The in.imit.able will.i.am: Embracing Brand As An Artist

Next week will mark the third time in one year that I've interviewed Black Eyed Peas frontman will.i.am on stage, and each time it's gotten better. If you're coming to CM Summit, you're in for a treat. Will is in New York for a benefit concert in Central Park,…

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Next week will mark the third time in one year that I’ve interviewed Black Eyed Peas frontman will.i.am on stage, and each time it’s gotten better. If you’re coming to CM Summit, you’re in for a treat. Will is in New York for a benefit concert in Central Park, and he’s stopping by to chat with us along the way.

I’ve found will.i.am to be a rare bird – a massively successful commercial artist who embraces brands and marketing as part of his work, instead of a distraction from his work. He reminds me of another William – William Gibson, an author who natively embraces marketing as part of a narrative, finding signal in the work of branding, rather than noise. And no one can argue with Will’s street cred, his philanthropic work is a model for all celebrities. Not to mention, the dude is director of innovation at Intel. Intel!

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Google’s Neal Mohan: A $200 Billion Opportunity

Several years ago, Google's top executives clearly realized they needed to create growth engines beyond search. As they looked for new opportunities, two stood out: first, the shift from the PC web to mobile, and second, the rise of "intelligent display" – advertising that works at the brand level, and…

neal-mohan.jpgSeveral years ago, Google’s top executives clearly realized they needed to create growth engines beyond search. As they looked for new opportunities, two stood out: first, the shift from the PC web to mobile, and second, the rise of “intelligent display” – advertising that works at the brand level, and not just lead-generation and demand fulfillment, which is where search has always ruled.

The moves the company subsequently made have both paid off. First, Google acquired Android and then AdMob. And second, it acquired Doubleclick, and began in earnest to build out (and buy) a display network that moved AdSense from a secondary remnant network to a first-order premium display platform. The two are clearly connected.

At the IAB conference earlier this year, then Google CEO (now Executive Chairman) Eric Schmidt declared that the Internet display market would reach $200 billion. Yep, that’s two hundred billion dollars. Eric didn’t give a ton of details about how that number might be achieved, but he did mention the core obstacles to reaching it: making digital as efficient and as easy to buy as television. Right now, it’s not.

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Reimagining Yahoo!: Chief Product Officer Blake Irving

Yahoo! It's our industry's favorite puzzle. On the one hand, it's one of the largest sites on the web, on the same size and scale as Google, Facebook, and Microsoft. On the other hand, it's not growing very quickly, revenues are flat, and investors have been calling for CEO…

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Yahoo! It’s our industry’s favorite puzzle. On the one hand, it’s one of the largest sites on the web, on the same size and scale as Google, Facebook, and Microsoft. On the other hand, it’s not growing very quickly, revenues are flat, and investors have been calling for CEO Carol Bartz’s head with increasing regularity. The company has failed to find a “hit” that redefines its value proposition in a world driven by hits like Twitter, Foursquare, and Flipboard. What’s a nearly two-decade old industry legend to do?

Well, bring in fresh blood, for one. The company recently hired Ross Levinsohn, formerly of Fox, to lead North America. Prior to that, it hired Blake Irving, formerly of Microsoft, to lead product. I’ve spent time with both in the past month, and one thing is for sure: They’re singing from the same song sheet. Both men are energized by the chance to leverage the Yahoo platform, and both are realistic as well – it won’t be easy, and it won’t come fast.

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Filmmaker Tiffany Shlain Declares Interdependence: The Internet Is Changing How We Think

One of the curveball sessions I'm most looking forward to at next week's CM Summit is with filmmaker Tiffany Shlain, whose recent documentary features "Connected" was selected for inclusion at Sundance (and many other prestigious festivals.) Today I jumped on the phone with Shlain, who has been a fellow traveler…

tiffany.jpgOne of the curveball sessions I’m most looking forward to at next week’s CM Summit is with filmmaker Tiffany Shlain, whose recent documentary features “Connected” was selected for inclusion at Sundance (and many other prestigious festivals.) Today I jumped on the phone with Shlain, who has been a fellow traveler since the days when I started The Industry Standard and she founded The Webbys. We’ve both moved on from those heady days, but find our work is once again interconnecting – “Connected” is an essentially optimistic but cautious story of Tiffany’s own life, work, and passions, in particular as it relates to her relationship with her father, a renown physician and author who spent much of his life searching for patterns in human behavior which transcended traditional boundaries of academic pursuit.

In short, the film is a call for all of us to move past our current frame of thinking, and to leverage the moment we are in to embrace a new philosophy – that of interdependence. The axis of this movement is the Internet, Shlain argues, and we have it within our grasp to leverage digital networks to solve the extraordinary problems we’ve collectively created through, well, collective creation.

Shlain was in a good mood as we began our conversation – she had recently learned her film had been picked up for national theatrical distribution in the Fall. That’s a big deal for a committed independent filmmaker, to be certain, but it’s also something of a quandry – theatrical distribution is “how films are normally done” and Shlain has plenty of unique ideas about how to get her work out into the world.

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The Colorful Bill Nguyen: The Market Will Come

In preparation for our short onstage discussion at CM Summit next week, I recently hopped on the phone with Color founder and CEO Bill Nguyen. Color, ostensibly a social-photo app, is backed by big money and saddled with huge expectations. It launched with great fanfare in March. I wrote glowingly…

Bill_Nguyen_headshot_png_100x100_sharpen_q100.jpgIn preparation for our short onstage discussion at CM Summit next week, I recently hopped on the phone with Color founder and CEO Bill Nguyen. Color, ostensibly a social-photo app, is backed by big money and saddled with huge expectations. It launched with great fanfare in March. I wrote glowingly of its potential here. I got a fair amount of sh*t for being too rosy in my estimation of the service’s potential. By April, Color had been written off as a failed effort by much of the blogosphere, and folks moved on to the next shiny object.

None of this seems to bother Nguyen, who’s been around the block a few times more than your average startup bear. He sees a wave rising in the distance, and he’s building Color to ride it. Whether or not others see the wave is not particularly interesting to him. As far as he’s concerned, it’s coming. Folks will get on board when the time is right.

So what is the wave? It’s a pivot in the fundamental organizing principle of how social networks work. He wants to move social past the friend network. Nguyen is certain that Facebook, for all its power, is stuck in a limited model – a poorly instrumented friend graph that you set up once, then run forever. I’ve called this the “instrumentation problem” of Facebook – it simply does not allow the nuance of true social interaction.

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

Twitter. 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…

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.

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

The 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,…

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.

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What Makes Your Business Special?

As 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…

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.

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The Last Week in Signal

Here's the last week in Signal for all you 315,000 or so Searchblog RSS readers (THANK YOU, btw!) Monday Signal: WTF!!! Tuesday Signal: The Best Marketing Conference, Ever Weds. Signal: Google Beats The Android Drum, Microsoft Buys Skype Thursday Signal: It's All Google, But It's Not All Good Friday…

FMsignal-sidebar.gif Here’s the last week in Signal for all you 315,000 or so Searchblog RSS readers (THANK YOU, btw!)

Monday Signal: WTF!!!

Tuesday Signal: The Best Marketing Conference, Ever

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Initial Web 2 Summit Lineup Announced

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,…

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.

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