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The Swan Song of Mich Matthews, Outgoing Chief of Marketing at Microsoft

By - May 27, 2011

mich-matthews-microsoft-marketing-head.jpgAfter a 22-year career helming communications and later all of central marketing for Microsoft – she counts her budgets with a “b”, folks – Mich Matthews, who I admit I’ve grown fond of, is leaving Microsoft later this summer.

For years I’ve asked Mich to sit down with me and endure one of my trademark grillings, and for years she’s demurred, in the main because she believes that the CMO should not be a front person. “You’re an onstage guy,” she told me when we last spoke. “I’m the person pulling the ropes backstage.”

Well, maybe because she’s leaving, and maybe because she’s exploring what comes next (she honestly doesn’t know, but has an inkling), Mich has finally agreed to speak her mind on stage, and if our prep conversation earlier this week was any indication, it’s going to be one hell of a swan song.

Mich opens Day Two of the sixth annual CM Summit in NY just 10 short days from now. And she’ll have some serious stories to tell.

For example, it was Mich in the wings as her boss Bill Gates arrogantly defied the US Justice Department in a disastrous videotaped antitrust deposition in the late 1990s. Not very many people saw that video – but imagine, as Mich certainly has, if that video had gone viral on YouTube. “Thank God YouTube didn’t exist,” Mich told me. Today’s leaders in key areas – search and social, for example – are headed for equally fateful outcomes if they don’t heed the lessons of how the USS Microsoft foundered on the shoals of government policy.

Mich, who in private has always been extraordinarily candid, is ready for her next chapter. When I asked how she felt, she told me “Like I just got a degree in awesome from the University of Awesomeness.” It’s not that working at Microsoft was terrible, but rather that after putting in more than two decades, she had earned the right to look at the world from a new perspective.

It will be that point of view I”ll be asking about first, and then we’ll get into some history, as well as some prognostications about the industry in general. Lest we forget, this is the woman responsible for taking Bing and marketing it to a more than 100% share increase in less than two years. The person responsible for fighting off Google in office apps, Apple in mobile, Sony and Nintendo in gaming, Oracle and scores of others in Enterprise, and, and, and…She’s got war stories, and she’s got lessons learned.

In fact, I’m thinking about giving her opening session more time, as I know we’ll run out of it too soon.

Oh, and PS – Register today before we sell out. It’s getting close!

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Special thanks to our sponsors: Blackberry, AT&T, Google, Quantcast, Demand Media, Facebook, Outbrain, Pandora, Pixazza, R2integrated, Slideshare, Yahoo!, AOL, American Express OPEN, Balloon, BriefLogic, Evidon, Marketing Evolution/Telmar, Mobile Roadie, Spiceworks, and Ustream. And a shout out to our partners at IAB, Mashable, paidContent, ReadWriteWeb, SMAC, and TechZulu.

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Taking Twitter to the Next Level: President of Global Revenue Adam Bain

By - May 25, 2011

adam-bain.jpgTwitter. It’s our favorite conundrum here in Internet Media Land, isn’t it? On the one hand it’s changing the world and growing like crazy, with more than 200 million users who generate 155 million tweets a day. The services handles tens of billions of search queries a month, putting it on scale with some of the most elite platforms in the world. However, only a fraction of its users are also active creators of content; most are readers and followers – and that’s where Twitter can be confusing*. If Twitter is to truly scale, it needs to become a more compelling media experience. Further, Twitter’s initial foray into advertising products, its “Promoted Suite” of services, are garnering some mixed reviews, mainly for a lack of scale, though the company tells me it engages with 600+ advertisers who have run 6,000+ campaigns to date.

The company is openly self critical of its shortcomings, and knows it has work to do to make its service less opaque and more valuable to both marketers and users (not to mention developers, who have been scratching their collective heads of late, wondering how best to create value in the Twitter ecosystem). In March the company welcomed co-founder Jack Dorsey back into an active product role, and just this week it acquired TweetDeck, a respected third-party developer which had created a custom interface for advanced Twitter consumers.

