At the first inaugural Publish Online conference in Cape Town and there is a good turn out. Hope there will be another one, maybe Jo’burg?. Couple of familiar faces from my iafrica.com days: Alan Hammond (the organiser), Robin Parker (now of biz-comm), Debby Byrne (still iafrica.com). Been some interesting presentations. Noticed only 4 laptops and one mac. Not much blog activity, but maybe Eric Edelstein and Vinny Lingham who are also here will be doing some blogs?
Blogs contain “inanities”
First up was Robin Parker of Biz-community.com who gave a talk from an Africa perspective. Robin is an online media pioneer in South Africa, being one of the founders of iafrica.com — one of the first portals in the country. He believes that even though Africa has no money, it’s not poor and — like most — says there is a huge mobile opportunity, citing an example in Uganda.
Interestingly, Robin says he isn’t particularly interested in blogging. He refers to Andrew Keen of the “Great Seduction”, who wrote a damning piece on the blogosphere and web 2.0 some time back. Hadn’t heard Andrew Keen’s name for a while (thought he’d joined the dinosaurs?), but remember first coming across his writing a while back.
Agreeing with Keen, Robin mentioned most blogs contain “inanities” and that he’s not really interested blogs which describe “what you had for breakfast”. He believes that blogging only works in an edited environment. Have to respectfully disagree here — there are plenty of brilliant non-edited, non-media blogs out there, but I will agree there is as much rubbish as brilliant stuff. But I don’t think the debate is that blogging is rubbish blah blah, the debate should be about the aggregators and filters that enable the good stuff to come to the fore. Who cares about the bad blogs? I don’t. Don’t ever really come across them, I only see and subscribe to the good blogs — and there are millions of them. I think it’s time to move this debate on…
24.com to launch new Google Adsense competitor in 2008
Next up was Jonathan Muir of adeng!ne, a 24.com/media24 company who filled in for the company’s search boss Charles Talbert. This is a very interesting story as 24.com are essentially playing in Google’s space. They say they are looking only at the local market, although I think that includes Africa too given Media24’s footprint.
The big news is that they will be launching a contextual search product much like Adsense in the beginning of next year. Muir did a good job of presenting the 24.com search story. He also confirmed that “anecdotally” Google was doing more than the local online publishers combined in South Africa (which is now only R250-million and just passed the 1% adshare mark). And dare I say it that Google has done it without a single staffer in the country, although that has all changed now.
Someone commented in the audience that 24.com shouldn’t try differentiate themselves from Google by saying they are local and appealing to the patriotic thing or saying they can do a better job on the ground (because now Google are on the ground), but perhaps differentiate themselves by offering a more customised service and perhaps by being transparent about the comms structures — an area that Google is secretive about.
Muir said as much, saying they realised there was no way they could tackle the Google behemoth, but that they were focused on local partners and establishing a local network in South Africa… mainly focusing on local publishers and creating a search network across local publishers (hopefully the longtail too?), which I think is a good strategy.
Adeng!ne say they currently have more than 40 affiliates… mostly from their group at this stage, but are starting to grow outside it, bringing on Johncom and the guys from Webmail/Easyinfo/Interface. Muir also touched on their new mapping site, still in beta mode — which is looking nice. Like everyone in the room, mobile is the next big step for them… they are also going to do video ads — all pretty similar to what Google are doing.
This market is going to grow so large, so fast that there will be space for many competitors. What will differentiate them from Google? Perhaps it’s the marketing, perhaps its a focus on niche, perhaps its strength of their local relationships, perhaps its the ability to leverage the 24.com network, which is pretty big these days at around 2,5-million unique browsers?