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The Conversation Economy, Sketches

By - September 23, 2008

Adobe Dmwnld

Thanks to Adobe, who sponsored this work, I pulled together some sketches for the book I keep talking about. It’s blog posts from Searchblog, a talk I gave at Cisco, work I’ve done for the Amex Open Forum blog (which just won a Mixx award!), with Powerpoint and video. A nice package, in fact, and I’m proud to say it all happened thanks to a sponsor. Check it out here (download will initiate). Thanks, Adobe!

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Texting Is Stupid

By - September 20, 2008

Texting On M1082022(image)

After seeing the clearly obvious story about texting being a bad thing to do while driving (er, no sh*t), I just had to write that headline. Sorry. I text with the best of them. I love the concept and efficiency of short messaging.

But the interface is deeply stupid. I see these commercials from carriers extolling speed texting, and think to myself – “We’ve already invented an incredibly efficient way to get thoughts from our brains to others – it’s called speech.”

Why I can’t simply say to my phone: “Text Michelle” and the phone gets ready to send a note to Michelle. Then I say “Mich I’d rather hit Left Bank than Ambrosia for din love you bye” and the damn text goes to Michelle?

Say Michelle is driving. Her phone buzzes with a text. She’s driving, so she says to no one in particular “Listen text”. There’s my voice! Is this too complicated to make happen? Please. It’s not. The problem is there’s simply no culture of product development and entrepreneurial thinking in Carrier World. And Carrier World, alas, still rules here in the US.

Of course there are times when you want to use your thumbs, say, when you’re in a dull meeting and want to text on the sly. But the fact that you can’t text with your mouth is simply unacceptable. I think it’s going to change, and soon.

Google's Perfect Ad: Missing the Marketing

By - September 17, 2008

I missed this blog post last week from one of Google’s most senior VPs of Product, Susan Wojcicki. Titled “Ad Perfect” it starts:

Google’s advertising business was founded on the core principle that advertising should deliver the right information to the right person at the right time. This is very similar to our mission in search, and, like our colleagues in search, those of us on the ads team are constantly striving to achieve better results. We have hundreds of thousands of advertisers who collectively have millions of products and services, and out of that vast amount of information our goal is always to show people the best ads, the ones that are the most relevant, timely, and useful (and, from the advertiser perspective, measurable). Achieving this ideal has been difficult since the early days of ads, but now, with the Internet, it is within reach.

Then comes the nut graph:

What does it take to do this? We need to understand exactly what people are looking for, then give them exactly the information they want.

Well…sort of. Perhaps that’s the formula for the perfect “ad” – but the perfect ad is, by definition, imperfect. Advertising without marketing is, well, just a call to action. Only with marketing, a practice that I think is perhaps a bit underestimated at algorithmically driven companies like Google, can companies make any advertising they might do truly valuable. One tenet of marketing FM lives by is this: Add value to the customer’s experience. Sometimes you can do that by matching customer intent with a database of ads. But other times you can’t – you have to understand your customer in ways that are resistant to algorithms.

More on this as I write my next piece for the Amex Blog….

Click to Get Your Searchblog Discount: CM Summit Returns to San Francisco

By - September 09, 2008

Cmssf08

Last Fall we took a big step at FM and launched our own conference series focused on the media business, in particular, the marketing piece of the media business. Called The Conversational Marketing Summit (CM Summit for short), our inaugural event was a hit – though it didn’t sell out till the very last minute, leaving me a bit terrified no one would show up.

But given the speakers – Kevin Rose, Sarah Fay, Steve Hayden, The Ninjas, Suzie Reider and tons more – I should have known it’d be fine. We then repeated the event in New York this past June, and that was really a blast – we were joined by the CMO of GE, CEO of Ning, CEO of Hulu, and tons of case studies. And that one sold out early.

Now I’m proud to announce our line up for our second Fall conference, and offer SearchBlog readers a hefty discount to book. Here’s a selected list of our speakers:

* Jay Adelson, CEO, Digg.com

* Miles Beckett, CEO, EQAL (that’s the lonelygirl15 folks)

* John Byrne, Executive Editor, BusinessWeek

* Bill Capodanno, Director, Central Marketing, Microsoft

* Justin Curtis, VP Creative Director, Grey SF

* Laura Desmond, CEO, Starcom MediaVest Group, The Americas (brand client list to die for)

* Mark Dowley, Partner, Endeavor (if you don’t know these master agents, you should)

* Rick Farman, Principal, Superfly Presents (think Bonnaroo, OutsideLands, CrowdFire….)

* Jeff Flemings, SVP/Renaissance Planning, VivaKi (think GM and a lot more...)

* Gian Fulgoni, Chairman, comScore (let’s get serious about measurement, shall we?!)

