About Tim Judd

Hello, My name is Tim Judd. In short I’m a serial entrepreneur with a focus on search, and President and CEO of Search Initiatives and eLocal Listing. You can follow me on Google+, Twitter, and of course... thinkjudd.com.

Google Glass Turning 2….But Still Sucking

About a million years ago (actually June 2004) I was invited by a dude I knew at Google to join an upstart email system called Gmail. It was in its infancy and 56 thousand emails later I’m still using that account. Of course now everybody has a Gmail account and Google reads our mail to target us with advertising.

Back then Google was a fraction of the behemoth it has become and it was kinda neat having an email address which was exactly what I wanted…no need to add a year of birth or similar to make the name unique.  Over the next couple of years they opened up the program to everyone and the rest is history. 

Google Glass turns two this week and it has been a quite different story. Even tho Google launched it two years ago it’s still in its “Ambassador” stage. That’s not entirely surprising as Google famously keeps products in “Beta” mode for much longer than most.  It does get tons of press (most of it controversial if not actively bad) sightings are rare and noteworthy and the prevailing opinion seems to be that Glass wearers are pretty much pariahs….I had a better word which rhymes with “brick head” Google themselves coined the term “Glasshole” for users without the social smarts to use the product appropriately.There are several things counting against Google Glass which are keeping it in Beta and may even doom it entirely.

Privacy:  Aside from the idiots who actually wore it in the locker room it is creepy to think that the guy over there with the Brooklyn hipster beard may be filming or photographing you without even the needing to pretend not to be.

Price: At $1,500 and holding it’s completely out of reach of all but the wealthiest of nerds and at least initially was only available to those invited to become “ambassadors” by Google. The result is that the only folks you ever see wearing them are early 30 somethings in silicon valley….as sub group who are rapidly becoming as popular are timeshare sales people at the airport in Mexico. We get it…you are rich and well connected.

Features: Put simply Glass is essentially an extension of your smart phone.  The battery life is pretty miserable and although there are cool thing it can do it’s tough to trade instant pariah status for those limited features.  Wearables at a much lower price point are rapidly becoming the new norm. At about $100 and available from Amazon you don’t need to be a founding member of SnapChat to join the game.

Although Google is amazingly wealthy and powerful the products it makes its money from are essentially both egalitarian and empowering…most folk don’t hate Google. Glass is a clear departure from that norm. Google’s other recent adventure into hardware the ChromeCast TV plugin priced at a very approachable $35 has been a huge hit and has sold millions.  The message is clear, cool and affordable beats cool and elitist every time.

The Philadelphia Fiasco

It’s tough to run an airline and the continuing merger between US Airways and American to form the worlds largest (and worst?) airline clearly isn’t helping. Here’s a few “teachable moments” from our recent trip from San Diego to New York’s Newark airport.

We arrived in Philly in horrible weather hoping to make our connection to Newark. It was delayed and delayed then cancelled and we were reliably informed that there would be no more flights to Newark that day owing to the weather and air traffic problems. The good news was US Air was convinced that they could get us to Laguardia instead and in plenty of time. After what felt like twenty minutes of typing the service rep told me she had stood us by for the 6:05 but we were confirmed onto the 9:15 just in case that didn’t pan out. We had a bag checked and that was (we were told) rerouted to Laguardia accordingly. We jumped back on the shuttle bus (our second trip) and made it to the gate to find we had missed the flight…so we started waiting for the 9:15.
When we arrived (again via shuttle in the pouring rain) to the gate we were informed that we had not infact been confirmed onto the 9:15…in fact we were in limbo. We attempted to get on the 9:15 without success but we were confirmed on to the 10:50. Back to the shuttle! The 10;50 was delayed…and I was concerned about the fate of our bags, so I waited in line for 45 minutes to check with customer service on our bags.  Our bags were confirmed as definitely in Newark…they had left on the flight which had been cancelled but was then reinstated. I pleaded with the customer service person to have them forwarded it to LAguardia or  even better our hotel so it would be there ahead of us…but no go…we had to resolve this in Laguardia.
We finally made it to Laguardia about 1.00 AM having wasted about 6 hours in Philly. The baggage guy assured us our bags should make it to our hotel by some time after lunch the same day.  They didn’t, they in fact arrived some time in the wee small hours the following day over 24 hrs later. Nothing beats arriving exhausted without luggage. Both the online and telephone baggage enquiry services were both unhelpful.
Here’s the teachable moments from that Fiasco
  1. When standing a passenger by always give them physical proof in the form of a standby boarding pass for each flight. Hopefully that will force the system to complete the change.
  2. In situations where a bag has misrouted and you can clearly see the problem and the resolution own it by taking the effort to get it corrected ASAP. Don’t make it your passengers problem to be resolved at their final destination.
  3. When you know a bag will take 24 hours to forward 10 miles to a local hotel, be honest; it will help us plan…it would have been cheaper to get a taxi there and collect it than re-buy the essentials we ended up buying.
  4. When your oversights or mistakes have caused a frequent flier the travel day from hell….apologize….even if it’s not that person’s actual fault attempt to appear that you care. 
The level of incompetence and evident lack of concern demonstrated at every interaction was disappointing if not surprising.  We were offered neither apology nor any kind of compensation for inconvenience at any point….just another day in the air. Our biggest mistake (aside from flying US Air) was to hold check a bag with a connection through Philadelphia. It’s been so long since I last checked a bag I guess I had forgotten.

