Archive for the ‘General Commentary’ Category

The 12th Man

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014
12th Man Logo

The logo of the 12th Man Foundation, designed by Chris Silver Smith

The recent Super Bowl hoopla brought the Seahawks 12th Man to national attention, but I wonder how many realize that this fan support concept was founded by Texas A&M University? Most of my friends and acquaintances are unfamiliar with my past ties to the A&M organization and its iconography as well. Shortly after college, I worked for TAMU as a scientific illustrator, mapmaker and graphic designer. While in that capacity, I designed the 12th Man’s iconic logo.

If you’ve driven around the state of Texas for any length of time, chances are good that you’ve seen this logo on decals on the back windows of a great many vehicles. I think it’s probably the most widely visible thing I’ve ever designed.

So, how did the 12th Man itself come to be associated with the Seahawks, way up in Seattle, Washington? (more…)

Ever Wonder Where Santa Claus’s Home Is Located?

Tuesday, December 4th, 2012

Ever wonder where Santa Claus’s north pole home is actually located? Well, Rovaniemi, Finland makes a pretty credible case, claiming themselves as the official home to Santa.

Rovaniemi's tourism website - home of Santa Clause

Homepage of Rovaniemi's tourism website featuring Santa Claus

A number of characteristics of our Santa myths (a.k.a. “Father Christmas”) appear to’ve been adopted from Sápmi (a region of Norway, Sweden, Finland and part of Russia often referred to as “Lapland”) and its indigenous people, the Saami. Rovaniemi is well within the Sápmi lands. (more…)

Google’s Dracula Logo

Thursday, November 8th, 2012

I can’t resist mentioning Google’s Dracula themed logo today celebrating the 165th birthday of Bram Stoker!

Google Dracula Vampires Logo

Google Logo - Bram Stoker Customized Search Results Page

Sponsored search results associated with Google's Bram Stoker logo. (Click to enlarge.)

The logo presents scenes from Stoker’s Dracula uber-famous vampire book, done up in a woodcut-illustration style very reminiscent of the illustrations of Aubrey Beardsley, from the same time period. Dracula was published in 1897.

What may be more significant for search marketers, however, is the special search results page the logo is linked-to, which features Bram Stoker-related books, the Sponsored “shop for” sidebar box and the Wikipedia entry highlights box, along with the usual Universal Search items peppered through the search results listings: news search, author-tagged posts, video and image search results.

This logo and associated search results treatment seems to be specifically designed to help propel featured sponsor ad clicks, as well as to promote Google’s robust search results features.

It calls to question — will Google continue to specifically try to monetize their future Google Doodle logos in a similar fashion?

Double Bankruptcy Required for Dex One / SuperMedia Yellow Pages Merger?!?

Thursday, October 25th, 2012

In nothing short of earth-shattering news, it was reported that the Dex One – SuperMedia yellow pages companies merger is apparently on the rocks due to the companies’ creditors being unwilling to accept financial terms. Worse yet, the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission filing states that the companies might have to restructure under a Chapter 11 bankruptcy in order to make the merger deal work!

Quoted from the Form 8-K filed by Dex One:

In light of the current negotiations, however, Dex One recognizes that the parties may not be able to obtain sufficient approval from the senior secured lenders to any proposed amendments to the parties’ respective credit agreements. Therefore, possible alternatives to the current transaction structure to effect the Merger are under consideration, including a “prepackaged” restructuring of the parties’ senior secured indebtedness through proceedings instituted under Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code to implement possible amendments that may garner sufficient, though not unanimous, support from the parties’ respective lenders, while otherwise maintaining the basic economic terms of the Merger Agreement.  However, there can be no assurance that Dex One and SuperMedia can effect a transaction through an alternative structure, that the necessary consents will be obtained, or that the Merger will be consummated.

SuperDex! Dex One - SuperMedia MergerIf you haven’t kept up with recent years’ history, the surreal part of this is that both companies already emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy restructuring not that long ago. In June of 2009, R. H. Donnelley Company filed for bankruptcy, and Dex One rose from its ashes in February of 2010. Idearc Media, earlier known as Verizon Information Services, had been spun off from Verizon with an irresponsibly high debt load, and as a result filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in March of 2009, later to emerge from the rubble as SuperMedia in December of 2009.

The Triangle Business Journal headline reports that bankruptcy is a possibility for Dex One, perhaps because the filing states that “Dex One recognizes…”. However, the wording is such that it clearly states that possible (more…)

Bain Capital & Mitt Romney’s Involvement with Italy’s Yellow Pages Debacle

Monday, August 6th, 2012

Bain Capital, Mitt Romney, and Seat Pagine Gialle - Italy Yellow PagesMy attention was drawn to this Bloomberg article today, “Romney Persona Non Grata in Italy for Bain’s Deal Skirting Taxes“, brought to my attention by a Tweet from Greg Sterling.

Let me note upfront that I’m politically a moderate and a non-partisan, so my interest in this article is primarily from the perspective of the business and historical aspects involving the Yellow Pages industry, which I’ve written about from time-to-time.

The article outlines a possible reason why Romney’s trip through Europe didn’t include a stop in Italy, one of the G8 countries: some years back, Bain Capital, Mitt Romney’s company, purchased a major stake in Italy’s Yellow Pages, Seat Pagine Gialle, and then they later resold their portion during the height of the Internet bubble for a very hefty profit, in the process circumventing taxes that could have benefited Italy. Subsequent to the Internet bubble, though, the Italian Yellow Pages declined very sharply in value at the expense of company shareholders (many of whom were possibly Italians) and the devaluation probably negatively impacted the service provided in Italy which could be said to affect virtually all Italians, one way or another. (more…)

Argent Media

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012

I have just launched my own agency, Argent Media, a search marketing firm focused on SEO, Local SEO, Online Reputation Management, and Social Media.

