Category Archives: Internet & Web X.0

Trunk Club Review

Trunk Club LogoOn March 1, my father sent me an email titled, “Cool Idea.”   The email literally consisted of one link to an MSN video which highlighted a company called Trunk Club.

I’d not heard of Trunk Club before, but I had a similar idea years back.  Essentially, Trunk Club is a curated clothing service that ships specific items to your door and whatever you don’t want, you send back.  A personal style consultant works with you to define your style thru a survey and phone consultation and it goes from there.  It’s not a discount service and most price points are similar to Bloomingdales or Neiman Marcus.

I signed up for the service because of two main reasons:  1.  I live in the suburbs and my clothing selections have gone down hill since I moved out of the city full time and 2.  I don’t have as much time now to spend time shopping for clothes, even though I love doing so.

My first shipment arrived today and it included items from Bed-Stu, AG, John Varvatos, Genetic Denim, Donald J Pliner, Earnest Sewn, and Jeremy Argyle.  Some brands I’m very familiar with and others I’d not tried before.  There were 10 items and I ended up keeping 2.  I would have considered keeping 3-5 other items but they didn’t fit great.

I like the idea of Trunk Club.  It’s upscale mens clothing, digital curation, and home delivery.  Any other similar businesses out there?

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Day 4: Advertising Revenue for Startups

This post is part of a 5 day series where we lay the groundwork for a startup to generate advertising dollars from agencies or brands.  Note:  while this is focused on startups, it could apply to any company of any size.  The first post that sets up the series is located here, second post is located here, third post is here, and it’s based on this presentation.

If you are a publisher and you are looking to generate revenue from advertising, then read this series.

Today’s topic is on the evolution of the paid online advertising ecosystem.   Essentially, where do you (as publisher) plug in to generate revenue from myriad of sources.  Lets tackle them one by one.

On slide 11 of the presentation, it highlights 5 different areas:  Sell Side Optimizers/Platforms, Ad Networks, Google, Ad Exchanges, and DSP Integrations.

  1. Ad Networks:  As a publisher, you could contact any ad network and try and have them represent your website.  Depending on how large you are or how much publicity you have around your brand, you could potentially negotiate for better revenue spits, monthly guarantees, and potentially advance payments.   Ad Networks sometimes want exclusivity but as a publisher, make sure you get better deal terms if you agree to it.  Ad Networks are a quick way to make a few bucks with your inventory, though as an agency person, I don’t love ad networks.
  2. Google:  Technically, Google is a network and exchange, but I pull them out to their own line item because they are such a beast.  Many publishers love Google because of the simplicity around Ad Sense/Ad Words.   You could be up and running accepting Google ads within 24 hours.  Google if not already, is going to mix their search and exchange inventory to yield the highest amount to a publisher (and thus, net a high yield themselves).
  3. Ad Exchanges:  As a publisher, you can allocate all or a portion of your inventory to ad exchanges such as Ad Meld (MeldX), Right Media, Google AdX, AppNexus, ContextWeb, and a host of other platforms.  By doing so, you are opening up your inventory to be bid on by the demand side.  It’s similar to an eBay auction – where in real-time (or near real time), impressions are transacted and ads are run.  It’s rather simple to participate in this, but it’s not as simple to master it without any knowledge of the space.  Luckily, there are people like PubGears who can help you navigate it (disclosure:  I’m an advisor).
  4. Demand Side Platforms:  If you want to try and be as close as possible to the big agency dollars, then integrating with a DSP directly might be the best way to go.  While hard to get on their radar screen if you are extremely early stage and without much inventory, DSP’s are aligning themselves as close to the client dollar as possible and 2011/12 is going to be the year of direct integrations for publishers with DSP’s, bypassing intermediaries such as Exchanges.
  5. Supply Side Optimizer:  Not all above is mutually exclusive.  As a publisher, you can implement a SSO/P and plug into all of the above and have it maximize your yield.   There are a few players in this space such as Rubicon, Pubmatic, Admeld, YieldX, that all plug in and allow for yield optimization across your creative units.

