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Saturday, February 23, 2008

TV-SEO - Samsung Brings Search to Live Television

I never would have noticed this myself, until David Berkowitz from "Search Insider" at Media Post finds the little nugget at Engadget and starts talking about the search element to the unfortunately named "See'n'Search Set Top Box". Berkowitz suggests that

"... media companies, cable operators, and advertisers will want to discover more ways this technology can be used."
Well let me pipe up here and offer a suggested use!

TV SEO may be on the horizon sooner than expected. Samsung electronics has introduced a "Set Top Box" (Demo Video here) hardware which allows a TV viewer to search for related content on the web. (Seems like they would be better off selling their chip to Motorola, Tivo, et al to incorporate into current cable and satellite and DVR boxes.) This technology is based on television standard "Closed Captioning" which provides text transcripts on screen for the hard-of-hearing. There is also metadata available for programs listing program titles, characters, news anchors, talk show guests and movie actors, and/or those appearing on-screen during broadcast.

That information is available over the air and is rich in what it takes for search engines to determine relevance - text. Now Samsung is offering hardware which can access that standard television closed caption and metadata and use it to search relevant and related information for viewers and display web searches for that data through a scrolling menu, rather than a keyboard.

This is a disruptive way to watch television, as you may have observed from the video above. But there are options, actually two or three options - which Samsung is apparently offering.

  1. Immediate viewing of web pages or multimedia web content on-screen. Disruptive to the viewing experience.
  2. Access via externally connected devices such as tablet PC's or smart phones. Better and less disruptive to family members viewing the same TV.
  3. Access to searches via connected PC's or Laptops running an application tied to the set top box. Good solution so far.
But I have a suggested best-by-far option - DVR such as Tivo with functionality which stores and saves all that information (metadata and closed caption text) as the program is recorded, for use later by laptop or PC.

Clearly those with DVR's will recognize the value of making all of the information made available via the SamSung set-top-box accessible at a later time to use as you wish, allowing time-shifting of the search functionality as well as the recorded program.

So how long will it be before we (SEO's) are optimizing our web sites and multimedia content for TVSEO? Clearly it opens up dramatic traffic potential for sites addressing items discussed in hot news stories, or products mentioned on talk shows, or any number of authority web sites on any conceivable topic which may be discussed on television.

I see the potential there for new meta data inserted in both the closed captioning and within web sites, which facilitate find-ability of information online through this new search window on television sets. (Official TV Show web site, links to advertisers, PPC ads, actor profiles) I also see many more players entering the market to mine this potential traffic source. Those who jump in early will clearly benefit.

Kudos to Samsung for clearing the path to television search - now I hope Tivo, Google, and the television industry, as well as cable and satellite providers will see the value and offer the option of truly interactive television by linking it to the web and allowing recording of the closed captioning and related meta data for later use.

(I'll never understand why Microsoft didn't go this way when they bought WebTV for $450 Million in 1997 - they had both audiences in hand. Maybe their potential marriage with Yahoo will help them see the way to do it now? No- Yahoo had the original social media site in GeoCities and wasted that audience too. Neither company knows how to make the most of their assets.)

Here's what is available so far from Samsung on the box, beyond the video you saw above:

I've seen a secondary press release from Samsung distributed on February 14th Valentines Day all over the web, but the release below, distributed by Samsung on January 6th, the day before CES (Consumer Electronics Show) in Las Vegas in PDF form and lost to all in the crush of new product announcements, was made available on the Samsung site (available in HTML in the Google cached copy) - when will corporations begin to understand the web?

They've introduced the "See'n'Search Set Top Box" at CES where it is buried among thousands of press releases and 187 other mentions of Samsung electronics products at the show. They distributed a secondary press release on Valentines Day, neglecting to do some sort of tie-in to attract attention to their product using maybe a love theme?

Nope, but then it's duly reported by engadget, parroted on Mashable and again repeated by Techmeme, then dropped again from notice. Samsung, in that secondary press release fails to say what they did say in the first release - that the unit will be available Q3 2008 (see below). I even saw a couple of tech blogs saying, "Samsung doesn't say when the unit will be available" and thus the problem with bloggers, nobody does any research.

Samsung doesn't make it easy to find, but there is an "About See'N'Search" page on their site.

Here's the January 6, 2008 Press release from the Samsung web site promising delivery by Q3 of this year:

Samsung Electronics America
Phone: (201) 229-4752

Colin Ruane
MWW Group
Phone: 212) 827-3742


New Technology Eliminates the Need for a PC, Keyboard or Special Content Programming, Bringing Targeted Media Content Directly to the Living Room


LAS VEGAS, January 6, 2008 – Samsung Electronics, a global leader in consumer electronics and digital technology, today is changing the way consumers enjoy the Internet in the living room with the introduction of its See’N’Search technology. Using just their TV’s, users can directly pull up Internet information and media-related content onto the screen program without the need for a PC/keyboard and or special content programming.

Where previous attempts at bringing the Internet to the TV have faltered due to the need for a keyboard or the overhead of special authoring through a content ecosystem, Samsung’s See’N’Search technology automatically suggests existing Internet media and information related to the programs users are already watching.

“See’N’Search technology will revolutionize how consumers will see and use the Internet in the living room in the next few years” said Alan Messer, director of connected consumer technologies of Samsung’s U.S. Research and Development Center. “By greatly minimizing the need to manually search for related content and special interactive content authoring, this technology enables consumers to directly watch or surf Internet content that is relevant to them.”

