ReveNews Blog Posts Archive – 2005

Original Bio
Brad Waller has been involved in online marketing and advertising since 1994. He is responsible for developing one of the first affiliate programs on the Web, co-branded and syndicated content, XML data feeds, Advertising management solutions, and more. Brad is a frequent presenter at Internet related conferences and workshops. ads to maximize their earnings power.


Welcome to My World

Hi, I think (hope) most of you know who I am. For those who don’t, check out my bio to the left. I’ve been invited here to blog on important and intreresting issues and see how this works. I’m not here to promote myself or get consulting contracts, but if this helps business I won’t complain. You can be assured that I will be fair, honest, and opinionated. I’ve got a thick skin, so I invite comments from those who disagree. A good debate is far more interesting than a post followed by a bunch of “me too” posts.

This is a quick start to see how this all works. I’ll be posting here regularly on a variety of topics. While I’m known for my affiliate marketing background, I also have done a lot with advertising, syndication, marketing, technology, and business development.

I have a few ideas for the next posts, and I’ll draw from current events and things we’re working on here.

Posted to Affiliate Marketing on January 06, 2005 at 09:04PM


Inventors of Affiliate Marketing

Sometimes I wonder what people are thinking when they say things, and I wonder even more when they put these things in writing. At least when you speak you might be excused for not thinking fast enough. But just as I am doing here, I’m thinking before I write, and then I re-read what I wrote to make sure I’m not spouting nonsense.

What got me started this morning was this quote from Stephen Messer:

When we created affiliate marketing, we really did not think about the dark side of the internet. It was a very different time and thus the openness of the internet world and the very idealistic nature of that time lead us to create the ability for anyone to make a living on the internet through LinkShare. Later on, the other networks that followed in our footsteps followed suit.

You created Affiliate Marketing? When? With all due respect Stephen, you guys were not the ones who created affiliate marketing. You may have claim to creating third party affiliate marketing and tracking software. I can’t claim to have invented affiliate marketing, yet I still have an email in my records from Cheryl Ho (October 1997) asking if I might want to use your soon to be launched service for my existing affiliate program, and another from Heidi in March of 1998 when we already had 1,700 affiliates.

Unless you have some paperwork somewhere that shows you came up with the idea back a few years before you founded LinkShare, I don’t see how you can make this claim with a straight face. I don’t think even Jeff Bezos will go out and make that claim anymore…

I also know we did not invent the idea, as our program (March 1996) was preceded by PC Flowers & Gifts.com (October 1994), AutoWeb.com (October 1995), Kbkids.com/BrainPlay.com (January 1996) and who know how many porn programs. CDNow also had something like a program before they even had a Web site. If I had their book here at the office, I could cite their date and program name.

The true “inventor” of Web affiliate programs will likely never be known. I would expect that nobody really invented anything, and that the idea just slowly evolved from the original “goodwill” of the community back then. It was nice to reward others for helping you. Affiliate programs are no different from offline referrals that many professionals give. The real estate industry has been doing this, as has the legal profession.

The idea of affiliates as “comissioned salesforce” is also supported by years of offline experience. Car salesmen, clerks at Macy’s, and my favorite, the Fuller Brush Man were all basically helping define the affiliate model.

Posted to Affiliate Marketing on March 08, 2005 at 11:33AM


The Future of Local Portals

Remember years ago when local portals were the up and coming next big thing? I remember meeting companies at conferences whose business model was based on providing local portals to others. Some of these are gone completely, and others have been sitting for years in limbo.

With the advent of one single technology, I can see a real future for valuable local portals. The biggest problem with all the previous versions of this idea was that one company could not provide the localized information and convince the communities to visit the sites. What is this amazing technology? Wireless Internet.

Be it Wi-Fi, WiMax, or something that follows, there is a great model and opportunity. Many municipalities are considering free Wi-Fi for everyone in their borders. Others are doing it as competitive rates. Imagine how this can take a local portal and make it work.

I’ve seen the numbers for a small free city-wide project and I am amazed. Costs per resident vary depending on who comes up with the numbers, but no matter what they are less well under a dollar per residence per month. By making the service free, the barrier to entry goes way down and the incentive to use it goes up. Now, take this entry portal and turn it into a true local portal. Take the basic access site and add in city communications, a business directory, local news, weather, sports, nightlife, tourist information, shopping, travel, and more.

You have a highly targeted demographic that is using the portal on a regular basis. What more could a marketer ask for? Users of the site will be locals and tourists, so you provide them with the information they are looking for, and earn revenues through commissions and sponsorships. You don’t even have to make a hard sell or send them a ton of email. Provide useful information and buying resources, and tell them that their activity supports the service, and you will have a willing buyer at the ready. Cities can become affiliates and earn substantial revenue that can offset or even pay for the entire service.

Will this come to fruition? Hard to say. From what I saw in Hermosa Beach, the numbers support this easily. Larget cities with substantially larger costs will have a harder time making the revenues, and there is quite a bit of opposition from industries that feel threatened.

Posted to Affiliate Marketing on March 09, 2005 at 11:25AM


Inventors of Affiliate Marketing, Part II

At least the Messer siblings are consistent. I just saw another quote, this time from Heidi, made at the eComXpo last month.

“We have invented an industry. There was no such thing as affiliate marketing before 1996. We’ve invented a whole field of professionals, affiliate marketing program managers. And we’ve empowered literally millions of small businesses out there to make a living using our software and technology. There are not many people that can say that.”

OK, now Heidi is on my list!

First, how can anyone say with a straight face that there was no such thing as affiliate marketing before 1996! They can say that there was no such thing as an affiliate marketing network solution provider (also known as a trusted 3rd party back in the day) before 1996. I can’t argue that they were the first 3rd party solution provider (they call themselves the first affiliate network), but I’m not even sure that they were doing anything in 1996. Maybe they were doing a lot on paper, but I can’t find any credible evidence that LinkShare existed before mid-1997.

They had Linkshare.net as of July 4, 1997, and LinkCorp.net as of May 19, 1997. Their info pages say that the company was founded in 1996. They could have worked on the software for a year before getting the domain. I did not see any evidence of them in the Wayback machine before 1998 (and those pages have Copyright 1997, 1998), but that is not definitive.

New York’s Department of Corporations shows that Linkshare was incorporated August 1, 1997.

Their patent was filed June 10, 1997, so they had to have time to conceive the “invention” and write the patent. Since you have up to one year to file from the date of the invention, it is possible that they could have formed a partnership in 1996 and came up with the idea.

So, inventors of an industry (3rd party provider), maybe. Inventors of affiliate marketing, I think not. Affiliate marketing was around as soon as there was a Web, and in the dirt world it has been around for, oh, a few thousand years maybe.

Posted to Affiliate Marketing on March 10, 2005 at 05:15PM


Friday Humor

Here’s something to lift your spirits on a Friday morning. This comes from one of the first emails I happened to open this morning. It looked like one of the usual form letter junk mails I get every day asking for links or for me to join their program or CPA network. Since I have my own form letter response to link requests (join of affiliate program and your co-branded site will link back to you), I opened the email and started to read it.

Normally these are pretty boring, but this one was so messed up with was hilarious. It’s not often that I will laugh out loud from an email. This one produced an outburst that got my CTO to look over at me to see what happened. I think that this email takes the cake for two wrongs definitely making it worse. Check out how it starts:

Hi,

I looked at your web site – http://www.associateprograms.com –
and I would really like to set up a partnership with you.

I own a site that provides information on mens sexual health –
http://www.buy-diabetes-levitra-migraine-medicine.com. Since our
sites are related to each other, I would like to propose a link
exchange partnership with your site.

