Why Office for the iPad Makes Sense

The Daily claims—with screenshots to prove it!—that Microsoft Office is coming to the iPad. Dan Frommer reasonably points out that this would be a smart way for Apple to get into enterprise, and it would not exactly be a brilliant strategic move for Microsoft to be known as the one tablet company that lets you fiddle around with spreadsheets. This is promising, but there’s plenty of potential corporate friction between an obviously smart move and reality.

If this does happen, it’ll be interesting to see how Microsoft prices things. If they see Office for iPad as the key to selling to corporate clients, they could shoot for a high price point—something close to the current cost for a license. But they may also need to make an end run around Google Docs, which would imply a very low price point, indeed—basically, enough to pay for compatibility. The pricing strategy for a hypothetical Office for iPad is a great barometer of Google’s ability to compete in the office productivity space, from the company that ought to know best.

Google Pushes Third Party Concert Sites

A new search feature pushes concert tickets under official site results for bands. One obvious winner: LiveNation’s TicketMaster subsidiary will get a bump from increased online ticket sales. Even if secondary ticket markets end up getting more clicks, a more liquid secondary market should mean more upfront purchases, and thus more TicketMaster revenue.

The WSJ Games Google’s First-Click-Free Policy

The WSJ has apparently found ways not to show all of some articles to Google searchers, even though this is a requirement from Google’s first-click-free policy for indexing such content. Danny Sullivan’s report on this also includes some other oddball examples like Newsday and The Times. The most likely story here is that Google doesn’t audit first-click-free especially well, and that they’re particularly reluctant to penalize a large news site for violating it, especially if they’re only violating it a small percentage of the time. Overall, it’s a victory for making paywalls less porous, though whether that helps the business or merely buys time is up for debate.

The Panda Update Means Better Journalism?

Felix Salmon, Reuters’ media and culture critic who moonlights as a finance blogger, spots a pattern: Salon and The Atlantic both saw increased traffic from writing fewer but better articles. This could be a vindication for quality journalism, but it could also be an aftershock from Google’s Panda update: fewer articles showing up on the same homepage means a higher median number of clicks, comments, Facebook likes and Tweets per article, which will raise Google’s estimate of the entire site’s quality.

Of course, it’s good news for readers. But it may be yet another case of search algorithm updates merely reflecting reality: we really are better off with fewer, better stories, rather than a few sites that insist on writing something about everything, where a “thing” is defined as any search term that gets more than 100 queries per month.

LinkedIn Sneaks into Email With Rapportive Transaction

LinkedIn’s strategic brilliance is under-appreciated. At every stage of the recruiting process, LinkedIn is either commoditizing (“sourcing” a first-round list of candidates has gotten an order of magnitude easier in the last five years), or cashing in on (cheap sourcing means higher demand for contacting prospects, for which LinkedIn is happy to charge). They’ve also extended into company profiles and careers pages. And of course, they’ve become a superset of the résumé.

Their acquisition of Rapportive fits into this strategy nicely. Essentially, Rapportive saves you the Google search or Gmail search you’d use to figure out how you know (or should know) whoever sent you the email you just received.

(This is a clever acquisition for another reason. LinkedIn nearly owns searches for full names; a decent fraction of those searches are likely catalyzed by cold emails or emails from tenuous connections. By skipping the Google search, LinkedIn is cutting off Google+’s opportunity to steal the click. Expect to see LinkedIn push Rapportive heavily to new users.)

Estimating iOS and Android Revenues of Public Companies

Inside Mobile Apps does a nice job of identifying publicly-traded companies with mobile revenue, and estimating it.

Why Dropbox Is A Major Disruption

Bill Gurley explains that Dropbox makes users device-agnostic, as long as they have their data. That’s a fair way to look at it, though it assumes a certain baseline user experience that not all devices have.

(One weird issue: Gurley assumes that Dropbox’s investors are looking for a 10X return on their $4bn valuation. That’s probably part of the probability distribution, but large-scale late-stage investments like that seem to aim for something closer to a 3X return with quick liquidity.)

Understanding Remnant Inventory

The redoubtable Patrick McKenzie explains remnant ad inventory in the context of this post lamenting ads for games on educational news stories. Well worth reading; the interplay of high customer lifetime values with very low conversions and click-throughs, plus imperfect topical relevance, produces some strange ads, indeed.

Will Facebook Lose to Niche Social Networks?

GeekWire has gotten some attention for claiming that Facebook will lose to sites like Pinterest. Of course, it’s hard to square a statement like “Users are spending more time on these networks, and less on Facebook,” with ComScore’s data indicating that “In October, Facebook reached more than half (55 percent) of the world’s global audience and accounted for 1 in every 7 minutes spent online around the world and 3 in every 4 social networking minutes.”

If Facebook’s EdgeRank is telling users that they’re interested in videos and memes rather than their friends’ opinions on political issues, it’s because that’s what Facebook’s data indicate. Blocking users’ status updates takes seconds, and there’s minimal overlap between thoughtful sounders-off on politics and boring meme-peddlers. Every social network gets more average and more boring over time—if Facebook stays as interesting and serious now as it was when it had one million members and a decent fraction of them went to the best schools in the country, then that’s a problem for Facebook.

In other Facebook news:

  • They’re launching a new ad product, integrating page posts with ads.
  • Facebook (and a few other apps) have been accused of reading users’ text messages. As in the Path address book case, it looks like they were accessing the data because they could, and because it was convenient, but not with any malicious intent.
  • Digg admits that Facebook traffic is now keeping them alive.
  • Facebook comments seriously slow down site load times.

“Inside Google’s Recruiting Machine”

Fortune has a profile of Google’s scalable recruiting process. Lots of algorithms, minimal human input. While this is a big fraction of Google’s recruiting, it does miss the corporate development side: like plenty of other companies, Google acquires some of its best talent.

(You might call this dynamic a “Dirty Little Secret,” but it’s very much out in the open.)

Social Media vs SMS

Increased use of Facebook and Twitter messages is cutting into SMS revenues, a high-margin product for telecom companies. This could be a blessing in disguise, though: now, they can price-discriminate by selling their responsible high-income consumers all-you-can-eat data plans, while they sell their more irresponsible consumers on pay-by-the-message / megabyte setups.

Browser-Level “Do Not Track”

Google has joined Firefox, Microsoft’s IE, and Apple’s Safari in supporting a “Do Not Track” button, which allows users to opt out of targeted ads. Most users will ignore it; the ones who use it will see more ads for life insurance and diet supplements, although they’re also a demographic that tends to use AdBlock. The net effect should be minimal; given the opportunity, most users still don’t really do much to preserve their privacy. That’s good for the web; user data ends up being a public good used to subsidize ads, which means subsidizing content.

Adobe Will Keep Developing Flash

This is a strange move: Adobe is going to keep developing Flash for the next 5-10 years. Or rather, it’s a sensible move: Adobe is announcing long-term support for a long-in-the-tooth product, to minimize the number of users who feel the urgent need to migrate.

Google is Ending AdSense for Domains

Google is eliminating their specialty AdSense product for parked domains. This was never a huge part of their AdSense budget, on the margin; since these domains can still use AdSense, it’s more a question of easier setup and slightly easier monetization.

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LinkedIn undercuts Google, Office for iPad, and better journalism through algorithms