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Marketing Internet companies in different geographies

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Companies which establish a global presence usually take marketing locally; the very reason why Pepsi makes such a cry about 'blue' in India (where the local Cricket team wears blue uniform), but not in say the neighbouring country, Pakistan. But it is normally perceived that such localization is not actually necessary in the Internet industry, except for those countries cut off from the others due to liguistic differences such as China. Apart from the big players like Yahoo, Microsoft and Google, other companies do not take real effort to create custom marketing for different parts of the world. This is because Internet is supposed to be a melting pot of all cultures and localization does not matter to a great extent; provided content is presented in the appropriate language.

Quite a few may disagree to the point I made here, but there is a bit of truth when I say that internet companies do not take efforts in marketing locally. There is one predominant reason which is that in most of these countries including India, the population that has taken to Internet is quite skewed towards the "educated, English speaking,young-Gen" kinds. This population is quite exposed to the American culture and so does not require a personalized touch to the marketing efforts. Though this is one predominant reason, a simple truth is that companies don't go for such a comprehensive advertising that encompasses all cultures simply for the reason of economics of doing so.

Why this shall not sustain

But, internet companies will have to give in at some point to increasing their customization of the websites to different countries soon. This is because, with newer technologies the internet population is getting more diverse. For example, take CrossLoop. This is a simple, secure screen sharing software which is likely to help us in achieving that diversity. This helps young people (say those working in the US) teach their parents(in India) who are not used to working on a computer how to work on them, remotely. So, with increasing exposure of internet in the mainstream media, more and more older people are likely to take to working on the internet.

CrossLoop in itself is a new company which has been growing and developing the product that shall be helpful and easier to use and learn and colloborate online. But it is to an extent helping in achieving the diversity. So, when this happens, more customization requires to happen to cater to this population of people. This has already been happening for internet populations in countries such as China, but with diversity happening in other English-speaking countries, companies have to employ marketing people who cater to this various geographies.


Next: Google Ads for your Video Games!

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TechCrunch recently announced that Google has made a $23 million acquisition of AdScape Media. Adscape is a San Francisco based company that is credited with developing the Real World/Virtual Word Gateway (shortly known as RVG). This acquisition means something significant to Google since RVG helps in taking dynamic ads to a new platform so far not ventured into by Google; Video Games!

In fact, this is not innovative thinking from Google anyway. Microsoft, in May last year, had announced acquisition of Massive, a well established company whose technology has already been taken up by popular gaming sites like Miniclip and SOE. Google had however hinted at such an acquisition a long time back.

Now that the two rivals have taken on the video gaming platform, it is interesting to see the advantages and disadvantages that the two companies shall hold in having made such an acquisition.

Microsoft and Massive

Microsoft's acquisition was very much a necessity owing to XBox Live and the MSN games. This is in the sense that Microsoft already had the necessary infrastructure in place for them to start reaping the harvests of the acquisition rightaway. This apart, Massive already has a huge list of partners of their
own. This has helped in proliferation of their advertising network straightaway.

That being said, the advertising model used on Massive is different from the Contextual advertising model used on MSN. The current advertising model on Xbox is quite the stereotypical ads that are served on the virtual real estates elsewhere, for example, on Billboards on the roads(inside the games, that is..),etc. that is accepted to taking the games close to real.

Google and Adscape

Adscape is intended to help developers of even freely downloadable games make money by serving ads. This also includes dynamic placement and control of the ads that appear in the games. However, I feel Google has much deeper intentions in having acquired Adscape. As put on TechCrunch, Google might take forward the Adscape technology for its SketchUp software.

SketchUp is a layman's tool to develop your own 3D design of homes and your neighborhood. This can be used in the virtual world developed on Google WareHouse. Simply put, WareHouse is a user-made world that can be otherwise be seen on Google Earth. With this acquisition Google has got hold of a technology which can be used to make even SketchUp a money making venture. But what is interesting to note is that for the first time, Google shall be venturing into advertising technology that is outside the conventional contextual-targetting. This is even more significant since unlike Massive, Adscape does not currently hold a client-base. This means that Google will have to take its advertisers' network to the new medium. The problem however is that the new form of advertising on video games, which, most probably might not be contextual-targetting, might not find favor with the majority of its existing

Only a statement from Google explaining how it plans to proceed further in this particular segment shall clear doubts in minds of advertisers as well as speculators like me alike.


