Monday, November 10, 2008

Introducing 'Talking Digital' - a new blog

Just wanted to get everyone across a new blog I have started with the Australian MD of DrivePM, Liam Walsh.

It's called 'Talking Digital' and basically the premise is to get the different perspective of an agency guy (me) and a publisher guy (Liam) across a variety of topical issues relevant to the digital media world and the wider media world.

Liam has been active within the industry for years, and has played pivotal roles in developing both Fairfax Digital and emitch into market leading companies at crucial times.

We haven't really seen anything like it in our travels across the blog world and over time it should hopefully serve to be a neat resource for those looking for information or opinion.

It also builds a small bridge over the 'Melbourne V Sydney' river.

What we're trying to do is write content and explore issues that we would find interesting and helpful.

http://talkingdigital.wordpress.com

Enjoy and give us your feedback!

Friday, November 7, 2008

IAB/PWC Q3 report out: Positive signs all round (unless you're in classifieds)

The latest IAB/PWC figures are out and the sentiment is very positive.

In Q3 of 2008, total online spend on advertising was $451m - up 30% YOY (from $348m Q3 2007) and up 9% on Q2 2008.

All categories contributed to the growth, Display, Classifieds and Search. Display was up 29% YOY, Search 33% YOY and Classifieds up 25% YOY.

When you look at quarter on quarter growth the picture is a little different.

Search was up 9% Q2 to Q3 to $212m for Q3. Display was up 10% to 126m. Classifieds was only up 2% Q2 oto Q3 to 114m.

For display advertising these quarter on quarter figures are a triumph. It outpaced the market in terms of growth, gaining ground on search for the first time in a long time.

For classifieds it signals the start of more bad news to come. Seek today forecast zero profit growth for this fiscal year and the next 6-12 months will hit the main classifieds operators hard as the job, auto and real estate markets flatline.

Display was definitely helped by the Olympics falling into Q3 2008, and was given a kick by some solid and encouraging improvements within the Automotive, Media and Real Estate sectors, alongside strong increases spend wise from the mainstays - Finance, Technology/Telco and Travel.

This report also broke out segments within categories - allowing those who use it to get a better idea of how specific areas such as Music, Home Loans, Gaming, Beverages etc went.

On that note, the music industry definitely need a swift kick up the arse with their online investment - the ENTIRE industry only spent 365k on digital in Q3.

All in all, very encouraging results for the digital advertising world. Q4 will be interesting - publishers seem to be scrambling a little but this is a probably a result of overzealous revenue targeting rather than the bottom dropping out of the market.

2009 - who knows what it will hold ... if I was a Sales Director I'd make sure I was extremely cautious on Q3 09 in terms of YOY growth ... I'd also be somewhat concerned that the big 4 categories for online display spend - finance, automotive, tech and travel are copping a bit of a battering already as a result of a sluggish economic climate. Can they maintain the same spend levels in terms of dollar amount they invested in 08 in 09, let alone increase them?

Thankyou to Patty Keegan for supplying me with this report today.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Oops Patrol - Strip Tease BTYB Bigpond


I saw Bigpond have a sponsorship on Heavy.com - which is sort of an integrated thing.

Problem is - it seems to go across ALL video content on the site. Even strip teases as the screengrab shows.
I wonder if Heavy told Bigpond this was a possibility ...


Oops Patrol - Career One


Last night I was watching a documentary on the gang MS13. Today I wanted to do some further reading and came across a site called Know Gangs.

Career One are all over the site - through Google content network ads.

Here's an interesting screengrab of a 'Lift Your Lifestyle' placement I came across.
Takeout ... this Google Content Network needs a lot of work on both ends.


Monday, November 3, 2008

Sensis finally caves to Google

I read today that Sensis has finally decided to play nice with Google as opposed to trying to compete against them and losing badly.

http://www.bandt.com.au/news/A4/0C05B6A4.asp

It's not a bad move - back in February I touched on Sensis's problems - http://mimelbourne.blogspot.com/2008/02/how-vulnerable-is-sensis-right-now.html

When I wrote this I copped a bit of heat from some Telstra/Sensis people, which was never really clarified. It was implied what I was saying made no sense, however in hindsight I think it actually did make perfect sense ...

I raised 5 key areas they needed to sort out in 08 - my comments as of today are in bold

1. Do they maintain a search engine that cannot compete against Google let alone a MSHOO joint play ... or do they walk away from SEM or look to offer Yahoo or MSN a search distro deal across their network and rev. share?

They have walked and handed it to Google in what is no doubt a revshare similar to the above scenario.

2. How can they adapt Yellow to become more appealing to users? How do they adapt the way advertisers pay to be in Yellow given Google has changed the way many SMEs want to pay for leads

The Google alliance will probably help but doesn't solve the issue that Yellow isn't relevant in 2008

3. Can Whereis hold itself against Google Maps. What can it do better than its competitors - it's not enough to simply match them.

I think this product will be put to sleep in 09 given what has happened today. Yellow will now use Google Maps.

4. What does Sensis actually mean to consumers? Do you retire the brand or simply push it to the background?

Pushed to the background would be my bet now they have backed away from search and conceded to Goog. The media assets are under the Telstra Media stable so it appears they are moving towards the more trusted parent brand.

5. Do they walk away from search and maps and focus on mobile - an they have a pretty sophisticated offering to give the market now the walled garden approach has been abandoned.

They have walked from search and they will walk from maps. They are still making good headway with mobile and have a pretty solid first mover advantage still. However, they need wider distribution that they presently have, so this is the key challenge in this space.

"Bruce Akhurst, chief executive of Sensis, said: "This agreement combines Sensis' strong capabilities in advertising sales and local business content and Google's strong capabilities in online search and mapping technology."

If this isn't conceding defeat I'm not sure what is ...

There's no shame to losing to Google in these 2 specific areas. What Sensis/Telstra has done is a smart obvious move that makes more sense given the climate right now.



Saturday, November 1, 2008

Pay Per Lead TV?

Saw this on ESPN this morning

http://advertisingadvantage.com.au/html/ppl.html

How can this work unless the only media you are doing is TV?

And if you have other media in the mix (which you in most cases would if you are a DR advertiser), how can you precisely quantify where leads are coming from ... given leads are generally a by product of many touchpoints not just one.

Case in point. You run this Pay Per Lead TV with a tactical offer ... the consumer doesn't immediately act but the next day goes to Google and searches for your brand. As a result there's a conversion - who do you attribute the action to?

Interesting that the client has to use the company to produce the TVC and also buy the media. Is this just a clever way to extract more revenue?

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Oops Patrol: Fairfax Digital ad placement


I am sure Honda and Mazda would be rapt with this placement.

Thanks to my source(s) for this.

With oops's like this happening, I don't think 'heritage media' has too much to worry about in the short term if their digital cousins can't avoid competing vehicles running next to each other.


Yahoo!7 streamline their processes and bring new agility and efficiency to how they work as an organisation

Read: They fired people yesterday.

How many? No one is really sure. I know of 5 definites across production and engineering ... reports are up to 20 were asked to leave, including one very senior staffer.

http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/business/story/0,28124,24572546-7582,00.html

Edit: Just 6 days earlier Y7 told The Oz they had no immediate plans to make local redundancies - http://www.australianit.news.com.au/story/0,24897,24540225-5013040,00.html

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Ad Networks on the way out ...

In the US anyway ...

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122514803617173825.html?mod=fox_australian

Other ad networks "are in severe trouble and could be closing their doors in the back half of this year or the beginning of '09. People are bracing for the worst," says Ross Sandler, an Internet analyst at RBC Capital Markets.

When I was at adtech in April I was shocked at the amount of ad networks in the US - it was out of control. Funny thing was, none of them really had a point of difference. They sold eyeballs simply because they were there to be sold.

VC liked ad networks as there was a promise of low initial setup and large immediate returns. Problem is - there's really no long term asset in an ad network as you don't really own any IP - you sell banners on sites you don't own, through technology you don't own via agencies you don't own. Effectively you're an agent and not much more.

Yes, there are some great ad networks ... but not many. You could count on one hand the good networks in AU. Most have offerings that are primative at best - failing to capitalise on the gap for strong vertical buys and the need for exclusivity. Not to mention transperency ... but that's another matter.

In AU there's a lot of these operators - not as many as the US - but more than we need. How long until this space thins out?

Monday, October 27, 2008

Oops Patrol: News.com.au


Was on news.com.au today checking out the redesign (not bad - like the logo and the personalisation) but noticed they were running ads for two directly competing products right next to each other.

Hrm - wonder what the media agencies of Onedirect (emitch) and Suncorp (Starcom I believe) would think. Surely trafficking should stop this from happening?


Are third party Facebook apps the great digital scam?

The last 6 months I've heard the sentence 'hey lets build a facebook app' from clueless agency people more times than I care to remember.

When you ask why - there's generally not an answer.

Well, okay ... there IS an answer. It provides revenue to the agency that build it.

Are they a scam? In 99% of cases I think they are. Just like some iPhone apps (I wouldn't want to be the person who thought the Toyota dealer locator app for iPhone was a smasher of a concept ...)

Check this out - http://www.new.facebook.com/apps/application.php?id=5588308018

I was served up an add to take their cheese toast challenge today on facebook - problem is I live in Victoria, a place where (thankfully) Sizzler doesn't have any locations.

