ReveNews Blog Posts Archive – 2008

Internet Gambling Still a US Target

January 9th, 2008 by Brad Waller

Welcome to the new year and continued prosecutions by the US against Internet based gambling operations. While you are legally allowed to go to the track, Nevada, and hundreds of Indian gaming casinos, and you can bet online on certain horse racing and lottery sites, you still can’t do what the rest of the world can: gamble online. The latest salvo is still against people trying to skirt the law, as opposed to the US based bettors, but that is coming soon I’m sure.

On January 7 a dozen men were charged with participating in a Costa Rica-based gambling Web site and telephone call center that served sports bookies in the United States. Eight have been arrested. This was for a “wireroom” based in Costa Rica that enabled US based gamblers to easily place bets through the phone or Web sites, including and Bookies who referred the users were responsible for paying the gamblers.

This seems a pretty obvious bust as bookies are not considered legit gambling, but the government is making noise about this as part of their campaign against online gambling. I’m still waiting for the first US based gamblers to be prosecuted, and I don’t think I’ll have all that long to wait.

Will the FCC Really Give Comcast a Probing?

January 10th, 2008 by Brad Waller

I wrote previously about Comcast interfering with network traffic and about the Official Action filed against Comcast by a coalition of consumer groups. It looks like the FCC is finally stepping up to investigate, and Comcast is already starting the spin by “welcoming” the investigation.

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin said that the FCC would investigate the complaints during a session at CES on Tuesday. The very fact that he talked about it is great, but his words can be interpreted to mean that they will not rule against Comcast. The exact quote is “Sure, we’re going to investigate and make sure that no consumer is going to be blocked.”

Read that carefully. The key word here is blocked, not slowed, not interfered, and not degraded. Comcast did not block their paying customers from accessing content, they just interfered to the point where the process was essentially slowed or killed by their interference with the communication.

If nothing else, this investigation should open up the kimono on the practices of Comcast, and perhaps shed light on how they and others “manage” their network traffic. I do hope that the very minimum that comes from this is open disclosure of each ISPs “network management” practices so that consumers can choose which ISP to go with based on full knowledge of how they will be treated.

Best case would be some actual progress in establishing true Net Neutrality.

Google to Start Demographic Targeting Beta

January 25th, 2008 by Brad Waller

Google just announced that they will start a limited Beta test of demographic targeting for USA and UK advertisers. It looks like they are building on their deal with MySpace by getting anonymous data from their “social networking sites” partners (as well as others, perhaps) and using that to serve or avoid those users.

With Google’s stock tanking over the last few months, maybe this is the shot in the arm they need to get people excited and increase the amount of money they can earn from each impression.

ICANN: A Taste Will Cost You

January 31st, 2008 by Brad Waller

ICANN just approved a resolution that might just help to curb the practice of “Domain Tasting” where registrars or third parties register a domain that has just been searched for and use the five day Add Grace period to see if they can make money from the domain. The resolution will add a small non-refundable fee to register the domain, even if it is deleted before five days. I first wrote about this when I called it domain hijacking back in 2006, and Adam Viener just wrote about the Frontrunning scandal at Network Solutions two weeks ago.

Previously, registrars could use this five day grace period to register a domain and then delete it at the end with no charge and no risk. Network Solutions did this to lock in a customer who used them to search for a domain with much public outcry. Other nefarious individuals did the same thing, but they wanted to profit from the domains. They would taste the domain to see if they thought they could make money from it or see if the original searcher would come back and buy the domain from them. With no risk, it was a pretty simple decision for anyone who had the means to just grab as many domains as the could and then delete the ones that didn’t fit their goals just before the grace period expired. I have seen some data that showed that some 90% of domains initially registered were deleted within five days.

The ICANN fee is presently $0.20, and looks like it will be raised to $0.25. For the few people who may actually register a domain by mistake (the original intent of the Add Grace period), this will barely be a blip if the registrars eat the fee. But, the practice of tasting a domain will get expensive for those who might want to check out thousands (or millions) of domains.

Here is the text of the resolution ICANN just passed at their January meeting:

Whereas, the current version of all gTLD registry contracts provides for a five-calendar-day Add Grace period (AGP) following the initial registration of a domain during which a domain may be deleted and the sponsoring Registrar will be credited for the amount of the registration fee (see, e.g.,;

Whereas, the AGP was originally created to allow domain names that had been accidentally registered to be cancelled;Whereas, the practice of “domain tasting,” by which names are registered and then deleted during the AGP, has grown at a very great rate since 2005, with tens of millions of domains registered and deleted each month; Whereas, it is apparent that the AGP is being used for purposes for which it was not intended; Whereas, abuse of the AGP is, in the opinion of the majority of respondents whose statements were collected by the GNSO Ad Hoc Group on Domain Name Tasting (4 October 2007 report), producing disadvantages in the form of consumer confusion and potential fraud that outweigh the benefits of the AGP; Whereas, the GNSO Council on 31 October 2007 resolved to launch a PDP on Domain Tasting and to encourage staff to apply ICANN’s fee collections to names registered and subsequently de-registered during the AGP; Whereas, it is the Board’s view that abuses of the AGP should speedily be
halted, while the positive benefits of the AGP to consumers should be retained; Whereas, the positive benefits of the AGP may include, among other things, avoiding fraud and monitoring, testing and development of registrars’ provisioning, production and/or merchant gateway systems; Whereas, the Board believes that the withdrawal of ICANN’s waiver of ICANN’s non-refundable transaction fee to the deletion of names within the AGP will substantially end the practice of abusing the AGP;

THEREFORE, the Board resolves (2008.01.04) to encourage ICANN’s budgetary process to include fees for all domains added, including domains added during the AGP,
and encourages community discussion involved in developing the ICANN budget,
subject to both Board approval and registrar approval of this fee.

