Category Archives: Internet & Web X.0

Silicon Alley Tees Off

I’m all about getting really smart people together and talking about the goings-on in the industry (digital media).  I’ve been hosting a private golf outing for the past 3 years and changing things up a bit… read below:

Silicon Alley Tees Off
Premier Networking & Golf Invitational Tees Off on August 4

Contact:  Darren Herman
Email:  dherman at media kitchen dot tv
Twitter:  @dherman76

July 20, 2010 – (New York, NY) – The Silicon Alley Golf Invitational is set to tee off on August 4th, 2010 at Centennial Golf Club in Carmel, NY with over 30 NY based senior executives registered to play from leading venture capital, private equity, startups, digital media, and advertising & marketing services organizations.  Participants of the tournament will be playing for prizes for “Best Score,” “Worst Score,” “Closest to the Pin,” and “Longest Drive.”

“This event is a culmination of 3 years of holding private golf events for my tech/finance friends in the New York scene,” says organizer and The Media Kitchen’s (& kbs+p) Chief Digital Media Officer, Darren Herman.  “We are hoping to turn Carmel, NY into a miniature Allen & Company Sun Valley Conference for the day; as with years past, I expect lots of [business] conversation on the course and during the luncheon following the 18 holes.”

The Silicon Alley Golf Invitational is being supported by Silicon Alley companies’ AdCopy, TraffIQ, The Media Kitchen (a kbs+p company), and Varick Media Management.

The Silicon Alley Golf Invitational is not being run as a for-profit entity and all monies from sponsors and players are going into the actual execution of the event.  Any money over and above the cost of the event will be donated to charity, which is selected by the players at the event.

For additional information, please head to the official website:


The Closed Trend: Email Newsletters

closed-signOne of my friends, Sam Lessin, created a service called, which allows anyone to sign up for a email newsletter account and charge users whatever they want to join.  An example of this is Michael Galpert’s newsletter of which he charges $4.00/mo.

Recently, Jason Calcannis and Sam Lessin declared their blogs dead and are moving to email communications because it’s more intimate.  I receive Jason’s email newsletter and find nothing in there that couldn’t/shouldn’t be on his blog.

I find it funny how everything old is new again.  Note, these 2 people are not a statistically significant sample but being that these two men are at the center of the tech scene, it may be a directional indicator of where things are headed.

Nate’s post entitled Going Premium talks about how he’ll write in-detail about things not fit for mass public consumption (his blog).  Sam also talks about how an email newsletter allows him to talk about things more interesting things.

I don’t know if I subscribe to the whole notion of “stop blogging, start a premium newsletter.”

I think each of them have their place as a communications vehicle but I would guess, right now, without much experience writing email newsletters that being open rather than closed would deliver a lot more value which is the antithesis of what Sam talks about in his blog post.

An interesting thing did happen though.  Since I’m paying for this content now, I do hold a higher standard for it.  In an email exchange I had with one of the guys mentioned above, I told him that he better deliver “significant value” since my wallet is open.  Being that I’m now paying for this content, I may be more likely to cancel my subscription than to take his previous [free] content out of my RSS Reader or my alpha version of Tomzy.

I’ve been wrong many more times than being right, so take this all with a grain of salt.

Would love to hear your feedback.

This post was written by Darren Herman (@dherman76) who is the Chief Digital Media Officer ofkbs+p/The Media Kitchen and the founder of Varick Media Management.  This post represents personal opinions and views, not necessarily reflected of his employer.

Insurgent: How to take down Dart and Atlas

Maybe the title of the post is hyperbolic but at least this idea could put a big dent in their agency revenues.

Note: these are my thoughts, not necessarily reflected of my employer.

We talk about agencies having a digital backbone. Yet, for the most part, the technologies are licensed. For today’s and yesterdays reasoning, this made somewhat sense. Moving forward, I think I lie on the other side of the fence and could argue that agencies or their holding co., should own/operate their infrastructure.

For todays post, let’s focus on the most essential part: the ad server and data store.

I’m skeptical of Google and MSFT, specifically with the hundreds of billions of impressions they serve collectively. It would make sense that every campaign served thru them would make them smarter. Hey Toyota, did you know that your campaign for the Toyota Camry just made Honda’s campaign for the Accord much smarter?