And perhaps no question has dogged the company more than this one: When and how can Twitter make money? The issue is further freighted by staggering valuations in the private secondary market, which have wrapped a multi-billion dollar valuation albatross around Twitter’s still slender neck. The successful IPO of industry bretheren LinkedIn and Yandex, and the expected success of Pandora only heighten expectations for the young company.

Perhaps, given all this, Twitter doesn’t need to be profitable to have a successful initial public offering, but it certainly has to show numbers that prove the company is on its way. The man responsible for that job, Adam Bain, will be sitting down with me on day one of the sixth annual CM Summit in two short weeks.

Early revenue estimates are encouraging – eMarketer estimates $45 million in 2010, and more than triple that this year. But it’s expensive to maintain the infrastructure – and staff – needed to keep Twitter running. At least Bain has experience in both. He came to Twitter from Fox Interactive, where, among many other things, he helped lead the acquisition of MySpace and build out a scaled revenue platform across all of Fox’s online properties.

So it’s fair to say we’ll be having a robust conversation at the Summit. I’ll be asking about all this and more, and I’d love your input as well. If you have a question you’d like me to ask Adam, leave a comment here or join the conversation on the #CMSummit hashtag. See you in New York!

Oh, and PS – Register today before we sell out. It’s getting close!

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*I’ll be writing a longer post on this soon, for one take, check VentureBeat.

Special thanks to our sponsors: Blackberry, AT&T, Google, Quantcast, Demand Media, Facebook, Outbrain, Pandora, Pixazza, R2integrated, Slideshare, Yahoo!, AOL, American Express OPEN, Balloon, BriefLogic, Evidon, Marketing Evolution/Telmar, Mobile Roadie, Spiceworks, and Ustream. And a shout out to our partners at IAB, Mashable, paidContent, ReadWriteWeb, SMAC, and TechZulu.

On the Future of Media: Starcom MediaVest Group CEO Laura Desmond

By - May 24, 2011

ThDesmond_PREFERRED_1.jpge sixth annual CM Summit is just two weeks away, and that means I’m knee deep in prep: thinking about the major themes driving our industry, and in particular, those driving media and marketing.

This is why I’m so pleased that our opening conversation will be with Laura Desmond, the CEO of Starcom MediaVest Group, one of the largest buyers of media in the world. SMG recently made news by winning Microsoft’s lucrative business in the US, and counts P&G, Walmart, Coca Cola, and GM amongst its all star roster of clients.

In short, Desmond has a front row seat to the changes happening in media and marketing today, and from the notes I took in our prep call earlier this week, our onstage conversation should be compelling. Some of the topics we’ll be covering:

- The “consumerization of IT.” As technology becomes integrated into all of our lives, large business to business marketers like Microsoft and Oracle are contending with changing demands of their customers in the workplace. Conversely, the large consumer packaged goods companies like P&G must become IT companies, as consumers demand they respond as nimbly as the Amazons, Googles, and Netflixs of the world.

- Brands as publishers. This is the theme I’ve been writing and preaching about since the founding of Federated Media in 2005, but it’s taken center stage with major marketers this year, according to Desmond. Brands need to become curators, filters, and providers of consumer experiences, she argues, and they need to work in new ways with traditional publishers to get there.

- The shift of media budgets from television to digital. This is the elephant in the room everyone can see, but no one can shoot. While the big five digital platforms command nearly 80% of digital budgets, the truth is, television brand dollars still rule the roost. Why? Desmond has some answers, and expect to hear a call for the end of “market mix modeling,” a practice which began in the 1950s and has barely changed since.

- The role of demand side platforms, real time bidding, third party data, and exchanges in today’s evolving market, an issue which dominated the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s annual meeting and conference earlier this year.

There’s a world of issues to cover off in our opening conversation, and with more than 30 speakers from GM, Visa, Sony, Google, Facebook, Twitter, and more joining us on stage across one and a half days, our goal is to give CM Summit attendees a high-level look at the business of marketing, in a rapid-fire conference that will keep folks on the edge of their seats.

