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Searchblog Disclosures

By - May 08, 2007

I’ve always admired Jeff Jarvis’s disclosure page, and wanted to do my own. So here it is. I’ll be updating and revising this from time to time as things change.

As the guy who writes at Searchblog, I wear many hats. I’m began this site as a companion to my book, but it’s become more than that – a place where I sound off on things I find interesting, or pontificate, or ask those who wander in for insights, help, and opinions.

What Searchblog is not is pure, objective, New York Times style journalism. I make no pretension of objectivity, though I do try to be fair, transparent, and accurate. When I’m not, readers generally slap me back into shape in any case.

At Searchblog, I take advertising. That advertising is largely driven by a company I started, Federated Media Publishing. I am the CEO of that company, and I’m hopelessly in favor of it succeeding. I try not to use the site as a platform for FM, but I will mention things I think are of interest to Searchblog readers from time to time. It’s entirely possible that I’m biased in my linking toward FM authors, because I tend to read them all as a matter of course. I also tend to think they have the best sites, of course.

When it comes to the site and marketing, I follow FM’s Mores, which can be found here. When I work with marketers who support this site, I let readers know (examples here, here, here.) My company has a deal with Google for Adsense, I’ve also tried Yahoo and others in the past and will again in the future.

Besides my work at FM, I also chair the Web 2 Summit conference and am a partner with CMP and O’Reilly in the various Web 2 related businesses like the Web 2 Expo. I am very proud of the work we’ve done on this conference. My role is as program chair and consultant, I’ve run many conferences in my career, in particular at The Industry Standard, which I founded and ran from 1997 to 2001. That company was run by IDG, and readers of my site know my bittersweet feelings about that particular chapter in my life.

I am often asked to speak, for a fee, at a wide range of corporate events, and I turn most of them down due to time constraints. However, I used to do more of this before starting FM, and I still have a few speaking commitments, mostly driven by my book, that are pending (I think my last one is this summer). Touring the speaking circuit is very normal practice for authors, it’s rather like touring as a musician. I wish I had more time to get out there and converse with people, but at the moment, I don’t.

In the past worked with Steve Rattner on the Foursquare conference, and have tremendous respect for him and his colleagues at Quadrangle.

My family owns individual stocks, but I don’t trade or pick stocks myself. Since my days at Wired, I work with a fellow who manages that for the family. I make sure, however, that they do not own stocks in companies I write a lot about. Hence, I do not (knowingly) own Microsoft, Google, Yahoo or IAC/Ask (it’s possible that some mutual fund owns them that my broker bought). My wife is utterly unhappy with this, as she suggested we pick up Google at the outset and I demurred. Oh well. Back when journalism was my full time job at Wired, I passed on AOL and Microsoft for similar reasons, in the early 90s when those were very cheap indeed. DOH.

**UPDATE: January 2011: I have begun to occasionally “pick” stocks, but not for my own accounts, rather, for my kids’ accounts. So yeah, I will be motivated to see those shares rise, but not for personal gain, more to see my kids inheritance do well. I will probably continue to pick a stock here and there in this way in the future. If I write substantively about any company I’ve picked, I will note that in the post. I won’t mention it if my reference is in passing. So far, the only stock I’ve “picked” that I’ve written about in the past is Demand Media, which I covered back in October. I find the company very interesting, and owning a shares on behalf of my kids seemed like the right thing to do, given I passed up on Google, AOL, Microsoft, etc. over the past couple of decades. I guess my wife has finally convinced me that I have the right to buy shares of companies and not stress out about it. **

I often write about companies that sponsor Searchblog. That’s the way it goes. However, I feel like, after 20 years in this business, I’ve earned the right to say what I think, and that I have the respect of my sponsors to do so. So far, I think my integrity is intact. If I lose it, I lose you, the reader. I’m not eager to do that, so I write what’s on my mind, and I’m respectful of, but not cowed by, my sponsors’ support.

I’m sure more will come to mind as I think through these disclosures. Consider this a **second** draft of many to come.

