Thursday, March 26, 2009

Yahoo! TV Widgets – is Web/TV Integration Finally Becoming a Reality?

Several months ago Yahoo announced that it was developing widgets that will allow viewers to integrate Web services into their TV experience. Now it looks like those widgets will finally come to market.

Samsung is now selling the first TV that I am aware of that supports Yahoo’s widgets. The Samsung 7000 will come pre-loaded with four widgets: Flickr, Yahoo News, Weather and Finance and plans to offer up to 30 more widgets within the next few months and up to 100 by the end of the year. Sony, LG and Vizio are also working on widget ready models.

You can see how the widgets will work on Yahoo’s Connected TV site – while not a demo it’s somewhat illustrative:

The widgets look a lot like iPhone apps and will be readily available for free download. And like Apple’s approach, the Yahoo Widget Engine will be an open platform that anyone can develop on so the sky will be the limit in terms of the number and types of applications that can be created.

Samsung's 7000 and Yahoo Widget Engine will provide access to Web services like Flickr

Monday, March 23, 2009

Time is Running Out for Newspapers

The next year or two (if it takes that long) will most likely be the beginning of the end for many newspapers if they don’t figure out a way to make money on the Internet.

For instance, last week after 146 years in publication, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer ceased operations as a print newspaper, reduced its staff by over 80% and converted to a slimmed down, online only publication.

And the P-I is not the only one. Last month Denver’s Rocky Mountain News shut down completely. And there are a host of other newspapers on the ropes, including the Chicago Sun Times, the Boston Globe and the San Francisco Chronicle to name a few.

Even the mighty New York Times recently had to sell part of its company and seek a $250 million loan from a private investor to help address its financial problems.

Of course, all of these newspapers are grabbling with the same challenge: how do they monetize their content online as more readers move to the Web and information becomes more of a commodity.

There are many ideas floating around about how newspapers can become viable businesses again. Here are a few:

  • Make newspaper sites a channel for social media – for example, many papers are using Twitter headline feeds on their sites that are grouped by the sections of their paper to keep readers up to date and engaged with their content
  • Publish APIs for independent software developers – the New York Times and a few other papers have taken the lead in publishing application programming interfaces (APIs) that allow software developers to create social media apps using New York Time’s content – for example, here’s a Gmail gadget built using one of the NYT’s APIs:
  • Jump on the electronic newsreader wagon by bundling content with the purchase of a reader device – for example, Newsweek Magazine might try to get new Kindle owners hooked on Newsweek's electronic version by giving them a free yearly subscription
  • Become more deeply integrated into the communities they serve – for example, the Austin Chronicle has thrived despite being a free weekly by becoming active participants in the Austin music and art scene. For instance, the paper started the South by Southwest Conference in 1987, which has grown into one of the world’s premier music and film festivals

Whatever the strategy, I hope newspapers figure this out; and soon. In my opinion, the role of newspapers in investigative reporting , local news coverage and editorial journalism is too important to leave to the anything goes ethos of the Internet. Sadly, they have had 15 years to figure this out so the prognosis is not too good.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Joint WPP/Google Research Program – Trying to Solve the Media Mix Riddle

One of the aspects of online advertising that marketers value most is its measurability. Whether you’re running a direct response or branding initiative, the ability to measure campaign performance on the Web is generally easier, and more accurate, than most other media. That said, one frustration for many marketers has been the inability to determine the effect of their online ads in relation to ads they run on traditional media, and vice versa.

With that blind spot in mind, WPP and Google announced today that they will be kicking off a research initiative that will attempt to answer that very question. The research will study the combined effect of digital and traditional ads, and how they influence consumer perceptions and purchase decisions. Ultimately, the research should help establish criteria to help marketers make more informed decisions when making media mix and budgeting decisions.

