December 18, 2003

  • Wharton Discusses Online Music Business

    There’s a great Knowledge@Wharton essay that examines “Which Online Music Service Will Have the Longest Playing Time?”

    I think the article is pretty much spot on in its analysis of the market and its rather buried assertion that Rhapsody (or at least the streaming model) will be the long term winner.

    The article makes one mistake I believe. In discussing consumers’ natural desire to own music instead of subscribing to it, I think the point is missed. I’m pretty sure that the average North American spends more time listening to radio than to CDs. To me this implies that streaming services replace BOTH radio and CD purchases. While most people look at a service like Rhapsody as “Renting CDs” which doesn’t sound that interesting, I think of it as “Having a personal radio station that I control completely”. That does sound interesting. Particular for $10 a month.

    The article also makes a small point about value conscious consumers baulking at subscription fees, but I think that the opposite is true. If you only had $10 to spend on music per month, would you buy ten downloads or subscribe to unlimited access to over 400,000 songs?

December 17, 2003

  • Predictions for 2004

    Here, in no particular order are some of the things I expect to see in the coming year:

    1. SEM rises to dominate online marketing: Any marketer looking to sell anything online should be starting (and in many cases ending) their online ad spend with search engine marketing.

    2. Blogs become the best way to find out about most stuff: I regularly read over 100 blogs that provide me with greater depth, better commentary, and faster breaking news than anything other news source. Look for more and more of us to depend on blogs for our industry insights. Smart marketers will incorporate blogging into their overall corporate communications strategy.

    3. Increased focus on meeting user needs instead of corporate goals: I hope for this one every year but I’m now seeing signs that companies are starting to take user experience and user benefit seriously. Let’s hope all sites work on meeting our needs instead of theirs.

    4. A more pragmatic approach to e-mail: In 2004 e-mail marketers will be happy if the message even gets there. Watch for spam filters, increased privacy concerns, and inbox fatigue to reek havoc on response rates.

    5. RSS prepares to take centre stage in 2005: I am a strong believer that RSS will dominate retention-based communication in the future, but I don’t think RSS will be on enough marketers’ radar to hit critical mass in 2004. Watch for leading edge companies to use 2004 to define the future of this amazing new channel.

    6. Social Networks will have a make or break year in 2004: Social Networks were named THE hot technology of 2003 by Business 2.0 and I expect that 2004 will see the sites go mainstream and at the same time, work out privacy and business model issues. There will be an inevitable shake-out and many will fade away in the coming year. Watch for LinkedIn to gain momentum as the most privacy and value focussed network for professionals.

December 16, 2003

  • Online Marketing Book Recommendations

    Recenting I asked a whole whack of smart online marketers (the AIMS Discussion List) if they could recommend one definitive, current online marketing book.

    I got a bunch of responses, but no one could identify one book that provided an overview of the essentials of online marketing. I can’t believe that the subject is too large because authors tackle much broader topics (like, say, how to market in ALL channels). It must be that publishers have lost THEIR appetite for this topic.

    Here’s a summary of the feedback I received.

    Pete Mosley says you can start and stop with:

    “The Cluetrain Manifesto: The End of Business as Usual”

    Rick Levine, Christopher Locke

    Doc Searls, David Weinberger

    Buy at

    Buy at

    Howard Firestone of iPerceptions suggests anything written by Seth Godin and particularly points out Seth’s latest:

    “Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable”

    by Seth Godin

    Buy at

    Buy at

    Lisa Wong of the City of Calgary thought SEM was key and that this book was essential reading:

    “Search Engine Visibility”

    Shari Thurow

    Buy at

    Buy at

    While not really a marketing book, Brian Bimm suggests you might want to check out:

    Online! The Book

    by John C. Dvorak, Chris Pirillo, Wendy Taylor

    Buy at

    Buy at

    So my search continues. If you come up with other online marketing books worth a read, let me know.