My site gets a lot of traffic every day, so a link from my site
to your site will bring in a decent amount of traffic to your
site.

Since I’m not Allan Gardyne, and neither his site our EPage has much to do with “men’s health”, I can’t imagine his list was very well targeted. I really doubt the rest of his emails will get much in the way of link action. But, maybe he did brighten a few thousand people’s morning.

Posted to Online Marketing on March 11, 2005 at 10:10AM 


The DVR industry is starting to actually get it!

Finally, they figured out that “pause live TV” is not what anyone cares about or uses a DVR for! Adelphia has started to air commercials that show the real benefits of DVRs. The DVR market is still tiny, and it may never turn into a stand alone appliance as it started, but the marketers have finally realized what they are good for. I never understood the ads they had before even after I owned one. My tagline would have been “watch what you want, when you want.”

I’ve had a ReplayTV for years and it has been a life altering experience. Odd as it may seem, it really has changed the way my family uses TV. TV is not the focus, because it can be paused and rewound if someone has to interrupt. This makes the TV less important because it is so easy to catch what you miss when someone talks or the phone rings. TV is no longer an appointment. Just the other day I was on the phone with a friend who said he had to go because he promised his son that they would watch a show together and it was about to come on. I don’t have that problem because the ReplayTV would record it for me to watch when I was ready. Television has turned into the answer for “what do I want to watch now?”

But it is more than that. My daughter, now five and a half, has never watched live broadcast TV. She has no idea that some people actually have to wait until 8 AM to see Sesame Street. It also makes for tremendous parental control. She can only watch what we have recorded for her. I don’t have to worry about her choice of programs because I have already done that filtering job. It also makes it easy to control the time spent in front of the TV and it really helps with bedtime. She likes Extreme Makeover, Home Edition which ends at 9 PM. If we had to make an appointment to watch this, she would up up until after 9 PM on a school night. Instead, we start it at 7:30 on Monday or Tuesday and she can watch the show and go to bed when it is over.

Of course, it has made for some interesting shows that she really likes. Since we record shows for ourselves and she is around when we might watch, she ends up liking shows for adults. She liked Jeopardy, watching it a few days a week. That was until Ken Jennings started winning and she had to see every episode! Once he lost, she lost interest. But it gets weirder. She likes Mythbusters, and her favorite “character” on the show is Buster, the crash test dummy. She likes Queer Eye, and her favorite is Carson!?! She likes Iron Chef, but only is Chef Sakai is on, otherwise she wants to see Iron Chef America.

Now that one advertiser is starting to do it right, will the market respond and save ReplayTV and TiVo? I’m still not sure if this is the spark. I think it will take more than advertisements coming so long after the fact. Cable and Satellite companies are selling these, but not pushing them the right way. I see more and more multifunction boxes coming out that incorporate DVRs into the mix, but still no “killer app.” I think it will take a well done integrated “home entertainment” box that will take this to the next level. This box will not only be for video, but also for music. At that point, how much more of a stretch is it to make this central server that also is the junction for data. In my house I have video going to the DVR and data going to a cable modem. With video, audio, data, and storage all integrated, you have the makings of a great home computer replacement. So, when is Apple coming out with this?

Posted to Advertising on March 22, 2005 at 09:23PM 


Secret to Top Google Rankings

I’ve had the chance to see some real world tests of Google over the last few months and have some illuminating observations. I can tell you how to take a site from #1 and wipe it off the Google map. I can also tell you how to get #1 ranked in Google for competitive words and phrases.

I’m not going to get into the debate on is there a Sandbox or how it might work. Who cares what it is called or if it exists. I just care about what happens and if results are due to removal from the index. Google can do what they want when they want to results if they think it makes them better. That’s their job. If it hurts my site, big deal. It’s not their job to make sure my site ranks well.

We operated our Classifieds site from EP.com starting in 1994 and always had great results in the search engines without any fancy SEO. Just good content, lots of unsolicited links, and time. In late 2004, we sold the domain and moved the content to EPage.com, following properly coded “permamnetly moved” redirects. One key phrase I follow was “internet classifieds” where we usually ranked in the top three.

After the move, both sites disappeared from the results for this page. So the “secret” to getting wiped from Google is to change domains. While the new site was indexed quite quickly, results are still hard to come by. Call it the sanbox or what you will, but EPage.com pages show up at the bottom of the results, if at all. We only recently (after about six months) started to appear when searching for EPage.

But just today, I saw something that really caught my eye: EP.com was again ranked #1 for this search term! So, what is this amazing secret? It is easily revealed by heading to the cached results and reading the text:

“These terms only appear in links pointing to this page: internet classifieds”

In other words, the text of the link is the only reason for this rank. Since the content is basically empty, you can’t argue that content by itself can get you a #1 rank. It’s rare to find such a clean example of a #1 page result that has had no search engine spamming, cloaking, or other tricks done to it.

Now, who has an example of a page that ranks #1 for a word or phrase with no backlinks using that word or phrase?

Posted to SEM and PPC on March 23, 2005 at 05:13PM 


Analytics buying spree Related to Cookie Deletions?

Two Web site analytics companies were just sold. WebTrends was spun off to a private equity group for $94M cash, and Urchin Software was bought by Google. Why the sudden interest in analytics? With all the news about cookie deletion, and particularly third party cookies, an strong argument could be made that analytics is the future source of this data. The ad serving industry is the one that seems to have it’s panties in a bunch over the cookie “problem”, but the “live” versions of analysis programs still use 3rd party cookies.

The “live” version embed code in every page and use cookies to track users through the site, and everything is consolidated by the company for Web based analysis. The installed versions, however, would use first party cookies. These cookies are less likely to be deleted or blocked, making integrated analytics perhaps more accurate. I can’t guess about a private investment group, but you can look at Google and make some guesses at their motives.

My first thought is that they will release some version of Urchin for free, like they did with Picasa, just because they like to grab up great ideas and release them. The second idea I had is that perhaps they will integrate site analytics with AdSense. Google already has some decent tracking tools as part of AdSense, but imagine the possibilities if the same code you paste on your page for AdSense also gets you insight into user behavior, user counts, conversions, and more.

I don’t see Google making this a paid feature as it does not fit their model. This could become the reason why you would use AdSense instead of Yahoo! or MSN for your ad displays, and it might incentivise you to add Google code to every page of your site. I’m thinking that this idea makes more and more sense and fits their model well.

Posted to Online Publishing on March 29, 2005 at 11:39AM


Will the DVR Kill Bad Advertising?

Filed under: Media – April 15, 2005

Accenture just released a study that says the TV industry will “lose” $27B. You can read about this at AdAge (you have to register to read), and the headline implies that ad skipping will cause these massive losses. But, the first sentence says “Ad skipping and on demand viewing could cost the TV industry $27 billion in lost ad revenue over the next five years, according to new research released today by Accenture.” The article does not go on to say how much of the pie the on demand viewing will account for.

Even so, the numbers are interesting. This $27B “loss” still accounts for TV ad revenue growth of only 3% by 2009, with TV ad revenue in 2004 at about $60 billion.

So don’t get worried that TV will be going out of business with this “loss”, since they are really projecting slower growth than comparable industries. If their model can’t support growth figures they want, then they need to work on their model. One thing that has already started making inroads is product placement. This can be done very well (Survivors getting Pringles as a snack), or they can be a bomb (Dove Body Wash on the Apprentice). The second thing that they can do it to make better advertising that viewers actually want to see.

