Earlier this year, Yahoo! made a splash with its acquisition of 12-week old media check-in app IntoNow for approximately $27 million. The tech media circles, often critical of Yahoo! in recent years, praised the move in spite of the multi-million dollar price tag and the fact that IntoNow was just 12-weeks old.
IntoNow utilizes wavelength recognition to listen to and identify television programs with the tap of a button, and has become an important tool in Yahoo!’s previously-maligned foray into social. IntoNow combines the addictive check-in elements of Foursquare and the clever utility of Shazaam with the seemingly unstoppable power of Facebook and Twitter. While this conflagration of new media stars yields hordes of adoring users and Silicon Valley praise, IntoNow is poised to tap into the well-established mega-billions of the traditional media television industry.
The Internet is transforming television, and the first-glance value of IntoNow is obvious. Anything that gets users in front of television screens, especially if paired with live event coverage a la CoverItLive, holds immense value to television networks seeing more and more eyeballs transition to the smaller screens of laptops, tablets and smartphones.
However, the multi-billion dollar potential of IntoNow and Internet-connected televisions (including Yahoo!’s ConnectedTV) lies in the value these tools can deliver to brand advertisers and CMOs desperately seeking ways to integrate campaigns across the increasing number of platforms used by consumers. The possibilities are endless:
- A consumer “checks in” to the live airing of the latest White Collar episode and receives a reward from USA Network (a badge, points, a sneak preview video, a behind-the-scenes look, etc.)
- IntoNow utilizes a Pandora-esque algorithm to provide recommendations and offers brand advertisers the ability to provide highly relevant Sponsored Recommendations based on a user’s viewing habits
- Yahoo! pairs ConnectedTV and IntoNow with its own real-time ad bidding and exchange technology to deliver contextually matched, highly targeted ads based on what a user is watching right now
- A signed-in Yahoo! user receives time-sensitive television and movie recommendations from networks, Fandango, movie studios and the many advertisers Yahoo! already has relationships with based on their explicit IntoNow viewing habits and the inferred interests derived from them
- A viewer “checks in” to American Idol and is given the option to “Like” the show’s Facebook page, read the Idols’ tweets or purchase and download a song from the night’s episode directly from iTunes
The power of IntoNow in the right hands makes Yahoo!’s purchasing price of $27 million seem like chump change, and paired with ConnectedTV and real-time ad delivery, may be the spark that ignites Yahoo!’s rebound. Matching advertisers and brands with consumers is a ceaseless quest, and IntoNow gives Yahoo! a plethora of options to deliver value to a vast range of customers while capturing the always-critical adoration of its users. Execution matters above all else, and we’ve seen dozens of hot, nimble startups fall victim to the oppressive tides within a large and entrenched public organization.
In the wake of the explosive LinkedIn IPO, which saw a 109% first day gain that valued the nine-year old company with over 100 million users at $8.9 billion, an intense spotlight has been focused on the new wave of Web-based companies that have taken venture capitalists and private and secondary markets by storm. The highly anticipated and inevitable IPOs of Web titans Facebook and Groupon have – rightly or wrongly – brought up fears of a “bubble” reminiscent of the dot-com bust that wiped away the fortunes of millions and oversaw the collapse of hundreds of “companies” that rushed to go public without revenues, not to mention profits.
(My take? We’re not in a bubble. Not yet. The lessons from a decade ago are fresh enough in the minds of VCs and investors, and the simple fact that we are being cautious and asking questions proves we are eons away from the insanity of 2000.)
The promise of the new media era is dependent on a new era of advertising, one that is integrated across many platforms, channels and formats. The booming success of Google and others dependent on online advertising may lead some to think that the market is saturated, leaving little opportunity for new entrants or growth for existing players. However, the data paints a dramatically different picture. The IAB projects double-digit growth in global online advertising spending for each of the next four years, reaching nearly $100 billion by 2014, or 17.4% of combined global ad spending.