The Amazing Hedwig

I appreciate that the protocol is that nobody reviews a Broadway show until it officially opens…but permit to break with tradition and give you my 2c on the reboot of Hedwig and the Angry Inch starring Neal Patrick Harris which is currently in Previews “Broadway Adjacent” at the Belasco theater New York. Given that the original run has already sold out and the extended run through the end of June is also pretty much also fully sold I could officially declare the show a heap of garbage and not impact the ticket sale one iota….but I won’t.  The show is brilliant…nothing more or less…just brilliant. We saw what had to be the fourth or fifth night of previews. The show was was technically pretty much perfect, nothing needing apparent work anywhere.  Hedwig is one of my most favorite shows.  I saw the original production maybe three or four times back in the late 90s as it was on the way to cult status. The show is essentially a one man act backed by a four part rock band. I loved it then, I love the new version more. Musically this performance is faster, louder and more punk than the original. Although the original was also pretty punky, it leaned more towards Bowie than the Sex Pistols. This version is straight out punk rock. At a couple of points Hedwig even spits at the audience which in of itself is a very punk throwback idea. The show has updated perhaps ten minutes of content amounting to a dozen or so jokes and most of them work really well. They have added half a song which is related to the new “venue” which doesn’t really work…and imagine may not make it into the post preview version.

The audience cheered every song and seemed to get most the jokes….they missed the “I love a good Scrim Job” line probably because almost nobody outside of the theater would know what a “scrim” is. Clearly a lot of the audience were there for NPH rather than Hedwig, some of the older audience members may well have thought that they were actually in the wrong show…but everyone seemed to enjoy the production none the less.  NPH takes the role on full tilt and absolutely destroys.  He doesn’t chew the scenery, he’s appropriately over the top without being self-indulgent or mawkish. If I could be so bold as to criticize anything I wasn’t completely sold on the performance of his sidekick. She just isn’t that convincing as a guy and the transformation/reveal at the end feels a bit forced. That may not be her fault though, I always thought that part of the original plot was a little patchy.  It’s hard to pull off a funny, camp, dramatic musical and sustain for a full 100 minutes….Rocky Horror falls apart after 20 minutes. These are micro nits which I probably shouldn’t pick at all…and might well be fixed by the time the show opens for real. All in all this is a fabulous powerhouse performance illustrating once again what an amazing talent NPH is. I hear that the creator of the original show is now working on Hedwig II the sequel…I’m not convinced that’s a great idea…but we shall see.

Privacy ain’t what it used to be

I don’t recall the exact number but as I recall Google is perhaps surprisingly one of the biggest lobbyist in DC. I know for a fact that Google fights every legal attack from every angle to the bitter end…and in the occasional cases where it loses a claim or dispute because it was clearly mistaken or in the wrong their revenge is mighty and awful. You will never do business with them again…which is tough if your business is based around search. It’s also interesting to note that with the exception of the EU regulators who clearly hate, hate, hates Google and will stop at nothing to pin them down on something all attempts to assault any perceived monopolistic practices by the mighty G are routinely and predictably unsuccessful.

