Category Archives: Technology

My Twitter Tipping Point

One of my tweets today was:

TweetI got a few immediate responses from @adventurista, @jbguru, and @mediahorizons asking me what the tipping point was.  My tipping point was when I started exploring the apps ecosystem surrounding Twitter to fully understand what a platform is, and thought I’d use this post as a way that I’ve navigated the waters.

I joined twitter 1026 days ago (March 19, 2007) which was during SXSW 2007.  My first tweet is below:

My first tweet

I did not really know what Twitter really was- other than a way for the TechCrunch crowd to communicate back and forth with each other and in some ways, use it as an ego machine.   @HowardLindzon always put smiles on my face with his obnoxious and ridiculous tweets and in stark contrast to Howard, @andrewparker was sharing IMHO very interesting insight and links.    Twitter became a firehose of content, so controlling who I was following was critical.

Fast forward to today, I am following around 195 people.  While I probably would follow more than 195 people, the firehose of content becomes so great that there is no way I can keep up with everyone.   Only today are the tools being built to help filter and manage the billions of tweets.

I very rarely use Twitter.com as the source of where I write my tweets.   Only 1 in my last 20 tweets (5%) were written at Twitter but the majority are written from a communications platform such as TweetDeck, Seesmic, and mobile versions of TweetDeck and Tweetie.  The reason why I use these communications platforms are because they help me quickly navigate the content by directing me to all of my friends content, direct messages, and mentions and recently, I setup ways to keep tracking of certain keywords to see what people are saying.  It’s a very simple social monitoring tool.  A few keywords I’m tracking today are KBS+P, Cliqset and Snackr through programs like TweetDeck and Squawk.

As I deepen my experience with Twitter, the more I understand the ecosystem and how multi-dimensional it has become.

I have not seen statistics as to how many people are using these communications platforms but being that TweetDeck is being mentioned at BestBuy for an Interscope promotion, I can imagine that there have been quite a few downloads.

To fully understand Twitter as a platform, you need to dig deeper into the developer movement.  I’ve been spending some time with some developers recently and want to highlight one or two which have really helped me understand the capabilities.

Meet wow.ly – Kevin Marshall, a.k.a. Falicon

Kevin has been building a few apps around Twitter under the wow.ly name with partner Whitney McNamara.   Think of wow.ly as a collection of apps which utilize the manipulation of twitter and other content (accessed thru an API) to provide value to its users.  wow.ly has started with Twitter because it’s the most easily accessible and has scale.

ConversationaList is an application that is a Twitter list of the people that you talk to (and about) on Twitter. The list is automatically updated daily, so that it always reflects the people that you are paying attention to right now. If you @reply (or @mention) someone, they’re added to your list. If you stop talking to that person, they drop off your list.

This provides lots of value as it helps me navigate my personal firehose and allows me to find very relevant information.

Another app they have built out is Hivemind.

Hivemind shows you who you’re missing on Twitter. Give hivemind up to five Twitter users that interest you, and it will report back on who those people as a group are all following that you aren’t.

If you respect a few folks and want to find out who they are all following that you are not?  This is a great way to add folks to your following list.   You are using people as “curators.”

So the above two examples are from wow.ly which tend to use people’s following/followers lists as proxies to analyze data from, but there are other people building some other projects.

Unmasking Masked Links

Check out TweetMeme.   If you are familiar with Digg, then you’ll quickly understand TweetMeme.  Their tagline is “check out the top links on Twitter.”  They break down the links by a few different categories as well, so navigation through these links become easier.  This is a nice compliment to TechMeme and worth a check every so often.

A project that I came across is called Bitme.me, a name I don’t understand but useful nonetheless.  I had this idea as well, but Dan Lewis actually took the steps to build this site.  Bitme pulls the most clicked links across Bit.ly (though not all links are on Twitter) confined to a curated list of sites.

Example:  For BitMe’s Technology section, he is pulling the top clicked bit.ly links from Mashable, TechCrunch, ReadWriteWeb, and a few other sites.  Extremely helpful.

