Rupert’s FIM Needs a Shopping Comparison Enigne

August 29, 2005

After announcing the formation of Fox Interactive Media (FIM), Rupert Murdoch spent $580m to acquire Intermix, the owner of MySpace, the insanely popular (28m unique users) community site. He bid around $94m for a leading Australian real estate site, although the company recently rejected the bid. He acquired Scout Media. There were rumors that FIM was also interested in acquiring Skype for $3b. Then the search engine rumors emerged (a search engine can be the glue that holds together all the properties) with Blinkx as the likely target . In the end, Murdoch’s News Corp is expected to spend up to $2b on internet acquisitions. Oh, it’s also important to note that the company has long had it’s eyes on Asia (it’s the largest Western TV company in China and has media interests throughout the area). The company recently experienced a setback in setting up a primetime TV channel in China.

Ok, so let’s put the pieces together: News Corp thinks community, content, search, and China are important…well what about commerce?

I think a shopping comparison engine could be a great play for Murdoch and FIM. It wouldn’t be THE acquisition, but it would fit in well with the other pieces of the puzzle.

I’ve always been a believer that content, commerce, and community go hand in hand (in hand). News Corp’s FIM division definitely has content in the form of fox.com, foxnews.com, foxsports.com, newly acquired Scout Media, etc. and community in form of MySpace. However, after spending hours playing around with MySpace and other FIM sites, I found lots of PPC ads and various sponsorships, but no significant commerce component.

With the recent consolidation in the market (eBay acquired Shopping.com and EW Scripps acquired Shopzilla), there are only a couple independent shopping comparison engines left. PriceGrabber and NexTag are the established players which many people thought might be in play after the Shopping.com and Shopzilla acquisitions. However, newcomers Become.com and Smarter.com might also be attractive candidates.

Become.com is a new search engine that incorporates a research service with a comparison shopping engine. The company recently raised a second round of financing led by Transcosmos Ventures, a Japanese firm, which probably signals Become.com’s plans to enter the Asian market at some point. Smarter.com is a new shopping comparison engine led by two former Overture executives. The company will likely be the first US shopping comparison engine to offer services in China and Japan.

It’s all speculation…no comments from any of the companies mentioned above…but it’s something to think about.


Merchant Resources

August 28, 2005

I’ve launched a section for merchants. There are three main areas:

  • List of Shopping Comparison Engines
  • Simple Comparison Engine Submission
  • Shopping Comparison Engine Forums

The ‘List’ will grow, and I’ll quickly add pertinent information for each engine.
The ‘Submission Service’ will launch soon.
The ‘Forums’ are live.
Enjoy!


Newsletter Update

August 27, 2005

I changed my newsletter list management service over the weekend. I will now send out updates to subscribers after there have been a number of posts as opposed to after every post. If you had previously subscribed, make sure to respond to the doublt opt-in request you should have already received. If you’re a die hard groupie, though, and live and die by my posts, subscribe to the feed.

Thanks!

-b


Management Changes at Shopzilla

August 26, 2005

From the press release:

John Phelps, currently chief operating officer of Shopzilla, has been named president of the online comparison shopping service, which is the newest operating subsidiary of The E.W. Scripps Company.

Phelps succeeds Chuck Davis, who has been named chairman of Shopzilla. Davis, 45, was president and chief executive officer of Shopzilla when it was acquired by Scripps in June. He will serve in an advisory role and also will work with Scripps to explore business opportunities in rapidly growing interactive marketplaces.

Read the full release.


Users and Communities Take Control

August 25, 2005

Quotation of the day (ok from a couple days ago): “We have 100 designers in-house,” says Lego Vice-President for Interactive Experiences Lizbeth Pallesen. “Maybe we should have 300,000 designers who don’t work for Lego.” CEO Laursen goes even further: “The company should be run by consumers,” he says.

As I read about the Lego Factory in this week’s Business Week, I couldn’t help but smile. What a concept! The company should be run by consumers. Sounds a little bit like the eBay model. As Bill Cobb, president of eBay North America said in an Economist interview in June, “We enable, we listen, we respond. Generally in a company the employees know the most about the business. In eBay, our community knows more than we do.” Meg Whitman, eBay’s CEO added “We make a small number of rules and get the heck out of the way, because the entrepreneurial talents of our users will solve a lot of the problems.”

Lego Factory, eBay, Amazon/Google/Yahoo! APIs, Judy’s Book, Linden Labs’ Second Life, MySpace, it’s all about the users or community taking control.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what a community run (eBay infused) Shopping.com might look like…yes, Epinions reviews are a start, but I think there’s more that can be done. As a merchant on Shopping.com (and the other comparison engines), I definitely don’t feel like I’m part of a community.

I was hoping to do a more in-depth post today with my thoughts, but I was just asked to do a Leukopheresis donation for a 3 yr old boy. 3 hrs of blood cell collection has my mind wondering a bit, but look out for a post on this topic very soon.


Excellence in Customer Service

August 25, 2005

‘Your import rate is 87% which is pretty good.’ This is an excerpt from an email I received on Monday from a shopping comparison engine after I asked about the errors in my feed. I’m still laughing. 87% is pretty good…ok…but shouldn’t we be shooting for an import rate of 100%?
Read the rest of this entry »


Travel Comparison Engines – SideStep’s Phil Carpenter

August 24, 2005

Ok, I’m almost through Hard Landing. What a great crash course on the Airline industry…deregulation, pricing, fare wars, labor costs/unions, reservation systems, and more. I highly recommend the book (SideStep makes it required reading for all new employees).