There is a significant trend that one doesn’t need to dive through troves of data to recognize: people across the world are spending more time online. The time spent online on computers, tablets and smartphones is dramatically increasing year over year, but even these markets are relatively under-served. Just 82 million of more than 330 million Americans access the Internet on their mobile phones, and just 31% of wireless subscribers own a smartphone. Even with the billions of dollars in profits enjoyed by Apple, Google, Nokia and Microsoft in the mobile sector, the market is just getting started. More users with more Web-enabled smartphones means more ad dollars flowing to Web companies from the world’s biggest spenders.
So does this mean the tens of billions of dollars spent on television advertising will magically flow online? No. New value is created by reaching consumers online, and that means new dollars will be spent. Television advertising offers benefits that the hottest social media and branded content companies could never provide, and vice versa. It is the value of connecting and conversing with consumers in the new media era that will entice advertisers to direct new dollars from their ad budgets toward online campaigns.
The power to connect brands and consumers where the conversations are happening (social) and at the point of intent (branded content, action-oriented content) provides the opportunity for companies that offer these services to capitalize on the significant upside potential in the online advertising market. Online advertising isn’t just text links and banner ads. The new formats enabled by tablet and mobile technology and revolutionary business models ensure Silicon Valley’s best executors will reap the rewards of a booming online advertising market in the coming years.
Hat Tip: AdWeek – The Changing Scope of Online Advertising
IAB Report: 2010 Internet Advertising Reveneus Increase 15% to $26 Billion, A New Record
Under the tutelage of Bill Gates, Microsoft exploded into one of the world’s largest and most valuable companies, generating billions of dollars in profits annually for shareholders. The dot-com boom made many employees and investors millionaires, and the company appeared unstoppable.
As the company matured, growth stabilized and new tech darlings like Google stole the spotlight. Delayed product launches of centerpiece operating systems, failed products and advertising campaigns, broken acquisition deals and an apparent lack of internal innovation gave Microsoft a reputation as a “has been” that had passed its prime, and current CEO Steve Ballmer lost the confidence of many investors.
However, new data is showing that Microsoft may be experiencing a reversal of fortunes, as the company’s investments in search are beginning to pay off. The brutally competitive search engine market has had one dominant player for the last decade – Google – which has held as much as 80 percent of the United States search market.
In October 2010, the U.S. search marketshare breakdown was as follows: Google (72.15%); Yahoo + Bing (23.64%). The most recent Hitwise data shows Bing has made substantial gains at the expense of Google and Yahoo. Bing-powered search now controls 30.01% of the U.S. search market, while Google’s share has fallen to 64.42%. (See below: Image courtesy of Mashable.)
These gains may be the result of a major multi-platform ad push by Microsoft for Bing, but the trend is a positive sign for investors and spectators that have remained loyal to the company.
Strong performance in search, high expectations for tablet and PC versions of the upcoming Windows 8 platform, new developer confidence in the Windows Phone platform following the recent Nokia partnership announcement, the smashing success of Kinect and Xbox 360 and widespread adoption of Microsoft’s iPhone and iPad apps are powerful indicators of a possible Microsoft mindshare and marketshare resurgence.
Less than a decade after Wall Street and Silicon Valley critics alike pronounced the death of Apple as a legitimate player in the lucrative personal computer market, the world has witnessed the resurgence of the Cupertino-based company as the dominant force in the rapidly-growing world of consumer electronics. Could we be seeing the beginning of an Apple-esque Microsoft turnaround? Critics will call it wishful thinking, but with Google in the process of a massive leadership change, Yahoo! undergoing a drawn-out transition phase and the tenure of Apple CEO Steve Jobs uncertain, the competitive landscape is changing and Microsoft has substantial opportunities in search, PCs and mobile.
It had been rumored for weeks that Yahoo! was preparing to lay off as much as 20% of its workforce, and the company had remained relatively quiet as the media battled to get an accurate figure. On Tuesday, the company confirmed that it had let go approximately 560 employees, nearly 4% of its total workforce.
Business Insider, as it has done for previous Yahoo! and AOL layoffs, set up an anonymous forum for Yahoos to share their insights, vent their frustrations, or simply to come together in an undoubtedly tough time for the company.
Nobody likes layoffs. They can place severe hardship on employees and their families that depend on their salary and benefits to subsist, and can deal an emotional blow to employees’ confidence and feelings of self-worth. The Yahoo! layoffs are no different. But is there something positive that can be gleaned from them?
