Category Archives: Technology

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

Short vs. Long Term & Incentives

I’m taking que from Seth Godin and keeping my posts shorter and more succinct and hopefully this will spur more frequent updates.  Let me know your thoughts if you get a chance.

Anyway, I’ve been thinking about the issues around short vs. long term vision and incentives and the interplay between them.  Let me start out by stating my position:  I think we have really screwed this up.

What’s best for the business is relative to the time frame that you are speaking/inferring.  Employees may make really solid short term bets and sacrifice the long-term vs. passing on a great short term oppty to focus on the long term.

What spurs this?  Without any scientific proof or really any research, I’d have to assume that “incentives” play into this.

Let me play this out with a real world example that hits home to many readers of this blog.

At “work,” I’ve created the evolution of the data, targeting and media industry with the belief of demand side platforms and their role out within the big marketing & services holding companies.

In order for DSPs to work across biddable inventory, publishers have to put their inventory into an “exchange” of sorts (I use exchange loosely).  Because many of the exchanges are part of media companies that are also representing inventory and have direct sales team, there is inherent sales conflict.  This sales conflict makes the long-term vision of the industry harder to attain because people go for short-term gains.  The rationale?  I’m assuming that the sales staff of these organizations are incentivized to beat quotas; and looking-out for the long term does not put food on the table today.

So how do we fix long vs. short-term thinking and re-align incentives throughout entire organizations?

Right now, it’s screwed up.

The Personal CTO

I think society is trained to equate CTO (Chief Technology Officer) with the formal corporation.  In many corporations, CTO’s are certainly needed and they play a vital role.

In your personal life (outside the office), who is your CTO?   In many cases, the CTO is yourself or a trusted friend.   Choosing technology is almost a self service ritual around research on sites like cnet, gdgt, google, tekzilla, and others to help you make decisions.  The amount of time you have to research your technology challenge determines what sources you use and the quantity of them.

But what if you didn’t want to use self-service to find technology recommendations/answers?  Can you call Ghostbusters, err, a personal CTO to help you make decisions?  As personal technology expenditures rise, I’d imagine that people would invest more time (and money) into the decision making process.

iPad Review: thumbs, screen, interface

iPad I’m probably a few weeks late for this review but thought I’d toss one out into cyberspace anyway.  Let me start out by saying that I absolutely love the vision of Apple and this product has the potential to create a new usage occasion.

To keep it short and brief, here are my thoughts:

Dislikes:  the typing experience.  I think the keyboard on the iPhone is much easier to use then the iPad in terms of spatial portions.  When in portrait mode or even landscape, it just doesn’t feel right when you type.  Not a fan.  Additionally, I think I should have waited until either the 3G version hits the stores or until there is ubiquitous wifi.   The iPad works perfectly in the office (b/c of wifi) but once I take it outside, the functionality becomes limited.

Example:  I have been bringing the iPad onto the train in the morning and evenings during my commute and have been catching up on RSS Feeds.  I haven’t done this in over a year!  While I am excited that I can read the feeds in transit on a great screen, I cannot comment on them nor read anyone else’s comments.  The lack of connectivity gives this iPad more of an iPod Touch feel.

Likes:  ability to take the web with me wherever I want without the hassle of having a laptop.  I’m thinking that if this had a better typing experience, this would be the ideal travel computer for airplanes.  If you do not have a Netbook and are trying to use a full size laptop on airplanes these days, it’s tough because of limited space.  The iPad is a perfect solve for that… but typing again, is a pain.

Overall, I love the experience and the product.  I think the 3G version probably is a better product due to mobility outside of Wifi zones for the person who wants to stay connected.

ESPN Will Lead Live TV into the Next Decade

It’s a bold statement in the title, but I believe that the only traditional television programming to exist in the future are based around live events.  Unless Ticketmaster/Livenation create a live concert channel which I would assume is not out of the realm of possibilities, I think ESPN and it’s associated brothers/sister channels will lead television into the next decade.

It’s just not fun to watch a time shifted sporting event.

Read this article in the Sports Business Journal about ESPN entitled, Industry Wonders Who Will Challenge ESPN?

Another great addition to live television is the use of social media and technology to enhance the experience.  Yes, you can use Hot Potato during an episode of The Hills, but watching a sporting event with updates via tweets/etc is much more enjoyable.  We’ve not even scratched the surface with what is avaialble here, but it’s an area I’m interested in and I’m sure we’ll see lots in the next two years.

In a recent article in Advertising Age, entitled Live TV is Alive as Ever, Boosted by Social Media, author Andrew Hampp talks about the undeniable link between social media buzz and TV ratings.

With a programming schedule dominated by live events, ESPN is in a nice position to win the television war into the next decade.

Note:  the TV war won’t just be on your beautiful 60″ LCD in your living room – it’ll be on multiple screens, including your mobile devices.

Super Bowl Conversation Data – Social Media Style

@kevinweil, a member of the analytics team at Twitter updated the corporate blog with a post entitled Super Data.  If you are a data/football nut, go check it out.

For those who do not want to click over to his post, it basically overlays tweets about the game (football related) to tweets about the commercials (ad related).   What the data illustrates is that there was a significant (at least 4x) volume difference between posts about the game than posts about the commercials.  More people were tweeting about Peyton’s interception, 4th and Goal stance by the Saints, and the Colts Touchdown amongst others.

After gazing at the chart, I also derived the following:   after the first hour of the game, the tweets about commercials lessened, even though the majority of commercials hadn’t aired.  If Google wasn’t in the back half of the game, it would have been “relatively” quiet.    There were the obvious spikes about the brands during commercial pods, but there was very little chatter after the commercial pods aired.  Additionally, after half time, the volume of game related conversation far outweighed commercial conversation.  Does this mean that the commercials weren’t that interesting?  Maybe.  Does this mean that since the game was close in score, people were more likely to talk about the actual game?  Maybe.

