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September 2006 Marketing Archives

Friday, September 08, 2006

Auction Ads Gain Ground

The leverage of the big ad networks in setting prices and owning relationships with advertisers is slowly crumbling. Earlier this week we had Accipter buying BidClix, and now Quigo found another customer for its auction-based ad service.

ESPN will join USA Today and the Houston Chronicle as a Quigo AdSonar customer. Quigo enables PPC advertisers to fight it out with each other for placement of contextual ads on major entertainment sites. ESPN is currently running contextual ads, but now they will have more flexibility in setting prices.

Smaller companies might benefit as they aren't forced to pay higher prices for ad placement. If they prove that their ads generate good leads than they can get higher visibility on the bigger sites.

Auction Ads Gain Ground By John Gartner at 04:18 PM
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Amazon-iPod Movies: Who Cares?

So Amazon and Apple are jumping into the movie download service. These efforts will probably be too little too late to impact their bottom lines and most people.

The movie download business was established years ago by companies such as MovieLink (a movie studio project that was looking for a buyer recently)and CinemaNow that have had only modest success. So why jump in now?

For Amazon, this isn't a natural extension of their business. They are a hard goods company, not digital media, so their isn't any reason to believe that people who buy DVDs and books will want to download TV shows and movies.

For Apple, the reality is that the screens on the handheld players are too small to watch 90-120 minute movies. There are dozens of portable devices out there for watching movies, and they ain't setting the world on fire. I know, Apple will do it better than Microsoft, blah, blah blah. For 22 minute TV shows, you can tolerate a little screen, but no more than that. The cold truth is that there aren't enough desktops for Apple to make movie watching a big deal.

Apple's $1.99 TV program downloads weren't a huge success as evidenced by ABC, CBS, etc. running to create their own Internet channels with ad-supported versions of the same shows.

The real growth will be in ad-supported TV shows that can be downloaded, and Apple would be smart to embrace that market as their primary source of video revenue. If you could catch up on the episodes of Scrubs that you missed while commuting for free many people would do it. But pay $1.99 for something that you can TiVo or catch in rerurns? I don't think so.

I have used the existing movie download services and believe that there is a decent market, it's just not gonna grow anywhere large enough to merit the current attention. Competition from IPTV and video demand services via cable will give viewers the flexibility to watch what they want when they want. Movies were made for the big screen.

Amazon-iPod Movies: Who Cares? By John Gartner at 02:17 PM
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BMW Rocks Ted Talks

There are so many things I love about bmw, but when I saw the new 335i twin turbo is about to be released I got really excited. Then as I clicked around the site I saw that BMW presented at TED as a TEDTalk my fate was sealed. Man I love the BMW brand, from media to message, From the feel of the car to the passion of the brand, bmw simply, yet technically, rocks!
"Once a year, 1,000 great thinkers are invited to the exclusive TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) Conference to share their belief that ideas are everything. Now, for the first time ever, BMW has an exclusive partnership with TED, enabling us to bring the wisdom, inspiration and groundbreaking innovation to the rest of the world.

As Chris Anderson, Curator of the TED Conference pointed out, BMW is a natural partner for TED. Both organizations strongly believe that ideas can change the world. And by spreading the thoughts of these distinguished thinkers — including Al Gore, Bono and 30 others — we can do our part to shape the future."

BMW Rocks Ted Talks By Jason Dowdell at 09:28 AM
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Digg Algorithm For Scoring Stories

Here is a condensed version of what Kevin Rose & Jay Adelson confirmed as being some of the core elements used in determining the ranking (could substitute relevance here) for a story on digg. Again, these are my personal notes from our meeting with them and hopefully this will make it fairly clear what parts the "machine" looks for on new stories and user diggs. Also, if you know anything about seo, then all of this will sound a bit familiar. Digg is now where Google was circa 1999.

Digg Scoring Elements
1.) Not a set number of diggs in order for a story to be promoted.


2.) Brand new users are like automatic penalties in the search engines (sandbox effect).

- I asked Kevin if they were going to call this part of their algorithm diggbrother, that got a good laugh out of everyone that was on the call.


3.) Buries are often overlooked but are key to their ranking

3a.) Buries are not boolean in value. Digg looks at...

- Number of people that buried it before it was promoted

- What is the audience like (history, tendancies, etc...) that diggs / buries the story


4.) The time of day the story was submitted is included in the ranking algorithm.