How does this provide anything useful to the user? And what are they doing wasting their media dollars targeting people who can't visit their restaurants?

IAB launches brand effectiveness study

http://www.bandt.com.au/news/AB/0C05B3AB.asp
They call it "unheralded" ... not sure whether it deserves that sort of praise. Isn't it what most of us have been doing for the last 3 years - ad effectiveness studies and measurement of incremental movement of consideration, intent, advocacy etc as a result of online activity?

Strikes me as odd that the IAB is behind the industry in terms of this sort of measurement. Shouldn't the IAB be focusing on how digital channels can work with other media channels and true cross media measurement - not just digital in isolation? This is the largest issue facing digital.

Not to mention it's only across the 5 major publishers ... not the hundreds/thousands of other sites most of the market is using. It also doesn't include search.

“There is no doubt that online advertising is effective for performance advertising campaigns and we believe the project results will clearly show that online advertising also has a strong role to play for marketers focused on brand development.”

I don't think this has ever been questioned guys ...

Sunday, October 26, 2008

It's 1996 again for Andrew Bolt


Hits??

Surely someone in the News Digital Media world could tell him no one has used that as a metric for at least 10 years


Thursday, October 23, 2008

Ray Martin's comments from Andrew Olle lecture

Ray Martin delivers this bomb - and boy is it true.

The below is from the Andrew Olle lecture which Martin took. Definitely worth reading the whole thing (link below)

Television is no longer a window on the world – it’s now a mirror.

Incidentally, Max Uetchtritz, who now runs Nine MSN News, cites Australian surveys which reveal more than half of our viewers also regularly watch TV with a computer on their lap.

The big difference is WE don’t give them anything to do which CONNECTS them to our news programs.

By way of contrast, the American networks are NOT waiting for the audience to come to them. They’re going after the audience – feverishly.

In fact, the boss of CBS said recently: ‘CBS is no longer a television company. No longer a radio company. It’s not an on-line company. It’s an AUDIENCE company.’

An ‘audience’ company.

The best newspapers are counter-punching much more effectively.

The New York Times, for example , has become ‘ ubiquitous’- on the web and the mobile. As well as its newspaper network.

You log onto NYT dot com and… let’s say… press ‘Humour.’

That gives you all the television nightly talk show jokes about the Presidential election. Or ‘Saturday Night Live’ skits. And Emmy-award winning political comedy like The John Stewart Show and the Colbert Report. Heaps more.

They’ve got nothing to do with newspapers. But , everything to do with audiences. The internet now brings the New York Times 300 million dollars a year, 10 percent of the company’s revenue. It’s growing at an astonishing rate.

We all know that Australians are confirmed ‘junkies’- when it comes to ‘new tech toys’. But our ‘internet cravings’ are simply not being satisfied.

Young Australians love – and live with – MUSIC.

It’s an integral part of their daily lives.

On their i-pods, their mobiles, their mp3’s and in the car.

So, where’s the music on prime time television? There isn’t any.

Not even music videos ‘to stream’.

Where are the innovative I.T shows for young Australians? Same answer.

How’s that for breeding a new generation of TV viewers? So far there’s been little attempt to ‘connect’ with them. That has to change.

Within a few years everything will be mobile.

The Australian TV networks’ integration still muddles along – without vision or publicity,
without equipment or serious financial backing. On the proverbial ‘smell of an oily rag. ’

Despite such deficiencies Nine MSN now streams ELEVEN million videos a month.

Finance Guru Ross Greenwood’s live coverage of the RBA’s recent ‘ONE PERCENT RATE CUT’ got almost as many hits on the website, as it had Channel 9 viewers.

We need vision. We need innovation. And we certainly need investment. What we’re getting instead is ‘benign neglect.’

Benign neglect …on-line and on-television.

http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/business/story/0,28124,24513977-7582,00.html

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Is Twitter another broadcast channel?

Is it broadcast media or is it social media?

I've been on the channel for over 18 months and I'm not sure ... most people I follow are more about broadcasting their message to others rather than entering into a dialogue. Sure, sometimes people I know and I will exchange banter ... but most of the larger names I follow are moreso pushing out a message to their followers - which strikes me as the '1 to many' push communication many frown upon.

I am not so close minded I don't think Twitter can be both social and broadcast - it's just maybe it's a lot more about broadcast and lot less about social.

Yes, the channel has potential ... but right now it's being hyped well beyond its current worth. And are the Social media flock any more influential than people not using these channels but socially active in a non digital (and less measurable but potentially as effective) sense. Measurability is great but lets not misconstue the ability to measure as 'more effective than channels we can't quantify as immediately'.

And can marketers actually use Twitter? Lets look at that point in the context of Australia. I don't know. It's tempting to want to utilise every single social channel available in a desperate effort to be looked at as progressive, but surely we have to look at resource versus reward.

Side note: I use Twitter but don't really look at it as anything more than a journal for my inane thoughts.

Eric Beecher at The Domain this Thursday

Looking forward to this interview between Brad Howarth and Private Media head Eric Beecher this Thursday.

The interview is based around the following premise.

Survivor 2.0: In 2008 a group of media companies found themselves stranded on the world's largest island, washed ashore after the sinking of the global financial markets. With a population of only 21 million to feed on, slow-moving traditional media companies struggled to reinvent themselves in time to fight off the challenge of new media upstarts. Who will survive...?

Rest assured Beecher will pull no punches, and I'm looking forward to hearing what he has to say.

Register here - http://www.the-domain.org/ - but get in quick as it's this Thursday

Some observations on what is happening in the US digital media world right now ...

It's impossible not to feel the overriding tone of impending doom that is all over the US tech media blogs/journals right now.

From SAI to TechCrunch, Valleywag to Paid Content, the tone has changed from unrestrained optimism to a grim reality. TC and Paid Content used to be dominated with stories on startups receiving huge valuations and big funding, Valleywag reported the new wave of dot com excess ... not anymore.

What are the main areas we are seeing being covered and how could these relate to the local industry

- Layoffs

Remember fuckedcompany.com? Well ... I do. If you worked at a dot com around 2000/2001 and things were looking shaky you could rely on fuckedcompany to show you there was another start up somewhere else in the world that was more fucked than yours. All of the media are reporting layoffs - with ebay, Glam, Heavy, Seesmic, Gawker, Wikia, SearchMe, AdBrite, Hi 5 all laying off staff, and Yahoo being reported to be announcing laying off anywhere between 1-3,000 employees within the new few weeks.

TC covers it here - http://www.techcrunch.com/2008/10/17/keeping-count-the-techcrunch-layoff-tracker/

Yes, some of these companies were bloated to begin with ... and some probably had no real way to generate revenue ... but many are successful and do monetise well. Regardless, you can be sure that we've only seen the beginning of the layoffs.

No real public announcements of layoffs in AU - will they happen? Hopefully not but you'd have to assume if US companies like ebay and Yahoo! are cutting costs there would have to be some flow on effect here.

- Ad Slowdown

Blodget came out this morning with this bomb - http://www.alleyinsider.com/2008/10/let-s-be-serious-online-display-ads-will-fall-sharply-in-2009

For a year, we've listened to analysts passionately explain how online ad spending will power through any broader economic and advertising weakness. Eyeballs are moving online, this story went (goes), ad dollars will follow. Online advertising is accountable. Online advertising is the future. Blah, blah, blah.

It's time we woke up and faced reality. Online display-ad spending will fall in 2009, probably sharply. It will probably fall again in 2010.

Is he right? Maybe ... display ad spending in AU could flatline over the next 18-24 months. Why? Q4 will be soft, as will Q1 and Q2 of 2009 ... Q3 2008 was very strong with the Olympics and a pretty robust economic outlook, as a result Q3 2009 will struggle to show much growth.

The US was already seeing a general slowdown in YOY growth (surely a by-product of the market maturing) and now the general consensus is this will get worse.

The three biggest display categories in AU are finance, motor vehicles and technology products - three categories that will feel some pressure from tougher times. These 3 categories combined accounted for 51% of display spend in Australia for Q2 2008 ($59m)

The bigger issue is online - across the board - needs to do a better job at showing its value than reverting to the tired accountability argument. The reality is most marketers struggle with online metrics and need measurement that is tied closer to actual marketing objectives and not impressions and clicks. Agencies and publishers need to work closer together to resolve this. This is a global problem however it is probably worse in AU than in Europe and the US - and has been a problem even during prosperous economic times.

However, the current situation presents huge opportunities to both publishers and agencies if they can go beyond what they see as their core purpose (publishers = selling display ads, agencies = buying display ads) and expand their offering to the market and offer more value and insight. And this is the exciting thing.

It's not all doom and gloom, it's more about avoiding complacency.

- Consolidation

Google CFO Patrick Pichette made an interesting quote in this article - http://valleywag.com/5064903/google-cfo-hints-at-future-starve-the-losers

"One of his priorities, Pichette said, "is pushing to make sure all the resources are used efficiently, that you feed the winners, starve the losers."