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Gates at SAS, Liveblogging…News: Sea Dragon…

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Microsoft-1

I’m sitting in a ballroom at the Sheraton, waiting for Gates to come on for his keynote. The scene is pretty standard corporate client conference – vanilla house techno music, hundreds of attendees burbling to each other, Voice of God announcer hushes the crowd and…

The theme is “Inspired” and the conference kicks off with a slick corporate video on that theme.

Bill Gates takes the stage after some sales schtick between Kevin Johnson and Joanne Bradford. His topic is “Innovating in the Age of Engagement.”

His talk so far is pretty broad and tuned for a non-technical audience. His first slide is “Megatrends” – stuff that will not surprise this audience – smaller hard drives enabling video and music on small devices, wireless broadband, SOA, etc. He cites MSFT’s R&D investment as the largest in the industry – $6 billion (that includes work on core products).

He’s moving on to another theme of “customer driven interaction.” I have to say, the slides he’s showing are pretty standard – models looking excited and engaged, etc. But that’s the tuning of this audience – this is a sales conference, not Web 2.0. It’s clear that his role here is not sales guy, or cheerleader for the ad industry, but rather eminence gris, Visionary with a capital V.

Damn. The WiFi just went down. That’s a bummer. Swapping to another network….

Quotes:

“The only sure winner (in the Internet space) is the consumer himself…”

He mentions that MSFT would like to see another billion computers (that’s the current installed base) into the world.

“Reading will go entirely online” the way photography is in the process of doing now.

News and getting news out is changing, uses Microsoft as an example – Channel 9 gets a namecheck – 3mm unique viewers every month on that Channel, wow.

On to the future of video – TV is going from one sized fits all to personalized. Yup! “It’s a dramatic change in TV…”

“There is no way in the next five years that broadcast infrastructure will not be viewed as competitive.”

“Ads will be targeted to the viewer.”

Namechecks Xbox Live. “That’s been explosive in growth” – the games that succeed are the games that drive community. For sure….

Brings out Ed Graczyk, a fellow who will discuss IPTV…oddly, he’s talking about Microsoft’s IPTV platform while showing a fly fishing instructional video, which is pretty cool and distracting me from what he’s saying.

OK, now he’s showing channel tuning done in software, which is neat. A better looking program guide as well. Neat again.

I wonder what Comcast thinks of this. Hmmm, he mentions that the model is OEM – ie ATT uses it. I see now. Comcast is certainly a competitor of this then. I’ve not really grokked this world and I need to.

It does look prety good compared to Comcast. Then he namechecks search in digital TV as sucky. YESSIR. Shows search and it’s really much better. Way to go Micrsooft, I want it!

IPTV on Xbox 360 was announced at CES. How did I miss that? Doh. Interesting. He shows the integration of IPV on Xbox with IM chat, etc. Again, very cool.

“The first example of how social is coming into the TV experience.”

Talks about advertising possibilities in this environment. Yessir.

OK, Ed’s off, Bill’s back.

More from Bill, now focusing on advertising. Targeting is getting better, in the case of someone reading a particular article, “in the future instead of a publication going to a single provider (for ads) it will be a richer thing than that – the publisher knows something about that reader” as do other third party providers … “it’s really a combination of that knoweldge, far more than the article itself…” that will decide the right ad for that reader. A not too subtle jab at Adsense….

Moving on to Silverlight, see here for more on that….Brian Goldfarb is coming up to talk about that….

Where Silverlight shines is in media experiences….strikes me this is really about competing with Flash, no? It’s like Windows Media Player meets web development…talks about contextual advertising using Silverlight…loads of integrated stuff – overlays, etc.. Cool. But very video driven….

Seadragon21Small

Now talking about new ways to work with search ads. Interesting….integrating search and video ads. I’ve talked about this before….He mentions a technology called Sea Dragon which is very cool. Integrated into paid text ads that blow up into very high resolution images that allow advertisers to push tons of info and pictures into paid search text ads. Very interesting…

Gates is back. Now talking about “the Live era” and wrapping up. Overall, I was impressed with the stuff I saw. Sea Dragon in particular strikes me as pointing to where we are heading in search ads, and I bet Google will do something similar soon.

