SingleFeed Selected by AlwaysOn as AO100 Top Private Company Award Winner

July 31, 2007

As I mentioned on SingleFeed, we won an award! This is a testament to the hard work of the SingleFeed team. And we’re just beginning. We have a ton of stuff in development that will give our merchants the power to succeed on the shopping engines this holiday shopping season and well into 2008 and beyond.

On a side note, I wanted to congratulate Gaia Online, this year’s overall AO Top Private Company Award winner. My brother is the CEO of Gaia Online. Very proud that my big bro and his team were also recognized for their incredible achievements!

Here’s what I wrote over at SingleFeed:

We’re thrilled to announced that AlwaysOn has selected SingleFeed as a AO100 Top Private Company Award Winner. You can find out more about the award and see a complete list of winners at AlwaysOn. Here’s SingleFeed’s press release.

It’s great to be recognized as an innovative and disruptive force. It shows that our product vision has legs (lots of them) and our development team has produced incredible results.

And this is only the beginning. We’ve been hard at work improving the back-end architecture, adding new engines (coming very soon), working on partnerships, and much more. We’re giving our merchants the knowledge and power to succeed this holiday shopping season and well into 2008 and beyond. The tools and features we’re developing will enable SingleFeed merchants to rise above the crowd as they tackle the rough seas of data feeds and the comparison shopping engines.

Thanks to AlwaysOn for the recognition and thanks to our merchants, friends, investors, advisers, and partners for your continued support, critique, and advice, as we continue to build an incredible product.

P.S. Just wanted to add that this is not a ‘pay for play’ award. We did not grease any wheels to get this done. There is a CEO Speaker Series that we decided not to participate in because it is ‘pay for play’. That’s not to say that it’s wrong to ‘pay to play’ it’s just that we did not feel it was appropriate at this point. If it ever does become appropriate, we’ll let you know and be completely open about why the decision was made.


PriceGrabber Lands CNET Deal

July 30, 2007

Congrats to the PriceGrabber team for landing CNET. Seems that PriceGrabber will now be the exclusive provider of shopping comparison engine listings for CNET (including MySimon and ZDnet). Currently, CNET runs its own shopping comparison engine listings program while MySimon syndicates tech listings from CNET and gets the rest of its listings (Home & Garden/Soft Goods) from Shopping.com.

Here’s the email sent from CNET’s Joe Gillespie which details the change. You’ll hear more from me about this after I’ve talked to CNET and PriceGrabber:

We’d like to inform you of a change at CNET.com that is going to impact our relationship. After careful consideration, we have decided to transition the management of our CPC (cost per click) listings programs to our strategic partner, PriceGrabber.com. This partnership will provide you continued access to the powerful CNET.com audience while simplifying the process of managing your marketing programs.

After the transition, only the price listings for current listings partners of PriceGrabber.com will appear on CNET and its affiliates (ZDNet and mySimon). If you are not currently a listings partner with PriceGrabber.com, you will need to setup an account with them in time for the transition. To do this, please contact:

[left out for privacy]
As a result of this transition, your merchant listings agreement with CNET.com will be terminated as of the date of the transition to PriceGrabber.com, which we anticipate will happen between August 27 and September 1, 2007. We will notify you of the actual date of the transition as we get closer. An invoice for your August activity and a statement will be sent to you on September 6th. The statement will show the current amount due for August and all non-current outstanding amounts due. Contact information for the CNET Billing and Collections team will be provided in case you have questions on your invoice or statement. Please make every effort to pay all outstanding amounts to ensure a smooth transition.

We very much appreciate the support and business you have given CNET.com over the years and we hope you will continue to leverage the CNET audience through PriceGrabber.com. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us at http://www.cnet.com/partners.

Sincerely,

Joe Gillespie
Executive Vice President, CNET.com


Recommendation for Yahoo! Product Submit and Yahoo! Shopping

July 27, 2007

Dear Yahoo! Product Submit & Yahoo! Shopping,

It’s time for a change. You have 2 options.
1. Stop charging merchants on a pay per click (PPC) basis.
2. Radically overhaul Yahoo! Product Submit, creating reporting and bidding capabilities that make use of a smart web service – basically learning from the successes and failures of Yahoo! Search Marketing (YSM).