So it was perhaps not much of a surprise to read that yesterday Google successfully fought off potentially millions of Gmail users who were attempting to claim that by programmatically analyzing email within and between Gmail and other email systems for the purposes of ad targeting.  They were claiming that Google was essentially guilty of something between illegal wiretapping and racketeering. The plaintiffs were looking for $100 per day for the period Google has been doing that. In my case I’d be looking to collect upwards of $350,000. The judge refused to allow the various complainers to combine to a massive class action in part because the published T&Cs allow for that practice and in part because the various complaints were apparently too disparate to be lumped together. The Judge left the window open for them to bring individual complaints but the reality is having lost this push it’s going to be hard to rope attorneys in to what looks like a lost cause from day one.

The sad fact is that the majority of Gmail users could neither know nor care if Googles computers are scanning mail for targetable keywords.  The nuances of whether Google opens and scans deleted mail or mail which hasn’t even been opened yet are even further down the path to don’t understand/don’t care.

The last year or so has seen revelation after revelation that those knights in shining armor at the NSA have been reading our mail and texts for years. I suspect that most folk have come to terms with living in what amounts to a goldfish bowl.  A week or so back 60 Minutes covered this whole area of privacy and marketing. It was fascinating to see Morley Safer (a sweet old man who appears to be suffering from terminally long earlobe syndrome) was shocked, shocked to discover that pretty much anything we post on line is being mined for commercial purposes by the online giants. Is anybody honestly surprised by this stuff anymore?  We are surrounded by amazingly useful and powerful online tools and services the vast majority of which are delivered to us users for absolutely free…at the point of use. It made me want to yell at the screen…”Why on earth do you think they are giving us all this terrific stuff?”

The bottom line is that Google, Amazon and the other online giants who create and enable or online world are not charities…we trade privacy for facility routinely. Trying to squeeze that genie back into the bottle is a lost cause. Big brother is watching us….and we don’t really care.

 

The Weirdly Beardly Situation

Beards are back…they are even doing beard transplants on Bronx hipsters putting chest hair in formerly wispy faces. I’ve had a beard more or less all my adult life…all I can grow is exactly what Lenin had…but I can grow that in a week. What’s weird is the whole beard color thing. I regularly see guys with apparently authentic dark head hair but their beard runs from black to pure white often through some version of brown or red. So what’s a guy to do?  If you don’t want to have a premature Santa Clause look you have to head on over to the beard aisle at CVS and get busy with the bead dye. There is typically exactly one choice of bead dye to be had. Just as a side question how many products which might be used by potentially half of the adult population are served by exactly one product? That alone strikes me as weird…is there some kind of beard dye OPEC maintaining a retail monopoly?  Anyway if bead dye is in your future …that’s where this gets weird.

My beard started going really grey in my early 40s.  In spite of the fact that my mother insists that I dye my head hair (I swear I don’t) I started to dye my beard. I have many years wasted in amateur dramatics and I’ve done a fair amount of stage makeup so I perfected a technique which beat the grey back without looking too fake…I hope.  The problem I always had was that I’d go through a vicious cycle of grow the beard, color the beard break out in annoying little sores which I couldn’t get rid of whilst keeping the beard, shave the bead, cure the sore spots….and repeat. I’d itch and worry at the sore spots like an insane person much to the annoyance of my lovely wife who was convinced that I was some flavor of OCD or just plain nuts.

The other day my lovely wife was yelling at me for once again shaving off my bead to fix the OCD induced sores. This time she also jumped online and did some poking around and it turns out that what I had been experiencing is actually far from rare. I’m not nuts I’m allergic. Tons of guys reported similar cycles of irritation and accusations of OCD bead scratching.  A little more poking around revealed an alternate solution. I’ll plug the brand because I think these guys are heroes. It’s called WolfsHead bead dye. It’s essentially a henna based dye which you apply in vanishingly small amounts every day after the shower to subtly and undetectably take out as much of the grey as you want to in a few seconds. No breakouts no, itching no, OCD madness.  I started using it and have never looked back.  You can’t get it in your local pharmacy (no idea why) but it’s readily available on line.

So guys (and I know I have a bunch of guys in my age range who follow my insane ramblings) if this is an issue for you there is a cure…now back to search.

Dogs Chewing Toffee

I have an American Bulldog who will eat absolutely anything…there is nothing funnier than watch her chew a toffee….it’s a lot like watching politicians trying to do technology.