Twitter In Itself is “Dumb”

It’s not dumb in the sense that I’m not going to use it, it’s dumb in the sense that it is much more intelligent when your interface with it through the apps.  That in itself is a definition of a platform.   I believe that Twitter will ultimately succeed if remains a platform and allows developers to continue innovating through the APIs.  If Twitter starts to make acquisitions that limits the amount of companies accessing the APIs, then the pace of innovation may slow.  ReadWriteWeb had a great article about Twitter’s API rate change that could lead to significant innovation and I’m all for it.

As mentioned, my tipping point was when I started exploring the apps ecosystem surrounding Twitter.  This tipping point is the true understanding of what a platform really is.  If you are inspired and want to learn more, check out John Borthwick‘s Charting the Real Time Web.  If the ecosystem of the real time web is inspiring to you, check out Betawork’s network of companies to see how the space is playing out.

From me, I’ve made a recent investment in this space (company not listed in this post) that should surface in February/March 2010.   I’ve been inspired by streams of content and believe there are simple ways to consume content that can be leveraged by the masses.  Look out for more posts like this one, and yes, I’ll be tweeting about it too.  You can follow me on twitter here.

2010 Predictions & Trends "Cloud"

I aggregated 25+ trends & predictions for 2010 centered around technology, media, and advertising last night (see them here) and created a “wordle” based on them.  See below.  You can obviously see that Facebook, Mobile, Google, Social, and Twitter are popular.

Some not-so-big (in terms of volume) but still important trends and predictions that appeared:  data, cloud, devices and acquisition.

Blogs/sites that I aggregated include but are not limited to Mashable, Read Write Web, Clickz, AdAge, Alley Insider, Center Networks, GigaOm, WSJ, MediaPost, CNBC, Adotas, and many, many more.

happy new year – @dherman76

Trends Cloud Large

2010 Predictions & Trends: Technology, Media & Marketing

I created an uber prediction list back in 2007 and it was a hit.  Here are some of the predictions already posted across the net re: technology, media, and marketing – three things I’m very interested in.  If I missed your post and you’d like to be listed, just leave a comment and I’ll add you.

My Friend David's New Book – Releasing on Dec 31 – Semantic Web

I met David at a dinner hosted by a MD of a hedge fund a few years back who happens to be one of the most connected digital guys.   Little did I know, I was sitting next to the guru of the early web design books of the 90s of which I had 2 of them on my shelf at home.

I maintained friendship with David beyond the dinner and have gotten coffee over the years to chat about his entrepreneurial engagements, chocolate, roller skating, candidacy to become Apple’s next CEO, and of course, children (he’s also a father of a young child).

David’s big day is tomorrow, when Portfolio Hardcover is releasing his next book entitled Pull:  The Power of the Semantic Web to Transform Your Business.  The title is a mouthful and a bit boring but if I know David, the book will certainly impress.

Per his book description:  Pull is the blueprint to the next disruptive wave. Some call it Web 3.0; others call it the semantic web. It’s a fundamental transition from pushing information to pulling, using a new way of thinking and collaborating online. Using the principles of this book, you will slash 5-20 percent off your bottom line, make your customers happier, accelerate your industry, and prepare your company for the twenty-first century. It isn’t going to be easy, and you don’t have any choice. By 2015, your company will be more agile and your processes more flexible than you ever thought possible.

For those who are interested in learning about the semantic web further, you can purchase his book on Amazon.

Other ways to learn about the semantic web:  wikipedia, w3c, semanticweb.org, avc (fred wilson), oreilly

Social Media & Optimized Display in the Same Post? Recapping 2009

Unless you live under a rock, the economic environment impacted brands and agencies this year and the whole publisher ecosystem that goes with it (media cos, ad networks, etc).  Full-year 2009 will mark only the fifth spending drop since Ad Age began ranking the 100 Leading National Advertisers in 1956.

Holding Co. Stock Chart As you can see from this chart, holding company stocks (MDCA, IPG, OMC, HAVSF, PUBGY, WPPGY) all tanked along with everyone else during late 2008 but have started to bounce back in 2009.

