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Posts Tagged ‘google’

Perfidious Google Maps

Posted by anandrr on November 4, 2009

Over the weekend, I find myself at the intersection of Mathilda and Maude in Sunnyvale and I decide I need to go to a Walgreens or Longs or something. So I duly type in “pharmacy” into my Jesus Phone Google Maps and what does it show me?

Google Maps screen shot Google Search PageThere’s a Walgreen just off Fair Oaks. The location looks a little dubious, why would there be a Walgreen just off the main road, but maybe it covers an entire block. I haven’t ever seen a Walgreen at the location indicated, but maybe I haven’t been paying attention. So off I go to this location, and of course there is no Walgreen at this place. Quite annoying, to say the least. I assume that perhaps Google Maps is confused and get on with the rest of my life. On a whim, I pull up Google on my iPhone the next day and search for pharmacies in sunnyvale, and I find that Google search on the iPhone also thinks there’s a pharmacy at that location. Only it’s a Longs. And here’s what’s really cool about this. The address says El Camino Real, but the location on the map says Fair Oaks and just north of Maude. WTF? Seriously, WTF?

Posted in wtf | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Microsoft – Yahoo: Thoughts

Posted by anandrr on July 31, 2009

My first thought on Microsoft-Yahoo was that Yahoo seemed to have gotten the worse end of the deal. They seemed to have ceded search to Microsoft, got little to no revenue upside but certainly boosted their bottom line. Indeed Lex at the FT seems to agree. Negotiating with no leverage is a bitch. But having slept over it, I am beginning to see why Yahoo had to do what they did.

When I think about Yahoo, Microsoft and Google, they seem to have fundamentally different business foci, Microsoft and Google on one side and Yahoo on the other. Google focuses on helping consumers find what they want. In the process if advertisers have to be inconvenienced, so be it. It’s a curious business that doesn’t mind pissing off the people who pay the bills, but Google does it. This is why the Google marketplace and the Google algorithms have to be opaque, transparency would tilt the balance between the advertiser and the consumer and Google can have none of it. Microsoft is like Google in many ways. They are relatively new to advertising-based business models and would be quite happy to take the side of consumers over advertisers, it is individual consumers who helped them build their core business anyway.

Yahoo is in a different place. While they started out as a Google-like company, the downturn of 2001 forced them to think more about their advertisers. Cash was in short supply and so Yahoo changed the way they thought about their business and ensured that they were as advertiser-friendly as they could be. This worked wonders for Yahoo and they emerged from the downturn looking better than the rest of the dot-coms. The Overture search marketplace was a perfect match for them, it rewarded advertisers willing to pay the most and didn’t consider relevance, advertiser quality or any other metric that Google adds to their auction mix. But of course that made Yahoo search a terrible business, search cannot be won unless you have a consumer focus, in this way it is different from other publishing.

When a consumer searches for a car, she would hate it if the results included advertisements for Tylenol. It wouldn’t matter that Tylenol had research that revealed that 80% of all car-buyers needed a Tylenol within a day of commencing their search. But this does not apply to a page on autos.yahoo.com. Yahoo can show any banner/display ads it wants on those pages so long as the ads perform well for the advertiser and the advertiser is willing to pay for the impression. Yahoo does not risk alienating its consumers by showing irrelevant ads alongside its content (so long as the ads are not objectionable in content or overwhelming in number). So long as Yahoo owned and operated a search advertising exchange, they were in constant internal conflict, the search exchange required Yahoo to prefer its consumers over its advertisers, the advertising business side required Yahoo to prefer its advertisers. This could not hold.

The current deal breaks the dichotomy for Yahoo. All of Yahoo can now focus on helping their customers get the best advertising deal on the Internet across search, display and any other platforms that Yahoo is/will be on. By jettisonning the exchange, Yahoo’s sales team is free to treat the search exchange as just another platform on which clicks and impressions may be bought and consumer data may be gathered. They can even help their customers integrate their display purchase with advertiser click-streams driven from, gasp, Google.

It is in this way that what appears to be a financially weak deal for Yahoo could turn out to be a strategically great deal.

Next up: Google is attempting to create an advertiser-focused exchange on Doubleclick. Our new-found theory indicates that this cannot be the roaring success that it could be, Google will be as internally conflicted as Yahoo was. Yahoo will win that battle with Rightmedia on its side.

Posted in Advertising, Business, Incentives, Internet | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

What Would Google Do Indeed?

