Wednesday, January 31, 2007

An interview with Wunderloop's Chairman

The AlwaysOn conference is now over and it's been very interesting and well organized. There were few Europeans around, but all of them very interesting. I was pleased to talk to Michael Kleindl, the chairman of Wunderloop, a European company based in Luxembourg with operations in Germany and Spain the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Spain, Germany, Italy and Luxembourg, with France and Nordics ready to open in Q2 this year; interestingly enough, the company just signed a major client in China. Wunderloop is backed by legendary names of European entrepreneurship like Niklas Zennström and their fundamental proposition is that it is now possible to do efficient and effective behavioral targeting of an audience instead of trying to access an audience indirectly, e.g. by inferring something about the ads of interest from search terms. Kleindl is a veteran in advertising and online ventures, with more than a decade of experience and Wunderloop is his fourth venture. I certainly wish him and his company all the best.
Below is the video with his interview.

Video sent by alexpapa

Your density of clicks is exciting!

The AlwaysOn OnMedia NYC conference is continuing with some pretty interesting sessions this morning, where I met Benno Wasserstein, a fascinating entrepreneur from the UK. Benno is very passionate about his company, Box UK, a UK based Internet consultancy that built clickdensity  a great product Benno showed this morning. Clickdensity is great for optimizing the usability of web sites and understanding how visitors actually interact with a site: the product will show you cool "heat maps" showing the relative intensity of clicks on various areas of a web page, click maps and "customer paths" on your page, while it also keeps track of data such as display time and time it takes for a visitor to click on a link... Amazing product, great person representing the company. Definitely people I will put in touch with a couple of customers and partners for some mutually beneficial interactions!
Here's an interview I had earlier today with Benno, whom I erroneously call Brenno at some point because that's how his name was spelled on the program of the conference. Apologies for that Benno.

Video sent by alexpapa

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Managing Your Online Media Buy

Just attended a workshop at AlwaysOn Media NYC on how to manage the online media buy. Quite interesting conclusions, the main of which may be that the distinction between advertisers and publishers is blurring to an extent that changes the way plans are built and companies are organized. A direct implication is that teams in charge of online and teams in charge of traditional media buy should be brought together under one roof, else there is a lot of silo-wars going on.
The panelists were:

  • Moderator: John Rose,Director BCG

  • Curt Hecht, EVP/Chief Digital Officer, GM Planworks (Starcom)

  • Brian Quinn, VP Advertising, Sales & Marketing, Dow Jones Online

  • Penry Prince, Director Nort American Sales, Google

Below is a list of interesting comments they made:

  1. traditionally, when a new media emerges in the advertising space it takes a big chunk of ad spending growth and does not necessarily lead to a shift of budgets. Now things are different because the adoption of the Internet is driving totally different behaviors of the audience;

  2. it took 10 years to cable TV to get its fair share of advertising and we're talking about simple 30 second spots, i.e. exactly the same format that was used on broadcast TV;

  3. the rationale of advertising is changing because now it becomes possible to measure more precisely. This is not anymore a world in which all you had to do was throw dollars at advertising in the unverifiable belief that it actually made a difference;

  4. metrics are a big priority for Google, who works with both marketers and sites to get down to what is actually required in terms of measuring as precisely as possible (per campaign, over time, per product...) each marketing initiative taken online;

  5. the power of attraction of free content is a necessary ingredient to build an audience, which is one of the reasons why the Dow Jones company bought MarketWatch. Now publishers starts understanding that making people pay for access before providing any content at all is not the way to go;

  6. Google is investing a lot in educating the market about how online advertising actually work and an enormous amount of work and money is being invested in making sure both advertisers and site owners are walked through the process step by step. In a context of rapid change there is also considerable resistance and one should not overestimate the web's ability to convert traditional behaviors in a short time;

