Bing and Waggener Edstrom’s Long Road Ahead

Waggener Edstrom Wolrdwide PR

Last June we did a story about Microsoft’s super duper search engine Bing and PR dynamo Waggener Edstrom’s job in telling the world about it. For WE, telling of fabled market share, user value, and “natural language” mysteries probably seemed like a great opportunity at the time, but almost a year later maybe reality is sinking in? Bing, as previously reported, may be WE’s toughest sell ever.

The search engine wars all of use “search gurus” covered for so many months back when, were supposed to culminate in either Powerset (sold to MS) or hakia (artificial intelligence), or even Search Wikia,  revolutionizing the ways and results humanoids experienced when searching stuff on the web. But, at the end of ten million words speculating about “Google killers” and the like, the technology world (and the user) are left right where we were from the start – searching Google for relevance. Big surprise huh?

Market Proclamations From on High

TechCrunch proclaiming Bing’s “accelerating” market share, TV commercials skillfully employed by Waggener Edstrom’s PR gurus, the legends of rocket science from Powerset founder Barney Pell, nothing can alter the sad reality that these people will likely never supplant Google as the premier search entity on the Internet. Argue if you will, but taking sides against Google now, is like sitting in a lifeboat arguing the Titanic is not sinking. Bing at best, just snatched some Yahoo! searches – that’s it.

If numbers are your thing, and they are the “things” of investment banks, after over $200 million (just Powerset buy and PR from WE) in investment Microsoft has managed to assault Google (at least from November to December of 2009) to the tune of three tenths of one percent of market share. Overall Bing has gained about what Yahoo! has lost since the world heard Waggener Edstrom’s “bing boing heard round the world.” Sorry guys, but believe it or not we were pulling for your campaign to do something – anything.

Bing Did Not Ask Danny Sullivan Did They?

SearchEngineLand, run by maybe the Web’s foremost expert on all thing search, Danny Sullivan, lays out prospective about as clean and real as it gets. So, what happened to the search engine of the future? Maybe the whole batch were just like other Web 2.0 startups designed to sell rather than produce? Smoke and mirrors can be appealing, particularly for the progressive thinker, God don’t I know, I was at the leading edge of “buying” what the rocket scientists of Web 2.0 search were selling – something extraordinary. Pell, Berkan, Calcanis, Wales, a batch of visionaries who somehow have now raced into obscurity.

At the end of every day PR firms basically reflect the people, products, and services they are engaged to reveal. Waggener Edstom is one of the world’s best at it too. The problem in the case of Bing, or any PR firm’s clients, is that no media outreach, no amount of money (well, unless properly used) can make a sick dog race. PC Magazine (a TechCrunch collaborator in case you did not know) to even 1000 “virtual press kits” cranked out by WE and MS cannot turn that trick.

Replacing the Wheel With the Wheel

The intuitive reader will ask now, “So what has been the problem?” Well, it boils down to basically three variables believe it or not. First, after all the Victoria’s Secret models parading about with Bing on their lips, millions in media outreach and TV commericials, social media campaigns and the like – people go to Bing and are not convinced. Secondly, whatever Waggener Edstrom can summon by way of advice, expetise, cutting edge advice, gathered from whatever corner of the world, Microsoft probably does not listen.

Finally, this “listening” aspect is a shortcoming of every-single-solitary innovative business venture ever launched – a story for another PR article, but basically they either listen to too many or the wrong experts on their developments. This is the rub as any Harvard expert on disruptive innovation can tell you.

I will close for now, all I really wanted to point out is how fantastic PR can take a contract and have their hands tied, only to be blamed in the end for a bad ROI. I feel for Waggener Edstrom to be honest.

Of all the PR firms we have talked about, theirs is by far the most progressive and the ones who listen the best. The really sad part of this search epic is it was and is actually theoretically possible to beat anyone at their own game – even Google. It just aint going to happen in Bing’s lifetime – not at the current rate.


  1. Ross Bradley says


    Interesting comment but I think things will be a lot different that you seem to feel, Phil.

    Jimmy Wales, a visionary who somehow has raced into obscurity?

    I’ve recently read (TechCrunch) where his Wikia venture is said to now, be profitable. The article quotes ‘that Wikia sites attracted about 21 million unique worldwide visitors in December (Comscore), and those visitors racked up over 380 million page views.

    The company attracts around 8 million U.S. visitors monthly, they say’.

    Wikia will scale nicely within a global marketplace of display advertising, that’s sure to be up and running, come the 2nd half of 2010.

    Bing and Google? Like you, I’m not so sure about Bings chances of ever toppling big “G”.

    Again, the Microsoft-Yahoo deal will give Bing a more solid base to work off and should the existing YPN (of 850 odd newspapers) and a site like (with another 20,000 global newspapers), decide to choose Bing as their seach provider, it then becomes a little more interesting.

    Should they (the newspapers) then enact ACAP and likewise (through a coming, OPEN Advertising marketplace), start to make reasonable revenues (and again, on a global scale), the mighty Google may then find itself even a little more “cramped”. (As a result of it having zero news aggregation.) – Interesting days ahead, no doubt.

    Theoretically possible? I think that it’s all, more than probable.

    • Phil Butler says

      Hi Ross,
      Well, I do not want to get into a detailed analysis of all this really. No time for that. As for Wales, I have called him friend for quite a few years now. My wish for him and his ventures is abundantly clear in dozens of articles and interviews by now. The search aspect I referred to from Wikia, I had some personal input and impetus on – it went bye bye – my “listening” point well noted for that.

      As for Wikia, here too I have personally had input with Jimbo, Angela, and Gil Penchina, as well as having covered or represented most of the social networks launched in the last few years. Let’s just call this “experience” and let it go at that. Wikia, like so many others, has always had the potential – the problem being raw traffic will NEVER equate to a big bottom line until new ways of engaging people to buy are achieved. This is my view, and I do not think there are many instances out there where I am wrong.

      All this being said, I do not disagree, nor do I wish to minimalize your opinion of expertise. Wikia now, as compared to a while back when I took an interest in it, is superior – at least they took my advice a year or two later and made the landing look like something interesting. Conversion is another deal as you know. The numbers look right to me viewing the various metrics. I think what has happened here is reflective of several variables, not the least of which is that Wales and Co. have condensed their focus – out of losing some dead weight and probably out of necessity. Secondly, Wikia stands to gain, at least for a bit, from the Titanic sinkings of other social networks, aggregations an the like.

      Of course, all this will be weighed over the coming months. Bing, like any other operation out there, stands some chance as long as they are breathing the air of sustainability. Facebook, Twitter, Digg, and range of others, are still sucking air (money) though no windfall has blown the hair tendrils back on the heads of their investors yet. The days when TechCrunch could put their stamp of approval on something, and it make a difference, are about gone in my view. I respect Arrington and the effort being made, but PR pitch, whoever spins it, is running out of gas for long term reality. I have been guilty of being too enthusiastic myself in this regard.

      Any way, Jimmy Wales has always been an odds on favorite of mine to reproduce the genius behind Wikipedia. As time goes on though, just making that innovation fly is a pretty big albatross without change. The same can be said about Google, but I think they have the resources to pull off whatever they need to. I have some ideas about making Wikia and a few others very profitable, but sorry to say I am not giving away much for free any more – particularly if CEO’s A – do not listen to good logic, and B – take advantage of good intentions only to forget who the hell put the splinter of ingenuity in their brains in the first place. I hope you can identify with this feeling – I bet you can.

      I appreciate your input, I honestly do Ross. Ideas and information like you insert, is the reason we do these stories in the first place – we can get places talking and doing.


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