Archive for March, 2008

Taking A Few Weeks Off!

Posted: March 27, 2008 in Uncategorized

I’ll be on an expedition in Indonesia on a much needed break for through the end of April. With limited internet access I can’t do much blogging, so until I return…


This is from my MediaPost column published today…

I WANT TO MAKE A bold prediction: TV on the Internet.Mediapost logo

The siloing of online and TV audiences will never work the way networks expect for three simple reasons.

1) The innate difference in consumer viewing habits of short term versus long form content as it relates to the access environment surrounding your PC and your TV respectively. Where the former environment is less comfortable and not meant for “couch potatoes.” while the latter is normally an environment appropriate for passive viewing (although that can all change quite easily).

All metrics show that the longer the video content, the smaller percentage of completed plays. (Read: Less engagement.) As it relates to advertising in particular, according to Doubleclick’s video ad benchmarks 2007, consumers only view about 10.5 seconds of a 15 second ad and 18.5 seconds of a 30-second ad.

2) An online media buy against a TV program requires different evaluation criteria and decision making processes than when buying TV. It’s not even close to a replacement, and calling it a compliment is even a stretch. A TV buy is targeted against a passively viewing broad demographic, while an online buy is purchased against a much more defined target, after comparing all the other possible media investment allocations within the medium.

The audience that watches a particular program on TV is not the same as the audience that watches it online — and even if they were, there may be better places to reach a more refined subset of the target online after evaluating the audience dynamics and relevancy of the placement.

During the MediaPost OMMA Hollywood conference, a CBS Exec called for combined TV plus internet ratings. I wonder if this is a premonition of where the market is heading, or just a way to make their waning ratings of certain programs look better (although TV networks never do that right?)

3) Location shifting devices will at some point become standard issued optional hardware from your MSO, similar to the way they rolled out generic DVR’s after the proven success of Tivo. Location shifting will enjoy a similar adoption curve as time shifting has. Try to live without your DVR or location shifting device once you’ve started using it. You just can’t put that genie back in the bottle!

Enter Slingbox. This wonderful little location shifting device has been on the market for a handful of years already and last year was acquired by Echostar. You can pick one up for less than $200 and there are no monthly fees. The brand stands to be the “Tivo of location shifting”. I ponder the impact on TV networks and their digital migration/experimentation plans once the MSO’s all offer similar products. Vcast? MobiTV? Who needs them?

Thinking About “Traditional Thinking”

As an industry, we have applied far too much “traditional thinking” to new media, which holds its own set of unique dynamics that you cannot ignore. For the record, I may be a digital native, but I’m not part of the “Digirati” who claim that we are taking over all traditional forms of media and everything that is not new or different is therefore bad.

Of course “traditional thinking” is not bad, per se. But it does not seem to ever translate well within the world of digital media because it is one way thinking and works against many of the unique attributes of the media. The benefits of these attributes — relevancy, immediacy, interactivity, connectedness, interoperability, addressability, accountability — are also reflected in consumer behavior. Applying approaches to content distribution or marketing that is disguised as consumer-centric but in actuality is not, will go nowhere.

Case in point – pre-roll video. This non engaging, intrusive, expensive, less than contextually relevant placement wreaks of traditional thinking — how could this become the “standard”? Keep in mind that we have historically referred to audiences as captive, usually a term reserved for caged animals and prisoners. I task us with never using that term again in the context of media.

The New Guard Cannot Reign Until Some of The Blood Of The Old Guard Is Spilled

Successful Web2.0 brands (think Flickr, YouTube, MySpace, Wikipedia, Digg and a plethora of others) have enjoyed organic and often exponential growth and are displacing, or at the very least competing head-on with established brands who have decades of brand equity. What is driving this growth? (Hint: It’s not magic!)

As technology has enabled media to evolve into something new, we have tapped into the unique attributes and the potential of this new media, which has given consumers what they want, even if they didn’t realize or demand it initially. There exists a social fabric of the web itself, which has a mathematical growth pattern, creates a collective experience, and transcends the ability to project its trajectory based on human logic and intuition alone.

Not mandating your company to learn how to understand this dynamic, apply new thinking to new media, and evangelize this approach throughout all levels of the organization, can only result in one outcome – your eventual downfall. Of course it starts at the top, if your C-level execs don’t buy in, you can’t expect to turn a big ship around when the captain’s not part of the effort.

Change and adaptation is not about technology, it’s about a mindset and a commitment to being successful. It’s about education, and it’s about collaboration, both internally and externally. However, the formula to future success will include the application of data and technology at all levels of the organization. Failing to do so will prevent efficiencies at scale and will create a void of critical insight required to maintain a competitive advantage. This rings true for agencies, publishers and all businesses.

Evolve or Die?

Well, in the humble words of Jacques Cousteau, “If we were logical, the future would be bleak, indeed. But we are more than logical. We are human beings, and we have faith, and we have hope, and we can work.”