* Porter Gale, VP of Marketing, Virgin America

* Seth Goldstein, CEO, socialmedia.com

* Scott Heiferman, CEO, Meetup

* Mark Rolston, Chief Creative Officer, frog design

* David Rosenblatt, Vice President, Google (the CEO of Doubleclick prior to the merger)

* Marc Ruxin, SVP, Director of Digital Strategy & Innovation, McCann WorldGroup

* Dan Scheinman, SVP & General Manager, Media Solutions Group, Cisco

* Deborah Schultz, Strategic Advisor, Social Media and Emerging Technologies (working with P&G)

Gggateclub * Michael Theodore, VP of Member Services,Interactive Advertising Bureau

* Joseph Turow, Associate Dean for Graduate Studies, Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania (he’ll be debating Michael, above, on privacy and advertising policy)

And we’re still adding speakers. Now to the discount. Regular price for the event, which runs two full days at the lovely Golden Gate Club in SF (at left), is $1095. But I’ve got a code just for Searchblog readers that will get you $400 off. All you have to do to get this pricing is CLICK HERE.

It’s only good till Sept. 15th, so as they say on late night TV, act now!! See you in October!

The Web IS an OS. Get Over It.

By - September 07, 2008

There is always a backlash against anyone calling anything the Web OS, mainly because, as folks point out quite accurately, the term “operating system” technically applies to the stack on top of PC hardware that interfaces between that hardware and a user’s intentions.

Here’s an example of what I mean – A Web OS? Are You Dense? In this story, the author, who I don’t know but I certainly do respect, gives Arrington a ton of shit for “not knowing anything about computers.” Well, color me dense because, yes, in fact, there is a Web OS, and it will be built on top of the Windows/Mac/PC OS, and that’s just fine with me, because I could care less about technical purist theories of what an OS is. I don’t care if it’s built on top of Windows, which is a “classic OS”. In fact, Windows, as I recall, was built on top of DOS for most of its career, so what does that make Windows? Not an OS? And DOS was built on top of some arcane machine language, I am sure. And we can keep dancing on the head of definitional pins, but to me….

To me, operating systems are computer-mediated realities that help us get stuff done. And to my mind, that makes Chrome an OS. A system that lets me operate sh*t. End of story.

New Post at Amex Blog: Marketing as Product Development

By - August 30, 2008

This latest post is some sketching for a longer riff I’m eager to dig into. I love the fact that I can do sketch out loud thanks to American Express. Here’s the first few grafs:

Over the past several posts I’ve been talking about the role of search, conversation, and media in your business. While not explicit, each of these posts was about one thing: Marketing.

Marketing is one of the most misunderstood practices in business today. For most of us, marketing is about convincing potential customers that our product or service is worth their money. And while that’s certainly party true, it never struck me as the whole narrative.

Where does marketing really begin? As management guru Peter Drucker stated it, “Marketing is the whole business seen from the customer’s point of view.” Put another way, every single interaction the customer has with your business can and should be seen as marketing.

I’ve argued elsewhere than a truly successful business is one that is an ongoing conversation. Those conversations are marketing – if you add value and connect to your customer, you’re succeeding. If you don’t, you fail.

It’s easy to know if you’re succeeding while having those conversations – we’re all pretty good at sensing when customers are happy as we directly interact with them. But we often forget a crucial ongoing conversation that usually occurs beyond our personal presence: The conversation between the customer and our products.

I Know, I Know. But This Post *Is* About Search and Google, So All Is Well At SearchBlog

By - August 26, 2008

I hear you all. What is Battelle on about, all this music stuff, all this non search stuff? I am sorry, but you have to trust me, it’s going somewhere. I’m following a hunch, of a sorts.

Today some bankers from Piper Jaffrey came by, and they asked me the same question I was asked by two or three reporters who were writing pieces on Google’s 10th anniversary. (When is it, anyway? I am sure it’s this year, depending on how you count…).

Anyway, the question is this: So what’s next? What might unseat Google?

I find the question interesting, mainly for its lack of historical perspective. The answer, I think, is pretty damn easy.

No company will unseat Google (though ultimately, one company will get credit).

Culture will. Unquestionably, inevitably, Google will be surpassed by a cultural shift it will be incapable of exploiting. And that will be OK.

Why am I so certain of this? Well, history, for one. And my own experience, for the other.

Allow me to explain.

It’s my theory that world-changing companies occur when one and only one thing happens: Our culture shifts its relationship to technology. It’s a complex set of parameters that allow for such a shift, but it’s happened three times in my professional life:

1. IBM and DOS. This is when computers became accessible to determined early adopters, and a democratized culture of digital information storage and retrieval began.

2. Microsoft and Windows. As much as I’d like to give this to Steve and the Mac OS, the winner was Gates and Windows. This is when we went from speaking the arcane language of computerese (.exe? .bat?) to the language of “hunt and poke” via a visual interface. A major step forward in how culture relates to information, and therefore, to itself.

3. Google and search. As I have argued many times, search is our latest interface to information, and it’s one based on natural language, albeit typed words, rather than spoken.

