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Monday Signal: Block Those Ads!

By - March 07, 2010

Monday’s Signal round up is light. The news was a bit boring over the weekend, and I’m OK with that. We all watched the Oscars and enjoyed the suspense of disbelief. I tweeted that it feels like, as a culture, we’re closing in on One Big Mass Media Event each month. Oscars, Super Bowl, New Year’s Eve….What’s the next one?

Meanwhile, I am doing a lot of writing/producing right now. The theme for Web 2 this year is really, really interesting (it centers on points of control and strategy across the Internet), and we’re also a few days away from unveiling the new CM Summit site (the theme this year is “Marketing in Real Time” – and the speakers are extraordinary). Not to mention some deep stuff I’m working on for FM and the future of its business (off to NYC this week for more on that). Oh, and yeah, I want to update that Database of Intentions post I did last Friday. Lots of great input from all of you – in comments, Facebook, Twitter – and I’ve decided that for sure, we need to add a Signal for Commerce. Health, Music, others – I am not sure about yet. More on that soon.

Meanwhile, the links I did find worth digging into over the weekend:

Why Ad Blocking is devastating to the sites you love (Ars Technica) Finally, a publisher (one who was with FM until our pals at Conde Nast purchased them) sounds off about ad blocking. Ken, the founder, created a program that blocks content from folks who block ads. He didn’t run it for long, but read the piece. He learned a lot, and engaged with his audience as a *publisher*. Well done. I love that Ken did this, and can’t wait to read all 1400 comments. Money quote: “Imagine running a restaurant where 40% of the people who came and ate didn’t pay. In a way, that’s what ad blocking is doing to us.”

Drafting a New Blueprint for the Client-Agency Relationship (Jones&Bonevac) This topic ain’t going away, it seems, in fact, it’s coming to a head.

Clorox App Gives Consumers Content They Want (eMarketer) All marketers are publishers. Who said that?

Monopolies, Retransmission Fees, and Screwing Customers (AVC) Fred puts one more story into the ongoing narrative of traditional media coming to terms with the Internet.

18 Use Cases That Show Business How to Finally Put Customers First (MarketingProfs) Always a sucker for case studies….

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The Database of Intentions Is Far Larger Than I Thought

By - March 05, 2010

Screen shot 2010-03-05 at 9.01.41 AM.pngWay back in November of 2003, when I was a much younger man and the world had yet to fall head over heels in love with Google, I wrote a post called The Database of Intentions. It was an attempt to explain a one-off reference in an earlier post – but not much earlier, as the “DBoI” post, as I call it, was just the sixty-third post of my then-early blogging career. (This is the 5,142nd, by comparison…)

I had, in fact, been ruminating on this concept for over a year, driven by an Holy Sh*t moment in late 2001 when Google introduced its first ever Zeitgeist round up of trending search terms. Scanning the lists of rising and declining terms, I realized that Google – not to mention every other search engine, ISP, and most likely every government – had in their grasp a datastream that, were they to just pay attention, could quite possibly be the most potent signal of human intentions in the history of the world.

Zeitgeist, it struck me, was proof that Google was indeed paying attention. I went on to write The Search, and Google went on to become, well, Google. My study of Google also led me to start Web 2, with Tim O’Reilly, and Federated Media, which I positioned as a media company that leveraged the impact of The Database of Intentions.

But over the past few years, as I’ve labored in the fields of digital media and marketing – mostly through my work at FM – I’ve come to revise my concept of what The Database of Intentions truly is. In my initial description, I limited the concept to web search and web search alone:

The Database of Intentions is simply this: The aggregate results of every search ever entered, every result list ever tendered, and every path taken as a result.

At the time, that certainly seemed like a big enough idea. No such artifact had ever existed, and its implications were massive. In my 2003 post, I continued:

This information represents, in aggregate form, a place holder for the intentions of humankind – a massive database of desires, needs, wants, and likes that can be discovered, supoenaed, archived, tracked, and exploited to all sorts of ends. Such a beast has never before existed in the history of culture, but is almost guaranteed to grow exponentially from this day forward. This artifact can tell us extraordinary things about who we are and what we want as a culture. And it has the potential to be abused in equally extraordinary fashion.

Search was a pristine signal, an eruption of oxygen in the anoxic ocean of the early web, and an entire ecosystem grew in its bloom. The first implication was already manifest: Google had launched AdWords and AdSense, Overture (later to become Yahoo Search Marketing) was thriving, and a burgeoning paid search ecosystem was in the early stages of becoming a multi-billion commercial expression of the Database of Intention’s power.

