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Help Me Interview Hilary Schneider, EVP Yahoo!

By - May 24, 2010


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?

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68% of 85% is really 57.8%

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Google today announced that it gives publishers 68% of its take for AdSense advertisements, eliminating one of the longest guessing games in our industry. Everyone knew that AOL, Ask, and other large partners pre-negotiated their deals, but no one knew what “typical” AdSense players made. Now we do, apparently.

This 68% split is relatively new. How do I know that? Well, as recently as two years ago, sources I know to be extremely reliable were actively negotiating with Google to get a 65% cut – less than what was announced today. So….you do the math.

Also, what many don’t realize is that Google takes a 15% “serving” fee off the top, before splitting revenues with publishers. So if you do the math, 68% of 85% is really 57.8% – not nearly as generous as first it seemed.

UPDATE: Google disputes this, sending me this note: “For online publishers, the 68% revenue share is not new – it’s been that figure for all online publishers since AdSense for content was launched in 2003.

And there is no 15% serving, or any other, fee for those online publishers. “
I’m quite certain there was such a fee. I’ll look into this after a day of meetings.

Update: The 15% fee, also known as a “AFC Deduction”, was commonly used (and still is as far as I know) for negotiated contracts with larger publishers. Google maintains it was never used for those who signed up directly on the Google website.

The ROI of iAds – A Lot of Unanswered Questions

By - May 21, 2010

IAd Demo.png

Early last week I wrote a long-ish piece on the iAd – in which I both criticized and praised Apple for “re-gifting” a mobile ad format that already existed. Since then I’ve spoke with Apple’s head of corporate communications, as well as several other potential clients and agencies. I didn’t learn a lot from Apple, but I did get some context for this next installment.

Apple’s genius has always been in seeing the value of something that already exists, and taking that value to a new level (the Mac, after all, was inspired by Xerox’s work. And the iPhone? Anyone remember the Treo?).

But while we can be relatively certain that the iAd will be a quality experience, the great unknown remains return on investment: Will buying iAds be worth the price? As I write, marketers are evaluating Apple’s pitch and trying to determine if it’s worth the rather steep initial price of entry. Many have already jumped in. But others are still questioning the investment.

My conclusion? If you’re an ROI driven marketer that craves certainty and are relatively risk averse, stay away. There are more unknowns than knowns in this program, at least for now. We will know a lot more in two weeks, when Apple convenes its developers’ conference, but by then, it’ll be too late to join the launch party.

However, if you’re already a savvy mobile marketer who likes to spend into innovation, or if you have inclinations that lead you to purchase a Superbowl ad, then the iAd is quite possibly tailor made for you.

Here’s what we do know about the iAd:

* Apple is in market selling iAd launch packages for $1mm or more, depending on exclusivity terms. However, several clients I spoke with claim to have gotten into the launch for the “low hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

* Apple will charge one cent per impression (a $10 CPM) and $2 per click. These charges will back into the minimums described above for the launch program.

* The iAd unit is a banner which brings a user into a rich media webview. This is not a new format, but given the iAd is exclusively this format and will be identified to consumers as an iAd, it does claim the high ground.

* At launch, Apple will execute all creative, with client oversight and approval. This will change over time.

Assuming a 1% clickthrough rate (which is a reasonable expectation, given the iAd’s relative novelty and industry standards which can range as high as 2%), the iAd will drive a “cost per engagement” of $3 – two bucks for the click, and one buck for the 100 impressions, one of which drives that click. That’s a $50 CPM, comparable to what high end premium publishers charge on the web or in television.

So is that engagement worth $3? Depends on what you do with it, of course. Compared to search, where cost per clicks range from five cents to $25 or more, it’s all relative to what you are trying to accomplish with the attention you’ve just paid to capture. Of course, with search, the market is mature and lead conversion is a science. A search click can convert directly to a sale, and often does. So is an iAd worth the same?

We’ll get to that. But first…let’s talk about what we don’tknow about the iAd.

