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Archive for the ‘online advertising’ Category

The iPad, like the iPod, iPhone, and iMac isn’t a revolution in computer science, design interface, consumer packaging nor ui. It’s a revolution of the economics of those things. Now that there’s a device on the market now at 500 bucks and an unlimited data plan for 30 bucks a month it’s almost assured that the iPad type of computing and media platform will be popularized and maybe not even by apple. The hype of the technology will surely drown out the economic story for some time but in the long run the implications of the price of this technology will be the big story.

Sure we have sub 500 dollar computers and media devices. they have never been this functional or this easy. Apple has just shown what is possible so now the other competitors will have to follow suit. It really doesn’t matter in the grand scheme if it’s apple or htc or google or microsoft or Sony who wins the bragging wars each quarter – the cat is out of the bag – cost effective, easy to use, and fun computing for everyone is possible in a mass producible construction.

There are some interesting side effects coming out of this. If a business can’t make huge profits from the hardware or the connection or the applications where will the profit come from? (I’m not saying companies won’t mark good profits I just don’t think it will be sustainable – especially for companies used to big margins.)

Obviously the sales of content matters. Books, movies, games, music and so on. This computing interface makes it far more easy to buy content and get a sense that it was worth buying. If the primary access channel is through a browser I think people aren’t inclined to pay – we all are too used to just freely browsing. On a tablet the browser isn’t the primary content access channel.

The challenge for content providers is that quality of the content has to be great. This new interface requires great interactivity and hifi experiences. Cutting corners will be very obvious to users. There’s also not really some easy search engine to trick into sending users to a sub par experience. That only works when the primary channel is the browser.

If advertising is going to work well on this platform boy does there have to be a content and interaction shift in the industry. Banners and search ads will just kill an experience on this device. Perhaps more old school magazine style ads will work because once your in an app you can’t really do some end around or get distracted. Users might be willing to consume beautiful hifi ads. Perhaps the bigger problem is that sending people to a browser to take action on an ad will be quite weird.

Clicks can’t be the billable action anymore. Clicks aren’t the same on a tablet! (in fact, most Internet ads won’t work on the iPad. Literally. Flash and click based ads won’t function)

Perhaps the apps approach to making money will work. To date the numbers don’t add up. Unless users are willing to pay more for apps than they do on the iPhone only a handful of shops will be able to handle the economics of low margin, mass software. So for the iPad apps seem to be higher priced. More users coming in may change that though.

In a somewhat different vein…. Social computers will be a good source of cold and flu transmission. If we’re really all going to be leaving these lying about and passing them between each other, the germs will spread. Doesn’t bother me, but some people might consider that.

Will users still need to learn a mouse in the future?

Should we create new programming interfaces that are easier to manipulate with a touch screen. Labview products come to mind?

What of bedroom manners? The iPhone and blackberries are at least small…

And, of course, the porn industry. The iPhone wasn’t really viable as a platform. This touch based experience with big screens… Use your imagination and I’m sure you can think up some use cases…

I do think this way of interacting with computers is here to stay. It’s probably a good idea to think through how it changes approaches to making money and how we interact with each other. I’d rather shape our interactions than be pushed around unknowingly….

Happy Monday!

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Someone did the work I wanted to… well, sorta wanted to…

Here’s a decent set of data about one of the latest internet ‘memes’, 25 Things.

Still, viral marketers might take note of the patterns that “25 Random Things About Me” obeyed. The best hope for someone looking to start a grass-roots craze is to introduce a wide variety of schemes into the wild and pray like hell that one of them evolves into a virulent meme. If evolution is any guide, however, there’s no predicting what succeeds and what doesn’t. Just look at the platypus.

A decent non-conclusion, and probably accurate.

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They’re at it again. Yes they are… As part of the Rube Goldberg contingent from Mythinformation Central. From the people that brought you “you’re fat because of your friends” you are now presented with: “your genes influence who will become friends.”

They set up the straw man: that it is an error to suggest people are a function of a “simple model for the metabolic, neural and Internet networks, and the same model is applied to human beings — that all parts of the network are identical and interchangeable”.

They never knock it down but extrapolate beyond the data with innuendo of their own PR. One can only imagine that Christakis and cronies will be doing collaborative work with Steven Pinker soon on the topology of the mind, call it science and write another book on the mind’s influences in support of Pinker’s postulate that the reason the Chief justice misquoted the oath of President Obama was a “blowback from Chief Justice Roberts’s habit of grammatical niggling Or was it a Freudian slip? Hmmm… Science, huh... How very canny for the Language Don Dr. Pinker to point that out as he knows so much about both people’s histories, relevant factors and ‘mindful’ homunculi like those “inherent characteristics that govern where we [as individuals] gravitate to in the social network.”