According to a WPP press release, 11 research grants were issued out of a field of more than 120 submissions - press release can be found at:

The research topics are quite varied and address a range of factors that come into play when determining the impact of advertising on consumer attitudes and behavior. Here’s a sampling of the selected research topics:

  • Effect of Online Exposure on Offline Buying: How Online Exposure Aids or Hurts Offline Buying by Increasing the Impact of Offline Attributes
  • Does Internet Advertising Help Established Brands or Niche ("Long Tail") Brands More?
  • Targeting Ads to Match Individual Cognitive Styles: A Market Test
  • How do Consumers Determine What is Relevant? A Psychometric and Neuro-Scientific Study of Online Search and Advertising Effectiveness
  • A Comprehensive Model of the Effects of Brand-Generated and Consumer-Generated Communications on Brand Perceptions, Sales and Share

Personally, I can’t wait to see the output.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Google’s New Behavioral Targeting Service - a Step in the Right Direction on Privacy Issue

A few weeks ago I posted about the pressures being put on online advertisers, and the Web sites that run their ads, to address the growing privacy concerns around behavioral targeting.

Now, to liven up the debate, Google announced last week that it will be launching a beta-test of its own behavioral targeting service on AdSense partner sites and YouTube.

Google is not referring to the service as “behavioral,” but instead is calling it “interest-based” advertising. From what I can tell, the beta service will offer two of the more common ad targeting techniques:

  • Behavioral – where an inference is made regarding a Web user’s interests based on the Web sites they visit
  • Retargeting – the re-marketing to an online consumer who has shown previous interest in a product or service, but for some reason never followed through on that interest

These techniques are no different from targeting approaches used by other ad networks. That said, what is different about Google’s service is the proactive approach they are taking to address some of the concerns about targeted ads raised by privacy advocates. For example:

  1. They will be expanding the number of formats and publishers that allow users to click on targeted ads served up by Google for detail on the information that was used to deliver the ads and how that information was collected
  2. Users will be give the means to view, delete or add information about the types of ads they would like to see through a tool called the “Ads Preferences Manager”
  3. They will be providing users with an easily accessible way to opt-out of future targeted advertising

In Google’s own words, their approach gives users “transparency,” “control” and “choice.” Hopefully, these steps will quell some of the rumblings from privacy advocates who have been calling for greater regulation of the online ad industry which is the last thing we need in the middle of a recession.

Friday, March 13, 2009

New 4A's Book Explores the Differences Between Digital and Traditional Agency Services

Earlier this week the 4A’s (American Association of Advertising Agencies) published a detailed report outlining the differences between digital and traditional marketing and the impact those differences have on agency operations and economics.

The report, “Understanding the Economics of Digital Compared to Traditional Advertising and Media Services,” was primarily written for general advertising and media agency executives but is a great reference for any marketing firm that is making the transition to a digital-centric model.

The report validates what a lot of people who work in digital already know; digital is a different and, in many ways, more complex medium in terms of both planning, creative and execution. And while the report’s findings may seem obvious to some, there are a few gems in the report that traditional marketers making the switch would do well to memorize:

  • The amount of agency labor required per dollar of media spend is significantly greater for digital than for traditional media - this is true for all disciplines, but especially for creative, media and data analytics
  • Digital media requires much tighter integration between creative, media and production – managing these functions in silos like most traditional agencies do will not work with digital assignments
  • Digital assignments frequently resemble software development projects – the staffing models and talent that many traditional agencies have are not sufficient for the complexity and size of these types of assignments

As more marketing and media budgets move online, agencies are going to have to make changes in their staffing and operating models to keep up. It’s not going to be easy, but at this point traditional agencies really don’t have a choice if they want to remain relevant.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

What Would Nokia Do?

I just picked up Jeff Jarvis’ new book, “What Would Google Do?” In the book Jarvis deconstructs Google to determine how other companies can think the way Google does as a means to replicate their incredible success. His premise being that our economy and society have been so altered by the Internet that the old ways of thinking are not only outmoded but counter-productive. To Jarvis what’s needed is a new way; the Google way.

After reading the first chapter I believe Jarvis may be on to something. However, I think there’s another company that has a story that is just as, if not more, compelling and relevant for businesses that are trying to find their way in the current environment. That company is Nokia. Here’s what I mean.

The New York Times reported today that an astonishing 2.6 million jobs disappeared in the last four months – a rate unseen during the post-war era. This dramatic decline led the Times to speculate that the growing job loss “may reflect a wrenching restructuring of the American economy…and that many companies [appear to be]…abandoning whole areas of business.” A depressing assessment, but probably not too far from reality.

