Marketing Predictions for 2013

bandwagon

In 2012, there were increased developments for marketers. Social media sites, such as Facebook, created a massive mobile advertising business. Now the question is, what does 2013 have to offer? Advertising experts got together to show marketing predictions for the year to come.

The first strategy experts explored was “Mobile-First Strategy.” Facebook and Google are two sites responsible for the mobile ad spending tripling to $4 billion in 2012. According to eMarketer, “we expect mobile ads to increasingly become the top priority for advertisers on digital, rather than desktop.” This is the result of consumers spending more time and money on mobile devices.

Next experts explored the revision of “Banner Ads.” Banner ads do not work well on mobile devices, which has lead companies to reconsider using them. However, the ads will not be going away for good, instead businesses are working on a more creative way to post them and become user friendly.

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Powerhouse USA creates Smell-a-Vision : now TV viewers will be able to watch and “smell” their favorite shows

ORLANDO, Fla.—April 1, 2012— Local advertising agency Powerhouse USA announces the creation of Smell-a-Vision. Now television viewers everywhere will not only be able to watch their favorite shows, but they‘ll be able to smell them. The invention is expected to revolutionize the digital TV world as we know it.

David “DP” Preschel, president of Powerhouse USA and creator of Smell-a-Vision, has been dedicated to the fields of advertising and marketing for over 20 years and has finally created the breakthrough that marketers have been striving to accomplish for decades. “We wanted to give viewers a more interactive way to learn about our clients’ products. We have now incorporated a third sense into the viewing experience; all that’s left is to literally put the product in consumers’ hands! We’re working on that next,” he explains.

Preschel has worked tirelessly with the team at Powerhouse USA every night for years until yesterday when he finally discovered the secret to the olfactory viewing experience. When asked for details of the technology behind Smell-a-Vision, he declined to explain the process as worldwide patents are still pending.

Since rumors have spread over the Internet, phones have been ringing off the hook at Powerhouse USA. Those who wish to implement Smell-a-Vision in their advertisements range from car dealers (who doesn’t love that new car smell?) to bakeries, and oddly enough, septic companies. But the most curious call of all has been from political campaigns. “Unfortunately, we’re having trouble developing the musk of Newt Gingrich,” Preschel laments.

Powerhouse USA is a full-service advertising, marketing and promotions agency in Orlando, Florida that has produced over 3,000 television commercials ranging from car dealerships to massage therapy. On April 1, 2012, they introduced Smell-a-Vision to media outlets and television viewers everywhere.

“Gone Viral!”

Happy Birthday, Twitter!

Six years ago today, Jack Dorsey tweeted the first ever tweet on Twitter and a communications revolution was born.

Now, 6 years later it has grown exponentially to over 500 million users, making it the largest one-to-many open communication platform on the web today.  After hearing those numbers you would never believe what humble beginnings this social network came from.

Twitter stemmed from an earlier company ran by ex-googler friends called Odeo, which was going to be a podcasting platform. But when Apple launched iTunes podcasting, it made their little startup company irrelevant. After enlisting the help of another buddy and much brainstorming, the team came up with “Twttr”, which would eventually become Twitter.

This social networking phenomenon allows its users to interact with their favorite celebs and follow the latest news s
tories. Many businesses use Twitter as a marketing tool to reach consumers. It has changed media, business and politics – even our President Barack Obama has an account!

With 11 Twitter accounts created every second, the company is projected to earn $259 million in Advertising Revenue this year. Not a bad birthday gift!

2012 : Retailers all about Customer Interaction

In an effort to build customer engagement, capture wallet share and accelerate sales growth, retailers in 2012 will focus on a number of customer-centric functions, including IT and ecommerce investments, enhancing customer service initiatives and, building on their mobile platforms. Those findings are from a new report from the National Retail Federation (NRF) Foundation by KPMG.

Retail Horizons: Benchmarks for 2011, Forecasts for 2012,” surveyed 247 retail executives from various sectors, outlines retailers’ top strategic initiatives for 2012 including merchandising, ecommerce, store and field operations, supply chain and human capital, among others.

“Retailers are poised to enter 2012 with a renewed focus on building up and building out many of their most important operations, hoping to establish a new sense of brand loyalty with all of their customers,” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay. “Though customers are always a company’s top priority, customer satisfaction will get a huge facelift this year. From increasing their brand visibility through cross-channel initiatives to providing unique, personalized shopping experiences through every channel, retailers have indicated 2012 is all about the customer.”

According to the survey, nearly 67% of companies rank customer satisfaction as the top strategic initiative for 2012 and, similarly, 82% say customer service strategies will be their top priority in the coming year, up from 75% last year.

For the first time in the survey’s ten-year history, retailers’ websites or online channels eclipsed physical stores as the top channel for marketers (81% for brick-and-mortar vs. 86% online). As such, retail executives say they will invest in programs that directly resonate with today’s shopper. According to the survey, 85 will emphasize  increasing online sales, up from 83% in 2011, and 38% will have a greater focus on increasing mCommerce sales over the next year, up from 29% in 2011. Additionally, more than half (53%) of those surveyed say they will specifically focus on web personalization engines in the coming months, which includes such enhancements as location-based services and tracking methods unique to shopping habits.
To better serve mobile-savvy shoppers in their stores, retailers also stated enhancing handheld technologies, such as mobile point-of-sale, will be a core focus over the next 18 months. While 17% already use mobile POS technologies in their store, an additional 33% indicate they plan further POS investments during that timeframe.

“Compared to the past few years, retailers have turned their attention to growth acceleration, with an emphasis on improved customer engagement strategies and tactics,” said Mark Larson, KPMG’s global head of retail. “Harnessing the vast amounts of customer data they have at their disposal to create unique consumer interactions will be critical, especially as digital sales grow. Clearly the retailers who master the one-to-one customer approach, and who also leverage the full potential of e-and-mobile commerce platforms, will be in a much stronger position to gain wallet share.”

Aiming to grow that customer interaction, 45% of companies are actively developing widgets, gadgets or advanced links that can be incorporated with their social media pages, and another 41% are planning to develop these items over the next 18 months.

Other KPMG/NRF survey findings:
• Thirty-three% reported increases of greater than 5% in same store sales in 2011, up from 21% in 2010. Additionally, 63% reported gross margins greater than 40% in 2011, up from 40% in 2010
• After years of practicing cost containment, this year more than half (52%) of respondents plan to increase their IT budgets
• Nine in 10 (91%) respondents said they will focus on leadership assessment, development and succession, up from 83% in 2011. Additionally, 52% will increase associate training, up from 39% last year
• As the number of multichannel shoppers continues to grow, so will retailers’ focus on price optimization – more than one-third (35%) of respondents will focus on solidifying their price optimization technologies over the next 18 months
• Nearly six in 10 (59%) say new customer acquisition is their top strategic priority for 2012, up from 55% in 2011

Surviving U.S. Auto Dealers may see record sales in 2012

Auto Dealers may see record sales in 2012; surviving dealers are stronger and more profitable
2/15/12Auto dealers may be racing toward a record number of sales.  A consulting firm is predicting that the dealers that survived the economic crisis may deliver more vehicles in 2012 than ever before.Urban Science is estimating that each dealer will sell an average  785 vehicles this year. That compares to only averaging 719 cars and trucks last year. They attribute the nearly ten per cent increase to pent up demand and the improving economy.

The previous record was 784 per dealership back in 2005.

The number of dealerships also grew last year, after shrinking for several years in a row. Urban Science says the dealers that survived the economic downturn are stronger and more profitable. There are now 17,767 dealerships in America.

Consumers spend on Valentine’s Day

Recession? What recession? To all appearances, consumers are going to take at least one day off from dealing with the sluggish economy and invest in making their loved ones feel loved. That’s what the National Retail Federation says, based on research provided by BigInsight. According to NRF, Valentine’s Day 2012 figures to be a record breaker.

According to NRF’s 2012 Valentine’s Day Consumer Intentions and Actions survey, conducted by BIGinsight, the total spend on the holiday is expected to come home at $17.6B.

One a person-by-person basis, celebrants are expecting to invest an average of $126.03, up from $116.21 a year ago and amounting to an increase of 8.5%. NRF says this is the highest total its ever recorded in ten years of conducting the survey.

NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay observed, “As one of the biggest gift-giving holidays of the year, it’s encouraging that consumers are still exhibiting the desire to spend on discretionary gift items, a strong indication our economy continues to move in the right direction. Anticipating high foot traffic in the coming weeks, retailers have replenished their inventories and will entice eager shoppers with great deals on everything from special menu items at restaurants to clothing to flowers and, of course, chocolates.”

The chief beneficiary of the spending will be those filling the role of spouse or significant other – they will be on the receiving end of an average $74.12 outlay, up from $68.98 in 2011.

Children, parents and other family members are next on the shopping list, for an average benefit of $25.25. Friends and pets are also on the shopping list, for $6.92 and $4.52 respectively.

BigInsight date found that this is one holiday where men do most of the spending – when it comes to clothing, jewelry and cards, they are expected to invest $168.74 on average, almost double the $85.76 their significant others of the female persuasion are expected to spend.

There has been an increase in the number of people planning to buy jewelry, which is rising from 17.3% to 18.9%; and gift cards are in the plans of 13.3% compared to 12.6% in 2011.

Big categories on the day remain candy, in the plans for 50.5%; flowers, mentioned by 36.0%; and an evening out, cited by 35.6%.

Jewels can look for a total payday of $4.1B; restaurateurs are expected to rake in $3.5B; florists are looking at a haul of $1.8B; candymakers can expect about $1.5B and the total spend on gift cards is expected to hit $1.1B.

“Celebrated by children who give Valentines to their teachers and classmates, family members who make sure to send greeting cards across the miles and couples who wish to show their appreciation for each other, Valentine’s Day means more than what’s simply on the surface,” said Pam Goodfellow, Consumer Insights Director at BIGinsight. “This year we could very well see some consumers searching high and low and stopping at nothing to make sure their loved ones receive the perfect gift.”

Describing the breakdown of shopping venues, NRF/BigInsight said, “Though discount stores are expected to see the most traffic (37.0%), one-third of shoppers (33.6%) will head to department stores, up from 30.5 percent last year. Online retailers will also see a nice boost from the business of love – nearly one out of five (19.3%) will shop online for gifts this Valentine’s Day, up from 18.1 percent last year. Others will shop at specialty stores (20.2%), floral shop (17.8%), jewelry stores (10.6%) and specialty clothing stores (6.6%).”


GM’s Super Bowl commercial helped Ford

Super Bowl Ad Aftermath: Ford Boosted By GM’s Fallout?

Playing dirty might be de rigeur in politics, but it seldom helps in selling products—even dusty pickups ravaged by the apocalypse.

That might end up being GM’s tough lesson from its Super Bowl XLVI ad which, to some, spoke less about the strengths of GM products than it did attack Ford’s reputation for durability and longevity.

GM’s Super Bowl commercial helped Ford

Based on traffic and visitor data collected by the shopping and pricing site Kelley Blue Book, more visitors browsed Fordafter the GM commercial—a lot more—even though Ford didn’t have a big Super Bowl ad. Whether looking at the controversy in the days surrounding, or specifically at the window of time during and after the ad aired, Fordappeared to benefit most, if an immediate browsing or shopping of new vehicles was the goal.

Full-size pickup truck visitors on Super Bowl Sunday, 2012 – Kelley Blue Book

KBB.com data shows consumer interest in the Silverado lifting during the commercial airing, leveling off after the commercial and declining after the game, as interest in the F-150 surged, curiously. Despite the Silverado’s lift during the game, Ford’s F-150 still drew a greater share of week-over-week attention from KBB.com consumers.

In comparing consumer interest on kbb.com among the Full-size truck segment, KBB analyst Akshay Anand noted that the share of visits to the F150 surged over 26-percent week-over-week, while the Chevrolet Silverado 1500 saw a 25-percent drop in traffic during the same period.

“Looking at the data for that whole day, Ford did see some lift, and I don’t think that’s a coincidence,” said Anand.

That leads to how some might have heard the commercial…something along the lines of this: What kind of truck do you drive to the impending apocalypse? If it’s a Ford, oh you sorry sap, you’re just not going to make it.

Advertising 101: Don’t make the competing product your punchline

And that hits hard at one very important factor: brand loyalty. To many, the commercial was less a declaration of the strengths of GM products than it was the buildup to an attack on Ford’s trucks. And it may have sent Ford loyalists to their laptops and tablets to search for reassurance about Ford’s reputation, as their GM counterparts gloated and stayed on the sofa.

“Truck owners tend to be more loyal than those in any other segment,” said Anand, and when a product with that level of loyalty is mentioned negatively in an ad, argued Anand, the response is likely to be one that’s on the defensive.

Other potential explanations: Ford was mentioned bluntly and clearly right near the end of the ad, so is that somehow the name that stuck with viewers? Or does the lesson to be learned really have more to do with etiquette?

It is, after all, one of the first commercials in some time to blatantly call out a competing product without mention of a number or metric as basis.


Brand Bowl 2012

This past Sunday, advertisers everywhere were tuned into the Olympics of Advertising, or what we call the Brand Bowl. Who came out victorious and who failed to impress? Here are some of the highlights if you missed it:

Which were your favorites?

See them all here 

U.S. auto sales jumped 11 percent in January, led by huge gains at Chrysler Group and Volkswagen of America. Best January since 2008

U.S. auto sales jumped 11 percent in January, led by huge gains at Chrysler Group and Volkswagen of America.Automakers sold 913,284 light vehicles for the month, the best January since 2008. The seasonally adjusted annual selling rate was 14.2 million, which matches the cash-for-clunkers selling rate of August 2009.

Toyota Division General Manager Bob Carter said January had “a very healthy” sales pace.

“It’s significant to see 913,000 in January when much of the country typically is in a deep freeze,” he said. “We’re bullish with where the industry is going.”

Most major companies gain

Among the highlights:

— All major players posted sales gains except General Motors, which fell 6 percent from a strong January 2011 that had been buoyed by strong incentives.

— All four GM brands lost ground: Chevrolet was down 1 percent, GMC lost 10 percent, Buick 23 percent and Cadillac 29 percent.

— Chrysler Group volume jumped 44 percent to 101,149 units. The growth was led by Chrysler brand, up 81 percent.

— Hyundai-Kia Automotive gained 20 percent overall: Kia rose 28 percent and Hyundai 15 percent.