Gawker also published this - http://gawker.com/5065922/the-scary-future-of-internet-ads

Here's what you can expect in the coming year, internet lovers: lots of young internet companies going broke. The ones you love! Including, but not limited to, user-generated video sites, ad networks, fringe social media sites, and companies that make all those sweet apps. Why? Because in our brave new economy, companies are slower to buy bullshit ads of questionable efficacy on every random "Web 2.0" site.

Not sure I really agree with their defintion of "bullshit ads" but the general point is valid. The "me too" online industry will struggle. From publishers to networks to agencies. Web businesses that set up because it seemed like a good idea and there was plenty of capital to go round might find things will get tough.

Lets look at locally? Do we need 10+ ad networks selling the same remnant inventory? Probably not ... Do we need as many third party repping houses? Doubtful. Do we need as many media/creative/strategy agencies who effectively are doing the same thing. No.

Consolidation in this regard isn't a bad thing, as it won't do anything to harm the market. This huge array of choice/supply doesn't do anyone any real favours. A cull should improve the overall level of the industry and rid the market of the more questionable operators.

Another thing to watch is increased attention paid to digital media businesses. Last month AdNews ran a story on 3rd party networks placing premium brands on porn sites without their knowledge. Classy look for the industry hey ... And then yesterday The Oz's Lara Sinclair ran a great article on dubious 20% rebates paid by publishers to certain agencies who believe that is a fair 'pay to play' policy.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Times up for the 20% rebate?

Lara Sinclair has written an article in todays Australian that finally documents what has been going on for years - some agencies are demanding 20% commission rebates from publishers.

http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/business/story/0,28124,24520533-7582,00.html

"The warning comes as media agency Initiative has introduced a so-called "preferred partnership" scheme under which some internet publishers and online advertising networks are being asked to pay them a 20 per cent commission to become a favoured supplier.

But even as some media agencies -- including Emitch, the digital arm of the Mitchell Communications Group and Toyota's dedicated media agency the Media Store -- charge more than the standard 10 per cent commission, internet publishers are pushing back. "

The big question remains - are these higher that 10% rebate savings being pushed back to the client and/or being disclosed?

It's also interesting to see the publishers being so vocal about the issue - which was in the past an unspoken inconvenience - especially in regards to emitch and The Media Store. Wonder if they'll cop any blowback from these two.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Google UK to allow gambling advertising from today

Brand Republic is reporting that Google in the UK is allowing gambling related search advertising effective today.

"Google is changing its advertising policy to allow gambling-related advertising to appear against search queries in the UK from 17 October.

Previously, businesses could not advertise any form of online gambling or related websites on Google. The ads will still not be allowed on Google sites outside the UK.

UK companies registered with the Gambling Commission will be able to target text-based ads to users in England, Scotland and Wales. Non-UK advertisers based within the European Economic Area wishing to target Great Britain can do so if they are licensed to advertise gambling in their respective countries."

http://www.brandrepublic.com/News/854689/Google-reverses-UK-policy-allow-online-gambling-ads/

In AU it does not allow gambling based SEM - but how will long will it uphold this position?

You can be sure if it did it would open up a nice revenue stream ...

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Malcolm Turnbull on Twitter

Nice work Julian

News Digital Media: The Unemployed spend 40hrs a week on Internet

That's the word according to News Digital Media and their Aspiring Australian's market research.

It tells us that unemployed users of NDM sites spend 6 hours per weekday on the Internet, and 5 hours per weekend day. Total = 40 hours.

Effectively, these people do have a full time job. It's called surfing the net.

So maybe an economic slowdown and higher unemployed rates might be good for digital media consumption ;)

The full report is here - http://media.news.com.au/sales/marketing/pdf/NDMreport03SEP08LO2.pdf

The research is pretty generic, which is disappointing because it's good to see News Digital take the step and try and work out their audience a little better.

There's no new insight into why people use online (real motivations), their usage across different areas (ie maps, video, search, content, contribution), emerging trends or cross media consumption. This is the only first release of the report, and you can be sure it will evolve moving forward as it's released every 3 months.

It does have one statistic that is interesting - that the average NDM user is spending 27 hours, 49 minutes on the Internet per week.

As a figure this feels high to me and surely must be skewed by the respondants being online at work - which needs to be clarified more. Are they 'online' - ie connected - or are they actively using the Internet?

Personally, I work in digital media and I wouldn't be actively online more than 20 hours a week across home and work.

According to Nielsen, the average Internet user in AU spends 14 hours, 34 minutes online per month - which works out to around 3.3 hours per week online.

Who is right? The difference is pretty significant.

September Nielsen data: Yahoo!7 takes a massive hit, other players hold

Nielsen has just released September Netview data and the numbers would be causing a few sighs over at Yahoo!7

Just over 6 weeks ago Yahoo!7 PR was out in force trumpeting the success of their Olympics initiative - and with good reason - it was pretty successful.

However most insiders were more concerned with what they could do with the audience once the Olympics were over. Could they hold enough of them and bring them into the Yahoo!7 fold (be it through Mail, Messenger, Answers, News, Homepage) to become regular users.

The first warning sign would have been last month when the Nielsen data showed Yahoo!7 didn't actually add any new users in August of 08 (when compared to July) - most would have expected an incremental gain in user numbers as a result of an official Olympics alliance at the very least. It wouldn't be too bold to predict internally Yahoo!7 would have forecasted a 10-20% traffic increase.

However this would have seemed like a minor blow compared to the traffic king hit the site experienced in September, down 9% from 5.35m uniques to 4.87m uniques.

This drop mirrors the drop Yahoo!7 experience just after the 2006 World Cup. Remember, the World Cup site in 06 was a Yahoo! co-brand and the traffic fell into Yahoo's topline. However once the action stopped in Germany, the traffic left and didn't return.

On these current September numbers, Yahoo!7 has less momentum with its audience than it did pre Olympics, which is undoubtedly the worst possible outcome for the site.

You can bet the financial investment required to secure the online rights to the Olympics was a mid term initiative financially - based on using the Olympic brand as a carrot to bring new eyeballs to the site and Yahoo!7 working out a way to transition these people into long term users.

Tough questions will no doubt be asked. How has this happened? Did the company have a real plan to try and keep the Olympics traffic it generated? Why, with the number 1 TV network is this JV not generating much traction with users over 2 years in? What has happened to Rohan Lund's vision of being a leader in news, homepage, mail and search?

These are prickly questions - but it seems now globally the Yahoo! brand is being forced to address them across the board as the share price flounders. How will it address these issues it is facing in AU?

The only question I have is, what is Yahoo7's strategy? It's hard to see a real direction from an outsiders point of view.

At the same time, Yahoo!'s main competitors either held their audience in September or grew marginally.

Ninemsn and Fairfax Digital held topline audience numbers, whilst News Digital Media grew 4% (up 150k users)

YHOO dips below $12 a share

Has anyone else been watching the rapid descent of the Yahoo share price?

Well ... right now it's at $11.75 and its market cap is just north of $16b USD.

Blodget covers it here - http://www.alleyinsider.com/2008/10/yahoo-cracks-12-valuation-now-officially-ridiculous

Lets not forget in February MSFT offered Yahoo! $31 per share ... and they declined. Since then the situation has gone from bad to worse.

What's causing the decline? The flogging the company is copping in search combined with large questions around Jerry Yang and Sue Decker and a very public stoush between those 2 and Carl Icahn earlier in the year. The Google AdSense distro deal being stalled wouldn't be helping either, nor would over 100 senior exec defections in the past 18 months.

Key thing to remember is in the US and most areas of Asia - Yahoo is still very strong. Very strong - a leader in many key categories across these large, critical markets. Even with this, many are expecting large layoffs and scaling back of operations. Some have predicted 20% of staff could go.

Have to wonder what might be about to happen in AU - where the company isn't a market leader and of late has seemed to lack longer term direction when compared to its competitors.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Looksmart's Thought Leadership series

Great initiative - http://blogs.looksmart.com/thought_leadership/

They have tapped into the likes of John Battelle and Danny Sullivan to make this happen - both highly respected names, particularly in the search world.

Would be great to see this done locally - tapping into respected players in the AU market to try and give the wider market access to quality opinion in the world of digital marketing and media.

This sort of thing adds value to clients and agencies - which is what they are all screaming out for.

Looksmart wants to offer "articles from industry thought leaders on topics aimed at equipping you to make smart choices in online advertising."

Simple.

So who will be the first player locally to do this? It could be a creative agency, media agency, ad server, publisher, ad network ... the opportunity exists for all of them.

Battelle on media ...

Good post by John Battelle on the Looksmart Thought Leadership blog.

http://blogs.looksmart.com/thought_leadership/2008/10/algorithms-and.html

"I believe that in the media world, there are several buckets of what one might call "value creation." There is clearly value in traditional approaches to content creation - editors, producers, and writers corralled into media-making factories like the New York Times or NBC (I call this kind of media "Packaged Goods Media"). There's value in a different kind of media, media created by ongoing conversations between communities of media consumers on blogs, social networks, and sites like Digg (I call that kind of media "Conversational Media.")

Finally, there's value in the aggregation and curation of media, whether it's packaged goods or conversational. Curation (or put more traditionally, editing and filtering) is increasingly valuable in the information economy - there are simply too many potential streams of information for anyone to grok, and we need trusted sources to curate it all for us. Google News is a good example of that curation, as are Digg, NewsVine, Wikipedia and any number of other sites - every vertical seems to have similar service - from music (http://www.thesixtyone.com/) to women's interest (http://www.kirtsy.com/).