This reminded me of a case history I read awhile ago about Nokia and how it evolved over the years in response to changing conditions.

Nokia was not always the mobile communications giant it is today. It actually started out as a wood-pulp mill in 1865 and eventually, through acquisition, became part of the Finnish Rubber Company in the early 20th century.

By the 1980s, Nokia was a conglomerate that manufactured an array of wares including, among other things: paper products, tires, footwear, personal computers, televisions and telecommunications equipment. It wasn’t until 1992 that it decided to divest from most of its lines of business and focus exclusively on mobile communications. This was in response to a steep decline in paper prices caused by the deep 1990–1993 recession.

Today, 17 years later, Nokia is the undisputed mobile phone leader with 40% market share, and was ranked last year by Business Week as the fifth most valuable brand in the world (Google was number 10, but closing fast).

If there’s any silver lining to the current gloom it’s that companies and industries can turn adversity into opportunity. I’m sure it won't be easy, but Nokia is proof that with a little bit of foresight and some good timing it can be done.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Look to Web 2.0 Tools for the Next Evolution in Employee Productivity

Some companies are finally realizing that Web 2.0 is more than just friends re-connecting on Facebook or people Tweeting that their plane just touched down. One day, and it’s coming sooner than you think, Web 2.0 apps (wikis, blogs, podcasts, etc) will also be used by many organizations to improve worker morale, collaboration and productivity.

In fact quite a few innovative companies have been using Web 2.0 tools for several years now for those very purposes. As much was confirmed from a recent survey fielded by McKinsey of 50+ companies. Analysis of the survey can be found on their Quarterly magazine Web site.

Most of the surveyed companies are still figuring out how to integrate Web 2.0 into their organizations. This is to be expected with any disruptive technology. A few adventurous innovators get the ball rolling; they in turn influence the early adopters who validate the innovators and so on. Eventually, the new technologies and the myriad applications they hatch become widely adopted. Thus goes the technology adoption lifecycle.

To me what makes the report so useful was the identification of two factors that can make or break a corporate Web 2.0 initiative (the report actually identifies six factors but I think these two are the most important):

  1. The best Web 2.0 initiatives originate with users, not management - for anyone who has designed a Web site this makes complete sense. It’s hard for even the best designer to know what users want without an in depth understanding of their needs. In the context of Web 2.0, it appears this input best comes in the form of the types of grass roots apps front-line employees develop on their own
  2. "What’s in the workflow is what gets used” – the survey revealed that employees will not adopt new tools if they are outside of the work processes they are used to using and will view these tools as increasing, not decreasing, their workload

These findings validate Forrester’s highly practical POST approach to planning social technology programs which I highly recommend:

Most companies still don’t know what to do with this new Web 2.0 phenomenon. As a result, they either do nothing out of fear of doing it wrong, or they plan big, management led initiatives that have little chance of success. Hopefully McKinsey’s report will help companies avoid both scenarios.

Personally, I can’t wait for the day when I don’t have to wade through endless emails and convoluted shared network folders to get my work done.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009’s Social Media Experiment - Generating Buzz But Not Without Risks

If you haven’t seen it already check out the new homepage - it’s a bold experiment in how to integrate social media into a brand site.

What’s so unique about the page is that the experience is almost completely based on social media content from other sources. User generated messages, videos and other content are pulled to the site from various social media sources such as Facebook, YouTube, etc.

The only “traditional” element on the page is an expandable navigation bar that, among other things, takes visitors to various social media sites based on whether they want to see pictures (Flickr) or chat (Twitter) about Skittles, etc.

Of course this type of strategy is not without its risks. And it certainly places a lot of control over how people will experience the brand into the hands of the unruly masses. But what a way to generate buzz and engagement.

Monday, March 2, 2009

For One Site Fewer Ads Equals Better Performance

Interesting article today on about how one site ( is increasing online ad performance by reducing the number of placements on their pages.

According to the article, Smart Money stopped selling one of three ad units (a skyscraper) and saw a 21% increase in click-through rates.

Not bad for a financial site in this environment and a good idea considering the growth of online ad inventory.