Because people watch the digg spy, labs, etc...


5.) Digg crawls the stories that are submitted to look for additional content such as images,external links, etc...


6.) The person submitting a story is not factored in when ranking a submission.


7.) URLs are all treated equal - no preference to the mainstream.

- exception: if url has been banned. They were emphatic about this point and said they know they aren't perfect and that some good urls got banned on accident but they're more than willing to manually correct those.

- if reported by enough users

- fraudulent url, spam site, etc...


8.) Reputation plays a role. A positive reputation means...

- If you agree with the same person over and over again it's a red flag (think automatic penalties in Google & Yahoo)

- Agreeing with a friend is not a behaviour they want to penalize but if the same 20 people digg the same stories together as if they are one mind they must be treated as one mind. Definitely a clever one-liner Jay has had to use many times in the past for sure.

- Karma DOES impact promotion (as they have said in the past).


9.) The lifeline of a story is monitored as well.

- who diggs the story and the sequence of those diggs (is it the same people digging the stories?)

10.) Age of users is a conundrum

- Readers Digest Version: It doesn't take a year to gain a good reputation


11.) They will not show who buried stories in rss feeds because they don't want to start flamewars by showing people that are burying stories.


12.) They receive 4,000 - 5,000 stories submitted a day and it's impossible to handle that kind of volume without having sophisticated algorithms running on the backend. Ultimately, they stood by their statement that Digg is all about the wisdom of the masses.


Jay "A submission is equal weight"

Digg Algorithm For Scoring Stories By Jason Dowdell at 08:47 AM
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Thursday, September 07, 2006

Digg's Kevin Rose on Recent Indiggnation: Fact vs. Fiction

Vote DiggWe (Jason, Evan and John) had a conference call with Kevin Rose (President)and Jay Adelson (CEO) of Digg to give them an opportunity to respond to speculation from Evan and others about how a small number of users are controlling placement of stories on Digg's home page.

Jay and Kevin said they couldn't explicitly detail how Digg's ranking algorithm works because it would be used by those who want to game the system (the aiding the enemy defense is popular these days), but they gave enough information to understand the basics of how Digg's version of a democracy works.

Just because a story gets a lot of diggs doesn't mean it's home page bound. Who is digging (and his or her reputation) is also very important. Digg factors in the length of time that a person has been a digger as well as the amount of their activity, so stories boosted by old-time frequent diggers will rise above stories that are dugg by newbies to the site.

Digg users have to participate for an unspecified "short" period of time before their diggs will carry the full weight. So the most senior diggers (including the editors) do have more influence, but according to Jay (per a follow-up email) "there is general sense of a maximum" weight that the most senior diggers can carry. The algorithm does not care about who submits a story, but the quality of the headline as well as the number of images and external links on the article page also matters.
   
So while our democracy (electoral college aside) doesn't care how long or often you vote, your history matters to Digg. This makes it a challenge for participants who have joined recently to have a say in the new sections such as sports or entertainment. (Jay said Digg uses a different algorithm for each section).

Other factors that influence a story's chance of getting on the home page include time of day, day of the week that the articles are submitted and the number of times it was buried. Kevin said that explains why some popular stories that made it to the home page are sometimes removed. The names of people who bury stories are not disclosed because "we don't want to start flame wars."

When asked why his name appeared several times on stories that were dugg sequentially dugg by the same people, Kevin said he was using the DiggUpdate tool to track users, two of whom turned out to be people who were gaming the system and were subsequently banned. (Could he really have been that naive?)

Kevin and Jay said the intention has never been to allow "gangs" of users to game the system, and while Digg has always looked for patterns of groups who consistently digg the same stories, Digg will soon update its algorithm to further prevent gang activity. Kevin said that while friends who track each others diggs shouldn't be discriminated against, "20 people who always vote together need to be treated as one mind" by the algorithm. (Jay said today's outage at Digg was for a software update, but he said he didn't know all of the features that were being added).

So just as new websites are "sandboxed" by search engines that lower their rankings until they have been established, new digg users must become active participants and wait a while until they count as much as other users. This is good business practice for Digg (it motivates people to come back often, thereby building traffic), but it is a disincentive for users looking for instant gratification.

No democracy is perfect, but Digg promises to continually update its algorithm so that users will be the primary weighting factor determing how articles get promoted on the site. And bloggers are correct to make sure that they are doing their job well.