December 12, 2003

December 11, 2003

  • Perquest — Payroll as a Web Service

    Good overview of Perquest by Rafe Needleman at Always-On:

    “First of all, payroll is a difficult accounting function to track. According to David, there are over 3,500 payroll tax authorities in the United States, and if you mess up your compliance with one of the myriad payroll laws you could get fined. Apparently four out of 10 small businesses get nailed each year, for about $840 per infraction. So it’s important to keep a payroll system up to date, and as Marc, David, or any Web services wonk will tell you, that’s a lot easier when there’s only one central system to manage, instead of one at each of your customers’ locations. Small business owners, who are unlikely to have an IT department, are also less likely than large businesses to regularly update their line-of-business software.”

    I really like ASP/Web Services like and this looks like another winner.

    The “kipple” as Philip K. Dick would call it keeps piling up in our lives blocking out what is important — the things we really get paid for (or enjoy doing for their own sake). We’re expected to manage more tasks ourselves all the time in this self-serve world. And all of those tasks become more complex and regulated over time, so the skill required to manage these tasks well often increases. Web Services and online applications can do a lot of the heavy lifting that allows people to have an “expert on call” when needed. I particularly like Rafe’s article because it points out that one of the key advantages of Perquest is the fact that best practice and legal compliance is baked into the application.

December 10, 2003

  • Thought

    Dave Winer does a good job of explaining how the BBC handles their RSS Feeds. I like that they made the “RSS” link on the page go to an explanatory page and they then provide a link to the RSS from this page where the non-HTML link has a bit more context for newbies.

December 9, 2003

  • Thought

    I got an e-mail today that appeared to be from, saying that my account had been inappropriately accessed. Other than the vague, poorly written nature of the message, the e-mail looked legit.

    After a bit of investigation I found out that Amazon is actively going after these thieves and is requesting that those receiving such messages forward the spoofs to them as attachments. You can read more about this on’s Stop Spoofing Page.

December 8, 2003

  • Definitive Online Marketing Books?

    While I’m using the lazyweb, I’ll add this as well:

    Recently I was asked to recommend a really good (and current) book that explains the essentials of online marketing. I could think of lots of books that touched on one or two aspects of Net marketing, but I didn’t have any idea what to suggest for an overall “guide to online marketing”. Most of the ones I found on Amazon seem to be pre-dot-bomb, and therefore not that useful.

    I’d therefore like to solicit the advice of you my good reader.

    If you could recommend just one online marketing book what would it be? If there isn’t one book, do you recommend books on specific aspects of online marketing? Send me the name and author of your favourites and I’ll publish the list.

  • Thought

    I’m looking for some current, reliable stats on where web site traffic typically comes from. Something that says what percentage of visitor guess URLs, come from bookmarks, from search, from ads, from links at other sites, etc.

    If you know of any good resources for this, let me know.

  • Thought

    Shari Thurow offers a good overview of how not to get involved with Search Engine Spam. Let’s hlope that most people reading this will look at the points covered as a “don’t do” rather than a “figure out how to do without getting caught”.

December 6, 2003

  • Thought

    Fred Wilson (“A VC”) has posted well about Getting The Mail Through. The article describes the big issue facing any legitimate e-mail sender these days — getting the message to your subscribers. This problem cannot be underestimated. Huge amounts of user wanted e-mail are not getting through because upstream filters are deeming it spam even though the user has requested it.

    ESPs will most definitely be positioning themselves as the “way to get through” this mess. Of course they’ll have to work very closely with their customers to make sure that their lists ARE in fact 100% legit.

December 4, 2003

November 28, 2003

  • Gary Hoyle (1954–2003)

    Gary Hoyle died peacefully, but unexpectedly on Tuesday November 25th at the age of 49, while living and enjoying life in Costa Rica.

    Gary worked in the online industry since the early days. He was one of the very first AIMS members, probably one of the first twenty or so to set the stage for the association’s later growth. At the time he was head of sales at the Virtual Billboard Network, one of Canada’s first online ad networks. Since then Gary’s been involved in a number of online ventures on several continents.

    At the end of October Gary sent me this update on his life:

    “Me, well living in lovely downtown Escazu, a gringo suburb of San Jose in Costa Rica, paradise.

