Media Vegetables

December 10, 2010 § Leave a comment

Articles such as Dave Morgan’s recent Online Spin, “CBS Audience Five Times Bigger than Facebook” are always a good tonic for the raging hormones of the Internet. Dave was struck by a presentation he saw from legendary CBS researcher David Poltrak comparing the audience sizes of CBS and Facebook. According to Poltrak, in the month of October CBS attracted almost 240 million viewers. Facebook attracted 151 million unique users. But CBS’s viewers spent 210 billion minutes with the network in October while Facebook’s unique users spend 42 billion minutes with the social network.

That sounds about right. I recognize me in all of that just as I did last year at this time when Neilsen’s A2/M2 Three Screen report revealed that consumers were watching an average of 4.5 hours of television per day, compared to an average of 4 hours per week spent with the Internet. The television is never on during the day in our household but, by golly, at night the news, a couple of sitcoms, a movie, perhaps a cooking show or sports event will chew-up 4.5 hours of TV time before you know it. Then maybe someone will check quickly online for the weather before heading off to bed.

It all should remind us that the Internet is not TV – to repeat, not TV. I hate wasting time on the Internet. It happens, but it’s painful: there is a sense of loss, probably because any time spent online requires the engagement of the user; therefore, any time lost is more keenly felt. Not so TV, which is an effortless medium. It requires no engagement. It makes no demand on the user. Hence, you can be regarded as a potato while being an avid television viewer. Avid Internet users, however, are un-potato like. They are shut-ins, perhaps. Drop outs maybe. But, they are not vegetables.

Which may be a good way to launch into the media value proposition of 42 billion minutes vs. 210 billion minutes. One is mineral, one is vegetable.

Television: the Once and Future King?

October 12, 2010 § Leave a comment

Thank goodness Joe Marchese spotted the Economist piece, “The Return of Advertising: The Box Rocks”, on which he opined in his Online Spin column today, “Why television is Still King.” Per The Economist, advertising is leading an economic recovery driven by the resurgence of the 30-second commercial on TV. Per Joe Marchese’s Spin column, great, but The Economist also notes that, “Search engines and online banners are not nearly so good at making people aware of new products. Nor do they offer emotional experiences. Television’s ability to build brands by surrounding adverts with gripping content is unsurpassed.”

Writes Joe:

“…the differentiator is that television has created a system for delivering advertising in a way that fits with the medium and engages consumers, giving advertisements the ability to create discovery and tell stories. The Internet has the potential to offer marketers the same ability, but simply needs a better system than banners and search.”

I think Joe has it right in the first (two) parts and wrong in the third. Yes, the differentiator is that television created a system that fits with the medium and engages consumers. Yes, the internet has the potential to offer marketers the same ability (on which Joe has written eloquently for years). But, no, a system apart from banners or search is not required.

Indeed, look at search. Granted, search does not tell a lot of stories. But, man, is Google rich. Why? Well, its paid search business, inclusive of its substantial ad network, has done a good job of using the medium in a way that fits with the medium. The thing people need to do regularly online is search for stuff. Bingo, paid search!

The thing people need to do after searching for stuff is engage with what they came searching for. Bingo, display advertising. Except, that display can’t stop waving its arms and popping-up to shout, “Look at me! Look at me!” Display is dedicated to the proposition that it must be the center of attention, which is an attitude it picked-up from – you guessed it – television (okay, also radio).

There is nothing wrong with display. There is everything wrong with advertising expectations. And when the internet stops trying to be something it’s not (television), it can get on with fitting-in.

See also, here, here, here and, perhaps also, here.

American Express Reports On Shopper Behavior (Operative Word: “Behavior”)

September 2, 2010 § Leave a comment

Here’s a companion piece to yesterday’s blog, Privacy Business. From MediaPost’s Marketing Daily comes the news that American Express has wrapped-up a study of four billion transactions across 90 million cards to glean the shopping behavior (operative word: “behavior”) of card holders. Some of what the report says they know (operative word: “know”):

1. Gender

2. Age

3. Purchases - where and how much

And, of course, they have the names, addresses and telephone numbers of everyone in the study; but that’s beside the point, which is that AMEX has aggregated some very useful behavior information (operative word: “behavior”), and it wasn’t until I was half-way through the article engrossed and thinking, “Well, that’s interesting”, and “Gee, how about that”, that it washed over me: wait…isn’t this, like, the online privacy issue in a credit card bottle? These are consumer behavior segments we’re talking about here, are they not!?