Digg's Kevin Rose on Recent Indiggnation: Fact vs. Fiction By Jason Dowdell at 05:10 PM
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Fantasy Football For Dummies Part III

I'm not sure I should be writing this article because it may come back to haunt me in my leagues by letting out my secrets to everyone but I'm that nice of a guy. was debunking common fantasy football myths. Here I will cover the top tips for how to win your fantasy football league.

Running Backs Rule - This is a generalization for most default league settings and
scoring rules and if you are in a league with some funky settings this may not apply. Draft RBs early and often. Unlike other positions it is not easy to get quality and productive running backs in the late rounds of a fantasy draft. In your average 12 team fantasy league there are 24 RB spots to fill. The NFL has 32 teams each with 1 starting RB and unlike the WR position only one player usually carries the bulk of the load for an NFL team. That leaves 32 starting RBs to fill 24 fantasy positions. Sounds great right? Well lets take a closer look.

Obviously we don't want to draft guys that are on teams that can't choose between 2 players for their starting RB position, so that eliminates the Indy RBs (Rhodes and Addai), Houston RBs (Lundy and Moreancy), Bears RBs (Jones and Benson), Dallas (Jones and Barber), Jets (Houston, Blaylock and Barlow). Thats 5 RBs to eliminate bringing out total to 27 available, but now lets eliminate guys who are injury prone; Fred Taylor (Jax), DeShaun Foster (Car), Ahman Green (GB), Julius Jones (Dallas), and a host of others. You get my drift. We are already down to 23 RBs to fill 24 fantasy spots and we can narrow it down further by guys on the down slope of their career, new teams, off season injuries, etc.

One last point about RBs is that it is hard to get productive RBs from free agents during the season, so get them in the draft. Early.

Draft Kickers Only in the last round. All too often i see people going after Rackers or Vinateri in the mid rounds for no good reason. Unlike RBs there are plenty of kickers to go around, and even the last rated kicker in the league is only a marginal drop off from the highest scoring kicker. Draft a backup RB or extra WR with those picks and save the kicker for the last round.

Draft a Defense in the late rounds. With the same logic as the kickers there are a lot of good defenses out there and most of the time a surprise team will emerge mid season with a good defense. So when guys are drafting Chicago Def. or the Panthers Def in round 6-7-8, hold off until farther down and again get another RB or WR. *I have been able to get Dallas in the 2nd to last round of all my leagues. I have Dallas rated in the top 10 for team defense this year while most systems have them lower, Parcells is a defensive guy and they have lots of talent returning from last year.

Keep An Eye on the Waiver Wire. You don't have to be into sports all day to know what is going on. Add Yahoo Sports or Fox Sports to your RSS feeds, check your morning paper, turn you sports radio on or something at least once a day. There will be a major injury at some point in the season where a starter will go down. If you can be prepared by grabbing his backup or replacement, often times you will reap huge rewards by getting a diamond in the rough.

That should be enough tips to keep you competitive in any league you play in but I'm sure I'll have more for you later

Questions / Comments?

Fantasy Football For Dummies Part III By Matt O'Hern at 11:02 AM
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Search Engine Football Challenge: Trash Talk

Tuesday night we had a semi-successful draft for our search engine fantasy league and although some people decided not to show *cough* Barry - Rand - Garett *cough* it was still a good draft. I really look foward to spanking all of you and representing Marketingshift.com as not only the bomb marketing blog, but the premiere fantasy football Manager in the blogosphere!

Search Engine Football Challenge: Trash Talk By Matt O'Hern at 10:37 AM
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RSS Shopping Services Co. OfferTrax Gets More Funding

Just got an email this morning from Ronald Pruett, from Boston Associates, that OfferTrax is getting more funding. Offertrax promises to focus on using RSS + social networking + shopping to deliver users offers on merchandise they or their friends have purchased and / or are interested in. Offertrax is not live currently but they do have a blog.
"Based in Boston, Offertrax is a newly formed developer and distributor of RSS (Really Simple Syndication) shopping services. The company is privately held. Offertrax will release its new smart shopping tool for merchants and consumers in 2006."


RSS Shopping Services Co. OfferTrax Gets More Funding By Jason Dowdell at 06:50 AM
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Wednesday, September 06, 2006

RSS to Impact Advertising

The adoption of RSS readers has been steady but still has yet to penetrate the mainstream, but that will change during the next 18 months. And when it does, advertisers and publishers need to know how to respond.

