Category Archives: Internet & Web X.0

Why I've Unsubscribed from Deal a Day Services

Image representing Groupon as depicted in Crun...
Image via CrunchBase

This post shouldn’t come across as another “I’ve quit [replace with service] because [xyz].”  There have been way too many of those type of posts and I don’t want to be another log on the fire.

I’m in the process of unsubscribing from the Groupons of this world because in aggregate they send me way too many offers that are not relevant to me and the value they do deliver to me does not outweigh the disservice of cleaning out my inbox.

Note: by Groupons of this world, I mean LivingSocial, BuywithMe, SocialSteals, DealOn, and others.

In a world of customization and personalization, you would think that these services would employ Hunch-like personalization.  Currently, they are no different than old school offers delivered thru digital vehicles.  As a consumer, I almost expect customized coupons in 2010.  I’d rather not receive a coupon if it’s not relevant to me.   Heck, even the television commercials on ESPN are more relevant.

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Quantitative Analysis: Fantasy Football

As most of you know, I’m a huge fantasy football junkie.  I spend a disproportionate amount of my time on Sunday mornings getting my lineups ready based on research I’ve done during the week thru various forms:  XM Radio Fantasy Football Channel, FFLibrarian, Rotowire (Subscription), The Huddle (Subscription), and even simply talking to players.

I stumbled across Numberfire (I hate the name) from a friend of mine and did some research and saw that they were recently written up on TechCrunch.  Numberfire applies data mining and statistical analysis to determine which fantasy football players to sit and/or start each week… they accomplish this by looking at many different data points that affect a players outcome such as the player itself, his team, his competition, and other factors.

They just released their Week 1 analysis of performance and it turns out:

The two key metrics are that I beat both ESPN (59%) and Yahoo! (77%). There’s not much analysis that needs to be derived from that statistic. All of made projections; I was right more often and in the case of Yahoo!, almost embarrassingly so.

The smaller, but equally interesting metrics are the deltas, or the difference between a projection and the actual result. My deltas were lower than both (ie: were more accurate), and the difference between the projections themselves would have caused a 10.8 point difference over Yahoo! and a staggering 16.2 point difference over ESPN.

Not bad.  I’m thinking of converting one of my teams (out of 3) to be based on the numberfire analysis system and seeing how I perform this season.

What I don’t like about numberfire (maybe because I haven’t found it) is that the algorithm they use to score the players is a black box.  I hate black boxes.  Maybe this will change over time.

Needless to say, quantitative analysis can help make decisions, especially when there are lots of data points.  We obviously used this thesis when creating Varick Media Management and we’re seeing similar awesome results.

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My Recent Bookshelf

One of my guaranteed impulse buy categories are books.  I’m a sucker.  If there is a book that I think might want to read, I’ll buy it; even if I’m half way thru a current book and still have 5 new ones sitting on the table.

99.9% of my books are paperback/hardcover (non-digital) and 90% of those are within business, strategy, marketing, and biography categories.  I admit I have a one track mind.

Here are some recent books I’ve read:

The Facebook Effect (David Kirkpatrick):  I really enjoyed this book.  I think I enjoyed it because it was a biography of how Facebook started, the people, and the drama.  It was less about the actual business in itself, and not at all about “social media‘ and “social” marketing.   I felt like parts of this book could be made into an HBO show… oh wait, there’s a movie coming out about Zuck.  This was a VERY fast read for me (and I’m slow!) despite it’s voluminous appearance.

Open Leadership (Charlene Li):  I totally respect Charlene Li but I found this book to be a dud.  Note:  I’m engrossed in social technologies on a daily basis but found most of this book to be very elementary to what I do and what we talk about inside of our agency.   For people who are leaders in non-marketing services organizations who are not early adopters, this book might serve them much better than it served me.

Here are some books I’ve recently ordered (but not read):

What’s Mine is Yours:  The Rise of Collaborative Consumption (Botsman, Rogers):  I got introduced to this book thru an Umair Haque tweet.  I highly respect Umair and generally follow along with his ramblings.  Once I read the description of the book, I instantly 1-click ordered it from Amazon.  Should be here later this week.

Everything I Know About Marketing, I Learned from Google (Aaron Goldman):  I actually forgot how I heard about this book but I do remember reading a review about it on someone’s blog.  I’m very curious to see what angle this book takes about Google as I think Google has failed in marketing quite a few of their projects (almost everything but Search).  The book actually arrived this past Friday and hope to start it over the coming weeks.

Are there any books I should be concentrating on?  Anyone care to share their reading list?

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Fantasy Football 2010

NFL KickoffIt’s that time of year again; time to devote your late morning weekends to setting and locking your fantasy football rosters in order to win the weekend’s matchups.  I write this post each year at the beginning of the season and it’s fun to go back to see previous posts and see how things have changed.

