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September 2006, Week 3 Marketing Archives

Friday, September 22, 2006

Ads Follow in Users' Tracks

If you can't sell them the first time, follow them around the web and try try again. That's the idea behind behavioral marketing company Jumpstart Network which sells vertical ads on general media networks.

If consumers visit an automotive website then Jumpstart begins to track them. When they move on to partner general interest websites such as FoxNews or TVGuide, they will continue to see some car ads. I've read about studies that show higher conversion rates when the host website offers content from a different category than the advertiser, which is what Jumpstart is banking on.

I see behavioral targeting as something general sites will increasingly use because of the higher ad rates that they can charge verticals. Rather than trying to guess what an individual wants based on demographic profiles it is more precise to advertise based on a proven interest. The days of accepting .05 percent click through rates on general interest sites should come to an end.

Found via Adotas.

Ads Follow in Users' Tracks By John Gartner at 11:04 AM
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How Not to Market Technology

Voice over IP is slowly taking over the telecommunications industry, beating the traditional phone companies with better pricing by routing calls over the Internet.

Skype is offering free VOIP calling within North America for the rest of the year, so I cancelled
my long distance service. But recently I've had a horrible time connecting and the people I was calling couldn't here me, so I had to give up the free ride and pay for long distance calls.

I called my local phone carrier Qwest, and they offered me unlimited long distance for $15.99 a month. I asked about VOIP calling (since they didn't mention it), and the salesperson said they offered it for $29.99 a month.

Now, why would I switch to a service with less reliability for twice the price? My sales rep said the company "is still trying to figure it out" and was reluctant to even discuss VOIP. Way to embrace the future people!

How Not to Market Technology By John Gartner at 09:34 AM
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Thursday, September 21, 2006

Think You Know the Google Search Network?

Wasting your AdWords Budget Has Never Been Easier Than With Google Cracks As an AdWords advertiser, you may think you know what the Google Search Network is, but are you sure? I thought I was at one time, but my recent research has shown me otherwise. After a friend of mine, let's call him Mr. B, told me his ads were showing up on other sites when his client wasn't enrolled in the content network, I started getting a little curious. I asked him some more question basically to find out if they were other search engines that utilize Google Ads such as AOL, Ask, MyWay, Dogpile, among others, which he admittedly told me it was not Google's partner search engines.

For those who don't know, when you sign up to use Google AdWords you have multiple options for where you want to show your ads on the "Google Network". These options are broken up into 2 major categories, Search Network and Content network. The content network is any advertiser that has AdSense on his or her site as a potential spot for your ad. So whether it's Uncle Willie's vacation blog or that MySpace layout site that is covered with Google AdSense, your ad can show up. These are lumped into one pile and the relevancy between the content and your keywords is supposed to determine if your ads are shown on that person's site. While the search network is supposedly made up of Google's partner search engines, such as AOL, MyWay, DogPile etc. They do not disclose this info so you are either all in the search network or your ads only appear on Google.com's SERPs.

This is where the dilemma lies. Google for some reason is secretive about who its search partners are and where your ads will be shown. The reason why brings me back to my friend.

Mr. B sent me some examples, some data which really surprised me. Referral information to his clients site from Buy.com and HowStuffWorks.com. I was surprised that these sites would be considered "search partners" because these sites aren't search engines, they are normal retail and information portals with a search function. How can Google label these "search partners"?

I had Mr. B go back and double check, I thought for sure it was a mistake or that at some point the content network was on but the ads were tagged with Mr. B's tracking tag for the search network. Also, the referral URL for Google's content network has the root domain of GoogleSyndication.com.

If Google truly loved its advertisers then it would disclose which sites their ads would show up on rather then lumping them into one big pile. But since Google doesn't do this, I have started a running list of Google's Search Network Partners:

AOL.com
Netscape.com
Earthlink.com
Lycos.com
Shopping.com (via About)
ATT.com
Ask.com
TechTarget.com
ComCast.net
CNET Search.com
MyWebSearch.com
information.com
myway.com
bellsouth.net
dogpile.com
adelphia.net

And here are some of the questionable "search" sites:
About.com
CompuServe.com
nytimes.com
howstuffworks.com
business.com
oingo.com
Tripadvisor.com

(Note, Google claims the sites listed above are part of the Content Network but the truth is they are really Search Partners)

sedoparking.com (I think this is a "domain parking" partner, so not sure if it falls under search or content but we'll have more on that later.)