A voice vote was taken of all Board Members present and the motion was approved by a vote of 13-0. Bruce Tonkin abstained from voting on this item. Bought by AOL

February 5th, 2008 by Brad Waller

AOL said Tuesday that it has acquired AOL said that will operate as a business unit of its subsidiary This is likely a decent return on investment for Cazenove Private Equity (CPE) who invested 7.3 million pounds back in 2006. I seem to also recall that one of the executives who joined at that times was an executive.

Congratulations to Malcolm Cowley and the others at!


March 18th, 2008 by Brad Waller

I’m here at the OMMA Global Conference in Hollywood (I just moderated a panel on Local Search) and I hate to say that I’m not really all that impressed. I’ve talked to a number of attendees and I’m hearing a mixed bag of responses. Some of the people know nothing about online marketing and are finding this to be really useful. Others are quite annoyed at the level of content and don’t plan to return

I was planning on covering the conference, but I really have not found too much to write about. When there has been something worthwhile, the MediaPost bloggers have beaten me to the punch at the official MediaPost Raw blog.

Is ReveNews a Rudderless Ship?

March 19th, 2008 by Brad Waller

The ship hath been suddenly becalmed.

Day after day, day after day,
We stuck, nor breath nor motion ;
As idle as a painted ship
Upon a painted ocean.

I feel partial ownership of ReveNews since I have been a long time reader, participant, and author here. There have been times in the past when it seemed that the good ship ReveNews was becalmed and either was cursed or had no captain at the helm.

The last few years this was not the case. From the time Jim took over until last week when Sam left, I had the distinct feeling that someone not only knew what they were doing, but had a plan on where they were heading and how to get there. If it is time for Sam to move on, so be it.

Water, water, every where,
And all the boards did shrink ;
Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.

So who is running the ship now? What is the plan? Unfortunately this has not been communicated to the readers of ReveNews nor the writers. What does this mean for the future of ReveNews? I really don’t know. It is a strong ship, and it can survive hardships and times of directionless motion. But too much time without a strong leader can make for long term problems.

The very deep did rot : O Christ !
That ever this should be !
Yea, slimy things did crawl with legs
Upon the slimy sea.

I have heard rumors and will not repeat baseless words here, but I don’t want to see ReveNews go down a slippery slope and lose the respect it has. Without direction, who knows what may happen to the bloggers that post here and what direction we will go. Perhaps we will start something rolling that is ill advised that could lead to a loss of respect and cause readers to leave in droves.

I don’t know. And that’s the problem.

Why Sprockets Will Change Advertising on the Internet Forever

April 1st, 2008 by Brad Waller

Haven’t heard of this truly intelligent data-mining agent? Well, if you don’t start planning your strategy for this hot emerging technology now, you may miss the most personalized marketing opportunity yet. Get the latest word on the buzz here.

Being a blogger who is well connected has it’s benefits. I just finished an in-depth interview with Sean X. Cummings and Adam Broitman who gave me a sneak peek into the latest game changing technology. What follows is a copy of the strictly-embargoed article they provided on the condition that it be released today.

There has been an incredible buzz over the coming of Sprocket technology, and many people we have spoken with agree that it will fundamentally change the way we approach the interactive space at large. Much in the way the explosion of Facebook enabled breaking down the barriers around content and engagement as it relates to mining your casual friend network, Sprockets will, for the first time, provide us with a holistic picture of what our consumers are doing online, while providing the first truly intelligent data-mining agent for ourselves.

More interactive than widgets

Sprockets are not widgets 2.0 any more than Facebook is MySpace 2.0. They are, however, a technology that finally moves beyond the two-way conversation with consumers, creating an enhanced, multi-directional conversation among the consumer, company, site, data and — more importantly for advertisers — among the Sprockets themselves.

Allow us to get technical here for a minute. Sprockets use passive preference profiling (PPP) and interpretive semantics (IS), giving them the ability to learn. What do we mean by that? Well, remember all the talk we heard about “intelligent agents” or Google’s dream of “artificial intelligence?” Sprockets are the first applications to truly approach that level of automated, interpreted content collection.

The beauty does not stop there. If all Sprockets did was provide consumers with a way they could accomplish more online in less time, and have it be more relevant, it would be a substantial breakthrough. The beauty of Sprockets is that they provide advertisers, marketers and analytics groups with the same type of automation through semantic interpretation; the data, however, is passed along in the reverse direction.

Most companies are keeping their current strategy regarding Sprockets fairly quiet, but by Q3 2008 anyone with a decent online presence will be pushing ahead full-steam. If your company has not figured out how to implement Sprockets, or you don’t have a full-time Sprocket strategist on staff by the end of the year, you are almost definitely going to be on the tail end of this beast, and this is one place where you don’t want to be riding the long tail.

Benefits: real or imagined?

We are often asked, “Are Sprockets really going to change the economics of the internet, or are they just another over-hyped technology?” and “What’s so game changing about Sprockets?”

First: We have seen Sprockets work. We have seen them work in the real world, not a demo. We have observed as Sprockets learn and grow in complexity over the first two weeks of usage.

Second: Sprockets define simplicity. Anyone can develop a Sprocket. The Sprocket Developer’s Kit (SDK) has a simple drag-and-drop, single-screen user interface. The user just connects tubes, called “synaptic tubes,” linking their basic interest points. This process takes 15 minutes, tops!

