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Archive for March, 2009


Awesome Breakdown of the Flogosphere!

Saturday, March 28th, 2009

flog-jenny-beforeAnother term I want credit for coining: The Flogosphere!  The network of fake blogs that comprise 99% of the web sites you are reading!

Jay Weintraub has written a great set of posts breaking down the flogosphere.

The Rise of the Flog

Anatomy of a Flog

Required reading, there is just a tremendous profusion of these out on the Interweb right now.  Jay is a great writer when it comes to direct marketing madness on the Internet.

Morgan Stanley Confirms My Love of Online Advertising, The Industry

Friday, March 27th, 2009

When I first joined the Online Advertising industry, my thesis was that online advertising spend as a function of total ad spend was a fraction of the time that people spent online, meaning that dramatic growth in online advertising was a virtual necessity.  When I first got involved in the industry four years ago, what I read was that people spent 17% of their time online but only 5% of US ad spend was online.  So 5% has to grow to 17%, right?

Morgan Stanley just published their latest data dump, confirming my theories.  In the first chart, we see that people spend 25% of their time online now but US ad spend has grown to only 8%.  This implies that unless online advertising does not work at all, now is a great time to arbitrage online advertising buying.  It certainly seems like there is no shortage of opportunity to innovate on advertising online, any challenges with respect to the effectiveness of online advertising should be addressed as dollars flow into the market.


What demonstrates the under-investment in solving the online advertising dilemma is the extremely low degree of spend by the top 20 US advertisers.  P&G, one of the leaders in advertising understanding, is not even really dipping their toes in the water.  CPGs have really not even followed their consumers online.


This chart is strange given that they said a few slides earlier that 8% of US ad spend was online, but it certainly demonstrates the continued growth of online relative to other advertising forms.  I think it is safe to say that we have many more years of this ahead of us.  The advertising market would have to shrink pretty substantially for this market to not grow in absolute terms at a pretty fast clip.


Twitter Breakfast Posts

Thursday, March 26th, 2009

twitter-logo-smallIn our on-going attempts to amuse with topical data-driven posts, I wanted to share some quick data re: the cartoon we posted the other day.

From 9:45am EST to 10:00am EST today, there were 70 tweets that used the exact phrase: “for breakfast” in them.

Honestly, there were only one or two of these that should ever have seen the light of day at all.  There just isn’t a whole lot of Hemingway out there in the twittersphere.

With that in mind, I am starting a contest on twitter to improve the quality of “for breakfast” posts.  Follow me at @bhalliburton for more details.

I Have Seen The Future: Twitter Apps

Thursday, March 26th, 2009

teaintechWas reading a review of on Teaintech (Google juice, right there!) and to summarize it, it was: “Twitter, only customized for tea drinkers, a special needs community!”

My first thought upon reading this was: There is always a spot for a niche site that serves a community with truly unique needs if that community is sufficiently tightly lumped.  That way, they can migrate to a new/unique/obscure social network and all find each other.  (The obvious advantage of a large social network being that everyone is already there.)

My second thought upon reading this was: Facebook solved this problem by introducing Facebook Apps, allowing the user experience to be customized to special audiences via the creation of integrated applications.

Twitter is different than Facebook (today, although Facebook appears to be moving aggressively into the Twit-o-market).  The ability to shout the tea you drink out to anyone, even people that are not your friends, is different than Facebook and noteworthy.  Clearly, we need apps to serve this market.

Now, to round out this post, because everyone knows I like to keep my posts meaty, here is some more information for aspiring Web 3.0 Entrepreneurs: is taken.  It was registered about 4 months ago to Matthew Lamb of Bala Cynwyd, PA!  He has a baseline WordPress installation up with most of the default starter stuff still showing: “Hi, this is a comment.To delete a comment, just log in and view the post’s comments.”

Congratulations, Matthew!

Finally, Facebook appears to have no apps for tracking and sharing your tea drinking habits.  Alas, they appear to have 30 apps for “Send your friends a cup of tea”, which kills me.

