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Friday, January 31, 2003

You'll Do Your Comparison Shopping on Portals, Say Analysts

Research shows that by 2005, portals will be like these cool... portals... to what's available online.

Fancy that!

Posted by Andrew Goodman




You stand on the threshold to the magical world of sensual delights that most men dare not dream of

Have you got a Google mouse pad yet?

If you have a sore wrist, or even if your sex life is lagging a bit, you'd better get one.

Just get one, and you'll see what I mean.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




Weird Science

A recent meeting with a Google exec, Wendy Muller, unearthed dribs and drabs of Google lore, as such conversations so often do. Apparently there is a new trick called "Google cooking." You get home to a jumble of odd ingredients left over in your fridge. So you go to Google, type in all the main ingredients, and then attempt to make the most appealing dish that comes up in the search results.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




Tuesday, January 28, 2003

Bricks Meet Clicks (Finally): Shopping Search Comes of Age

Few of us expected comparison shopping search engines to be the biggest search engine story this year, but that's just what seems to be happening. It doesn't hurt that Google stunned competitors with the soft launch of a new service called Froogle, but companies like Dealtime have been quietly gathering steam over the past year, too.

The hype surrounding clever price comparison tools like Priceline has subsided. But in the meantime, consumers are flocking to sites of this nature to help them compare prices. Often, it leads directly to a purchase. The scary thing is, the price aggregators have become powerful market makers, especially in industries like travel. The fact that retailers are forced to compete on price may have wide-ranging implications. Few companies can compete solely on price.

It appears that the use of shopping search is also responsible for increasing consumer satisfaction with the online experience. Companies that make their presence felt in these engines had better be e-commerce-enabled and user-friendly or they won't last long. The process of listing in a shopping search engine likely helps filter out second-rate sites, and the ability to glean information about different retailers offering similar products appears to be a hit with savvy consumers as a recent study shows.

Recall that big things were expected from this whole category. Deja.com built a whole business around it, but overinvested in personnel and office space too long before the growth took flight, as was so common in the dot com boom/bust. (What's left of Deja? Not much. It went bankrupt. But its version of the Usenet archive did get snapped up by Google, who seem to be doing a good job maintaining it.)

These days, comparison shopping services and rating services of various types -- epinions, Froogle, Bizrate, Dealtime, etc. -- are making a strong charge. Major growth, and some consolidation, is in store for the next couple of years. From boom to bust to boom. As the current growth is largely organic and not funded by VC's or public stock offerings, there is far less likelihood of another crash and burn scenario.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




Saturday, January 25, 2003

Google's Light Touch

Just scrolling down a backward links search on Google, I saw a "house ad" inviting users to take a Google Tour. This style of ad is on a powder blue background adorned with the notation "shameless self-promotion" in dark grey text.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




Friday, January 24, 2003

CNN gets Googled

Chalk up another victory for Google. This week, CNN.com quietly added a large, horizontal search bar at the top of their site that prominently features the Google logo. This is impressive for a few reasons:

1) I believe CNN.com is either the No. 1 or 2 news site on the Web.
2) It signals that Google's influence with AOL Time Warner (parent company of CNN) is growing and may lead to bigger moves in the future

News web sites have always had search boxes somewhere that would search both the local site and the Web, but never has a search engine received such prominent branding at the top of a high-profile news site. This move doubtlessly bodes well for the future of online searching, once again back in the spotlight as the Web's killer app.

Posted by Cory Kleinschmidt




Tuesday, January 21, 2003

What We Need is An Anti-Spam Revolution... or at the very least, a good book

Cory, I'm glad you mentioned the spam thing. Second time today I've read a beef about the stuff. The always-respectable business journalist Dana Blankenhorn also weighed in on this issue today, with the unorthodox stance "Blame Jeff Bezos" [The Secret Truth of Spam, Jan. 21, 2003].

Of course, I made the same point (that the spam mentality is built in to the "permission" strategies of major corporations, and that the problem is only going to get worse, to the detriment of legitimate information publishers) about 2.5 years ago, but who's counting ["Hey Corporate America - Stay Out of My Inbox," The Globe and Mail, September 12, 2000]?

At the time, I felt a whole book was needed to develop the hypothesis that the larger companies, not spammers, are the greatest and most insidious threat to our inboxes, because of their penchant for fudging ethics when it comes to finding a new way to break through the advertising clutter. Taking spam, and calling it permission, is truly a marvelous con game, as duly admitted by a red-faced (but not guilty) Seth Godin [Permission Marketers: Did We Blow It?, September 6, 2001]. I still think it's a topic that needs to be addressed intelligently. There is next to nothing decent written on the subject. In fact the best books on spam, both fiction and non, seem to be referring nostalgically to the lovable lunchmeat itself!