From there the Sprocket takes over, filling in the gaps with your internet persona while tweaking, augmenting or modifying the few data points given. It does this by monitoring surfing habits, online purchase activity and time spent on content, semantically absorbing the it. The genius is that Sprockets do not store all this data. They retain meta-types of the data in real time. In essence, every page you hit is crawled, indexed and semantically related to your entire history. It is then meta-typed and discarded, retaining only the meta-data.

An open-source legend is born

This is one of the most important developments to ever come out of the open-source community. The initial kernel was programmed by Alexander Dorsay III over the summer of 2006; however, community did not adopt the concept initially. It wasn’t until Anya Khait, an environmental architecture student with a Ph.D in genetics decided to apply techniques and theories from the Biomimicry Institute to the Sprocket kernel that the true power of Sprockets was realized. She developed the “synaptic tubes” and the core engine behind the algorithm modifier based on the growth of Ivy, which is able to grip around any surface and adapt to its environment.

Without getting too deep into the science, let’s say that Sprockets, by design, have a “public you,” and a “private you” setting. By nature, most consumers exhibit a personal dichotomy — their private and public selves. With some, those two personas are almost identical; with others they are quite divergent. Other Facebook-style properties treat you as one self, but you are never just one. The Sprocket dynamically adapts to your activity, not the other way around. You do not choose to tell it “I want to be private today.” The Sprocket dynamically adapts “on the fly” to activity that obscures your secondary profile. They are not separate, but they are distinct. A single synaptic tube links the two personas as it grabs information.

When a Sprocket shares any of the data in the outward direction the entire profile is made anonymous, even down to erasing IP histories, or what is referred to as digital public memory. The intelligence sits in a data-hash in the Sprocket, changing the internal Sprocket algorithm. That is what is different about Sprockets, the algorithm itself dynamically adjusts; not just parameters, but the fundamentals of the algorithm.

The same Sprocket you develop for a website, can be used on any mobile device, or converted with the Sprocket converter to any computer as a standalone app — although you will lose much of the semantically dynamic algorithm modifying aspects of Sprockets that way. They are what the promise of Java was supposed to be before Microsoft derailed it with their own version. However, since Sprockets were built on the foundation of the web, that fear is somewhat mitigated. In fact, it takes advantages of some of the same AJAX technology framework that Web 2.0 does.

Sprockets are not AI

They are merely a highly sophisticated algorithm that uses the collective intelligence as a decisioning engine. The advantage is they don’t make the mistake of using the collective intelligence of the web as it exists now. The sheer volume and mess of the organization of website content makes the collective intelligence there somewhat,  well… stupid. If it wasn’t, you wouldn’t need search engines like Google or to make sense of it. Instead, they use the collective intelligence of the “Sprocketosphere,” which uses only the intelligent decisions in the data, and not the data itself.

Take a look at comparisons to other popular platforms:

  • Standard website: one-way pull request from the consumer
  • Rich media: one-way pull request from consumer, with engagement
  • Widgets: customization by consumer and selective identification of interest
  • Sprockets: multi-directional conversation with consumer and website, customizable ad tracking, alignment checking and reporting, semantic web gathering and inter-Sprocket communication.

The user no longer has to request the web pages; the Sprockets talk amongst each other, among the web, among your email, SMS, address book and social networking to dynamically deliver to you the zeitgeist of you. When you choose to surf manually, the Sprockets learn your behavior and communicate in-between the other Sprockets to adjust your “algorithm” on who you are and what your interests are online. Best of all? They can do it with the existing structure of the web, requiring no more tagging or special codes to be inserted.

We have heard many promises of the next ‘big’ thing. We have heard about many hyped technologies. Let’s hope that Sprockets don’t go the way of Cold Fusion. In the end Sprockets can only be as intelligent as the user they are learning from. Hopefully, the users reading this article will be one step ahead.

Sean X and Adam were so taken with the potential of Sprockets that they formed An open-source company that will produce tools to leverage the potential of the Sprocket kernel.

Ad Industry Didn’t Do Too Badly in 2007

April 1st, 2008 by Brad Waller

Contrary to the published TNS Media Intelligence Report that U.S. Advertising Expenditures Grew 0.2 Percent in 2007, Jack Myers Think Tank says that the number is really between 1.9 percent and 3.1 percent. That is a pretty big difference when you look at the economy and try to make forecasts and plans based on expert information. You could look at this as a few percent difference, or a 10 fold increase in measured growth.

So where does this difference come from? According to Jack Myers, TNS only covers six traditional media, while Jack Myers includes eighteen types. TNS uses their data to show that “the advertising market continued to sputter at the end of 2007,” which might be a bit misleading. Don’t you want to know the whole story?

Jack points out that TNS is missing a vital shift in spending from traditional media (which includes the Internet!) to the next new media of video games (+90%), cinema, satellite radio (+160%), mobile (+80%) and others that account for 13.5% of the total ad spend in 2007. Interestingly, TNS does not include paid search or broadband video advertising in the total Internet ad spend. But where is the growth in the online market? Video comes to mind.

For most of you reading this, I’m sure you will mostly want to look at the details of the data and see where your niche fits into all this. For that, check out JackMyers Media Spending 2006-2009 Estimates and you will see that we should be looking into mobile advertising to ride the next wave and ask “what recession?”

AzoogleAds is now Epic Advertising, Epic is Still Azoogle

April 2nd, 2008 by Brad Waller

AzoogleAds is changing its corporate name to Epic Advertising, but will still retain the use of AzoogleAds for its ad network and Bazaar Advertising for their SEM service. I like the new name better than Azoogle or Bazaar, but I also wonder if this is partly a bid to distance themselves from the $1 million paid to Florida’s CyberFraud Task Force back in November of 2007. Then again, they would have completely killed off the Azoogle name if that was their concern.