The bottom half of these sites are portal sites with a search function. I wonder if mShift can we become a search partner when we add a search engine, (ok maybe not :)

I think the whole thing is a little sneaky, but since Google doesn't plan on disclosing it's search network, I will continually update this list as I find more.

Tsk Tsk Google!

Notes: It maybe worthwhile for advertisers to test out displaying ads only on Google.com rather then its "Search Network" and see if you can capture a better ROI.

Resources:
A very little talked about WebMasterWorld thread on the topic.

Google Group topic modded by Andrew Goodman - (Membership Required)

Think You Know the Google Search Network? By Matt O'Hern at 02:36 PM
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Voice May Rule Mobile Search

Nokia and Microsoft today announced a collaboration that will integrate Live search into Nokia handsets. The service will have shortcuts to websites so that users won't automatically go through a list of results to get what they want.

While this is helpful, the search companies and telecoms need to up the ante on voice enabled search if they want to capture the mobile user audience. The Voice XML standard for querying and responding via voice has been around for years, and version 2.1 is should be finalized soon, but there's not much noise from the companies with new products.

The diminutive screens and keypads make it very difficult to search on a phone, and since people spend most of their time talking into the phones anyway, the interface couldn't be more natural. There are services that let you call a number to do a search, but you should be able to get basic answers over IP without waiting for a connection or paying for each query.

Whichever search company can nail this down will own the mobile market.

Voice May Rule Mobile Search By John Gartner at 02:08 PM
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Podcasting As a Branding Tool

Podcasting is a better distribution mechanism than banner ads or contextual links for two reasons -- what you hear can be retained more readily, and it doesn't require complete focus.

Reading John C. Havens' column on Adotas about Podcasting and branding reminded me of my days of scholarship up through grad school when I would have trouble remembering certain facts until I heard them in a lecture. Things just stick better in the brain when you hear them, especially when the words are spoken well.

Hearing the emphasis in a person's voice can make a point more clearly than the written word, and when done well it can be more entertaining. That's why, as Haven's points out, companies such as IBM and BMW are producing Podcasts that are light on the pitching and heavy on content.

The other advantage is that you don't have to stop what you are doing to listen to a Podcast. you can continue your surfing if you are listening online, or drive, clean the house, or do whatever when you've downloaded the audio. This is much less obtrusive than solely focusing on an 800 word article.

Having your company or product associated with useful content can be more effective than paying for your ads to pop up all over the web, and you will probably see more companies participating.

Podcasting As a Branding Tool By John Gartner at 01:32 PM
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Technorati Is Winning My Favor

Technorati rocking old skool support so Im rocking their old skool logo Yesterday I posted about my frustrations with Technorati and how my face (ugly as it may be) doesn't show up on the posts I submit to MarketingShift. I decided to email Mike Linton with my support request since he followed up rather quickly on a post earlier in the week about how the SitePal ads drove me nuts. Now I had never heard his name before (shame on me) but later I found out he's the Director of Advertising at Technorati, so I felt a bit bad for sending him a support request on a very minor bug with Technorati. I even joked in my post that it'll be interesting to see how well Technorati responds to the support requests users make "behind the scenes" when the issue isn't as blinding as an ad that makes me crazy.

Well, last night I got an email from Janice Myint, with detailed instructions on how to remedy my situation. She told me that Mike Linton had sent my request along and that she wanted to make sure I was taken care of, man I love that. Here's a blurb from Janice's bio page on Technorati.

Janice has a Masters of Engineering from Cornell University. She brings with her a great deal of experience working with customers and a commitment to uphold Technorati's mantra: "Be of Service". A transplant from Virginia, she lives in San Francisco, co-owns an urban art gallery and retail store in the Lower Haight neighborhood of San Francisco, and, as a second degree black belt, practices Taekwondo in her spare time.


Now it's not quite over yet, but the issue is partially fixed. I'll post the how-to details when it's completely resolved. But I can say that I'm liking what I'm seeing from Technorati in how they're treating this B-List blogger. Even Dave Sifry is getting in on the action.