Big opportunities for Twitter to prevent the segmentation of their audience and for Facebook developers to actually build practical apps for people.  This is a perfect opportunity to apply the new Publisher tool, something that Facebook has seen precious little of.

Update: Great post from the always brilliant Bokardo on relationship symetry in social networks.  This certainly gets at some of the underlying social dynamics that are driving Twitter’s success today and why Facebook is following them so quickly.

AdBrite Offers Amazing Gender Targeting!

Wednesday, March 25th, 2009

logo-with-taglineI was surfing around on AdBrite’s web self-service tool, checking out how similar it is to BidPlace SB in many ways, and I noticed that they offer gender targeting.  Gender targeting is fantastic for advertisers that value it, but what AdBrite offers seems to good to be true.  And you know what they say about things that seem to good to be true!

If AdBrite tells you they have 22k imps available for a given target, selecting a specific gender perfectly splits the impressions.  So the sum of male and female impressions equals 100% of the total impressions.  While this may seem obvious and appropriate to a casual onlooker, what is insane about this is that it implies that they actually know the gender of single one of their impressions.  That is simply not possible at scale.  What is AdBrite doing here?  No way to know, but it is clearly inaccurate.

Furthermore, they offer the same segmentation for their “Age” targeting.  How can AdBrite know the age of all of the web visitors generating their acquired impression volume?  They cannot.

Here is what they say about how they do it:

Demographic targeting works from user profiles built up over time, based on the websites that users have visited and spent time on in the past. The ability to use demographic targeting for a campaign applies to ads served worldwide.

AdBrite’s Open Targeting Exchange (OTEx), the internet’s first open exchange for ad targeting technologies, sharpens the effectiveness of demographic targeting. OTEx brings multiple third-party targeting providers into the marketplace—that means a higher yield and greater effectiveness for your campaigns. OTEx automatically finds the demographic targeting technology that will work best for your campaign.

Does that sound like they know the age and gender of everyone on the Internet?  Nah.

I know I blogged a long time ago about how uninteresting bitching about things you saw on the web is, but that is who I am.  Sorry!

Update: The next day, the New York Times did a nice article about data exchanges (which I have previously discussed are a hard sell).  Two things were noteworthy:

  1. Stephanie makes Data Exchanges sound so reasonable.  And admittedly, they sound like such a slam dunk, everyone is starting one.  Alas, as I discuss, I think when you dig in, going from generating a lot of revenue to generating a lot of profits is really hard with these businesses.
  2. Stephanie indicates that Blue Kai has “determined” that she is a male.  Woot?

Funny, Funny, But True

Monday, March 23rd, 2009


Original source unknown, courtesy of RWW

MediaPost and Neil Monnens Embarrass Themselves

Monday, March 23rd, 2009

I don’t know Neil, and he is probably a good guy, but I have to say it: Do you really want a guy this terrible at math doing your media planning?  Neil’s concept might even be right, but he illustrates it so poorly I lose faith.

In a recent article on MediaPost, Neil posits:

It is much better to get $5 CPM for 80% of your inventory than $20 CPM for 20% of your inventory. Sure you may feel some pride telling your peers that your site CPM is $20 … but when you sell only 20% of your inventory, you are not only decreasing your revenue potential, but also undermining your advertising relationships — the kind that develop into profitable repeat business.

Is $5 for 80% of your inventory really better?  Let’s do some quick math (He posits $1/cpm as a typical remnant price earlier in the article):

  • ($5 * 80%) + ($1 * 20%) = $21.00
  • ($20 * 20%) + ($1 * 80%) = $24.00

5 * 80% = 20 * 20%.  That is 1st grade math and revenue neutral, plus you have way more inventory left over to try to come up with schemes to do things with.

Hysterical that no one notices this.

People Exposing Their Lives (Overloads Me With Information)

Saturday, March 14th, 2009

twitter-whaleTwitter is fantastic.   Specifically, I believe it fills a gaping void in the market that I will call “public conversations”.  Just saying it implies the utility.

If Socrates decided to teach today, he would undoubtedly have condensed all of his answers to 140 characters and be an avid twitter fan.

