Following yesterday’s headline grabbing news about Eric Schmidt being removed from his CEO post in early April, Google just happened to let the cat out of the bag on a new product designed to give Groupon and LivingSocial a run for their money. The new product is around the daily deal concept and will be called Google offers.

Of course, no one is naïve enough to think that this ‘leak’ was an accident. Even if it was in this day and age no one believes that anything is ever ‘leaked’ anymore but rather given to a publication in exchange for some drama filled presentation of the ‘news’.

This particular exclusive went to Mashable and they report on Google Offers

Google is preparing to launch Google Offers, the search giant’s Groupon competitor, Mashable has learned. We have the documents to prove it.

One of our sources has sent us a confidential fact sheet straight from the Googleplex about the company’s new group buying service. “Google Offers is a new product to help potential customers and clientele find great deals in their area through a daily email,” the fact sheet says.

Google Offers looks and operates much like Groupon or LivingSocial. Users receive an e-mail with a local deal-of-the-day. They then have the opportunity to buy that deal within a specific time limit (we assume 24 hours). Once enough people have made the purchase, the Google Offer is triggered and users get that all-too-familiar $10 for $20 deal for that Indian restaurant you’ve never tried.

From what we can tell, Google Offers will be powered by Google Checkout. It also includes Facebook, Twitter, Google Reader, Google Buzz and e-mail sharing options.

Here’s a look at one of the pages.

Google has been starting to push the idea to the SMB set and it makes sense considering the fact they finally have a human element to talk to the 4 million plus verified Place Page businesses about other offerings from the search giant like Tags and Boost (where available).

What is most interesting is just how truly crowded the daily deal landscape has become in the past few days. The sentence in the Mashable write up from above that now mentions Groupon and LivingSocial in the same breath may not have happened had it not been for the wildly successful Amazon deal from LivingSocial that was obviously designed to jumpstart the competition.

I suspect Google saw this move and decided that it would be a great time to ‘leak’ something about their offering so they could be mentioned in the same breath as the biggest players in an increasingly crowded space.

What this kind of news and competition does to the IPO potential for Groupon remains to be seen. The space has quickly gone from being Groupon’s eminent domain to now having Amazon and Google in their daily deal grill with the same offering (the complaint of many that Groupon was not unique and could be readily cloned) and very deep pockets to put up a serious threat to Groupon’s perceived market dominance. Has all this new found ‘competition’ taken some of the shine off the Groupon apple?

So back to Google. Now the whole Place Page push is coming full circle since it is likely (though not mentioned in the Mashable post) that a verified Place Page will be an important part of this equation as well as integration into the Hotpot recommendation mechanism that has been talked about but not fully promoted just yet.

Google made a ‘statement’ to Mashable yesterday as follows

“Google is communicating with small businesses to enlist their support and participation in a test of a pre-paid offers/vouchers program. This initiative is part of an ongoing effort at Google to make new products, such as the recent Offer Ads beta, that connect businesses with customers in new ways. We do not have more details to share at this time, but will keep you posted.”

The Mashable site also has copies of the sales sheet that is being used to talk to businesses.

So will this be a success for Google? It almost has to be. The search giant cannot afford many more out and out failures in the social realm. It also has a new public face at the ready in Larry Page so things need to be different. Gone is the aloof “I’m so stinkin’ rich from this deal that reality is not an option” approach from Schmidt that was ticking off everyone as of late. Of course, Page is even wealthier but the hope is that because he is co-founder along with Sergey Brin that his take on the business of Google will at least look different and hopefully carry some co-founder passion ala Steve Jobs (although that is admittedly a big stretch).

So what are your thoughts of Goggle being in the daily deal game? Are you interested in checking it out? Do you think they stand a chance in the space or will this ‘offer’ just be another nail in Google’s social marketing coffin?

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If you missed today’s earnings call from Google, here’s what you missed:

Google did $8.44 billion in revenue–a  jump of 26%. Net income was up 18% to $2.2 billion. Google ended the quarter with with $33.4 billion in cash and 23,300 employees.

Oh, and Eric Schmidt is no longer the CEO.

