Category Archives: Technology

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.

Roll Ups in the Digital Space

There are a few areas of the digital space I’m particularly fond of right now and they have to do with mining content for data, and then turning the data into insights.  Note, that data is generally “dumb” as a single data set can mean different things to different people (insights).  Owning the data is one thing, but mining it for insights and meaning is another.  I’d rather have the smartest insights team than owning a data set that I don’t know what to do with.

Anyway, I think there are a few companies/areas that I’d like to roll-up.  This is me personally speaking, having nothing to do with any business I’m affiliated with.  Also, please note that I’ve not put any banking rigor to this, so have no idea about valuations/cap tables, etc – so this is purely conversational fodder.

URL Shortening ServicesBit.ly for example.  I’d like to buy as many of them that have a userbase, and roll them out a la TweetLnks style.  I cannot sit on Twitter all day long (or even Seesmic Desktop or Tweetdeck) so I miss a whole host of links that are shared that may be interesting to me.  @bbhlabs and @epc share some great links (amongst dozens of others) and I miss them.   If I can strike deals with all of the URL Shortening Serivces (or buy them), I’d be able to create a very comprehensive new type of daily digest.   Not sure if the idea is coming across well, but I think it has legs.  Monetization can come from adding affiliate links (getting buy-off from the stakeholders) as well, as, premium services.

TweetDeck & Seesmic – may be too late for the latter, but I think rolling companies like these up is a very nice platform for the next generation of communication online and thru mobile.   AOL IM is making a play for the mobile space now (just released, AT&T should be scared), but these are two fantastic AIR platforms that have lots of opportunity.  Could compliment the above.

Data Aggregators – Exelate, BlueKai, Domdex, Demdex, Lookery, TargusInfo, etc.  Package them all up and own the data space.  Every ad network and holding company will need access to this data so if you can aggregate all of these players up and create a centralized cookie jar, could be really interesting.  While one would argue that the sum of the parts is greater than the whole, I am not sure if that stands up inthe short-term for these players.  I think there could be a quick exit here as well.

Any others?  Thoughts?

Media Optimization

I’ve been spending a lot of time over the past year or so trying to figure out where the advertising industry is headed andOptimization

while I still have many open questions, I’m quite confident that I have one specific area nailed down… and that’s around media optimization.

In context of this post, media optimization is when a media or ad ops team is changing/tweaking a media plan based on the performance of the sites based on a certain schedule.  If one site is performing well and other sites are performing poorly, the sites performing poorly would be manually called (yes, via telephone) or emailed and small tweaks would be made by the publisher – and if performance didn’t change, the site would be optimized “out” of the media plan.  Lost revenue for publisher.

Please note that in this context, media optimization is not media planning, or the upfront portion of media where the agency/brand selects the sites/audiences they want to use based on different research such as ComScore, Nielsen, QuantCast, etc.

Looking at the future of media optimization at the agency/client side, it’s heading away from human-lead to computer-lead interactions.   There are many reasons for this and here are a few of them:

  1. Humans are humans and are prone to error.
  2. Most media agencies don’t hire quantitative minded people, and many quantitative minded people don’t end up in advertising.
  3. Even the smartest human cannot process all of the information necessary to make an optimization quickly (i.e. 6 creatives * 12 sites * 24 hours in a day * 60 minutes in an hour * 13 audience segments * 4 geotargets * etc)
  4. CRM/databases are plugging into media systems and technologies will need to be bridged

The key note here is #3.  As we move into real-time buying for specific audiences on a custom list of sites, technologies are going to lead this.  Humans are going to drive the technologies by setting KPIs (key performance indicators) and managing the overall campaign, but once we tell the technologies how much we can bid per impression (how much we can vs. what we should bid is fundamentally different), they will buy/trade and secure placements.  Placements that do not work well after a statistically significant sample will be automatically optimized.

The adoption curve of making this happen within an agency or brand is fairly steep, however, there are multiple mid to large scale agencies who are starting to making inroads.  The digital media world has been trained for manual optimizations and it took years for our clients to understand this, so changing their mindset could take a bit of time.  There is a learning curve not only internally but for our clients as well, and with enough time, we’ll be having algorithms perform these optimizations.   I believe that this competency will be necessary as we roll into 2010/11 and exchanges proliferate media planners and strategists.   With media folks spending less time now on optimization, they will be able to spend more time on creating big ideas.