Something I must disclose however. Of course I'm using my blog to get what I want out of Technorati (my issue resolved) and the test of how they treat me may not be the same as if my grandmother made a request. But in their defense, it's not often that someone like me runs their mouth about how an ad sucks and why it sucks and then the ad is removed (no, not just because of me, there were others complaining too) or that you can email the Director of Advertising and get responded to within a few hours, or that the CEO of the company comes to let you know you're being taken care of. That's stuff that matters, not just in the blogosphere, but in business in general.
Big Gulp Award Dave gets my Big Gulp of the Day award for demonstrating how to do customer care at all levels of his organization.

Technorati Is Winning My Favor By Jason Dowdell at 11:31 AM
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Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Technorati Support and Brand Being Put To The Test

So a couple of days ago I posted about how much I couldn't stand the Sitepal ads Technorati was running and within minutes Mike Linton of Technorati had posted a comment about how they decided to take those ads down.

I thought that wasTechnorati Branding Put To The Test pretty impressive, that they reacted so quickly to a post that had an impact on the Technorati brand. Well, blog posts are easy to spot and react to because they're in the public's eye, but it's what happens behind the scenes that really shapes the long term value and weight of a brand... and as a test of that I requested some support directly from Mike Linton. You see, I've been trying for ages to get my ugly face to show up in the Technorati search results next to the posts I author on my wee little marketing blog. But my efforts have been fruitless. So to see how quickly Technorati will respond (if at all) I decided to test them on it. I'll let you know what the results are tomorrow afternoon, if not sooner, and then we can all see how quickly / slowly they respond to their core product bugs.

Technorati Support and Brand Being Put To The Test By Jason Dowdell at 04:40 PM
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Bloggers Next European Battlefront?

Belgium and France have declared war on Google News, but in their crosshairs next? A Belgian court ruled that Google must stop linking to Belgian newspapers or pay more than $1 million a day in fines.

It seems that Europeans (Agence France-Presse had a similar objection last year) have a different view of copyright and don't like portals to excerpt from their news articles. It would follow that bloggers who similarly link to news reports would also be line for legal action.

As we all know, links from the portals, bloggers, or sites such as Digg drive lots of traffic, but maybe that fact is lost in translation. While it is shortsighted for newspapers to tell Google not to drive traffic to their websites, it is time for an international agreement on the concept of fair use.

It is also hypocritical if Belgian bloggers are allowed to similarly link to news articles (then we could call them Belgian wafflers). So Yahoo, Google, top bloggers, the association of newspaper publishers, let's all get together and set the rules. If Europeans want to enjoy the growth in ad revenue from online publishing, they need to compromise.

Bloggers Next European Battlefront? By Jason Dowdell at 01:31 PM
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Blogosphere Current Events & News Roundup

With so much happening in the worlds of marketing and the blogosphere I figured I should probably put together some of the more notable events that have caught my eye in the past few days.

Tips to Get Into The Ivey League College of Your DreamsAnna Ivey - Your Guide to The Ivey League
Anna Ivey could be called a guide to the stars (of sorts). Except instead of introducing you to stars, she teaches you how to become a collegiate star. By that I mean, she gives you the ins and outs of getting into the Big Leagues of college, the Ivey League. Anna's been consulting for years and has a solid track record of giving parents the inside scoop on transforming Junior from a spud to a stud any Ivey League School would be proud to accept. She just launched her blog and it's a great source, I know Shannon will be headed over there on a daily basis to make sure Piper and Finley are on the right track. If you want to skip the blog and hire her immediately you can always go straight to her consulting site. (for reference, Anna is speaking & has spoken at Seton Hall, New York University, Wellesley College, Princeton, Harvard, Columbia, Yale, and more)

Job Search With Google Maps Mashup LaunchesJobMaps - Job Search Mashup
Pete's been hard at work on several Labitat projects but has found time to squeeze in yet another mashup site that can be quite useful for those of you that have the two year job itch that needs scratching.