— Nissan North America sales increased 10 percent, just under the industry average overall. But after being passed by Hyundai-Kia for the No. 6 U.S. sales position, Nissan’s 79,313 light-vehicle sales gave it a 1,102-unit lead over its South Korean rival to start the year.

— American Honda gained 9 percent in January, its first year-over-year increase since April and a sign that its restocking efforts since the March earthquake and tsunami in Japan and flooding later in the year in Thailand are working.

— Toyota Motor Sales, which also had been slammed by the natural disasters last year, boosted sales 8 percent to 124,540 units. Toyota brand rose 9 percent, offsetting a 5 percent decline at Lexus.

— Ford Motor Co. increased sales 7 percent in January, with Ford division up 8 percent and Lincoln down 8 percent.

Mazda, Subaru sales rise

— Among the smaller players, Volkswagen Group sales soared 40 percent to 36,681 units, led by a 48 percent increase for the VW brand and 20 percent higher sales at Audi.

— Mazda posted an even bigger gain, up 68 percent to 23,996 vehicles.

— Subaru volume rose 21 percent, its second month of growth after a seven-month stretch of declines as it struggled to restock U.S. dealer lots after the natural disasters of last year.

— Daimler AG gained 23 percent, with 23 percent growth at Mercedes-Benz and 39 percent at Smart.

— BMW group sales rose 6 percent overall, with a 21 percent increase at Mini pumping up a more modest 3 percent gain at BMW brand.

— Other European premium brands posted increases: 31 percent for Jaguar Land Rover, 6 percent for Porsche and 4 percent for Volvo.

— Only two small Japanese automakers posted sales declines in January. Mitsubishi’s volume fell 18 percent while Suzuki tumbled 41 percent to 1,505 units.

Odds and ends

— Tough sledding for luxury: A few luxury brands outperformed the industry’s 11 percent rise in January. Land Rover jumped 41 percent, Mercedes-Benz gained 23 percent and Audi 20 percent. But Jaguar, Porsche, Acura and BMW eked out modest unit increases below the industry average. And Lexus fell 5 percent, Lincoln and Infiniti each lost 8 percent, and Cadillac tumbled 29 percent.

— The industry’s shift to greater North American production continues. U.S. sales of vehicles made in the United States, Canada and Mexico were 77.9 percent of total industry volume, up from 76.7 percent last January.

— Oddity: Audi outsold Cadillac in January, 9,354 units to 8,924. Until Cadillac can get its new XTS and ATS sedans into showrooms, it is limited to essentially three models: the CTS sedan and SRX and Escalade SUVs.

— Best-seller surprises: Compared to the 10 best-selling nameplates for 2011, January’s top 10 list has three new names. The Honda Accord and Ford Fusion dropped out, but Honda added the Civic and CR-V. And the Chevrolet Cruze got bumped by its big brother, the Chevy Impala.

— Guess who’s No. 2? One other Top 10 shakeup: The new-generation Toyota Camry, introduced in September, outsold the Chevy Silverado pickup, ousting it from its perennial No. 2 sales position behind the Ford F-series.

— Trucks bucked: January also changed the list of 2011 best-selling trucks. Out: 2011’s No. 7 GMC Sierra and No. 10 Kia Sorento. In: the Jeep Grand Cherokee at No. 7 and Nissan Rogue at No. 9.

— Cars rule in January: Cars outsold light trucks last month, 474,449 to 438,835, a 51.9/49.1 split. A year ago trucks ruled, 413,962 to 405,924, a 50.5/49.5 split.

Watch those comparables

It’s time to readjust expectations based on the most common industry sales measurement: comparing sales to performance the year before.

— Hyundai-Kia and Chrysler are coming off 2011 performances up more than a quarter, so it will take huge months for them to move the needle much this year.

— Both Toyota group and American Honda sales fell 7 percent in 2011, so posting even modest increases will look good this year.

— Sales comparisons also will be easier for Ford and GM this year because the drag of those dead or sold brands has washed out of year-ago numbers. For GM, no more year-ago sales of Pontiac, Saturn, Hummer or Saab models. Ford has no Volvos and only a wisp of Mercury sales on the 2011 blotter.

Yahoo’s fourth-quarter net earnings decline 5 percent

Yahoo’s fourth-quarter earnings fell 5 percent as newly minted CEO Scott Thompson acknowledged the company needed to do better, but was short on details about his plans.

The company’s fourth-quarter net earnings declined 5 percent year-over-year to $296 million, with revenue off 3 percent to $1.17 billion. And search advertising revenue dipped 3 percent year-over-year to $388 million.

Yahoo’s full-year revenue hit $5 billion, a far cry from the $6.3 billion it recorded in 2010. During the company’s earnings call Tuesday, Thompson said he’s spent “a lot of [his] time and attention”understanding the problems facing Yahoo’s display advertisingbusiness. Referring to the company’s results, Yahoo CFO TimMorse said during the earnings call, “we expected better.”

Thompson repeatedly said that it was too early to discuss how he plans to improve Yahoo’s performance. But he isolated the consumer data Yahoo holds as “the key component for driving innovation.”

“Our data may be Yahoo’s most underrated, underappreciated and underused asset,” he said.

Thompson said he aims to mine the data collected from Yahoo’s 702 million monthly unique visitors to improve the site experience for consumers, which he said would lead to more time spent on site and better results for advertisers.

Thompson and Morse downplayed the uncertainty that has dogged Yahoo throughout the fourth quarter and continues to follow the company. Morse—who took over as interim CEO after Carol Bartz’s ouster in September—termed the period “challenging” with “numerous distractions,” and Thompson said there was a lot of “commotion” surrounding the company.

Thompson’s appointment earlier this month may have settled the CEO question. ButYahoo co-founder Jerry Yang resigned from the company’s board last week, and questions persist over whether Yahoo will be sold.

As to the latter, all Thompson would say was that Yahoo “remains open to anything that’s good for our shareholders.”

FCC considering lifting cable and satellite sports blackout rule

FCC considering lifting cable and satellite sports blackout rule
Fans could soon be able to watch games on cable and satellite that have been blocked out on broadcast because the contests did not sell out. Federal Communications Commission is soliciting public comment on the possibility of striking down sports blackout rules for cable and satellite companies, following a request in November from an advocacy group to do away with the rule. The restriction has long been advocated by professional sports leagues, because it gives greater incentive to fans to buy tickets to events they couldn’t otherwise see on television. The leagues also argue that if the blackouts are removed, cable and satellite companies will gain leverage over broadcasters in retransmission rights negotiations. Broadcasters have been barred from showing contests that do not sell out since 1961, and the FCC added cable and broadcast to that rule years later at the behest of the NFL.

Orlando home prices drop slightly

November Home Price Index showed prices of homes in Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, including distressed sales, fell 1.2 percent in November 2011 compared to November 2010. Home prices also were 1.1 percent lower in October 2011 when compared with the year-earlier month.

Meanwhile, November 2011 prices were 3.6 percent lower than the year prior excluding distressed sales, and were 4.1 percent lower in October 2011 when compared with October 2010.

A month ago, the firm also reportedSeptember 2011 sales fell 2.4 percent.

Distressed sales include short sales and bank-owned property sales.

CoreLogic also reported U.S. home sales fell 1.4 percent in November, the fourth straight monthly sales decline.

Here are the latest online video advertising numbers

December 29, 2011
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Though advertisers and agencies are often increasing their investments in digital video advertising at the expense of offline/traditional branding/advertising efforts, findings from DIGIDAY and Adap.tv suggest funding also comes at the expense of current display advertising budgets.

According to a November study, advertisers were more likely to fund their online video advertising efforts from offline channels such as print and broadcast TV than their agency counterparts. Advertisers most often planned to shift budget from print (41%), while 29% said they would take dollars from broadcast TV to fund their digital video advertising efforts. Just 24% planned to pull from display.

Agencies said boosts to online video budgets would most come at the expense of display (43%), indicating a general move away from less dynamic ad formats, such as banner ads, in favor of those with greater engagement potential.

Channels Their Clients Plan to Shift Budget from to Fund Online Video Ads According to Agencies and Advertisers in North America, 2010 & 2011 (% of respondents)

In addition, 39% of agencies said they would fund video from broadcast TV budgets. Though findings appear to suggest advertisers and agencies are shifting budgets away from TV toward video ads, more than half (56%) of respondents viewed online video as a direct complement to—and not a replacement for—their TV ad programs. Just 11% looked to online video to replace their TV ads, reported eMarketer.

In the past year, both advertisers and agencies have shifted their primary video advertising objectives from brand awareness to brand engagement, perhaps suggesting marketers are moving away from viewing digital video as a mere extension of TV ads and moving toward embracing online video for its ability to more directly engage viewers in a dynamic way.

By enabling video ads with social sharing and other calls to action, marketers can use digital video as a springboard to additional online engagement on social networks, their website and even mobile apps.

Online Video Ad Objectives According to Advertisers in North America, 2010 & 2011 (% of respondents)

Mobile is a growing area of interest for video advertisers, yet publisher offerings lag brand adoption. For example, 42% of advertisers and agencies have purchased iPhone-compatible video ads, yet only 35% of publishers supported such ads. Differences for Android video ads (31% vs. 28%, respectively) and iPad ads (41% vs. 35%) were similar.

Tablets coming out in full force at CES

Tablet computer makers, hoping to get attention in a market dominated by Apple Inc.’s iPad, are using  CES, North America’s largest trade show as a coming-out party.

Tablet sales could top 100 million worldwide in 2012, GfK Boutique Research director Steve Bambridge said in a Sunday CES news conference at the Las Vegas Venetian.

Amazon is competing aggressively against Apple, especially on price. Ten-inch Wi-Fi tablets, such as the iPad, can cost $400 to $500, while most 7-inch tablets start at $300. The 7-inch Amazon Kindle Fire is priced at $200. Kindle Fire is designed to deliver content provided by Amazon while the iPad uses iTunes.

Barnes and Noble’s Nook Tablet, $99 to $249, offers similar content to the Kindle Fire, from streaming movies to downloading books and access to Facebook.

While these big-name brands have succeeded, others have faltered for a number of reasons.

Rim in Motion’s debut tablet was a bit of a disappointment as the company ended up taking a $485 million third-quarter charge due to unsold Blackberry Playbook inventory.

RIM recently slashed PlayBook prices to $299 for the device, regardless of storage capacity. It comes with 16, 32 or 64 gigabytes. The temporary price cut ends Feb. 4, according to the Blackberry online store.

The HP TouchPad was pulled within weeks of its launch because of slow sales blamed in part on its $400 to $500 price. On the HP website it’s listed as “sold out,” though a 9.7-inch Wi-Fi version with 16 gigabytes sells for $269.88 on eBay.

While there have been hits and misses, more new tablets are coming. At CES, which officially starts Tuesday, Toshiba will unveil its newest and thinnest Tablet at 588 grams (slightly more than a 20 ounce bottle of soda), 10.1 inches wide and 7 mm thick, according to a company statement.

Asus will offer something a bit different with the Eee Pad Slider, featuring a pullout keyboard. Archos just released an 8-inch tablet, while Samsung is adding to its Galaxy lineup with an 8.9-inch Galaxy Tab.

For Velocity Micro it’s a pair of successors to its budget Cruz T408 tablet. The T507 Android 4.0 slate includes a 7-inch screen, a front facing camera and a sub-$150 price.

Meanwhile, the price for the larger 9.7-inch Cruz T510 tablet has not yet been announced.

“These products are an affirmation of what our focus will be for 2012 … smart and affordable consumer electronic devices,” said Randy Copeland, president and CEO of Velocity Micro.

Apple doesn’t even attend the show. But a recent report by the research firm Gartner Inc. expected tablets to see an explosion in sales over the next three years, selling 60 percent as many units as PCs by 2015.

The Gartner report expected the iPad will still have almost half the market by then.

Others are less optimistic. Canaccord Gentry estimates that iPads will account for 57 percent of all tablets sold this year. That figure was expected to decrease in the coming years. Apple’s share of the tablet market in 2010 was 82 percent, which declined to 65 percent last year.

Apple is reportedly preparing both new iPads for release this year. The DigiTimes technology news website expects the new iPad 3 to launch in March, with the iPad4 shipping in October.

Consumers still wary going into 2012

The Harris Poll has made its annual beginning-of-the-year assessment of the financial plans and sentiments of Americans, and it finds continued uneasiness. This is despite a recent spate of confidence polls that show at least mild improvement. However, a bright spot in the study is the finding that fewer consumers will be looking to decrease their household spending than last year.

The most general result concerned overall expectations for the economy in 2012. Almost half expect things to remain about the same – 47%, to be exact. Pessimists unfortunately outnumber optimists by a 29%-23% margin.

Looked at by age demographic, the older respondents were the most pessimistic. The mature 66+ crowd actually managed to be the most optimistic AND the most pessimistic. The chart below tells the tale. As a point of age reference, Echo Boomers are 18-34, Gen-Xers are 35-46, Boomers are 47-65 and Matures are 66+.

Expectations Echo GenX Boomer Mature Total
Improve 23 22 23 28 23
Stay the same 55 51 42 38 47
Get worse 22 27 35 34 29
Source: The Harris Poll

One thing is clear from the survey – the economic collapse experienced in 2008 has had a lasting impact on consumer money-handling habits. Gone are the days when revolving credit accounts and home refinancing kept stock moving off of American retail shelves and out of American warehouses. Consumers are still more apt to pay off rather than incur debt, and accumulating savings is much more top-of-mind than it was before the fall of 2008.

“There has been plenty of reporting on Americans’ financial concerns for the past several years,” commented THP as it scanned the downward trends. “However, looking at Americans’ current expectations for both their own finances as well as for the state of the nation, it seems that the bad news may not be over yet.”

The number we particularly like to see in the latest Harris survey is 45% — that is the percentage of respondents looking to cut overall household spending in 2012. We’d like to see it much lower, but it still beats the 49% of thrift-oriented respondents from the 2010 survey and is much better than the 55% in 2009.
The percentage of respondents looking to pay down debt, invest more in savings, cut up a credit card (or two or three), sock money away for retirement and invest in home improvement have all been trending down over the three year period.

Harris did note that the decrease in houses looking to cut expenses was a positive sign.