While I’d like you to go for the second option, at this point, I have a feeling this is too difficult. Panama is the future of the company – at least for the moment – and getting any resources to improve Yahoo! Product Submit is not going to happen. Furthermore, Yahoo! Shopping/Yahoo! Product Submit seem to be just another Yahoo! operating unit (a JAYOU, for short). It will do fine under the (fairly) new direction of Jasper Malcomson, but is not destined to be a shining star. This is not a below the belt blow to Jasper and his team, it’s just that I can’t imagine that anyone high up at Yahoo! really cares about Yahoo! Shopping/Yahoo! Product Submit right now.

If Yahoo! Shopping and Yahoo! Search Marketing Product Submit bring in $150M this year, that’s great, but I think Yahoo! decided years ago to focus more on search, than on product search. Rob Solomon and Chris Saito made a good effort. David Beach tried to shake things up. And I’ve been a wonderful pain in your ass, but I’ve finally come to the conclusion that Yahoo! Shopping and Yahoo! Product Submit don’t really matter to the company. I’ve met some smart people at Yahoo! Shopping and Yahoo! Product Submit, so I kinda hate to say that, but if the overall support of the company isn’t behind the product, it’s the truth as I see it.

Yahoo! Product Submit (the way merchants get on Yahoo! Shopping – for those of you newbies) is a smart system that processes data feeds quickly and efficiently. The system even auto-categorizes products with incredible accuracy. The Yahoo! Product Submit reporting functionality, however, leaves a LOT to be desired. Actually, it leaves everything to be desired. Where’s the product level reporting? Where’s the product level bidding? Where’s the API so I can grab click costs in almost real time and then automatically make changes to my bids in order to optimize my ROI?

At the same time, my guesstimation is that Yahoo! Shopping is making at least 20% of its revenue from graphical ads and another 30% from YSM ads, which means that the Yahoo! Product Submit PPC ads only account for 50% of revenue. Assuming that Yahoo! Shopping is doing aprx $150m/yr (I’m being generous), that means the PPC ads from Yahoo! Product Submit are only bringing in $75m/year. While that sum might be meaningful for any other shopping engine, in the grand scheme of Yahoo!, that’s chump change. So get rid of it – Panama and Graphical Ads are the future of Yahoo!, anyways, right?!?

Two years ago, I interviewed Rob Solomon, former GM and VP of Yahoo! Shopping who said “Yahoo! Shopping is becoming a starting point and adding value to the shopping experience.” Somewhere along the way, that vision was lost. Yahoo! Shopping now looks like the mind of a improperly medicated schizophrenic. My comments last November pretty much say it all, but to sum it up, the site does not provide an incredible shopping experience that consumers will evangelize. It’s a mess.

So go FREE. Yahoo! Product Submit becomes a Google Base-esque service, although with the ability to more flexibly handle feeds than Google Base or any other shopping engine (seriously, Yahoo! Shopping is the easiest engine to work with). Yahoo! Shopping then shifts monetization efforts to Yahoo! Publisher Network ads & Graphical Ads – which it has pretty much already done. And most importantly, the Yahoo! Shopping team can return to the basics, improving the shopping experience on Yahoo! Shopping.

It’s a tough pill to swallow, but merchants will applaud you for building a free shopping comparison engines with a lot of traffic – it’s what has driven Google Base and Google Product Search.

1. Yahoo! Product Submit, go free.
2. Yahoo! Shopping, gracefully fill the revenue gap with targeted YSM and graphical ads.
3. Yahoo! Shopping, go back to the basics and concentrate on cleaning up the site and building an incredible user experience.

Related Posts
Yahoo! Adds 2 Shopping Shortcuts – Important for Yahoo! Product Submit Optimization
Yahoo! Sponsored Search Update – What About Yahoo! Product Submit


Keeping Acquisition Prices Consistent

July 16, 2007

As a friend of ComparisonEngines just pointed out to me, the acquisition prices I’ve been listing might be a bit off. In the past, I’ve always written ‘aprx’ next to the valuations of the deals and neglected to do so this time around. The friend called me on it – rightfully so.

In other words, some of the prices might be the ‘enterprise’ value (taking into consideration cash/cash equivalents and debt) while some are probably not. I should have a Wall St. analyst write up the post for me (Herman, this is simple stuff for you!), but I’ll definitely go back, do my research, and post an update.


ValueClick Buys Smarter.com for up to $352,

July 16, 2007

Here’s the WSJ article.

According to that piece, ValueClick agreed to pay up to $352m (depending on revenue performance) for MeziMedia (which owns Smarter.com, CouponMountain, and MoreRebates).