Using RSS to track the day's news can cut your surfing time by more than 50 percent, which makes them invaluabl. It also greatly reduces traffic to the home pages of websites since people will be able to go directly to the content that they want.

But to make them more ubiquitous, I say the readers should present information like a news site (ala Yahoo News) to make browsing more enjoyable. Also, it needs to be easier to sign up for several feeds at once, and people should be able to share their feeds, ala del.icio.us.

I spoke the other day with J.B. Holston, CEO and President of NewsGator, which produces the popular NetNewswire (Mac) and FeedDemon (PC) readers, and he said that these kinds of ideas are on the table for a redesign of the online version (NewsGator) as well as the software applications that is scheduled within the next quarter. The company hasn't aggressively pursued advertisers for readers yet, but Holston said the company is developing a plan for monetizing the data it is collecting on users' reading habits.

Newsgator currently has about a million and half users, and the number of competitors will increase as more companies realize the advertising revenue that can be generated by hosting an online or software reader.

Since quality feeds are more specific than the primary URL of a web page, ads can be targeted and go for a higher CPM. For example, a reader that recognizes that you have subscribed to five feeds about, say, hybrid cars, would want to push relevant auto ads.
This can more than make up for the lost revenue from fewer total clicks.

Publishers like the San Francisco Chronicle and the Denver Post are already hip to the possibilities of readers and have their own branded applications. Publishers such as Hearst, Knight-Ridder and Conde Nast should be soon to follow by aggregating the feeds of their various magazines and newspapers into a branded reader. And soon the Web 2.0 companies and the rest of the world will catch on too.

RSS to Impact Advertising By John Gartner at 04:35 PM
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Is Digg Rigged? UnDemocratic? Bot Driven?

Looks like there's a fire starting at Digg and a lot of people are throwing diggs (errr logs) on the blaze. Evan's post got a lot of diggs and traffic a couple weeks ago and now others are really digging into the data and getting even more traction.

We're Getting To The Bottom Of All Of It
In exactly one hour the MarketingShift team will be interviewing Kevin Rose and Jay Adelson in an effort to get to the bottom of this mess. We'll be publishing an in-depth post on Friday morning that gives you the answers directly from Kevin and Jay.

Do You Have Questions?
If you have questions you'd like us to present during the conference call then please post them now because we're already within 1 hour of the call and we have a ton of stuff to cover with the Digg boys.

Is Digg Rigged? UnDemocratic? Bot Driven? By Jason Dowdell at 04:30 PM
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EMI Leaps to SpiralFrog

Spiral Frog snared its second music publisher in EMI for its ad-supported music download service. The EMI deal also gives SpiralFrog the rights to publish lyrics online.

Creating an ad-supported service that lets users read lyrics makes sense, because there's not much of a business model to jeopardize. The market for selling lyrics is negligible, while the demand for free lyrics servers has always remained strong despite the music industry's protestations.

But the details in a Reuters article only reinforces my belief that the download service will only further erode (though not by much) music industry revenues while doing little to combat piracy.

Users have to view a 90-second advertisement while downloading each file; files expire after six months; and the tracks can only be transferred to portable devices that are compatible with Microsoft's WMA (Windows Media Audio) digital rights management standard.


So no iPods, no burning to CDs, DRM, and a short life span. These downloads have more strings than a harp, and most people would prefer to pay or pirate than have all these conditions on their music.

The Reuters article adds that the wholesale cost of downloads is 60-70 cents each. So how much will SpiralFrog charge advertisers for each ad? $1? Would anyone pay that?

Since Napster and RealNetworks are having problems making a free listening service pay for itself, I'm betting this frog will be quickly fricasseed.

EMI Leaps to SpiralFrog By John Gartner at 02:32 PM
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Meeting With Kevin Rose & Jay Adelson From Digg Today

Today the whole mshift team (Jason Dowdell, John Gartner and Evan Roberrts) is meeting with Kevin Rose (founder of Digg) and Jay Adelson (Digg CEO) to discuss the article Evan posted a couple of weeks ago regarding Digg gangs. I personally am looking forward to the call because I think it's a great opportunity to get the story straight from the horse's mouth without any filtering from the blogosphere in between.

