Glam, Stylefeeder, and Shopping.com: A good job

Update from TheFind.com:

Siva Kumar from TheFind.com was nice enough to respond to this post. Siva, I just checked your uniques, you guys have come quite a way since the days of FatLens and online ticketing comparison shopping.

Are there similar integrated partnerships in the works for TheFind.com along these lines of layered integration? Thanks for responding.

—–

Those of you that read this blog consistently, know that Glam is often a target for criticism and a frequent member of the “gaming the ratings” vertical.

However, the current deal between Stylefeeder and Glam reeks of, well, value. In fact, there is a third participant of this deal, Shopping.com, that is winner as well. Let’s see if the product takes off, but the concept of it makes a ton of sense.

According to Mashable, it works like this. StyleFeeder introduces Shopping.com content on their site in an interface that is designed more appropriately for the constituency, women. Stylefeeder aggregates the users and reduces production cost with Shopping.com “content,” or product feeds. The addition of Glam is pretty smart as well as the added CPM pricing will allow for higher distribution purchasing power to the entity, while putting purchase minded customers in front of the brand advertiser.

The triumvirate creates maximum pricing power for search keywords and maximum revenue per click on list management or other forms of distribution.

Additionally, none of these companies could have harnessed the traffic themselves in a scalable fashion. A deal like this usually doesn’t get done because of the coordination needed, so kudos to the business leads on this one. You could say the short term winner here is Stylefeeder, who managed to insert themselves in with two stronger “brands” with more funding.

To review…

Shopping.com provides the backend and the service rate (a large selection of products)
Stylefeeder personalizes the content to increase conversion
Glam serves advertising on top of the content, increasing the CPM, while increasing valuable inventory and reach.

Two thoughts in conclusion:

– Do brand marketers understand the competition for their brand eyeballs in the sense of this partnership? Do they care?

– I’m wondering if TheFind.com will come up with a similar campaign with Sugar or other?

As if LendingTree needed more problems…

LendingTree, in  the midst of a major revenue tailspin, has another problem to deal with; one that compromise the brand.

According to the Charlotte Observer, LendingTree alerted customers of a breach in their consumer profile security. Worse, it appears that this breach was ongoing for 1.5 years. According to the same report, “More than 160 data breaches were reported during the first quarter of 2008.”

How does this happen? It’s rather incredulous that a company with such a large headcount and arguably leading mortgage lead generation firm could let this continue for the duration that it did.

Even Tier 2 lead generation firms guard their data more feverishly. The lead generation space is usually inhabited by more questionable marketers than some other industries, however with the continued news out of Valueclick and sensitives over behavorial targeting and customer acquisition strategies this is really poor timing…and certainly sure to at least impact near term form conversion in a negative way.

Looks like Diller split the company apart just in the nick of time.

If I’m a unique supply-side firm, like Zillow or Bankrate even, I’m sending an email to my users right now stating how I protect their data. That’s sure to win points and increase brand equity.

More commentary:

Lead MarketWatch

Lead Critic…who had the story on Monday

Beyond ROI, what’s The Who and why it matters?

I was reading a few pieces today on search marketing, and I reread my piece on “What’s your CPM?”

I have been meaning to write more on understanding “The Who?”

What is the “The Who?”

Let’s set-up the backdrop first.

Most campaigns online are managed by conversion and profitability. My campaign had x amount of sales. My campaign generated y profit dollars.

However, beyond this data review little is known about just what is happening in a campaign. Questions like, why did my campaigns conversion just tank?

Performance lead generation firms have more data about the users on “The Who,” than probably anyone else. These firms can tell you that there was a shift in users searching for a campus degree vs. an online degree. However, all of The Who data on performance lead generation still has two flaws: a) it requires  a user labeling themselves and at least hitting the submit button once and b) It requires that the data to be accurate as well

Performance marketers, and all marketers, should care about The Who for a multitude of reasons including:

1)    Advertising campaigns take a high level of coordination and a relatively high effort level. Using the common analogy, why “throw out the baby with the bath water .” If a campaign has changed dramatically in terms of The Who then a simple call to a publisher can request a retroactive change in placement or discussion as to the publisher’s audience

2)    Creative should match the constituency. For example, by understanding, that the users coming from Yahoo News to your site are now predominantly women instead of men, the design in terms of look and feel and perhaps value proposition can match that user

3)    And most importantly, risk and competitive factors.

