Airbnb Blog Running on WordPress, Genesis & Websynthesis

With Posterous closing, a race started a couple of weeks ago to move the Airbnb blogs from Posterous to WordPress. Lucky me, I have a number of years experience with WordPress, and more lucky me, I know people who even have more experience with WordPress and WordPress hosting. The Airbnb blogs are now running on the following stack:

teach them young So yesterday evening, I was busy checking all the migrations with my little man with me. Teach them young they say..

Just in time for our major Trust announcement this morning. Now, all we need to do, is create a new child theme, so that we can style the blogs completely according to Airbnb standards... So much opportunity to expand right now, having full control! Love it!

Other blog we migrated is the Nerds at Airbnb! Worth it to check out if you are into coding

#TornadoWeek Hashtag Pushing

Check out this creative way of getting people to engage with your brand on Twitter.
The Weather channel is having their Tornado week.
And now you can make the interns suffer from high winds.
The only thing you would need to do, is tweet with the hashtag #tornadoweek in your tweet
I can't wait for Shark week... But then again, that would entail the interns of Animal Channel
Check out the site on the Weather channel. Can we call this: Tornado Week Intern Blow Out
Tornado Week Intern Blow Out
From the site:
Our Weather Channel interns got so excited about Tornado Week they wanted to recreate a Twitter powered Tornado in our office - so we did, and sat them right in the middle of it! Now you are in control of the winds. Every public mention of#TornadoWeek on Twitter raises the scale and boosts the winds. You can even Tweet at the interns using the @TornadoWeekhandle. Hit 1,000,000 mentions and we will turn up the wind for a full blown EF-5 tornado inside the Weather Channel offices!

Always Be Linking, Especially with Students

Always be LinkingOne thing I'm trying to learn fast, as this is a big black spot in my SEO skillset; Link Building. First rule of Link Building: ABL

Always Be Linking ABL

Tweet this quote:

Take up every opportunity to gain a true endorsement in the form of a link. And what better opportunity to get a new backlink than when a group of MBA students from Berkeley get a tour in your office, and you just happen to have your DSLR, with an awesome lens on it with you! Snap a couple of grou pictures and start chatting...

Me: "So, did you like the tour..?"

Group lead: "We sure did, we are a bunch of MBA students from the Haas Business School in Berkeley"

Me: "Is that right..?"

Group lead: "Hey, any chance we can get a hold of those pictures you just took of us?"

Me: "Yeah, sure where would you post it"

Group: "We have a Facebook page..."

Me: "Don't you have some sort of journal on the Berkeley.edu website"

Group lead: "Sure, we can add it to our newsletter, which is published online"

Me: Bingo..!! "Great, I will send you the file, would you mind giving me a credit link in it"

Group lead: "Sure, no problem man..!"

Me: "Thank you, and I hope you guys had fun here in the office..."

So, here you can download a large version of the picture. Now I hope they will follow through...

Ever Seen The Northern Light

My buddy Marcel, a colleague here at Airbnb went to Alaska to take pictures of the Northern Light. Apparently the Aurora is extremely beautiful this and next year due to the 11 year cycle of the Sun storms. Check out his write up, awesome pictures..
Best Kept Secrets to photograph the Northern Lights in Alaska- Aurora

 

Now that sounds like an adventure I would be looking at for the year 2014, I wonder if Marcel would like to accompany and teach me his tricks of the trade!

eBay’s Paid Search Study Alternatives Motives for Publishing Ineffectiveness

I couldn't hide from all the chatter around the white paper about eBay's paid search campaigns today. All kinds of people with little knowledge on internal optimization within eBay are jumping on this story to give their perspective. The overall message they are so loudly shouting into the world is how bad eBay really is in PPC advertising, trying to win a little bit more authority on the subject themselves in the hope to win new clients.

I won't go into the details of the article, as I've never worked on eBay's paid search campaigns. Reading the research white paper eBay published is interesting though, and I know that some of it holds up, other parts not so much.

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Skeptical on the eBay Report

I'm somewhat skeptical on the actual outcomes of the research in the eBay report.

First of all, every site is different. So what would work for eBay, might not work for anybody else!

Second, you could use Paid Search campaigns in so many other ways, cross channel objectives, which has not been taken into account in this study.

