apart by a more seamless consumer experience.

Driving MyTime’s new strategy is the rapid adoption of mobile tools and services by consumers. “We know consumers prefer to book and pay for things through their smartphones now, but most businesses haven’t made it possible to book them online yet,” says Anderson. “Everyone knows that consumers are ahead of the SMBs.”

Businesses that take leads from MyTime will pay a 37 percent commission. MyTime also provides an attractive 2.69 percent rate for payments, undercutting Square’s 2.75 percent commission.

The company says it has built a relationship with 10,000 businesses, with 1,000 new businesses are signing up a month. Anderson hopes to see that number double or triple during the next quarter and converted into paying accounts– due in part, to the new products, and its sales team. “Our goal is to go after the two million local businesses and get them on Scheduler within 5 years,” he says.

MyTime CEO Ethan Anderson

UBL, Advice Interactive Group to Merge: SEO + Syndicated Listings

UBL, a publicly-owned syndicator of updated business listings and profiles, is merging with The Advice Interactive Group, a fast-growing search marketing firm that has evolved into a full service agency. The merged company is slated to earn nearly $20 million in 2015, and is refashioning itself as a peer to companies such as Go Daddy, ReachLocal,, Yext and Factual that are either public or have attracted attention on Wall Street.

UBL will provide stock and cash in consideration of the merger. While both companies initially keep their own identities, they intend to work towards an integration of operations and a single brand. Both companies earned approximately $8 million apiece in 2014. Charlotte-based UBL has 38 employees while Advice Interactive has 85 employees in Dallas and Newport Beach.

Billed as a “combination of equals,” UBL CEO Doyal Bryant will be the new entity’s CEO, while Advice CEO Bernadette Coleman will run marketing, tech and operations. Bryant notes that the deal allows UBL to focus on a growing global market in syndicated business profiles; an area that has gone beyond search engines to also include mobile apps, GPS search and online maps, video platforms, marketing platforms and social networks. UBL currently has operations in Canada, the UK, Australia and New Zealand and says it will soon add four more countries.

Advice, meanwhile, is set to leverage UBL’s listings/video and mobile-rich database, and provide a one stop for a wide range of activities for its business and enterprise customers. These include local search, PPC & SEM, reputation management, SEO, Web design, content marketing and social media. The majority of Advice’s customers come from local channel partners; its strength and technology platform are expected to enhance UBL’s current efforts in the space, which are not a main emphasis.

The merger gives Advice “a major edge over everyone in the (SEO) space,” says Coleman. As marketing moves to hyperlocal capabilities, it isn’t just about search anymore, she emphasizes. “Clients need to have data syndication; optimized profiles; and customized linking and meta data – all in one place.”

Advice Interactive Group CEO Bernadette Coleman is speaking at BIA/Kelsey NATIONAL, which takes place March 25-27 in Dallas.

LevelUp Teams with Sprint for Billing: Will Carriers be the New Local Billers?

More than 15 years ago, telecom carriers seemed like the logical candidate to handle ecommerce and other third party billing. But high commissions as high as 30 percent ruled them out for handling most billing accounts, after a fast start with porn and other services.

Now, Sprint is re-entering the third party billing arena and will compete with credit and debit cards via its Pinsight Media mobile ad network. The #3 U.S. wireless carrier with 50 million subscribers, has signed a deal with LevelUp to be one of several processors of its bills.

Customers who choose to pay with Sprint at any of the 14,000 merchant locations that take LevelUp will receive a 10 percent rebate as an added incentive. Those spending $100, for instance, will get $10 back.

Speaking at Money2020 this week in Las Vegas, LevelUp Founder Seth Priebatsch said the advantage of teaming with Sprint is that it is “frictionless” and “easy to set up.” The ace in the hole is working with Sprint’s ad network, with is working with 150+ enterprise apps. The ad network can boost restauranteur and retail affinity and allow for users to target based on geo-location, demos, interest/social profiles and LevelUp App Usage.

Sprint is the only mobile carrier who can provide fully integreated mobile ads with carrier billing,” noted Priebatsch. He would not comment on what LevelUp will pay for Sprint billing, although costs will likely be partially defrayed by the use of the ad network.