Funny, two people mentioned something to me about Smarter in the last two weeks. Should have connected the dots. I’ll have more info after I speak to Talmadge and Harry.

Congrats to the Smarter team!

And so the list of Venture backed shopping comparison engines with successful exits continues to grow (please note that these are only estimates):
Jango acquired by Excite ($35m)
Junglee acquired by Amazon ($250m)
C2b acquired by Inktomi Product Search ($90m)
MySimon acquired by CNET ($700m)
Cadabra acquired by Overture ($250m)
Kelkoo acquired by Yahoo ($579m)
PriceRunner acquired by Valueclick ($29m)
Dealtime/Epinions formed SDC acquired by eBay ($500m)
Bizrate renamed Shopzilla acquired by EW Scripps ($500m)
PriceGrabber acquired by Experian ($485m)
NexTag acquired by Providence Equity Partners ($833m – for 66% of the company)
MeziMedia (owner of Smarter.com) acquired by ValueClick (up to $352m)

Wonder how many calls Become.com has received this morning…


TheFind Raises $15M in Third Round of Financing

July 12, 2007

The $15M round was led by Bain Capital with previous investors, Redpoint Ventures and Lightspeed Ventures, participating.

Co-founder & CEO, Siva Kumar told me that TheFind will use the money to continue development of its search engine, build traffic through partnerships (this funding gives the company a bit more credibility amongst the second tier engines), and develop/ramp up an ad sales team.

TheFind makes money through sponsored search listings (syndicated from Shopping.com) and graphical ads (sold by partner, Glam.com).

According to Siva, the $15m is more than enough to fund operations to cash flow positive, which is expected within 12 months.

Current traffic on the site is about 2m unique users and growing about 30% a month, which means TheFind expects 4-5m unique users this holiday season. Page views currently stand at about 10m/month.

If TheFind sold through it’s inventory right now (made up of banners, leaderboards, sky scrapers, etc.), the company could generate aprx. $100,000/month (10,000,000 page views @ $10/1000 impressions). Assuming TheFind reaches 4m uniques this holiday season and maintains about 5 page views per unique, the company could generate aprx. $200,000/month (20,000,000 page views @ $10/1000 impressions). These number do not include revenue from Shopping.com’s syndicated listings.

TheFind won’t come near these numbers because it can’t ramp up a sales force to sell through its inventory. However, it will continue to make some dough through its Shopping.com deal, Glam partnership and other similar ad network deals.

TheFind raised $7m in its first round and $4.5m in its second round. With the $15m from this round, TheFind has now raised more than $26m.


Social Shopping/Social Commerce – Facebook, Jellyfish, Bazaarvoice, and more.

July 4, 2007

I’m writing an article about social shopping for my friends over at GigaOm. If anyone has any thoughts on the subject (what’s working, what’s not, Facebook, Jellyfish, Bazaarvoice, etc.), please comment below.

Also, if you haven’t checked out Facebook, you really should. Feel free to add me (brian at singlefeed dot com) as a friend if you don’t know anyone.
-b


WordPress Whiz Needed for ComparisonEngines.com

July 4, 2007

I’m looking for someone to update ComparisonEngines.

-upgrade to more recent version of WordPress (this will probably include creating a new template for the site)
-add much needed tools like Akismet
-add plugins (sharethis.com, mybloglog, and all the other things the cool kids are using these days)
-re-design to call out comments, blogroll, categories, etc.

Comment here or email (brian at comparisonengines dot com) if interested.
Thanks!
-b


Shopping Engines in the Dark Ages

July 4, 2007

The shopping engines produce incredible results for the vast majority of merchants that SingleFeed works with. However, I’ve long been critical of the basic tools the shopping engines provide their advertisers. I guess I shouldn’t complain – the lack of transparency the shopping engines provide and the poor toolset to manage marketing spends (among many other things) creates an opportunity for SingleFeed, ChannelAdvisor, ChannelIntelligence, Mercent, Merchant Advantage, and the many new data feed management services popping up.

But at some point the shopping engines have to get with the program. I applaud the shopping engines for working on building a better shopping experience. And it’s nice to see Shopping.com finally providing SKU level reporting and pushing merchants to sign up for CPA based listings, but for the last 2.5 years, the statements I’ve been getting from Shopping.com basically said that merchants don’t want, need, or have the ability to understand SKU level data. At the same time, many shopping engines say that APIs are on the ToDo list, but not a priority.