Here’s that list:

* The exact data Apple is using to target. Sources tell me Apple has told them many things about which iTunes store data is used in its “targeted special sauce,” but the consensus is that Apple is using the list of apps a person has downloaded to create cohorts – IE, folks who download business applications, or lifestyle (Food, Shelter, Health and Beauty, etc.).

* Whether and how Apple consumers have been made aware of that data use. Privacy is a rather big issue at the moment, as we’ve learned from Facebook. I’ve pored through the iTunes Terms of Service, as well as Apple’s privacy policy, and I can’t quite figure out if it covers this data use as is. If it does, I doubt consumers are aware they are being targeted. This is a potential issue for marketers, who don’t want to be caught up in another privacy tempest. (I’ve asked Apple about this, but so far no response.)

* What inventory will be available, and on what terms. I’ve heard conflicting stories about whether iAds will be directed (IE you can select which app your ad runs on) or if it will be a blind network (where you can’t). The consensus is that it will not be directed, at least not at launch. This is a very key point, given the next unknown:

* What publishers will be in the iAd network. Are they the same ones that currently run Quattro ads (Apple bought Quattro, for those just catching up.) This is a crucial question for app makers, especially premium publishers like the NYT or Conde Nast, who plan to sell their own app inventory directly. If Apple’s targeting gets too close to promising marketers that their ads can run on premium publishers’ sites (for example, if the “food” cohort insures that an advertiser runs on Conde Nast’s Epicurious app), then publishers like Conde Nast will most likely pull all their inventory from iAd. Which begs the next question:

* Will Apple have enough (of the right kind of) inventory. And what is the makeup of that inventory? Can that inventory satisfy marketers’ targeting needs? With a $3 CPE, savvy marketers are going to want very specific inventory. If I’m a consumer packaged goods giant trying to create brand preference for a particular brand of detergent, I’m probably going to want my message in front of women of a certain age and certain household income, ideally women who can be tagged as the “CHO” – Chief Household Officer. If I’m marketing a movie aimed at kids, I’ll want kids and their parents who match the movie’s ideal audience. Will Apple be able to offer enough inventory that delivers ROI on these audience cohorts?

* What is the right creative given the constraints of mobile devices? While Jobs showed some pretty cool executions, the truth is that those executions are still unproven (even though they’ve been available well before Apple gift wrapped them.) There’s still a lot to learn about what works, and in what context.

* How long exclusivity will last. Apple is selling iAds as category exclusive for a short period of time, but the company seems willing to let some marketers buy longer exclusivity based on investment levels. However, my sources seem to find a consensus around a period of six weeks to two months. By early Fall, I’m told, all bets are off for exclusive deals. Which begs the question – if you can buy iAds in the Fall, why get into large commitments up front?

* Will the FTC train its sights on Apple? While the buzz is about the government’s decision to approve the Google/AdMob deal, Apple may well gain the FTC’s attention should the company slip up on privacy (see above) or make moves that effectively (or directly) eliminate third party advertising networks on Apple devices. Hence:

* Will Apple eliminate third party advertising networks on its devices? I’ve heard all manner of thinking on this issue. It’d be very Apple-like to entirely control the advertising ecosystem on i-devices – much as Comcast does on its networks, or Conde Nast does in its magazines, for instance. But as I’ve argued elsewhere, that’s not very “web-like” – and it raises questions of whether or not Apple has a responsibility, with its own devices, to allow third party ecosystems to thrive (as they currently do). Were Apple to cut off third parties, Apple would be entirely responsible for driving advertising revenue to its app developers. Should it fail to do so, it could really screw the pooch. Not to mention that the lack of third party ad networks like AdMob would limit marketers’ choice and retard innovation.

Recent policy changes from Apple have raised strong speculation that the company plans to kick third parties out. Apple has not responded to my questions on this topic, though I do expect it will address this issue at its developers conference. My own take: I don’t believe Apple will do this, but then again, it’s not out of the realm of the possible. I am certain of one thing: If Jobs had his way, all the other networks would already be gone. Jobs may well use the privacy argument to accomplish that goal – “We’re not sending your data to third party networks so as to protect you.” In the current environment, such an argument could well fly.

