Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Ohio Web Leaders Diggs Into Google, Cuil and How Search is Changing

Mad props to Bill Balderaz and Amy Marshall of Webbed Marketing for their presentation this morning at the OWL breakfast seminar. I've attended two events for this recently formed group and I've left both times with new perspectives, new connections and very applicable information. If you're in the internet technology game, or even a client-side marketer who is trying to leverage online channels for your company, or simply just someone who is interested interested in emerging internet technology - these events are definitely worth your time.

Among topics covered today:

  • Final negotiations for Google's pending acquisition of popular bookmarking site Digg, and how this may effect the Search industry

  • The low down on the new search engine Cuil (pronounced "cool") and where it is heading

  • Yahoo and MSN to potentially join forces (Bill asked, would you call that Mahoo?)

  • A features profile of the newly launched Wikia Search

  • Google Suggest - Google's new intelligent search feature and the potentially associated privacy issues with user profiling
I don't want to steal OWL's content so this is just a tease. If these topics look interesting, think about registering for the next OWL event to join the discussion.

But, I do have some opinions on Google and Digg potentially joining forces:

First off, this merger could be BIG. Obviously, Google's a monster dominating over 70% of daily search queries. So why would this power house have interest in purchasing a social bookmarking service?

The Business Angle
With more than 1 million registered users (and I'm one of them), Digg draws traffic from the influencers. Users take great pride in their ability to find and rate content, and then have that content validated as relevant by other users. These are the mavens and typically the early adopters of new technology as well.

The company currently operates on a skeleton crew of less than 25 employees and partners with Microsoft to generate a majority of it's current revenue. From a funding perspective, Digg has called on VC firms for a meager total of $11 million on startup capital.

Compared to LinkedIn's numbers at 310 employees and four rounds of investment funding valued at over $1 Billion , and you get the picture pretty quick. All around low baggage with a significant adoption equates to a very attractive buy for Google.

Changing the Game
Enter the Semantic Web. Personally, I don't quite think anyone fully has their head around this concept just yet, but Google merging with Digg, in my opinion, brings us one step closer to realizing the end user benefits of web 3.0.

In the past few months, so many "Semantic" Search engines have popped up. Cuil and True Knowledge Beta are just a few I've played with, and thus far have received lack luster search results.

Here's the challenge with startup semantic SE's. First, they havn't nailed the technology yet. Cuil saw a huge spike in initial post launch traffic last month, only to see limited results in return visitors. Users were not impressed enough with the search results to use the service on a regular basis. Second, these concepts represent a new way of thinking about the internet as a platform. Unfortunately, the majority of us humans aren't easily open to change.

So why will the Google / Digg marriage move the semantic web progression forward? I think the answer is fairly simple. The existing critical mass of each of theses services will help to eliminate potential barriers and quickly increase wide spread adoption.
  • Comfort - A significant numbers users are already familiar with Google's interface. The same goes for Digg users.
  • Brand - Large amounts of users already have established trust in both sites
  • Convenience - Google users are accustom to new add-ons for their personal Google homepage. Integrating Digg in the Google interface makes it easy to promote the service and for users to jump on board
Again, Digg has a strong foothold with the mavens. Google has a strong foot hold with - well, just about everyone. Take Diggs ability to deliver relevant peer rated content and combine it with Googles advanced ability to behaviorally targeting users' preferences, and you may have a home run.

What Does this mean for SEO's? You're guess is as good as mine, and I would love to hear your comments on this issue.

One things is for sure - as this merger unfolds, the way we search for content on the web could see some serious changes. SEO's who don't pay close attention will be left in the dust.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Triple O, The Key to Obama's Intgrated Online Success Online

Hats off and thanks to Scott Schweitzer from The Strategy Group for Media for passing along a recent Washington Post article entitled: Obama's Wide Web; From YouTube to Text Messaging, Candidate's Team Connects to Voters.

I'm always very cautious when brining up politics. But regardless of where your political affiliations lie, no one can argue that the Senator Barack Obama's presidential campaign has paid significant attention to social media as a cornerstone of their strategy.