I was reminded of this when looking at the efforts of one of our local politicians Mayor of LA Eric Garcetti. In tech terms he’s far ahead of the crowd in many ways, he has a tech background, he’s generally tech friendly and God bless he’s really trying to get the nuts and bolts of local government in his part of California. Having lived and worked in both the North East and now California I’d say he has an uphill task. I saw a recent terrific example where the LA Cops are now going to crack down on “road safety” which is code for more and more BS tickets for us poor SoCal residents. You can bet that the Cops will be using absolute state of the art technology to ding the poor tax payers on LA. It’s ironic that in LA the actual roads are literally falling apart under our cars but the parking meters are fully automated and you can pay by debit card….and if your meter expires it could cost you $300 for going 25 cents over time. California is a nightmare…it’s very sunny and has great views….but a nightmare none the less. Technology seems to be applied aggressively against the citizens for the purposes of taxation or enforcement but where it could make our lives easier or make those same politicians more accountable tech adoption seems less enthusiastic.  

Mr. Garcetti will be speaking this week at the Democratic Municipal Officials conference in DC.  DMO’s goal is to create visibility and elective success for local Democratic officials of all stripes #NationalDMO. They are pretty adept at using new media to drive their campaign machine, much as did the national DNC and RNC in 2012. Clearly politicians have embraced many aspects of new media to target and get out the vote.  The broader question I believe is will they be as aggressive in the adoption of technology which makes their constituents lives less stressful and more fulfilling…we will see.

Welcome to the Casino…Have a Nice Day

I’m not good with Casinos….I’ve been to Vegas any number of times and on the last half dozen visits I don’t think I’ve gambled more than five bucks.  It’s partly that I don’t trust myself to get into something that addictive…part that I worked hard for that money and part that I’m just not good at it. There is a giant casino out there where the punters are playing marketing dollars for sales and it’s called Google. Historically Google has largely been the resort for large rich companies with teams of marketing professionals like us pitting their wits against the house.
Whilst Google has been doing very well of late with ad revenue up nicely in Q4 last year, the average click value declined 11% in the same period. What’s diluting the click price is the massive growth in mobile device clicks which (as yet) aren’t as valuable as desktop clicks. The problem Google has is that mobile clicks have already surpassed desktop and show no sign of slowing down.
So whats a giant Casino to do when the punters are growing in volume but avoiding the high stakes tables. The Casino either gets the same punters to spend more time at the high stakes table…or attract a bunch of new punters…hopefully without as much expertise as the existing crowd. I live in SoCal and we have an amazingly large number of Indian Casinos in our region (I know a guy who services slot machines and he has over 100 locations he serves within driving distance). What the Casinos do is bus punters from location to location all day long.
Yesterday Google’s Chief Business Officer made some interesting statements to the financial world at a Morgan Stanley Conference. Disambiguating these kind of statements is tricky…but several points seem to be emerging through the linguistic fog of Google speak.  
Google sees small local businesses looking to reach local customers looking for local customers on their mobile devices as the next influx of fresh meat to their Casino
It thinks this influx will drive the value of mobile clicks to “become a multiple” of the comparable desktop clicks…..which would nicely solve the problem of mobile clicks driving down average click value.
That’s a really interesting set of statements. We already see the impact in local businesses (most of whom aren’t online marketing experts) joining the casino. Online advertising isn’t a sport for the inexperienced…it’s incredibly easy to put money down and blow through it in perhaps seconds without the advertiser seeing a single cent of return on their investment. We know from our own efforts that tracking the ROI for local businesses can sobering.
The risk is that Google will continue to market aggressively to local businesses who will show up at their Casino slap the college fund down and leave never to return because they simply didn’t see the value. Google has recently been telling the cohorts of marketing professionals who have been spending with them for many years to look beyond the obvious conversion event and look for value driven by search all over the web. It’s possibly a good argument to make to Nike or Apple…it’s much tougher to convince a roofer or dentist of almost invisible value.  

Our business is based on driving proven ROI in the form of tracked calls.  The mess created by local businesses headed into the Google casino is likely to make businesses even more suspicious of everything online…which might be great for us long term it puts many of the tables out of reach for the professional gamblers amongst us.

