— blending the mix

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In January this year, I was asked to predict the key trends for 2011 and social tv was one of them (presentation is below if you’re at all interested to see how i’m getting on!).

Hulu and conventional web broadcasting aside, this had largely only been successful around and because of, major events such as the live streaming of Obama’s inauguration speech and various attempts by Facebook themselves to broadcast major product announcements through their livestream app. But what was happening outside, on other conventional channels?

I’ve always tried to rationalise the likely effectiveness of an online idea against its ability to reflect offline behaviours and in this regards, the BBC’s The Apprentice programme was demonstrating a massive thirst for online interactions whilst people the show was on. In the offline/conventional sense, consider your own office the day after the show – full of conversation around the latest incompetences of the apprentices themslelves. And so, as the series grew, so did the interactions.

Not quite enough

Yet there was always something missing, some way of feeling like you were there, or rather, that you were all sharing the same event – and this is where Google+ Hangouts work so well. Hangouts, to the unaware are effectively group video chat where a number of you can share a video call at he same time. Nothing spectacular there, although it’s arguably the slickest implementation to date of group video chat.

Now here’s where it gets tasty. Friend chat aside, you’re in your hangout NOW and can select a youtube video which all of the participants can not only see and hear, but can also talk about – like xbox live but for non-gamers.

With an increasing number of conventional tv shows now showing live on you tube (and the number only going one way), the adoption of hangout-driven youtube tv watching is going to grow significantly – as long as you have a google+ account though.

But this is now where the magic happens.

Remember the last time you watched a current tv show on Facebook? Obama’s inauguration perhaps? Point made. When was the last time you watched a youtube video? This morning perhaps?

You Tube has just this week integrated the following (image below), which allows you to create a hangout from ANY youtube video and watch it together (anyone not on Google+ is automatically invited to join). So, think of the number of youtube videos that exist, and now the ability to watch that as a group of friends.

So what are the practical applications for you the marketeer or agency person?

How about you have a live youtube product launch…with exclusive google+ hangout invites for selected bloggers, or a ceo announcement with invites for key journalists, or perhaps instructional videos with hangouts hosted by an expert…you get the idea.

Proper, accompanied, integrated video broadcast for the masses.

 

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Thanks to my eternally trustworthy pal Paul Gailey, I was made aware that one of my favourite analytics tools Post Rank, has tonight announced it has been acquired by Google. And I don’t think its wise to underestimate how important this will be for the world of search and social media.

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As you can see to the above (soon to be the top left when the post moves down the blog!) I have in fact, made it onto the shortlist for Computer Weekly’s “Best Web 2.0 and Business” blog awards.

I have to admit to not knowing any of the other blogs in the same category when the shortlist came out other than Mike’s Techcrunch. That alone makes me think I have some bloody stiff opposition, let alone now that I have seen the other nominees:

* Brian Kelly’s UK Web Focus: Reflections on the Web and Web 2.0
* Roo Reynolds – What’s Next?, “UK-based Metaverse Evangelist, blogger and geek”
* Eightbar from Hursley Park
* DRM blog by CapGemini’s Jude Umeh, from BCS
* Middledigit.net, by Jonathan Hopkins and covers Web 2.0, technology and marketing
* Broadstuff.com from Broadsight
* TechCrunch UK
* Blending the Mix: A look at the new world and new marketing and all it means…
* Paul Downey: Whatfettle, marras?
* User Pathways by James Kelway
* Ian White and Michael Pincher’s blog on collaborative technologies,

And I can’t go without encouraging you to vote for one of my two pals below (who unfortunately reside in the same category):

Steve from Microsoft and Stephen from Rainier PR. Both are really, really good blogs written by two very smart (and successful) guys to boot! If you have to vote – give each of these guys a vote!

Oh…and don’t forget to give the guys at Outside Line a vote too. IMHO, the LG Blog is the benchmark for blogger outreach (and that is no slight on the wonderful work that David et al. do either!).

Don’t get me wrong, these blogs are all good, but if you DON’T vote for me, I’ll get Viacom’s lawyers to force your ISP to give me your IP address…and I’ll come round with some little friends!

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This just in from the BBC.

The lay-offs make up about a quarter of DoubleClick’s 1,200-strong workforce in the US. Worldwide, DoubleClick has about 1,500 employees.

Google’s chief executive Eric Schmidt has suggested that overseas operations, employing a further 300 people, will also be affected at a later date.

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Google has downed me to a PR4 in its latest round of changes :-(

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Steve Clayton point to Greg Stirling’s thoughts on the Microsoft buy-in to Facebook being about Live Search but I can’t help but think Greg’s quotation is wrong.

With the several billion-dollar investment and acquisitions MS has made recently in advertising and tying up with what Mr. Ballmer was saying about how Microsoft wants a significant stake in the multi-billion billion global advertising market ($60 if I recall rightly), I just can’t see how search alone is going to bring in the return that a $240 million investment requires.

On a simple level, it would require a fundamental shift in they way Facebook operates. I refuse to say the words "closed is the new open" but in this case I am ashamed to say it is relevant. ;-)

Has Microsoft, with its 1.6% stake really got the influence over Facebook to push for the implementation of Live Search thereby allowing users to go and find content OUTSIDE of Facebook? I don’t think so. Facebook search might not be rocket science compared to Google but no search engine can understand Facebook better than that designed by the site’s very founders – especially not one which has taken such a pasting in terms of its ability to provide relevant results as Live search.

Let’s be honest, however good or bad Live search is, it has taken such a bashing by the critics that it is going to take a hell of a job convincing Facebook to permit its use as the search facility of choice.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not bashing Microsoft, I find myself enjoying almost all the Live product suite – except search, because it quite simply doesn’t give me the results I know Google does. That said, Microsoft has bought itself into a significant position. Almost no other global players now have the ability to build a search and advertising platform based on our behaviour around social objects better than Microsoft does now.