All of the above opportunities are for standardized units.  These include the IAB and OPA standardizated creative.  Slide 12 & 13 talk about how you need to add data to your impressions to make them of real value to advertisers.  There are billions of impressions so how do you make them stand out… that’s by adding as much data around them as possible for advertisers to understand and buy.  This is key… otherwise, you’ll be selling your impressions for <$1.00

Stay tuned for the next Advertising Revenue for Startups post on my overall thoughts on the business and where I would start.  It’ll be the last writeup in this series.  I hope it’s been helpful.

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Advertising For Startups: Does Size Matter for an Online Publisher?

This post is part of a 5 day series where we lay the groundwork for a startup to generate advertising dollars from agencies or brands.  Note:  while this is focused on startups, it could apply to any company of any size.  The first post that sets up the series is located here, second post is located here, and it’s based on this presentation.

Today’s topic is Does Size Matter?

If you are a startup or a publisher, you generally often wonder at what point can you go out selling advertising against your userbase.  Does the size of your userbase matter?

Historically, size mattered.  You needed significant size because you generally couldn’t target specific audiences so you had to sell the entire media vehicle and account for wastage.   With digital targeting, specifically audience driven media, you can now target with serious granularity.  While significant targeting delivers your audience segment, the numbers are typically much smaller than a large site-direct or ad network buy, because you are just reaching a specific user base.  For publishers who are still early in development but have a vertical or niche site, then you can begin selling ASAP because even 50,000 people who are into Ferrari’s and have $5,000,000 disposable net worth are seriously worth something to someone.  If you have a way to package your audience segments, then start selling.  You don’t need to wait until you reach 100,000,000 users to generate advertising dollars.  Implement an Audience Management Platform and you’ll be on your way.

If you have a general site (i.e. portal, aggregator, etc) and can’t really segment your users, then it might be hard to sell against until you have substantial visits.

The question comes up often about what types of creative units you should accept…   Start with the IAB Standard units because they are the most common.  Any major agency is going to create using the IAB standard package and then add custom units on top of it.  If you start here with implementing the 300X250, 160X600, etc – then you can fill those units.  Just last week, the IAB released some Rising Star units which are pretty interesting as well.

If you have unique/custom units, then these are harder to sell because agencies have to create custom creative for it (production fee implications).  Unless you have substantial size and buzz, it’s hard to sell custom units (not impossible).

On Monday, we’ll discuss the evolution of the pad online ecosystem consisting of Ad Networks, Exchanges, Site Direct, Private Exchanges, etc.  It’s a topic I love and am excited to write about it.

Clams, Benjamins, Beans, Dollars. Your Startup Sells Ad Space, Read On…

I created a presentation about 6 months ago for a talk at the Founders Institute.  The talk was about 5 things to do/know when looking at generating advertising revenue from your startup.  I’ve personally been in a unique position to talk about this as I’ve run startups that take ad dollars from brands and I’m now on the agency side divvying up ad dollars to all different partners, including startups.  I can talk credibly from both sides of the table.

I was asked to give a presentation to the New York class of Techstars entrepreneurs and revisited the presentation I gave to Founders Institute and made some tweaks.  The presentation is divided up into 5 sections, each of which I will spend the next 5 days discussing each section in depth.  Hopefully you all find this interesting and if there are additional questions, do not hesitate to follow up with me or leave comments.

The presentation is linked to here and this will be what I’ll be going off of as I go deep into each section.  Please view it before continuing as my posts will make a lot more sense.  Note:  the presentation is a “speaking” presentation in the sense that I do much of it justice with voice overs… but you’ll get the idea as you go thru it.

Ad Revenue for Startups

Tomorrow morning’s topic:  advertising ecosystem overview & the two ways to talk to agencies (slides 1-4 including title slide)

If there is anything you specifically want to hear about, please do not hesitate to ask.

Experience Platforms Powered by Technology

Read my previous post for a good preface to this one as it’ll help with the understanding.

The 80/20 rule for products are that 20% of the product users will be vocal and you won’t here from the other 80%.  Sometimes, this is more like 95/5.

I’m going to liberally stretch this to be 80% of the owners of products don’t really care how they are built but want the product benefits.  20% of the product owners are the passionistas and want to know everything about them.

