Google Custom Search will Kill the Competition

Google unveiled a custom search tool, dubbed “Google Custom Search Business Edition”, aimed at small and medium-size businesses (SMB). This is a hosted search service that provides powerful indexing and customized-search capabilities.

Now customers, vendors, and others can easily search your company web site and get relevant search results, without requiring an IT system (people, software, or hardware). The service is $100 per year for up to 5,000 web pages, and $500 per year for up to 50,000 pages. There is a free version, but it displays Google advertisements (much like search results on www.google.com). The only issue is that you cannot search the intranet behind the firewall. Then again, Intranet searching is not a requirement for a lot of SMBs.

Salient features of this service are:

  1. Ad-free search results with the paid version (free version includes ads).
  2. Customizable look and feel allows including the company logo and preferred colors in search results.
  3. Advanced customization of search results via the XML API. The XML feed includes the individual results of the search query, allowing the URL and description text to be displayed in a custom style. This feature requires an IT system to process the XML into HTML format.
  4. Categorize search results applying “Refinements” or labels to pages. These categories appear as links before the search results. When a user clicks on a category, pages tagged with the category are displayed first.
  5. Subscribed links that always show up at the top of search results for specified keywords. These links appear where Google ads normally would.
  6. Reporting of how often and what was searched for.
  7. Multiple language support. Specify the language for the Search Engine or specify “All Languages,” to use the language associated with the user’s browser. Bulgarian, Chinese (Simplified), Chinese (Traditional), Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Slovak, Spanish, Swedish, and Turkish are supported.
  8. Email and Phone technical support.
  9. Easy enough to get up and running in 10 minutes!

Google Custom Search is based off the general search index, so it doesn’t guarantee it will index a web site or a certain page, while competitors specifically index each customer site. Nonetheless, Google Custom Search is much cheaper than the competition. The Google OS blog provides a price comparison of hosted search services (* indicates configurable crawling frequency, ** indicates password-protected pages are indexed):

Product Price for a year (5,000 documents)
FusionBot** $2,400
Spiderline** $1,200
Freefind* $948
SiteLevel* $863.78
FindinSite* $720
PicoSearch** $498 (6,000 documents)
Mysitesearch* $239.40
Innerprise* $228
Google Custom Search $100

This is also much cheaper and more convenient than an in-house search engine such as Google Search Appliance or Microsoft’s SharePoint Server for Search, because it doesn’t require any IT investment. The Google Mini Search Appliance costs $1,995 for 50,000 web pages and the The Google Search Appliance starts at $30,000.

This is a perfect example of a function that a customer can outsource. First, enhancements to search technology are immediately available, rather than having to wait for IT system upgrades. And a perfect example of an unbeatable strategy (never say never) of leveraging an existing system to provide a new service. That is why Google is able to provide this at minimal cost.

The first reason makes hosted search better than in-house search. The second reason makes Google invincible and put other hosted search providers out of business. Only the Microsoft’s and Yahoo!s stand in the way of Google’s total domination.

Furthermore, looks like Google’s game plan is to make it convenient and cost effective for businesses to outsource search, and leverage this to sell Google Apps. Nice Strategy!

Babelgum strengthens strategy, gets new CEO

babelgum_logo.jpgBabelgum, the upstart Internet TV network that looks and works much like Joost, has appointed Valerio Zingarelli as the CEO. Zingarelli takes over from co-founder Erik Lumer who will now focus on strategic product development. Prior to Babelgum, Zingarelli was an independent Boardmember of Fastweb, the second largest Wireline Telecommunication Company in Italy. Before that, Zingarelli was formerly Vodafone’s Global Director of Networks and Service Platforms, which he joined from Omnitel. Prior to that he worked for Alenia and for Cselt, both in Italy.

The most interesting part is that Babelgum is looking more and more like a Europe-focused company. Babelgum is founded by Italian entrepreneur Silvio Scaglia. Now, the CEO is someone with strong experience in Italy (but not much global experience). Nothing wrong with that, but a more global outlook would’ve been better.

