How many of you out there read on a regular basis?  In prior generations, the ‘newspaper’ was what most citizens could consider ‘objective’ information.  Today, some ‘news’ has changed (oh boy).

Yesterday, the pungent taste of news became more apparent.  While enjoying some local festivities, I had a chance to speak with some citizens about their interaction with news sources.

Paid?/Organic?
It’s easy to assume something offered by a major company is intellectually credible and not commercially infused.  Many people are astonished at the notion of SEO, of optimizing particular information, pushing it toward the ‘top slot’ of offered results.

One particularly bright young lady asked me about the difference in paid and organic listings.  I explained a brand could pay a search engine to list its results, and they are labeled and treated as ads.

She then began questioning me about organic listings.  I explained how my work, in part, is devoted toward helping brands get ‘ranked’ higher on particular engines, namely Google, the most popular one to date.

“So though you have the talent to write, how do you decide who you ‘help’?”

“Well, I get assigned work, so…”

“So, brands pay your agency to eventually rank?”

“Er, kind of, yes…”

I went on to explain my line of work and that of other online marketers in more detail.  But, her immediate grasp got me thinking.  Consumers do need to be hesitant about what Google or any search engine serves up.  They need to apprehend that information with a grain of salt.

The industry experienced a few tremors from the release of Panda and Penguin.  More friends are sure to follow.  The ‘need’ to release such ‘fixer-upper’ updates is an insult to the informational integrity of the Web.  Google felt like its open information source was looking more like a neglected pile of ‘junk mail’ accumulated from years of ongoing abuse.

 

Old News as New Business
Another modern-day informational concept came to my attention yesterday.  I read an article in the New York Times about the purchase of a San Diegan newspaper, the U-T San Diego.  The paper was recently bought by a local developer and hotelier.

What the Times reporter, David Carr, points out is probably on the minds of those who know a little about the new owner, as well as on the minds of more people since reading the article…the new owner has agendas, and just might use a source of ‘objective’ information to support them.

Immediately the new owner is known for being against ‘big’ government, taxes, and gay marriage.  Additionally, he wants a new football stadium in the city.  While the new owner offers lip service, ["We totally respect the journalistic integrity of our paper and there is a clear line of demarcation between our editorials and our news"] some are wary of this future intentions and use of the U-T to pursue them.

In one incident, a standing U-T sports columnist was opposed to running ‘charged’ stories related to convincing readers of the need for the new stadium.  Tim Sullivan was soon dismissed from his position.  However, recently the owner has voiced Sullivan’s lot has to do with multimedia integration and not his position on stadium politics.  As Carr reports, Sullivan’s Facebook status now reads as “on vacation,” his time with the U-T may not be done afterall.

It’s no new news that old newspaper brands are struggling to keep up with the popularity of online behavior.  However, is the new business of the news more like the above search engine dichotomy and less like the old “news”?

These days, what really constitutes organic, objectified news?

 

I was an eighties kid.  Some things indefinitely come to mind in reminiscence.  The lovable cartoon-like cereal characters for instance.  I mean, some of these characters were hugely influential and unforgettable.  (Channels boyhood self) Wait.  What?  Count Chocula is serving up a free figurine at the bottom of that box of junky goodness?  Where do I get my parents to sign!

When I was younger, childhood obesity was not a topic.  I ‘m not sure that’s because we had less time to be ‘online,’ break dancing was in, or too many kids started choosing Chocula over arugula one too many times…

Can we pin poor health on the smirking Count?  Can we shake Mickey down for hosting sugar-fused foods in-between his segments?  Perhaps, but let’s give these innocent figures the benefit.  Let’s hire them to change their serendipitously naughty ways and channel that marketing popularity toward healthy foods.

That’s the new Disney plan going into effect and backed by the first lady.  As of Tuesday, all advertising on Disney’s child-focused media (radio, television, web) will adhere to stringent, health-conducive regulations.

Wait, Mickey’s no longer ‘boys’ with such characters as the chocolaty fictitious vamp?

The restrictions extend onto some ABC stations within the Disney family.  Remember Capri Sun?  I sure do…that sweet-tasting liquid nectar.  Hm.Hm.  It’s no longer applicable to advertise with Mickey and crew.  Capri’s gotta talk to the white-gloved hand now, so to speak.

Disney’s health craze also applies to its amusement parks, where the NY Times reports 12-million children’s meals are served annually.  Disney states it will improve its food’s ‘health statistics.’  Furthermore, Mickey and the squad are set on convincing kids that the Count is out and carrots are in! (Though more easily stated than practically digested momentarily perhaps.)

As the news story admits, Mickey didn’t become as animated about changing his ways until federal regulators began making proposals to combat ‘childhood obesity.’  Furthermore, it’s not goofy to think Disney may lose some money by shunning advertisers.

On the other hand, the move, while somewhat inspired by regulators, could prove as a sure-handed, long-term strategy to make a good impression on parents, those who get ‘signed up’ for all sorts of Disney-related purchases.  However, who is Disney’s market really?  (Channel your boy/girlhood self.)