Since the settlement Azoogle has been working with Florida to assist other investigations and has been working to establish best practices in the mobile marketing arena.

Jason Calacanis Wants You Dead

April 7th, 2008 by Brad Waller

Yes, it’s true. Jason wants to work you to death. The New York Times printed a story that says that blogging is deadly so it must be true. Jason has evidently built his wealth on the graves of many. I’m waiting for the NYT to do a complete investigation into the whereabouts of every blogger who was ever employed by Jason at Weblogs, Inc. as well as the writers he pays tens of dollars per post to at Mahalo.

It is patently obvious to anyone with a brain that the in-depth reporting at the Times has uncovered a massive conspiracy that has been brushed under the rug for too long. Now we know why Wayne Porter lost all that weight and why so many ReveNews bloggers are no longer making posts – they are either dead or on medical leave. According to the article, bloggers have died from heart attacks, experienced weight loss or gain, sleep disorders, exhaustion and other maladies.

I sure hope they get this figured out soon. I’ve gained about 10 pounds over the last few years and I’d love to blog just enough to lose weight and not have a heart attack. If I do die, I’m sure it will be in the middle of composing a post, so please have the decency to publish my last words.

I’m not dead yet.

Is Anyone Going to Die?

April 15th, 2008 by Brad Waller

I’m here at ad:tech at the keynote by Jeff Hayzlett, CMO of Eastman Kodak where he related great stories about what he has been doing. He is an entertaining speaker and does a good job of telling a story. One of his points related to a few rules he gave his team when he arrived at Kodak. He wanted the team to come up with new ideas and gave them a few rules to govern their ideas. Number one: is anyone going to die? If not, go to the next step.

MySpace Wins a Small One

June 16th, 2008 by Brad Waller

previously reported on a big win ($230 million) MySpace got on Sanford “Spamford” Wallace, and today comes news that Scott Richter and his company, Media Breakaway must pay MySpace $4.8 million in damages and $1.2 million in attorney’s fees for sending unsolicited advertisements to MySpace members.

It’s interesting that the headlines for this have ranged from Adotas’ mild “Arbitrator Ends Media Breakaway, MySpace Dispute” to Wired’s harsher “MySpace wins another verdict against alleged spammer.” I saw the first headline and read the story, and when I saw the second headline I assumed it was a different case. Not that $6 million is chump change, but a judgment that is is reduced from somewhere in the neighborhood of $100 million in damages to $4.8 million is noteworthy and to me, a big hit for MySpace and their claims.

Hey AP, Got a Betamax?

June 16th, 2008 by Brad Waller

The Associated Press thinks that Fair Use means it’s Fair to Use unless you’re a blogger. They don’t like the blogosphere’s use of too many quotes from AP articles and they want to set a policy of what constitutes fair use, as opposed to the federal government.

Check out this article’s coverage of the issue:

Jim Kennedy, the AP’s director of strategic planning, said Monday that he planned to meet Thursday with Robert Cox, president of the Media Bloggers Association, as part of an effort to create standards for online use of AP stories by bloggers that would protect AP content without discouraging bloggers from legitimately quoting from it.

The meeting comes after AP sent a legal notice last week to Rogers Cadenhead, the author of a blog called the Drudge Retort, a news community site whose name is a parody of the prominent blog the Drudge Report.

And here is where the AP article talks about the guidelines:

In response, the AP indicated it would seek to create guidelines, though even that idea triggered further protests. Michael Arrington wrote on his TechCrunch blog Monday that AP “doesn’t get to make its own rules about how its content is used, if those rules are stricter than the law allows.”

Wendy Seltzer, a legal scholar and a fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University, said the news organization should not try to go beyond what’s legally permissible.

“If they were on the other hand to say, you may use 10 words only and any time you use 11 we’ll send a takedown notice, that wouldn’t be helpful,” Seltzer said.

AP worries that bloggers will dilute their content:

Kennedy said the AP had both a journalistic concern about preventing AP news from being quoted out of context and also a business concern about protecting the value of AP’s news from being diluted if its key elements are made available from places that aren’t licensed.“We need to protect our content, no matter who’s using it, but we also recognize that the bloggers perform a really important function on the Internet in terms of increasing the engagement of the audience online, and we want to facilitate that,” Kennedy said.

So AP, did I quote too much? Let me know.

Deep Packet Injection = Trademark Infringement

Jun 25, 2008 by Brad Waller

It’s taken me a few days to get to this one, but I read the blog of New York Law School Associate Professor James Grimmelmann where he analyzes the NebuAd controversy. In his analysis, he comes up with a fascinating point that what they are doing may constitute copyright and trademark infringement, in addition to the privacy issues already raised last week.

Quick catch up since I’ve not written about this before: NebuAd makes deals with ISPs to serve ads to users based on the Web pages they visit. They use cookies on the users computer and monitor web-browsing habits using Deep packet inspection. This raises severe privacy concerns because ISPs know every Web site that users visit and all of their search queries. This clickstream data often provides enough information to figure out their identities.

Professor Grimmelman’s raises issues that go way beyond privacy and into the realm of potential lawsuits. Page content is copyrighted and many elements are trademarked. ISPs are shielded from copyright liability by law, but one of the conditions of this immunity is that “the material is transmitted through the system or network without modification of its content.” He even says that advertisers might be liable if they knew (imagine making a buy and not knowing how it’s being served – it’s probably in their sales pitch) what NebuAd was doing for them.