Gates is down now with Joanne Bradford for Q&A….

What in tech is underestimated? TV on the internet is finally happening. Mobile…

What’s next in mobile? Mixed voice-screen interfaces…for sure…

Will the Yellow Pages get wiped out? They will be used less and less. Namechecks TellMe….

What gets you excited about Web2? Education and video…

What are you spending the next 15 or so months on? People don’t want to go to the Internet just to see a list of links (ouch, another hit on Google). We can make that far better. I think what he’s saying here is that Microsoft is all about creating a better interface for the Web. This is consistent with what they showed and ties it up nicely.

ABC's Shark Jumping Move: Disabling Fast Forward

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Now this is a monumentally bad idea:

SAN FRANCISCO (MarketWatch) — Walt Disney Co.’s two big TV networks, ABC and ESPN, have struck a deal with cable operator Cox Communications Inc. to offer hit shows and football games on demand, but with the unusual condition that Cox disables the fast-forward feature that allows viewers to skip ads, according to a media report Thursday.

The deal between Disney and Cox is expected to be announced today at the National Cable Television Association convention in Las Vegas, The Wall Street Journal reported in its online edition. See Wall Street Journal story (subscription required).

Apparently the deal applies only to on demand inventory, but still….it’s a Very Bad Idea.

First Evening at Microsoft's SAS: Aha!

By - May 07, 2007

Ge

Tonight I got into SEATAC, pretended not to see Hasselhoff while heading toward the cab line, and checked into the Seattle Sheraton, site of Microsoft’s annual Strategic Account Summit.

After checking email and the like, I made my way to the opening reception, held at the Benaroya Hall, home of the Seattle Symphony.

It’s a beautiful space, and Microsoft does know how to throw a party. There was a 16-piece band, tons of happy people, plenty of good food, and in general a festive and upbeat mood. I saw a lot of colleagues and met a lot of new ones, and to a one, they had one question for me: What do you make of the rumors about Yahoo and Microsoft hooking up?

Well, after you discuss that one with five or six folks, the standard back and forth starts to get old. And then, BOOM, it hit me. It’s time for Microsoft to step out of its skin. Get out of its box. Quit the fight with Google, but don’t lose it. Instead, redefine the game.

In short, it’s time for Microsoft to stop being just a technology company, and start being….General Electric.

This is how I came to this admittedly ill informed and entirely speculative conclusion: I was talking to a senior person in Microsoft’s sales organization, and he/she (preserving anonymity) asked an important question: do you think it’d even be possible to merge Yahoo and Microsoft’s radically distinct cultures?

I thought about that for a moment. He/she had a point: Getting the two companies to play well together would be a monumental task. But then it hit me: This just might be the wrong question! Why does Microsoft have to be a technology company? Why can’t, instead, it be General Electric?

Imagine a Microsoft that commits to the media business the way that GE has – it bought NBC. Microsoft can buy Yahoo, and simply claim that its media play is, well, called Yahoo! Now, Terry Semel may not like that, but I sense Bob Wright got over it, just as Terry was OK with Warner Studios being part of Time Warner. The central question vexing Microsoft as it competes with Google, the ultimate technology-driven company, is whether Google is supplanting Microsoft as …. the ultimate technology driven company.

Well, that fight can continue, under the leadership of Ray Ozzie in Microsoft’s Software division, which makes Windows, Office, Live, and all that.

But Microsoft has twice the market cap and four times the cash of Google, and right now, it can step into a far larger role than Google can – the role of multinational conglomerate. But if it keeps trying to win the game at the level of its current foe, it might not be able to win.

After all, GE started with the light bulb, and went from there. Microsoft started with DOS….