But as anyone who’s been reading this site already knows, web search as a pure signal has been attenuating of late – overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of data on the web, for one, and secondly by our own increasingly complicated expectations.

Nature abhors a vacuum, and so does the Internet. In the past year I’ve come to the conclusion that “web search” was just the first of many fields in the Database of Intentions. For those of you who are not database geeks, and to further pad the metaphor, a field in a database is colloquially defined as a specific type of information in that database. Sets of fields are called records, and sets of records make up the database.

My mistake in 2003 was to assume that the entire Database of Intentions was created through our interactions with traditional web search. I no longer believe this to be true. In the past five or so years, we’ve seen “eruptions” of entirely new fields, each of which, I believe, represent equally powerful signals – oxygen flows around which massive ecosystems are already developing. In fact, the interplay of all of these signals (plus future ones) represents no less than the sum of our economic and cultural potential.

By now you’ve probably already guessed what these new signals might be. I’ve made a rudimentary chart, but to narrate:

(NB: i’ve updated the chart here with a field for commerce…)

Fields in the DBoI 3.2010.png

The first signal, of course, was The Query. A query was a declaration of a very particular intent: What I Want from the web. Sure, it has many permutations – navigation, commerce, informational, etc. etc., but in essence, the goal was to find something you wanted. Hence the name search, after all.  

The next signal to emerge is The Social Graph. With this signal we’ve declared not only Who We Are, we’ve also declared Who We Know. Both are powerful intent-driven declarations, and both have deep interplays with search. By manifesting who we are and who we know, we can find and be found by others.

The third signal emerged almost simultaneously with The Social Graph – The Status Update. This is a personal declaration of what we deem important, noteworthy, shareable: What’s on our minds, what’s happening, what’s worthy. Again, a powerful search signal, in particular in real time.

The latest signal is The Check-in – or Where I Am. This is a crowning declaration of intent, in a fashion, because it connects the physical to the virtual, securing the Database of Intentions to the terra firma of the Real World. As with the other three fields, the check-in – which I expect will soon become automatic via our mobile devices – is a vastly powerful signal of intent: “I am here. So what you got for me?”

Taken together (and honestly, there’s really no other way to think about it, to my mind), these signals form a Database of Intentions that is magnitudes of order larger, more complex, and more powerful than my original concept back in 2003. And while the current players in each category are clear, what’s also clear is that the battle is on to control each of these critical signals. Google, if you include its Local services, already plays in all of them, and I expect Microsoft will as well. Facebook may never play in “The Query,” nor will Twitter, but expect both to play in The Check-in, and soon. The newcomers? Well, most of us expect them to be acquired. Then again, that’s what we thought of Google in 2000, and Facebook in 2005. Why should Foursquare in 2010 be any different?

All of this begs a new definition of Search. I’ve often said that Search should not be defined by web search, but rather, by what a search is in the abstract. To my mind, each tweet or status update is a search query of sorts, as is each check-in and even each connection in the social graph. A more catholic definition of search would allow for a reconciliation of all these fields in the Database of Intentions. Regardless, it’s ever more obvious that while “traditional search” is reaching a plateau of sorts, at least in regards to how we understand its potential, when you add the new signals of social, status update, and check-in, we’re still in the very early stages of a distinctly punctuated phase of the Internet’s evolution.

I’m on the lookout for new Signals. I’m quite certain we’re not nearly finished creating them.


NB: As a creator and publisher of media, one very strong conclusion can be drawn from all of this. If you’re not viewing your job to be a curator, clarifier, interpreter, and amplifier of the Database of Intentions, you’re soon going to be out of business. The Database of Intentions is the fuel that drives media platforms, and as I’ve argued elsewhere, every business is now a media business.

NBB: My thanks to the folks at Adobe and Omniture for the forcing mechanism of my keynote earlier this week, where I first organized the thinking above.

Friday Signal: Google Google Google!

By - March 04, 2010

2349s4-marcia_brady_00000138.jpg(image) Today I’m not going to write a piece and then append links. You’ve been giving me a lot of feedback, and you miss my in depth stuff. Honestly, I’m doing a lot more of it – both recently and in the intentional near future. Much of it has been at the top of Signal pieces. But Fridays are different, it’s when I will write the equivalent of a weekly column. I have a piece in me that will come, ideally, after this round up post. Meanwhile, as I perused the news of the last day, I was struck with how much of it involved Google, and the pure breadth that involvement spanned. Behold, Signal, the at-least-half Google edition:

Google Makes A Bid For More Premium Display Dollars With ‘Above The Fold’ Ads (PaidContent) Look, publishers, one chip at a time, Google is doing stuff that means you have to raise your bar. Sell stuff they can’t. If you want tips, email me.

