Tag Archives: Microsoft

Microsoft Earn: CLO Effort Aligns ‘Time, Location, Context, Commerce’

Microsoft continues to push ahead with its card linked offer program, which has been in Beta in Washington, Arizona and Massachusetts since May. But since we last wrote about it in April, the program has been rebranded from Bing Offers to Microsoft Earn. The program is now more oriented towards promotional redemptions at The Microsoft Store. Registrants can earn points at participating merchants towards Microsoft products.

Participants in Microsoft Earn include hundreds of local restaurants, as well as national brands with local outlets. THey include 7-Eleven, Starbucks, Papa John, Whole Foods, Shell and Pet Smart. 1-800-Flowers is also participating.

Speaking at Cardlinx’s “Data Driven Commerce” meeting in Bellevue, WA, GM of Holistic Monetization Erik Jorgensen says “merchant acceptance is shifting from skeptical to believers.” CLO represents “a great signal for measuring the impact of the digital world to the real world.” It provides “friction free, almost magical consumer experiences.”

Early results have been promising with “member acquisitions easier and engagement great than anticipated,” said Jorgensen. “Meanwhile, customer confusion and support (issues) have been less than anticipated.”

Microsoft Director of Payments Will White said that CLO is an anchor product for a new generation of commerce built around wallets and authentication (“vitally important”), ease of use and personalization. CLOs “align time, location, context and commerce,” he said. The idea is to use signals to offer the right things at the right time.

Wooton at DMS ’10: Microsoft Advertising Provides a ‘Local Operating System’

Microsoft will work more closely with small businesses and interactive agencies, offering itself up as “the local operating system,” according to Microsoft Advertising VP of Global Search and Online Marketplace Randy Wooton, who addressed BIA/Kelsey’s DMS ’10 conference today in Dallas.

Wooton said that Microsoft was one of only two companies that had the wide ranging platform that could meet all of today’s SMB media needs –the other apparently being Google. “We can support consumer experiences across any device supporting queries with geographic intent,” he said, noting that it goes beyond monetization via the Ad Center to also include Microsoft’s local business portal services, mapping platform and even its XBox games platform – the “only truly cool thing that Microsoft owns,” Wooton joked.

Microsoft sees tremendous opportunity in the SMB channel. $8 billion is likely to be spent on websites by 2013, and $15 billion altogether. The company is already well positioned via its “search alliance” partnership with Yahoo, which handles 30 percent of the overall marketplace. It also has strategic partnerships with IYPs such as SuperMedia, YP.com and DexOne Media,” noted Wooton.

Research commissioned from Bain & Co., by Microsoft supports his thesis. Twenty five percent of SMBs use partners; 35 percent of their total spend is indirect. Those that use channel partners spend 8X those that don’t.

Microsoft on Real Estate: 360 Degree Panorama Gives Way to ‘Photo Synth’

The 360 degree views of real estate listings were remarkable for their time, but are giving way to new technology that lets users look at many things at once, says Microsoft Live Labs Technical Fellow Gary Flake, who was speaking last week at Inman’s Real Estate Connect in San Francisco.

“We’re used to Web navigating from one image to another,” especially with video games, says Flake. Microsoft’s PhotoSynth technology lets users zoom in and out of backyards to bedrooms etc. It is the same technology used by CNN for the Obama Inauguration, he notes.

Indeed, Photo Synth, combined with Pivot, a program for collecting information, creates new experiences and allows you to embed them within your own Website. “It will make you want to change the ways you take photos to take into how you stitch together hundreds of things,” says Flake.

Geffs at IAB: ‘We Don’t Need Google to Buy Everything’

The default strategy for many startups is to plan to be acquired by Google or Microsoft. But the M&A scene is much more complex than that. Jordan, Edmiston Group Co-President Tolman Geffs, speaking today at IAB’s Annual Leadership Meeting in Carlsbad, CA, joked that Google is set to buy Oregon, Washington and Canada “just to mess with Microsoft.”

Speaking more seriously, he noted that “we don’t need Google and Microsoft to buy everything.” Incumbent specialist firms would find higher value in a number of areas. These include marketing analytics; consumer data; cable and entertainment; Web delivery; Infrastructure; major agencies, large display ad networks and performance advertising (such as Demand Media).