  7. the web is considerably efficient at assessing transactional dynamics but not necessarily too efficient as regards consideration, reputation, intention to buy... So there is a considerable challenge in providing advertisers and brands with accurate data about campaigns that can fit their existing performance measurement models. In fact, Curt Hecht believes nobody has this figured out yet and if they say so it's likely to be a lot of bull;

  8. we are starting to see digital experts working on the advertisers' side to help shape strategies and tactics that actually deliver results online and they are a necessary resource;

  9. some brands like UBS are huge spenders off-line and don't do anything online thinking "we're not quite there yet". This is extremely risky because it attracts customer attention and since most people today check the web before buying, off-line spend only may actually be the best way to generate business for competitors; So digital cannot be out of the marketing planning and media buy equation;

  10. media will become more accountable because of the existence of online and that is actually going to drive a big growth in the amount of money being spent in new advertising methods [my comment: this is ultimately about driving the risk of ad inefficiency down, so it brings us back to the old risk-return trade-off];

  11. marketers ought to think of themselves as publishers because their challenge is not merely to get a message out there but to actually engage an audience into the experience that their content exposes a customer to.

Overall some pretty interesting lessons there I believe and certainly a few that will please my friends at Vanksen Group.

Google's weaknesses?

The panel discussing weaknesses in Google's model have made some pretty interesting contributions, but they seem to focus their thinking around the idea that Google is about search more than anything else. Their argument is that advertisers don't need to access audiences through search and that instead they can or should access the audience directly based on online behavior. That's all great except for the fact that Google is much more than just search and that when the audience becomes acquainted with and strats using more massively the rest of Google's services, the story will definitely change. Mike Yavonditte of Quigo made a very interesting remark saying tat Google is after every single platform or channel there can be and that their motto of "organizing the world's data" with actually end up applying to this space as "organizing the world's advertising". And there was an interesting question from the audience claiming that with the advent of video, the importance of text based search will lessen, which should be Google's biggest weakness right now. I certainly agree with that.

AlwaysOn - day 2

So here we go for day 2 of AlwaysOn Media in New York and today's topics definitely seem interesting. The first subject to be discussed deals with possible weaknesses in Google's ad / revenue model. I guess many people in the media & marketing industries realize how dependent the web 2.0 phenomena are on advertising revenue and more specifically on Google's advertising platform.So far what strikes me is the fact that the conference seems very much about waking up and educating Madison Avenue about what the multimedia Internet is actually doing to their industry. Lots of stuff about user generated content, alternative advertising and promotion methods, media buying and marketing strategy.

New Technorati service: where's the fire

AlwaysOn Media NYC has started and it certainly feels good to be attending as both topics and participants are very interesting.
Of course, as often in these events, there was an announcement of a new service that Technorati is about to launch (should happen within the next 24 hours), which makes it possible for bloggers to write a sort of summary with the background information pertaining to a top rated topic on Technorati's "Top Searches". The summary will be like a little wiki and allow the people who contribute to display the most relevant link for a given topic. In a way, Technorati is implementing a form of community driven content moderation, which I find quite interesting because it capitalizes on social dynamics, while being economically affordable.
Another thing that I found worth analyzing carefully is the intense cooperation between Technorati and Ogilvy, the latter seeming more than interested in understanding and taking full advantage of the web like in past times they were able to become familiar with another then revolutionary new media, television. To me this means that Madison Avenue is not sound asleep as some people seem to portray it and that means the opening of fantastic opportunities for companies that are already successful in the space of online marketing communication services and brand management services. Of course, when giants start waking up, the game gets rougher, but at the end of the day flexibility, speed, creativity, specific core competencies and experience with new media will be the defining factors. I suspect established companies will attempt to buy those assets instead of developing them in-house. Expect a wave of crazy M&A operations.

