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What I Learned on My Summer Spin Vacation

This week’s MediaPost column is a return to the Search Insider series.

The longest vacation I’ve taken was my summer trip contributing to MediaPost’s Online Spin.
Over the past three months, I explored the jungles of the elusive
SearchMonkey, went shopping for precious Chrome, and tried to avoid
coming down with a nasty case of Jewdar. If you haven’t checked out
Spin, here’s a chance to catch up. If you’ve been reading all along,
this includes some updates and reflection on what happened, so it’s not
your typical highlight reel.

June 12 – “The Customization Conundrum”:
When will consumers go through the effort to customize their digital
media experience? I threw out a couple examples, such as the daily
utility provided by Firefox add-ons and the social currency gained by
customizing social network profiles. With Yahoo’s enhanced search
listing program dubbed SearchMonkey, I mentioned “the payoff isn’t
worth the effort” due to the several redundant steps users needed to
take to activate it. Yahoo listened, in a big way (though I’m not
taking the credit here). Not only did they start making SearchMonkey
listings automatic for certain publishers, but on their blog they even referenced my presentation
available on Slideshare, even though my presentation was highly
critical of their initial rollout. This was one of the best, quickest
turnarounds from a search engine.

June 19 – “Botox Season on the Web”:
A number of major sites got facelifts over the summer. MySpace added
more room for high impact sponsorships on its homepage. Facebook
unveiled a cleaner design with more ad space on the side and tabbed
profile pages, which has riled some of its users who are organizing
around a petition (now 800,000 strong) to allow the option of keeping
the old layout. I joked that the Twitter Fail Whale on its “over
capacity” error page became its new homepage, though the past couple
months have been good to Twitter with tremendously improved
reliability, nearing 100%. The biggest and surprisingly prescient
review was of Firefox 3. With its “awesome bar,” direct navigation is
so much easier that I wondered if it would lead to its users searching
less often. I noted, “Google has been promoting Firefox aggressively;
if this [drop in searching] takes hold, will Google reconsider?”
Ironically, Google’s Chrome browser removes the search box entirely and
makes direct navigation even easier with its “omnibar.” Read more in
the Aug. 7 recap.

June 26 – “Ten Questions Not to Ask a Social Media Panel”:
I managed to dig into panel moderators, conference attendees, and Joe
Jaffe, and instead of getting any hate mail, Jaffe’s entirely family
wrote me thanking me for it. Read these questions and see if they come
up at the Social Ad Summit or OMMA Global next week, and you’ll know how to answer them. July 3-17 – The Facebook Trilogy: Following the week of July 4’s quiz “Which Facebook App Are You?”
(I bet you didn’t know about Osama Bin Laden’s development startup App
Qaeda), the next two columns tackled the social network’s spurious ad
targeting. First, “Stop Calling Me Fat, Facebook” discussed spammy ads that degraded the quality of the site. Then in “The Chutzpah of Facebook’s Jewdar,”
I wondered how an advertiser knew I was Jewish (was it Jewhavioral
targeting?), and it turned out they were casting a really wide net —
and getting some hate mail in the process. While Facebook has been
trying to crack down on irrelevant and offensive ads (consumers can
even give ads a thumbs up or thumbs down and note why they’re rating
that ad), problems remain, as noted in this month’s Washington Post article “Facebook Ads Target You Where It Hurts” which ran seven weeks after the “Fat” MediaPost column came out.

July 24 – “Kiss Your Registered Users Goodbye”:
The preview of Facebook Connect showed some major tradeoffs publishers
will need to consider. Facebook Connect and Google Friend Connect could
prove to be two of the biggest bombshells for digital media when they
roll out, so bookmark this one for later.

July 31 – “Do We Need Another…”:
A month before Chrome came out, I questioned the need for an entirely
new web browser. Chrome still has issues, and I defaulted back to
Firefox within 24 hours of working on Chrome, but Google makes a strong
case that we’d benefit from an alternative.

Aug. 7 – “Pinning the Tail on the Googoliath Killer”:
What’s a four-letter word for flameout? In the search space, it’s
spelled “Cuil.” While I dismissed the notion of another search engine
taking out Google overnight, I showed how Firefox 3’s “awesome bar”
could be a surprise Google killer, reducing consumers’ dependence on
searching. That means that with Google Chrome’s “omnibar,” Google has a
great shot at being the Google killer. Meanwhile, it’s funny looking
back on this and seeing I wrote three columns on web browsers BEFORE
Google came out with Chrome.

Aug. 28 – After another lighter column, “Dream Jobs for Social Media Junkies,” and a week off for a real summer vacation, I looked at Zannel as an example of how mobile publishing is proliferating in “One Small Asterisk, One Leap for Digital Media.”
Mobile publishing offers immediacy, efficiency, portability, and
increasingly always-on Web access, making a case for mobile devices to
become the most widely used content creation technology since the
invention of the ballpoint pen.

Sept. 4 – : In the fourth column this summer on web browsers, Chrome
stole headlines, but Picasa Web’s take on facial recognition could have
a major impact on image search, and consumers are already conducting
their own cost-benefit analysis of utility vs. potential privacy

Okay, so it wasn’t a typical summer vacation, but it was a reliably
atypical summer for digital media. It’s good to be back at Search
Insider headquarters; let’s keep the conversations going.

People reacted to this story.
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Comments to: What I Learned on My Summer Spin Vacation
  • Avatar
    September 10, 2008

    Hi David,
    Interesting insights as usual.
    My initial thoughts about the facelift by different websites is that in some cases it is working well. From a user-centric aspect, I am not sure how facebook has been benefited by the feature.
    Apart from that the face-recognition feature which you’ve mentioned has come-across as a hot trend in the social-media/social-networking space. I would like to share with you the photo sharing capabilities of MyHeritage. The Pics are fully integrated with family tree and it works with global languages. They have a more ‘open’ concept, which allows you to import photos from other web properties (such as Picasa), and export the tags back.
    Disclaimer: I’m associated with MyHeritage.com

  • Avatar
    September 11, 2008

    what’s funny is how many people must read this and think “this is this guy’s vacation?”
    shows your passion…on your own time, you do what you get paid to do. living the dream.


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