    Just finishing rainy season down here and looking forward to the beach in a few weeks — some sun, sand, and surfiing.

    Workwise I am running the marketing for a London based gaming company. The founders of our division are American, young guys started in a hotel room in 1997, two guys one computer two cell phones.

    They enticed me down here with the promise of riches, beautiful women, great weather, and great surfing. So far the weather is great, the women are incredibly beautiful, the surfing is real, waiting for the riches — but 3 out of 4 is not bad so far.”

    While I didn’t know Gary that well, I always enjoyed the times we met at industry events and he was most generous with feedback on my various projects and ideas. Gary will be sadly missed and our love and thoughts go to his family and close friends.

    Friends and family will be received on Saturday November 29th between 11 and 1 at Kane Funeral Home, 6150 Yonge Street followed by a memorial service in the Chapel. In lieu of flowers, donations to the charity of your choice would be appreciated.

November 26, 2003

  • Thought

    Lovemarks is a very interesting concept by Saatchi & Saatchi. I expect to see this go viral shortly.

November 24, 2003

  • Thought

    The Michael Jackson Official Press Room web site is just about my favourite example of a specific purpose site ever. The site does exactly what it is supposed to do and nothing else. While I in no way condone Jackson’s alleged conduct, his ability to use the web as a communication channel during a personal and business crisis is commendable.

    Compare this site to the dreadfully overproduced corporate site Sony has created for Jackson.

    (via Dave Winer)

  • Thought

    Companies must understand that there is now officially nowhere to hide.

    If big business thought old school consumer activitists like Ralph Nader were a thorn in their side, wait till they see what wired consumers like the Neistat brothers will do to their brands. The brothers’ iPod’s Dirty Secret site does an absolutely brilliant job of airing their grievance about a defective iPod battery.

    It will be interesting to see how Apple responds and how long it takes for them to wake up to the impending PR disaster as this rapidly spreads across the net.

November 23, 2003

  • Anti-Spam Legislation May Make E-newsletters Impractical

    Dana Blankenhorn sees possible new anti-spam legislation in the US as regressive enough to shut down small e-mail publishers. He says “If the present anti-spam legislation becomes law, I will have to close my newsletter, A-Clue.Com, effective at the end of the year.”

    The point here is not that Dana is doing anything wrong with his list, or that he is even breaking the law. The is a business decision. Since it is easy to be accused under the proposed law and difficult to defend, it will become much more likely that e-mail newsletter owners will be taken to court. And since costs for defending these claims could be high, the value of the newsletter becomes negative and it make business sense to stop sending via e-mail.

    Another firm vote for RSS, but also a very sad day for the once effective communication tool called the permission e-mail list.

November 21, 2003

November 18, 2003

  • Thought

    Kevin Werbach has an article on TheFeature called The Triumph of Good Enough. The article is about how the Treo 600 smartphone has made enough small changes to its design and functionality that Kevin has reassessed his doubts about the future of converged mobile devices.

    The entire article is a good one for anyone who doubts that (as Kevin says) “Subtle improvements can have huge consequences.”

  • Cloudmark Saved My Inbox

    I haven’t commented on Cloudmark’s Spamnet plug-in for Outlook (and now Outlook Express) in a while.

    This product is just wonderful. If you are an Outlook user and you haven’t tried it yet, download Cloudmark’s Spamnet now.

    Here are my spam stats for the last few months while using Cloudmark:

    Total messages received — 59,359

    Total number of spam messages — 52,113

    Total spam caught by Cloudmark — 50452 (97% success rate)

    Total spam missed by Cloudmark — 1,661

    Total “real messages” — 5,585

    Total “false positives” of messages from individuals — ZERO

    Total “false positives” of messages from opt-in lists — 95 (<0.2%)

    “Good Message Ratio” with Cloudmark — 77% (i.e. over 3/4 of the messages in my inbox are real messages).

    Given that my “Good Message Ratio” without Cloudmark would be less than 10%, I can confidently say that Cloudmark has saved my inbox.