Third, although the study looks at conversion to sales ratio's of the campaigns, the real ROI is hardly discussed.

Fourth,You should look at the fully loaded ROI to understand the complete impact on eBay's eco-system. This does not only incorporates the eBay fees, but should also include the Paypal fees when an item is being paid through Paypal and advertising revenue. And with Paypal penetration rates at a high double number, and advertising on almost every pageview, the campaigns ROI is highly influenced by multiple revenue streams.

Fifth, if the research holds true, can somebody explain me what happened end of Q3, beginning of Q4 last year, where SEO traffic for eBay tanked, and suddenly Paid grew out of the normal trend:

eBay SEO visibility tanking end of Oct 2012

Where Paid Search Campaigns for eBay are ramping up immediately

These graphs are made with Searchmetrics

Sixth; conducting a test on non-branded keywords, like Cell-Phone might be giving interesting outcomes, if you keep the way Google looks at sites from a SEO perspective into account. Keyword Cell-Phone is a head term for electronics, where eBay is not represented well in SEO. From the human rater documents which leaked from Google, there might be more obvious reasons why eBay is not ranking well:

How to rate eBay landing pages?

Alternative Motives for eBay to Publish Paid Search effectiveness Study

What most people commenting fail to take notice off, what are the real motives of eBay to publish such research? You really think a large, for profit company would make their direct competition smarter just to get some feathers stuck somewhere..? Below here I describe possible motives for eBay to publish this paper. These are all hypothetical, and not based on what really happened as I don;t have the internal information what has happened. Read these more as thin foil hypothesis for my enjoyment, and for you to think further than just the optimization of Paid Search campaigns.

Large Companies F*** each other over

eBay has had a long history of working with Google on a Frenemies status of their relationship. eBay gets a tremendous amount of traffic through SEO, and have worked with Google on several fronts to make the Internet a better place. However, there are well documented instances which shows the underlying relationship, which is one of stiff competition.

  • Google Dark; Back in 007, eBay shut down all Paid Search at Google to run a test. The black out period gave some interesting insights in the effectiveness of Paid Search at Google.
  • eBay sued Google over the launch of Google Wallet and trade secrets

For obvious reasons, I can hardly go into too much detail here, but imagine the drop in eBay spend over 2012, while Google is ramping up their efforts in the payments industry AND making Google Shopping pay-for-play, after killing off the shopping comparison vertical completely!

Internal Politics Kill Real optimization

In a company like eBay, there is a power struggle at the top on a continuous basis. The one with the bigger budgets control their own destiny, and can become very successful empire builders. With a change in C-suit players, the power struggle can become more aggressive, where studies to proof ineffectiveness of campaigns could destroy the power base of the existing rulers.

You've got Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics...

It has happened that one group proofed with analytic proof, that the advertising on eBay was cannibalizing the  conversion rate of items on the site, and had an impact on site speed. 4 months later, the VP of the group moved to the business side, became responsible for the P&L, and with 3 weeks into the quarter and a $20 million hole in the budget, made the executive decision to move the ads back on the site. Just make a check on the eBay site, it's full with ads right now, even on the View Item page which had always been a sacred page for sellers!

This Paid Search campaign effectiveness study could very well be a power play from inside groups to take control of the advertising budgets. Objective: proofing incompetence to replace and take control

False Information for Competitors

What happens to the overall marketplace if the research is adopted by more large advertisers? Right, less demand for the impressions out there will bring CPC's down in the marketplace.

By spreading this information, under the umbrella of statistical research, could very well have an effect on the ROI of existing eBay campaigns.

Be Careful What You Wish For

So when I read an article like this, where the writer is challenging the CEO of eBay to give him a chance to proof what he could do for eBay with Paid Search, I cannot help myself to think: "Be careful what you wish for" as the truth of the matter might not be as cookie cutter clear as you think, and you might find yourself in a situation you are not set up to succeed in the first place, even if you are the best Paid Search consultant in the world, there might be forces out there which want you to fail at it! (furthermore I don't think the writer did himself a service to build his arguments on 6 year old screenshots...)

