Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Starbucks WOMs itself into a corner


I got this graphic in an email this morning. Starbucks was offering a free grande iced coffee, all day long today!

Only...they weren't. It seems that Starbucks gave this out to employees and asked them to forward it to friends and family. Ends up, it's really, really easy to forward an email, so it spread way outside of its intended group.

Starbucks, naturally, isn't honoring the promotion anymore. I imagine some people will get bent out of shape on this, as well. But, one more warning: be careful of this series of tubes called the Internet!
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Monday, August 28, 2006

Feedback on ClickZ Article

My latest ClickZ article is up today: "Is Web 2.0 Advertiser Friendly?"

Pete B, who is more finely tuned to the needs of consumers than really anyone I know says:

Your headline should really read: Will Web 2.0 Continue Respecting Consumers?

No one is questioning the role of advertising. The big question now is how much we \"blur\" the line between the advertisers zone and the consumer zone.
Good point. I suppose if the respect goes, so goes the entire model.
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Friday, August 25, 2006

MySpace Magazine?

MySpace is thinking about launching a magazine, says MediaPost.

Right. That's a great idea. Because a magazine tied to Web sites is destined for long term success.
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Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Zach at ClickZ on the Bubble-Issue

Zach Rodgers, father of twins and ClickZ editors writes in the blog today on the question of whether or not we're in a bubble:

I'd argue that to some extent it's also an end-user and advertiser problem, as people become reliant over time on services that are actually not viable businesses, and as marketers struggle to understand and develop relationships with myriad new sites, applications and online services that become more myriad by the day. It's a problem of wasted time and research for harried media buyers.
Yes! I totally agree with ZR. In fact, I was trying to capture this idea yesterday, but Zach has really nailed it. If we look at these Web 2.0 companies, we see a huge, attentive audience. Naturally advertisers crave this, and it should be a seller's market for the publishers.

But, if these companies are built without a business model, as Zach puts forward, is this a market built on a shaky foundation? Meaning that, once the sites start to sell ads, will they loose their audience asset? It's like having a pair of shoes that are absolutely perfect and beautiful, but are too delicate to actually be worn outside. (yes...a male human just made a shoe analogy).

We'll see. We're hitting an interesting inflection point where the VCs are going to start looking for the revenue stream. If opening up that stream of cash also opens up an audience leak, we're in for some trouble.
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Tuesday, August 22, 2006

YouTube Channels Advertisers

Marketing Rule #14523.322: When in Doubt, throw Paris Hilton at the problem.

I always felt that YouTube had made a critical error in launching without advertising. The system got to be hugely popular, and part of its reputation was that it was ad free. You could look at their growth and know that, at some point in their future, they would have to introduce ads.

And that would be a bad day. They would immediately be vulnerable to another service, which watched YouTube closely and maybe made a few tech improvements--but didn't have ads. Better to just launch with ads. There are enough non-intrusive formats that can put up relevant ads without compromising the experience at all. Even if there wasn't any revenue, it would be fine, because at least you are communicating to your users that advertising was a part of the model, and that it was OK. That advertising was not something to be avoided.

Then, if at some future point, you uncover some alchemical method of generating revenue from content without advertising, you're in great shape. You can have a big announcement that you're turning the ads off, as opposed to on. Or, at least you're changing the method in some way that is better or more interesting that the standard approach.

YouTube is starting to seriously bring advertising in, allowing brands to create their own channels. They are going to allow these advertisers the ability to brand their channels, as well. This is certainly more iteresting that putting up banners or pre-rolls. The first of these channels is for Paris Hilton.

The comments on the video tell the story. here's a sample from the first couple of posts:

  • Christ, let's hope youtube doesn't turn into the new mtv and just plaster nonsense sponsored content everywhere..
  • Yeah, I like YouTube how it is, with its own celebrities and the random shit people post...I don't want it to be like MTV.
  • This is what has pissed me off about youtube. now that it has become "famous", celebrities are all wanting to get on it to post their videos, which are edited so much that its not that great of a video. Most of them never go on these sites before they even become popular or even now to check out other people's videos.
YouTube has turned a corner, I suppose. The resulting product is certainly not bad. But the idea of setting up a company and pretending to shun ads is just not a good approach. It puts a landmine out in the future for you to eventually step on.
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Monday, August 21, 2006

Next Search Wave: It's What you do with the Data

When I was covering search engines more closely, we would often try to figure out the direction that the space would evolve. Certainly the index would get larger, and they would sort out how to index the contents of a Flash file. Additionally, we expected to see an increase in speed and even more customization features. But that was all pretty mundane stuff. Or, rather, not mundane, but expected. All those features were natural evolutions of what we already had.