It’s no wonder that Smarketers (as Omniture calls smart marketers) like JP Werlin, David Rodnitzky, Jeff Molander, Alan Rimm Kaufman, and many others have said the shopping engines are in the dark ages compared to Google Adwords.

David Rodnitzky had a good post on the subject a couple weeks back, talking about ‘bad clicks’ on the shopping engines.

In a The Sky is Falling moment, I even got ChannelAdvisor and Channel Intelligence to agree on something when I first voiced my opinion on SKU level tracking last year (see the comments).

I don’t like making generalizations or beating a dead cat (or is it horse?) but the big boys in the shopping comparison engine world are on the cusp of a potentially disastrous holiday shopping season. Every year when the shopping engines increase their click costs in November/December, merchants cry foul. At the same time, Google & Yahoo! have the potential to limit the shopping engines’ exposure in their organic and paid listings: Google has said that it doesn’t believe in sending a searcher to another search results page and most of the shopping search engines make a good portion of their revenue from Google AdSense or Yahoo! Publisher Network ads, but both Google and Yahoo don’t think pages with tons of syndicated ads are that relevant. And most importantly, Google Base (if listers submit properly) rocks and will only get increased exposure through Google’s Universal Search initiative.

Lack of transparency + fed up merchants + decreased traffic from Google + Google Base = Trouble…with a capital T that rhymes with G and that stands for Google (adopted from the Music Man song, Ya Got Trouble – it’s a holiday, give me a break!).

Now this isn’t a completely gloom and doom post. The shopping engines have built an incredibly valuable shopping experience. I can point to positive news coming out of Shopping.com, Shopzilla, NexTag, Yahoo! Shopping, PriceGrabber, Smarter.com, and Become. And with big corporate parents like Scripps, eBay, and Experian Interactive, many of these shopping engines will continue to thrive for a long time. I’m just hoping that a couple courageous execs at the shopping engines take this post to heart and produce a Jerry Maguire type Mission Statement or Yahoo-esque Peanut Butter Manifesto as a wake up call for change.

I owe my livelihood over the last 3 years to the shopping engines and root for you guys everyday because you really do produce great results for merchants and a valuable service for consumers. As always, I’m here to talk about what I’m seeing in the industry and help you succeed – I have a unique point of view as an Analyst, Merchant, Consumer, and Aggregator. Call, email, or IM. I’m not here to ‘dig up dirt’ as one PR executive commented last year. In my reply to that comment (PR In the Age of the Blogosphere), the most encouraging response I got came from Nasser Manesh of Frucall:

As a person representing a business/service, I have to say that I prefer criticism to sugercoating. It’s always nice to hear the good side of things, but at the same time the only way to grow and improve is by listening to what others see as problems, issues, and shortcomings about our service. Yes, it may hurt the ego, but if we look beyond that and try to be objective, nothing comes out of it but good. Even if the criticism is baseless, it’s still a chance to review and make sure that we have done our best.

I hope the new and old management at the shopping engines feel the same way.


Did the Supreme Court Just Kill the Shopping Comparison Engines?

July 4, 2007

There’s a chance, according to David Rodnitzky of Blogation. David’s much smarter than I am, so his post is definitely worth a read. And he has a Law Degree so he can understand the intricacies of the Supreme Court’s ruling in LEEGIN CREATIVE LEATHER PRODUCTS, INC. v. PSKS, INC., DBA KAY’S KLOSET . . . KAY’S SHOES lifting a ban on a manufacturer’s ability enforce minimum retail prices.

Here’s the NYTimes take. And Forbes’ view.

This decision will have no short term consequences for the shopping engines or for internet retailers in general (prices won’t change overnight). But here’s David’s theory of how the ruling plays out:

Imagine what happens to comparison shopping engines if, well, there are no prices to compare. I guess they just become “shopping engines?” In fact, the likely outcome would be that the comparison engines would become nothing more than repositories for consumer satisfaction ratings. Since the price would be the same across all vendors, the user would simply need to sort the vendors based on the number of positive reviews.

Of course, in such a scenario, I can’t imagine too many vendors with low ratings wanting to stick around for long on the CSEs, nor would it be likely that poorly reviewed vendors would get too many clicks in the first place.

The end result, then, for the CSEs seem pretty bleak – less utility to consumers and fewer paying vendors.

I’m going to send out some emails to the shopping engines and small & medium sized retailers that SingleFeed works with to get their thoughts. Hopefully you’ll see some comments pop up here soon.

Since I basically copied David’s post, make sure to check out his site and subscribe to his feed.


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