Blog Archives

Connected Television and IntoNow Are Poised to Disrupt Integrated Brand Advertising

Earlier this year, Yahoo! made a splash with its acquisition of 12-week old media check-in app IntoNow for approximately $27 million. The tech media circles, often critical of Yahoo! in recent years, praised the move in spite of the multi-million dollar price tag and the fact that IntoNow was just 12-weeks old.

IntoNow utilizes wavelength recognition to listen to and identify television programs with the tap of a button, and has become an important tool in Yahoo!’s previously-maligned foray into social. IntoNow combines the addictive check-in elements of Foursquare and the clever utility of Shazaam with the seemingly unstoppable power of Facebook and Twitter. While this conflagration of new media stars yields hordes of adoring users and Silicon Valley praise, IntoNow is poised to tap into the well-established mega-billions of the traditional media television industry.

IntoNow - From Yahoo!

The Internet is transforming television, and the first-glance value of IntoNow is obvious. Anything that gets users in front of television screens, especially if paired with live event coverage a la CoverItLive, holds immense value to television networks seeing more and more eyeballs transition to the smaller screens of laptops, tablets and smartphones.

However, the multi-billion dollar potential of IntoNow and Internet-connected televisions (including Yahoo!’s ConnectedTV) lies in the value these tools can deliver to brand advertisers and CMOs desperately seeking ways to integrate campaigns across the increasing number of platforms used by consumers. The possibilities are endless:

  1. A consumer “checks in” to the live airing of the latest White Collar episode and receives a reward from USA Network (a badge, points, a sneak preview video, a behind-the-scenes look, etc.)
  2. IntoNow utilizes a Pandora-esque algorithm to provide recommendations and offers brand advertisers the ability to provide highly relevant Sponsored Recommendations based on a user’s viewing habits
  3. Yahoo! pairs ConnectedTV and IntoNow with its own real-time ad bidding and exchange technology to deliver contextually matched, highly targeted ads based on what a user is watching right now
  4. A signed-in Yahoo! user receives time-sensitive television and movie recommendations from networks, Fandango, movie studios and the many advertisers Yahoo! already has relationships with based on their explicit IntoNow viewing habits and the inferred interests derived from them
  5. A viewer “checks in” to American Idol and is given the option to “Like” the show’s Facebook page, read the Idols’ tweets or purchase and download a song from the night’s episode directly from iTunes

The power of IntoNow in the right hands makes Yahoo!’s purchasing price of $27 million seem like chump change, and paired with ConnectedTV and real-time ad delivery, may be the spark that ignites Yahoo!’s rebound. Matching advertisers and brands with consumers is a ceaseless quest, and IntoNow gives Yahoo! a plethora of options to deliver value to a vast range of customers while capturing the always-critical adoration of its users. Execution matters above all else, and we’ve seen dozens of hot, nimble startups fall victim to the oppressive tides within a large and entrenched public organization.

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AllThingsD Redesign Delivers Context, Cohesion for the Influential Brand

Led by the sharp, snarky commentary of Kara Swisher and the perennial influence of Walt Mossberg, AllThingsD has risen to the forefront of Silicon Valley technology, Internet and media journalism. With decades of collective experience, Swisher and Mossberg have transformed a bare-bones, underfunded blog into an influential establishment and a trusted voice in a highly competitive industry. After years of strong growth and several recent talent additions, AllThingsD has gone live with an entirely redesigned website aimed at delivering better context and a more cohesive brand identity for the multi-columned site.

Kara Swisher has long been a source of unrivaled inside information at Silicon Valley icons like Yahoo! and Microsoft, and Walt Mossberg is widely considered one of the most credible gadget and technology analysts on the Web, so AllThingsD has greatly benefited from the respective personal brands of this powerful duo. However, with nine full-time columnists, each with their own column title, the AllThingsD brand name was often lost in the fragmentation of the site.

AllThingsD Redesign

The site is now unified under the AllThingsD.com domain, and is vertically categorized (i.e. News, Social, Mobile, Media, etc.) in an effort to provide better context for its users. More than any other element, context is the most vital component of the AllThingsD redesign. The site had consistently increased the quantity of content it produced daily, and the new design utilizes verticals that combine content from all nine columnists, providing users an all-encompassing resource from multiple perspectives. To appease the die-hard fans of any particular columnist, the new design still allows users to search by writer, acknowledging the continuing importance of each writer’s personal brand even in the new era of AllThingsD brand unity.