As I posted earlier, I have a ReplayTV and rarely watch anything not pre-recorded. One of the features of my unit is automatic commercial skip, and I do love it. I rarely see a commercial nowadays and I sure don’t miss them. Most are bad, boring, and banal. Many are targeted the the youth demographic and end up annoying me (Old Navy anyone) more than entertaining. But guess what? Last night I turned commercial skip off to watch The Apprentice.

Why would I want to watch commercials? Because I knew that Pontiac would be launching their new ad campaign for the Solstice to match the show content, just as Burger King and Dominoes did during their episodes. The Apprentice made the car sound so great (and I really do like it a lot) that I wanted to see what Pontiac would do and how their campaign would look. As usual, Pontiac (as does most of GM) had really good commercials. Interesting, exciting, visually appealing, great music. Even better for NBC, I ended up watching quite a few other commercials as well.

The lesson here is that if the advertisers can make great commercials and even tie them into the show content, then viewers might decide to watch them.


Is the Cookie Really Crumbling?

Filed under: Online Publishing – April 18, 2005

Just in time for Ad:Tech, Atlas released a survey that actually checked out some of the realities of the “cookie deletion” issue. Their survey actually got the same results as most of the others when they asked the same questions, which is good. But guess what? Atlas went the extra mile to see if the self-reported cookie deletions were accurate. They actually looked at cookie lifetimes on respondents computers to see if they were really deleting cookies as they said.

Results show that users who report that they delete cookies at least weekly in reality had average cookie lifetimes of 45 days on the computer! The disparity shrinks as the self-reported times increase, with the people who say they delete monthly having an average lifetime of 59 days.

Possibly due to smaller numbers, the results for 3 month deleters show 127 day averages, and 6 month deleters having an average of 117 days. Once you get to the few who say they delete less than once per year or so (164 day average) the numbers pretty much match those who never delete (172 day average). While Atlas declares that more research is needed, they also conclude (and I agree) that there really is no reason to think that cookie deletion will destroy tracking.

The report�s author, Young-Bean Song, director of analytics, Atlas, is available to discuss his report this week via phone or e-mail, and next week in-person at AD:TECH.


Who Took the Cookie From the Cookie Jar?

Filed under: Online Publishing – May 03, 2005

Boy, talk about changing your tune. I reported on the Atlas study on Cookie duration versus user reporting and then they restate the results and say that their numbers agree with Jupiter. Of course, Jupiter has their own triumphant rejoice on this vindication. But then when I read the Atlas report in detail, it does still conclude that cookie deletion reports are much higher than actuals. Sure, the numbers are correlated, with longer lifetimes for those who claim to delete less frequently, but I see full half of the population with cookies that are “too old” based on their claims.

Jupiter says that between 54% and 68% of the people claiming to delete cookies regularly were accurate. When I read the same table, I see that fully half the people were wrong. In fact, if you assume averages then you might think that they mis-interpreted the numbers. If someone deletes cookies monthly, then the average lifetime of cookies on their computer should be 1/2 a month, or about 2 weeks. This means than some of the people with 3 week old cookies should be counted against their claim, not for it.

From Atlas:

40% of people who claimed to delete their cookies weekly had cookies that lived longer than two weeks, while 46% of people who said they delete their cookies every month had cookies that lived longer than two months.

One thing neither seem to stress is that these are based on 3rd party cookies. I have not seen a study that used first party cookies, which are accepted for more readily. If the numbers were even close to what is being reported ecommerce would grind to a halt with broken shopping carts and accounts not working.

Another quote from the Atlas study:

If there was a significant shift in consumers deleting their cookies, we would witness a growing proportion of impressions being delivered to short-lived cookies (i.e., lifespan of less than 30 days). Over the past six months, Atlas has not seen dramatic increases in the percentage of impressions delivered to short-lived cookies. Despite the publicity around spyware and the increasing popularity of over zealous anti-spyware software, the percent of impressions that have shifted from stable cookies to short-life cookies amounted to a 0.5% drop in the last 6 months.

And to conclude on a completely different note, they also have some data to back up one of the more contentious stats in affiliate marketing. Many affiliates worry about return days and cookie life, and there have been quotes from providers about this issue and many discussions. Here is an independent result that seems pretty reasonable:

We have consistently found that the vast majority of conversions, generally 70%�90%, occur within a 24-hour window of the corresponding click or impression.


NY Times to Enter Affiliate Marketing?!?

Filed under: Affiliate Marketing – May 18, 2005

Yep. I just read that in addition to charging for an online subscription, the New York Times is looking at new monetization and marketing models, including an Affiliate Program. The plans are not fully formed, but to announce them implies that they are going to do this. It would be embarrassing to talk about this and then change their mind, so I think that they are well enough along in the process that they expect to do this, and that they just don’t have the model complete yet.

Their plan seems to plan on using bloggers to link to articles or content behind the subscription, and then cut them in on a piece of the revenues from new subscriptions. This is all standard affiliate stuff, and they have lots of people doing their research, but I’m not sold on the idea. I can see quite a bit of resistance by the bloggers, as the passionate bloggers might be a bit anti-establishment and not really want to line the pockets of the Times. Andrew Sullivan does not seem to care for the idea of paid subscription, and I can’t see him changing his mind just because he can get a cut. And in case you think that this is unique, the feeling seems to be the same from Kos, who is in the opposite political spectrum.

Another quote in the article implies that this idea is going to create a revenue stream for the bloggers, just like Amazon did for affiliates in the book business. Am I missing something? Do they really think that they can get hundreds of thousands of bloggers to start sending visitors to buy subscriptions to the Times digital?

Maybe the Times has not researched the blogoshpere well enough, and they don’t know how bloggers are already making money from BlogadsBlogkits, other Affiliate programs, and the like. Adding one more possible revenue opportunity will not make a huge difference for bloggers, and likely will not meet projections that the New York Times may have set for themselves.


Fool: Affiliate Marketing is Dead?

Filed under: Affiliate Marketing – May 19, 2005

Rick Munarriz writes in a recent article at The Motely Fool about the death of affiliate marketing. Odd, I had not noticed companies disappearing and dropping programs like hot unprofitable rocks. Rick writes:

“After all, if websites everywhere are taking to contextual ad blocks, doesn’t logic suggest that graphic banner ads and affiliate marketing are being pushed off the page?”

Gosh, I guess I better get some banner ads up for affiliates since they must be the way to go.

“Why would any webmaster feature a single graphic ad when that same space could be replaced by as many as five targeted text ads from Google?”

This guy must be an affiliate marketing expert after all to be able to write this insightful article. Where has he been hiding? We’ve never seen him at any of the industry events or forums…

Read the rest of the article and you will see that he is a stock analyst who really likes Google and Yahoo and talks about the impact of AdSense on the likes of DoubleClick and Fastclick, players who have little to do with affiliate marketing. I knew DoubleClick was in trouble years ago when I found out how many reps they had servicing accounts. They were way to top heavy and did not automate enough. Sure, Google ate DoubleClick’s lunch (and dinner), but it will not kill affiliate marketing.

Affiliates barely use banners, and those who are using banners are not getting rich with them. Quality affiliates use a variety of methods that can actually be complimentary to AdSense and the like. An affiliate can write a great article that relates to a product they are trying to sell through affiliate links (in the article), and they can place AdSense around that article. A top affiliate such as FatWalletcan place AdSense into their forum and do well. A datafeed affiliate could place AdSense on their pages and make money from both sources without displacing any content.

I’d like to see a study from ValueClick or someone else that looks at the revenues generated from various linking strategies. From our own program I can take a guess that easily less than 5% (and maybe quite close to zero) revenue comes from banners, since we encourage our affiliates to use other linking methods such as JavaScript and text links. If banners went away completely, we would not see more than a blip in our program.