But here's the rub: There's a critical difference between curation based on algorithm (Google News) and curation based on human insight (Digg or Wikipedia) - and that difference can be summed up in one word: Voice. In short, sites that allow people to be part of the curation process have voice, and sites that are driven by algorithm, don't.

No matter how hard we try, we can't come up with an algorithm that creates a truly human voice."

Worth a read. Also applicable to advertising online I think ... but more on that later.

6 reasons why a economic downturn might be good for the AU digital media industry

1. Less cash floating around combined with more conservative spending should mean less new sites pop up that fail to offer anything new to either the audience or the ad market. I don’t think in this climate Fairfax would have invested in something like http://www.thevine.com.au

2. There will be increased pressure on sales teams to offer real value, insight and service to both agencies and clients; rather than being order takers. Right now, this doesn’t happen, and frankly it doesn’t need to given the growth the digital ad market has had to date ... yet I think in the next 18 months there will need to more focus given to how digital channels can both answer business objectives and work closer with ‘broadcast’ media in the sales pitch.

3. In addition there will be pressure on publishers generally to differentiate themselves to competitors in the market and compete for ad spend based on more than unique users. To date, there is very minimal research that proves that any of the major options offer a superior audience – and those who have developed their own research have generally missed the mark in terms of bringing it back to their own product. Newspapers, radio and TV all have lobby groups that generate research and insight to help the ad market understand their product. Digital has the IAB – which publicly hasn’t done anything to help the medium in more than 2 years. Now is the time the IAB needs to become active as its stakeholders (ie the large publishers) are going to need an industry lobby group to show value in the medium.

4. Enhanced focus on strengths. My personal feel is publishers will need to get rid of ‘nice to have’ elements of their sites. What this will probably mean is job losses, especially in production, but more importantly it should mean each publisher focuses more time and effort on the areas they are really good at, which should make them better. If you look at the big publishers – Fairfax, ninemsn, News, Yahoo – they are all excellent at 3-4 things, good at 4-5 and average at the rest. I think there will be closer attention paid to the average performers – page views, revenue, yield, costs etc – as now isn’t the time to be carrying excess weight.

5. The ‘measurability benefits’ stance of digital will be under greater scrutiny. Digital has and still does trade off a foundation of ‘measurability’. “Digital is more accountable than other media”, “Digital offers better ROI” … I think we need to look at this in a more honest fashion … and also look closer and quantify the relationship between online media and offline media. What will this mean? Less data probably, but better data … and data more aligned to business objectives. So – your campaign for an FMCG reached 4m people and generated 55,000 ppl through to the website … but what did it do to increase the unit sales of the client?

6. Untargeted ad networks will struggle. There is a reasonable business right now in buying cheap inventory off US or European remnant ad pools and selling it back to AU clients at a premium. This has to stop and will stop ... the US/Euro remnant networks will look to establish direct relationships with AU advertisers to generate growth, and advertisers will look to cut costs on these buys by wiping out the middleman. If your ad network doesn't offer either an elusive audience, sophisticated technology, or exclusivity I think your position in this market is under threat.

So Obama is using In Game advertising ...

Gigaom is reporting Obama is using In Game advertising via Massive in the US - http://gigaom.com/2008/10/13/confirmed-obama-is-campaigning-on-xbox-360/

Interesting, but why is anyone surprised. Most progressive marketers have used the medium.

The same thing happens when politicians use search or twitter or youtube to campaign - we seem to be surprised - like they and their campaign team are so out of touch with the modern media world they wouldn't even be across these channels.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Clickable food for thought

So I have a client who wants to do a campaign online.

Trouble is - they don't really seem to feel that having an online 'destination' is that important. All they really want to do is let people know the product is available and give people an image of it in action.

I tend to agree with them. The nature of the product doesn't lend itself to finding out more - it's extremely straight forward.

So when I was asked whether they could run a campaign without the ad being clickable my first response was, 'erm ... I really don't know.'

For this advertiser, they want to look to use the web purely as a medium to build targeted reach for their brand in relevant environments. For them, response doesn't actually have any value for the campaign in question.

The more I thought about it, the more it actually made me smile. Here's a brand that is looking at online more than either response or 'creating a dialogue.'

I know some people will say 'this campaign is all about interruption, the hallmarks of old media blah blah blah' ... and maybe they're right ... but it also offers many benefits - right place, right time, right consumer.

So I asked around the major publishers and networks on whether they'd accept an ad creative that didn't click anywhere.

All of the groups I asked said they would, except one.

Google - in the context of their display media content network (purchased on CPM mind you) flatly refused. I asked for a reason, none was given.

It made me wonder - is Google indirectly making a statement that if you can't click on an ad online it doesn't hold any value for the advertiser or user?

Tech getting the jitters from the economic hammering

Last week I touched on the impact of the US financial issues on tech stocks.

http://mimelbourne.blogspot.com/2008/09/no-vote-on-700b-bailout-impacts-tech.html

Now there is finally talk on how this will impact the advertising market ... with some sentiment that digital will probably benefit from any economic turmoil as it offers a perception of more accountability than other media.

Some have stated Google will benefit - which is interesting. I'm not so sure it should - Google is about demand fulfillment, not demand creation. In times like this brands need to create more demand - not look at making fulfillment more efficient. I sometimes feel most misunderstand the role of SEM in a marketing mix and the variables that impact what search can do for a company. For almost all categories, search relies on 'ATL' media (for want of a better term) to drive demand for brand and category terms ... by taking money out of brand building activity, it will impact the amount of traffic you can funnel using search. If advertising is a mix of art and science (magic and logic or whatever other analogy ppl use), then I am not sure it makes much sense to lean more towards straight science in leaner times.

Locally it will be interesting to see what happens. The first half of 08 was very flat ... however the environment has rallied in the second half and we should see approx. 20% YOY growth in the online advertising sector.

However, it's not clear yet what will happen in Q1 and Q2 of 2009 - which I think would be making the local players nervous given how soft the same period was in 08 without such powerful economic factors at play. In the US the past few months have seen layoffs at a lot of key players, the same situation is entirely possible here - I wouldn't be surprised to see layoffs in product/editorial areas over the next 2-3 months in AU. Either that or we will see publishers trim the fat off their offerings - ie, get rid of the elements of their portfolio which on their own are not viable. It's not the time to be carrying excess baggage.

So lets check in with 6 key stocks I looked at last week and see how they faired over the past 7 days.

Yahoo! - market cap down 2.18b in past 7 days
Google - market cap down 5.87b in past 7 days
Microsoft - market cap down 1.56b in past 7 days
Research In Motion - market cap down 1.84b in past 7 days
Apple - market cap down 6.86b in past 7 days
Time Warner - market cap down 6.07b in past 7 days

Monday, October 6, 2008

AFL on twitter

The AFL (the worlds greatest game in my opinion) has launched a Twitter feed for trade week.

http://afl.com.au/News/TradeTalk/Twitter/tabid/13323/Default.aspx

Will be interesting to see what happens when the trade action heats up.

Cool initiative and good to see the sporting giant using the platform.

A bogus heart attack, Steve Jobs and Citizen Journalism

It was the first weekend I'd had without AFL for 6 months, so luckily something interesting happened over the weekend that I could follow in between trying to save my garden from the weeds

It occured in the developing world of 'citizen journalism', and the star players were Apple Chief Steve Jobs and CNN's 'citizen journalism' initiative, CNNi.

On Friday night I was home enjoying some red wine, watching Goodfellas for the 20th time, when I quickly logged onto Silicon Valley Insider. Henry Blodget the sites editor started with, "Citizen journalism" gets its first real test. A story of major consequence that, thus far, no one else has reported"

It then went onto report that CNN's CNNi had run a story on it's front page that Apple head, Steve Jobs, had suffered a heart attack and had been taken to hospital. This happened around 11pm EST ... so just before trading opened in Wall St. SAI merely reported the story and linked out to CNNi - it claimed it was following up Apple sources to see if the story was legitimate as the rest of the media world didn't seem to be following the story at the time.

But Twitter was ablaze with chatter regarding the alleged heart attack. Apple stock dived - but nowhere near as much as one would expect.

SAI also stated "Meanwhile, very interesting that this report appears on CNN's site. If it proves correct, CNN will look great. If it is wrong, CNN's credibility will likely be hit."

The whole situation is outlined here - http://www.alleyinsider.com/2008/10/why-we-published-that-steve-jobs-heart-attack-report

So ... a few hours later it turned out the post on CNNi was bogus. SAI amended the story and CNN took the post down. It apppeared that in this case, the initiative had failed. Apple stock rallied and now the hunt is on to find out who the culprit was.

Blodget is getting absolutely hammered for posting the story as news - I don't think he has anything to answer for. Jobs is the biggest name is tech without a doubt and his health is an often discussed issue almost to the point that when Jobs gets up and launches a new product there is often more discussion about his weight (or lack of) than the products.

It will be interesting to see how CNN approach this - an error this large with a personality as big as Jobs is a real stumble ... and will this impact on other traditional media experiments into letting their readers contribute editorial?