Beyond the functional and strategic elements of the redesign, the new AllThingsD is simply better looking. The much-wider layout helps cater to the higher-resolution videos and images the site has been sharing more frequently, and allows for much more aesthetically pleasing featured posts on the homepage.

Congratulations to Kara, Walt and the rest of the AllThingsD team on the beautiful redesign and your continued success as a leading voice on All Things Digital!

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Online Advertising Has Plenty of Room to Grow – Mobile, Social and Branded Content

In the wake of the explosive LinkedIn IPO, which saw a 109% first day gain that valued the nine-year old company with over 100 million users at $8.9 billion, an intense spotlight has been focused on the new wave of Web-based companies that have taken venture capitalists and private and secondary markets by storm. The highly anticipated and inevitable IPOs of Web titans Facebook and Groupon have – rightly or wrongly – brought up fears of a “bubble” reminiscent of the dot-com bust that wiped away the fortunes of millions and oversaw the collapse of hundreds of “companies” that rushed to go public without revenues, not to mention profits.

(My take? We’re not in a bubble. Not yet. The lessons from a decade ago are fresh enough in the minds of VCs and investors, and the simple fact that we are being cautious and asking questions proves we are eons away from the insanity of 2000.)

The promise of the new media era is dependent on a new era of advertising, one that is integrated across many platforms, channels and formats. The booming success of Google and others dependent on online advertising may lead some to think that the market is saturated, leaving little opportunity for new entrants or growth for existing players. However, the data paints a dramatically different picture. The IAB projects double-digit growth in global online advertising spending for each of the next four years, reaching nearly $100 billion by 2014, or 17.4% of combined global ad spending.

Online Ad Spend Totals

There is a significant trend that one doesn’t need to dive through troves of data to recognize: people across the world are spending more time online. The time spent online on computers, tablets and smartphones is dramatically increasing year over year, but even these markets are relatively under-served. Just 82 million of more than 330 million Americans access the Internet on their mobile phones, and just 31% of wireless subscribers own a smartphone. Even with the billions of dollars in profits enjoyed by Apple, Google, Nokia and Microsoft in the mobile sector, the market is just getting started. More users with more Web-enabled smartphones means more ad dollars flowing to Web companies from the world’s biggest spenders.

So does this mean the tens of billions of dollars spent on television advertising will magically flow online? No. New value is created by reaching consumers online, and that means new dollars will be spent. Television advertising offers benefits that the hottest social media and branded content companies could never provide, and vice versa. It is the value of connecting and conversing with consumers in the new media era that will entice advertisers to direct new dollars from their ad budgets toward online campaigns.

eHow Style Site Takeover

The power to connect brands and consumers where the conversations are happening (social) and at the point of intent (branded content, action-oriented content) provides the opportunity for companies that offer these services to capitalize on the significant upside potential in the online advertising market. Online advertising isn’t just text links and banner ads. The new formats enabled by tablet and mobile technology and revolutionary business models ensure Silicon Valley’s best executors will reap the rewards of a booming online advertising market in the coming years.

Hat Tip: AdWeek – The Changing Scope of Online Advertising 

IAB Report: 2010 Internet Advertising Reveneus Increase 15% to $26 Billion, A New Record

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How Demand Media Creates High-Quality Content at Scale [INFOGRAPHIC]

On the heels of a widely successful IPO and a strong first earnings report as a public company, Demand Media has delivered another positive sign for investors seeking continued momentum for 2011 and beyond.

Today, the Santa Monica, CA-based content and social media company announced 48% growth in revenues and a 121% increase in adjusted net income year over year. (A full review of Demand Media’s Q1 2011 financial results can be viewed here.) Well-received redesigns of flagship Demand Media properties like eHow, LIVESTRONG.com and Cracked and high-profile celebrity partnerships with Rachael Ray for eHow Food and Tyra Banks for typeF.com are driving continued growth in content and media revenues (77% increase YoY.)

The increased scrutiny that comes with being a public company has manifested in investor worries about the impact of Google’s “Panda” algorithm tweak, but Demand Media has fought hard to reaffirm its continued commitment to producing high quality content. As a writer for Demand Media Studios and a member of the Demand Media Blog Distribution Network, I can attest to the validity of these assertions, and I am continuously impressed by the quality of content being produced by my fellow freelancers.

My team and I created an infographic that presents the detailed content creation process of Demand Media using text, graphics and images repurposed from OnlineMBA and Demand Media’s Content Matters. (Click on the infographic to view the full-size version.)

