Friday, April 28, 2006

Google 3D modeling tool

Everyone catch this? Google continues to confound by moving into markets seemingly picked at random. This week, they released SketchUp: free 3d modeling software. The analyst society is now stuck in the awkward position of having to figure out how free 3d modeling software either a) organizes the world's information; b) has a clear, ad-friendly revenue model or c) somehow goes after Microsoft.

I suppose you could spin a story about each of these. a) floorplans are a part of the world's information; b) if you sketch a deck, you might be in the market for a bbq and c) software's software: the more GOOG, the less MSFT.

But the fact is, we would all be looking at a dart thrown by Larry & Sergey and drawing a bulls' eye around it.
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Thursday, April 27, 2006

More Internet Video

It looks like we're all going to be in the video business, very soon. Pulled from today's headlines:

Business 2.0: Prime Time for Vlogs?
MarketingVox: Yahoo Connects PC to TV, Turng it into DVR
AdAge: Are 5 second ads the Future of Web Advertising?
MarketingVox: KlipMart Campaign Urges Advertisers to Change Channels

The convergence is very suddenly upon us, it seems.
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Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Internet Video and Ads: Apple Cracks the Door

Apple seems to be sliding into the media business (and by media business, I use the Eric Schmidt definition of a company that makes its money through advertising)--they are going to begin showing ads inside of iTunes.

This is a reasonably big deal. Applications like Real Player have had ads running inside of them for years, as have a number of other downloaded applications. But iTunes is a bit unique because of the fact that it has content from the big networks and beyond. That is, those shows that are going through a major disruption as the means of delivery shift are beginning to find new ad models wrapped around them.

The question is now how far it will go. The ad-on-the-side model is interesting, in that it puts an ad up on the screen, but doesn't interupt the flow. But the issue that remains is sorting through the expectations of free content or of commercial-free content. That is: if I pay $1.99 for a show, I don't expect there to be ads. If I pay nothing for a show, I expect there to be ads.

That's one side of the equation. The other is they who gets paid question. If ABC sells 30 seconds at the start of Desparate Housewives, ABC makes the money. If Apple sells a banner next to DH during the first 30 seconds of the show...does Apple get paid? What if they both do it? Shoot, there goes the consumer.

The chesspieces are clearly in motion on this one. I applaud Apple for taking the steps and for taking them lightly. We can't really delay this debate too much longer.
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Monday, April 24, 2006

Channel Shift to Force Creative Shift in Games

Ralph Koster has a long and very convincing blog post on the next generation in video games. No, he's not talking about some killer new graphics engine or artificial intelligence breakthrough. Rather, he sees a significant shift coming in the nature of game creation coming from business pressures.

Read the post. He has about a dozen different drivers, but it all boils down to a rise in creation costs coupled with an increase in the power of individuals to participate (and create) games. I'm not a part of the gaming world, but I do see this as a good analysis of how the realities of getting quality products force innovation--but from new places.
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Friday, April 21, 2006

Search Fragmentation: Chances are Against It

Gord Hotchkiss, head of search agency Enquiro, writes today about the likelihood of a future where consumers use a portfolio of different search engines and tools. His analysis is "not freakin' likely" (OK, that's a paraphrase).

But he points out some key ideas: online patterns are well-worn and the vast majority of people are not built to be tuned into the latest new online gizmo. Gord is in a good position to know. His group has performed a significant amount of research into consumer behavior.

I tend to agree. Watching the Web 2.0 space (as we can generally call it), you see a steady flow of new ideas. The question, though, is whether or not any of these companies have a high enough perceived value to crack out from the insiders to the mainstream.

Rather, I see a lot of these new companies as having value propositions that are not hugely dissimilar from one another. A ton of companies are somehow situated in the space between content, search, feed-aggregation and contextual advertising. The question isn't necessarily which of these companies has the most compelling offering. It's if the category itself is compelling enough.

The one thing that we can say is that we really don't know. The emergence of one offering may actually kick-start the category. That can probably be said about YouTube. But right now, there's a whole lot of activity and not much outlook. That's a good scenario, if you like Chaos Theories. Somewhere is a winner. But the problem is that there's a lot of investment behind each of these players: this is not a simulated model. Right now, the investment risk is not to be ignored.
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Thursday, April 20, 2006

GOOG Earnings: No Fear

Yowza. Google continued its march toward world domination, evidently, last quarter. The company made somewhere between 3 and 4 boatloads of cash (see EDGAR filings for accurate accounting) already this year.

