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Demand Media Files To Go Public, First Impressions from the S-1

By - August 06, 2010

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It’s the dog days of August, and a Friday to boot, and I certainly didn’t expect this to land in my mail box this morning: The Demand Media Inc. S1. But I had set an alert for the company – and several others like LinkedIn and Facebook – because I consider Demand to be one of the most important digital media companies to “take the next step” in several years.

The information revealed in the filing explains why. While Demand has been at the center of a months-long debate around whether or not “content farming” is a defensible practice, the facts are the facts: This model is working, and not just in a one-dimensional fashion.

The question remains if Demand will be seen by investors as more than a secondary search arbitrage play – it is dependent on Google for a large portion of its revenues, at least for now. But CEO Richard Rosenblatt, who for the record I count as a friend and colleague (he shares an investor, Oak, with my company FM), has steered the company higher up the content food chain – creating and purchasing brands such as eHow, Livestrong.com, and others, and fostering content partnerships with respected brands like USA Today and Hearst.

Revenue for 2009 was nearly $200 million, and seems on track to grow past $250mm or more this year. I’ll have more on the company during the weekend, once I’ve had time to really grok the filings.

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Publishers, Marketers, and the Gap Scenario

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mindthegap.pngA while back I wrote a post titled “The Gap Scenario.” In it I outlined one (of many) scenarios that I imagined would become pretty commonplace as location based services, search, and social merged into a retail setting.

Today’s news (Business Insider) that publisher Daily Candy has created an Android app that sends users articles when they are near “current local happenings” such as designer sales, spas, and concerts got me thinking about this scenario once again.

The app monitors where you might be in the background, then matches content, and one must assume, eventually, offers. It works only in New York for now, but more cities are expected.

As I laid out in my original post (and my 2005 book), location aware services are not yet a cultural habit, in particular ambient ones. But it won’t be long before we assume that our public presence is, in effect, a search, one for which we will expect a response from any number of potential respondents.

What I find interesting is that the first innovators in this space are publishers, for the most part, rather than marketers. I’m not certain that this will stand. As many of you know from reading my thoughts here, I’m convinced that all marketers are now publishers, and the best ones will figure out how to add value in the context of ambient location aware scenarios. Platforms (like Google, Twitter, Facebook, Yelp) will be key mediators, but I’m not sure what we understand to be traditional publishers (like Daily Candy) can hold this ground. We’ll see….

The Week In Signal

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Folks, you have every right to be upset with me this week, my writing simply ceased, I was on vacation, at least in terms of creating longer form posts. However, Signal did not take the week off, and here are the week’s offerings:

Friday Signal: Let’s Do Launch

Thursday Signal: Highest Order Bit

Weds. Signal: What’s our Policy?

Tuesday Signal: Dog Days

Friday Signal: Vacation Ahoy!

Thanks for reading. I promise to be back soon.

Signal Update

By - July 28, 2010

201007281034.jpgEvery day I spend an hour or two curating a set of links that I find provocative, useful, or important, adding a few lines of commentary to boot. It’s called Signal, and you can consume it in three ways – as an email newsletter (sign up on the Signal Home Page in the upper right hand corner), in your RSS reader, or on the web.

For those of you who like to click on links, here are the last three Signals for your enjoyment:

Weds Signal: Get Out There And Be Counted!

Tuesday Signal: Control, Alter, Delete

Monday Signal: Summertime, and The Linkin’ Is Easy…

Thanks for reading…and I hope my August semi-break, coming soon, will allow me to write longer pieces here with more frequency. I’ve been hard at work on some Web 2 Summit projects, expect more on that late next month.

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!

What Means This, To "Go Google"!?

By - July 21, 2010

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I thought it meant to search! Apparently, in this context, it means “to drop Microsoft Office and use our software!”

I almost feel like a relic pointing out the obvious, but when I got my latest paper-based Fortune magazine (yes, I do subscribe to a few still), I found the image at left on the back cover.

Long ago, while writing the book, I predicted that Google, long proud of the fact it never had to market its brand, would have to start marketing like a “normal” company. Why? Because while search “markets itself”, applications like Picasa won’t.

And so it has been, and so it continues. In January of this year, when my attention turns to predictions, I said that Google will have to decide to promise more as a brand than “search.” In May, I pointed out that this concept was progressing.

Not that big a deal, I suppose, given that the years have come and gone, and we’ve turned our attention to other Internet meteors like Facebook, Twitter, and Foursquare. Except…I still find it significant that the king of the Web has purchased the back page of an analog magazine. If for no other reason that this entry in the database of intentions – this blog post – may be discovered by some anthropologist in centuries yet to come, as proof of some point yet unmade.

Or something.

Still and all, I am fascinated by what it means that Google, the verb that means “to search”, is being used by Google, the company, to mean something entirely different.

What Would You Ask Fred Wilson?

By - July 20, 2010

bio_fred.jpgTomorrow I will be at the Geo Loco conference in SF, interviewing Fred Wilson, partner at Union Square Ventures, investor in Twitter, Zynga, Etsy, Tumblr, Foursquare, and many others, and general good guy.

Fred is great on stage, and we have a lot to talk about, given our mutual interests. But as I was preparing for the discussion, I pinged Fred and asked if he thought it’d be a good idea if I asked all of you for input. Of course he said yes.

So, what do you want to hear from Fred? What should I ask him?

The Facebook App Economy: Revival Time?

By - July 19, 2010

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Who remembers the utter gold rush that was the Facebook Platform back in 2007, back when everyone, and honestly, really, EVERYONE, in the industry was busy answering the question “What’s Your Facebook Platform strategy?”

Well I sure do. At FM, we had meetings to address this question, meetings driven by me, by my staff and my senior executives, and of course, by our investors, who were asking the same question of every portfolio company they had. (And…do you believe…when Facebook launched Platform, it only had 20mm users?!)

Fortunately, our “Facebook strategy” was to not drop everything and start developing apps for the new environment. Despite the extraordinary hype, we took a measured approach, working with a few clear winners (like Graffiti), and waiting to see how it might all play out.

Fast forward a few years, and it’s clear that a very small set of important companies have managed to lever the original Facebook Platform into real value – Zynga, Slide come to mind – but I’m not certain the amount of energy put into the Platform ever netted out a gross ROI for all who threw themselves into the race.

Now, three months after all the Open Graph announcements at this year’s f8, I find myself wondering – where are all the web-based Facebook applications and services? It seems to me that Facebook has won, big time, in terms of getting folks to adopt “Likes.” But where are the developers and the awesome new ideas? Am I missing something? Is Facebook going to go toe to toe with Google, Apple, and Microsoft for the hearts and wallets of the developer?

From what I can tell, Facebook’s privacy tempest has delayed the formation of what I expected to be another goldrush. And no, I’m not talking about publishers who have incorporated “Likes”. I’m talking about entirely new or re-formulated web and mobile services that leverage unique data feeds from Facebook so as to bring entirely new value into the world. We’ve seen a fair amount of this from the Twitter ecosystem (though still and all, not as much as we might see soon). In the case of Facebook, however, I expected that by now we’d have seen a bunch of super cool services. But so far, none.

Again, am I missing something? What are you planning to do with the Facebook APIs? And what do you wish you could do, but so far, can’t, despite the announcements at f8 last April?

(Image above is from the Web 2 Summit, where Mark Zuckerberg will again grace the stage and converse with me).