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Carol Bartz at Web 2: Everybody Is Sticking Everybody Else In The Eye

By - October 22, 2010

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(image) Continuing my journey through the highlights of our forthcoming Web 2 Summit (here’s my initial take on Eric Schmidt), today I ask for your help in interviewing Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz. I am particularly pleased Bartz is coming, first because she’s very good in conversation (and yes, often salty), and second because she fell ill the day I was to talk with her last year on stage, and we all missed the chance to hear her then.

However, much has changed since then, although Yahoo shareholders might argue not enough – in particular, not Yahoo’s down-to-sideways stock price (for a comparison to Google’s yearlong performance, see this chart). Those arguments have fostered serious chatter that Bartz might once again miss her Web 2 date – and this time not due to illness.

Well, I predict she’ll show, and she’ll have plenty to say. When we last spoke, we discussed the Web 2 theme, and she summarized it this way: “Everybody is sticking everybody else in the eye.” I won’t take it as my job to instigate her famous sailor’s mouth, but I sense it may go off on its own. After all, we do have a few things to talk about that might make a gal want to cuss. Here are a few of the issues we’ll discuss. Please add your thoughts in comments….

– Any public response to the current rumors of a private equity led buyout of Yahoo, perhaps with an AOL twist? I can’t imagine Bartz will have anything to say about this, but we’ve gotta ask.

– The never ending question: What is Yahoo? Bartz and I spoke about this on the phone a month or so ago, and you may be surprised by her answer. There’s been some seesawing in Yahoo’s definition of itself – from a technology driven company to a media company – how does Yahoo bring the two together? Again, there’s an interesting story here as it relates to content.

– Talent. A lot of folks have left (and yes, many have come). Why? Why would a talented engineer want to go to Yahoo instead of, say, Facebook or a startup?

– Yahoo’s approach to social. The new Yahoo Connect seems directed at Facebook, yet deep integration of Facebook is one of Yahoo’s core strategies.

– Yahoo’s new approach to product and infrastructure (I’ve written about this here). There’s an interesting story to hear, and Carol tells it well.

– The Microsoft search deal. Now mostly integrated, will it/is it bearing fruit.

– Her view of Apple. This should be quite entertaining. As should her take on Google, which she told me “has to grow at least a Yahoo a year…”

– The advertising platform business. Yahoo is deep in it, competing in a trench war with Google and Microsoft. How does Yahoo differentiate?

– The concept of “content with a soul” and her response to the content-farm allegations around Associated Content.

– Local: Always a focus at Yahoo, what’s next?

Please give me your thoughts on what to as Carol in the comments. Thanks!

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The Points of Control Map: Now an Acquisition Game – Check It Out

By - October 13, 2010

Screen shot 2010-10-13 at 7.52.40 PM.pngAs you know, part of visualizing the them for this year’s Web 2 Summit included a map I dreamt up with a crew of possibly inebriated fellow travelers. I’ve been really pleased with the response to the maps’ first iteration – we’re closing in on nearly 100K unique visitors who have spent nearly six minutes each playing with the maps various features, which include two levels of detail, threaded location-specific commenting, and a cool visualization of key Internet players’ moves into competitive territories.

But when I brainstormed the map, I always wanted one feature that was a bit difficult to execute: Acquisition Mode. In the Internet Economy, there are there those who acquire, and those who dream of being acquired. This has always been so, but in the past few years it’s been less so. My sense is that is about to change.

To that end, we’ve added a layer to the map that allows anyone to suggest an acquisition, anywhere on the map – and it also allows us to vote for those ideas. My goal is a heat map of acquisitions, a collective intelligence layer, if you will, over the chess moves companies small and large are making in the battle to control key areas across the map.

So if you think it’s a good idea for Twitter to acquire, say, Foursquare, well, suggest it. And see who might vote for it. If you run a startup, hell, tell us who you want to be acquired by – and if you think you’re the acquirer, so much the better. Tell us that as well.