'Most Valuable Sites' for the Web 2.0 era

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Web 2.0 has been around for more than two years now. Around June of 2006, two Israeli programmers got together to create a website in their sparetime that will carry the logos of all the new and upcoming web 2.0 sites. It has hardly been half a year since, yet the website now carries more than 833 logos. That in itself explains the proliferation in the number of websites that have been propping up in the post-dotcom bust period. Google has emerged as one of the, if not the most coveted website from the previous century. Now, with such a huge number of websites that have come up in the short time that web 2.0 has come to be, it makes sense to read these new websites that have come up and guesstimate which among these will be the 'newsmakers' amongst this new bunch.

Looking from another perspective, we need to see why only one or two of these websites should actually become a 'newsmaker'. It does not take much time to reason out that sites that can actually find a solution to the existing chaos will emerge the winner eventually. That was the very same reason why Google became hot property at the turn of the century.The new medium of web was churning out so many websites that it became virtually impossible to look for one particular data from the millions of pages. Google solved that very problem.

Problem of web 2.0

Similar to what we saw for Google, if only we can find the problem that we might face with this huge onslaught of websites, picking the most valuable website among the new lot should not be a difficult task. Now, here is the situation: 833 websites that's been on Go2Web20 alone. That makes the actual number of websites much higher than this. Now, zeroing on the website shall not be a difficult task, thanks to Google. But managing them can be. Imagine this: I love reading, making friends, surfing news, watching TV, etc. Now, there is a website for me to do each of this. For instance, there is Shelfari for the avid reader, Digg for the news buff, MySpace for networking, and YouTube for videos. Now, the more the number of sites, the number of places I frequent increase too. Here comes the problem: I not only have to remember all these numerous sites, but also have to remember my login information for all these websites.

Having one login for all the website might not be sensible for some, and del.icio.us might in itself get cluttered when you try to bookmark websites and individual pages alike. For that very reason, I thought it would be really important for us to know why the following two websites shall be considered the most valuable ones in the long term.


NetVibes is a website that lets you add all your bookmarked websites on one platform. So, in other words, if you visit Digg, orkut, youtube, flickr and a dozen other sites, you can add link to all of them here. This apart, you may also add RSS feeds, perform image, and blog searches, check mail; basically do everything that you visit the internet for. This is not the only place you may do this. Even Google offers its own personalized home page feature, but as with any website, NetVibes has this function as its USP and that should help it in the long run in branding. There is one very critical aspect that could be to NetVibes financial favors. Since the very purpose of NetVibes is to serve as a platform for you to jump to another website, it naturally serves to be the default webpage for most users on their browsers. The enormous number of visits that this shall generate makes it one of the most prolific earners on the internet.


This is a not-for-profit website that is aimed at achieving a mission of 'One User Id for all'. Though this is in the initial stages, once OpenID is made available for all major websites, unique login ids for every website may become a thing of the past. Interestingly, though I feel that this is one of the most valuable websites in the coming days, it does not feature in the 833 sites listed, probably because it does not strictly fall into the category of Web 2.0

Like you see, these two websites, when combined offer you a strength that is most desperately needed in the age of web 2.0 when dozen sites prop up every other day. Though these websites might not achieve the greatness that Google achieved in its time, from a user point of view, a combo of these two sites is the best thing to ask for.


Yahoo makes a BrickHouse opposite Google's Labs!

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This week, Yahoo announced the launch of its new super-product called Pipes. Pipes is not just a great product in terms of innovation, but it is also that after a long time, it is actually one hyped product from Yahoo which has been built in-house. Most of the other Yahoo products, including Flickr, MyBlogLog, etc were acquired from startups.

Before, I move further, I will take a few lines to explain what Pipes does. Yahoo Pipes basically lets you, a user, create a mash-up of your own. Taking one example from the site itself, you can create a mash-up that lets the user know the latest products in a certain price range, that is out on eBay. This is created using the appropriate APIs available from the eBay website. Other easier examples will be to make a webpage that contains the latest articles on say, "Internet Business Strategies" from various sources of the internet. You basically use the feeds available from the different news sources and simply enter them on the Pipes creation page to get this done. You may go through the nice tutorial available on the Yahoo Pipes page.

Pipes is not the first time somebody has created such a product. There is already atleast one another product that serves a similar purpose. The website, called Ning is already a huge hit among web users. So, the question we need to ask is why did Yahoo choose to create Pipes when it could have acquired Ning, as it did with Flickr or MyBlogLog. The answer to this lies much more deep inside the company's strategies.