He compares the NebuAd process to serving some other cola to a customer who asks for a “Coke.” He argues that when the NebuAd cookie is injected by your ISP into a page they serve you, that the page is no longer the exact page you asked for. He says ” When your ISP delivers you a page with a NebuAd cookie injected, the statement that this is the page you asked for is false. The ISP is passing off the NebuAd cookie as being from Amazon. It’s not.” This seems like a bit of a stretch to me, but I’m not an intellectual property attorney. He argues that since the cookie is used to sell you goods that it would be close enough to be an issue.

Users can choose to block or allow cookies from specific publishers, but he says that NebuAd’s packet injection “blows away this safeguard. It tricks me into accepting a cookie I wouldn’t have otherwise wanted.” He calls this a “misuse” of the originating site’s trademark.

If NebuAd continues with this business model, there will some interesting cases to watch.

Coalitions Formed to Fight NebuAd

June 27th, 2008 by Brad Waller

As more people learn about the tactics of NebuAd, more groups come out against them and they are organizing. ClickZ is reporting that six advocacy groups have formed a loose coalition to fight NebuAd. The groups so far are: Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT), the Center for Digital Democracy (CDD), Public Knowledge, and Free Press.

They will be sharing resources and information in order to come together and provide information to the government watchdogs. One of the more interesting facts in the article talks about one other ISP who is still planning to conduct tests of NebuAd that is a DSL provider. They seem to think that since everyone hates the cable companies that they will be OK in doing the same thing that Charter just backed out of (or at least delayed until the hubbub blows over). The ISP, CenturyTel, completed a test run of this and are stating that they are still evaluating the results.

They are separating themselves because the legal issues have been linked to the Cable Communications Policy Act, and that “Charter is a cable company and we are not,” according to a CenturyTel spokesperson. That may be, but privacy laws are still out there – and so are the possibilities of Intellectual Property lawsuits as mentioned in my previous post.

Affiliate Marketing: The Shirt Off My Back

August 11th, 2008 by Brad Waller

Here I am at the end of day two of AffiliateSummit East 2008, back in Boston after quite a number of years and the keynote is not even for another eight hours. Yes, the show really does start two days before the keynote kicks off. Actually, it might be three days. I arrived early Saturday morning and I missed a few unofficial gatherings on Friday. Note to self: arrive in Vegas extra early for ASW ‘09.

I can’t really talk about the show because it has not really started. Today may have already been the Highlight of the show. If you look at the schedule there was really only the Meet Market. I’ve always said that the Meet Market is one of the best networking opportunities and the best deal for anyone who wants to exhibit. But it was not the only event, and not even close to the first one of the show. Saturday morning was Affiliate Classroom Live, a high level training session where I was invited to speak about the New York Tax laws. Thanks to Melanie Seery of NYAffiliateVoice, I was able to get the last minute updates and the Two Steps to Comply with the New York Tax Law post I was able to give people some great information.

After that was a four hour meeting for about 20 volunteers to talk about some of the PMA issues and try to make a few decisions. I think we actually did make some progress and one really good decision on the start of the membership process. I had just enough time to go up to my room and clean up a bit before the Affiliate Dinner roasting/honoring Connie Berg. After dinner was the amazing party, which I ducked out of early to attend the disastrous attempted taping of the Geekcast show. I have no idea if any of it is even usable, but if it does make it to the public for dissemination I’m not really sure if there will be much of value. Maybe next time they should try it in a larger room where security does not have to break up the party.

Finally in paragraph four I get to the official day one of the show. Considering I’m on West coast time and only got an hour of sleep on the plane out, I slept in and got up in time to make it to the Meet Market, the first official event of the show. Now, I volunteered to be a mentor for the Affiliate Summit Mentoring Program, and had two people assigned to me. Of course with all the partying, I neglected to put their cell phone numbers into my own phone and figured I blew my chance to meet with them and show them the ropes.

But what do I hear when I get to the Meet Market? “Oh, Brad, I met your mentee on the CAMA Cruise.” Next booth: “Brad, have you met your mentee yet? He’s really cool.” Then “I just talked to your mentee, he was right over there.” This seemed to go on at every third booth I went to and I never was able to meet up with him. I did meet the other guy I was assigned to help out, but not the one that everyone seemed to know.

After another PMA meeting I was able to make it to the legendary ShareASale party on the Odyssey, docked nearby. I came to the realization that there were more people on that ship than on any other affiliate marketing cruise ever.

Then a near miracle happened. A guy walked up to me and asked if I was Brad Waller. It was Patrick, my semi-famous mentee! We got a chance to sit down and talk. He was amazed by the people in our industry and their generosity of spirit and information. He was surprised that people were so open about what they do and how they do it. Then I heard something that really made my day, if not week. Turns out that he really liked the shirt that Joel Garcia of GTO Management was wearing on the CAMA Cruise. He asked where Joel bought the shirt.

So what do you think happened? Joel showed this perfect stranger just what we are made of. He gave him the shirt off his back.

Holy Scam Batman! The Ghost Sees Through Zango

Sep 12, 2008 by Brad Waller

Chris Boyd (aka Paperghost) reported last week on his Spyware Guideblog about a dodgy offer for a “Free Online Batman Game” that in reality installed Zango and a crappy demo version of an ancient game that you could have downloaded for free somewhere else. It should not take more than a few brain cells to figure out that DC Comics is not coming to you with an online Batman game that nobody knows about and has not been mentioned in the press.

This shows you need to be wary still. Who knows how much either side knew, but when you have such an obvious misrepresentation you really have to wonder. Did people just look the other way for a buck?

Day of Detachment

September 17th, 2008 by Brad Waller

Holy hell what a day! For those of you who don’t follow me on Twitter (@bradwaller), today was a day to forget. My plan was simple: drop my daughter off at school and head off to Santa Barbara for CJU so I could check into the hotel and man the PMA table at the expo. That got blown away last night.

