Busy Week Ahead

This has been a busy couple of weeks.  Last week was the Silicon Alley Tennis Invitational (part of Silicon Alley Sports) in which we hosted about 40 Silicon Alley execs up in Westchester County and played some tennis, was treated to a surprise guest Patrick McEnroe, and networked with each other.

This week, we’re doing some press briefings for some upcoming launches and have the below scheduled.  Hopefully I’ll be bumping into you at these events.

Wednesday (5/20) is Luma Partners’ Digital Media Summit in which I’ll be delivering a talk around user agency in advertising.  I’ll also be at the event in the afternoon to chat with those who would like to sit down and talk.

Thursday (5/21) is Dmexco NYC inaugural get-together and we’ll be there giving talks about putting the user front and center and giving some insights for the future of advertising.

Looking forward to seeing you this week.

 

Ad blocking, advertising, and the web

Yesterday, I posted about the content monetization model of advertising.  I see it coming under threat (it’s been under threat for a while) as users are currently winning with their clicks – installing software like ad blockers and beyond.  You should read the piece here.

There is some innovation happening in this space and I wanted to highlight a few of the folks you should probably start following if you have not already.  Note, this list is not comprehensive nor did these people ask me to post about them.  They actually have no clue that they are being listed here.

Dr. Augustine Fou – an independent ad fraud researcher.  I’ve been following Dr. Fou for years when he was on the agency side and have watched him transition into ad fraud.  He’s consistently posting to Twitter and creating presentations around non-human traffic, bots, ad block, etc.

Sean Blanchfield – started and runs a company called PageFair which is an independent ad network that shows non-intrusive ads to people using ad blockers.

Ben Williams – one of the key guys at Eyeo, better known as AdBlock Plus.

Laurie Sullivan – over the years, Laurie has covered this space quite a bit for MediaPost.  Per her recent pieces, she’s continuing.

Ben Barokas – he’s up to something.. again.  watch him.

Who else should be listed or should I be following?

What we’re working on at Mozilla

I just released a post on Advancing Content (our Mozilla blog) that talks about what we’re up to and why.  I think it’s a pretty important piece for the ad, content, and tech industry to read so I hope you do.  And if you find the piece interesting, please re-tweet/share.  The more people who read the piece and understand our mission, the better.

And so when I hear privacy advocates saying that it is the role of the browser to deliver tools for the user to protect their privacy, I agree.  And when I hear Randall Rothenberg saying that browser vendors have a responsibility to our culture and to our economy, I agree.  I do not believe that these aims are in direct conflict.  We need advertising experiences that work for advertisers and publishers, but that also respect the wishes – the agency – of the user.  The user needs to be at the center of the experience, and their desires must be respected in the value exchange.

The above is a snippet from the piece.  Read the whole thing here.

2015 Silicon Alley Sports

Silicon Alley Sports LogoBack in January, I wrote about Silicon Alley Sports and expanding our Silicon Alley Golf Invitational to also include a second event called the Silicon Alley Tennis Invitational.  We’ve been hard at work securing locations, hospitality, and logistics and we’re super excited to announce our lineup.

In 2015, I expect 150+ Silicon Alley based entrepreneurs, digital media executives, venture capitalists, angel investors and ecosystem supporters (i.e. advertising agency, brands, M&A folk, etc) to come out and participate.

First, we cannot make any of this happen without amazing sponsors who allow us to maintain a reasonable event price.  The 2015 Silicon Alley Sports sponsor roster welcomes back MDC Partners, SpongecellPubmaticBusiness Instincts Group, Sonobi, and welcomes newcomer Adzerk.  There is still 1-2 spots available and we’re in talks with a couple of companies.  If you are interested, contact us here.

The details for the events are below:
Silicon Alley Tennis Invitational (SATI)- May 14, 2015 at an exclusive tennis club in Westchester County, NY about 28 miles from Grand Central Terminal.  Tickets go on sale in early March and will be initially released to our past SAGI attendees and qualified folks who have inquired.

Silicon Alley Golf Invitational (SAGI)- September 10, 2015 at America’s oldest golf club (1888) and founding member of the USGA, about 21 miles from Grand Central Terminal.  Tickets go on sale in late May and will be initially released to past players of the event.  This will be our 11th year of the Silicon Alley Golf Invitational.

There will be a cocktail party in Manhattan this summer for all attendees of both SATI and SAGI.  We’ve historically held this on the beautiful patio of MDC Partners which overlooks Central Park.  If you’ve purchased a ticket to one of these events, you’ll receive an invite.

