Category Archives: Technology

Google's Cookie Jar

Online, cookies scare people.  Offline, cookies put smiles on faces (and holes in people’s teeth).   Could they be any more diametrically opposed?

Here is MSFT‘s definition of a cookie:

Cookies are text files that a Web server can store on a user’s hard disk. Cookies allow a Web site to store information (sites visited or credentials for accessing the site) on a user’s machine and later retrieve it. The pieces of information are stored as name-value pairs. Cookies are designed to be readable only by the Web site that created them. A name-value pair is simply a named piece of data. It is not a program, and it cannot “do” anything. A Web site can retrieve only the information that it has placed on your machine. It cannot retrieve information from other cookie files or any other information from your machine. For more information on how to handle cookies in Internet Explorer, read the Microsoft.com Cookie FAQ.

Google today announced that they were going to put a cookie on any browser who visits a site in the Adsense Network.  The first reaction to hearing this for many people is probably negative.  However, this could be a very good thing and could advance online advertising a step further in the right direction.

By Google dropping a cookie on browsers, they know the frequency at which you have visited their “network.”  One issue that many advertisers have (and consumers certainly know about it because they voice their frustrations) is setting a global frequency cap across an entire media plan constituted of different sites.  It’s difficult, just ask any media planner.  Doable – yes, but not perfect.

Since the Google Adsense network is vast, having a way to track global frequency for advertising across is very helpful and sexy to advertisers.  If you’re not part of the advertising world, you may be asking why “frequency” is important.

First, frequency is the amount of time a person is exposed to a particular ad in a set period of time.  There is a point where the law of diminishing returns kicks in and running too many ads to a particular user may actually work negative against the brand.  If you’ve surfed the internet and have seen the same ad over and over and over again and you’re wondering why… they are probably having problems with setting frequency or managing the yield curve.  There are other reasons why but they are not for this little ramble.

Additionally, there are two conversion metrics that both DART (DoubleClick) and Atlas (Microsoft) use for measurement:  click-through and view-through.  Click Thru (CTR) is what we know of when a user clicks an ad and goes to the website that it’s affiliated with.  A View-Through is another form of conversion that accounts for when a user is exposed to an ad but does not click it, but later, ends up at that advertisers site (within a certain amount of time).  Google is looking to better measure this, especially as conversion attribution is becoming a hot topic in today’s advertising landscape.

The Cookie Jar that Google is building may sound scary but it’s in the best interest of all of us.  If companies can serve much more targeted ads, then they actually can become useful instead of the “punch the monkey” that we seem to get quite often.

Resume Genome Project

I was digging around Path101‘s website this evening to see what Charlie and the team were up to and dug deep into the Resume Genome Project.

What is this?

We’ve been crawling the web gathering up resumes and industry information. What you see here is our first take at analyzing and visualizing it.

We hope you’ll explore industries, learning what they are about, how to get into them, what a typical career is like, and what people go on to leaving them.

A lot more information about the Resume Genome Project.  The RGP is a big reason on why I chose to invest in Path101, it’s much needed in the industry and don’t know many other smart people conquering this area.  Aggregating data or content is one thing, but drawing parallels between them is another.

What do people actually wind up doing with my background?  Where do people like me work, and where can they work in the future?

Well, all that information is actually out there–its in our collective resumes.  The big job boards have it in their vast resume databases, but they were never parsed and structured in a way to be exposed, analyzed, and navigated in aggregate to yield insights.  They are just being sold to recruiters in a firehose.

As it turns out with most walled garden approaches, today’s web presents a viable, openly accessible alternative.  Millions of resumes are actually available in public out on the web in various different types of homepages and profiles.  It’s no surprise either.  More and more people are constructing web presences for themselves in an effort to get found, so its natural that they would include a resume.

We’re downloading, parsing, and doing a lot of structure and cleanup work to make this data not only presentable and navigable, but interactive.

Follow-up to My Quotes in Today's NY Times

NY Times Logo I’ve been helping my friend Stephanie on this story for a few weeks now and finally, it came to light.  I’m stoked for her [Stephanie] to really break one of the first stories that really disrupt the advertising industry in the past few years, as well, as highlight a friends of mine including Joe Zawadzki (MediaMath) and Zach Weinberg (Invite Media).

I’d like to take the time to expand upon my quotes:

“The exchanges are just a platform to buy and sell media, but you have to layer the measurement and data on top, which could come from different areas: some agencies will build it, some agencies will partner,” said Darren Herman, head of digital media at the Media Kitchen agency.

“We use the analogy of, anybody can trade on the financial markets, anyone can get an eTrade account, but it’s how you’re smart about how you use your eTrade account that determines how well you’re going to do trading,” Mr. Herman said.

