Category Archives: Uncategorized

Accepting, free, and consuming the $hit outta life: America

On this day of our founding (ish) I thought it important to impart wisdom from a really real American like myself. Love it or leave it. Live free or die. And above all, respect our culture. I celebrated my Americanism this morning by eating ungodly amounts of genetically modified food and watching a 5-hour Jenny Jones marathon.

“One” might feel disgusting after that, but that “one” is obviously not American. I feel great! Completely revived and ready to attack this day with the vengeance of a drone hovering over my house while I’m watching Jenny Jones taking photos of me in my underthings.

I've actually never been prouder to be an Amurican than right now.

I’ve actually never been prouder to be an Amurican than right now.

Recently, people have come into my life that were born in other countries. Whereas previously I would have shunned these people for not being born free like me, I now understand that’s the wrong attitude. Welcome! I say.  Just like our founding fathers welcomed everyone with open arms and chains. Enjoy our genetically modified food, humongous steroid-filled vegetables (that should only be consumed fried), and 100 oz sodas that fit snuggly into the cup-holders of our suburban-assault-vehicles.

On this special day, please make sure to appreciate the freedom we have to blow things up – and please remember that fingers can be lost on this special day, so make sure to light the fuse of your M5000 with a really long match.

Please don’t take this post the wrong way, I seriously do love my country and anyone that knows me knows that I’ll be screaming “Happy Birthday America!” from the mountaintops tonight wearing my American Flag suspenders and matching head band.

G-bless the $hit out of all of us. Everyone. Even the people that weren’t born here.

World Cup Hair – I thought of this before ESPN!

In honor of the impending World Cup 2010 in South Africa, I’d like to rehash an old article I wrote for our site in 2006.  I’m also rehashing this because ESPN.com recently published an article about Hair History that is eerily similar in both style and content to the article appears herewith.  Not to say I thought of this witty and brilliant idea first… but…. I thought of it first.  I hope you enjoy:

Sports
“Best of the Worst Hair in Soccer”
Article by James Taylor & Staff
June 15, 2006 –

WORLD CUP:  Best in Worst Hair :::::: Where to watch it!

We here in America seem to care more about certain things.  Things like whether or not Ray Romano’s character has recovered from cancer soon enough to see his son’s tee-ball game, or whether some washed-up ex-cock-rocker from the 80’s will flip out on some reality show.  What we emphatically do not care about, is the World Cup.  This is indicative of many things, 1) the over-under on futbol matches is generally 1, and therefore very hard to gamble on, 2) the tight shorts make us, as a people, very uncomfortable, and finally 3) all that running makes us feel very guilty about our sedentary selves.

I for one, have recently gained an appreciation for the “world’s game” – and not because the Iraqi national team makes me feel like our $800 gazillion dollars was money well spent, and certainly not because it reminds me of that time in 3rd grade when I accidentally threw-in the ball off my own arm.  I like the showmanship, the camaraderie, and especially the feeling that a team from a third-world country like Brazil can be the best.  I also like the hair.  Not because the hair is good mind you, but because it’s just so bad… to the bone.  I admire athletes that try to make themselves look as ugly as possible.

Our own NBA was at one time very avant-garde in this respect.  It featured the best (see worst): afros of the entire 70’s, mullets (over-shadowing MLB only because of their hats), gerry-curls, and man-perms of the 80’s (see Jack Sickma and Reggie Theus): and finally the cornrows of the 00’s—but the NBA has grown stagnant since the beginning of this century.  Soccer can feature the worst “dos” because it is truly a cultural melting pot on a grand scale.  With that being said, we give you OvaHere.com’s list of “The best of the worst hair in futbol.”

The Fro-Hawk:

Not to be confused with 2002’s Faux-Hawk and even less like 1982’s Mo-Hawk, the Fro-Hawk brings kinky to the party.  This look was made popular by the Nigerian National Team recently, and would be a very easy haircut to make fun of.  I say “would” instead of “is” – because these guys could look tough sporting straightened bowl cuts.

Fro Hawk

Mod Mullet:

You would be hard-pressed to walk though Popscene on a Thursday Night or a popular Hayes Valley café without running into this “hipster do”.  It is truly wretched and lovable at the same time.  A little man by the name of David “bend me over like” Beckham sports this.  He has a very pretty mouth.

