07 February 2011 ~ Comments Off

Impact of WDYTYA on Ancestry.com Stock

Cannacord|Genuity is one of several financial firms which have begun tracking Ancestry.com‘s stock performance (the ticker symbol is ACOM) with recommendations for its clients based on their analysts’ research.

This morning Cannacord issued one of its research reports for ACOM entitled WDYTYA Season 2 – Solid Start. It is an interesting read, especially this information:

  • Cannacord places Ancestry.com in the Technology – Internet Solutions – eCommerce market.
  • A valuation target of $40 per share has been set for ACOM stock.
  • WDYTYA also aired simultaneously in Canada on Friday evening. I am still researching Canadian television ratings and will post any information I can find.
  • Cannacord uses an interesting “celebrity scale” based on search results from Google Trends. While Vanessa Williams was rated at 28%, and Tim McGraw at 100% I find it interesting that Season 1′s episode for Emmitt Smith was one of the highest rated despite his 8% celebrity rank.
  • There does seem to be a “subscriber lift” at Ancestry.com due to not only the original airings of WDYTYA but the brief re-airing season in August and September 2010.

Also note that Cannacord used several of my Season 1 WDYTYA ratings charts and tables in their report.

[Disclosure Statement: Cannacord|Genuity contacted me and requested permission to use my ratings analysis and tracking information for Season 1 of Who Do You Think You Are? for which there was no compensation .  See the Disclosure Statements page for a list of all material connections I have with genealogy-related vendors.]

©2011, copyright Thomas MacEntee

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25 January 2011 ~ 11 Comments

Expert Disconnect – What’s Ancestry.com’s Next Move

On January 24, 2011 Ancestry.com announced that it was shutting down a fairly new venture: Expert Connect. For those who aren’t familiar with what Expert Connect was, here’s a brief overview from my perspective not only as a professional genealogist but also as someone whose business it is to analyze the genealogy industry:

Expert Connect was a service that allowed professional genealogists to set up a profile and solicit work from Ancestry.com customers who needed assistance in their research. The customer would create a research project with defined parameters and a budget, then put it out for “bid” to the various professionals enrolled in the Expert Connect program.

And while there is much “pulling of hair and gnashing of teeth” going on in the genealogy community (with great posts by Marian Pierre-Louis of Roots and Rambles, Kerry Scott of Clue Wagon and Amy Coffin of We Tree), I want to try and not only put this move by Ancestry.com in perspective, but also offer some theories as to the “why” and possibly predict some future moves by Ancestry.com.

Product Pullback – Even Google Does It

Remember Google Wave? There’s an example of a product pullback. Companies do it all the time as they retool their business plans and objectives. Ancestry.com is merely doing the same now that it is purchased the ProGenealogists company. The fact is that Expert Connect was used by a minority of both professional genealogists as well as genealogy consumers.

Ancestry.com’s target market is the amateur genealogist or what I call the “bright and shiny object” crowd. Expert Connect really didn’t connect with this group and probably the idea of paying someone to do your genealogy research was the reason. When you get down to it, the concept really works counter to encouraging folks to join or even use Ancestry.com as a DIY family history site.

A product pullback isn’t always a misstep. But even if it is, note how the announcement was made yesterday: an email to those who signed up for Expert Connect and a brief email from the Public Relations department of Ancestry.com to their marketing connections.  No big press release (in fact, you’d never ever want to do a press release for this type of announcement). Ancestry.com is betting that this will all be forgotten by February 4, 2011 – the premiere of Season 2 of Who Do You Think You Are?

Is Ancestry.com Pulling Back In General?

Just recently James Tanner of Genealogy Star in his post Genealogy as a business — are we in a recession? asked some needed questions as to why Ancestry.com chose not to be an exhibitor at the recent Arizona Family History Expo. I also know for a fact that Ancestry has decreased its presence at other upcoming genealogy events. So is this a sign that the genealogy industry is in its own recession?

Hardly. It just means that like pruning the non-performing branches in its own business tree, Ancestry.com is redirecting its marketing dollars to those venues that might bring in new consumers of its product as well as retain those current consumers. So what better venue than an expo that targets genealogy beginners such as the Arizona Family History Expo? I agree with James and others that it doesn’t make sense and given the positive feedback on the event and the attendance figure of 1,000 people, Ancestry.com will re-examine this move and be back next year.

In general however, look for Ancestry.com to try different approaches in its marketing plans and this may mean less visibility at certain events and actually seeing Ancestry.com pop up at other expos or events for the first time.

What’s Next for ProGenealogists Then?

Here’s what I think Ancestry.com has in store for ProGenealogists: it will seek to expand its group of expert genealogists but not using an Expert Connect like mechanism.

With Expert Connect, almost anyone could put out their shingle and call themselves a professional genealogist. Yes, Expert Connect was a reputation-based community – much like Yelp or even eBay – but there really wasn’t enough time for participants to build a reputation.

