Category Archives: Technology

MeNetwork Aims at the One Stop Mobile Marketing Platform for SMBs

One of the most promising concepts in local are “Write Once, Publish Everywhere” platforms for SMBs. With local businesses needing to communicate more and more deals, new features and special events to their customers, it makes sense to get them on a network to reach more people with one effort.

Yext and Google’s “tag” networks really got the concept going. These enabled an SMB to self-serve a promotion (“$2.00 off tonight”) throughout a network. The tech has since been applied to a wide variety of networked features, including photos, videos and menus — all wrapped in a suite of marketing services.

They’ve also been applied to mobile, which enables more “on the go” activity. Constant Contact’s $65 Million + acquisition of SinglePlatform in June was a strong validation of the space.

The services are terrific, but they haven’t been an instant hit. Pricing has been tough. Is it worth $30 a month? $100 a month? Or should it be bundled in for free? So has the challenge of getting SMBs to pay for one more “value added” service.

Last week, we talked to MeNetwork, one of the more established contenders in the emerging space. The company is based in Boulder, CO and was started in 2010 by banking, technology and ad agency vets.

MeNetwork sees itself as an SMB promotion platform that provides a comprehensive set of “write once, publish everywhere” services. One of its differentiators is that it is pushing a dedicated MeNetwork mobile app in addition to white-labeling its services with strategic partners. It’s risky, but potentially rewarding.

The company also enables easy point-of-sale redemption of offers via QR codes and Bar codes (with compatible POS devices) — something that will make increasing sense as more smart phones are plugged in, asserts COO/CTO Craig Page.

While the service helps manage and process promotions for its customers, it is also mindful that many of them already work with loyalty programs. MeNetwork seamlessly integrates with them, says Page. The aspiration is for MeNework to become the central hub for all of its customers’ promotional activities.

Pricing has been set at $500 a year (approximately $41 a month). Sales channels include self-serve, local media and vertical partners as well as convention bureaus and downtown associations.

Visitors bureaus in New Orleans, San Francisco, and Austin are already actively selling. The New Orleans center sold 200-300 SMBs off the bat, says Page. The company is also working internationally with a division of European Directories in Austria.

Working with outside sales sometimes produces higher than expected churn, and MeNetwork initially saw annual churn rates at 52 percent (actually, pretty low in this area). Churn rates have fallen to 12 percent however, as the company worked to train its reps to provide comprehensive and consistent customer care.

Elevation’s McNamee: Microsoft and Google Won’t be Able to Recreate Their Success

Elevation Partners’ Roger McNamee – friend of Bono’s, the lead in the failed resurrection of Palm, and a winner in the Facebook IPO to the tune of $1.5 Billion – is known as a contrarian thinker. He did not disappoint in a keynote address yesterday at The San Diego Venture Group’s annual summit.

His main theme? We’re seeing a new consumer and publisher centric generation that is app friendly now, but moving towards an open, “hypernet” HTML 5 world. Left behind are desktop oriented services “built to meet (the 1960s) needs of Intercontinental Missile systems.”

With the exception of Excel spread sheets, everything is consumer oriented now as we move towards tablets and mobile devices . And in this environment, complete with Apps, “the Web is only half of the addressable market.”

“We are going from the World Wide Web to the World Wide Web + this mobile thing. We’ll add more columns to this and we’ll do this very soon,” he said. The immediate result if that If you are Microsoft and “half of your world goes away overnight, you are royally (swear word)….”

It is a favorite Silicon Valley hobby to pick on Microsoft, of course, but it is not the only company in jeopardy in a mobile era. “All the Web winners have failed to profit from mobile,” says McNamee, citing Google, Cisco, Oracle, SAP and Intel. “Not even Facebook has made a graceful transition,” says McNamee. “Mobile is a different animal.”

Apple, on the other hand, has been extremely well positioned by “hiding its technology” in a graceful interface, and likely will remain front and center. “Apple made a bet against the Web” by offering Apps and the iTunes store. “Apple hasn’t even hit its peak yet,” he says.

But there are new opportunities for differentiated content publishers who can go right to the people – ranging from The New York Times and Forbes (a key investment) to MoonAlice, his rock band that has two million downloads and “no one has ever heard of us. The next generation Web technology will favor publishers and consumers over middlemen,” he says.

