Keeping Your Business Information Current: My Guest Post

I am featured today in Metronews.ca as a guest writer. Here is a link to my article, titled, Keeping Your Business Information Current. For those on mobile, you can see the article below (note: in graphic format).

Keeping Your Business Listings Information Up to Date

The #yycflood and the unsung hero who kept @calgarypolice Twitter feed going

Its been a few weeks since the floods in southern Alberta hit so unexpectedly and caused so much damage. There has been alot of coverage of the recovery efforts and all the incredible people that have contributed to these efforts. This post is going to focus on the role of Twitter and how important it was to the thousands of people in Calgary and surrounding areas including on a very personal level how critical it was for me considering I was in Halifax the day that this event was happening. Lastly – I want to highlight a very important moment with respect to Twitter and an unsung hero who was critical in ensuring that news and information kept going out to Calgarians.

On June 20 I was in Halifax. I had the pleasure of speaking to our Atlantic Canada sales team. Throughout the day I was receiving updates from my wife with respect to weather warnings. By the end of the business day in Halifax the updates started to sound more critical with flood notices being issued and updates of more and more damage to the west of Calgary. By the time I had finished dinner with some of my YPG colleagues the updates where getting pretty serious with a number of communities in Calgary being evacuated and my neighbourhood was definitely on notice. (As an aside – check out Ristorante a Mano in Halifax, incredible restaurant).

By the time I got back to hotel all hell it seemed was breaking loose in Calgary. I immediately jumped onto Twitter and started to follow the #yycflood twitter stream. It was pretty evident from some of the early pictures that where being posted on Twitter that this flood was nothing compared to what happened in 2005. This is when I started to make the necessary changes to the travel plans to get back to Calgary as soon as possible, coordinating with my parents who live in downtown Calgary and helping to remotely make arrangements to ensure that everybody had a safe place to stay for the night in case of evacuations.

One of the early primary sources of official information was from the @calgarypolice twitter feed. They where doing an incredible job helping to faciliate information between the @cityofcalgary twitter feed and the general public by answering specific questions. Here is an example:

Screenshot of communication between Calgary police and residents regarding the #yycflood flood

Screenshot of communication between Calgary police and residents regarding the #yycflood flood

As the flood worsened and the volume of updates/responses to citizens increased, the twitter account for the @CalgaryPolice got shut down at around 7pm pst time. Considering the volume of tweets all of sudden from this account it would make sense that Twitter’s security system would halt this account. I know a lot of people got emotional when this happened (how could twitter shut this account down considering what is happening) but to be fair to them they monitor account activity and not context. The key at that moment was to get the @CalgaryPolice account back up and running to provide these critical updates to Calgarians.

Below is a collection of images with time stamps on communications to get this twitter feed up and running again. As you will see below, one of the unsung hero’s of the early moments of the Calgary Flood was Sylvain Carle, platform relations manager for Twitter. He was instrumental in making sure that the @calgarypolice twitter feed was back up and running in under 40 mins from the time it was blocked. After the reactivation of the account the @calgarypolice provided hundreds up dates on the 20th and 21st and answered hundreds of tweets of concerned residents.

Text message string between my wife and I regarding the Calgary Police Twitter Feed

Text message string between my wife and I regarding the Calgary Police Twitter Feed

Direct twitter message with Sylvain Carle - Twitter

Direct twitter message with Sylvain Carle – Twitter – to help in reactivating the @CalgaryPolice feed

String between Sylvain Carle, CST Jeremy Shaw and other Twitter users including myself

String between Sylvain Carle, CST Jeremy Shaw and other Twitter users including myself

Account Re-Activated thanks from the Calgary Police (although they thanked the wrong account)

Account Re-Activated thanks from the Calgary Police (although they thanked the wrong account)

For me personally, twitter has always been a primary source of news information. However, until you go through an event where real-time communication becomes your life-line you don’t really appreciate how important Twitter’s platform is. When I think of the events of that night I am so impressed at how technology played an instrumental role in potentially saving life’s and calming the general public.

Lastly, I would like to once again say thank you to Sylvain again for jumping into action. His efforts where critical in ensuring that communication continued to flow from the right sources and no doubt in my mind helped hundreds of Calgarians indirectly through his actions. Thanks Sylvain (@froginthevalley).

