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The Sales Debate at WMS ’09: Interactive Specialists, or Sell-It-All?

As more and more digital products and partnerships are introduced, a real debate is emerging whether they can be sold by a traditional media sales type who may be more focused on core product, have limited time to make his or her case (and apparently, a “C student” as well).

WMS ’09 participants in Washington D.C. this week got their fill of the debate. Gordon Borrell of Borrell Associates is clearly of the school that Internet specialists have to be hired. “If you are developing interactive, you can’t do it without sales people,” he says, encouraging the broadcasters in the audience to budget for more feet in the street, even in these tough times. But, he adds, “I have not seen a single case where people are selling two products,” although “a lot of people are trying to do that.”

Kelsey Group CEO Neal Polachek, however, says the issue is really how we define the idea of a “salesperson.” In this day and age, “a salesperson is not just a salesperson; he is a solution solver,” says Polachek.

“He has to go in and figure out the best way to generate (the client’s) objectives. It might be one place on the wheel, or it might be two places. To go in and say: ‘I am going to sell Gross Ratings Points to you,’ or ‘I am going to sell Internet Yellow Pages to you’ is not going to fly.”

Rob Weisbord, director, digital interactive, Sinclair Broadcast Group, said that much of the issue is simply whether the salesperson has the mental bandwidth to handle multiple products. “There are too many ‘c students,” he says. The current environment requires “A students” because “knowledge is the paradigm,” especially as Sinclair tries to “close the loop” of the array of ad products for three screens: TV, PC and mobile.

“They are 360 degree customer solution sellers,” says Weisbord. Consequently, “the best rep comes from a marketing background. We’re looking for athletes. They’re the most competitive.”

Marketplaces 2009: Top 10 Takeaways

Thanks for everyone who came out to LA for the Marketplaces 2009 conference this week– and to everyone who followed us on the blogs and Twitter. We had a great time. Here’s some topline takeaways.

1. The vertical online environment is still immature and will actually grow very healthily over the next several years. It is amazing to see the growth that sites like Autotrader and Cars.com are delivering in this environment.

2. SEO is a big part of any vertical’s success – AOL YP gets 50 percent of its usage from SEO. G5 Search marketing, which specializes in self storage; Teachstreet and Allmenus.com will all leverage it. But SEO can’t be the only tool in the arsenal. Krillion had to make direct affiliate deals to get going.

3. One of the biggest challenges is still getting local vertical info online. Google Local head Chris LaSala estimated that less than 10 percent is online. But as AutoTrader head Chip Perry noted, used car have gone from 3 percent to 50 percent. We need a similar migration in other categories.

4. Syndication is huge. It is the new driver for Citysearch via Facebook Connect, and for Oodle across a wide range of services. The open API model, perfected with Google Maps distribution to thousands of sites, is the new standard.

5. Mobile advertising can bring some revenues, but that’s not why mobile is important. As Cars.com’s Bill Swislow and NearbyNow’s Scott Dunlap noted, the real power of mobile is providing 24/7 information on the go, when you’re shopping. Verticals must mobile-ize now.

6. If you are a platform provider, you won’t do it solely on the backs of newspapers and YP. They can still be very helpful, but they’re not the main deal.

7. The days of multi-million dollar “slotting” deals are gone – especially for established brands. At the same time, new verticals still need portal exposure. Can they deal/partner?

8. Anyone can set up a “TV station” using the Web, and video still beats text and images, every time. Newspapers have made some tentative efforts, but new video providers like Greeenspun’s 702.tv in Las Vegas might prove to be the ticket. It’s fast paced underground local videos beats the pants off a 30 minute news broadcast.

9. The mixture of video and search is a real killer ap. Demand Media’s bid to be the YouTube of instructional video could really be a powerhouse.

10. The elasticity of social tools and user generated tools can help verticals create entire new programs for advertisers. It is especially impressive to see Active Networklocal event blogs for Dunkin’ Donuts, and Citysearch’s MopSpots blog for hair salons — a huge Citysearch ad segment, albeit under-media’d.