Example:  Porsche just launched the Panamera 4S Hybrid.  The Porsche forums (on line) are having serious chatter around this car – both the good and bad, but the majority of people will never see this chatter nor really care about it.  80% of Porsche buyers (maybe more) don’t care how the engine works or which hybrid system it employs, they want to drive the car from point A to B and have a great experience doing it.

This is very important for the world of digital media and technology, especially if you are building consumer applications.  Let me explain.

As more and more people come access the Internet across the world, the digital passionistas who care about every technological nuance become less and less (diluted by the growth of the Internet).  As this happens, the experience of the application of the technology needs to be more powerful than the actual technology itself.  Again, please reference yesterday’s post for more on this.

Clay Shirky says it very well:  Once the technology have sunk deep enough in the culture, the social effects built upon the technology require the technology but aren’t about the technology

One of the questions I ponder which is relevant to this is that IF the web is less and less about the technology and more about experiences, then how sustainable is any one experience when humans are naturally curious and are always on the lookout for additional experiences.  Should companies on the web craft multiple experiences for consumers under different brands and connect them together?  Think of the assets AOL has, this could be interesting.  It’s not just about any one brand any more.

Another example:  I like to vacation with my family.  While we were in Aruba a year or two ago, we had an amazing time.  Have we been back?  Nope.  We’ve picked other countries and states to visit because the world is so vast and we want to experience so much of it.

Back in December 2010, I wrote a post entitled, I Don’t Want to be Monogomous.  The post talked about how I’d like to experience other phones and access devices but I’m locked into one mobile contract for one particular phone (iPhone 4).  These types of experiences are extremely limited and might do more harm than good to consumers in the long run.

To get back to the general thesis of this post, we’re seeing big bets made recently in what I like to call “experience platforms powered by technology.”  It’s not the technology itself that’s special, but rather the experiences that are built on top of the technology.  I explain the Twitter ecosystem here and why it’s special.  Facebook is fascinating too.  Quora – unless it opens up to be a platform that provides value creation for more than one business entity, it’s not that fascinating as a platform.

In a world where digital is going to penetrate most of our media vehicles, crafting the user interface and experience (overall presentation layer) is going to be of utmost importance.  Differentiating on features isn’t going to win, but differentiating on the experience that these features deliver is going to create lasting power with consumers.  At kbs+p Ventures, this is one of our major thesis and we are on the look out of awesome innovators in this area.

This post is all over the place, apologies for the rambling!

Technology as an Enabler

I was watching [on Fora.tv] a 2008 Clay Shirky talk he gave to a bunch of folks at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard and he hit the nail over the head around a topic that I like to talk about, “technology as an enabler.”

One of my best friends, Andrew Sispoidis, one of the co-founders of IGA Worldwide, and funnily enough also remotely looks like Clay, once told me that technology should purely be an enabler.  Anytime you dive down deep into technology and promote the “technology” component, it’s a zero sum game as it becomes a feature war with your closest competitors.

In the video I watched today, Clay adds to the technology as enabler thought:

Once the technology have sunk deep enough in the culture, the social effects built upon the technology require the technology but aren’t about the technology

I like this a lot as it sums it up nicely.  Think about it this way:  when you have a great car trip, it’s probably because you listened to some great music or had fantastic conversation.  Very rarely do you say that the Brembo brakes worked flawlessly and the engine’s torque made the ride smooth.

Social effects become interesting when technology becomes boring.

I really like this topic.

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PointCast & UberMedia

Bill, we’ve never met but I’ve been a big fan of yours since the idealab! days.  I’d love to chat with you based on your recent media coverage around UberMedia.

I’ve been reading lots of the recent news around the acquisition of TweetDeck and your other acquisitions..  This morning, I read an interview on PaidContent which really crystalized this for me and appropriately, Chris Dixon named you a badass swashbuckler.

I don’t have such a cool name for you, but I do want to share a few things with you that I’ve been writing now for the past 5 years.  Note, this is not everything, but snippets of what I could find indexed in Google from my blog.