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Kevin J. Martin today released additional information
FCC Logo regarding the provisional winners in Auction 73 (the 700 MHz Auction).  The Auction raised a record $19.592 billion, advanced new wireless open platform policies, created opportunities for new entrants and small businesses both nationwide and in rural markets.

But will it create real change? Very doubtful – mainly because Verizon & At&T were the largest winners (acquiring 80% of the new bandwidth), thus making the largest national carriers even larger. Although this was of course no surprise.

Don’t get me wrong – there’s nothing wrong with the large carriers further bulking up. In fact, hopefully it will mean infrastructure improvements and the advancement of mobile web experiences for both consumers and marketers alike. But this certainly doesn’t seem like the beginning of competitive pressure on the carriers as the motivating force behind that advancement. Currently it is the infrastructure of the carriers that is our weakest link in mobile marketing.

The FCC statement continues to state that “A bidder other than a nationwide incumbent won a license in every market. As a result of the 700 MHz Auction, there is the potential for an additional wireless ‘third-pipe” in every market across the nation. Additionally, 99 bidders, other than the nationwide wireless incumbents, won 754 licenses – representing approximately 69 percent of the 1090 licenses sold in the 700 MHz auction. The Auction therefore drew wide-ranging interest from a number of new players. For example, Frontier Wireless LLC (EchoStar), which is widely viewed as a new entrant, won 168 licenses in the E block to establish a near nationwide footprint for its services for consumers.”

Non-nationwide incumbents showed significant interest in rural areas as well. 75 new players won licenses to serve 305 rural areas of the country (428 Rural Service Area licenses in total). Winners in these markets will provide increased access to broadband and greater choice in wireless service for consumers living in rural areas.”

I guess only time will tell. It is interesting to note however that Google, one of the many bidders for licenses who we all figured would have put their best foot forward to acquire some of this new found bandwidth, , did not win any, and that Paul Allen’s Vulcan Ventures was one of the lucky winners. Let’s see what that means, if anything…


I’m getting very frustrated at the hoopla that some privacy groups and legislators are creating over the issuesCookies surrounding behavioral targeting and the collection of online data in general.

How many times do we have to drill into their heads that the vast majority of online tracking is not personally identifiable and therefore does not violate any privacy. In fact the relevancy created by proper targeting benefits the consumer as much as it does the marketer!

By the way – thank you NY Times for helping to further blow the issue out of proportion! … and thank you for making Comscore an inadvertent accomplice. The article from March 10th “To Aim Ads, Web Is Keeping Closer Eye on You” was inevitably going to lead to increasing the paranoia among those not-in-the-know. They write “Five large Web operations — Yahoo, Google, Microsoft, AOL and MySpace — record at least 336 billion transmission events in a month, not counting their ad networks.”

So what? Who cares? This is data that creates a more relevant experience for consumers and for the most part does not capture any personally identifiable information. It’s a win-win for all involved. Give it a break already!

I wrote a piece for Mediapost, published May 3, 2005 titled “Who Ate My Cookies?“, and I figured this would be a good opportunity to rehash the point that I tried to drive home nearly 3 years ago. The piece was actually more-so about an increasing trend of consumers clearing cookies, however, it is appropriately accurate to demonstrate a world without higher level targeting capabilities, something that many legislators would like to see happen based on a false pretense of privacy concerns.

Here is what I wrote 3 years ago in “Who Ate My Cookies?” (Part I):

CLICK! The recent influx of research on this topic makes one thing clear to me – this is just the tip of the iceberg! As media progresses, it will all become digital and something akin to a cookie will be a logistical necessity to keep order and prevent clutter. Tomorrow’s consumer, the teenagers of today, will understand this concept, but how do we educate today’s consumer to become tomorrow’s consumer? Let’s hear it from the source…

Joe Consumer is 35, he is a professional with HH Income of $75k, and has over five years of online experience. Joe uses a software tool to detect spyware, viruses, and other unwanted software on his computer…

I enjoy my online experiences. I buy at least one item from Amazon every other month, and I enjoy the convenience of Amazon one-click. I get my news content from multiple sites and enjoy my content preferences and the lack of clutter on the pages I read online almost every day. Some sites even cater content to me as if they understand my general interests. The thought of having to pay for my content disturbs me. I appreciate not having to pay for content that is subsidized by relevant advertising that interests me, which is displayed in moderation… sometimes I even respond to it. I used to get surveyed regularly regarding products and services that had no interest to me whatsoever, but now I don’t mind answering surveys every so often regarding topics that involve my interests. I love my online experiences!