Oh yes they are.

Peering closer at the article I reached my hand in and felt around. “Please don’t bite me,” I thought, ready to recoil in an instant should anything slippery clamp hold of my wrist, pull me in or try to steal my wallet.

Guess what? Nothing. Not even a nibble.

World Cup and the Internet: Made for Each Other?

July 14, 2010 § Leave a comment

UPDATE (“Nothing Says Global Village like Football”): More World Cup numbers - this time online World Cup numbers courtesy of a story in MediaPost’s, OnlineMediaDaily newsletter. In summary, from the report:

Time spent consuming World Cup content across all of ESPN’s online and mobile properties, for instance, totaled nearly 4.9 billion minutes over the 31 days of the tournament in South Africa from June 11 to July 11.


Increasing enthusiasm for the sport [in the U.S.] was also highlighted by audience data Nielsen released Tuesday for the official Web site of FIFA, the governing body for professional soccer. Visitors from the U.S. were second only to those in Brazil in average time spent on the site in June, at 21 minutes, 41 seconds, among 10 major countries.

One can begin to visualize an important partnership between the World Cup and the internet. They are nearly alone, together, as cross-border actors on the global media stage. Keeping in mind MagnaGlobal’s recent forecast of $100 billion in global internet ad spending by 2015, the 2014 World Cup event in Brasil heralds a watershed moment. 

It might be worth circling the months June/July 2014 in the calendar with a note in the margin: “Internet comes of age.”

What’s the Best Thing About the Internet in the last 15 Years? The Onion.

May 20, 2010 § Leave a comment

Meeting with PR people this morning (Kel & Partners…great team) someone asked what was the best thing to result from the Internet market over the past 15 years. My answer was paid search, which characterized the opportunity online for what it is now and will be in the future: the chance to feature the right message in precisely the right place at precisely the right time.

Second question, of course: what was the worst thing to result from the Internet over the past 15 years. My answer was the fact that the market was co-opted at the start by technologists and financial opportunists that postured advertising was broken and they were born to fix it, the effect of which over the long-term has been – well – exactly as reported in a piece that Online Media’s “Around the Net” spotted in The Onion today titled, “New Social Networking Site Changing The Way Oh, Christ, Forget It.”

From New York, The Onion’s reporter writes:

NEW YORK—While millions of young, tech-savvy professionals already use services like Facebook and Twitter to keep in constant touch with friends, a new social networking platform called Foursquare has recently taken the oh, fucking hell, can’t some other desperate news outlet cover this crap instead?

Explaining, the reporter adds:

By “checking in,” users can earn tangible, real-world rewards. For instance, the Foursquare user with the most points at any given venue earns the designation of “mayor” and can receive discounts, free food, or other prizes that, quite honestly, we’re thoroughly disgusted with ourselves for having actually researched.

In addition, please, kill us already.

You have to love honest reporting. Likewise, truth in advertising. Maybe the best thing to result from the Internet in the first 15 years is The Onion.

Dump on Ad Networks Day

May 7, 2010 § Leave a comment

It was Dump on Ad Networks Day this week at Digital Hollywood, according to reports in Media Post that were picked-up in the IAB’s subscription to SmartBrief. A panel at the show on branded media marketing reportedly jumped on networks for various value infractions. Panelist Jim Heckman, CEO and Founder of, but formerly of Fox Interactive, said that ad networks trade in remnant inventory which “denigrates the brand.”

Anyone expecting a vigorous defense of ad networks in this space will be disappointed. Burst Media has led an uncomfortable existence as a member of the ad network community working substantially in the Long Tail of the Internet where it can act as a primary, not secondary seller of advertising inventory and keep a promise to offer complete, site-by-site, transparent reporting. This requirement – post-campaign, site-by-site reporting – has kept us largely out of the branded publisher space where lack of site-by-site disclosure is the fail-safe device in the uneasy relationship between ad networks and publishers with a salesforce. Disclosure is as much a rule for publishers as it is for advertisers that wish to work with our legacy Burst Network. Publishers must allow us to disclose our business on their site, pre and post- campaign, which means most of the top 100 comScore web sites, the ones that Adify research has documented account for 84% of the inventory of the 10 biggest ad networks, say no thanks.

