Archive for the 'mobile' Category

Google Patent’s My Invention to Simplify Reviews

Google has just published a patent for a process to simplify creating reviews using a smart-phone.  Bill Slawski describes the patent on his SEO by the Sea blog.

In simple terms, the idea would be to have UPC codes printed on something like restaurant menus.  Then you use the camera on your phone to photograph the code which automatically identifies the restaurant and lets you link your review to the restaurant.  The use of the code and the camera is intended to be faster and more convenient than having to enter the name of the restaurant manually.  The broad goal is to make it very easy for users to provide feedback.

And as Mike Blumenthal pointed out in a tweet, one nice thing about this process is that you would actively engage local merchants in the process.  Of course, that’s also the biggest hurdle — you have to get all those businesses to use your code.   Fortunately, there are alternative ways to simplify the process.  More on that in a future blog post.

Here’s the funny thing.  I remember discussing this concept with a colleague sitting in an airport in the fall of 2007.  Google filed their patent in March of 2008.  Of course, I didn’t disclose anything and I didn’t file a patent of my own.  So, Google wins.  And my generally ambiguous feeling about the worth of these kinds of patents continues.  I guess I need to either write my own patents or disclose the ideas on my blog in sufficient detail to prevent patents.


In Mobile: More Menus Less Search

Mobile Applications on the iPhone are increasingly emphasizing the use of menus over (or in addition to) search boxes providing quick access to frequently needed items.  This has implications for how we need to think about advertising in the mobile, local environment.  I’ll present a few examples of the ‘menu trend’ and then discuss the advertising implications.

Exhibit Number One: Mapquest 4 Mobile

The new Mapquest application for the iPhone features a menu of items you are likely to need while out and about.  You can turn them on or off.  This is a simple, slick and effective approach — the best one I’ve seen so far.

The Mapquest 4 Mobile menu bar

The Mapquest 4 Mobile menu bar

Exhibit Number Two: Where

Where was one of the first local search applications on the iPhone and has always emphasized a menu based approach with an eclectic collection of applications — though one of the options is search.

Where iPhone App Showing Service Stations

Where iPhone App Showing Service Stations

The thing I like better about the MapQuest approach is that I can turn multiple layers on or off — though it’s easy enough to change selections within Where.

Aside: I selected the Bing ad and it took me to a screen showing the weather for Toronto.  I’m in Edmonton.  And every Canadian already resents Toronto centric things.  Fail.

Yelp: A Bit More Old School

The Yelp home screen also utilize a menu based approach.  It’s a bit boring and feels like a return to some of those awful early generation mobile apps.  It’s effective, but something like the MapQuest approach where I could actually see what nearby means would probably be better.  In fairness, Yelp’s emphasis is on presenting you with the review content.

Yelp Home Screen

Yelp Home Screen

An Advertising Perspective

This menu based emphasis presents new advertising opportunities.   One potential approach, is to ‘sell’ featured or sponsored locations.  Looking at the configuration screen of Mapquest’s app, I’d say they are already well down the path on this — notice the branded entities — and lots of space for more of them!

Brand advertising in MapQuest 4 Mobile?

Brand advertising in MapQuest 4 Mobile?

Epicurious: Another Menu Based Approach to Advertising

Epicurious recently launched a very interesting application for the iPhone.  It let’s you browse recipes and then create shopping lists for your trip to the grocery store.  Nice!

They’ve integrated brand advertising in a very nice way:

Brand advertising in the Epicurious iPhone app

Brand advertising in the Epicurious iPhone app

The bottom item in the menu has branded recipes from Stella Artois.  Local advertising – in the form of places where you can actually pick up those ingredients or perhaps coupons seems like a logical extension.

Augmented Reality as a Form of Menu

The evolution of Augmented Reality that I wrote about in my previous post can also be seen as a very clever way of overlaying menus.

Local Advertising in Augmented Reality

As if local advertisers didn’t have enough on their hands trying to figure out how to make themselves visible on the web and in mobile — soon they’ll need to figure out how they should look in augmented reality.

Augmented Reality is where graphics or information are overlaid onto real world objects.  This can include information about stores, restaurants or points of interest:

Wikitude - 500x396 - real

Wikitude is a Wikipedia layer for Android intended for use as a travel layer (as seen in the screen-shot above).  And Dutch software firm Layar will soon release an application for Android.  It looks interesting:

What it Means for Local

Another place where local businesses want to make information about themselves available.  In Layar you’ll apparently be able to turn different layers on and off.  So, I can imagine a ‘dining’ layer with restaurants – one that you can apply filters to for different choices.  It seems like there will be aggregators — so again this is probably an opportunity for intermediaries like Yellow Page Publishers.

