Category Archives: Technology

Sneak Peek at BIA/Kelsey NEXT Show: 6 Things I’m Watching For

“End of Big” Author Nicco Mele Keynotes BIA/Kelsey NEXT Dec. 9-10

BIA/Kelsey’s December event has been local’s flagship, and always ahead of the curve in all of local’s iterations. It has been widely imitated, but never totally duplicated! I‘ve been producing it for a long time, but this year, handed it off in midstream. I’ll be moderating some great sessions, though, and the conference team has ended up with 52 hand-picked speakers, a Tech Expo and two full days of programming. Here are some of the things I’m most excited about:

1. The New Cut on Local and Community. Local’s still at the concept stage in a lot of areas. Why think small? Two leaders from USC’s groundbreaking Annenberg School (my alma mater) will point to the new directions in separate keynotes. First up is Nicco Mele, the author of The End of Big (2013), a tour de Force on “radical connectivity.” He’s also fresh from his stint as deputy publisher at The LA Times, where his team’s efforts to seize new initiatives in local had already produced major new revenue streams. He’ll have a lot to say about what’s going to work. Leading off Day 2 is Dr. Karen North, Director of Online Communities, a dynamic presenter who is focused on Millenial applications and behavior – you’ve heard, perhaps, these kids live on the phone?

2. Keynotes from Google and Facebook: The latest in local from the two dominators and trend setters in local. Danny Bernstein at Google is set to highlight its deep linking efforts (Google Now). He is sharing the stage with Button’s Chris Maddern and Local Seo Guide’s Andrew Shotland.

3. Big Thinking about MarTech: Big Data’s impact on local cuts many ways – analytics, leads, targeting, planning, But it’s only a subsegment of the broader “MarTech” movement. Those in the know attend Scott Brinker’s annual MarTech conference in Boston. Scott, who also runs ionactive, is going to focus on local and highlight what’s important and why for us at NEXT. He’ll be joined on stage by Surefire Social’s Chris Marentis.

4. The Mobile App-Driven Marketplace. The mantra is that it isn’t really about search right now, because Mobile apps are driving the marketplace. What’s that really mean for local? One of the best analysts I know is Mark Plakias, who has been running Orange’s think tank in Silicon Valley for several years. He’ll be joined by’s Paul Ryan and DialogTech’s Steve Griffith. This will be quite a session.

5. Local and The Internet of Things. We’ve been pondering iOT’s impact on local — when everything is linked, from transit cards to vending machines. So has the new venture, Instersection, which is a partnership from Google Ventures and former Bloomberg head and NYC Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff. CSO Dave Etherington will provide insights on what they are up to. He’ll be joined on stage by Cisco’s Andy Noronha.

6. Close Up on The New Local Marketplaces. We’ve been saying for a long time that local marketing has gone beyond advertising. Now it’s “closing the loop” with transaction data, offer targeting and complete behavioral profiles reshaping the game. Groupon’s Dan Roarty, Microsoft’s Neal Bernstein and MOGL’s Jon Carder share their insights. Cardlinx CEO Silvio Tavares will add data and help me run this session.

Haven’t got your ticket yet? I have a *little* influence and can get you $400 off. Please use this discount code: LOCALONLINER. You may register here.

The Local Angle to Virtual Reality: NYT Launches with Google Cardboard

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What is the role of virtual reality as a local or vertical marketing channel? It’s an important question for the industry.

What we know is that 360 degree video and other precursor technologies are now being applied for local verticals such as real estate, auto, retail and travel. It is fairly commonplace to get a view of new car interiors by mousing over them . But as processing capabilities improve, video costs decline, hardware production scales, and major companies invest, we’ll see full blown virtual reality being presented as a brand new channel for locally targeted brands. There may also be applications by local governments and others.

We also know that interest levels and industry investment levels in VR are high. A report that includes a consumer survey and industry analysis from Greenlight VR, a new VR consulting firm I am advising, shows that VR has high awareness among men and women (but especially men); there is high interest in VR among all age groups (but especially Gen Z, Millennials and Gen X); and consumers anticipate using VR for a wide range of activities, including gaming, travel, entertainment and training.

