Monday, July 14, 2008

Text Messaging Huge with Young Adults

Text messaging is especially popular with US adults ages 18 to 34, according to Universal McCann's 2008 "Media in Mind" study. Respondents from that age group sent an average of 13 text messages every week.

In last year's survey, nearly one-half of all US adults said
they had never sent a text message. This year only 41% said so. Among
18 to 34 year-olds surveyed this year, just 22% had never sent a text
message, down from the 38% the prior year.

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"The great unwashed—those people who have never sent a
text message—is getting smaller all the time," said Graeme
Hutton, senior vice president at Universal McCann, in a MediaPost article.

Number of Text Messages Sent per Week according to US Adults, by Age, 2008

Text messaging is still new for many marketers, as evidenced by a February 2008 ExactTarget
study. The proportion of Internet users surveyed who owned a mobile
phone and had made a purchase after receiving a text message was a
paltry 6%. That percentage was higher among younger users, but still
mostly in the single digits.

Such low numbers could be interpreted to mean that text
messages are not a very effective way to market, but they might also
just reflect that such marketing is still relatively rare.

US Internet Users Who Have Purchased due to Receiving Marketing Messages, by Age and Channel, February 2008 (% of respondents in each group)

A December 2007 BIGresearch
study of US Internet users found similarly low text message influence:
6.4% of respondents said they had bought electronics because of text
messages, and still fewer said they had influenced purchases of other
types of goods.

US Adult Internet Users Whose Purchases Are Influenced by Mobile Phone Text Messaging or Video, by Product or Service Category, December 2007 (% of respondents)

If mobile marketing is to move beyond the experimental budget stage,
text messaging is likely to be part of the mix, in part since the
messages lend themselves to existing terminology and benchmarks,
according to John du Pre Gauntt, senior analyst at eMarketer.

"Mobile messaging is tailor-made for getting mobile marketing past the
early adopter stage and into the mainstream," Mr. Gauntt said. "Messaging has a clear currency—that is, messages
sent, received, opened or acted upon—for all parts of the mobile
marketing chain to use."

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Article Link

Thursday, July 10, 2008

MSFT’s acquisition of Powerset is not about search

The recent $100 million acquisition of Powerset,
the semantic search engine company, by Microsoft looks to be more to do
with advertising than beefing up the software giants’ search

So far, Powerset has only demonstrated its technology against
Wikipedia. It’s a neat exhibit but it is highly computer intensive. You
would need a massive amount of computer power to run that semantic
search technology across the entire Internet.

Also, how many searches would benefit from a semantic component? Not many. Most searches are fairly direct in my experience.

Where Powerset’s technology could prove its usefulness is in
contextual advertising. That’s a much smaller semantic problem to
handle, and it is a semantic problem that would result in the largest

The reason Yahoo is outsourcing some of its advertising to Google is
that GOOG is better at contextual advertising in than Yahoo. GOOG can
monetise those searches better than anybody else–at least for now.

If Microsoft can improve contextual advertising then maybe it can
win that type of business from Yahoo and others. If advertisers through
MSFT get better conversions than through Google then Microsoft wins,

Article Link

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

iRobot Eyes Your Lawn With Their Latest Bot


One of the more useful consumer bots to come out in the last
several years is the Roomba. Who wouldn’t want a robot that sweeps
their floor automatically? It’s a great gadget and all, however, we
need more robots around the house. According to a recent patent filing,
iRobot is eying your lawn with their next creation.

The 84-page patent filing shows us several new designs for a bot
whose sole purpose is to trim your lawn. They seem to be looking at
both an electric and a gasoline hybrid motor for power, and want to
include a variety of features such as an edge trimmer, and the ability
to remember the layout of your lawn for future mowings. What I wouldn’t
have given for one of these as a kid. Then again I’m not sure it would
be quite up to mowing 3 acres of land.

Article Link

Metaweb's Freebase Now 60% Larger Than English Wikipedia

is an incredible monument to human creativity and collaboration, but as
one era of innovation passes into another - semantic web advocates want
to augment the huge human input into the web with machine learning. The
semantically enriched common database Freebase announced today that it will soon reach the milestone of 4 million topics added to its collection.
That's 60% more than English Wikipedia's 2,445,041 articles and almost
half the size of Wikipedia's full 10 million articles in 250 different

What is Freebase? It's a database of information that's organized by
people and machines and is particularly well suited for machine
reading. You're not a machine - so why should you care? Read on.


What You Can Do With Freebase

Semantic web expert and RWW contributor Alex Iskold spelled out the value of Freebase in great detail
here in May. The long and short of it though is that Freebase learns
fast through a combination of automated information harvesting and
machine and human organization. It collects information from sources
like Wikipedia and MusicBrainz and from user uploads and edits.

Programmatic access to that now structured data allows all kinds of
mashups to be built that "know things." Check out, for example:

  • Taught or Not - a cute little game that tests your knowledge of who influenced who throughout the history of thinkers.

  • Shot or Not - another game that tests your knowledge of the causes of death of various famous people throughout history.

  • Random Walk Through Influences - a little app that displays the chain of historical influence around any artist whose name you enter.

  • Pull Quotes - If you have any interest in politics, check this out - it's awesome!

  • Powerset - the Natural Language search engine acquired by Microsoft last week uses Freebase, too.

Seriously, Though

Obviously most of these are relatively frivolous use cases. Are
there serious powerful use cases for Freebase yet? We're not entirely
sure. There are big gaps in the data, which is understandable, but the
interface is so much harder to use than Wikipedia's that there's reason
to be concerned about expectations of substantial human editing. The
interface was much improved this summer and is now far more usable, but
it's still harder than it needs to be.

We've certainly got our questions about Freebase, but we're excited
about what Metaweb is doing with it. They are smart, well funded and
aiming high. The community there deserves congratulations on growing to
4 million reusable articles, something that the the celebrated English
Wikipedia community can only aspire to.

Article Link

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Microsoft’s Powerset Acquisition: Integration By End Of Year

I spoke with Powerset cofounder/CEO Barney Pell and Microsoft’s Live Search General Program Manager Ramez Naam shortly after Microsoft’s announcement of their acquisition of Powerset earlier today.

Microsoft intends to use Powerset’s natural language search
technology as a major differentiating factor v. no. 1 search player
Google (see our recent coverage of Live Search Cashback, a another Microsoft search effort aimed at getting more market share).

TechCrunchIT goes into detail
on how effective Powerset may be as a weapon. But a few things are
clear - the resource limitations (cash and computing resources) that
slowed Powerset’s development are now history. The relevance problem is
less important since Microsoft core search relevance is quite good. And
users really seem to like the beta launch of Powerset even with the limited dataset.

Naam says 5% of searches contain elements of natural language that
keyword based search algorithms don’t handle well, and there’s an
assumption that as better results are returned, more people may start
to simply type a normal sentence instead of a couple of keywords.
Microsoft will integrate at least parts of Powerset technology into
Microsoft Live Search by the end of the year, Naam says. I expect we’ll
be hearing a lot more about natural language search coming out of
Microsoft shortly.

Article Link

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Powerset - iPhone Interface

Powerset is a semantic search engine scanning Wikipedia and open
database site, Freebase. The company created an iPhone version of its
site in May after execs realized that a third of its employees owned
iPhones, and they wanted a simpler, faster version of the site for
mobile browsing. Powerset allows users to type in questions such as,
"Who won the NBA Championship in 2008?" Linguistic technology parses
every sentence in a Wikipedia or Freebase entry and provides condensed,
text-based results with links on key search words to the full entries
for further clarification