Mod Mullet

David Beckham (England)

The Jerry Non-Curl:

It is greasy like the Jerry-Curl, but straight and stringy – not quite chingy—most definitely blingy.  It’s the Jerry Non-Curl!  Didier Drogba, the most hated man in the English Premier League, and official stud ofAbidjan’s team has sported this for many years.  It hasn’t hurt his game, but it makes him look like he would be just as comfortable being involved in some sort of contraband transaction.

Straight Jerri-Curl

Didier Drogba ( Abidjan )

String Band:

This isn’t a cool Dr. J headband; this is a piece of string that you tie around your flowing hair to keep it from falling into your beautiful green eyes.  It’s obviously a hair accessory and not a hairstyle itself, but nonetheless it merits mention.  It is truly despicable.  It just so happens that is very popular with the Swiss National team, coincidentally the most despicably neutral country in the history of history.

String Head Band = Not Trying Hard Enough

Switzerland

The Wild Man:

This is a style that can best be summed up in one word… “TOGA!”  There’s nothing bad to say about this style: it’s simple, it’s low maintenance, and I’m sure it smells GRRRRRRRREAT!

The "Wild Man"

Ronald Koeman ( Holland )

Tight Tail:

The pony tail that appears to be pulling you backwards is popular with many players, none more notable than Ronaldinho of Brazil (one of the best in the game).  His actually looks like a pony tail attached to a real pony butt from the back.  Only a man so revered can pull this one off.

The Man-ey Tail

Ronaldinho (Brazil)

Also…..

See I wrote this for World Cup 2006 - ESPN is stealing my ideas!!!! Who are you calling CRAZY!!!!

Where to watch the World Cup? If you’re not into soccer so much – where to find cute Europeans:

Elixir (Mission) :: Nice little spot in the ethnically diverse Mission District (this is the world’s game ain’t it).  Great drink specials and a down home vibe, they serve breakfast too (and not just liquid ones).

O’Neills (AT&T Park/China Basin)  :: Go before a Giants game — revel in devoted fandom (great place to pretend you’re a soccer hooligan), then head to the park to talk on your cell phone and eat garlic fries, and maybe pay attention to a couple of innings of baseball.

Lefty O’Douls (Union Square) :: Yes it’s Union Square, but this is the place for international tourists jonesing for their futbol fix.  There are many bars in the surrounding area that cater to different countries of origin — but this is the quintessential sports bar in the area.

Mars Bar (SOMA) :: Outdoor Patio, Rotating international DJ’s for each game on the tele, and it starts bright and early with 6 am games – if you’re in SOMA you’re probably still awake from the night before.

Marty Macks (Haight-Ashbury) :: Vaulted Ceilings with TV’s running throughout, the Irishmen serving your drink probably won’t move his eyes from the TV to pour your pint, but at least you won’t have to make idle chit chat.

Mad Dog in the Fog (Lower Haight) :: Pop in after you hit the Vapor Room for some 6 am fish and chips at this place made famous for trivia.  If you happen to go when England is playing you better show up 5 hours early (that will give you plenty of time to “warm up”).

http://fifaworldcup.yahoo.com/

MMM – MobileMusicMap

MobileMusicCalendar

Com 597

Winter 2010

On a recent visit to New York I tried to plan a night out to go see and hear live music.  As an avid iphone application user, I inferred that I should easily be able to find a New York music calendar app that would help us pick a show.  After searching both the iphone app store and my mobile browser for “Live Music Calendar New York,” “New York Concert Calendar”, and “Concerts,” I came upon many sources that gave the location, name of bands, and general information such as hours and musical genre.  Unfortunately, none provided audio samples of the bands and all of the necessary information in an easily navigable interface.  All the listings required some knowledge about the location and band which made it necessary to check multiple sources.  My fictitious mobile site, application, and website would be created to fill this void in a scalable manner.

Mockup of MMM - Mobile Music Map - iphone App

MobileMusicMap (MMM) fuses a mobile music player with a music calendar and ticketing system – displayed on a map.  MMM’s mobile site and app utilizes gps attached to web-enabled mobile phones allowing the user to see the location of the venue in relation to their own location, and its audio catalog lets the user hear what a band sounds like.  Combining the calendar with map functionality, music player, and ticketing would create a truly one-stop shop for empowering users to make informed decisions and purchase tickets for the live music they’d like to attend.