“A second implication is that the [current] study suggests that if we really want to understand how things [?what ‘things’?] diffuse in social networks, we need to take into account people’s locations in the social networks, which are due in part to their genes,” Christakis pontificated while showing no data or peer reviewed research.

Please see the Baloney Detection Kit submitted for consideration for those reading content from any media channel, including Buzz Creation or Mythinformation efforts by mainstream print media to get more subscribers and kooks to buy their fading printed words.

I am looking forward to more “sharper predictions” from the Christakis Mythinformation crew.

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There’s a bit of a rant against Belkin paying people to talk positively about their products in reviews on commerce sites.

Users cry foul.  Blogs rail. Someone will probably get fired or reprimanded.

[Update 1/19/09: And here’s the letter from the CEO.  Read between the lines.  Someone got in trouble]

And it’s all over something that’s the oldest trick in the book. And is used far more than bloggers, magazines, advertisers, publishers, tv studios and users want to admit.

In fact, TechCrunch is one of the biggest offenders.  Sure, it doesn’t post payment terms on Mechanical Turk, but it does definitely feature favorable / traffic generating articles for a specific set of companies and products.  Maybe it’s only out of proximity to silicon valley or the network of connections of its author but it’s still biased and borderline advertorial.

Let’s get real, people.

Advertorial is a fact of the media and retail ecology.  There are certainly more aggressive efforts by some (such as Belkin) but I have yet to meet an ad agency that doesn’t employ an “organic positive word of mouth” strategy.

It’s called promotion, folks.  It’s worked very well for info-mercials (paid actors dramatizing the product).  It’s worked very well for direct marketing.

How is it functionality different than the individual users who post on Amazon or New Egg BEFORE a product even hits the streets?  Typically big brands have this positive fan base that will say anything that produce WILL be good, regardless of whether they use the product or not.  Do these same ranters have a problem with that?  Just think back to the huge amount of traffic Techcrunch and other bloggers received for SPECULATING on the iphone.

There seems to be some line advertisers can’t cross.  Some sacred “collective intelligence” tools should not be used for “dramatized promotion.” Yet, Google, the portal homepages, most tech magazines, news, tv shows, and almost all of Press Releases are full of this over-the-line-corruption-of-the-users-domain.

Speaking of press releases… is the whole idea of press release just as offensive?  Press release pose as news but are nothing more than advertorial.  Have you ever written a press release? ever been quoted in one?  The whole thing is fairly questionable.  Yet, the news media lives on press releases.

Again, let’s keep it real.

The vast wealth so far created online is mostly due to this battle between ad dollars corrupting the user domain.  Why else would VCs and big companies fund these online companies if there wasn’t some advertising game to play?  The only reasons to develop online services is to get eyeballs or sell products.  The only reason you want eyeballs is to sell products.

Is there some line we can draw that says it’s “false advertising” or a subversion of the trust of the public?  I don’t think so.

No online product that allows user contributions and expects to make money running ads or selling products can escape the scourage of dramatized promotion.  Nor should it want to.  You probably don’t matter as a service if people don’t try to abuse your system.

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In a previous article I suggested that it becomes incumbent on the reader, listener, watcher or any engaged person to be able to tell when something in the media didn’t seem right or justifiable, etc. as in CNN and Evil – Snivil… I promised those that there are some rules of thumb for detecting faulty, deceptive or malicious content. The one selected is the Sagan Baloney Detection Kit. There are dozens of them out there on the web, in science methodology texts and even some in writing books. Like any set of rules of thumb, they are not absolute but provide an approximation that will save time and angst when sifting through the escalating volumes of content we have access to.

Like every source of ‘help,’ use what works for you and toss the rest. Know that those that want your eyeballs understand this list better than most of us and do what they can to keep you from recognizing these red flags in their materials.

Let us know what we missed and what we need to cull from our list.

Baloney Detection Kit: Based on selections are taken and similar to those in a book by Carl Sagan “The Demon Haunted World” Ballantine Books (February 25, 1997) ISBN-10: 0345409469

These collectively or individually are ‘red flags’ that suggest deception. The following are tools for detecting fallacious or fraudulent arguments wherever they present themselves.

  1. Wherever possible there must be independent confirmation of the facts
  2. Encourage substantive debate on the evidence by knowledgeable proponents of all points of view.
  3. Arguments from authority carry little weight (in science there are no “authorities”).
  4. Try not to get overly attached to a hypothesis just because it’s yours, your parents, etc.
  5. Quantify, wherever possible.
  6. If there is a chain of argument every link in the chain must work.
  7. “Occam’s razor” – if there are two hypotheses that explain the data equally well choose the simpler
  8. Ask whether the hypothesis can, at least in principle, be falsified (shown to be false by some unambiguous test). In other words, it is testable? Can others duplicate the experiment and get the same result?
  9. Conduct control experiments – especially “double blind” experiments where the person taking measurements is not aware of the test and control subjects.
  10. Check for confounding factors – separate variables impacting the conclusions.