CBS Teams Up With 1-800-Free-411 On Advertising CampaignCBS Launches New Advertising Campaign Utilizing Free411
Now this is quite interesting. My friends over at 1(800)Free 411 have teamed up with CBS on a new advertising campaign for the fall tv lineup. CBS is using audio ads as part of their "Outernet" campaign. Attached at the bottom of this post is a sample of the mp3 ad for the new CBS show "Smith" (which Shannon and I watched last night and loved it!)
Throughout "Premiere Week," CBS will promote its fall lineup via recorded messages on 1-800-FREE411 from the stars or hosts of several of their highest profile shows, including "Survivor," "The Amazing Race," "The Class," "Smith," "Jericho," and "Ghost Whisperer." Callers will hear short audio messages directing consumers to watch the fall premieres as they wait for their requested phone number, highlighting the value of reaching Jingle's highly engaged audience with targeted promotions.

So the main networks are starting to experiment with their advertising budgets, this is HUGE news. Jack Nicholson in The Departed - a Scorcese Movie It's not surprising that the only sponsor of last night's premier of Smith was the new movie "The Departed" starring Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson and Leonardo DiCaprio. And that they held the commercials to only one lengthy one (maybe 60 seconds) and the rest were 15 second adblurts.

Correction: I originally used ABC in the title of the section on Jingle Networks (Free411) but it is actually CBS that they partnered with. Sorry, typos happen and when caught I'll post updates.

Blogosphere Current Events & News Roundup By Jason Dowdell at 10:26 AM
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Yahoo's 'Slump' Sorta Significant

Panicky investors dumped shares of Yahoo faster than you can say "bubble burst" after the company tempered its forecast for profits for the next quarter. Yahoo says advertising from automotive and financial clients isn't growing as fast as before.

The sky is falling, the sky is falling!

Not really. Unless you've been under a rock for two years, you have heard that the U.S. auto industry has been tanking, so it's no surprise that they would cut back on their ad spend. While it's only a mid-term election, the prospect of changing the majority party in Congress is making the bean-counters nervous, which is contributing to the slowdown in financial advertising.

So while Yahoo's news isn't as dramatic as the reactionaries think, it also reminds me that online advertising can't grow infinitely. Soon everyone who is capable of holding a keyboard (and has an Internet connection) will have either a blog, MySpace page or will have uploaded a video to YouTube, so the creation of new pages and number of new users will slow down. Also, our infatuation with these services and Web 2.0 companies will slow too, as people at their desks will be spend more time, well, working.

Internet advertising will keep growing at the expense of print and TV, but the rate of growth is destined to slow. Hopefully advertisers will offset lower demand with interactive campaigns that can provide better returns.

Yahoo's 'Slump' Sorta Significant By Jason Dowdell at 10:16 AM
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Dr. 90210 Celebrity Plastic Surgery Blog Interview

So last Dr. 90210 Interview with Plastic Surgeon Dr. Anthony Youn week I had the pleasure of speaking with Dr. Anthony Youn, a plastic surgeon who's been featured on E!'s hit reality show Dr. 90210. The topic of the interview was his new plastic surgery blog and how he's using it as a multi-faceted, marketing tool for his own practice. You might be wondering why I would even think of interviewing a plastic surgeon that's been on TV for a Marketing Shift piece, well the answer is simple... Marketing permeates every facet of our lives, and just talking geek speak technology details can be quite drab - mshift is going Hollywood baby! Here is interview with Dr. Youn, enjoy.

On the Background of Dr. 90210
Question: How did you get selected to be on the first season of the show?
Answer: I was a Beverly Hills plastic surgeon at the time, working in one of the most prominent plastic surgery offices in the area. The E! network decided to film part of the show in our office and thought that my story was interesting. They televised my leaving the practice to return to Rochester Hills, Michigan. My mentor said, "I gave him an offer he couldn't refuse. And he refused it." I decided to return to my home state of Michigan to raise a family here, and have not regretted it.

Question: Was it a lot more difficult to perform surgery with a film crew in the operating room?
Answer: No. Whenever I perform surgery the only thing that has my attention is the patient. I often explain the surgery to the nurses I work with, and so explaining it to the camera people was not at all distracting.

Question: What did you learn about marketing when you were on the show?
Answer: It is amazing what a spot on a nationwide television show can do. Immediately after that episode was televised, patients clogged up our phone lines, inquiring about the Beverly Hills plastic surgeon in the Midwest. It was a PR/marketing placement which happens to one in a million new plastic surgeons.

Question: Who was the most obnoxious surgeon you worked with on the show?
Answer: Every plastic surgeon thinks that he or she is the best plastic surgeon in the world, no matter how good they really are. I worked with some of the top Hollywood plastic surgeons and was surprised at how generous and kind they all were. They treated a young surgeon from the middle of Michigan as if I always was one of them.