24/7 nation

Aside from great customer service, non-stop activity is one of the most striking aspects of the US today (and that is a big difference compared to the last time I came over here back in 2001). This is a 24/7 nation and business never stops around here. Most service providers consider it a must to be reachable by customers when customers want. While it is a great idea for business, I am not convinced the consequences of this model are desirable at the level of individuals. However, on a much larger scale I wonder what this drive to be an always-on space, a 24/7 nation does to the global competition. And intuitively I tend to believe this is actually building enormous competitive advantage for the US. At the end of the day, this desire to serve customers 24/7 builds greater responsiveness for the entire economy and ultimately it must also have the effect of accelerating the number of interactions and transactions, which should translate in faster circulation of money in the economy. Rather enabling dynamics for growth, no?

Monday, January 29, 2007

When will we Europeans learn customer service?

I've been on the US East Coast for the past couple of days and no matter where I find myself I am impressed with the level of customer service. From employees of major retail chains, to little shop owners, to service staff at JFK airport or policemen in the streets of New York, you will be greeted in a courteous way and people actually pay attention to your request and they do give you a useful reply that you can actually use to get closer to a solution for you (not the usual bull: "it's not my area, just go to office XYZ on floor ABC"). That's definitely something that has consistently impressed me in North America each time I came here and I think it is something we Europeans ought to learn from North America. Actually I am going to start with my own activities, starting with an improved way of greeting people on the phone. Just gve me a week!

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Productive days

Well, that's it I landed in New York just six hours ago and it sure felt good to be in the States. I was impressed with the friendly attitude of people here, from border control, to customs, to simple folks who offered to help when I was a bit lost at JFK... And how about customer service? I just love North America for that too. Anyway. These are interesting days for me both because my customers are offering enticing and challenging projects and because I am learning so much on the momentous changes happening in media, entertainment and marketing. For example, Joost is an amazing environment (I'll write about that later) and if any of you wants an invitation I would gladly enter your details. And of course, with such an exciting customer as Vanksen Group, I am watching very carefully marketing, advertising and communication. One of their latest operations is particularly remarkable I find because it very much looks like guerrilla advertising against the established market leader (Gilette). Take a look at this ad, which needs no translation although it is in French:

Looking forward to AlwaysOn Media next week!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Joost starting a beta

Quite cool: the Venice Project becomes Joost and I Joost got an invitation to join their new wave of beta test.
From what I ave been able to gather over the web, this is going to be great and I certainly trust the creators of Skype to build something amazing... again.
The product installed without a glitch and I am absolutely impressed with the quality of sound and image.
At this point I do not have sufficient experience with the functionality of the software package to give and opinion as to how it is going to affect the landscape of online media. All I can say is that television will never be the same again and that my first impressions of user experience are very very positive.

Jamendo picking-up speed

Jamendo recently announced having over 2000 albums online and their website is more and more active with the number of members growing fast and volumes of file sharing exploding. Today they announced a revenue sharing scheme thus starting the roll-out of a business model that is suitable both for artists who wish to keep offering their music free of charge and for bands who intend to use Jamendo as a direct distribution community-enabled platform. For details, take a look at the press release below.
Download pr_jamendo_rs_en.pdf

Sunday, January 14, 2007

The world is shaped in the blink of an eye

I just finished reading a fascinating book called Blink. Malcolm Gladwell, the author does a great job at showing how the human mind has an ability to sort and process very rapidly relevant information in the blink of an eye to reach conclusions, make decisions and take action. Blink is about "the power of thinking without thinking" as Gladwell says, that incredible capability in of our unconscious mind that helps us steer our course in this universe for the best and for the worse. The book contains some very interesting case studies from a variety of fields from marital counseling to marketing to military and art. I was struck by the work done by Harvard to show the unconscious biases into which our education and social contexts conditions us: try it for yourself at this site or here (if the first link does not work as was reported by a reader).

One of the most interesting case studies deals with a war game of the Pentagon which took an unexpected turn as the bad guy was able to inflict severe losses to US forces in the simulation simply by organizing his side as a loose system instead of trying to capture huge amounts of data to make decisions in the heat of the battle. In a way it reminded me of modern management where there is a drive in many companies to capture all sorts of data about a business in a futile attempt to control the future, whereas it is often far more productive to hire the right people and give them the freedom to perform.