Friday, October 3, 2008

FoxSports consolidate with MCN

MCN will sell Foxsports.com.au from Jan 1, 2009, replacing News Digital Media.

This will be a bit of a hit to News - which would have generated around 5-10% of its display revenue from Foxsports.

But will it be a bigger hit to Foxsports - who would have generated a stack of traffic from being the sports site across the News Digital Media network?

Who knows ... News have inked a deal with ESPN, which isn't really on the same scale that FoxSports currently is, but isn't a bad save.

My thoughts are News should focus on building their own sports offering through their masthead sites - like they have done with Superfooty. This, to me, seems like a better long term strategy than representing someone elses content.

The pressure will now be on MCN to deliver strong, integrated responses, which they haven't nailed to date across their other properties. FoxSports has potential for cross platform deals but the execution must be right.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Jason Scott scores primo US gig with MSN

Fantastic news that Jason Scott, ex ninemsn Commercial Director, has been appointed Director of Global Agencies for MSN

http://business.smh.com.au/business/aussie-packs-his-bags-for-global-odyssey-via-seattle-20081001-4s2m.html

From the article: "Mr Scott will take up his new role in November. In it he will oversee a diverse portfolio of Microsoft media products that carry advertising, including the gaming console Xbox, online gaming sites, MSN portals including ninemsn in Australia, Hotmail and such Mp3 players as Zune, which are starting to incorporate commercial messages. Mr Scott will also oversee the Atlas online adserving technology Microsoft acquired in May last year when it paid $US6 billion for the internet ad firm aQuantive."

Great to see some Aussie talent making in roads globally in the digital world. Congrats Jase.

Fantastic Wii execution on YouTube

Very clever!

http://au.youtube.com/experiencewii

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Top 5 Biggest Digital Marketing Cliches

Thanks to Ad Age - so true

http://adage.com/digitalnext/article?article_id=131347

Anyone who reverts to one of these cliches out of context in todays environment, in my opinion, shows a lack of conviction/belief in their own ideas and is looking to do something purely because it's topical or someone else has and has gotten PR.

Thankfully it doesn't happen that often ...

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

'No' vote on $700b bailout impacts tech stocks bigtime

The US House of Representitives 'no' vote on the proposed $700b bailout of Wall Street has as expected impacted the stock market - with tech stocks also vulnerable.

Lets have a look at what the last day has done to the value of some of the biggies.

Yahoo! - down 10.6% (market cap $23.4b)
Google - down 9.5% (market cap $122.6b)
Microsoft - down 8.39% (market cap $229b)
Research In Motion - down 11.07% (market cap $35.58)
Apple - down 17.4% (market cap $93.8b)
Time Warner - down 8.8% (market cap $46.3b)

That's in excess of $55b USD wiped off the value of the above 6 companies in 1 day. The fun starts locally in a few minutes

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Joe Pollard named CEO of ninemsn

Despite previously ruling out her candidacy for the CEO role at ninemsn (http://www.businessday.com.au/business/ninemsn-moves-to-calm-market-fears-over-turmoil-20080709-3cmp.html), Joe Pollard has been named the new CEO of the MSFT/PBL JV.

I've dealt with Joe on numerous occasions before and she is great. Earlier this year she invited myself and my colleague, Ben Maudsley, to speak at the ninemsn sales offsite and give an agency perspective on things and our broad thoughts on the next 12 months ... which was a great opportunity to speak with various people from publisher side on their thoughts and compare notes.

Congrats Joe.

Technorati State of the Blogosphere

http://technorati.com/blogging/state-of-the-blogosphere

Essential reading. Very interesting for those involved in blogs, who read blogs, or who want to know more about the space.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Plugger rebrands as wotnews?

Weird ... Plugger.com.au has changed its name to wotnews.com.au

"The name Wotnews acknowledges our relationship with Wotif.com. While we remain an independent business and a separately operated website, we're associated with them in that we now share the Wot brand via a licensing agreement"

Um ... okay. Question. What does wotif.com have to do with a news aggregator/search utility? Why would you licence the name?

I guess a name change doesn't take away from the strength of the product - it's a bloody good resource that will only evolve and improve over time.

Is this man the smartest guy in AU digital media?


Former Text Media owner and Sydney Morning Herald editor Eric Beecher is building up a pretty impressive web business.

With Crikey established, Business Spectator growing rapidly, Eureka Report and Smart Company - Beecher has 4 publications that are hard not to notice.

Plus he has a team of people who are well respected - Kohler, Gottleibsen, Mayne, Amanda Gome, Jonathan Green and many more - who are delivering engaging content.

And he is making very strong in roads on an extremely valuable audience and showing that there will always be demand for strong, intelligent content.

So whilst the groups that used to dominate eyeball share of this lucrative audience focus on singles sites and trying to nail youth, Beecher has put together web assets that would be pound for pound, page for page probably the most valuable in the country. Advertisers want to reach a quality audience in quality surrounds - the Beecher sites achieve this.

Sure, the audiences aren't super massive - but they are strong and they are loyal to quality content. And right now, quality is the key differentiator as it is relatively easy to reach most audiences online ... but difficult to reach them in quality environments.

According to Nielsen Market Intelligence, to 22 September they had achieved the following user figures this month.

Business Spectator - 152,000 users
Crikey - 118,000 users
Smart Company - 65,000 users
Eureka Report - 39,000 users
.

These four are sites to watch - because I feel they haven't even started to scratch the surface on what they could do.

Audience, content or context?

I've been thinking about this issue a lot lately.

Where does a publishers value lie? In their audience ... or in their content?

This 2007 article from Clickz talks about it in more depth - http://www.clickz.com/showPage.html?page=3626145

It comes down to this - how will media firms prove the value of their brands to advertisers when asking higher CPMs on their own properties?

We're seeing rate cards increase this quarter - but interestingly enough there hasn't been a huge amount of rationale behind these increases.

The Clickz article touches on two schools of thought ...

Thought 1: "Many media sellers and observers stress, when selling placements on branded publisher sites, the value proposition is not about the content per se. Rather, it's in the audience attracted to those sites by that content"

Thought 2: Shawn Riegsecker, chairman and CEO of local media planning and buying service, Centro, isn't so sure the audience is where a media brand's equity lies. "That audience that visits your site is the same audience that visits Yahoo….It's not the audience, it's the environment," he told ClickZ News. "The challenge to the publishers is to make sure the experience and the environment when someone reads a story on their site is a vast improvement to the experience on a portal."

Personally I think it's probably a mix of the two ... but I think moving forward there is more value in the second school of thought - and there will be a much better definition of 'content' - and what 'content' advertisers want to be associated with.

Locally, the publisher world are good at selling audience - big numbers, we have x% of ABs, we have x% of 14-17yo, 24% of GBs visit us weekly ... all great figures ... but hardly differentiators and hardly reasons why marketers will choose your site over another.

Much of what we're trying to achieve is reaching the right person, at the right time, with the right message in the right context. Yes, context is vital. Context in terms of the content but also in terms of the brands surrounding yours.

Yes Facebook can allow me to target curly haired bocce players who live in Eltham and drive a Vespa ... but if there's only 1 of him then it's futile. Likewise, Facebook might allow me to target GBs with kids who are interested in skin care - but if my ad is running next to a Lavalife or RSVP in my opinion it devalues the whole equation.

I like to use the below when looking to value an opportunity ...

Targeted audience + Focused editorial + Specific, relevant ads + Interested readers = Integrated community

What do you think is important when looking at value?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Media in 2015

I'm working on a pitch at the moment and one of the areas we have to address in our response is ...

'How different the response might be in 2015 with all the changes predicted in the media marketplace'

It's an interesting question. In the scope of this pitch brief I think I have the answer. But geeez it'd be interesting to be a fly on the wall when the responses are presented by each agency to see where they believe things will go.

Personally it's been great for me as working on it has given me incredible clarity and I think allowed me to improve the way I look forward.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Over the top taken even further


If FD keep doing this I reckon a few of their loyal users will leave.

Ad overkill to the extreme. I'm not convinced there's any real benefactor from FDTV other than FD and their EBIT - seems to bombard the user with more ads than they need, and I think advertisers might start to question their rates when ads are running on top of other ads.
Where's the content?


Friday, September 19, 2008

Diddy takes video blogging to new levels

Take note video bloggers. Diddy somehow makes the normally boring world of videoblogging interesting.

Froot Loops in the heezy. The Diddy dance around 3m is hot fire.

Telstra Media is borne: Milne kicks it off with creepy comment

Telstra launched their media division today. Sol pumped it up by saying it's an important part of the companies future and that content lay at the centre of what Telstra wants to achieve moving forward.

Then somebody let Justin Milne have a comment - a man with a reputation for sometimes saying the wrong things. I think today was one of them.

From the article on the heraldsun.com.au - http://www.news.com.au/heraldsun/story/0,21985,24367438-664,00.html

Mr Milne said building a media-comms company involved combining the power of the media to attract customers to a telecommunication service.

"So the simple proposition is, 'Gee, I'm thinking about getting a new mobile, Telstra's got the footy, I'd better buy theirs'.

"Then we go 'great, you've bought our mobile service - we're making money from that - and now in addition to that we'd like to make money from serving you ads from selling new ringtones'."

