April 28, 2004

  • Thought

    Joanna Glasner writes a Wired News piece on the second coming of online advertising. The article backs up the assertion I’ve been making in my E-marketing Course that smart money these days is looking to keywords first and rich media second, with all other online ad formats a “buyer beware” strategy.

    “Of that sum, the fastest-growing components were keyword ads and rich media. Keyword ads are the small text promotions that appear on search-engine pages. Rich-media ads are the flamboyant video or animated promotions that frequently superimpose themselves on the screens of viewers who visit content sites.”

    (Read Wired News’ “Flashy, Targeted Ads Fuel Boom”)

April 27, 2004

  • Gag URL Marketing?

    I’m seeing more offline to online campaigns that seem to be built around gag sites.

    There are currently Mott’s ads running on TV in Canada that show inept Bloody Caesar drinkers getting poked in the eye by celery stalks. The last few seconds of the ad include a discrete URL in the bottom corner sending you to www.celeristis.com.

    The site (a fictional research group looking into this affliction) points to Abrams & Ross who seem to be working on a class action suit for sufferers, and both gag sites point to an article on the topic at the CELERY (a not-so-subtle parody of the ONION).

    I’m not so sure that this strategy will work. My guess is that putting legitimate URLs on screen will get more useful traffic than this and there really isn’t much to make the campaign “go viral”.

    The site really seems to be about getting names for a list. I signed up and here’s what I got about 10 minutes later:

April 26, 2004

  • Thought

    Interesting article on ClickZ stating that Tacoda is forming a behavioral ad network:

    “The new network will compete most closely with contextual ad programs run by Google and Overture, jockeying for position on publishers’ pages and in advertisers’ wallets. Tacoda plans to use pay-per-click pricing and a self-serve auction marketplace — conventions popularized by the search players. The biggest difference will be that while the search companies target ads based on what their technology determines to be the content of the page, Tacoda’s network will target its ads based upon member publishers’ knowledge of the site visitor. That knowledge will come from registration data and from information about the person’s behavior across the network: what type of content the person visits, what he searches for, etc.”

    Personally, I’ve always been much more aligned with the idea of context over behavioral alignment. I may be a suburban father of two who loves music, but that doesn’t mean I want to see ads for tickets to Hairspray while I’m searching for a wi-fi router. An ad for a wi-fi router, on the other hand, would be appropriate and effective at that time. My guess is context will beat behavior (particularly reported behavior rather than actual behavior).

April 20, 2004

  • Return Of “The Company That Should Be A Feature”

    Great post by John Battelle about one of my current favourite web apps, Furl.

    I love the concept of “nano-businesses” like Furl. That my phrase for incredibly small companies (one or two people plus free agents added to the mix when needed) that meet a VERY particular need, and do so with little or no capital involved.

    These companies can either be continuing sources of decent income for their creators, or (as appears to be the case with Furl), a way to give birth to a feature that is missing from some larger application.

    Assume you find that a big, valuable product is missing some key functionality that you’ve dreamed up. If you can keep development costs incredibly low and launch it almost as a proof of concept online, it becomes very simple for BigCo product owner to do the math and decide to buy the technology off you for a modest (to them) but also huge (to you) amount.

    This makes sense in a way that wacky dotcoms during the bubble didn’t. Back then the same concept was tried, but invariably there was venture money behind the “company that should be a feature”. That fact alone seems to swell payroll and call for huge marketing budgets which end up making the feature too rich to be bought and everyone loses.

    Now you can use open standards and the blog/feed/technorati/google ecosystem to build and promote these things cheap, cheap, cheap. Expect more of these all the time.

    (Other examples? I say Technorati, Feedster, Blogrolling, del.icio.us, and any other company trying to make money off feeds. Oh and LinkedIn, Friendster, and all YASNS.)

April 19, 2004

April 18, 2004

  • The Third Screen?

    Third Screen: n. A video screen, particularly the screen on a cell phone, that a person uses almost as often as their television and computer screens.

    I hadn’t heard this meme until I read an eweek article earlier today, but I consider it a powerful one. Just like people tend to have a “third place” (work, home, away from home), it makes sense that we’ll have a third screen.

    I find it unlikely that my TV and Computer screen will converge into one screen any time soon. The experience (sitting back, passive, shared vs. leaning in, active, and solo) means that they really aren’t served well by unifying. And while I use a laptop all the time, I don’t want to use one to access quick information on the move. My guess is that the “Third Screen” will be a natural convergence of phone, PDA, and wireless messaging because that is what I need on the road.

    So Third Screen it is.

April 17, 2004

  • Thought

    Cheryl Williams, who is in my E-marketing Certificate course this semester started a blog (feed and all) within 12 hours of the lecture I gave on how weblogs and RSS are fundamentally changing the way businesses and individuals communicate with each other.

    I can now relax this weekend knowing that I’ve accomplished at least that one thing.

  • LinkedIn Etiquette

    Lately I’ve been getting more requests through LinkedIn and I started thinking about how a whole new etiquette is needed to deal with the issues that arise.