Question: Do you know any of surgeons currently on the show? Do you know Dr. Rey?
Answer: Yes, I've met him a number of times. He is a controversial character, and does act in real life as he does on the show. It's not all for the camera. He is a very engaging man, who took the time to show me some of his surgical techniques. Although I do not agree with some of her operative philosophies, I respect him as a plastic surgeon and a person.

Question: Did E! pay the surgeons or their Practices or did the Practices pay E! to be on the show?
Answer: I wasn't privy to much of this, but I believe that the surgeons were paid by the television show to operate on certain patients. It is against our plastic surgery society's moral code to operate on patients for publicity. This rule is in place to avoid trivializing the very serious nature of surgery.

On Celebrities
Question: What percentage of your patients were celebrities when you were in Beverly Hills?
Answer: About 1 in every 40 patients were a celebrity.

Question: What percentage of the patients in your new practice are celebrities?
Answer: About 1 in every 200 patients is a celebrity now.

Question: Would you rather operate on a celebrity or a soccer mom? Why?
Answer: It really doesn't matter to me. It is important to treat all patients the same, whether they are a celebrity, soccer mom, or a good friend. I treat all my patients as if they were a family member. Celebrities are fun to have in the office, mostly because my employees get a kick out of it. We are very, very conscious of privacy and confidentiality, however. We have a seperate entrance for celebrities or people who do not want to encounter someone they might know in the office. The surgery is all performed the same, whether the patient is a celebrity or an average Joe or Jane. Everyone looks the same on the inside!

On Blogging and Operating a Practice
Question: How did you get turned onto blogging?
Answer: My receptionist is friends with Trent from Pink is the New Blog. I started following his blog and found it to be interesting and entertaining. I've always kept up with celebrity plastic surgery and am a source for many magazines. This blog has allowed me to share what I find with people who are interested in a plastic surgeon's opinion.

Question: How much of your day do you spend blogging?
Answer: I usually will post after my son goes to bed. It's taken time away from watching TV (which is good). On average, I spend an hour a day.

Question: Do any of your clients know you have a blog?
Answer: There are a lot of patients who know about it and follow the blog. I try to keep it separate from my practice to an extent, because I take surgery and taking care of patients very seriously. The blog, however, is more for entertainment.

Question: What is off-limits to talk about on the blog?
Answer: I adhere to strict confidentiality rules. I will never mention a patient I've operated on, or know for a fact that he or she has had a surgery done. All the celebrity comments are only my opinion.

Question: How do you get gossip from the left coast even though you're in the middle of the country?
Answer: I have connections with multiple celebrity magazines, check the gossip blogs regularly, and retain my ties with many Beverly Hills plastic surgeons. With these resources, it is not too difficult to keep my hand on the pulse of Hollywood plastic surgery.

Question: Do you blog more to get your name out there or to build your business or something else? Please explain.
Answer: I blog mainly for personal satisfaction. It is a hobby of mine to keep up with what celebrities are doing nowadays. I am fascinated in the new techniques that surgeons are using to keep people looking good as well. In addition to it being an interest and hobby of mine, I wouldn't mind benefitting from any publicity it may achieve. I enjoy being interviewed in print and on camera, and miss the West Coast, so this allows me one way to keep in touch with what is going on there, and still be a part of it, no matter how peripheral it is. My business is very busy, and I don't need it to help me garner patients. However, if it allows me to travel back to LA for business / consulting reasons, I am all for it.

Dr. 90210 Celebrity Plastic Surgery Blog Interview By Jason Dowdell at 06:38 AM
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Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Analytics Service Targets Small Publishers

Quantcast is a new analytics service that estimates user demographics by aggregating data from similar websites. The concept is to make it inexpensive for publishers to know their audience so that they can be better armed to pitch advertisers.

Quantcast's algorithms estimate the gender, age and other demographic information, and provides charts of how a site compares with the average internet user. The company's "Mass Inference" algorithm that takes visitor information and combines it with panel data the company has collected from a million internet user households to infer what the likely demographics are.

The company estimates the demographics of websites, but publishers can put a measurement pixel on their site to better track their visitors. It's a free service, so I'm guessing Quantcast plans on making money from advertisers.

