John Battelle on how to beat Google

Since publishing his groundbreaking book "The Search" three years ago, John Battelle has shifted his attention to his new company, Federated Media, which aggregates blogs into a conversational media platform where brands can advertise.

As CEO, Battelle has led the company on a mission to support independent website authors and audiences by connecting them to marketers in a robust conversation that feeds everyone involved. Some of the most notable sites in the network include Boing Boing, Dooce, TechCrunch, and Battelle's own Searchblog. 

Joe Kutchera: What is the most significant change we've seen in search since you wrote "The Search"?

John Battelle: The complete failure of any other company to gain significant share against Google.

Kutchera: What do you think is an area of search where a competitor could catch Google off guard?

Battelle: I can't speak to any company positioned to beat Google at Google's game. The big change will be a redefinition of search to a new, more useful result. In other words, the shift from DOS to Windows -- that kind of shift, metaphorically, applied to search.

Kutchera: Are brand managers and ad agencies taking advantage of all the consumer data that is being generated by online media campaigns? How can marketers more effectively utilize that data?

Battelle: No, they are not, and they know it. It's coming, but it will be slow, and it will not be evenly distributed for a while. I think for now the key is to get into conversations with key potential customers and with your core supporters. Listen, learn, prepare for the data you will soon have access to.

Kutchera: How much of a privacy threat is Google/DoubleClick now that it is a combined entity? 

Battelle: A major threat is not Google or DoubleClick, it's government or other entities gaining access to the data Google and DoubleClick have access to through legal or other methods. We'll need a few big dust-ups before we focus on this as a society.

Kutchera: Is it possible for large companies to maintain a goal of "Don't be evil?"

Battelle: No.

Kutchera: What's ahead for Federated Media?

Battelle: There is much afoot in our world. We're helping major brands and leaders in conversational media connect and add value all around. All I can say is "stay tuned!"

Kutchera: While many consumers still use portals for their emails, calendars and general news, how has search fueled traffic to the long tail of websites? How has this benefited Federated Media’s sites?

Battelle: We don't really work in the "long tail" as it's understood, as our sites are all very successful and large by the standards of the markets they are a part of. However, search drives a major portion of traffic to all our sites. Why? Because they are all highly respected and well ranked in search due to that.

Kutchera: In your book, you mention the potential improvements in product search with UPC systems opening up, bar scanners on cellphones and product IDs in video. How far along have we come?

Battelle: We're nearly there. I'd say about a year. Think camera phones instead of scanners, and we're almost there.

Kutchera: Apple is the only company with an integrated, cross-platform user experience with harddrive search (Spotlight), browser (Safari), online services (.Mac), mobile platform (iPhone), online music store (iTunes) and interactive TV. Do you foresee Apple entering the advertising sales business?

Battelle: Not that I am aware of. But for all those apps combined, I'd say Apple has about 1 percent of market share. We sometimes forget that. Microsoft has nearly all the stuff you mentioned, and a lot more market share.

Joe Kutchera is the director of Spanish-language markets at ContextWeb, Inc., a leading contextual advertising company and operator of the ADSDAQ Exchange.

 

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