Keynote Roundtable: Technical and Information Giants

How awesome is this going to be? Check it out: Kevin Ryan and Mike Grehan are moderating the most fantastic panel on the planet. Matt Cutts (Google), Danny Sullivan (Search Engine Land), Tim Westergreen (Pandora), Robert Scoble (FastCompany.TV), Kirsten Mangers (WebVisible) and Rich LeFurgy (Archer Advisors). It’s still dark in here but the glow off the superstars on stage is more than enough to blog by. Lisa and I have super good seats because we got here 45 minutes early to stake out the front row. We’re committed. Or should be committed. Debate that in the comments.

Kevin gets us started with some house keeping and more award winners. Yay! Check out the winners on the site. Matt Cutts gets the Editor’s Choice award for having cute cats. Or possibly contributions to search marketing.

It is PACKED in here but no less cold. Am going to become a bloggersicle.

Right to left: Mike, Tim, Robert, Kirsten, Matt (Kevin says he’s worshipped as a god in some countries), Danny (also a god in some countries), Rich and Kevin. We start with a video. I like those. They’re easier to blog. Essentially it’s this [Clips from lots and lots of popular media with characters talking about Google, MySpace, YouTube, etc. It’s funny, if very, very geeky. Perfect for this audience basically.]

Robert’s on his phone through the whole thing.

We start the actual session with a couple quotes from Vint Cerf.

Looking back at the next ten years, now and what’s next.

Robert: We’re seeing Twitter going down, and it’s that these sites get so big, so fast. I was the first to talk about ICQ back in the day. iLike got to 6 million users in the first 6 days. How do you keep up with that demand? You’re not going to be able to do that unless you’re Google.

Kevin: How did we get here? We started out as just a bunch of geeks. What did this look like when it first started.

Robert: I started out at a camera store and it was all word of mouth. But it was all very inefficient. Now it’s become (over time) hyper efficient. He was twittering through the video about being on stage with Matt. [I knew it!]

Matt: I haven’t really talked much about the early days of Google on my blog. I stopped working on my Ph.D. to join Google. They didn’t even have a lobby. It’s wild to look back and say wow, how did this happen how tid this occur. I came to the conclusion that Google should be an advocate for our users. Offline there’s Consumer Reports but online it didn’t work as well. So that was our role, we tried to make it reputable.

Kevin: Is there a Google killer?

Danny: I think Google’s going to be fairly dominant for years to come. Whenever I hear that there’s a Google killer is turns me off. They underestimate how hard it is and even if they did have the relevancy and the information they probably wouldn’t have. If there’s going to be a Google killer, it’s going to be Microsoft. At best what you’re going to see is incremental stages. YouTube is a classic success story of succeeding where Google could not. Google came along with a great product at the right time and they stuck with it. They succeeded in part because it was user first.

Kevin: So when you go to the VCs, you say ‘I’m going to be purchased by Google?”

Mike: Why does there have to be a Google killer? Competition is good. It’s brand switching at this point. The average guy sits at the search engine and just does his search. He doesn’t care about privacy. He just cares about results.

Robert: I got shown a stealth project and the first thing they said was ‘we’re not a google killer and we’re not Cuil either.” More than half of the sites I visit use Google analytics. Microsoft is going to need the same kind of foothold. They’re not going to compete on the brand. Even if they get the relevance. How many people search for Yahoo on Google. They don’t understand the address bar, they only understand the search box.

Kevin: To the lay person, they just want it to work. It took hours to set up my Slingbox. I just wanted to plug it in. The less thinking the better off we’re all going to be. [Reads several quotes from a 2003 article] Do you think it’s possible to acquire Yahoo.

Matt: We have a culture of trying to build things ourself. We’ve had to scale things up. The ability to scale is really tough. People assume that Google is simplicity itself but we do a lot of experiment. We’ve got more people working on search than ever before. I think Yahoo partners better than we do but I think it’s a strength if you can do things in house.

Kevin: Is the first man on the platform the winner?

Tim: Pandora’s thought about acquiring Google but we’re not there yet. We started Pandora because as a musician, your challenge is reaching an audience. We wanted to do that in a democratic horizontal way. The thing with search is that it’s building one big huge popularity contest. I think the next generation is an engine that addresses the sites that never had a chance to be in the Top 10, the Top 100.

Mike: Even if Google brings up 30 million pages a day, 90 million go live and you’re never going to see that. In terms of the way that Google led the way by emphasizing linking. The voice of the end user is important. They can’t link to you so there’s got to be more than than.

Kevin: To most of the world, local is mission critical. How is that process evolving? Are small businesses engaging?

Kirsten: No. I asked Matt what the killer local app is and it’s Urban Spoon. (Hee, she says she’s both the token female and the redheaded stepchild.) [Robert explains what Urban Spoon is] The problem with online is that you only get what’s cool not what’s convenient. It needs to do a better job of bringing buyer and seller together. The content needs to get online. They don’t understand it on a local level how to do that yet. No one just comes to a site. You have to go out and buy eyeballs. We have a long way to go before we can make Urban Spoon relevant, before we get every restaurant on Yelp. We need a hell of a lot of servers and more content and better efficiency. We need to be able to make it simple enough for the local people to understand.

Robert: I think we’re going to see a lot of back filling, lots of education.

Kirsten: It would take your average carpet cleaner 31 hours to do what we can do in minutes. They need education.