I’m sorry, but reports of affiliate marketing’s demise are still quite premature. You might even want to argue that the success of AdSense is in some part due to affiliate marketing. First, small sites were already primed to set up relationships with “advertisers” with the hopes that they could make money from their page views. Second, they knew that banners did not do well for affiliate programs and they needed something else to put in that space. Thanks Google!


Nobody Wants an Ugly DVR

Filed under: Media – May 23, 2005

Mediapost reports that ESPN just released some research that purportedly says that almost 60% of late adopters given a DVR didn’t want them. Why this is being talked about today, when the study was done over a year ago is odd. The study was really supposed to look at behavior and in particular viewing of advertising when DVRs are introduced to this group. They say that 90 of 157 households returned the units, implying that these types will not buy a DVR considering they rejected a free one.

But the reasons given for return are telling:

Of the 157 households that participated in the test, 90 returned their DVRs for a variety or reasons including: complaints about the installation process, the cost of DVRs, or the fact that the digital set-top devices clashed with or didn’t fit into their home furnishings.

So, if these units were given to the study participants, where did the cost come from? Were they paying the monthly fee the whole time? Maybe they returned it when told they now had to pay a monthly fee? What were the installation instructions like? I’d like to see a follow-up to see how many of these people bought a DVR in the year following the study. Maybe some liked the idea, but got one with their cable or satellite service, or bought a nicer looking one of their own choosing?

Were these people given the benefits of the DVR, or just given this box and told to use it to “freeze live TV” like the commercials say? Imagine if you gave someone a microwave oven in 1960 and told them it was a new oven and to try it out. I bet quite a number would be returned because they turned their steak into rubber while they waited for it to brown.

People buy things because they WANT them, not because they are using them for a study. If you don’t explain the reasons why they would want one, as well as sell them on the benefits, then how surprising is it that they would be rejected. As an example, my parents came over to baby sit for years and never got into using our DVR. But, over time they found that they were able to catch a movie that was on days before they come over, or catch the show that was on while they were driving over.

I bought them their own unit, and my dad installed it himself and set it up. Now they are watching their favorite shows when they want to, and they are even watching shows they never watched before because there were not home when they were on.

Finally, if 57% of these people returned the units, this also says that 43% of the people who did not think they needed a DVR found out that they were pretty good and wanted to keep them.


DirectTrack Using Lawsuit in Ads

Filed under: Affiliate Marketing – May 25, 2005

Peter Figueredo first reported the conflict between DirectTrack and Think Partnership May 17, and since then there have been a few more salvos back and forth. In the next step of the continuing battle, DirectTrack is now using it to their advantage in advertising that is part inside joke, part clever advertising.

The ad is a picture of two men on a park bench with laptops open. The man on the left is smartly dressed in a coat and tie with glasses, the one on the right in casual clothes. The man on the left is looking sideways at the guy on the right – who is straining to look over at the lapton on the left. In big text is “DirectTrack So Good, Our Leading Competitors Use It!” and in smaller text, “*Read all about it”.

The ad links to DirectTrack’s press release describing their side of the lawsuit story.

I have to congratulate DirectTrack for clever use of this to their advantage. If they wanted to, they could continue with this theme next time, adding in, “So good, our competition sued us to let them keep using it.” Will Think Partnership respond with one of their own? This could be fun.


I’m King of the PR!

Filed under: Search Engine Marketing – May 25, 2005

Here’s a totally pointless post, but I have to make it. Today I was looking at the Google “PR” value for the ReveNews home page and I noticed that it was a 3/10, but then I noticed that my blog was a 5/10!?! Amazed that my page could be higher than the home page, I had to check out everyone else’s page and to my astonishment, I have the highest value. Imagine that!

Obviously this has nothing to do with how many posts we’ve made or how good looking we are or even how popular we were in high school. My only serious thought on this is that the Google algorithm is using our inbound and outbound links to get these differences in value, and that analysis could take more time than I have right now. If I do have the time, I can do a serious follow up to this.

Or not. I can’t believe I trusted the anonymous source of the research. I think it was the same one used by Newsweek. Full research shows that I compared apples to oranges and compared “www.revenews.com/bradwaller” to “revenews.com” and “revenews.com/author”. Google scores the page differently if you have the www prefix, and it turns out I’m also the goat of PR value with a big fat “0” for my www prefix site.

Here’s a corrected listing of the PR scores as of today, May 26, 2005, taking into account the www. and the no prefix values:

Google “PR” score
Sitewww. prefixno prefix
ReveNews Home5/103/10
Wayne Porter4/101/10
Brian Clark4/104/10
Jeff Molander5/101/10
Ola Edvardsson4/104/10
Chris Malta4/104/10
Sydney Johnston4/104/10
Andy Jenkins4/104/10
Sam Harrelson4/104/10
Tim Storm4/104/10
Robin Cowie4/104/10
David Lewis4/104/10
Chris Criswell4/104/10
Beth Kirsch4/104/10
Robert Grosshandler4/104/10
Jonathan Miller4/104/10
Brook Schaaf2/102/10
Carolyn Tang4/101/10
Jim Kukral5/100/10
Connie Berg5/100/10
Peter Figueredo5/100/10
Brad Waller5/100/10

News Discovers Affiliate Marketing

Filed under: Affiliate Marketing – June 10, 2005

In an article released this week, the DM News seems to have just discovered Affiliate Marketing. When I read the article, I had to do a double take and check the date to make sure I was reading it correctly. Yes, this was written in 2005, not 1995.

The birth of technology has given rise to so much information, and, in its natural life cycle, its marriage to creativity has created marketing opportunities that couldn’t have been conceived 10 years ago. A good example of this marriage of technology and creativity is affiliate marketing.

Really, I bet Stephen Messer, the inventor of affiliate marketing, would have a thing or two to say about that!

As a primer in affiliate marketing as it was ten years ago, the article is actually pretty good. It explains what affiliate marketing is at a level that people out of the industry should be able to understand, so maybe you can use this when your Aunt Betty asks you what you do. It is a great example of best practices from the early days (user clicks on affiliate banner, etc.) and ignores the reality of today.

It also assumes that all affiliate tracking is done through 1×1 pixels – and the author does not even know what one is as she mis-defines the term.

Technically, an advertiser or seller of the product must be able to insert a pixel, an invisible image file, into the HTML code of the confirmation page in the order process. This allows the tracking of sales.

Aunt Betty may as well read that, because she would never understand data feeds, PPC arbitrage, co-branded sites, coupons, or any of the other successful ways that affiliates actually make money.

Twenty-first-century marketing has come of age.

Indeed.


AffiliateSummit 2005 First Impressions

Filed under: Affiliate Marketing – June 17, 2005

For the first time in six years of going to affiliate related conferences I was amazed by one simple fact. We were no longer the biggest nerds there! Instead of having a bunch of techies walking around Miami, Nassau, Halifax, or a cruise ship, we were at a Casino hotel. But guess what? When we all got here I looked around and saw a group that out-nerded the Affilate and Internet Marketers – 1,000 or so chess players!

Not only did we have chess players from pre-pubescents all the way to AARP members, but there was room after room of chess sets, boards, and accessories. Everything the ultra-nerd could want.


ookies?

Filed under: Media – July 15, 2005

Walter Mossberg is one of the more powerful people when it comes to technology and Internet writing. As the technology writer at the Wall Street Journal, his influence can be quite substantial. He seems to have a love/hate relationship with cookies as evidenced by a few articles he has authored over the years. In general, he does not seem to mind them unless they have anything to do with advertising. But he’s gone over the top this week by declaring tracking cookies to be unequivocally spyware.