I’m in 3 leagues this year, which is 1 more than I’m used to.  I’ve found that 2 leagues can sometimes be bullish to manage but I may be totally in over my head with 3 leagues especially with a 22 month old and a new baby being born any second.

I’ve had a hard time this year figuring out which research I’m subscribing to:  last year I subscribed to Rotowire and The Huddle but this year, I’ve only subscribed to Rotowire.  I certainly think there is an opportunity to help people select which research they want to subscribe to as it’s all confusing to me. (que for entrepreneurs)  Back in 2008, I tried to visualize the statistics with a project I called GoalLine.tv but realized quickly that I didn’t have the time (though could easily bring it back with some Mechanical Turks – anyone want to help?)

What’s exciting me about this season is the amount of national TV advertisers that have taken to adding fantasy football into their creative strategy.  Brands are now recognizing that there are millions of fantasy sports fans and that the opportunity to bond with us is a big and often missed opportunity.

Lastly, I still don’t see enough innovation within the fantasy football space.  While there are a few more companies doing casual mini-games this year, I still don’t see the dominant players emerging.   Would love to hear about new companies tackling the space…as this is an area that I’ve been passionate about for some time.

Oh – and make sure you tune into tonight’s Minnesota/New Orleans game… the Dave Matthews Band is performing!

Early Stage Areas/Companies I'm Watching

I have really enjoyed watching all of the innovation over the past few years and wanted to highlight a few areas that I think are really interesting for 2010/2011.  In some cases, I may use company names as examples;  unless otherwise noted, I am not an investor in any of these companies and this is not a sponsored post (cmp.ly disclosure).

Video
I think 2010-2020 is going to be the decade of digital video.  Analog video will become digital and it will become indexable, optimizable, and interactive.  For many reasons outlined in this previous post, I don’t think it’s going to happen overnight, but I do think that video is going to grow significantly.  Many of my clients in the agency are asking for video (either to complement their digital plan or to substitute for their traditional TV efforts) for 2011.

One of the companies that I’m watching today is Milabra (Crunchbase Profile).  The reason why Milabra is interesting to me is because they help us index what is in the actual video content.  This is extremely important when we want to target, customize and index content.

Social Networking
CollegeOnlyIt’s 2004 all over again.  I wrote back in the day that social networks are like hot clubs – while they are all the rage now, there will be another hot one in the next year or two.  Facebook has obviously dominated but there becomes a point where Fb will not have 100% marketshare.

One of the companies I’m watching is CollegeOnly (Crunchbase Profile). What I like about them is that their value proposition is easily understood and their media kit does a great job describing who and what they do… and I believe it.

Automated Advice
If we all had access to a lot of data, we can have it tell us things based on certain criteria we tell it to look for.   In an age of large amounts of data, companies are going to emerge that weed out the middleman of giving advice/consultations for the opportunity to automate actionable decisions.

PlantlyI’m specifically tracking two companies in this area:  Plant.ly (Crunchbase Profile) and Profitably (Crunchbase Profile).  There is no coincidence that they both start with “P” and end in “ly.”  Plant.ly has access to a huge database of investment risk and returns over a few decades.  Based on your risk tolerance and expected return, they can recommend the right fund/etf/etc for you.  No need to pay a middleman to set that up for you.

Profitably is another startup that is innovating in the automated advice area.  You give it access to your Quickbooks business information and it helps you decide where you can either trim costs or grow profits for our business.  For someone who isn’t numbers adept, this could be very valuable.

Because both of these companies use technology to disintermediate humans, the can significantly reduce the transaction cost and still make boku dollars based off of scale.

Content Consumption
This is an area that I’m currently very active in.  I’m a formal advisor to Fast Society which is launching in a couple of weeks, and I’m about to launch a project called Tomzy (currently the sole investor) that helps the world visualize vast amounts of information.  I’m on a content consumption kick because in it’s current form, it’s broken.  I have a whole post coming out on this upon the launch of Tomzy but essentially we cannot manage our current content stream and we’ve not even digitized the majority of our content yet… so how can we expect to keep up with it in the future?

While Tomzy is all about processing and filtering content based on its relevance to YOU, Fast Society creates a bbm (blackberry messenger) like service across any platform for a small group of people for a defined period of time.  I can’t give too much away about Fast Society but it’s different than GroupMe (Crunchbase Profile).

Based on what you have read here, if there are companies who you think should be on my radar screen, I’m certainly willing to engage.  Please contact me thru this form, comment below, or tweet me @dherman76.

Talent Needs: Job Opportunities

One of the most amazing things about starting a business is being able to provide career opportunities for people at all stages of their life.  I’ve listed a few opportunities below and if  you or someone you know is interested in one of these, please do not hesitate to reach out.  The company is Varick Media Management which is the demand side platform and infrastructure for MDC Partners agencies and brands directly.  The team is located at 160 Varick Street in New York City.  I will refer all qualified candidates to the HR coordinator and the respective designee at VMM.