Who should attend a Silicon Alley Sports event?   There is a robust FAQ listed here but I’ll review  a few things in this post.

Who should attend?  Our primary audience for Silicon Alley Sports events are entrepreneurs, c-level digital media executives, venture capitalists, angel investors, and ecosystem supporters as defined above.  We are invite only in order to maintain the level of attendees and if you believe you should be invited, please contact us.

Is this a mens only event?  Absolutely positively not.  We don’t have as many women participate as we’d ultimately like and we’re looking to change this.  We welcome all men and women equally.

How competitive are the sports?  There are some really good players – some scratch golfers, some USTA/NTRP rated 5.5 players however that’s not what is most important.  Our events are meant to be fun and welcoming, not super intensively competitive.  If you plan on bringing your conditioning coach to the event, it’s probably the wrong event for you.  I will say however that you must be able to hit a golf ball or keep a ball on the court in tennis.

What’s the donation/charity component?  We donate all proceeds of the events (revenue – costs = proceeds) at the end of the year to charities.  Historically, we’ve donated to Charity:Water, Venture for America, Robin Hood, and Make-A-Wish Foundation and we’ll continue to explore different charities over time.  Our goal is to have impact in the world and help people in need.

Who is the media partner for Silicon Alley Sports?  We’re not sure yet and are beginning to talk to different companies.  If you are interested in covering our events or working with us in some capacity please reach out here.

I hope to see you at the events!

Play well.  Do good.

Ads that fit in

Ever since I was on the agency side, I wrestled with the idea of Native Advertising because it was a new name for something that already existed. When questioned by the press or clients, I would define native ads as ads embedded into the UI/UX of the site. But who really cares, how is this new?

At Mozilla, we have a super smart team thinking about and building new advertising products for Firefox in our Content Services group. These products started rolling out in November 2014 at global scale and have had some moderate success so far.

We’ve been experimenting with the format of the advertising experiences and have initially settled on the format of the “tile,” the rectangle that appears on your New:Tab page of your Firefox browser. Most modern browsers have these tiles as they provide quick access to your most frequent and recent websites.

Why did we initially pick the tile as the place to begin our experimentation? Because the New:Tab page already exists in the browser and is a place where hundreds of millions of users are used to seeing their tiles, whether or not they realize they are called tiles.

In a conversation today with Dan Greenberg, the CEO/founder of Sharethrough and members of his team, he termed native advertising as “ads that fit in.” When thinking about our tiles ads in Firefox, I would propose and Dan would probably agree that they are native units. The ads fit in naturally without disrupting our users.

So the tough job is on us at Mozilla… now that we’ve found the right spot initially for the adverts (tiles), we need to present our users with quality and relevant content within it. We are working hard on that.

Manchester Vermont – Our Winter Kingdom

Let me start off by providing some context about myself and family. We come to Manchester, Vermont for weekends and holidays during the winter as we live in Westchester County, NY. I’ve been coming up here ever since college and now with young children (6, 4), we are increasing our frequency. This post should answer lots of questions that I normally receive about this Manchester – restaurants, food, skiing, lodging, etc. Hope it helps you!

Route

Manchester is about 3 1/4 to 3 1/2 hours from our home in Westchester County. We take the Taconic straight to 90 and then up Vermont 7. Very simple and straight forward drive – though via the Taconic there are no rest-stops. If you have children who like to stretch their legs or have issues holding their bladder, the i87 might be a better route to select.

What I like most about the drive is that it’s fairly peaceful. There aren’t a ton of buildings or homes along the highway so you pretty much get a ton of foliage and mountain views. The Taconic is known for it’s law enforcement presence so I recommend downloading Waze on your mobile device and watching for/logging the police presence. This is by no means perfect – but it has helped me a couple of times when I didn’t expect a police officer to be present and I was driving a couple of miles above the speed limit.

Ski Mountains

We typically stay in the town of Manchester, VT. There are many bordering towns but we prefer it here because of its proximity to pretty much everything – shopping, restaurants, grocery stores, etc. Manchester is not the most remote of towns because of this – so if you are looking for a completely remote escape, then check a town or two over.

If you are coming up in the Winter, then chances are pretty good that you like to ski or board. You’ve got three immediate options for skiing – Bromley, Stratton and Magic Mountain. From our home in Manchester, Bromley is 15 minutes and Stratton & Magic are 25 . All are super accessible and on most days, you can see all three from each resort.  Okemo, Mt. Snow, and Killington are also relatively close but take more like 50, 60, and 75 mins respectively from Manchester. Having all of these mountains close is a major plus, IMHO.  If you are up here for a week or so, you can have variety in the mountains you ski. You are not stuck at any one mountain and can get to plenty of good mountains centrally from Manchester.