P.S. – For another good read on Social Media’s role in the Calgary Flood, check out the blog post by Danielle Montgomery called Calgarians fight disaster with social media on the Edmonton Journal.

Google Premium SMB Partner in Canada and my LifeinYellow.ca Guest Blog Post on Partnerships

2013 has been a great start for YPG again and my role as head of business development. We closed off 2012 with a landmark deal with Yahoo to power their local search, “[FIRST LOOK] Yahoo! Canada Integrates YellowAPI.com for Local Search” and have started off 2013 expanding that relationship along with a number of new deals that are at various stages of completion.

One such deal is our recent announcement to become Canada’s largest Premium SMB Partner of Google in Canada. We are now the only partner of Google who services businesses in every province in Canada and in both official languages which is pretty cool. You can read the official press release, “Yellow Pages Group Selected by Google as an AdWords Premier Partner for Small Businesses“.

As part of this announcement I have done a guest post on LifeInYellow.ca titled; Investing in Partnerships That Benefit Our Small Business Clients. In this post I talk about the importance of a robust partner eco-system to ensure that we get SMB information in front of as many consumers as possible.

Click on the link about or the image below to read my latest post.

The YPG Canada partner eco-system to ensure that Canadian SMB's get as much exposure to consumers as possible.

The YPG Canada partner eco-system to ensure that Canadian SMB’s get as much exposure to consumers as possible.

The 9 iPhone applications that I use every single day of the year

Looking back at 2012 I received a lot of questions regarding what apps I use on my iPhone. Like everybody, I have my list of favorite applications but as I reflect on 2012 I started thinking about which apps I use on a daily basis and are now part of my daily activity. That list is much shorter than apps that I like.

I have broken this blog post into 2 sections. The first section covers the applications that I use every day and yes that means 365 days per year. The second section covers applications that I are my favorites and help me solve specific problems but do not fall into the 365 days per year usage category.

For the purposes of my top list I am not including the default apps of Mail, Message, Calendar and Clock that I use daily.

5 Additional iPhone Apps that I use everyday of the year

Screen Shot 2012-12-30 at 1.20.54 PM
FourSquare

What I like about it: Foursquare is my historical view of places I have been. I use it daily to help me solve 3 specific use case; 1) it helps me remember some of the great restaurants I have been to and which ones I want to go back to in the future, 2) I use it to discover new restaurants that I want to visit based on my friends checkins/tips as well as the foursquare community and 3) it is always fun to save some money by taking advantage of FourSquare specials.

My tip for new users: there is an option in FourSquare to share your checkins on Facebook and Twitter. I recommend that you don’t post all your mundane regular checkins but instead reserve it for travel locations and unique places you visit. This way you don’t upset your friends or followers.

Some data points on my FourSquare usage. If you check out my tripsQ page (http://tripsq.com/darbysieben) – you will notice that as of this posting date I have travelled 481K kilometers. Other data points, I have been using FourSquare for the past 1060 days and have compiled 5507 checkins during that time.

Screen Shot 2012-12-30 at 1.21.11 PM
Waze

What I like about it: Crowdsource traffic conditions and turn by turn navigation. My use cases; 1) when at home keeps me up to date on travel times and gives me recommendations if I should change my regular routes, 2) when I travel and rent a car my go to app for turn by turn directions and the ability to accurately predict my ETA to my location and 3) when I take a taxi this app keeps the cab driver honest and has saved my money in the past when taxi drivers want to take me on a different route.

My tip for new users: Carry a charger in your car. This app, if you run it all the time like I do, drains the battery just like any turn by turn / map navigation app for the iPhone. Second find a good spot to mount it in your vehicle. I am lucky as both my vehicles allow me to mount right behind my steering wheel.

Some data points on my Waze usage. I started using it everyday in Q3 of this year. So far I have posted 122 alerts for other drivers and have racked up 8810km’s in driving data.

Screen Shot 2012-12-30 at 1.21.22 PM
Zite Personalized Magazine

What I like about it: This app keeps me up to date with all the industry news that I require to do my job as well as personal interests that I want to stay on top of. My use cases; 1) its my primary news feed – nuff’ said and 2) is the primary tool that I use to populate my twitter account twitter.com/darbysieben.