Register today before we sell out. And if you have a question you’d like me to ask Laura, leave a comment here or join the conversation on the #CMSummit hashtag. See you in New York!

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Special thanks to our sponsors: Blackberry, AT&T, Google, Quantcast, Demand Media, Facebook, Outbrain, Pandora, Pixazza, R2integrated, Slideshare, Yahoo!, AOL, American Express OPEN, Balloon, BriefLogic, Evidon, Marketing Evolution/Telmar, Mobile Roadie, Spiceworks, and Ustream. And a shout out to our partners at IAB, Mashable, paidContent.org, ReadWriteWeb, SMAC, and TechZulu.

The Past Week In Signal, 5.23 Edition

By - May 23, 2011

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Another seven days, another news cycle full of chewy goodness. For you 316K or so RSS readers, here’s what I do from about 8-10pm each evening, over on the FM blog:

Monday Signal: Mind Your Private Bits, Folks, It’s Getting Hot

Friday Signal: LinkedIn Steps Out

Thursday Signal: Policy Takes Center Stage, and It’s Not Going Away

Weds. Signal: I Speak for the TVs!

Tuesday Signal: A Rare Slow Day, Enjoy It

Monday Signal: WTF!!!

If it suits your information consumption goals, sign up for Signal’s email newsletter or RSS feed on the FM home page (upper right box).

There Are No More "Dot Coms"

By - May 19, 2011

Screen shot 2011-05-19 at 7.48.53 PM.png

At least, there shouldn’t be. We’ve passed that era. Any business of scale and worthy of going public, as LinkedIn did today in spectacular style, isn’t a dotcom. It’s a real business, with significant impact in several important markets. In LinkedIn’s case, those markets include publishing, recruitment, and professional services. So what if they are leveraged over a digital platform that has a “.com” address? At this point, that’s pretty much the entire US economy, not to mention a significant percentage of the “rest of the world.”

I’m tired of the easy comparisons to the dotcom bubble. They simply aren’t accurate.

What Makes Your Business Special?

By - May 17, 2011

BigBreak.pngAs I’ve told folks on Twitter, I’m a judge in American Express OPEN’s “Big Break” program, a Facebook promotion that is offering five worthy small businesses a chance to fly to Facebook HQ and get a complete “business makeover,” as well as $20,000 in cash.

As someone who has started five or so small businesses, I know the power of a helping hand at the right time, heck, I know the power of just organizing oneself to enter a contest like this. Just doing the work of communicating why your business is worthy of support from someone else is an exercise that can yield benefits all on its own.

And every one of us knows a small business that we love and want to support, I know about ten, in fact. I’ve been telling them about this program, and encouraging them to sign up. I hope you will do the same.

But time is running out. The deadline to enter is this Friday, May 20th.

Entry is fairly straightforward and simple – a three part questionnaire, a photo upload portion, and contact information. The entry questions are listed below:

“Tell us about your business. What makes you excited to come to work every day?”

“How do you envision Facebook impacting your business?”

“How could a Big Break help your business and your customers?”

25-30 semifinalists will be narrowed down to 10 finalists, followed by 5 community-chosen winners. The prize is as follows:

• 10 finalists, as determined by judging, will:

• Be filmed and have a video created by American Express for use in community vote

• Receive $2,500 in Facebook ad credits

• 5 winners, as determined by community voting, will each receive:

• A trip to Facebook headquarters for a two-day Facebook business makeover

• $20K to grow their business

• Opportunity to appear in OPEN Facebook webisodes

As most of you know, American Express OPEN Forum is jointly produced by my company, FM, but I’m promoting this program because I believe in it. So if you run a small business, or know and love someone who does, encourage them to apply!

Initial Web 2 Summit Lineup Announced

By - May 11, 2011

Today we announced the first tranche of speakers for this year’s Web 2 Summit conference, Oct. 17-19 at the Palace Hotel. It’s a great group, but we’re really only getting started. I’m mixing up the programming approach quite a bit this year, with no panels and a lot more short, impactful High Order Bits and data visualizations. Right now we have 26 or so speakers confirmed, but I expect we’ll be at nearly three times that by the time we’re done. The program is going to be BANG BANG BANG, not that it dragged in the past….