(See mockup above of what MMM might look like)

MMM - MobileMusicMap

(Mockup of user interface of MMM website)

The media involved…

MMM would be accessible via the web, a mobile version of the site, and an iphone and android application.  It would tie in sms and mms through marketing or ticketing initiatives, but the primary focus would be the interactive map that would require viewing on a desktop or web enabled “smart phone.”  MMM would use Google Maps as the platform for development (see mockup above) just as other sites use the mapping technology coupled with gps to display relevant location-based content.  Initially, the focus would be on developing the desktop version and iphone application because these have the quickest and most substantial impact amongst its target demographic of 16 to 35 year old urban concert goers.  It will be catered to urban areas as these are where MMM’s audio could provide relevant content currently lacking in the marketplace.  These major metropolitan areas have the highest concentration of live music, which increases the likelihood the concert goer has never heard what the listed band sounds like.  The age demographic is the vast majority of concert-goers.

The Website and iphone app would be its initial focuses.  According to the 2008 US Census, over 74% of the population has access to the internet, and admob’s Q4 2009 report indicated the iphone has over 54% of the mobile operating system share. The android app would be the 3rd initiative as it has 27% mobile operating system share, giving us potential exposure to 71% of web enabled phones.

MMM would start with venue data from an existing data feed partner.  This would involve initial outreach and the negotiation of fees paid to a data feed (such as infoUSA), or the development of a tool for venues to feed their content and calendars into its back end.

In order to bring MMM to market as fast as possible, it would make sense to strike a partnership with an existing media company with an online catalog of music, rather than developing all of the relationships and licensing with bands and labels from scratch.  Much of the music collection wouldn’t require heavy negotiation as it would be from bands that aren’t on heavily-promoted big labels, as the general point is to let users hear bands they don’t know.  There are two potential partners who fit the music feed requirements, both at very different levels of development and popularity.  Pandora Internet Radio is the largest online music service and is one of the most popular iphone applications.  With 37 million registered users, it has a huge audience that use it to listen to music from their phone or online.  They do not provide ticketing for concerts, nor do they have a calendar.  MMM could be developed with a plug-in capability for Pandora’s content that would include (as incentive) a potential revenue stream for Pandora in ticketing.  Pandora’s only current revenue source is advertising, and they may be amenable to the idea of another stream. If a partnership was struck, Pandora would have a vested interest in making their 37 million registered users aware of MMM.

Tourvolume is a newer web and mobile site (with a purported mobile application on the way) that already incorporates a calendar and music player with concert data for over 115,000 cities around the world, music from over 46,000 artists, and stock information for over 33,000 venues.  The music player technology itself is not as crucial as the rights and compiled music files.  Its web traffic is very small with around 1,000 monthly unique visitors, and there is no measurable data for the mobile site.  For a frame of reference, many small venues in each city have over 1k monthly unique visitors.  The fact that Pandora has over 37 million registered users and such a large mobile audience through the iphone and other “smart phones” would make striking a partnership with them significantly more difficult than working with Tourvolume.  Partnering with Tourvolume would not have the marketing advantages of Pandora, but would cost significantly less in terms of revenue sharing.

Concert ticketing would be the revenue source for MMM and developing the ticketing technology marketplace and agreements with venues would not be part of the initial rollout.  Ticketmaster/Live Nation sells over 45 million tickets a year to high profile music concerts, and there are many online ticketing companies that provide for smaller venues and concerts.  MMM would strike affiliate deals when it is rolled out to each new market, to be paid per ticket purchased through MMM.

Why mobile?

While the web version of MMM has the most current potential for building an audience based on total number of potential users, the mobile application has the most opportunity for impact.  MMM’s scalability would allow for it to be replicated in every major metropolitan market, and the mobile piece is what would make the most sense for tourists orientating themselves with the local geography and music scene and locals who use their phones to plan entertainment.  The gps locator will give users the ability to plan based on their current location and in relation to the venue’s location.  More and more people use their phone to plan entertainment around them, and MMM will capitalize on the increasing demand.  Many people also use their phone to listen to music, so not only is that a recognized vehicle for consuming music, but it’s generally easier for the user than through desktop website.  One of the major differentiating factors between MMM and the current major players in the mobile music calendar ecosystem, is giving the user the ability to hear what an unfamiliar band sounds like.