Common fallacies of logic and rhetoric

  1. Ad hominem – attacking the arguer rather than the argument.
  2. Argument from “authority”
  3. Monocausality: Cause and effect statements
  4. Argument from adverse consequences (focus on the dire consequences of an “unfavorable” decision; attack a sovereignty or you’ll be fighting them on the streets of New York).
  5. Appeal to ignorance (absence of evidence is not evidence of absence).
  6. Special pleading (typically referring to god’s will, Buddha’s mysteries or passions of Islam).
  7. Begging the question (assuming an answer in the way the question is phrased).
  8. Observational selection (counting the hits and forgetting the misses as in fortune telling).
  9. Statistics of small numbers (such as drawing conclusions from inadequate sample sizes).
  10. Misunderstanding the nature of statistics (President Eisenhower expressing astonishment and alarm on discovering that fully half of all Americans have below average intelligence!)
  11. Inconsistency (e.g. military expenditures based on worst case scenarios but scientific projections on environmental dangers ignored because they are not “substantiated”).
  12. Non sequitur – “it does not follow” – the logic falls down.
  13. Post hoc, ergo propter hoc – “it happened after so it was caused by” – confusion of cause and effect.
  14. Meaningless question (“what happens when an irresistible force meets an immovable object?).
  15. Excluded middle – considering only the two extremes in a range of possibilities (making the “other side” look worse than it really is).
  16. Confusion of correlation and causation.
  17. Straw man – caricaturing (stereotyping, marginalizing) a position to make it easier to attack.
  18. Suppressed evidence or half-truths.
  19. Weasel words – for example, use of euphemisms for war such as “police action” to get around limitations on Presidential powers. “An important art of politicians is to find new names for institutions which under old names have become odious to the public”

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Ah, Ad Networks!

Glam gives us this juicy insight into what’s happening over in ad network world. It’s not going to be a fun 2009.

Despite the slower economy, Q4 was the strongest quarter we have had—we will end the year in a triple digit ad revenue growth rate year over year, and also very strong sequentially. We believe Glam is one of the few digital companies with this level of growth in revenue today. The reason is the focus on making our customers-—the agencies and brands successful online, being the number one for women, the scale of reach, premium inventory, targeting technology, custom solutions and our strong publisher network.

Unfortunately, despite their claim for best quarter ever, it’s not really that impressive.  Most online advertising in their categories went up due to holidays and more spend online each year.  It’s not Glam specific.  I see enough detailed data in this industry to know that Glam isn’t crushing it more than anyone else.

The reality is the ad networks and brand advertising online are in for a massive new year’s hang over.  The spends are spent.  The registers ring for a few more days. Then we’ll start to see what we really have.

Glam and other ad networks will lose business because publishers will slowly  get better with online sales and delivery (because they have to!) while the ad market softens in q1.  Glam’s eCPMs will be locked in a market rates because it’s buys and sells are massive and not really all that specialized.  Worse most (not all) of its network sites are bottom of the barrel publishers that will themselves struggle or go under.  In fact, 80% of them are complete SEO spam or worthless blogs and Google’s SearchWiki and other efforts are burying these sites.

(Note: You can tell when a networks traffic is mostly garbage when it hides the Site Affinities on Quantcast – those are the sites users visit in addition to the one publisher.  If you want to hide them, it usually means you are buying traffic or have lots of trashy SEO.)

Glam will not go away, but its not going to recover its valuation ever.  It has already built its business and it won’t be able to overhaul itself to whatever comes next.  Brand advertising online requires big brands and Glam won’t be able to hold on.  The race to win the advertisers is getting very tough now that the old publishers are racing as fast as possible to compete in social media and direct ad sales.

Lastly, Ad Sales is a talent driven business.  It’s about who your ad sales people know.  The technology, the publisher network, and the name isn’t really a differentiator.  So as the salaries and commissions come way down, the sales folks will bolt and take their network with them.  I’ve seen this happen at least 10 times in my direct experience and there are countless examples with Y! and others playing out right now.  Killer sales people keep the brand ad game in business and Glam doesn’t appear to be the place to earn the big bucks.  If you want proof, dig into the heads of sales and the top performing businesses, you’ll see revenue directly correlates.  It’s true in TV, Radio, Magazines and Online.

Maybe I’m wrong and Glam can buck the massive trend in brand ads taking a dive online (both in eCPM and overall buys…).  I doubt it and I won’t be buying my traffic from Glam any time soon.

