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Web 2 Conversations: Jerry Yang

By - October 22, 2008


Gang, I’m interviewing Jerry Yang in two weeks at Web 2. You all have read the news this past year. It may seem obvious what to ask him, but help me out: what do you think I should ask him? I rely on your comments!

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That Said…Web 2 Conversations, Mark Zuckerberg

By - October 20, 2008


I am interviewing a lot of interesting folks starting two or so weeks from now at Web 2, Chris DeWolfe, Edgar Bronfman, Larry Brilliant, Lance Armstrong, Paul Otellini, Jack Klues, Michael Pollan, Elon Musk, Shai Agassi, and many more.

But I thought I’d start by asking you all this one question: Mark Zuckerberg is coming back (check the video of our interview here). What should I ask him this time? I have a lot of thoughts, but thought I’d start by asking you all….

The Final CM Conversation: Gian Fulgoni, Founder, Comscore

By - October 14, 2008

Speaker Fulgoni

Last up in my crowdsourcing of CM Summit conversations is Gian Fulgoni, Founder and Chair of Comscore, the controversial and defacto measurement service for the Internet.

Gian is no stranger to these pages, I’ve interviewed him recently here; posted about his company here, and here. Comscore is the company “everyone loves to hate,” according to a recent Fortune piece.

My own view of the company has become more nuanced in the past year or so. I am on the board of the IAB, and Comscore, along with rival Neilsen, have agreed to undergo an MRC audit to address, once and for all (we hope), the discrepancies between their panel based measurement systems and what publishers see in their own logs. Fulgoni has been vocal in his defense of Comscore’s weighted approach, which he says takes into consideration factors that internal logs don’t – in particular multiple IP addresses and cookie deletion. Sound boring? It’s not, if you care about the future of the entire marketing ecosystem.

My questions for Gian include:

- Explain cookie deletion and multiple IPs – why are your estimates of web traffic so much lower than ours?

- What do you make of the upstarts looking to overtake your business – Quantcast and Compete?

- Google AdPlanner?

- How does one measure rich and streaming media?

- What about more complicated stuff like CM?

So what do you want to ask Fulgoni?

Other CM conversants, still eager to hear your questions (the conference starts Weds. morning):

David Rosenblatt (CEO DoubleClick, now at Google)

Laura Desmond (CEO Starcom)

Joel Hyatt (CEO Current)

Evan Williams (co-founder Twitter)

CM Conversations: Evan Williams

By - October 13, 2008

Evan Williams2 Next up in the star lineup of conversants at the CM Summit this week is Evan Williams, the co-founder of Blogger, which Google acquired in 2003, and current co-founder of Twitter, which I’ve written about recently (TweetSense, anyone?).

Evan’s knack for conversational social media applications is obvious, but as Twitter settles into its place as a Web 2 favorite (and punching bag), one key question does remain – what’s the business model? How might Twitter work with marketers? With Blogger, Google saw a model – AdSense (and data, of course). Will lightening strike twice?

Rather than list additional questions here, I thought I’d just open this one up, knowing that Searchblog readers have *a lot* to ask Evan. So…have at it!

Other CM conversants, still eager to hear your questions (the conference starts Weds. morning):

David Rosenblatt (CEO DoubleClick, now at Google)

Laura Desmond (CEO Starcom)

Joel Hyatt (CEO Current)

Last to come (will post later today or Tuesday): Gian Fulgoni, founder Comscore.

CM Conversations: Joel Hyatt

By - October 12, 2008

Joel Hyatt

Continuing my crowdsourcing of questions for one-on-one conversations at this week’s CM Summit is Joel Hyatt, CEO of Current. Founded in 2005, Current is “the only 24/7 cable and satellite television network and Internet site produced and programmed in collaboration with its audience.” The company has grown to nearly $64 million in revenues (2007) but has yet to hit profits, early this year it filed a public offering ($100 mm in proceeds), which has not completed due, one presumes, to market conditions. Still and all, a cable channel that counts more than 50mm potential viewers is a serious asset, and, its online presence, is a vibrant community as well. It doesn’t hurt that the company courts a difficult to reach demographic – young, educated adults.

Current has been at the center of a lot of innovation in media, a recent example is “Hack the Debate“, a partnership with Twitter (co-founder Evan Williams will also be speaking at the CM Summit).