In the first paragraph, I mention that exchanges are ‘dumb.’  They essentially are a large pool of available impressions that ultimately lead back to a website (sometimes blind, other times transparent) and potentially back to a certain user.  What I’m stating in the paragraph is that if you match data about a user/audience and overlay that ontop of an impression, it becomes very powerful.  Media agencies, who are buying the bulk of media on behalf of their clients will need to adapt in this new area and it’s going to take a certain type of group/unit/team/company to make this happen due to the parallels it draws from the financial markets with analysts, yield managers, traders, etc.

In the second paragraph, I’m simply stating that with today’s financial markets, anyone can trade.  You, my grandmother, my buddy, my brother, or my wife can get an eTrade/Zecco/etc account and trade on the markets.  Just because you have access to the markets does not guarantee success; it ultimately comes down to the data you have on the instrument (in this case a security) and the market conditions.

Zach has a quote towards the end of the article that I want to highlight as this should spur potentially a dozen new businesses popping up.

“Once there’s a market place where you can buy and sell using your own technology, you can absolutely create financial instruments or media instruments,” said Zachary Weinberg, the chief executive of Invite Media, a start- up in Philadelphia that is working on ad-exchange strategies. “I think what you’ll see is traders come in, and they’ll look to create derivatives on certain packages of media, and resell them to other guys. You’ll see a whole marketplace develop because of this technology shift.”

I’m super excited about this industry, are you?

Related pieces:  I heart data / Advertising to Audiences / Goodbye Media Sales Execs

The Internet is Ugly

As I’ve been searching, reading, playing, and harnessing the Internet, I’ve realized that fundamentally, the ‘net is ugly.  Maybe this is because most websites are created in structured markup language and optimized for being indexed, but what about aesthetics?

In product design, there is a balance in form vs. function.  Some products are designed beautifully but have very little utility.  On the web, there are very few beautiful websites.  There are entire universities based on design, you would think that the creative juices would flow onto the net to make it beautiful.  Web Creme and other top-sites have listed beautifully designed websites, but they are few and far between.  I’m part of an online group called nextNY and there are requests constantly for good web designers, just look at Krop.

Noelle's Twitter Post

My friend Noelle hit the nail on the head above… Creativity Mag went to a nextNY meetings and wrote a feature.  The web is generally lead by coders/developers, not designers.

Since the web is being constantly innovated, it’s hard to set design guidelines as what is standard today is going to be extinct tomorrow.  There are technical standards (W3C) but not for design…

What is the future of the web in terms of design?  My friend (somehow we are related too) Grant Lyons is building out GreenerMags, beautifully designed interactive magazines that are environmentally friendly.  These magazines flow nicely and take up more than your available screen size which pulls you into the content and makes it intimate.

Zinio have been taking traditional magazines and transplanting them online – their page turning technology is nifty but other than that, it’s old school. Will the web become fully immersive like Second Life or Google’s Lively?

But what is the future of web design?  The Future of Web Design Conference is coming to New York in November and it looks like there will be some fantastic sessions.  Is it going to be answered in one conference?  No, but it’s the right step

What are your thoughts?  Where is the web going?

Need Your Help to Aggregate the Future

I need your help to aggregate the future.  Yes, together, I believe we can help create a global database of thoughts about the future.  I like thinking big.  Imagine putting “futurist” on your resume.  Let’s make it happen.

FutureMeme.org

Future ImageGoogle’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful according to it’s Company Information Page.  I don’t want to organize the world’s information, but would rather create an online destination that posts futurist predictions, thoughts, analysis, insights, pictures, charts, etc.  Any of these predictions should bring any of the following:  social, economic or technological impact.

I’d like to have an 8th grader from Pakistan’s technology predictions next to a student at Harvard.  I’d like to read predictions from all over the world talking about alternative energy, technology, social well being, etc.  The future impacts the world, lets give everyone a voice.

Interested to help out?  Click over to FutureMeme.org and join the conversation.  This is a soft launch and I’m looking to get content up on the site.  Please help spread the word…

The End of Theory: I heart data

In the current issue of Wired Magazine (Jul 2008), there is a fascinating article by Chris Anderson, the editor in chief of Wired entitled, The End of Theory. Chris points out that scientists have always relied on hypothesis and experimentation but now in the era of massive data, there’s a better way…. mining that data.

Over the past few months, if you’ve been following this blog, you probably have recognized that I’m falling in love with data and the applications for taking large data sets and applying them to problems. On the 16th of June, I posted a lengthy blog post about Advertising to Audiences. I believe this post sets the tone for advertising theory moving forward. The most important take-away from that post is the illustration below:

Illustration

Back to the Wired article. Below is a quote that stands out:

At the petabyte scale, information is not a matter of simple three- and four-dimensional taxonomy and order but of dimensionally agnostic statistics. It calls for an entirely different approach, one that requires us to lose the tether of data as something that can be visualized in its totality. It forces us to view data mathematically first and establish a context for it later. For instance, Google conquered the advertising world with nothing more than applied mathematics. It didn’t pretend to know anything about the culture and conventions of advertising — it just assumed that better data, with better analytical tools, would win the day. And Google was right.