Looks like Babelgum is placing its bets in Europe, rather than in the U.S., the biggest market for Internet TV (or is it?). With the level of competition in the U.S. Babelgum would have a better standing Europe. Contrast that with Joost, another European company, that is focusing on American consumers and American media, as judged by the media distribution agreements with U.S. media companies.

Speaking of Media, Babelgum’s recent content partnerships with 3DD, Associated Press, BBC MotionGallery, Big Picture Limited, Black Diamond, Breakthru Films, Entertainment Rights, Fight Network, Filmchest, Gong Anime, IMG, Fashion, Gamer TV, Golf, Indivisual, Intervision, ITN, Journeyman Films, Quattro Media, Reuters, Spike Lee, aren’t anything to write home about – more evidence that Babelgum is focusing on the indie-like niche.

This is disappointing as I was looking forward to Babelgum and Joost blazing a trail to bring Internet TV to the television via the set-top box.

Nonetheless, I like what I hear about Babelgum’s strategy. By the end of the year, Babelgum plans to grow to 100 employees. In the next year Babelgum will concentrate on the three sequential priorities of building quality content through direct acquisition of content and automatic self-uploads by independent content owners, marketing Babelgum to English speaking viewers around the globe, and addressing the advertising market. I think Babelgum has the right strategy – to focus on a niche. Why compete with traditional TV providers, and Internet TV providers like Joost, Veoh, and YouTube/Apple TV when you can carve out a profitable niche in long-form long-tail media!

adap.tv Secures $10 Million in Venture Capital

adaptv_logo.gifadap.tv, a unique online video advertising platform that allows publishers and advertisers to match relevant advertising with online video content, has closed a Series A round of $10 million from new investor Redpoint Ventures and existing investor Gemini Israel Funds, to enhance and expand the company’s product offerings, broaden recruitment efforts, and grow operations. The company was founded in 2006, and is headquartered in San Mateo, CA.

adap.tv uses advanced technology to analyze the video, audio and metadata to serve contextually relevant ads without being too invasive, monitoring viewers interaction with ads and adapting to their behavior.

With video being one of the fastest growing areas, there is tremendous opportunity in video advertising. However, adap.tv’s focus on “video advertising beyond the pre- and post-roll”, is a bit puzzling – pre and post roll is where advertising has traditionally been tried and succeeded (perhaps less successful now).

I’m not so sure that users will click on an ad during a show because it will interrupt watching the video and take the user to a new page. Content producers and content networks wouldn’t be too happy if the users don’t get to watch the entire show!

Virgin Mobile Sugar Mama gives Free Airtime for Ads

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Virgin Mobile‘s Sugar Mama program includes an advertising program that gives subscribers free call time for interacting with ads on their phones. Basically, you spend about a minute listening to an advertisement or filling out an online survey and get a free minute of talk time. There are two ways to earn free minutes with Sugar Mama:

  1. Sugar Mama Online: Watch short spots on a PC and rate them to get 1 minute of airtime for every minute of your time or Fill out surveys about brands, products, and services, and get 5 minutes of airtime for completing a 5-minute survey
  2. Sugar Mama Mobile: Receive text (SMS) or picture messages (MMS) on your phone, then follow the instructions to start racking up your free minutes. For every two Sugar Mama Mobile activities you complete, you get one minute of airtime.

You can earn up to 75 minutes each month with Sugar Mama. To be eligible for Sugar Mama, you need to be an active subscriber – you need to add at least $20 every 90 days, a $10 Top-Up every 45 days (up to a maximum of 90 days), or be enrolled in one of our monthly TALK options or $6.99 TALK.

In order to customize ads to a user, Sugar Mama collects users phone number, age, gender, and zip code. The Privacy Policy is here.

Since the program was launched about a year ago, Virgin Mobile has signed up 330,000 of its 4.8 million subscribers into the Sugar Mama program and given away 9 million minutes of mobile talk time. While this 7% uptake wouldn’t be counted as a great success, it shows that some users are open to the idea of using ads to get free minutes.