So far, folks think Amazon should acquire Netflix, Facebook should acquire Zynga, and eBay should acquire Yelp, among many others. Check it out, and suggest your own.

I love the web.

Currency

By - September 21, 2010

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I’m very proud of a new platform launched today by American Express: Currency. Sometimes when a brand embraces the concept of truly being a publisher, they align with strong voices around the web, underwriting existing properties and helping them create new sections or services. But every once in a while, a brand realizes that its marketing goals align with a very real need in the marketplace, one that for whatever reason hasn’t been addressed. That’s how Currency came to be.

Yes, Currency is an ongoing FM partnership, just as Open Forum is, but this one is a bit different – it’s for young adults just starting to grapple with financial issues (I wish it existed when I got out of college), and it’s got a lot of social media chops, including a game (called Social Currency natch) built on top of Foursquare that helps you track purchases. It also features tons of coursework to help folks get smart on important money matters, and everything – from reading an article to completing a course to checking into purchases – earns you Currency points.

Now, I know my demo here at Searchblog, and let’s face it, most of you are a bit older, wiser, and richer than Currency’s core constituency. But I also know you’re interested in all things web and media, so check it out, and let me know what you think.

CM Summit Sizzle Reel

By - July 23, 2010

I’m proud of the team that put the CM Summit together, and this reel. Well done folks!

Last Few Signals…

By - June 30, 2010

….for those of you reading Searchblog in RSS and not watching ze Tweets….here are the Signals that I do over at FM’s site.

Weds. Signal: It’s a Good Day to Read The News

Tuesday Signal: Location, Location, Location

Monday Signal: Welcome to Summer, Now Get to Work

You can sign up to get the Signal email, a daily roundup of what I’m reading and why, on the main page of Signal here (box in the right hand corner).  

A Slow Week Or So

By - June 14, 2010

I’ll be traveling this next ten or so days, both for work and vacation, and not posting much here. However, I want readers to know I’ve read all the comments on my last Apple post, and plan a pretty detailed response once I come back. Thanks for reading and I’ll see you in these pages soon.

CM Summit: Help Me Interview Amex CMO John Hayes

By - June 04, 2010

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The CM Summit kicks off next week on Monday morning with an interview of John Hayes, CMO for American Express. I’ve come to know John through my work at Federated, and I am certain this session will be lively and full of insights.  

American Express is one of the world’s premiere brands, consistently ranked in the top 25 by marketing and business publications. Hayes has overseen the brand for 15 years, or put another way, since the Netscape IPO and through the rise of Google, Facebook, and Twitter. I’m looking forward to our conversation Monday. Here are a few topics I plan to cover:

– Hayes has said “the chief challenge for brands today isn’t customer awareness; it’s customer engagement.” What does he mean by that?

– Has the American Express brand changed in the past ten years? How?

– How has the rise of digital changed American Express’ approach to marketing? What mistakes does he see brands making in the context of digital?

– How does Hayes keep American Express “in the conversation” when that conversation is increasingly dominated by online chatter, as opposed to popular culture tent pole events like sports and cultural events?

– The past two years have been particularly challenging for financial services brands. But Amex seems to have come out pretty well. Why? And what has American Express learned in the past two years?

– American Express purchased Revolution Money late last year. Why?

– Along the same lines, how has the rise of online payment – Facebook Credits, Google Checkout, PayPal – challenged or spurred American Express?

– American Express has launched a number of new online services for card members. How do they play into the brand promise?   

Open Forum has been a major success – winning awards, growing traffic. Why? What has American Express learned from that program?

– Stepping back, what do you make of the economy right now? What are your card members telling you, in aggregate, through their purchases?

– What do you expect from your agency relationships? What lessons might you impart about how to work best with agency?

– Publishers and content creators are in the midst of a major disruption. What are you looking for from your publishing and content partners?

So what do you want to hear from John Hayes?

And don’t forget to add your comments for Dick Costolo, Hilary Schneider, Arianna Huffington, Tony Hsieh, Tim Armstrong, Omar Hamoui, and Arthur Sulzberger, Jr. See you in NYC, or online!