    Note that many opt-in lists get caught by Cloudmark. That is because the software works collaboratively, taking other people’s “block” messages and blocking similar messages from everyone’s inbox. But the software allows you to “double unblock” or whitelist messages so that they always get through Spamnet regardless of what other people think of the sender.

November 12, 2003

  • Thought

    Dave Winer seems to be developing the new Scripting News site in real-time. The page is getting slowly modified as Dave blogs his progress and people comment on how he’s doing. Not something I’d recommend to the faint of heart, but interesting to watch.

    Wonder when a nav bar will appear.

  • Thought

    Good article on nano-publishing by Om Malik with some added commentary by Glenn Fleishman. The Dawn of the MicroPubs

    I particularly liked Glenn’s comments on “Google Flow” — the fact that Google brings much of the traffic TO niche content sites (this site get’s 75% of its traffic from Google searches) and then reaps the rewards of that traffic through clickbacks on AdSense ads.

November 11, 2003

  • CMA “Web Site Best Practices” Seminar Next Week

    My “Web Site Best Practices” Seminar for the CMA is happening on Wednesday, November 19th, 2003. Here’s what the CMA says about it:

    “Whether your web site is state of the art or in a state of decay, this fast-paced seminar is guaranteed to send you back to the office with dozens of ideas to immediately improve your web site.

    Using real-world examples of the do’s and don’ts of building useful web sites, Internet veteran Ken Schäfer will guide you through over 100 ways to make any web site a more effective marketing, sales, customer service, and communications tool.

    Developed through ten years of online experience, Ken’s best practices library offers you a decade of bright ideas condensed into one action-packed day.”

    If you will be attending the seminar, don’t forget to send me a link to your home page if you’d like to have it reviewed by the class.

November 10, 2003

  • Thought

    Jakob Nielsen provides his “Ten Most Violated Homepage Design Guidelines” and includes compliance ratings from the site’s his company has audited. He notes that his US$10,000 home page audits generally get large corporations and governments as customers, which biases the data slightly, but it is unlikely that smaller companies are fairing much better.

  • Internet Littered With Dead Web Sites

    Yes, the Internet Is Littered With Dead Web Sites. In general it’s a good idea to keep all links on your site live so that bookmarks, external links, and search engine databases can find the content or be redirected to newer information. But what to do if the entire site is going to be adandoned?

    Or you could leave it up for archival purposes. This is probably the best solution as there is a long-term issue with information that may have historic information disappearing. In “olden times” we could refer to people’s letters, diaries, and books to see what people in the past thought. With ephemeral electronic records much of what we rely on to decode the past will be gone. Archiving your site is less of an issue if the Internet Archive has already cached a copy of your site. In that case they are effectively hosting the archive of the site for you.

    If maintaining the site as an archive is not an option, you may consider pointing all pages on the deceased site to one page that explains what happened and offers the reader suggestions on where to go for current information. If you have a site you can’t afford to host anymore, you could still maintain the domain for a few dollars a year and point the entire domain to a free/cheap page hosted elsewhere that explains the fate of the site.

    If a site it to remain live after it is outdated, it is important to identify the new purpose of the site (historic archive) and to ensure that people know that your information may no longer be relevant. A “last updated” reference is particularly useful in this case.

    (Thanks to Gerard Dolan for the link)

November 8, 2003

  • Kudos: United Way Toronto

    Kudos to the United Way of Greater Toronto.

    Originally the non-profit organization used the very short as their official web address. That address was used on all advertising online and offline. This year’s campaign uses

    While “uwgt” is 12 characters shorter than the new address, the longer address is in fact much easier to remember.

    UWGT stands for United Way Greater Toronto, but how many of us would know or remember that? In this case, the longer URL means more typing, but a better chance of being remembered. And people tend to default to “.com”, so replacing the “.org” was also smart. Well done.

    Wisely, the webmaster has retained the old URL and pointed it to the new site.

    Unfortunately they forgot to redirect to, so visitors omitting the “dub-dub-dub” will be left thinking the site is down.