Category Archives: Internet & Web X.0

MIA: Darren Herman

I’ve been virtually non-existant in the blogosphere recently… you may have noticed the volumes of postings decreasing on the blog. I’ve been focusing on building out the digital media organization at work, going to the gym (Printing House in Soho), spending time with my wife, and golfing (Myrtle Beach, Augusta, Doral, etc).

I have no idea where folks like Fred Wilson, Greg Verdino, and Bijan Sabet get the time to blog and live a life offline (with their family) but I’ve not mastered it yet… far from it.  I don’t even have enough time to answer all my email these days.

The interesting thing is that I don’t miss my RSS feeds.  Even though I’m not getting “hot” information as it arises from the blogosphere, I still get that information one way or another either thru people sending me articles or colleagues and co-workers sharing it in meetings.

I wanted to share a few links to articles that I feel are interesting:

Total Speculation Post: Virtual Worlds

Sony has launched Sony Home, their virtual world enabling their community of users to interact with each other in a “game like” setting.  Apple is now toying with opening a store in Second Life (speculation).  Will this mean that ultimately, they will acquire Second Life and roll it out as their communications platform for their computers?  Will it be the next iteration of iChat?

One thing that we have learned is that people do not have have time to manage identities in multiple virtual worlds at the same time. If you are engaged in Habbo Hotel, then chances are, you don’t have time for Second Life.  If you’re playing World of Warcraft, then you may not have time to utilize IMVU.  Also, many of the previous brands who have released their wares into Second Life have all abandoned them after it being all the hype (front page of NY Times, etc).

I’m curious to see how this plays out.   What are your thoughts?

Media Arbitrage: Trading Stocks vs. Media

Arbitrage is making its way into the advertising industry. According to, arbitrage can be defined as the simultaneous purchase and sale of the same securities, commodities, or foreign exchange in different markets to profit from unequal prices.

Making headlines a few weeks ago was Wenda Harris Millard’s speech about trading media like pork bellies. She states that… “We must educate one and all about the value our digital offerings provide marketers and not trade our advertising space like pork bellies.”

Today, I uncovered an article in Advertising Age about MindShare’s restructuring into four groups, one of the groups entitled The Exchange is accountable for arbitragueing inventory.

An important aspect of the Exchange is that MindShare will be getting into arbitrage — meaning it will be both buying and selling media. Arbitrage is an important play of MindShare’s parent company, Group M, which has invested in Invidi, a company developing addressable TV ad technology. Though specific plans are still unclear, Group M will likely use the technology to buy chunks of TV inventory, make it addressable and resell it to marketers. MindShare will seek out similar opportunities where it actually owns media space it can sell to marketers.

For the past year, I’ve seen a few “exchange” based startups emerging into the advertising world. My friends at MediaMath are one of those folks. For those who aren’t familiar with exchanges, please reference this reference guide. The ADSDAQ trading desk was launched just weeks ago and they already have 6 agencies using it. It sounds like agencies are starting to move beyond just buying media…

This is where my issue lies. [to reiterate, these are my thoughts, not those of my employer] How are agencies structured today to handle a trading desk? Now that Bear Sterns is being absorbed, does this mean I have to go and recruit traders? Does the media buyer become a trader (buy and sell)? How does the current agency model account for this? That’s what I’m trying to figure out. Also, are agencies buying and selling media utilizing their clients money? How does that work? If I know that ClientX gives me $5,000,000 to buy digital media, and I happen to arbitrage some media and turn a $1,000,000 profit, does that belong to ClientX or my agency? Just a few questions that I’m really interested in figuring out… who wants to help?

Monday Morning DigitalNext Tidbits

Adage DigitalNext
Pick up the newstand copy of Advertising Age today if you can.  Today’s copy includes a circular entitled “Ad Network & Exchange Guide” and so far, it’s excellent if you are involved in digital media or the advertising business.  I haven’t finished reading it as I’m trying to balance phone calls, emails, and the magazine, but it’s sure to be on my list to finish by tomorrow.

I cannot stress this enough:  If you are a startup who is selling advertising space on your website/product/service, please read Advertising Age or MediaWeek to keep current with the industry you are generating revenue from.

