Category Archives: Technology

Optimizing My Content Consumption

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

It’s very rare that I have time to web surf and pop onto random websites and consume whatever is there.  24 hours just is not enough for me at this point in my life and so I need the best possible filtering agents to help me consume/optimize my time online.

What I expect from a filtering solution today:

  1. Takes inputs from me and understands what I want from them
  2. Look-a-like model against my input list and expand it
  3. Understand what my social graph is consuming

What I expect from a filtering solution tomorrow:

All of the above, but with use cases built in:

  1. Business needs (be able to filter results based on what I need for business – maybe understanding this by time of day and day of week consumption habits?)
  2. Personal needs (be able to filter results per above)

Currently, I’m using Summify and Knowabout.it.  Both are early in their existence and are making good strides but would love to understand what else is out there?

What I like about Summify:

  • Simple email is sent to me at a specific time (usually in the early AM) with up to 6 items that should be relevant to me based on my RSS + social graph.  I like the simplicity of this.

What I like about Knowabout.it

  • I like the web interface to expand my collection into what other people similar to me are consuming/creating

Media optimization is a big space that I’m tracking for 2011 and expect to make an investment or two.  If you are in the space and want to reach out, I’d welcome it.

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2010 Post Highlights

I’ve written a bunch of posts on this blog in 2010.   Not all are my favorites but below, I’ve highlighted the ones that are.  You can find a list of all-time favorite posts here ranging back to 2006.

Organizational Behavior

Data, Marketing Technology

Twitter & Social

Investing

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Net Neutrality

Net Neutrality protest at  Google HQ - GoogleR...
Image by Steve Rhodes via Flickr

Jon Borthwick (@borthwick) penned a piece for TechCrunch this morning called Neutrality or Bust.   This followed a piece by friend and fellow investor Brad Burnham (@bradUSV) entitled Internet Access Should Be Application Agnostic.

While Net Neutrality has been talked about for years, it’s now getting a lot of attention by the industry because action is about to be taken.  It’s serious and has far reaching implications for the entire ecosystem of advertising, technology, telecommunications, and media.

While I’m not going to write a long essay on what I believe is right, I will point you to the two articles linked above and state my thoughts quite simply:  The Internet has grown at the pace it has because all access has been equal.  I believe it should remain that way.  I do realize however that infrastructure costs  change a bit in a mobile/wireless world and we have enough smart people in this country to figure out a mutually beneficial infrastructure.  Keep the web neutral.

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I Don't Want to be Monogamous

dead SIM
Image by Yaisog Bonegnasher via Flickr

I’ve been thinking about this blog post for a while and finally sitting down to write it.  It’s exactly as the headline sounds… except it’s not about my relationship with my wife, but about my relationship with my mobile phone.

I have an Apple iPhone 4 and have had an iPhone since 2007 with a Blackberry Curve thrown in as a complimentary device for about a year in 2008.

The problem I have with today’s mobile landscape is that the cost of experimenting with different devices is too high.  I shouldn’t have to pick only one device to use at any given time.  I love how when I travel overseas, I can take a SIM card and plug it into multiple different phones.

Being that I get to play with digital media and technology everyday (and get paid for it), I’m probably a bit biased, but I’m curious about the Nexus S, new Windows Phone, and some other smart phones that are in the marketplace.  I’d love to go buy one or two of these devices (pay retail) and plug them into my existing AT&T contract…However, the cost of adding these phones into my current plan are either ridiculously high OR not available and outweighs the benefits.

Will this change?

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Why These Frothy Times for Angel Investing are Actually Good

I’m going to play contrarian for a post.  There is so much talk right now of the angel investment scene going bananas from venture capitalists, angel investors, entrepreneurs, journalists, academics, and even lolcats.  I agree that it’s going bananas, but where I don’t agree with many people (and many people who I respect) is that it’s a terrible thing.

I believe it’s actually a good thing.

I’m an occasional angel investor.  Back in ’00-’01, I lost a lot of money in early stage investments.  Too much money.  I vowed never to do early stage financing again.  But I’ve had enough toes in the water over the past 7 years here in New York to understand where we were and where we are now.

If you are an entrepreneur, this is a great time to raise capital.  There is a ton of capital for many different reasons and access to it has never been easier.  It used to be that you had to have a top lawyer who knew people, or was asked to pitch at an angel group.  The web has fundamentally changed this.  I receive 3-4 deals a day on AngelList of companies I’ve never heard of but have demonstrable traction and already have hundreds of thousands committed.

Since there is a capital supply glut, simple economics say that it’s in favor of the entrepreneur.  Valuations are higher than a few years ago which is not in favor of the investor.  You need to put more money to work from an investment standpoint to have the same ownership percentages than just 365 days ago.