I’m in the process of getting LASIK and Monday was my final exam before my scheduled procedure on Thursday. After four months of wearing glasses to prepare, I’m really ready to get this done with. Part of the final exam was dilating my eyes and checking the retina. The doctor saw some spots that she was not comfortable with and told me I had to see a specialist. This was a few minutes after 5 PM last night. The specialist’s office closed at 5. Crap.

I got in to the retinal specialist at 8:30, expecting maybe an hour or so appointment that would still give me ample time to get my stuff and head off to Santa Barbara since it is about a two-hour drive under normal non rush-hour traffic. Two hours later the doctor is telling me that I have a slight retinal detachment and he’ll take care of it right away. Just a little LASER blasting to re-attach the retina around the flap where the fluid was getting under the retina. Pretty minor and LASIK should not be a problem after the procedure.

Another hour or so later, I’m in the room with the YAG or Argon LASER (I’m pretty sure it said 532 nm) waiting for the doctor to come in and do the deed. The device is pretty cool. He wears the same microscope goggles used for an exam, but it is fitted with two LASERs. A red for aiming and the green for “photocoagulation”to create small burns around the edges of the tear, producing scars which will hopefully seal the borders of the tear and prevent fluids from leaking toward the retina.

The worst part of the procedure was not the really bright green light, but the Q-tip he used to jam behind my eye to press on the back side to I assume get fluid to flow out and get the LASER to seal the retina. THAT was painful. It still hurts 12 hours later. I wonder if I’ll have a bruise tomorrow.

It only took a few minutes for me to guess that the repair was not going as smoothly as I thought when he kept calling out high power numbers for the LASER and it got brighter and brighter until my eye was overloaded and went dark. That was actually easier since the bright light made it hard to keep my eye open and look to the top right and hold that while he prodded and zapped.

Luckily, vision came back pretty quickly, albeit everything was purple and dark. It slowly got better, but was still pretty blurry. I postponed my LASIK appointment and set up a one month checkup to see if the reattachment took. Now of course it was almost noon and I was really late. I rushed home and gathered my stuff and ate a quick lunch. If I was really lucky and traffic was light and I broke the speed limit by 10 miles per hour I might make it to CJU by 2 PM when I was supposed to man the PMA booth.

Of course this didn’t happen and I finally made it to the Fess Parker at about 2:30. Thankfully, word got out that I was late and a few of the other volunteers were at the booth. Already exhausted, I went to work at the booth and eased into trade show mode. I put in some time and made sure the other volunteers had things handled and got a chance to look for some goodies for my daughter (don’t tell her yet – I said there weren’t going to be any) and talk to people at the expo.

The expo was a mini show floor with lots of basic tabletop displays where you could learn about merchants and OPMs who all work in the CJ universe. Walking the tables was tough because I wanted to talk business and also educate them about the PMA at the same time. Lots of talking and I got to meet some great people and get a few pledges of varying support for the trade association.

I then headed off to the Zoo for the cocktail mixer with Lisa Picarille and Connie Berg where we sampled the delectable food (I’m not sure if the mini-Reuben or the skewered beef was better) and wandered the grounds. After a few hours of networking and talking to old and new friends I was beat and ready for the hotel, where you find me writing this…

Cockroaches Will Be Around Long After Agencies

Sep 19, 2008 by Brad Waller

Guy Kawasaki’s keynote at CJU was preceded by an introduction where we were reminded of Ogilvy’s reference to cockroaches in a previous keynote. The headline above was guys thoughts on the introduction. Guy let us all know in advance that he was using a Top 10 format for his Art of Innovation speech so that if he sucked we would know how much longer he would suck. I’m sure Guy has never had a sucky presentation. Here is a summary of his list.

1. Make Meaning (Not Money)
Make the world a better place because of what you do.

2. Make a Mantra
Mission statements suck and don’t mean anything. You can use the Dilbert Mission Statement Generator and come up with one just about as good as any off-site retreat or committee ever will. A simple mantra such as Nike’s “Authentic Athletic Performance” or Wendy’s “Healthy Fast Food” can actually be remembered by your employees and acted upon.

3. Jump to the Next Curve
Most companies start, stay, and die on the same curve. You need to jump the tracks and make a revolutionary change. Don’t just improve something, come at it from a new angle and solve the problem differently. Early refrigeration came from blocks of ice carved from lakes in the winter. While some companies found ways to capitalize and become rich on this, the guy who created the factory that made ice was the one who could keep going. Same for the first refrigerator.

4. Roll the DICE

Deep: The Fanning Reef sandal with a bottle opener in the sole. Twice the functionality!
Intelligent: A Panasonic flashlight that takes three sizes of batteries. You might be out of D cells, but you can grab an AA from a remote.
Complete: Lexus has superb after sales support. Use forums, manuals, VARs…
Elegant: Look at the design of the Mac Book Air. Maybe not the best laptop ever, but it is a great looking device.
Emotive: Generate strong emotions. You either love or hate a Harley Davidson.

5. Don’t Worry, Be Crappy
If you can make something that jumps the curve, it does not have to be perfect. The Mac 128 didn’t have a hard drive or much software. Ship something that jumps curves and has elements of crap.

6. Polarize People
The worst thing that can happen is that people don’t care. Look at the Scion, MacIntosh, and Harley Davidson brands.

7. Let 100 Flowers Bloom
The real world happens – you may find that people you never anticipated buy your product. Figure out why they are using it and give them more. Without desktop publishing, there would not be an Apple Computer.

8. Churn, Baby, Churn
Take your version one and keep re-inventing and innovating. As soon as you ship, look to see what customers are looking for and use that information for the next thing.

