January 20, 2010
Editor’s Note: This article was written by Ryan Graves, an entrepreneur focused on taking the web offline. He lives in Chicago, is the co-founder of Chicago Tech Meetup, and is currently working on business activities with Foursquare. You can find more on his blog at THE DREAM IN ACTION.com and follow him on Twitter at: @RyanGraves.
Most people know that Google’s precious search algorithm is a secret, sacred, thing that they’ve worked very hard to protect. In fact their behavior around that algorithm has been similar to Golum’s behavior towards his “precious” ring. You know, the one that will ‘rule them all’. This algorithm and others allow Google to provide very focused advertising based on your search terms.
In computing, an algorithm is an effective method for solving a problem using a finite sequence of instructions.
However, the way I see it, their dominance in providing web advertising using the “precious”, all machine, set of instruction won’t last forever. There are human powered systems that can adjust quickly for variables, change over time, and become increasingly “sharp” as they learn. Simply, they can learn better than just a computer. A great example of this type of human powered system is a NYC based startup Hunch. Effectively, they’ve created a system where they can collect an infinite number of decision trees, all generated by humans, and then predict future decisions based on passed decision sequences.
So, what am I getting at? Well, as you know I’ve been working closely in the local advertising space through my work with Foursquare and I can’t stop thinking about how large of an opportunity this is. If a bar or restaurant can advertise directly to the folks driving by as they’re deciding where to eat, that’s better than any billboard, radio spot, newspaper clip, full page magazine add, event sponsorship, Adsense ad in my Gmail or Google search, and I could go on… It’s simply the best possible advert you could get, as an advertiser or a consumer, unless I’m missing something. Here’s an example, when companies spend money on other ‘focused’ internet advertising they pay for say 100 impressions. This means that 100 people saw that ad, and the common click-through rate is about 1/100, even on the ‘focused’ ads. Now, what if you were able to directly reach potential customers who frequent your ‘type’ of establishment, fall within a very specific demographic, and only if they’re walking distance from your location!!! Right now you’re saying, “WTF are you serious…”, and I am.
With the blowing up of location based services like Foursquare, Loopt, Brightkite and a few others, this sort of data is readily available. People are using these services to share their location, their purchase preferences, their unfiltered thoughts about almost everything they do and businesses can learn A LOT from that. Now you see why all these nerds (me) get excited about data; because you can change the world with it. With this data you can turn industries upside down, and the ability to reach consumers in this intimate way is one of those opportunities.
It’s all a matter of who can reach the masses, who can create a product intuitive enough for “Joe the Plumber” to use. Google’s Adsense technology is fairly simple, but still local businesses don’t use it. The potential for human powered mobile, local, advertising is in the words of Austin Powers, “dead sexy”. My mouth is literally watering. I can’t wait to be a part of this movement.
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