The Rise of Siri: Getting Set to Revolutionize Web Search?

Siri digital personal assistant on the Apple iPhone 4SSiri, the digital personal assistant that’s been integrated into the new iPhone 4S from Apple, is generating substantial buzz. That’s because it’s so much more accurate than earlier iterations of voice command platforms. (Google’s digital personal assistant on the Android operating system has generated far less accolades by comparison.)

The question is, what will Siri do to change the traditional ways people interact with the Web? Because Siri is far more than just voice recognition. It’s what it does with the voice it recognizes that’s so interesting.

Siri can update your calendar, set reminders, play music, write e-mails and text – indeed, it’s a personal assistant in every sense of the word.

Users of the iPhone 4S are using Siri to send texts and e-mails. They’re tending to open fewer apps, since Siri is very effective in deciding which app, service or site will best handle the needed tasks.

In search, this means that Siri may supplant what users might have done previously: namely, open a browser window and search using Google or Bing. If a user is asking Siri to find the closest good-quality dry cleaning establishment, for example, the result may be based on more than the top spot on Google Places … it may also be based on customer ratings on Yelp or “likes” on Facebook.

That’s because Siri navigates a variety of application program interfaces, pulling not only your information, but also information provided by others.

The rise of social media platforms has already alerted us to the fact that simply having a highly relevant, well-optimized website is no longer enough. The “endorsement” of sites, the incidence of positive customer reviews and the degree of “engagement” with visitors are playing a bigger role now, thanks to Facebook, Google+1 and various rating sites.

But now, with Siri and digital personal assistants entering the scene in a major way, we may well see people migrating away from accessing search pages and simply using the friendly voice in their mobile device to send them where they want to go.

… It’s yet another example of the constant state of change that’s a fact of life in the world of digital marketing.

Where are Newspapers Now?

Newspaper ad revenues continue in the doldrums.John Barlow of Barlow Research Associates, Inc. reminds me that it’s been awhile since I blogged about the dire straits of America’s newspaper industry. The twin whammies of a major economic recession along with the rapidly changing ways Americans are getting their news have hammered advertising revenues and profits, leading to organizational restructuring, bankruptcies, and more.

But with the recession bottoming out (hopefully?), there was hope that the decline in newspaper ad revenues might be arrested as well.

Well, the latest industry survey doesn’t provide much cause for celebration. A poll of ~2,700 small and mid-size businesses conducted this summer by Portland, OR-based market research firm ITZBelden and the American Press Institute finds that ~23% of these businesses plan to cut back on newspaper advertising this year.

The kicker is that these revenues are being spent, but they’re being put to use in other advertising media.

The ITZBelden survey found that a similar ~23% of companies plan to up their 2010 digital ad spending anywhere from 10% to 30%. This compares to only about 10% planning to increase their print advertising by similar proportions.

Moreover, the survey findings reveal that small and mid-size U.S. businesses have moved into digital marketing in a significant way. Not only do more than 80% of them maintain web sites, they’re active in other areas, including:

 ~45% maintain a Facebook or MySpace page
 ~23% are engaged in online couponing
 ~13% are involved with Craigslist
 ~10% are listed on Yelp! or similar user-review sites

One area which is still just a relative blip on the screen is mobile advertising, in that fewer than 4% of the respondents reported activities in that advertising category.

Where are these advertisers planning to put their promotional funds going forward? While newspapers should continue to represent around one quarter of the expenditures, various digital media expenditures will account for ~13% of the activity, making this more important than direct mail, TV and Yellow Pages advertising.

There was one bright spot for newspapers in the survey, however. Respondents expressed a mixture of confusion and bewilderment about the constantly evolving array of digital marketing communications options opening up … and they’re looking for support from media experts to guide their plans and activities.

And where do they see this expert advice coming from? Newspaper ad reps.

Perhaps the Yellow Book’s “Beyond Yellow” small business advertising campaign – you know, the one that touts not only the Yellow Pages advertising but also web development, online advertising, search marketing and mobile advertising – is onto something.