You might have read that I was selected as an AdAge DigitalNext blogger along with my friends and peers David Armano, Craig Daitch, Colleen Decourcy, Ian Schafer, Reuben Steiger, Troy Young, and Mat Zucker.  I’m excited to be part of this group and some of the content on this blog will find it’s way over to the DigitalNext blog as well, as, the print magazine.

Ian Schafer penned a piece in the AdAge Magazine today about how social-network sites should get a relationship point person.  His thesis for the article is that since social networks are all about conversations and relationships, just buying an ad on the sideline may not bode well for the advertiser and the sites are going to have a hard time of selling the majority of their inventory.  Certainly check out the article to read more or click over to his blog to see some commentary.

Masterful Takeaways

ImmelmanI spent the last 3 days down in Augusta, Georgia @ the Masters with some friends and colleagues.  I had absolutely no idea what I was in for as I had not been to a golf event of that magnitude.  Here are a few things I had observed and learned this weekend:

  •  The Masters is offline:  Do you think the airport has tight electronics security?  Head over to the Masters… they do not allow any electrical device including ANY cellphone, Blackberry, camera, etc. The only people with cameras are the press photographers and even most of them do not have cellphones.  It’s extremely nice to shut-off for 6+ hours per day.
  • Respect:  Sometimes we forget this living in Manhattan.  At the Masters, you can put a chair down by the fairway and return to it 4 hours later… and still use your seat and not worry that someone else has moved it.  If you aren’t in your seat within the first inning of a Yankee game, chances are, someone will move down to it and remain there until you kick them out.
  • Tiger Woods is the PGA Tour:  Unless you see him in person at a golf event (that he’s playing), you cannot understand the magnitude of his fanbase.  Even if you aren’t following him around the course, you always know where he is by the cheers and screams of his thousands of fans across the fairways.  When Tiger moves onto the hole you’re standing on, his thousands of fans follow and you’re instantly surrounded on all sides and generally, it’s 5-10 people deep.  No other player had his following but the closest was Phil Mickelson.
  • Food is cheap; merchandise is not:  The Masters is old school and the prices have stayed the same since the late 50s (I believe). Sandwiches are $1.00-2.50 and beers are $2.  You can have an entire meal for under $4.  Where else can you do that?  The famous sandwich is a cheese and pimento sandwich on white bread… and it’s pretty good!  The merchandise is not cheap but I didn’t see anyone NOT buy something.  The lines into the merchandise store were incredible and the amount of inventory moving off the shelves was more than Walmart on Black Friday.
  • People Love to be Social and Share:  As we walked the course and ate on picnic benches, we met people from all walks of life and the one thing we all had in common were stories of golf.  We heard from people who had been coming to the Masters for 30+ years and others who were here for their first time.  People love to share their stories and if given the chance, more often than not, will do so.  This makes me think harder about all of the startups in the digital media world who help people communicate.
  • The Best/Most Popular Doesn’t Always Win:  This tournament wasn’t Tiger’s best, but congratulations to Trevor Immelman.  Show’s that ANYONE can win at anytime – Google/MSFT/Yahoo doesn’t always dominate and there is room in the market for everyone.
  • Brands Don’t Have to Be Everywhere, Just Strategically Placed:  There are NO brands on the inside of the Augusta National Grounds… the only brands were on the clothing of the players.  Even the food was branded, Masters.  There were hundreds of opportunities to have areas of the course co-branded but they were not…

Lots of observations and looking forward to more golf events this year…

Made up Words of Web 3.0

Dave Armano has the top 10 web 3.0 words listed on his site and I’ll admit, while I’ve heard a few, I’d not heard the majority.  Some great words though… but will promise they won’t start appearing in my presentations (I hate buzzwords).

1. Socialstainable
The act of socially conscious and sustainable conversations, interactions and recycled linking.
“Is your blog socialsustainable?  Mine is”  “How can our marketing be more socialsustainable?”

2. Viruseful.
Viral marketing initiatives that are actually useful.
“Not only did Shave Everywhere make me laugh—I was able to configure and purchase my new electric razor online”

3. Scrollax
Long form Ajax powered Web pages that scroll.
“Non scrolling Flash Web sites are DEAD. We need more dynamic Scrollax in this design”

For the full list, click here.