We'll post something shortly after the interview and will work on a more in-depth post about the digg dilemma (as we see it and as how the Digg folks see it). Stay Tuned!

Meeting With Kevin Rose & Jay Adelson From Digg Today By Jason Dowdell at 07:26 AM
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Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Accipter Bids for CPC With BidClix

Ad network Accipter Solutions purchased BidClix and will integrate the auction-pricing model into its products, according to Adotas.

BidClix enables publishers to set their own pricing and automatically delivers the ads that pay the most per click. BidClix uses channels to target ads instead of keywords and works with all of the standard ad formats.

I can see more publishers wanting to go the self-service route with companies like Accipter and Adify. Rather than being locked into a single pricing structure, publishers and advertisers can benefit from the bid system since they will be able to adjust their pricing based on current performance. Of course this assumes that the highest bids actually convert well because a high rate per click doesn't mean you'll be maximizing your revenue. As always, analytics and good reporting are necessary for success.

Accipter Bids for CPC With BidClix By Jason Dowdell at 12:34 PM
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Classifieds Bigger But Not Better

The number of people visiting Craigslist nearly doubled in the last year, pushing the organization past Trader Publishing Company as king of all classifieds, according to a new study by comScore Media Metrix.

The data showed that the number of overall unique users to classifieds sites grew 47 percent between July 2005 and 2006. An omission from the list is eBay, which according to this article had more unique users than comScore's entire classifieds category. Even though eBay has auctions and stores, it basically serves the same function as classifieds and should be mentioned.

But classifieds could get even bigger if they made better use of RSS, like Amazon and eBay are already doing. Classified listings that meet specific criteria could be run as ads like a contextual ad network. For example, bloggers talking about Mustangs could run classifieds with the latest cars for sale. Ad On Q is doing something like this, but it doesn't appear to be real-time postings. Or, if classifieds publishers offered feeds, users could look for keywords within the RSS stream to find the product.

Perhaps classifieds companies don't want to risk the loss in ad revenue if people can find what they want more quickly, but that would be doing there readers a disservice.

Classifieds Bigger But Not Better By John Gartner at 12:15 PM
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Fantasy Football For Dummies: Getting Started

Like anything new there is a barrier to entry and that is the lack of knowledge. Lots of people tell me they don't know what fantasy football is or how to play and they use that as their reason for not joining in the fun.

Fantasy football is very easy play and the variety of systems and sites provide everything you need to get started.

First thing to do is to find a league. If this is your first league, I suggest joining a random public league rather then joining your friends in a league and being the but of all jokes. To join a public league all you need to do is go to one of the many fantasy football sites and sign up. Here are a few suggestions of popular fantasy football sites: FleaFlicker, Yahoo Fantasy Football, ESPN Fantasy Football, MSN Fantasy Football.

I believe Yahoo Fantasy Football is the easiest to sign up and use. If you have a YahooID you login and then follow the sign up instructions for fantasy football, when you get to the portion where it says "Join a Public League" or "Join a Private League" select public league and choose any random league to get into.

When choosing a league you'll notice that some leagues are Auto-Draft and some are Live-Draft. Auto draft the system automatically sets every ones team and Live draft users pick their own teams. I went into more detail in the first Fantasy Football for Dummies post.

There are many fantasy football myths that keep people from enjoying fantasy football so I will attempt to debunk as many as I can.

Fantasy Football Myths

In order to play fantasy football you have to follow the NFL and sports closely. This is not true in anyway. Most every fantasy football website will provide you with more then enough information to play. Sites will rank players for you and provide you with historical stats so you can judge for yourself who to pick, or you can just let the system pick your team for you. Also, with about 20 minutes of research, you can go to any of the top sports sites and read the analysts suggestions for picks and news. Sure it helps to follow sports so that maybe you can find that one sleeper (player who not everyone knows about) but it is not necessary to be competitive in a fantasy football league.

I don't have time to play Fantasy Football. Everyone has time. If you have 10 minutes a week, you can play fantasy football. After the draft which can take anywhere from 10 minutes to 2 hours, there is very little you need to do. Each week you log in and check to make sure your best players are in the lineup for that week and that there is no major news about them and you are done. Sure, every league has that one guy who spends way too much time checking out players or checking match-ups but it is really not necessary.
You log in on Tuesday to see who has won your match-up and how your players did, then you log in on Friday to make sure your line-up is the way you want it and you are done. 5 minutes each, twice a week. Simple as that.