Here are the three year trends in a number of fiscal categories:

Fiscal action 2009% 2010% 2011%
Cut household spending 55 49 45
Pay down debt 45 41 39
Save more 42 40 36
Drop credit card(s) 24 22 16
Save for retirement 21 22 16
Home improvements 14 13 11
Invest more safely 9 8 5
Refinance mortgage 5 6 5
Open home equity credit 2 2 1
Other 6 6 5
Nothing different 16 18 23
Source: The Harris Poll

The 2011 results from the chart above were also provided by age demo. It should not come as a surprise that the Mature group results can almost be tossed – if members of this group have not made a few investments into retirement by now, for example, there isn’t a whole lot of time left to catch up – and indeed, very few cited this as a 2012 priority, and in almost all categories, they were far below the national average.

The middle two groups are more likely to cut spending and eliminate debt, while the younger set is more interested in filling up savings accounts. Here are the full results:

Fiscal action Echo GenX Boomer Mature
Cut household spending 42 49 49 38
Pay down debt 35 49 44 24
Save more 47 38 34 18
Drop credit card(s) 13 16 21 12
Save for retirement 15 18 21 5
Home improvements 8 9 15 9
Invest more safely 4 7 6 4
Refinance mortgage 3 9 4 2
Open home equity credit 0 1 1 1
Other 6 5 4 2
Nothing different 21 17 21 39
Source: The Harris Poll

Harris summed up its results, saying, “Americans continue to face difficult economic times and the New Year may not provide a totally clean slate financially, but there are some bright spots when Americans discuss their expectations. Fewer U.S. adults now say that they will cut back their household spending in the year ahead. This is positive news for the millions who rely on the retail, dining and entertainment industries, and may be small sign that Americans are ready to move on from the harsh times of the past several years.”

Netflix 15th most-watched U.S. TV “network.” Service has “more than twice the viewer hours of CNN, Discovery, MSNBC and BET, would be No. 2 in homes that subscribe to Netflix — second only to CBS.

According to an analysis of newly released figures by BTIG analyst Richard Greenfield, Netflix would be the 15th most-watched U.S. TV “network.” The video streaming service has “more than twice the viewer hours of CNN, Discovery, MSNBC and BET,” said Greenfield, who added it would be No. 2 in homes that subscribe to Netflix — second only to CBS.

His data is based on recent news from Netflix that its subscribers streamed more than 2 billion hours of TV shows and movies in Q4.

“Netflix must be eating into traditional TV viewing time,” Greenfield said “Netflix streaming usage is exploding and is far, far bigger than traditional media executives give it credit for. Netflix is actually number 15 with 666 million hours monthly or 2 billion per quarter — our prior analysis estimated number 25.”

Looking at Nielsen data for TV networks, Greenfield highlighted that after the top 15 channels, monthly viewing hours are below 500 million. “With an estimated 667 million hours of viewership per month in October, Netflix would rank as the 15th most-watched ‘network’,” he said. “Netflix had more hours of viewing in October than FX, HGTV and History…pretty amazing, given that Netflix is only in 21 million homes.”

However, Greenfield also said that looking at aggregate TV viewing in the 100 million pay TV homes, Netflix represents only 2.4% of total time spent watching: “While Netflix may be very popular in Netflix homes, it is rather meaningless when put into the context of total television viewing.”

Are Daily Deal Sites a Good Deal for Small Businesses?

A new report from Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research indicates that the majority of consumers who redeem prepaid vouchers already were customers of the brand or business that was offering the deal. For clothing and shoe stores, this number is as high as 80 percent, according to the report.

Meanwhile, more than half of the customers surveyed for the report, called “Myths And Truths About Daily Deals,” say they would have made a purchase regardless of having the coupon voucher.

Another big issue is exactly how many people are paying attention to these deal offers, especially over email. “While Groupon vaunts the size of its ‘subscriber base,’ all evidence points to the medium becoming less important,” says Forrester vice president and senior analyst Sucharita Mulpuru, who co-authored the report. “A significant portion of people who once subscribed to these emails no longer do, and many simply don’t want to because they have no need for more clutter in their inboxes.”

Builders, Realtors see signs of hope in Volusia-Flagler housing market

12/30/11

2012 highlights

Real estate professionals think 2012 will show a modest improvement from 2011. Here are some highlights:

– Foreclosure inventory could still be heavy for the next five years, but most people don’t foresee lenders releasing a “shadow inventory” and flooding the market.

– December has been better than usual, and homebuilders think that mild momentum will carry into the new year.

– Home inventory has plummeted in the Daytona Beach region compared to last year, falling 42 percent. Expect that to continue.

– Builders are seeing signs of life. One Volusia County builder expects to construct 45 to 50 homes in 2012, up from 34 in 2011 and 23 in 2010.

SOURCES: News-Journal research; Daytona Beach Area Association of Realtors

DAYTONA BEACH — After suffering through one of the worst economic downturns in modern memory, local home builders and real estate professionals foresee a modest turnaround in 2012.

It’s already started with a better-than-usual December, which traditionally is a slow time of year for new contracts.

The Volusia-Flagler housing market has been in shambles since 2007, when foreclosures overcame the area and home prices fell drastically. Flagler County has periodically had the highest number of foreclosure filings in the state, and Volusia County has been near the top.

While the inventory of homes for sale is still high, real estate professionals believe 2012 will improve, if only a bit.

“We are seeing a lot more people coming in, more than in the past three or four years,” said Luis Medeiros, president of Palm Coast-based custom builder New Coastal Homes.

“We just had three sales in December for next year starts,” he said. “For me, that’s great in the Palm Coast market.”

For the past couple of years, Medeiros has been building just three or four homes a year, so going into the year with three contracts is uplifting.

“The people looking to buy a home are looking at the short sales and bank-owned and not liking what’s available. They’re looking at a $150,000 home that needs work. But, for a little more they could get a new home with everything they want,” Medeiros said.

Even so, Karen Radcliff, president of the Flagler County Association of Realtors, said she expects foreclosures and short sale homes in the county to be “pretty heavy in the market for three to five years because we have job issues and unemployment issues.”

But the area’s foreclosure inventory isn’t as big as it was during the peak of 2008 and 2009, and she doesn’t expect a “shadow inventory” of foreclosed homes to overwhelm the market.

Flagler County has generally seen a drop in new foreclosures in 2011 compared to 2010, although new filings in November increased, according to the most recent data available from research group RealtyTrac.

Mark Dougherty, executive director of the Daytona Beach Area Association of Realtors, doesn’t predict any dramatic increase in residential sale prices, but thinks prices will start to flatten, barring a slew of foreclosed homes hitting the market.

“The bread and butter inventory, two- and three-bedroom single-family homes, those properties are probably going to stabilize,” he said. “And that’s the typical thing because there are way more of those than anything else.”

SIGNS OF IMPROVEMENT

Median residential sales prices for the Daytona Beach Area Association of Realtors fell more than 8 percent last month compared to November 2010, from $120,000 to $110,000. But two large indicators of improvement — inventory of homes for sale and pending sales — were much better.

There was an inventory of 2,443 homes for sale in November, a 42 percent drop from the 4,219 a year earlier, according to the Daytona Beach Realtors group. And pending sales, which measure signed real estate contracts, increased 70 percent, from 246 in November 2010 to 418 a year later.

West Volusia is also holding out hope for 2012.

Chris Bowley, planning and development services director for Deltona, said he’s seen an increase in building permit applications during the last three months. Most are for single-family houses built on vacant lots scattered throughout the city.

In the Live Oak Estates and Arbor Ridge subdivisions, though, there is some building going on and more is expected.

“During the downturn there wasn’t much activity there,” Bowley said of Live Oak Estates. “But now there’s new home construction. Same thing goes for Arbor Ridge.”

Bob Fitzsimmons with Gallery Homes of DeLand also is seeing a “more active winter.

“I’m working with three clients right now. That excites me because this is usually a slow time before mid-January, when things pick up again,” Fitzsimmons said.

Low land prices, down 50 to 60 percent from the peak period, and more buyers confident that the market has bottomed out, are driving the recent activity, Fitzsimmons said.

HIGH PRICED CONDOS GAIN

The condo market in 2011 reported strong gains in high-price sales. Scott Nieminen, a broker at Palm Coast-based Realty Executives and the 2010 president of the Flagler County Association of Realtors, expects a small appreciation in prices next year, started by an increase in higher-priced homes.

“Gated communities, golf courses, waterfront – those things have a tendency to see it first, but across the board it’ll be an improvement,” he said.

Jim Paytas, of Daytona Beach-based Paytas Homes, built 34 homes in East Volusia in 2011, up from 23 the previous year.

However, before the bust, Paytas Homes was building 100 houses a year.

“There is a renewed sense of urgency I’ve not seen since 2005. Prices have stabilized and buyers have to close on the lots now while prices are low and before they’re gone,” he said. “Following the recent trend, we could see 45 to 50 new homes in 2012. It’s not substantial, but better than what we’ve been doing.”

Universal Orlando and Legoland hit capacity yesterday; Islands of Adventure turns away customers again

So many people are in Central Florida to go to the theme parks this week that several hit capacity and closed their doors Wednesday to any more visitors.

WFTV’s Skywitness 9  flew over the parks, where crowds and lines of cars were visible. WFTV.com’s interactive traffic map showed heavy traffic over I-4 and other roads near Disney World, SeaWorld and Universal Studios.

Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom all had to turn guests away because so many people were inside.

According to independent Disney World travel sitetouringplans.com, Wednesday’s crowd levels are in the top 10 percent of all days all year, with each park forecasted between 9.7 and 10 on a 10-point scale –with hour-plus waits at many of the most popular attractions.

Universal Orlando also had to refuse people from getting into Islands of Adventure, and the new Legoland in Winter Haven hit capacity as well, posting on their Facebook page, “In order to ensure guests of LEGOLAND Florida have an enjoyable day with their families, the park is no longer admitting additional guests.”

300+ million users now access Facebook via mobile apps

Facebook is being boosted by app use, with it being reported in the last couple of days the world’s largest social network saw monthly active users of its mobile apps pass 300 million users.

Enders Analysis analyst Benedict Evans writes that the figure is correct as of 27 December, with iOS and Android applications accounting for more than two-thirds of mobile app use on the social network.

Evans uses Facebook’s own mobile data, comparing iOS, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone, Symbian and featurephone use, to the network’s 800 million total users and 350 million mobile users, which the company announced at the end of September.

fb Report: 300 million users now access Facebook via its mobile apps

Evans writes:

Quite unsurprisingly, these are dominated by the two platforms that have traction, iOS and Android. As Techcrunch pointed out a few days ago, Android has now passed iOS in DAUs, though Apple has passed the round 100m MAU figure.

Windows Phone remains quite insignificant, though that may change next year as Nokia’s efforts come fully on stream. Meanwhile around 70% of RIM’s 70m active users have installed the Facebook app. That’s a high penetration rate (it comes to around 50% for Android and iOS) on what is supposed to be a corporate product, pointing to RIM’s strength in messaging, but also to the way that the mix is shifting away from business customers and towards emerging markets and teenaged girls (in the UK at least).

From his breakdown, Evans deduces that 70% of mobile users and more than 30% of all users used apps to access Facebook.

Facebook has worked hard to rebuild its mobile websites, partnering with operators worldwide to offer free access to its service. The company also introduced social app discovery on its mobile website, making it almost as feature-rich as its apps.

Apple Devices Dominate Mobile Online Shopping

The holiday season came a little early for Apple this year, but it’s not as if the company didn’t already know what it was getting. New statistics released this week from retail analysis firm RichRelevance indicate that iPads and iPhones are the top mobile devices that consumers use to make retail purchases.

By just how much, you ask? According to RichRelevance, 92 percent of all “online non-desktop sales” came from an iOS-friendly device during December. Better still (for retailers), those using their iPhones, iPads, and other iOS devices to shop online spent more, on average, than those shopping via other mobile platforms like Android: $123 for iOS devices versus $101 for Android devices. Even though desktop-based sales crushed mobile-based purchases in volume, the average order value of these purchases only reached $87.

“The numbers across our retailing partners sites demonstrate just how powerful the iOS platform is enabling mobile web shopping and, while still below 5 percent in total conversion, mobile traffic’s doubling in eight months is a trend we only see accelerating,” said David Selinger, RichRelevance CEO, in a statement.

In total, mobile device-based shopping hit around 3 percent of all online sales analyzed by RichRelevance—more than 3.4 billion sales in total, stretched across the months of April to mid-December. Translated out to raw dollars, mobile-based sales jumped from 1.87 percent of all U.S. online retail spending in April to 3.74 percent in December.

As mentioned, this news should come as little surprise to Apple, as the company has already seen snapshots of iOS mobile shopping dominance. Take, for example, Black Friday: According to IBM, the iPhone and iPad ranked first and second for consumer shopping on mobile devices on Black Friday itself (5.4 percent and 4.8 percent, with Android-based devices taking up third at 4.1 percent). That totals just over 10 percent of the mobile shopping market for Apple’s flagship products.

IBM also indicated that the specific Black Friday conversion rates for the iPad—a comparison of online visits versus purchases made—were double those of the mobile device category as a whole (4.6 percent to 2.8 percent.)

Even though Android enjoys a healthy lead in overall global market share for smartphones versus the iPhone—no doubt a result of Android’s ability to exist on multiple devices versus the single iOS smartphone product line—it seems that iOS users continue to carry the day for mobile shopping.

The Remarkable Evolution of Black Friday

Although the term first originated in the 1960s, it wasn’t until 2005 that Black Friday consistently became the busiest shopping day of the year. It’s nearly impossible to turn on your television on Thanksgiving Day without finding multiple news reports about shoppers camping out in the cold, in an attempt to be first-in-line for upcoming sales. A few explanations for this might be that it’s the official start of the countdown to the Christmas holiday. Many shoppers with long gift lists likely chose that day originally, just to get a head start on holiday shopping.

Furthermore, employers often give their employees the day after Thanksgiving off from work, which significantly increases the potential number of shoppers for that day. Once the holiday took off, retailers like Sears, Aeropostale, and Kmart began their holiday sales as early as Thanksgiving morning. The popular retail store Forever21 also took an unconventional approach to the holiday by beginning its sales on Friday and running into 2:00 a.m. Saturday morning. With the recent popularity of online shopping, the Black Friday holiday has extended even further for companies all across the globe.

Last year, the National Retail Federation (NRF) reported that 212 million individuals participated in the Black Friday shopping extravaganza, spending an estimated $45 billion, or $365 per person. This figure rose 6% compared with that of 2009. The increasing popularity and availability of online shopping can take some of the credit for these rising statistics, since an NRF study revealed that 33.6% of consumers reported to shop online on Black Friday in 2010. The NRF has taken into account a survey of opinions to determine the outcome of Black Friday for 2011. It is predicted that sales for the holiday season will rise into the low single digits; however, Internet-based sales, as opposed to in-store sales, are expected to take “a bigger share of the total retailing pie.”

