Google Seeks New Ways to Profit from Mobile Search

October 10th, 2011

Google’s motto of “mobile first” has paid off in its mobile search efforts.

It has a market share of 97% for mobile searches and has solved a lot of problems for mobile searchers with their “Grand Prix” project in 2008. Now the Internet giant is turning its attention to solving other mobile-based problems – like translating phone calls and recognizing photos.

Their formula is similar to what made them search engine giants almost a decade ago. They take common problems that people have been trying to solve with technology, use massive amounts of data and then create a solution that they hope will be profitable in the future. So far the results have been promising. Google’s growth in the mobile sector is mirroring their quick growth in search.

Voice Search. One of the most popular additions is voice search, which allows consumers to search for websites with spoken words. Users can use spoken keywords just like they would with a typed search. Google has trained the system to recognize many different voice types so searchers from Boston to California to the Deep South can use the search functions, no matter what their linguistic differences. Another project, Goggles, helps users conduct searches with images. Just snap a picture of a wine label or landmark and Goggles will find related search engine results.

Translation. People can also take a photo of a foreign language sign or menu and have it translated with their phone. And the foreign language capabilities don’t end there. One of the Google mobile apps allows users to speak in English and hear the foreign language translation. The company is working on making two-way conversations translatable that may open up a new world for international communications.

Google notes that mobile search will never take over desktop search – but by developing mobile apps that solve problems, it can stay ahead of others in the mobile world. 

Magazines on iPad? Apple Makes it Difficult With High Costs, Lack of Subscriptions

July 28th, 2011

When Apple launched the iPad in 2010, magazine and newspaper publishers were thrilled to add apps that allowed users to read their magazines.

They hoped that the instantly popular tablet device would help boost their slumping sales and make connections with people who want their reading material in digital form.

Publishers, however, are less than excited about the high costs of doing business with Apple. The cost for purchasing just one digital issue of a magazine is often the same as buying a print magazine, and the vast majority of titles can’t be purchased with a monthly subscription.

This means that consumers will need to seek out and purchase each new issue as it arrives and they’ll be paying much more than they would for a standard print subscription. Understandably, for publishers this has produced disappointing returns for app development. Consumers just aren’t ready to pay $250 per year for an app.

Publishers like Hearst, Conde Nast and Time Inc. are eagerly looking forward to the launch of Android-based tablets and technologies from Google and Blackberry. The new tablets may be able to give publishers, and readers, just what they are looking for – subscriptions at a reasonable rate to encourage digital readers. 

Search Engine Objectivity in Question as Google Publishes Owned Content Above Competitors

May 28th, 2011

In addition to being a popular search engine, Google Inc. has also increased its content ownership online over the past several years – and that content is now being highlighted in search results.

Reports indicate that Google is showing favoritism for its own content properties and, in the process, is displacing relevant results from competing companies.

Travel site, local business review site and medical website are among the group of executives and web property owners that has noticed the favoritism. Executives and owners claim that Google’s practices are in direct competition with its position as a search engine.

For example, Google’s Place pages show details about local businesses and contact information for specific keyword terms. Recent changes to the way results are displayed put Google’s own resource on top of the search engine results, displacing the non-Google local review websites and even local company websites.

For its part, Google has not responded directly to the allegations but claims that its focus is on users, not on websites, and that the search results answer questions for those users.

Hooked on Gadgets — And Paying A Mental Price

December 12th, 2010

Scientists say that juggling e-mail, phone calls, instant messages, text messages and other incoming information can change how people think and behave.

They’re saying that our ability to focus is being undermined by bursts of information and the potential addictions it creates mentally.

People have a primitive impulse to respond to immediate opportunities and threats and this constant barrage of stimulation from our gadgets and connectivity can provoke that response. This triggers a dopamine squirt, giving pleasure, and this is what can become addicting to many people and the lack of which can create a feeling akin to boredom.

A guy by the name of Kord Campbell is an example of this in action. A few years ago, inundated daily with email, instant messages, and more online, he missed an email that was the most important of his life. A firm was offering to purchase his Internet startup. Twelve days later, the email finally caught his attention and he made apologetic responses to the suitor who ultimately purchased his company.

