Thursday, 25 February 2010

Google executives convicted in Italian trial

News sites, such as the BBC, are reporting on the legal case in Italy which has widespread implications for video posting sites on the Internet. An Italian court has convicted 3 Google executives of breaking Italian law by allowing the video to be posted online showing an autistic teenager being bullied.

The convictions (suspended 6 month sentences) were due to privacy violations, but the ruling has come under widespread criticism and Google has also posted a blog article regarding the decision and the implications for Internet freedom and responsibility. If firms can be held liable for every piece of content on their site they would face an impossible job of policing and vetting everything before publication, particularly where there a large sites that encourage social interaction, such as YouTube and Facebook.

Google says it will vigorously appeal the case. The BBC report says that there is no indication that a similar case could or would be brought in any other European country at the moment. However Italy does seem determined to pursue such cases and similar ones are ongoing against other firms, such as eBay, Yahoo and Facebook.

Richard Thomas, the UK's former information commissioner and consultant to privacy law firm Hunton & Williams, said the case was "ridiculous". He is quoted as saying that "It is like prosecuting the post office for hate mail that is sent in the post. I can't imagine anything similar happening in (the UK). The case wasn't brought by the Italian equivalent of the information commissioner but by criminal prosecutors and we don't know their motives".

However, the verdict is likely to have ramifications for content providers around the world. Google said at the trial that pre-screening all YouTube content was impossible and the video at the centre of the case was posted on Google Video in 2006 shortly before the firm acquired YouTube. Italian prosecutors argued that Google broke Italian privacy law by not seeking the consent of all the parties involved before allowing it to go online, yet Google's lawyers said that the video was removed as soon as it was brought to its attention and that the firm also provided information on who posted it. As a result four students were expelled from their school in Turin, northern Italy.

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Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Twitter to launch new advertising platform

MediaPost reports that Twitter is planning to launch an advertising platform soon, possibly within the next month. This will be the first move towards 'monetizing' the huge volume of traffic that Twitter now generates, to create some revenue back to the business. The challenge facing Twitter is to do this in a way that won't alienate users and makes it clear that 'tweets' or tags have been sponsored or not.

This comes at a time when Twitter is now handling 50 million 'tweets' a day. The Sydney Morning Herald reports on the latest data provided by Twitter, which demonstrates the massive growth in the service, from users writing 5,000 "tweets" per day in 2007 to 300,000 per day in 2008 and 2.5 million per day in 2009. The latest figures represent a year-on-year growth of 1,400% in the short comments being posted each day, with the current levels averaging 600 tweets per second.

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Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Microsoft launch their own Internet phone

Hot on the heels of Google's recent phone launch, Microsoft have also announced a new Internet-phone called Windows Phone 7. This has naturally received wide media coverage, including by the Sydney Morning Herald that reports on the radically redesigned operating system that will soon become a serious challenger to Apple's iPhone.

The new phone looks quite different to the iPhone and not as stylish, but since it has been designed from the bottom up and with experience of the existing systems in the market, it is said to seamlessly pull together content from social networking sites and other web services on a scale unseen on competing platforms. Previous Windows Mobile versions have been replaced by a completely new design that integrates Microsoft's Zune music player and the Xbox Live gaming service.

Using Microsoft's own operating system, the new phones are due to hit the market by Christmas this year. Samsung, HTC, HP, Sony Ericsson, Dell, LG and Toshiba have already signed up as early partners and this is clear competition for Google and the market leader, Apple.

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Monday, 15 February 2010

Google buys Aardvark

The Google blog has announced their acquisition of Aardvark, a 'social search engine' whereby users can login to ask questions and get responses from other users. Set up by ex-Google employees, Aardvark analyzes questions to determine what they're about and then matches each question to people with relevant knowledge and interests to give users an answer quickly (stated to be within 5 minutes), either by email or through instant messaging.

As with all Google's acquisitions, they tend to spot a good opportunity and a new service that could become more mainstream in the future. You can visit the Aardvark site here: http://vark.com/ask

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Friday, 12 February 2010

The value of a good domain name

An article by Media Post assesses the potential value of a good domain name related to a brand name or search term. Based on research by domain management company Sedo, it claims that the domain name is central to brand recognition and that direct navigation to a site (where people open a browser, type in a domain name and expect to find the correct website) remains the most popular web navigation technique.