I have no idea how accurate Quantcast's estimations are, but it is an interesting concept to collect volumes of data without identifying users. The company says it has rocket scientists figuring this stuff out for them, but time will tell.

Analytics Service Targets Small Publishers By John Gartner at 02:03 PM
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Paris Hilton Always for Sale

There's a great post by Chartreuse that describes the greatest marketing coup ever: Paris Hilton.

Never before has someone so effectively cashed in on their celebrity by shilling for anyone willing to pay the price. She got famous because she's a partying heiress who for whatever reason the media decided it needed to cover 24/7.

And from day one she's been selling herself by talking product, product, product. Usually people accomplish something in sports, movies, etc. before doing the commercials, but Paris was getting endorsement deals even before she landed a TV show.

This story is the saddest and proudest tale for marketers. You can make millions by selling out, even if you have nothing to offer.

Paris Hilton Always for Sale By John Gartner at 01:30 PM
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Monday, September 18, 2006

'New' China Goes Online

A new marketing venture is using online video to promote the new and open China as a worthy travel destination and region for business investment.

ChinaOnTV.com offers business news, travel videos and documentaries to convince westerners that this isn't not the China of Chairman Mao. To show how open China has become, the site includes sections on religious groups, gay life, and ex-pats living there.

Apparently the company that is producing the site is open about who advertises on the site as it has banner ads featuring a dating service with scantily clad women, as well as those annoying "you just won" ads. I couldn't get any videos to load though.

I find it interesting that the China-based company has chosen online video as the way to reach the hearts and minds of Americans. Perhaps someone in China has gotten past the censorhip to access to YouTube.

'New' China Goes Online By John Gartner at 01:54 PM
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YouTube Gets Music Deal

Warner Music agreed to a deal with YouTube to promote its music and to allow YouTubers to use its music in video uploads. Their decision to work with instead of against YouTubers' using music, incorporating ads and splitting the revenue is the smartest thing they could have done.

YouTube is reportedly developing a content identification and royalty tracking system to facilitate payments to media companies.

Like I said before this same kind of deal would make sense for the TV broadcasters who have even more to gain than the music publishers.

Online video (like music downloads) will continue to grow, and sharing the ad revenue is much easier than trying to search the web for everyone that has violated your copyrights. It's much more effective to pull on a rope than push against it.

YouTube Gets Music Deal By John Gartner at 12:56 PM
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What's Worse Than An Animated Gif Banner Ad?

The SitePal animated talking character skyscraper ads Technorati has been running for the past few weeks. I know Barry is a huge fan of these ads and the company in general (if they built me a site I might think a tad differently) but they are honestly the most annoying ads I've ever seen and nothing makes me want to install GreaseMonkey more than the SitePal ads. SitePal is one of those companies you either love or hate and you don't have to guess which side of the fence I'm on.Technorati SitePal Ads Should Die

What's Worse Than An Animated Gif Banner Ad? By Jason Dowdell at 10:11 AM
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Boring Press Releases From Last Week

Here are the lamest press releases I received last week. Some aren't that bad but most are just lame, why would people send this stuff to bloggers? Do big businesses think I or my team will ever care about a new hire? Unless it's father Time or Mother Goose, it's not news to put out a press release about hiring a new employee.

This one gets the award for "Worst Title of a Press Release"
MySpacers shake their moneymakers for cash
from: 5wpr.com
Forget "Dancing with the Stars," there's a new contest in town that's challenging rump shakers across the nation to show off their best moves to a worldwide audience.

Launching today, the "Stickam(TM) Dance Off" is the first ever, online dance competition that's awarding cash prizes for the best dance videos uploaded to the Stickam.com Web site. The champion receives $500 along with the bragging rights of being the Internet's top video dancer.


Here's Our Award for "Lack of any substance"
Digital Influence Group Announces Addition of Aaron Hughes as Vice President and Creative Director
From: racepointgroup.com
"Today Digital Influence Group, Inc., a leader in social media marketing services, announced today that Aaron Hughes has joined the firm as vice president and creative director. Drawing from his impressive creative background which includes ten years at Digitas, Hughes will direct all phases of creative work from concept and project planning through production, for all accounts.