The people who have managed the eBay paid search campaigns are good friends of mine, which is why I won't go deep into the criticism if the campaigns have been working for eBay or not, just to stay objective here. What I can say, is that the majority of the people commenting on the quality of the creatives, the supposedly fail to optimize these campaigns on a ROI positive manner, might not be so right at all. They probably have never managed a budget of the size of the eBay Paid Search budget, while optimizing for 170 million keywords, while landing the budget within 1% of the amount, each and every quarter and showing incremental ROI improvements time and time again. The teams who manage these campaigns are very smart and creative in doing new tests, which you can hardly judge upon as an outsider!

Disclaimer: I worked for eBay for 9.5 years in different positions, last 6 years of my tenure focused on Global SEO for all eBay sites cross the world. I cannot disclose all information I have, and do not claim to be an expert in Paid Search! These view do not represent the views of my current employer, nor eBay's!

Instagram SEO, This is How You Boost SEO Traffic Through Instagram

Say what Instagram SEO?, Yes you can use Instagram to boost your SEO traffic. However, not in the traditional way of boosting your SEO rankings or visibility, but in a much smarter way; boost the search volume of your #1 rankings! Let me explain;

If you like this, why not Tweet this post

 I'm Topsy Turvy

Two years ago, I spoke at a conference called EVO, the evolution of women in social media. I got the opportunity to help a bunch of successful bloggers refining their SEO strategy. The workshop I did, ended up being 3.5 hours, just 30 minutes over the planned time. It was a great session, as all the attendees were sucking up the information we as SEO's live on a daily basis.

Here is where I met Ashlee from I'm Topsy Turvy. Ashlee has been blogging for a 6 years now, and decorating cakes for over 7 years. Guess what she is blogging about, right, cake tutorials. And not easy, simple cakes! No, these are works of art! Check out the following cakes I spotted on her website:

Over the course of the last two years, I interacted with Ashlee a couple of times on Twitter, we met again on different conferences, and I interviewed her to speak about the success she had seen on her blog. Over the last two years, the traffic to her site has exploded. I wish I could take some credit for it with the SEO workshop, but fair to say is that Ashlee creates truly exceptional content, and makes magnificent cakes for people to celebrate birthdays, weddings or anniversaries.

Where I hope I have played a role in her success, is creating a certain mindset on how to market this exceptional content, and put it to work towards her business. If we talk about a long term strategy that works for SEO using content like cake tutorials, you would need to think about how you are able to get your content in front of the right people, so that they will link to it, place citations in other media, and use you as an example for successful ideas. (see this post!)

As SEO's we often only focus on getting more, pages in the index, and rank higher with these pages to capture the existing traffic. But what if you would be able to stimulate more people to search for a certain phrase. What if you know you already rank #1 on that phrase? Than you don't need to worry anymore about your rankings, you can just reap the benefits from the increase in traffic, as more people search for your #1 keyword phrase.

Pot Of Gold Cake Tutorial

Imagine my surprise when I opened my Instagram stream last Sunday, and the evidence of genius was staring me right in the face. Her I saw a picture of one of Ashlee's cakes innocently shared on her Instagram stream. And not some ordinary cake, it was a Pot of Gold Cake.

Using Instagram as an SEO traffic booster

Let me explain why this is genius:

  • Ashlee wrote a tutorial on how to make a Pot of Gold Cake. She published the tutorial on February 27th. Weeks before St. Patricks day is actually happening. This means the post has enough time to start to rank, and be the first one for people to find if they are searching for inspiration on what cake to make for St. Patricks day. 
  • Apart from using the normal social media channels to market this tutorial, Ashlee also uploaded pictures of the cake onto Instagram, where she made sure these have her logo watermark in the right corner.
  • But here comes the kicker: Ashlee also added the title of her tutorial as text on the picture being shared on Instagram. As Instagram does not allow you to add a link in the description, this is a great way to get people's attention. And what do you think people will search when they would like to know how to make a Pot of Gold cake...? Right...

If you know you rank No1 for a search phrase, why not stimulate the interest, and boost the volume of searches!
If you know you rank No1 for a search phrase, why not stimulate the interest, and boost the volume of searches!
Well done Ashlee, you can count on me to use this as an example on how to use Instagram as your marketing tool to boost your SEO traffic!

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What Happened to Interflora SEO Posts

And just like that, Interflora is back in the search engines. What would it take for a mom-and-pop site to come back so quickly after being penalized? But I just wonder, where has Martin McDonald post on Interflora SEO penalty gone?