Back in 2000, in his article Now You See ‘Em… he wrote about how ads in print are fine, but on the Web they are an annoyance at best, and a detriment in general. Most of his concerns have to do with cookies, advertising, and privacy.

Now, cookies can be good or bad. Many Web sites use them to store user preferences and priorities, such as which stock quotes a user wants displayed. Others use cookies to collect information on user behavior. But at least these cookies are placed there by Web sites the user is consciously visiting, even frequenting. DoubleClick is putting its cookies on your PC without delivering any benefit at all. And because its ads appear all over the Web, the company can potentially track your behavior across many sites.

He continues to advocate overall ad and most cookie blocking, while acknowledging that it “interferes with a few legitimate Web sites and services”.

By 2003, he wrote The Other Kind of Tracks that detailed the issues of privacy and how others can detect what you do on your computer. He explains that you might want to delete your cookies, but he also shows their value.

These activity trails all have legitimate purposes. Some, for instance, let you easily return to Web pages or other documents you’ve recently viewed, and cookies can keep track of your log-in info on certain Web sites. Most weren’t created to allow snooping. But they do allow it.

I would even say that he has a good understanding of them from this article.

You can also set the browser to refuse to accept cookies, after clearing out the ones you have, though this can also screw up your ability to have Web sites remember your log-in information or your preferences for such things as local news and weather or stocks to watch.

This brings us to 2005 and his latest article printed yesterday where he states that Tracking cookies fit definition of spyware. It appears as if he no longer understands the way that they work and are used. I also don’t think that he knows what is going on in th4e rest of the advertising world.

Suppose you bought a TV set that included a component to track what you watched, and then reported that data back to a company that used or sold it for advertising purposes. Only nobody told you the tracking technology was there or asked your permission to use it.

Has he not heard of TiVo? They know exactly how many times people rewound and viewed the Janet Jackson “Wardrobe Malfunction”. How is this any different than advertising tracking cookies? He considers these evil snippets of code “secret” and an “invasion of privacy”.

You would likely be outraged at this violation of privacy. Yet that kind of Big Brother intrusion goes on every day on the Internet, affecting millions of people. Many Web sites, even from respectable companies, place a secret computer file called a “tracking cookie” on your hard disk. This file records where you go on the Web on behalf of Internet advertising companies that later use the information for their own business purposes. In almost all cases, the user isn’t notified of the download of the tracking cookie, let alone asked for permission to install it.

The online ad industry is of course concerned about cookies being kept because this is how they track users, ad displays, and even calculate ROI for their customers – all something the print world can’t do.

What has happened to Mossberg that he thinks that cookies are all that bad when used by legitimate advertisers? How can he not know that there is no personally identifying information in the cookies and that the data is used in aggregate when reported and individual privacy is in now way violated.

To understand the tracking-cookie issue, you have to know something about cookies overall, and you have to know what spyware actually is.

Tracking cookies shouldn’t be confused with these other cookies. They have no user benefit except the vague promise that the ads you get as a result may be better tailored to your interests.

What is spyware? There are many definitions, but here is mine, in two sentences. Spyware — and a related category called adware — is computer code placed on a user’s computer without his or her permission and without notification, or with notification so obscure it hardly merits the term. Once installed, spyware and adware alter the PC’s behavior to suit the interests of outside parties rather than those of the owner or user.

To me, tracking cookies clearly meet the obvious definition of spyware.

Cookies help ad servers limit exposure to an ad (particularly pop-ups), serve more appropriate ads, track which ads a user has seen, and more. But none of this is linked to a person’s identity. How are tracking cookies spyware but not site cookies? You can argue the consent issue here, but cookies are not a program installed on a machine, they are a file that can only be read by the service that wrote it. If he wants to declare tracking cookies spyware, then go all the way. Look at his definition and see what else fits. Surely all cookies. What about CSS, Flash animations, etc.

Then again, there is the nebulous interpretation of suiting the owner. Does it not suit the user to no get the same pop-up ad on every page? Are users not better off with free access to sites that are supported by advertisers? Since this is his postion, can the advertisers ask that none of their money pay his salary?


Online Ad Revenues Continue Climb

Filed under: Online Publishing – September 27, 2005

ClickZ reports that online advertising revenues for the first half of 2005 are up 26 percent over the first half of last year. This sounds great, but what does this mean for most of you? Unless you are one of the top media properties, not much I’d say. The problem with these reports is that the bulk of bookings are made by top advertisers on top sites. If you are somewhere down the pole, then it is a struggle to get good ads and see this great growth.

Reading the article further you see that the top ten, 25 and 50 sites are the ones that get the lion’s share, with the top ten sites getting 72 percent of the ad spend. This is not the top ten percent, but the top TEN sites. No 80/20 rule here. This seems to be more like a 99.9/0.1 where the top fraction of a percent of sites earn virtually all the ad spend.

There is a silver lining. The article states “In 2004’s first half, the top ten sites commanded 74 percent of spending, while in the 2005 period, that slipped to 72 percent.” This is great news that advertisers are beginning to spread the wealth to the rest of the Internet. As time goes by, we can hope to see some more of this, with advertisers realizing that the mid-tier sites (like this one) have great audiences and are a worthwhile spend.


re Ad Buyers That Myopic?

Filed under: Online Publishing – September 28, 2005

Inhis ClickZ article Home Page Madness David Cohen writes about the increased demand for what he labels “primetime” placements: the home pages of AOL, MSN, and Yahoo! He compares home pages ads on these sites to Super Bowl ads, where the advertisers are driven by ego more than business metrics. Buyers looking for a mass audience in a short time look to these home page ads on the top properties, but then run into the issue of supply.

Basic economics make for limited supply, and when ad dollars rise (seeyesterday’s postl), this makes for great times for the big three. With literally 1,000 opportunities (three sites x365 days) to advertise, rates are indeed sure to rise. Then the reports can come out that say that ad rates are up, and everybody talks about it some more, even though the driver may be these 1,000 placements!

Getting back to my title, the nearsightedness aspect is that it seems to me that too many buyers have their target on these few, limited buys and they do not pay enough attention to the broad channel buys they can make on all the mid tier sites. Sure, they will not get 50 million impressions from one buy on one site, but they could easily get this many impressions from a buy on a network or across multiple networks. And because these sites are not sold out from such a limited supply, rates should be lower than what they pay for placement on the big three home pages.

This is a win-win because advertisers can reach a better audience (they can target through the networks) for less, and the sites will make more money than they presently do with the dregs of remnant and ROS media buys that seem to dominate their space.


ewspapers Make an Easy Target…

Filed under: Online Publishing – October 17, 2005

Sure, everyone loves to show how newspapers are behind the times and don’t understand the online world. I’ve said this many times and observed it since 1994 when we were pitching online classifieds to them. I’ve followed them as they did everything they could to avoid online and watch as I see them make mistakes today. That said, the latest newspaper bash on ClickZ, Unused Potential in Online Classified Ads, misses the mark.

Interestingly enough, the conclusion comes out of the University of Missouri’s graduate school of journalism, which still does show that they are as out of touch as their future employers. The authors (a graduate student and her professor) examined the practices of 24 online newspapers of various sizes and tallied their use of interactive and “rich media” features. They found that:

None of the newspapers studied use audio clips; video clips are deployed by only 4.2 percent; audio/video clips are available on just 8.3 percent of sites, and an IM chat feature can be found on just 2.8 percent of newspaper classified sites. E-mail notification is another feature popular with online-only sites, yet missing from the majority of newspaper publishers. 

