Reliance on search is scary prospect: Liberty Media exec

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NEW YORK - Gregory Maffei, president/CEO of Liberty Media Corp., shared his forecasts on the future of e-commerce during the Oct. 12 keynote called "Differentiating in a Converging World" at Shop.org's annual summit at the New York Hilton.

Mr. Maffei based his examples largely on what the company has done with home-shopping brand QVC, which Liberty Media purchased in 2003. An avenue for worldwide retail, the outlet ties its entertainment broadcast to purchase opportunities across various platforms including the Internet and mobile, with a focus on brand and viewer community.

"I think it's inevitable," Mr. Maffei said. "You'll see more and more commerce embedded in community."

Opportunities in digital community growth need not be restricted to the younger generation, he said, referring to sites MySpace and similar sites. In fact, he said that the number of teens on MySpace had dropped to only 12 percent and more than half of the site's visitors were older than 35.

One forecast he said online retailers should pay attention to was the aging population. Rather than targeting "millennials," the population segment 18-24, QVC and other Liberty Media properties are watching older consumers who are more stable and more affluent.

As international markets open up, use of digital devices increase and more consumers demand online video, Mr. Maffei said a serious obstacle to online business could be the rising cost of clicks on major search engines.

The growth of vertical search engines, which provide a focused place for searchers and the potential for better leads for marketers, may be one solution.

"If you want to make and control your own destiny I think reliance on search to drive your business is a very scary prospect," Mr. Maffei said.

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