The Internet of Now

Those of us old enough to remember the first desktop computers have watched the Internet emerge as perhaps the defining technology of this generation, the one thing that mankind has invented to date which far exceeds the ability of any one person to understand or encompass. It has put large parts of the recorded wisdom of the ages at the disposal of us all, it allows us to keep up with our high school classmates and watch adorable kittens problem solve on demand. To date it has reordered communication, research, education and entertainment to name but a few.

However it’s not done yet. There are two emerging trends which overlap and complement each other which will further disrupt and perhaps enrich our lives. As an example let me take you through an hour or so of last Saturday evening: I arrived back from a business trip on a United flight from New Orleans to San Diego. On the last leg connecting through Denver the gate was changed on me three times, prompting much confusion and several weary exoduses by other hopeful travelers through the vast airport. On the flight I had a snack and a glass of wine. The stewardess didn’t know what snacks she had on the cart, it took two attempts to run my new debit card. After fumbling through a menu and the cart I eventually paid for the culinary delight and continued to watch the movie which I had previously downloaded to my iPad. I hadn’t checked luggage but if I had I would have been searching the displays and baggage belt for my bag…which looks exactly like every other bag on the plane.  When I arrived at the airport I fished the parking card out of my wallet and paid with my Amex at the barrier. All the way home my radar detector beeped and burped at every potential cop (an essential addition to life in SoCal) as my Wayze ap gave feedback from fellow travelers on 15 north.

What’s impressive to a relatively old coot like myself is how well much of that stuff worked. I was able to pay for everything electronically, I could download the movie (albeit at home as the WiFi in the terminal or on the plane is lamentably slow). I did check in on line, I did download the movie, I didn’t get a speeding ticket.  What is also striking is how much better most of that could have been.  The next big online waves are visible on the horizon and headed our way.

As the internet of things crystallizes most of our personal and domestic technology will get connected to the Internet. That will likely mean that I’d be alerted to those gate changes as they happened, see what’s available on the cart and pay for it perhaps by just putting my finger on the payment pad, my car will know I’m down and might be warming the engine up while I wait for the bag which I can clearly see is only moments away. I would then drive out (no need for parking tickets) my radar detector would contribute seamlessly to the network of fellow citizens seeking to stay one step ahead of the fuzz, indeed with the right smart car perhaps it could drive me home while I nap at the wheel, on the way home my refrigerator might remind me we were out of half and half (we were). On long trips I tend to use a car service as it’s cheaper than parking and sometimes it’s good not to have to stress the journey after the flight. Saturday evening I could have used my Uber app on my phone to magically summons a town car the moment I hit curb side I could also have used my phone to turn up my Nest smart thermostat at home.  What’s interesting about the last two items is that both of those companies are regarded as ground breaking in the next wave…and both of them have recently received stratospherically high valuations and investments. So there is clearly something going on and someone values that very highly.

What’s happening is that more and more of our devices are getting online and the time it takes to get something done or delivered is also dropping dramatically. We are only a few short years away from being able to routinely talk to our devices and have them give us useful data back. That data might be linked to suppliers so that the stuff I need is already on its way from my Amazon (perhaps by drone).

As our devices come on line and out world becomes increasingly more convenient and real time so some aspects of our lives are likely to get more and more real time too. Have you ever broken down roadside and spent what feels like hours negotiating rescue from AAA or Bob’s Tow ‘n’ Go. Have you ever looked at the mess after that great dinner party and thought “I need a maid and I need her now!”  Have you ever had a spare slot in your schedule and thought “Hair…I have to get my hair cut before that interview tomorrow…who can see me now”…or stared at the lake of backed up sewage in your guests bathroom and prayed for a big red “plumber” button on your phone. It’s going to happen…and sooner than you think. Along with the rise of the internet came the fall of traditional media…especially local media. Local businesses have largely lost faith with the traditional which used to bring them new clients but have entirely failed to come to grips with the complex and potentially disastrously expensive mess of new media. In the same way you wish you had a big red “Plumber” button there are thousands of plumbers out there with gaps in their schedules wishing they had a big red “customer” button…and they will…soon.