9. Niche Thyself
This one should make sense to all of you as the affiliate marketing area is pretty much based on this. Guy loves TiVo, Fandango, the Clear card, Zappos, and more. But it does not have to be for the mass market. If you want an automatic transmission on your bike, you get a Trek Lime. If you need a Kimchee refrigerator, look to LG.

10. Follow the 10/20/30 Rule
When you make the rounds with the pitch for your company, or make a pitch to a customer, “life is a pitch.” After listening to hundreds of bad pitches a year, Guy tells us the rule:
10 slides in your pitch
20 minutes is as long as the pitch should last
30 point font is as small as you should use

And then he added in a bonus:

11. Don’t let the Bozos Grind You Down
There are two kinds of Bozos in the world. There are slovenly losers who are easy to ignore and there are the rich Bozos who dress in black, like Italian products and are dangerous. Why? Because people look at them as assume that rich & famous equals smart. But the reality is that it really means they are lucky. Resist Bozosity.

Reason #4837 Why This Industry Needs an Association

Oct 1, 2008 by Brad Waller

I saw this headline today at MediaPost: “Report: Affiliate Marketers Use Adware Deceptively.”Great, yet another headline that paint the entire industry with a broad brush. Anyone not part of this industry will see the headline and confirm their misguided notions that Affiliate Marketers are scum who will do whatever it takes to take money from the merchants.

Why on Earth would any merchant look at performance based marketing as an option when they read headlines like this? Linda Buquet already addressed the actual issues with a much better titled post on her blog “VistaPrint VPRT and Hydra Allow Adware“, here also is a direct link to Ben Edelman’s report which includes extensive video Edelman Report.

One of the goals of an association that is a lot easier than lobbying is a PR effort on the behalf of our industry that can educate lawmakers as well as journalists about the industry. If journalists have a person who is the duly appointed spokesperson for the industry (as the director of a trade association is regarded), then they can reach out for comments when they have a juicy article like this – and that same spokesperson can make sure that they understand what is going on here.

The real headline is that a few Adware affiliates earns commissions deceptively, not that affiliates in general are using Adware to earn through deceptive tactics. The real issues are that this is going on with the full knowledge of pretty much everyone involved. Was one affiliate interviewed for the article? It appears not.

Every time I read a headline like this, or hear about a talk at a conference that disparages this industry that helps good honest people create a living for their families I just get really pissed off that we don’t have anything done yet. I can’t say if this latest attempt to start an association will work, but it is moving forward and perhaps the pace can be quickened. Let’s get something off the ground before the next article like this is written!

Federal Bill Introduced to Address Affiliate Tax

October 8th, 2008 by Brad Waller

Melanie Seery (NYAffiliateVoice) just reported that S. 3670 has been introduced to the US Senate by Mr. Jim Bunning, a Senator from Kentucky. Now that this is a Federal level issue, contact your Senator to let them know the issues behind this.

Here are the members of the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. Contact them and urge them to vote for it to get out of Committee and go to the floor for vote.

  • Chairman Daniel K. Inouye (HI)
  • John D. Rockefeller, IV (WV)
  • John F. Kerry (MA)
  • Byron L. Dorgan (ND)
  • Barbara Boxer (CA)
  • Bill Nelson (FL)
  • Maria Cantwell (WA)
  • Frank R. Lautenberg (NJ)
  • Mark Pryor (AR)
  • Thomas Carper (DE)
  • Claire McCaskill (MO)
  • Amy Klobuchar (MN)
  • Ranking Member Kay Bailey Hutchison (TX)
  • Ted Stevens (AK)
  • John McCain (AZ)
  • Olympia J. Snowe (ME)
  • Gordon H. Smith (OR)
  • John Ensign (NV)
  • John E. Sununu (NH)
  • Jim DeMint (SC)
  • David Vitter (LA)
  • John Thune (SD)
  • Roger Wicker (MS)

Thanks to Mellie from the NY AffiliateVoice for all the work on this and getting the word out about this important Federal issue!

The Banner is Dead

Nov 24, 2008 by Brad Waller

Over the last week I was part of a spirited private debate about the death of banners and display advertising. Peter Figueredo even posted on this subject while I was composing this. It was all sparked by Procter & Gamble’s GM for interactive marketing and innovation, Ted McConnell saying “I really don’t want to buy any more banner ads on Facebook.” With CTRs around 0.35% and eCPM rates dropping like a rock, what are publishers to do?

Let’s look at the issues. First, headlines are there to get people to read more. Did mine “get” you? Second, journalists may even have a slant that they want to get across. Third (and I’ll stop numbering), people may be looking at a piece of the animal and not stepping back to see that it might make sense. eMarketer recently published some stats on display ads that note while they still can’t measure many of the ads on social media sites, Facebook has already claimed a 1.1% share of display ad views. This is sure to increase as they find ways to measure new concepts such as Facebook’s Engagement Ads.

Friend, Jaffer Ali, does a guest post for Jack Meyers where he asks Has Online Advertising Lost Its “Schwerpunkt”? You really should read this whole article closely as it is pretty complex. I think I read it three times. He starts with an analogy, but moves into a generic “Online Advertising”discussion where he posits that we are allowing technology to drive too much and losing the relationships and creativity that are needed to really move forward and get into what is coming next. I may not fully agree with him, but there are places where he makes perfect sense. Coming from the performance marketing side, we never really did watch CTRs.