The new hypernet experience also is positioned for direct sales of products, bypassing advertising altogether , he says, in a tacit endorsement of the new transaction marketing space. “That’s not a CPM-based ad,” he says. “That’s lead gen. And it has an order of magnitude 2-3x per unit more than CPM-based advertising.”

This flies in the face of the current content business, “where value is engagement,” says McNamee. “The problem with the Google story is everything is read very quickly: 25-30 seconds. But with the emergence of apps and social media, you don’t need search anymore. Meanwhile, text-based apps on an iPad will keep a user for 2-5 minutes. You can monetize that.”

McNamee suggests that Google and Microsoft, in particular, are in a real strategic jam. But they have hordes of cash and will try to “buy a ton of stuff” to shift the model. However, it will ultimately be in vain, he says.

Another doomed company, per McNamee? PayPal. “No one wants to put their password in,” he says. Facebook will introduce Facebook Moible Connect and bypass passwords. “I hope it comes soon. It will take a year or two to get there.”

For now, McNamee concedes we’re still in an ad-driven, television-oriented market that is still “70 percent driven” by major news events like Spain, China and the election cycle. “The future will be more oriented towards who has your credit card info,” he says.

Top 10 Takeaways from ILM East 2012 (and Thank You!)

ILM East 2012 took place last week in Boston, and is now one for the history books. It was definitely a fun show that really showcased the fast moving local innovations that BIA/Kelsey focuses on.

There are many learnings we can focus on as takeaways, but in the interest of good reading, how about a Top 10 list?

1- The new currencies are time, attention and clickstreams. Payments can be in pixels, Facebook mentions or points and rewards (Ted Leonsis, Vice Chair, Groupon)

2- Email is for ecommerce push; phones are for texting (Ted Leonsis, Vice Chair, Groupon)

3- Local is all about scale. And the only way to achieve scale in local is by aggregation (Jay Herratti, outgoing CEO, CityGridMedia)

4- Creating a closed loop is the path to a seamless user experience. American Express is… the acquirer, the issuer and the network. (Leslie Berland, SVP, American Express)

5- Daily deals are fun, but Big Data that combines different databases is critical for targeting users and winning loyalty (various)

6- Focus on engagement, not new customer acquisition. Loyal customers are worth 24 times more than new customers (Charlie Kim, CEO, NextJump)

7- Email fatigue is probably out there, but social media complements email, rather than kills it. They are both forms of permission marketing (Mark Schmulen, GM, Constant Contact)

8- Video is a great local medium, but offers limited inventory opportunities, and really can’t compete as a standalone with a major metro newspaper for advertising (Lisa DeSisto, VP, Advertising, The Boston Globe)

9- National brands can’t go local without a platform. Otherwise, you can’t get engagement and you’ll see high churn. (Pete Gombert, Founder and CEO, Ballihoo)

10- You can’t herd 6,000 cats and come up with a digital strategy (Adam Epstein, President, Ad Marketplace.)

ILM East 2012 Day 2 152

ILM East: NYT’s Michael Zimbalist on The Importance of Linked Data

The New York Times and other news organizations have been hampered by the short cuts of HTML and hyperlinks, but are now reclassifying to provide more structured, fluid data in a major development with massive implications, notes New York Times VP of Research Operations Michael Zimbalist, who keynoted Day 2 at ILM East. The benefits are immediate in terms of SEO, but longer term, provider richer product for consumers, notes Zimbalist.

“Information has become increasingly granular or structured,” notes Zimbalist. Each unit of content has extensive machine readable metadata about itself.” Fluid information can move more easily among machines and people.

In the case of The New York Times can now process the 300 pieces of professional content that it produces every day — a brick of compiled information — into multiple formats, including things such as personal editions and slide shows. “You are reaching underneath the databases the power the Web to do new things,” says Zimbalist.

The key is to move the surplus of names to strong identifiers that are linking to data cloud driven bymeta data. The Times, for instance is embarking on moving all its data to DBpedia, which drives Wikipedia, Freebase, which is owned by Google, and GeoNames.

To date, 29,000 names have been recontextualized for a new semantic platform – a “super librarian “ –, which includes 39 percent of people (“Edgar Allen Poe”) , 31 percent of organizations, 76 percent of locations (“Park Slope”and 14 percent of descriptions. “The future is bright for librarians,” jokes Zimbalist.

ILM East Day 2 027

Constant Contact Founder Randy Parker: ‘Stop the Fragmentation, SMBs Can’t Cope’

The arrival of Groupon and Living Social four years ago appeared to be a no money down, fail-safe way to get ahold of small business accounts. But the followup hasn’t been easy, and the race to win SMB accounts is still anybody’s to win.