Here’s a snippet of what was written on PaidContent this morning:

For some of us, like you, some of these ideas of push news, push information, we’ve been there, we’ve seen them fail. I was involved with PointCast. Here’s what I think has happened. Some ideas are really, really great and fundamental, like the push power of PointCast, which Twitter is very similar to today. However, the time wasn’t right. The devices weren’t ready for it. We didn’t have mobile devices, didn’t have smartphones back when PointCast was out, The bandwidth was too low. One of the big challenges PointCast has was taking over the bandwidth of corporate servers so they blocked it. At that time, the dial-up modem was just too slow to handle the push graphics. Today, it’s ideal. The ideal circumstances are there so sometimes old ideas at the right time are really powerful and I think that’s the case today.

As many of you who have followed this blog since day 1, I’ve said that there is room for PointCast to come back.  I even attempted to purchase PointCast 3 years ago but that failed and that’s when I began building Tomzy in my private time.  Tomzy will be released in the near future once a few developers can finish up the initial alpha code.

Here are a few of my blog posts about PointCast over the years.  The media landscape is so ripe for it especially as all of our media consumption “devices” are becoming connected.

Predictions for 2006 (1/2/2006)  We’re going to see a “Pointcast” type network emerge for media.  For those who do not know what PointCast was, it was a startup formed in 1992 that provided relevant news and information to your desktop thru a push application.  See the Wikipedia definition here.  Pointcast didn’t fail due to it’s amazing product- it failed due to poor management and the timing of the marketplace.  I’d like to see Pointcast come back in some iteration that may bridge iTV, iRadio, Internet, and video games.  Do I believe that media can be 100% ad-supported?  Not all of the media, but there are certainly a mass quantity of media that can be – so lets get Pointcast up and running and support that relevant media.  (I’ve got an idea, so contact me)

PointCast & Widgets (8/29/2006):  Are we going to see a resurgence of the PointCast Network?

The Adobe Air Up There (9/27/2007):  Lots of possibilities for this platform. The number one possibility I’d like to see it enable/bring back? PointCast. If PointCast had launched utilizing the Adobe AIR platform, the technical hurdles that the developers faced in the 90s would have went away and PointCast may be the next new network. Who knows. I’d love to place a bet that a similar [PointCast] model will emerge soon utilizing this platform.

Digital Ramblings:  Long Post Warnings (12/7/2008):  Boxee is really interesting for many reasons, but the first of which is getting digital content onto my living room TV.  I can watch everything from Fast Lane Daily to TED Talks, Hulu to Netflix.  Genius.  I want to see Boxee expand to the desktop as well in terms of a content distribution system inside of widgets.  Think PointCast model.  I’d be very interested in talking further about this.

Bill, I welcome a conversation with you next time you are in NYC or I’ll fly out to San Francisco to meet with you.  You can contact me thru this form (sorry for not giving email address due to search engine spammers) and I’ll gladly be in touch.

If you aren’t Bill Gross, but are an entrepreneur who has serious aspirations around a “new” PointCast model and you can think larger than the traditional “desktop” experience, lets chat too.

Happy Saturday.

Darren

We Are New York Tech Features a Herman

One of the sites I check out each morning is WeAreNYTech, a site which highlights different people each day that are part of the NY tech scene. Yes, it’s a little fit pumping and a little chest beating, but who doesn’t enjoy that every once in a while.

When I went to the site today, I saw a very familiar face.  A face that I grew up playing video games with, fighting around the house, traveling the USA, and getting into arguments about Rangers vs. Devils.  I also used to throw cold water on him in the shower.  Yes, my brother Kenny.  Kenny has been featured by WeAreNYTech as he’s the VP of Business Development for uber hot startup, SinglePlatform.

It’s a big day for Kenny and I couldn’t be happier for him.  He’s awesome – one of the most charismatic, kind, means-well, person you could ever meet and he’s getting some nice recognition.  He’s been known to dance on tables at clubs I hear, but he’s pretty tame most of the time.

Congrats Kenny.

-Your Proud Brother

A Really Interactive Super Bowl XLV

Super Bowl XLV is here.  The players are geared up after 2 weeks of non stop practice and press conferences.  The ad industry is ready after months of sleepless nights getting ready for their clients TV spots to go live.  And fans are super ready as this game culminates the 45th NFL Season and 110,000 lucky fans get to attend in-person in Dallas at a beautiful new (2009) stadium.