In the digital trenches, I witnessed an interesting divide really start to occur:  this “social media“ phenomenon and hyper targeted and optimized display advertising.  If you put a social media “guru” in a room with a data and targeting company, the conversation would probably be as bad as one of my dates when I first moved to Manhattan.

Social Media
I put “social media” in quotes as I fundamentally do not believe that this exists in itself.  I believe that all media can be social and it’s not new.  Anyway – this year saw a continuation of thousands (over 15,700) of social media experts pop up on Twitter and even carve out little businesses for themselves as consultants/agencies to a few brands.  The common question in 2009 that came across my desk was “what should be my social media strategy?”    Twitter’s constant presence in the news in early 2009 and Facebook’s dominance in the social networking/graphing space has contributed to this “social media” trend.

Recently, Pepsi announced it was going to forgo its advertisement in the Super Bowl which we’ve grown accustomed to each year and put those dollars to work in a rather large social media campaign.  I applaud their efforts to generate PR, but is this sustainable for them?  Meaning, they are essentially putting the money to work in a cause marketing campaign… will this have impact?

2009 saw Dell racked up over $6.5 worth of sales directly attributable to Twitter and the almost-too-hyper/passionate Gary Vaynerchuk climb to 848k followers.

Hyper Targeting & Optimized Display
There has been a trend in the display space towards audience driven media.  If you can identify an audience based on different characteristics stored in computer cookies, why not advertise to a handful of extremely targeted users? Data facilitators/providers like BlueKai, Exelate, Domdex, TargusInfo, Media6, Lookery, Rapleaf, Peer39, LucidMedia, Quantcast, and many others became front and center this year.  Demand Side Platforms (DSP), or technologies that allow the dollar holders (typically agencies) get closer to the media (through exchanges and other sources) also became popular and a few closed significant funding rounds.  AdExchanger popped onto the scene and started covering this entire space rather comprehensively.  If you have not read their 2009 year end report, download it now.

2010 should be interesting for this industry as the government is looking into online privacy.   Because much of the targeting is done through accessing anonymous cookies, this whole industry could be hampered or shut-down depending on legislation that is passed around ad targeting.  There are a few startups, particularly the Better Advertising Project focusing on helping congress solve these issues.  Personally, this would be a big bummer as I believe that if we can offer a much more targeted advertisement to users, then their overall experience could be much better.

Recap
Any media planner or buyer on Madison Ave has put a few social elements and optimized display on a media plan in 2009.  I’m sure that this will still occur in 2010 but I’m going to hypothesize that the gap between optimized display and social media may widen and you might start to see shops specialize in one or the other (i.e. CPMAdvisors vs. Crayon).

The one thing that’s consistent is that the audience is in the center of all planning AND buying both in social and optimized display – the more we can learn about our audiences and serve highly relevant messaging to each audience segment will allow us to create better relationships.  Better relationships between users and brands, means a mutually beneficial relationship for the agency and advertiser.

If you are interested in the Optimized Display & Hyper Targeting area, I’ve put together a Twitter list of thought-leaders in this space.  You can subscribe to it here.

High Frequency Trading and Online Advertising

The advertising world is being impacted by the adoption of technology at it’s core.  I speculate that the majority of all ad impressions will be “served” by some sort of technology within the next decade.  This speculation includes print, television, radio and OOH.  We’re seeing this start to play out within the online advertising space.

I’m a believer that history repeats itself and that we can learn from correlations to similar industries.  I was reading the Technology Review this morning and came across this article on Wall Street’s high frequency traders.

Are the likes of MediaMath, Turn, Invite Media, and Dataxu on the way to becoming high frequency trading platforms?

Apple: Ads Coming to OSX – Get Paid to Use the Computer

I received a very timely email from my friend David Siegel pointing me (and a very small group of recipients) to Google’s Patent search database.  On October 22, 2009, Steven Jobs (et al) received patent US2009/0265214A1, Advertisement in Operating System which was originally filed of April 2008.