In anticipation of a breakthrough, companies such as Facebook, Google, Sony, Samsung , VG and Mattel have invested billions of dollars. In fact, Greenlight VR reports there are 160 U.S VR companies now, up from 120 in 2014. But it’s still a greenfield opportunity with no clear leaders at this point. On the processing front, we’ve also seen major support from Intel, NVIDIA and AMD.

Media companies are just beginning to weigh in as well, seeing a potential growth avenue and, possibly, a new way into video. This weekend, The New York Times launched its NYT VR app for iOS and Android, and delivered free Google Cardboard viewers (each normally priced at $24.95) to nearly 1.15 million Sunday print subscribers.

The inaugural VR programming on the Times app – a Mini Cooper promo and a moving, 10 minute warzone documentary produced with VRSE, a VR storytelling firm — was shot with multiple cameras and let consumers take a 360 degree view of various landscapes with studio quality sound (if using headphones.)

Relying on the inexpensive, Viewmaster-like Google Cardboard reader rather than high end computing platforms (expected to cost $300+,) the NYT programs aren’t offering much more than a self-directed, 360 degree view. You won’t see head tracking tech with this.

But it gets the app and reader into the hands of its early adopter, high- end readership. Its importance can’t be under-estimated. To us, it is a major step for both the NYT and Google, as they strive in their own ways to be immersive, comprehensive media and commerce providers. One wonders how a CBS or ABC affiliate, or a local newspaper, will compete against a Google, Facebook and/or NYT that offers virtual reality options, video, listings, commerce, social media and other open loop/closed loop channels.

Fast Company profiled Greenlight VR’s new report. Here is the link to Greenlight’s purchase page.

From Wired Goodness

WorkWave: Tackling ‘Last Mile’ Marketing for Local Services

A lot of attention has been paid to “last mile” delivery, marketing and management issues for businesses. Most of it has been focused on retail solutions (i.e. Walmart, Amazon, Google and eBay).

But what about last mile issues for local services that take products from distribution centers and deliver them to homes and businesses? Can these efforts boost business via better ordering processes and creating more efficiencies? Can they move the needle on more impulse buying?

That’s the challenge being addressed by WorkWave, a 200 person, New Jersey-based fleet management company that launched in 1984. The company has recently rebranded from Marathon Data Systems to address broader marketing issues, including the ability to use cloud-based, mobile features to track prospects, leads, schedules, routing solutions – and provide the analytics that come with that.

The company works with more than 8,000 customers. According to CEO Chris Sullens, its largest verticals include janitorial, pest control, lawn and landscape, heating and plumbing, and cleaning.

As part of the rebranding, WorkWave has acquired two businesses: RefGo, a business reviews and marketing automation preduct launched by former Local Corp. exec Malcolm Lewis; and Contact Us, a provider of online marketing tools. Features from both companies become part of the new ContactUs suite of SMB marketing solutions. Three tiers of services are currently priced from $20 to $150 a month, although Sullens says the pricing will be adjusted.

Lewis, in a statement, notes that “the beauty of our reviews product is that it provides insight into customer perception and service levels while helping clients increase lead volume and quality.”

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.”

AOL’s Sale to Verizon: All Eyes on Mobile and Video

Verizon’s announcement today that it will buy AOL for $4.4 billion is a bid to get beyond dumb pipes and airwaves to get deeply into mobile and video. By doing so, Verizon, a $200 Billion company,  hopes to play on more of a level playing field with other major telecom players combining access to content and personalization services, especially Comcast (with NBC U) and  AT&T (with Direct TV.)

The all-cash deal provides a 150 percent return for shareholders in AOL from when CEO Tim Armstrong came on board in 2009. The price is 17 percent above the current stock price. And at the lower price – which may ultimately be even lower if some of the content properties are sold – a lot less is riding on it.

Have you seen this movie before in 2000, when AOL was disastrously sold to Time Warner for $165 Billion?  A lot of the same synergies are being discussed:  video on demand, personalized content and subscription revenue.

But this time, it is really all about mobile; video on mobile; and the prospect of converting (or selling) 2.1 million dialup subscribers that continue to be AOL’s biggest moneymaker. Indeed,  AOL has built or bought a powerful arsenal of mobile ad serving and video tech, especially LTE Multicast, which uses its cellular network to broadcast live video.