So, we don’t get too defensive about the mean things that get said about ad networks on panels and in the receptions areas of ad agencies. To the contrary, as far as we’re concerned, it’s all true.

But don’t blame the ad networks. I don’t believe most of the claims of major publishers that have said they don’t work with networks anymore, but if publishers want to fix their value problems that will be the answer. Stop working with all the networks. Stop dumping off the inventory in every direction. Of course, publishers will still need a remnant solution – all businesses have remnant solutions – and it strikes me that exchanges have a capable answer for that combined with the DSPs that are white-labeling most of the in-house networks for ad agencies. Remnant inventory that finds its way into those pipelines is subject to controls that ought to at least make the sales channel conflicts apparent to the publishers. Alternatively, pick an exclusive remnant ad network provider and make it a partnership. Frankly, the audience duplication that currently exists in the market as a result of ad networks (and DSPs be warned) all piling-on the top 100 comScore sites is scandalous. Brands are being deprived of differentiated media strategies. Which means it’s all up to the creative online. 

Great…whither media as the “new creative?”

The ad network business – such as we choose to complain about it – evolved in response to market needs. Markets are perfect that way. Let’s get over it. Markets are constantly changing and today’s market has decided it’s weary of certain ad networks for probably all the right reasons, beginning with the presence of more advertising dollars, which makes both publishers and ad agencies more confident about their prospects. Supply and demand. Presto, change-O. Let’s get over that too.

Be happy, like Jim Heckman who sees the enduring, value-driven outcome that results from people in the media business at work, “on Madison Ave. With cocktails.”

Media. Strap it on.

February 11, 2010 § Leave a comment

This picture (below) was included as part of a report in MediaPost about a new laboratory opened by Metrics Marketing to help seekers unlock the truth about consumer eyeballs and the pattern in which they absorb the reflected light bouncing off web pages – or, more specifically, the pattern in which they absorb the reflected light bouncing off the advertisements on web pages.

Eye-tracking technology is not new, but this most recent announcement and the picture of the young woman with the cool binoculars is the inspiration for a further and perhaps final step in the evolution of new media – one that might put an end to the worry about what happens to media dollars after they are converted to electrons and released to spawn in the open waters of the marketplace.

Let’s give everyone a pair of eye-tracking binoculars in exchange for free content. Order two cable boxes and get four pair of binoculars. Enter the proper code to view programming for free through the binoculars. Ditto Internet service. As long as you are wearing the binoculars in front of your screen, the Wall Street Journal online will cost you nothing.

The same opportunities are present with digital out-of-home and mobile. Wear the “binocs” around town and in the car (high-definition, polarized sunglass lenses optional) and earn credits redeemable at participating retail establishments. iApps are available for the binocs that transfer images to built-in heads-up display technology. Experience what it is to talk to the avatar images of your Facebook friends while navigating through the urban jungle thanks to Google maps. Binocs also comes with free, six-month satellite radio trial.

Media. Strap it on. Help end the madness.

Google stops by the old neighborhood on Super Bowl Sunday

February 8, 2010 § Leave a comment

According to MediaPost’s Online Media Daily report this morning, John Battelle, at least, knew Google would run a commercial during the Super Bowl yesterday. It was a surprise to most of the rest of us. But it was a welcome surprise. All was right with the world for 30 seconds when Google showed-up still looking and acting like its old self – a search engine – back in the Internet neighborhood, in touch with its roots.

“Hey, look who’s here!”

“Hey, Ma, Google’s outside.”

(“Hey, don’t he look swell.”)

“Hey, don’t you look swell, Google! Where you been!? Come over here.”

“Hey, you look tan. Nice suit…where’d you get it? Paris? Hey, Ma, check this out…Look who’s wearing a suit from Paris!”

“Wait…who’s the girl? This girl with you?! You with him?!



(“Bonjour? Is she French?”)

“A girl from France, Ma!”

“Geez, it’s nice to see you, kid. All we know is what we see in the papers, you know? Oh boy, the papers say some things, don’t they? We all know better, of course. We tell ‘em, too. We tell everybody. Google never hurt nobody.”

