Sunday, December 28, 2008

Is Your Search Engine A Newspaper?

I was chatting with a friend here who works for a major media conglomerate and is getting her PhD in media economics. (Yes, she can multi-task.) She is working on a paper about online advertising. Her employer, the owner of several national papers and publications, is the biggest online advertiser in Turkey. She said she was surprised to find how in the US the top advertising revenue congregated around search engines and portals such as Google, Yahoo, AOL and MSN... This made me think for a minute about how I got my news on a daily basis. To me, information is key. I track multiple sources at a time. I keep an eye on Yahoo news. I go through my blog lists on a regular basis. I read the NYT and WSJ - online and offline. The latest news is the greatest. Within all this commotion, I sometimes pay attention to online banner ads and pop-ups.

Advertisers get the biggest return from me when I search for a specific product or service. That's when I am ready to click around and chase additional information. Hence, the beauty of search engine marketing. Paid or organic, it reaches a relevant, engaged audience. My search engine is my default newspaper and directory.

Our conversation took another interesting turn, when another friend who oversees a number of brands for an international cosmetics company's Turkish branch said she is planning to cut back on her Web advertising in 2009. She complained that she was not getting enough ROI. Instead, she planned to focus on TV. Her budget was scaled back anyhow.

A new dish came to the table, we all got distracted with mozzeralla sticks and pizzas. So I didn't get into finding new audiences online with a list of sites that matched her audience's profile. I didn't get a chance to tell her about the brands who were moving money from traditional media to online, either.

The Turkish online audience is addicted to social networks and discussion forums. Turkey is one of Facebook's most populated bases in Europe. Similar to US Internet users, novice and seasoned users depend on major search engines to find information. Perhaps the solution for brands here is to move away from somewhat engaging banner ads and follow the audience to search engines and social networks.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Ban on YouTube Doesn't Stop Young Turks

After claims that a YouTube video contained degrading content about Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkish state, Turkish courts banned access to the popular video exchange site from Turkey. They didn't want anyone to tamper with the evidence while they reviewed the case.

Don't get me wrong, I am a follower of Ataturk's path and I staunchly believe in protecting his name and his institutions. But I am not sure if it may be possible to contain content on an ever dynamic social media site. My guess is that many people wouldn't even be able to find the video and the pertaining user comments that are in question.

But nowadays the focus on the case have shifted from the court's decision to the back roads Turkish Internet users take to access YouTube. As Milliyet, a leading national paper here, reported recently the number of Turkish visitors to YouTube has reached 800,000 per day, pushing the site to the most viewed 10 Web destinations in the country. Google searches on alternative ways to access YouTube returns more than 300,000 results. In a November interview, even the country's Prime Minister admitted to accessing YouTube through alternative sites.

The ban doesn't seem to stop young Turks from connecting and networking.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Tulin Who?

Entertainment, especially if it doesn't cost anything, survives through most crises. Perhaps it's the best way to forget about daily troubles. Tulin Sahin - a Turkish top model - just launched a Web site targeting women called Tuliss. There is not much beyond a sexy landing page. Visitors can sign up to get Tulin's e-newsletter covering beauty, culture and fashion. I guess people are more focused on the celebrity factor than content. Within one week, 15,000 women from Turkey and the rest of Europe signed up for it.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Retail Crisis - An International Perspective

Greetings from Istanbul - my hometown. After a 10+ hour trip, I finally gathered the force to get out a bit and run some errands. Our house here is near major shopping mall, Akmerkez, one of the largest in Europe. Usually it's so crowded that you need a bodyguard to clear the path for you. Just like in the US, people come here to stroll and to hang out, even if they don't buy much. It's always hectic. It's always busy.

At 5:30PM on Monday, it was near empty.

Stores sported discount signs, ranging from 30 to 70 percent... and you can pay in monthly installments.

In every store I entered, I was greeted by an average of 3 salespeople who had nothing else to do.

Unemployment rate was just announced on TV as surpassing 10 percent. They expect it to hit 12-13 percent soon... Turkish people are used to dealing with crises, but they are as nervous as those of us living in the US. They keep asking me, 'how is business in the States?' They know well: When the States coughs, they catch a cold.