Say what?

No kidding! Google’s CEO for the past 10 years is stepping down from that role. In a blog post Schmidt states…

…we have also agreed to clarify our individual roles so there’s clear responsibility and accountability at the top of the company.

Larry will now lead product development and technology strategy, his greatest strengths, and starting from April 4 he will take charge of our day-to-day operations as Google’s Chief Executive Officer. In this new role I know he will merge Google’s technology and business vision brilliantly. I am enormously proud of my last decade as CEO, and I am certain that the next 10 years under Larry will be even better! Larry, in my clear opinion, is ready to lead.

Schmidt will take on the role of Executive Chairman…

…I will focus wherever I can add the greatest value: externally, on the deals, partnerships, customers and broader business relationships, government outreach and technology thought leadership that are increasingly important given Google’s global reach; and internally as an advisor to Larry and Sergey.

A role that sounds a lot like the role he played over the past 10 years–being the grown-up face of the company, while Brin and Page play with algorithms.

Honestly, this news is too fresh to make a fair analysis of what went down. Was Schmidt pushed? Has Page & Brin figured out that Google is, arguably, losing its cool? Does this open the door for Schmidt to jump back on the Apple board?

So many questions, so few answers. What do you think’s going on?

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comScore’s latest study on email usage returned a result we already suspected was true – more people are using their mobile phones to access their email causing a drop in web-based email usage.

The shift is more about the advances in technology and less about the way we use email to communicate. Web-based email has always been about ease of access. If you’re only using Outlook then your work emails stay at work and home emails stay home. Forwarding emails from one computer to another was the only way to gather all of the information in one place and if you were traveling the you were stuck.

With the invention of web-based email programs, email became portable and centralized. Everything in one place and you can access it from home, the office, at your mom’s house or at the beach if you’ve got a laptop and WiFi. Of course, web-based email addresses have also been used as email dumping grounds, a “throw away” email address you can use to access websites and signup for things without fear of being deluged with spam.

According to comScore’s stats, the number of people visiting a web-based email site went down 6% over last year. Not a huge number, but look at the other side. Mobile email usage grew by 36% over last year.

Age plays a huge factor in the web vs mobile saga (surprise, surprise), with a 53% decline in web-mail usage in the 12-17 age group. Frankly, I’m surprised that age group is even using email, but maybe they won’t be in the near future if things continue in this matter. The only uptick in web-based email usage was the 55 and older groups with all other age groups coming in with declines of 14% to 18%.

Conversely, mobile email usage increased all across the board with the 25-34 age group being 60% more likely to use mobile email than web-based email. Male users edged out the women by 14%.

Mark Donovan, comScore senior vice president of mobile said:

“What we have seen in the smartphone era is the rapid acceleration of data consumption, which has helped drive mobile usage across multiple categories including email. In a relatively short period of time, adoption of mobile email has reached 78 percent of the smartphone population, which is very similar to the penetration of web-based email among Internet users. These findings demonstrate just how quickly channel shifts can occur and why it’s now essential for media brands to have a strong presence in both arenas.”

You can read the full report right here.

Pilgrim’s Partners: – Bloggers earn cash, Advertisers build buzz!

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Parents with children under six years old spend more time using social media than those with older children. This is one of the findings of a new survey conducted by Media Audit and featured on eMarketer.

Starting with 67.1% (for parents with kids under six), the study saw a gradual but steady decrease in usage ending at 55.2% for parents with kids over 18. My guess is that the decrease is based on two factors, parental age and lifestyle.

Though there are exceptions to the rule (Elton John), most sources quote the mean age for a first baby at 25 to 27 years old. So the top level of responders in this survey are in their early-thirties and under. That alone, will account for more social media usage.

Lifestyle also plays a part in parental usage for as the kids get older, the schedule usually gets busier. Where the first group of moms are often home alone with a new baby, desperate for some social contact, even of the virtual kind, moms with older kids are running to soccer games and ballet class so there is less time for online.

