Back in May we wrote about a lawsuit questioning whether or not a blogger could use journalism shield laws to protect a source who sent her info she used for a blog post. The company the info was about is suing her for slander (which is odd, since slander is usually spoken, while libel is written). The woman, Shellee Hale tried to claim that she was protected under New Jersey’s shield law, which allows a journalist to protect sources. In writing about this case originally, we pointed out that the judge in question clearly did not know much about the internet, and via his questions seemed positively perplexed that anyone would blog at all: “Why would a guy put all this stuff on a blog? Does he have nothing better to do?”
Rather, it's left with the rather easier task of sucking the oxygen out of the rooms vertical players like Zillow try to breathe in, and then battling any potential public image drawbacks to its growing status as a vertical-devouring meanie.
In the wake of Google's entry into the aggregation of property listings, Hitwise's Heather Hopkins notes the importance of the vertical: last week, 2% of Google traffic was sent off to listings in the real estate industry.
This brings up the potential contradictions and disingenuousness of the search engines' efforts to tout the merits of what's being called Universal or Blended search. The "death of the ten blue links" is a sexy way of dismissing clunky old search results pages and opening the door to a new age of more context-sensitive search results, to be sure. But when directly asked if the strategy isn't a way to keep more users on their own properties rather than sending them to those "downstream" sites Hopkins et al. spend their careers following, the search engines generally indicate something to the effect that they would never contemplate such a thing, or would "weigh these decisions in light of what's best for the user." Perhaps. But as predicted, Google's moves into blended search have done little to increase traffic (for example) for any video streaming site but YouTube. You can often extend that principle to other elements of these blends.
As Hopkins notes astutely: "The real question for Real Estate websites is whether (and when) property listings will be included in the search engine results page on Google.com." The search engines have plenty of alibis handy for their land grab behaviors -- for example, they've built out a variety of metasearch and aggregation models (such as Google Video and Yahoo Video) that offer due credit to a variety of third party providers. But the real power comes from that first page of SERP's -- the ones we keep such close watch on with heat maps and Google Analytics referral statistics (when they do refer traffic downstream, that is). Google isn't sending you from Google.com to some other provider of news headlines; it's sending you to Google News.
The powerful utility of the new tools tends to soften the fact that the major search engines are essentially moving back to a walled garden concept reminiscent of the old AOL, minus the wall and the subscription fee.
In the meantime, data providers are left with difficult choices: do I give all of this data/power to large centralized players with little hope of a formal agreement, let alone any explicit conversation or setting of positive expectations about outcomes? (In the tradition of Google Base and the public relations strategy around that: "Here it is. It's really important. Go nuts.") It's this ambiguity that has led more observers to refer to Google as little more than another "scraper site".
Ironically, such accusations are sometimes levelled by the purveyors of similar quasi-scraper schemes. It takes one to know one. In real estate as in so many verticals, any land grab is going to be reminiscent of a scene from Goodfellas. Arguably, though, sites like Zillow have made great headway in connecting personably and directly with homeowners; encouraging them to voluntarily join in an information exchange and convincing them persuasively of that benefit. Google has done nothing of the sort.
At the end of the day, I think (hope?) the search engines recognize the dangers inherent in leaving originating data sources and content providers devoid of traffic and income, so it is a matter of how much traffic they continue to send along to third party vertical players, rather than being an all-or-nothing scenario. Taken too far, companies that purport to be dialed into their core competency in "search" -- the implied mission being to send traffic downstream to originating content providers who've made heavy investments in content and community -- would morph back into walled-garden, AOL-thinking portals.
If you’re freelance, unemployed, or underemployed, you probably work at home and don’t always wear pants either. (Gentleman–no, those ratty “writing shorts” do not count.)
This Friday, July 10th, let’s all make an effort to all put on pants. Fridays are often a time for a more relaxed dress code in offices. But not for the jobless. This Friday, take a shower in the morning, fix your hair, and put on some nice clothes even if you won’t be leaving the house. Nice shorts and skirts OK too, but NO boxers or pajamas–you must wear clothes that you could actually go to a job in. (Send in pics if you want!)
Too often, un- and under-employment causes people to fall into a rut. This will give everyone an extra shot of self-esteem and aura of respectability as we continue our job hunting. It’ll make us all feel better.
I'm an ex-AT&T "Bell head," so anything telecom always gets my special attention. When I saw the Google Voice re-announcement recently, I couldn't help wondering, "Huh, what's up with that? How does this fit into Google's core business?" Mostly, though, I was interested in understanding why this and why now.
There’s nothing like star power to give a web series some extra pizazz. But what about Star Trek power? That’s what Goodnight Burbank/Abigail’s Teen Diary creator Hayden Black’s got working for him now — Nichelle Nichols, best known as the original Lt. Uhura on Trek, has joined the upcoming sci-fi musical comedy series The Cabonauts as a series regular.
Black secured the 76-year-old actress via Cabonauts casting director Erin Gray, who also runs the Heroes for Hire booking agency. Once he heard that Nichols was a possibility, he had about a day to develop a character that would interest her, and tailored the role of CJ, CEO of Cabonauts Incorporated, to her specifically.
“I didn’t want to write anything remotely stereotypical — or anything that smacked of Star Trek. I wanted to give her something she’d never done before. [CJ's] a very strong female, who comes from a long and powerful line of women CEOs,” Black said via phone.
Long in development and set to debut in October, The Cabonauts is structured as 10-minute episodes, which each include a music video à la Flight of the Conchords or The Mighty Boosh (as a co-star, Nichols will be singing and dancing along with the other cast members). The 15-episode first season secured exclusive distribution with Dailymotion in May, with production now complete on the pilot episode.
The first official trailer for the series will premiere at the San Diego Comic-Con this July, and fans-to-be can get more information — and merchandise — at cabonauts.com. “We’ve sold two t-shirts and haven’t even put a frame of footage up yet,” Black said.
Black is promising more all-star cast announcements at the end of the month. I don’t know about you, but my fingers are crossed for George Takei.
GigaOM Pro: Smart insights at the pace of the digital media market. Get the latest research on trends and tech shaping the future of entertainment. Learn more »