Screen Shot 2012-12-30 at 1.21.33 PM
Google Chrome

What I like about it: I do a lot of searches and viewing of websites on my iPhone. For me, Google Chrome is much better than the default Safari browser. My reasons for stating this; 1) syncs with my Google account so that I can move from desktop to iPhone and have my search history/bookmarks move with me, 2) search within the URL browser – I hate the fact that on Safari you have a website URL entry and then a separate search entry box and 3) faster – although I don’t have any concrete numbers to validate this, it appears to be faster.

Screen Shot 2012-12-30 at 1.21.41 PM
Facebook App

What can I say about facebook; it’s always nice to stay up to date with friends and family.

Here is a list of other apps that I use regularly and solve specific needs.

Read More…

Holy Data Harmonization Batman : What Does That Mean Again?

This is a follow-up post (I am few months behind actually getting this post up) to an announcement we made in 2011 with our data harmonization deal with FourSquare. Since that time we have done the same thing with OpenTable and TripAdvisor and have launched an internal DealsAPI (soon to be public, check out our DEALS API page) which aggregates local deals.

So what is data harmonization. In a nutshell, it is matching two separate databases and matching the records that are the same. In the case of local, its about mapping business “A” in one database to the same business “A” in the second database. Google was one of the first real data matching pioneers when they were aggregating local content from many sources into their place pages (remember those good old days).

What is really more important is the output of doing this. The output of matching data boils down to a creating a better and more robust user experience by combining presenting information from multiple sources to help users make better decisions.

So in practice here is what the end product looks like.

Let’s take a look at Tipperary’s Pub on YellowPages.ca. As an aside; if you like thick crust pizza, this is one of the best places in Calgary.

Here is an image of the standard information you would expect; name, address, map. Notice right above the map on the right hand side is the first indication that this listing has additional content from TripAdvisor.

When you scroll down the page the user has a couple of sources of reviews to look at. Reviews that comes from YellowPages.ca users and reviews that come from TripAdvisor

To the right hand side on the page, the user also has the ability to look at tips and who has checked into this location courtesy of FourSquare.

The mobile experience is the same thing. If you want to check out the Tipperary Pub mobile page.

On this page you will notice the reviews from TripAdvisor, checkins/tips from FourSquare as well as the photos from FourSquare.

So what’s next.

We are working on bringing more of these content partnerships into place. Soon we will be opening up the ID’s of our partner venue’s through YellowAPI which will then make it super easy for developers to mash up content just like we did on YellowPages.ca. If you have local content that can be mapped to a specific location in Canada that you think might be useful, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

[FIRST LOOK] Yahoo! Canada Integrates YellowAPI.com for Local Search

This is a first comparison of before and after screenshots of the new expanded relationship between Yahoo! Canada and Yellow Pages Group using YellowAPI to power Yahoo!’s local search in Canada. Yahoo and YPG have had a pretty long standing relationship in Canada that started with a customized version of YellowPages.ca built for Yahoo! users back in 2007. You can see this in action at Yahoo.YellowPages.ca. Then Yellow Pages Group provided it basic listing data to Yahoo for Yahoo! local property which was located at Ca.Local.Yahoo.com (NOTE; this URL now redirects to yahoo.yellowpages.ca). Then last March – Yahoo! Canada integrated with YellowAPI to provide local results for its mobile users, you can see my blog post, [Screenshots] Yahoo Mobile Integrates with YellowAPI. And rolling out now is the new integration of YellowAPI powering the local search results in Yahoo! web search and with the links going to Yahoo’s customized version of YellowPages.ca.

Click on any of the images below to see the full screenshot.

I also encourage you to visit Yahoo.ca and enter a local search query such as dentists in toronto, restaurants in calgary, etc. and play with this integration yourself.

Dentists in Toronto (Before)

Dentists in Toronto (After)

Restaurants in Calgary (Before)

Restaurants in Calgary (After) – Note the reviews, this is coming from YellowAPI

Lawyers in Montreal (Before)

Lawyers in Montreal (After)

Sushi in Vancouver (Before)

Sushi in Vancouver (After)

So what do you think of this new integration?

There’s Something About Weather; It’s Time to Get Hyperlocal

Like most Canadians my life is greatly influenced by weather. Knowing the forecast helps me make decisions on what I need to wear, what to pack when I travel and where to select a vacation destination. On the business side, I have always been fascinated with weather because it is one of those really boring businesses (nothing sexy about it), has high user frequency and is a pretty decent way to sell targeted advertising.