Stars make search more personal (Google Blog) Google is adding a star rating system to its search results. Amazon, anyone? or Twitter?

In three years desktops will be irrelevant – Google sales chief (Silicon Republic) Bill Gates would be spinning in his grave. But he’s not dead yet.

Search your Android phone with written gestures (Google Mobile Blog) Another search innovation from Google.

Google Research head dubs holy PageRank ‘over-hyped’ (The Register) PageRank? Overhyped? NEVER.  

Google To Begin Indexing The Internet In Real-Time? (The Next Web) This story was all over the web Thursday. In short, it’s a new way for Google to get (more) real time signals. But honestly, not a huge deal. I don’t think. Correct me if I’m wrong…

Getting to Know You, You, You, You (MarketingProfs) A recent Nielsen study found that global consumption of social media increased 82 percent from Dec. 2008 to Dec. 2009 in the 10 countries surveyed, with users spending an average of 5.5 hours on their sites of choice per month. Hello!

Adobe On Its Way To Being A Role Model For Interactive Marketers (Forrester) I met with Ann an hour before Shar did. I’m an Ann fan.

Sit. Walk. Slouch. Communicate. Create. Consume. Why the iPad will be a hit (Denuo) Rishad has a good point, and given my rant on the subject, I’m very open to different points of view. He states the iPad will be a hit because “it is about a state of stature and a state of mind, not a state of technology.” Yes, but when I slouch, do I cease being a social, web connected being? I think not. Don’t tell me what I can and can’t do with a digital device, Apple! In particular, if something strikes me, and I want to go from “slouch” to “stand” or “Sit”, well, WTF?

Mobile Users Want Personalized Services (eMarketer) …two-thirds of mobile users around the globe are interested in “smart” services that would feed them information based on personal preferences, location, time of day and social setting. YES.

The New Commandments (Vanity Fair) WTF, Battelle? Look, guys, it’s Friday. Aren’t you paying attention? I always throw an odd one out on Friday. Money quote: Thus we are fully entitled to consider (the Ten Commandments) as a work in progress….What emerges from the first review is this: the Ten Commandments were derived from situational ethics.

Thursday Signal: Google's AdSense Cookie – The Untold Story

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susan.jpgToday in Signal we take a walk down memory lane, of sorts, because sometimes such a journey helps us prepare for what lies in the path ahead.  

Early last week I ran into Susan Wojcicki, VP of Product Management for Google. Now, Susan is more than just another Google VP, she’s also on Google’s operating committee. Oh, and the person in whose garage Google was founded, not to mention Sergey’s sister in law. If Google were a family, Susan would be something of a matriarch.

Susan had just gotten off stage at the annual IAB conference, and I caught up with her as we were both leaving. We got to talking about all things AdSense, and I mentioned a story I had heard recently – without divulging my source, the story went that some at Google believed AdSense had been rolled out too early, before it was ready for primetime.

Now, nothing will provoke the ire of a product person more than a charge such as that, and I’ll admit my own ignorance of this fact even as I spoke. Susan disputed my story, and then responded that if Google was too late on anything, it was putting a cookie into AdSense. “We didn’t do that until late 2008!” she reminded me – and did so only as part of integrating DoubleClick into the Google Content Network. And the company didn’t really commercialize that cookie until March of last year, when it implemented the Ads Preferences Manager, a sets of controls that I noted at the time was industry leading (and I’ve been a pretty harsh critic in this area, as you may recall.)

All this stopped me short. Somehow I missed this story – I just assumed that AdSense dropped a cookie on all of us, and had done so since the service was launched back in 2001. After all, Google has been Keeblering the web for as long as I could remember, as a fair share of critics had already pointed out. I figured AdSense was just integrated into the master Google cookie – one Oreo to rule them all, right?

Wrong. Turns out, there was quite an internal debate within Google about whether adding a cookie to AdSense constituted a breach of consumer privacy. Early on, a decision was taken that it might, and for years, AdSense had no cookie at all. This severely limited AdSense’s ability to create competitive marketing products – putting Google years behind other ad networks in the race to provide behavioral and interest-driven audience segments to its customers. (One could even argue that early decision augured the acquisition of DoubleClick itself, but that’s pure speculation.) I mentioned to Susan that given all the scrutiny it recieves, Google probably doesn’t get enough credit for demonstrating such sensitivity. She concurred.