Interflora search results. No Martin McDonald anymore..? Where has this post gone? Really weird, as with all the number of links pointing to Martin's post, you would expect it to rank as high as last week still. Especially as a number of articles in the top of this search result are linking to the site from Martin.

Martin Flowers post

 

EXIF Data the Next Step in Images & Local SEO?

On a couple of my personal websites I do some testing what works or what doesn't work for SEO. If you read a couple of the Google Search Ranking Patents (mostly through the great write ups by Bill Slawski at SEO by the Sea), and experience how Google is pursuing more structured data, I tend to start thinking and looking for new ways to optimize my content so that it will rank better.

Image SEO

So, in the past, I've had some good results on my personal websites with ranking images and drive a reasonable amount of traffic. To rank images and drive some traffic, I would recommend you need to, at least, check your boxes on the following best practices;

  1. Include descriptive keywords in your filename
  2. Use a descriptive Alt Text on the image, something which best describes the scene in the image
  3. Text and headlines around the image

Additional factors which might come into play are;

  • Size of the image
  • Number of directories in the URL path

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If these last two really make a difference, I have not tested yet, but I assume short URL paths will help in higher rankings, and large images can help when people are searching for high quality images.

Image SEO domination through the One Box If you play this correctly, you could dominate the page with all four images, even ranking these above the official manufacturing website for the product through that one box integration in the SERP! See the screenshot of my 4 images of the Dell Latitude Wireless Switch.

New Image Search Layout

So apparently the new search lay out for images does have an impact on traffic to the site where the images is from. No Sh*t, that's what my gut feeling was saying to me as well as soon as when I saw the new Layout!

It has been a month and some folks are posting how the new image search design impacted their traffic from Google Image Search.

Gregory Karpinsky posted an image of the traffic to his 99% image based site in a Google+ Community thread showing an 80% plus decrease in traffic but his other engagement metrics are all up.

Why would anybody interested in the image still visit the website it was originally posted on, when you got all the information right there at the Google search result?

Why would anybody still click through to the site of an image in new Google Image search layout?

Well, those that do click on the link to the website, must be really interested in the product other than just copy the image to steal use! And with engagement metrics up, as reported by the article on SERoundtable, you have a chance here to get ultra targeted traffic which converts.

Mixing Local SEO with Images

Having done SEO for almost a decade, gives you a very strong feeling where things could go. One aspect of Image SEO, is that the determining factor for an image to rank high, is to a large extend influenced by how much information of the image you can give to the search engines. This should come in either structured data or meta data.

Luckily with the advances in digital photography, we are able to store much more information of a picture into the file of that image. Now days you can add different types of tags into the EXIF data of an image. (EXIF stands for Exchangeable Image File Data).

A couple of months ago, while researching for my hobby photography, I stumbled on a great post explaining the Exif data your camera automatically stores in the image file of your picture. Only, the one interesting tag not discussed in that post, can be found on the Wikipedia page about Exif; the Geolocation tag!

The Exif format has standard tags for location information. As of 2012 a few cameras and a growing number of mobile phones have a built-in GPS receiver that stores the location information in the Exif header when a picture is taken...The process of adding geographic information to a photograph is known as Geotagging

And look here if you research Geotagging (emphasize mine):

A geotagged photograph is a photograph which is associated with a geographical location by geotagging. Usually this is done by assigning at least a latitude and longitude to the image, and optionally altitude, compass bearing and other fields may also be included.

In theory, every part of a picture can be tied to a geographic location, but in the most typical application, only the position of the photographer is associated with the entire digital image. This has implications for search and retrieval. For example, photos of a mountain summit can be taken from different positions miles apart. To find all images of a particular summit in an image database, all photos taken within a reasonable distance must be considered.

WOAHA, it has become common knowledge that Mobile & Local are two major focus points for Google?

Prediction: You should focus on including more meta data in your images for Image SEO, which will include local data in the EXIF data!

So, based on this, I decided to do a little testing, while I'm practicing my hobby. I bought myself a Canon GPS Receiver for easy recording of Long-Lat data automatically stored into the image when I take it.

GPS receiver for easy updating long-lat data in EXIF

And with some promising results so far... Check out my pictures of the USS Hornet Aircraft Carrier Museum I took in January already ranking pretty well..!!