To paraphrase Kevin, The first @DoritosUSA ad at marker C caused the largest per-minute volume of commercial-related tweets — for the minute following the ad, related tweets were 19% of all tweets we saw, eclipsing even the chatter around the Super Bowl itself for a brief period.

Let me reiterate:  19% of all tweets Twitter saw for the minute following the ad were about @doritosusa.   Considering Doritos strategy was to crowdsource the commercial through social media, I’d imagine that this commercial hit the KPIs established by the agency/brand.

Question:  Could the amplification power of social media/communications platforms surpass the reach of the largest  US media event- the Super Bowl?  Oh wait, it did… and the Super Bowl could command $3MM/commercial?   Hmmm…

Learnings:  As a brand, if you want people to talk about you thru platforms like Twitter, be early in the program/event.

Don’t be a stranger and comment in the comments section… and come say hello on Twitter (@dherman76)

1990s vs. 2010s in Marketing Technology

To preface, this post was inspired by a conversation I was having with Greg Hills, a colleague of mine at Varick Media Management.

When looking at the impact that the web/Internet had on advertising, I think that one could easily argue that from the 90s through today, technological innovation led where marketing/advertising dollars would follow.   Let me rephrase this more simply:  the geeks determined where advertisements would show up as they were the ones building the websites.   A byproduct of this has been the types of ad units and opportunities available to marketers and their respective agencies.  Love them or hate them, technologists paved the path for marketers.

I think there is a major shift happening and fortunately, I’ve had a seat at the table.  Marketers and their agencies are getting more involved in technologies both at an infrastructure and placement level and are influencing the future of digital marketing greater than ever before.

There are two examples of this:

  • DBO (dynamic media buying optimization) as written in a recent report by Forrester that I’ve made available for anyone to download here as a PDF
  • P&G Productions (PGP) as a production company owned by guess, P&G, and their creation of digital properties following their similar model to their TV show offerings of years back.  This isn’t new, but we’ve been seeing an increase in the volume of these types of opportunities.  If interested, follow my friend Dave Knox on Twitter.

The area that I’ve spent the past 2 years exploring is the former – DBO – as I believe that the current buying landscape is changing and as more media becomes digital (television, print, radio, OOH), dynamic media buying infrastructure, training, and execution is going to be extremely important for agencies and brands to understand and harness.

So, the next decade or two will be about how agencies and marketers are applying themselves closer to the technologies and while it (tech) may not all be built internally, the marketers/agencies will have a seat at the table.

The net result of all of this is going to be change and with change, there is significant push back, screaming, and fallout.  Agencies are going to have to change their approaches and marketers are going to have to understand the implications of this for their businesses.  It’s not going to be easy nor fast, but it’s definitely on its way.

I’m personally fascinated by the shift that’s happening and look forward to continuing the conversation.

Thinking About Content Consumption

I’ve been thinking a lot about content consumption lately.  The main reason for this is because for me, it’s broken.  Sub-optimal.   There is no way I can keep up with everything that is actively passed my way and passively written that I may want to consume.

There are a few reasons for this:

  • Not enough time in the day (which one can argue comes down to prioritization)
  • Content overload – at some point, my brain switches OFF, usually around 7/8pm after a 12 hour day
  • Filtering of content is weak.  Lots of people trying to solve this however
  • Access to content at the *right* time

The first RSS reader I used (and paid) was Newsgator, back in 2005.  I used Newsgator for a while and then switched over to Google Reader for a specific reason – though don’t remember precisely what it was.  I loved Google Reader for a while, but the issue I had with RSS readers was that if I did not check them for a period of time, I almost felt inundated with information and I would just reset all the feeds (mark as read) and start from scratch… though losing out on all of that particular content.  Needless to say, I’ve not used my RSS reader in the past 8 months or so.

I’ve recently been using My6Sense for my iPhone and happen to like what they are doing.  They are using something that they call Digital Intuition (their secret sauce filtering wizbang) to filter out articles that they think I may not like and it’s working so far.

Being that I have seeded a recent company within the content consumption space, I’d like to share you with a few thoughts which I hope you riff/expand/debate:

  • Screen Space (i.e. your laptop screen, netbook screen, iPhone, etc) is not used optimally.  Why should 1 application dominate the entire screen.  There are times when this is needed (i.e. spreadsheets, etc) but imagine dedicating a portion of your screen to “content”
  • Content consumption can be done two ways:  passively & actively.    Many people are trying to solve content consumption through active means but there is certainly opportunity around passive consumption.  It’s not OR, but rather, “AND.”  I think the killer content consumption application is passive AND active.
  • Filtering content is not easy.  Active filtering such as Pandora, passive filtering such as Amazon has not been perfected though many users expect this.
  • The reason for content consumption is not always logical or rationale, which throws off an intelligence engine/filtering product.   Some of the solid methods account for this, but you would be surprised how many do not.

An interesting company to watch in the space that just emerged is SocialVisor.  They released a ticker-like service (not dissimilar interface to what I just seeded) that is a dumbed down Tweetdeck.  Nicely done.

I continue to think there is room to aid for consumption.

  • There are 27MM tweets per day, 126MM blogs, 234MM websites and 350MM people on Facebook.  No shortage of content being created. (stats here)
  • There is over $500bln dollars worth of marketcap chasing the content indexing game.
  • Who is chasing content consumption?  (me!)

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.