But the story tugged at me. Here was another historical anecdote about Google, oft the subject of privacy ridicule, once again struggling with a question that, to be honest, just about every other company on the web had already settled (and yes, my company FM also sets cookies.) I then pinged Google PR to get a bit more background. From a spokesperson’s response:

We didn’t launch this service until we had developed the Ads Preferences Manager, which allows users to view and edit the interest categories we use. We also developed browser plug-ins (link) to make the opt-out from the cookie persistent. Today, each week tens of thousands of users visit the Ads Preferences Manager. For every person who decides to opt out, 4 people edit their preferences and 10 do nothing.

Why do I tell this story? Well, for once, I just wanted a record of it somewhere, so I could point to it as I report on other privacy and marketing data related issues. And secondly, as a reminder of what’s at stake as we, as an industry, begin what is certain to be a very long dialog with Washington and others about the role of data in marketing. Google delayed implementing industry standard technology for years because it feared a backlash amongst consumers, a backlash that never came. And it’s important to think about why. To my mind one reason is the Ad Preferences Manager. It’s not perfect, but it’s an important start, one that others (like Facebook) have come to mimic. The more our industry acknowledges that instrumenting consumer controls – what I have called the Data Bill of Rights – is critical to the success of their platforms, the easier our dialog with government will be.

Keep this in mind if you’re a regular reader of this site. Remember the Database of Intentions, my first “meaty” post back in 2003? I’ll be updating it soon, and the issue of rights to that data has never been more important.

Onwards to today’s linkable bits:

Sorrell questions rush to social media (FT via IWantMedia)

Google Responds To Privacy Concerns With Unsettlingly Specific Apology (The Onion) Just kind of funny, in an unfair but to be expected way.

Sony Readies Gadgets to Rival Apple (WSJ) Oh God, please, please Sony. Please do this right. Please make it an open system, not vertically integrated? Pretty please? With sugar on top?

The Internet of Things (McKinsey) Watch this space.

Turn your skin into a touch screen (Conrad Lisco) Watch this and then ask yourself, are we really going to be tapping into iPhones in ten years? Didn’t think so.

Facebook and Twitter Access via Mobile Browser Grows by Triple-Digits in the Past Year (Comscore) More proof of the undeniably obvious link between Mobile and Social (oh and Local and Realtime…yeah, MOLRS, baby.)

3.3.10 – Weds. Signal

By - March 03, 2010

Today will be light, I’m preparing for a talk at the Omniture Summit. Outside my window are majestic peaks capped in snow, it’s hard to be here and not even have time to go outside, much less hit the slopes. But time is precious, so let’s get to the news of the past 24 hours:

Apple Eyes HTC in Latest Patent Lawsuit (Mashable) Unquestionably the biggest news of the past day, and another salvo in the ongoing war for control of the mobile marketplace. Apple v. Google is starting to make Apple v. Microsoft or Microsoft v. Google look like small stakes. Sure, Apple sued HTC, but HTC makes Google’s most popular Android phones. It’s something of a proxy.

Facebook Analytics War Heats Up (ClickZ) Announced here at the Omniture Summit, a deal between Facebook and Omniture to help marketers leverage Facebook’s advertising platform. More also here: Facebook And Omniture Deepen Their Ties For Analytics And Marketing

Live from the Omniture Summit: The New Principles of A Successful CMO (Forrester) Coverage of Ominture chief’s keynote.

How Companies Are Using Your Social Media Data (Mashable) I had dinner last night with someone who makes a practice of paying attention to publicly available data in unique ways, then profiting from it. We are all wise to remember how much data there really is out there, and how many patterns might be found in it if we only ask interesting questions.

Social Capital: The Currency of the Social Economy (Brian Solis) I think adding gaming and social currency to publishing is a Next Big Thing.