The abstract of the patent reads:

Among other disclosures, an operating system presents one or more advertisements to a user and disables one or more functions while the advertisements is being presented.  At the end of the advertisement, the operating system again enables the function(s).  The advertisement can be visual or audible.  The presentation of the advertisement(s) can be made part of an approach where the user obtains a good or service, such as the operating system, for free or reduced cost.

A few things to point out:

  • To re-state the obvious:  Apple is exploring ways to provide their OS or other services/products for free or a reduced cost
  • Apple is looking at both audio and visual (can probably expect video to be in here) types of ads
  • The user is forced to watch an ad per the below statement “disables one or more functions while advertisement is being presented”
  • The screenshots in the patent filing show an OSX desktop, not an iPhone screen.

Where can Apple roll this out?

  • I initially gravitated towards thinking that my next MacBook or iMac will be probably be ad-supported but now I’m thinking that it might be my next iPhone or even the increasingly popular (still not present) Apple tablet.  With increasing pressure from Google moving into the mobile space and recent acquisitions in which both parties (Apple & Google) were at the table (i.e. Admob), advertisements could help drive down the price (or subsidize) the service of a cellphone or Tablet.

Media Distribution

  • The opportunity for Apple to become a media distribution hub could be tremendous.  Think about how many Hollywood films or video game trailers they could distribute through their desktop advertising network.

Using advertisements to subsidize a service or make it completely free is not new.  This patent however is potentially important to the industry as Apple looks to future ways to monetize it’s platforms with increasing pressure from competition that has no or very low-cost.

Dell and other PC makers sell advertisements/distribution to companies to place their applications on the desktop of a new computer.  Ever wonder why those icons are there when you open up your brand new machine?  Business development deals place them there and pay-for-distribution.

AllAdvantage was a tool that users downloaded from the Internet during late ’99 in which compensated users for browsing the web.  They made popular their tagline, “Get Paid to Surf the Web.”

Will Apple make famous, “Get Paid to Use the Computer”?

RIA – Rich Internet Applications

Imagine if the web didn’t have to live in the browser.  In many ways, we are experiencing that today (i.e. Foursquare or Tweetdeck) but what if we put it onto the desktop?

For those unfamiliar with RIA or “Rich Internet Applications,” they can be defined here:

Rich Internet applications (RIAs) are web applications that have most of the characteristics of desktop applications, typically delivered either by way of a standards based web browser, via a browser plug-in, or independently via sandboxes or virtual machines.[1] Examples of RIA frameworks include Ajax, Curl, GWT, Adobe Flash/Adobe Flex/AIR, Java/JavaFX,[2] Mozilla’s XUL and Microsoft Silverlight.[3]

I think there is an opportunity to take much of what is happening on the web and put it into it’s own desktop application which can have many different uses based on what the user wants.  Companies and projects like Stocktwits, Tweetdeck, Snackr, and others are building ontop of this philosophy and it seems to be working.

Check out Adobe’s gallery of AIR apps.

To be open and candid, I am seriously contemplating an investment in this area.  If you go back to many of the blog posts here, you can probably figure out what the investment will be.  What I’m looking for right now are talented RIA (Flex, AIR, and ActionScript) developers who have some open bandwidth to work on a project (paid of course) as well, as, anyone (investors, entrepreneurs, consultants) who have some war stories building a RIA based consumer and B2B product.

If you know anyone or are interested in conversation, please reach out.

Advertising Industry Presentation – Need Your Help

I’m taking a cue from Fred Wilson on how he crowdsourced his Web 2.0 Keynote presentation.  The wisdom of all of you are much smarter than myself, so why not work together on this upcoming presentation.  What presentation you might ask?

Announced today, I am the keynote speaker at the Admonsters Ad Ops Forum on December 3 here in New York City.  I am excited about this forum because the people who will be actually going to it are the people who actually pull the “levers” in the industry.  Not that I ever “BS,” but this audience is a very wise one and I’m excited to speak to a very intelligent audience.

The goal of the keynote address:

Where once traditional publishers and portals were able to command the CPMs they wanted for all their inventory, they now struggle to provide differentiated, premium inventory that they can sell directly. Agencies have gone from thinking of online as an afterthought to seeing significant investment in systems to help them drive performance for their clients. Networks continue to evolve in every way possible as they attempt to develop their own secret sauce that will make them a top player among hundreds of others.