My problem is with the conclusion that

Dramatic gaps exist between the classified offerings of large newspaper publishers, smaller publishers and online-only players, suggesting that newspapers are missing the opportunity to use audio, video and other technologies.

Whoa! So where in their research did they look at the top online only classifieds to see what technologies they use? I’m sure they did not, because if they did their conclusion would have been much different. Of course just about every one uses email, but other than that, I know of very few classifieds or auction services that use audio, video, or IM chat. I can state from experience that users don’t care about chat or audio for their classifieds. We offered chat and audio for free years ago and got very little use. Neither was worth the support and we saw no benefit from user satisfaction, increased popularity, or any other competitive differentiator. If anything, I would say that the newspapers are being smart not to adopt these features that nobody much cares about. So where is the missed opportunity?

So, are newspapers generally out of touch with the online world? Sure. But I heartily have to disagree with the notion that there is a “dramatic gap” between them and us pure plays when it comes to the use of anything more than pictures or email. Let’s hope that they teach better research methods in journalism school lest we only get one side of the story from the unbiased media!


Is Someone at Google Reading My Column?

Filed under: – October 17, 2005

The recent news that Google is bidding on San Francisco’s WiFi network to provide free WiFi sure makes me lok good. If you recall my old post on Local Portals I stated that cities could provide this service for low cost or free based on earnings from ads targeted to their local audience. Google sure knows advertising, and I have no doubt that they looked at this and figured that even if they did not break even, the PR value would be worth more than the costs of providing the service.

The model I evaluated for Hermosa Beach included AdSense in the mix, but I assumed that AdSense would actually be a portion of the total earnings. By making AdSense part of the service and mixing in localization and not having to share revenue with the publisher, I can see this coming close to breaking even for them.


At Least One Newspaper is on the Bleeding Edge

Filed under: Online Publishing – October 20, 2005

Talk about timing. One day after I write about newspapers and classifieds and say that newspapers just may not be falling behind online only sites, one newspaper shows that it is not afraid to take some risks and actually jump ahead of virtually all online classifieds. ClickZ reports that the Palm Beach Post just launched the first implementation of click-to-call in online newspaper classified advertising. Using technology by eStara, a company that designs, builds and deploys online voice services powered by proprietary “Push to Talk” technology, they are taking a unique angle by leveraging the phone numbers that are usually used by traditional newspaper classified advertisers.

Just as online advertisers like to use email as the primary means of communication with classifieds, newspaper advertisers normally leave a phone number. By making this service free to the advertiser, the Pal Beach Post is sure to get great response from this feature. The advertisers are already planning on leaving a phone number and expecting to get calls about their ad from readers of the paper. Now they will be getting phone calls from those who view the ad online as well.

Dan Shorter, General Manager of PalmBeachPost.com says “By clicking the ‘Talk to Seller’ icon and entering their phone number in a dialogue box, shoppers can connect with sellers to ask questions at a time when it’s convenient for them, and we’re able to track the leads we generate for our advertisers.”

eStara also has some other services that relate to the readers of this site as well. Their “Track the Cal”l service takes call measurement one step further, allowing publishers to track every call. Users can opt to use” Push to Talk” or to dial a tracked phone number provided by eStara. eStara’s “Track the Call” and “Push to Talk” services support all revenue models, including pay per call and flat rate pricing for both online and offline publishers. If this sounds familiar to you, perhaps you saw their service being used by A9.com.


Google is Definitely Reading ReveNews!

Filed under: Online Publishing – November 15, 2005

Back in March, I reported on Google’s recent purchase of Urchin Software. Back then I said that Google will

release some version of Urchin for free, like they did with Picasa, just because they like to grab up great ideas and release them.

And guess what? Google just came out with Google Analytics, which at first blush appears to be the same Urchin Live service that they were previously charging $199 a month for, but now for free, with some limitations. This is an interesting development, as they are offering this free to anyone with less than 5 million pageviews a month, or (at least for now) unlimited to anyone who uses AdWords to advertise. This could be the best $5 you spend if you are somehow the last company to have a site that popular and not already be using AdWords.

Initial reactions were mixed. After the first amazement wore off, some were annoyed by the first day problems and complained about being unable to use the service at all. Others who were already users of the fee based service ran into problems because the tracking code for Urchin paying customers has been disabled. This means that paying customers are now pretty much screwed and have to race to update their (and their client’s) sites with new code if they can get in to get it. What I don’t know is if there is a way to link the pre-existing data to these new profiles. If not, then I can imagine a large number of very upset customers who no longer have continuity and history with their analytic service. From what I have been told, existing customers did not even get a heads up email alerting them of the changes or processes to follow.

Finally, there is a confidentiality question. I was told by a few sources that they were wary of using a free service to track everything for them. The TOS is somewhat reassuring, but they still worried about giving Google even more information about their operations. By adding Google code to every page, Google will have access to quite a bit of information and have minimal penalty if they decide to break confidentiality. Also, Google can change the terms at any time and give customers the choice of staying and letting Google use their data, or leaving and them losing history from previous use.

We have been long time users of Urchin’s dedicated software that we run on our own log files. That may change with this latest service. I’m willing to test it out and see if I like it. I’ll lose the continuity from the old system that we’ve had for years if we do decide to use the online service, but we can also go back and re-process log files if we choose to go back to the old way. One final thought on this. It would seem to me that this likely means the end of innovation for the dedicated software if there is this much concentration on the online service. Might be good news for Sane Solutions and others who still make dedicated log file analysis software.


eBay Appeals to the Supreme Court for Common Sense

Filed under: Online Marketing – November 30, 2005

With all the ridiculous patents that have been approved by the broken USPTO, eBay is fighting back and I hope they win. eBay is heading off to the Supreme Court to argue that just because there was a ruling that they did violate a patent does not allow the judge to issue a permanent injunction barring use of that technology – the “buy it now” feature in this case. I will not even get into the issues of patent validity other than saying that this was for an obvious feature.

This case is interesting in that eBay is not arguing the patent, but instead the next step. They lost the fight against MercExchange, a company that exists soley to sue others and make money from licensing patents that it purchases. They were ordered to pay millions in damages (later slightly reduced after one patent was invalidated), but they were not ordered to suspend use of this feature. MercExchange wants them to stop using it immediately (really they want eBay to pay through the nose to continue) as the appeal that invalidated the one patent also reversed the lower court’s denial of MercExchange’s request for a permanent injunction against eBay.

eBay’s argument is pretty basic, as outlined by an eBay spokesperson

“We have believed all along that MercExchange–which does not practice its own patents and only exists to sue others–should not be entitled to an injunction.”

They are also arguing that the courts have discretion in deciding to grant injunctions and that the appeals court in this case took that discretion away from the trial court.

Let’s hope that eBay can make some clear arguments and start some real patent reform that will still uphold the inventors rights, but end the ability of mercenaries using the courts as a business model.


Publishers Don’t Like Google’s New Feature

Filed under: Online Publishing – December 07, 2005

Interesting. After much publicity and fanfare talking about Google’s new “Advertise on this site” feature for AdSense, it seems as it perhaps it is not as great an idea as they all thought. Webmasters are getting upset over it, some for perceived issues, and some for real ones. Some of the issues revolve around misconceptions that you cannot opt out of the feature. This is an error, as I have tested the process and have opted out of the feature.

A smaller problem is the landing page itself. It is very limiting and is the only one you get. For those who own multiple sites, this is an issue because they really should have one page per site. With a 100 pixel graphic and 384 characters to describe your site, it is tough for a single site to really sell a placement, let alone five or ten sites.