Investment Manager (Top Line Revenue Growth Driver):  Looking for someone with 1-3 years of experience to evangelize and drive top line growth of VMM to agencies and brands.  We are looking for someone who has experience in making the complex very simple; someone who is extremely personable; and who can present themselves well to a group.  Compensation is based off of a package of competitive base salary + performance + benefits.  If you are interested, please contact me.

Chief Marketing Officer (Strategic Sales):  We are looking for someone with 10-25 years in the business who has sold into strategic accounts ($10MM+/yr) for the past 5+ years.  Will be responsible for driving the direction of the Strategic Accounts as well, as, overall company marketing and identity.  Candidate may have an immediate open-to-hire for junior marketing coordinator to help with internal and external marketing efforts.  Responsibilities will be to drive top line revenue growth for the direct to brand channel and will have a new client goal quota.  Re-iterating that this person will be responsible for targeting specific clients (directly) and signing a specific number each year. Compensation is based off of a package of competitive base salary + performance + benefits.  If you are interested, please contact me.  Looking for someone who has played a similar role at former ad agencies, research firms, ad networks, and top tier publishers.

Infographer: We are looking for someone who is a master of data manipulation and visualization.  We’d like to bring someone on board who can tell stories once given a data set.  The ideal candidate will be able to recognize patterns within data, illustrate complex scenarios in simplistic forms, and create visuals that are easy to comprehend.  Visuals will be used both internally and also sent to clients to illustrate a particular problem or solution.  This role with support marketing, account, trading, and investment management.  Compensation is based off of a package of competitive base salary + performance + benefits.  If you are interested, please contact me.   Ideal background would be a mathematician + design.

VP Client Services (title to be figured out): We are looking for someone who wants to run the Client Services team and work closely with Investment Management.  Should have 10+ years experience within market research firms, agency brand planning or account management, or account management at complex advertising technology solution houses (ad networks, exchanges, etc).  Must be unbelievably personable, academic curiosity, a born leader, and detail oriented. If you are interested, please contact me.

Brand Capital & The Consiglieri

These guys get it and are for real.  I’ve known Mike Duda (@mikeduda) for a few years now and he’s onto something.  Let me explain why I think they have an opportunity to help create a new type of investor class that adds real strategic value.

The Front Man

Who doesn’t want to take a phone call from a player who has been a 2X NBA league MVP and 7x NBA All-Star?  Think you can get a meeting with someone?  I’m going to bet that Steve Nash can open more doors than the above average biz/corp dev person.  If you are one of his portfolio companies, Nash should be able to open the door anywhere.   For the sheer fun of it, I’d take a meeting with Mr. Nash and let him tell me about any of his portfolio companies.  Recently, WFAN 660AM took me out to breakfast with Boomer Esiason… a future hall of fame NFL QB.  That was awesome though the conversation wasn’t.  While the reporters loved Nash’s internship at Deutsch, I promise you that he’s not going to be sitting in the office working on campaign slogans… that’s the ad-mans turf.

The Ad Man

For those of you who are not familiar with Deutsch, it’s one of the top integrated shops left on Madison Avenue.  My agency, kbs+p is often compared to it and even Mike worked there back in the 90s.  Buddy Mike was one of the youngest partners ever at Deutsch and was directly responsible for some of their largest business including running the Anheuser-Busch InBev and Under Armour acccounts.  Duda also launched some businesses for Deutsch to much success and is highly regarded as one of the industries top ad-men operators.

Why Take Their Money?

In these frothy capital-rich (crazy to say that in a recession) days where it seems everyone is opening a seed/venture fund, the actual money to invest is just the table stakes.  What separates early stage investors from one another is the network that they keep and the value that they can add from a strategic and tactical planning perspective.  Many major early stage investors have been technical guys who were either product managers or startup CEOs that made it big… but I rarely, if there is even anyone out there, see people coming at it from a marketing angle.  Steve Nash has built his own brand which is world renown and Mike has built up multibillion dollar brands.  Startups need to understand how important their own brand is when talking to the world as it affects every conversation that they are having with consumers, investors, acquisitors, and potentials.

If you look at all the companies who get hyped on TechCrunch, TechMeme, GigaOM, AlleyInsider, and others, more times than not, their brand stands out.  Goodwill counts.

A Serious Bet

While GigaOM posted about another celebrity moving into tech with weak results, I see this celebrity having an awesome sidekick in Duda.  The area that I’d love to see them fill out is on the investing front end and they will have a nicely well rounded team.  Lets revisit this post in 365 days from now and see where they are… but want to send the boys’ Duda and Nash my most sincerest regards and best wishes!