There’s so much to cover within shopping comparison engines that I’ve been reticent to jump into coverage of travel comparison engines (or travel search as some people like to say). I spoke with SideStep and Mobissimo early on, but did not really follow up. However, I think there are a lot of synergies between shopping search and travel search which makes coverage important. And just as with shopping comparison engines, no one is really concentrating on travel comparison engines like SideStep, Kayak, FareChase, and Mobissimo which are clearly changing the way people shop for travel services.

I sat down with Phil Carpenter, SideStep’s VP of Corporate Marketing, while at Search Engine Strategies

A little background…
“There are a number of Global Distribution Systems (GDS) or reservation systems: Sabre (used by Travelocity), Galileo/Apollo, Worldspan (used by Expedia), Amadeus (Europe), and Abacus (Asia). These systems are expensive for travel providers to sell through as there are associated booking and query fees.”

“When the world wide web came along, travel suppliers were slower at developing consumer friendly websites. But in the end, they want consumers to come directly to them. That’s why SideStep works well; after the first sale through SideStep, that user might go to that channel directly.” [Editor’s Note: Expedia, Travelocity, and Orbitz are online travel agents (OTAs). These companies take your reservation and even hold inventory – seats, rooms, etc. SideStep, Kayak, and the other travel comparison engines send you to the source to book your reservation.]

“The travel search engine model is strategically aligned with how travel providers want to go. This is especially true for hotels. However, from late 2001 through 2003, 9/11 and the SARS epidemic hit and the hoteliers got desperate. They were willing to give away the store to companies like Expedia. They just wanted to fill rooms.”
Read the rest of this entry »


Mobissimo offers MobiCombos – Buy 2 Tix and Save

August 24, 2005

From the Mobissimo Newsletter:

In addition to adding travel suppliers, we have launched a new product this week – MobiCombo. Often, flying to Europe and other destinations is cheaper when you buy two tickets. For example, during the summer months, direct airfare to travel hotspots like Croatia and Greece is much more expensive than buying two tickets. Buy one ticket to a major hub like London, then switch airlines (and sometimes airports) to a low cost carrier like EasyJet or Ryanair. The savings can be hundreds of dollars and your itinerary can be much more flexible.

Check out MobiCombo.

Eventually, I assume Mobissimo will offer this service automatically. Instead, as you can see in the directions, a user currently has to 1) search for a direct flight and write down the price, 2) search for a a flight into a major European hub and write down that price, 3) search for a flight from the hub into the city of choice and write down that price, and 4) add up the 2 prices (from steps 2 & 3) and compare that price to the price of the direct flight (step 1). Still with me? Didn’t think so!


PriceRunner: Leveraging the ValueClick Network

August 23, 2005

When PriceRunner officially launched a month ago, I was skeptical. While new features or slightly different strategies can make a shopping comparison engine stand out, it’s not going to ensure survival. Besides attracting consumers, the comparison engines also have to attract merchants.

This can be a slightly difficult task when any serious internet marketer using comparison engines is already listing products on Froogle, NexTag, PriceGrabber, Shopping.com, Shopzilla, and Yahoo! Shopping. Additionally, that busy internet marketer might be testing out Become.com, Smarter.com, and a host of specialized engines. A lot to manage when you take into consideration the sign up process (you have to fax a contract to the engines- sometimes a 15 page contract!), the feed (creation, submission, and dealing with hundreds of small errors), placement (categorization issues), bidding/sponsorship, title/description optimization, etc.
Read the rest of this entry »


Shopzilla Larger than Shopping.com

August 17, 2005

Shopzilla’s second quarter 2005 EBITDA of $7.6MM on revenue of $29.5MM highlights the strong growth of shopping comparison engines and puts the company ahead of Shopping.com in terms of quarterly revenue. Shopping.com reported second quarter 2005 revenue of $27.8MM, $1.7MM less than Shopzilla.

As Chuck Davis, Shopzilla’s CEO points out, the company has been “growing sequentially, quarter-over-quarter, since the holidays. In a seasonal business like shopping, which normally skews heavily to the fourth quarter, this trend is quite exciting.” According to Farhad Mohit, the company’s fourth quarter 2004 revenues were $25.1MM and first quarter 2005 revenues were $26.9MM (as the company was a private corporation until the recent E.W.Scripps acquisition, there is no way to confirm these numbers). While Shopping.com’s fourth quarter 2004 revenues of $31.7MM and first quarter 2005 revenues of $28.9MM were higher than those reported by Shopzilla, it’s important to note that Shopping.com has seen a sequential, quarter-over-quarter downward trend in revenues since the fourth quarter. In truth, this is what should be expected with a shopping related site. That’s what makes Shopzilla’s strong growth even more interesting.

Here’s a closer look at what makes Shopzilla tick. I sat down with Farhad Mohit in his company’s LA office a couple weeks ago to get an overview of the company. I will follow up with Farhad in the near future to more thoroughly hit on some of the subjects covered in our conversation… Read the rest of this entry »


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