Are kids so willingly going to give up the junk-food, fun-filled cereal boxes?  When was the last time Kashi offered a cool figurine or sticker at the bottom of its health-cereal box?  Is it Disney’s duty to be more selective about what it shows its target market?  Should health-related brands do a better job at getting as charming as Chocula?  What are your thoughts?

Have you seen Google in the news?  Do you use Google’s services to get your news?  As Greg Sterling of Search Engine Land reports, a lot of people use Google across multiple verticals.

Yoo-hoo!  Remember Yahoo, a company that could’ve gotten friendly with Facebook to the point of making it a part of the family, a company who Microsoft wanted to get close to too?  Today, Yahoo is in the news, shifting the board of directors around in hopes to make forward momentum.

As Sterling’s article showcases, though regularly first or second (behind Google) in search statistics (Comscore’s December 2011 stats), Yahoo has made no significant improvement in recent years in a number of verticals: media, retail, travel, autos, finance, and health.

Yahoo plans to replace half of its board of directors.  Two new members have been appointed:  Maynard Webb and Alfred Amoroso; the brand intends to ‘search’ for more.  A New York Times article indicates both new appointees have dense, digital technological experience.  Webb is former chief exec of LiveOps, an online call center services provider.  From 1999 to 2006, Webb quarterbacked multiple departments for eBay.  Amoroso is a director of Rovi, serving as the company’s chief exec until last December.  Amoroso also has a past, as a top exec at I.B.M.’s Asian services business.

What’s interesting in the reflection of usage from the Sterling article (as he points out) is the exclusion of Facebook from the statistics.  How many people are using Facebook?  As another Times article suggests, some numbers (especially coming from Facebook) could be misleading.

Facebook proudly boasts about its 845 million monthly users and 483 “daily active users.”  Those numbers are impressive, and likely issued in lieu of its IPO.  However, those numbers are subjective, depending on what you consider to be an ‘active’ user.  For instance if you click on one of the Facebook icons below WebiMax SEO blog articles, you’re considered an active user.  Would you agree?  Would you if you were Facebook execs, wanting to accrue as many user numbers as possible to impress investors?

That’s likely the brand of pressure executives at Yahoo are up against.  Competing neck and neck in search with Microsoft, and making no immediate waves on the social or mobile scene (neither is Facebook at the moment) is not inspiring anyone to shout about Yahoo’s extraordinariness.  That’s the newly-appointed job of Webb and Amoroso (and to-be announced board members) – to make more people give Yahoo a ‘yoo-hoo,’ but, is it too late to shift the statistics?

A lot of major brands are making noise of late.  Facebook is expected to release its IPO.  Go Daddy changed company heads and its mind.  Google penalized itself.  Now, Yahoo has made a new pal, Scott Thompson, the president of PayPal, as its chief executive.

Will the move prove savvy for the Internet media company?  On the surface, the Yahoo brand does not appear shabby.  It hosts 700 million visitors per month; it’s a bastion of online sports, daily news, and finance info; and, financial gurus estimate the brand will report over $1 billion in net profit for 2011.  That’s not too bad.  However, when you’re up against online titans like the leading search engine, Google, and an intimidating social (and search?) platform in Facebook (outshining Yahoo in ads), you have to expect a lot.

According to comScore stats, Google sites accounted for over 65% of total, core search queries in the US in November of 2011 followed by Yahoo (about 16%).  Mr. Thompson was chosen for his “turnaround” reputation; he helped expand PayPal (took over in 2008) to 104 million users (from 50 million) and more than doubled the brand’s revenue ($1.8 to over $4 billion).

What are some plans in store for Yahoo?  No finite specifics voiced of yet, but analysts say Yahoo has spread itself too thin, investing resources in technology and original content creation, which is a stark contrast to Google, which does not invest in in-brand content creation.  However, analysts think Yahoo, and new pal Thompson, can leverage the brand’s popular email service and the user data collected, to attract advertisers.

It will be interesting to see how Yahoo proceeds in 2012.  Thompson believes Yahoo must cater to advertisers and users.  This seem like a good decision considering direct revenue stems from the former while the collective voice of the latter can make or break a brand.

Thompson remains optimistic, relaying Yahoo’s waning brand is “fixable,” despite his direct inexperience with online media and advertising.  Maybe Thompson and Yahoo’s opportunities will get a boost from external sources; Yahoo may get more than $10 billion for selling its stakes from Alibaba and Softbank.

Maybe Yahoo can make progress through the decadence of its competition.  As referenced, Facebook plans to go public early this year.  Will it be a mistake, influencing its 800-million-plus users to seek other platforms?  It has been understood Facebook’s face man, Mark Zuckerberg, isn’t hosting a happy visage about the IPO.  Additionally, while Google continues to serve as master in many ways, users have recently seen some quirks (how many Google SERP listings do we get? and Google+ turning SERPs into a McGoogle drivethru?), and of course ironies, related to the Chrome mishap.