The good news for marketers is that the “Under Six” families are not only online more often, but they’re also actively engaged in buying stuff. 77.6% said they were looking for new computer equipment, 72.4% were in the market for a new car and 71.8% were contemplating a household appliance. Face it, a new baby changes everything and there is no end to the items a new parent needs.

If you have a product aimed at families with young children, ramp up those social media efforts because according to Media Audit, you’ve got yourself a captive audience.

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Yesterday, Facebook made the announcement that they have created a new app for feature phones which can spread the use of Facebook in other mobile environments.

The Facebook blog post from Mark Heynen tells us

We want people to have a great mobile experience no matter what type of phone they carry. Smartphones have offered better features for sharing with friends but aren’t used by most people around the world.

Today, we’re launching a new mobile app to bring Facebook to the most popular mobile phones around the world. The Facebook for Feature Phones app works on more than 2,500 devices from Nokia, Sony Ericsson, LG and other manufacturers, and it was built in close cooperation with Snaptu. The app provides a better Facebook experience for our most popular features, including an easier-to-navigate home screen, contact synchronization, and fast scrolling of photos and friend updates.

Good move. There are a lot of people out there who have feature phones rather than smartphones and they deserve a chance to waste time on the go as well.

Here’s my question. If mobile is so important why does the Android Facebook app suck so bad? I have stopped using it altogether and go to the site even on my smartphone. Why? Because getting information off of it is a spotty proposition at best. I did an extremely unscientific and limited test just to see if I wasn’t just whining. It looks like I am not alone in my assessment and no one rushed to the defense of the app.

With the growth of Android devices and the types of users that are getting them (at least for now) wouldn’t it make sense for Facebook to make sure its app in that environment (as well as iPhone’s) is as close to flawless as you can get?

Apparently not. This is the one major flaw I see with how Facebook does business. It seems to want to do things so fast that it is OK with putting out inferior offerings just as long as they can say they are in the field. Then they will hide behind the ‘newness’ of all of this as an excuse why everything doesn’t work better.

The reality is they look more and more like a social media chop shop every day as they push everything through their mill as quickly as possible and then get it on the market and wait to see if anyone notices that it’s not that great (or that it runs roughshod over privacy like the mobile phone number for developers mess).

I guess today is a day to piss and moan about the shortcomings of social media (for me at least!). But the reason I do it is because I think that the major players in the space should do a better job. Bigger does not mean better in this space. It appears it just means bigger.

If Facebook were to concentrate on high quality offerings with a much cleaner interface and more direct communication with what they are actually doing with your information they, and the rest of us, would be better off.

Honestly, I suspect that posts like this are just an exercise in futility though because Facebook will do what Facebook does regardless of what users say. The only way that Facebook will truly listen to users is if people start to leave the service and I just don’t see that happening anytime soon.

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Twitter is an interesting character in the social media space. It is rock solid in its position because there is no other service that is just like or has grown to the ‘importance’ it currently has (or is perceived to have).

Where one can get confuzzled is in pinning down just how influential and widespread the actual use of Twitter is. On Tuesday, it was announced that they have entered into their seventh language for the service (Korean and most will need Google Translate to read it) and that international growth is moving right along. Twitter also has some new stats for the service as Forbes’ Oliver Chiang reports

Twitter has reached nearly 200 million users registered accounts who post 110 million tweets per day as of the January 1, 2011, Twitter spokesperson Carolyn Penner tells me. That’s up from 160 million registered accounts as of September 2010 and 95 million tweets per day as of early December— steady, but not explosive, growth. That’s why the company is now focused on building out its international presence.

Chiang’s user v. account recognition points out the current confusion regarding Twitter. It seems that Twitter suffers from the same problem of defining important metrics for the service just like many of its users do. The number one most misleading metric for Twitter users is number of followers. People tout these numbers and claim ‘expertise’ based on them but in most cases there is no clear line to be drawn between number of followers and actual influence.

Now Twitter talks about 200 million accounts. OK, some overly simple math tells us that if these accounts were actual Twitter users then the average number of tweets per day per user would be about 1.8. Let’s be generous and round it up to 2. That’s fine. But let’s take myself as an example. I have at least 5 placeholder accounts which do nothing other than protect a name I will be using in the future and I have set up countless other accounts for other businesses doing the same. In fact, it’s a regular piece of advice I give to businesses all the time.