Previously, there were three similar but different modalities available to people:

  1. Blog posts – with people invited to comment.  This metaphor never felt like a true dialogue of equals.  Someone “owns” the conversation.  Tools like FriendFeed, Disqus, and Intense Debate attempted to improve the nature of this dialogue and help people own their comments, but they lack market traction and are still a work in progress.
  2. Email and private message: Perfect for discussing things between two people, but not accessible to the public.
  3. Status Messages: Private for Facebook, more public for MySpace, once again comments are accessible, but not in the same kind of public shared sense.  There was no tagging and searching.  Really, status messages are micro blog posts.

Open discussions are something new.  When Twitter is used to say, “Eating cereal” (a very common Twitter modality), it is exactly like the Facebook status message, accept that it can be read by anyone.  When @tags are used, it becomes something newer and different.  A public message directed at a specific individual.  The individual sees it as do all of the individuals friends.  It is a public calling out.

This is an extraordinarily powerful function.

And, when mis-used, an extraordinarily annoying one.

Case in point, a recent Tweet I saw: “@alexiskn what is #sxsw?”  or “@LVRealEstate You know about the Beer And Blog meetups we have every Thursday, right?”

Why does this clog my twitter stream?  This is something that people listening to things said to “alexiskn” or people listening to things said by the original tweeter could not possibly take an interest in.  It is a specific question directed at a specific person.  This could be done via email or direct messaging.

Comments on AOLs new leadership from SXSW

Friday, March 13th, 2009

I was out of town when Lynda got the boot, now I am out of town when Randy and Ron get the boot.  While generally, as someone who loves working for AOL, I don’t want to say a lot, I do want to say a little to put my unique perspective on the truckloads of organizational changes going on at AOL.  Let me caveat this with the fact that I had one conversation with Jon Miller during his time here and have not had a single interaction with Randy and Ron ever.  I have never spoken with Mike Kelly or Curt Viebranz.  I have interacted extensively with Lynda Clarizio during her time running, but probably interacted more with the Ferbers/Steve Root during their time running the organization.  This is an insider giving you an outsiders perspective, hence my comfort with talking about these issues.

  1. Tim Armstrong is a stud.  I met him 5 years ago and thought he was an absolute stud.  I think a sales leader can’t just drive to numbers but also needs to have a strong marketplace vision.  This is one of the things I loved about Mike Peralta during his time with Platform-A sales.  A vision allows someone to have a senior relationship with people on the agency side that is more than just a periodic game of golf.  Tim definitely fits that bill.  Having said that, this is a very different business than Google and outside of search – the greatest business ever – Google had precious few successes.
  2. What was going on with Randy and Ron?  Their emails over the last few weeks announcing that Greg’s addition to the Platform-A team was the final step in their “3-year turnaround plan” was rightly maligned in the media as a test in random outcomes.  How could Jeff ignore that?  No one would say that “Hiring and firing Curt in 6 months, promoting then firing Lynda in a year, and hiring Greg” was all part of a plan.  The moral was that their 2 year plan had not worked, hence drastic change.
  3. I have said for years that Jon Miller had a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” moment at AOL.  When he began the move to an advertising supported AOL, the result was sure to be a financial apocalypse.  If he hadn’t done it, he would have been fired for slowly letting the business fall apart and not pushing in the right strategic direction.  The fact that he did it also ensured he would be fired eventually.  Lynda had a similar period at AOL.  Mike Kelly, in the big scheme of things, was probably fired because he needed to integrate the two sales forces.  He didn’t, so they brought in Curt.  Curt didn’t either, so he gets canned.  Lynda promptly integrates the sales force and then the sales force misses the numbers.  This is probably typical sales force re-org experience.  I hope she finds a great landing because she did a nice job.
  4. Organizations need great players.  I have always felt that football coaches were over-rated.  A good coach helps, but they never get too far without solving the QB problem.  A lot of this is noise.  To be successful, people need to execute.  I remember reading a book about an ibanker analyst during the tech boom.  He drove around looking for full parking lots late at night and used that to predict winners.  Winners are not the best CEO’d companies.  Winners are the ones working harder than everyone else.

