The Google+ Spam mystery

I’ve lurked on Google+ as the network hadn’t grown big enough for me to gain much use out of it. And then I started to receive updates from people I vaguely knew directly to my work email address. Basically spam. So I decided to run a trial update myself on the service to understand how this would have happened.
Here is a screenshot of the update that I created. I could see from drafting my update what the problem was, I’ve taken a detailed screen grab of the area just above Peter Cashmore’s head
This box is ticked by default, I guess Google thinks that this is the equivalent of HoTMaiL’s original viral signature: get your private, free email from Hotmail. However it is interesting to note that even early adopters ignore the tickboxes.

Ogilvy on the big idea

Great thought provoking paper on the ‘big idea’

Links of the day | 在网上找到

Internet Marketing Strategy – free-to-download briefing document on what Econsultancy considers to be five key online trends: customer centricity, channel diversification, data, social media and content strategy

Majority of South Koreans’ data exposed | – the interesting bit is the data wipe of PCs used in the attack to hide fingerprints

When Will a Damaged Brand Come Back? | Aaker on Brands

Document: FBI Surveillance Geeks Fear, Love New Gadgets |

Apple Passes Nokia and Holds Off Samsung to Become World’s Top Smartphone Vendor [Updated] – Mac Rumors – Android is Toyota and Apple is Mercedes & Porsche

At Makeup Alley, Advice From Online Peers – – how user reviews are demolishing beauty treatment company claims and promoting other products that previously didn’t claim benefits

The 100 Best Signs At The Rally To Restore Sanity And/Or Fear: Pics, Videos, Links, News – old but I still love them

AOL Closing Music And Sport Sites In UK | paidContent:UK – because young people and men don’t use Aol?

Fighting a 25 million packets-per-second DDoS attack – the scale of this attack is frightening

DailyTech – Exclusive: British Police Duped by LulzSec Into Arresting the Wrong Guy

10 Min WiFi ‘Theft’ Could Cost Innocent 6,000 Euro Piracy Bill | TorrentFreak – expect more of this

Wave goodbye to free Internet TV – CNET News – great opportunity for new media companies to disrupt the existing ones then

Sina Weibo Releases Version 4.0, More SNS than Microblog [Exclusive Review]

Nielsen: Apple Leading U.S. Smartphone Maker, Android Leading OS – John Paczkowski – Mobile – AllThingsD

UK consumers in gloomy mood: – not surprising given low growth rate, inflation, property prices and economic outlook

Google+ traffic dropping already? | Digital Media – CNET News – its hard to know on week-to-week data unless you have the server logs

Film studios thrash BT in Newzbin site-block test case • The Register

Mark Zuckerberg’s Sister: ‘I Think Anonymity on the Internet Has to Go Away’ – no surprise about the sinister anti-privacy agenda being pushed by Facebook

Google: We’ll Make Your Site Faster, Just Give Us Your Keys – AllThingsD – so basically Google as cache / content delivery network and translation layer?

ComScore Report: 27% of Facebook Browsing on News Feed, Just 10% on Apps ’18 million strong’ claim banned – Brand Republic News – school boy error, non-justifiable claims

To Spread Your Brand On Facebook, Don’t Target Your Fans–Target Their Friends | Fast Company – propagation planning

Guest post: The end of ‘Made in China’? | – not on a massive scale, but even small changes in business to other countries can have a massive positive effect for their economies

Fashion Designer Judy Hua: “I Want To Build A Premium Chinese Brand” « Jing Daily – it will be only a matter of time before China has premium fashion brands like Japan

A great divide holds back the relevance of economists | The Great Debate

The Grad Life – Slide Show – – I love these diagrams of graduate life

Red Cross Charity Donation Vending Machine – Japanese Red Cross & Coca-Cola rolls out a vending machine with a charity button.

Former Google CIO says business misses key people marks – innovation, human resources, Google, Douglas Merrill, CIOs – Computerworld – interesting comments on the music industry

Whatever happened to luxury brand Chloé’s online push in China? | 被遗弃的奢侈品牌的营销活动?

French luxury ready-to-wear pioneer and Richemont Group fashion brand Chloé drove forward with an expansionist strategy for the Chinese market earlier this year with a webcast fashion show, corporate blog and an ambitious e-commerce strategy.
je suis chloe Wonder Girls screenshot
The webcast fashion show was supposed to be about the fifth anniversary of the brand, but was more about expanding their share of the Chinese marketplace.