USS Hornet carrier pictures ranking in SERP

So far, I have no proof of the Long-Lat data in the EXIF pictures helping pictures to rank. At this moment it's just a hunch, but how easy it is with an automatic GPS receiver to add more meta tags to your pictures and be ready for the future of Image SEO with a taste of Local!

What's Next

New types of camera's can actually add even more information into the Exif data of every image. The Canon 5D MIII can add copyright data straight into the Exif information of your photo's. Guess what I've been testing with...? Right, adding the URL to my photo website

Adding copyright information into the EXIF data

More tips on how to look at SEO for future success can also be found in my write up on SEO in 2013 here.

If you made it so far down the page, feel free to share this article on Twitter:

 

For simple and accurate recording of time and location information, Canon's compact GPS Receiver GP-E2 is the perfect complement to the EOS System. The GP-E2 records location information such as longitude, latitude, elevation, direction and Universal Coordinated Time (UTC) as EXIF data, while also serving as an electronic compass on camera or off.
Brand: Canon
Manufacturer: Canon
Model: GP-E2 GPS Receiver
$242.95 New
Newly designed 22.3 Megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor, 14-bit A/D conversion, wide range ISO setting 100-25600 (L:50, H1: 51200, H2: 102400) for shooting from bright to dim light and next generation DIGIC 5+ Image Processor for enhanced noise reduction and exceptional processing speed.
Brand: Canon
Manufacturer: Canon
Model: EOS 5D Mark III
$3149.00 New

Will You Integrate Google+ Sign-In?

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Google+ Sign-In functionality mimics Facebook connects, but calls Facebook sharing Social SpamWow, with Google+ Signin launching today, and the news that Google wants to launch a music subscription, Google just walked onto a new battlefield: competing with Spotify & Pandora. Here is some of the official announcement, with the emphasize mine:

Whether you’re building an app for Android, iOS or the web, users can now sign in to your app with Google, and bring along their Google+ info for an upgraded experience. It’s simple, it’s secure, and it prohibits social spam. And we’re just getting started.

From the last sentence it is clear, more is coming down the Google+ pipeline to capture more signals what users do on the web, and where they spend their time. With the FTC freeing the way for Google (official statement from FTC), I bet a large number of integrations is now ready to be launched onto the public for the big G to capture even more data and use it! It will become harder for any company to build their search presence with more Google Vertical products crowding the SERP's.

With the bundling of Google Sign-In with Google Play Services for Android Apps, the lock in is complete for a large part of the smart phone OS market. Almost all the building blocks are in place for Google's Evil plan on world domination.

And calling selective sharing with your circles a better way to share on social networks is directly pointed at Facebook, with the term social spam. Luckily there are a few people who do pick this up, and question these practices.

Sometimes you want to share something with the world (like a high score), but other times you want to keep things to yourself (like fitness goals). With Google+ Sign-In and circles you decide who to share with, if at all. In addition: Google+ doesn’t let apps spray “frictionless” updates all over the stream, so app activity will only appear when it’s relevant (like when you’re actually looking for it).

You almost start to root for Microsoft with their Scroogled campaign to level the playing field.

The Fight Against Link Spam

For years now, Google has been fighting the war against manipulative links. Paid links, Paid Advertorials, (i-)relevant Infographics, you name it. Any link which has not been given editorial, and is only there with the intention to give the linked-to page a boost in the search rankings, should be avoided.

Just recently, I received my first link take down request for a link I posted completely editorial, but was exact match anchor text. Possibly the brand got in trouble for the heavy usage of the exact match, and tried to clean it all up now.

With the SEO drama in the UK surrounding Interflora and their penalty, it is clear to me Google still hasn't figured manipulative links out yet. Especially as the left hand of the company doesn't know what the right hand is doing... Just read through more of the info on this case here and here and here. Sometimes the guidelines are just for the common man!

What is Google Going After

With the Google+ Sign-In launch, Google is obviously attacking Facebook in one more field. From experience at work, I can see how important the Facebook connect function is for any web developer. You get instant access to people's profile, and can showcase social proof for your products using people's network. With a direct integration of Google Play in the search results, Google can capture the drive by traffic immediately as people search for certain music. And the integration at the launch with Shazam & TuneIn. Services like Spotify & Pandora are under direct attack now.