There is the above issue and now an important one. MSFT and GOOG can see every advertisers campaign that uses their system including cpms, impressions, conversions, etc. Being that MSFT and GOOG sell media too, they have a huge advantage if they were to use that data in the way they pitch us and price us.

Google has the ability to do the above in search extremely easily thru Google Analytics. They know every search term leading to our site and can price appropriately.

I’m not saying that MSFT and GOOG are doing any and all above but its certainly an opportunity for them.

In talking with one of the other holding company execs, he mentioned to me that we need to rethink our competition and Google is a serious threat to Madison Ave.

So I have outlined a few reasons above that we (as agencies) should be scared of our partners or frienemies. Now, let’s focus on why having this technology structure in house makes sense.

Every ad served today in display, search, rich media, online video and others puts off data exhaust. Some of this is extremely relevant for clients/campaigns and some useless. However, a good team with the data within the walls of the agency/holding co (ie like Varick Media) can reap tremendous benefits. Also, the data from within holding co or agency walls can become a friendly co-op and can become a major new business strategic advantage.

Think of tmorrows data exhaust when most media is served and tracked with a digital backbone.

While every media company out there wants to service as many advertisers as possible, different agencies have different relationships with different media companies and the opportunities brought forth vary. If agencies controlled their ad server, they could build custom integrations wit certain (not all) publishers that provide opportunities beyond where the market is today.

Ad servers will quickly morph into planning tools as well. Within the agency is where this needs to Iive. Once television ads gets served and tracked, planning will be forced into these systems (because of the sheer dollars chasing) and every agency planning team will want their own customizations. We have some tools like Quantcast that help with audience planning but imagine a custom tool of Quantcast-times-ten on the desks of all the agency staffers.

Agencies and holding companies will have to continue to differentiate and if we wanted to put a dent into Google/MSFT, then MDC, IPG, Omnicom, WPP (first mover with 24/7), Publicis, and Havas should be certainly thinking in this direction. The writing is on the wall.

The argument will be made to say that agencies cant run technology companies which i’ve publicly aligned with that in the past, but I’m going to argue it and say… Go and hire the right people. If we don’t, someone else will.

The Advertising Collision

This post was inspired by Fred Wilson’s post today and Chris Dixon’s post back in 2009 about online advertising and it’s potential share gains.

Quite simply, Chris outlines that there are two types of advertising:  brand advertising (ATL= above the line) and direct response (BTL=below the line).  Much of the ad dollars have historically been centered in ATL media which is understandable but something big is happening.

A major collision.

ATL mediums are becoming BTL mediums.  BTL mediums are becoming ATL mediums.  There is no such medium that is one OR the other… both mediums are working together.

This is very important to understand.

Display, search, mobile, social, television, print, radio, ooh, and all others can be used for any format and are not mutually exclusive to the types of messaging you choose to use.  We like to call it branded-response, but I’m sure every agency around town has their own name for it.

Now that we can measure to some extent, the traditionally measurement-untouched ivory tower media channels dollar allocations will start to be reallocated to more measurable channels.  Or alternatively, as the ivory tower media channels become digital ivory tower channels, they in themselves will become measurable and will receive a dollar allocation based on their contribution to the brands marketing performance.

Companies like Vizu are releasing products that allow marketers and their agencies to optimize to campaign lift (awareness, consideration, etc).  Traditionally, most digital optimizations happen for a KPI that is quantitative (click, transaction, etc) but now we can optimize to emotion.  This is an example of startups looking at the future and innovating early.

It’s early in this game, but take note of this collision as it is going to create some amazing opportunities for the industry.

Financial War: The Nimble vs. the Titans

A much smarter man than I said that competing with big companies is much easier than small companies.  Big companies are hard to pivot and change; so they either acquire you (good for investors) or you bring them down.  Actually, he said that today at the TechCrunch Disrupt Conference today in New York City.  His name, Michael Bloomberg.

Bloomberg is a trifecta for this post:  his quote, his background in finance, and his track record as an entrepreneur.

In the office, I’m responsible for digital marketing strategies for a few financial companies (no conflicts) that we’ve all heard of.  But a funny thing is happening on the way to the office.  Thru email and through introductions, I’m being introduced to about a half dozen startups that are tackling the financial sector.