But for the 100MM+ people expected to tune into the game this evening, I expect the commercials to work harder than they have in the past.  Let me do a bit of setup before I dive deep.

Television advertising comes in two forms:  DR and non-DRTV.  DRTV stands for “direct response television.”  The commercials that you see during the Super Bowl are certainly non-DR related and do not follow the guidelines that many networks have for creating DRTV spots.  The main distinction between DRTV and non-DRTV is a call-to-action- such as a 1800 or 1900 number to be displayed for a certain % of the commercial.  To learn more about DRTV, check out the wikipedia entry.

Outside of DRTV, what many regular TV advertisers don’t do is provide a call to action during their television spot.   I’m not a creative director and I’ve never shot a television commercial, but it’s pretty logical to end a TV-spot with asking the view to take action.  Historically, actions were hard to take because there was no “digital” linkage – so an action would have to be to “call in” or ask the viewer to immediately go to a store to measure response.  We knew that’s illogical to ask during the Superbowl.  But now, with high digital penetration across all of our homes (or wherever we watch the big game) and a smartphone in most of our pockets, a call to action that can be measured should be a commonplace.

Media research has shown that TV spots drive search queries for a brand.  Spikes in search volume is closely related to TV ads (and radio to an extent).

Do the television spots actually tell the user what to search?   Do the TV spots ask the viewer to visit a Facebook page?  Tweet a certain account?  [Miso] Check-in to TV spot?  SMS a certain number?

What I’d like to see with this crop of Super Bowl Commercials is a distinct call to action to use digital media to drive the Super Bowl Commercial experience beyond the :30 second TV spot.  This user engagement will allow advertisers to amortize the cost beyond just the :30 second time they spend $3MM on.  In some ways, if done correctly, it builds an eCRM initiative into Super Bowl TV-ads.  It’s just plain smart.  If you had the attention of 100MM people, wouldn’t you ask them to take action and engage with your brand? Ending a TV spot with a logo and website URL is no longer enough.

Unfortunately, much of this probably won’t happen tonight for the majority of brands.  I’ve previewed 8 different brands Super Bowl ads so far and the farthest they go with a call to action is ending on the brand’s respective logo and website URL.  See for yourself, Mashable has a listing of 30+ spots.

I hopefully will be surprised tonight with a brand or two who “gets it.”  If you are someone who does or has a service/platform/product to help enable this for brands, please do not hesitate to reach out.

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Recent Launches in Content & Distribution

We’ve been head down at the agency (kbs+p & the media kitchen) with some recent launches that I’m extremely proud of.  Some of you who read this blog have been part of them (as a partner, colleague, or client) and know how exciting it’s been.

We’ve brought back documentaries to BMW.  If you remember BMW Films, we’ve brought back a similar film/documentary style approach to talk about the future of mobility.  My colleague and buddy Faris has a great writeup on his blog and it’s been written about by BMW Blog and in the press here and here.  Throughout the month, you’ll be able to watch new “chapters” that are released about the future of mobility from some of the top thinkers in the world:  Astronaut Buzz Aldrin; Futurist and conceptual designer for Blade RunnerAliens and TronSyd Mead; Google VP Marissa Mayer; ZipCar founderRobin Chase; Treehugger.com founder Graham Hill; Ridelust.com editor-in-chief Mike MustoReinventing the Automobile co-author Lawrence Burns; and Director of Environmental Affairs, Richard Mattila.

We have launched The Daily, a new operating unit of News Corporation that pushes the boundaries of digital journalism.  This has been a fun project to work on because we’ve gotten to see it from it’s very early days through yesterday’s successful launch.  When I downloaded The Daily to my home iPad last night, there were over 1200 reviews in the App Store!  There have been tons of reviews about it so if you type in “The Daily” into Google News, you’ll have your pick of reviews to read.  Here’s one by CNN.  Here’s a link to @daily twitter account if you want to sign up.

The common thread of the two of these projects:  high quality content and packaging.  While the Internet has no shortage of content, there is a vast variety of styles of content written and produced.  I think you’ll see with the two of these projects that the content stands out from most of everything else.

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