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

By - May 14, 2010

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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 About.com 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.

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Google's New Mission? "To Organize the World's information (Unless It Starts With "i") ….."

By - May 13, 2010

googmission.pngI had a good call today with Dennis Woodside, who runs North American Sales for Google, and Susan Wojcicki, who runs products. Both are long timers at Google, Susan is pretty much a llfer – she joined in 1999.

Both are joining me on stage at the CM Summit next month, a first for Google to have ad products and sales represented in one onstage interview. We had a great catchup and prep for the conversation, which I think will be enlightening.

After we hung up, I contemplated my earlier posts about Google’s brand, and realized I had forgotten to talk to them about one question that’s lingered in my mind for some time. In essence, it’s this: “What is Google’s brand to you? To your customers?” Then I imagined their response – something along the lines of “our mission hasn’t changed – we’re still focused on organizing the world’s information, and making it universally accessible.”

True – that mission certainly covers most of what Google does today (though it’s a mouthful for the average consumer to grok). But then something struck me – and its name was Apple.

Allow me to explain. Earlier in the day I was in the offices of Adobe, meeting with various folks and talking business. Apple was very much on everyone’s minds given Adobe had just launched its “We (Heart) Apple” and “We (Heart) Open” campaign (see my post here).

All this was stewing in my head as I contemplated Google’s mission on the drive home. And it struck me – Google was born back in the late 1990s, when it seemed inevitable that everything – all the world’s knowledge – was going to be on the web, eventually. It was just presumed that the web would swallow the world – and for ten years, it largely did.

But in the past year, that world has fractured, and increasingly, a new planet has emerged, one that is best represented by Apple. It’s the Planet of the Apps, and while it’s rich in experience, data, and information, it’s largely sealed off from Google’s (or anyone else’s) search spiders.

This is another way of pointing out what folks have called the SplinterNet or the Fractured Web, but somehow, I found it rather poignant to think that Google’s ambitious mission is, in a very real sense, threatened by Apple’s approach to the world. No longer can we assume that “The Web is the World” – because increasingly, it’s not.

This is due, in part, to Google’s own ambition – had it stayed a pencil – just search – Apple probably would not see the company as a threat. I wondered to myself, as I drove home from San Jose, whether Apple would let a third party search engine, one that was not competing for mobile, location, commerce, media access, etc – crawl its App World and bring it out into the light?

I’m starting a dialog with folks from Apple on Friday. I’ll ask. I’m guessing the answer is no, but it’s worth a shot. One can dream, after all. I’ve been doing just that for 25 years in this industry, and I’m not going to stop now.

IAB: Record First Quarter for Internet Advertising

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From the IAB release on first quarter 2010:

Internet advertising revenues in the U.S. hit $5.9 billion for the first quarter of 2010, representing a 7.5 percent increase over the same period in 2009, according to the numbers released today by the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). This marks the highest first-quarter revenue level ever for the industry.

You already knew this if you read my Predictions for 2010, #9.

Adobe: We Love Ya, Apple – But We Don't Love What Ya Do.

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This campaign – focused on “Choice” – just went live across the country in major print newspapers. Intersting that Adobe chose print for the impact – Adobe recently launched CS5 entirely on digital platforms so you can’t faul tthe company for zigging and zagging. There’s an online component as well.

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Help Me Interview Tim Armstrong at CM Summit

By - May 11, 2010

AOL-Tim-Armstrong_medium.jpgThird on our hit list of CM Summit interviews is Tim Armstrong, CEO of AOL.  

Tim has now held that title for just about a year. Lately he’s taken to rallying the AOL troops with this decidedly controversial slogan: “Beat the Internet!”

If you want to find out what that’s all about, how Tim’s first year on the job has gone, and more, please come to the conference. And if you want me to ask your question on stage, please leave it in comments here!

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

Three Recent Signals

By - May 10, 2010

Readers have asked for links to the FM Signal here, and I’ve missed a few. So that you might stay in touch (in particular, all you 175K or so RSS readers), herewith are them links:

Tuesday Signal: A Walk in the Park You have to see the last item. Facebook is on its heels. Maybe it needs a HeelTastic(TM). See Friday….

Monday Signal: Sue Me! As Kara said, let’s try to keep it civil as we sue the sh*t out of each other, and if not that, then kill each other in the markets.

Friday Signal: HeelTastic! What happens when you drink a bottle of good red and write? Read on!