I bet you’ll see ProGenealogists invite select experts from Expert Connect and put in place some standards to qualify as a member. Ancestry.com will continue to use ProGenealogists as its group of experts for high-profile projects such as WDYTYA? as well as television talk show and other media appearances.

More Ancestry.com Movement Towards 3rd-Party Providers

My impression is that all current products and services (outside its core information databases business) are on the table and under inspection. This includes MyCanvas, MyFamily.com and even legacy products such as RootsWeb and Genealogy.com.

Why? Many of these either failed to connect with the typical Ancestry.com consumer (MyCanvas) or became liabilities because they were support nightmares (MyFamily.com). Last summer Ancestry.com decided to eliminate the free version of MyFamily.com and this had to eliminate much of the tech support issues involved. Any way that Ancestry.com can push the support aspects and costs off to another party is better for the bottom line.

What’s Next for Ancestry.com?

Look for the content from RootsWeb and Genealogy.com to somehow be folded into the current Ancestry.com website. Same for Footnote.com.  And just like the October 2009 scramble by genealogists to re-site their content when Yahoo shutdown GeoCities, then you’ll really see not just some hair pulling and teeth gnashing, but some real soul-searching among the genealogy community as to what role Ancestry.com plays.

Conclusion

Perhaps Ancestry.com is just pulling out of the “genealogy experience” market and fashioning itself as an information services provider like West Thomson or even Google. With any pull out there is a void to be filled. So who will step in to represent that aspect of genealogy and family history that goes beyond mere data to explain who our ancestors were, how they lived, and how we share that with our own families?

The death of Expert Connect is a call to the professional genealogy community to take action and examine its marketing efforts. Its time for industry groups like the Association of Professional Genealogists to lend a hand and give some guidance.

And what of the other voids certain to be created in the future? Other genealogy service providers should get ready now to fill those voids and look at them as opportunities.

©2011, copyright Thomas MacEntee

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04 May 2010 ~ 6 Comments

Ratings Analysis of Who Do You Think You Are?

Who Do You Think You Are?

The American version of the Who Do You Think You Are? television series just completed its first season on Friday, 30 April 2010.  Beginning on 5 March 2010 and running for seven episodes during a nine-week period, below is my interpretation of the ratings as measured by major television rating services.

Ratings Comparison – Table

(Click to embiggen all tables and images)

WDYTYA ratings table

Ratings Comparison – Charts

WDYTYA viewers

WDYTYA ratings

WDYTYA share

Comparison of Overall Ratings and 18-49 year old Ratings

WDYTYA rating comp

Comparison of Overall Share and 18-49 year old Share

WDYTYA share comp

WDYTYA timeslot rank

WDYTYA evening rank

Analysis

  • Episode 3 with Lisa Kudrow was the first episode up against NCAA March Madness games on CBS.  Note the slight drop in ratings for the 18-49 age group (from 1.8% to 1.7%) as compared to an increase for the overall (4.5% to 4.7%).
  • Episode 4 with Matthew Broderick – major impact of NCAA Sweet Sixteen on CBS.  The episode focused on military history which would have pulled a large male viewership but they were off watching the games.
  • Episode 5 with Brooke Shields didn’t see a major rebound in numbers from the Broderick lows what with CBS back to its regular programming.
  • While the overall ratings resumed climbing with Episode 6 (Sarandon), for the 18-49 age group the ratings never really recovered and continued to decrease through to Episode 7.
  • Episode 6 with Susan Sarandon had the highest evening ranking (2) of any of the WDYTYA episodes.  April 2nd was also Good Friday with more older viewers at home.
  • Evidence that Episode 7 with Spike Lee may have fared worse with older viewers who might see him as a polarizing figure:  full percentage decline (8.0% to 7.0%) overall but remained the same (5.0%) for 18-49 age group.  This was also one of the lowest evening ranked episodes of the WDYTYA series at 7.

Conclusion

I think for its first season – and an abbreviated season at that – Who Do You Think You Are? did very well and did a good job at bringing the fields of genealogy and family history front-and-center for American viewers.

Will Season 2 be able to build upon the ratings seen above?  That remains to be seen especially since Season 1 relied heavily upon marketing during NBC’s Winter Olympics coverage.  That marketing venue won’t be available but I expect that Ancestry.com – the major sponsor of WDYTYA – will continue its connection with the show.  In fact, my next analysis will be reviewing the impact that WDYTYA has had on website visits, revenues, etc.

Oh, and how did WDYTYA stack up against Roots, the mini-series which debuted in 1977 on ABC?  Well to be fair, this was back before cable television, the Internets, and DVRs had an impact on television.  But the figures are here.  An average rating of 45% with a 66% share? Not even close.

Stay tuned.

Sources

(Arranged in episode/date order)

©2010, copyright Thomas MacEntee

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