The interesting thing about this quarter is that their last report was a little dismal. Well, dismal for them at any rate. They didn't meet expectations, and there didn't seem a lot of love for their "tax change" explaination of what happened.

There was even some chatter that maybe the shareholders would rise up and demand that Google begin to behave like a regular company and pre-report and communicate a little better with the real owners of the company.

Well, it seems like missing part from the money machine has been delivered, and I imagine this will keep the discussions at a minimum. At least for one more quarter.
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Jaffe Calls Starbucks on "Akeelah"

There' s a great post this AM over at JaffeJuice, calling Starbucks on their big promotion of the movie "Akeelah and the Bee". His point is that, while the movie is littered all over the stores, the baristas don't seem to have a good sense of what the movie is about. Additionally, there don't seem to be much deeper integration between the movie and the Starbucks experience.

Of course, the question that needs to be asked is: so what? Why should employees be expected to participate in this campaign? Consider the analog--if the movie producers decided to buy up a ton of space in People magazine, should all the writers, editors and designers be expected to know about the film and be able to discuss it? Should they do so as a a part of their job?

Clearly not. In fact, we'd probably feel a little itchy if the People writer crossed the journalism-ethics line and pitched in with the pitching of the movie. Writers are just as much a part of a brand experience as a barista, though.

But the nature of the experience is different. In fact, Starbucks is an experience (People is a product). The magazine appraoch is a media buy. It seems that the Akeelah approach is also a media buy (albeit a unique one, with Starbucks being the actual producer of the film). We don't want to see experiential marketing acting like a media buy. If it does, its a let down.

People aren't media, is the message here. People are people, and they operate best when they are treated as such. Surely Akeelah is a success right now. I am not too tuned into movies and my awareness for this oddly named and spelled film is through the roof. But is it executed correctly? I'm with JJ: not quite.
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Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Google Maps, Meet Million Dollar Homepage

Virtual Trespassing. Soon as I figure out how this works, I'll put up a 'billboard' for SteinBlog at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
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Watch The Blogs! (says Jupiter)

Former Jupiter colleague Julian Smith just published a report on the need for brands to watch the blogs. Mr. Smith says:

"Organisations ignoring community-based influencers face the danger of small-scale disgruntlement being exposed to a mass audience, resulting in a disproportionately large-scale public relations problem that can directly affect their bottom line."
Clear, that.

I don't what's inside the new report, but I know that when I was at Jupiter, we looked at this a good amount. One of the things we discovered is that, while many companies claim to listen to consumer voices online, it tends to be done in a sort of ad-hoc manner. That is, one person maybe has an RSS feed. Or potentially the agency does the occasional search.

The real opportunity, of course, is to solidify this practice. With offerings from companies like BuzzMetrics, Brandimensions or Umbria, there's no real reason not to move past just checking in to having an actual data feed of this info.

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Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Former Pro Cyclist on DaVinci Code & Google

Google and Columbia pictures have teamed up to launch a new campaign for the DaVinci Code movie, as reported to Pamela Parker by former US Postal Service professional cyclist turned Google employee Dylan Casey!
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Mochila: Content/Ad Marketplace Model

Mochila is a new company, set to launch next week at AdTech. This seems like a reasonably-sized big deal. The idea is to establish a marketplace where parties can buy and sell content, with advertising attached. It represents a great opportunity for a fledgling site to add content, as well as a new channel for writers to distribute their work.

There's also a pretty interesting model for content-traders. Someone could try to play the margins, bringing in lots of content with ads and making money on the clicks. That is, a Webmnaster could potentially build a pretty relevant site, just from the content available on a given day. Mix that with some affiliate links, and there's a clear business.

The call, though, for sure is to increase the overall value of sites like blogs. For instance, I could potentially turn SteinBlog into more of a full-fledged publication, with my posts mixed in with news of the world, which I have purchased. Of course, the monetization mandate would go up, because my cost of doing business would go up. But for established brands, this could be a good way to go.

(btw: 'Mochila' is Spanish for 'backpack')
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Monday, April 17, 2006

First Day of the Rest of Our Lives

If you have to speak with any Bay Area residents warned. It's the first time in about 7 weeks that it hasn't been pouring rain.