Risk and competitive factors are perhaps most prevalent and important, at least in terms of performance marketing.  Understanding placement volatility by The Who is perhaps of the greatest importance in terms of building scalable marketing.

To use a real world example, let’s look at the mortgage lead generation space. In 2004, NexTag began competing with LowerMyBills for display advertising specifically on the major portals. LowerMyBills had more creative acumen and more entrenched media buying relationships.

How did NexTag shoehorn their way into at least a comparable display spend?

1)    They used messaging that filtered higher valued users to their service, running creative at the time that incented “Bad Credit Refinance” users to click

2)    They managed the volatility of their traffic in display by offsetting it vs. their paid search spend.

By understanding TheWho within constraints of profitability (the Y) and conversion (the X), NexTag was able to compete with LowerMyBills for the same inventory while starting out at  a competitive disadvantage.

Understanding The Who is critical to building a scalable business in online marketing.  It’s the logical next step, in an industry that has already solved the Y and the X.

 

NYTimes.com: Going the way of Neilsen?

The NYTimes.com either ran out of content this morning or they don’t care about their media and advertising coverage.

According to the New York Times, there are a few news flashes:

1) Increasingly, marketers are looking to ad networks, which sell display advertising across groups of Web sites.
Huh 1: Thank you New York Times, anyone reading your coverage has already known this for years. However as we all know ad networks are coming under higher scrutiny now, their future still as yet undetermined.

2) Their growth could mean a lower share of advertising for portals like AOL and particularly for Yahoo, which is particularly strong in traditional display advertising.
Huh 2: Really, thank you for playing New York Times, this could not be further from the truth. While spending has certainly higher now on mid- and long-tail publishers, Yahoo and AOL are really networks as we all know who, by nature of their blend of brand and direct response marketing, can manager a higher effective overall eCPM.

This story melds to themes of this blog: the decay and degradation of newspaper brands and brand migration online have a higher impact than direct.

While I don’t think anyone would disagree with the decay of newspapers, some might take umbrage with the notion that brand, not direct, will play a major role in shaping production budgets online.

For more on that notion, see my position here.

LinkedIn: Very nice little piece of advertiser usability

An unscientific review here, but I would imagine that LinkedIn’s “Who’s viewing my profile” gets quite a bit of hits.

Let’s say it’s a fair assumption. The service has been up for awhile and services that are up for awhile usually work in some measured capacity.

Well, as someone with a performance marketing background, I’m absolutely loving the LinkedIn page load on the right nav bar that strategically places the, “Who’s viewing my profile?” right below the home page ad.

I would imagine that’s good for at least an artificial 25% increase in CTR.

Well played LinkedIn.

Google top brand? Sure, but what’s the methodology.

Since my entrance into online advertising some 10 or more years ago, brand metrics have always been focused on reach, uniques and impressions…..and that’s about it. Occassionally there is the media buyer who requests a site-by-site agreement on where they are to run; who knows how they pick which Web sites they run on.

As brand marketers start focusing more attention online, it’s only natural and, in a push for transparency, for advertising sales execs to request: “What are your success metrics?” and specifically how they will be determined.

Online advertising is about accountability and that will not change. You will always be able to track and report on impressions much better than any other medium.

With that, I am wondering what to make of Millard Brown’s announcement of Google as the top brand. I’m not disagreeing that they are, but I want to learn a little bit more about their survey and methodology so as to begin creating better metrics for online advertising.

Taken on the surface, the survey represents a very, very small sampling size. The 100,000-person survey when compared versus online audience is less than .01% of the Internet audience (assuming everyone surveyed has an internet connection).

It’s time to push brand metrics to balance higher production endeavors like NBC-Omnicon. Clients should demand this.

Social graphs and too much San Francisco Kool-Aid

Update: Apparently the VP of Engineering shares the sentiments of this post..

“Andy challenged us to come up with more email centric interfaces like this.”

——

San Francisco can be used a metaphor for “place where tech adoption and more importantly the gold rush surrounding businesses (TechCrunch, Valleyway, etc.) inhabit.”

A former boss made the following statement to me last year, “You need to move around a bit more, people lose perspective when they stay in an area for any more than 5 years.”