Why spend the money to build it?

Two things justify development costs associated with MMM:

  1. The current void in the marketplace.
  2. The revenue potential.

Currently there is no universal online/mobile concert calendar in every major market.  There are different players in different markets.  Metromix has event guides in many urban areas and provides data to newspaper websites such as LaTimes.com that both optimize well on search engines and have significant traffic.  There are also regional concert promoters who have online calendars and (to a lesser degree) mobile sites and apps.  The combined company of Ticketmaster (the world’s largest ticket seller both online and off) and LiveNation (the largest concert promoter) have extensive calendar directories, but they only offer information on shows for which they are selling tickets.  These are for well known acts at larger venues, and the majority of concerts and venues do not work with these companies. None of these directory and ticketing sites and apps combine the functionality proposed for MMM with a one-stop site for tickets.

According to Billboard Magazine, the concert business was up worldwide in 2009, with total revenue of $4.4 billion, up nearly 12% over 2008.  Total concert attendance was 73 million, which was similarly up nearly 13% from the previous year.  MMM would have affiliate deals with Ticketmaster/LiveNation, which pays up to $5 per ticket sold as well as negotiated rates with other vendors for smaller shows.  There are sites that provide online ticketing for smaller venues such as brownpapertickets and MMM would negotiate deals with these entities as well.

Who are the key players in the mobile ecosystem?

For MMM’s mobile apps and site, it would be reliant on Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM’s) such as HTC to provide the gps chips in the phones it would use to geo-locate its users.  It would be required to follow Apple’s itunes guidelines in order to offer an app to iphone users, and eventually do the same with android.  The rest of the mobile ecosystem would be made up of the content partners I have referenced above for the audio (Pandora or Tourvolume) and ticketing (Ticketmaster/LiveNation, brownpaper, etc…).  Map functionality is the core component of its app, and MMM would be reliant on Google maps in the same way that Yelp’s “monocle” and Urbanspoon’s “scope” functionality is plotted.  MMM would develop pinpoint technology (see screenshot on page one) that utilized Google maps.  It may want to use an aggregator or other operating systems (Windows Mobile, Symbian) after it has developed its iphone and android apps.  The mobile ecosystem is changing so rapidly that it seems reasonable for MMM to focus initially on the 2 most widely used mobile operating systems and marketplaces in the US only.

Again, there is currently no dominant player in the mobile concert calendar ecosystem.  Local mobile versions of the sites referenced above (Metromix Mobile, Village Voice Media’s “Seattle Weekly Mobile” and others), as well as concert apps (Seattle Stranger App) exist, but have not gained critical mass and lack the functionality outlined herewith.

What are the main challenges?

The biggest challenge in creating MMM is striking content partnerships in a timely manner.   That is why it might be advantageous to work with a provider such as Tourvolume, who has sufficient data, but not the traffic that would demand higher fees and a longer time table to get MMM to market.  Another large challenge is in reaching those potential users who are without “smart phones”.  Although non web-enabled phones still make up the majority of the populous, MMM is targeted more specifically to the younger urban person who is more likely to have a web-enabled phone.  Its desktop version will allow users to text the concert info to themselves, and potentially can have the ticketing be delivered to the phone so the user would not have to print a copy.  There could be a unique bar code for each ticket, and the venues could either register the person via bar code scanner (which is currently available on a web enabled ipod touch or iphone).

How will the program gain exposure?

Depending on the partners in place, there would be differing avenues to promote MMM to the concert-going public.  If MMM were able to secure a content sharing agreement with an existing entity with significant music-related-traffic, it would leverage that traffic and partnership to reach an   initial audience.  MMM would definitely run a Google adwords campaign for both web and mobile search.  MMM would focus its search spend on long-tail keywords such as “Seattle Reggae Concert,” instead of “Seattle Concert,” which tend to be significantly more expensive.  While most people do not click on sponsored results, they are very visible and would drive relevant traffic to both the web and mobile versions of MMM.