Geffs noted there is currently a vibrant deal environment, with 178 deals made in the second half of 2009 worth $13.3 Billion. This was a major change from a “dead” first half when just 129 deals were completed, he said.

Still, there has only been a “partial recovery from previous levels for online plays “Classifieds is the only sector of advertising that was down,” he said. Especially hot areas include online media, interactive marketing, video and infrastructure plays.

A real “head scratcher” for Geffs is the $1 billion+ committed by Google ($750 million) and Apple ($275 million) for two mobile ad networks: AdMob and Quattro Wireless. “That’s the entire forecast for 2012 mobile ad revenue” he said, noting that the high prices has lead to a stunning $211 million worth of investment in nine other mobile ad nets by VCs.

In fact, Geffs questions whether mobile is even a good ad medium. “They help consumers complete tasks,” he noted. But “is this a great promotional medium?”

Geffs, former president of IBS, a TV station Website builder and advertising provider, is also critical of “vertically integrated” models that rely on content aggregation and search, such as Citysearch and ReachLocal. He thinks costs are too high.

Reach Local, for instance, is a vertically integrated play that only leaves seven percent of its revenue to support its product and platform, after spending 55 percent on consumer traffic and 38 percent on sales and marketing.

He’s more excited about local companies that solve a problem and keep content, audience and sales costs low, such as Outside.in, Datasphere, Triton Media, Merchant Circle, Manta, Yelp and Angie’s List. “We are big fans,” he said.

Zvents Sees 35% Growth; Touts Power of Newspaper Network

Zvents, the events lister, is reporting 35 percent year-over-year growth with over eight million unique visitors, largely due to its powering events for 285 local media brands, including major newspapers and the NBC owned-and-operated TV stations.

CEO Ethan Stock cites Quantcast data showing Zvents Media Network as the 250th most used net on the Web, ahead of Citysearch (#267) and Local.com (#291). “We’re a very large local property by any measure,” he says.

The company, which has raised $32 million over its five year history, also claims it has been averaging 12,000 monthly event listers. These use the site to promote a wide range of local events and activities, including live music, performing arts, sporting events and community activities.

Of those listers, roughly 1200, or 10 percent, are now boosting their presence by taking out ads via self–serve – a percentage that Stock thinks will climb to 20 percent in 2010. The company also sells regional and national accounts via telemarketing and national sales, with top categories including major concert promoters, sports teams, casinos and home and garden events.

High end shopping, with its sales-oriented events, such as Williams Sonoma cooking demonstrations, are also becoming more important to Zvents bottom line. “There is a significant segment of consumers who perceive shopping as entertainment,” says Stock.

The key to the company’s future in local, however, is to stay away from the trap of focusing on directory-type advertising. Instead, Zvents will stay focused on events and shopping, he says, which have the most highly motivated advertisers. “They are also relatively concentrated in terms of the volume of advertising.”

Indeed, the company’s focus on events and advertising puts it most in competition with social sites such as Facebook and Google, rather than local sites such as Citysearch and Yelp, who may be more directory oriented, says Stock. Other events oriented companies include Eventful, and “new city guide” players such as Center’d and American Towns.

In hindsight, the company’s initial focus on teaming with newspapers “look like a very smart choice,” adds Stock. While newspapers are commonly disparaged in today’s climate for their declining circulation and advertising, “they have high repeat traffic. Much more than national partners.” Top Zvents newspaper partners include SFGate, the Denver Post, Seattle PI, Boston.com, the Dallas Morning News, the Atlanta Journal Constitution, New York Daily News, and the Orange County Register.

Stock also sees a major boost coming from renewed efforts in local from national partners such as AT&T’s Yellowpages.com, which has been an investor in the company ; and from MSN, where Zvents listings will be showing up in Bing, and trigger Instant Answers via Silverlight search.

WebVisible: SMBs Spent Average of $1,658 on Search in Q3; Google’s Share Drops a Little

Small businesses that buy search spent $1,658 on average in Q3 2009, a figure that was up 91 percent from 3Q 2008, according to a new report issued by WebVisible, a company that manages online marketing campaigns for SMBs.

