I'll be in Spain trying to keep it in the fairway for the next week. No posts until I get back, so I'll see you in September.
BTW, if you're looking for ideas or need some help planning a trip to the Costa del Sol, just look up the nice folks at Golf Options. They're friendly, know a ton about the region and have very good deals.
I think it is a bit soon to be calling Google a failure (as in, waaaay too soon), but the company doesn't look as invincible as it once did. YouTube is in hypergrowth, preventing Google Video from taking off. Skype is a massive success, and Google Talk has yet to really get going. And for all the buzz, GMail is a bit slow and doesn't allow POP and other services that would allow it to compete with Yahoo! Mail (whose beta is pretty slick). Google Maps (and Google Local) are awesome, but there is still very little revenue there. Google Finance is a bust, by most accounts. Google Answers pales in comparison to Yahoo. And then there's Froogle, Scolar, Labs and so on. The list goes on, and it will get longer.
The one thing they certainly have is a ton of cash, and that will allow them to keep experimenting, tweaking and working on new products, bisiness models and aquisitions. They are their own incubator, and to paraphrase John Doerr, "The next Google will be Google."
Peter is right, though ... I do think they need some better marketing talent. As I wrote in my original post: Google never wanted to be a portal, and their traffic shows that despite the launch of many new products and services they are succeeding in not becoming one.
The best engineers in the world will not solve Google's identity crisis. That bug can only be fixed by better marketing.
Custom branded channels may create a sufficient partition from the parts of the site filled with copyrighted content and thus command higher ad prices. I’ll be watching the Paris Hilton channel closely and will report further details as they become available.
Yes, I'm sure he'll be watching it closely ... And you can too:
Steve Rubel doesn't like the idea of YouTube running additional banners on the sponsored pages, but there are plenty of examples of this in newspapers, magazines and TV. I think YouTube could take it a step further and let advertisers pay for exclusivity or the removal of ads from the pages.
Scott Karp thinks brands will have a tough time. Funny thing is, however, that he points to the Diet Coke/Mentos video on the homepage as one of the examples of why things will be so hard. Yet it is a great example of how advertisers should embrace the trend.
The Extreme Mentos and Diet Coke Experiment is a pure user-generated viral video. Tons of you have seen it. Mainstream media has reported on it. Then, a funny thing happened: Mentos embraced the idea and launched a competition. They understood that YouTube and other forms of social media are allowing consumers to become a driving force in the way advertising and marketing is created and understood.
The good news is that you guys have managed to buy every major legislative body in the planet, but you know the problem is, the bad news is that you're up against a dedicated foe that is younger and smarter than you are and will be alive when you are dead, and has historical forces on its side, and is using its technological acumen very adeptly to ward off all of your efforts of control and you're gonna lose that one. I mean you're fifty-five years old and these kids are seventeen and they're just smarter than you are. So you're gonna lose that one.
But the good news is you guys are mean sons of bitches and you've been figuring out ways to rip off audiences and artists for centuries really, and all you gotta do is get outta bed a little earlier in the morning for a spell and you'll find new ways of doing this. I have every faith in you and you should give yourselves a little credit, instead of howling that you're going to be victimized. It's not like you to be victimized."
EFF Founder and Grateful Dead lyricist John Perry Barlow delivers a razor-wire bouquet to Motion Picture Association of America President Dan Glickman. (Via GMSV.)
Viacom can't monetize Bebo as well as a UK or global media company could, and there are much better options in the USA for Viacom should they be in the market for a social network. Facebook comes to mind, but there are plenty of others.
Bebo's demographics don't mesh too well with Viacom, either.
If Viacom has (finally) decided to shed their red white and blue business model, this is not the right place to start. Social networks are unfamiliar territory for them to begin with, and the last thing they need would be to contend with geo-cultural problems on top of it all. Sports and finance would be much easier routes to take.
Bebo would get nothing but cash, and from all appearances, there is plenty of it out there. They need a partner, not a bank.
Birch is back home in London at the moment, and I'm sure that even though he claims not to be in any rush to sell the company, he and Barry Maloney (Bebo board member who led the round for Benchmark) are meeting with more than just journalists from the FT ...
Google will provide search and advertising across Fox Interactive's network, including MySpace, and they've guaranteed minimum revenue share payments to FIM of $900 million based on Fox achieving certain traffic and other commitments. These guarantee payments are expected to be made over the period beginning in Q1 2007 and ending in the Q2 2010.