In fact, there is no single “disruptive” door into the marketplace , says Constant Contact Founder Randy Parker, who has been watching the transition of SMB marketing since 1995. Parker believes the richer opportunity is in SMB platforms that plug in “presence,” social and mobile opportunities from best-of-breed providers. He’s currently trying to do that with SMBApps, a startup that he’s been incubating for a couple of years.

What you have today is a bunch of SMB solutions that typically rank below aggregators such as Google, Yelp and Twitter on search pages, he says. SMBs, to their great consternation, have to work with each platform.

Where does the “feature creep” stop? he asks. Moreover, as it gets more and more complex, Parker fears that the vendors are overwhelming their customers. Meanwhile, the severe fragmentation in the space keeps driving the costs of merchant acquisition up.

Parker says the ideal solution manages three things: an SMB’s data (such as deals and menu items), the content side, such as blogs, social media and copy points), and visual presence. The best way to “future proof” the Web is to build a single Web presence with “pre-made building blocks” for social, email, click to call buttons, delivery tabs, promotional links and mapping.

What won’t work is the extension of new platform after new platform. All that does is result in under-performing and marginalized channels, he says. Take mobile, for instance. Mobile is extremely important, and results in 1 of 3 leads, he notes. But the people pushing dedicated mobile apps for SMBs instead of universal HTML pages are “in la la land. The typical SMB may get 35 installs of their app,” he says.

Parker appears at ILM East March 26-28 on the “Local Business Success” summary panel, along with Kudzu Founder Tom Bates and Schedulicity’s Dave Galvan. You can register here.

Google Offers’ Nitin Mangtani Set to Keynote at ILM East

Here’s what we’ve been waiting to announce: Google Offers’ head Nitin Mangtani will join our great list of keynoters at ILM East March 26-28 in Boston. We believe Mangtani’s appearance marks one of the first public debuts of Google Offers, which is playing a major role in Google’s vital local strategy, along with Google Places, Google Maps and Zagat ratings and reviews.

Previously announced ILM East keynoters include Groupon Vice Chair +++ Ted Leonsis; American Express SVP of Social Media Leslie Berland; CityGrid Media CEO Jay Herratti; New York Times Research Ops VP Michael Zimbalist; and New York Magazine Digital GM Michael Silberman.

Mangtani joins Google Channel Sales BizDev Head Christine Merritt at ILM East. Merritt will provide Google’s perspective on its emergence in the local ecosystem, and the most effective way to work with Google as a partner.

The next wave of Deals is, in general, a key focus for us at ILM East, along with mobile local media, social local media, video local media, hyperlocal and locally targeted national advertising.

In addition to the keynotes from Google Offers and Groupon, we have a special Day 1 session dedicated to the next wave of deals, featuring EverSave’s Jere Doyle; Find n Save’s Christopher Tippie; Closely’s Perry Evans; and Boomtime’s Bill Bice. That session will be followed by a broader view of deals and ecommerce, which featured NextJump’s Charlie Kim; Cartera’s Jim Douglass; and Bundle.com’s Jaidev Shergill.

Other recent adds to the program include The Boston Globe’s Lisa DeSisto, who joins Boston.com VP of Digital Products Jeff Moriarty as a presenter; and MIT Sloan Associate Professor Catherine Tucker, who gives the low down on the effectiveness of local social media.

Before the show, we’re making a special trip to The Boston Globe’s R&D Lab (Limited Space, RSVP required). Or come to Andrew Shotland’s SEO for the Enterprise session, which also features SEO Expert Will Scott and Advance Digital Media VP John Denny. We’re looking forward to a great show.

Venture Capital
•David Hornik, Principal, August Capital
•Scott Maxwell, Senior Managing Director, OpenView

Mobile Local Media
• Walt Doyle, CEO, Where
• Doug McDonald, Director, dotMobi
• John Valentine, VP, East Coast, SCVNGR/LevelUp

Hyperlocal
• Merrill Brown, Principal, MMB Media
• Josh Fenton, CEO, GoLocal24
• Zohar Yardeni, CEO, Main Street Connect

Social Local Media
• Geoff Cramer, CEO, Social Made Simple
• Adam Japko, President, Digital Sherpa
• Jeff Moriarty, VP, Digital Products, Boston.com
• Mark Schmulen, GM, Social Media, Constant Contact