Critics have hammered Yahoo! for having an undefined mission and top executives have come under fire for not being able to answer the simple question: “What does Yahoo! do?” According to Yahoo!, the layoffs are helping the company shift its position in the market through restructuring to more successfully accomplish its short- and long-term strategic objectives.
Kara Swisher of All Things D obtained an internal memo sent to employees from Yahoo! CEO Carol Bartz, which you can read in-full here. In the memo, Bartz notes that a majority of the layoffs are in Chief Product Officer Blake Irving’s products division. Every large company has product groups that are underperforming, and eliminating these groups is a part of operating a successful business. Bartz also notes that Yahoo!’s dedication to the Microsoft Search Alliance remains strong and resources will continue to flow to the company’s key properties.
Holiday layoffs are unpleasant, but with growing pressure for Bartz to deliver on her promises to turn around the Silicon Valley tech giant, they were necessary. Tech companies must be nimble, and a heavy products division hampers the innovation Yahoo! so desperately needs. Bartz has been scrutinized by some for slashing budgets and trimming jobs while taking home $47.5 million in total compensation in 2009, making her one of the highest-paid CEOs in the country.
Yahoo! asserts these layoffs were much more than a cost-cutting measure, and Bartz acknowledges that she cannot cut Yahoo! to greatness. The layoffs are part of a comprehensive restructuring initiative, and are an integral part of the process that can allow Yahoo! to focus explicitly on its core competencies in search, content verticals, and advertising.
This is no consolation for the ex-Yahoos now out of a job, but it is a good step in the re-emergence of a company that was once one of the darlings of the Valley. As for the former Yahoos, reports of a generous severance package (two months of pay, a bonus, and outplacement services) and the fortune of being in a strong hiring environment may help soothe some of the pain of being let go.
“If we’re innovating, if people have the tools to let their imaginations run, then there’s nothing we can’t do in this country.” President Barack Obama
At a political fundraiser in the humble home of revered Google executive Marissa Mayer – a mere stone’s throw from the famed garage that spawned Hewlett-Packard – President Barack Obama delivered these energizing words to approximately 50 Silicon Valley and Washington, D.C. heavy-hitter Democrats who reportedly paid $30,000 each to attend the intimate meet-and-greet in Palo Alto, CA. While these words may be perceived by some to be little more than populist political Utopianism, they speak to the heart of what Silicon Valley and burgeoning entrepreneurial pockets across the globe were built on.
The inextinguishable fire that burns deep within every entrepreneur is fueled by the kindling wealth of knowledge, tools and skills accumulated through experience and education. The latter is perhaps the most under-recognized factor leading to effective entrepreneurial success.
To be certain, visionaries by the likes of Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Jerry Yang, Sergey Brin and Larry Page each have an overwhelming presence of talent, passion, creativity, insight and natural intelligence within them. However, it would be incorrect to assert that these personal traits and qualities are the sole defining characteristics leading to their success. Siamak Taghaddos, the 29-year old millionaire co-founder and co-CEO of Grasshopper Group, noted that “education helped polish the inherent entrepreneur” within him and his partner, David Hauser. As Malcolm Gladwell famously outlined in “Outliers“, Bill Gates had unlimited access to a computer at the exclusive middle school he attended in the late 1960s to early 1970s – a time at which computers were far from being considered “personal”. Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page join Yahoo! founders Jerry Yang and David Filo as (sort of) alumni of Stanford’s famed school of computer science.
These tech legends understand the importance of education, and they want to pass along that gift to young students today in hope of giving them the tools they received along their path to success. Mark Zuckerberg recently donated $100 million to New Jersey public schools, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, with its $33.5 billion (and growing) endowment, has contributed billions to initiatives that advance and improve education across the globe.
Most would agree that education facilitates learning, growth and development. But what many fail to recognize is that education allows passionate young individuals to discover and nurture the entrepreneur within them. It offers them the chance to mine their natural talents and fuse them with new tools, knowledge and skills that can catapult them to a higher level of thinking and understanding.
Education has helped cultivate bright young minds and shape them into entrepreneurial successes and legends of industry, and its importance can no longer be underestimated and ignored.