Money2020: ApplePay Drives Mega Event

The emergence of geo-targeting and mobile payment and wallet technologies has meant that we talk a lot less about the future of “advertising” than “marketing.” All this was crystal clear this week at the third annual edition of Money2020 in Las Vegas, a showcase for payment innovations, and a major boomtown, too. Attendance climbed from 4,000 attendees in 2013 to 7,500 attendees this year. Next year, the show will move to much larger quarters at The Venetian, and add a European edition.

BIA/Kelsey participated in this year’s festivities by presenting new research into card linking trends during a special offsite session hosted by The Cardlinx Association.

ApplePay – not part of the program, incidentally — was clearly the big driver of this year’s event, rebuilding momentum lost from earlier efforts by Google Wallet and others. As Visa President Ryan McInerney noted, the high awareness of ApplePay generally, and its use of tokenization has brought a real sense that payment technologies have moved beyond credit card account numbers towards high impulse and efficient transactions.

It will also help open the door to a new generation of payments, promotions and services – even if many features, such as NFC contactless payments, won’t be in widespread use for several years. Kicking off the show, McKinsey & Co.’s Philip Bruno and Kausik Rajgopal highlighted six major payment themes. These included:

1. Point of Sale evolution
2. Payment security
3. Crypto-currency
4. Globalization of commerce
5. New credit models
6. New partnerships and acquisitions

Things are happening very fast in this space, noted Bruno. It was just 17 years ago that ecommerce began. It has now crossed the trillion dollar mark.

American Express CEO Kenneth Chennault, during an opening interview, said that when it comes down to payment innovation, it all comes down to one thing: Merchants want to grow sales. Does the innovation “help merchants meet customer needs?” he asked. “Do they provide incentives for changing customer behavior?”

Chennault expressed confidence that Amex, for one, is providing marketing insights that “allow us to provide different types of promotions and offers to drive more business. Not just acceptance, but engagement,” he emphasized.

Other industry leaders also spoke about appealing to merchant needs. Heartland Payments CEO Bob Carr, for instance, said that they key thing with payment innovations is not to give advantages to a merchant’s best customers without disintermediating merchant margins. “The problem with othwerwise useful sites like OpenTable and GrubHub is that they disintermediate margins,” he said.

Gannett’s Deal for

In a move that shows a deep commitment to the future of classified/vertical advertising, Gannett has announced it will buy out its newspaper partners in and take sole possession of the #2 car site (which trails only Cox’s AutoTrader in the online auto marketplace.)

It will pay heartily to do so, paying $1.8 billion for the 73% stake of that it doesn’t already own. That sets a value for of $2.5 billion — an impressive amount, but still $500 million less than what the highest estimates called for.

An “economic event” around and its sister company,, had been considered an absolute certainty by insiders since Summer 2013. This was mandated by the sale of The Washington Post; and the deep debt of other newspaper partners, notably The Tribune Co., and NY Times Co. was sold this April to CoStar Group.

Some have questioned whether Gannett is paying too heavily for at 11.5 x earnings. We don’t comment on these issues, but note that the online auto space has gone through a lot of consolidation, boosting the prospects for more car-maker advertising; and is set for a new era that will likely go beyond dealer advertising and leads to include all kinds of transactions; dealer services such as scheduling; and perhaps other revenue producers. The increased dependence on mobile channels will also play a factor in online auto’s growth.

The news was accompanied by Gannett’s announcement that it is separating its newspaper properties from its 46 TV stations and its rich collection of digital properties (i.e., Career Builder, Pointroll, BlinQ, ShopLocal, DealChicken, Clipper Magazine, KeyRing). The newspapers will keep the corporate name, while a new name will be found for the TV/Digital group (perhaps an extension of its recently announced G/O Digital brand?)

The spinoff of the newspaper properties will presumably placate Wall Street’s needs to see media companies unencumbered by newspaper and magazines, which are felt to be in an inevitable — if slow — decline. It follows similar moves by Scripps, Belo, Tribune, News Corp. and Time Warner.

The prospect of Gannett holding its newspaper-developed brands such as, CareerBuilder and ShopLocal outside of its newspaper company shows how little synergy is seen with today’s newspaper industry (although the grandfathered newspaper owners will hold a five year period of exclusivity to sell following the sale.)

Should have been kept with the newspaper group anyway? To do so would have forced Gannett to saddle the newspapers with debt from the sale.