He missed the email while responding to many that were, by contrast, basically irrelevant to his business and even personal life. Even after turning off the gadgets and sitting down for family time, he often craves them and continues to think about what he might be missing. His wife complains that this makes him “no longer able to be fully in the moment.”

Campbell is not alone and scientists have found that while the much-publicized deadly consequences of this constant interaction (car wrecks from cell phone use and texting) are noted, few know about the non-lethal threats this barrage creates. Creativity, deep thought, and constant interruptions to family life and productivity are creating rifts in relationships and losses in revenue for many.

Even when the affected person sets aside the gadgets and enters “real life” to spend time with family or friends, the fractured thinking and lack of focus persists.

Scientists say that while the healthy brain craves stimulation, it’s akin to how our stomachs crave food. We need some, but too much is actually detrimental.

Apple Overtakes Microsoft To Become #1 in Tech

October 10th, 2010

As the technology era moves from desktops to handhelds, so too does the power shift between technology companies.

This shift was seen this month when Apple, whose iPhone and iPad gadgets dominate the handheld markets, surpassed Microsoft in value on Wall Street.

Just a decade ago, Apple was considered a dead fish, just waiting to be flushed. With the rise of portable gadgets and the shift in market shares away from business needs and more towards consumer wants, came a shift in power and valuation as well.

In the past decade, smart phones, mobile entertainment devices, and more have risen quickly to overtake the business and PC markets. With their rise came the rebirth of Apple, now the world’s foremost gadget giant.

The desktop and notebook markets are still dominated by Microsoft with Windows and Office being the operating system and productivity suites most often chosen by computer users. Computers themselves, however, have seen a rapid change towards portability as smart phones become more and more like the netbooks and smaller desktops available – often with similar price points as well.

Apple currently sells twice as much (in revenue) in gadgets as it does computers with smartphones racing ahead in sales at a pace five times faster than desktops. Many in the tech industry think that Microsoft is now in its own downward spiral, unable to deal with fast-emerging technologies while Apple is hitting the cutting-edge and fighting to stay there.

Hollywood Wants Direct-to-TV Shortcut

August 5th, 2010

Major Hollywood studios are said to be in talks with the nation’s largest cable television provider to facilitate sending newly-released movies to TV within weeks of their box office debuts.

This shortcut in how movies are delivered and viewed would completely alter how film distribution takes place and would likely have huge implications for the rental market.

Time Warner Cable broke the news of its “Premium Video on Demand” at a cable industry convention earlier in June. The cable giant presented several scenarios for how it could work; the one receiving support from most studio executives seems to be the idea of taking movies 30 days into their box office release and sending them to pay-per-view viewers at home.

This shortcut-to-home would mean that those willing to spend the money to see the new movies before they hit video (a full three months early) would pay a premium to do so. That premium of $20-$30 could mean a large income for studios and TW.

Talks are ongoing and nothing is finalized, say insiders, but some studios may sign before the summer’s end and these Premium Video on Demand offerings could be available as early as December 2010 or the first quarter of 2011.

Those likely to be most affected by this shakeup would be secondary theater venues, which often receive movies well after their original debut, and rental outlets, which are already suffering from a sluggish economy and streaming options such as Netflix. These businesses thrive on the staggered system that Hollywood currently uses to promote movies, pushing them to premier theaters, then secondaries, then DVD release for rental and purchase and then cable or satellite TV.

The proposal was pitched to most major studios in Hollywood including Warner’s own Warner Brothers, Walt Disney, Universal, Paramount and others.

Better Twitter Search Engine Will Cost

June 30th, 2010

Bill Gross recently unveiled a new venture called TweetUp, designed to improve Twitter’s search engine abilities while also capitalizing on companies who want their Tweets to be read first.

The new platform works in a somewhat similar fashion to Google search and ads: A user types in a search phrase and comes up with the most relevant tweets available on their query – along with a series of ads that companies will pay to have pop up at the top of the page.

Gross suggests that his new venture will be incredibly useful to Twitter users who have a hard time sorting through all the noise to find the Tweets that are most relevant to what they’re interested in.