In short, it strikes me that to win, Microsoft might need to become bigger than the industry it helped create. There are new markets – and old – to conquer in turbines, appliances, and lord knows what else. I wonder what the market would make of such a move?

Just a late night JAM thought. What do you think?

Thinking About David Hasselhoff

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David H

Good lord, has it come to this? That was my first thought upon getting off the plane here in Seattle, and seeing CNN – f*cking CNN! – running clips of David Hasselhoff reverse puking a Wendy’s Steakhouse Double Melt in a crowded airport during high rush hour (6 pm).

Yes, it has come to this. Why am I, defender of all things Internet (see my views on NBC making the Va Tech material available), offended by seeing on CNN what I can freely see on the Internet? This may not be in any way insightful, and I’m sure someone has put it far more elegantly, but it comes down to this one simple insight: What I see on the Internet, I *choose* to see, and in particular, I choose to see it *privately* – in other words, I see it when and how I want. But when I’m walking with 1000 other souls through a public thoroughfare, and a poor, sick, f*cked up man is losing his dignity on CNN, well, it strikes me the standards are different.

Even though we often watch alone, television is in esssence a shared medium. We watch it together. If it’s on, in a bar, on our homes, in our airports, well, it’s on for anyone who comes in the room. Collectively, we must form an opinion that individually, perhaps, we might form differently. We are forced to find common ground. And honestly, really, well, I don’t *want* to find common ground with a bunch of strangers in an airport about David Hasselhoff. No, really, I just don’t.

Online, it’s different. Online, I control my space. Yup, it’s my space.

So CNN, put it online. But don’t make me watch it with people I just got off a plane with.

Slow Day

By -

I’ll be heading up to Microsoft today (nice timing) to the company’s annual sales partner meeting. Terry Semel, interestingly, is on the docket to speak. Now that should get some tongues wagging.

Update: MSFT and Yahoo are NOT Talking

By - May 04, 2007

That’s what the Journal is saying.

I say, they are ALWAYS talking. They should always be talking. More thoughts when the day quiets down…

Search Paper: Is Relevance Relevant?

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I met Elizabeth van Couvering while working on the book. She’s published a paper titled Is Relevance Relevant? Market, Science, and War: Discourses of Search Engine Quality.



For your Friday reading pleasure. From the abstract:

Fairness and representativeness, core elements of the journalists’ definition of quality media content, are not key determiners of search engine quality in the minds of search engine producers. Rather, alternative standards of quality, such as customer satisfaction and relevance, mean that tactics to silence or promote certain websites or site owners (such as blacklisting, whitelisting, and index “cleaning”) are seen as unproblematic.

Bush Administration And Civil Rights: Oil, Water

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Nsa

Thank God we have a paper like the Washington Post which owns this story. Here’s their latest: Bush Wants Phone Firms Immune to Privacy Suits.

Now, why do you supposed the Bush administration wants to protect phone companies from lawsuits? Gee, that’s a tough one. From the piece:

The measure is part of a legislative package drafted by the Justice Department to relax provisions in the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) that restrict the administration’s ability to intercept electronic communications in the United States. If passed, the proposed changes would forestall efforts to compel disclosure of the program’s details through Congress or the court system….

…The proposal states that “no action shall lie . . . in any court, and no penalty . . . shall be imposed . . . against any person” for giving the government information, including customer records, in connection with alleged intelligence activity the attorney general certifies “is, was, would be or would have been” intended to protect the United States from terrorist attack.

…The measure would gut Congress’s efforts to conduct inquiries into the administration’s surveillance program because a subpoenaed company or government official could invoke immunity, said Tim Sparapani, legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, which has sued the government to force a halt to its wiretapping program



The worst part of this proposed legislation is that it gives blanket immunity for **past** actions. In other words, Cover Your Ass For Things You Did Wrong While Screwing Up The War on Terror. Or, Provide Immunity and Therefore Impunity To Those Who Might Have the Goods to Prove The Government Broke All Kinds of Laws.

No thanks, guys. I prefer my oligarchy with sunshine. It disinfects.