Has anyone told the guy that consumers probably don't want to know how Telstra is trying to screw more money out of them through content and ringtones and ad targeting ...

Will ninemsn appoint a new CEO?

News has broken today that ACP Magazines CEO Scott Lorsen has effectively been made redundant, as PBL Media have decided to phase out the role of a CEO within the magazine publishing group.

From a statement by Ian Law ... "The decision to phase out the role of CEO of ACP Magazines is part of an ongoing process to streamline the management reporting structure within the PBL Media group, ensuring the business has a structure that is focused on publishing and broadcasting the best content."

An 'ongoing process' ... does this mean it may include ninemsn? Could the current ninemsn executive team take on broader roles?

Tony Faure left at the end of August and announced he was leaving almost 3 months prior to that. Still, there's no replacement and no market murmurings about a possible new CEO.

Maybe the questions needs to move from 'Who will be the new CEO of ninemsn?' to 'Will there be a new CEO of ninemsn?'

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

So what is a media company?

I was looking for some guidance on a defintion for a presentation I am preparing ... and came across this article that is even more interesting reading 2+ years on

http://www.economist.com/surveys/displaystory.cfm?story_id=6794282

It's by The Economist and focuses on former Yahoo! CEO, Terry Semel. Semel was brought on board to turn Yahoo! into a “21st-century media company” ... however things didn't quite turn out as expected. Semel resigned in August of 2007.

Semel went heavy on original content before taking a bit of a U-Turn in 2006 when content aggregation was all the rage. This article was written almost at the very moment things went south for Yahoo!

Semel talks about three key changes - content/programming on demand and how the net has democratised information by allowing the user to be the programmer.

Secondly, that small audiences and many of them are as good if not better than large scale broadcast mass audiences and that Yahoo! wanted to mix professional and amateur content to create these small, niche audiences and monetise them accordingly.

Thirdly, "Where does all this lead? “It will look more and more like a stock exchange,” says Mr Semel. An exchange, that is, for users who “offer” (create) and “bid” for (search, navigate, share, enjoy) content. And a stock exchange for advertisers, who bid against one another to have their sponsored links placed in front of these users."

I feel the first 2 are still relevant, and point 3 was where it went a little awry. For the record, 2006 was when the stock price of Yahoo! plummeted (from $43 in January to $25 in December) and I think this cloudy vision was the straw that broke the camels back.

The idea of point 3 would never have made sense for Yahoo! - or MOST businesses aside Google - funnily enough the idea of an exchange (ie a market exchange) is still a live one.

Still, it's getting close to the end of 2008 and there is more debate than ever on what makes a media company. Is Google a media company? I'd say yes ... ask them and they say no. How do old media companies define what they are now?

The weird thing is - Semel was definitely onto something ... and right now his original vision is probably more relevant than ever. Semel's talk about user programming and the importance of the small audience is bang on in my opinion and still largely left unfulfilled (especially the large point) by large scale players.

So, what does the term 'media company' mean in 2008?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Yahoo!7 and other big players lose audience during Olympic period of August

New Nielsen data is out and it's big.

Yahoo!7 - who had the official Olympics presence in AU - actually lost audience numbers in August.

August 08 saw 5.35m Australia' s visit the site, down 41,000 from July.

This would be an annoyance to the Yahoo!7 management team, who rely on this Nielsen data as it's their only source of audited third party measurement to take to market. (as they don't use Market Intelligence)

It may also raise questions about the value of the Olympics to Yahoo!7 in terms of exposing the brand and their services to a new audience.

All of the main players took hits in August - ninemsn was down over 200,000 uniques, Fairfax Digital down 100,000 uniques, and News Digital down over 300,000 uniques. Relative to these numbers, the Yahoo! result doesn't look too bad ... but would still be a worry as it will raise concerns as to what the numbers will do in September without the Olympic traffic to pump it up.

It would also be a surprise for the other networks - who wouldn't have banked on them losing audience numbers of this volume as they enter the absolutely crucial back quarter.

All data sourced from Nielsen Netview, August 2008

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Q4 2008: 4 thought starters

I am very interested to see what eventuates in Q4 of this year. Generally the last quarter of the year is a pretty robust period, but in 07 it moved from hunstoppable growth momentum to barely a whimper, with 2007 Q4 revenue only up 19% on 2006 Q4 revenue.

Compare this with a 67% increase form 2006 (compared to 2005) and similar increases in the previous years and this figure would have caught the attention of the main players.

Don't get me wrong, 19% YOY growth is nothing to sneeze at, but when you're used to 50%+ growth YOY it shows that the industry is maturing and the momentum off the back of the migration of spend from offline to online is slowing.

Here's 4 things I'll be keeping a close eye on across the next 3-4 months.

1. Emergence of the specialist

This applies for all areas of digital. Agencies. Publishers. Sales houses. Search. Display. I think specialisation and service level will become a key differentiator in a very competitive industry. Knowing your product. Understanding your audience. Understanding the brief. All fundamentals but generally missed most of the time. Agencies are going to want publisher partners who can address business problems and conceive solutions, not sell banners and medium rectangles. Clients are going to want agencies who really understand the digital space - from internet to mobile to emerging technologies, in game, video, social media etc

I also think media owners/publishers will need to do more to skill up their sales teams to truly understand their audience and their key points of difference. Portals are usually generalists in terms of their understanding of audience and context - there is an opening for specialists (like Gizmodo, Sportal, Cnet) to work with larger portals specialist areas (sport, tech, health, parenting) in terms of site representation and content syndication. The portals bring the audience to the content, the specialists extract the revenue it deserves. Being 'great at one thing' is severely undervalued in AU.

Edit: By the above what I am saying is we should start thinking about specialists selling specialist content. For me, it makes more sense for me to buy a parenting environment off someone who has experience in the area (they don't need to be a parent but they need to understand parenting) rather than a 25 year old single guy. It makes sense for a specialist who understands technology to be offering solutions to an advertiser wanting to reach this audience, not a salesperson who doesn't understand that environment. Just like it might not be feasible for an agency person to give you definitive info on ALL elements of digital media ... it's equally not feasible for one salesperson to sell 10 different environments with 10 different audiences and mindsets.

Google has employed Industry Marketing Managers whose job is to stay on top of all industry trends - essentially become an analyst - and they feed these insights to their clients. The result, more trust.

2. Service is the differentiator

Market tolerance of adops mishaps, under deliveries, misleading ad network buys, ambiguous creative specs, lack of knowledge about audience data, content etc will not be as tolerated as it's been before. The excuse 'we're such a young medium, it's a steep learning curve' is such a cop out - we need, as an industry to ensure we can deliver what we sell. As a result, revenue will move towards providers who have the above issues sorted out and have their back end in check. Everyone is going to have to work harder to earn their slice of the digital pie, and as a result we might see the first signs of some consolidation or even better, vastly improved service.

3. Forced mid-tail embrace

Mid tail consumption in AU is obvious - approximately 8% of pages viewed on the Internet belong to the big 5, and about 11% belongs to Google. What are people doing with the other 80%? They are using mid tail sites. Problem is, the dollars haven't flowed into this critical area - namely due to the market presence of the big guys, plus a lack of a great vertical network, time constraints etc. This might all change. Reason - most of the big players have increased their rate cards to levels that perhaps are above what is reasonable. This will force marketers to look elsewhere, namely the mid tail - which is far more cost competitive and generally gives you access to more engaged and credible audiences.

4. The hard TV/online cross-sell

For the 2008 Olympics, advertisers on the Olympics didn't have the choice regarding taking an online package, it was a deal mandatory. I can see this becoming more common across key in demand TV programming - inclusive deals that cover both TV and online. It's a good way for the cross media players (namely 7 and 9) to leverage their TV muscle to generate additional revenues for their online assets. With James Warburton now Chief Digital guy at 7 Media Group, I think it'll be the 7/Yahoo group that lead the charge across their key programming in the front half of 2009.

Yahoo! challenges Google with Bigpond mobile deal? Really?

The Oz is reporting Yahoo! and Bigpond striking a deal for Yahoo! to power the Bigpond Mobile on deck search - http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,24326440-26077,00.html

"The multi-year deal between Yahoo7 and Telstra's Sensis division means Yahoo's oneSearch technology will replace Sensis's search technology on 4.4 million Telstra BigPond 3G-enabled phones.

"Revenue from display and search advertising that appears on the mobile search service -- which will be accessible through a co-branded button on the content menus of all Telstra 3G phones -- will be shared between Yahoo7 and Sensis.

"The partnership will eventually be expanded to include Sensis's Yellow and Trading Post classified searches and Telstra BigPond content.

"Yahoo7 chief executive Rohan Lund said the deal was the most significant for the company in the mobile space and would give Yahoo's advertisers access to a much bigger audience."

Is this really much of a big deal. It definitely doesn't amount to a challenge to Google. Let's not forget Google is flogging Yahoo! in search globally and even more in AU.

People trust Google - they use it on their PC and will also use it on their mobile. It's questionable how much incremental traffic this will bring Yahoo! search and also about the real value/visbility it will give to its advertisers. It makes for nice PR but will it deliver much to their consumers - user/advertiser.