    Here are some thoughts around sending requests through others via LinkedIn.

    1. Don’t try to send a request more than two degrees away. Because all the people linking you and the recipient have to pass the message forward, you are counting on links that are too weak to really sustain a request. Better to find another route to the person than have the request die on the vine within LinkedIn.

    2. Always consider what value there is for the recipient to respond. Lots of request are of the “buy something from me” or “help me get a job” form. These won’t work. To establish a relationship with a new contact you need to offer them something that clearly has benefit for them not you. Start to extend your network by offering free tips, free services, suggesting stuff, or just sending them a compliment on some press/product/site, etc. Think of it as making a new friend not a sales pitch. And since LinkedIn gives members the ability to broadly suggest what they want to hear about you should never send messages outside of what they have asked to receive.

    3. Don’t ask the recipient to link to you, that’s for friends and this person by definition is not a friend. Ask them to allow you to contact them directly. Too many people try to build their link count instead of really connecting with people. One exception of course is when you are reconnecting with someone you already know but you don’t have a current e-mail address for them.

    4. Find the right person to connect with. Don’t assume that everyone at company X is involved in their core product. See that you have the right person to connect to first so you don’t waste your connector’s and the recipient’s time because you didn’t do your homework.

    5. You can now find the best path to your recipient if there are multiple connectors, so choose wisely. Choose the shortest path but also the one that appears to have the closest bond and the one you have not already overtaxed with past requests.

    6. Don’t overwhelm any of your connectors. Don’t send more than one request through a particular connector in a week. If you are doing more than that you should be sending them a gift of some sort for the work they are doing on your behalf.

    7. Thank the connector and let them know what happened after they forwarded on a request. Then they’ll be more likely to forward your next request.

April 15, 2004

  • A9 — First Impressions

    You may already know this, but Amazon.com just launched A9, the beta version of their much-anticipated entry into online search.

    I find A9 fascinating and I recommend that you use it as your default search tool for at least a while to understand what this might mean. In particular I’d suggest downloading the toolbar version which adds some really unique features you need to experience.

    Looking past the god-awful colour of the site (which isn’t that easy), the application does some truly brilliant things and starts to answer the questions we’ve been asking about how and when personalization and collaboration will be integrated into search.

    If you do an A9 search for say “Internet Marketing in Canada” you get a page that looks a bit like Google (it seems to be using Google’s page results at this time) but with some interesting enhancements. For example, there is a “Site Info” button that allows you to access Alexa information with meta data about the sites listed. One data point provided — similar to Amazon’s book recommendations — states that “people who visited this site also visited…”. And because this is Amazon, there is a separate pane available for book search. And since book search integrates their “search inside the book” technology, it means that A9 allows you to search online AND offline knowledge.

    The most interesting feature of the site is its use of personalization. Once you log-in to A9 using your Amazon log-on the site will begin to remember past searches for you and display them on the home page. The toolbar also keeps visited page history and I’m sure that some back-end manipulation of results based on this information is (or will be) happening.

    A peek into the potential power of personalization is given in A9’s ability to add to search results the last time YOU last visited a site listed in the results. I just did the above search for the second time and found “clicked 21 hours ago” added beside a link that I had indeed clicked 21 hours ago.

    While the site is still in beta and clearly needs some design and UI work, I have to say I’m pretty impressed.

    I’d be interested in your impressions on this and some analysis around the implications for Google and Yahoo! of Amazon entering the market.

    One big problem I see is that A9 doesn’t lend it self to wordplay like Google does. Will we say “Just A9 me” once we start “A9ing” things?

April 12, 2004

  • Thought

    Seth Godin says that “people don’t know how to search”. How true.

    Seth brilliantly points out that there are probably a few thousand “bad searches” that are incredibly common and a smart search firm (hello Google) should create custom results for those results to help users get to what they want (and maybe teach them a bit about how to search if they’d like to learn).

    Seth’s examples are searches for “shoes” or “web”, but in tracking referrers to Alyson’s site, I’ve found that people also think of search engines as being human.

    For example, someone landed on this page because they searched on “can you catch a cold from being out in the cold without a coat…..at recess in the spring for instince?” And yes, the search did have the four periods, typo, and question mark.

    It gives me great joy that the child who did that search (I’m hoping it was a child) took Alyson’s advice and presented it to the teacher or parent that inspired the search.

    Another kind of search (the most common traffic driver to Alyson’s site in fact), is people typing www.alyson.ca into Google. Go figure. Some people really do think Google is the Internet.

April 1, 2004

  • Thought

    The Globe and Mail’s site has an April Fool’s review of Microsoft’s must-have computer game Solitaire.

  • Thought

    So as of now (morning April 1, 2004) there is no Emzytec when you search Google.

    I only bring this up because that fact was pointed out in this morning’s Fisher comic strip. (Fisher is trying to come up with a new brand for a biotech firm called Higgins Biotech).

    Let’s see how long that empty Google page lasts!