Blog Archives

Google, the IRS, Kickstarter Inspiration, Yahoo, More: Morning Buzz, March 18, 2012

The IRS has launched a new tool to find more information about tax-exempt organizations. “In addition, organizations that have automatically lost their tax exemptions may now be searched by EIN, name, city, state, ZIP Code, country, exemption type, and revocation posting date, rather than only by state.”

Local historians take note (and be inspired?): a local history digital atlas, in the works for over 20 years, is now a Kickstarter project.

Dell & YouTube are teaming up to stream four music festivals live. The festivals are: New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza, and Austin City Limits. I’m looking forward to seeing Bonnaroo, about which I have heard many good things.

A roundup of the features available at FBI.gov. I didn’t know about the text alerts.

The National Library of Ireland is seeking WWI memorabilia to create an online archive.

Nice job, U-Wisconsin — a map of independent gardening centers.

In case you missed it, here’s a good roundup story on James Whittaker’s post on why he left Google. A quote from him: “The Google I was passionate about was a technology company. The Google I left was an advertising company.” In my view, that is pretty much exactly what happened to AltaVista, only it looked more horrible because instead of stuffing text ads into search results, AV was stuffing banner ads.

Yuck: malware developers using Twitter as an infection vector.

Exploring cosmic history in your browser: ChronoZoom looks very cool.

Kara Swisher covers an apparent internal memo from Yahoo. As reported, most of it reads like standard pap corporate gives out when they can’t really say anything yet, but one line caught my eye: “LISTEN, UNDERSTAND AND PUT THE CUSTOMER FIRST.” Who, in the opinion of CEO Scott Thompson, is the customer? Is it the visitors who come and consume the advertising and the media, or is it the advertiser? If Yahoo goes with the latter, I’m afraid its lunch will be eaten because it seems to me that way means opposing Google on its own turf. But if it goes with the former, and rebuilds the amazing depth of talent that has always been Yahoo’s most unsung (and underused) asset, good things will happen. I don’t know. Maybe I’m stupid. But I feel that if you concentrate on building a quality, loyal audience by offering quality content accessible in a variety of ways (APIs, etc) and remembering that your audience is made up of PEOPLE (not ambulatory wallets) then the demand for advertising takes care of itself. Good morning, Internet…

Google Launches a Recommendation Engine

Recommend places in your area, get recommendations in turn. Google has recently announced a new recommendation engine for Google Places — Hotpot. Hotpot is live now at http://www.google.com/hotpot/onboard. You’ll need to be logged in to a Google account to make recommendations, and when you first get into Hotpot Google will ask you for a nickname which will appear with your reviews (which will be publicly-available.)

Google defaults to where it thinks you are (incorrect in my case, but I’m okay with that) but you can change where you’re looking with your search query. I did a search for seafood in Boston and got a grid-type layout of Google Places results. Clicking on one of them takes you to the Google Places page. You can also provide ratings right from the search results, from 1 to 5 stars. (There’s also a “best ever” ranking available, but apparently you only get ten of those.)

You can also save places for later; once you save places they’ll show up in your “Saved Places” area, but they don’t get special visible in subsequent search results. For example, if I do a search for seafood in Boston and star a few places, those same places do not get noted in a particular way if I do an additional search for lobster in Boston and they show up again.

Of course, there’s a social element to all this. You can invite friends, see what places they’re recommending, and compete to see who’s ranking the most places. To do that you’ll need to have a public Google Profile.

The grid layout is interesting, but I can’t see anything that will make me more eager to use this as opposed to just finding business listings from a regular Google Web search.

Find Pro Licenses and Permits in Connecticut

The Day had a story last week about a new free online database that finds thousands of contractors, doctors, and establishments licensed for grocery/beer in the state of Connecticut. The site is available at https://www.elicense.ct.gov.

There is a simple search but the site defaults to an advanced search where you can specify the type of license (everything from acupuncture to Wholesale Salesman), license number, name, address, city, and zip. I did a search for Lead Inspectors and found 68 of them. Results are presented in a table that shows name, address, license status, etc. Click on the Details link for more information on the license, such as when it was granted, when it expires, and whether the licensee has any past discipline or pending charges. Note that this database shows both active and inactive licenses — I saw a lot of inactives for this category.

In addition to the license lookup the site also has a Generate Rosters feature. Pick a category — agriculture, health care, real estate, etc. — and then pick a subcategory of practitioner. The site will give you the option to download contact information for licensees in that category. Cost? Nothing. If I were a service-based company in Connecticut and wondering how to get started with my (postal mail) direct marketing I’d be jumping all over this site.

Tracking Social Media Case Studies With a Moose

Need some help with social media for your business? Wondering what other companies in your sector are doing or what tactics they’re trying? Check out Moose Tracker, a Web site that gathers and sorts social media case studies in two dozen categories. At the moment there are over 600 sorted case studies on the site, which you can visit at www.tracker.moosylvania.com. It’s free.

You can browse the case studies by brand category (from auto to travel) or by category (from MMS to technology — there’s also an “uncategorized” option.) You can browse by date as well, and there is an RSS feed available.