The real issue, which many sites share, is that Google is not the best source of revenue for site advertising. It works well, but in no way can it match site targeted advertising for your site and your site only. Most sites either sell or want to be able to sell their own advertising. Just look to the right and check out the ADVERTISE link four down in the right navigation. So why would a publisher want to distract advertisers and send them to AdWords where they will “have the opportunity to place ads on your site” and “compete for your inventory”. What does this really mean? It means that “advertisers will bid for your inventory on a pay-per-impression basis, and the ads they create will compete against all other Google site- and content-targeted ads relevant to your site”

To illustrate this further, check out these answers:

How do I know if advertisers are bidding on my site?

At this time, we aren’t able to provide details about how many advertiser sign-ups are made through your links. However, if advertisers are bidding on your site, you may notice more CPM ads appearing on your site and/or an increase in your earnings.

Can I customize the landing page for each of my sites?

No. At this time, we only offer the ability to customize one landing page for each account. Advertisers will access the same custom landing page from ad units on any of your sites.

For this feature to really work, you need competition for your site or your rates will not rise much, if at all. Meanwhile you will be distracting from your own site advertising efforts. Instead of getting order of magnitude jumps from placements bought for a large number of impressions on your site, you will potentially get incremental increases from advertisers who pay to just beat out your existing rates on AdSense. Any publisher worth advertising on really is better off selling their own advertising or else they will be letting the advertisers set the rates and minimizing their revenue, not maximizing it.


How Can Anyone Still Make This Mistake?

Filed under: Affiliate Marketing – December 07, 2005

I just got an email that shows that some programs don’t think about their communications. The email made it through my automated Spam filters, but almost got summarily deleted by my own brain based Spam filter. The subject was OK, but the from name is generic. I was persuaded to open it, and I still thought about deleting it out of hand.

The entire text of the email is as follows:

From: Commission To: noname Subject: Commission For EPage Inc.

Today is your specified payout day for your affiliates. Please login to your
EPage Inc. account and click on the Affiliates link to generate your monthly
payout report.

This was a text email, so the only information missing is the actual email addresses used. Reviewing the headers, I found that there was a from address, but I had no idea who they were. This is not meant to publicly embarrass anyone, so I will not give away the domain (you can figure out the company through some sleuthing), but the account was “system@”, which still did not give any confidence of this being legitimate.

So, what should they have done? Oh, maybe telling me the actual page to go to instead of telling me to login. Including my account login name would have been a big help. I had to work pretty hard to find them, get to the login page, and then figure out my account information. All to see that I did not have a payment coming to me yet!

I did figure out who it was from, but they obviously need some help…

So, they sent out an email telling me to login to check my commissions when I had not earned any that month, and they failed to tell me where to go to login, and they didn’t give me a hint as to my login name. I can’t imagine that too many people take the desired action from this email. In fact, I bet I was the only one who did.


Smash My Viper – for a Million Dollars

Filed under: Online Marketing – December 09, 2005

By now I sure hope you have heard all about the Million Dollar Homepage and the dozens of imitators. It was a clever idea that I think just about everyone scoffed at, until they saw that he has raised (or at least claims to have raised) almost $850,000 in a matter of months. Now there are all sorts of them out there for Women’s BusinessBootycheapskates, and many more. You can even buy a script to host your own for $179. But, other than curiosity to see who would be foolish enough to buy pixels, there has never been a reason to go to any of these pages until now.

An enterprising young man named Jason Gunther, a 23 year old College Grad who happens to own a Viper decided that he would sacrifice his car for the sake of raising money so he can pay off his debts and open a bar. He is selling damage to his car at the same time at his own version of the million pixel page, titled appropriately Smash My Viper. Not only do you get to hope that someone sees you ad, you also get to scratch, dent, break, and otherwise mangle a real Dodge Viper. The idea does have some merit. People are far more likely to stop by his site to see if the Viper really is being abused and to check out pictures and video of the actual damage fest. Oh yeah, being a smart college graduate, he also knows what will bring visitors – girls.

You can check out pictures of “several hot chicks” posing on and around his car. Note that you have to scroll past the million pixels to see the other pictures. Clever. What else are the girls used for? Well, if you can’t be there in person and you don’t want him to do it for you, these SmashMyViper.com girls will do the damage in your place for only and extra $100.

What all can you do to the car and how much does it cost? For $100 you can make a 6″ (6″x6″?) key mark. He says if you are creative you could key your logo into the car. For $500 you get a hole drilled in the car, and as the dollars go up, you can do more and also get decals on the car and posts on his update page with pictures for more exposure. I can see Corvette clubs getting together and buying up blocks of pixels to spell out Vipers Suck in pixels and having fun with the car. They could even raise the money buy auctioning for the privilege of doing the deed yourself. Maybe there would be competition between them and the Porsche owners to see who could do the worst damage. If this happens, all bets are off and each marque will try to out-do the other.

I can’t say if this one will work or not. If this was the first of it’s kind ever, I think I’d give it a better chance than I ever afforded to the original. After all, who doesn’t want to thrash a Viper?


Pixel Ads Gone Wild!

Filed under: Online Marketing – December 12, 2005

What else is next for pixel advertising? After megapixel blank canvases came ads on top of various images, and then ads connected to a secondary act as I reported yesterday. I just came across yet another pixel based ad idea, Pixel Banner Ads from a company out of the UK For $10 per month, they will put your 20×20 image on banners in their network.

You can get in on the ground floor, as they have 12 publishers serving 4168 banners daily! After checking out their top publishers, I see that they can serve any number of rectangular shapes. It is an interesting idea to sell micro-ads. 400 pixels is a lot better than the 100 pixels from the megapixel sites, but still pretty small to actually brand or sell something.

That said, the current rates are not all that bad from an eCPM standpoint. If they continue at their current rate and sell 50 ad units, sites might end up earning an eCPM of $3 or so. Of course things get complex when you have a lot more sites showing the ads, and a fill rate that is lower. As a publisher, this does establish a maximum you could ever earn unless they raise their $10 rate, as you can only earn $8 per month from each ad unit you show. If the network gets 50 advertisers, and you were the only site you would earn $400 a month. With 12 sites, the average site will earn less than $35 for their virtual real estate.

As an advertiser, you are still paying $10 for more than 100,000 impressions (for now) for you 400 pixel ad. On a cost per pixel basis, this does seem expensive when you realize that you can fit more than 70 of these 20×20 pixel ad units into a standard 468×60 banner. That works out to a value of $700 per month for the old Standard Banner, $1630 for a Leaderboard, and $1870 for a Rectangle!

Only time will tell if this is the first of a string of imitators.


Breaking News: Ad Network Finds Networks’ Reach Lures Ad Dollars! Maybe

Filed under: Online Advertising – December 13, 2005

MediaPost reports that a a new study by ValueClick Media/FastClick has found that forty-two percent of media buyers spend more on networks than they did two years ago. Amazing that a study released by a network headlines that the network has value!

Not that I disagree that networks have value and that value is their reach and the simplicity of making a single buy. But when there are numerous articlestalking about the huge increases of ad buying overall, how surprising is it that media buyers are buying more ads.

This is where the study surprised me. It says that a whopping 30 percent reported that online ad spending was down compared to two years ago. Since I can find articles telling me that online ad spending is up 33% over 2004 for the 3rd quarter and even more compared to two years ago, then flat ad spending is comparatively a decrease.