Note:  I’m not an investor in their fund or currently working with them in any capacity.  I’m just excited to see some innovation in the space I love:  Marketing and Investments

Big Ideas vs. Distance (My Dilemma)

Ideation Dilemna

Anyone else have this dilemma?  What do you do to overcome it?

I always love traveling or working in remote coffee shops because that’s where my mind frees up.

IGA Worldwide was a brain fart of mine when I was walking thru the woods in Saratoga Springs.

Tomzy was ideated when Sherri and I was traveling to a beach location.

I spent a lot of time working on Varick Media Management while working at the Muddy Cup in New Paltz, NY.

rdcrpt: bringing ideas to early adopters

I’m totally opening my kimono on this idea.  I believe that your [collective] feedback early in the process will help shape and guide where this idea goes (if anywhere).  And by the way, I’m committing to investing a bit to test the idea out (which I think is very feasible).

The inspiration for this idea came from my forthcoming launch of Tomzy and the opportunities that exist within alpha/beta testing, stress testing, initial publicity and feedback, and for a myriad of other reasons.

Here are my notes – please comment, tweet, or email me your comments, would love to hear them.

rdcrpt helps companies test and launch new products thru an exclusive network of innovators and early adopters

The closest company I can find to delivering this experience is InviteShare which is now owned by TechCrunch.

A very quick summation of rdcrpt:  I envision rdcrpt as a place where innovators and early adopters can go (rdcrpt.co) to sign up to participate in alpha/beta testing some of the latest services and products from startups and established companies.    In exchange for getting early alpha/beta access, folks on the rdcrpt would be responsible for providing valuable feedback and would be rated on such.

The value prop for publishers/companies would be to test new ideas and products with a set of hungry adopters.  This could be the equivalent of a typical “beta-invite-only-launch” or more of a R&D experiment.  Companies would gain valuable feedback from these testers based on the criteria that they select.

rdcrpt is targeted at the 2.5% of innovators and 13.5% of early adopters per the chart below which appeared on Mark Suster’s blog this morning about How to Acquire Customers by Marketing “Heroes” as well, as, numerous times on this blog as well.


Helps deliver:
QA team scale/issues
Stress/Load level testing
Initial publicity

Value Prop for Startups
Opprty for startups in alpha/beta to launch to a subset of users
Startups can invite the rdcrpt user base and/or use their own list
Receive feedback regarding user experience, design, technical details, etc

Value Prop for Consumers
Get access to latest startups ahead or alongside of everyone else
Be part of the experience in testing apps, sites, hardware, etc
Provide valuable feedback to startups about their products

Value Prop for Investors
Be able to see demand for the startups via a rdcrpt demand meter (invites/day/hr requested)
Be able to see aggregate sentiment for startups via feedback
Ability to see where/what innovation is happening

Rdcrpt Crowd
Early adopters, type A
Publicly ranked by activity (acceptance to programs, participation, social influence)

Monetization
Startups can launch to all of rdcrpt for flat fee
Startups can handpick people based on rdcrpt rank (higher the rank, costs more)
Investors can subscribe to get access to rdcrpt reports on companies
Rdcrpt can create a media network which allows rdcrpt users to distribute product interaction videos which would get promoted/sponsored

Hurdles
Chicken/Egg scenario: startups or rdcrpt crowd comes first
Attracting the rdcrpt crowd
Maintaining the rdcrpt crowd over time

Design, Development and Flipboard

If you touch the digital media industry in anyway, over the past 48 hours, you probably heard about Flipboard.  Techmeme has tons of coverage on it this morning as folks like Stowe Boyd, Gizmodo, and Robert Scoble are discussing whether or not it’s legal.

I first heard about the App while I was sitting in a meeting with a friend at First Round Capital and he pulled out his iPad and showed me the App.  The app immediately reminded me of a magazine but with a multi-dimensional and unique experience.

What Flipboard nailed was the design.

We’re not “ooo-ing” and “aaaah-ing” because Flipboard is technically amazing which we’ve learned is far from the truth, but what we are interested in is the form over function (or at least a balance of).

Ever since software was built, we’ve [passively] lowered our standards of design to accommodate for function.  Function has been more important to us than the aesthetic because at the end of the day, we need to deliver a result and if the function can’t do that, then we will come up empty.

The earliest of people who gravitated towards the technical fields weren’t designers but they were developers.  I’m guessing there still are a lot more left brain folks in the industry than right brainers but anytime we see integrated design & development, we take notice.

One of the easiest things to do to make yourself standout within the digital world is to hit a homerun with the design and experience.  If you invest significantly in this area, then you are going to standout from all the rest.

Flipboard gets it… and by the way, they are from Stanford University, a notoriously left brain school.