It's interesting to see the deals Lund is looking to strike - he is looking to build Yahoo! audience through distribution deals. It's not a bad play - it's generally cheaper than ATL marketing - and the new eyeballs generated can be added to the topline figure the large guys still like to throw around (we have 5m users etc) despite most marketers not caring anymore about topline network numbers.

Also, does this mean Telstra is putting Sensis search to bed? It's been a rough 4-5 years for Sensis search - it might make more sense to utilise Yahoo!'s better technology and enter into a revshare deal with them on advertising. Would cut a sh*tload of salary cost and they could no doubt negotiate a pretty good deal with Yahoo! as Sensis/Bigpond Internet distro could increase Yahoo!'s total search audience in AU by 50-100%.

ABC to include advertising on mobile services?

That's what Crikey.com.au is reporting in this article - http://www.crikey.com.au/Media-Arts-and-Sports/20080908-ABC-advertising.html

Apparently dev has been outsourced to a company called Wapfly. The million dollar question (literally) is ... who will be selling the space?

All the big guys will want to give this a crack. Question is, are they equipped/skilled to do it justice? Justice in terms of maintaining the integrity of ABC content and also selling the mobile space and mindset appropriately.

The mobile space is a pretty fresh territory and the sophistication of the sell isn't quite there yet. Bigpond have a big lead on the rest of the market in terms of tools and measurement, but surely you couldn't expect Aunty and Sol to get into bed together ... what would the neighbours think!

One to watch ...

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Online employment classified distribution heats up

Was reading today that Seek and Yahoo!7 have re-married after 3 years of Yahoo! eloping with Fairfax's MyCareer offering.

Seek and Yahoo! were strong partners - Seek was Yahoo!'s first investment outside of the US - and the 2 enjoyed a mutually beneficial classified distribution arrangement up until the end of 2005 when Yahoo! migrated all classifieds deals over to Fairfax.

Now they're back in bed - and talking up a joint website (which I imagine is Seek's engine and backend with a Yahoo! top and tail frame job)

Full article - http://www.smartcompany.com.au/Free-Articles/The-Briefing/20080910-SEEK-and-Yahoo7-launch-jobs-partnership.html

For Yahoo! this is a good source of revenue. You'd estimate there's probably around $1m to be gained yearly dependant on the commercials. Plus they are aligning with the market leader, which is ideal.

Also saw that News's Careerone and Ebay have launched a similar distribution initiative called ebay jobs. The combination seems very odd to me - who goes to ebay to look for work?

http://www.smartcompany.com.au/Free-Articles/The-Briefing/20080822-News-Corp-and-eBay-launch-new-jobs-site.html

I guess it's a win/win. Ebay will getting paid based on the traffic it can deliver to careerone. Careerone is hoping that distribution across ebay's mega base audience gives them incremental traffic - traffic they can use to justify their charges to job advertisers. Despite some additional revenue for ebay (which they are under pressure to generate), I don't see the upside for ebay nor the benefit for their users.

The classifieds space is ultra competitive - so these deals, whilst they seem a little odd - come at a premium as each of the main players wants desperately to increase their base usage.

AU Dodgy patrol: Selling something you don't have

Who is the AU repping house selling Facebook News Feed ad units to clients, but not actually being able to fulfill them?

I have experienced first hand, and heard from others of a third party sales company selling these ad units to agencies, then ignoring requests for screenshots and proof of posting ... and then when repeatedly pressed finally admitting that they don't actually have the right to be selling these ads and trying to allocate the dollar amounts into properties outside of Facebook.

It's dodgy sh*t like this that gives the industry a bad name.

You depend on Google more than you probably know


Valleywag writes "really, isn't Google's move to archive centuries of newspapers a bit like the architects of a genocide dedicating a museum to the holocaust they committed" in an article discussing Google's plans to archive printed newspaper articles (as explained by Marisa Meyer at TC50/52). I laughed.

However the article, titled 'The Cuddly Embrace of the Google Monster' is definitely worth reading - http://valleywag.com/5047597/the-cuddly-embrace-of-the-google-monster

It oulines category traffic across key categories, and what percentage of that traffic is driven by search engines.

It's interesting data - especially for those working in media who need to be across the how/where/why/what of people accessing content online and where they are turning to for trusted opinion and information.

Over 44% of traffic to Health/Medical sites is driven by Google. 35% of the travel category is driven by them. 25% of shopping and classifieds. 23% of entertainment.

With those stats, and Google's slow but steady moves into the 'media biz' ... could it be appealing for the GOOG to enter a little deeper into the Health and Travel spaces?

The only 2 categories with minimal reliance on search are Sports and Social Networking.

The power Google holds with the media world is so large - and it's getting larger each day. And it will continue to grow as Google is used by more and more as their sole navigation tool on the web.

Interesting quote from the article: "The biggest threat to Google comes not from Redmond or Sunnyvale, but from its own headquarters in Mountain View. Hubris plagues Google's executives, who are so convinced they are doing good that they are blind to the damage they leave in their wake, and indifferent to outside viewpoints."

Remember too, these are global figures. In AU Google has between 90-93% of the search market (whereas in the US it has just over 70%) - so here their power is greater.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Google Ad Planner - barely worth a look

I was pretty excited about Google Ad Planner when it was announced.

Why? Well ... the current measurement tools we have at our disposal in AU are pretty dire. They are either too light on in terms of depth of data, or packed full of data that really has no use.

So when Google stated "If you're a media planner at an ad agency, you know that planning an online display buy can be challenging, particularly in scaling your campaign's reach while keeping it relevant for your target audience", I thought things were on the up.

Not true. Well ... not true, yet.

Google AdPlanner is an epic anti climax in AU.

Why?

Well, you can't actually plan anything. Reason for this is when you start (and I mean START) drilling into an audience on even the most basic level (ie gender, age) it hits you with the error ...

"You have likely either specified an audience too small to display or a site without any data. Please change your audience definition."

I got the same error when I was looking up EVERY age bracket, and the only site that appeared when I looked for Males was BrisbaneTimes.com.au. Don't even bother with household income ... same result.

It turns out demographic information isn't available for sites outside of the US.

Still, AdPlanner is pretty basic. Where does it fall down?

1. Where are they getting their data from? It's not stated - this concerns me.

2. It gives preferential treatment to Google Content Network sites.

3. It gives really broad estimates of available inventory per day (ie 10K - 100K) which makes it very difficult to get accurate projections

4. It only focuses on unique users and page impressions - not time spent, pages per user, geolocation, media type (ie streaming video, audio, html etc). Very backward.

5. It is missing a LOT of AU sites - LOADS. I'd estimate 80-90%

6. It has a stack of sites that do not accept advertising - like CommBank and Public Transport sites - which is useless for an "Ad" Planner. No option to switch these off either (which Netview has)

7. No information on AU eyeballs across overseas sites. How many AU eyeballs on Digg? Don't ask Google Ad Planner - they can't tell you - which doesn't help given so much Internet use in AU is on o/s sites. Massive fail here.

8. Google claim "discover many relevant sites--small and large--that would otherwise be hard to find." Not true in AU - it's barely scratching the surface

The only groups/agencies this tool will benefit are those who can't afford to subscribe to market data sources. As much as it pains me to say it, Nielsen offers more robust user data and Morgan gives better insight into the consumer. Yes, both are very limited ... but right now they are still the best two.

Unless Ad Planner can dramatically - and I mean DRAMATICALLY - improve, I wouldn't waste anymore time on it.

"Google Ad Planner is designed with media planners in mind"

Maybe ask some media planners for input next time as I don't know any media planner who would find it useful in its current state.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Dell brings us Digital Nomads

Nice branded content initiative from Dell

http://www.digitalnomads.com/

Much better than the low end banner ads they run ad nauseum in this market ...

Branded content has the potential to become a real boom for digital publishers in AU - the problem is they're not equipped sales wise or editorially (mindset) to deliver what is required ... yet.

Note to most - an xmas gift guide sponsored by an advertiser IS NOT BRANDED CONTENT. Nor is repackaging ideas you couldn't sell to other advertisers ...

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Oops Patrol: Carat US lay off internal management info sent to entire company

Carat US has layed off some employees, but made the mistake of sending out information meant for management to the ENTIRE COMPANY.

Information that now has been picked up by AdAge and goes into depth about what to say to those who are being let go, what to say to suppliers, clients and other staff and reasons for the redundancies.

Oops.

All the juice here - http://valleywag.com/5045091/ad-agency-mails-powerpoint-about-layoffs-to-entire-company

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Six months on: Bebo still isn't the biggest social network in AU

From http://www.marketingmag.com.au/case_studies/view/in-the-spotlight-bebo-170

"Within six months we’ll be the largest social networking site in Australia.” Bebo’s Jim Scheinman at the ad:tech conference in February this year.

Whilst there's nothing better than a bit of blow in foreign exec optimism to get the media excited, I wonder how Schienman would be feeling about Bebo's current position in AU.

In July Bebo was at 719,000 users according to Nielsen Netview. Myspace was at 2.6m people. Facebook 3.4m.