COUNTERCLICK! Cookies aren’t such a big deal. So they help us maintain order and prevent clutter, consumers have been programmed to believe that cookies are bad – and perception is reality, right? Let’s hear it from Jane Consumer…

Jane Consumer is also 35-year-old professional with HH Income of $75k and over five years of online experience. Jane lives in a parallel universe without cookies…

The Internet is a frustrating place. I hate having to re-type my log-in and passwords for the sites I visit regularly, sometimes I don’t remember, and give up. Half the sites I visit won’t allow me to read a page of content without paying a subscription fee. And what’s with the irrelevant content and cluttered advertising on the free sites? I have seen the same ad a hundred times today. These sites don’t know how to cater to their customers. I’m surveyed constantly, I can’t stand it – don’t they get it that I don’t want to answer the stupid survey? Although I love staying in touch with friends and family, and I cherish my online communities, I’ve pretty much given up on using the Internet as much as I used to; it is so difficult to get the information I want without paying for it or being bombarded with advertising for products that I don’t care about.

The media agency and holding company portfolio landscape is changing before our eyes.

I’ve said it many times before – the competitive necessity for agencies to offer a more complete suite of services, or collaborate to do so is paramount to the success of the agency and the clients they service. The shift of importance to the media agency over the last 5 years or so has created an awkward situation for the holding companies, who are essentially managing a portfolio of complimentary agencies. The shifting nexus that once laid firmly with the full service creative shops has slowly moved to the media agencies, creating a new level of competitive issues for the holding companies.

The most recent announcement of MindShare Interaction, the digital arm of the largest media group in the world (MindShare/Group M), is the latest in a string of quiet agency evolution that first included the introduction of creative and technology services into the digital media agencies, and now has spawned traditional creative services as well, infringing on what has historically been the coveted ‘meat & potatoes’ of the full service shops. From online creative & web development, to TV production and branded entertainment, the media agencies are poised for catapulting success for one main reason – their Datanomic position.

Marrying this more complete service offering with the application of data analytics is the key to creating efficiency and effectiveness for clients. The scale of the agency and therefore the scale of aggregate data and subsequent insight generated, combined with a complete ability to execute, is (in my humble opinion) the holy grail we’ve been waiting for – or at least the beginning of it. Every campaign is only as strong as its weakest link. In this new media age, he who lacks the ability to apply deep sets of data at all levels of the organization and agency processes becomes the weakest link.

The semantic web, simply put, is a layer of information that describes web content itself, universally, so it can be beYahoo Semantic Web databased, integrated, networked and understood by different systems, in my humble opinion is part of the future of how we use the web, and how IP based extensions begin to make their way into the terrestrial based non-wired parts of our lives. I’ve been a proponent of the semantic web for some time, and ironically the medical and defense communities have been using elements of the semantic web for some time now (in a fairly basic form), but it’s yet to work its way into standard day-to-day internet business or online advertising practices. Of course many technologies fulfill part of the concept, but not universally, which is the power of the semantic web. In my predictions for 2008, I included “ambient findability & the semantic web” coming to realization this year…albeit only in nascent stages. Google’s open social initiative and other open source concepts have exposed the tip of this iceberg for a long time.

BBC reports today “Yahoo has announced its adoption of some of the key standards of the semantic web.”

They report a quote from Amit Kumar, director of product management for Yahoo search – “despite ‘remarkable progress’ being made on how to classify meaning on webpages, the benefits of this work have not been felt by the average web user.”

Amen to that brother! Let’s tap into the collective knowledge & experiences that exist in the web2.0 ecosystem that we’ve created for ourselves. It’s out there waiting for us to better organize it, which is a win-win for all.

Ultimately the combination of the mathematical forces behind the exponential growth of social media and the amount of professionally produced content and experiences, require a universal tagging and cataloging schema – an aspect of the semantic web. Otherwise the growth and ability for consumers to find truly relevant content and experience is thwarted and eventually becomes as fragmented as media itself, or in fact much more so. I’d argue that we already hit that point.

Variety (of all sources) reports today that “ The European Commission has approved the French government’s offer of €99 million ($153 million) in state aid to the team hoping to create a European rival to Google”.

This move is aimed at giving European companies a helping hand in competing with the mainly US-based globally dominant media/tech giants such ad Google,  Microsoft and Yahoo. Meanwhile the US is outsourcing billions of dollars of aviation business to European companies, so I’d say it’s even, but who am I in the grand scheme of macro global economics.

Another odd precedent setting move on the part of the French government, and an interesting example of displacement solutions in action, is President Nicolas Sarkozy’s proposed ban on commercials from public television, which would be offset by  a first-of-its-kind tax on internet access and mobile phones. It’s like the Robin Hood of media. Support the old with the new. I had first read about this one in the International Herald Times back in January, but otherwise haven’t heard much about it. This is a pretty big one for the media to have not jumped all over. If this does happen, it’s a big deal and a potential new model for others to follow! Although something tells me that it won’t happen.

The French government’s desire to ensure the success and competitive position of its media and technology industries is certainly admirable. The global competitive landscape does seem to be heating up, in a world where the US based conglomerates are indeed the dominant players. Europe has finally realized that there is a point of no return, and this is the biggest shift in wealth and power since the industrial revolution.

Viva la internet!