The demonization of "spammers" - while justified - is a nice red herring that diverts our collective attention away from the broader problem. You can create regulatory bodies (hey, there already are some, especially in Europe) who will "chase down spammers." Unfortunately the paranoid regulatory fervor (one European group was making hysterical noises about - get this - "Chinese spam gangs from Toronto" - GANGS!!! - kind of the moral equivalent of the Newfoundland seal hunt, I guess) pretty much misses the point. "Permission" marketing is soon going to lose whatever legitimacy it had left because permission has been abused nearly from Day One of the concept's invention.

So whaddya say, guys? Are you in? Let's write that book! My people will be in touch with your people.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




Do Accountants Use Pop-Ups?

It was an expensive-looking, and no doubt expensive, TV and print campaign for the Certified General Accountants of Ontario. They picked out a long list of actual accountants with names that were also words, and then they'd theme them together and create a clever pun. They'd put Bob English with Larry German and Wanda Ireland (or John Wrench, Sue Sprocket, and Sam Shovel), have them smile (conservatively) at the camera, and slap a pun on it, wrap it in some nice, conservative blue graphics, and trot out the tagline: "Certified General Accountants. We're the name brand for business."

Light humor, conservative touch, and a boatload of association cash spent on "branding."

So why, now, when I go to the home page of The Globe and Mail, do I get a popup ad in connection with this campaign? People hate popups. Putting popups on the Globe and Mail site is a bit like it would be if you put popups on Google - a massive miscalculation of the audience's likely response.

So, the expensive branding campaign now looks cheap and stupid. But I suppose that's probably a nice parallel for the recent deterioration of accounting's public image.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




Monday, January 20, 2003

"Ain't it Cool?" No... No, It Isn't

I don't know why, but it really feels like I'm on an anti-spam crusade lately. Maybe it has something to do with the hundreds of freakin' spam e-mails I receive everyday! It's not enough for me to successfully block spam in Outlook; now I feel like reaching out to help others avoid it and those who peddle it. Here's my latest crusade.

Chances are that you've been hit with spam e-mails from a company called Coolstats.com, which offers a service that helps webmasters and marketers track website user activity for a fee. And if you have the same distaste for spam that I do, you're more than a little upset about it. This one ranks up there with that Traffic Magnet spam conspiracy (you know, the one with the giant magnet next to the snapshot of your home page?)

Well, I'm going to get back at Coolstats the best way I know: negative publicity. If you are in the market to outsource user activity tracking software, why not turn to legitimate companies like ConversionRuler or ClickLab? At least they respect their customers.

The sad truth is that companies like Coolstats do quite well by spamming anyone with an e-mail address (this one came to my Yahoo Mail account -- go figure), and until governing agencies to something to prevent this annoying waste of bandwidth, we will be stuck with an ever increasing chorus of spam for years to come.

Ain't it cool?

Posted by Cory Kleinschmidt




Friday, January 17, 2003

All's Well in Amazonia North... or Is It?

A few short years ago, this would have been unthinkable. Actually, in Canada, make that a few months ago.

Wednesday around 4 p.m. I ordered two books from Amazon.ca (Jim Sterne's Web Metrics and Jim Cramer's You Got Screwed!). Both arrived on my doorstep the following a.m. I'm already enjoying Cramer's excellent and witty dissection of the Enron and WorldCom money trails. Also, shipping was free.

Amazon's delivering books 16 hours after you order them. Yahoo and eBay are turning healthy profits. Wasn't all this supposed to come "crashing down"?

After a few more corrupt CEO's and their accountants get hauled away in handcuffs, and maybe a half-dozen analysts, and for good measure, let's throw in a couple of the most annoying TV financial reporters... this economy will be ready to roll! Yep, things are really looking up!

Then again, I'm not going to get too complacent. The Amazon order came with, you guessed it, a promotional AOL CD. Visionary wunderkind billionaire technophobe Steve Case may be gone, but his legacy, and I do mean legacy, lives on. We're not out of the woods just yet.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




"This is Spam" - Still!

Yahoo's much improved spam filtering on Yahoo Mail has won kudos from many analysts, including me. It does a fine job of catching most bulk mail. And when a spam e-mail does manage to wiggle past the main filter, you have the option of designating the message as spam and sending it to Yahoo for them to review. Presumably they'll use these reports to study the messages to see why they got through and thus improve their filters.