But there is always the chance of disruption. Someone taking search in a totally innovative way. While I would never have professed to know the direction, it seemed that the real opportunity lay in what you did with the information you had in the index. You had two great data sources: what was published, along with what people searched for (and purchased).

The opportunity lay somewhere in running scenarios across this data and determining the chances of various connections, events and insights. The opportunity was to somehow get predictive.

Farecast is going national, and it is one of the best examples of this next wave (Zillow being another). The service captures tons of data about airfares and makes predictions about when a ticket price will go up or down. Using it, you can make a decision to buy a seat either right away, or predict when the price will be at its lowest.

This is truly innovative thinking. Certainly, it is valuable to be able to compare prices from several carriers. But all that is presentation of data. The use of that data? That represents a significant, disruptive breakthrough. This is the way search engines should be thinking.
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My Snakes on a Plane shirt is here!

Right in time for the premiere. Although, I actually have no intenion of seeing the movie itself--I spend too much time on planes to be creeped out by them in anyway at all.

But I've got my very own, consumer-generated Snakes on a Plane T-Shirt. Not only is it wicked-cool, but this is definitely a real-time artifact of the revolution.
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Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Hummer Ad: You Can See the Strings

Slate has a write up of the new Hummer television spot. Slate gives it a C, but for all the wrong reasons. They say that the brand is not connecting with its consumers, and makes a big deal out of the fact that they re-cut the spot.

The problem with the ad is that you can see the strings. That is, you know (as a viewer, as a consumer, and as an owner) precisely why they created this commercial. The ad deals with someone who feels his masculinity has been compromised and fights back by buying a Hummer--but not the enormous one. The (allegedly) more sane H3.

This is one of those ads where you feel like the creative team simply filmed the brief. That is, there's clearly an issue with Hummers, in that people hate them and they are isolating themselves within a pretty narrow target segment.

They need to build out past that with both products (the H3) and messaging. There's little art here. A problem is displayed, and Hummer is shown as the cure. There's probably a few issues, in that the problem is not necessarily one that a person would feel comfortable admitting. But it is really just way too mechanical to be effective.

In a media-saturated world, where everyone is hyper-aware of advertising, a little more art is necessary.
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Teen's Loving the Text Messages

Shocking news, I know, but there's another article about teens and text messaging. Actually, the new thing here is a sense that teens may be moving away from email, in favor of texting. Says one teen "E-mails are more for work and school."

I love this, because it definitely demonstrates how people take new technologies and place them within a context in their minds and behaviors. While the technology that differentiates emails from IMs from text messages is slim, but that hardly matters. What does matter is that consumers will make a decision about how and when a particular technology should be used.

That use certainly defines the way that advertisers should approach it. If text is only for friends, its possible that commercial messages may not be welcome. Or, rather, they could be extremely welcome, because if someone opts in, that means that you (as a brand) have been accepted into a deeper circle of connection than a regular impression.
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Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Mysteries of Life

I am consistently amazed that the search phrase "appreciate taking your time" continues to be a popular method of finding this blog. If anyone knows why people search on that phrase, I'd be very happy to hear.
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Teen's Perspective on Wikipedia

I'm always a sucker when it comes to reading actual consumer opinions about the tools and technologies of the Internet. CNET has an article written by their summer intern on Wikipedia. She admits to relying upon the open-source encyclopedia, maybe a bit too much. But how could she not? She lists Wikipedia's virtues:
I knew there was no way I would be able to sort through thousands of Google search results or go to the library to research while simultaneously performing other vital homework completion functions
She definitely writes with a good, humorous tone. But it is clear that she sees precisely what it good and bad about Wikipedia. How could you not come to rely upon a source that provides such detailed, structured information? The depth and the immediacy is so good, that someone needing to do research on a consistent basis (such as a student) could become pretty easily addicted to using it.