Thirty-three percent of the SMB search market is made up of advertisers spending between $1,000 and $1,999. Fifteen percent is made up of advertising spending between $2,000 and $2,999. Twelve percent is made up of advertising spending above $3,000 on the high end, and 19 percent spend between $100-$999 on the lower end.

The report, “State of Small Businesses Online Advertising, Search Edition, Q3,” noted that search spending is widely spread out among SMB categories, with the Top 20 categories making up just 20 percent of total search spending. Leading spenders were Attorneys, Dentists, Air Conditioning Services, Physicians & Surgeons, Insurance, Roofing, and Plumbing Contractors. Of these only the top four categories had spending share over two percent.

While Google dominates spending with over 60 percent of the market, that domination has lessened by five percentage points as lower priced competitors picked up the slack, according to the report. It also says that Google’s cost per click (CPC) jumped 14 percent from last year, and its CPC is now 30 percent above Yahoo and Microsoft’s Bing. The report notes that Yahoo has over 26 percent share, and that Bing has 10.5 percent.

MSN’s Cyrus Krohn: The New Local Focus

Microsoft ‘s MSN has been a good hodgepodge that gets 100 million users a month. But it hasn’t had a serious redo for ten years. So the question posed to a new team brought in to redo the site was: how do you make the site standout and really help users?

Site leader Scott Moore and Cyrus Krohn, a top lieutenant, had previously worked together at Yahoo and even teamed on a business plan for a local news product. Reunited by Microsoft, they looked over their options and one thing always stood out: local.

“Our research shows that local is the number one unmet need, regardless of publisher,” noted Krohn, who previously ran Slate for Microsoft, Yahoo elections and most recently, The Republican National Committee’s digital effort. Most local sites are pretty much limited to “event listings and restaurant listings,” he said.

To that end, a new site has been developed in a six month time-frame that has upgraded Local from the increasingly out-of-date and limited “MSN City Guides” to “Local Edition,” a new curated section broken down into “Local News” and “Local Events” and prominently featured on the home page. The site has been rolled out to one percent of its user base this week. The bulk of the user base will get the site within two months.

Even in its early iterations, the site has localized every link for 44,000 zipcodes. It is also fed by Bing search and maps, as well as local news by MSNBC.com and Bing News. It also includes partnerships with Fox Sports, WDT (weather), Zvents, MSN Autos, and Yellowpages.com. Scout, Fox’s high school sports site, will soon be added as well.

It is also likely that MSNBC’s integration with Everyblock, the hyperlocal data provider, will also be integrated. Twitter and Facebook feeds will also be brought in to provide live search feeds. Twitter’s live search feeds are also being tried out by Yahoo and Google. Facebook feeds, at this point, are unique to MSN.

Krohn notes that the development team has been kept deliberately small. “It’s just me and two other people on the media team,” he says. But the team has been working closely with the very large team in MSN engineering and other parts of Microsoft.

In fact, the integration with MSN is seen by Krohn as a major differentiation with other sites. It will let the site broaden categories and let users see all their needs “all in one sitting,” he said. To the best of his knowledge, MapQuest is the only other portal that approaches the same level of integration between search and content.

The development process, however, hasn’t always been easy. Sports, for instance, has been very complex to assign local feeds too, says Krohn. This is compounded by limited personalization on the site, which really doesn’t go beyond zip code. Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers fans, for instance, have moved to other parts of the country; people in places like the Dakotas and Hawaii don’t have professional sports.

Localization has also been tough for zip codes where people live closer to a town with a different name . The default on my neighborhood, for instance, was set for the main town, eight miles away. That wasn’t useful. But it was easy to manually override the default with more local store and restaurant listings.

While the site is still in development, Krohn says he thinks it is a good start. The long-term vision, however, is to provide a “true hyperlocal or neighborhod level” site that weaves in social media;Tweets from neighborhoods; and is blog-centric.

MSN Content Head Scott Moore and Krohn are doing a joint keynote on Day 1 at ILM: 09 , which runs December 9-11.