Posts about wwgd

The next portal – or the last portal?

Michael Arrington reports that Bear Stearns says Yahoo should get itself a social network because social networks are the next portal. Here is their entire PowerPoint.

It made me want to scream:

Portals are dead, damnit. They are the last vestige of old-media bigthink, of the misguided belief that media can corral us into masses and that we want to be treated like herds. The essential moral to the story of Yahoo’s decline is that it is a portal and portals don’t work. But here’s Bear Sterns looking for the next portal. Arrrggghhh.

You know what I’m going to say: The real question they should be asking is WWGD — what would Google do? I argued when Terry Semel was bounced that Yahoo should blow itself up and become the unportal, enabling anyone anywhere to take anything from Yahoo and put it on their own sites, feeding content — which Google doesn’t have — and advertising all around the web, becoming the great enabler of social interaction via content rather than buying Facebook. I hope Yahoo doesn’t buy Facebook — even though Bear Stearns now says the value is $5-6 billion (versus the $1 billion Mark Zuckerberg quite wisely turned down) — for I fear that like other things Yahoo buys, it would freezedry it in time, stifling innovation by bringing it into that corral.

The next portal? No, Yahoo is the last portal.

WWGD: What has Google done?

Today’s announcement that Google is changing its search to integrate video, photos, text, and news with results that used to list just text on web pages is, I think, more significant than it at first seems.

This promotes other media to the exalted rank of text. And it tells publishers that they’d damned well better do the same. This is the mark of true agnosticism coming to media: You should be using whatever media best communicates information in the form the user wants.

Oh, publishers are trying. That was one of the rationales behind the Guardian’s home-page redesign last week: They want to serve video. And those publishers are scrambling to make it. But I think we’re still putting too high a wall around each medium. One thing I’m starting to learn doing the PrezVid blog is that one can use different media strung together to tell a story: text, then an embedded video, then an original video, with links all about. It’s not having text here and video over there and audio up there. It’s about using all the tools appropriately at all times.

So once again, even as we make our own articles, we should be following Google’s example and asking WWGD.

Next, this announcement throws a heavy monkey wrench into many a publisher’s SEO strategy. Until now, you structured your pages and metadata in certain magical ways and — if you were hip — got yourself linked a lot by linking out a lot and — voila — you rose into Google heaven. Now you have to figure out how to put some Google helium into your videos and photos and news headlines — all of which can now appear on the blessed search-result page.

And you also have to figure out what people get when they click on those things: where are your brand, your ads, your links? If you distribute your stuff onto more sites out there — if your video becomes a hit on YouTube and on bloggers’ embeds — does that get it higher on Google? What does this do to destination and portal strategies?

Big media people should be reaching for the gin tonight.

* * *

Make that a double:

For Google’s pages also include maps. They’re local. Very local. Like the ads. Search on Mexican restaurants in Hoboken and you get web pages and the map with listings and much more: details the business can update, reviews, links. As of now, you won’t find an ad for Baja Mexican — but that won’t be long in coming. Look at Google’s FAQ for its local business ads. Here’s how to target to regions and cities.

So if you’re a local newspaper, you ask WWGD and what’s the answer? I’m not sure. But I think you need to have better distributed as widely as possible — across a large network of very local trusted brands (read: neighbors’ blogs) with better advertising performance and service. The more local you are, the better. The better known and trusted you are, the better. The more complete you are, the better. The more searchable you make your world, the better. The more addictive you are, the better. And then you’d better do everything you can to have your ads be found via Google whether they are on your site or others’ because not everybody’s going to come to you just because they used to. (See the smartest media quote of the year.)

* * *

Bartender, another please.

But, of course, this isn’t just about traffic and retail and directory ads. It’s about classifieds. Remember them? See today’s announcement that Boston.com and its former mortal enemy and now partner, Monster.com, are coming out with their joint job channel in June. Says PaidContent: “The move also reflects the increased competition for revenue from online classifieds, as typified by the dozen entities involved in the Yahoo Newspaper Consortium, which began as co-branding with Yahoo’s HotJobs, and rival CareerBuilder, owned by Gannett, the Tribune Company, McClatchy and Microsoft, which purchased a minority stake in it earlier this month.”

What it really represents, I say, is not just the further collapse of newspapers’ hold on classifieds but the crumbling of classifieds as a form of advertising itself. The monsters are huddling together for warmth. With better search, we’ll be able to find each other, buyer and seller, without having to go to a centralized marketplace.

