NAA: Google Eyes Six Newspaper Initiatives

In a conversation with Newspaper Association of America members this February, Google Local head Shailesh Rao and colleague Jim Kolotouros outlined six Google initiatives that they’d like to work with newspapers on. These include AdSense; a premium tier version of AdSense that enables online order entry for merchants; GoogleLocal; video; GoogleBase; and ongoing experiments with print ads in papers.

Kolotouros said that the initiatives are being developed on an adhoc basis, but that Google would like to put them into “one bucket” to streamline their use by newspapers. Separately, Rao said that Google would like to enable newspapers to act as sales agents for Google to upsell existing customers along the lines of “a model we’ve tested in the Yellow Pages business.”

Highlights of the conversation are transcribed as part of “Getting Serious About Search,” a new survey and report by the NAA’s Melinda Gipson that effectively updates my 2004 survey and report, “Paid Search and Newspapers: Issues and Strategies.”

Superpages Head Talks Google, New Directions

Verizon SuperPages will leapfrog the increasingly stagnant Internet Yellow Pages space by focusing on “co-opetition, personalization and risk-taking,” said Internet Division President Eric Chandler in a wide-ranging address at Kelsey’s Drilling Down on Local conference in San Jose.

It isn’t the first time that SuperPages has attempted to remake itself. Two years ago, SuperPages was hellbent on becoming the Web’s ultimate shopping portal. But going forward, Chandler acknowledged it would be folly to stick with an ecommerce strategy.

Chandler’s big news at the conference, in fact, was the announcement of a sales deal with Google – enabling SuperPages to join rivals such as and Dex as salespeople for the marketing behemoth. For the past couple of months, Chandler revealed that SuperPages tested a Google package on 400 advertisers, and saw an incremental spend of $173 per customer.

Austin American Statesman Gets Micro

The Austin American Statesman is going full hog to recruit its progressive, Web-savvy community into the blogosphere. Speaking at the recent SIIA conference in New York, Internet General Manager Jim Debth said the paper’s Website, has recruited 600 bloggers, who are writing 1,700 “reader blogs” on music, movies, TV , Food & Drink, and […]

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.

How ‘Review’ Sites Fit In

The next generation of Internet Yellow Pages will inevitably include user reviews and ratings of services, whether they scare away advertisers or not. Some people have concluded that such reviews will be an interesting “extra.” My expectation is that they’ll be a core service from which all the other features sprout, including maps, urls, professional ratings, phone numbers, and Yellow Pages “copy points,” such as brands stocked, photos, hours, credit cards accepted and nearby businesses.

User reviews and ratings aren’t new. Of the major services, AOL has probably been collecting reviews the longest. Reviews from 1998 still show up on AOL’s undernourished “local experts” site. Yahoo! Local’s reviews, however, overtook AOL some time ago.

Since then, a lot of startups have entered the picture, hoping to carve out their own niches. These are generally more focused on the reviews, and less on other Yellow Pages features. Strategically, most probably have an end goal of selling to a major player at some point. Such local service-oriented sites include Insider Pages, Judy’s Book, CitySearch, Tribe, Cox’s Kudzu, BackFence and American Towns.

Among the local-oriented review sites, I liked Judy’s Book for its ease of use and high level of community. By allowing users to comment on all their life interests, it builds a better sense of community and more thoughtfulness. The site also provides a unique window into who is actually looking at which reviews, and counts them up. I’ve apparently got 319 looks at my 16 reviews; 119 of those looked at my mixed review of a local Honda dealer. It is definitely interesting, and brings a much heightened sense of community beyond Craig’s List.

Women Pass Men in Key Local Uses

Men and women are frequently targeted by local online marketers for different applications. Men are generally thought to be more interested in tech, news, cars and just surfing around. Women are thought to be less interested in aimless surfing, but are more interested in community, shopping/coupons, health services and real estate.

To me, it is still safe to generalize like this. But an updated 2005 study by The Pew Internet Project, based on 6,403 surveys with a margin of error of 2+-, suggests the differences in men and women online are becoming less pronounced.

From a local vantage point, the study contains several little surprises. For instance, user-review services such as Judy’s Book and Insider Pages are largely aimed at women. But the new Pew findings suggest that men are actually more likely to “rate a product, service or person.” 33 percent of online men say they do it; 28 percent of online women.

Online Newspapers See 11% User Growth

The transition for newspapers from print to online is incomplete, and possibly unsuccessful. But online newspapers have definitely gained momentum, with usage up 11 percent from last year, according to Nielsen/NetRatings. At the same time, the Audit Bureau of Circulation reports that print circulation dropped about 2 points.

Nielsen VP of Analytics Charles Buchwalter told The Local Onliner that one driver of newspaper sites, and other news sites, is the rise of RSS news feeds. The ability to add newspaper feeds means that people are accessing more newspapers, more often, said Buchwalter – even though RSS has “not penetrated significantly” at this point.

Beside RSS, another reason for the jump in usage is that people are accessing newspaper websites from several computers – although Nielsen tries to count them as one user, said Buchwalter. “It’s a tremendous part of it.” A third reason is that many newspapers are simply doing a better job of driving traffic – and getting credit for it. “The Washington Post is doing a very good job with their data analytics and their continuity links,” he said. More details follow.