The growth in online shopping popularity is likely attributed to modern advances in technology, which makes online shopping more accessible than ever for consumers. Shoppers can purchase items right from their tablets and mobile devices, and ensure the lowest price through the use of multiple Black Friday-specific apps. Since the shopper has the advantage of comparing prices right from their mobile devices in the store, retailers are offering especially competitive prices this year to ensure a successful sales holiday.

Black Friday cameras, as usual, will likely experience hot sales, with the promotion of a few amazing deals on popular Sony and Canon brand cameras. Look for deals posted on the companies’ Facebook pages and Twitter feeds. Deals like these are commonplace on Black Friday this year, and with the introduction of tablets and mobile apps, shoppers can verify that the discounted price truly is a steal.

Social media and cold calling

Theresa Merrill: Cold-calling is thriving —thanks in part to social media.

The parallels are impressive. Effective cold calling is about engaging the prospect with a valid business reason. Social media is about brands trying to make meaningful connections with consumers. All contact with a new business prospects is cold whether it’s via social media, networking, email or the phone.

Even with Inbound Marketing, there is always going to be a need for prospecting to develop new customers. When properly executed cold calling is an integral part of any seller’s repertoire. Leverage social media sites to support the most important aspect of cold calling—targeting and preparation.

Choose your prospects wisely. Quality of prospects equals quality of return.

Only proceed when you’ve uncovered a need/problem for which you can provide a benefit/solution.

Intelligence gathering is available across many platforms. Set-up Google alerts for target accounts. Identify news blogs/apps that cover their industry. The benefit of this is two-fold. You can warm the prospect up by sending an email mentioning something relevant to their business, while gaining knowledge on what’s key to their success. Don’t just visit their website, but immerse yourself in the blogs and press releases. Blogs are open windows into the philosophy and focus of the company. Comment on them. Share them on other social media/network sites. “Like” their company Facebook page. Follow them on Twitter. If you don’t have a LinkedIn profile, set one up immediately. LinkedIn suffers from an identity crisis—it’s not just for job seekers. It’s an invaluable source of information on individuals and their companies. Build your connections, but even without many connections there’s much to gain. Join LinkedIn Groups—there’s a group for every type of business and business concept. Don’t limit yourself to ones in your industry, but join ones that your target accounts might belong to. Ask engaging questions and use this as an opportunity to showcase your business expertise.

Remember social media is about “giving to get.” Share your beliefs and people that value them will connect. Follow companies on LinkedIn. You’ll see who in your network is connected to them and gain access to activity updates that provide valuable information about internal and strategic moves. Follow individuals, you’ve targeted.

Once armed with the knowledge as to what benefit you can provide this prospect, send an InMail or ask a mutual connection to introduce you. InMail is an under-utilized tool on LinkedIn, due to a fear of intruding on someone’s privacy (cold calling).

With all the talk about Social media being the new cold calling, one thing holds true for both—executed poorly they can be a enormous waste of time. By doing your homework, proceeding with a plan and integrating the two platforms into your total marketing mix they will help you, and your sellers, achieve your new business goals.

GOOD NEWS FOR BROADCAST TV

Big Four Networks are up in viewers

Adults 18-49 rating is up 2 percent for the new season

Dec 7, 2011

The Big Four networks are heading into January with a chance to do something they have not done in more than a decade: Grow their collective audience.

Season to date, ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC’s combined rating among adults 18-49 is up very slightly over last year.

If the networks can hold onto those gains through May, it would mark the first time since the 1999-2000 season that their ratings have grown year to year.

Eleven weeks into the season the Big Four together are averaging a 12.1 rating, according to Nielsen, up 2 percent over an 11.9 at this point last year.

The bulk of those gains have come from Fox, which is tied for first place with CBS this fall with a 3.4 rating, 13 percent better than the same point last year.

CBS is also up 3 percent. ABC is even to last year with a 2.8, good for third place.

NBC is the only network to see ratings declines, and even with all its woes, it’s only down 7 percent, from a 2.8 to a 2.6.

Of course there are still five more months in this season, and there’s no guarantee the networks will be able to hold their current ratings.

NBC will drop come February, once “Sunday Night Football” goes off the air, but those losses could be offset somewhat by Fox, which usually surges once “American Idol” returns in January.

ABC and CBS have been steady all fall, and both have at least one highly anticipated drama slated for midseason, though buzz doesn’t always translate into ratings.

The last time Big Four ratings rose for the season, there was an obvious reason: The huge success of “Who Wants to be a Millionaire,” the smash hit that lifted ABC by 8 percent over the previous season.

This year it’s no one show that has pushed up ratings, though CBS’s “2 Broke Girls,” Fox’s “New Girl” and ABC’s “Once Upon a Time” are doing better than any of last year’s new shows.

Instead it’s strong ratings from the World Series and favorable comparisons to a weak fall 2010 that have led to the gains.

***
In broadcast ratings for the week ended Dec. 4:

Among adults 18-49, Fox was first for the week with a 3.0 average rating and an 8 share, followed by NBC at 2.3/6, CBS at 2.2/6, ABC at 1.8/5, Univision at 1.4/4, Telemundo and CW at 0.6/2, ION and TeleFutura at 0.3/1 and Azteca and Estrella at 0.1/0.

Top five English-language Big Five shows (18-49s): Tie-1. Fox’s “The OT” and NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” 7.4; 3. CBS’s “Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show” 4.6; 4. NBC’s “Football Night in America” 4.1; Tie-5. CBS’s “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and Fox’s “The Simpsons” 4.0.

Top five English-language Big Five shows (total viewers): 1. Fox’s “The OT” 19.39 million; 2. NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” 18.90 million; 3. CBS’s “NCIS” 13.37 million; 4. CBS’s “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” 12.64 million; 5. CBS’s “60 Minutes” 11.88 million.

Top five time-shifted English-language Big Five shows (18-49s, by Live+SD versus Live+7 playback, week ended Nov. 20): 1. ABC’s “Modern Family” 2.4 increase (up 42.9 percent); 2. Fox’s “House” 1.6 increase (up 64.0 percent); 3. CBS’s “The Big Bang Theory” 1.5 increase (up 28.3 percent); 4. CBS’s “Two and a Half Men” 1.5 increase (up 27.8 percent); 5. Fox’s “New Girl” 1.5 increase (up 42.9 percent).

Show on the rise: Fox’s “The X Factor,” Wednesday 8 p.m. The episode averaged a 3.7 among 18-49s, up 15 percent from the previous week’s edition (which aired on Tuesday due to Thanksgiving).

Show on the decline: ABC’s “You Deserve It,” Monday 9 p.m. The limited-run game show posted a 1.4 in 18-49s, down 18 percent from a 1.7 the previous week.

U.S. auto industry recovering faster than anticipated; Automakers headed toward best annual performance in three years

The U.S. auto industry is seeing demand recover faster than anticipated, with carmakers headed toward their best annual performance in three years at sales of 12.8 million vehicles.

Consumers entered this year’s final month demanding models ranging from big pickups to luxury sedans to fuel-sipping hybrids after pushing November’s sales to the fastest monthly pace since the government’s “cash for clunkers” trade-in program in August 2009. General Motors Co. (GM) and Chrysler Group LLC, two years removed from bankruptcy, have been taking share from disaster-stricken Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co.

U.S. buyers are replacing their cars after delaying new- vehicle purchases as long as possible, and they are snapping up F-Series pickups and Prius hybrids as consumer confidence in the economy jumps. That means the automakers haven’t had to resort to fire-sale prices to goose demand.

“The industry has managed production levels to where demand was this year and didn’t get ahead of itself,” said Jeff Schuster, a Troy, Michigan-based analyst for LMC Automotive. “With inventory now being replenished, it’s not a situation where we’re seeing too much production or seeing heavy incentive use.”

Spending on marketing promotions averaged less than $2,700 a vehicle throughout the industry, down about $74 from a year ago, according to LMC and J.D. Power & Associates.

Consumer confidence surged in November by the most in more than eight years, and the portion of consumers planning to buy a new vehicle within six months climbed to the highest since April, data from The Conference Board showed Nov. 29.

The average age of cars and light trucks on the road today has risen to 10.6 years old, Jenny Lin, Ford’s senior U.S. economist, said on a Dec. 1 conference call.

“We are going to see more and more of this pent-up demand realized,” Lin told analysts and reporters.

She cited declining gasoline prices for providing “relief” to consumers, who responded with purchases of sport- utility vehicles and pickups. Sales of Dearborn, Michigan-based Ford’s SUVs climbed 29 percent and F-Series trucks increased 24 percent.

GM’s deliveries of Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups surged 34 percent and 22 percent, respectively, and Chrysler’s Jeep brand sales soared 50 percent. The average price for unleaded gasoline has dropped 71 cents, or 18 percent, to $3.28 a gallon on Dec. 3 from its peak this year on May 4, according to AAA, the nation’s largest motoring group.

Consumer demand was broad-based, as Toyota (7203) and Honda boosted deliveries of smaller vehicles, making up for production lost after March 11’s tsunami and earthquake inJapan and more recent floods in Thailand disrupted their supply chains.

Toyota, Asia’s largest automaker, reported a 49 percent increase in sales of Prius hybrid models, including its new wagon variant. Deliveries of its redesigned Camry sedan climbed 13 percent to 23,440, securing its position as the top-selling car line ahead of Nissan Motor Co.’s Altima and the Ford Fusion. Toyota slashed discounts on cars by 32 percent last month, according to researcher Autodata Corp.

Honda, the only automaker among the 10 largest that didn’t have a companywide U.S. sales increase for November, still managed to boost deliveries of Civic cars by 3.4 percent. That’s the first increase since April for the Tokyo-based automaker’s top-selling model.

Among luxury brands, Daimler AG (DAI)’s November deliveries jumped 47 percent, as the brand’s year-to-date sales closed to within 1,600 of Bayerische Motoren Werke AG (BMW)’s BMW line. The two German brands are vying to replace Toyota’s Lexus, the annual luxury champ for the last 11 years, which also lost production to the March disasters.

Industry sales accelerated to a 13.6 million seasonally adjusted annualized rate, according toWoodcliff Lake, New Jersey-based Autodata. The pace exceeded the 13.4 million average estimate of 14 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg.

“The recovery is showing a little bit more resiliency than what people feared,” Paul Ballew, chief economist for Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co., said in a Dec. 1 phone interview. “Vehicle sales are inching their way back up to 14-, and then eventually 15- and 16-million units.”

If December matches November’s 14 percent increase in industrywide deliveries, auto sales will finish the year at 12.8 million cars and light trucks. That would exceed the 12.7 million sales total that was the average estimate of 18 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg in August.

Jefferies Inc., IHS Automotive and TrueCar.com are now considering increases to their estimates for 2012 deliveries, according to analysts at the three firms.

Auto sales may total 13.5 million light vehicles next year, the average of 14 estimates compiled by Bloomberg. The industry delivered 11.6 million cars and light trucks last year, up from a 27-year low of 10.4 million in 2009.

The seasonally adjusted annualized rate for auto sales “appears to be building to a 2011 exit run-rate close to 14 million without a full Japanese supply recovery and bad economic news cycle,” Adam Jonas, a New York-based analyst for Morgan Stanley, wrote in a Dec. 1 research note. The momentum “bodes well for 2012,” he said.

Apple’s Siri Could Destroy Local SEO

It’s worth taking the time to learn more about the iPhone 4S’s digital ambassador Siri , as it could represent the future direction of local search engine optimization.

On the surface, Siri — the voice recognition app that allows iPhone users to control their cell phones verbally — seems like a cool party trick, sending text messages from your spoken instructions, checking the weather and setting up calendar reminders. But does this added functionality really mean the end of traditional local SEO as some experts are predicting?

In some ways, yes. The real impact of Siri isn’t just that she acts like a personal assistant. The potentially huge ramifications for local SEO come from the depth of information Siri is able to access and the range of actions she can perform.

For example, Siri can call you a cab after a night on the town by automatically processing information about local cab companies in response to the query, “Call me a cab.” Automating the search process means you never look up “cab companies in your area” in the search engines, avoiding the traditional search engine results pages and pay-per-click advertisements entirely, therefore limiting their importance and influence.


Little is known about how exactly Siri collects and processes information, although it’s reasonable to assume that the program is drawing on well-cultivated public data sources, including Google Places, Yelp and similar sites. If Siri is eventually able to pull information from third party apps — as many predict she will be — she could effectively eliminate traffic to some traditional websites. As an example, automatically checking people in to Facebook places eliminates the need to visit those places’ websites.

 And when you take into consideration that the iPhone 4S has become the company’s best-selling iPhone in just a few short weeks, due in large part to the innovative Siri technology, localbusiness owners should take note of this trend and invest time in optimizing their sites for mobile discovery.

Here’s what you need to do to make your business website as accessible as possible to Siri and related voice recognition tools:

Optimize your website for mobile. This isn’t new advice, as the rules for mobile SEO — and the idea of local SEO in general — have been around for years. But as some sources estimate that 30 percent of all searches could include a local component by 2015, it’s more important than ever to make local SEO a priority for your business.



In addition to thinking about how consumers access your website while on the go, consider whether or not Siri can access important information about your business as well. Here’s what you need to do:

  • Add a mobile site template. Having users land on a mobile version of your website willmake them much happier, and it isn’t difficult to do, as mobile-ready themes already exist for publishing platforms including WordPress, Joomla and Drupal.
  • Enhance your local SEO. Prominently feature your physical address, local phone number and operating hours on the home page of your site for maximum local SEO benefits.
  • Remove data obstructions. Yes, Flash graphics and Javascript are already “no-no’s” when it comes to mobile optimization, but also consider how easily Siri can access the information on your site. Burying pertinent information in PDFs and sub-pages could put your site at a disadvantage.

Enhance your digital presence. It’s no longer enough to simply set up profiles on Facebook and Twitter and call it a day. Instead, establish a profile on any of the following directories and review sites and encourage customers to rate your business there for maximum exposure.

• Foursquare
• Savings.com
• Retailmenot
• Judy’s Book
• Citysearch
• Superpages
• Yellow Pages

To determine which of these options are the best fit for your business, do a quick search to see which business sites in your geographic area and industry are ranking well in Google and create profiles on whichever of the following sites they’re using.