I'm sure that Ross Levinsohn, a former VP from AltaVista, knew what he was doing on this one. "We find that the largest amount of people leave MySpace to Google…that was the most attractive part in the decision leading to the deal."
The fact that so many people went to Google from MySpace is not surprising ... Their Yahoo/Overture search sucked.
It will be interesting to see if this relationship helps Google move forward with social search. A $25M/month guarantee is not too high a price to pay when you think about what it could represent. Google will have a base of over 100 million people to develop/refine a social search engine. And in the meantime, I'm sure they must be pretty happy about what this represents in terms of AdSpace inventory.
A new McKinsey & co. report cites a 50% drop in TV viewers and a 40% hike in prime-time TV ad spend over the last decade. According to AdAge, the report is telling a host of major marketers that by 2010, traditional TV advertising will be one-third as effective as it was in 1990.
Teens, in particular, highlight the problems facing TV:
They spend less than half as much time watching TV as typical adults do. Teens also spend 600% more time online, surfing the web.
So, should advertisers abandon TV for new media? Not yet, says Amy Guggenheim Shenkan, senior practice knowledge specialist in McKinsey's San Francisco office:
No. There wouldn't be room today if everybody wanted to shift online. Last year [online media] was $12.5 billion, by end of 2007 digital advertising will be $18 to $25 billion. ... So we're seeing a lot of growth, but if you want to match up share of attention and share of dollars it couldn't happen for that reason." The TV ad industry is a $68 billion one.
Adage's Bob Garfield calls that Catch-22 a "chaos scenario" - the dearth of online-ad supply and the web's generally fragmented nature will keep TV in booming business for the next several years.
So, the only thing saving TV is the fact that there isn't enough targeted inventory online.
* Technorati is now tracking over 50 Million Blogs. * The Blogosphere is over 100 times bigger than it was just 3 years ago. * Today, the blogosphere is doubling in size every 200 days, or about once every 6 and a half months. * From January 2004 until July 2006, the number of blogs that Technorati tracks has continued to double every 5-7 months. * About 175,000 new weblogs were created each day, which means that on average, there are more than 2 blogs created each second of each day. * About 8% of new blogs get past Technorati's filters, even if it is only for a few hours or days. * About 70% of the pings Technorati receives are from known spam sources, but we drop them before we have to send out a spider to go and index the splog. * Total posting volume of the blogosphere continues to rise, showing about 1.6 Million postings per day, or about 18.6 posts per second. * This is about double the volume of about a year ago. * The most prevalent times for English-language posting is between the hours of 10AM and 2PM Pacific time, with an additional spike at around 5PM Pacific time
Brad Feld, a Managing Director at Mobius Venture Capital (and a FeedBurner board member) described FeedBurner "Networks" which are collections of sites on a single topic that are using FeedBurner to manage their RSS feed. "The goal is to create high quality collections of similar types of publishers."
He goes on to describe how these new Networks will be managed:
A FeedBurner Network is managed by a coordinator. At this stage the coordinator is the gatekeeper for the network, although it will evolve so that all members of a network can promote other potential members. As a result, the content is "filtered and selected" by the network coordinator (and ultimately members) so that there aren't "fake" Venture Capital blogs as part of the network. The result should be a higher quality network and a quick and easy way to find “Venture Capital bloggers.”
Like their competitors FM Publishing, 9Rules (if they ever allow ads) and Adify, FeedBurner hopes to create high quality collections of similar types of blogs and provide RSS feeds of the aggregated content. The feeds will have advertising if the network coordinator (and members, one would suppose) want it.
I like their chances, and I've said to many folks that the RSS feed aggregators have the best chance to create large enough vertical networks to interest advertisers and agencies. Whilst the ability to target specific vertical networks is critical, even the highest quality network of publishers won't matter to advertisers if it doesn't offer a legitimate amount of volume. FeedBurner's 360,000 feeds and 220,000 publishers provide a large enough base for networks with enough traction to emerge.
I also like the idea of coordinators. Whilst some might see this as a risk - a human (and thus potentially subjective) element mixed in with technology - I think it adds tremendous value. And there will certainly be no shortage of people wanting to run the various Networks.