Please allow for a little giddiness.
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Extreme Jingles: S&S Creates a Band

Saatchi & Saatchi UK has created a band that can be purchased ,"off the shelf", to promote brands.
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Podcast with Nate & Joseph

Last week, in Boca Raton, Nate Elliott and I crashed Joseph Jaffe's recording of Across the Sound. It was a good (long) chat about a lot of stuff. Take a listen and let me know what you think.
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The Future is in Your Pocket

I'm guilty: I haven't given the cell phone its due, over the last few years. In general, I've believe that it was a telephone first and foremost, with the added value of being able to go anywhere (almost). I chose my personal provider, T-Mobile, because they sponsor professional cycling. I believe that innovation generally represented some kind of feature creep and was not really worth noting.

I believe that I've been really, really wrong. I've never said "mobile doesn't matter", but I don't know that I've been fully tuned into the real revolution. I recognize, mostly, that this has been a failure of imagination. That notion that a phone is just that: a phone, was horrendously limiting. The generation behind me realize that the phone is a computer, one of the features of which is the ability to talk to people.

Data I've been reading has got me thinking this way. This morning I read about Microsoft labs building an search interface where you take a picture and send it to the server. The photo is the query. This may have been my personal tipping point for mobile devices (note that I don't call them cell phones anymore).
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Friday, April 14, 2006

Product or Marketing? The Launch of Coke Blak

Coke has launched "Coke Blak", a drink that is described (by them) as having "Coke Effervecense with Coffee Essence". Yeesh. What a tag line. More like "Too-many-focus-groups with legal-department-restrictions essence". But that's another story.

AdFreak comments on it, and also points to a blog entry about Coke's massive Times Square give-away today. The blogger loved it. Here's a line that will live forever in the hearts and minds of Coke Corporate: Nobody turns down a free sample, and only an idiot would turn down a free sample that came in a glass bottle with a Coke logo on it.

But the key question comes from AdFreak: Quite frankly, I’m surprised Coca-Cola hasn’t seized on this marketing tactic before.

The fact is, they have. Coca-Cola has long sought out new usage occassions for its product (as has every CPG company in existence). Coke has tried to get people to drink Coke in the mornings for years, having realized just what AdFreak has--that Coke has all the same elements as coffee.

But they have always tried to do it through marketing and advertising. That is, trying to get people to take the exact same product they normally consume with pizza and burgers and crack it open on the way to work. The results have always been disappointing.

What's new here is that Coke finally realized that they needed to change the product itself, and I think they've done so very cleverly. The package has very clearly recognizable Coke elements, but it connotes a different sort of use.

Coke is doing this at a good time as well. Previous feedback from consumers has been that Coke is too sweet for the morning. But now, we've had years of people drinking carmel, candy-apple, double-chocolate, pumpkin lattes. This time, it may just work.
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Thursday, April 13, 2006

New Metric: Time to Human

I love it. The Consumerist has a series of posts where they measure the amount of time it takes to get to a human, via a customer service line. The call this "Time to Human". Note how it is not called "Time to Babbling Idiot" or "Time to Surly, Unhelpful Grouch"
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Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Made on a Mac

Long flight home from Boca Raton yesterday, including a delay leaving the Houston stop over.

Luckily, I had my new MacBook Pro with Dual-Core Intel processors, 15" screen, built in camera and wishbone suspension, allowing my creativity to flow...
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Monday, April 10, 2006

The Mouse Mouth Chronicles (Part III): They Tahoe Rides Again.

The Chevy Tahoe campaign keeps rearing its head here at the event. I’ll stand by my opinion, which I wrote about in my ClickZ column. Sorry for the self-post, but I figured that was better than simply repeating myself.
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The Mouse Mouth Chronicles (Part II): Yahoo Tech

Before lunch, we had a session from Yahoo! about the notion of social media. Great stuff, including a preview of Yahoo! Tech, a new content offering that brings consumers right into the mix. Yahoo! has really adopted the notion of bringing the power of social computing right into every offering. They’ve made this a part of their brand platform for the last several months.

My only question remains is whether or not the concept of tagging and folksonomies will jump from their content and publishing practice and into the actual search algorithm. Tagging offers a lot of benefit for the organization of information, but I think there remains a not-invented-here philosophy around the creation and maintenance of the algorithms.
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The Mouse Mouth Chronicles: Notes for the ISOBAR Summit

I’m down in Boca Raton, Florida for the ISOBAR client summit. I have to say, this is a bit like a homecoming for me. There are three people here that I worked with during the very heady late nineties at a place called Red Sky: Julian Aldridge, Deirdre McGlashan and Tim Smith.