The sea change has already happened, we just haven quite understood the magnitude of it yet.  Pretty much everyone with an income has a smart phone with internet access.  We are well used to talking to service providers to book jobs…what’s stopping us from smoothing out the last points of contact between customer and provider to produce the Internet of “Now” for all kinds of service providers. The answer is money, technology, vision and delivery…which is where Search Initiatives comes in…we have all four.   What we do today is connect tens of thousands of service providers (Doctors, lawyers, plumbers, landscapers, electricians and beauty spas with millions of thousands of potential customers. We do that by exposing carefully crafted and targeted ads through the crazy matrix of search, social media, real time display re-targeting to customers with a real need. We do that in real time and at enormous scale. The person to person contact is delivered through the good old fashioned phone call…the one medium understood and trusted by all those involved.  What we are doing right now is very fast…is it real-time-on-demand and now to the point where we are able to immediately match need to provider so that all the clients who need plumbers are perfectly match immediately with the nearest plumber with immediate availability…not quite. But it’s coming and when it does you may rest assured that Search Initiatives will be the folk behind the big “NOW” button on your phone…and on your plumbers phone.

So as you get used to the idea of your refrigerator reminding you to pick up milk, or your watch telling you that you are 1,000 paces short of your exercise goal, get used to the idea that waiting to get help with all of the other things your life throws at you is going to be a thing of the past. Welcome to the Internet of Now.

A Momentary Loss of Reason?

I don’t usually use my little soap box for more than raging at the thunder in the online space. I’m an immigrant to this fair country, I can’t vote and I mostly leave the Politics to those who can.  Back when I used to sing with a large barbershop chorus in New England my fellow singers would tease me about singing the star spangled banner at various events. In response I used to say “you are here by accident of birth…I chose to live here… damn it” or words to that effect. So it was with a weird mixture if incredulity and real sadness that I have been watching the machinations in Arizona over the past week or so.

ArizonaLike most good Americans I hold dear life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness…also freedom for religion and freedom from religion. I gave up praying to the thunder a while back…but I still understand the inclination and have been known to lament “I miss God” from time to time. Democracy is an odd way to run a country…but still better than all the other options. We all hold it dear but many of us don’t vote. If we don’t vote that holds the door open for the activists (on all sides) who are prepared to get out their vote to set that agenda. Sometimes things can go horribly wrong and we end up electing a former wrestler as Governor or deciding to teach creationism as coequal with evolution.  The good news is that what can be voted in can also be voted out, and we tend to have a self-correcting system where things get voted in because the sensible majority just weren’t paying attention can be voted out in short order by the same reasonably sane majority.

Alongside this political horse race runs the typically much less volatile game of business.  I run a business….not a huge one (yet) but none the less one of some size. I think I’d find the vast majority of my fellow entrepreneurs in agreement that no matter what our personal opinion might be on any given matter it makes utterly no sense to attempt to codify religious bigotry, intolerance or homophobia into the law of the land…or the state in the case of Arizona.

Why would you do that? Even if you are so unreconstructed that you might feel that way, why would you attempt to bring that into that which pays the bills?  You may have a “sincerely held religious belief” that women are second class citizens, Jews are the devil and left handed people should be stoned for wearing both synthetic and natural fibers at the same time or on a Sunday…but this is America and you don’t get to monkey with the law to suit your own “sincerely held” bigotry. If you don’t like gay people or Armenians or left handed people you don’t have to marry one or invite one home to meet Mom…but you don’t get to not serve them in your restaurant, not fix their broken pipes or not rent them a room in your apartment block.  You are (supposedly) part of a civil society, one in which we all pay for the roads, the schools the fire department and the F16s. You don’t get to pull up your teensy weensy draw bridge because you think gay people are “Icky.”  I (like many I imagine) might find your intolerant and idiotic “sincerely held” views completely objectionable…but I will defend to the death your right to have them and express them. What you don’t get to do is foist your sad and idiotic bigotry on the rest of society….to cause chaos which the rest of us have to fix.  Were we asleep at the switch?…I guess so. Are there a lot of people in Arizona who find anyone who doesn’t think and act like themselves “Icky” no doubt…but turning Arizona into the one state where you can discriminate without fear of recourse “just because” is idiotic.

Business leader are scrambling to get the Hail Mary save of a Governor’s veto to stop this bill, indeed several Republican law makers who actually voted for the bill (presumably to appease their activist constituents) are even now also pressing for a veto to save themselves from themselves. Arizona is a big, hot, rich supposedly grown up state, with hundreds of thousands of federal and military jobs. It’s also home to millions of private sector jobs in companies who need this kind of religiously driven distraction like they need a hole in the head. I suspect the Governor will do the right thing and veto this ridiculous legislation and I imagine heads will roll….well we can at least hope so.