That being said, in my rather small part of the social media space, I have some direct influence on many ‘accounts’ that don’t do anything on the service (except get ‘followers’ without even trying because the Twitter bot world is alive and well).

Also, take into account the social media industry, which one might argue is the source of any real usage of the service at all. Just a glance around to see those that average 10 tweets per day and much, much higher should give anyone pause as to just what these Twitter numbers of accounts and tweets actually means regarding reach and impact on the world at large.

Of course, there will be those who say that many people make a great living using Twitter. If you want to go down that path, I would ask that you put an actual number to just what number constitutes ‘many’ and a clear definition of what a ‘good living’ is. I think it’s more accurate to say that a very select few have built very nice income with Twitter as part of the mix (the superstars) while some others make some money in a variety of different ways and the vast, vast majority don’t make a red cent (although they will claim they do).

Look, I think Twitter is great for what it is. It works for me in the limited fashion that I use it but as I talk to more and more business people and people in general who are not social media hyper-users the real value of the service is hard to define. There is SO much junk in it that any numbers that are given by the company need to be looked at with a very serious critical (and skeptical eye). Couple that with the mystery revenue plan and you have something that is looking more and more like a Hollywood set everyday. The buildings look great on the outside but when you walk through the door you get nothing.

This may be a harsh assessment of the service and feel free to tell me so in the comments but the more I hear about Twitter stats and compare it to what I actually see going on, the less I am convinced that Twitter is what it wants to appear to be to the world at large.

Your thoughts?

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Video ad network AdGenesis has teamed up with Sunday supplement, Parade Magazine for an opt-in program that offers rewards to consumers who agree to watch a video ad.

The program is called PARADE Video Rewards and it’s pretty simple. You sign up, tell them a little about yourself and then you’re presented with a variety of video ad choices. If you watch, you get reward points and potentially a bonus reward such as a discount or coupon.

The program is currently being advertised on Parade’s homepage and the initial sign-up form is very short. Name, email, date of birth, zip code and that’s followed by a few questions about your interests. I don’t know if they’re the same for everyone but I was asked to check boxes pertaining to the types of things I buy online, and what kind of movies and music I like. The whole sign-up process took less than a minute if you don’t count waiting for the email confirmation.

To assure that you’re actually watching the videos, two numbers scroll across the screen at random times. You have to enter these numbers after the video in order to claim your reward. I am bad at this. I had to watch two out of three videos twice in order to remember the numbers. They run in the margins of the vid, kind of like those peripheral vision tests at the eye doctor so maybe I need my glasses checked.

The program is new, so I imagine it will improve with time, but right now it’s very underwhelming. One of the ads I was offered was a poor quality cut from the Dancing with the Stars exercise DVD. At the end, I was offered a link to where I could buy the DVD at a discount, but it doesn’t appear to be a special discount, just Amazon’s usual cut price. If I did buy on the clickthrough, I’m supposed to get bonus points. I didn’t test this element.

The second offer I was given was that cute iPod Nano commercial from TV. At the end, (after two tries at the bonus numbers) I was given a Nano sweepstakes entry. I’ll let you know if I win.

I was also offered ads for Kodak and which paid off in reward points and Dolce & Gabbana with a sweepstakes entry reward. Not too thrilling yet, but there’s potential.

Here’s the pitch from AdGenesis’ press release:

AdGenesis and its publishing partners offer advertisers a fully immersive brand experience by delivering hyper-qualified consumers, guaranteed views of its content by those most likely to buy, double-digit engagement rates with offers and unique data and insights — all for a fraction of the investment normally required for such a return.

To sweeten the pot for advertisers, Parade is promoting the rewards program through its magazine and newsletter hitting a potential 70 million readers a week. My unscientific study says, that people who read Parade are people who love coupons and deals so the sign-up rate should be pretty good.

