I’m proud of the team that put the CM Summit together, and this reel. Well done folks!
I’m proud of the team that put the CM Summit together, and this reel. Well done folks!
….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.
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).
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.
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?
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!
Five 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.
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?
If you’re coming to the CM Summit in a few weeks, or if you’re just curious about the lineup and content (which is sure to drive quite a conversation in the world of marketing), you should download the CM Summit mobile app. The app provides access to speaker, attendee, agenda, and sponsor information as well as twitter and news feeds. I’ve used it in beta and it’s pretty darn slick. Check it out! (Cross posted from FM blog).
As I do every three Signals or so, here are the links for you RSS readers out there. And for all you readers trying to decipher what I’m on about, there are hints all over these roundups. Not that you’re paying attention that closely, but still, the threads are there.
Next on the hit list is Omar Hamoui, CEO of AdMob, the mobile marketing company Google recently acquired for $750 million. That acquisition hasn’t gone as smoothly as Google would like – it’s still under FTC review, though a decision is expected any day now. Apple Inc. also bid for AdMob, but lost, and purchased competitor Quattro Wireless instead. Apple has since integrated Quattro and launched iAds, but Google has had to sit on the sidelines and wait.
What Omar can and can’t discuss will be somewhat impacted by the FTC rulings, but regardless, he can speak to the broader market, and certainly comment on Apple’s recent moves. To that end, questions I’ll be asking include:
- What do you make of Apple’s iAds? Anything really new there? How does AdMob respond?
- Do you think Apple will create a closed network?
- What formats can you imagine coming to mobile devices beyond what we’ve seen so far?
- You just re- launched AdWhirl – what’s the play there? What other ad products are in the works?
- What’s happening with location based services and mobile marketing? How long until this is at scale? Will you be able to use Apple based data, or will that be closed to third party networks?
- What do you make of HP’s entry into the market?
- You move your desk every six weeks or so. Why?
There’s far more to talk about, but I want your input. What do you think I should ask Omar?