Lodging

My wife and I love staying at The Reluctant Panther when traveling sans children which is self proclaimed as a fine luxury small hotel. They have one of my favorite rooms which features a fireplace in the middle of the room. Next door to The Reluctant Panther (just west of it) is The Equinox Hotel – probably the most famous of all here. The Equinox is a mini-city in itself with condos, the hotel, different schools (Falconry, Land Rover Driving Experience, etc) and is a big draw. My wife and I have never had a good experience with The Equinox when we’ve stayed in the past so we prefer to stay elsewhere… but many friends have stayed there and enjoy it.

We have children now so we’ve been renting homes. We’ve rented everything from 1800 sq. foot barns to 5500 sq. foot luxury homes. This season, we rented on the larger side as we’ve been up a lot and had friends and family join us up here. We’ve had a ton of luck with VRBO and Airbnb. Mid-size modern homes rent from $650-1500 per night which might seem like a lot but divide the amount of bedrooms of the home and you can figure out what the approximate hotel room rate would be.

Just driving around Manchester this winter, we’ve found a ton of homes for sale – and many of these homes need updating. If you are like us and into the modern or contemporary modern aesthetic – there are few selections to pick from. If you are looking for a home to purchase and like the traditional Vermont look… then this is certainly a buyers market.

Food, Restaurants

There are two main grocery stores in Manchester: Price Chopper and Shaw’s. Both are perfectly fine – I believe the Shaw’s is a bit bigger than the Price Chopper. My children like the Red Box movie/game dispenser at the Shaw’s which allows us to rent a film by the day for a very low price. We usually eat breakfast at home on ski days and bring some snacks for the lodge. This is where the grocery stores come in handy and we stock up for the weekend or week whenever we come up. (Dad pro tip: Let the kids pick the cereal)

We enjoy a consistent set of restaurants – but note, restaurants can be super crowded during holiday times and I highly recommend you make reservations months in advance. It’s always easy to change reservations but it’s hard to make them in a time crunch. Some of the restaurants here are on OpenTable… but not all. Restaurants are a most booked during Christmas Week and New Years.

We bring our children to all of the below restaurants. We don’t have a nanny or babysitter up here so the kids accompany us virtually everywhere… so family friendly for the most part. Here are our regular places:

  • Mulligans – bar/pub food. Very solid and low key. Lunch + Dinner.
  • The Perfect Wife – *exception to no kids. Most upscale of all. Fancy menu, but good. Dinner.
  • The Other Woman – the tavern next to The Perfect Wife (same owners). Kids love it. We love it and always come. Dinner.
  • Brasserie L’Oustau – excellent french brasserie. On the fancy side. Not overly kid friendly but we certainly take them here. In the location of one of our previously favorite restaurants, Laneys. Dinner.
  • Firetower Restaurant – at Stratton Mountain. Eclectic menu but solid. Kids welcome. Bar scene too. Dinner.
  • Up for Breakfast – one of our favorite spots for breakfast. Cash & check only. Fills up quickly and is small.
  • Nippers Cafe – at the Stamford Motel – don’t let looks throw you off. Had great dinner and breakfast here. Breakfast/Dinner.
  • Bobs Diner – it’s exactly how it looks and sounds. Super old school diner that does what it needs to do. A lot of food and a tiny bit of grease. On way to Bromley/Stratton/Magic so makes it easy to stop in before a long ski day.
  • Jake’s Cafe & Tavern – located in Londonderry. Best nachos we’ve had in town. Super well priced. Kid friendly. Breakfast and Dinner.
  • The Reluctant Panther Inn Dining Room – *not ideal for kids (if they even allow). One of the more formal dining rooms but great food. Good for date night and if you are staying at the inn.
  • Cilantro – It’s a local version of Chipotle – but solid. Braised beef is amazing. Super kid friendly.  In the heart of Manchester but also a small hut close to Bromley and Stratton.
  • Spiral Press Cafe – it’s not just a coffee shop! The soups and sandwiches/panninis are really good and it’s a super comfortable atmosphere.
  • Maplefields – looks like a gas station, which it is… but go inside and find the varieties of coffee and freshly baked goods.  Delicious.  Perfect for a recharge or snack on the way to the mountains.