Local Online Confusion

rsz_local_open (1)

The chances are that you are reading this on your smart phone or tablet or perhaps you are taking a break from your phone to read this on your computer or even on that charming ‘dead tree product’ called a magazine.  So much of how we live and shop has moved online.  Large companies with massive marketing budgets now have teams of online experts figuring out how to reach their audience through the complex web of new media often in tandem with traditional media.

Now answer this question: When was the last time you interacted with your yellow pages?  I don’t mean when you picked it up and walked it straight to your recycling bin, I mean when you last used it to find a local business. Thought so…me neither.  There was a time quite recently when your Sunday paper had to be lowered buy winch onto your front porch…now, if you still get it all, it’s clearly been on a severe diet.  We have been living through a massive realignment of media…print media has been vaporizing before our eyes.

What hasn’t changed anywhere near as much is the rest of our every-day issues.  We still get tooth aches, leaks in our pipes, pest infestations and we get married.  We still use dentists, plumbers, rat catchers and party rental stores.  The massive real world operation which is the twenty million local businesses in the US still do business every day.  What went away is the way those businesses use to get new clients.

It used to be that owning a home and sending your kids to college was the American Dream.  Those have become much closer to the new normal for many Americans, now owning your own business has become for many a new part of that dream.  The BIA Kelsey organization, experts in all things local, tells us that each year roughly half of all business done by local businesses is new business.  Local businesses get that and are desperately trying to come to terms with a radically altered local advertising environment.  It’s no longer good enough just to have a basic website, local businesses really need a social media plan, they may have to manage their online reputation, they may even tweet!  The complex and rapidly changing world of online media is tough for a freshly minted MBA who went to school to learn this stuff – it’s simply impossible for the average local business to navigate.

Clearly this presents a problem to a large and growing segment of the US economy.  Interestingly, a solution has emerged in recent years and Search Initiatives, Inc. is leading that revolution.

Most local businesses don’t value “clicks” to their websites, “likes,” “tweets,” or “reviews.”  Most would much rather get a telephone call from a potential customer looking for a quote or to schedule a service.  People certainly do research online but when it comes to get serious about the project at hand many shoppers would rather speak to the company involved.  That makes the 100 year old telephone a critical part of the new media economy.  Local businesses have figured out that rather than pay a marketing company, yellow pages or newspaper for websites or clicks they would rather pay for calls from potential customers.  Those customers may well have come from ads seen on search engines, social media even banner ads…but that’s not the concern of the local business who only pays when the phone rings.  Those businesses are more than happy to pay a premium for those calls.  A dentist may pay $40 for a new customer a home security company may pay over $100 for a call from a potential client because they recognize at a profound level that the potential customer on the phone is a much better prospect than any other kind.

Interestingly, these local businesses are still being sold to by the same yellow page or news print reps but instead of just selling print they are being sold online visibility packages which typically include a website, social media management and most importantly a certain number of leads delivered by tracked telephone calls.  This has driven a massive growth in the “Pay per Call” industry and Search Initiatives is leading that sea change.

Local businesses need to advertise, yet they are unable to navigate the complex world of new media effectively.  There is a pent up demand in the form of the billions of dollars which have fled traditional print media and have not yet found a place in the new media world.  What Search Initiatives does is use the complex and challenging tools presented by new media such as SEO, SEM, RTB, FBX, PPC and a dozen other acronyms which you will hopefully never have to come to terms with to drive new customers to local businesses via the paid phone lead.  It’s a concept which any local business can understand and embrace.  They only get changed if a potential new client is brought to them…if we can’t deliver we don’t get paid.

Search Initiatives has deep roots in new media and local business.  We work with the people who sell to local business to deliver the calls they need.  That means we have almost no cost to acquire a new customer.  Our millions of advertisers are managed by our marketing partners.  They provide all the customer support to our advertisers.  That leaves us free to focus on what we do best; driving thousands of valuable leads to local businesses in massive volume.

This new version of local advertising uses the kaleidoscope of new media to drive customers to local locations   Search Initiatives is ideally placed to be the one stop solution for all things local.  It’s a multi-billion dollar opportunity which represents the last green field opportunity in new media and Search Initiatives is ideally placed to lead that revolution.