Demand Media Content Creation Process

This infographic portrays how Demand Media utilizes a network of proven professional writers and copy editors, with every piece of content run through a rigorous quality control and review process. Articles that do not meet the strict Demand Media content quality standards are rejected and never published.

The continued efforts of Demand Media to improve content quality and focus on the creation of compelling, actionable content on its growing platform of top-rated properties are delivering strong financial results and positive user responses, and are a strong sign for scrutinizing investors.

Related: Learn more about how Demand Media offers advertisers a unique opportunity to reach action-ready consumers through intent targeting.

Create Custom Text Clouds with Wordle

Free utility software is one of the great perks of the Web, with generous tinkerers sharing their creations with the world at no cost. One of my favorite tools, Wordle, comes from Johnathan Feinberg and partial source code owner IBM.

Wordle is a clever tag cloud tool that automatically creates a custom text cloud from a slate of creative templates. Users can enter text manually, copy/paste text blocks, or allow the program to crawl any website and Wordle will create a custom word cloud with the given text. Users can then edit word orientation, edit text colors, alter color variation and access a host of other customizations.

Demand Media Infographic - Wordle

(Click to enlarge.)

To create your own custom text cloud for free, visit www.Wordle.net.

What are your favorite free tools from around the Web? Share with a comment below.

Seeking Alpha Bets Big on Premium Content

In a surprising Sunday afternoon announcement, Seeking Alpha founder and CEO, David Jackson, revealed several new initiatives that will dramatically revolutionize the content creation landscape at the highly-regarded investment research site.

The most critical was the announcement that, for the first time in the site’s history, it will pay its contributors for the exclusive content they create for Seeking Alpha. For years, contributors have submitted and published articles on Seeking Alpha to increase their online exposure, develop their personal and professional brand, and drive traffic and leads to their businesses. However, not all contributors have business to drive leads to, and Seeking Alpha is now confident it can share “meaningful revenue” with its writers as an additional incentive.

Contributors will receive $10.00USD for every thousand pageviews, and payments will be distributed quarterly. Any of the site’s 4,000 contributors may choose not to keep their content exclusive to Seeking Alpha, and the site will  continue publish their non-exclusive articles in the same manner it always has. (Full program details here.)

Seeking Alpha

This announcement prompted an obvious question: why would Seeking Alpha pay for content that it used to obtain and publish for free? The site has long been praised in many circles for its high-quality content and well-respected army of contributors. This reputation has been converted into more than 630,000 registered users and 40,000 comments a month. But is this audience enough to sustain the business in this new model?

With a stated average of 2,500 to 20,000 pageviews for each article on Seeking Alpha, the site will be shelling out an average of $25 to $200 per article. Even with the premium rates the site has been able to charge advertisers and the prolonged payment cycles that reduce overhead, that is a significant capital outlay for an uncertain return.

The argument for Seeking Alpha‘s bet is that by investing heavily in its valued contributors, the site is building mutually beneficial relationships that drive reciprocal traffic and continue to develop the reputation of the site and its contributors.

New content creation and distribution systems are often met with skepticism and criticism – especially when it involves paying for content that used to be obtained for free. Incentivized crowdsourced content almost always carries the risk of decreasing quality as quantity increases. VentureBeat also noted that pageview-driven financial incentives may encourage link bait and sensationalism, decreasing the value of the premium content that has built a highly sought-after audience at Seeking Alpha.

To combat this undesirable transition, Seeking Alpha announced a coinciding rollout of an expanded community ranking and contributor reputation system that qualifies writers based on a number of reader engagement metrics.

The long-tail content model often relies on fixed-fee payments and the cumulative value of evergreen content to produce sustainable returns. Pieces of content with longer usable lives have greater lifetime values, so after the fixed cost is covered, the returns are astronomical on quality content created in this model. However, the predictive and reactive nature of Seeking Alpha content largely prohibits the site from utilizing this fixed payment model.

Long Tail

Some of the fundamentals-based articles on Seeking Alpha covering general investment techniques and strategies may have longer life cycles and greater lifetime values, but the high daily turnover of the majority of investment and trading related content virtually eliminates the value of this strategy. Revenue sharing allows Seeking Alpha to compensate its contributors for the content they create while minimizing the risk of paying for content that has become obsolete before the fixed cost has been covered.