“But, hey, look at you! A tan. And a girl from France! Geez. I never been to New York, let alone France.”

“HA HA HA. Laugh with me, you old dope! You lost your sense of humor?”


“It’s good to see you, Google. It’s good that you stopped by. Really good. Really good.”

(“Give me a hug.”)

“You stay in touch.”

“Do you hear me?! I’m watching you! You stay in t-o-u-c-h!

Google should not be tempted to give-up the sanctity of its home page

January 7, 2010 § Leave a comment

Google is running a one-line ad on its home page - perhaps the most valuable real estate online - for its new Nexus One mobile telephone. This is notable for the reason that Google has been single-minded in preserving its home page as a temple for its brand, which seeks to organize all the world’s information and deliver it fast and reliably.

A line or two does not do much to undermine the sanctity of Google’s home page. It does not necessarily pervert the sense of mission. But these small cracks have a way of letting water in that eventually erodes foundations. Accordingly, I’m not sure I’d be as enthusiastic as Spark Partners analyst, Adam Hartung, was in the story about the event in MediaPost. Said Mr. Hartung:

“The company [Google] has something that almost seems like a religious idol. This ad demonstrates that Google is willing to change that and attack a sacred cow to step the company forward…And that’s a very good sign for investors.”

Google has plenty of irons in the fire trying to take the company forward, some of which approach science fiction. It’s tether to reality has always been its home page. Adam Hartung’s exortation to let go of sacred cows is the very sort of temptation in which the broader analyst community so often and so dangerously trades – whatever the business sector. It is a sell-your-soul kind of temptation. And it is never good for investors in the long run. 

Al Ries has practical things to say along these lines in an Ad Age piece yesterday. Google investors should read-up.

Striking value into the hearts of buyers and sellers online: $25 billion more might just do it.

July 31, 2009 § Leave a comment


Media Post reports that Dave Zinman, VP and GM of Display Advertising at Yahoo!, was talking about “signals” in his presentation to the OMMA Behavioral crowd in San Francisco this week. Dave is a long-time player in the Internet space with plenty of experience to inform his signal calling. With his view of history he postulates that the first $25 billion of Internet ad spending – about where we are now – was driven by search. I’d agree. It’s been essentially $25 billion of clicks and actions thus far.

Dave signals now that the next $25 billion will come from display advertising wherein the value of the impression, not simply the click, will matter most. Yes. For one thing, we can’t be sure there are $25 billion more in clicks and actions available online. The Internet would have to be intergalactic in size, or action rates would have to substantially increase, which is unlikely; consumers are just not that into advertising.

But there is no dispute that the Internet is a staple in the daily media diet of people worldwide. Other media are shrinking, therefore Internet advertising should grow. So if there is $25 billion more in ad spending on its way, how will it be accepted and provided for?

Again, who would welcome $25 billion in additional click and action driven advertising? Under those circumstances, if the Internet were an ocean you would be able to walk across it stepping from one flashing banner ad to the next. You could set the water on fire, which is probably a fair description of the reaction consumers might have to such a polluted environment.

Impression-driven advertising will be the only way to absorb the next $25 billion. Advertising that counts for engagement. Advertising that must, therefore, be creative and compelling (like some of these from this year’s Cannes festival). Advertising that is intended to woo 100% of the audience, not just .5%. Advertising that is efficient. Advertising that can then be bought in units of one thousand impressions at a time. Advertising that can scale without deforesting the landscape, or drying-up all the wells or burning the ocean.

Which must be what Dave Zinman is concerned about from his vantage point at Yahoo!. As he reports, portals got into the advertising network business a few years ago and vacuumed-up all the reach they could get. But impression-based results were never on their mind as part of that initiative. Impression-based results belonged to the people selling Yahoo! homepages and sponsorships. The ad networks were all about clicks and actions and as the market grew and a desire for action rates led to a desire for more action rates even the portals didn’t have the reach to accommodate the results. They needed networks.

Now what? Dave Zinman signals the future: the next $25 billion is going to have to be about the value of impressions. Tim Armstrong may be signaling the same thing at AOL with the dissolution of Platform A and a renewed commitment to selling content and brand.

There has to be something that strikes value into the hearts of buyers and sellers online after all these years and maybe the next $25 billion is that thing.

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