One new thing I’ll be doing as well is forming an advisory board. More on that soon, but my goal is to gather input on the program from a diverse set of voices. This is something I did way back when we started in 2004, it felt right to do it again.

You’ll notice the lineup has a fair share of the industry heavyweights you might expect me to interview (Steve Ballmer, Dick Costolo, Steven Elop, Michael Dell, etc), as well as some names that perhaps you have not heard of (Intel anthropologist Genevieve Bell, “The Information” author James Gleick, etc.). In the coming months, I’ll be announcing new additions pretty frequently, mainly through Twitter, so if you want to stay on top of them, follow me or the Web 2 Summit handle.

Below are the speakers in visual form.

Registration is open, if you want to come, now’s the time, as you get a far better price. We’ve sold out registration every year since 2004.The link at left includes the discount, which lasts, if I recall, only for a short time. Hope to see you there!

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Facebook to Take Lead in Display on Web? Hold On…

By - May 10, 2011

Today a big story broke across my news feeds: “Facebook set for display ad lead” says one typical headline in the Financial Times. It continues:

Facebook’s large user base will make it the world’s largest online display advertising company by revenue this year, overtaking the comparable businesses of Google and Yahoo, according to analysis published on Tuesday. Enders Analysis, based in London, in a report on Tuesday, forecasts that Facebook will lift its advertising revenues from $1.8bn to $3.5bn in 2011, a rise of 95 per cent. At the same time, Google’s display business – which includes YouTube, the video site, and DoubleClick, its banner network – is expected to rise from $2bn last year to $2.6bn this year …

The comparison makes for great headlines, but I don’t really think it’s apples to apples. First of all, it excludes all of Google’s search advertising, which has been evolving quite rapidly towards a more “display” like look and feel. And secondly, it’s rather hard to tell the difference between Google search ads and Facebook “display” ads. After all, this is what Facebook display ads look like:

Fbook display.png

And this is what Google “search” ads look like:

Google search .png

Further confusing the analysis, this is what Google “search” ads look like when they include an image, which you can do now if you want:

Google search w image.png

Now that looks an awful lot like a typical Facebook display ad, doesn’t it?

I am quite sure if you did the analysis against creative as opposed to categorizing “search” as distinct from “display,” the headlines about “Facebook taking over from Google” would surely disappear.


Why Data Matters, Another Interesting Signal: Direction Requests

By - May 09, 2011

GMaps Directions.png

Greg Linden, a friend to the site back when I was writing the first book, is writing more lately, and he’s got a great post about Google Maps data that highlights why we’ve decided to focus on “The Data Frame” for the Web 2 Summit this year.

Greg notes that Google has a new signal to which it can pay attention, thanks to Google Maps. And while I’m sure Greg could have figured this out on his own, he didn’t have to, because some Googlers have already published their findings in a paper titled “Hyper-Local, Direction-Based Ranking of Places.”

In short, the paper posits that when people signal their intent to go from place A to place B, they are creating the equivalent of a link, or a vote, for the place to which they are requesting directions. Pretty clever. As Greg notes:

…certain very large search engines have massive logs of people asking for directions from A to B, hundreds of millions of people and billions of A to B queries. And, it appears this data may be as or more useful than user reviews of businesses and maybe GPS trails for local search ranking, recommending nearby places, and perhaps local and personalized deals and advertising.

What Greg (and I) found surprising is that Google hasn’t been leveraging this new data signal in its current Maps (and other local) products. It’s clearly a strong signal, and one that could inform all sorts of social context as well. Can you imagine finding out others who have asked for similar directions, and then connecting you to them in some way? I sure can.

I’d also love to see a heat map of directions in real time, overlaid in time, space, and social graph.

Data like this mashed up with reviews, real time traffic, and more will be extraordinarily useful. Food for thought.