As using social media in luxury goes, it was an ambitious strategy so I decided to revisit the site to see how they were getting on and what innovations they were up to. I went to the web address and got this page.
I’ve tried it a number of times on different networks and computers to make sure that it wasn’t an error on my part.

I know that the site is supposed to be based on servers in Shanghai and that the domain name doesn’t run out until the end of October.

I was surprised to see such an interesting brand exercise apparently given up on so quickly, the Chinese corporate blog would have been about establishing an ongoing relationship with existing, prospective and aspiring customers rather than rolling out what seems to have been a short-term campaign.

More information

Chloé targets Chinese rich online – Marketing Interactive

Chloé Readies Shanghai Runway Show, Launches Chinese-Language Blog – Jing Daily

Chloé Celebrates 5th Anniversary In China With Runway Show Webstream – Jing Daily

Chloé to unveil Chinese-language blog and global e-commerce site – Lady Lux

A problem called Bing

When the latest Microsoft results came out one of the biggest drags on it was losses made by the company’s online services business; specifically the search product Bing.

The challenge

Google has had an immense head start in building the best search engine (at least for Roman-based languages), it has built up an unrivaled search index, crawling mechanism and a search algorithm that goes through a complete iteration every three years or so according to Steven Levy’s In The Plex. The technical and audience experience challenge that Bing faces is akin to American car companies who woke up to Toyota and Volkswagen having changed the rules of motor manufacture and struggled to catch up as their German and Japanese rivals continued to further improve.

That isn’t to say that Google is unbeatable: Russian company Yandex, Korean company Naver and China’s Baidu have all managed to build search engines that better match the needs of their markets, but no one company has managed to challenge Google across markets.

When I was at Yahoo! we managed to build a search engine that provided a search experience that was as good in terms of relevance of the queries as what Google had to offer. But being just as good is not enough. Google isn’t just a search engine, its a habit, people look there automatically as routine and this is hard to break.

I find it hard to remember a time searching before Google, I remember that I used to use Excite, HotBot and AltaVista depending on what I was looking for and would ‘work’ the search engines to dig up what I wanted. Some time in 1998/9 I was reading a website (I think it may have been Wired or WebMonkey) came across Google and never went back. It was that good. Bob Cringely wrote that in order for us to make that change we have to perceive something to be 10 times better. Bing has never got anywhere close.

Many of the ‘innovations that Bing brought to the table were ‘borrowed’ from, like its trade dress. Lycos Europe’s IQ service and Yahoo! both did really interesting stuff with social search; which is exceptionally prescient of Google’s more recent efforts (and involves some of the same people like Bradley Horowitz) but due to user experience and the brands not having ‘permission’ from consumers to be truly innovative; didn’t gain the level of acceptance they should have deserved. Ask had a really hot algorithmic search engine in Teoma (which I still use occasionally), but again it never got the audience it deserved.

So Bing has to work harder and pay more money to gain the traffic that it has:

  • Working with mobile carriers like Verizon to be the default search engine on the company’s mobile phones, paying media sites to have Bing as their search box
  • Arranging for a PC manufacturer to set Bing up as the default search engine on the internet browser that they supply as part of the software on PCs that they sell
  • Arranging for a Bing toolbar to be bundled with free-to-download software (like Adobe Acrobat reader)

The second problem that Microsoft seems to have (looking at both the online services division and the financial performance of Yahoo!) is that it is failing to monetise those audiences it has effectively. There are still too many searches happening with no relevant advertisements displayed alongside the organic results.

From a financial perspective, just how bad is it?

Well according to a Business Insider analysis piece written at the end of April:

Bing is paying about 3X as much for every incremental search query as it generates in revenue from that query.

What does that mean?

It means that for every $1 Microsoft generates from each new search query it buys, it spends $3 to get it.

(And that’s just direct costs–the costs of obtaining and processing the query. It doesn’t include sales and marketing, research and development, and general and administrative costs–all of which are subtracted from the -$2 Microsoft has already lost on every new query.)

And Microsoft is in a rather unique position to distribute Bing as the default search engine on Internet Explorer with many Windows PCs, otherwise gaining access to search audiences could come at an even higher cost.

If Microsoft was to sell Bing, who could buy it?