The search engine that could find more relevant Tweets would probably be extremely popular – but the question is whether it will remain so with the added feature of paid ranked advertisements. If users don’t accept the paid ad placement as legitimate, the new search engine may not be nearly as popular as Gross is counting on.

So far, however, TweetUp is raising capital quickly from investors like Index Ventures and Revolution: $3.5 million to date. Part of the confidence is based on the quality of the algorithm TweetUp uses to sort relevant (non-paid) Tweets, which Gross considers to be as high a quality as Google’s fabled algorithm for ranking the relevance of the Web’s contents at large.

Peter Koeppel is Founder and President of Koeppel Direct, leading in DRTV direct response television and infomercial campaign management industry. With a Wharton MBA and over 25 years of marketing and advertising experience

Hulu Got Less Funny – and Possibly Less Profitable

May 5th, 2010’s three-year-old platform for watching online media has turned into one of the most successful attempts to bring TV to the web – even if its advertising platform has often struggled to keep up with demand as viewers surged from 580 million to 1.01 billion in the short span of time between September and December of 2009.

Looks like that advertising problem might have been the dealbreaker for Viacom. The company announced that it would pull its extremely popular comedy shows “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” and “The Colbert Report” from, and carried through on its intentions on March 9th, after warning Hulu viewers that their shows would no longer be available on the website.

There’s no word on whether Hulu will take a hit in advertising revenue from this split; the two shows were some of the most-watched on the website, and users have already been expressing dismay at their removal.

Both Hulu and Viacom sources are claiming that the split was completely amicable, and that they are in talks for some future deals. That may be so; after all, Hulu is directing viewers to Viacom’s websites, where full episodes of both shows are still streaming live.

However, until the advertising problem can be worked out, it’s likely that Hulu will be a little less funny for the foreseeable future.

Apple Seeks to Make TV Cheaper

March 30th, 2010

apple-ipadOne of the many possible applications of the iPad is as a portable mini-TV, but the expense of buying a TV show via iTunes has proved prohibitive for many people.

After all, it costs essentially the same amount of money to buy a full season of a show in high-definition on iTunes as it would to purchase the same season on DVD – which can then be watched on a full-screen TV.

If Apple wants people to consider watching TV off their big screens and onto a screen as small as the iPad or even the iPod or iPhone, it needs to eliminate the pricing problem. Rumor is it’s in talks to do just that.

Apple is attempting to reduce the price of TV shows to 99 cents apiece, which is one-third of the current price for an episode of a high-definition show at $2.99. The new pricing has by no means been finalized, and there are even whispers that networks have pulled out of the talks entirely, but insiders are saying Apple is still pushing hard to get their new price point.

If Apple does, it may be able to make the iPad into a reasonable alternative to a big-screen TV – sure, it’s not as big, but for the price, it’s still high-def, and it’s still all the shows people want to see.

Is Twitter Really Worth $1,000,000,000?

March 9th, 2010

Twitter CEO Evan Williams recently confirmed that the website has received new funding of $100 million, which added to the microblogging site’s previous funding makes for a $1 billion valuation for the microblogging service. Among the investors are Spark Capital, Benchmark Capital, Institutional Venture Partners (all of whom doubled their original investment), T. Rowe Price and Insight Venture Partners.

This may seem surprising to many who questioned Twitter’s ability to make money at all with its free social media service, especially considering that to date, Twitter has yet to earn a dime. Is it realistic to think these investors are going to see real advertising money in the future?

It’s still hard to say. There’s no current online advertising model that seems applicable to a distributed service like Twitter. Twitter has proven invaluable to marketers who use it to connect with their customer base, but so far it’s yet to bring Twitter itself anything of value except its enthusiastic investors.

Ideas for how to use Twitter as a revenue-generating company vary from running keyword ads next to tweets as Google does for its searches and for blog content. However, so far there are no plans to put ads on Twitter until 2010.

Though Twitter has yet to make money for itself, this hasn’t stopped other companies from thinking they have something here. So far Twitter has turned down acquisition bids from Facebook, Google and Microsoft. Thus far, Twitter seems to be sitting on a gold mine that no one knows how to drill.