• Ross Fadner, Dec 29, 2008, 11:00 AM
  • Britain Introduces Movie-Like Ratings For Web Sites Reuters The British government is looking into rating Web sites in a similar manner to the way movies are rated by the Motion Picture Association of America in the U.S. Britain's Minister For Culture Andy Burnham told The Daily Telegraph that the government was planning to negotiate age ratings for English language sites with the administration of President-elect Barack Obama.

    "The more we seek international solutions to this stuff -- the U.K. and the U.S. working together -- the more that an international norm will set an industry norm," Burnham said. "This is an area that is really now coming into full focus."

    One possibility, he said, is forcing ISPs to offer services where the only Web sites accessible are those deemed suitable for children. Burnham claimed this was different than censorship: "This is not a campaign against free speech, far from it; it is simply there is a wider public interest at stake when it involves harm to other people. We have got to get better at defining where the public interest lies and being clear about it." Read the whole story...
  • Few Ecommerce Sites Benefit From Holiday Discounts The Wall Street Journal Online retail sales may have held up better than expected during the holiday shopping season, but The Wall Street Journal says that this year is still likely to go down as one of the worst on record for the e-commerce sector. Online spending was down 2% year over year from Nov. 1 through Dec. 24, compared with a 5.5% to 8% drop for the overall retail market, but the bigger problem was that purchases were consolidated around big retailers like Amazon, Apple and Wal-Mart, leaving smaller online retailers in the dust.

    A 2% drop in sales might not sound like a lot during a recession, but the Journal reminds us that this is a sector that historically increases 20% annually. As John Aiken, managing director and head of equity research for Majestic Research, says, ecommerce sales were "not amazing by any stretch."

    EBay, for example, saw its traffic drop by 16% between early November and mid-December, while Best Buy saw a 17% decline, according to comScore. The Journal says that the few sites that did benefit relied heavily on discounts, special promotions, and targeted marketing campaigns. "Consumers are hyper-price sensitive in this environment," Aiken says, adding it isn't clear whether they will keep spending as the promotions taper off into next year. Read the whole story...
  • Online Advertising To Weather Recession BusinessWeek It matters little what sector you're in: 2008 was a lousy year for most businesses, particularly advertising. And if you believe the forecasters, 2009 isn't supposed to be much better, either. Just last week, Barclays Capital lowered its projection for advertising in the U.S. to a negative 10% next year, with every single traditional media sector receiving a major hit. By comparison, advertising fell just 1.9% in the 1991 recession, and 6.2% in 2001.

    However, while Barclays and others expect the rest of advertising to get torched, online advertising is still expected to grow between 6 and 10% next year over 2008 levels. In fact, according to BusinessWeek, advertising may see the kind of seismic shift next year that is now bringing about unprecedented changes to the financial and automotive sectors. "The harbinger of advertising's radical transformation is the sustained growth of online," the report says, noting while the rest of the sector takes a big hit, "online is holding its own."

    A new survey from PermissionTV, which queried 400 senior-level marketing decision makers, found that online would be the least affected by budget cuts among all major commercial media. Why is that? As IAB Chief Randall Rothenberg notes, in a typical recession, "above-the-line dollars [move] below the line." Pay as you go approaches are more appealing to big advertisers than "betting one what may come" (i.e. mass-market TV/radio approaches). Instead, advertisers are looking increasingly for accountability and targeting. Read the whole story...
  • Video's March To The Mainstream Wired A few years ago, YouTube member MadV, who usually performs magic tricks wearing a mask, put up a short video showing a simple message scrawled on his hand. It read, "One World." Then he urged viewers to respond -- and respond they did, generating some 2,000 replies, making it the most responded-to video in YouTube's history. Next, MadV stitched together each of the replies, creating one "long, voiceless montage" that Wired called "quite powerful."

    It was a uniquely YouTube piece of art. But what exactly was it? It wasn't a documentary, it wasn't a conversation, and it wasn't really a commentary, either. Whatever it was, Wired notes that it would have been inconceivable without the Internet and a site like YouTube.

    "What's happening to video is like what happened to word processing." Video equipment and production used to be the province of a small handful of experts who could afford the equipment. Similarly, word processing equipment used to be prohibitively expensive until Apple made it drop-dead easy, sparking an explosion of micropublishers. You could also say the same thing about photo manipulation. The next phase of video's evolution to the mainstream will occur when we get even better tools for archiving and searching video. Read the whole story...
  • What Social Search Should Look Like TechCrunch TechCrunch's Erick Schonfeld imagines what true social search would look like if Google and Facebook joined forces.

    He says that being able to search friends' thoughts, interests and activities would provide a better experience, allowing searches for restaurants, books or movies to turn up written recommendations from people you actually know, for example. Or, if planning a trip to Europe, you could easily find out which of your friends have been to the countries you're researching and could ask for advice on where to go and what to do.

    Of course, this all just a dream, Schonfeld reminds us, as it would take the union of Google and Facebook to actually make those kinds of searches possible. As it stands, the search experience on Facebook is poor, while Google's social tools lack Facebook's massive user base. "Yet social search done right could become very valuable for Facebook," Schonfeld argues, adding, "It would be even more valuable for Google." He takes us through a demonstration of how such a union might work. Read the whole story...
  • Online Ads Thrive In Miserable Economy The New York Times Read the whole story...
  • The Internet's Free Labor Economy BusinessWeek Read the whole story...