After more than a year of exponential user and pageview growth, Seeking Alpha is betting “all-in” that the quality of its content won’t decrease as submissions shoot through the roof, ensuring advertisers will still pay premium rates to advertise on the site.

Will Seeking Alpha’s new strategy succeed? Share your thoughts in a comment below.

How the Internet Is Transforming Television

The way we watch television has evolved as technology has transformed our desires and expectations. New content delivery systems made possible by Internet connectivity have exponentially increased the control we have over what we see and how and when we see it. As the Web integration progresses with Boxee, Google TV, Yahoo! Connected TV, Xbox360, Roku and others, the lines between our televisions and computers are becoming increasingly blurred.

The concept of televisions with Internet connectivity is by no means new. In the mid-1990s, WebTV offered a set-top box with 2 MB of RAM and a 33.6 kb/s modem and Netscape Navigator/Internet Explorer browser compatibility. The service has advanced considerably and is now operating as MSN TV. Though it is no longer being sold by Microsoft, the company still supports the subscription service.

RokuMost recently, Google released what many consider to be the most advanced and capable “connected television” device, Google TV. This product allows users to search for television content from many sources, which Google aggregates and displays on your television screen. With this feature, Google TV supplies and displays content not available through your cable subscription with content from Netflix, Amazon VOD, YouTube, and other websites, consolidating each of these individual platforms into a central experience accessible through Google-powered search. Currently, Google TV is the only device with full internet capability. Several devices from SONY and Logitech already feature Google TV, and more will be rolled out in 2011.

VIZIOOne of the most important elements of the connected TV movement is the availability of apps and widgets. Apps, the central value leading to the success of the Apple iPhone, are becoming available on select new televisions. Devices like the VIZIO XVT473SV leading the revolution are enabled by Wi-Fi technology, allowing users to connect to services including Facebook, Twitter, Rhapsody, Netflix, Pandora, and others through apps and widgets on their television. This integration of services delivers the “all-in-one” value by combining televisions and computers in a manner similar to the way smartphones integrated telephones and computers to phenomenal success.

With successful mobile operators like Google (Android) and Apple (iOS) staking their claim in living rooms, the growing circle of integration is likely to become more seamless as technologies advance and adoption expands. We are continually moving forward in an era of interconnectivity and integration, and Internet/app-enabled devices will drastically alter the traditional definition of televisions and their capabilities.

Image Credits: VIZIO; ecoustics

Learning from BP’s Failures: Before and After The Gulf Spill

By now, you would be hard-pressed to find an individual that does not know about the catastrophic oil spill disaster in the Gulf. The onslaught of press coverage that followed the tragic disaster that killed eleven oil rig workers has forever tarnished the image of British Petroleum (BP) in the eyes of the public.

Poor operations management and an executive team that played fast and loose with safety precautions caused this devastating tragedy, and missteps in damage control by BP’s public relations team turned a tough situation into a nightmare. Rather than simply continue to drag BP through the mud, let’s see what we can learn from the situation. Over the next week, we’ll run through several crucial lessons that can be applied to any business in any industry.

LESSON: Don’t Sweep Things Under the Rug

This lesson is perhaps the most critical element of BP’s downfall. The company’s sprawling record of safety violations is extensive and brash. Committee after committee has found BP guilty of being aware of, and knowingly ignoring, numerous serious safety issues. From the Texas City Refinery explosion in 2005 to the Deepwater Horizon offshore well explosion in 2010, mismanagement and malpractice led the Occupational Health and Safety Administration to conclude that “BP has a serious, systemic safety problem in their company”.

British Petroleum

So while your business may not be responsible in the same respect as BP for the lives of your employees, you can draw a number of parallels from this situation and apply them to your circumstances. If there was a dispute between you and a supplier surrounding an overcharged or unpaid bill that has not been resolved, don’t expect it to simply go away. If you are noting a marked increase in defect alerts with your products or an uptick in customer complaints, don’t automatically dismiss them as anomalies. If a previously high-performing team is experiencing declining morale and performance is suffering, don’t expect the situation to fix itself. If you witness same-store sales declining, don’t assume the economic climate is to blame.

Bottom line: don’t expect isolated incidents to remain isolated if you just ignore them and hope they fade away. (See below!) We all know and understand the power of word-of-mouth has when it comes to shaping customer opinions.