More than that, his interactive division, branded as Triple O, has done very innovative work in applying, and integrating a variety of online tactics that are new to the political arena including social networking, SEO/SEM social media marketing, SMS, affiliate groups, banner advertisements, viral video, etc. - all leading back to a well designed lead capture form placed on the hompage of his official campaign website,

To me this is a hell of an online presence. Fostering peer-to-peer communication in the political arena simply makes sense - Marshall McLuhan's ideas behind his 1967 book: The Medium is the Massage: An Inventory of Effects holds ever more true when you take into consideration how much the present day media landscape has evolved. Triple O has embraced the online medium as both a tool and message.

So whats the message of the medium? Here are some of what I take away from his approach.

  • "Obama is hip and understands my generation."
  • "Obama is a forward thinker and understands emerging technology"
  • "Obama cares about what I have to say, and provides me with ways to voice my opinion"
  • "Obama is on the front lines and recognizes my needs and interests"
  • "Jeez, I feel like I really know this guy"
The last bullet is what I think is most important. Through use of integrated social media, Barack Obama has become more than just another politician on the television. He's made an effort to become one of the crowed. End users begin to feel a subconscious and personal affiliation to the good Senator. In my mind, that's where the true political benefits of social media are found - emotional relationship building.

A common myth is that social media only draws or younger demographics of users, savvy marketers and techno-geeks. But, the reality couldn't be farther from the truth. We know now that all audiences are online to a certain extent. One thing that stands out in the article revolves around the campaign's focus on creating presences on smaller, more targeted ethnic communities such as,,

I encourage you to read through this very interesting article on your own and keep an eye on this campaign. The political arena has always had a major hand in driving new uses of media. In my opinion, we're watching a new chapter in the art of influence and communication unfold.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Greeting with a Personal Touch:

This one has me very excited! Right out of the gate, I will rate this web service as one of the most innovative SaaS applications I've seen in 2008. Following the Wil Schroder start up model, this service uses the Internet to provide a robust solution that alleviates the friction in a human transaction.

With the rise of email and social networks, the old tradition of sending paper cards has fallen by the wayside. Why? Here are some my thoughts:

  1. The Time Investment - the process of sending traditional greeting cards is a long process of hand writing, addressing, and then making a trip to the post office or mail box to send the message.

  2. Higher Costs - take into account the rate of postage, the price of the gas you will to get to and from the store and post office, and that most decent greeting cards can range from $4 to $5 at the store, and it's reasonable to average more than $10 per card in expenses.

  3. Finding the Right Card - the options are limited at your typical retail locations, so you may not be able to find the right fit for the occasion. Yet design and printing custom cards just adds on to the already lengthy time commitment.
SendOutCards has developed a SaaS solution to address all of these negatives, and in my opinion, has done a hell of a job in designing a turn-key solution.

How It Works
For a reasonable fee, Send Out Cards allows users to upload a database of contacts, and then design, save and send personalized greeting cards for a variety of special occasions. Users also have the ability to purchase and include gifts along with their cards, which include retail and restarnat gift cards, food items and even books. Users also have the ability to create custom cards by uploading images, logos and photos to be included in the layout.

One of the most interesting features is the ability to include your very own handwriting style in the printed copy. Users have the option to submit characters, punctuation and personal signatures via a provided paper form, which is then be mailed back to Send Out Cards. Once received, Send Out Cards scans the document and creates a personal font for the user and implements it on their account.

The company handles all printing, postage and mailing of the cards, which saves end users considerable amounts of time and energy, encouraging them to once again send tangible greetings to contacts.

Who Can Use This?
Send Out Cards is absolutely for everyone - from business professionals conducting client follow up, to busy moms looking for a less time consuming way to send holiday greetings to friends and family. The user interface is friendly and intuitive, and transitions between various screens are quick.

I believe that this unique platform is one for the books, and will have a long life ahead of it. I've already become an avid user of this application, so please feel free to visit my SOC homepage and follow the link at the top if you would like to try sending a free card.