3.02.10 Tuesday Signal

By - March 02, 2010

Off to Salt Lake later today for the Omniture Summit. I’ve been spending a fair amount of time studying marketing platforms of one kind or another, and will be spending a lot more time on it in the future. I’ve got a few theories as to where they’re headed, and the role technology plays in the future of marketing. What I find important about tools like Omniture is that they allow marketers to act like true publishers online (among other things of course). More on that in coming Signals. Today, however, is a bevy of shorter items. To wit:

DSPs Stir Up Drama (MediaWeek) Along the lines of my ongoing fascination with platforms. “Demand side platforms” are created by agencies looking to consolidate buying power and add their own value on top. Premium publishers don’t like them much. From the piece: “DSPs, such as VivaKi (Publicis) and Cadreon (IPG), were a hot topic last week at the Interactive Advertising Bureau annual confab in Carlsbad, Calif., with publisher sentiments ranging from wariness to downright paranoia. And conversations with publishers revealed a sentiment that premium sites should opt out of selling this way. Said Brian Quinn, vp/gm, ad sales for the Wall Street Journal Digital Network: “If people want to buy from us, we want them to call us.” On the flip side, many agency execs doubt that publishers can hold such a tough stance as online buying becomes more automated.”

I’m going to go back to Chicago and New York in the coming two weeks to investigate this and form a stronger POV.

Understanding the Participatory News Consumer (Pew) This research sparked a bevy of news items. Everyone read it a bit differently, but the main conclusions: people go to lots of places to get there news, they consume it offline and on, mobile is a growing market, and we are very participatory (37% have contributed in one way or another to a news site). Big news: The Web is bigger than newspapers now for delivering the news.

Google, Microsoft Spar Over Antitrust (WSJ) This drama won’t go away soon.

Foursquare wants to be the mayor of location apps (O’Reilly) Interview with CEO of Foursquare. He’ll be at the CMSummit this June in NYC.

No Lie! Your Facebook Profile Is the Real You (Wired) Money quote: “Facebook is so true to life, Back claims, that encountering a person there for the first time generally results in a more accurate personality appraisal than meeting face to face, going by the results of previous studies.”

Human Culture, an Evolutionary Force (NYT) I’ve always believed this, and with the Internet, I believe this process is speeding up. This is why I write about the intersection of tech, culture, media.

Striving to Map the Shape-Shifting Net (NYT) Do you know what a yottabyte is? You will.

Marketing Budgets Spiral Toward Social (eMarketer) Spiral?!

4A’s Roundup: Yahoo’s Bartz Talks Data; Huffington Beyond The Paywall (PaidContent)

Adobe Opens Up About Apple, HTML5 and Flash [VIDEO] (Mashable)

3.1.10 – The Signal

By - March 01, 2010

Consider this the *early* Monday Signal, as I’m already deep in writing this morning, then off to staff meetings the rest of the day. So these are notes from my weekend readings, for the most part. Besides a rant on the iPad that I wrote in something of a hurry (and elicited a very strong response, I’ll admit), here’s what I found interesting, and why:

Redrawing the Route to Online Privacy (NYT) If you are in marketing, you should read this. From it: “….the next round of online privacy regulation needs to proceed carefully, policy experts warn. They say that online data collection and analysis is an economic imperative, and that the Internet industry of the future will involve adding value to the free flow of information — much of it created by individuals and their browsing activity.” And if you’re not sure privacy is a big deal, please also read The Eternal Value of Privacy (Bruce Schneier) As I’ve said before, I don’t think we as a society have had a full throated conversation about this topic, and we’re heading into a potential privacy pileup that could retard all of our growth – the marketing industry’s certainly, but also the breadth and depth of services that the web can deliver to us overall. This will get far more complicated before it resolves.

The synaptic fluid of social business (Anne McCrossan – Visceral Business) Two weeks, old, but worth a read. Inspired by a debate about private communities, but I like this post for the last paragraph: “Old business models are yielding fewer returns. Generative listening is an antidote to the velocity of today’s overloaded information flows. The action potential contained within committed, visceral and trustworthy human relationships, that’s at the heart of the social connections, has never been more important. It’s the synaptic fluid of social business.”

A special report on managing information (The Economist) The stories are listed on the right, halfway down the page. Many good ones here, including Information is changing business and How internet companies profit from online data.

Tapping The Entire Online Peer Influence Pyramid (Forrester) Describes “the Peer Influence Pyramid, which describes and shares recommendations about three types of online influencers: Social Broadcasters, Mass Influencers and Potential Influencers.”

The 10 Social Media Metrics Your Company Should Monitor (SocialTimes) A bit obvious, but then again, sometimes obvious is ignored.

The Raging Septuagenarian (New York) Fascinating profile of Murdoch and his battles with the NYT, Google, and his own family.

Small Biz Doubles Social Media Adoption (eMarketer) And it’ll double again soon.

The 4As (American Association of Advertising Agencies) has its annual conference in SF this week. Welcome folks!