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Archive for August, 2008


comScore defends present when future is threatened

Monday, August 18th, 2008

Comscore vs adplanner

ComScore has gone to a lot of trouble to demonstrate that their data is better than Google’s AdPlanner.

What comScore misses is that they are falling into the classic Innovator’s Dilemma here. Yeah, Google’s data is bad now, but what about 6 months from now. What about a year from now. When does it become “good enough” for 10% of comScore’s customers? 50%?

Everyone hates comScore. They overcharge for their data, prevent people from looking at custom slices, and service is just ok. A free competitor that gets close will devastate their business. They claim they are safe because their data is better, but we all know that it is wrong too, just less wrong. If comScore is 90% correct and Google is 75% correct, comScore does not have a sustainable business. That’s a fact. Also, as you approach 100%, it gets harder to gain a point of accuracy – i.e. it is harder to go from 99% correct to 100% correct than it is to go from 50% correct to 51% correct. Google will catch up quickly. What innovations will comScore bring that will increase the value of the product? They will have to be pretty exciting because Google is going to take the low end of this market away incrementally and if comScore is not delivering huge value above and beyond this simple accurate data, they will find themselves without enough customers to have a valid business.

Search my wordpress archives for all my Innovator’s Dilemma posts. I am too busy to find them all and get the links flowing today.

Distribution vs. Content vs. Monetization

Monday, August 11th, 2008

Hipmojo has an interesting article that asks the question is content the new king?

One point he makes is that excessive distribution dilutes the value of good content. This is certainly true, and yet there is very little content so valuable that hoarding it benefits the content owner. Information wants to find distribution and people that don’t syndicate content risk having other people syndicate competing content, slowly devaluing the overall genre of content.

If Yahoo didn’t syndicate its news, someone else would.

Furthermore, I suspect we will find out pretty quickly that there is very, very little content so good that strangling distribution benefits the content generator.

I think the benefit of an ad network, relative to a publisher, is that not owning any content, simply buying temporary access to distribution, prevents the network from being held captive by their own mores. A network moves from content to content, following the demands of the audience. Because they treat content generation as a commodity marketplace, they can move more nimbly to follow audiences. Publishers are in some way restricted by the very content they generate to the audiences that consume that content. If social mores change, their audience changes for better or worse. They must adapt their business to follow that audience. Ad networks never gain the encumbrance of needing to adapt.

Of course, a savvy publisher would argue that an ad network is forced to pay a premium for access to premium audiences at all times. A strong publisher that is in an appropriate market could theoretically generate outsized margins by arbitraging their content and maximizing its value in the marketplace.

More later.

Welcome to A New World of CSV Uploading

Monday, August 4th, 2008

Great release of Cogmap tonight. We now show a list of people that subscribe to maps.

More importantly, you can now upload CSV files to maps. These people are then added to the unmapped section of a map and you can begin moving them around.

This is a feature people have been asking for since we launched, so I am pleased to see it get out the door. If you have any problems, don’t hesitate to email us (please attach the file you are uploading) and we will take a look.

Update: Of course, we broke a bunch of stuff in the process.  I think it is all fixed now.

Publishers Love People That Pay Them

Monday, August 4th, 2008

Tacoda Logo

Amusingly, Matt Marshall goes on a VentureBeat rampage with some slam dunk reporting that I feel compelled to discuss.  I will try to note where I am simply applying common sense and where I actually have a bit of knowledge related to the on-going proceedings.

Paid Content discusses the matter fairly well, including an interview with Lynda, but I will get into that as well.  VentureBeat updated their post to point to PaidContent on 1am on August 4th.  Good to see Matt working late, but sad to see a mangled story.  Everyone cites a ton of un-named sources.  No idea who these people are, but it is pretty funny to see these sources used to justify uneducated statements.  I have to imagine his sources, assuming they are good, cringe at the way their comments are misinterpreted.  A great example of reasons to not go on the record.

Matt is obviously super-confused about the roles of publishers and advertisers in networks.  Lets break it down:

The entity, recently bought by AOL, is instead being folded into AOL’s A division. This is a shocking move for some, because doesn’t target much at all, and offers ads of $1 or less per a thousand views — and is generally considered a “bottom-feeder” by some in the industry. The company apparently hasn’t communicated very well about what sort of targeting technology will offer to the affected customers (see memo below).

Hello, there is no targeting here.  This is buying inventory from publishers to show ads on. buys more inventory than anyone.  They are the biggest network around.  The result is that they pay less.  Volume discounts happen in this industry.  Generally, has a strong performance focus and tends not to pay high CPMs for inventory.  Lower prices improve back-end performance of direct response activity.  When someone buys inventory, the kinds of targeting they offer advertisers isn’t really relevant.

I will say that I have knowledge that Tacoda is being integrated into Platform-A, as are all of AOL’s recent advertising acquisitions.  I will also say that targets a lot.

The next paragraph is where he added the update referring to PaidContent and Lynda’s interview:

She says was targeting the same way Tacoda was, and thus the implication is that was paying as much. But that’s not what we’ve heard from sources. Only time will tell.

The sources are probably right because that is not exactly what she said.  She said that offered similar targeting.  Probably, advertisers pay the same kind of CPMs for similar targeting.  This has nothing to do with buying inventory. buys a lot of inventory from publishers and is able to monetize non-behaviorally targeted impressions fairly efficiently.  The result is that can buy every impression for sale, not just ones that contain behavioral data.  This allows to pay less for your average piece of inventory than someone that is only taking very specific, very lucrative impressions.

Back to Matt’s original article:

Tacoda became popular because it offered an industry high rate of $2 to $6 per a thousand views (CPM).

Publishers love networks that pay a lot for inventory.  But what was Tacoda’s fill rate?  They bought a fraction of the inventory that buys.  That is great if you are the publisher… why not sell 10% of your unsold inventory for $2 instead of $1?  Still, if you were Platform-A, you are simply competing against yourself by continuing to pay these rates for inventory that you probably get anyway.

Matt concludes with:

A letter sent out by Tacoda today suggests publishers will have to sign new contracts, and will have to change tags on their web pages.

He then includes the text of the letter, which says, “take down our ad tags because we aren’t buying inventory, but if you want to remain in our data network, you do not need to change your tags at all.”  Seriously, that is what the letter says.

Not sure why Matt wanted to write a grind article on AOL, but it really seems like he felt like breaking out the hatchet.  Was he being fed by an ex-Tacoda person?  I certainly thought so when I read a quote like this: “Tacoda, all automated, paid rates well above other comparable “remnant” networks. It did so by working hard to target behavior of Web users.”  The idea of the company working hard seems to me unsupported fact, although everyone I worked with at Tacoda worked very hard.  Much like people at Platform-A.

Anyway, the one thing I thought was weird in the PaidContent article was this “source”:

One source presented this view to me earlier today when asked about AOL’s decision: “Given the fact that publishers must take all [] ads to get any behavioral targeting/Tacoda ads—with selling all the ads—it sounds like AOL has abandoned a large, fast-growing and very profitable market all in the name of functional alignment with a slower growing legacy business.”

Is he saying that publishers only want really high paying ads?  Certainly true, yet my impression is that inventory, particularly arbitrage-able (read: inexpensive inventory (frequently social media) that contains valuable behavioral data) is growing more rapidly than it is being monetized today. has great reach now.  They do not need to pay a premium to cherry pick behavioral impressions.  They see everyone already.

If Tacoda and were bidding against each other for inventory, I have no doubt the media would lambast Platform-A for not leveraging economies of scale.  With a single inventory acquisition team, it seems like they are being smart.

I know this kind of thing happens in the industry, but I can still blog about it.