Posted by anandrr on February 20, 2009

Me emailing the moment to JP, Editor, Bookmarks magazine: With any luck the reviews on [What Would Google Do] are coming in at around 1 star.  Walked in to the bookstore and this douche of an author is standing here and being himself. God what a load.

But  more interesting  than the author and his speech was the audience itself. The bookstore in question was Books Inc in downtown Mountain View, hometown of the aforementioned Google. I was emailing on the (supposedly citywide) free public Wifi provided by Google to the fine denizens of that fine town. The last time I had seen a Google-related talk at Books Inc was when Battelle was there flogging his Search book. Back then, Google was the new darling and everybody wanted to fawn on the Google. This time, it was very different. This book might have top-picked the Google phenomenon. For a Mountain View audience, they were distinctly hostile to the ideas that the author was flogging, they pooh-poohed transparency, calling Google the most secretive company on earth (when the author challenged that, they gave in a little and admitted that perhaps the CIA and FBI were more secretive), they questioned whether the concept of beta products extended to much more than free web offerings and brandished bug-ridden Android phones as proof, they didn’t think Google would exist at all without vast Government expenditures and so where did we get off belittling other Government initiatives (the specific topic being global warming)?

This turn in sentiment is curious, very curious.

Posted in Advertising, Book Review, Business, Capitalism, Communism, Economics, Internet, Literature | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Newspapers in Decline

Posted by anandrr on January 30, 2009

The headlines blare: Newspapers are Dying! Being a voracious newspaper reader myself, this is a matter after my own heart. FT’s Lex tried to attack the problem. But he stops way short.

As Lex points out, the problem is simple: newspapers cost too much to produce, but print ad revenues are declining rapidly. Online ad revenues are growing but fall well short of the costs of running a newspaper. To wit, the New York Times costs $338M per quarter ex-printing and distribution, but online ad revenues clock in at a meager $74M. But Lex is blind to the solution. Presumably with good reason. Lex’s salary depends on his/her not seeing the truth in front of his/her eyes. The newspaper business model has been broken for a while now, and while the newspaper companies are trying to fix it by going online, very few of them seem to understand what that really entails. And so we are still where we have always been, online ad revenues can’t make up for the high cost of producing a quality newspaper.

First, let’s look at how well they’re doing the online bit. We’ll stay with the New York Times, they have an exceedingly good website (by newspaper standards) already.  Assume for the moment that you’re researching the 9/11 attacks. You search for 9/11 on Google, notice how not a single link on the first page points to the Times’s coverage of that seminal event. Indeed, not a single newspaper on that list of links. So if you were trying to research an event that happened in the New York Times’s own backyard, the New York Times doesn’t want you to know that they can help you. Immediately after the 9/11 attacks, the Times ran a series called Portraits of Grief, an incredible series that memorialized every victim of the 9/11 attacks. Only the Times had the resources to do something like this. And yet, search for 9/11 victims on Google…. And on and on it goes, you can search for anything New York related let alone US related and the biggest US newspaper is nowhere to be found. In short, the Times has a great website and certainly gets a large subscriber base that reads it everyday, but in so doing they have replicated the offline business model online.

Offline, newspaper publishers are only interested in today’s newspaper. Advertisers have already paid for yesterday’s newspaper and are unlikely to want to advertise in it again, but there are advertisers who wish to be in today’s newspaper, so let’s make sure we attract them. As a result newspapers spend a lot of money to ensure that they put out the best product for today’s news and ignore yesterday’s newspaper altogether. They charge $1 for today’s newspaper but $10 for archived newspapers precisely because they can’t monetize yesterday’s newspaper with advertisers.

But online, the game changes. All your webpages can be monetized with current advertisers. Newspapers therefore have to make sure that all their webpages are available and searchable by all consumers, news consumers, researchers, everybody. But that isn’t all. The New York Times doesn’t add much value by having its own Wall Street desk most of whose work is reporting on earnings and other announcements from different companies. Reuters already does a great job of that with people sitting in Bangalore. It’s not at all clear what value the Times desk adds over a wire service (even if they were sitting in New York not Bangalore). All in all, it’s not clear why the Times has to pay $338M in salaries mostly to reporters who don’t add value over a generic wire story. There are stories that only the Times could cover. New York based stories for instance, just as the Wall Street Journal is extremely good at covering business, and the San Jose Mercury at covering Silicon Valley, and The Hindu at covering south India. What newspapers need to figure out is what their core competency is, cover that by themselves, outsource the rest of the reporting and stop pretending like their Op-Ed pages matter (thought experiment: if the Times stopped publishing tomorrow, which of their columnists would you read if all they had was a blog each? My answer: Paul Krugman, and yet certainly the Times spends millions of dollars a year on its elite stable of columnists).