CEO & Founders Series, Interview #10: Dorado Capital

Folks, we’ve got a serial entrepreneur for this interview… if you were shopping online for music in the 90s, then you knew of CDNow. Jason Olim, one of the founders is onto something new in the college savings market. I’ll admit that I know very little about this but I do know it’s a huge market and is starting to see a few web players emerge

Please welcome both a friend and fellow entrepreneur, Jason Olim.

1. Please state your name, title, and years at current company/position
Jason Olim, CEO, 10 months at Dorado Capital.

2. What are you currently up to?
I am part of a four person founding team trying to solve the problem of saving for a child’s college education. We are educating the parents and getting the community involved in making sure that a child can afford a top quality education.

3. Why are you doing this? You could be doing so many other things in the world, what about this particular idea strikes you?
The main thing that drew me to this startup is the team. I really enjoy working with the other three founders and I’m glad to have a chance to spread the workload. Of course, consumer marketing is my main interest and the product itself is something that I want when I have kids.

4. All startups should be addressing a problem in the market. What is that exact problem and how are you solving it?
It costs a fortune to send kids to college, and parents who take action early are in the best financial shape. Dorado helps parents to figure out exactly what college will cost and open a college savings account. Best of all, it allows friends and family to make contributions directly to their savings account.

5. Have you thought about your business model yet? I’m assuming so, so tell us a bit about it.
Use of the site, including the planning tools and the gifting capabilities, is totally free. Dorado capital is a financial advisor; we earn a commission on assets under management in savings accounts. We also market related products and services, such as savings-linked credit cards and savings accounts.

6. As an entrepreneur or investor, what are your thoughts on competition? How do you view competition?
Competitors can take away your lunch just as it is being served. We are preparing ourselves to compete both with new entrants and with existing players who might want to move in our direction.

7. If your competitor called you up to have coffee and discuss shop, what would you do? Would you go? What would you divulge?
We would absolutely meet the competitors to find out what their goals are, how we might work together and what we should expect from each other.

8. Is the current state of the economy playing to your favor? If so, why? If not, why? What is your forecast of the market throughout 2008 and do you see affects? Macro and Micro economic theory would be interesting to hear about.
I’m concerned that the current market is not as favorable as it was a year ago. People may be more skittish now about saving in the financial markets and they may feel less able to put money aside. However, potential increases in taxes make college savings accounts more attractive.

9. How much of your time is spent working? How much is spent with family? Have you found the entrepreneurial quality of life yet?
I spend about 50 hours/week working on the business, mostly from home or at meetings. This business is easier than the last because the founding team shares the goal of making this company work, and they bring complementary skills to the enterprise. Quality of life is excellent at the moment.

What Goal Are You Saving For? Tell Us to Win $50!

SmartyPigI received a few emails from Jon Gaskell, the co-founder of social saving company, SmartyPig offering to give me a $50 credit to his new startup to either use myself or to donate to anyone. I was skeptical at first, but when the card arrived on my doorstep, I knew he was serious.  I thought about what I should do with the card and decided that it would be better off with someone who could use it to help reach a savings goal.

With SmartyPig, you actually set up a savings account with the bank it’s partnered with (West Bank), and invite others to contribute to your savings account. A great writeup of SmartyPig is located here, on Mashable.

SmartyPig has an inspiration section which lists dozens of stories on how saving money has helped people and their families. Example:

When my family takes its next vacation, we’ll be doing so with the money that we’ve put aside using SmartyPig. With SmartyPig, financial planning for goals is a breeze.” John – Boulder

So, are you saving for something? Please leave a comment on this posting about what you’re saving for and by the end of this week, I’ll select a winner. Check back by Thursday evening to see who won. I’ll mail the gift certificate to your home or office… $50.


Mobile Wednesdays

I’ve been meeting with mobile marketing startups for the last 6 years but have always remained hesitant to participate in the space because of the current infrastructure and mobile marketing initiatives. I guess all of the research and constant phone calls have softened me up to the mobile world and last week, posted about the iPhone.