Techcrunch ask whether Hulu could be a bigger business than YouTube

TC have run a pretty poorly written (my thoughts anyway - sketchy data and assumptions - still it's better than reading about social media startups with no business model and 400m valuations) article about YouTube v Hulu over here - http://www.techcrunch.com/2008/09/01/can-hulu-be-a-bigger-business-than-youtube/

Interestingly, TC head honcho Michael Arrington used to call Hulu Clownco (which was allegedly Google's internal name for the service) repeatedly (http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/08/09/wow-clown-co-got-that-1-billion-valuation-still-nameless-though/) and was pretty dismissive of the concept; and the tech media absolutely flogged the concept when it launched, lambasting it as a flop and giving the NBC/Fox brainstrust advice on how to make it really work (example: http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/hulu.php)

Now it seems the US tech media is embracing Hulu and maybe, just maybe, are open to the fact that a bunch of TV guys might actually have a more viable business with web video than YouTube. It will be interesting to watch TechCrunch cover Hulu over the next 12 months.

Can Hulu be more viable than YouTube? I don't know. Right now, absolutely ... Hulu in my opinion could command 10-20x the CPMs YouTube can - plus they can monetise all their inventory (YouTube can monetise approx 3-4% of theirs) PLUS they can (if done smartly) bundle Hulu placements in with TV buys (ie you buy 30 Rock via 7 for TV and also buy in on the online component at the same time via Hulu). However the biggest thing is trust, traditional brand advertisers trust what they know - and they know TV, TV shows and the production houses.

They're not quite sure on YouTube. Case in point - show a brand manager at nameless FMCG company or Movie distributor the most popular videos (http://au.youtube.com/browse?s=mp) and they will turn their nose up and ask to not be placed near that content.

In the future - who knows - never discount Google to come up with a game changing idea ... however they need to hurry up as they might lose the momentum they had and Hulu is focused on global expansion so the clock is ticking.

Battelle asks whether Google are spreading their efforts too thinly

John Battelle is someone I follow on Twitter. I love reading his stuff. I like what he is doing with Federated Media (giving advertisers access to 'conversational media', entering the world of branded content etc) and I like how he thinks about things related to digital.

He posted a few interesting 'tweets' (ugh I hate that word) today re Google. I thought I'd repost them here.

Follow John Battelle on Twitter - http://twitter.com/johnbattelle

Let's make a list of oceans that Google plans to boil, shall we?

1. Computer Operating Systems. Oh, well, no really, Web Operating Systems (Chrome et al).

2. Search. Check that one as boiled, but it's not easy to keep that ocean at true temperature.

3. Cloud computing, including applications (also known as Office).

4. Healthcare data. Really.

5. The entire mobile ecosystem, from OS to hardware (android).

6. Energy. Yep, energy (figuring out how to come up with sustainable energy below the cost of coal). Through Google.org.

7. The entire advertising/marketing ecosystem, offline and online.

8. Traditional methodologies and understandings of how a public company comports itself.

PS - # 7 includes analytics, ad serving, ad selling, integrated programs, TV, radio, print, etc.

9. Social networking. Yes, dead serious, they are playing against MySpace, Facebook, etc.

10. The entire UGC media world with YouTube and Blogger and Knol et al.

You tell me, is the company stretched too thin?

ninemsn get fixated

Ninemsn have launched Fixated - www.fixated.com.au - with Citibank coming on board as the launch sponsor.

I've had a bit of a play - seems very similar to Hollywood Stock Exchange (http://www.hsx.com/) and Celebdaq (http://www.bbc.co.uk/celebdaq/). Not really a new concept (well, not at all a new concept) but they are the first to add a local spin. Yes, it's still a rip off but hey ... imitation is flattery.

Most interestingly, Citibank are the launch sponsor. Citibank's online efforts have generally been all DR focussed so it's fantastic to see them step into the area of sponsorships/branded content and outside of affiliate and CPA.

It's also good to see ninemsn really working at making thefix a consumer brand - which I think is indicative of ninemsn heading down the path of really building value and equity in their brands as opposed to being a faceless aggregator of feeds.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Facebook hiring in Oz


So Facebook are looking for a Head of Sales in the Australian market - which suggests local operations (or at least a sales team) isn't too far away.



Friday, August 29, 2008

YouTube to offer PDAs on homepage?

Techcrunch is reporting (http://www.techcrunch.com/2008/08/28/youtube-to-squeeze-more-money-out-of-homepage/) that YouTube will be "leveraging its homepage for profit by selling large format ads that expand to fill the whole page."

In the US it has experimented with click to expand PDAs for Pineapple Express, and this move brings the YouTube homepage in line with other prominent high traffic homepage placements in terms of impactful ad units available to advertisers.

The homepage for YouTube is key as it doesn't include any potential copyright infringements - so it is clear to monetise it as it pleases. It's not so easy with user uploaded videos - unless YouTube has a partner distribution arrangement with them.

The YouTube homepage locally does around 1m impressions a day, which would put it behind ninemsn, the Fairfax mastheads, myspace, News.com.au and Yahoo!7 for sheer volume. One would imagine it would be difficult to charge more than $40k for this placement (given that is the ballpark myspace charge for a full homepage reskin).

Still - one of these per month would generate around half a mil. annually for YouTube - which isn't exactly chump change, but probably doesn't start to scratch the surface on how much the channel wants to make.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Beijing 2008 over: Yahoo!7 release audience data

Yahoo!7 today released some figures on the popularity of their Olympics presence this year.

The topline ...

- 1.2m unique users for Week 1. 1.15m unique users for Week 2
- 32m pageviews
- 4m video streams

What we don't know ...

- engagement stats (time spent, repeat visits)
- most popular time of day
- how many of the users were AU based (you'd estimate around 80%)

Yahoo! would be happy with these numbers. And they'd be happy with the way they utilised the TV coverage to push to web - which they did very well.

For next time (well, next big event as 9 has the next Olympics) they would probably want to add search capabilities to the online video, as this is the only area I think may have fallen short.

4m streams isn't bad, don't get me wrong. But on a site that was claiming around or above 300k users every day it's not great. 4m streams over the 16 days of the games equals 250,000 streams a day. Personally, I think these numbers would have been greater with a search function as finding some videos was very difficult. Also remember, they had some very strong content (all the good content) which would have been in demand from users - if they could find it easily. I also think they could have integrated video search for Olympic content into their own search engine - if you searched for Usain Bolt the day after the 100m there was no reference to watching the video on Yahoo!

However, the AU streams hold up well when compared with the stream data for the NBC Olympics site in the US (which had a load more content).

The US NBC site had around 75m streams (I am basing this number on 56m streams after day 12, extrapolating the number out to 16 days - http://www.businessweek.com/technology/content/aug2008/tc20080820_627259.htm?chan=technology_technology+index+page_digital+entertainment)

The US has 223.1m Internet users ... which works out at .29 video streams per total ppl online (US).

AU has 11.65m Internet users ... which works out at .34 video streams per total ppl online (AU)

If you apply a $60cpm to the 4m streams and assume a 90% sell through, if the Olympics were sold on normal CPM (which they weren't) it would have meant a $216,000 pay day for Yahoo!7 - which still means online video is small potatoes when compared to its broadcast cousin.

Still, Yahoo!7 held their own during the Beijing Olympics and no doubt surprised many on how well they delivered. Now we wait to see just how much incremental traffic the Olympics delivered for them, and whether they can hold onto them and push them across the network into their key areas of News, Mail, Search, Answers and Entertainment.

Excessive: AU Homepages Ad Count

I have voiced my concern with the volume of ads appearing on publisher homepages in the past, and today I thought it'd be an interesting time to see whether ad messages are dominating publisher homepages still.

As an agency guy, I think the less ad units a publisher has on their homepage the better. I think as an advertiser if you're forking out between 50-130k for a homepage execution, it devalues the placement for it to be surrounded by countless text ads for credit cards and debt consolidation.

Plus, I think the user deserves the frontpage to be clean and easy to navigate.

So, effectively, the publishers are failing both their stakeholders.

And you would never see the front page of a newspaper filled with ads.

Anyway - lets look at the totals for Monday 25 August.

Yahoo!7 - 16 total ads
Excessive ad units add more clutter to an already cluttered experience. Overwhelming.

ninemsn - 14 total ads
Biggest positive is that the area above the fold is pretty clean - still, a lot of text placements here.

theage.com.au - 16 total ads
Admittedly, 8 of these placements are Sponsored Links ... and the page is pretty long ... but Fairfax are squeezing every penny out of their eyeballs and advertisers.

smh.com.au - 17 total ads
We have a winner! Optus have a med rec + OTP ... as well as the Sponsored Links placements and the awesome bottom leaderboard. More finance sales pitches than a bank manager.

news.com.au - 8 total ads
Good effort. Marks deducted for news still considering the 468x60 banner to be acceptable as well as two display ad units above the fold.

Bigpond - 4 total ads
Bigpond only have 4 external advertisers on their homepage - not bad. Let down unfortunately by their horrendous Bigpond Shopping page dominant ad.

Google - 0 total ads
And this is Australia's most popular page ... which says to me users enjoy less clutter.

I would like to see a publisher look to place LESS ads on their homepage, but extract more yield from these placements. Both advertisers and users would value less ad clutter and advertisers would be prepared to pay more.

Right now the amount of ads on homepages makes the industry look amateur and greedy in the eyes of most. And excessive ad placements effectively devalue these "premium" placements in the long term.