Now is the perfect time.

You do not need to read another rant about Wall Street, as I’ll leave that to more financially-minded folks than myself.

When in a fight, you want to knock your opponent down when he’s hurt.  The bigger they are, the harder they fall.  During a professional boxing match, the fighters are trained to wait/observe for weakness and then attack.

Right now, banks are hurt and they are ginormous.  It’s the perfect time to go after them and attack.

2 financial companies are presenting at the Disrupt conference this week:  Plantly and Betterment (I’m assuming a play off the words “better investment”).  The third made press waves last week and is called Banksimple.  There’s even a fourth that I’m seeing ads for:  Ally Bank.

I don’t know the intricacies of each of their business plans, but they are certainly positioning themselves in a market where the nimble can out maneuver the biggies.  Also, being big these days in finance may not resonate with consumers so well.

This is an area that I’m watching.  If you are part of the senior team at any of these companies (or others), I’d love to chat.

Crunchbase Profile:  Plantly
Crunchbase Profile:  Betterment
Crunchbase Profile:  Banksimple

SEO for Television

A short and sweet thought inspired by Mark Cuban‘s latest posting on Google TV.

If we are finally in the early days of television/digital convergence, then Google is going to want to leverage their PageRank (probably needs a new name) algorithm to help TV viewers find content.

If you are thinking of getting into SEO, figuring out how TV will play a role will be extremely important; after all, there are $70 billion dollars in the US alone of TV advertising.

This is certainly an interesting area for entrepreneurial opportunity, investment, and understanding.

The Personal CTO

I think society is trained to equate CTO (Chief Technology Officer) with the formal corporation.  In many corporations, CTO’s are certainly needed and they play a vital role.

In your personal life (outside the office), who is your CTO?   In many cases, the CTO is yourself or a trusted friend.   Choosing technology is almost a self service ritual around research on sites like cnet, gdgt, google, tekzilla, and others to help you make decisions.  The amount of time you have to research your technology challenge determines what sources you use and the quantity of them.

But what if you didn’t want to use self-service to find technology recommendations/answers?  Can you call Ghostbusters, err, a personal CTO to help you make decisions?  As personal technology expenditures rise, I’d imagine that people would invest more time (and money) into the decision making process.

If we could all set the bar like Apple

If you follow the tech space or watch the evening news, you will have heard/read that Apple is charging initial iPad advertisers millions of dollars to be the first marketers on their devices as part of the iAd product rollout.

Journalists (inclusive of bloggers) initially highlighted the price tag in most of their rants as very high. Yes, it is high (keep out the riff raff) but what is of importance here is nor the price rag but something very different.

Apple is all about controlling the experience for the end user. This sometimes doesn’t make them friends amongst the developer community but ultimately satisfies consumers (just look at their stock price). Apples foray into advertising has started with the Quattro acquisition and they are methodically working towards rolling out an experience for their users that creates a mutually beneficially relationship between Madison Ave and consumers.

What is most important to me about this rollout is that apple can set the bar so damn high for the initial advertisers and get away with it. There are virtually no other brands out in the world that can set this bar: upfront millions of dollars, Apple designs/develops ads (with minimum agency interaction), and no guarantee of launch date. When I had my in-game advertising company and we were doing huge integrations into top titles from the likes of EA and Activision, if we demanded these types of terms, Madison Ave would have laughed at us.

Apple has all the leverage in the world here. Creative departments and agencies have grown up on Macs, Apples stock is soaring, and Steve Jobs is the man Madison Ave wants to be; all of this works in the favor of Apple’s roll out for iAd.

The iAd roll out needs to be and will be treated like the guest list and dress code of the latest club opening in Downtown LA. Partners will be handpicked with stringent rules in order to set the bar for future marketing partners. Who and how Apple lets people in will influence the future success of the program.

Oh by the way: there are other ways to advertise on “iPad content” without having to pay these huge initial fees. While they aren’t iAd certified, they may deliver a similar or even beyond experience:
1. Sponsor an iPad app
2. Purchase ads on websites that have high viewership by iPad readers
3. Create your own iPad app
4. Buy standardized ads within apps

Thoughts on finance, marketing, and infography

Thoughts from 30000 feet on way to Mexico with Sherri. Not: these are totally random streams of thought.