The biggest issue around this will be what rules are used to determine which blogs are included in a given topic. It isn’t clear if there will be any real quality control - in his post Brad says each network will have a gatekeeper to make sure only blogs on topic are included, but there doesn’t appear to be any hurdle as to what constitutes a quality blog in a topic. That could work out badly.
And if the bloggers and/or the network coordinator are making subjective decisions on which blogs can be included in a given network, this will end in tears. The politics around who’s in and who’s out of a blog network are impossible. I know this from personal experience.
Good points, but if having too many publishers to choose from and managing some "blog politics" are FeedBurner's biggest problems, I think they'll do fine. As long as one "A-list" blogger in each Network controls the entry gate, it will work.
Marshall Sponder suggests that a quasi search ranking for each blog in the Network would help mitigate the problem. Not a bad idea, but I think Arrington and co. are debating the qualitative aspects of the publishers, and I don't know of an alghorithm that can determine good taste yet.
When it comes to networks, the most powerful model is the self organizing network. That allows participants to move seamlessly between networks and takes out all the overhead of managing them.
But we really haven't seen self organizing media networks take hold. Adsense is a self organizing network for publishers and advertisers, but not for the readers/consumers. You can't put together a page that shows all the content that an email marketing ad has appeared on.
I am excited to see self forming media networks develop. Because they are the future of media.
Who other than FeedBurner gets paid for these ad impressions? It seems like another attempt to mine the seemingly free gold laying on the riverbed named user-generated content. The idea isn't much different than Squidoo, a company donating a percentage of profits to charity to make it seem a bit less like photocopying the work of other writers for profit.
Feld, who is coordinating one of the beta of the Venture Capital Network, replies to Niall's query:
The publishers and FeedBurner share the revenue for any advertising, just like any publisher that currently participates in the FeedBurner Ad Network.
In addition, members of a Network are not required to have advertising in their feed - this continues to be entirely at the individual publishers option.
Now that FeedBurner has entered the ring, the true battle for the sell-side space has just begun.
Om Makik has the scoop on the launch of Adify, a new sell-side advertising platform which aims to create networks - or verticals or channels, take your pick - and give publishers (like bloggers) more control over the ads on their sites.
The sell-side space is heating up, with established players like John Battelle's FM Publishing, 9Rules and coming beta of FeedBurner's Networks. (More on FeedBurner in my next post.)
The two founders, Larry Braitman and Richard Thompson, are no strangers to the ad-network business, having built Flycast Communications in the mid-90s. They have a new blog.
The Flycast duo have developed an online advertising platform that puts publishers in charge, giving them tighter control over their ad-inventory. Typical online advertising network is essentially a way to monetize publishers’ unsold ad space. The advertisers and publishers have very little control. Hence, the need for Adify.
The company, which is expected to launch on Monday has also raised $8 million in Series A funding led by leading venture capital firm Venrock Associates.
In order to get traction with some of the smaller publishers, the company has come up with highly vertical advertising networks, that match advertisers and publishers more effectively.
Om likes the idea of connecting niche communities to potential advertisers, but he wonders if enough advertisers will use the network to make it worthwhile. He writes, "That is the make or break issue, not only for Adify, but anyone with online advertising ambitions."
It will be interesting to see which major brands or large agencies decide to trial the service. Smart planners and strategists could do worse than to test it out.
This list of names is more than alphabetical – it's hypothetical, hopeful and perhaps even controversial.
Gathered by a curatorial team of creatives from around the world, it's a list of the individuals we believe will change advertising imagery in 2007 and for years to come. A list of the talent that may challenge us, that may move us, but, above all, that will reach us.
David Bently responds to Agency.com's viral mishap
An i-boy exclusive: My friend David Bentley wrote one of the best meta-level critiques I've seen anywhere in response to Agency.com's pitch for Subway's account and my posts on the subject.
David is currently getting an MBA at Imperial College here in London and has has years of experience in senior roles at places like AKQA and Online Magic, an agency that ACOM aquired in the late 90s.
I normally don't do "guest posts" on i-boy, but given David's credentials and the fact that his own blog is not yet online, I thought it would be a good idea.
Would you work at a company like this?