In order to keep me on as a viewer, the program is going to have to start offering something more than points and sweepstakes entries. Coupons and samples would be best. Deals will have to be exclusive or they won’t be worth the effort. On the other hand, the points side of the program could turn out to be a winner depending on the levels needed in order to actually receive anything of value. The only thing showing at the moment is the cash value, $1.00 per thousand with an 8,000 minimum needed to cash out. They say they’ll also offer gift cards for Amazon, Starbucks and other venues.

I watched two videos and made 80 points. I’ve got a long way to go and so has the Parade Video Rewards Program.

What do you think of the concept of rewarding people with cash and prizes in return for watching an advertisement? Will you sign up?

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There are people who think internet users are solitary souls who communicate virtually in order to prevent having actual human contact. But according to the most recent study from the Pew Internet and American Life Project, internet users are much more likely to be involved in community, political and religious groups.

Says the study:

80% of internet users participate in groups, compared with 56% of non-internet users. And social media users are even more likely to be active: 82% of social network users and 85% of Twitter users are group participants.

The majority of group members who used the internet said that the internet was an important communication tool, it helped them draw attention to their issues and aided them in connecting to other groups.

Around 50% of respondents said the internet was useful for raising money, organizing activities and recruiting new members.

Kristen Purcell, the research director at Pew Internet and co-author of the report said that respondents were proud of their accomplishments and that they were excited about the impact their actions had on society. As you can see by the chart below, 53% of respondents felt that the internet played a major part in getting a government official elected.

When it comes to social media, Facebook reigns supreme for group communication. Twitter only got 12% of the vote but 74% said they use texting to keep in contact with members.

The survey also found that internet users tended to be more active within their group with a significant difference in the number of people who attend meetings, donate money and volunteer their time.

If you’d like more information on this subject, you can read the full report by visiting “The Social Side of the Internet” at the Pew American Life Project website.

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It’s interesting here at Marketing Pilgrim to watch what our readers will push out to their social network through retweets and what they comment on. One thing I noticed is that whenever we talk about Groupon there is great interest but crickets if we talk about LivingSocial.

Well, here’s something that will catch your attention. Remember the $183 million investment that LivingSocial received? Did you notice that $175 million of it came from Amazon? Do you think that Amazon might have the muscle to make Groupon flinch? If they make offers like this one today they will (Hat Tip to Business Insider).

You may miss the deal but it might be worse to think Groupon will continue to have no real competition. I suspect Amazon might have something to say about that, don’t you?

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Starbucks is busy keeping itself ahead of the curve. First, there is the Starbucks logo change ‘controversy’ (I use the term very lightly but it did get people talking). Now, the retail and branding giant has rolled out the mobile payment plan it forst introduced in 2009 to 6,800 Starbucks locations and outlets.

According to the Seattle Times

The clever mobile payment system that Starbucks has been testing in a few stores in Seattle, New York and Silicon Valley is going national.

Starbucks is announcing that it has expanded the “pay by phone” program to 6,800 of its stores, plus more than 1,000 outlets inside Target stores. It began testing the system at a few stores in September 2009.

To use the system, Starbucks cardholders load an application onto their iPhone or BlackBerry smartphones. The application displays a barcode that’s scanned at the register to pay for drinks. Users can also manage Starbucks accounts and find nearby stores with the application.

Here is how the app looks when in action.

More information from the Starbucks release

One in five Starbucks transactions is now made with the store cards, and mobile payments “will extend the way our customers experience and use their Starbucks Card,” Brady Brewer, vice president of card and brand loyalty, said in a release. “With mobile payment, the Starbucks Card platform further elevates the customer experience by delivering convenience, rewarding loyalty and continuing to build an emotional connection with our customers.”

That loyalty translated into a 21% increase in how much money was loaded onto cards last year with that number hitting $1.5 billion. That’s a lot of mocha frappa half calf double decaf no whip thingamawhatzits for sure.

Starbucks claims it is the largest mobile payment business currently (we’ll have to take their word for it). Android phones are next for an app but maybe Starbucks will wait to see if those pesky things are still in existence after the iPhone comes to Verizon.

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