...Waltham, Mass, September 13, 2006 – Digital Influence Group, Inc., a leader in social media marketing services, announced today that Aaron Hughes has joined the firm as vice president and creative director. In his new role Hughes will direct all phases of creative work from concept and project planning through production, for all accounts. He will craft the visual direction and concept development for everything from large Web site builds to multi-faceted social media marketing campaigns, as well as facilitate and drive account growth strategies."


This one gets the "Who Cares" award
Alacra Compliance Awarded Model of Excellence by InfoCommerce Group!
"New Anti-Money Laundering Compliance Application Recognized by Leading Industry Group

New York, Tuesday, September 12, 2006 - Alacra, Inc., a leading provider of online business information solutions, announced today that the Company's recently launched Alacra Compliance () application has been named as a 2006 Model of Excellence award winner by InfoCommerce Group. Since its debut this spring, Alacra Compliance is changing the way that financial institutions meet their Anti-Money Laundering, “Know Your Customer” and Enhanced Due Diligence requirements.

InfoCommerce Group (“ICG”) is the leading consulting, publishing, conference and research company focused on the data publishing industry. Their annual Model of Excellence awards recognize innovative companies which effectively combine world-class software with high quality data. According to InfoCommerce Group President Russell Perkins, “Alacra Compliance cleverly marries a vertical search engine with federated search capabilities for premium content. The result is an innovative workflow application that helps financial institutions get their arms around rapidly changing regulatory requirements.”"

But wait, it gets even better...

"The Model of Excellence awards will be presented at the InfoCommerce 2006 Conference, to be held October 10-12 in Philadelphia. Barry Graubart, Alacra's Vice President of Product Management will also serve as moderator of the Vertical Horizons session at this year's InfoCommerce Conference."


Now seriously, how many bloggers will be at that awards ceremony? Not this guy (two thumbs pointed at my chest and cheezy grin on my face).

Bad PR Summary
The litmus test of whether or not something is newsworthy in today's internet environment is whether or not bloggers are willing to talk about the news and are excited about the news. The press releases above should be filed under fluff, because there is no substance to any of them. If there was substance then we'd see something about profits and revenues growing by 500%, or something of that nature but instead we get fluff. I will not apologize for giving the above companies a hard time either because they need to get a clue when it comes to putting out stuff that's newsworthy versus stuff that's just hair in the drain causing a clogged up pipe.

Boring Press Releases From Last Week By Jason Dowdell at 09:53 AM
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Shopping.com's Widgets - Code Free API Integration

Friday I had a conversation with Josh Wetzel, the Director of Business Development at Shopping.com. The subject of our conversation was the new Shop Widgets Shopping.com was offering. Their pr firm described Shop Widgets as...
"the first customizable pre-built advertising units that will allow Web merchants and publishers to easily add a new revenue source to their sites. With this new feature, Web site owners – small and large – will have access to an array of online materials to help customize their ads to help make money."

However, after speaking with Josh, I realized that there was a little more to these shop widgets than just some fancy pr ploy. In fact, the widgets can get as complicated or simple as you want them to be. Here's how they work.

1.) A webmaster signs up for the shopping.com partner program (you agree to let them serve some ads on your site for a certain category or keyword or combination thereof).

2.) You now have two options. The first is to use a wysiwyg form to enter a specific keyword or category or both and select the layout of the ads. Next you can specify the border of the ad and the color of the text and links.
Note: the one thing I don't like about this is there are very few options for how the ads are presented. They really want you to serve a skyscraper ad and offer no horizontal type ads at all.

3.) Then you cut and paste the code on your site (or page) and voila, you now have ads for shopping.com running on your site.

If you want to get more complicated you can send in keywords and categories on each page load and create dynamic ads for your site but that requires some experience with writing code or having access to a developer.

If you really want to go nuts then you can sign up for their full api which basically gives you the same functionality as they have on shopping.com and you can create a completely customizable interface like a few other sites. (which I appear to have lost the list of other sites using their api at the moment, I'll post it when I find it.)

A few other notes on the new shop widgets.
They have behavioral nature based on shopping.com collective intelligence on user behavior, but they are not contextual with regards to the content on the page they're published on.

ex: If you use the keyword "iPod" you'll get the most popular iPods at the moment on shopping.com.

Shopping.com's Widgets - Code Free API Integration By Jason Dowdell at 09:36 AM
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