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Yahoo Is Opening Up, But What's The Big Vision?

By - February 26, 2008

At the IAB yesterday Jerry Yang promised that Yahoo would follow a more open path, but didn’t delve into specifics. But there are plenty of specifics to talk about. First, Yahoo Buzz, which launched this week, is a step in that direction, though it’s a limited beta for now. Secondly, Yahoo Search has opened its platform for publishers, allowing them to pull Yahoo results and redesign them as the publishers see fit (not to mention the incorporation of Hadoop, an open source project, in Yahoo Search results) . And third, Yahoo is opening up its home page to selected content contributors.

I plan a longer post on Yahoo if/when I get a chance to talk with folks there. It’s clear they are beginning to roll out a strategy, but, well, it’s not clear to me what the big vision is. I see parts of it – boil the all-in-one advertising platform ocean, make Yahoo more open, create exchanges between publishers and advertisers – but I can’t see the whole dern thing. And from the buzz at the IAB conference after Jerry and Sue’s presentation yesterday, I ain’t the only one.

Update: Sue Decker has posted more of her thoughts on Yahoo’s strategy here. Also, I’m in touch with Yahoo to get a briefing, though skeds being what they are it might not happen for a few weeks…

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Hulu At IAB

By - February 25, 2008

Hulu

Jason Kilar, CEO of Hulu, gave a very impressive demo today at the IAB. I was prepared to not be impressed. I was wrong. It’s a smart company with a good plan, very customer focused. I can only imagine this is what the folks at YouTube wished they could have done. I have a few nits with what I heard, more after I corner Jason after the event. But honestly, it was pretty damn cool.

LiveBlogging Jerry Yang and Sue Decker At IAB Conference

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Yang Iab

Jerry Yang had the grace to not cancel on the IAB keynote interview today, not sure I would have done the same were I in his shoes. We spoke briefly before he went on, he seemed in good spirits, though clearly the reality of Yahoo’s situation sat heavy in the air.

He and President Sue Decker (that was a surprise) took the stage together, and Jerry spoke solo for a bit. Notes:

The journey has been anything but boring and we are on the cusp of something more interesting….will be talking about role of technology in the advertising business…what is Yahoo? We need to continue to innovate and lead….Yahoo as the “starting point”…focus on key starting points: home page, Yahoo mail, search, and mobile. And then three key vertical content areas: Finance, News, Sports.

Yang alludes again to open platform for Yahoo….but gives no details. Mentions “social aspect” – namechecks the social graph, says it’s still early.

So far, no mention of the MSFT hostile bid, or the trouble the company is in. I think the audience is waiting for it…but they are not going to get it in his prepared comments.

Jerry introduces Sue. Sue is going to talk about Yahoo’s advertising strategy in a post Panama world. Sue is the architect of Yahoo’s approach to the ad network business (ie buying a ton of them)….Sue:

Need to simplify things…it’s highly complex to do digital advertising…need a powerful platform…that’s what Yahoo is building…we are building a cutting edge ad platform running across search, display, video…capable of harnessing Yahoo and non Yahoo properties….we’re trying to revolutionize the online industry…a lofty goal (and one Microsoft, AOL, Google also are trying to do)….

For a publisher: Imagine being able to distribute an advertisers’ campaign across your audience, as well as other publishers audiences….(hmmmm not sure publishers would want to do that, though I can see it if the publishers are aligned). This is clearly central to Yahoo’s strategy, as well as doing the same with advertisers. Hmmm. Much to talk about there..

Sue Iab

From and advertiser point of view – simplification of campaign flighting and operations (which I can tell you from personal experience is a major issue).

For agencies – streamline the buying process. For Ad Networks, connect your publishers to more advertisers.

An open platform could simplify the process. True, but it’s a boil the ocean ecosystem play.

Too much time is spent on the bring part of the business, not enough time on the creative (I hear that).

OK, the comments from both are over, and now Randall is going to ask questions.

Jerry asks if the first question is about Microsoft. Joke about the Oscars.

So the Microsoft question: We can’t say a whole lot about it. “It’s been galvanizing for us.” Yahoo is a unique asset, and we have to think it through…

Sue: There’s a big impact on the workforce but…she is focusing on the day to day business. We had to clean up some old deals that were no longer market (I think this is a reference to their third party ad selling deals with folks like WebMD, etc. – version 1.0 of the strategy they are now talking about on stage).