I think there are a few important points here:
The agency business is very simple. The role of an agency is to provide the best services possible to their clients within their particular field of specialism. They are appointed, all things being equal, on a variety of factors but most important is usually (outside of monetary considerations): capability and experience, understanding of the brand and the business issues of the company and overall client and agency chemistry. There is nothing more important at proving this than the pitch phase. Its a dance and difficult one at the best of times. If appointed to the account the agency works hard to build a relationship with the client and other stakeholders and to build a body of activity that solves the real business problems/objectives set by the client. With successful campaigns comes greater trust and stronger relationships. What underlines this process, like any other relationship building, is trust. Trust that the agency will understand, respect the brand/business. Trust that the agency will perform to the best possible standard. Trust that the agency will be a source of advice and guidance that is invaluable. The flip-side benefit for the agency is that 1) it gets paid appropriately for services performed and that 2) that ‘built trust’ within the client organisation will build a longer term relationship that in part secures future revenue stability and potential growth for the agency. Its that simple. Reality Check - it is a subservient relationship at the beginning. This performance by ACOM flies in the face of all of the above.
They produced an activity before they were even on the confirmed pitch list (I think I am right in thinking this was the credentials part of the pitch) that used the client brand in the way THEY THOUGHT was appropriate – yet it is not their brand to perform such tasks. They built an association – in the broader consumer marketplace - between their brand and the client brand before any relationship had been built. They released into an uncontrolled environment without the express permission of the brand owner. I could go on... But I fail to understand how this is going to further ACOM’s interests? If I were Subway (and even if I liked the viral piece) I would be compelled to reprimand ACOM for this activity. The entire activity exemplifies the fact that the company cannot be trusted with a client’s brand (a brand of considerable value), a lack of respect for a formal pitch process and as such ACOM must be considered a threat as an agent of the business. Frankly I wouldn’t be surprised if this entire activity has wider ramifications than losing the Subway pitch.
From the broader perspective I am somewhat disheartened that an agency of such profile and repute should make such a viral attempt. It reverts our entire industry back to 1997 where large companies were worried about giving significant business to ‘crazy funky webshops’. In 2006 we are in a different environment where media budgets are shifting rapidly online and now accounting for $10bn globally. We need to be professional and manage this business and to instil confidence – this activity does nothing of the sort. Is it any wonder that some of our finest digital alumni are taking senior jobs with traditional agency brands even though many are derided for not ‘getting it’? They may not ‘get it’ but they are respected and they sure understand client management and building long-term mature business relationships.
Notwithstanding the above as a viral activity it was must be considered a failure. Given that when WE talk about viral activities we talk about them from the standpoint of being part of a planned campaign. Behind that we have to set objectives. If we assume the objective of the activity was to win the Subway account then we can consider it a failure. If we consider it as a marketing campaign for Subway, it seems to be a failure because Subway is a bit part player in the activity and I walked away with little positive feelings towards the brand. If we consider the objective to be a campaign for ACOM then again I would argue it to be a failure. ACOM would look to gain exposure either to win new business or to attract new staff and as a leading company in the industry it would look to attract the best brands and the best people. I would argue that it will do neither. Successful viral marketing is not about the amount of buzz or chatter its about the outcome of that buzz and chatter and I don’t see much that is positive.
I see what they were trying to do and I applaud the idea of using a pitch process to prove your capabilities but they made one serious error. They thought that the process was all about them. What they didn’t realise is that it has nothing to do with them - its about the client, doing great work for that client’s brand and building a long-term and formidable relationship. That’s the way its always been and it isn’t going to change. ACOM know this – they have had a relationship with British Airways for 10 years. What possessed them to forget that? The fact is, if you are a supplier/partner/agency/consultant that threatens your clients business you will lose and so you should. Show your creativity yes; but do it respectfully and within the realms of professional business practice. There is no doubt that they could have done the same, proved their point, differentiated themselves and potentially delighted Subway without releasing it onto YouTube. All it would have taken was a little bit of extra consideration and a little humility.
I got suspicious, because in my heart of hearts I just couldn't imagine Agency.com being that smart. Smart enough to see it coming. Smart enough to plan the whole thing. Smart enough to make a video that looks like it is real but really isn't ... Smart enough to "get it."