I don't want to waste my money. Fantasy football is free on just about every website. There are some sites that you can pay for upgrades or some leagues may put money in a pool but you don't need any of these upgrades and there are tons of free leagues to join.

I don't want to pull against my favorite team. If you are Chicago Bears fan, you can still pull for your team to win and play fantasy football, its not against the rules and Bears-Nation will not boot you as a fan if you pull for an extra touchdown from one of your players who happens to be on a rival team.

These are a few of the popular fantasy myths or excuses surrounding fantasy football but if anyone has anymore questions, concerns or comments to add please let me know and I will address them for you.

Fantasy football is fun, don't be scared of it.

Fantasy Football For Dummies: Getting Started By Matt O'Hern at 07:55 AM
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Cell Phone Market Research Tip

I was watching a commercial sometime over the weekend for the new mobile phone from Verizon they're calling Chocolate. Now Shannon doesn't understand why the phone is called Chocolate, she says just because it's dark and such just doesn't justify calling the phone Chocolate, but that's another story.

So anyway, I'm watching this commercial and it's all about getting updates and news alerts and all that junk on your cell phone, because that's what the major cell phone companies think their users want. I have news for you, YOU'RE WRONG.

Yes, I'm talking to you Cingular, Verizon, Sprint.

In today's market it's not about getting information from cold corporate 3rd parties (other than ring tones) to your phone, it's about capturing your own content. Phones that allow users to capture parts of their lives (taking pictures, texting, instant messaging, mobile blogging [moblogging], etc...) are where it's at.

Why do you think MySpace is so popular? It's because they've made it easy for the youth of today to capture their lives online. Second to that is the ability to connect with their friends, the key is that anyone with any level of technical ability can put whatever they want out there into the ether. The best cell phone / mobile phone networks realize that and will move in that direction. Personally, that's why I want a new phone that takes good pics (easy to upload to my blog & flickr) and a decent qwerty keyboard (easy to blog, IM, and email). The ability of it to play music doesn't really matter to me. Other than my ringer (mp3 version of Weezer's Hashpipe), I don't care that my phone has iTunes on it. When I was using the Sprint Ambassador phone, I only tried out the cable tv stuff to see what it was like, I'd never use that in a real world scenario.

The other key item is high speed internet access on the mobile network. I remember when the people working in our yard cut the cable running into the house, I was able to use the Sprint phone for internet access and was getting 400kbps upload and download speeds - much faster than my average roadrunner connection at the house. Now that's pretty powerful, when you can use your cell phone to not only capture your life, but to also backup your high speed internet connection at home... I hope the cell phone manufacturers and networks are listening cause I'm spittin the troof.

Cell Phone Market Research Tip By Jason Dowdell at 07:17 AM
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Roy Young On Marketing Champions - His New Book

Last week I had the pleasure of speaking with Roy Young, one of the authors of a pretty good little book on marketing titled "Marketing Champions: Strategies for Improving Marketing's Power, Influence and Business Impact". There are two other Authors, Allen M. Weiss and David W. Stewart, but Roy was who I spoke with. Most of you probably know who Roy is because he's been at MarketingProfs for quite some time as their Director of Strategy and Development. When Roy said he'd like me to review his new book I was naturally interested, I rarely turn down free books on Marketing, but then the book came in the mail and I was even more impressed.

Roy sent me one of the unfinished versions of the book that has yet to undergo the final editing phase (awesome!). In addition, he took the time to write out a personal note by hand regarding our phone conversation. You see, those are the pieces that are missing from today's onlineb / blogging / marketing / communications world... the personal touch. Marketers like Roy know this because they've been around the block a few times and know that while you can execute superbly on every point in your marketing plan, if it doesn't have sould then it's just going through the motions.

I'm looking forward to getting into this book a bit deeper than I have and will post some thoughts on it as I read through it.

Roy Young On Marketing Champions - His New Book By Jason Dowdell at 06:43 AM
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Friday, September 01, 2006

The Spam Also Rises

The cliché needs to be updated for the 21st century -- the only things that are certain are death, taxes, and lots of spam in your inbox. Network software company Ipswitch says 70 percent of all email traffic is spam, up from 62 percent the previous quarter.

SoftScan says that more than 87 % of email is spam, and nearly 90 percent of that are phishing viruses.