I know that I'm starting to use Wikipedia more and more. OK: here's a confession. I had absolutely no idea what the phrase "jump the shark" meant. I had a rough sense that it meant something was passe, but that was about it. "Jump the shark" became my first ever Wikipedia search.

What is Wikipedia good for? There's a great article in The New Yorker about the site. One of the most interesting parts of the article is a quote from Eric Raymond, who wrote an essay called The Cathederal and The Bazaar, which really laid out the concept of Open Source in a highly-digestible and extremely inspiring way:
Even Eric Raymond, the open-source pioneer whose work inspired Wales, argues that “ ‘disaster’ is not too strong a word” for Wikipedia. In his view, the site is “infested with moonbats.” (Think hobgoblins of little minds, varsity division.) He has found his corrections to entries on science fiction dismantled by users who evidently felt that he was trespassing on their terrain. “The more you look at what some of the Wikipedia contributors have done, the better Britannica looks,” Raymond said. He believes that the open-source model is simply inapplicable to an encyclopedia.
Yowza. That's not good. This beacon of citizen content creation may potentially not be as strong as one would have hoped. It seems there is emerging a great side and a not-so-great side of Wikipedia:

The Great: deep content about niche topics
The Not So Great: deep controversy about nearly everything.

An encyclopedia should present information. Wikipedia may, in fact, represent the hunt for objective truth. This hunt is extraordinarily fascinating, but it may not be all that useful. The Pragmatists saw truth as a very flexible concept. Whatever the current society believed, at that point, represented truth. Wikipedia may be documenting that view. The Encylopedia Britannica is a more Platonic approach to truth (truth exists independently of the current world and is, therefore, non-malleable).

Wikipedia may continue to represent an information source, but--unfortunately--that is an incorrect read on it. It must instead be considered a live artifact of the communal process of establishing truth.
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Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Second Life Getting More Ads

Second Life, the virtual world that you truly need to become interested in, is experiencing a growth spike. MIT's ad lab blog has a post up about a number of new marketing campaigns that are taking place in Second Life, including a PR firm setting up an office, a concert by Duran Duran (and who's had more second lives than them?) and MTV seems to be planning an online version of their offline beach house.

What's going on here? Clearly, SL has a great big audience that is online for long stretches of time. But I think it may be even a bit more than that. In SL, people are specifically seeking out experiences that they may not have in the real world. Naturally, that's a part of any immersive game, but SL isn't about flying to Pluto or commanding armies of trolls or playing professional football. SL is not a fantasy world. In fact, it seems to go to great length to mirror the real world.

But, it does let you control and mold your personality and your world in compelling ways. That's, I think, part of the attraction of SL for advertisers. People are actively making parts of their personality known through what they look like, how they behave and (maybe most interestingly) what they build and contribute to the world.
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Monday, August 07, 2006

Slides for SES today

I'm on my way down toe San Jose for the SES show today. I'm speaking on a panle on using Social Media. My topic is on Clique-Through, which was the subject of a WOMMA piece last week as well.

Download slides here.
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Too Busy to Blog

Do you ever get too busy to blog? Do you feel, not only guilty about it, but a little bummed? I think blogging has an odd effect: you begin to need it. I suppose that's the same thing with diaries and journals in general.
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Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Kingdon on Blog-vertising

Mark Kingdon over at Organic writes in ClickZ today on the blog-ad opportunity. He's got some great advice, and I would add one more blog strategy: comment on others blogs.

I've always been a big proponent on comment-vertising (please forgive me for using that phrase). It actually occurred to me while cleansing some comment spam. In building traffic for this blog, I would regularly comment on the other blogs that I read. My name was, naturally, a link back to this blog. I figured that, as long as I was adding value to the conversation, it was a valid method of advertising.

There's certainly a line to watch--comment-spam, of course, crosses that line. But if you are adding comments to blogs that are relevant to your own, your link-back is simply announcing that you are also discussing the same issues. I imagine this gives you some Google juice as well, at least for your ego-surfing habit.

BTW: Mark's got a great group of thinkers blogging with him at 3 Minds.
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