Implement microdata. If you’re savvy in the ways of SEO or have an IT manager who is you’ll want to consider adding “schema tags” to your website. Schema tags allow your site to incorporate relevant microdata — local business, address, telephone and open hours, for example — that could help Siri and the search engines process important information about your site more quickly.

While Siri on her own doesn’t necessarily spell the end of local SEO it’s worth taking note of the popularity this mobile data management system has gained in a relatively short period of time. As Siri evolves and other operating systems adopt similar technology, the businesses that benefit most will be those that best understand how their customers interact in a mobile environment and optimize their sites to engage them.

 

40% of Tablet /Smartphone Owners Use Them While Watching TV Almost 20% searched for product information, coupons or deals while watching TV

American consumers are increasingly connected and our recent survey shows they are increasingly multitasking when it comes to multimedia.

Roughly 40 percent of tablet and smartphone owners in the U.S. used their devices daily while watching TV, while only 14 percent of eReader owners said they watched TV while using their device every day.

And what are smartphone and tablet owners doing while watching TV? Checking email. Email was the top activity for both men and women during television programming and commercial breaks. In addition, women reported engaging in social networking more than men, while men checked sports scores more often.

q2_2011-simultaneous-usage-cm11-3943

Advertisers should take note that while viewers may be splitting attention between two (or three!) screens, 19 percent of smartphone and tablet owners searched for product information and 13 percent searched for coupons or deals while the television was on.

Getting a Clearer Picture of the Digital Consumer and Your Customer

Most marketers and advertisers still don’t have a clear view of customer behavior. For every metric related to click-throughs, conversions and engagement, much of the data does not present a unified view of the customer. Instead, decisions are being made based on separate and distinct actions.

Consider the number of touchpoints a consumer has with a typical brand. Are they finding information or interacting with the brand on its website, via its Facebook page, on its Twitter feed, using a Groupon deal or through a mobile app? What about an in-person visit to a store or a call to customer service?

The challenge for marketers is not to track this data—they already do—but to aggregate it so they get a consistent view across all online channels and also account for offline behavior.

In fact, many marketers who believe they’re making decisions based on a unified view don’t
really have one. A survey from IBM found that among marketers that said they had an integrated view of customer behavior, only 30 percent were viewing mobile behavior and just 34 percent were looking at social media behavior.

The industry should continue to go toward enhanced audience data,  Offline data should begin to play a bigger role.”

No place is this holistic view more crucial than the retail industry, where customers may exist across almost every online and offline channel. In her keynote at the Shop.org Annual Summit in Boston, Stephanie Tilenius, VP of commerce for Google, said that for retail, “The lines between online and offline are going to blur and become one…The addition of the smartphone and new technology like geo-targeting and near field communication technology is going to enable new dialogue between retailers and their customers—much more of a one-on-one dialogue.”

The growth of smartphones and tablets is further muddying how advertisers and brands reach consumers, since much of the action mobile users take is done in an “offline” environment. For example, Nielsen found that roughly 40 percent of smartphone and tablet owners use their devices daily while watching TV. What are they doing? Checking email was the top activity, followed by surfing for unrelated information, and visiting social networks. Interestingly, these actions were done consistently during programs and during commercials.

Which is one reason apps related to TV shows have seen solid results on mobile devices. HBO, for example, created a rich media mobile ad campaign to promote the premiere of the third season of True Blood. The ad, developed by Medialets, was placed in iPhone apps from Flixster, Variety and inventory on Jumptap’s mobile ad network. The apps were populated with bloody fingerprints, which led to the messaging for the show. Both auto-expand and user-expand versions of the ad ran, and despite it being an interruptive experience, 7.9 percent of users watched the video in the auto-expand version, and 2.9 percent who received the user-initiated ad watched the trailer.

Watching buyer behavior

A clearer picture of how mobile and offline behaviors are beginning to merge comes from Tesco, the global supermarket chain. In South Korea, Tesco rolled out a virtual supermarket in the Seoul subway system. The pillars and screen doors of the Sonreung station became virtual displays of more than 500 of the market’s most popular products, including milk, apples, pet food and stationery. Commuters could scan the QR code beneath the desired item into their smartphones and the items would be delivered directly to their homes.

In fact, buying behavior is not just a multichannel issue, but the full decision-making process typically crosses between online and offline resources. A 2011 analysis that examines consumer behavior during the purchase path;  Smart consumers, they note, move frequently between online and offline options during research, decision-making and purchase.

Consider, for example, what consumers told them about shopping for clothing and footwear. Since it is mostly about look and feel, “going to a store to look at products and try them on is the most helpful thing people do.” However, they will go to the manufacturer’s website to see what is available, and once a purchase decision is made, they will use a price comparison engine to get the best price. Issues such as “speaking to specialized sales personnel” have lost favor, since many customers feel they have more expertise than the staff, they noted.

Other companies are looking to move offline behavior online in an effort to get a clearer measure of what customers are doing. It’s old hat for stores to ask for a customer’s email address at the moment of sale, or to have a place for customers to sign up for special offers. Today, these same stores are turning to mobile devices to empower their customers to share their experiences because these engagements can be tracked. “The mobile device is increasingly blurring the lines between online and offline integration,” said the CEO of a frozen dessert chain. “We are actively working on innovating mobile technologies that will allow our customer to engage online as part of the in-store experience.”

At Lucky Brand Jeans, online and offline are integrated to provide more of a unified view. The chain operates more than 170 retail stores across the U.S., and it also operates a well-trafficked webstore. Yet its customers exhibit different behaviors depending on which segment they come from, according to Charlie Cole, Lucky Brand. The company has an email list of 1.1 million names, of which more than half are verified Lucky Brand purchasers. Cole notes that 500,000 of the names are from people who typically buy in-store, and 100,000 buy only online. Offers vary depending on that buying behavior–it would be silly to tempt an in-store buyer with free shipping, for example. “There’s surprisingly little cross-over,” Cole says. “People are creatures of habit. I don’t want to pound them with offers [that are not appropriate].”

In-store customers can be notified of specials via email, and on the flip side, Lucky Brand also wants to be sure to have in-store offers that can be delivered in-person to online buyers. Lucky Brand is able to identify online customers if they make a purchase in a brick-and-mortar store (based on CRM data), and can provide them with offers that can be redeemed online at the point of sale. “We have some online exclusives such as shoes and we will give an offer such as free shipping at the point of register to shop for those exclusives online,” Cole says. The key, he notes, is to maximize the value and service given to these cross-channel customers, who are Lucky Brand’s most valuable.

Lucky Brand also tries to segment its offers based on other online and offline behavior metrics. For example, customers that buy its jeans at full price behave quite differently from those who only respond to discounts. The company is willing to retarget full price shoppers who have visted its site, but does not do this when a person is identified as a discount purchaser. “It’s really about pushing someone across the finish line,” says Cole.

Ultimately, it all may come down to adapting Web analytics to a multichannel world. Marketers will need to think about how they are tracking offline behavior and how those actions can be incorporated into online systems, and vice versa.

Shift in future TV habits as content goes cross-platform

 

A new study finds 54% of broadband Internet users watch TV content streamed or on an alternative platform weekly.  Non-traditional viewing now accounts for 10.8 hours a month, or 7% of total viewing time, with 149.4 hours still dedicated to traditional TV.

Horowitz Associates’ Multiplatform Content & Services 2011 says 18-34 year-olds spend substantially more time with TV content across all platforms.  Incidence of non-traditional TV viewing is higher among young adult broadband Internet users, with three-quarters (74%) of 18-34 year-olds doing so weekly— accounting for 10% of their total viewing time.  Broadband users 18-34 who watch on non-traditional platforms also spend more time with traditional TV, reporting an average of 167.7 monthly viewing hours—18+ hours more than average.

On non-traditional platforms, YouTube remains the most popular destination.  Study findings suggest, however, that TV brands developing a strong online and mobile presence can translate their success to new platforms.  ESPN is the most frequently mentioned destination for sports on the PC/laptop and on mobile devices.  CNN (closely followed by YouTube) is the main destination for news, as is HBO/HBO GO for those who view premium TV content.

As business and revenue models for non-traditional platforms evolve, the study suggests an increase in customers’ receptivity to online advertising.  Among broadband Internet users, self-reported incidence of clicking on banner and pop up ads increased by 127% since last year.

Content is content, and whomever owns it is going to get eyeballs and ad support for it, regardless of the way it is distributed. Many of the spots created for traditional TV are the same spots that roll into mobile and online TV programming. The money still gets spent on the traditional network and production company content holders, many of which are current networks that have migrated programming online. The losers in this migration may well be the cable operators and satellite companies from folks cutting the cord. For instance, Time Warner Cable just lost 128,000 video subscribers in its residential services in Q3.

Study : Baby Boomers set to downshift

LifeGoesStrong.com and the Associated Press collaborated on another study that looked at housing and living preferences of Baby Boomers as they transition from parents with live-in children to empty-nesters.
One key finding of the study is that a wide majority, almost three out of four Boomers in fact, are far more likely to base decisions on where to live not on finding a hospitable retirement or older-person enclave, but rather on the proximity of the location to friends and family.

The bottom line is that only 23% expect to move out of town for retirement purposes, and only 13% expect that move to include crossing a state line.

However, that doesn’t mean the Boomers will be staying put – only 40% are looking to ride out their golden years in the same domicile in which they raised their family.

“It’s easy to understand why mid-lifers are interested in being near family and staying close to home during retirement,” said Barbara Corcoran, prominent real estate entrepreneur and newly appointed guest contributor to LifeGoesStrong.com. “It’s also important to note that most boomers currently live in a suburb, and that group is more likely to have lost money on real estate since the economic downturn began. But whether or not someone was directly impacted, the recession makes all of us more aware of the importance and comfort of a close family circle, and the value of strong home roots.”

The study found that wherever they go, and whether they buy or rent, many Boomers will be taking into account the proximity of medical care, shopping and other services.

Here are priorities of Boomers who expect to move:
* A smaller home (43%)
* An area with a different climate (30%)
* A more affordable home (25%)
* To be closer to family (15%)
* To be in a retirement community (12%)

Those that will be “fixing up the empty nest” have their own priorities – and of course many have already seen their children move out and have taken their priorities and acted upon them. Here’s a breakdown of plans for newly-emptied spaces:
* Guest bedrooms (58%)
* Home offices (39%)
* Craft rooms (28%)
* Entertainment rooms (15%)

“Given the recent housing market crunch, many boomers are recognizing they may be staying put in their current home into their retirement years,” said Corcoran. “Clearly, they’re already thinking about how to make the best possible use of the space they have. The responses in this poll show that most ’empty nest’ remodeling corresponds to a natural shift in life stages and the priorities that change as our lives do.”

The Boomer generation came of age in a turbulent time – anybody remember the struggle between hippies and hardhats to determine the direction of the nation back in the late 1960s? That wasn’t the only thing going on of course, but in a lot of ways we seem to be right back there, as Occupy Wall Street has come together in opposition to the Tea Party.

One thing is for sure – the Boomers are still here in numbers too big to ignore – broadcasters need to be on top of how Boomers are thinking, living and consuming in their own neck of the woods – and somebody in the market is going to have to learn how to make a living advertising to this group as it ages out of the old advertising agency sweet spot that caps off at 54.

Google to Marketers: Get Better at Mobile search growth rates rivaling those on desktop

Google, which recently shared some big numbers from its mobile advertising business, has some advice for marketers hoping to join in its success: make your mobile presence presentable, now.

“Businesses need to be ready for mobile as soon as they can, particularly this holiday season,” said Surojit Chatterjee, Google’s lead product manager for mobile search ads. “You need to have a mobile site irrespective of whether you think people will actually make purchases from it. How good your site looks on mobile determines how people think about your business.”

Even though mobile advertising is still in early days, he said, mobile search volume is growing at a rapid clip. Over the past two years, Google has seen mobile search queriesgrow fivefold—a growth rate he compared to the early days ofdesktop search.

According to research firm Forrester, while 13 percent of the U.S. population searched with a mobile device in 2010 (90 percent with Google), mobile searchers will account for 28 percent of the U.S. population by 2015.

Early experiences now can have lasting consequences, Chatterjee said. Citing analysis from Gomez, another research firm, he said that 60 percent of users indicated they would be unlikely to return to a mobile site if they had trouble accessing it once and 40 percent said they would actually visit a competitor’s site. Beyond that, 63 percent said they would be less likely to buy from the same company through other channels (online or in the store).

“Users are looking at the mobile site to make conclusions about the business as a whole,” Chatterjee said.

Given the increasing number of smartphone users, he said as the holidays approach it will be ever more likely that consumers will try to reach marketers on the go.

This holiday season, Google expects that 44 percent of total searches for last minute gifts and store locator terms will be from mobile devices.

While Google has a clear lead in search now (on mobile and desktop), some industry watchers have wondered whether the search giant can maintain its top position as more consumers transition to mobile devices.

Its earnings report earlier this month, however, gave Wall Street a reason to have some confidence in CEO Larry Page’s belief that mobile search could be as big for Google (if not bigger) than desktop search.

In a rare move, the company broke out revenue from mobile advertising and said it was on track to bank more than $2.5 billion in that category in the coming year, and grew twofold in the last year.

Chatterjee said its success comes from building specifically for the new medium and catering to user behavior on the platform. For example, leveraging research that users tend to act more quickly after a mobile search, Google recently launched new ad formats that let users download apps from a mobile ad or reach a specific destination with a mobile app they already have on their phone.

A user searching for a pair of boots from her mobile phone, for example, can now go directly from an ad to a shopping app on her phone, so that she can more easily complete a purchase.

Other mobile features capitalize on the interest in local information—according to Google, 40 percent of mobile searches on Google are related to location. Two years ago, the company released a click-to-call feature that lets smartphone users call a business directly from an ad. This month, Google announced that proximity to a business would be a factor in mobile search ads ranking.

“We are building specifically for the medium,” Chatterjee said. “We are really, as an industry, speaking to the mobile user and taking into the account the signals we have on mobile phones, the constraints on mobile phones and the user behavior trends on mobile phones.”

Online advertising becoming as important as spot TV

According to Q3 2011 research from media buying solutions provider STRATA, clients are becoming just as focused on digital media as they are on spot TV. US ad agencies reported 34% of clients were thinking most about online advertising in Q3, compared with 24% the previous quarter. Meanwhile, the number of clients whose primary focus was on spot TV dropped from 41% to an almost-even 35%.