The iAd: Steve Jobs Regifts The Mobile Marketing Experience

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We’re used to buzz around Apple, and in particular, we’re quite used to buzz about how Apple goes to market. CEO Steve Jobs is widely considered the greatest marketer alive, and nearly every marketer I’ve worked with has expressed sincere admiration for the magic the man is capable of weaving. His products are brilliant, and the cult around Jobs and his work are extraordinary.

But with iAds, Apple has moved from the business of making ads to the business of selling them. And in the past month or so, Apple’s new team – folks formerly known as Quattro Wireless but now sporting brand new Apple business cards – have started making sales calls at a handful of major brands and their agencies.

These freshly minted Apple folk must feel like the won the lottery – just a few months ago, they were duking it out with ten other mobile networks, competing on price, ROI, network quality and scale, ad format, and Lord knows how many other factors. Now marketers are literally lining up to buy into the launch of Steve Jobs’ next great thing.

And that next great thing is called iAds – which Jobs, in typical fashion, introduced last month as the answer to all those mobile ads that “suck.”

I guess he means what those folks from Quattro sold (and still do, by the way, under their original brand name). Because from what I can tell, there’s almost nothing new in iAd, save the wrapping paper.

Then again, wrapping paper is what takes an ordinary object and turns it into a gift, and therein lies the genius of Jobs.

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You won’t find anything about iAds on Apple’s site (there are a few for “iAd,” but if you’re trying to understand what they are, you’ll be disappointed). Instead, details about the program are leaking out through blogosphere speculation and reports of recent sales meetings. I’ve spoken to several folks who’ve been in those meetings, and this post, the first of a series, will be my best attempt at making sense of the iAd narrative.

And it’s quite a classic tale – one most of the press is eating up. Early reports echo Jobs’ points about how iAds are different, but fail to check whether, in fact, iAds do anything particularly new.

Apple’s press release reads: “iAd, Apple’s new mobile advertising platform, combines the emotion of TV ads with the interactivity of web ads. Today, when users click on mobile ads they are almost always taken out of their app to a web browser, which loads the advertiser’s webpage. Users must then navigate back to their app, and it is often difficult or impossible to return to exactly where they left. iAd solves this problem by displaying full-screen video and interactive ad content without ever leaving the app, and letting users return to their app anytime they choose.”

Jobs elaborated at launch, claiming that iAds would bring more “emotion” and “engagement” to what was before a noisy and crap filled environment.

Well, yes and no. Yes, in that iAds are *only* rich media experiences (once you click on a standard banner, of course). And yes, in that Apple is controlling all the creative for iAds (clients will have approvals and submit materials, but Apple alone is doing the actual development – to ensure quality control – and most likely, to maintain the mystery of iAds in general. Classic Jobs).

And yes, in that at launch, only a selected few marketers will be “allowed” to run iAds. And as has been widely reported, those brands have to pay quite a price to get into the launch portion of the program. Given the steep price tag (reportedly up to $20 million, and I’ll be getting to that in a follow up piece), it’s almost a certainty that the ads will be of high quality – only the most established brand marketers are going to play at this level.

So yes, the actual ads inside an iAd will be better, in general, than an “average” mobile ad experience. But then again, a Superbowl ad is generally better than an “average” television ad, ain’t it?

So…. no, there’s nothing new here. Anything you can do with an iAd, I’ve confirmed with numerous very knowledgeable sources, you can do with AdMob or any number of other networks.

While it’s true that a lot of mobile ads link to web sites, rather than to rich media experiences that keep the user inside an app, it’s also true that AdMob, among others, has been using what’s known as a webview (using the video friendly HTML5 standard) to deliver exactly what Jobs packaged as “new” since at least last Fall. And let’s not forget, Jobs failed to buy AdMob, which was his first choice – Google won that bidding war.

And given that AdMob has 70% reach into the iPhone/Touch/Pad world (according to the company), Apple isn’t really selling anything new with iAds. In the words of one agency source who recently sat in an Apple pitch meeting: “iAds are the same thing you could get before, wrapped in a nice box with a bow on it.”

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Ahh…there it is: The gift. Steve Jobs’ brilliance lies in his ability to make everything seem magical. The true gift Apple is selling right now? A Golden Ticket into Willie Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. A chance to be associated with the greatest marketer in the history of the industry.

Think I’m kidding? Then consider this: Apple is telling marketers willing to pony up for the launch that Steve Jobs will mention their brand on stage as he launches iAds this summer. “That is worth a hell of a lot,” one agency chief told me.