Of course, it would appear that the outcomes reported by Sedo might be biased in their favour, as they claim that people use domain names like search terms, so that rather than entering them in a search box, they enter the name in the browser. However, others may feel that the most common way people will try looking for a website or brand is to go to Google and type the name into the search box - which certainly seems to be reflected by many web stats.

The article says that Sedo claim that "domain names matching search terms that define the business can generate between 10,000 and 30,000 unique visitors monthly". They also say that these domains can lead consumers to a website much more easily then if they had to find the information through a search engine because companies have to invest a lot of money in search engine marketing, both SEO and paid clicks.

However, this appears to be research that supports a sales pitch very conveniently. Few domain names other than the most global brands or search terms would generate that level of traffic per month from people typing in the URL on spec, and in most cases a company or brand name will easily rank first on Google's search results, which makes it a convenient way for people to find the site they want.

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Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Google creates a Buzz

Google has announced a new service that aims to compete in the social networking space, to take on the likes of Facebook and Twitter. The Google blog has outlined the new service, which is currently limited to Gmail users or through a mobile phone app. Initially the service is being made available to Google's existing network of contacts through Gmail although the longer-term goal is for Buzz to be a fully open and distributed platform for conversations.

Gmail users will see a new option in their mailbox which will allow them to share information with other contacts, including photos, videos and links. There is an option to share publicly or privately, although Google will also present users with recommended comments or links from other people that are deemed to be relevant. On mobile phones, Google Buzz adds the component of location to the information being shared, so that posts tagged with geographical information have an extra dimension of context.

Of course this launch will attract worldwide media coverage, as usual with any significant new service from Google, and many will see this as an attempt to directly compete with the type of services being run by Facebook, Twitter and the like. Microsoft and Yahoo also say they have been running services like this for some time, so it's nothing new, so it will be interesting to see how widely this new option takes off against the existing tools now being used.

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Monday, 8 February 2010

Google roll out click-to-call phone numbers

The Google AdWords blog has announced the use of click-to-call numbers for advertisers targeting mobile users. This facility has now completed a stage of beta testing and is being rolled out to AdWords campaigns in Australia and worldwide. Google has been developing better options for AdWords advertisers to target Internet-capable mobile phone users, and the click-to-call option recognises the fact that many mobile searchers would prefer to call from the advert, rather than visit the website to find the number.

AdWords advertisers can now add a location-specific business phone number in the mobile ads, so that users can click the number to call the business immediately. Ads can be served based on user location, so that for companies with multiple locations or stores, a potential customer will see - and can click to call - the phone number of their nearest location. This new feature also makes it easier for advertisers to fully measure the results of their ads by allowing them to track how many calls they actually receive within the AdWords interface.

Google says that the beta trial demonstrated that those advertisers who participated saw improved click-through rates, plus they also received more visits to their websites in addition to incremental phone calls. The cost of a click to call will be the same as the cost of a click to visit a website.

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Thursday, 4 February 2010

Social media enhances email marketing campaigns

A recent blog article from MediaPost examines the role that social media is starting to play by supporting existing forms of marketing, such as email marketing. It claims that social media is now a useful tool to help develop more targeted, relevant and successful email marketing campaigns, by extending the reach of these mailings using social sharing features. This means that recipients will share the content with friends who might be interested, which then helps to build brand awareness and potential develop the original email list with targeted contacts.

Social media is also seen as a valuable tool to build new email lists from scratch. Running promotions through Facebook or Twitter can create interest and involvement for future use, as long as the incentive relates to the long-term target market as well. As the article says, marketers will often attract prospects to their website and building email campaign lists through the use of promotions, but social media is unique because it "disarms prospects by building a connection with them in advance".

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Monday, 1 February 2010

Web marketing newsletter published for February

The latest issue of the monthly Web Search & Marketing newsletter has been published for February, covering some of the recent stories on web search and online marketing trends.

This month's edition considers the new Personalised Search function from Google which was introduced with limited fanfare at the end of last year. However, the implications of this change for all searchers, as well as for search engine marketing, is notable and something that every web searcher should consider.

It also looks at Google's continuing developments in the mobile search ad advertising sector, led by the launch of their first mobile phone product during January, as well as other developments with the acquisition of AdMob and improved targeting with Google AdWords on mobile phone devices. Finally this issue of the newsletter considers the differences in reported data between Google AdWords and Google Analytics, and why these might occur.

If you want to sign up for future issues of this newsletter, please do so by using the form at the bottom of this page. To view back issues of this regular newsletter you can see the archive by date or by subject.

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