As for the title of this post, it occurred to me that “Boca Raton” is (more or less) Spanish for “Mouse Mouth”. Hmm…hopefully I can get a good explanation of that. In the meantime, Nate Elliott and I are trying to spread the meme; by tomorrow morning, when we’re on stage for a search-engine session, our goal is to have everyone know our translation.

The big headline of the day, so far has been the release of new data from ISOBAR and Yahoo! called “Fluid Lives”. It’s a significant undertaking, placing wireless technology directly into the homes (and lives) of families in five countries. The data is going to be available soon, but one particular thing truly struck me.

Of course, use of technology goes up when people are given (duh) technology. The more interesting thing, and the heart and soul of Fluid Lives, is that pervasive technology, such as that which comes with the installation of broadband and WiFi. This was driven home by a single slide. I haven’t got the slides, so I’m going to go from my notes to communicate the data:

More involved politically: 26%
More involved with my community: 29%
More involved with organizations related to my interests: 55%

This is amazing. The technology doesn’t simply connect people; it lets people get connect to themselves, to the things they want to do an be. I imagine that most people want to be involved and connected to their community. I know I do. But the fact is I haven’t truly got the time to go to the meetings. However, I certainly do love the fact that I can dip into the Portola Neighborhood Yahoo! Group.

No wonder people claim a feeling of being “lost” without their Internet connection. Suddenly, the connection that you had (to people, not to other computers) is gone.
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Friday, April 07, 2006

Ad Invasion Part II: Games

Please note, world: There is now an entire conference dedicated to the proposition of placing ads inside of video games. Zach from ClickZ is going to be there, and he writes today in the news blog about his frustrations trying to get some straight answers to pretty straightforward questions.

Zach seems to be touching on something that many seem to feel: the promise is getting a bit ahead of the reality. Or rather, there are the pipes but not the practices in place when it comes to advertising on some of these new mediums. Whatever it may be, there are pretty clearly big questions that need to be answered as these tactics get put into place alongside other, more established channels.
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Thursday, April 06, 2006

Wireless Conference: Ads Invade another Forum

The largest wireless conference is suddenly focused on...advertising. It's amazing, it seems like nearly every business model is looking toward advertising as the next great revenue boost. I imagine this is the larger Google effect: tools are media, media is an ad opportunity.

The challenge that they face, of course, is figuring out how to advertise via this channel without making the channel become less effective. That's the spam question. Advertising on cell phones is attractive, because people are heavily reliant upon these devices. But there's a breaking point, where a preponderance of ads diminishes that utility.

Cell phone companies (and those who pay attention to their consumers) are just getting their feet wet on this. There is some guidance, in the form of the Internet and a few portals who decided to push the limit was past the breaking point, then attempt forgivenesss. Hopefully the cell guys will be more careful (and considerate) than that.
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Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Another YouTube: This Time with an Ad Model

Business 2.0 has a write up of another citizen-share media outlet called Veoh, similar/indistinguishable from YouTube. These guys seem to have a fairly clever approach to making money off the thing, though. They are building in a recommendation engine, along with a downloadable player application. Essentially, they are heading down the behavioral targeting path.

Yes--BT. I have said that BT is on the cusp of breakthrough for the last few years. With Claria's more formal foray into the market, along with the rise of applications like this, I think it may actually happen. The problem with BT is that the promise alwasy seem to be there for advertisers, but the execution tended to either confuse them or seem like too much work. Perhaps the tide is turning now on this, as advertisers continue to seek out more and more inventory?

An interesting twist on this is the approach that Veoh seems to be taking, at least in the article. They talk about the algorithms that they are setting up for the targeting of ads and content--it seems like it is starting to move toward being a real measurement and programming tool. I wonder if their designs are partially on the networks, but also on the measurement services? Eventually, there will be a critical mass of consumers watching content online. When this happens, can we begin to call this group a panel, measure their behavior (precisely) and use these as show ratirng...and a tool in the pricing of ads, both online and off?

This is the metrics marketer approach: the observation of realtime data to put into the marketing strategy, and that is one of the significant developments of the digitization of marketing.
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