Well, I've been reporting messages as spam for months now, and I still get the same recurring spam e-mails for mortgages, viagra and free porn passwords. Come on, Yahoo. I'm paying for this crap, so please update your spam filter to start catching this same old spam!

Posted by Cory Kleinschmidt




Wednesday, January 15, 2003

Yahoo! Hottest of the Hot in Photo Sharing

Yahoo! Photos leads the hot photo-sharing category, according to a study just released by comScore Media Metrix.


Top 10 Photo-Sharing Web Sites
Unique Visitors (000)
November 2002
U.S. Home, Work & University Locations


Total Home Work Univ.

Photo-Sharing Category 13,014 9,209 3,439 834
Yahoo! Photos 5,248 3,655 1,320 412
MSN Photos 2,004 1,385 530 109
Ofoto 1,278 810 491 38
Picturetrail.com 1,210 895 228 137
Snapfish.com 897 717 185 32
Shutterfly.com 822 575 232 55
Picture.com 747 493 265 27
Imagestation.com 477 347 124 28
Photoparade.com 430 359 68 19
Photoworks.com 427 359 68 1

Posted by Andrew Goodman




AltaVista: The Spam Company

Don't they know when to quit? AltaVista, formerly a technology company and now nearly indistinguishable from primordial goo, spammed me yet again today (full text below). One thing I just *love* is when somebody's automated "bot" determines that I am advertising with Google on "term x" and uses that information to spam me with "say, Joe, I notice you are advertising on the term PRIMORDIAL SLIME: you can buy this same term tied to banners on AltaVista for a low, low price..." .

That's why I advertise, of course, so I can have my ad clicked on by someone's bot (costing me money) so they can spam me later! The worst bloody thing about this is that the bot is from AltaVista, the same company that wants people like me to help the chief scientist get the word out about AV's great new features!

And doesn't it strike you as odd that AltaVista would offer an indexing option called "Trusted Feed"? Trust works both ways.

Here we go again:

Marketing Director,
Enhance your presence on Altavista with one of our many opportunities:
1. Keyword targeted #1 Sponsored Match Text Link and 468 x 60 Banner.
2. Homepage 70 Unit: Brand New, allows for both graphical and textual
representation on the homepage.
3. Trusted Feed: For partners with over 500 URL's, guaranteed inclusion in
our index for all of your URLs.
4. Run of Site Banners: Get that message out there loud and clear to
millions of eyes at a $.65 CPM.
5. Dealtime Shopping: Our exclusive shopping partner, great for the
holidays.
Please forward me a list of keywords and I will send you back a proposal
that will help you reach your companies goals. If it's not keyword
advertising you're looking for, then we can explore all the other options on
Altavista.
Let me know if you have any further questions.

Cheers,


Will Harwood
Sales Manager
AltaVista Company
P) 312 899-0720
F) 312 577-0845
Email) will.harwood@av.com


You know where you can stick it, Will.

Sincerely,

Andrew Goodman
Exasperated Former Search Engine Journalist

P.S. You are not men. You are devo.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




Monday, January 13, 2003

Google: PageRank Protected by First Amendment

The SearchKing lawsuit may be tossed out of court soon. With good reason.

http://research.yale.edu/lawmeme/files/Google_SearchKing_Response.pdf

(Warning: PDF file.)

Posted by Andrew Goodman




Thursday, January 09, 2003

Enough with the RealNames Knockoffs!

Not a day goes by that I don't receive a spam e-mail from one of the countless imitators of RealNames' defunct Internet Keyword system. Well, I've had just about enough!

The latest scam comes from a so-called Roger Smithson with a so-called 2000Notes Business Solutions at the suspicious URL http://upgradingyourbrowser.com/. When you click on their "More Info" button embedded in their spam e-mail, you'll get an Active X control window asking if you want to install some kind of CAB file, which probably installs some sort of spyware or adware. Obviously, it's not a good idea to install the control.

I read somewhere recently that this scam is spreading like wildfire across the Web, and people are actually falling for it. Please, dear Traffick reader, don't ever fall for one of these scams! They are almost certainly phony and even if their technology works, no normal person would download their "Internet Keyword" plug-in. Just a note of caution, because at Traffick.com, we care about you!

Posted by Cory Kleinschmidt




Tuesday, January 07, 2003

Internet Explorerer Mystery Solved?

