Is online advertising heading for a cliff?

As the markets see-saw between concern and outright panic over the fate of the U.S. financial bailout, the credit shock that’s rippling through not just North America but most of the Western hemisphere, and the potential for a severe economic downturn, anyone with a Web-based business that depends on advertising has to be asking: Is this the beginning of the end? If the U.S., Canada and to some extent even Europe are in the depths of a recession (or possibly even worse), what does that mean for online ad spending? The answer could mean life or death for some startups.

This debate has been going on for almost a year now. Google’s stock price came under fire around the end of last year and the beginning of this year because of concern that the search giant might see a downturn in ad spending that would hit the bottom line. Has it? A little, but not a huge amount (although some say that could change). In fact, there are those who argue that search-related ad spending is likely to be the most durable even in a shaky economy — in part because businesses can get more bang from buying AdWords than a newspaper ad or TV spot.

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Google: Should Techmeme be worried?

After years of barely changing at all, Google has unveiled a major change for its Google Blog Search tool. As a whole bunch of people are reporting, the site now provides a kind of “meme-tracker” view of what’s being written about. It’s much like Google News, but next to the main headline there’s a little box that says “92 blogs over 15 hours” or words to that effect, telling you how many other blogs have written about the topic. When you click on that text, you get taken to a page with all of the various blog headlines and a cool little graph that shows the activity on a timeline.

More than one person is calling this a “Techmeme-killer” (because of course new things always have to kill old things or it’s just no fun). But is it? I don’t think so. For one thing, I like the fact that Techmeme.com is kind of dynamic — even if I don’t really understand how it operates. Blog posts go from being a sub-link of a sub-link to being a headline post, then disappear altogether; others form their own sub-group and then get reabsorbed, and some form headlines without any links at all, which makes some people mad. It may be a black box, but I kind of like that. Fred Wilson says that he likes it because it’s more personal than just an algorithm.

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Idee does visual search, iPhone-style

Jevon has already beaten me to it with a post at Startup North, but I wanted to mention Idee Inc.’s new iPhone app, which I got a sneak peek at earlier tonight — it is seriously cool. It doesn’t take a lot to explain it: you take a photo of a CD cover (or record album cover, if you still have any of those) with your phone, and then click a single button to submit it to TinEye, the image-recognition engine that Idee recently released into the wild. Within seconds, you are taken to the listing for that album at iTunes, where you can listen to and/or buy tracks. Pretty slick.

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Video: Longboarding through Claremont

This video has been making the rounds for awhile now, and every time I watch it I find myself amazed, and torn between admiration for these two skateboarders and a sense that they are insane and risking certain death, riding at high speed down a mountain road in the middle of the day, wearing nothing but powder-blue suits and carrying an HD video camera. Estimates of the speeds they reach are in the 50 to 60 mile-per-hour range. It appears to be a publicity stunt for fashion designer Adam Kimmel.

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Art: A nicer form of dumpster-diving

Montreal-based artist Michel de Broin created a hot tub out of an old commercial dumpster for his work Blue Monochrom. Found via the Make magazine blog. The artist’s site is here, and he’s also the creator of a number of other interesting works, including one called the Shared Propulsion Car, which consists of a 1986 Buick Regal sedan that has had its engine removed and been transformed into a pedal car for four people. Pedaling it around the streets of Toronto has gotten the artist into a little bit of trouble on occasion. There’s YouTube video of the car in action.

click to see the image