Dave Morgan has his version of this in MediaPost where he asks, Whither The Banner?Again, Dave is someone who knows this space better than most. I guess where I disagree with his assessment is that “banner” is pretty generic and can mean different things. To me, “banner” is everything display and all sizes and formats. Dave talks about Web video and Rich Media as separate entities from the banner. I really don’t differentiate between a basic static banner and an expandable banner that shows a movie preview or allows interaction with the user. These are just evolutionary aspects of the same banner that went from static images, to animated GIFs, to Flash, etc. I’m not arguing that banners (my definition) will be here and strong forever. But I do think that they have quite a bit more staying power than they are being given credit for. Read the comments on this one as well, because you will see some great minds who also read this and left their thoughts.

Not to be left out, David Koretz’s MediaPost headline, Display Advertising Needs To Die, is a bit more inflammatory. I have zero experience in Brand advertising personally, but I have learned a bit about it through conferences and dealings with others who have made this their area of expertise.I think I do agree with what he is trying to say as the underlying message, but this does not meant that the other side of the coin can’t be the same thing. His point is that building a brand should not be the goal of advertising, instead it should be building (measurable) sales. David is arguing for the CPA model quite strongly, and for that I am quite happy. It is very nice to see CPA move into the mainstream and even be used as an argument against display advertising. I do think that there is room for both brand and the more direct transactional related ads. The entire TV model (other than late night direct response and QVC type channels) is based on influence advertising. I don’t see that going away too soon. Though I would not mind seeing a few percent of it moving to online affiliate (CPA) sales.

AdWeek jumps on the bandwagon with their version, Is the End Near for Display Ads? My beef with this article is that again, there is no reason that measurable cost per action advertising needs to be excluded from the broad category of Display. Citing sources such as Young-Bean Song and David Hallerman, it is hard to knock the data and research talked about in the story. It is the curse we caused ourselves by touting the measurability of online. By telling people how much better online is because we can measure just about everything, advertising runs into problems when we then go off and try to tell them how online is influencing offline behavior. This article does moderate the tone a bit noting that “the Web is miles ahead of print and TV when it comes to proving its worth.”

UPDATE: Another esteemed colleague, Eric “Pardon My” French responds to the AdWeek article.

It’s not like we haven’t seen this before.

Net Neutrality Not Neutered

December 5th, 2008 by Brad Waller

Just because we have a new administration that has been more supportive of Net Neutrality does not mean that the battles are over or that we need to stop paying attention.  The Telco shills are still at it, trying to show people that having unfiltered access to the Internet is not a consumer issue, that it is regressive, that it is anti-freedom, that it is a myth.  The latest in a string of paid “analysts” is Scott Cleland, who uses 27 pages to obfuscate so many things that you just have to believe him when he tells you that “Google uses 21 times more bandwidth than it pays for.”

His conclusion is the worst apples to oranges comparison I’ve ever seen:

“The study estimated Google’s payment to fund just the U.S. consumer broadband Internet segment to be approximately $344 million in 2008 or 0.8% of U.S. consumer’s flat-rate monthly Internet access costs of $44.0 billion. Thus Google’s 16.5% share of all 2008 U.S. consumer bandwidth usage, is ~21 times greater than Google’s 0.8% share of U.S. consumer bandwidth costs – or an implicit ~$6.9 billion subsidy of Google by U.S. consumers.”

He uses a lot of research into SEC filings to estimate numbers, but that is all moot.  You just cannot put bandwidth costs and use by hosts in the same bucket with money paid by consumers. Having paid bandwidth bills for almost 15 years, I can attest that a decent percentage of what I have paid for is actually not even consumers accessing our sites.  Check your logs and you will see gigabytes (if not terabytes) of bandwidth that comes from search bots.  In other words, Google pays for their server bandwidth to access the Internet and check out trillions of pages of data, and the owners of those sites in turn pay a part of their bandwidth for Google to do this.  The consumer has not even turned on their computer and a ton of bandwidth has already been used by all the hosts and services out there.

Cleland estimates Google’s percent of bandwidth used by ignoring a ton of other types of bandwidth. He writes that what “drives this conspicuous bandwidth consumption is Google’s search bots regularly copy every page on the Internet, some as frequently as every few seconds, and Google’s YouTube streams almost half of all video streamed on the Internet.”  Really?  Google copies every page on the Internet?!? Some pages every few seconds?  They must really want to make sure they are up-to-date, copying the entire internet every few seconds.  No wonder they use the entire bandwidth of the United States every few minutes.

A year ago this report came out and blamed 49% to 89% of all traffic on P2P services.  Another report from 18 months ago says that HTTP traffic is approximately 46%, P2P 37%, Newsgroups 9%, non-HTTP video streaming 3%, gaming 2%, and VoIP 1%. It does come close to one of Clelands numbers, estimating YouTube accounting for about 10% of all traffic. Sandvine, a provider of “bandwidth management” services has a very recent study that looks at both upstream and downstream traffic from the subscriber level (ignoring the server to server action) that showed an increase in bandwidth use by P2P networks. I guess the P2P networks are harder targets than big G, as I found it interesting that P2P still dominates upstream networks and accounts for more than 61% of all upstream datas well as 22% of downstream.

What is the big hog of downstream  Web traffic? Video (Web Media 15.7% of traffic) of course.  But YouTube is just one of the players.  All the networks either stream content or have deals with Hulu or another provider.

The bottom line is that attacks on Net Neutrality (simply defined as treating all traffic the same, with no regard to source or content) are still going strong and we need to make sure that our elected representatives understand the simplicity of the idea as well as the absurdity of the arguments against it.  Remember, they are not experts on the Internet and have little or no idea about what these terms mean and how this type of thing works.  Go out and make an appointment with your local House member. Talk to them about this and any other issue you think is important, and let them know that you are available to answer questions and be their expert when it comes to questions about the Internet.