Path 101 – Coming Out Party

Sans the party.

My wife (@sparkle201) and I (@dherman76) were asked by our friend Charlie O’Donnell about a year ago to invest in his new startup, Path 101, at a very early stage in it’s life cycle.  Initially Charlie approached me for the investment but I have no real domain knowledge of the HR world, so I flipped this one over to my wife who had been involved in HR for 15 years at a large global bank.

The deal was a no brainer when Charlie sold us his vision – even though he wasn’t quite there yet in terms of actual execution; his vision was grand and we feel that this sort of vision is needed in the marketplace.  Additionally, Path 101 helps filter millions of data sources (resumes) and turn them into actual information – an area that I’m interested in as a side note.

I’m proud to say, that Charlie, Alex, Hilary, Jennifer, and the rest of the team have publicly launched and the site is open for all to use.  This could not come at a better time as the US Unemployment is about 8.1% and this tool would be helpful for not only those entire 8.1%, but an even higher percentage of people who are looking to change their jobs.

I’m going to paste a bit of what they wrote on their site so that all can learn exactly what Path 101 is:

Path 101 has always been about opening up career opportunities to people using data.  We believe that it’s not that people don’t know what they want to do with their careers–they just don’t know what’s out there to do.  By crawling the web for resumes and analyzing that data in our Resume Genome Project, we’re learning more and more about what real career paths actually look like and figuring out how best to expose that data.

See our screencast demo and FAQ here:  http://mapping.path101.com/faq

Our resume analyzer tool, powered by these public resumes, is the first of its kind.  Nowhere else can you automatically upload your resume or your public LinkedIn profile and get a customized view of how you compare to others,what other people with your background are doing, the schooling you might need, and what other career options are available to you.  This is complimented by industry and function landing pages–views of the data we’ve gathered that help provide detail on career options and opportunities.

Our career advice section, also part of this new release, is the only place on the web where you can anonymously ask or answer career advice and directed it towards professionals in a specific industry.  We know that many career questions are sensitive, especially when you’re currently employed, and we value your privacy.  You might not want to ask career questions in front of your whole network.  On the other hand, sometimes you want as much help as you can get.  That’s why we built integration into Twitter and Facebook so that you can share your questions and advice with everyone across your network to get more people providing their accumulated wisdom.  You can even sign up just to be an advice giver, and request to get sent a limited number of e-mails per week targeted towards people in your field.

Finally, we continue to get excellent and supportive feedback on our personality test.  Over 80% of people who start the test complete it.  It has provided thousands of people with useful feedback on what industries people have professionals with similar mindsets.  We’re looking forward to our upcoming job satisfaction survey–part of a future release–that will give us a lot more flexibility on what we ask questions about and how they directly relate to specific aspects of your resume.

So congratulations to the Path 101 for the launch and I look forward to all of the feedback that you receive to iterate the product to the next level.

The Firehose Is Out of Control

First it was RSS.  I absolutely loved it.  I was able to handpick blogs/topics I wanted to read and at my leisure, consume the content.  My RSS list grew to over 200 bloggers/content sources and if I didn’t check it each day, it became intimidating just looking at the list of unread posts.  I can’t tell you the last time I checked Google Reader.  I was addicted at one point however – checking each hour.

Next up is Facebook and Twitter.  I would give myself a grade of “B+” for limiting the amount of people I follow on Twitter (158 as of writing) as to not overload my tweet screen.  Facebook as well – limited the people who I follow through the news feeds.  The sheer volume however of each tweet/update from the people I’m following both dillute the stream (I don’t need to know that you had cinnabons for breakfast – but I’m guilty at that every once in a while) and make it hard to keep up.  I don’t know if I’m actually supposed to (I don’t think I am) notice that sometimes there are some amazing tweets that I don’t see because my tweet feed is just too long.

I’m not the first person to talk about this nor the last, but there is definitely a need to filter information and data.  I think too many people are focusing on discovery – filtering is needed before we can go out and discover anything new.