I was reading some research this morning and wanted to share these tidbits from both Nielsen (mobile stats overall) and Rubicon Consulting (iPhone data):

  • A third of iPhone users carry a second phone. There have been anecdotal reports of iPhone users carrying a second mobile phone, either for basic voice calling, or for other functions like composing e-mail. The survey confirmed those reports.
  • A quarter of iPhone users say it’s displacing a notebook computer. 28% of iPhone users surveyed said strongly that they often carry their iPhone instead of a notebook computer.
  • The iPhone increases phone bills. The iPhone has increased its users’ monthly mobile phone bills by an average of 24%, or $228 extra per year.
  • E-mail is the #1 function. The most heavily used data function on the iPhone is reading (but not writing) e-mail.

Note that the iPhone data is skewed towards the early adopters.  I’m not sure that the mainstream adopters are going to replace their computer for an iPhone but this data is indicative of how mobile may shape the future.  The Nielsen report is located here if you’d like to read it.

MediaPost sent out a research brief this morning (I usually ignore them) and had some interesting information:

  • The number of data users who recalled seeing mobile advertising between the second and fourth quarters of 2007 increased 38% (from 42 to 58 million subscribers)
  • Asian-Americans and African-Americans are more likely to recall mobile advertising (42% and 40%, respectively) than all data users
  • 26% of those who saw an ad responded at least once by sending an SMS text-message, the most popular ad response.  9% say they’ve used click-to-call to respond to a mobile ad
  • 32% of data users said they are open to mobile advertising if it lowers their overall bill

These numbers are impressive but I’m assuming the response rate will drop as the medium becomes cluttered.  I’m personally not sold about getting SMS marketing on my mobile phone as that tends to remind me of SPAM in the days of email marketing.  The response rates for email marketing were extremely high in the early days but as the medium got cluttered, they dropped significantly.

What Women Want: Clothing (Part 1 of Series)

Beth Snyder Bulik penned a great article first over at AdAge Digital entitled What Women Want but I thought I’d write a few thoughts here on my blog. For whatever reason, I’ve been spending a bit of time lately looking at the woman audience and their patterns online. From looking and analyzing Glam (the uber-woman’s network) to StyleObserver, and many things in between (including HermanWeb), I’m fascinated with what is happening digitally.  Heck, even Yahoo! launched their woman’s fashion site today.

There are seven areas that Bulik outlines in her great piece for AdAge:

  • Women are increasingly consumer more online video
  • Frequent shoppers
  • Parenting
  • Pay for play casual gamers
  • Social singles
  • Healthy living
  • Romance

For this specific blog posting, I’m going to concentrate on frequent shoppers because that’s all I have time for right now (to be honest).
Women are stereotypical shoppers. I can only talk for myself but most women I meet certainly do love shopping and again, in my instance, generally buy most household products on a daily basis. Many marketers single-out males for high ticket purchases and for electronics, but in my case, women are the audience to target because they control the daily purchasing decisions and budget.

When we think of shopping [for women], we think of clothing. This is an area that is getting a lot more interesting online and have spoken with a few folks recently who are innovating in this space. StyleObserver is essentially a mashup of editorial content and pictures. ShopBob is innovating in the space by offering a hi-resolution lookbook. To enable anyone to create a mashup of “looks,” head over to Polyvore and setup an account. They are enabling the mashup of shopping… and it’s certainly peeking my interest.

Use case for Polyvore: My niece is looking for a new outfit for her birthday and puts together jeans from brand, a shirt from another, and shoes from a third brand. Polyvore helps show them all together and allows someone to purchase (potentially) the individual items easily.

What does this all mean? Women are becoming technically sophisticated online with the way they are mashing everything up for their shopping habbits. It’s not just individual women who are doing such, but brands are as well. Look at the way Diane von Furstenberg is communicating with her clients. Online retailers such as Revolve have blogs as well.

If we look at the Internet, we know it can handle commerce. Hence, e-commerce. We also know that an increasing amount of people are spending time online. Women are feeling comfortable spending online. Natural fit for clothing & the Internet? Quite possibly….