Kevin: You’re not the token female. I invited a lot of women. I prefer women. [Ariana, the other female, was busy]

Rich: I think some of the open local formats for content, like Google KML and Yahoo FireEagle, it’s not so much about where the businesses are, it’s about where users are. It’s about GPS and fixed IP. I think that level of relevance is going to be layered over it and I think it’s important. How do you do relevance at scale, that’s the point.

Matt: What’s made your life easier? Broadband, wireless… I went to Waffle house in Tennessee. They didn’t have tablet PCs but they, every single one of them, had cellphone. He was down in LA last week and could look up traffic and restaurants [but not apparently the directions to the BC office, eh Matt?]

Rich: One company to focus on is Nokia. They sell a million phones a day. They have a lot of smart phone capabilities.

Matt: Nokia open sourced Symbian and that was good. Now there’s all sorts of open platforms. If you make a great app where someone can run it and install it, you’ll see a lot more innovation.

Robert: The right question is who is going to get earlier into the buying behavior. Can I get earlier in the buying behavior and lock up the user before they get to already deciding what to get and where to get it?

Kirsten: Imagine the relevance if Facebook picked up local search. If they took cues from updates.

Tim: From pandora’s perspective, local is the motherlode. Our growth rate doubled when we launched the iPhone app. When you look at radio, they have double the revenue of the retail business. We on the Web, we’re looking at putting out business on every person the street. [Robert takes over the interviewer role and asks Tim to explain royalties. Kevin thanks him a bit dryly. Tim explains.]

Robert: Search is where you get the transaction. There’s lots of things that come before search.

Danny: No, there’s search through all parts of the process. You don’t know anything about wine, you go to Google and ask it about Google. Then you go back and refine and ask it something else. There’s not any time when search isn’t part of it. [I heart Danny.]

Kevin: Are consumers doing it backwards? Should people be marketing the way Danny describes? Is there going to be a social rejection of the process?

Matt: We don’t want to lock in the users data. All the of the users data can be pulled out. What if you could link it all in and have Google suggest things for you to do. What if, like Robert says, you could get in earlier and find out ‘here’s this thing you might want to do’

Kevin: Most important things to avoid? Top Trends? Biggest challenges? Today’s decisions, tomorrow’s consequences?

Tim: The next wave is accommodating big money now. Launching a new car isn’t about buying a keyword. How and when will those companies find a way to really make the most of online.

Robert: I agree with that. People are looking for ways to put money online but they’re not there yet in understanding how to do that. They’re still trying to understand how to spend money online. It’s not what they know. Mobile and social are the trends I’m watching right now. Evernote is getting better. The search engines are getting better at finding photos and recognizing the fingerprint of a photo. [Brief discussion of Robert’s phones.]

Kirsten: Agrees with both, and expands it from big marketers to all marketers. No plan survives its collision with reality. The future is about becoming Costco. High quality at low cost. It’s all about mobile and hyperlocal and “find” instead of search.

Matt: Cloud based storage. If I dropped my laptop, I still wouldn’t lose my data because it’s stored elsewhere. It’s cheaper than ever to do a startup. It costs virtually no money. You can code on weekends and so many opportunities. We haven’t even scratched the surface of what’s possible.

Danny: Search marketers. As you’re watching stuff rolling out and people getting exicted on things that you don’t know are going to convert. Don’t forget what made you unique as a search marketer. You know how people are looking for information. They seek it in different ways and you understand what those venues are and what it takes to get there. That’s what I get concerned about when people get all excited about social or video ads but that’s not search. Don’t get distracted by the shiny new things. Don’t get distracted from your expertise.

Rich: I think the big thing is that agencies realize they have a problem. 4-5 years ago, they were waiting for it to go away but now they know they have a problem. Media exhanges–Google and Doubleclick creating a place for display advertising. I think that’s going to squeeze ad networks. You’ll see media futures. That’s going to take some time to get going. Exchanges are really granular and really scalable.


How do I afford anything after I have to pay so much to get all these shiny things?

Kevin: [doesn’t quite call Verizon Wireless Nazis.]

Danny: Arguably, the bulk of the people still aren’t going to be using smart phones. In the Sex and the City movie, Carrie needs a phone and Sam gives her the iPhone. She doesn’t know how to use it. This is not the year of mobile. Next year isn’t the year of mobile. It’s gradual growth. It’s not simple enough yet and not cheap enough yet.

As businesses start to use Twitter and Web Analytics, how do you make those a competitive advantage?

Kevin: I can’t believe we just used Twitter and analytics in the same sentence. [Lisa and I said the same thing!]

Robert: You need to create extraordinary experiences. Get people to talk.

Kevin: Use it, don’t abuse it.

Kirsten: Keep it simple.

Mike: What’s the point of twitter?

Robert: There is no point to Twitter!

[general chatter]

Matt: You find that guy who wants to learn about that stuff anyway and you let them come up with something viral. People move to the things that are interesting to them.

Susan Esparza is former managing editor at Bruce Clay Inc., and has written extensively for clients and internal publications. Along with Bruce Clay, she is co-author of the first edition of Search Engine Optimization All-in-One Desk Reference For Dummies.

See Susan's author page for links to connect on social media.

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One Reply to “Keynote Roundtable: Technical and Information Giants”

This was a wide-ranging discussion–nice job capturing all the threads of the conversation!


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