Nothing could be more poignant in terms of describing the relationship between technology adoption and start-up hype in San Francisco.

I won’t rehash the Slide valuation, deity status and reverence given to TechCrunch (that’s a separate dynamic actually focused on investment and jobs/occupation lead generation) and Mashable, or the countless start-ups that attempt to turn a unique feature into a business model. Nor do I begrudge any of it, by the way.

I was reminded of my manager’s comments when reading a story this morning on GigaOm. The piece, entitled “The Social Graph Is All About Me.” The writer meanders his way through a conversation on the lack of value found in Facebook, having a universal dashboard and asking Google to provide a more open API and infrastructure.

I felt the need to really challenge the “supporting material” for the piece, not necessarily where the author was driving though.

First, in terms of Facebook. Facebook is all about seeing what my friends are doing. I would imagine if you looked at the virality and engagement of the Facebook community, there is a steady dropoff by age in terms of interactivity and usage. Facebook is all about how I look to my friends, not about information utility.

I find the need to mention this because the writer is beyond the core audience age that Facebook caters to. This creates a problem. If I’m older than 35 or so, I didn’t really grow up with the Web and probably started living my post-collegiate life by relying on more offline services. The Web is not as entwined in my upbringing as it is for someone 15-20 years my junior.

Thus, he demands, a Friendfeed-esque service focusing on integration services from multiple companies, most cirtically Google, into a dashboard that is easy to use.

It is here that I wanted to exclaim, “Ok….fine yes, I want this, but let me ask my cousins in St. Louis if they’ve even heard about Twitter or Xobni or Mint.com or TripIt or any other advanced Internet service.”

There answer would be “I use Facebook.”

Before you have the consumate dashboard to manage your digital life, you need to ask how many Web 2.0 (I hate that expression, it’s basically adoption and bandwidth rates have just allowed further functionality) contribute significantly to my daily life and have penetration across a wide swath of internet users. Last I checked AOL was still a top 10 Web company. Last I checked, there was no pressue on Google to increase distribution by opening up.

An axiom that I am fond of using is, “There is A (the point in time where we are) and there is G. We all see the potential and business ramification of G. That doesn’t mean that we can go directly to G. We need to figure out how quickly we sequence (or “walk users down the path of”) A to B to C to D to E to F to G.” Some of this sequencing can be done with phenomenal technology products; some of it only with time.

“G” is the social map and an elegant dashboard that improves my life with again, elegant integration into my core Internet services that I need on a daily basis.

We all see “G,” in San Francisco that is.

If we want “G” to materialize, let’s not talk about the consumate dashboard.

Let’s talk about the technologies, communications, and services that add value to that dashboard, because without those, there is no business need for Google to up and frankly there is not need for a consumer dashboard across a critical (and monetizable) part of the Web audience.

NBC, Omnicom: Structured for success?

An announcement this week that NBC and Omnicon will collaborate on a web series to inject advertisement placement in web show programming.

As someone who has only spent a short time working in the agency cycles, perhaps someone can educate me into how much effort a pact like this takes to put together and what are the success metrics of it.

The challenges I have with this are:

– Hmm, how much money will NBC put towards promotion? And does this budget come from the advertiser budget?

– What are the success metrics for this programming in terms of uniques, reach (you know how I feel about reach online), and views for this programming. Especially since the view metric is hardly defined.

– Further, what is the effort level or cost to set this up for the advertisers (Intel, Microsoft, UPS, Acura TSX) vs. probability of success. I am sure the cost is quite stunning, in terms of meetings, travel, coordination, etc.

– What’s the historical success or probability of success of these programs. Isn’t there a better way on the client side to reduce the risk of spending this effort without an impact?

Perhaps this writer is naive, this seems like a risky or even frothy endeavor, though it may in fact be worthy.

And I guess the, er my, question is, how do these pacts get structured within a client account? What is the tradeoff between R&D budget (where I would certainly put this campaign) and impact or measured marketing? I am asking the question; hopefully someone can contribute comments here in terms of this.

Also, I would challenge AdWeek to report on the success metrics of this campaign post-development and post-launch. A debrief on how this worked is critical, in my mind, to justifying Adweek’s pre-launch coverage.

More commentary: Silicon Valley Insider on Gemini promotion

Content a commodity? Not on this blog…

Note: I wrote this post a few days ago and the web has literally exploded with commentary regarding content and the value of content.