…on finance
Millennials have terrible credit. Imagine if they actually paid for content, they would be even more in-debt

Non-financially minded oriented entrepreneurs lack the knowledge to decipher between gross/net revenue. Lots of companies we hear about today may have sweet top line numbers but net numbers and even operating margins are slivers.

…on marketing
Lots of chatter about giving consumers the ability to choose everything. Time and time again, consumers don’t want to be forced with telling us what they want, but would rather be inspired and select from a curated list. Case and point: apps in the iTunes store outsell their peers if try are on the recommended list, custom shirt companies who publish a few customized examples know that those examples will sell well as templates, and any retail clothing store has representatives helping shoppers shop…

…on data and infography
If business is shifting to a data driven ecosystem, the emphasis on visualization of the data in quick, actionable, and colorful ways will ultimately win. Most business folks, let alone consumers, are not SPSS nuts or Omniture junkies. Infographics are going to be key… Which leads to a potentially lucrative future career: infography design

Fantasy sports is one of the most data-driven applications for consumers in the world. I’d venture to guess that the amount of phd’s and mathematicians playing are <10%. The reason why fantasy sports have taken off is because of the visualization of realtime data. The visualizations are not complicated but are utility driven.

…on haters
Facebook and Twitter are quickly becoming very powerful companies and Google’s perch at the top may get a bit charger to accommodate these guys. Facebook and Twitter, while darlings today, will have to start to manage for mass criticism. It’s a good problem to face as it means you are on top (walmart, ford, Nike, gap) but a pain to deal with. The larger you grow, the larger the ‘hater’ volume and sentiment.

The Marketplace Appreciates Obfuscation in Pricing

OpenPricingPricing is defined as the property of having material worth. Pricing though does not dictate individual value, but rather the value of a good for the average.  Let me illustrate by an example:

Sherri walks into CVS to purchase some shampoo for the Herman household.  She sees Pantene for $6.45/bottle or Sunsilk for $9.99/bottle (totally made up numbers).  Sherri has a specific price in mind she wants to pay for Shampoo based on her proprietary valuation system (special needs, bottle shape, accessibility, etc) and based on this specific value, she is able to decide between Pantene and Sunsilk.

Pantene and Sunsilk are offering (pricing) their products at these price levels because they have done a comprehensive supply/demand curve and have optimized where they should price their product for the optimal (not always most) amount of buyers.  This is done through market and competitive research as well, as, historical sales scenario planning data.

In this scenario, the marketplace appreciates pricing obfuscation:  it’s simple for the consumer and it’s simple for the business.  The consumer never sees the profit margins (unless they are purchasing from a public company and even then, how many consumers read financial reports) and the business never knows how much the consumer was really willing to pay (potentially more).  There is not really a tension here – if a product’s price is not adequate for a consumer, they will move onto the next product on their list.

It’s simple.

For the media/advertising world, things are changing.  A once very opaque industry is changing.  Agencies and brands are becoming much more quantitative and are understanding how to value inventory for the first time (I took liberty for “first time”).  Most publishers do not appreciate this – and the obfuscation/opaqueness that once existed that provided healthy margins is dissipating.

Let me reprhase the last sentence:

Most publishers do not appreciate this in the short-term.  Historical obfuscation of pricing/valuation has lead to healthy margins that have existed for years (why do we have 3 Martini lunches? Why are media teams making custom nike sneakers with reps?) for the sell side.  The long-term opportunity is tremendous, if the sell side could get over the initial short-term shock.

Some say that the bigger they are, the harder they fall.  The problem with this is that the major media companies such as Conde Nast (Advance Publications), Hearst Corp, and Tribune are all very large private companies and are potentially going to fall very, very hard.  Note:  I’m not saying that they cannot get back up again… They can.  But they are going to have to fall first.

If/when major media buyers (marketers, agencies grouped together) have the ability to buy on value, not price en mass, this will be a major market shift.  Some of us are here today but when even more of us are here tomorrow, the sell side will become much more comfortable as more dollars move into the industry to satiate cash flow statements.

Since however the market appreciates obfuscation in pricing (it’s just plain simple!) we may never get to this efficient place, but it would help the actual buyers and sellers reap much longer term benefit that short-term margins.

Please comment below to continue the conversation or tweet @dherman76 with replies