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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

After Panama-in-Canada Launch, Two Thoughts for Two BigCo's

The coffee has kicked in, with memories of another Mitch Joel schmoozefest dinner (Geek Dinner III? With few actual geeks in the room) ringing in my brain. Prior to that, I attended a Yahoo Canada event. For thoughts on that, I'd basically echo Stuart MacDonald's post: Yahoo Canada has announced rollout of Panama Proper (Search Marketing for real) for January 2007. The launch party didn't offer many new insights for me, other than seeing the geotargeting map with actual Canadian provinces. :) (I guess this is what bloggers do: Stuart's first post was that snarky two-sentence one, but then this a.m. he backtracked a bit and congratulated Yahoo. The fast post was probably just to prove he was the first one to post it, as he live-blogged it from the event. :) ) One more nugget was that existing Canadian accounts - apparently there are some, even though they'd only be for French Canada, since English-speaking Overture accounts must currently be North-America-wide - can now contact Yahoo to do an import over to Panama. The rep from Yahoo cited "a few hundred" accounts. A few hundred! After all these years in the business! That's sad!)

But moving onto the two thought nuggets:

1. Are big Internet/media companies like Yahoo trying too hard to target the mass market's superstitions and proclivities ("yikes! something called phishing is going to take all my money!"), so over time, alienating a constantly growing base of savvier users? I tell you, it REALLY annoys me on the login to Yahoo Mail that there is some safeguard-protector thing that I can somehow pay attention to in order to be immune from phishing attacks. (Maybe I'm not supposed to be a Yahoo user at all? Should I be just using Thunderbird? Etc.) A move towards simpler interfaces, and less hand-holding, would be welcome. But I've been beating this drum for a long time. I'd pay to be a Yahoo Services or Yahoo Premium subscriber if I could avoid the constant onslaught of advertising - kind of an executive club for people who want to use online functionality without being forced through the old-world, interruption-marketing maze. Unfortunately, as anyone who listens to the drumbeat knows, that ain't gonna be in the cards. Case in point: at a launch of Yahoo Panama for Canada (see above), while the head of YSM Canada, Martin Byrne, gave a detailed Powerpoint presentation, there was still quite a bit of distraction as the regional GM stopped to thank big companies for their banner business. In other words, even when they're doing a gala intro to search (and apologizing for it not being "sexy,"), they're trying to move their other inventory. Until Yahoo gets rid of this Clutter 'R' Us mentality, from a user standpoint they'll probably gradually lose the allegiance not only of the savvier user base, but of conservative users over 60 (who might appreciate the protection from phishing, but hate a lot of the other clutter). Who's left? Note to Yahoo: the only reason your bottom line in Canada shows non-search inventory to be such a hugely important part of your business is because you've spent the past ten years doing nothing about search, which is a potentially *huge* channel. I understand that "search isn't sexy." Except that the platform that offers search is eventually going to be used even by your larger customers to buy a lot of other kinds of inventory. I know there are some agency people who still want sexy, want to be sexy, want to be seen as sexy, etc. For the rest of us SEM diehards: we want the opposite. We'd like to be able to sneak around and buy the sexy stuff when no one is looking.

2. To Mr. Rogers. Many of us use your business high-speed Internet service, and we pay for it. Right now, all of downtown Toronto has free wi-fi courtesy a trial period for a new service offered by a utility company. Now I'm not about to shut down my Internet service for four months - I know you need that revenue to sign Frank Thomas to slug for our Blue Jays - but ... don't be too surprised when we don't have any loyalty to you, the day Google or someone else announces permanent free Wi-Fi for all of downtown. What will you do when you can't monopolize... that is the question. Oh well, at least the Jays have a healthy payroll.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




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