Argent Media - Local SEO Agency in Dallas Fort Worth, Texas.

It’s just me for now, although I have friends and contractors I’ve partnered with to collaborate on some projects.

Read the formal press release announcement at: Local SEO Industry Expert Founds Argent Media Search Marketing Agency in Dallas.

Interviewed at Train SEM

Saturday, February 11th, 2012

Chris Silver Smith InterviewI was interviewed over at Train SEM by the esteemed Ash Nallawalla, arguably the top local SEO and IYP SEO expert of the Asia-Pacific region.

Read it at Train SEM: Interview:
Chris Silver Smith.

The Bruce Clay, Local Paid Inclusion & UBL Kerfuffle

Thursday, February 2nd, 2012

Along with many others, I’ve been following the “Local Paid Inclusion” kerfuffle involving Bruce Clay with some interest, and I’ve finally decided to post this comment about the story. Disclosure: I’m on the current Board of Advisors for a company that’s been frequently mentioned along with the story — Universal Business Listing (a.k.a. “UBL”), so I do have a direct interest in these events. While I obviously wouldn’t speak out about UBL without the company’s permission, the thoughts in this blog post are my own opinions and conclusions about the matter, based on my knowledge about the company and people involved. So, read on: (more…)

Wendy’s New Burger Is Fatter – Product Development In The Wrong Direction

Friday, December 2nd, 2011

Wendy's Fat Logo VersionIn September, Wendy’s apparently formally launched their new line of hamburgers – cheeseburgers, in fact – after working for around two years on evolving their product recipe, according to news reports. Not normally prone to following or reading news about fast food, my first discovery of the new “Project Gold Hamburger” was a negative interaction with my local Wendy’s staff. I’ve researched a bit further, and I think their product redesign was bad. The burgers can make you fatter and more unhealthy.

Let me say right here: I’ve long been a fan of Wendy’s food, not only because of the cheap menu items which still are of excellent quality, but because they have a handful of really healthy options. I am also never, ever rude to fast food workers, and I’m sympathetic to how difficult it is to work inside of huge corporations and how there’s always some friction with customers when familiar products are changed.

Even so, I have to take Wendy’s corporation to task for how they chose to change their product, and the marketing decisions involved which resulted in my negative interaction at my local Wendy’s. It was quite clear to me that my negative experience was NOT the fault of the local fast food workers, but due to the decisions which came down from their headquarters in Dublin, Ohio. I’m writing this because I have been a longterm, very pleased customer of Wendy’s, and I have expertise in marketing — I’m hoping they understand very clearly how their direction of product change has negatively affected me, and how it’s likely to cause them increasing problems down the road. (more…)

The Occupy Protesters Google-Bombed Maps

Wednesday, November 9th, 2011

The Atlantic Wire reported that Occupy Oakland protesters managed to get the name of Frank H. Ogawa Plaza to be changed in Google Maps to “Oscar Grant Plaza” — the name they dubbed it in remembrance of a man killed by BART police on New Years in 2009.

After media began noticing the unofficial name appearing in Google Maps, Google apparently corrected the error. I just did the search, and the plaza is showing the official name within the map, although you can see from the tooltip that some user had been encouraging people to post ratings under the protesters’ nickname for the place:

Oscar Grant Plaza in Google Maps

A Google spokesperson admitted that the name came from user-submitted edits, and that it shouldn’t have been approved, but should have been allowed as a “search reference”. I’ll translate: Google should not have pasted the name on the map as an official place-name, but should have allowed it to be added to their synonym database so that people searching on the name could easily find the location it refers to. As you can see from my screen-grab, it is now functioning as a search reference.

Concerningly, this incident supports what I have been saying, along with others, that Google Maps is particularly prone to Google-bombing from user-submitted content (“UGC”) edits. As I illustrated recently from Mike Blumenthal’s experiment to flag Google HQ as closed, some types of edits can result in businesses getting their listings defaced with false claims that they’re no longer open, and in even worse cases business Place Pages could get forced to rank for obnoxious terms, and labeled with descriptive terms that sabotage business referrals.

I could argue that it’s actually improper for the plaza to be made to rank for the unofficial name in this place, under the condition of a purposeful Google-bombing exploit. I can also argue that it’s useful and helpful for users to be able to search for places under their common nicknames and alternative spellings. But, I bend more towards this being an inappropriate association in this case. The edits were a type of vandalism intended to hijack place-names in maps in order to convey a political message represented by what was probably a relative minority (assuming the Occupy Oakland protest was a part of the nationwide protest movements sparked by Occupy Wall Street, it’s hard to fathom what a police killing in 2009 has to do with the outrage against corporate corruption and economic problems, other than perhaps some desire to kick up the drama a notch or to appeal to a subset of protesters who desire to associate themselves with a sort of iconic martyrdom).

Considering how there are relatively few checks and balances in place, it’s really not surprising that a mob of people can hijack a place name in Google Maps and change it to communicate their political message. This sort of thing is happening on a much smaller scale to hundreds and thousands of businesses which are unfairly harmed by similarly applied user edits.

While it’s great that consumers have a greater voice in this Business 2.0 age, I think some more balance needs to be brought back to “The Force” by way of limiting the easy manipulation of Google Places and it’s vulnerability to such exploits.