Video
• Juan Delgado, Managing Director, Americas, Perform
• John McIntyre, CEO, Pixelfish
• Randa Minkarah, SVP, Revenue, Fisher Communications

Deals and Promotional Ecosystem
• Bill Bice, CEO, BoomTime
• Jere Doyle, President and CEO, EverSave
• Perry Evans, CEO, Closely
• Christopher Tippie, CEO, FindNSave

Transactions
• Charlie Kim, CEO, NextJump
• Jim Douglass, EVP, Retail Advertising, Cartera Commerce
• Jaidev Shergill, CEO, Bundle

National/Brands
•Adam Epstein, President, AdMarketplace
•Pete Gombert,CEO, Balihoo
• Steve Sherfy, Local & Mobile Search, GroupMSearch
• Karl Siebrecht, President and CEO, AdReady

Elections 2012
• Andy Slater, VP, Digital Agency Sales, Katz 360

SMB Marketing
• Dave Galvan, President, Schedulicity
• Maria Kermath, Director, AT&T Ad Solutions
• Randy Parker, President, SMBApps
• Darren Waddell, EVP, Reply.com

Sign up now (and hint: reserve your room earlier rather than later).

The Super Lineup at ILM East March 26-28 (Boston)

ILM East is coming back to Boston March 26-28 with a lineup of do-ers and innovators that are transforming and re-defining the local space.

Highlights include a featured keynote from industry legend Ted Leonsis (Groupon Vice Chair/Amex Board Member/Sports team owner/AOL mastermind), along with keynotes/interviews from Jason Calacanis, Leslie Berland, Jay Herratti, Michael Zimbalist and Michael Silberman.

Other highlights of the 2 ½ day event includes a pre-conference rundown on Local search run by Andrew Shotland of Local SEO Guide; a full plate of Top BIA/Kelsey research and forecasts; a special Venture Capital panel; and innovator panels on Social, Mobile, Deals, Video and Hyperlocal (the latter co-moderated with Merrill Brown.)

KEYNOTES/KEYNOTE DISCUSSIONS
Ted Leonsis: Owner, Monumental Sports (Washington Capitals, Washington Wizards;) The Vice Chair of Groupon;, Board member of Amex, former Vice Chair of AOL; Author, The Business of Happiness
Jason Calacanis: CEO, Mahalo; Investor. Calacanis’ career has been at the cutting edge of local and social media and reflects all the big trends, from his development of The Silicon Alley Reporter to Weblogs (AOL), Mahalo, and the creation of TechCrunch50 and Launch.
Leslie Berland, Vice President, Social Strategy, American Express. Berland’s a major deal maker deeply involved in Amex’s mega FourSquare and Facebook deals.
Jay Herratti, CEO, CityGrid Media. Herratti always gets top rankings at our events. He runs IAC’s super quad of the CityGrid Media Network, Citysearch, UrbanSpoon and InsiderPages.
Michael Zimbalist, VP, Research Operations, New York Times Co. Zimbalist leads the NYT’s 12 person research unit. He’s deeply immersed in cutting edge social, mobile, tablet and video efforts.
Michael Silberman, GM, New York Magazine Silberman is the mastermind of NYMag’s development of a super set of verticals catering to the “New York state of mind.”).

FEATURED SPEAKERS
Bill Bice, CEO, SpaBoom
Merrill Brown, co-founder. MSNBC.com, Court TV
Jim Douglass, EVP, Cartera Commerce
Jere Doyle, CEO, EverSave
Walt Doyle, CEO, Where
Adam Japko, CEO, Digital Sherpa
Maria Kermath, Dir.,, New Tech & Sales Apps, AT&T Advertising Sales
Mark Josephson, SVP, AOL Local
Charlie Kim, CEO, Next Jump
John McIntyre, CEO, Pixelfish
Randa Minkarah, SVP, Revenue, Fisher Communications
Randy Parker, President, SMB Apps
Mark Schmulen, GM, Social Media, Constant Contact
Andrew Shotland, Publisher, Local SEO Guide
Andy Slater, VP, Digital Agency Sales, Katz 360
Christopher Tippie, CEO, FindNSave
Darren Waddell, EVP, Product and Corporate Marketing, Reply.com

Join hundreds of senior level local executives at ILM East for the local community’s best networking and insights. You can register here for earlier bird rates.


Internet Pioneer Ted Leonsis