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21 March 2011 ~ 2 Comments

Genealogy and Gasoline Prices

At first glance, you might ask, “Is there really any connection between genealogy and gas prices?” And then you realize that increasing gas prices in the United States really have an impact on pretty much everything. If a consumer must allocate more money towards gas prices, then other areas of spending will suffer. In the alternative, the consumer might cut back on automobile travel in order to maintain current spending levels for other items.

But let’s look at the impact of rising gas prices on the genealogy industry and some possible trends to be spotted in the future, especially in Summer 2011:

  • A decrease in genealogy research trips.  With the high cost of gasoline and the fact that most genealogy research trips are done via automobile, we could see a cutback of such trips. Also, some genealogists have already indicated that even if they cutback on the number of trips, they might take one or two longer trips rather than several shorter trips. This makes sense since consumers naturally migrate towards “combining trips” even when running errands around town.
  • An increase in ride sharing for genealogy conferences. Already two major genealogy conferences (FGS 2011 and SCGS Jamboree) have announced the availability of ride sharing via RideBuzz. This makes sense especially with many attendees driving from the same location.
  • An increase in online genealogy website traffic. Although it is difficult to determine this by looking at website traffic number for Ancestry.com and other sites (since there are many other impacting factors such as WDYTYA), many researchers might opt to fully explore what is available online before they set off on that research trip.
  • An increase in online webinars and meetings. February and March 2011 have already seen an explosion in webinars (see Geneawebinars for a list of upcoming webinars). So far, there has been no real impact on live speaking engagements by genealogy speakers. But look for more genealogical societies to begin embracing webinars and web conferences to hold virtual meetings rather than in-person meetings. Already, FGS is doing this for their board and committee meetings at a great savings to the society.
  • Higher prices for shipping online genealogy purchases. It is only a matter of time before we see shipping and handling costs increase when buying books, CDs and the like. This might cause some publishers to offer an e-book alternative that can be downloaded immediately with no shipping costs involved.

What other areas of the genealogy industry do you think will be impacted by rising gas prices?

©2011, copyright Thomas MacEntee

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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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26 January 2011 ~ 9 Comments

Ancestry.com – The Evil Empire of Genealogy?

Ever since Ancestry.com announced the shuttering of its fairly new Expert Connect service on Monday, the genealogy blogs and message boards have been filled with input, feedback, commentary, debate and overall a very productive introspection by the genealogy community. This introspection not only has dealt with how professional genealogists should be marketing their own services, but also about the role of Ancestry.com in the genealogy industry and the genealogy community.

I’ve already discussed what I feel are the motivations for such a move by Ancestry.com here. As a colleague asked, do I think the termination of Expert Connect is a positive or a negative? In short I’d say a positive for Ancestry.com operations, a negative for its image and role in the genealogy community, and yet still a positive for the genealogy community.  Confused? Here’s why:

  • As I mentioned previously, Expert Connect was probably an operational and support nightmare.  Imagine having to deal with customers who didn’t know the first thing about hiring an expert to either do the genealogy research or assist them with their own research. Imagine having to arbitrate situations where the customer was not happy with the expert’s service. Imagine processing refunds on commissions. I also expect that there may have been some liability issues as well as in a so-called expert misrepresenting themselves, taking money up-front etc. (Note: I don’t know of any specific situation but you must admit it is in the realm of possibilities with such as service as Expert Connect). Eliminating Expert Connect was a good move in terms of Ancestry.com being able to commit such resources, time, energy and money elsewhere within the company.
  • Did Ancestry.com bungle its handling of Expert Connect? It did as far as I can see, but I don’t see where it could have done much more than it did. Many of the experts have complained that they deserved more than 8 days notification before their lifeline of income was truncated. I emphasized these words because they’ve actually been used in some of the discussions I’ve read. As stated by others, if Expert Connect was your only stream of income as a professional genealogist then you didn’t have a solid business plan to begin with. And please don’t use the word deserve which is so overused in American society. (Have you noticed lately, especially in commercials and other forms of marketing, how you deserve something instead of earn it? Talk about your sense of entitlement.) Businesses add features and then take them away. Is it a tease? Not really – some things don’t work out. Is it poor planning? Perhaps, but also things can change such as the economy, industry trends, consumer tastes, etc. Is it fair? Again, fairness has nothing to do with this. Part of living under a capitalistic system is the ability to thrive economically but also one must be prepared to make one’s own changes when changes come.
  • I think the move, including the bungling, by Ancestry.com is a positive for the genealogy community. And I’m not saying this because I’m a “glass half-full” kinda guy. I say this because what we’ve witnessed as a community is an opportunity.So far, many of the service providers for Expert Connect have had to re-examine their business plans and look to improving their marketing skills – a good thing. Industry organizations like the Association for Professional Genealogists are jumping in to offer their services – a good thing. The genealogy community is talking, interacting, sharing ideas and giving a good hard look at Expert Connect and Ancestry.com – again, all good things.

Finally what do I hope we’ve learned or will learn as a community?

  • That Ancestry.com has now come full circle in its detachment from and embracement of the genealogy community. You may recall some of Ancestry.com’s previous boondoggles such as the copyright issues involving the Internet Biographical Collection back in 2007. Then, when they went public, Ancestry.com seemed to actively court the genealogy community through events, Bloggers Days, and more. Remember all the hype around Who Do You Think You Are? and its first season? How this was not just good for Ancestry.com but also good for the community? Did you feel the love? And now we seem to be – in my opinion – back to square one in terms of what Ancestry is willing to give to the community vs. what it wants from the genealogy community.
  • As a community we can’t put all our eggs in one basket. Just because Ancestry.com is the biggest player in the genealogy industry (for the time being), it doesn’t mean we should make this our sole focus as a provider of content and services. Just as one would do with their financial portfolio, we should be diversifying where our commitments and our dollars go in terms of genealogy.
  • Speaking of deserve, do we deserve better than a company that is positioning itself as the Microsoft of genealogy, a necessary evil to be dealt with? Again let’s get rid of the “deserve” or “entitled to” concepts.  Let’s earn and work for what we get. I think the genealogy community has become complacent and often neglects the many other resources available. This is a prime opportunity for many vendors and organizations to jump in and fill what I see as a growing void of discontent. Look at what APG has done and is doing. Be prepared for more of this which is, again, a positive for the genealogy industry and community.
  • Lastly, remember how your parents used to say, “dance with the one that brung ya?” Many feel the same way about their dance with Ancestry.com. From giving feedback on beta products, participating in message boards and more, there is not so much a sense of betrayal as there is a sense of disappointment. So why would you continue to dance with someone who steps on your toes, who is clumsy, or doesn’t engage in conversation? The truth is you don’t.  Or you just dance until someone better comes along.

©2011, copyright Thomas MacEntee

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