Zillow to Buy Trulia; Will Pursue Twin Brand Strategy

Zillow is buying Trulia, its chief rival, for $3.5 Billion in stock. The two companies – both nine years old — have a lot of overlap currently. But after the deal closes in 2015, they will seek to develop two differentiated marketplaces for real estate-related information, which includes house sales, rentals, mortgage and related national and local advertising.

As the acquiring company, Zillow would focus on “top of funnel” awareness advertising. Trulia, meanwhile, would focus more on specific agent-related, final purchase (or rental)- related advertising. According to ComScore, Zillow attracted 83 million unique visitors in June, while Trulia attracted 53 million. Roughly half of Trulia’s visitors do not visit Zillow.

The proposed purchase price, roughly $70.53 a share, represents a 25 percent premium over Trulia’s current stock price. Combined revenues from both companies could produce $721 Million in 2015 under present conditions, according to estimates by Benchmark Research. Separately, the companies estimate $100 million a year in cost savings by eliminating redundancy. Under terms of the agreement, Trulia CEO Pete Flint will report to Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff.

In our view, the primary goal of the acquisition isn’t to build the one-two punch of differentiated real estate sites, or even to maximize cost savings from eliminating overlap. Mostly, it takes Trulia out as a rival company, and per GeekWire, it also ends apparent merger talks between Trulia and, the #3 Real Estate site that controls the NAR’s site. (It also isn’t the first time Trulia has considered selling itself. Google apparently was interested in buying the site in 2009 when it was pursuing a major listings effort).

Over the next several years,the effort to differentiate the two sites make more sense than to collapse them into one brand. Such a strategy would be reminiscent of what has accomplished with; The Weather Co. has accomplished with Weather Underground; and what has accomplished with the purchase of several dating verticals.

Winning national advertising dollars is especially viewed as a key growth area. Zillow has budgeted $45 million in marketing dollars this year to accelerate that effort. Zillow, perhaps best known for its controversial Z-Estimates, sees a unique advertising market among speculative home browsers, targeting everything from landscapers to auto companies. Trulia, meanwhile, has been less controversial than Zillow in the Realtor community and might be a better brand for Realtors to work with.

Will there be anti-trust issues? Both Zillow and Trulia tend to draw from Realtors and brokerages that are digitally minded in their advertising. Zillow head Rascoff, however, suggests that the market is nascent and represents less than 3 percent of the $12 Billion market in real estate advertising.

We don’t know about that. The reality is that the two companies actually tie up a great deal of the linkages between real estate advertising and distributors, such as the search engines, local media companies and others. But ultimately, it probably falls short of real anti- trust concern.

Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff at a recent BIA/Kelsey conference

A Look at Yodle’s $75 Million IPO Filing

Yodle — part of the class of 2005-2007 SEM-focused Independent Sales Organizations that took on traditional local sales organizations — filed this week for an IPO that could raise $75 Million.

The filing provides insights into Yodle’s evolution, and the evolution of the local online sales space overall, which has moved towards cloud-based automation. As Yodle notes, it not only provides its customers with an online presence, but mobile and social presences as well.

“Businesses need a comprehensive digital presence that includes a professional quality website that is easily discoverable and optimized for mobile devices, exposure on leading online directories and ratings and reviews sites, and tools to communicate with customers via email, text messages and social media” notes Yodle in the filing.

The company’s customer base currently consists of 44,800 local businesses, making it one of the largest sales groups. These customers helped it achieve revenues of $161.9 million in 2013, with the average customer of its flagship product paying under $300 a month – or less than half what they’d have to spend if they purchased similar functionality a la carte, says the company.

Many of Yodle’s customers belong to one of several vertical categories. For instance, the company reports that it has account relationships with 6,400 dentists (out of 166,500); 4,500 plumbing, heating and air conditioning contractors(out of 226,500); 3,400 lawyers (out of 165,000 ) and 1,200 landscapers (out of 459,600).

Yodle has also focused increasingly on servings “brand networks” — national franchisors, manufacturers and multi-location businesses that are targeting locally. As the space evolves, the competitive picture has evolved as well. Yodle’s filing notes that rivals for local business marketing budgets now include a wide range of players, including traditional Yellow Pages, direct mail campaign providers and advertising and listings services on local newspapers, magazines, television and radio.

Other competitors include online search engines, online business directories, providers of digital presence offerings (i.e. GoDaddy, Main Street Hub,; providers of digital marketing solutions, such as SEM companies; and productivity and office management tools, such as Constant Contact, Demandforce, MailChimp and Solutionreach.