I chose the Retail category and got 30 case studies laid out in a 3 x 10 grid of capsule summaries. (Examples: Starbucks – Largest Mobile Payments Effort, Fisher Price Makes 2-Year-Old Friendly Apps, and Farmville Adds Branded Crops.) Each summary included screenshot, brief description, and date. Choose the “Read More” button to get more details, though for the ones I saw there weren’t that many more details.

This site won’t give you all the information you need to research social media possibilities, but it’s a great first step to browse companies, tactics, and case studies, and then take them to a more general Web search.

NIST Offers Online Baldrige Resource Library

The National Institute of Standards and Technology announced last week a new online Baldridge resource library, containing over 1,000 articles and videos covering over 18 topics. The new library is available free at http://www.baldrigepe.org/brl/main.aspx. (If you’re wondering what a Baldridge is, this Wikipedia article might help.)

The first time I visited this site I was asked for a name and e-mail address to “check in.” It wasn’t registering. I e-mailed and complained about that because I couldn’t find a privacy policy associated with the Web site. When I went to visit it just now, it didn’t ask for registration, but it is cookie-ing me, so maybe it’s remembering my data from before. This is just a heads-up in case you get asked for a name and e-mail.

ANYWAY. When you get to the site you’ll find a search form to search by keyword in subject area or industry, or you can just browse by industry or subject area (from “Application Process” to “Strategic Planning”.) I browsed the retail industry section and found 61 reports, from “Note to the C-Suite: Communicating quality is more important than ever” to “Goodwill Industries of Southeastern Wisconsin: Integrating Quality and Social Responsibility”.) Each listing shows the number of views, the last time it was updated, and the format in which it is available (most of the ones I looked at were PDFs.) There are also summaries but they vary by report. Click on an item’s title and you’ll be prompted to download.

If you find all these resources interesting the site also has links to state and local programs as well as events and listings. And if you want to add to the library, you can register to contribute content.

Google Places — Average User Spend Per Month? Where’s that Data Coming From?

I was wandering around Google Places today and I came across the strangest thing.

I noticed that one of the listings I was looking at had some unusual lines under the “Details” header:

Average Purchases Per Month‎:
Average Spend Per User Per Month‎:
Average Purchase Amount Per Transaction‎:

When you hold your mouse over the information lines under that header, you will sometimes get information about where a data point is coming from, but not in this case.

I looked at several other business listings and didn’t see details like this, but I did find about 45 other businesses with this information by searching Google for “Average Spend Per User Per Month‎” intitle:”google maps”.

Has anyone else seen this? Where is this data coming from? Just off the top of my head I would think Blippy, but I don’t remember seeing any kind of integration announcement. Did I miss something?

Update: A Google spokesperson told me the following: “… it’s just a small experiment for now. The data is coming from a provider, but since we’re just showing this temporarily while tweaking it, we don’t have more info to share right now.”

I dunno, it seems like businesses might have questions about a data point like this showing up on their listings, especially as it isn’t sourced. Is it going to make a business look too expensive, or raise questions about what’s being offered? Conversely, is Google getting this data from enough people for it to be used in marketing analysis? If I’m Lozano Brushless Car Wash, when I will know if Google’s pulling data from a large enough sample to be useful and trustworthy? Should I start looking at this now as an analysis and marketing planning tool?

As someone who spends a lot of time in her “real job” doing marketing planning, customer communications, ad buying, etc, I can think of a dozen ways I’d use this data — but not until I knew enough about it to trust it.

LoopNet Seriously Expands Its Commercial Properties Database

LoopNet announced yesterday the LoopNet Property Database, which contains information on five million commercial properties of several different types. The database, which is in beta, is available only to LoopNet Premium Members (Premium membership is between $39.95 and $49.95 depending on how you are billed) but LoopNet gave me temporary access so I could take a look around and give you guys a report. There’s also an iPad app, but you won’t be getting a review on that from me…

LoopNet is available at http://www.loopnet.com/. You can do a certain amount of searching for free, but to have access to all building data you need a premium membership.

The screenshot shows all the property search options available, which are extensive. Options include property type, location (as broad as country or as narrow as zip code or address/intersection), property criteria, and property use and status. (That last one has been updated to include only distressed properties and only property auctions.) I can imagine some other search options I might want (for example, searching for warehouse property and wanting to specify what percentage of my target warehouse is climate-controlled) but this is pretty extensive.

I did a search for warehouse spaces for sale in the Birmingham, Alabama area and got 72 results. Results included an image of the building, brief description, and price. Clicking on a property gets you additional information like more building stats, description, and a flier. The new goodies are down at the bottom of the listing, however, under the “View the Property Record” link. Here you’ll get tax and property data, historical pricing and rent trends (metro area and state) and map and street view (courtesy Bing and Google Maps respectively.)

There are also tabs available for sale and lease histories, but none of the properties I looked at had much of a sale and lease history.

The property search is not without its errors — I found a PO box that was listed as a property — but for the most part it was easy to use and the historical information provided a useful perspective. Not cheap, but plenty of information. How about downloadable comma-delimited trends data so I can mix up and create my own graphs?

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