The online marketing tactics in use by the agencies surveyed did not change much, with online display, search and social media coming out on top, their usage rates stable from quarter to quarter. On social media, similarly, priorities remained the same, with Facebook, YouTube and Twitter the clear leaders, though LinkedIn, in fourth position, gained ground.

The number of agencies purchasing mobile advertising for their clients also stayed relatively stable, at 23%, but the types of ads they were creating began to change. In Q3, display advertising took an even larger lead over SMS. More than half of agencies said they are now creating more mobile display ads for their clients than other mobile formats, compared to just 16% of agencies that are still mostly creating SMS ads.

The mobile devices being targeted by those ads were changing, too. Agencies cut their interest in BlackBerry by half between Q2 and Q3, according to STRATA. Still, Android-targeted efforts lagged behind iOS-focused ones.

eMarketer forecasts display will take 33% of mobile ad dollars in 2012, pushing it ahead of SMS and even with mobile search spending. It also estimates that the iPhone will lose its spot as the No. 1 smartphone in America by the end of this year, when Android’s share will far surpass it.

3 myths about flyers,freebies and giveaways

Handouts, giveaways, and freebies are classic word of mouth triggers — something that inspires someone to tell a friend about you. But most aren’t worth talking about. When creating yours, here are three myths to keep in mind:

1. It’s about sales, sales, sales!

A great handout is designed to get shared, not to hit people over the head with a salesy message. You want to avoid being the classic Mitch Hedberg joke: “When someone hands you a flyer, it’s like they’re saying, ‘Here, you throw this away.'” Don’t bother creating a handout until you have a good answer to the question, “What about this would make someone want to share it with a friend?”

2. Everyone loves our logo

It’s true, for some iconic brands, fans go out of their way to wear their logos like tribal badges. But, unless you’ve earned the following of Apple, Harley, or Nike, you’re probably not quite there yet. Take another look at your design and see if there’s a chance to make your branding a little more subtle — and as a result, a much more usable word of mouth trigger.

3. Nobody keeps them anyways

Here’s a self-fulfilling prophecy: Since nobody keeps the swag and handouts we give away, we should make them as cheap as possible. But we’re betting you’ve got something now — a great reusable bag, a poster, or an impressive case study or white paper — that you’ve saved and used to spread word of mouth. It’s like any form of marketing: If you’re not going to make it fantastic, don’t bother.

TV, online to remain strong in 2012 slowdown

MagnaGlobal has released its updated 2011 US Media Owners Advertising Revenue Forecast, which remains unchanged at 1.6% growth, including the impact of political and Olympics (P&O) advertising. Magna still expects media suppliers to generate $173.5 billion of ad revenues in 2011. However, due to persistent weakness in the US economy, the 2012 growth forecast has been revised down from 4.8% to 2.9%–including P&O.  A slowdown in real personal consumption expenditures, manufacturing activity, and ongoing problems in the labor and housing markets all contribute to the revised outlook.

Excluding direct marketing components, the revenue growth of core media categories is estimated at 2.9% in 2011 and 4.3% in 2012.

For the Local Mass Media category (local Radio, local TV, local Newspapers and Outdoor media), declines are expected through the second half of 2011 and into 2012. They now expect this segment to decline -1.1% in 2011 and -0.4% in 2012, driven primarily by weakness in Newspapers (-5.5%), while Radio will be flat (-0.4%), and Outdoor should grow 4.2% in 2011 and 4.5% in 2012.

TV will be the fastest growing medium after Online in 2012, with ad revenues increasing 7.1% compared with Online’s 11.6%. Magna believes the 2012 Elections and the Summer Olympics will generate incremental revenue of $3.1 billion for television: $2.5 billion in political advertising (the highest spending ever, mostly on local broadcast television) and $633 million around the London Olympics (up 5.5% compared with Beijing 2008, and primarily fuelling National Broadcast TV revenues).

Under the current expectations of a slow-but-positive economic recovery in 2012, media suppliers’ advertising revenues will continue to recover from the severe recession of 2008-2009. MagnaGlobal expects revenues to reach $178.5 billion in 2012, which is still significantly less than the pre-recession level of 2007 ($206.1 billion).

Direct Media is exhibiting an increasing discrepancy between traditional activities (Directories and Direct Mail) and digital (Internet Yellow Pages, Paid Search, Lead Generation). Traditional direct media remains significant ($26.2 billion in 2011), but it is increasingly challenged by digital alternatives. Digital direct media, on the other hand, continues to outperform. Paid Search growth has accelerated this year to 21.7%, and is expected to maintain double-digit growth in 2012 (13.0%). Recent algorithm improvements have helped accelerate cost-per-click trends and have led brands to rely more heavily on search engine marketing and search engine optimization. So, for 2011, they now expect $31.1 billion in total online ad spend, up 19.5% vs. 2010.

Analyzing potential for the home improvement industry

An uncertain economy, low consumer confidence, suppressed home sales, and an increase in consumers deferring their home improvement purchases may make for a shaky future for the home improvement industry, but according to The NPD Group, a leading market research company, there is hope for growth in the near future, but it lies in the hands of manufacturers and retailers.

“In order to grow their share in the home improvement environment, manufacturers and retailers need to look toward innovation, and the basics of effective and efficient merchandising to uncover the opportunities, including deploying the promotional deals consumers want,” said Kevin Gilbert, director, The NPD Group.

According to NPD’s Consumer Tracking Service, in August 2011, nearly three quarters (74%) of consumers strongly agree that coupons and special deals are the deciding factors when it comes to purchasing home improvement products; a number that has increased over the past year.

“E-commerce is an increasingly important aspect of today’s home improvement marketplace. As the popularity and value of online shopping increases, manufacturers and retailers need to make sure they are part of the trend in order to capture consumers,” said Gilbert.

Online sales of home improvement products have grown 16 percent in the 12 months ending August 2011 according to NPD. In addition, 39 percent of home improvement sales were researched online beforehand.

While overall sales of home improvement products are still showing declines year over year, there is subtle growth emerging in some categories. Despite the uneven economic recovery, lighting and electrical category, fans, hand tools, and lawn and garden products are all heading in a positive direction.

“Understanding the industry, the consumers, and the competition is as important as ever. Putting the basics to work, along with an in-depth knowledge of what is happening in the home improvement market, will help manufacturers and retailers navigate their way through this still, uncertain time,” ended Gilbert.

Changing demographics of tablet and eReader owners

Demographics changing on tablet and eReader owners

In the U.S., as recently as last Summer, tablet and eReader owners tended to be male and on the younger side. Not anymore. In less than a year, 25-34 Men make up only 18% of these owners; while 30% are 55+. As well, according to Nielsen’s latest quarterly survey of mobile connected device owners, back in Q3 2010, 62% of tablet owners were under the age of 34 and only 10% were over the age of 55. By Q2 of this year, only 46% of tablet owners were under the age of 34 and the percentage of those over 55 had increased to 19%.

Looking at the data by gender underlines key changes in the eReader category. 61% of all eReader owners are now female, compared to a mere 46% in Q3 2010. Smartphone owners are now evenly split between male and female and tablets remain primarily male.

ereader and tablet demographics

women-connected-devices

 

Google revenue soars, G+ network grows to 40 million

Google reported third-quarter earnings that handily beat estimates, and announced that its three-month-old Google+ social network now has 40 million users.

That’s a big increase from the 10 million users Google+ had at the end of Google’s last quarter, when it remained in a “limited” trial phase. The network opened to the public in late September.

In an earnings release late Thursday, Google said it earned $9.72 per share. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters had forecast earnings of $8.74 per share.

Advertising and profit: Investors are looking to Google’s advertising figures as a barometer of the overall economy, and the numbers were good — though the cost-per-click increase was not as high as it was last quarter.

Profit rose as both the number of clicks on Google’s ads and the amount that advertising partners pay per click increased. Paid clicks rose 28% and cost per click ticked up 5% compared to last year.

Sales for the Mountain View, Calif., company rose 33% over the year to $9.7 billion. Excluding advertising sales that Google shares with partners, known as “traffic acquisition costs,” the company reported revenue of $7.5 billion, which beat analysts’ forecasts of $7.2 billion.

Shares of Google (GOOGFortune 500) rose 6% after hours.

Spending and hiring: Google is continuing to spend at a quick clip. Capital expenditures totaled $680 million in the third quarter, including investments in Google’s massive data centers.

But Google has plenty of cash to back up its shopping spree. As of September 30, the company had $42.6 billion on hand.

Google is also continuing to ramp up its hiring. Full-time staffers totaled 31,353 as of September 30, up 9% from the previous quarter.

Motorola: On Google’s earnings call, analysts asked about Google’s $12.5 billion acquisition of Motorola Mobility (MMI). The deal was announced in August and, once finalized, will score Google some valuable Motorola patents. Intellectual property is turning into a battlefield among tech giants including Apple (AAPLFortune 500) and Microsoft (MSFTFortune 500).

When an analyst asked whether Google will license Motorola software to other companies, Google CEO Larry Page said “it would be premature” to discuss details before the deal is approved.

“We’re very excited about Android, and we see that ecosystem growing,” Page said, adding that the strategy is “getting stronger” — and the Motorola deal is part of that.

Browsers and search: Page also revealed that the Google Chrome browser now has more than 200 million users worldwide.

Susan Wojcicki, Google’s senior vice president of advertising, talked up theFlight Search that Google launched last month. She also said Google data shows that “ads that are socially annotated are more useful for users.”

Google execs did not talk specifically about recent antitrust concerns. The Federal Trade Commission has been investigating the company for evidence of abusive practices, and a federal judge recently rejected Google’s planned settlement deal in its attempt to create a universal online book library.

Page instead offered up a “view of the future” sentiment that echoes some of his past statements: “We are still at the very early stage of what technology can deliver. These tools will look very different in five years.”

Retailers Ramp Up Mobile Sites and Apps

With the holiday shopping season rapidly approaching, more consumers than ever are expected to turn to their phones to research and make purchases this year. At least half of mobile consumers view their device as a holiday shopping resource for product information, coupons and sale information, according to a recent Mojiva survey.

Retailers, likewise, are ramping up mobile operations to capitalize on the growing appetite for m-commerce. A new report indicates that 37% of retailers now have mobile sites — up from 12% last year and 4% in 2009.

More stores are also embracing mobile apps. One in four (26%)  retailers have at least one mobile app, up from 7% in 2010. Nearly a quarter (23%) have an iPhone app, and 10% an Android app. Few are creating apps for other smartphone operating systems such as Windows Phone 7, WebOs and BlackBerry.

A smaller group of retailers (18%) have both a mobile site and an app, and 26% have a mobile site optimized for each of the most popular smartphone platforms. The results are based on an annual audit analyzing Internet Retailer’s Top 500 companies on their rate of mobile adoption.

The top 10 when it comes to m-commerce: Amazon, Armani Exchange, Barnes & Noble, Buy.com, Cabela’s, Gilt Groupe, The Home Depot, Newegg, Walgreens, and Wal-Mart. The ranking is based on various factors including having a mobile site, rendering a home page correctly, offering a checkout/booking capability, and having an app.

Not only have they implemented mobile-optimized sites to support a wide range of devices, but they have taken initiatives a step further with exceptional transactional functionality and well-designed apps that meet customer needs.

The study pointed out that mobile adoption, and specific mobile tactics, can vary widely by industry. The health and beauty, food and drug, and mass merchant categories, for instance, skewed much higher than flowers, gifts, hardware and home improvement in launching iPhone apps — 66% compared to 36%.

Only 20% of companies in the music/books/video vertical have mobile-optimized sites compared to nearly 70% in the office supplies category and more than half among apparel sellers. Less than half of retailers are putting up mobile sites to date — probably because they don’t see a big upside yet to building out a mobile presence.

Forrester study in June estimated that retailers in 2011 can expect just 2% of their online Web sales to be conducted via mobile. While m-commerce will grow 40% each year for the next five years, it will still only reach 7% of sales by 2016.

Pandora hits the road with Toyota Entune system

Toyota is now offering an embedded version of Pandora on the 2012 Camry and 2012 Tacoma. That’s big for the streaming audio service, since the Camry is America’s best-selling car and the Tacoma is the best-selling compact pickup truck in the US market.

According to the announcement by Pandora Media, both vehicles began to appear on dealer lots in September 2011.

Pandora is available via the Toyota Entune system. With Entune, Pandora controls are made available via the radio dashboard, allowing drivers to easily select stations, thumb songs up and down, and skip songs using the vehicle’s controls. The key to connecting Pandora with Entune is the smartphone; Entune is currently compatible with Android, Blackberry and iPhone smartphones.

“Incorporating Pandora into the native environment of the car makes turning on personalized radio as easy as traditional radio. We’re thrilled that Toyota is offering our service to their drivers,” said Pandora executive vice president of business and corporate development Jessica Steel.

Report: Mobile Ad Spend to Hit $1 Billion, dramatic increase in banner, search, rich media, and video ads predicted

EMarketer has released analysis of mobile ad spending that predicts decreased investment in message-based ads and dramatically increased investment in banner, search, rich media, and video ads on the mobile platform.

mobile-ad-spending-share-2011-2015

As the iPhone 4S is released, featuring the Siri personal voice assistant that understands what you mean when you talk, it’s clear that smartphone technology is stepping forward. The increased presence of these high-tech tools, as well as decreasing costs, has pushed smartphone ownership toward becoming the “norm.” eMarketer predicts that smartphone ownership will reach 38 percent in the U.S. by the end of this year.

The increase in smartphone ownership coincides with a significant increase in mobile ad spending, which should reach $1.23 billion for U.S. advertisers by the end of the year, up 66 percent from last year’s $743 million figure. eMarketer predicts that the figure will continue to see escalating growth, reaching $4.4 billion by 2015.

Total investment isn’t the only big change, though. Advertisers are focusing less on message-based ads (ads sent via text message, usually after the mobile user sends a subscription message via short code) and more on visual and search ads. While message-based ads are currently in the lead with 36.1 percent of spend, eMarkter predicts that will have changed by the end of 2012.

eMarketer specifically predicts that rich media and search ads will win 33 percent of spend each, leaving message-based ads at 28.2 percent of spend. This divide will grow further in the coming years, with eMarketer’s 2015 figures showing messaging at just 14.4 percent to search’s 40.2 percent and rich media’s 36.4 percent.