In fact, after I sold KS2 Solutions in 2005 I almost joined Pelmorex (known for TheWeatherNetwork.com or MetroMedia.com) to head up their sales in Western Canada. I ultimately decided to join Yellow Pages Group in early 2006. In January 2010 I ended up striking a partnership between YellowPages.ca and TheWeatherNetwork.com, read the post here – The Weather Network add Local Search and YellowPages.ca adds Weather – A Deeper Look at this Partnership.

Bottom line – weather has been an important part of my business and personal life.

My latest venture into weather is an investment in a new Montreal based start-up that is taking precipitation forecasting to a hyperlocal level, called SkyMotion Research. You can learn more about the company at SlideShare. They recently had some write-ups in popular blogs, check them out here:

TUAW –
Sky Motion for iOS lets you know what weather is coming on a very local basis

The Verge –
Sky Motion’s up-to-the-minute weather tracking app comes to the web

Mobile Syrup –
SkyMotion launches mobile web app to predict hyperlocal precipitation

Currently the application is iOS based with an Android version coming soon. See screenshot below which was a short-term forecast at my office in Calgary. You can download the iOS app here. You can also play with the online version at SkyMotion’s website, just enter your address.

SkyMotion

I can definitely say that I am not alone when it comes to the importance of weather. Exactly how big is the weather market in Canada? Here are some stats you might find interesting.

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What a waste! Failure to execute on mobile results in this.

This is 2012.

This is Canada.

This is the age of mobile.

Yet marketing teams continue to waste time, money and effort on deploying useless mobile engagement. The result of poor execution for the company; time, cost and failure to collect valuable user information. The result for the user; frustration.

What is most astounding to me is that during the entire process of building the strategy, mapping out the campaign and the associated collateral that somebody did not test this execution and say, “Wait a minute, this is not functional. We need a different execution”.

So, what has me going. Here is the scenario.

Early this week I met a long-time friend of mine for lunch at Original Joe’s in Kensington. I had the Fish and Chips and my friend had the Cob Salad. All in all the meal was good and the conversation even better. When we received the bill they included the following;

original joes kensington survey

I was impressed that they included a QR Code on the survey. To me this makes a lot of sense to capture feedback at the time of checkout. What also is smart is that by including a QR Code, it gives a person immediate access to the survey on their smartphone. This is definitely going to generate a higher volume of responses than waiting for a person to get to their home/office to complete the survey at OriginalJoesSurvey.com.

As I pulled out my iPhone, ready to provide some good feedback, here is what I encountered. Read More…

Canadian Media Companies; Revenue Per UV and Thoughts on the Bell – Astral Deal

In the past 2-weeks some interesting news in the Canadian media space has happened. First, on March 16, BCE announced the purchase of Astral Media for 3.38B and second Borrell Associates has released its 2011 Revenue Survey, Benchmarking Local Online Media. There are 4 Canadian companies listed in the Borrell revenue survey which are Yellow Media IncTranscontinental, TorStar Digital and PostMedia and their ranking by north american digital revenues are #7, #14, #21 and #24 respectively. The largest 3 players in terms of revenues where AutoTrader.com, AT&T YellowPages.com and Groupon.

Borrell does some interesting comparisons in their report such as average online revenue per site by operator and average per-market ad revenue for local pure-play internet companies. In the latter category Groupon leads followed by Craigslist.org and AutoTrader.com. However, I wanted to take a more CDN view of this data.

First, I decided to take a look at the past 6-months average ComScore UV’s for each of the networks listed above.

The data is as follows;

Read More…

Feels Good Heading to Boston for #ILMEast – First Time in the US in 7-Months

Well it feels good heading back to Boston this week for the ILMEast Conference. This is my first opportunity this year to head south of the border after spending the last quarter of 2011 in and out of the hospital.

Looking forward to the conference and hearing from some of the keynotes speakers; I am especially interested to hear what Leslie Berland, SVP of Digital Partnership for American Express. AMEX has really been active in the digital space around the deals segment. Some of other keynotes that should be interesting are Jay Herratti of CityGrid and Michael Silberman of New York Media to name a few.

Of course there are lots of meetings on tap with companies that Yellow Pages Group is interested in, companies we are already doing business with and of course companies who are interested in working with us.

If you happen to be at Kelsey and want to connect, send me a message via twitter @darbysieben.