Some notable stories:

U.S. Lags in Social Media Content
This writer’s take: The production value of competitive content outside the U.S. is lower than in the U.S.

Most Bloggers Don’t Deserve Any Ad Revenue
This writer’s take: A bit of a blanket statement, if you are good at creating content ad dollars will follow.

Read on now for more comments on Content as a Commodity: (written earlier this week)

(For the purposes of this post, I will speak directly to journalistic or blogging content, not music or other.)

A post getting a lot of play in the online community over the past few days discusses the commoditization of content.

I found that post through this post here claiming content is becoming a commodity by Sarah Perez.

My rebuttal on this is, “Look who is speaking.” And the answer would be “bloggers.”

The business of content has existed since movable type. It has always been some amalgamation of three things: distribution, production, and voice.

In terms of voice you can consider this brand, an author, or an editor. Each of these factors (distribution, production, voice) require a certain amount of funding or resources to maintain.

The very relationships of “content” is fundamentally been between the voice who is creating it (the “signal”) and the audience who it is intended for (the “receiver.”) This, of course, remains unchanged.

“Content” (I’ll stop with the parenthesis after this) has morphed at a phenomenal rate with the introduction of the Web. What has occurred online as Ms. Perez states in her article is content supply has exploded and access to content is now “easy.”

The conclusion is a devaluation of content and that could not be further from the truth.

What has actually occurred here is a change in the fundamental components of content. Production creation (and in some cases with that quality) has become cheaper (increasing supply as Ms. Perez accurately points out), while getting content or sifting through content choices has become harder not easier.

But what about Google and YouTube…and search engines in general?

What all of these services have merely done is allowed the consumer to review more content “opportunities” than before in a faster time without a quality score.

A parallel to consider: How come when a new cable channel comes out they are usually on channel 837?

Because no one goes to channel 837. Either distribution and marketing has to drive someone there or the content has to be so good that virally people tell one another about it.

With the advent of faster connections, search engines, RSS feeds, bookmarking, the speed of reviewing potential content has increased exponentially.

In essence, choice has increased noise in the signal to receiver relationship. Now a content provider, like a blog, must have a stronger signal to reach the receiver.

How do you create a stronger signal? Two options.
One, you spend more resources or money on distribution. Or…
Two, you have better and unique content.

The reason blogger’s feel that their content is commoditized is because they lack either the strong voice to bring users back to their content or they give away more of it just to get people to notice it.

In the world of content, unique and good content always wins. If you are a blogger and your content is commoditized, maybe that’s because what you were saying isn’t all that good and unique or you don’t have the budget to broadcast your voice.

Good content is not a commodity, text, words and web pages are commodities. What you are seeing now is survival of the fittest amongst content when the rules of distribution and production are changing every day.

That’s all.

AdTech: Some brief follow-up comments

Update:

JT Batson from the Rubicon Project was kind enough to respond in the comments below. Please check them out. Once again, thanks for all who respond as this blog develops its voice.

According to JT, their publisher acquisition at the show and thus booth expenditure was worth it. So I stand corrected. Congratulations on the acquisitions, JT.

JT, what was the major selling point that resonated with the publishers you spoke with over competitors like Pubmatic, AdBrite, others — happy to publish in a separate post.

——-

I had the chance to attend AdTech this week. I meant to write a more indepth piece, but I’m more intrigued by going through Google’s numbers this morning.

Here are some bulleted comments:

– Google and Yahoo have a presence (Yahoo as the former Blue Lithium employees), interesting, but that’s about all

– AdReady had a large display, if you are not familiar with AdReady check them out. They help performance marketers manage production costs and roi in display. It will be interesting to see their product adoption.

– The Rubicon Project, for some reason had a rather large booth. If you are not familiar with the Rubicon Project check them out. You may like their single integration product or you might regard them as a souped up Glam. The interesting thing is the AdTech audience really isn’t their target audience in this writer’s opinion.

– Neilsen and Comscore with a small presence and little visitors.

– IndexTools completely abandoning their booth in the wake of the Yahoo acquisition.

– Very little in the way of targeting add-ons, but eBureau and TargusInfo displaying for lead quality and validation.

For a more indepth review, visit DM Confidential.