I see Microsoft benefitting from the Facebook deal in one of three ways:

1) The Google Effect – cashing in
They hold out to see if Orkut bombs and Google decide it is better to buy Facebook at an inflated value than to miss out entirely. Microsoft then cash in their chips after learning how to advertise based on social interaction…unlikely.

2) Live Search and Social Context PPC – getting more revenue out of the same search
Microsoft learn about our interaction around "Social Objects" on social networks from everything they gleam out of Facebook. They then spruce-up Live Search to show far more relevant PPC ads based on so much more than keywords alone…getting wamer but unlikely…their portion of the search market is too small to generate the return that their investment would require. It is still PPC after all and there is a far wider use of the data going on in Facebook than better-targeted PPC can deliver.

3) Revolutionalise Online Advertising
As above but the resulting advertising solution they create will be as revolutionary to online contextual advertising as adwords/adsense (arrgh!) was to conventional banner ads…there you go, that’s where the money is!

Microsoft learn to target ads based on much more than basic demographics or site visitor numbers and make an absolute killing. They become the only people in the world who can provide an ad delivery system that is targeted according to information on social aspects in our life. In fact, so much so that a) we don’t mind the ads appearing in our social networks and b) we actually find the ads interesting (ok, maybe I went a bit too far on that one!)

If MS have bought into Facebook because of this last point, then I think we are in for a very exciting time. After all, look how much information we can already gleam from Facebook Flyers Pro…this is only the beginning.

Enjoy.

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So as you well know, my job search continues! With a broad mix of experience from direct mail right through to online and web 2.0 bits and pieces, part of me wonders what do other people see about my experience?

If you too want to consider where others see your skills, try this:

1. Open Gmail and comose email

2. Copy and past your cv into the message box

3. Save as draft.

4. Click again on the red draft text

5. See the Adwords ads that pop up on the right hands side!

 OK, not exactly rocket science but it does make for interesting reading!

 More updates soon (hopefully!) as I am working on the mother of all texts with a Cluetrain Manifesto piece…are you sitting comfoprtably…!

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I noticed today that I could add a Search History feature to my Google tool bar (assuming I had the tool bar installed and was using the page-rank feature) and was quite surprised by what I saw.

More often than not the history feature of my browser is used when I have forgotten to bookmark something or remembered something later in the day. To add Gmail style total searchability to my browser history is a fantastic feature and one which (when it needs to be used) I could realistically use more and more as a search tool for things I am interested in…but therein lies the problem – well for Google anyway.

Unless I am using Google Reader, I tend to visit mostly the same sites time and again – never really venturing far from the beaten path – that is what I have my delicious bookmarks for. Is this typical behaviour for a regular, experienced web user?

If so – Google, where are the ads in History? Even if it isn’t typical behaviour, Google – where are the ads?

In placing its PPC ads on conventional search, as we all know, Google tries to match search terms with the most relevant sponsored ad. If a PPC ad is especially relevant it is clicked on – obvious. But Google is still having to second guess the motivations and level of interest in the search term.

With history, you have a proven level of interest.

Take the examples in my image (above). I have searched for my blog (http://blendingthemix.com by the way!!), web analytics (several times) as well as a web design company. In a short space of time, I have proven a (repeated) interest in analytics, web design and blogging. There’s no mistaking that I am interested in those terms. So why are there no ads served? Is it because it is a first report? No. Is it because it is in Beta? No.

Google History is an Ad Serving system with one MEGA benefit – proof of search.

If Google History latches onto the fact that each recorded activity (or frequently recorded activity) IS PROOF of a heightened level of interest in a topic then they have opened up an absolute goldmine.

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Just what IS Google playing at.

With over 10 years to catch up on Paypal and Worldpay, does Google think that it can dominate payment systems too?

OR like with its office suites of products, is it just ensuring it has a presence in the field to build its experience?

Search domination is one thing, but in the other fields such as word processing (google docs), shopping search (froogle), email (Gmail – although to a lesser extent), news and images – they are way behind everyone else. Do they honestly believe they have the capability to catch-up, match, then beat microsoft, kelkoo, yahoo, bbc and flickr anytime soon or is there a matter of pride at stake here?

Why are they doing it?

It is crucial for Google to have a presence in other markets or else its virtual monopoly is wasted. And this is the crucial point by UK Consumer Marketing Chief, Obi Felton:

"The starting point is our core products,"

By offering a payments service too, Google is the conduit for the shop search, product search and now the payment.

With 75% dominance of UK search that is an awful lot of shops and products people are searching for – and it makes perfect sense. You wouldn’t take your car to a drive-through car wash and have to drive elsewhere to the next stage would you?

Interesting too is that user’s trust in Google is such that almost 60% of users who didn’t find what they wanted first time round in tests, thought they had typed the search query incorrectly.

So, all in all, it is quite a move for Google…using its trustworthy name to enter a new market rather than trading-off its technological expertise and capabilities. My only question is this:

What happens to Google’s reputation when fraudsters attack it as much as Paypal is attacked now? Is their search reliability and credibility likely to be affected too?

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Maybe I am months if not years behind, but in doing some research for a client, I noticed just how powerful Google Maps could be for chainstores.

Get your stores on Google Maps and let people see what you do, how you do it, why you are worth a visit. Let others join you in adding comments about your facilities.

Say you are a coffee house…tell people about your local cake specialities, if you are a club or bar, publish special events. If you are a gift store, highlight something different.

BLOG…lik to your blog…let people see another reason to visit you.

In my experience in-site store locators do nothing more than give you an address and phone number – here is a great opportunity to have so much more to say than a name and address.

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