People talk about the velocity of current flows of information and inputs and say it’s like drinking from a fire hose.  That’s wishful thinking.  On far too many days, it feels more like living in the Lower Ninth Ward during Hurricane Katrina.  For Clay Shirky, that sense of drowning in information is a sure sign not of overload but, rather, of inadequate filters.  If he’s right (and I think he is), we have to find a better way of coping.  (c) Above and Beyond KM

Google, Yahoo!, MeeHive, and others are innovating in this space but I’m sure there are many more people.  Anyone know of any great services that help filter the firehose?

This issue is playing out at SXSW.  Just look at the #sxsw issue.

Agencies, Ad Networks, and Disintermediation

InterClick president Michael Katz had a nice writeup in MediaPost today entitled Ad Budget Crunch Puts Pressure On Supply Line. I believe that ad networks are going to be disintermediated in some capacity over the next few years and Katz sheds some light on this notion (from an opposite perspective.

Advertisers and agencies are shifting budgets away from publishers that deliver high-price real estate and “shifting the money to guys like us who deliver ads to target audiences,” Katz said.

My friends over at the AdExchanger (a great read btw) talked about my comments that I made at the OMMA Behavioral event held this past week in Manhattan. I didn’t write up the event on this blog but it was essentially most major ad networks including AudienceScience (formerly RevenueScience), Platform A, Yahoo!, Specific Media, Acerno, Akamai, etc, all sitting in a room talking about the future of digital media. My peer, Ed Montes, Managing Director of Havas Digital, took the stage in front of every ad network and told them that they may very well be disintermediated over the next few years from his perspective. Obviously, I agree to a large extent.

During the OMMA event, Darren Herman of Varick Media Management and Media Kitchen fame twittered “ed montes (Regional Manager, Havas) just pissed off every ad network in the room.” And then added, “I totally agree with him as he said that ad agencies are acting as tech players now and disintermediating.”

In terms of disintermediation, this means that agencies will have to build, adopt, and execute on technology that they’ve historically never had, nor rolled out. Agencies are not technology companies and don’t even come close to acting like them today. In order to fully disintermediate, not only will agencies have to learn code, but they’ll also have to switch culture a bit. I’m not saying the agency world is going to become Yahoo!, Google, and MSFT-like, but it’s going to have to switch around a bit. The interesting part of this is to see which agencies built it themselves and fail, which agencies acquire technologies, and which agencies partner.

I have a white paper that I’m releasing about this in the coming week or so, which was written back in November. I’m looking forward to sharing.

The Future of Social Networks

This morning, I discovered Charlene Li’s latest presentation on the future of social networks.  What is in the presentation reiterates my views that the future of the majority of the web needs to be open.  While social networks can be closed (a la a dining club at Yale), the benefit of a social network is the openness it has with the ability for every single user to create their own experience through the actions they take.

Social networks only work when there is a give/take (input/output).

  • Users input their data/behaviors across a social network or participating site
  • Users output/receive a much more targeted and richer experience

The web is going to be passing/sharing information back and forth between publishers (it currently is now with the DART/Atlas ad-serving systems in their real-time ad calls) beyond the traditional 728X90 or 300X250 ad units.  Pages are fully dynamic now and content changes based on behavior attributed not just on a single publishers site, but across multiple publishers.  The value of understanding what someone is doing on another publisher’s site (even potential competitor) is high.

The future social network is the SOCIAL network.  It is omnipresent.

Forthcoming: Hb's 60secs of M&A; subscribe today

I’ve always talked about creating a vulture fund, but haven’t executed on it for one reason or another.

Something that I can execute however is an email list that would update you on interesting companies/technologies/assets for sale that could benefit your digital media organization.  Whether you’re in the M&A department of IAC or Google, a private equity fund, or a business owner/entrepreneur who wants to branch into new areas, this email list is for you.

The inspiration for this list comes from two recent emails I received from friends showcasing some interesting acquisition opportunities.  Additionally, I’ve been speaking to some entrepreneurial friends who want to sell their companies and/or projects and don’t have a simple method for doing so.
Very brief opportunities (email to be much more in-depth):
  1. StreetRead:  Financial News App that appeared on Webware, Lifehacker, Wall Street & Tech, etc.
  2. HeyAmigo:  PPC Newsletter advertising
Both opportunities above have significant market opportunity if they fall into the right hands.

The email list will be either every two weeks or monthly, so don’t expect a significant volume of emails.

They will be coming from my Herman blackbook email account.

Please sign up for the list here.