I know I could not be more stoked about the work that New Product Development is doing at Platform-A.  The launch of, demonstrating some of the technology soon to be unleashed on the world in the form of BidPlace, is a great example of the kind of activity that is really going to move the needle.

Speaking of, if you want $200 off your first BidPlaceSB campaign, use the promo code: “SBStart09”.  Free money!

Anyway, I am at SXSW.  Email me if you want to hang out.  I tried following the #sxsw hash tag, but it is getting like 20 new tweets a minute and I get carsick at that kind of speed.

MySpace Data Makes Me Worry For Our Youth

Wednesday, March 4th, 2009

twilightUsing MySpace’s ad platform is a great way to learn things about the MySpace demographics.  I was able to look at how many people I could target on MySpace that were interested in a series of books:

  • Catch-22: 46k fans
  • Brave New World: 73k fans
  • The Kite Runner: 111k fans
  • Chronicles of Narnia: 119k fans
  • Great Gatsby: 124k fans
  • Eragon: 140k fans
  • Twilight: 472k fans
  • The Bible: 1.4m fans

So that is kind of disturbing.  Not only is Twilight rapidly catching the Bible, Eragon, a terrible book, is more popular than some of the best books available for targeting on MySpace.

You can pull the same data off of Facebooks Ad Platform:

  • Catch-22: 64k fans
  • Brave New World: 142k fans
  • The Kite Runner: 303k fans
  • Chronicles of Narnia: 250k fans
  • Great Gatsby: 310k fans
  • Eragon: 69k fans
  • Twilight: 842k fans
  • The Bible: 1.3m fans

This is kind of interesting in several dimensions:

  1. It seems to indicate a degree of directional consistency.  With the exception of Eragon and The Kite Runner, the rankings are in the same order.
  2. I think Facebooks filters skew the data substantially.  Facebook only shows results for people that identify as 18+.  That probably shrinks the Eragon fan base substantially.  Regardless, I suspect that it shows that Facebook has a more mature audience in that there are far fewer Eragon fans and far more Kite Runner fans, relatively.
  3. Facebook seems to have more fans in general.  I don’t think this reflects the size of their audience because most people agree that Facebook has fewer, albeit almost as many, US users than MySpace.  I assume that this means that Facebook does a better job of eliciting information from its user-base that it can use for ad targeting.
  4. Kids today have terrible taste in books.
  5. One additional note for reference:  Wandering around in the MySpace tool taxonomy pointed me to some reference data for comparison: 90k people likeds Abercrombie and Fitch and 480k liked tattoos, so your average MySpace person would take A&F over classic literatute and would take tattoos over any given book.
  6. Finally, I wanted to make a UX note: Facebook’s “suggestion” feature is super helpful.  I don’t know if MySpace uses a bunch of back-end processes to roll up people into similar groups, but Facebook offers “related terms” to incent advertisers to add more terms.  For example, when I typed Eragon, it told me I could also select “Eragon and Eldest” and “Eragon Series”, which were both similarly sized populations.  Using those additional two terms grew my targetable population by 20%.  MySpace gives you a taxonomy of terms to choose from (in this case, book titles).  I assume they are able to roll up all of these, but you never know.

Want a little more junk MySpace data?  Here are video games:

  • Madden fans: 38k
  • Guitar Hero fans: 162k
  • Halo: 174k
  • GTA: 182k
  • WoW: 520k

Clearly, WoW is some people’s religion.


  • 30 Rock: 60k fans
  • Colbert Report: 155k fans
  • Charmed: 324k fans
  • America’s Next Top Model: 348k fans
  • American Idol: 748k fans
  • Lost: 1.2m fans
  • CSI: 1.9m fans
  • Family Guy: 3.7m fans

Family Guy is bigger than Jesus.  Betcha didn’t think ANTM was such a big deal!  I would have thought that if Family Guy was so obviously huge, that Colbert would do better.