So, what might be #4?

Isn’t that the hundred billion dollar question?

I have (my own) pretty clear answer to that. Happy to tell you. But I have to write the post I promised here first. Damn. I really miss having the time to write….

Updated: Exclusive: A Look at Google Ad Planner Data Vs. Comscore

By - August 14, 2008

When Google Ad Planner came out back in June, I immediately thought of Comscore – and I was not alone. Many in the marketing industry thought that Google’s product would be a “Comscore killer,” and when I noted as much in my coverage, Gian Fulgoni, Comscore’s chair, shot back in a comment to my post:

Hi John: Before celebrating the availability of these products from Google, I think it would be prudent for web site operators to compare their site traffic numbers as obtained from their server logs (or Google Analytics for that matter) with the unique visitor numbers that Google is now publishing through Google Trends and Ad Planner. I think they will be astonished at how much lower Google now says their traffic is.

I asked Gian to elaborate, and published the resulting interview here.

But until now, we’ve not had the data to back Gian’s claim. I asked him if he could provide it, and to his credit, he did. The story it tells is certainly not what one might expect. (Of course, the data is from Comscore, so it must be taken as such, but remember, Comscore is a public company that stakes its reputation and its market value on data, so my gut tells me that Gian is not trying to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes.)

A bit of background: Anyone paying attention has noticed that publishers, by and large, believe Comscore’s panel-based measurement system grossly underestimates traffic and unique visitors. As a publisher myself (FM represents more than 160 middle to large sized sites, including this one), I’ve been one of the most visible such complainants. And that list is not short. In fact, Comscore and Nielsen are both working with the Interactive Advertising Bureau (I am a board member) on an audit of their practices to verify their methodologies. (Comscore notes that it believes the issue of cookie deletion can cause significant inflation in unique visitors, for more see this release.)

Given this, the world expected that Google, with its unparalleled access to web-wide data, would validate publishers’ concerns and show that Comscore’s numbers were significantly under-reporting reality.

Turns out, the reverse is true. Gian provided me data comparing Google Ad Planner and ComScore data in two cases. First, for a large sample of 20,163 sites, his shop compared reporting on monthly uniques between the two services. Secondly, Gian pulled out 5,398 sites that are part of the Google Adsense ad network, and ran the same comparison.

The results are pasted in these two charts (provided to me by Comscore):

Comscore-Google Uv Graph 2

Google-Delivered Ads Graph

What to make of the numbers? First off, it’s quite interesting to see that Comscore measures, on average, a significantly higher number of uniques across all types of sites. Comscore’s numbers are three to three and a half times higher, according to Comscore.

Secondly, for sites that are using Google’s Adsense network, the undercounting is not as dramatic (that’s the second chart.). As Comscore’s charts note, there seems to be a “significant bias in Google Ad Planner data” toward “sites that carry more ad impressions from Google.”

In short: If you were a media planner using Google Ad Planner, and you were looking for larger sites, you would be led to sites that are running Google AdSense, on average, over sites that do not. Net net: This data indicates that Google Ad Planner pushes ad dollars to Google sites over non-Google sites. This makes sense – Google has data on Google users, after all. So that data might naturally bias toward Google-related sites.

But as I said in my coverage: “Such a tool must be neutral and not bias advertisers toward buying on Google properties or those that have Google ads, which of course is going to be a perceived bias in any case. Such is the price of being Very Big.”

So far, not so good on this measure. As Gian and Comscore have long pointed out to me, it takes more than raw data to make for good measurement. Ideally, you weight your data with a lot more knowledge of its context – what kind of machine is creating it (work or home? Man or woman? etc.). While Google once blended Comscore demographic data into its ad network, Comscore confirmed to me that this is no longer the case. And while it is subject to endless criticism, Comscore does have a lot more practice at this game than does Google. At least for now.

This data once again raises the question, long asked, of how Google is measuring in the first place. Most believe Google must be leaning heavily on its Toolbar data (see TC for more here and Danny here), and this data does nothing to counter that argument. The strong bias toward Google network sites is suspicious – one can imagine that folks who might install the Google toolbar are clearly already biased toward visiting Google-related sites, for example.

But Google will not acknowledge any use of the Toolbar. Instead it said in its announcement: “Google Ad Planner combines information from a variety of sources, such as aggregated Google search data, opt-in anonymous Google Analytics data, opt-in external consumer panel data, and other third-party market research.”

As I pointed out earlier, I don’t think such coyness can stand. I’ve pinged folks at Google to get a response on this, and as soon as I do, I’ll update this post.

UPDATE: Google has provided a statement to me:

We take the objectivity of Google Ad Planner very seriously in providing advertisers and publishers with a better understanding into online audiences. While we don’t comment specifically on our data collection methods, Google Ad Planner in no way treats AdSense sites differently than non-AdSense sites.