Hypothetically speaking, if Microsoft decided to sell Bing, there aren’t that many people that have the deep pockets, chutzpah or knowhow to take advantage of it, but here is a list of some of the more likely candidates:

  • Alibaba: whilst Jack Ma is a super-smart business man; he has enough problems extracting Yahoo! Inc. from his current business rather than acquiring Bing
  • Aol: is in a similar position to Yahoo! in many respects with not enough cash on hand to do the deal and too many things that they need to address internally to even consider a Bing purchase
  • Apple: has the money, but there isn’t the incentive or the expertise to take on the integration of the business into Apple and the leviathan of a challenge that whipping Bing into a product that Apple could be proud of
  • Baidu: Robin Li and the team at Baidu certainly have the smarts to take on Bing, the finance could be made available via various sources in China. Baidu has smarts in search; particularly non-roman languages which happens to be where the market growth is likely to be. In addition, Bing would be an ideal platform to bring Baidu’s concepts of box computing to western consumer markets. Microsoft would have the problem that it wasn’t selling its search arm but empowering the next competitor to challenge it in the mobile and desktop operating system space with a Baidu acquisition. The biggest issue is would this pass muster with US politicians? As you would have a nexus of wounded US pride, high technology and the politicised issue of censorship. Throw in a couple of Google lobbyists for good measure, stand back and watch it burn
  • Facebook: could buy Bing and it could be attractive to Microsoft; particularly if the purchase was made with some Facebook equity included. But they don’t need to do it and the shifting of the focus could adversely affect investor sentiment towards the great satan of social
  • Google: wouldn’t be able to buy Bing because it would set off antitrust alarms throughout the western world
  • Naspers: the South African media company has a reputation for making smart investments in online properties and could add its brand to a larger consortium, but it would face the problem of finding winning tech rock stars and a management team that could do the job
  • NHN: The Korean owners of Naver understand search and could bring a new fresh approach to non-Roman language search but they just don’t have the revenue to do it on their own. They could still be a wildcard in a private equity-based bid
  • SK Group: South Korea’s largest conglomerate has a number of successful online services that search would dovetail into, however they are already committed to investments in developing markets like Vietnam and have been burned by US-based investments in the past like the Helio and lost out on a recent bid for Blockbuster Inc. to Dish Networks. Given their heritage in US-based investments Bing is probably not that attractive
  • Tencent Holdings Limited: As a major online property in China, Bing maybe desirable as a way to help combat the march of Baidu. However, it is uncertain that Tencent would have the relevant deep technical knowledge to turn Bing from costly millstone to world-beating search engine. Like Baidu Tencent would also come under US political scrutiny. One thing in their favour would be having Naspers as a major shareholder – so taking some of the sting out of the anti-Chinese rhetoric likely to fly around
  • Yahoo!: couldn’t afford it, is struggling to grow the existing business that it had and has dissipated its search talent around Silicon Valley thanks to Bartz & Icahn. It would be a strategic pivot too many and would likely get killed in a shareholder revolt if they could find someone to bank roll the deal
  • Softbank / Yahoo! Japan: Masayoshi Son is an exceptionally savvy business man. Bing would have to be about more than business: self actualisation. Yahoo! Japan snubbed Bing in favour of Google recently, a purchase of Bing could be awkward
  • Yandex: it is doubtful that the Russian search business could raise enough capital to take over Bing; if it did it would have its work cut out to turn Bing around in terms of market share. But they would have the smarts to increase profitability of what they already have
  • Private equity: in theory a company like KKR could make the relevant phone calls and round up funding to buy Bing at the right price. They would have to find a management team, a path to cut costs and find a clear marketing proposition to keep audiences. Finally private equity would want to have an exit; there wouldn’t be that many acquisitive buyers, so they would have to look at some sort of public offering

Why keep Bing?

One of the reasons that I was so surprised that Yahoo! gave up on search was that it is not only a business providing a potentially great contextual advertising point of view. It is also the glue or the mortar that holds online services together. Given that there are so many screens are now part of the internet experience: mobile, television and desktop – the mortar is going to be even more critical in the coming years as the binding agent for a larger eco-system.

With productivity suites moving into the cloud, search becomes the new file system (like Spotlight on the Mac desktop) and Office (or its future cloud sibling) is the core of Microsoft.

More links:
Bing: Should Microsoft Sell It?

Here’s Why The Bing-Yahoo Deal Isn’t Working So Far

Microsoft Is Redoing Bing To Look More Like The New Windows Design

Microsoft Might Dump Twitter From Bing Search Results

Can we please stop pretending that Microsoft’s Bing is doing well

For the first time in nine months Bing doesn’t gain in search share

BING COPYING GOOGLE: Embarrassing But Brilliant