They don’t report on the amount of increase for the 42% who are spending more, but I have to say that it is telling that in this world of growth in the online ad industry, a majority of advertisers are not increasing their network advertising buy. There are only two conclusions I can draw from this. Either the ad dollars are going to search, or they are going to direct ad buys, or some combination of the two. I’d love to see a more comprehensive survey that is looking for the overall answer.


Numbers Don’t Lie, But You Can Lie With Numbers

Filed under: Online Advertising – December 15, 2005

I love statistics. I keep lots of them on file for our various sites, and I have an Excel spreadsheet with hits, dollars, ads, and a lot more for EPage going back to 1997. It can be lots of fun to figure out new ways to look at the data and get intelligence into how things are really going. I also keep tabs on numbers released by various outlets that tout the growth of online ad spend, the Top 50 Advertisers, or Impressions served.

All this data gets me excited because I can have so much fun working it a few different ways to see what truths I may be able to pull from them. We have articles that talk about Impressions taking a dip in November, but I have not been able to find the data on spend in November, so my hopes for a great walk-off conclusion will have to wait until a later post. Total impressions have been on a huge growth path this year, in contrast with last year which showed no real growth with January being the top month for the year. Since this report had impressions and spending, you can also look at a more important number, eCPM. Even with fluctuation of impressions, the eCPM based on these numbers was around an impressively high $11 CPM. There was a slight increase over the year, but the slope is pretty gentle. That same eCPM level is supported by comparing the quarterly media spend to the impression levels for the 2nd and 3rd quarters this year, however the slope is negative, with 3rd quarter 2005 having an eCPM of about $9.50.

I am more impressed by the growth of impressions this year, and particularly when compared to the same month last year. April was the worst improved month that could be compared, and it came in with 28% growth. August 2005 was the best, at more than double 2004 impressions. Even with the dip in November 2005 (which can’t be compared because I have not been able to get corresponding 2004 data), impressions are up significantly (almost double 2004) in the last half of this year.

Since the media spend includes offbeat things such as home page placements that may run a million dollars per day, I don’t see the eCPM numbers as an industry average or expectation for any but the very top sites who can command super-premium pricing. There is also the factor of paid search and contextual advertising that is (as far as I can figure) included in the spend, but not the impressions. If the impressions were included, did they count each contextual ad in an ad unit or on the search results pages? While the article does state that portals and search engines accounted for 12.3 percent of ad impressions, I really don’t have confidence that this included all of the contextual ads served by Google, Yahoo!, MSN, Ask, About, and others of the numbers would be even higher.

The last cool thing I looked at was to compare the top 50 advertiser spend with the impression data. I could look at April through October this year. While year over year impressions are way up, the served impression data has only a slight up tick during the months tracked. Combine this with a 20% drop in ad spending by the top 50 advertisers and this implies a dramatic drop and shift in the ad spend. These all factor into an over 40% drop in eCPM when taking top 50 ad spend and total impressions. This is not a completely accurate measure, but I would have expected the eCPM to be more stable if nothing was changing. If overall ad spending is up, but the top 50 advertisers are spending less as a group, then all this extra money has to be coming from many more smaller players. Does this mean that the market is broadening, or that big advertisers are shifting their money from this channel to another (paid search/contextual ads)? Or are the people doing these studies leaving something out as I suspect?

Is It Still 1999?

Filed under: Online Publishing – December 22, 2005

Earlier in the month I wrote about an affiliate program that sent out a clueless email, and now I have to say that someone just did them one better. I am a season ticket holder with the LA Kings and this year as a reward for buying season tickets (and sticking with them through the lockout), they are sending us each a signed Luc Robitaille jersey. Well, the company fulfilling the distribution screwed up big time. They sent a notice about the delivery of our jersey in a mass email to a batch of us with all our addresses visible. This was nor from your mother or some newbie just getting used to email, this was from a business that really should have known better.

So now I have the email addresses of 577 other LA Kings season ticket holders – and 577 outsiders have mine. Being all nice folks, I’m sure they will not send unsolicited email to the group, right? Yeah. The email with our addresses was sent at 9:19 AM. By 10:20 I had two emails promoting various hockey related topics sent to all 578 of us (now including the original sender) with all our addresses visible.

To their credit, the Kings actually knew about this before I notified them at 11:06 AM, and by 12:23 PM the original offender sent out a sideways apology (with addresses hidden) to the group. I say sideways, because they did not admit to knowingly sending this out as a mass email, saying that the “reply to all slipped by when I was sending it out to a select group of people from the email” and concluding that he hoped we all would still consider using his site. Oops, I didn’t mean to spam you. I never speed. And the check is in the mail.

The Kings sent out their own notice at 2:02 PM:

As you know, (name removed) sent an e-mail to you this morning about the shipping date of your Luc Robitaille jersey. Unfortunately they did not send the e-mail properly and all of the recipients were carbon copied on the e-mail. Although they had the right intentions, this mistake has exposed a portion of our highly valued Season Ticket Holder list.

We sincerely apologize for this mistake and ask that you do not send the list unsolicited email.

Thank you for you continued support and have a Happy Holiday!

I do appreciate the quick notice and apology, but I also still have misgivings. Technology has done some great things for communication and business, but this is not the first time that they have been burned by shoddy work from an outsourced company – I was the one to catch an BIG error with an earlier promotion. They really need to have a tighter leash, and I hope that they implement enhanced testing and include penalties in any future contracts they make for outsourced communications on their behalf. It is all ultimately the responsibility of the Kings organization to make sure that their promotions go well and they do not violate the privacy of their lists in the end.


Now I’m Worried About This Y2K Bug Thing!

Filed under: Media – December 29, 2005

Does this make you think it is still 1999? If not try reading this story that spreads the fear of cookies and spying. The author must not have done any research at all into what a cookie file is or what it is used for, as the lead paragraph states “The National Security Agency’s Internet site has been placing files on visitors’ computers that can track their Web surfing activity despite strict federal rules banning most of them.”

Fear! Spying! The Government is out to get us all! Adding fuel is the quick line “privacy advocates complain that cookies can also track Web surfing, even if no personal information is actually collected.” Yeah. Do these same people wear foil helmets to keep the government from listening to their thoughts?

Yes, this is a violation of the NSA Privacy policy, which did not state that they uses persistent cookies, and it is also a violation of the government guideline that says that they have to use session based cookies unless there is a compelling need for a longer duration.

Daniel Brandt, a privacy activist who discovered the NSA cookies, said mistakes happen, “but in any case, it’s illegal. The (guideline) doesn’t say anything about doing it accidentally.”

But, is this a conspiracy to invade our computers and spy on us? It must be according to these fear-mongers. The privacy advocate who blew this out of proportion has a good understanding of how things work, as he has turned this mistake into something far bigger – and somehow illegal. I know it is so because I read it on the Internet – in a few places. Here’s proof: NSA Used Illegal Cookies on Website

Well, at least we can be assured that the last five years of education and advancement of what a cookie really is will keep this from spreading. Nah!

What Price Freedom? There are times when technology – and the damage it can potentially inflict – angers and frightens me.

It’s no secret that governments around the world routinely use all sorts of technological methods in conducting nefarious acts against enemy countries. That I may not agree with, but I can’t complain about it. But I can complain about our country using technology to spy on its own residents.

And now, the Associated Press is reporting that the National Security Agency has been placing cookies in NSA Web site visitors’ computers that track which other Web sites they visit. And these cookies are of the persistent variety, not set to expire until 2035. Any visitor – average American citizen, Army general or enemy combatant – got the cookie, as the site made no distinctions as to who you were or from where you were logging on.

Set the WABAC machine Mr. Peabody, we’re going back to the stone age of the Internet.