Besides being an irritant to everyone, it also means that a greater percentage of legitimate email marketing gets lost in the spam snowball. Since, like raccoons, spam seems to come out in force at night, I've accidentally deleted several legit emails that came in the middle of the dozens of spams I awake to each day.

Email marketers should join with ISPs and network hardware vendors to find technological solutions to limit spam. Why can't they track the bursts of email that come from a single IP address? If networking vendors can throw up a wall in their routers when an attack starts, why can't the same be done on outbound mail? Or why can't ISPs charge companies based on their emails going out instead of bandwidth?

If we got rid of 80 percent of the spam befouling the Internet, there wouldn't be a "net neutrality" discussion -- there would be ample fast access for all.

Until this issue is addressed, email marketers will continue like Sisyphus trying to push their message up a steep hill.

The Spam Also Rises By John Gartner at 01:28 PM
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Skype Phone Frees Users

New telephones from Philips and NetGear allow people to make Skype calls without a PC. The dual purpose phones will also plug into land lines so that you can use one handset for all of your calls.

Per Skype: "Existing Skype users can sign into their account, conveniently downloading all their contacts to the cordless phone. Users also have the ability to search for Skype contacts directly on the phone, and add them to an integrated contact list for both Skype contacts and traditional phone numbers."

This is a huge benefit for consumers and will surely increase Skype's market penetration. I'll predict that these phones will be one of THE BIGGEST sellers this holiday season.

However, unbundling the PC from Skype removes advertising opportunities and could reduce their revenue per customer. My assumption (and many others concur) was that advertising would help defray the cost of the much cheaper calls. Although the company has yet to integrate much advertising into its software, the potential is there to run small graphical ads during the initiation of the Skype call and online chats. Maybe the thinking is that the phones will encourage more people to sign up for Skype accounts.

When using the handset only, there goes the advertising opportunity since there is no screen. Moving to VOIP is a clear shift that greatly reduces the cost of calling, and the telecoms have to be scared. Finding some advertising mechanism is important to shore up the dwindling revenues as all calls head to the pennies per minute range.

Skype Phone Frees Users By John Gartner at 11:00 AM
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MySpace Users Love To Shop - Moreso Than MSN Users

Well at least that's one conclusion you can draw from the recent HitWise press release in which they say MySpace is responsible for 2.53 percent of all upstream traffic to sites in the Shopping and Classifieds categories. Now ther eare some things about this report that bug me right off the bat.

First let's start with the direct quote from the HitWise press release.
"social networking site MySpace.com accounted for 2.53 percent of all U.S. upstream visits to Shopping and Classifieds category for the week ending August 26, 2006, up from 1.28 percent six months ago (week ending February 25, 2006). In that period, the market share of visits to MySpace.com has increased 67 percent among all websites, and MySpace.com captured 4.88 percent of all U.S. visits for the week ending August 26, 2006. The top Shopping and Classifieds websites that were visited after MySpace for the week ending August 26, 2006 were eBay, Amazon.com, Gateway, Walmart.com, and Craigslist."

Now when they say the traffic from MySpace to Shopping and Classifieds category sites has increased for a certain period, one would naturally assume they're referring to a long period of time like a quarter or a month or a year.

However, that's not the case. They're just talking about a single weeks' worth of traffic. That makes me think most other weeks the traffic from MySpace has been about the same levels as 6 months ago. Isn't it quite typical for students to purchase back to school items like clothes, backpacks, gadgets, school supplies just before and during the first couple weeks of school? Yes, I think so.

Earlier this week I met with Become, a shopping search engine about 1 mile down the road from Google in Mountain View. I asked them about the HitWise story and Mimi Sells, Director of Corporate Communications had this to say.
"Our consumer research has shown that college age adults are a natural market for Become.com. They are savvy online shoppers and know how to find bargains. For example, in June we sponsored an all day rock concert at the Shoreline Amphitheatre in June because of the opportunity to meet with and expose our brand to thousands of MySpace generation prospects! We also publish a daily blog "Pocket Change" that’s clearly focused at this group with coverage of new, cool and crazy things to buy online and is written primarily by our 20-something researchers"

So maybe the numbers are okay, clear as mud to me.

MySpace Users Love To Shop - Moreso Than MSN Users By Jason Dowdell at 08:15 AM
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September 2006 Week 2 »

  • Week 1 (20 entries) September 1-9
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  • Week 4 (11 entries) September 24-30

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