But there is more Google is after. With Links being manipulated for higher search rankings, social could be a great new signal for search quality and rankings. Very smart SEO's have already pointed out the launch of Google+ Sign-In is one step closer to Agent Rank, or we should start calling it Author Rank.

(Agent Rank is actually a search engine for real estate agents. The site AgentRank.com does not longer rank high for their own term, just because Google has used the term in their patent applications, which triggered all kind of SEO blog posts using the term agent rank)

The social signal could be a blessing in disguise for Google Search Algorithm. disguised as increased competition for  existing social websites and music services there might be less scrutiny from consumers on the data capturing by every Google product.

We Live in a Google World

More and more, we live in a Google world, where there is less room for small, vertical oriented initiatives. Habits are hard to break, and with no government interest in regulating dominant positions in one industry being abused to enter new verticals, Google has no reason to change its way. You better get on it, adapt or die, and take advantage of the new world!

The question is, will you adopt the new sign-in functionality for your site, or is this going to be a long way for Google, where they will have to start enforcing mandatory usage of the Google+ Sign-In? What do you think..?

 

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Google+ aims to make sharing on the web more like sharing in real life. Check out Circles, Events and Hangouts, just a few of the things we've been working on.
Brand: Google
free

Ultra Local Breaking News; Opportunity Knocking

I know there have been a couple of companies trying to break into the Ultra Local News market, and I wonder how successful these claim to be. Seriously the biggest problem must be scalability, as for the local breaking news you need to have millions of people on the read, willing to work for next to nothing or just for free. I guess the closest Ultra Local Breaking News company I would find successful is Twitter.

What triggered this short rant tonight, other that I'm just too tired to do more serious work, is that I saw an outbreak of traffic on one old post on this blog about the bomb squad of the San Jose police on Blossom Hill Road I wrote about years ago. Seriously old news, as at the time I was living just around the corner, and snapped some pictures of what seemed a serious situation. This post, however, is still ranking on several combinations for the title. To name a few:

  • Police Blossom Hill Road
  • San Jose police activity blossom hill rd
  • blossom hill rd San Jose CA closed today by police
  • etc.. many more long tail combinations...

Here is just one screenshot of the post Ranking #1 for the above keyword!

Ranking #1 for Blossom Hill Road Police

So when there is a traffic outbreak on such an old post, off course I'm interested in what actually happened....

From an article in the Mercury News:

SAN JOSE -- A man who was killed when he plunged a stolen SUV down a ravine after trying to run into officers during a high-speed chase Sunday night has been identified as Adrian Gamboa, 20, of Morgan Hill.

Police said the pursuit started shortly after 11 p.m. when Gamboa, driving a dark-colored Ford SUV with the lights turned off and accompanied by two teenage girls, careened toward an officer who had made a traffic stop near Capitol Expressway and Towers Lane. The officer had to dive over the hood of a car to avoid being run down, according to police.

The officer chased the SUV onto Highway 101, then off the freeway at Hellyer Avenue, where police said the driver made a U-turn and drove directly at the pursuing cruiser, attempting "to play chicken with the officer," according to San Jose police spokesman Officer Albert Morales.

After re-entering the freeway, the driver took Highway 85 to Cottle Road where he tried to ram another patrol car, and did so again on Blossom Hill Road, police said.

He lost control of the SUV on the 5400 block of Monterey Road and plunged into a roadside ravine after bouncing over the center median, police said.

The girls in the SUV were taken to a hospital with injuries not believed to be life threatening. Gamboa, who had not been wearing a seat belt, was ejected from the vehicle and pronounced dead at the scene. Investigators found that the SUV had been reported stolen in San Jose.

Tragic news!

But this makes you wonder, where do people first go to learn why Blossom Hill Road had been closed? Right, the habit is hard to break, but first Google is consulted in the search for knowledge. The current state of the newspapers won't allow to have an article up there while its happening. (With current state I mean these old media type companies are almost dying, and seriously cutting in their budgets for real time reporting). The Mercury News is just not fast enough...!

With the lack of a scalable model nor real way to make money on these kind of news opportunities, I don't see this hole in the Ultra Local Search space filled fairly soon... or will it? What do you think..?