Thanks to a Traffick reader, we may have found the source of the incessant Internet Explorerer pop-up windows. Here's the text of an e-mail I received from a reader named Greg, who accidentally found the source of the problem:

I was in the process of opening a PDF file in my browser, when that phantom window popped up. Then, BOTH windows locked up (some problem with the PDF, evidently).

Anyway, I hovered my cursor over the phantom window, and instead of seeing "Microsft Internet Explorerer" as usual, I saw this IP address: 207.246.124.101. It had apparently locked up at the exact right instant for me to see it.

I did a DNS lookup and found it belonged to vx2.com. A few minutes of searching the web, and I found this:

http://www.cexx.org/vx2.htm#remove

Basically, a dll called vx2.dll is responsible for the phantom window. It lives in your Windows directory, not in a temp folder, a cahce folder, or a temporary Internet folder.

This is an evil little bastard of a spyware file:

http://www.wired.com/news/print/0,1294,49960,00.html

I almost certainly got it from an AudioGalaxy update. I'd be interested to know if, like me, you were using AudioGalaxy during the fall of 2001.

Anyway, I felt like I had finally found and killed that little mosquito that was buzzing in my ear all night. Very satisfying.


Wow, thanks for the tip, Greg! I did in fact run AudioGalaxy during that time period, so that probably was the cause for me. Furthermore, I uninstalled it a few months ago, right around the time the windows stopped popping up, so it makes sense to me...


Posted by Cory Kleinschmidt




Monday, January 06, 2003

Stoopid Corporate Tricks Part 398,446

Major corporations and organizations continue to be aghast that someone might actually wish to link to their web site. Now I was under the impression that the Internet was a public space, where companies post pages that they want the public to see (and if they didn't want them to see it, they could password-protect or otherwise hide those pages). So is it possibly that it's reverse psychology of some sort?

Posted by Andrew Goodman




Sunday, January 05, 2003

Burn him at the stake

It looks like the Feds are thinking about bringing charges against former Merrill Lynch Internet Analyst Henry Blodget, the dope who rated Net stocks highly in public and then derided them as "POS" stocks in private. Yes, we can thank him and others of his ilk for the illusory stock market golden age of the late '90s that crashed hard and took so much of our personal wealth down with it (however ill-gotten that wealth was!).

Personally, I hope that jackass gets the maximum sentence for helping screw things up so royally. Sure, he didn't "start the fire," but he personally threw gallons upon gallons of gasoline on the blaze and profited from the crime. Remember his $400 price target for Amazon.com? Sure, you do.

Burn, Henry, burn.

Posted by Cory Kleinschmidt




Friday, January 03, 2003

Don't Let the Door Hit You in Your Giant-Sized, Hyperbolic Ass on the Way Out

Over the holidays, Infospace's board got together for a little ousting party. CEO Naveen Jain, who once told reporters he thought his company would someday be worth a trillion dollars, has been asked to please leave and not come back.

Jain was fond of telling the press that he worked 21-hour days, and he expected the same standard from his employees. Hey, if working at 4 a.m. were the sole determinant of success, Kinko's employees would all be tycoons.

The shame of it is that this didn't happen much sooner. Following the Infospace-Go2Net merger, Jain's desire for control and loyalty was a turnoff to a new and highly accomplished CEO recruit, Arun Sarin, and Go2Net CEO Russell Horowitz. Both left before the confusingly-merged new Infospace even got off the ground. Horowitz would have been a more inspiring and grounded leader - though not for the wireless (Infospace) side, which he didn't particularly understand. But since there was no future for him at the company, it made more sense to take off and take care of his own face-reddening windfall.

If you check out Infospace's current stock price, you'll see that it's around nine bucks. Don't be fooled, though. A 10-for-1 reverse split means that it's actually a sub-$1 stock in the old money.

The merger, it seems, was a failure. It would make more sense for one or the other part of the company to be sold off. As Russ Horowitz often bragged during his tenure, many Go2Net properties such as Authorize.net were cash profitable when they acquired them. The problem with Infospace as a public stock play, and ultimately with the larger merged entity, was and is a large cash reserve that allowed it to delay making hard decisions; to rely on hype rather than the careful balance-sheet scepticism which governed Horowitz's Go2Net.

It would make sense to dump ideas whose time-to-profitabilty is too far out or, as I suggested, sell those parts to a company which has the staying power to see them through. But hindsight is 20-20 and no matter how you slice it, Infospace is now a small company, no matter how well it grows in the near future, and no matter what non-core assets it manages to sell off.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




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