If they did all this, the Times would gain a lot of impressions because their website rocks and attracts a lot of visitors, they would lose a number of impressions because nobody thinks the Times is such a great newspaper any more, so lets say their quarterly revenue falls from $75M to $50M. At 25% margins that’s still a great business, it’s not a change-the-world business, but in a world where news and opinion are both commoditized, it’s the best you can do. Unfortunately the Times will never accept that, they have to be the “paper of record” (whatever that means) after all. And nor will the San Francisco Chronicle, and ultimately that is what is dooming the newspaper business. Not that the business is unhealthy but that every newspaper owner has an inflated sense of the worth of his or her business to the world.

Posted in Advertising, Business, Capitalism, Economics, Globalisation, Internet, Media, Newspapers | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

I’m sorry Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that

Posted by anandrr on December 1, 2008

A great many websites in India are simply inaccessible, thanks to the mighty powers of Google and Firefox. Google and Firefox aren’t just helping us find the information that we seek, they’re ensuring that we remain safe while we seek it. And that safety mission is just too important for them to allow us (mere seekers) to jeopardize it.

Google results for Whirlpool

Assume for the moment that you’re in the market for a washing machine. You’re all very fancy with your air-conditioned office and high speed Internets so you think, let me first check what models are actually available. So first, you google “whirlpool.” You’re met with the page on the left. That’s right: Google has a little text that says, “This site may harm your computer.” “WTF?” you think to yourself, we’re talking about Whirlpool here not some neighborhood store company, and anyway I’m on my Mac, (and always up to date with my security updates, right, right?) nothing could possibly happen. whirlpool_google_attack_websiteSo you click on the link anyway. But Google isn’t done with you yet. Instead of taking you to the harmful website, they take you to the page on the right here. That’s right, they really don’t want you to visit the website. But you’re all, “come on now, we’re talking Whirlpool, it should be ok, just take me there.” Aha, but try finding a link on the page that will take you there. Google really doesn’t want you to go to the website. There isn’t a single link or button on the page that says, “Take me there anyway, dammit!” All you’ve got is the link in simple text, that they want you to copy and paste into the location bar. And it’s not even obvious where that text is. You have to read everything to find the url hiding in the text. You finally locate it. whirlpool_firefox_attack_siteHaving located it, you copy-paste it into the url bar. You’re done right? Hah! Think again. Now it’s Firefox’s turn to warn you away from the website. This time in angry maroon! At least, this warning has a link that lets you ignore the warning and infect yourself with all manner of viruses and trojans. Sure the link is almost invisible, it’s a tiny footnote to all the exclamation marks and large buttons urging you to get the hell out of Dodge, but it’s there. You click it, and yes! Mission Accomplished!whirlpool_websiteThere it is in all its ugly glory. The Whirlpool website with its flashy flash and unusable interfaces and poorly laid out tables. But it’s there, and for that we’re grateful. Now we can actually get down to the serious business of picking our seriously fantabulous washing machine with bells and whistles and more horsepower than the computer you’re on now. You navigate the silly Javscript menu to click on the Products->Washing Machine link. whirlpool_inner_firefox_attack_siteOops, you declared success too soon. Firefox is going to bug you for every link you click on. It doesn’t care that you’ve already said you don’t care for sites with malware. It doesn’t care that it’s really just making life really really hard for you. It just cares about you and your welfare. Thank you Firefox, for looking out for me at every turn! Where would I be without you?

But really, there ought to be a law. Firefox, we can pardon. But Google? With all their monopoly power? Net neutrality for me, not for thee, indeed! And does anybody doubt that if Whirlpool were buying the link, Google would happily charge for the clicks and let you go to a website that distributes malware?

Posted in Advertising, Business, Capitalism, Economics, Internet, Media, wtf | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

“I work at WalMart”

Posted by anandrr on June 22, 2008

In India  the statement, “I work at WalMart,”  is a matter of pride. Not because Indians really enjoy working for less than minimum wage greeting people walking into an over-lit, crowded, football-field sized room full of cheap consumer goods. The WalMart people speak of in India is their technology/IT center here in Bangalore. The enormous scale of their technology is one of the things that makes Walmart so competitive in the States. So it’s like working for Google, I suppose.

Posted in Advertising, BPO, Business, Capitalism, Culture, Economics, Funny | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »