April 24, 2005

  • A Whole New Internet

    Do you feel the buzz in the air? For a while, I thought it was just me, but more and more I’m seeing people getting very excited about what’s happening online these days.

    There are so many really amazing things happening right now that it feels to me very much like it did ten years ago when I was floored by some new site pretty much every time I booted up. “Some” are calling this “Web 2.0” while others are saying we’re on “Web 3.0”. I’ve lost count on what iteration we’re on but (if you can’t tell), I’m really pumped about what is ahead.

    “Adaptive Path’s” “Janice Fraser,” wrote a now much-linked-to post called “A Whole New Internet” that nicely summarizes much of what I’ve been thinking.

    Are you feeling it? What are you seeing online that’s getting you excited?

    Originally published at www.onedegree.ca on April 24, 2005.

April 23, 2005

  • New to Blogs? Start Here.

    Over the last four years, blogs have become a central part of my online existence (and hence my existence). This makes it hard to remember that the majority of Net users (let alone the general population) has any idea what a blog is. Apologies if I’ve been presumptuous. The important thing is that you do need to know what blogs are all about because they are absolutely changing the foundations of how we work and play right beneath our feet.

    If you want to get up-to-speed on blogs and their impact on culture and business, I’d suggest you hit the newsstands and pick up the “May 2nd edition” of “Business Week”. The magazine has a great article that explains what blogging is plus sidebars with tips, a case study, etc. It’s particularly interesting that the main article is written “blog-style” (or at least a close approximation of same).


    Without meaning to nitpick, the article, while written as a blog, is presented in chronological order and to me the fact that blog posts are displayed newest to oldest is crucial. Of course in print this format would have been a disaster, so the authors are forgiven.

    If you are new to all this, what questions do you have about blogs and their impact on business? Do you think this is all hype or do you clearly see why this is different from what came before? My guess is you have to live in the blogosphere for a little while to see why this changes everything (yes, again).

    Originally published at www.onedegree.ca on April 23, 2005.

April 21, 2005

  • How To: Add Spell-check To Your Domain Names

    Unless you have some policy about only selling to customers who got an A+ in spelling and can type 40 words per minute, you’ll probably want to register “typo domains”. A typo domain is exactly what it sounds like — a domain that is a common misspelling of your real domain that you register and point to the “correct” URL. I like to think of this as creating a spell-check feature in web browsers so people can find you even if they aren’t 100% sure about your web address. This raises the question of which typos are worth registering and redirecting.

    There are three kinds of typos you want to check for; misheard names, keyboarding errors, and sloppy spelling.

    Here is my strategy:

    1. Call 10 people and *tell* them your domain. Then have type your domain ten times and e-mail you the list unedited. This will provide you with common “mishearing” of your domain. For example, if your domain is “fonex” you might have people typing “phonics”. And you may also get correct guesses but with bad spelling.
    2. Email 10 people your domain. Then have those 10 people type your domain ten times and have them e-mail you the un-edited results as well. Having them send an unedited list helps you find *keyboard errors”. For example, many people when typing fast will reverse certain letters or hit a nearby key. You might find that people type “form” instead of “from” or friemd for friend.
    3. Look for patterns and register any common mistakes. Register anything that was done more than twice.
    4. If more than 20% of the guesses are incorrect, think about getting a new domain.
    5. Point all these new domains to the “correct” (official) version of the domain.

    In effect, you have now created an “auto-correct” for those visitors with less-than-perfect typing skills.

    Originally published at www.onedegree.ca on April 21, 2005.

April 20, 2005

  • Do Stuff Offline For Impact

    As much as I hate to admit it, not everything has to be online all the time. Mitch Joel “offers us an interesting example” as he relates what happened when he e-mailed Kevin Roberts (of “Lovemarks” fame). Now that so much of business (and personal) communication has gone online, it seems that sending stuff the “old fashioned way” really makes it stand out.

    Originally published at www.onedegree.ca on April 20, 2005.

April 19, 2005

  • Why I’ve Been So Quiet

    I haven’t been posting much over the last few months and most likely it will continue that way.

    Three reasons for this:

    1. Business is great! I’ve got more clients already this year than this time last year, and last year was our biggest to date. It’s great to be busy but it does cut into much needed blogging time. This seems to be a trend.

    2. I’m cheating on myself! I’ve set up a side project called One Degree (where Canadian online professionals gather) and most of my time and attention have gone to the care and feeding of that site. If you are looking for regular posts from me, go there.

    3. I’m spoiled! One Degree is built using Movable Type and it is so nice having a full-fledged blogging system in place. This site uses Blogger and has since launch, but the service is so limited that I have outgrown it. At some point this site will be redone using Movable Type, but that will have to wait for a while as I attend to these other burning issues.

  • What Companies Should One Degree Track?

    We have this category called “Tracked Companies” that we will be using to keep an eye on Canadian companies involved in the online marketing industry. To qualify as a tracked company, we’re thinking they should:

    1. Be active in Canada and preferably Canadian owned and operated.
    2. Be involved in online marketing through selling ads, making online marketing technology, being an agency or web developer, or other stuff directly related to online marketing. This means we won’t be adding Tim Horton’s as a Tracked Company, even if they do get online religion at some point (but we might add the agency that helps them or the vendors that support them).
    3. Be somewhat interesting and envelope-pushing. We want to track the companies that matter.

    So, given these criteria, who would you like to see added to the list?

    Originally published at www.onedegree.ca on April 19, 2005.

April 15, 2005

  • CNMA Delays Announcing Finalists, But Books Carlu

    Just got word from the CNMA on changes in their timeline, hopefully, this is just scheduling issues and not a reason to be concerned.

    Organizers of the Canadian New Media Awards (CNMA) wish to announce a delay in publishing the list of finalists. The announcement is now targeted for Wednesday, April 20th, 2005. In addition, we are pleased to announce that this year’s event will be held at Toronto’s most significant and unique historic venues, The Carlu (444 Yonge St. 7th Floor). Registration and ticket purchases will be available online starting April 20th, 2005 at http://www.cnma.ca/.

    I like the fact that they came out quickly announcing the missed deadline. In this “age of transparency,” this is pretty much required, but it was also nice that they mentioned that they’d be using “The Carlu” which offers some assurance that the whole thing hasn’t gone off the rails.

    Originally published at www.onedegree.ca on April 15, 2005.

  • Bloglines Down — Net Junkies Go Outside

    It looks like “Bloglines” had a major meltdown in their user log-on processes around 3:00AM EDT. I’m reverse engineering this information from a “Technorati” search.

    At “about 7 hours ago” people are still commenting on what they read via Bloglines, then you start seeing posts with individuals apologizing for blogrolls not working or saying that they won’t be updating their sites because they can’t access their feeds. Interestingly, because this happened while much of the Americas slept, many of the posts are in Japanese, Spanish, German, French and Italian. A bit later you see people cluing into the fact that they are not alone and that the problem is Bloglines itself. In the last hour or so posts have moved to the “Oh my God, when was the last time I downloaded my OPML file” kind of panic.

    I’ll now kick off the next phase by recommending your take this opportunity to try out “Rojo” a new feed reader/social network thingy. Others seem to have had the same idea as Rojo’s servers appear to be feeling the strain of all those OPML files being uploaded.

    A few observations:

    1. I couldn’t find anything on Bloglines’ site saying there was a problem. This is a big mistake and I’m sure this is the last time they’ll make it as the negative buzz is building fast.
    2. If anything weird ever happens online and you find yourself wondering “is it just me?”, remember to do a Technorati search and you’ll quickly find out if others are in the same boat.
    3. Going back in time via Technorati is a bit like taking core samples — the deeper you go the farther back in time you go, effectively building a reverse timeline.

    Update: they’re back up. Official word is ”This morning, one of our user databases suffered a failure that wasn’t detected by our monitoring systems. This resulted in the inability of people to log into their Bloglines accounts. The database has been reset and no data was lost. We apologize for the issue and we’re looking at ways to ensure this doesn’t happen again.”

    Originally published at www.onedegree.ca on April 16, 2005.

April 8, 2005

  • Making Einstein Simple

    Jessie Scanlon has a great essay in the NYT on simplicity in design (“A Design Epiphany: Keep It Simple”) that includes this line that intrigued me:

    “Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler,” Albert Einstein is often quoted as saying. His actual wording was a tad more convoluted, but in any case, few in Silicon Valley heeded his advice.

    A bit of Googling showed that indeed a lot of people like this quote and attribute it to Einstein.

    A bit more digging found more details on the attribution in a lengthy discussion of Occam’s Razor:

    The pithiness of this quote disguises the fact that no one knows whether Einstein said it or not (this version comes from the Reader’s Digest, 1977). It may well be a precis of the last few pages of his ‘The Meaning of Relativity’ (5th edition), where he wrote about his unified field theory, saying ‘In my opinion the theory here is the logically simplest relativistic field theory that is at all possible. But this does not mean that nature might not obey a more complex theory. More complex theories have frequently been proposed. . . In my view, such more complicated systems and their combinations should be considered only if there exist physical-empirical reasons to do so.’

    Funny that someone (probably Reader’s Digest) had to simplify the concept of not simplifying too much.

    Originally published at www.onedegree.ca on April 8, 2005.

April 4, 2005

  • Budgeting for Advertising and Customer Experience

    Great column (as always) by Mark Hurst. This one, entitled Budgeting for Advertising and Customer Experience, deals with an all too common problem — companies that budget well for advertising to get people to their site but spend almost nothing to ensure that people can actually use the site once they get there. I see this every day as I meet with companies to discuss their websites. Many of them have such underfunded and poorly thought out sites that they don’t even know what the potential is. I met with a major insurance company who was happy that five customers had signed up using their complex online quote and purchase process. Five! And that was a good day. My guess is they process that many customers a minute through call centers and sales agents. No wonder the CEO doesn’t want to spend more on web initiatives.

    Of course, with a proper strategy, a well-designed site, and an integrated approach to marketing in and between multiple channels, I’m sure that the Web could be on an equal footing with the call center. But how to convince the CEO that a properly implemented web strategy and user experience would mean one hundred times the sales through the web channel? If you suggest that poor site design makes 500 potential sales per day into 5, who will ever believe you? Still, I am encouraged, as Mark is, that some folks are starting to get the madness of this approach. Read the article and you too will be left shaking your head at the illogic of “business as usual”.

    Originally published at www.onedegree.ca on April 4, 2005.

  • The Death of Offline Advertising — And The Birth of “New Marketing”

    (I originally wrote a brief post to the AIMS discussion list on this topic and was then asked by Direct Marketing News to write an extended commentary based on that post. Here is my original draft of the column which inexplicably differs significantly from the in print (but not online) version. Consider this the true version please.)

    The Death of Offline Advertising — And The Birth of “New Marketing”

    At the end of March 2004, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer sang a sweet song to online marketers looking to forget the dark years that followed the heady days of the Internet ad boom. During the company’s MSN Strategic Account Summit, Ballmer told the 500 or so US ad executives in the audience that 100% of ad dollars will be spent online by 2010. That’s no typo. He said all marketing will be online in six years. Given that major consumer packaged goods advertisers are generally spending less than 1% of their budgets online and that many advertisers are still unsure of how to market online, why would Ballmer make such a bold prediction? Certainly, it is in Microsoft’s best interest to tell advertisers to up their online ad budgets to 8–13% now in preparation for the day when all their budgets are online. MSN counts on online ad revenue, so it seems natural they’d want ads online instead of in channels Microsoft does not (yet) own. And more online activity means more devices, and that means more software, and that means more money for Microsoft.

    But — looking beyond self-interest — might there really be a basis for Ballmer’s assertion? There may be more evidence that Ballmer is on to something than you would think.

    Bye-Bye Bomb-times

    First, if you haven’t been paying attention to online ads lately, you may be surprised that, in the US, the first quarter of 2004 was the biggest quarter ever for online ads, according to Interactive Advertising Bureau and PriceWaterhouseCoopers. And that’s hot on the heels of the last record-breaking quarter, the 2003 holiday season. With the online ad industry now bigger than it was at the peak of the boom, “Bomb-times” seem to be behind us. And while some sectors are lagging behind in online ad spending, others have figured out that online ads can be more efficient than other channels.; In the US, the travel and financial sectors are leading the way with 15 and 17% of budgets online respectively. So online ads are commanding a greater share of the ad budget. Is it possible they will command it all?

    One IP To Rule Them All

    Let’s deconstruct Ballmer’s exact words to get a better understanding of his vision. Ballmer is quoted as saying “All marketing will have the characteristics of online marketing”. I would argue that the “characteristics of online marketing” that make it compelling are that it is targetable, actionable, and trackable — all in real-time. These four characteristics give online a unique advantage that marketers are just now beginning to comprehend. Ballmer is also quoted as saying that “everything will go over intelligent IP [Internet Protocol]”. This echoes Chairman Bill Gates’ vision of a “seamless computing” future where all devices are Internet-enabled and can easily speak to each other and to the Net. This intelligent network will use the same underpinnings as our present-day Internet but it will be so embedded in all our devices and business practices that it will disappear from consciousness; like electricity. So while many have dismissed Ballmer’s comments as more Microsoft FUD, I don’t believe that Ballmer meant that someday we’d all be shilling banner ads for a living. Rather, I think that he is wisely noting that the ubiquity of Internet access in all locations and through all devices will allow most media to become targetable, actionable, and trackable. And if a particular media cannot evolve to share these characteristics with online marketing, it will be relegated to a minor supporting role in larger, IP-based marketing campaigns. For lack of a better term, let’s call it “new marketing” and define it as “marketing through channels that allow companies to target specific consumers based on context, behaviour, location and other factors in order to create measurable responses that can be tracked in near real-time”. If we look carefully we see the seeds of “new marketing” blooming all around us, just as “new media” once did.

    Here are a few early sightings:

    1. ROI Marketing Hits The Tipping Point There is a strong move towards accountability for all major business expenses. Marketing won’t be spared from the drive to measurability and accountability. CxO’s are asking tough questions like “What do I get for my ad dollar?” and “Did this campaign make or cost us money?” These are questions that traditional “awareness” marketing can’t answer except anecdotally. Marketers will be forced to adopt direct response models in order to justify their budgets and their jobs. Once enough people move this way, everyone will suddenly make the switch because their careers will be on the line if they don’t learn to go with the ROI flow. Any marketing vehicle that can’t help marketers justify their spend will be hard pressed to keep up with New Marketing opportunities that do.

    2. The Perfect Response Tool As companies look for ways to measure marketing ROI, more and more cross-channel marketing will be directed towards the Net. Search Engine Marketing is catching fire because marketers who “get direct” see that they can now build testable, trackable campaigns online and that means budgets will be diverted from less measurable channels. And as we get smarter about what works and what online marketing is worth, watch for other DM channels to have to fight for attention and ad dollars. Response marketers look for the most cost-effective channel, and if it’s the Net, say goodbye outbound telemarketing and direct mail.

    3. The Net Generation We’ve already seen reports that young males are “missing” from TV audience figures. Look for today’s young adults — raised in a web-based, multi-tasking world to become the core consumers of the next decade, meaning that the Net will be a natural place to find consumers in their peak buying years. And these kids expect everything to be online, instantaneous and under their control. Will they accept “ol’ skool” media for much longer (if they ever did)?

    4. All Bits Move To The Net Over time, anything that can move over the Net, will move over the Net. When was the last time you received a fax that wasn’t junk or wasn’t sent because to provide a signature? The last time you wrote a letter? In the mid-90’s I witnessed Nicholas “Being Digital” Negroponte tell a ballroom full of music industry executives that they were in the “bit radiation” business and that as soon as someone figured out how to make it more efficient to radiate bits over wires rather than stamping them on shiny discs they’d all be out of jobs. Those execs laughed at the time, but they are now scrambling to cut deals with Puretracks and Napster to try and correct the damage done by free download sites. But the music industry is just a canary in a coal mine. The movie industry and phone companies are next into the breach, struggling to cope with BitTorrent and Voice Over IP (VoIP) respectively. In six to ten years I’m sure that the majority of voice, TV, radio, music, and movies will be entering our homes over a Net connection. And many non-measurable, non-targetable media will soon be replaced by new and improved online versions. Is it hard to imagine radio stations moving online and targeting ads based on past behaviour and the listener’s physical location? What will happen to radio when ads are addressable, measurable, and immediately actionable online? Will the “marketing bits” you radiate be the only ones to avoid this inevitable move to the Net? Are you sure?