The concert venues, promoters, and bands all have a vested interest in selling more tickets and MMM would focus on incentives to these parties to promote MMM to their own audiences.  One way could be to give dedicated links back to the bands to include on their social networking initiatives and giving its affiliate commission back to the party that drove the sale.  MMM could also “power” the calendars of venues and bands who don’t want to spend the money to develop their own infrastructure.  Terrestrial Radio would be the one non-web or mobile advertising channel MMM would consider, as it is where many people listen to music and hear about concerts.

First partnerships for MMM…

There are numerous ways MMM could go about becoming the dominant player in online and mobile concert calendaring.  If Tourvolume was interested in the idea of integrating data with MMM’s functionality, the development costs could be quite small and the enterprise could be funded by a small group of founders and investors.  However, if it makes sense to develop the sites first before seeking strategic alliances, then major venture funding might be necessary.  With the void in the marketplace and revenue potential; the keys to success would be expediency to market and key partnerships with ticket sellers.   Regardless of how it was implemented, MMM could incorporate mapping functionality with a concert calendar, audio catalog, and ticketing into one web and mobile source that empowers concert-goers.

Mobile Music Calendar?

Blackalicious Playing at the Independent (San Francisco) 2004

Blackalicious Playing at the Independent (San Francisco) 2004

How is it that at this point in time, we still don’t have a universal source for picking a live music show on our phones? We have Urbanspoon and Yelp to pick a restaurant, and fandango to pick a movie – but nothing readily accessible in every urban market to choose live music. The mobile device is the perfect delivery tool for this as it already has a catelog of music and a gps locator to tell you where the music venues near you are. This should allow you to choose a show based on an informed decision without searching multiple sources.

Partially, I know why this hasn’t occurred yet. It’s difficult to make money from live music promotion – and I say this for low profile bands (which are really the only ones that you’d need to hear to know what they sound like). Therefore, there is limited time bands and promoters want to spend updating content for these sites. They’d be more than willing and able to do this if they thought there was a critical mass of people on these sites or mobile apps. So I guess partially it’s a chicken and egg situation. Get the audience to encourage self-post by bands and promoters. Get the band and promoter info to get the audience.

My friend Dave Bonillas has started a site that has a mobile version (not a mobile app yet) that incorporates audio (hear the band before you choose to go), visual (see where they’re playing), and ticketing (potential revenue). The only thing they don’t have yet is a lot of visitors. Check out www.tourvolume.com – and you’d be surprised how large the catelog of bands, and show info the site has.   He had another site, Live2nite that tried to capitalize on this – tourvolume is a better name…

Now we just need critical mass.

Living Social / Groupon, good via mobile, but annoying…

The mobile coupon market is getting more and more saturated w/ sites like Groupon and Living Social offering their “deal of the day” sites via email and mobile pings.  I have been a member of both from what was a good combination of timing for businesses to offer deals (as the economy continues to sag) and marketing (facebook and urbanspoon ads drew me in).  Groupon claims to have 50,000 people signed up to receive the daily deal in Seattle and has been around a little longer.  Living Social has been around for a shorter period of time, but has also built a substantial email list.  The deals for both seem pretty stellar with many businesses offering 50% or more, yet, I have not purchased one.  Just haven’t been interested in one.

The mobile component is pretty effectively delivered to me via email, and I generally delete them without opening.  I downloaded and accessed the living social mobile app for my iphone as I read that the company had done great things with previous social networking facebook app for books.  This was a short lived app as I was pinged with a message in homescreen giving me the deal of the day.  The only other things that notify me this way (purposefully intrusive) are texts and reminders I’ve set for myself.

Living Social's iphone App Interface

This seems too assumptive to me and resulted in the lowering of my opinion of them.  This lowering of opinion has nothing to do with content – I’ve actually been more enticed by its offers than Groupon’s.

Mobile Gaming, I hate myself for it, but I love it…

Me... in 6 months

I have to say that with my leap into the world of iphone’s, my mobile gaming time has more than quadrupled from 0 minutes per week to about 30.  This is a large jump, and it concerns me.  I’m not, nor have I ever been a gamer.  Sure, who doesn’t like playing rock band or wii with friends.  However, when it comes to playing an individual game, I’ve never been interested… until the iphone.  This little portable gaming device has usurped the time I used to spend “thinking” or “reading ads on a bus”   I don’t like this usurping of MY mindless exercise time with mindless gaming.  Sure these other endeavors didn’t do much to stimulate brain activity, but sometimes that downtime produces the best random thoughts.  I need to get those minutes back for random thought.