So as an entrepreneur, times are great.  If you are on the fence about raising capital, go and do it.  Cost of capital is cheap so take advantage of the opportunity.

As for angel investors, it sucks to be us.  But then again, it’s great to be us.

I spent a few hours in a board meeting today with angel investor and friend Jerry Neumann and he mentioned that the best part of being an angel means that you don’t have to do deals that you don’t want to do.  So lets use some simple logic:  if the deal terms are atrocious right now yet money is getting poured into early stage investments, then who is being ridiculous?  Us, – the angels!  No one is forcing us to put money to work in angel investing.  If the deal terms are so ridiculous, shouldn’t we be looking at other investment vehicles to generate wealth?

So why isn’t the well running dry in the angel investing ecosystem?

These frothy times will weed out the morons, or more importantly, the people who deserve to be weeded out.  Maybe the term moron is way too harsh, but it’ll weed out angels who are either a) way too green, b) investing on ego (I see quite a bit of this), c) people with no sense of simple math.  Is that a bad thing for the angel ecosystem?  Not if you ask me.

So, in 365 days from now, hopefully the froth has died down, angels who have no business being angels run out of capital earmarked for angel investments (but hopefully they saved for their children’s 529s), and more entrepreneurs than ever have startups and are dominating the world.

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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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.

Data Driven Platforms: Search & Display

Using data to make better business decisions is nothing new but since 2008, it’s been a very hot topic.  It’s been covered in almost every issue of Advertising Age, a whole new web destination now exists: AdExchanger, and agencies spun up new trading desks that are essentially high powered SWAT teams that combine rich data-sets with media for exceptional results.

Google has built a $154 billion company based on the use of lots of data to make the right decisions for it’s advertisers.  The data sets that Google are using are based off of search queries, which one can argue is one of the most powerful data sets that exist as it’s pure “hand raising.”  Over the past ten years, the big search engines have integrated with search engine marketing platforms such as Marin and Kenshoo to provide access to that marketers and agencies can use these tools to make better decisions which should improve performance and create workflow efficiencies (amongst many other reasons).

The trend we are going to see in 2H2010 and certainly in FY2011 is the emergence of these tools within the display, video, and mobile world and combining SEM with them.  While I can’t speak for any one tool directly due to confidentiality reasons, we are going to see many of these once SEM-only players move upstream to capture additional ad dollars and to use all-data (search+display+video+mobile, etc) to make better decisions.

As illustrated below, agencies such as Efficient Frontier are moving into this space as well, as well as, tools/platforms are integrating into biddable display sources.  These are not the only companies moving into the space but are illustrative of the trend.

What does this mean for the standalone display side platforms?  For the standalone SEM platforms?

An operational hurdle that will have to be addressed within the media agency world is that search and display is generally bought from two separate groups so either a) these groups will need to be combined or b) we need to provide clear roles and rules for each group.  I think option (a) is a much better choice as I’m all for integration.

SEM Platforms

The Conflict Free Ad Exchange

Picture 9Today’s ad exchange landscape is fairly complex but most people know who the big players are:  Google’s AdX, Yahoo!’s RMX, Pubmatic, Adnexus, Admeld’s MeldX, Adsdaq, Adbrite, and maybe, Microsoft AdECN.

With the majority of the above players including the big two (AdX, RMX), there is a major conflict.  They also sell media.

It’s like the Nasdaq also selling/providing liquidity for their shareholders.  Isn’t this a conflict of interest?

I know it’s early days within this space and most people are gravitating to where the money is.  For good reason.   Keeping the lights on and making a market today is better than being out of business in 12 months with only a dream.

When will we see a truly independent ad exchange emerge that can generate enough revenue to actually make it an attractive business for some group to start?  Behind closed doors, we talk about this all the time but everyone would rather be Goldman Sachs than the actual plumbing/exchange itself.  … and potentially for good reason.

I’d like to see a conflict free exchange emerge.  I’m sure many others would to.

Tangentially related posts:

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

My Communications Preference & Schematic

I decided to do an audit of how I use different communications “devices” and their responsiveness/effectiveness for me.  This is a focus group of one and is purely subjective.

Below is the outline.  Net/net, short and rapid communications are what work for me as evidence by Text Message and Twitter DM’s.  What I also like about them is there is a “wall” around them – i.e. not everyone knows my cell and I can’t receive DM’s from everyone.

Email still ranks #1 for my preference because of the passive nature of it; I don’t respond to everything immediately so the buildup gets significant but with the addition of Sanebox, it should make my life easier.  I do claim “inbox zero” on a weekly basis however.

After reading below, are your preferences similar?  Leave a comment.

**Update** – after reading this over again, I noticed I didn’t include LinkedIn “In Mail” or Facebook messages.  I dislike both :)

Communications Schematic