It might not to be wrong to link the in-house development of Pipes with Yahoo's competition with Google. Google, right from its inception days has been quite an attractive destination for innovators. As a result of their 20 percent rule; which allows the in-house programmers let one day of their work for their own personal projects, they have fostered an environment of innovation. Not only that, this has also helped Google Labs come up with innovative products every now and then, including products like Google News, Orkut, etc.

But the question still remains if the question of paying more to buy a product than developing it inhouse is the only reason for Yahoo to launch Pipes. Interestingly, it is not the only reason. A much bigger stake exists in the form of employee retention which has kept Yahoo more worried than Google, since Google has earned the reputation of being a great place to work in for innovators. This(focus on innovation) is one step which will not only help retain employees, but also serve Yahoo to project as a destination for innovation.

Incidentally, Pipes is just the first in the series of many more innovations to come. Yahoo is yet to formally launch BrickHouse, which is going to be the innovation center, and is quite similar to what Google Labs is for Google. The focus of BrickHouse is going to be on innovation and new creative products to the user.Though it is only going to launch in March, Yahoo BrickHouse is already working on several employee product initiatives. For example, one Yahoo employee's ground work on a project that will help gather a web visitor's 'fingerprint' in the form of his image or profile when he visited a web page is already underway. This is a great tool for publishers since they can now develop websites that can be closely customized to the visitor profile. It already looks to be one of the in-things in the months to come.


Yahoo's Panama model - For good or bad?

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In a significant move in the advertising segment of the Search Engine industry, Yahoo has announced that it is now completely doing away with the bid-to-position model of ads to give way for a more democratic "Marketplace Design" model, more similar to Google Adwords. It is a mixed signal of things to come, and as I shall opine here might require that Yahoo now starts marketing its Search Engine better if they should continue to sustain their model.

What's the difference:

In the bid-to-position model, the ads alongside search results are based on an auction system where the advertiser who bids more for the spot gets to bag the spot. In effect, it did not consider the relevance of the search keyword to the ads too much. This model was based on the presumption that though this system shall fetch lesser clicks on ads than the Google Adwords model, the revenue generated shall be higher considering that Yahoo generates more money per click.

Where's Yahoo missing out:

There are a couple of things that I feel Yahoo is missing out. First is the advertiser competitiveness. If you look at the Search Engine market share, Google has a huge market share compared to any of the other search engines. For Yahoo, their business model made sense because they focussed more on the bid amount (and not on the keyword relevance which is important for hige click-through-rates), so that they could discount the fact that
Google has a higher market share.

Now with the Panama model, things shall not remain as it is now. The model being closer to Google Adwords, we can safely assume that the ad Click-thru-rates are similar to what exists for Google (that's roughly 1-2%). Now, that being the same, Yahoo lags behind Google on two fronts: (1)The number of searches made, and (2) The amount bid for a click. Owing to the fact that Yahoo advertisers are catering to a smaller audience than those for Google, this would mean that the newer model has pretty much sealed the leader between Google and Yahoo with respect to the revenue garnered from the search engine segment.

There is one more aspect to it. Yahoo's Panama model, in my opinion has one basic flaw. I could explain it better with the following quote taken from the source.

Historical clickthrough rates (CTRs) are one part of how ad quality scores are determined. To get this information, Yahoo will pull data (relative to other ads displayed at the same time) from both the old system and the new Panama system. The new ranking algorithm emphasizes data "freshness" and will use the most current information available.

One parameter of the Panama model is the historical clickthrough rate. What is surprising is that Yahoo shall weigh the ad quality based on the CTRs that the particular ad had garnered through a combination of both the old and new system. The question is why should it take into account the old system? As we know, the old system had one ad unfairly placed over the other owing to the bid amount. This meant that those ads at the top of the table in the old system would have had an unfair advantage of being clicked more than the ones at the bottom. That means their CTRs were higher. If you take this CTR as one of the parameter in the new system, then it would mean that those advertisers who had bid more in the old system will still gain an advantage in the new system. This, in effect would cause their CTR in the new model also to be
higher, thus biasing the whole model. It is simply a cascading effect in place.

What it means for the advertisers:

Advertisers should in general be happy about the change. Because now it is more about keyword relevance and less about money power. They can now expect many more clicks on their ads; much more targetted ones at that, which in general should help them in increasing the conversion ratio of customers over mere curious visitors. But then, with minor flaws as I have already mentioned regarding the historical CTR parameter, the model would still serve the top bidders of the previous model extend their lead.

But one persisting question is why should advertisers remain with Yahoo in the first place. In the previous model one can expect advertisers with not so relevant products, but still enough money to get a return through bidding higher to be interested in the program. But now with Yahoo's model resembling Adwords more or less, why should advertisers come to Yahoo? With a larger search base, they can expect to get many more customers from an ad on Google than on Yahoo. It is still a debatable question, which can only answered over a period of time.


