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Help Me Interview Brian Roberts, CEO of Comcast

By - September 21, 2009

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We’ll be opening this year’s Web 2 Summit with an interview of Brian Roberts, CEO of Comcast. I’ve asked Brian to come for the past three years, and he’s always had a conflict. In those last few years Comcast has continued to grow, in particular when it comes to its footprint in the digital world.

Besides its role as a major cable television player, Comcast is one of the largest providers of broadband in the United States, and as such plays a major role in nearly every story now playing out across the Web ecosystem. Net neutrality? Check. Bandwidth caps? Check. Migration of television models to online? Check. Learning how to become a smart brand by joining the conversation online? Check.

More on Comcast and Brian:

Under his leadership, Comcast has grown into a Fortune 100 company with $34.3 billion in revenues, 24.2 million customers and 100,000 employees. Comcast’s content networks and investments include E! Entertainment Television, Style Network, Golf Channel, VERSUS, G4, PBS KIDS Sprout, TV One, and ten sports networks operated by Comcast Sports Group and Comcast Interactive Media, which develops and operates Comcast’s Internet businesses, including Comcast.net.

Comcast Interactive is an interesting play as well – a distinct entity with a number of newly purchased assets (Fandango, Plaxo, Daily Candy, etc) that may or may not find itself competing directly with Yahoo, MSN, and AOL someday, not to mention Google. It’s clear to me that one of the next great battles online will be for the real estate currently known as your television (the other, of course, is your mobile device).  

I will be covering all of this and more with Brian, but as I do every year, I really seek your help with what to ask him on stage. So what do you want to hear from Brian Roberts?

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Meanwhile, Google Attacks the Display Market

By - September 18, 2009

As I wrote those words – “Display Market” – I sure wish we could get our nomenclature right. Because that term means a lot of things to a lot of people.

In any case, Google today announces its Doubleclick Ad Exchange, which it promises will “simplify the process of buying and selling advertising,” according to the Times coverage.

Google is leveraging it’s competitive advantage: “the new system will automatically allow hundreds of thousands of advertisers and publishers who now use Google’s AdWords and AdSense systems to run their ads and ad space through the exchange.”

Of course they are.

This pits Google directly against Yahoo, AOL, and Microsoft in display, as each of these companies is playing here, though at various levels.

But let’s be clear about what we’re talking about – which is remnant display. This is not a premium publishing play. I’ll have more on that, but the distinction is very important. VERY important.

Watch Out Google, Facebook Is Gaining in PPC

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Alex Salkever has written a post on Facebok’s self service CPC platform, which has been getting a lot of traction lately and is largely responsible for the company’s recent boasting about being cash flow positive. From it:

I chatted with nearly two dozen people who are buying ads on Facebook. Many of them are also purchasing ads on Google (GOOG) and other online venues. The overwhelming sentiment? Facebook ads are actually more effective and do a better job of getting them in front of their target audiences.

The piece is worth reading and really contemplating. How many of you use Facebook ads? Do they work better than AdWords?

On Complements and Showdowns and TweetSense

By - September 16, 2009

SAI points to an interesting piece by Chris Dixon, founder of Hunch, in which he argues that Twitter will inevitably be competing with its core developers (complements to Twitter) at some point. This is always true for development ecosystems, however, and I don’t think, in fact, it will be as bad as Chris claims. His argument:

At some point, significant (non-VC) money will enter the Twitter ecosystem. I have no idea whether this is will be by charging consumers, charging businesses users, search advertising, sponsored tweets, licensing the twitter data feed, data from URL shorteners, or something else. But history suggests that where there is so much user engagement, dollars follow.

For the sake of argument, let’s suppose Twitter’s eventual dominant business model is putting ads by search results. Who gets the revenue when a user is searching on a 3rd party Twitter client? Even if Twitter gets a portion of revenue from ads on 3rd party apps, there will always be an incentive for them to create their own client app, or to “commodotize” the client app by, say, promoting an open source version.

But it doesn’t have to be so. Witness AdSense. Google doesn’t own the Internet, but it has the largest ad network out there, AdSense. Sure, it’s not nearly as profitable as AdWords on Google.com (100% owned and operated, way higher margin), but it’s a big, big business, and it feeds a ton of data and goodness back to the mother ship, as well as supplies serious oxygen to an ecosystem that makes Google way more important as a business overall.

Hence my argument, made many times over, that Twitter will and must create TweetSense. As I’ve written before, it’s not just search on Twitter, it’s all Tweets that are the searches, and TweetWords will key off those Tweets. TweetSense will be TweetWords distributed to third parties. Those third parties would love to have TweetSense to run on their apps, I am certain of it.