So, data is interesting and could be the holy grail (whatever that might be). I believe it has a shot. It takes someone with extreme analytical skills to mine the data for correlations and causations and to really be able to go beyond the “templated reports.”

I’m fascinated with how this is going to play out in the advertising world. There seems to be many startups in the data/advertising world and they are fascinating. Adding data onto a single impression will make many marketers happy. How does this play out in practicality?

For example, as a marketer, you can purchase someone who is “in market” to buy a Subaru WRX. You can purchase this data from a data exchange such as Bluekai, and then use that data to market/re-market through any ad network. This is only the beginning.

Why is all of a sudden, data becoming the holy grail? In my world (advertising), technology is proliferating and cost-effective data stores and computing power is available to crunch data sets. It used to only be that the large credit card, mortgage, and financial institutions used to mine extremely large data sets because of the infrastructure costs, but as the cloud is here due to the Petabyte Era, almost anyone has access to these resources.

I believe that the potential winner here is not the team who can store vast amounts of data, but the team who can analyze it best.

I think that I may follow up this post with how this is applied to advertising and media.

iPhone 3G: Lines, Lines & Lines

I thought I would stop into the Apple Store in Soho, NY (Prince St.) to pick up a new iPhone 3G on my way to the office.  I knew there probably would be a line, but didn’t realize the magnitude.  I counted over 135 people in line from just my vantage point but I’m sure it wrapped around the block and I wasn’t motivated to count more people :)

Here are some pics from moments ago:

iPhone 3G

iPhone 3G

I stood in front of the main entrance and watched as they let batches of people into the store  -inside, lined up on both sides of the store were employees dressed in blue shirts clapping as people walked in.  It was majestical for the uber-Apple nerd (like me).

I’m going to try and buy my phone from the Apple Store in the Westchester mall this evening – maybe less lines!

Entrepreneurial Challenge: Need Distribution?

I’d like to pose a challenge to all entrepreneurs or established companies who are looking to increase their distribution (and business) in the digital media world.  I’m friendly advising someone/company that has legal access to over 750,000 US Internet users and we are trying to come up with new ways to monetize the audience.

Distribution will come from access to a ‘portal’ like page and thru email announcements.  How can we monetize these better and/or release a new product/service/solution to this audience.

Since we probably aren’t going to build new businesses around this, we are looking to potentially partner (through business development arrangements) with entrepreneurs like you.  We are looking to hear from entrepreneurs or established companies who have a product/service/solution in the market today, or have an “idea” of what we could potentially pursue.

Think of this as a RFI:  Request for Information.  The ultimate prize is having access to the userbase which should help us increase our revenue (top and bottomline) and add value to the community.  In most cases, should you be picked, you would receive a business development arrangement that is mutually exclusive.  There is potential for us to fund “ideas,” but that is in a case by case basis.

Interested?  You can fill out this form.

Feel free to spread the link to anyone:  http://snurl.com/2vvbw

I’ll be closing the entries at the end of next week (7/18/08).

Happy entrepreneuring!

The 2008 Battle: Apps vs. Widgets

App vs Widgets

The Battle of 2008: App vs. Widget.  We’ve heard the term “widget” more than we’d like to admit, especially working on the agency side of the business when the majority of the meetings are about widgets and distribution strategies.

There are over 130,000,000 results for widget in Google.  There are 188,000,000 results for “apps.”  As the iPhone release draws near, get ready for “apps” to battle to be the top buzzword for 2008.

App vs. Widget Google Trends

As you can see by the above Google Trends data, ‘widgets’ became a hot entity in second quarter of 2005 when Yahoo! announced their widget initiative. The search volume around Apps has been steadily growing and should continue to grow, potentially at a faster pace, as the iPhone App Store roles out.

Venture Capitalists will be putting many small bets to work in the Apps space as they’ve done so in the widget space.  Kleiner Perkins has announced $100 million to fund iPhone applications.  My friends over at Union Square Ventures and First Round Capital have funded my friend Greg’s company, Pinch Media.  Check out this video of Greg presenting at the first annual Media Kitchen Digital Media Venture Capital Conference.  We’ve been talking quite a bit about iPhone apps but lets not forget about Facebook Apps and widgets… Federated Media has built a healthy business monetizing apps and widgets.

VC’s will help companies invest in an infrastructure where they can monetize this new world.  It’s going to be rocky, it’s going to be all over the media, but it’s certainly going to be fascinating.

So in a world where we love [to hate] buzzwords, I think we may be retiring widgets soon for apps, but this is surely a battle to play out in 2008.  I think 2009 may have buzzwords such as platforms, exchanges, data, and LBS, but lets concentrate on this year right now.