Marketplaces 2009: AOL’s Chris Spanos, Yahoo’s Atif Rafiq

AOL Yellow Pages has greatly benefitted from search engine optimization, with 50 percent of its traffic coming from SEO, according to Chris Spanos, GM, local search, who was speaking today at Kelsey’s Marketplaces conference in Los Angeles. “We have a very healthy Yellow Pages business,” said Spanos, who called it “the number one independent Yellow pages” site. “If the AOL network were to go away, the business would still be strong because of what we’re getting from Google and MSN.”

Spanos also noted that AOL was effectively using search (and AOL.com) to drive traffic into its numerous vertical sites. AOL autos and AOL real estate are leaders in their space, he said. These “help uses make the right decisions,” he noted. “We monetize that in a strong way.”

Yahoo Local lead Atif Rafiq, speaking on the same session, made similar points about Yahoo’s efforts in verticals and search. “There is a deep integration of local into (user) experiences,” he noted. Rafiq also said that Yahoo is looking beyond basic “transactional type things” in local verticals. “The next step up is research….which (requires) more sophisticated behavior.”

The SMB Commando’s Sneak Preview of ILM:08

We had a lot of fun this week previewing next month’s Interactive Local Media:08 with Dick Larkin, the Small Business Commando. There is lots of good Kelsey data and analysis mixed in – no surprise, really, since the conferences are a microcosm of everything we are doing. Here’s the link to our PPT and the recording.

As for the show itself, we’ve pretty much finalized the speaker list at this point, adding all three of the biggest names in interactive out-of-home to our Video SuperForum: Aileen Lee from Danoo; John McMenomin from Ripple; and Peter Bowen from SeeSaw Networks.

Gordon Henry from Spotzer and Jon Rosen from SpotRunner have also been added — two heavy hitters from “other” media (YellowBook, Knight Ridder, Autobytel, AOL) that are going for the gold with video. And to top things off, we’ve also added Manoj Verma from My Virtual Paper; and one of our favorite SMB guys, Brian Kraff from MarketHardware.You can register here.

Just Announced: Big Time Lineup for ILM 08, Silicon Valley

OK, we’ve got the format(s) and “best and brightest” speaker roster set for Interactive Local Media: Extending Local Channels, which is Nov. 19-21 in Santa Clara, next to San Jose.

At the top of the list is Angie Hicks, “the Angie” from Angie’s List, and Rodney Rice from ServiceMagic. They’ll tell it all during one-on-one interviews.

More excitement is to be found on a Financial panel with Kara Nortman from IAC; and the “Transition to the Internet” sessions with Kevin Cuddihy from Comcast; Larry Olevitch from NBC Local; Lem Lloyd from The Yahoo! Newspaper Consortium; and Meredith Papp from Google’s Traditional Media team.

For some people, Interactive Local Media is all about the ad nets. If that’s the case, we have three of the leaders in the vertical and local space: Russ Fradin from Cox’s Adify; Shawn Riegsecker from Centro; and Jason Tafler from Gannett’s PointRoll.

And we’ll have plenty of “Community” with Mark Josephson from Outside.in; Mike Orren from Pegasus News; Dave Galvan from Topix; and Seb Provencher from Praized.com. We’ve also zeroed in on New Business Directories in the U.S. and abroad with Chris Smith from Sensis; and Eric Peacock from CitySearch/InsiderPages; and Pieter Grasdijk from Holland’s iLocal. Watch for some additions there, to be announced shortly.

We also are looking forward to new directions in mobile with Greg Wester from VoodooVox (Greg, of course, one the smartest analysts to come out of The Yankee Group). We’ll have a lot of other local mobile-related things at the show, including leading edge local iPhone and Google Android demos.

We’re especially proud to land Mike Liebhold from The Institute For the Future to give us a sense of how mobile, GPS and Mapping technologies impact the future of local media, community and society. Mike is a longtime tech industry leader and visionary (at Apple, among other places). All this will be rounded out with some great Comscore data on multi-platform local usage from Brian Jurutka, a great presenter and analyst.