Current is an ambitious project, backed by serious players, including Al Gore, who serves as Chairman. Hyatt, who runs the company day to day, also serves on the board of HP and the Brookings Institute, and has been quite involved in politics, serving as National Finance Chair for the Democratic Party in 2000. Previous to Current, he co-founded and led Hyatt Legal Services, which provided low-cost services to middle and lower-income families.

So what would you want to hear from Joel in a fireside chat? My questions include:

- Current has a pretty new model (for television, certainly) but still a lot of its value is in the TV play. Are you still held hostage to that? Will the online portion of Current ever be bigger than the television piece?

- How is the economy impacting sales, both offline and on?

- Clearly this is not a time to go public. What are the financing options for a large media play like Current in this environment?

- Tell us more about the deal with Twitter? What does it portend?

- What’s broken with how we get our news? If you ran a major news outlet (IE CBS News), what would you do differently?

- What have you learned working with marketers at Current? Give us some examples of innovation that might spark discussion?

- I can’t let Joel get off stage without getting his take on the election, given the timing….

What would you ask Joel?


David Rosenblatt

Laura Desmond

That Google/Wikipedia Post – Finally

By - October 10, 2008

Remember a couple months back when I promised you guys I’d post on this?

Well, thanks to a deal with LookSmart, I finally got a chance to write it. It’s over here. From it:

But here’s the rub: There’s a critical difference between curation based on algorithm (Google News) and curation based on human insight (Digg or Wikipedia) – and that difference can be summed up in one word: Voice. In short, sites that allow people to be part of the curation process have voice, and sites that are driven by algorithm, don’t.

No matter how hard we try, we can’t come up with an algorithm that creates a truly human voice. Sure, we can mimic it, but until we solve the Turing Test, the only computer that can create a human voice is, well, a human. And when you put lots of humans together, and give them all a chance to express their voices, you get community-driven media.

Now, how does this all relate to Google Maps and Wikipedia?

In my earlier post, I said “Google Maps isn’t very good.” That was kind of a cheap shot, because in fact the application is great – if what you need is a Map. But the promise of Google Maps goes well beyond looking at a map – currently you can get driving and walking directions, find businesses nearby, calculate traffic delays, and the like. But it’s the promise of what might be layered on top of that where things get really interesting.

On Speech Based Interfaces to Search – and Beyond

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This stuff is going to get real, soon. From Google’s latest Technology Roundtable Series:

[This] video, “Applications of Human Language Technology,” is a discussion of our enormous progress in large-scale automated translation of languages and speech recognition. Both of these technology domains are coming of age with capabilities that will truly impact what we expect of computers on a day-to-day basis. I discuss these technologies with human language technology experts Franz Josef Och, an expert in the automated translation of languages, and Mike Cohen, an expert in speech processing.

BTW, isn’t it funny how so many VP level people (note the guy introducing the piece) at Google says “Google” exactly the way Larry and Sergey say it, and not at all the way most of the rest of us say it? There’s this funny, compressed, geeky inflection on the “ooooo” sound.

CM Conversations: David Rosenblatt

By - October 07, 2008

Speaker Rosenblatt Second up in my series of crowdsourcing the CM Summit conversations (first up was Laura Desmond) is David Rosenblatt, former CEO of Doubleclick, now a VP at Google. David is something of a DoubleClick lifer, having joined the company in 1997 and rising from tech lead to CEO of a company valued at more than $3 billion when sold to Google in 2007.

Readers of Searchblog will recall the industry charlie horse that the DBLCK deal caused – Microsoft lobbied mightily against it, US and European governments took their time approving it, everyone else went on a drunken ad network buying spree, and one could argue that the deal set the painful decline of Yahoo in motion – here was Google, taking square aim at Yahoo’s one remaining stronghold – display advertising.

It’s been so long since the deal was announced – a year and a half – it’s easy to forget it didn’t really get final approval till March of this year. The integration, in other words, is still in its first six months, and Rosenblatt took a portion of this summer off before rolling up his sleeves and getting back to work.

I’ve spoken to David several times since the deal closed, and like Laura, find him both candid and real – he knows Google’s strengths, and he recognizes the company’s weaknesses when it comes to the brand side of marketing – where DoubleClick has done the lion’s share of its business. So I’ll be particularly interested in his take on where Google might take its fledgling efforts in non-algorithmic media.

(To register for the CM Summit – nearly 350 already have – please head here).

My questions for David include:

- With YouTube and DoubleClick, Google’s spent $5-6 billion to get into the branded display business. Yet 98% of its revenue is in AdWords/Sense. How will that bet pay off inside a corporate culture obsessed with scale and algorithms?