It won’t be long before we see classifieds coming up in Google searches. In some ways, we do now. Search for new homes in Tampa and you’ll see ads next to that map.

So WWGD? Well, I think the best opportunity is to target not words but people. If you know that lawyers in New Jersey read this New Jersey law blog, then you have a better chance of reaching people who work in the field. You have a relationship — or rather, that blogger does and you want a relationship with him. If you know that neighbors in Montclair read this blog — and they do — then you have a place to put house and restaurant ads you sell, if you’re in a network with that blogger (who can also sell ads on your pages, by the way). But can you afford to start blogs for every town and job description in your state? Of course, not — especially not now. But it’s in your interest for them to exist. So you need to support them. How? Well, for starters, sell ads for them and promote them and figure out what else you can do for them. That’s what Google would do. Hell, that’s what Google is doing.

: LATER: Matt Law, a veteran of About.com who knows whereof he SEOs, adds in the comments that I rushed past one important impact of this:

It’s not just an issue of getting more of their “multi”media stuff to show up in the listings. They now have to worry about how all this new stuff pushes their regular web page rankings further down the page.

More sand

Jason Fry in the Wall Street Journal writes an excellent column summing up the suicidal impulses of the association of Belgian newspapers — and others — who try to shut off Google and think they are still in a position to make media’s rules.

These disputes are about money, of course — the newspaper groups think Google’s making some off their efforts, and they want a piece. But more broadly, Copiepresse objects to the idea that Google and other search engines should set the rules for linking, contending that such standards should be set by copyright laws, not technological standards. That’s a bid to turn back time and declare a do-over on the basics of search engines — a quixotic effort that flies in the face of the reality of how content is consumed today, and one in which Copiepresse has inadvertently lined up against its papers’ own readers.

Whether or not content creators like it, this is the age of fragmentation. In industry after industry, consumers are voting with their feet against old methods of packaging and distributing information. They want to pick and choose what’s of interest to them, without having to pay for or wade through what isn’t. That change, midwived by technology, has shaken or shattered content companies’ business models. It’s made everything they do more risky. And it’s stripped them of power they once enjoyed, forcing them to work with new companies and industries that somehow got to set the rules. Faced with such a situation, it’s understandable that content creators are angry. But the chance to set the ground rules passed some time ago, and it’s high time for content creators to realize that and adjust.

After reviewing the internet-induced upheaval that has struck music and television, he says:

The only surprise would be if newspapers were any different.

In moving online, newspapers have become collections of individual articles, each of which often stands on its own. Once, readers encountered articles by reading the paper a page at a time. Now, such readers are being supplanted by voracious online consumers who get their news in any number of unpredictable ways.

That’s a critical insight I rarely see in print but one that blogs understand because, as Meg Hourihan said in the dawn of blogging, the atomic unit of media is no longer the publication or the section or the page or even the article but the post: the nugget of information, the thought, the notion. That is what is really being disaggregated: the old unit of media itself.

I have no idea how you’re reading this column. Maybe you found it on the Online Journal’s home page or the technology page. Maybe you saw it because it includes Google’s stock symbol, or it hit your newsreader via an RSS feed. Maybe you followed a link from a blog, Google News or Technorati. . . . I can’t control any of that and wouldn’t want to — like any writer, the most-important thing to me is to be read. If the Online Journal started directing readers who followed third-party links to this column to the home page and left them to find their way from there, I’d be furious — because I’d be guaranteed to lose readers who got lost. And if WSJ.com said they were doing that because there were ads on the home page but not on this article, I’d not so gently suggest hiring a competent Web designer instead of suing search engines. . . .

Ultimately, what content creators face isn’t new technology, but a sea change in consumer behavior. Consumers don’t want to go back to watching TV at set times, buying albums or reading newspapers page by page. Trying to make them do so using laws that haven’t kept up with technology will fail. . . . At its heart, the Web is driven by users, not publishers. Whatever pain that causes content creators, opposing that fundamental idea became a revanchist fantasy long ago.

Well said. The problem for the controllers of media is that they still want to be and think they can be in control. But the obvious rule of nature is that we will be in control whenever we can be and we will cede it only unwillingly, only by necessity. So the key is to find out how to succeed by enabling us to do what we want to do. That is what the technology companies — Google, Facebook, et al — do. How can media companies do likewise? WWGD?

At the Murdoch clambake in Monterey, I tried to suggest that the real lesson these media men and women should learn from Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook is that he delivered enabling technology to the people and millions used it. How do we build news so it gets used? How do we succeed at that? How do we exploit Google?