What is really going to make this conference stand out, however, are the multi-paneled “Superforums” on SMB Marketing and Video, hopefully complete with audience “voting” via laser pen (if we can figure out the logistics with 600+ attendees). The SMB SuperForum is now largely in place with Web.com’s Jeff Stibel doing a mini keynote, with strong support from Paul Ryan from DoneRight; Josh Walker from CityVoter; Court Cunningham from Yodle; Todd Crandall from Metrix4Media; Darren Waddell from MerchantCircle; and Mike Englehart, the new CEO from LiveDeal.

On the Video SuperForum side, we’re kicking things off with a mini-keynote from Brad Inman, the CEO of TurnHere (and founder of HomeGain and InmanNews), great demos, and many top speakers to be announced on that shortly. Here’s the Kelsey Group URL for where to sign up. (But don’t delay. Prices go up shortly).

DMS ’08 Keynote: AT&T Advertising and Publishing Head Frank Jules

AT&T Advertising and Publishing President Frank Jules, who has held the top slot for a year, said at Kelsey’s Directional Media Strategies conference in Atlanta that his business is “changing dramatically,” and laid out a prescription for Yellow Pages growth. The prescription is heavily dependent on success of AT&T Publishing’s efforts on the Internet, which is growing at a clip of 40 percent per year, and social network models.

Cracking social models such as personalized plans and events is “very, very important. If we do it well, we’ll grow from 20 million to 40 million unique visitors on the Web,” he said. “And we think there is monetization for advertisers and customers along the way.”

Social areas that will be tackled by AT&T include movies, autos and restaurants. Video also plays a major role. He noted that AT&T has sold 20,000 video ads to small business customers to date. “They are the least likely to churn,” he noted. “They’re something that actually stays up there. We’re very big on them.”

Going forward, Jules says he has just finished getting budgeting approved for a three year growth plan, in which the Internet gets the lion’s share of the investment, but which will also see investments in print, Hispanic media and rep training. “Simple search is evolving to search, discover and transact in all these categories.

“Lots of capital is being put into mobile apps,” he added, noting that the iPhone is “the premier device. We’re spending lots of time on voice recognition applications. AT&T’s free directory assistance service, 1(800) Yellow Pages, is also part of the mix, as is its recent acquisition of InGenio, a leading pay per call service. “We are using it in underutilized headings,” he said. “But we are only dabbling in it today. We’ll be providing a much more robust offering in 2009. It will be the small businesses ‘ultimate proof in value,’ he predicted.

Jules also provided details of a digitalized Yellow Pages service in the former BellSouth region called “RealPagesLive. The service enables users to type in digital Post It notes as mnemonic devices, and to turn pages virtually. He conceded, however, that the service has been under-promoted. Mostly, it is being offered for corporate databases, he said.

Kelsey ‘DMS’ Show Next Week in Atlanta….


Kelsey’s Directional Media Strategies is next week in Atlanta, and there is going to be a lot of coverage here, and even more on The Kelsey Blog.

My own role is to interview Sonia Survanshi McFarland, the Google vet who recently became Yelp’s head of business development. I’m also moderating a really good vertical panel, with Tom Bates from Cox’s Kudzu; John Busby from Marchex; and one of the most interesting people in our space, Joel Toledano from Krillion.

Some of the other headliners at the show include former Citysearch head Briggs Ferguson, who is currently running Idearc Internet, home of SuperPages.com; YPG head Marc Tellier; Frank Jules, who runs AT&T Publishing; and Marilyn Neal, who runs fast building Local Insight Media.

November 19-21 in Santa Clara, Matt Booth, Mike Boland and I are the guys behind Interactive Local Media 2008. We’ve already got two handfuls of great speakers set …but we’ll talk about them after DMS wraps. (o.k. here’s a hint: this speaker shares her name with a sappy 1973 Rolling Stones song)