Why I love mobile gaming:

Cheap – the average game on my iphone is $.99 or less (although I admit in a moment of weakness, I bought Tiger Woods for $3.99)

Adictive – there’s a reason these kids spend so many hours a day gaming, there’s also a reason I never got in to houghing paint…

Why I hate myself for loving mobile gaming:

Cutting out the mindless downtime – as stated above, I feel these moments produced some of my best ideas…

Online Reservations through your phone?

Urbanspoon is launching a new restaurant reservation system that they are billing as the future of online reservations.  The pilot is here in Seattle and has already garnered 65+ participating restaurants (for your reference, the dominant player, opentable has around 100).  This is for real-time day-of reservations only according to the company and there seems to be quite a few synergies between what Urbanspoon is already doing to point diners in the direction of a restaurant and helping diners book last minute.  I have some ideas for improve UE on the mobile side and do feel that they’ll need to gain critical mass quickly to have an impact (and before Opentable starts slashing prices to cut them out of the market). 

Check out www.urbasnspoon.com to learn more (see the rez button on the right side of the homepage). 

I recently did a little analysis of the product:

Urbanspoon Launches Mobile Rez Button to Compete with Opentable:  Hoping to Deliver Reservations in a Down Economy

Urbanspoon has recently been adding functionality to its popular mobile dining application including a restaurant reservation “button” called rez.  It is hoping that this platform will be to mobile phones what Opentable’s popular online reservation system is to the web.  Urbanspoon is an online and mobile guide to dining that helps potential diners make informed decisions about restaurants through information and user reviews from dining websites, influential food bloggers, professional critics, and users.  The dining guide was originally available on Apple’s itunes for the iphone, and garnered a lot of attention and eyeballs for developing “shake” functionality for finding restaurants.  More recently, Urbanspoon has launched a successful application for the Blackberry.  Within the past 6 months it has been piloting this real-time reservation application as an add-on to their existing services.  

What does rez do?  Rez is a button incorporated into Urbanspoon’s website, mobile application, and the participating restaurants websites that allows consumers to look for same day reservations.  The participating restaurants use their own iphone or ipod touch to registers these reservations made.    Users may lock one, some, or all of the 3 slot machine categories of the popular iphone interface to drill down searches to specific neighborhoods, cuisine type, and price.   Recently Urbanspoon has made it possible to lock rez as well. 

Urbanspoon’s mobile endeavors have enjoyed very favorable reviews amongst foodies and users (giving influential bloggers a large share of voice probably doesn’t hurt) for the architecture of its application and the overall user experience.  It must differentiate itself from the dominant online dining reservation market leader, Opentable.  It has done this to a certain extent by giving a more complete review picture (users, super users, tastemakers, and professional critics) than any other previous online or mobile guide.   Rez is available as an add-on to Urbanspoon’s existing iphone and blackberry applications.  There is no way to have the application without rez, and it appears on both the homepage of Urbanspoon.com and on the individual restaurant’s page on the mobile app.  Users can see what times and restaurants are available for same-day reservations only, and can choose a reservation very easily.  You must be a registered user, but the reservation is relayed to the restaurant as quickly as the mobile signal or wifi can deliver it.

Urbanspoon is the application developer, and IAC’s sister company, Citysearch, will provide the billing functionality.  AT&T is the carrier for apple’s iphone, and many different carriers provide service for the Blackberry.   I have used it to make a reservation and it was seamless and provided immediate gratification.  This does not discount the lack of variety (especially if you look for a reservation on a Monday when many participating restaurants are closed). 

