Consumers Expected to Spend 7 Billion on Imaginary Goods

When you talk about buying “virtual goods” it kind of feels like you’re actually getting something for your money. But if you think about it, virtual goods are imaginary. Sure, you get a picture representing what you bought but you don’t really own that cow or that casino or that designer outfit you bought to use in an online game.

According to a new study by In-Stat, consumers don’t care. They’re lined up to spend $7 billion on virtual goods by year’s end and it’s likely that the trend will keep going strong as we roll in to 2011.

Thanks to Facebook and iPhones, online gaming isn’t just for teens anymore. Now people of every age, gender and socio-economic background are spending their free time building virtual farms, battling monsters or training to be a Jedi.

Twitter Analytics: The Beta Test is On

Mashable is reporting that the anticipated Twitter Analytics roll-out has begun. Word is that Twitter has invited a select group of Tweeters, which doesn’t include me, to test the new product. This goes along with previous estimates that the product would be live for all by the end of the year.

Measuring success on Twitter has been a problem for marketers, one they’ve solved with the use of third party programs like HootSuite. But with the hoot going to a pay model for big users, Twitter will have the upper hand with their free version that will likely have more bells and whistles.

US Internet Advertising Hits All Time High

The Interactive Advertising Bureau released new numbers today that show record-breaking growth in online ad sales. Their third quarter 2010 study showed a 17% increase over the same period in 2009 — a full $6.4 billion in ad revenue.

When revenue is up, it’s always a good thing, but these numbers point to a combination of factors which is very encouraging. Number one, the increased spending shows that more companies are realizing the power of the Internet. It’s unlikely that their ad budgets have gone up 17%, so it’s likely that they’re taking ad dollars away from print and moving it over to digital.

The other half of the equation is the consumer. Marketers are going digital because consumers are responding. It’s no longer about technological newbie clicking on a banner at to shoot an arrow at a moving target. Consumers have gotten more tech savvy and so have advertisers.

Radio Shack Wants You To Check-in Somewhere Else

Radio Shack is running an interesting new Foursquare promotion that asks you to check-in some place other than your local Radio Shack. How odd is that? The badge you’re looking for is called Holiday Heroes and when you earn it you get a coupon good for 20% off your purchase.

To get the badge, Radio Shack is asking you to check into “Hero Hotspots,” which include MidTown Comics and the Golden Gate Bridge. The write up also mentions a gym and a coffee shop because all heroes need to stay in shape and then get a jolt of caffeine.  After you check-in at two of these places, you visit your local Radio Shack and the badge and discount is yours.

Yahoo! Clues Offers an Inside Look at Trending Search Patterns

Yahoo! is coming on strong this week with several announcements that prove they are well and truly still in the game. Today, they’ve unveiled the beta test of Yahoo! Clues and I could play in this one all day.

Yahoo! Clues is designed to help you data-mine trending search terms. When you research a term, you’re presented with a graph that shows the highs and lows of the trend over the past week or month. It then breaks down the search into gender, age, income and location and it offers additional search terms along with actual search paths that people have taken.

Facebook Messaging Sounds Good. . . In Theory

Bang the gong. Facebook has an announcement. They’ve taken the wraps off their new messaging system which has been referred to as the “Gmail Killer.” Gmail can send the bodyguards home, they’re not in danger. . . not yet.

I spent some time watching the videos and reading the articles and I’ve come to the conclusion that my Facebook messaging preferred punctuation is not the exclamation mark or even the question mark but the ellipsis (. . . ). I chose this mark because the new roll-out sounds great. . . in theory, but in practice, I’m not so sure.

Are Deal Sites Making Consumers Jaded?

If you visit Whole Foods in the next few weeks, you could earn yourself a refreshing Tazo tea just for checking-in at the checkout counter. The promotion is being run by Foursquare competitor Gowalla and it includes opportunities to earn a $25 Whole Foods gift certificate or other related “goodies.”

This is another great example of using location-based apps to promote a product so I was surprised to see a writer for Daily Finance taking the program to task.

“Um, wonderful. So I’m going to check in at Whole Foods and enter a contest to win a whopping $25 gift card and maybe some special team items that aren’t even mentioned in this promo. I’m sorry, Gowalla. A contest for a $25 gift card simply isn’t going to cut it in an era of total Groupon frenzy with 75% discounts on hot restaurants”