Sunday, January 7, 2007

Quaero: search yields trouble

Do you remember when French President Chirac launched an initiative to build a European search engine to compete with Google? YAGIDF = Yet Another Government Initiative Destined to Fail. A little more than a year later, it does seem that Quaero found trouble while searching for an architecture for the future of search: I clipmarked here a piece of news that I found on Slashdot today. And have you tried "" or ""? What's a search engine that needs another search engine to be found by a user worth? How about a new product that does not have a web presence before it's completemy developed? Passé? Perhaps it is time for European governments to change the ways in which they try to support European entrepreneurship and crucially time to stop having dreams of European grandeur, come back to Earth and act realistically... Shimon Peres stated that governments are becoming irrelevant in December at Le Web 3. Quaero might be a good example.
Meanwhile Google presses on and continues to let a thousand flowers bloom in a process of continuous innovation. At the same time I know Mangrove Capital and Mark Tluszcz who have been eager to do something in the search engine space since late 2005 (go to this site, search for "Tluszcz" and watch this video Sp3220070107145715_1

- sorry but does not support linking to videos or embedding it appears.) seem to be betting on Quintura, an interesting search engine that uses artificial intelligence to interconnect concepts that the user is looking for. I saw a presentation of theirs at Le Web 3 and tested the platform: it's quite good although there are a couple of bugs with the nice flash representation of concepts (last time I checked it did not update when the user hit the Back button of the Firefox 2.0 browser).

Friday, January 5, 2007

Going to AlwaysOn Media in NYC

I decided to attend AlwaysOn Media in NYC later this month. It definitely looks like an interesting conference and since I am currently working for a couple of "disruptors" in the media & marketing industries, being there felt very appropriate. My plan it to have my Archos 604 WiFi with me and to publish a couple of videos from the conference... just to expand on my most recent multimedia experiments ;-)

Thursday, January 4, 2007

Clipmarks rocks

I've been using a great tool called Clipmarks for the past few weeks and it's just awesome. Given that I have a bias for sifting through a lot of information when working on a project this is exactly the sort of tool I needed because it allows me to keep track of the meaningful and useful parts of web sites I visit, thus also helping me cope with the incredible loads of information that are available. Before using Clipmarks I used to make PDF files of pages which contained some useful information. Needless to say the management of those files was a real challenge.
Features I just love with Clipmarks:

  1. the ability to pick several parts of a page and to save them on Clipmarks as one document (called a clip in Clipmarkese)

  2. the ability to send a document to friends and contacts via email

  3. tagging of clips

  4. submission of clips to

  5. the ability to organize clips as "collections" (which are pretty much like categories, but can be qualifications of privacy if you want)

  6. the submission of clips to a community of users who will "pop" the clip and push it to first page (a bit like Digg)

  7. the creation of a personal web space with all of my clips

Clipmarks is absolutely great.

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

How sustainable is our current way?

This morning aroudn 06:15 CET there was an interesting interview with Edward Goldsmith on BBC World Service. Edward Goldsmith is one of those pioneers who were early to recognize, in the late sixties, the impacts of our model of industrial development on the environment. His point of view is very interesting and although he feels he was not successful in his quest to make mankind understand the risks of disrupting the planet's ecosystem, I believe examples like his inspire quite a few people in our societies.
At the very end of 2006 I got a chance to discuss sustainable business with a Belgian business leader and I was impressed with his keen understanding of the dimension of the challenges ahead: he was telling me how he felt we would be compelled to change our ways of running the economy and how we'd better start right now because businesses who are early to adapt stand a better chance to survive and develop in radically different conditions. Edward Goldsmith's position is more radical because he supports de-development... All that makes for interesting times. And now that I think of it, back in june 2000 I recall spending a week in San Francisco, California, expecting to see a lot of teleworking and extensive use of technology to change the working models and feeling very disappointed with the huge traffic jams on highway 101.