Who uses rez?  In theory, the target user for rez is anyone looking for a reservation today.  In actuality, the pilot program running right now in Seattle has a limited scope for restaurant-goers, with a total of 65 participating restaurants.  The strategy appears to be bringing in high-status restaurants, those that have 80% favorability rating or higher on Urbanspoon.  This is a tried and true marketing technique, but not as effective for an expanding user base who demand more options.  Urbanspoon is the 2nd ranked application in the travel section of itunes (apple), and one of the most accessed mobile apps on Blackberry’s storefront.  Rez displays available reservations from participating restaurants in a highly visible section of the Urbanspoon homepage as well as through existing partner dining websites such as Citysearch and SeattleWeekly.com (Village Voice Media).  The greatest exposure; as measured by reservations made through rez, have actually come through the participating restaurants websites themselves.  This prominent display on the restaurants site is mandated by the Urbanspoon as requirement for participation.  As stated, this is a pilot program happening in Seattle, and once it is rolled out to the other major markets, Urbanspoon and IAC will most likely put more marketing dollars behind it.   

What are they saying about it?  Rez has been released to limited traditional media attention, mostly because it is only currently available to the Seattle market.  IAC will be making a major push in the next 6 months to get restaurants to register for rez in other markets where Urbanspoon has built an audience.  Once this has occurred, rez will be more newsworthy.  What will likely be the most newsworthy piece of rez is the “line in the sand” Urbanspoon is effectively drawing between it and Opentable.  Opentable has the lion’s share of the online reservation market, as well as the 5th ranked travel app on itunes.    Rez has been in existence for less than 6 months and has signed up 65 restaurants whereas Opentable has around 100 Seattle in many years.  This illustrates the cache Urbanspoon has with restaurateurs and a potential disregard they feel for Opentable.   

Urbanspoon claims its competitive advantage to be that it is more of a marketing channel that can highlight real-time reservation, as opposed to solely a reservation portal.  It claims, users come to Urbanspoon to choose a restaurant – whereas, Opentable only features its participating restaurants.  Opentable’s obvious advantage comes in its claims to over 10,000 participating restaurants and a very well regarded “rewards” program for frequent bookers that gives monetary incentive to users for booking through Opentable. 

The relationship between mobile and non-mobile is very complimentary for the company, and its mobile application is what has paved the way for the success the fledgling company has enjoyed (the fact that apple featured Urbanspoon in one of its first iphone commercials also did not hurt either).  The Urbanspoon mobile application is free to consumers and its current revenue is derived solely from advertising.  The rez functionality of the application will cost the restaurant a monthly fee and a certain price per either cover (diner) or reservation (total diners in the party).  Opentable charges large monthly fees to operate their system, and a price of either $1 per cover booked through Opentable or $.25 per cover for reservations booked through the participating restaurants website.

Does mobile program make sense?  There is no denying that the global economic crisis has lead to a decline in restaurant dining and online reservations, so now might seem an inopportune time to launch a mobile reservation system.  However, Urbanspoon is a small and nimble operation with a proven track record of developing popular applications, as such; I would make the following recommendations.

More mobile!  The offerings of rez versus Opentable do not favor rez (10,000 restaurants v. 65); therefore, rez must differentiate itself by branding itself mobile.  The lion’s share of Opentable’s reservations comes through their site, but more and more diners are using their phones to choose local businesses.  Make the rez button more prominent on the iphone app.  As it stands now, the button is small and there is very little drawing the user to its ability to book a reservation for you tonight. 

More markets, restaurants, and choices – fast!  Restaurants are feeling the pinch, and more and more people are looking for value – which is not synonymous with restaurants that require a reservation.  Rez should open itself up to more niche businesses and times such as Mexican food restaurants and Happy Hours for larger groups.  They could integrate programs that get users to think of reservations for more non-traditional places and times, thereby creating another market for mobile restaurant reservations.  Also, rez needs to move into the newer markets before Opentable starts promoting its mobile app and increasing its offerings by lowering its prices to restaurants.

More personal!   Urbanspoon built its early fan base by giving voice to many different foodies, both expert and amateur.   Rez would be well-suited if Urbanspoon did more focused outreach to its community highlighting rez’s mobile functionality, and rewarding those users who book through rez.  Urbanspoon should also strongly consider giving more of an identity to those that use rez on the mobile app.  Perhaps in the same way Yelp has given its core users more on-site visibility and status with its “Yelp Elite” designation. 

Overall, rez is a valuable tool for both users and restaurants and the increased competition that Opentable feels will only result in better options for both parties.  Urbanspoon must differentiate itself somehow and focusing on mobile seems like the logical way to do so.

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