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Data once was a signature, a number on a driver’s license or even a newspaper subscription. Now it is much more but less of what you are used to accounting for. Digital information is today recorded by all manner of sensors you are not aware of and don’t see the consequences of. The new reality is data ‘Reality Mining’.

From phones, GPS units, RFID tags in office ID badges, texting, scans of your car through toll booths, credit card activity at ATMs, stores, gas stations, phone call tower identity, sensors are capturing your behavior in a digital form. Coupled with arguably suspect ‘secure’ anything digital including health information, income statements and Web surfing time, place and duration, the data organization and mining has birthed the emerging field of “collective intelligence”. Welcome.

All that digital information is going to servers and reformatted in data bases are as viral as anything you and a person with a lot of letters after their name can even imagine. And we are adolescents in this development.

A thick web refers to what our ubiquitous use of the web has brought us worldwide; data, tetra-terabytes of it daily. Collective intelligence practitioners acknowledge that their tools will create a sci-fi future on a level Big Brother on cocaine could not have dreamed of. In fact that is, the ‘thing’ about what is going on; we have no idea how we, our families, company, city, nation are going to be impacted as this approach to information finds every nook and cranny of everyone’s life. Stopping it is not an option.

Collective intelligence will make it possible, not probable, for insurance companies, employers, pharmaceutical companies to use data to covertly identify people with an identified gene, profile, affliction, etc., and deny them insurance coverage, employment or bank loans. They can also use it to snuff out an epidemic just as covertly. I wonder where the value of this will be positioned? The government through their budgeting selections can assist law enforcement agencies to identify opposition member’s behavior by tracking scanning, tracing public and private social networks (our old friend the Patriot Act has morphed while we worried about our 401K and “the wars”).

“Pernicious” means exceedingly harmful. Pernicious implies irreparable harm done through evil or insidious corrupting or undermining <the claim is that pornography has a pernicious effect on society>

Now, today, we have and are using the capability to assess a person’s behavior with reality mining of data and then interpret that profile without monitoring him or her directly, talking to him or her, or “knowing’ them. Does Kroger care if you are in a bad mood when you scan your value card? Is the East TX toll reader interested in your reasons for being there mid afternoon? Does Macy’s want you to buy only brand X and not brand Y at the same price? They all care about your behavior, not your feelings and emotions, and intentions and, and, and…

It is a mashup! People and organizations interacting with one another through multimedia digital means will never be less than it is today; it will always be more. Those interactions dynamically leave traces of that ‘behavior’. This allows scientists, the Mafia or over zealous investigative reporters, for example, and anyone with the technology access to the databases to study and learn about the behavior of those traced without the knowledge or consent of the people and groups being scanned. Techniques like that are thought to infringe on the individuals and groups being traced for commercial benefit of those that have that technology over the individuals, groups of individuals and commercial entities that don’t have that technology.

What’s more, if you or your group doesn’t want to be scanned, traced or digitally followed, you have little to say in the matter. Take the instance of “opting out” that’s put forth as a counter measure today for not being a target for spyware, spam and behavioral marketing… “Opting out” is another way some companies validate a cautious web user. For some it means that a different level of secrecy is needed for those that understand counter-control methods. If you want to be removed from lists you have the following troubles (WHICH ARE ALSO TRUE OF REALITY MINING AND COLLECTIVE INTELLIGENCE EFFORTS);

  1. You don’t know where your data is; multiple servers, entities, in the “cloud”
  2. Once in the web, your data is not a ‘thing’ it is a “byt-pat”, a partial byte sequence and a partial pattern
  3. You don’t know who owns it legally
  4. You can’t catch up to it and kill it
  5. Your intimidation by technology is being used against you
  6. You have no counter-control outside the boarders of your country
  7. Your hope is that it isn’t true of you and your data
  8. Arguments favoring scanning and autonomous tracing are wrapped in virtuous rationales

a. fighting disease: SARS, flu, etc

b. fighting terrorists: real and imagined

c. helping the sick and elderly

d. child safety: fear reduction

The reality of reality mining is that your data collected by all of these methods are like a thought you had last night when watching TV: you can’t get at it now, you can’t know exactly where it is located in your head, and once you get it back after going through some mental gymnastics it is not the same as it was when you first had it.

Every day privacy becomes more of a myth than it was even last weekend during the USC game when the water company could tell – they have the data – when the half time occurred due to a drop in the water levels in an eight minute period. We expect that the water will be there and it was. We expect that no one was watching but what “watching” means is changing. It is changing really fast and in ways no one at MIT, Bureau of the Budget and Management or the Justice Department can predict or control. The steaks for success are high. Kroger is working on it.

Are you ready for a wild ride on a roller coaster in the dark without handrails? That is what’s coming here.

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