Now I can’t wait until someone makes an Augmented Reality available for my iPhone!

(via Read Write Web)

Thinking holistically about local search

Emerging mobile and social applications are changing the way we find local information from a search paradigm to a recommendation paradigm.  Just this week we saw the announcement of several new products promoting this shift – which Greg Sterling reflects on in this post.   And I agree with Greg that in some ways we have almost come full circle:

The underlying consumer behavior is simply asking for word of mouth recommendations and is as “old as the hills.” But the ability to efficiently ask many people for advice or a local business referral at once online is new. Reviews were step one; the combination of quasi-real time answers and social networks is an evolution of that phenomenon.

We’re seeing many different approaches to capturing and sharing opinions — and people vigorously debating the merits of these approaches.  Is it better to have lengthy, insightful reviews or should you just have a simple rating or voting system so you get more participation?  Can you just ask your friends?  Is an answer format better than a review format?

It’s going to be great to see how it all evolves – exciting times!

I believe a holistic and inclusive approach will be needed.  Perhaps the greatest challenge in local information is to achieve sufficient depth and breadth to provide truly meaningful recommendations at the local level.  A modest sized city has tens of thousands of businesses.  This means you need millions of points of view in order to fairly represent the different needs and preferences of consumers.  Simply put:  you need active participation from a large population of local users.

This has several practical implications:

  1. You need to accommodate the different ways users want to interact with local information, but still be able to aggregate this information in meaningful ways.
  2. We can’t afford to ignore the implicit signals provided by all users.  These signals include the things they search for, the maps they request and the businesses they call.  Research on movie recommendations published by participants in the Netflix Prize clearly shows that this kind of implicit data is critical to creating high quality recommendations.
  3. A small percentage of participants will create the majority of the explicit opinions – the silent majority still needs a way to find and evaluate opinions that are consistent with their preferences.  We won’t all have 1000+ friends to ask.


Netflix Prize has lessons for local search.
Forget search: local is a recommendation problem.

5 ways to re-frame Yellow Pages

At the recent YPA (Yellow Pages Assocation) conference Malcolm Gladwell set the stage from some productive industry discussion by urging participants to re-frame the Yellow Pages.  Neg Norton has a great summary on the YPA blog.

So, in the spirit of continuing the conversation, I humbly submit the following five suggestions:

1. Proof is even better than research

Yellow Page advertising has always been (rightly) sold on the basis of a proven ROI.  Why not build on this position by making EVERY print, online and mobile ad track-able using tracking numbers.  Then you can definitively prove the ROI to EVERY one of your advertisers.  Do it for all your advertisers – even, perhaps especially for – subscription products.

2. Be the mobile maven

Mobile audiences are exploding.  But mobile advertising is slow to catch up.  They really need local advertisers but don’t have access to them.  You do – why not get together?  (And of course, continue to develop your own branded mobile experiences, but also look at how you can reach the mobile audience in other ways.)

3. Be the social connector

People are talking about your advertisers on twitter and Facebook.  What are you doing to help them join the conversation?

4. Recommendations rather than results

Be the matchmaker by helping consumers figure out which business is the right one for them.  Utilize tools like ratings and recommendations but also leverage your reputation.  Make it really easy to use.

5. Yellow pages connect

Unleash innovation by providing software developers with access to your data — and a share of the revenue from the leads they generate.  Wouldn’t you rather be sharing some revenue with an innovator using your data rather than buying your leads from Google?  You’ll make more money and be further ahead strategically.

What would you add to the list?  What would you delete or change?

WANTED: Hyper-local advertisers for Myspace HyperTargeting

Following the fun at OMMA Mobile by Twitter. This is interesting:

MySpace’s Brandon Lucas said the company is trying to figure out how to extend its HyperTargeting program to the mobile space. That service allows advertisers to target messages very narrowly. Lucas, a beach volleyball player, for instance, says he gets ads for beach volleyball lessons on MySpace. Extending that program to mobile would make sense so users might see relevant ads to act on when they’re out and about. So the next time your playing beach volleyball, you can get a lesson on the spot!

from Mediapost RAW.

HyperTargeting transforms the MySpace audience of 70 million in to millions of audiences with thousands of people. The challenge then becomes how do you reach those millions of hyper-local advertisers who can really realize the benefit?

If a golf instructor in Edmonton (yeah, it’s just BARELY spring here) knew he could target golfer’s in his end of the city he might just do it. But who is going to tell him?

From the MyAds page:

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