Now, to the punchline: Is the iAd worth it, given all we do and do not know about it?

If you’re comparing apples to apples, I’d have to say the answer is no. (We’ll get to the apples to Apple comparison in a minute).

Remember, my estimated CPE is $3 for an iAd. The fact is, you can get a click which drives to an identical rich media engagement on a network like AdMob or Greystripe for up to five times less cost, on average (these figures have been provided to me by those companies). In other words, it’s a lot cheaper to experiment in other ad networks, and they won’t ask for a six- to seven-figure minimum commitment to do so.

On the other hand, $3 is, as one agency chief told me, “an entirely reasonable price to pay” for a quality engagement with the right audience. “We pay similar CPMs on television, and don’t get any engagement,” this person argued. If iAds is truly a premium environment, with premium audience and premium creative that drives premium engagement (and therefore, creates brand preference and/or conversion), the price is entirely reasonable. That’s the apples to Apple comparison – you can spend a lot less, but you’re not going to get the Apple magic.

To me, the question comes down to the long list of unknowns when it comes to that magic. So far, marketers don’t know much, if anything, about the targeting, inventory, or creative that will pay off those premiums. That’s an awful lot of unknowns to be writing seven figure checks against.

My recommendation? If you’re already a confident mobile marketer who is familiar with rich media creative and have a strong sense of the inventory you want, and a strong guarantee from Apple you’re going to get it, jumping into the iAd pool right now most likely makes sense. If you’re not in that camp, I’d wait till the Fall, and start experimenting now on other networks, while they can still offer you strong reach into Apple devices. One never knows how long that might last.

Fear Is A No No – Except at Night

By - May 20, 2010

I love Fred’s thoughts on being an entrepreneur – he backs some of the best. I don’t write often here about my own experiences, but I can tell you, I certainly will, once the dust settles and I am not actively running a company. Upon reflection, I realize I’ve been doing this a long time. In fact, I’ve been starting companies since 1987, though my first real startup as a founder was in 1992. (That was Wired).

In today’s post, Fred writes:

If I look back over 20+ years of entrepreneurs I’ve backed, the ones who were anxious and afraid of failure most certainly had worse outcomes than the ones who were agressive and confident. You simply can’t be tentative in a startup. You have to go for it at every chance you get.

And if the leader of the organization is anxious, his or her fear pervades the organization. Everything comes from the top in a company. So it is best to have to have a leader who exudes confidence….So if you are starting a company or building one, face your fears and move past them. It’s critically important to your company.

I agree – in the day time, at work, in front of your staff, your investors, and your partners – you must exude confidence. They are looking at you as True North – and your company is the ship sailing by that particular bearing.

But what Fred doesn’t reference – though I know he is well aware of it – is what happens in the dead of night – at least for just about every successful entrepreneur I know. As dark gathers and you attempt to put the work away to steal a few hours of sleep, you are inevitably visited by questioning spectres – waking apparitions of failure dancing in the shadows of your doubt, dodging your attempts to force them into the light of reason. For more nights than I (or my wife) care to count, I’ve entertained and processed a thousand failure-filled scenarios, each frolicking endlessly in my mind, each disappearing as quickly as they came, unless captured, quickly and with mixed results, in scribbled notes on index cards, or, if I truly capitulate, in the gloaming of my newly awakened computer monitor.

It’s enough to make you mad. But then again, this particular madness is embraced, again and again, by a certain breed, and folks like Fred keep giving us money to embrace it. Were I more devious, I’d call Fred a pusher of sorts, a dealer in madness and joy. In fact, I’m quite certain that’s what he is.

I’ve been starting companies for a solid 18 years now, and for at least half of those years, I’ve been visited by these spirits nearly every single night.

May they never yield.

The CM Summit Is Coming, Get the App…

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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).