The video was supposed to be stupid. They wanted the haters. They knew people would flame it. It is the nature of the agency digerati to shoot down all comers, and they played on that. But most of all ... they knew people would talk about it. Adrants took the bait as well as anyone:
Everyone in the industry needs to watch this. Not because it's good but because it makes ad agency people look dumb and sound really stupid. It's filled with mindless business blather, self-important ad speak, fist bumps, fashionably un-tucked shirts and way too many utterances of the word "dude." It's painful to watch.
As of this posting, the video has been seen over 31 thousand times. The site (just launched) has already had a few thousand visits and there are posts about it all over the blogosphere. Check their site for loads of links. The comments in the AdRants post are priceless, btw.
Even if they intended it to be "real" and because it was so bad they changed directions and did this instead (which I doubt), it is still brilliant.
It is the first time in a looooong time that I am even remotely tempted to say, "Agency.com gets it."
One of the more interesting aspects of the feud going on between Netscape's Jason Calacanis and Digg's Jason Rose is the validation of the 1% rule.
As I noted in Rethinking Pareto, Wikipedia was the 18th most popular destination website on the web in March 2006, with some 25 million visitors that month alone. But the number of people who actually contribute content to Wikipedia is about 1-2 percent of total site visitors. (source: Comscore/Media Metrix)
In "What is the 1% rule," I quoted some more numbers from the Guardian to strenghten the case for this new way of thinking about the parameters of network activity.
If there were any doubts about the validity of this new 1% rule, look no further than the latest numbers from Diggtrends:
The full report is certainly worth a read, but it boils down to this: Overall, only 2K of 400k users submitted a story to Digg. Translation: .5% of users actually submit a story to Digg.
Thier site is strange - witness the squealing Guinea Pig and dancing cat video just for starters - and their "trippy instrumental pop and electronic loungue influenced music" ain't too bad, either. (Thanks Veer.) Here are a couple tracks to sample:
Live Spaces features a Friends Module tied into your contacts defined in Messenger and elsewhere, that can be added to a space. It also adds new options using Microsoft Gadgets which can be added at a single click.
This is significant, as MSN Spaces had 100 million unique monthly users making it the largest blogging platform out there - a fact frequently overlooked and seldom mentioned by the digeterati. As Michael Arrington notes:
Live.com Spaces still isn’t as “cool” as Myspace or have the music angle, but it is a significantly more flexible platform and has a huge member base (especially in Asia) that is growing rapidly. It’ll be interesting to check out the comscore numbers in a couple of months to see what kind of growth it generates.
The campaign is centred around a global community based forum, which will consist almost exclusively of user-generated content. Forum users will be encouraged to submit their own words, pictures and videos, which depict them "going beyond" the norm. They can upload their content via the website and from next year, via mobile as well.
LandRover said it will "embrace the web in a way no other car manufacturer has ever done before, with its "Go Beyond" campaign.
Why would anyone ever "do" this? What will motivate people to submit their own words, pictures and videos to Land Rover?
It may seem backwards, but here's the thing about community/social networks: They're only as good insofar as they deliver value to the individual.
I've said that before, but it is incredibly visible here.
On top of all that, the site's design and functionality fails to impress. The design and navigation is woeful, and several times it seemed to stop functioning all together on my screen (XP/Firefox). When I tried to look at Go Beyond TV I was told, "Sorry, Windows Media Player not detected." I'll try to go look at the videos later on IE. Even the URLs are ugly ...
Bart: Hey Homer, did you see that cool new Land Rover video on their new TV station?
Homer: No, I didn't see it Bart. Where is it?
Bart: Go to http://player.narrowstep.tv/skins/0018/nsp.aspx?player=GoBeyond
This has been hacked together, and it shows.
If you decide to visit the site, ask yourself this question: If the concept works (it won't) and people participate en masse (they won't), how will anyone be able to navigate the site via all the zillions of little flying pictures on that lame background?
Luckily, I guess, for Land Rover, they'll never have to worry about that problem.
I'll bet the two agencies (Harrison Troughton Wunderman and RKCR/Y&R) got all hot and bothered by either social media, a client wanting to "do" social media or both. Jon Williams, interactive creative director at Harrison Troughton Wunderman, said:
'Go Beyond' is without doubt the biggest and most exciting digital project we have ever undertaken. The sheer scale of the beast, both in terms of the geographical reach, and the ambition of the undertaking, is huge.
Am I missing something?
"From the film, to the user-generated content based website, to the digital radio channel, to the IPTV channel, Land Rover really are living their brand."