    5. Media On Demand Consumers are just now beginning to see the joys of an “on demand” approach to information and entertainment. WiFi is making the Broadband home a reality, iPods are allowing us to put a lifetime of music in our pockets, and PVRs are taking time-shifting to a completely new level. Once the user is in control of the when and where of media consumption, the impact on advertising will be considerable. If there is no primetime, only “my time”, won’t ads need to provide the same responsiveness to a consumer’s desires?

    6. Online, All The Time Increasingly we live in a world of three screens — a TV for communal viewing, a computer screen for individual work, and a “Third Screen” for accessing information while on the move. As “unwired” PDAs are replaced by phones and hybrid products that allow for voice, e-mail, SMS, IM, web access, and digital photography all from one device, ads that are aware of their location in the world will increase. Adding toll-free order numbers, e-mail and web addresses, or text numbers to outdoor and transit ads is a logical first step towards our devices actually interacting with the ads. How would your marketing change if transit ads were part of the Net? If Google on a cell phone was everyone’s default yellow pages?

    7. GPS Pop Cans Coke’s “Unexpected Summer” promotion is taking “New Marketing” to a new level. Coke has randomly placed 120 GPS-enable cell phone “cans” in pop cases across the US. If you find a can you can use it to phone in and have your location tracked so that your grand prize can be airlifted to you wherever you are in America. If products are already being hooked to the Net and electronically enhanced, what will happen when RFID tags allow retailers and manufacturers to track each unit individually?

    Ramping Up

    As much as I’d like Steve Ballmer’s world of targetable, actionable, trackable, real-time advertising, my guess is that we’ll never quite arrive at this marketing nirvana. There will always be those that espouse brand at any cost, those that believe they have too little time and too little money to “bother” with tracking their marketing. But that’s not you. How do we get to this “new marketing”? I concur with Steve Ballmer and recommend that we get busy now. It’s time that marketers learn to allocate budgets differently and drive all ads to a measurable channel. And then we need to begin driving all measurement to standards-based net apps so results can be analyzed and adjusted in real-time. The challenge for ad suppliers is to figure out how they can create New Marketing channels that, like online ads, are targetable, actionable, and trackable. If you sell ads for a living, what will you do to prepare for the New Marketing? Measurable billboards? Commerce-enabled transit signs? POP that changes based on the weather? What will your ads do tomorrow that the Net can do today?

    Originally published at www.onedegree.ca on April 4, 2005.

  • What is the State of Affiliate Marketing

    I’ve long felt that Affiliate programs were one of the better ways for retailers large and small to increase their reach. At the same time, affiliate programs offer a great way for content publishers to generate revenue from contextually relevant advertising.

    But whenever I do a search on affiliate programs I feel like I need to take a shower afterward. While some of this stuff has merit, much of what you get looks like *make-money-fast*, too-good-to-be-true offers that don’t line up with my ethical, contextual image of affiliate programs. If you did follow that link to Google you may have been greeted (as I was) by over 85 AdWords links on the affiliate marketing page. When did Google start putting 85 ads on one results page?

    So I put it to you dear reader: Should an affiliate marketing program be part of every online retailer’s toolkit or has this once great concept been taken over by hucksters.


    Originally published at www.onedegree.ca on April 14, 2005.

April 1, 2005

  • Getting Order Confirmations Past Spam Filters

    I just “placed an order” with “TigerDirect.ca” and I noticed some interesting copy at the bottom of the confirmation page after the order was completed:

    Note: If you do not receive the confirmation message within next several hours, check your spam folder in case the confirmation email got delivered there instead of your inbox. If so, select the confirmation message and click This is Not Spam (AOL), Not Junk (Hotmail), Not Spam (Yahoo), Not Spam (Gmail) or the like, which will allow future messages to get through.

    Given the rise in the use of spam filters (often overzealous ones), I think we’ll see more of this kind of stuff in the future. I thought this was particularly useful in that it spelled out exactly what to do for the most common e-mail systems.

    Originally published at www.onedegree.ca on April 1, 2005.