Google to Apple: The Web Is the Platform; iTunes, Not So Much

By - May 19, 2010

Screen shot 2010-05-19 at 1.44.35 PM.pngGoogle has fired a broadside across Apple’s bow by announcing the Google Chrome Web Store, a great idea which, to my mind, has a mediocre name – one consistent with Google’s ongoing struggles with branding in general. If I’m a typical consumer, I might be a bit confused by a name that 1. has “chrome” in it 2. has the word “store” but sells only apps and 3. has the word web in it – does that mean I can buy things on the web through it? Given Google’s lackluster performance with Checkout and its recent closure of its Nexus One store, I’m guessing the store might get a brand makeover before it launches later this year.

Nevertheless, I’m guessing Google called it a “Web” store to highlight the difference between the web as a platform for applications, compared to the term
“App,” which is almost universally intertwingled with Apple’s brand.

But the concept is quite clever – Google is reminding us all that “apps” can and should run on the open web, and not just in closed, vertically integrated and controlled environments like the iPhone/Pad/Touch.

I for one hope that this new app store will flourish. Game on.

The Latest Signals, For All You RSS Junkies

By - May 17, 2010

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.

Tuesday Signal: Consider This

Monday Signal: The Open Book

Friday Signal: Thank God It’s Not Monday

No no no! It's not about geeky sh*t. It's about the future of commerce!!!!

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We trigger happy blogging geeks often get in our own way. Witness this Mashable article about an important patent granted to Apple. First, thank you Mashable, for pointing out this patent.

But you miss the point!

First, the patent:

Apple has essentially patented the ability to sync actions between two or more devices. This could be something as simple as adding a to-do to my calendar on my Mac and having it automatically sent to my phone. Or I could create a list on my phone and, based on the parameters, have that list shared with my fiancé on his device.

Now the point. This is NOT about sharing contacts with a pal, or lists with your fiance, no matter how swell he might be.

This is about the Gap Scenario. Pure and simple. Think about it….

Help Me Interview Omar Hamoui, CEO AdMob

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The CM Summit is three weeks away, and already I’ve asked for your input on four major voices in digital media and marketing: Arianna Huffington, Tony Hsieh, Tim Armstrong, and Arthur Sulzberger, Jr.

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?

Help Me Interview Arthur Sulzberger Jr., Chairman, The New York Times Co.

By - May 14, 2010


The CM Summit is now just three weeks away, I hope you can join us. We’ve got more than 450 folks signed up, and we’ll hit our limit pretty soon, so register now…

With that in mind, fourth on our hit list of CM Summit interviews is Arthur Sulzberger Jr., Chairman, The New York Times Co.

Arthur has led the Times for the past 13 years, and during his tenure the company has constantly innovated in digital publishing. The Times made news recently by announcing it would take a “metered” approach to pay as you go on the Times website. It was also a launch partner for Apple’s iPad. Below are some of the questions I have for Arthur, I welcome your input!

(And please, help me with questions for Tim Armstrong, Arianna Huffington and Tony Hsieh! Thanks!).

- How is progress on the “metered” approach to the Times? How did you come to this decision, and where does the project stand?

- The Times and its other properties are what the industry calls “premium” publishing brands, and you make most of your marketing revenue from “premium” brand advertising. What do you make of the whole remnant/DSP/exchange model?

- Talk to me about the differentiation of a branded environment online. What makes the investment worth it for you, for your marketing partners?

- What do you make of iAds? Are they competitive to your own sales force? Will you be using them on the NYT?

- The NYT was showcased in the roll out of the iPad. Is this device going to live up to its hype? What about the rest of the “pads” out there – RIM, Android/Google, HP, etc?

- Has the Times come up with any new forms of advertising products that you can discuss?

- What lessons have you learned going digital along the way (one that comes to mind is the precursor to the metered solution, called Times Select ?)

- How is doing, and how does it fit into the overall digital strategy?

So what would you like to know from Arthur Sulzberger? Leave a comment, or tweet it on #cmsummit. Thanks.