The fastest growing segment, however, is video advertising. While it still holds a very small portion of the mobile ad market (at 4.7 percent currently), eMarketer predicts video “will grow at a compound annual rate of 69 percent between 2010 and 2015,” reaching 9 percent of ad spend (an estimated annual figure of $395.6 million) by the end of 2015.

eMarketer’s figures are based on “mobile advertising estimates from other research firms, company data from major mobile ad networks and vendors, marketers’ mobile marketing strategies, and smartphone and tablet adoption and usage trends.”

Speaking of advertising, online advertising hit a new high in the first half of this year, $14.9 billion, the IAB announced last week – with $7.3 billion of that from search advertising.

Fake Reviews ? New York Times reports there’s good reason to be skeptical

Fake Reviews

Anyone who relies on reviews when they’re shopping online has seen rave reviews for a restaurant, book or perhaps a vacation rental property that seems, well, a little too enthusiastic.

It’s gotten to the point that when looking at some vacation rentals, if it only has a few reviews, some people ignore five-star reviews entirely and focus on one-star reviews (to check for real complaints versus griping or malice) and three-star reviews (usually a good guide to the pros and cons of something).

There’s good reason to be skeptical – as the New York Times reports, more than a few companies have taken to hiring people to write rave reviews of their products or services.

Given that cheaters abound, it is in the interest of companies such as TripAdvisor and HomeAway to make sure that reviews are genuine. If they’re not, and customers learn they can’t trust reviews, they’re likely to take their business elsewhere.

And this kind of “opinion spam” is getting more advanced – meaning that it’s harder for people to tell if a review is a real one, or just a fake rave for hire.

Enthusiastic endorsements don’t always come in prose-form. There are a number of shops that have popped up to sell Facebook fans, Twitter followers, and even +1 buttons for the recently arrived Google Plus.

This is why the HomeAway’s and FlipKey’s of the world should be interested in research from a team at the Computer Science Department at Cornell, which focuses on algorithms designed to spot “deceptive opinion spam” – fake reviews that have been written to sound authentic.

Their research, which was recently presented at the 49th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics focuses on several different techniques for spam-spotting, as well as combinations of the same. Using these techniques, they were able to spot fake reviews with about90% accuracy – far better than the human control group, which did no better than chance.

Note that this research was directed at finding false positive reviews. The group’s next step is to refine their techniques and then extend them to include false negative reviews, as well.

If their research is successful, it may well be implemented in large sites to improve regulation of reviews and get the spam out.

Edmunds.com: Car Buyers Lean Towards Gas Sippers, Compact Demand Way Up, Incentives Way Down

Though gas prices continue to fall and are estimated to drop even more in the next few months through year-end, Edmunds.com data released Tuesday reflects that consumers are still more likely to purchase smaller gas sippers than take on an SUV or truck.

According to the company’s analysis, shoppers are still leaning towards compact or subcompact cars as a result of higher than average gas prices. High gasoline prices have caused a realignment of buyer priorities and almost unprecedented demand for small cars, just in time for the launch of a stable of tech- and content-rich new models,” explained Edmunds’ AutoObserver.com senior editor Bill Visnic.

Besides economic factors, Edmunds.com reports that increasing options in the small car segment are also driving consumer interest.

“More options in the small car segment are drawing in more consumers,” stated Edmunds.com analyst Jeremy Acevedo.

“The Chevy Cruze, Fiat 500, Ford Focus and Hyundai Elantra are among the small cars that are stimulating interest,” he added.

Though more options and new 2012 small-car models are becomings increasingly attractive to consumers, the bad news is “as demand goes up, inventory and incentives fall,” company officials noted.

According to Edmunds.com’s True Cost of Incentives data, the national average incentive for the compact car in August was $864, down 63 percent from $2,318 in August 2010.

Moreover, subcompact car incentives in August averaged $520 per vehicle sold, down 57 percent from $1,211 in August 2010.

However, if consumers are willing to delve into less popular segments, such as mid-range luxury cars, they may find better savings packages. Edmunds.com data reports that the national average True Cost of Incentives for this segment came in at $4,228 in August 2011.

Breaking the trend seen throughout August down further, for cities, Atlanta saw the highest rate of increase in compact car shopping as it rose 41 percent from 2010.  Subcompact car shopping also increased by 35 percent year-over-year in Georgia’s capital city. 

Boston followed close behind, with August compact car shopping rising by 28 percent versus 2010, and the rate of subcompact car shopping in rose a significant 59 percent year-over-year.

Edmunds.com listed the rate of increase in compact and subcompact car shopping across the country’s metropolitan areas, as follows:

 

Market Increase in compact car shopping vs. 2010 Increase in subcompact car shopping vs. 2010
Atlanta 41% 35%
Boston 28% 59%
Chicago 43% 43%
Dallas-Fort Worth 44% 70%

Houston

48% 44%
Los Angeles 37% 58%
New York 38% 60%
Philadelphia 34% 53%
San Francisco 25% 44%
Washington, DC 41% 47%

Compact Cars Become more Profitable

Also of note, as the compact and subcompact segments continue to gain popularity, they are also becoming more profitable for dealers and OEMs, AutoObserver.com’s Visnic reported.

For example, Hyundai Motor America’s  chief executive officer John Krafcik recently noted at a media event the new Elantra is selling for an average of $4,000 more than the previous-generation model.

Moreover, AutoObserver.com reported that Don Johnson, General Motors vice president of U.S. sales, pegged the rise in the new Chevrolet Cruze’s average transaction price at $4,000 more than the Cobalt that preceded it.

“Auto-company executives wishing for increased small-car supply in the U.S. happens about as frequently as an appearance of Hailey’s comet, but with prices reaching new highs and almost no incentives required, compact cars are the auto companies’ new BFFs,” Visnic explained. 

Furniture industry to expect faster growth in 2012, 2013

In an updated forecast, industry analyst Jerry Epperson is now calling for a 2.9% increase in U.S. consumer spending on furniture and bedding this year – much of it due to price increases rather than real growth.

 Jerry Epperson, Furniture, Economy

But he’s looking for gains of 4% next year and 5.7% in 2013, which he expects will be “the best year for furniture and mattresses in recent history…. Without the distraction of the presidential election and with stronger existing home sales (above 5 million units), we expect the closest to ‘normal’ activity the home furnishings industry has seen in almost six years.”

He expects consumer spending, the broadest measure of industry retail activity, to continue growing at 4.1% in 2014 and 5% in 2015. The spending figure is projected at $83.3 billion this year and is forecast to top $100 billion in 2015.

Late last year, Epperson, of Mann, Armistead & Epperson in Richmond, had expected better news in 2011 based on economic indicators and projections at the time. But GDP growth was slower than expected, unemployment stayed high as too few jobs were created, and the modest recovery in housing starts has mainly been in multi-family, with single-family starts still declining a bit.

He said he still expects economic growth to pick up in the second half of this year – aided by a drop in gas prices – but not as much as was expected earlier in the year.

“We do not expect a double-dip recession, but agree with many that it has a 25% to 30% chance of occurring, most likely in early 2012 – if at all,” he wrote in the new forecast.

Epperson, who bases his economic assumptions on the University of Michigan projections for 2011 and 2012 and uses a blend of five other long-term forecasts for 2013-2015, said he expects U.S. economic growth will reach or exceed 3% next year. That will finally “give the economy a perceivable level of growth,” he said.

He projects GDP growth of a more consistent 3.3% to 3.5% in 2013 as home resales and housing starts pick up. More gradual improvement is expected in 2014 and 2015 as unemployment finally declines to 8% or lower, according to the forecast.

Pandora Suffers Blow To Outlook From Clear Channel Competition

iHeartRadio – 11 million songs


Pandora- 990,000 songs 

Clear Channel has launched its iHeartRadio app and website in a direct assault on Pandora’s growth. Its new offering will let users create customized stations, a core feature at the center of Pandora’s business model. Pandora also competes with Sirius XM, the sole provider of satellite radio service.

Pandora’s stock has slid over 10% in the last two days in part due to this news. We take a quick look at the new service and acknowledge that this could have significant implications for Pandora’s valuation going forward.

Our price estimate for Pandora stands at $10.12, slightly below the market price.

 

Clear Channel’s Challenge

Pandora is a leader in Internet radio in the U.S. and stands out for its ability to offer a unique and personalized Internet radio experience to listeners. Clear Channel will challenge this uniqueness when it offers users the ability to create personalized stations from a song catalog that is 10 times the size of what Pandora offers and provides a range of artists that is 5 times bigger. [1] And all of this is included with no caps on listener hours and it’s advertisement-free at first.

Impact on Pandora?

If Clear Channel successfully markets the app and website, users may opt to go to Clear Channel instead of Pandora especially if its selection of music is indeed much larger than Pandora’s. We don’t know yet how this library stacks up without playing more with the app. However we note that many users don’t necessarily need to make a switch since they can enjoy both services for free, which is what we plan to do until we pick a favorite.


However for valuation purposes, if Clear Channel or other competitors takelistener hours away from Pandora, this will invariably impact Pandora’s valuation.

Ram to partner with Wal-Mart on pickups

Chrysler’s Ram Truck brand will partner this fall with Wal-Mart to promote its pickup trucks at stores across the USA. The “outdoor lifestyle” program is part of Ram’s “Code of the West” marketing campaign for its Ram pickups that seeks separate Ram from rivals.

The Ram marketing campaign recognizes the alignment between truck buyers, the hunting and fishing lifestyle and Wal-Mart, this promotion brings all three together.

Ram unveiled two new commercials with the tagline, “Guts. Glory. Ram.” The first spot features a Ram pickup driving through the desert with wild horses and touts the truck’s combination of power — a 390 hp. Hemi V8 — along with its 20 miles-per-gallon highway fuel economy. The second ad shows the Ram Power Wagon model climbing a steep, rocky hill. The commercials are due to air nationally in September.

“The idea is to create a campaign that separates Ram from competitors. The western theme reflects “a time when a handshake meant you gave your word, and working hard was respected and rewarded.”

Ram was split from the Dodge brand two years ago and the spin-off has allowed us to focus all of our creative advertising and social media efforts specifically toward truck buyers,” said Ram CEO Fred Diaz.

Sales of Ram pickups this year are up 25.9% through July, compared with a 7.7% rise for the best-selling Ford F-Series pickups and 7.2% for Chevrolet Silverado.

Pay TV Subscribers Cancel in Record Numbers

8/10/11 

The six largest U.S. cable and satellite-TV providers combined to lose about 580,000 customers in the second quarter, the biggest such decline in history, according to Bloomberg.

The economy is forcing the industry to face the reality of cord-cutting — pay-TV customers canceling their subscriptions in favor of online options such as Netflix Inc. (NFLX) and Hulu LLC. While cable executives dismiss the idea that subscribers are switching to “over the top” Internet competitors, the reason isn’t as important as the decision to stop paying for TV, said Craig Moffett, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein in New York.

“Rising prices for pay TV, coupled with growing availability of lower-cost alternatives, add to a toxic mix at a time when disposable income isn’t growing,” Moffett said. “For younger demographics, where in many cohorts unemployment is north of 30 percent, and especially for those with limited or no interest in sports, the pay-TV equation is almost inarguably getting less attractive.”

The catalysts, according to cable and satellite executives, include increased competition from telephone companies AT&T Inc. (T) and Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ), which added a combined 386,000 video customers, and a sluggish economy that saw customers to cancel service.

As new home sales slumped in May and again in June, installations suffered, and there weren’t enough new subscribers to make up the difference, Cablevision Systems Corp. (CVC) Chief Operating Officer Tom Rutledge said yesterday on a conference call.

Of the six largest publicly traded U.S. cable and satellite providers, only DirecTV added customers in the second quarter. Comcast Corp. (CMCSA)Time Warner Cable Inc. (TWC),Charter Communications Inc. (CHTR) and Cablevision lost a total of 471,000 video customers in the quarter. Dish Network Corp. (DISH) lost 135,000 after adding 58,000 in the previous period.

Dish Chief Executive Officer Joseph Clayton said yesterday that  goals are to  rely on its technology and promotions to persuade customers to buy more expensive offerings and increase average revenue per user,  saying he’s “looking for a better class of customer.” He plans to change the company’s advertising strategy away from “cheap, cheap, cheap” and seek out higher-paying subscribers who might have bypassed Dish for DirecTV (DTV) in previous years.

“The cable companies have been losing for years, but what you’re seeing is the satellite guys joining some of that,” said Ian Olgeirson, senior analyst at market research firm SNL Kagan. “They are seeing the same kind of effects of being a mature industry. How do you support your base of customers when you don’t have a bunch of new households to convert? It’s difficult to sustain in a down economic quarter.”

Some analysts caution that second-quarter results are not always an appropriate guide for the state of the industry, given seasonal factors such as departing college students cutting off service and summer vacationers watching less TV.

The larger trend is clearly one of video losses, said Jason Bazinet, an analyst at Citigroup Inc. inNew York, who notes that pay-TV subscribers have declined in three of the past five quarters.

“While second-quarter seasonality likely played a role, some households may have left the pay-TV universe entirely,” he wrote in a note to clients.

5 Reasons Google+ May Not Be Huge Facebook Threat After All

Google’s newest social media platform, Google+, is the fastest growing social media site in history, which may have many people at Facebook and Twitter worried. However, there are several reasons why Google+ may not replace Facebook as the go-to social media site. Here are a few:

1. Usability

The overall layout of Google+ is similar to that of Facebook, but the subtle differences are going to be problematic in a world where you have the user’s attention for a whopping five seconds. If they can’t find what they’re looking for, they’re gone. The bottom line is people are used to Facebook, and may not want to spend the extra time trying to figure out the in’s and out’s of Google+.

2. Verbiage

Everyone knows what it means to “like” something. However, when you think of the phrase “plus one” you probably think of being allowed to bring a date to a wedding or work function, not of being a fan of or enjoying an activity, song, etc.

+1 works a lot like the Facebook “like” button, but for some this might be a tough concept to grasp. People like what they know and from the outset, the idea of +1 as a rating of support has been a point of head scratching and mild snickering. This additional lack of intuitive use is another point against Google in the battle for users’ hearts and minds.

3. Usefulness

Google+ has some awesome features. My personal favorite is Circles.  That one may want to share something publicly but differently is a concept well grasped by Google.

The friends I went to the pub with and listened to the song I completely “plus one” are different than my co-workers. And goodness knows my SEO friends are different than anyone else I know.