That, my friends, is the bow on the box. The box itself? That’s Apple products – the environment in which the advertisers’ message will be seen. And marketers like nothing more than to be associated with quality environments.

In fact, during presentations to prospective clients, Apple’s sales force takes out an iPhone to demonstrate what iAds look like. And here’s the kicker: They unveil the phone with a flourish and utter these magic words: “This is actually Steve Jobs’ personal iPhone.”

They may as well be showing Willy Wonka’s cane to a room full of children.

What Apple is selling with iAds is – Apple itself. As well they should. But they are also selling into a marketplace that, for the most part, doesn’t really understand mobile marketing. The market is still relatively small – well under a billion dollars globally this year – and major marketers have yet to embrace the format. They don’t realize that most of what Apple is pitching them can be done already.

And in the end, it doesn’t really matter. By isolating the rich media execution and claiming it as his own, Jobs has once again identified a marketing opportunity and redefined it as unique. In the process, he’s driving innovation and awareness in the mobile market. Nothing wrong with that.

But if I were a marketer considering laying out $1mm, $10mm, or more on iAds, I’d make sure I understood what my goals are.

In my next iAd-related post I’ll be focusing on just that topic: deconstructing the ROI on an iAd. Because once the launch is over, it’s all about value for money spent. And there are a lot of unanswered questions here – including publisher inventory and terms, blind vs. directed networks, targeting and terms of service for use of iTunes data, issues of third party networks, FTC regulation, and other policies, and much more. Stay tuned.

Update – I should have mentioned that there are at least two unique properties to an iAd that you can’t get elsewhere – the targeting, which reportedly is based on what apps a particular user has downloaded from iTunes, and the “ViP” program, which is, in short, the ability to link directly to your app in the iTunes store. Of course, anyone can link to the iTunes store from an ad, the difference here is this is a “proprietary Apple approved link.” Not sure what that means, but it should become clearer when the program is live in the wild.

Help Me Interview Tony Hsieh

By - May 07, 2010

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Next up on the hit list of amazing conversations at CM Summit is Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, now a division of Amazon. Tony is also an author, and everyone who comes to the conference will get a copy of his new book “Delivering Happiness,” which will be published the first day of the event (June 7th). Who wants to take odds that the book will do well at Amazon?  

Zappos is an extraordinary story, but so is Tony, who sold his first business to Microsoft for more than a quarter billion dollars (Tony was in his mid twenties at the time).

But the core of Tony’s success lies in his philosophy around customer service, and I think all good marketers have something to learn from his story. As with Arianna, I’ve got tons to ask Tony, including:

- How is the new boss? Is Zappos changing Amazon, vice versa, or a bit of both? I know Zappos is retaining its brand, but do you spend much time with Amazon execs? How do the employees co-mingle, or do they at all?

- How is the supply chain integration working?
- “Are you still a little weird ?” (One of Zappos’s values is, “Create fun and a little weirdness.”)
- How big is Zappos marketing department, and how does it differ from a traditional approach?
- The Zappos Real Time Purchasing Map is pretty cool. What other real-time marketing initiatives is your team thinking of? How do you use data to drive your business?
- Tell us about the book, which you’ve said you wrote because “it was on your check list”… what else is on your checklist?

What do you want to hear about from Tony? Tweet it out with the #cmsummit hashtag, or leave a comment here!

Help Me Interview Arianna Huffington

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Longtime readers know that as each conference I host draws near, I invite you all to help me interview the luminaries who grace our stages. We’re one month out from this year’s CM Summit, and the lineup is incredible.  

I’m working backwards through the keynote conversations, and the conference will end with Arianna Huffington, the founder and EIC of The Huffington Post.

Arianna’s creation is now a top ten news site, has serious backing from a major private equity fund, has innovated in social media integration, and just generally become the shorthand for successful publishing in the age of the real time web.

I’ve got a lot to talk about with Arianna, including:

- The future of journalism: Can the Huffington Post ever compete with the newsgathering prowess of, say, the NYT? Does it need to? What models of journalism does Arianna see coming that might be different from today’s?

- Revenue models: Can the Huffington Post cross into strong, consistent profitability? And how do its legions of unpaid contributors earn value from their contributions online?

- Point of View: What has made the Huffington Post so successful – is it the clear POV that the site endorses?

- Today’s poliitical scene: What does Arianna make of the Tea Party movement? Of the current political climate in the US?

I could go on and on, but I’ll stop and ask you to either Tweet it out with the #cmsummit hashtag or leave me a comment below, if you’re so inclined. Thanks!