It doesn’t have to be a zero sum game.

The IPO Markets and the Internet: A Thaw's A Comin'

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Unemployment is up and continuing to rise, the recession, while possibly, maybe, sort of technically over, does not feel over at all, and while Murdoch says “things are better” in the advertising economy, “better” means “no longer totally crap.”

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So why on earth would I write a headline like the one adorning this post?

Because despite all that bad news, there’s a fair amount of good news in the web space. A number of healthy private companies are doing quite well, and seem poised to become serious IPO candidates. Among them:

Facebook. The company said it’s now cash flow positive and has been profitable for several quarters. This is the final step toward a public bow, one that could possibly stimulate a wee bit of Googly optimism, just as Google did during the mini-boom of 2004-07.

Demand. According to all accounts, this company has been profitable for several years, is growing nicely, and has revenues well over nine figures. Its search/content/social media mashup model is unique and growing.

Linked In. With a new CEO (Jeff Weiner) who would not have joined had there not been a promise of a large exit, multiple revenue sources, and a strong community, Linked In is another late stage company in the Big IPO queue.

Three companies does not a trend make, but I am sure there are others, and there are even more companies that are one to two years out (like Twitter, for example). It doesn’t take that much to get a trend going in these markets. Unlike the bubble of ten years ago (wow, has it been that long), these companies all have profits, histories, and strong operating plans. And the markets have been on a tear, there is plenty of money on the sidelines, and folks are looking for a place to take a little risk after a year of hiding in treasuries and triple A-rated muni bonds.

In short, I think the IPO market is back on the table, and I would not be surprised to see it start to take off in the next several quarters.

Who did I miss, and what companies do you think might be ready to go soon?

A Worthy Rant From Danny on Yahoo Search

By - September 15, 2009

Danny Sullivan over at SEL has really teed off on Yahoo’s search strategy, and any time he goes off, it’s worth a read.

From it:

USER INTERFACE CHANGES WON’T LET YAHOO COMPETE IN SEARCH

Got it? Write it down, someone come check back on this in five years. If Yahoo’s moved up in search share thanks to outsourcing search and just toying with the user interface, I’ll eat those words somehow — covered even in Yahoo purple frosting.

No one has succeeded as a general search engine just by making user interface changes. No one, in the past nearly 15 years of us having search engines. That’s like 150 “real” years. (For more, see A Search Eulogy For Yahoo and Why Search Sucks & You Won’t Fix It The Way You Think)

The interview ticked me off in other ways. Bartz downplayed search as something people spend only 3% of their time on. Hey, I don’t spend all my time shopping. But who do you think makes more money off of me, places I shop at or television stations that deliver me entertainment?

Adobe Acquires Omniture

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This is very interesting. We’re interviewing Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen at Web 2 next month, man will we have things to talk about now. Why would Adobe want to get into the web analytics business (in short, supporting ecommerce and marketing)? Well, it makes sense given nearly all ads are in Adobe Flash now. Hmmmm…what do you think? From the Merc piece:

“Adobe customers are looking to us for solutions to deliver engaging experiences and more effectively monetize their content and applications online,” Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen said in a statement announcing the deal. “This is a game changer for both Adobe and our customers. We will enable advertisers, media companies and e-tailers to realize the full value of their digital assets.”



Twitter Traffic Flattening

By - September 14, 2009

This graph is a rough estimate, does not include use of Twitter apps, mobile, etc. It’s just traffic to Twitter.com. But it has proven a reliable trending mechanism for Twitter. And it shows a leveling off. Now, I am going to go out on a limb and say the growth is probably mostly in mobile and third party instances. But still…


Omigili Figures Out How To Hack Google For Real Time Results

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Way to go dudes at Omgili!

By now you probably know about the “Search Options” feature Google introduced in May. One of its features is to limit the search results by time frame. By default the available time frames are: Any time, Past year, Past week, Recent results and Past 24 hours. Past 24 hours is nice but still far away from Real-time. What Google isn’t telling you is that you can search in the past minute and even in the past second. The trick is to change a parameter in the URL that will narrow down the time frames. ….Notice the URL parameter qdr:d. I assume qdr stands for Query Date Range (sounds about right). All you have to do to search for the query in the past minute is to change the parameter to qdr:n, and for the past second to qdr:s.

Past Minute:

http://www.google.com/search?q=barack%20obama&hl=en&output=search&tbs=qd