If you like ice cream, make sure to stop by the local Stewarts gas stations. Yes, gas stations. The ice cream bar is phenomenal and Stewarts has been long known for their ice cream.

Skiing

We love Bromley, the sun mountain, the only mountain in the area that faces the sun most of the day. Trust me – the sun feels good when its beating down. Bromley isn’t the biggest, isn’t the most vertical, isn’t the most plush, nor the highest rated. Bromley is Bromley and that’s what we love about it. Bromley is a bit more laid back and chill than Stratton and isn’t about “the scene.” Bromley has a great lodge – and by great – simple and old school. It probably could use a renovation but then it would lose it’s old school aura which is what makes it special. The food in the lodge is mediocre-lodge-expensive as you could imagine (I think a coffee is $3) but it is what it is. The mountain is divided approximately 30/30/30 between green, blue and black trails and has one high speed quad to the summit (from the base). There are lift lines during holidays but the lines tend to be in the afternoons. Pro tip: use the singles line as much as you can in order to get the most amount of runs in.

Snowboarding is allowed (and taught) at Bromley but apparently it’s decreasing in popularity. I was riding up with an instructor recently and he mentioned that the glade skiing and side-mountain skiing is of the rage. Bromley supports this and apparently has a ton of terrain that’s set aside.

The ski instruction at Bromley is really good. Our kids never skied before this season and my son is now on blue trails and my daughter is doing well on the magic carpet. We gave our kids private lessons pretty much each day we were up here this season – a luxury we could afford – but gets pricey. If you get a chance, request Harold Meehan for your children. He’s been incredible to us and we’ve spent a ton of time with him this season and our children really adore him.

One of the recent additions to Bromley which appeal to us is the valet. We buy a seasons pass as we use it often – but pretty much each weekend and holiday week – you drive up to the front and drop off your car. The attendants (Alec and co) help take the skis out of the car and really make life easier. Highly recommended. I think it’s $25/day if you don’t have season passes.

I don’t ski, what else is there to do?

You’re in luck. Manchester has a ton of outlet shopping (not sure if you get good deals but my wife thinks so) and even has a small movie theater (Village Picture Show) with two screens. The Northshire Bookstore is the oldest bookstore in the north east and is a great place to also take children. If you are into the spa thing, check out the Equinox and other large inns.  You could also go ice skating, snow shoeing, and snow mobiling.  I mentioned the Land Rover Driving Experience above and that’s something I love doing with family and friends who come up – no matter the weather conditions.

The larger movie theater and bowling alley are in Bennington which is a 30 minute drive from Manchester. On rest-days or foul weather days these come in super handy.

It’s a Magical Place

We love it up here – and what I’ve written here only cracks the surface. We’re still exploring new places to eat and play throughout the region. If you’re heading up – let us know, maybe we’ll be here and can grab some Magic Hat #9 together.

Thinking About Virtual and Augmented Reality

Thanks to Benjamin de Wit of the Amsterdam based We Make VR, I’ve started to take a close look at the Virtual and Augmented Reality (“VR”) marketplace.  I was in the virtual world (gaming) space for a while but now that we have headsets and augmented lenses, I’m interested in the applications beyond gaming.

I am going to pick up a Samsung Galaxy Note 4 for work (we make a Firefox browser for Android) and will also pick up the Samsung VR to check out some of the initial content created for virtual worlds.

I still have a hard time thinking that there will be hundreds of millions of headsets sold in the short term but I have to imagine that the technologies will evolve and not require crazy head contraptions.  From there, network effects happen and more content will be created since more headsets are in circulation.

Side note:  If I was an advertising holding company (i.e. MDC Partners, WPP, IPG, Omnicom, etc), I would acquire a bunch of VR production studios right now to build the best-in-class highly interactive content.  Just sayin’.

Come work on the most differentiated product vision in advertising technology

It’s the beginning of the year and many companies are hiring.  So are we (Mozilla).  But why should you consider the job opportunities at Mozilla versus many of the super hot pre-IPO companies that also offer good opportunities?

If you are into advertising and marketing technology, I’d like to think that we offer one of the few truly differentiated value propositions in the ecosystem…  and delivering against this is a huge engineering, product, product-market, and account management challenge.  We truly put the user first – and give them complete control.  In our world, it’s not just what the brand wants… it’s also what the user wants.  We’ve begun to assemble a passionate group of folks who “get” the ad tech space – so there is no lack of intelligent conversations.  We are looking to add to this group of folks, affectionately called Content Services.

Below are three areas that we’re hiring for – right now.  If you are interested in any of these or know someone who is, please reach out thru the contact form on this blog.