Google created Circles to allow the easy filtering of messages by grouping friends and the easy sharing of images, status updates, etc. to and from these same groups. It’s a great idea.

Unfortunately, my dad doesn’t have this problem, nor does my sister, nor does my grandmother; in fact, about 80 percent of the people I know are OK with one level of sharing. And if it is a bit of a bother to them, it’s less of a bother to put on the personal filter every now and then than to try to adopt yet another communications medium.

Sure, we geeks love new toys and we like to try new things, so we were happy to create a new account, figure out how to use it, play around in the settings, upload our photos again, etc. But how many of your relatives would?

4. Purpose

Sometimes the simple question needs to be asked (and every 2-year-old knows it): Why?

We know why Google wants the project to be successful. If Google+ became even half as successful as Facebook, the information on relationships they could collect and what that could mean to them as far as feeding advertising in our direction more accurately would be incredible. But we’re not Google.

Oh sure, we’ll play around with Google+, but if your non-tech friends and family don’t adopt it, it’ll likely become that thing you check every blue moon when you remember it’s there.

The problem Google is up against is that Facebook really isn’t bad. Plus, it’s already got virtually everyone you likely know signed up, connected, profiles built, comments, and history. Why would anyone give that up when there isn’t a problem? So you can drop people in Circles as you attempt to rebuild your full friends list and convince your parents to join Google+?

And for those of you thinking, why not use both, I would ask … why? Do we really want to waste more time updating our statuses – now on multiple websites? Tagging photos, chatting with friends, etc.? I think not.

5. Convenience

I touched on it before, but it’s a core issue with Google+ that’s worth discussing on its own. Using Google+ is not convenient.

I, like many, am busy. The number of draws on my time increases almost daily, many of these draws from the online world. I’ve got Facebook, Twitter, Skype, AIM, MSN, forums, a blog, email, the phone and (here comes the shocker) live human interaction. Why on Earth would I want another?

The single biggest problem that Google may be up against right now is that they’re fighting a battle from behind. While I anticipate very solid growth early on, once users realize that many of their friends haven’t moved over, rather than have to access yet another social media resource to communicate, they’ll slowly move back to just the one. The one where all their friends and contacts already are, where they can communicate in one location: Facebook.

Conclusion:

Will Google+ die? Maybe not. It’s possible the folks at Google will adapt and focus it more against LinkedIn than Facebook; that battle they could win, as it’s the same audience.

But Google+ is not set to become the Facebook killer it’s hyped to be. It just doesn’t solve any problems worth solving for the majority of people.

Article courtesy of Search Engine Watch.

Write a Better ‘About Us’ Page

Potential customers who click your About Us page are already interested; now they want to be reassured you are the right choice. Here’s how to be sure your About Us page gives potential customers what they need:

Think customer first. What do potential customers want to know? At a basic level, first-time visitors want to know you own a real business with real capabilities. What questions are you asked during sales calls? What information tends to seal a deal or win over a hesitant customer? If I’m looking for a fulfillment center, “providers of outstanding customer experiences” means nothing to me, but “99.3% on-time shipping with a .002% error rate” sounds pretty good, because …
Facts are compelling, superlatives are not. Lots of About Us pages are filled with words like outstanding, excellent, world-class, visionary, cutting edge, etc. If your business truly is outstanding, prove it with facts. If your business truly is visionary, talk about innovative products you’ve developed. If you don’t have many facts and figures (yet), admit it. Describe what your business hopes to achieve, and how.
Don’t try to be something you’re not. As a general rule, the smaller the business the “fluffier” the About Us page. Trying to make your small business look bigger is a natural impulse but can also create awkward moments when a potential client asks for references or specific examples. Own the fact you’re a startup and show why new clients will benefit: Greater focus on individual customers, shorter lead times, a burning desire to prove yourself in a new market, etc. Candor is compelling. Turn who you really are into an advantage.
Describe qualifications, but be brief. Certifications and awards are great, but pick a few that resonate the most with potential customers. (Stick the rest on a separate “Industry Awards” page.) If you won an Emmy you can probably leave out your “Best Supporting Actor in a Non-Speaking Role at the Roadhouse Dinner Theater and Swap Shop” award.
Kill the stock photos. We’re all expert stock photo spotters. Use real photos or no photos at all. Seriously: Will anyone believe these fine folks work for you?
See your About Us page as a continual work in progress. Most About Us pages stay static for months or years. Whenever you land major customers, add expertise and capabilities, enter new markets, open new locations, etc., update your About Us page. Keep it fresh for prospective clients and for SEO purposes.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help.  Ask someone to read your About Us page and then describe back to you what you do. If they can’t immediately answer most of the five Ws (who, what, when, where, why), get back to work.
Final thought: If you’re fairly modest and writing an About Us page feels “salesy” or self-congratulatory, focus on facts, figures, and accomplishments. Objective information is a lot easier to write and a lot more powerful as well. Think about the needs you fulfill and the problems you solve for your customers. Then use plain language to describe how you fulfill those needs and solve those problems.

And put a monthly reminder on your calendar to revise your About Us page. It can always be improved.

Major Bands announced for Calling festival in Orlando at Citrus Bowl

Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band, Kid Rock,  the Killers and alternative pioneers the Pixies will be the headliners at the inaugural Orlando Calling music festival, a two-day event slated for Nov. 12 and 13 at the Citrus Bowl.

“Orlando has a rich history of outdoor rock concerts,” Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer said at a press conference announcing a lineup that includes more than two dozen acts on four stages over two days. “This takes it to another level. This puts Orlando at the center stage for American music in November.”

The lineup will include major stars in rock, hip-hop andcountry music.

The Killers, who have not toured in the United States this year, will headline the festival’s opening day on Nov. 12, on a bill with the Raconteurs, Pixies, the Avett Brothers, The Roots, O.A.R. , Iron & Wine, Pete Yorn, Jenny & Johnny, Gavin DeGraw, Drive-By Truckers, Dr. Dog, Civil Twilight, Lucero, the Felice Brothers, Ben Sollee and Renee & The Translators.



On Nov. 13, Seger will perform on a lineup with Kid Rock, country star Blake Shelton, the Doobie Brothers,Dwight YoakamBuddy Guy, the Warren Haynes BandChris Isaak, Brandi Carlile, Robert Randolph & the Family band, the Flatlanders, Los Lonely Boys, Blues Traveler, Michelle Brand, Justin Townes Earle, the David Mayfield Parade and Orlando’s own ska band the Supervillains.

Tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. Saturday at Ticketmasteroutlets. If purchased before Sept 1, the cost is $80 (plus fees) for a one-day pass and $145 for a two-day admission. After Sept. 1, it’s $87.50 for one-day, $160 for two days.

The diverse lineup is the vision of concert promoter Melvin Benn, the CEO of British-based Festival Republic, a promotion company with a long record of successfulEuropean rock festivals, including iconic events at Reading, Leeds and Glastonury.

On Thursday, Benn said that he has been looking for a home for his first festival in the United States for several years. He picked Orlando for a variety of reasons.

“The climate is fantastic, especially at that time of year,” he said. “Plus, every single decent-sized airport in the U.S. has direct flights to Orlando and many airports around the world. You never need to explain to anyone where Orlando is.”

Benn also said that he has received a “very enthusiastic” response from the city, but nothing in the way of financial incentives. “I wish I could say one of the reasons is that they have given me millions of dollars, but it’s not the case,” he said. “I’m paying them money.”

City officials said the promoters are paying a standard $75,000 lease fee to use the Citrus Bowl and surrounding area.

For its part, the city also gets a $2 facility fee assessed on each ticket sold. Orlando also gets the lion’s share of the parking and concession revenues, but gives up a portion to the promoters, or about $4.50 per attendee, said Allen Johnson, the city’s venues executive director.

“The city is [financially] protected,” Johnson said.

“They sought us out,” said Dyer, who has seen Bob Seger in concert. “And we were really excited about having this in Orlando.”

Dyer said that one of the city’s main goals is to expose folks outside Central Florida to the fact that this area is more than just theme parks, and that a thriving arts and music scene lives here, too.

“We were trying to expose the world to the other side of Orlando,” Dyer said.

The local music scene will be exposed through Orlando bands performing at the event and free after-shows shows at other downtown venues on concert nights.

The mix of musical acts — from alternative country (the Flatlanders) to alternative rock (Pixies) and hip-hop (The Roots) — reflects Benn’s vision of a musical event with an American slant.

“I’ve been obsessed for some time, with matching country crossover acts with classic rock acts and alternative rock bands. I want to create a sound aimed at American audiences.”

Festival Republic is well-known in the concert business, said Gary Bongiovanni, editor-in-chief of industry magazine Pollstar.

Benn is “a major figure in the festival world in the UK,” Bongiovanni said. “He has a reputation for being able to produce well-run, quality events.”

Orlando Calling is the latest edition to a slate of Florida-based music festivals that include two roots-oriented events — Suwannee Springfest and Magnoliafest — at the Spirit of Suwannee Music Park in Live Oak. That outdoor space also hosts the annual Wanee Festival, brainchild of the Allman Brothers Band, the Bear Creek Music & Arts Festival and, in August, will be home to the inaugural 311 Pow Wow, a three-day festival hosted by rock band 311.

In a tough economy, festivals can help attract bands to Florida, a peninsula that sometimes doesn’t fit conveniently into tour itineraries.

“The individual bands aren’t faced with selling all the tickets,” Bongiovanni said. “With a festival, the success or failure isn’t tied to an individual act. From a career perspective, it’s less risky and if you like playing for large crowds, it’s a plus. Plus, all these bands have likely played Festival Republic events in Europe. Everyone in the industry knows who Melvin is.”

Bongiovanni says that Orlando’s theme-park destinations and availability of hotel rooms make it a different kind of destination from other music festivals, where fans tend to camp.

“For music fans who want to come to Orlando and have the festival experience, they can tie it into visits to the theme parks and other attractions in the area and make it more of a mini-vacation,” he says.

RECENT STUDY RESULTS: The DVR is an advertisers friend!

Ad Avoidance and The DVR : recent study results

One of the topics  looked at in a recent study with special interest was the whole issue of ad-avoidance, not least because half the sample have the technology to avoid ads altogether, via the DVR.

In fact, one overwhelming conclusion from this study is that the DVR is used to enhance program viewing, not to avoid commercials. As a range of studies conducted last year found that PVR owners actually watch more commercials at normal speed as a result of owning the DVR. This is because only 12 per cent of their viewing was to time-shifted material (much less for younger respondents) and around 40 per cent of the commercial breaks were watched without fast forwarding. At the same time, owning a DVR appears to increase broadcast TV viewing by around 15 per cent, mainly to commercial channels, resulting in an increase in the number of commercials viewed. It is counter intuitive, but it is true, and has been supported by studies from BARB, Sky and the London Business School. The DVR is an advertisers friend!

‘Skipping’, or fast forwarding, does occur, but even the households who claim to skip most of the time only skipped ads for a small proportion of their TV viewing. Whether it is because they are aware of the short length of some breaks, they just forget they are viewing in time-shifted mode, or because they want to see the ads (quite often people fast forwarding would rewind to watch an ad that caught their eye) there seems to be no massive desire to edit out the ads.

Decades before the DVR was a glint in the eye of the electronics companies, people would often claim to leave the room when the ad break started, to make a snack  or attend to some vital chore. In our study, several respondents claimed to always get up and do something else as soon as the program credits rolled. Again, the reality does not match their claims. Even the most adamant only left the room two or three times during the four hours of their that breaks we recorded and, in total, less than 5 per cent of breaks suffered.

Study: iPad Accounts for Almost 95 % of Tablet Web Traffic

 

Aiming to get a sense for how powerful the tablet is, online advertising network Chitika looked at what devices it was serving ads to and found that it was almost exclusively Apple tablets.

For every 100 iPad impressions, Chitika is serving slightly more than one ad to a Samsung Galaxy and Asus Transformer Prime and under one ad to the Motorola Xoom, BlackBerry PlayBook and Kindle Fire. The Nook Tablet share is even lower, though clearly both the Nook and Kindle are marketed less as Web browsing devices and more as media consumption tools.

In total, the iPad accounted for more than 94 percent of ads, Chitika said.

It shows that not only are iPads outselling their rivals, but each one that is sold is also more heavily used, at least when it comes to Web surfing.

“Going forward the competition is going to be hard pressed to find a way to overthrow the seemingly omnipotent Apple,” Chitika said. “Not only do they offer a great product, they have the undying devotion of their enthusiasts.”

FEBRUARY AUTO SALES LIFT 2012 OUTLOOK

The U.S. auto industry reported a 16% sales jump in
February. In fact, sales were at their fastest pace in four years.
Automakers sold 1,149,396 cars and light trucks last
month. Quoting Autodata Corp, WSJ.com reports the
annualized pace of sales climbed last
month to 15.1 million vehicles, a level the
industry hasn’t seen since February 2008.
Chrysler led the way as sales rose
40% in February to 133,521 vehicles.
Chrysler company truck sales rose 21%
from a year earlier, while car sales more
than doubled.
Despite rising gas prices, Ford trucks
sustained the biggest increase, up 20.6%
from February 2011. Fuel-efficient Ecoboost
engines made up 43% of F-150’s sold to
individual customers. And after several months of year-overyear declines, sales of the Ford Focus more than doubled.
Ford’s Lincoln division recorded a 16% increase.
Meanwhi le, General Motors sales were up 1%.
Chevrolet’s 5.8% gain powered the overall increase, led
by a 10.1% gain from the Cruze compact, a 38.6% increase
from the Suburban SUV and a 30.7% gain for the Express
full-size van. But GM also posted declines in the Buick
and Cadillac divisions.
Toyota and Honda each posted 12% increases as they
continued to rebound from the earthquake in Japan last
March. It was Honda’s first double-digit gain since April and
Toyota’s first since February 2011.
Hyundai Motor Company announced all-time record
February sales of 51,151 units, up 18% versus 2011.
Sonata, Elantra and Accent total sales increases were 11
percent, 12 percent and 29 percent, respectively. Fleet sales
remain at a low eight percent as the focus remains on retail
customers.
Kia also had the brand’s best ever February sales , up
37.3% over the same period in 2011. Kia continues to be
one of the fastest growing car companies in the U.S., and
the February sales total marks the brand’s 18th straight
monthly sales record.
BMW Group, Jaguar Land Rover, Mazda and VW
were among companies with gains of 30% or more.
Mitsubishi was the only other automaker to record a decline
(-31%) in sales.