‘First’ Auto Dealer Mashup Launches

Local auto dealers aren’t being found by Google. And their TV and print ads are largely invisible to a generation that TIVOs their television viewing, and doesn’t read newspapers.

That will change, if Jim Bonfield succeeds with what he calls “the first auto dealer mashup.” Bonfield, a veteran business development executive with The Sacramento Bee and Travidia, has formed Eyeball Farm Interactive, a company that puts together advertiser mashups for local verticals (and is a client of Krasilovsky Consulting).

To date, Eyeball has launched the auto mashup, Local Offers, in partnership with Intelligent Direct Marketing, a leading, Sacramento-based direct marketing agency for the automotive industry. More than 70 dealers around the U.S. will be running by the end of June. Next up will be launches of retail furniture outlets, currently in beta, and restaurants.

SIIA Forum: New Vistas for ‘User Generated Content’

User generated content has become synonymous for cheap, unedited stuff. More and more newspapers have blogs. The same holds true for directories, with user ratings and reviews. But user generated content is actually having a more radical impact on publishing itself.

Easy-to-use, enabling technologies such as mashups, wikis, tags, RSS, popularity counters, self-publishing, just-in-time publishing, and storage software and devices have made publishing as (potentially) personalized and easily archived as music on iPods – and much more dimensional. Publishing’s transformation by technology was testified to by speaker after speaker at the Software and Information Industry Association’s Content Forum May 14-16 in San Francisco.

“The definition of user generated content is changing; it is now the product of acting in one’s own self interest,” said Looksmart CEO Dave Hills.” People save pages, and meet people who save those pages.”

Borrell Survey: Focus on Local Video

In the many unsettled areas of new media, including local, the questions can sometimes be more interesting than the answers. This is especially the case in the new executive survey by our friends at Borrell Associates.

This round, the latest in a continuing series, focuses largely on the potential of online video advertising by TV stations and other local media channels – something that I think is often overstated by Borrell, but cannot be counted out. One question, for instance, postulates that “Virtual tours of stores, restaurants and other advertisers using streaming video become the preferred format for local TV website ads.”

How Real is WiFi for Local Ads?

There’s been speculation that free WiFi would be used by Google and others as a carrot to target users and seize the local advertising market. That’s hard to do under any circumstances. But assuming that all the stars align, how attractive can WiFi be as a targeted, local delivery medium?

It can be “very attractive,” according to Nitin J. Shah, Executive Vice President of Feeva Technology, a San Francisco-based software company focused on WiFi ad targeting.

Shah is the first to concede the real limitations of WiFi technology. But he argues that WiFi’s adoption in laptops, PDAs and cellphones, combined with the rapid proliferation of free WiFi hotspots, “clouds” and “zones,” creates real opportunities for local advertisers and other geo-targeters.

Big Talk: New Telecom’s Impact on Local

Microsoft Local Group’s Erik Jorgensen thinks “the majority” of local access will be from mobile devices in five years. My gut tells me that mobile access may not dominate quite so quickly.

But whatever the timetable, it suggests a sea change in local advertising models. It also suggests a stronger role for telecom players in serving mobile and IP-based content: whether they are traditional carriers, or just as likely, portals providing VoIP, PSTN and instant messaging services over mobile.

The impact on local usage and advertising will be a big one. And the seeds are being laid. As Issac Kato of General Catalyst Partners noted at the Kelsey ILM conference in early December: “Wireless is inherently local….when you do mobile search, pay-per-call becomes trivial.”

Microsoft Local Pushes Maps, Imagery

When Microsoft quit its Sidewalk city guide in 2001, it promised to keep its foot in the door of local services. At that time, it was probably thinking “small business,” since it was bent on remaking the small business marketplace around the Great Plains software company that it had recently purchased.

But small business services have never really pushed local into new areas. Arguably, software never has. In fact, Microsoft’s role in local is only now getting established, due to the newly accorded prominence of two areas that Microsoft also considers part of its core competency: maps and imaging.

Speaking at Kelsey’s ILM conference in early December, Microsoft Local Group head Erik Jorgensen presented a masterful picture of local’s image-driven future. “People want true visualization, showing them ‘what is there,’ he said. “Fundamentally, people are visual. And people want location integrated into relevant services.”

AOL Promises ‘Local’ Progress in 2006

AOL was early in investing in its Digital City city guide, early to solicit local business reviews, early to see the power of mapping via its acquisition of Mapquest, and early to see the importance of offline activities by purchasing MovieFone.The company wasn’t necessarily strong on follow-thru, however.

Speaking at Kelsey’s ILM conference, AOL Senior VP Jim Riesenbach reminded the audience that AOL remains a major player in local. He promised that the company would see significant progress in 2006, especially now that AOL has worked out many of its transition problems and is widely considered a hot property again.

A major emphasis for AOL will be to leverage its assortment of platforms as a “communications suite,” now that it has been freed from emphasizing the fire-walled access service. “ To Riesenbach, local figures into all of it.

“It is counterproductive to think of local as a vertical,” he said, responding to a comment by a Microsoft executive earlier in the conference. “The question for us is how we integrate local as an enabler for everything that people do online.” Riesenbach added that the richness of AOL’s local offering will make its local search among the industry’s most compelling.