Prior to reaching out however, please do the following:

Program Manager
We are hiring for a Program Manager to function between engineering, product, product marketing, business development, account management, data science, and partnerships.  The Program Manager should have 4-8 years of experience of managing multi-thread processes at a scaled technology company but one who still acts as a startup.  What counts?  Details.  Proactivity.  Rallying the troops.  Execution.  Accountability  Getting things done.  Sound interesting?  We have a more robust job-spec ready for those who are interested.  Contact here.

Content Partnerships (agency, brand, publisher)
We are hiring Content Partnerships team members.  In many organizations, these would be considered “sales” or “business development” roles*.  We are looking for people to evangelize our products to agencies and brands and build partnerships that are beneficial to not just the advertiser but to the user (most important) and Mozilla.  What counts?  Pro-activity.  Empathy and judgement for the user.  Understanding our values and not just bringing in a dollar where you can find it.  Creativity.  Accountability.  Sound interesting?  We have a more robust job-spec ready for those who are interested.  Contact here.

Partnership Success Team
I’m not sold on the name of the team yet but we’re looking to build out our success function to our content partnerships.  These roles would generally be labeled as “Account Management” and such – making sure the campaigns and clients are having a successful experience working with Mozilla.  What counts?  Details.  Pro-activity.  Being able to think on your feet.  Resourceful.  Polished.  People-person.  Friendly.  Humorous.  Humble.  Sound interesting?  We have a more robust job-spec ready for those who are interested.  Contact here.

Ideally, you are based in New York, Chicago, Mountain View or San Francisco but willing to consider exquisite candidates in most locations.

 

 

* My friend Jon discusses the name change here.

 

My 2015 Conference Lineup: IAB, Programmatic I/O, Cannes, Dmexco and more

I’ve received some notes from folks asking which conferences I’ll be attending in 2015.  Here is my committed lineup (i.e. hotels booked, flights locked-in) but always subject to change.  Some of these I’m speaking at… and others, not (yet).

IAB Annual Leadership Meeting:  Content and the Kingmakers (February 8-10, Arizona USA)
Programmatic I/O:  AdExchanger (April 16, San Francisco USA)
Digital Media Summit:  Luma Partners (timing TBD)
Cannes Festival (June 21-25, Cannes, France)
Dmexco (Sept 16-17, Cologne, Germany)

* Due to timing issues with other travel, I cannot attend the AdExchanger Industry Preview Conference but I bet it’ll be pretty fantastic.

Looking at the schedule, it’s going to be a busy first half of the year!  If you are heading to IAB Leadership meeting and want to get together, definitely reach out.

Also, if I left a conference out that you think I should attend, please let me know.

2015 Technology, Advertising, and Digital Prediction List

Over the years, I have curated and posted an technology, marketing, advertising, and media trend prediction list on this blog.  This year is no different, I’m going to do it again.  This is a good list to bookmark and reference as you create your presentations throughout the year.

I’ll keep this updated – but I’m not perfect.  Email me if you would like me to include your list (send me blog link and #1 prediction) here.

Predictions for 2015: Uber, Beacons, AdTech, and More (John Battelle)
Thinking about 2015:  Payments, Content Creation, and more
(Darren Herman)
What’s Going to Happen (Fred Wilson)
My 5 Predictions for 2015 and Beyond (Don Dodge)
Mobile Tech Predictions: Android, Amazon, Windows, etc (ZDNet/@jkendrick)
Three Seismic Threats to Marketers (AdAge/@dberkowitz)
The State of Bitcoin and Crytpocurrencies (A16z/@pmarca)
Eight Seismic Changes to the Hispanic Market (MediaPost/Jose Villa)World Economic Forum Predictions: Digital (WEF/Sven Denecken)
What’s Next in Wireless (John Legere)
Tech Predictions:  What Does the Future Hold? (Gary Newe)
20 Questions for 2015 (Benedict Evans)
20 E-Commerce Trends and Predictions for 2015 (eConsultancy)
Predictions for Digital Marketing in 2015 (Adobe/John Watton)
The Future of Digital Media in 2015 (TechCrunch/@pcsathy)
4 Cloud Predictions for 2015 (GigaOm/Barb Darrow)
API Predictions (Steven Willmott)
Predictions for 2015:  There Will be Blood (Valleywag/Dan Lyons)
2015 Tech Predictions (Hany Rashwan)
10 Predictions for Content Marketing (Mashable/Shafqat Islam)
What To Look Out for in Tech 2015 (BI Intelligence)