- Google made its brand on not owning and operating media sites. But with YouTube, Knol, Gmail, and now apps, that seems to be changing. What does that portend for branded media plays in the future?

- What is his view of Yahoo and other competitors – Microsoft, AOL?

- The Yahoo/Google deal – does it have a display element? Will it clear the antitrust hurdle?

- Many in the advertising/marketing community call Google “frenemy” (Sorrell). What do you make of this reputation?

- Display is now about a $1bb business inside Google – in other words, very small. Where will Google be in terms of share of display revenue in five years? How will it grow?

- How will DoubleClick as we know it now change and be integrated with other Google products – analytics, apps, AdWords….and how will you deal with the issues of data privacy and transparency?

- Are you seeing the effects of the economy yet?

These are the first questions from the top of my mind. What are yours?

CM Conversation: Laura Desmond, CEO Starcom MediaVest Group

By - October 02, 2008

Speaker Desmond FM’s third CM Summit is just two weeks away (register here), and as I have in the past (and will with other speakers as well as folks I’ll interview at Web 2), I turn to the collective intelligence of Searchblog readers to help me prepare. I’ll be having conversations with Evan Williams (co-founder Twitter), Gian Fulgoni (founder Comscore), David Rosenblatt (CEO DoubleClick, now at Google) and many others.

But first up in terms of thinking out loud here is Laura Desmond, Chief Executive Officer, Starcom MediaVest Group, a unit of the Publicis Groupe. For those of you who might not follow the world of marketing too closely, SMG is one of the largest and most influential marketing services companies on the planet, its clients include Kraft, Allstate, Kellogg’s, Walt Disney, GM, Coca Cola, Proctor & Gamble, RIM (Blackberry), and on and on. The company collectively controls billions of dollars of marketing spend, including a significant chunk of the monies that fuel the Internet Economy.

In other words, Laura is one Very Important Person in the world of the web, even if you’ve never heard of her.

Given what I do for a living, I’ve come to know Laura and find her extremely candid and refreshingly absent the marketing-speak that sometimes creeps into top executives’ vocabulary. GIven the economy, it’s an extraordinary time to have a conversation. Here are some of the topics I plan to cover:

- SMG’s clients represent a comprehensive sampling of the largest marketers in the US and global economy. Given the economic crisis, what are they saying to you now about their plans for spending? Are they going to continue to shift to digital, or are they going to pause or move spend to places where they’ve lived in the past (IE TV, print)?

- CPG (consumer packaged goods) brands are just starting to lean into digital. What have they learned, and how far do they have to go before they view online as central to their plans, if ever?

- How has the digital world changed how agencies within SMG do their work? (This in light of my writings on CPG vs. Conversational Media, here).

- Lastly, I’ve asked Laura to bring examples of work done by SMG agencies. I’m looking forward to the show and tell.

But here’s where you can help: What else should I be asking Laura? Chime in in the comments!


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Prmote Twitter

I think the business model at Twitter is going to be really, really interesting, and I think it’s going to leverage search, but search as a proxy for data and pattern recognition. We get an inkling of it at Election 2008, Twitter’s mashup of Tweets relating to the election, but there’s a lot more to think through. First off, Twitter is using its real estate to promote its deal with Current, which is a first, from what I can tell. The “ads” are on the right, right below each users’ profile. I remember covering every new pixel as the Google homepage caved to promotional reality, it’s interesting to watch it happen at Twitter, too, which I think has a lot of similarities to Google in terms of potential models.

Also worth watching is the hash function, where you can tag any topic (IE #redsox, as Churbuck pointed out). This function is not likely to catch on with my mother (I can’t imagine her adding hashes to her tweets, much less tweeting…yet), but what it enables certainly could. The problem is, when you create a site to pull hashed stuff out into a stream the result is often less than useful (as Churbuck noted in his post).

This is where the role of curation and editors is paramount. Voice, as Fred pointed out. There is voice in editing, voice in curation. And voice adds value. And where value is added, marketers can play, both on Twitter (imagine a, with auto advertisers on the right rail and at the top, perhaps using contextual TweetSense – yes, it’s owned, by…), and off (think about a feed of contextual Tweets and TweetSense next to conversational sites like Digg and, well, millions of others, as well as sites created simply from Twitter feeds on popular hashes…).

Just a (half) thought….

PS – why isn’t, where you can see hash streams, even promoted on the home page of Twitter? Am I missing something, as I usually do?