BP Spill-Cam

Some may argue that it is simply too expensive to maximize customer service or maintain exceptional quality control standards. This is dangerous short-term thinking. Understand that building relationships and developing  a strong, positive reputation with customers over time is critical to the long-term success of any business. If you dedicate your time and resources to maintaining a quality product/service, and work to resolve issues in and out of the workplace as they happen, your business is much less likely to experience a catastrophic event when the rug eventually gets pulled out (which is almost always does).

The Quest to Monetize Online Content

For must of us in the modern developed world, online content (media websites, professional blogs, social media sites, etc.) has become an integral part of our lives. The importance of the internet as a primary source of information is leaving many traditional media publishers with bright, gold dollar signs in their eyes. As they seek to monetize this content, they are presented with several potentially profitable options, and an equal number of potentially disastrous obstacles.

Think monetizing online content is a breeze? Ask Twitter how easy it is.

The seemingly omnipresent social media company revealed its upcoming advertising platform, beginning today with “Promoted Tweets”. Companies will pay twitter an undisclosed fee to insert themselves into Twitter’s search results (i.e. a Starbucks ‘Promoted Tweet’ appearing when a user searches for ‘coffee’). Eventually, these tweets will appear in Twitter.com streams and other third-party Twitter apps.

Starbucks Promoted Tweet

The platform, going live today, is obviously still in its infancy, but one can assume two possibilities for how it is received by Twitter’s highly involved users. In the best case scenario, users will enjoy the super-relevant tweets, re-tweeting them and sharing their opinions on the Promoted Tweet. This is ideal for the advertisers as well as for Twitter. In the worst case (and another entirely plausible) situation, users will revolt against the commercialization of their company, feeling that corporate tweets shouldn’t be forced upon them. This approach is being employed for several reasons, including the fact that Twitter’s homepage is not a destination page where users go to access quality content (although, Twitter recently introduced “Top Tweets” to retain new visitors and encourage increased interaction by largely inactive users).

Traditional media outlets (TIME, Wall Street Journal, NY Times, etc.) are facing a similar challenge in determining how best to monetize their online content. With the realization that print media is trending towards becoming obsolete, publishers are beginning to look at ways to monetize their online content beyond advertising. The option several publishers are exploring is charging users for accessing the content on their website, which was previously available for free. In many respects, publishers dropped the ball on this. If they wanted to charge customers for access, they needed to do it from the beginning. By offering the content online for free from day one, they have created the perception that we, as consumers, deserve to view the content for free. We’ll pay for a newspaper or a magazine because we have always had to pay for it. It doesn’t seem like an inconvenience or that we are being slighted.

NY Times - 1914

Pay-per-click (PPC) or cost-per-thousand-impressions (CPM) advertising platforms may not fully recoup the costs of operating these websites, and in order to maintain the content online, publishers need to determine new and innovative methods to incorporate advertising into their content. Sponsored articles, advertorials, and other content-fused-with-advertisement platforms can be incorporated into the publication’s online strategy, but the rate of adoption may not be high enough.

Clearly, the challenges to monetization of online content are unique and complex, but as we’ve seen in recent developments, they are not insurmountable. The lesson has been learned, albeit definitely the hard way, that if you have a quality product that is an important, valuable aspect of consumers’ lives, don’t give it away for free and try to charge for it later. We will keep our eyes open for innovative ways to monetize social media, news, and other popular online content, and more importantly the reception these new methods experience by their customer and user bases.

Get Free Press By…Interviewing the Press?

Recently, Yahoo! scored some free press when about 600 employees (including CEO Carol Bartz) turned the tables on the tech giant’s self-proclaimed “obsessive” Wall Street Journal media reporter, Kara Swisher (http://kara.allthingsd.com). The standing-room-only event was the first in the company’s new speaker series titled “Yahoo From the Outside In”, offered employees, often hounded for inside information by Swisher, and opportunity to pry into Kara’s business for a change.

Photo courtesy of AllThingsD

An event like this can not only boost employee morale and foster a better and more complete understanding of both perspectives, but it can also provide the company with some easy media coverage. After all, I’m talking about it, and you’re reading about it. In this prior post detailing how a company can promote itself for free, I touched on the idea that interacting with the press can boost awareness for the business. This isn’t exactly what I had in mind, but it’s accomplishing the same goal in an innovative manner.

For more coverage on the event and to view her original posting, visit Kara Swisher (@karaswisher) on the web at: http://kara.allthingsd.com/20100208/turning-the-tables-carol-bartz-grills-boomtown-in-the-yahoo-cafeteria-over-easy-with-a-side-of-disclosure/