Following the shift of power is complicated by the fact that all the players are continually redefining their roles:  publishers and agencies are creating their own networks and ad exchanges. Publishers and networks are offering services akin to digital agencies.

This redefinition of roles not only applies to the companies themselves, but internally as well. The importance of Ad Operations for all the players has grown tremendously in the last couple of years. Ad Operations ability to help connect technology and process to the business side of online advertising makes it a focal point for our further evolution.

This focus is of particular interest to Networks who sit at the center of many of these changes and must remain nimble to survive. This creates unique challenges for Ad Operations leaders.

Darren’s keynote will take us through the macro level shifts in the balance of power, how that is redefining the roles of all the players involved and focus on how Ad Operations need to position themselves – especially at networks – for today and the future.

I have setup a few public and private conversation spaces for this presentation.  I will do my best to respond to each and every comment and will give attribution to the comments that I do use within the presentation.

  • Leave your comments below in typical Disqus blog format.
  • Give a call to 646-495-9271 x 44195 and leave a voicemessage with your thoughts.  This goes into a Drop.io account that I’ve setup.
  • Send an email to keynotepreso@drop.io with your thoughts.

For those of us in the industry, the Pubmatic Ad Revenue Summit guide did a very good job of showing the landscape, but I’d like to dive as deep as possible.

Thank you in advance for participating!  I will post the slides up here as they are created… (and certainly the finished deck).

Digital Marketing Tidbits: Social Media, CPM, Ad Serving, and RTB

I have not been updating the blog as much as I’d like and have a few long-form posts I’d like to write, but based on my schedule right now, that’s a long-shot.  I’m going to condense the posts into a paragraph each and if people want me to expand on them, please comment or reach out to me and I’ll spend more time writing.

Social Media Strategy – your social media strategy should be part of your marketing and communications strategy.  I do not believe that social media should live in it’s own silo.  A solid marketing department or agency will understand social media at its  core and will work to involve the benefits into the overall strategy.  It’s only a matter of time until the many opportunistic social media shops will either be weeded-out or acquired into larger entities.

Let’s Not Kill the CPMOver on TechCrunch, Shelby Bonnie, former CEO of CNET, talks about wanting to kill the CPM.  His usage of CPM is incorrect and is misinformed.  Additionally, since many people think that CPM is a digital media term, there was additional pickup across other blogs and the tech industry started to drink their own juice.   First off, CPM is a planning metric in which marketers are able to put a cost to 1 thousand impressions.  While CPM is a metric that can be used for cost-basis, it is NOT a metric for performance.  Marketers who are optimizing to the CPM without overlaying other engagement stats as KPIs are the ones who should re-work their strategy.   CPM also is used in offline mediums such as Print.  This allows for an apples-apples comparison for rate basis.  To Shelby’s credit, I do believe he was trying to illustrate something different (and valid) but “killing the CPM” is something that’s a hyperbolic title.

Ad Serving Systems – Current ad serving systems such as Google DART or Msft Atlas must change their positioning or they may be toast as the industry evolves.  The current ad serving systems must provide real-time bidding engines within the next few years or they will be defunct as new players (i.e. Invite Media, Dataxu) start to eat their cake.  How much success will Goog/MSFT have with re-engineering their legacy systems?  Time will tell.

Real-Time Bidding – Today, this does not impact the majority of agencies, advertisers, and publishers, but within the next 3 years, the media landscape will be at a tipping point.  I do not know why I picked 3 years, but it seems reasonable.  Imagine a world where you can value every single impression in real-time based on the amount of data you have and the models that you put together… starts to sound like Wall Street… and yes, that’s the insight I am trying to illustrate.  Quantitative analysis is coming to advertising beyond where it is today (it’s already here in most major media shops) and the technologies needed to service RTB will start to emerge.  I’m fascinated with this space from the agency side, client side, and tech side.  If you are building something here and we’ve not spoken, I’d love to hear from you.  Additional:  My comments on the Google Advertising Exchange.