Randall: Branded publishers are scared of commoditization of their inventory. What is your response? We see the exchange as a critical part of the broader platform…driving openness and scale….if we could decrease the friction it should increase the yield for publishers (er…well, not if you are selling high premium inventory. I think if you are sold out of high yield inventory, perhaps you can reach into this platform to get more, but then it’s not YOUR inventory, it’s not your engaged audience. So how does this help? I’m not getting this…but …Lord knows I don’t always get everything all at once…). She pitches the idea of publisher’s adding Yahoo inventory to what the publisher’s sell (this idea bears more consideration in another post). Also, Yahoo driving traffic to partner sites (ie the newspaper deals Yahoo has been leading).

Discussion of Yahoo’s newspaper deals follows. I’ll spare you the details. It’s actually interesting, structurally, and I sure hope it works. She mentions that Yahoo’s work in display is far more complicated than search and Panama – because inventory is negotiated, not auction, and very fragmented. APeX is the name – Advertiser Publisher Exchange…

Yes, it is more complicated. I think I need to spend some time grokking this with the Yahoo folks…

Yahoo has reengineered its sales force to be integrated across all channels – solutions based, not channel based. A good move.

To be honest, while it’s clear these guys have spent a fair amount of time staring at this problem, it’s not clear to me what the big vision is…and neither Jerry nor Sue landed any counterpunches with regard to the Microsoft threat. They were very careful to say…pretty much nothing.

But Jerry pulls one out in the end: By 2013, he says, online advertising will be the biggest medium in the US, by ad spend. Now that’s something folks gathered under the banner of the IAB can certainly applaud.




At the IAB Conference

By - February 24, 2008



Iab Conf

As I noted before, I’m at the IAB conference for the next few days (the mobile phone shot above is of Randall Rothenberg, IAB CEO). Wenda Harris Millard, the new Chair of the Board (on which I serve) just laid out a line I really loved:

“We must not trade our advertising inventory like pork bellies.”

She refers to the commoditization of branded advertising inventory via ad newtorks and algorithms. It was quite inspiring. But folks were not sure whether to clap. I say: Bravo!!!




Spring Training: Practice Time

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I’ve got an IAB Board meeting and annual conference in Phoenix starting today, and last week was winter break for my kids. So we combined the two and spent a few days as a family in Scottsdale, home of my hometown team. Yesterday my son and I walked over to the Giants’ training facility and were pleased to find it open, with about fifty or so die hard fans taking in a glorious early camp practice. I shot a few pictures off my mobile phone, here they are, to warm your still wintry hearts.

Ian At Practice

My son Ian is stoked to be here.

Zito

Barry Zito (#75) is ready to have a better year. He lives in my neighborhood in Marin, and I’m told he’s glad to have his transition year (from the A’s to the Giants) over with.

The Grab

Ah, baseball. Some things never change.




Again With the High Click Fraud Stats

By - February 23, 2008

Click Forensics, a company that certainly benefits from press about high click fraud, has come out with another scary statement: Click Fraud accounts for more than 28% of clicks on content networks, which I assume means AdSense and similar types of syndicated networks. The overall rate of fraud is more than 16%, the company claims. Seeking Alpha covers it here.

The thing is, we’ve heard this before, and before that, and probably before that, and the response from Yahoo and Google is always the same: Click Forensics has got it all wrong. We catch nearly all fraud before anyone has to pay for it. All of this is overblown and misunderstood.

So why does Click Forensics keep at it? Who’s right here?

Microsoft President on Yahoo

By - February 22, 2008

Just sent this link – an internal email from Kevin Johnson, Microsoft President, to employees (and posted to Microsoft’s press area as well). Can’t find much news in it but…

Google Responds to Privacy Fears On Searchblog

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A while back I wrote a piece in which I expressed concerns about how Google might use data it has on individuals, and suggesting that I and perhaps others have hit their “Google saturation point.” The post elicited alot of comments, including Matt Cutts of Google, who promised to respond with some policy clarifications. Well, the response got stuck in his mailbox, but he just posted it now. Here is the highlight:

For example, our internal user data access agreement explicitly mentions that Google employees are not allowed to try to access data on any public figure, any employee at a particular company, or any acquaintance. To do so would be grounds for immediate termination. So for the case that you’re worried about (running a start-up using Google’s tools), we have mechanisms and policies in place that specifically protect your privacy in that situation.

But…this allows them, from what I can tell, to access information on anyone who is not a “public figure, any employee at a particular company, or any acquaintance.”

The way it’s worded, it seems to be pretty easy to get around. “Hey Joe, do you know Battelle?” “No, who’s he?” “Never mind, can you just go check out his files for me?”

Anyway….

It's Unnerving

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Tactic or honest response? Sergey on Microsoft:

“The Internet has evolved from open standards, having a diversity of companies,” Brin told The Associated Press after the event. “And when you start to have companies that control the operating system, control the browsers, they really tie up the top Web sites, and can be used to manipulate stuff in various ways. I think that’s unnerving.”