This is an interesting form of mobile advertising. Perhaps the next iteration will be a free mobile service in return for interacting with advertisements.

Yahoo launches SmartAds

Yahoo today launched SmartAds, a new advertising platform that gives marketers a way to deliver tailored display ads to targeted audiences. SmartAds works by connecting users with their expressed interests. For example, if a user is looking for hybrid cars in Yahoo Autos and had previously selected San Francisco as his or her default location in Yahoo Weather, Yahoo’s SmartAds platform can assemble and deliver a display ad in real time that showcases a hybrid vehicle, along with local dealer information for SF.

Relying on “behavioral targeting” to display more relevant ads, SmartAds combines rich media capabilities with new ad serving technology to automatically convert a marketers creative campaigns into relevant ads. When advertisers and agencies design a single set of creative components and provide Yahoo with the artwork and a feed to their offer database, Yahoo will use this to generate unique ad combinations.

Testing conducted on Yahoo FareChase has resulted in clickthrough rates of 2x to 3x higher than for static, non-customized ads. SmartAds is initially available to travel industry advertisers on Yahoo! properties. Yahoo will expand to additional vertical industries in the coming months.

All I have to ask is “What took Yahoo! sooo long?” They have so many vertical properties, so Yahoo! is in a competitively advantageous position, say over Google, to mine data on individual tastes across these sites.

Interestingly, when searching Google for “SmartAds” results in the following correction/suggestion from Google:

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Related Articles:

  1. Yahoo launches SmartAds advertising platform
  2. Yahoo Gets Smart in Online Ad Competition

TV Advertising will grow, but who will eat the cake?

According to the USA Today, a recent report published by PWC is forecasting that traditional TV advertising sales will grow 4.5% a year to $46.3 billion in 2011. When you consider product placement revenue and fees that cable, satellite and phone services pay to carry a channel, network TV revenues could grow of 6.5% a year to $85.4 billion in 2011. Broadcast and cable networks have been reeling from dismal ratings because there are more channels to view (on average, a home gets 104), consumers are using DVRs to watch TV shows (DVRs are not counted in TV ratings, yet), and consumers are using the Internet (on a PC) more and more as a medium for Entertainment. For example, more and more viewers are using YouTube to watch amateur Internet videos from a PC.

Despite the ratings slippage for individual TV networks, TV viewing is actually up:

“We had a record year of TV viewing this past year,” says PricewaterhouseCoopers advisory partner Mike Kelley: “The online phenomenon has done a lot to bolster TV viewing because it allows people to interact with TV programs, to learn more about plot lines. We even have leaks about an upcoming episode of a program. While it can be viewed as a curse, it has also been a boon.”

So what’s going increase TV viewing? The Internet is becoming a bigger source of videos, but the following will increase TV viewership and even shift Internet Video viewing from the Computer to the TV screen.

  1. HDTV – With the high resolution and quality of HDTV, users will not just watch more TV, but also will shift to using the HDTV for watching Internet Video as well. PWC predicts that nearly 59% of homes will have HDTVs in 2011, up from 12.7% at the end of 2006. HDTV uptake will be propped up by falling prices and the FCC mandate to transmit all TV programs in high-def by 2009.
  2. DVR – DVR growth is expected to rise to 39% in 2011, up from 11.8% in 2006. With Slingbox and other DVRs, people have already started to record and watch TV, albeit with time-shifting or place-shifting (e.g. watch on mobile).
  3. Integration of Internet and TV and the Separation of the Set top Box – With Joost and Apple TV coming to a TV near you, the Internet Videos will be conveniently available on the TV.

As a result, consumers will be able to get TV/Video programming on a better screen, and be able to watch it at a convenient time.

The landscape for Broadcast and Network TV providers will change drastically, as players like Joost and Apple come in and swoop their viewership and advertising revenue. However, these same players will grow TV advertising revenue. Good news for content providers!