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Digital News Roundup: Feb. 12, 2010

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Image via Computer World
Image via Computer World

Google dominated industry chatter this week with its announcement of Buzz and swirling rumors of its plans to acquire social search service Aardvark. Foursquare also made headlines for its new partnerships with Zagat and the New York Times. We’ve summarized these items and more in the recap below.

Google Goes Social with ‘Buzz’

On Tuesday Google announced its newest tool that seeks to bring together Gmail and various social channels (i.e. Twitter, Flickr and Picasa). From a user perspective, Buzz will in theory unify the social experience by aggregating several platforms into one. CNET reports that Google is also touting a new “recommendations” algorithm that will factor relevance and ranking into social data.

According to TechCrunch, brands are quickly getting in on Buzz – we’re testing it out ourselves – but what will the value be for marketers? For one, brands actively participating in social channels such as Twitter, Flickr and YouTube can find their content and messages spreading even further as more people use Buzz.

» Further reading: David Berkowitz, Sr. Director of Emerging Media & Innovation, contributed his thoughts on Buzz to Ad Age this week.

Foursquare Partners with Zagat, New York Times

Last week Foursquare announced a partnership with Bravo, one of the first brands to team up with the red-hot geo-location service. This week, two more brands followed suit: Zagat and the New York Times. According to ReadWriteWeb, the deals will provide Foursquare users with special branded “badges,” which they can earn by checking in to various locations.

In a Feb. 3 Ad Age article, David Berkowitz said marketers will be increasingly interested in partnering with Foursquare and similar services so long as the audience continues to grow. Though the app is certainly buzzing at present, its further success will depend on “whether it can maintain its cool,” as Ad Age’s Kunur Patel puts it.

“The X-factor appeal of Foursquare is in its social currency,” Berkowitz said. “Giving Foursquare users these badges for completing explicit tasks adds an element of surprise, like a scavenger hunt. And you can’t ignore the bragging rights.”

Report: Google to Acquire Social Search Service Aardvark

It was a big week for the biggest of the engines. Just days after unleashing Buzz to the world, Google has reportedly acquired social search service Aardvark. Aardvark CEO Max Ventilla confirmed the news to TechCrunch on Thursday. Aardvark is a social Q&A engine that lets users quickly seek out information from their social graphs. To learn more about the service, or social search in general, be sure to read our recent blog post on the topic.

Some of Google’s best moves in social have come through acquisitions (YouTube, Blogger, etc.). And though Aardvark doesn’t yet have the scale of some of Google’s larger acquisition targets, it’s on a major upward trajectory. As more and more consumers tap their social graphs for advice and recommendations, there is huge potential for Google to get in on the action (again that is; years ago the engine had an answers site that fell by the wayside). As this story unfolds it will be interesting to see whether brands will be able to buy their way into recommendations, or at least find a way to deliver relevant marketing messages around them.

Can Google’s Display Sales Top $1 Billion in 2010?

Analysts are predicting that this is the year Google CEO Eric Schmidt can hit his display ad sales target of $1 billion for the year. According to Businessweek’s Douglas MacMillan, this figure would represent 40% increase YoY, but still amount to just 4 percent of the company’s overall sales. MacMillan also cites eMarketer research that forecasts demand for display advertising will “rise faster” this year than it will for search advertising, which is Google’s bread-and-butter market.

Google says it will find momentum the same way it did when building its search empire: by using algorithms to inform the placement of its ads. “Our goal is to bring the science of search to the art of display,” said Neal Mohan, VP of Product Management at Google.

Google’s strategy comes as no surprise, as marketers are looking for more effective ways to target and deliver banner advertising, as well as better ways to measure the success of their campaigns. Back in October Google announced its new ROI tool, Campaign Insights. 360i CEO Bryan Wiener told Ad Age that the move would help remedy the problem of the click as an adequate measure of performance within display. “The consensus is the click is the wrong metric in display,” he said. “But there’s a void in coming up with the right measure.”