In our view, content is not likely to be an important factor here.  It would have been more important if AOL had merged with Yahoo, or with Microsoft.  The biggest “what if” probably involves MapQuest, which has technically lagged behind mapping leaders but retains a powerful, verb-like brand in that space.  Given Uber’s $3 Billion bid to buy Nokia’s HERE, it may ultimately emerge as an important factor in the deal – much more so than Huffington Post.  AOL’s sizable effort to make Huffington Post into a super content portal, including a major local dimension, failed dramatically last year. Similarly, Armstrong’s huge, multi-hundred million dollar effort with hyperlocal site Patch amounted to very little.

To some degree, we also see Verizon’s acquisition of AOL as an acqui-hire. Verizon has  stumbled around advertising for several years but not had an impact. It also has made some small investments in content and classified properties, but hasn’t been confident enough to really spend. Its biggest effort was a promotional program with the NFL to broadcast games for free.

We like the statement issued in the name of Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam, who we note, has long had his eye on geotargeted advertising. “Verizon’s vision is to provide customers with a premium digital experience based on a global multi-screen network platform. This acquisition supports our strategy to provide a cross-screen connection for consumers, creators and advertisers to deliver that premium customer experience.”

Bookshelf: ‘The Internet of Things’

Last year, like millions of others, I bought a Nest thermostat. It is connected to my WiFi, and I can use its iPhone app to turn off the heat from the Airport. It also knows if we aren’t home, and shuts down to 58 degrees when we don’t walk by it every two hours.

A few weeks ago, I went a little further, and bought a Rachio, a lawn sprinkling system that integrates with the Nest. It tracks the weather via the Web, and adjusts my backyard watering stations based on precipitation and heat. And then I jiggered it, so that I can use its iPhone app to turn on the lights on my stairway when I am arriving home after dark.

I don’t have a self-driving car yet, or keyless home entry. And I don’t get too close to the military’s drone program. But those are all in the family, too. As are the Apple Watch and Google Glasses.

The Family, of course, is known as “The Internet of Things.” What it consists of are devices that combine tools with automation and radio sensors and data from the Cloud and the Web.

The Nest story became especially interesting to us in business when Google bought it for $3.2 Billion last February, and its leaders became the head of Google’s new Internet of Things division. At the time, it seemed like a stretch. But the Nest division keeps growing (Carbon Monoxide detectors, etc.) IoT might just be driving the next generation of efficiencies. Intel and other tech giants have similarly- named divisions.

Samuel Greengard, a writer for and other thought-leader publications, has penned a handy new book for MIT Press called “The Internet of Things.” It nicely covers the history of IoT’s development from the Industrial Internet to the Internet of Humans to the Internet of Everything. The book connects the dots on where IoT can go, and also provides fair warning on the things that can go wrong (and we aren’t just talking about Google car crashes in San Francisco).

The 210 page paperback ($12.93 on Amazon) has a good glossary, a nice bibliography and is a fast read. And you’ll see why BIA/Kelsey conference speakers in coming years are perhaps as likely to come from Honeywell and Rain Bird as they are from NBC-U, Comcast, Google, Facebook,Intel and Microsoft.

(Here’s a question: If you worked for Google, would you rather work for Nest, or AdWords?)

ReachLocal Now Captures SMB Leads from Across the Web

Leads are coming from everywhere, and the digital marketing firms have adjusted to this reality. ReachLocal, for one, has now opened up its ReachEdge lead conversion and marketing automation software. It now has the capability to track leads and other activity from a wide variety of unassociated marketing sources.

Chief Product Officer Kris Barton briefed BIA/Kelsey on the ReachEdge’s evolution, noting that the company’s efforts to increase transparency and simplicity will ultimately boost conversion rates. Barton says that “decoupling” the software is the direct result of customer input. Some customers, for instance, had invested in redesigned website and didn’t want to have to abandon it in order to sign up with Reach.

The new version of ReachEdge is $149 a month and includes a free trial. It also features plug-ins for publishing systems such as WordPress and Drupal. The software has also been enhanced for mobile. Customers can use their phones to receive emails and text alerts. It also has integrated reports that are “focused entirely on ROI” and are much clearer than Google Analytics, says Barton.