Just as a consumer would search a channel guide to see what’s on and when, Samsung’s See’N’Search set-top box uses the same information, in addition to the closed caption metadata that is present for most programming, to scour existing Internet content (HTML coding, Web video, etc.) and make recommendations that would appeal to the user. To do this, the system monitors the contents of the program being watched, using lightweight natural language technologies to determine the topics that are being discussed. When the user presses the “More Info” button, the See’N’Search UI appears on-screen with related information or media that the system found on the Internet. The consumer simply selects a piece of content from any particular topic, and See’N’Search takes them directly to that content.

What’s more, See’N’Search information can also be transmitted from the TV or set-top box to any connected devices in the living room, such as Wi-Fi enabled phones, tablets or laptops. This enables users to personally surf related Internet content without disturbing the family.

“Samsung’s See’N’Search technology gives a whole new way of getting to the Internet without turning the TV into a PC,” said Victoria Coleman, vice president of Samsung’s U.S. Computer Science Laboratory.

Samsung’s See’N’Search set-top box will be available in Q3 of 2008.

About Samsung Electronics America, Inc. Headquartered in Ridgefield Park, NJ, Samsung Electronics America, Inc. (SEA), a wholly owned subsidiary of Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd., markets a broad range of award-winning, advanced digital consumer electronics and home appliance products, including HDTVs, home theater systems, MP3 players, refrigerators and laundry machines. A recognized innovation leader in consumer electronics design and technology, Samsung is the HDTV market leader in the U.S. and is the only manufacturer that produces all four major digital television technologies. Please visit for more information.

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Searching for SEO Meaning at MSN Live Search

In the past, I've been critical of MSN for not participating in conferences. Today I'm going to be critical of them because they did participate. Steve Berkowitz, Senior Vice President, Online Services Group for Microsoft, was the keynote for day 2 of SES NY 2007 and it is one of the first keynotes I've regretted attending. I would have rather slept in.

It sounds as though Mr. Berkowitz has drunk the corporate Kool Aid. In his Q&A session with Danny Sullivan this morning at the New York Hilton, he called Microsoft "Amazing" no fewer than 10 times. (Actually he did reserve one of those for Google.)

Now his move from - which he characterized himself as a "rowboat" - to Microsoft - which he calls a "Cruise Ship" by comparison, would no doubt be quite a transition.

To be fair to Berkowitz, I've heard tech industry commentators talk about Microsoft in much the same way - characterizing the people there and the projects they work on as nothing short of magical - but the morass of corporate culture somehow stifles all the smart people and waters down their projects until they are weak and wimpy.

It's interesting that is only a point or two away from in search referrals for many web sites. Even though (as Berkowitz has said) the little rowboat is small, nimble and capable of a change in direction by dipping an oar in the water - MSN Live takes forever to change course - neither has been able to gain significant market share from Google.

Normally I like to quote liberally from keynotes, but that would make this article sound like a puff piece for MSN Live, because Berkowitz had so little to say if it wasn't glowing praise for his employer. He did say repeatedly that great ("amazing") stuff was coming, but wouldn't say what it was.

So all we have to base our expectations and insights on are silly things like Ms. Dewey (who I had heard about but hadn't experienced "live"). She unexpectedly interrupted a Danny Sullivan Question to Steve Berkowitz, stepped up onto the stage in character of Ms. Dewey and continued her act (played by Janina Gavankar) interrupting and answering questions posed by Sullivan.

The little show was clearly planned, Berkowitz had to know about it, but Sullivan seemed a bit bewildered and flustered. The routine made absolutely no sense to me and the audience didn't respond terribly well to it either. I think Ogilvy Advertising should be fired from the Live Search account because this character and the website is absurd.

For those who haven't experienced it, Ms. Dewey answers questions after you type something in a search box. It is usually something cryptic that might apply to nearly any question, and there are 600 short film clips which make up her store of responses to questions.

The algorithm for that must have taken some engineers far too long, even though it doesn't work terribly well. Then after the odd (sometimes ascerbic) answer from Ms. Dewey, you get a group of three search results on the right side of the screen. If you hover your mouse over the bottom of the third result, then more results scroll upward. These are clearly results but scrolling isn't obvious and only three answers to your question?

I don't get it - who wants to wait 5 - 10 seconds for that flash movie to load, then wait 10 - 20 seconds more for the response to load (Ms. Dewey is thinking...), then wait for three results where it isn't clear there are more?

Further, there is a "Best of Dewey" button - which is reminiscent of "I'm Feeling Lucky" so I typed a question in the search box and clicked "Best of Dewey" waited 10 seconds and got my query replaced by something I didn't type. OK, I get it, most popular clips - but they're not good enough to justify that 10 to 15 second wait for a new clip each time you click the "best of" button.

So after sitting through the keynote, I'm not sure what I came away with, other than a page and a half of notes I can't easily assemble into an article. So to prove I was there and show how little of substance was discussed, here's a small chunk of my notes as an example.

Depth of engagement with users. Yahoo cross-network traffic. Search better integrated into MSN in a much cleaner way. Advantages of Microsoft is it's reach. Data center perspective. Storage perspective. We're moving everything from the desktop to the cloud. Microsoft has some amazing stuff going on... Great resources. Licensing business. subscription business.
I'm bewildered by Ms. Dewey, I'm confused by how Microsoft can be so "amazing" and still not produce a substantial and competitive search product, I'm left wondering where Steve Berkowitz is leading Live Search and I am utterly at a loss for what to say about except maybe to ask, "Where's the search referral traffic?"
Mike Valentine is an SEO Specialist offering occassional commentary on Search Engine Developments through his Reality SEO Blog and developed WebSite101 Small Business Ecommerce Tutorial in 1999 to help educate the little guy to the intricacies of online business.

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