YouTube Monetization plan - Loopholes and Ways to combat

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This week, YouTube founder Chad Hurley had set up a storm by announcing that YouTube is planning to share its revenue with its users. This has, over the week, generated so much of a heated discussion about how YouTube is now turning to become the undisputable leader, which it already is, and how this is going to stop users from using any other video sharing services.

The plan, so far, seems to be this. YouTube is monetized by the Google ads that appear alongside the videos. These videos are both, uploaded and viewed by the users, and YouTube plainly serves as the platform for all this action. So, it does not make sense if YouTube, or rather Google have all the money to themselves. Also, competitors like MetaCafe were trying to breathe down the neck by paying users for their content. So, it naturally necessitates YouTube to also help its users make money.

There have been quite a few 'theories' doing the rounds on how YouTube plans to monetize in the first place. Adsense ads alone might not help, since a video sharing site can generally only expect lesser clicks on ads than a text based content site. It is speculated that YouTube might have small ads preceding actual videos.

That being said, it becomes important to see the roadblocks ahead for YouTube in its current proposal. Firstly, you should look at the demographics of usage of YouTube. Visitors between 12-17 years are more than 1.5 times to visit YouTube than the average web user. And this young user base means that the chances of these youngsters clicking on ads, simply to expect a larger sum to pocket becomes much higher. It is time for Google to decide if they are going to generate revenue for users from the text ads or not. If they indeed intend to do so, then it shall not be long before their Adwords clients start to cry foul.

Another important aspect is the sheer number of uploaded videos. At present, any important video, be that of Saddam Hussain's hanging or a sporting action clip are duplicated widely across YouTube. It would not be very wrong to say then that of the 65000 videos that YouTube claims, are being uploaded everyday, a majority of them are duplicates. And all this is at a time when those users who upload the content gain nothing but user comments.

One 'theory' regarding monetization suggests that video uploaders could be monetized based on their popularity. That would mean more duplication of content by users expecting a high popularity and hence a good revenue from Google. So, while this may dramatically increase the number of videos uploaded everyday on YouTube, it shall also correspondingly reduce the quality of videos.

The third aspect is that of copyrights. YouTube is primarily automated with only little intervention by humans (in case of spams, etc). Now, Google cannot monetize with copyrighted stuff, which means that now there should be a human check each time a video is uploaded to see if it is a copyrighted material. If yes, either delete it, or atleast do not put ads on them, lest they be sued.

Now, these aspects make revenue sharing seem to be a costlier proposition than it looks from the outset.

Means to Monetize:

It is costlier if Google backs off from monetization now. Monetization from videos is here to exist. But it is the methodology of ads that is to be discussed. One thing that holds loyal YouTube users apprehensive is about the quality of the website degrading due to more and more vents for ads on the website. Adbrite currently offers unintrusive ads on videos. The user gets to see the ad only when he/she hovers the mouse pointer over the top section of the video frame. This is an idea for 'unintrusive' ads on YouTube, which shall be better than an ad preceding the actual video.

But then, fears of ad clicks still linger. A better solution is what I first observed from an Indian news channel called CNN-IBN. All videos available on the website are free of ads of any sort on the video frame (that is, excluding the Adsense ads). However, any embedded video of the same on any other website or a blog is preceded by a still image of the TV channel logo. Similarly, YouTube could prevent loyal YouTube visitors from being disheartened by keeping the
YouTube website as it is now. Presenting ads of any sort, be it like the one in Adbrite or CNN-IBN could be on the embedded videos alone. This will also help YouTube in several ways.

Only relatively popular videos are embedded. This shall save users from viewing ads before videos which they might not enjoy.

It also gives Google an opportunity to integrate Adsense accounts with the new form of monetizing that YouTube offers. Since bloggers are encouraged on creating Adsense accounts, a monetizing scheme based on user's video activity, similar to that on Adsense ads will be easier to monitor. This will also mean bloggers shall be encouraged in embedding videos from YouTube over other Video sharing sources. Also, more and more bloggers shall tend to put up videos on their blogs, dramatically increasing the usage of YouTube, and Adsense accounts.

There is no need to employ extra staff to monitor abuse. The Adsense Support team shall now be responsible for this. This is not to say that no new staff is required, but just that taking care of abuses being the core competency of the Adsense Support team, it will ensure that there is not much redundancy in work profiles.

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