CM Summit: Help Me Interview Dick Costolo

By - May 28, 2010

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I’ve come to know Dick Costolo, COO at Twitter, pretty well in the past year, though I’ve known him for much longer. FM and his previous company, Feedburner, had a deal in the early days of RSS, and I’ve always liked his point of view on our industry. Feedburner was acquired by Google, and Dick spent a short year or so there before moving on to Twitter.  

Since he joined, Twitter has rolled out a ton of new features, (mostly) fixed its platform stability issues, launched a beta trial of its advertising platform (Promoted Tweets), and managed to grow a few orders of magnitude to over 100 million uniques.

I interviewed Dick at Twitter’s Chirp conference last month, and I look forward to doing it again at the CM Summit week after next. What would you like to hear from him? Leave me your thoughts in the comments, thanks!

Update: And don’t forget to add your comments for Hilary Schneider, Arianna Huffington, Tony Hsieh, Tim Armstrong, Omar Hamoui, and Arthur Sulzberger, Jr.

Five Years In One Place, An Appreciation

By - May 25, 2010

federated-media-logo.jpgFive years and about two months ago, I wrote a blog post announcing the creation of Federated Media Publishing. I will admit I was scratching an itch, not certain that it would work out. In that post I hedged a my bet – mainly because I was still smarting from the loss of my previous business – The Industry Standard – and I was not certain that I (or the world) was really ready for me to run a company again.  

In short, I said that if the company succeeded, I might not stick around – after all, The Standard succeeded, and I stuck around, and that didn’t quite work out…well you can see where the psychology is going. This time, I remember telling myself, I’ll pull a Costanza and go out when I’m still ahead.

Well, that didn’t happen.

So as to not bury the lead too deeply, today marks my five-year anniversary as an employee of Federated Media Publishing, Inc. Apparently it was five years ago today that I signed some legal paperwork that officially made me an employee. At the time, I owned 100% of FM’s voting shares, and to this day, I am still the largest shareholder. That was a very intentional move on my part, and one that has served me – and I daresay FM – very well over the past five years.

By the Fall of 2005 I had assembled a team, an extraordinary group, some of whom are still with us, some of whom, after four years or so, have moved on. To my mind that is also a great accomplishment – the original team stayed for a very long time, at least in the life of a startup, and together we built a company that will endure. I’m proud of that, and of them, and of where we are today. Indulge me some pride, but the story of FM isn’t often told, and while I won’t take much more of your time here telling it, it’s certainly worth hearing should you be interested. (I’m happy to stretch this into a few hours, but the bourbon is on you).

I’m particularly proud that the core idea driving FM has not changed – thanks to search and social, media models have shifted, and a new approach was needed that understood the “conversational web.” FM set out to be a media company native to the social web, and five years in, I think we’ve succeeded.

But that’s not to say FM hasn’t changed. A few stats:

– FM had under half a million dollars in revenue in 2005. Five years later, we’re in the high eight figures of revenue. I’d love to brag about our current growth rate, but I think that’d be, well, bragging.

– FM launched with one segment – technology – and about ten blogs. We reached a few million uniques a month, and had roughly 25 million pageviews. Today, FM reaches 36 million uniques in four major segments (tech, business, lifestyle, and the real time web), and that’s just in the US (we’re past 70mm globally). We stopped counting pageviews when they eclipsed a billion. We’re the fourth largest pure play social media company on the web, behind Facebook, Blogger, and Myspace.

– FM has been a pioneer in bringing integrated, scaleable brand marketing to social media, first with blogs (2005), and then Digg (2006), the Facebook platform (2007), live events (Crowdfire 2008), Twitter (2009) and now location services like Foursquare (2010). Our partners, executions and programs have won countless awards, but we’re most proud of the tens of millions of dollars of revenue we’ve driven into the emerging world of independent content and platform creators online.

– The brilliant folks who invested in FM back in 2005 (including the New York Times, Omidyar Network, and various angels) have seen their investment increase twenty-fold, based on the valuation of FM in our last round (I’d argue we’re worth a lot more than that, but let’s stick with what’s on paper for now). Perhaps to their consternation, we have so far refused to sell the company, so they’ll have to be content with looking good on paper for the time being. And since that initial investment, we’ve brought in tens of millions of dollars through some extraordinary partners, and we’ve spent almost none of it. In fact, we’re now on track to add to our cash holdings year over year. I’m quite proud of that feat.

– FM was EBIDTA profitable for 2009, and so far this year, FM has turned a net income, with the best still ahead of us.

– Earlier this year, we established a new division focused on bringing the skills of publishers to marketers across digital platforms. This promises to be a very large and very scaled business. We also invested heavily in our technology platform, and while I won’t give away all that we are working on, it’s a very exciting platform indeed. In short, there’s nothing like it in market. I never thought, five years ago, we’d become a player in technology and data as well as in media, but then again, that’s the beauty of a startup.

– Perhaps most significantly, FM has evolved into a troop of 130 or so dedicated employees, led by an amazing President, who we hired this past Fall. And my work has changed, so much so that I can’t really imagine a better job than the one I have right now. I spend most of my time with partners – either media or platform and publishing, and in between I’m allowed to think a bit out loud, and work on my writing. I haven’t really changed my work hours, but I most certainly have changed what I work on.

And this, to me, is probably my greatest career accomplishment to date. I’ve never worked anywhere for five years – not Wired, where I lasted four years and change, or The Standard, where I almost made it to four. But somehow, as I enter year six at FM, I find myself energized, engaged, and thrilled to be here.

I think it’s because, way back in 2005, I made a promise to myself that I’d leave if I ever felt that I was in the way, or if I was consistently unhappy in my work.

I’ll admit, I’ve flirted with both of those demons over the past few years. And who knows, I may well again. But right now, sitting in a hotel lobby writing to you as I prepare for four meetings with clients in Atlanta, I just feel lucky.

Thanks, everyone – to our publishing partners, our clients, our investors and our employees, as well as all of you, who’ve read my thoughts here and cheered me on, criticized me, or both. I hope to make you all proud in the next five years of this journey.

Help Me Interview Hilary Schneider, EVP Yahoo!

By - May 24, 2010

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The CM Summit is now just two weeks away, and already I’ve asked for your input on five major voices in digital media and marketing: Arianna Huffington, Tony Hsieh, Tim Armstrong, Omar Hamoui, and Arthur Sulzberger, Jr.Next up is Hilary Schneider, EVP Americas, Yahoo! Hilary is a crucial member of CEO Carol Bartz’s team, running Yahoo’s largest and most public business in the US, among others.

Yahoo has not had an easy time of it these past few years, and Hilary has been there for the whole of the ride, including the frenetic, off again on again negotiations over possible acquisition by Microsoft, the subsequent search deal, the shift from Semel to Yang to Bartz, and more.

Yahoo has recently declared its position as “the world’s largest media company” and seems intent, with acquisitions like Associated Content, on pushing even deeper into that world. So what’s up with Yahoo, and where might it be headed? I’d love your input. Here are a few questions I plan to ask, please add your own in comments:

– Why Associated Content, and why now? How will Yahoo differentiate from Demand (CRO Joanne Bradford will be at the conference) and AOL (CEO Tim Armstrong will be as well)?

– Overall, how has Yahoo’s content strategy shifted from your first year there (2006)?

– How is the Microsoft search deal going? What’s different now, what is the same?

– What do you make of Facebook’s recent moves (Open Graph, etc) and how deeply will Yahoo be integrating these services?

– You recently cut a big deal with Nokia. Why? What’s coming from that? Does Yahoo have a mobile strategy per se?

– What can marketers get from Yahoo that sets it apart, besides massive scale?

There are certainly more things to ask about. But I’ll ask you guys to help me with that. What do you want to hear from Hilary?