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Feb 7, 2009

CLIP MySpace Begins Monetizing Music Videos With Impressive Results

by Jason Kincaid on February 6, 2009

In an effort to monetize the growing number of music videos on its site, MySpace has just launched a new pilot advertising initiative that places attractive overlays at the bottom of some clips, allowing users to buy the song they’re listening to or immediately jump to the artist’s homepage.

The new initiative stems from MySpace’s partnership with Auditude, a content detection and management company that can identify copyrighted content and serve relevant advertising, even on user-submitted video. Now Auditude is applying the technology to music videos, which in the past have largely relied on banner ads and static text links to music stores for monetization.

On Wednesday the site, in a partnership with Warner Music Group, placed an overlay ad on a video for My Chemical Romance’s cover of Desolation Row. Users were presented with the option to buy the song either on Amazon, or (in an interesting twist) on a vinyl disc. Over the 24 hours that the ad ran it posted an impressive 1.2% click-through-rate (significantly higher than rates seen on typical banner ads), encouraging MySpace and Auditude to expand the program to more videos. Today the site began displaying advertising on U2’s new single Get On Your Boots, with plans to expand the program more broadly in the near future.

Much of the overlay’s success probably stems from the fact that it doesn’t look too much like an ad - it actually shows informative content like the album the song came from, the year it was released, and a link to the artist’s profile. I wouldn’t say I like having it there, but MySpace could have done a lot worse. And frankly in the current economic climate it’s encouraging when companies can find advertising methods that actually work without being ridiculously annoying.

YouTube launched a similar program three weeks ago, allowing content owners to insert overlays for products into their videos (MySpace’s overlays are significantly more attractive, but they both serve the same purpose). YouTube wouldn’t provide any exact numbers, but a representative confirmed that in general the site has seen significantly improved clickthrough rates when ads are embedded in videos themselves, as opposed to appearing in surrounding banner ads.

CLIP ReadWriteWeb Guide to Following The Grammys

grammy.jpgThe music industry and the Web industry have always had a contentious relationship. But it's hard to resist the drama of awards. This Sunday, the music world will be focused on the 51st annual Grammy Awards, the annual recognition of artistic achievement in music. And the Web is sure to be chock full of opinions and criticism about the final choices. We've worked to grab some resources to help you get the most out of the event, no matter what your musical tastes.


For the basics, you can peruse the official Grammy site. It feels dated (and we're slightly confused by the poll "sponsored by Waste Management") but it's up-to-date on all of the Grammy info. And for as low-tech as the site looks, they have released a Grammy iPhone app.

Fortunately, we found some beautiful and compelling content buried beneath the surface: artist tag clouds. While they might not be entirely accurate, they're still an interesting - and artistic - visualization of the musician's work.


If you're interested in a little more interaction, you can follow TheGRAMMYs on Twitter where they're retweeting Grammy mentions and sharing trivia. Or you can always tune in to see what the Twitter crowd is saying about the event.

Given its predilection toward musicians, you'd expect MySpace to be a veritable treasure trove of Grammy info. Unfortunately, that's not the case. Apart from an official Grammy page and Katy Perry's call for videos to show during the CBS broadcast there's little beyond individual artists mentioning their nominations. Although something tells us the users Grammy and Grammys are getting irregularly high page views as of late.

Not to be outdone, Facebook is offering two Grammy-oriented areas, the official 51st Grammys page and the page for the Recording Academy.

Rolling Stone has ongoing Grammy coverage. If you're interested in their take, see their Grammy predictions or take your turn with prognostication and fill out your Grammy ballot. If you're into the new artists, the LA Times has a write up on the nominations for Best New Artist. Or, if you're interested in a more cutting-edge perspective, reading Spin's predictions might be more your speed.

For some history, Time has gathered videos of the Top 10 Grammy Moments. Or spend some time with a beautiful infographic detailing who the music industry has rewarded with Grammys throughout history.

Finally, if the awards themselves don't provide enough drama, you might want to dig into the accusations about song stealing. Currently, there's the ongoing Coldplay-Satriani saga and recent allegations of Bruce Springsteen stealing tunes from KISS. (Yes, you read that right.)

For many, the Grammys aren't half as interesting as other artists who receive far less recognition. So if you're interested in finding some new tunes, why not thumb through some of the music services ReadWriteWeb has reviewed recently? Check out our tips on music recommendation services or take a look at the 50 most blogged about albums from 2008.

Feb 5, 2009

STATS Is The Worst Behind Us? Online Ad Revenues Pick Up In The Fourth Quarter.

With Time Warner reporting earnings yesterday, we now have online advertising numbers for the fourth quarter from the four largest players: Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, and AOL. Tallying up their online advertising revenues provides a decent proxy for the health of the overall online advertising industry as a whole, since they represent a majority of those revenues. (For comparison, see IAB numbers for the U.S. only).  After a full year of slowing growth, their combined ad revenues actually picked up in the fourth quarter, showing a 3 percent rise compared to the third quarter. Combined revenues grew 8 percent on an annual basis.

Like everyone else, I’ve been expecting to see continuing pressure on Internet advertising. In the third quarter, the sequential growth of the combined ad revenues from these four companies ground to a halt, going from 12.7 percent sequential growth in the fourth quarter of 2007 to 0.6 percent in the third.  (All growth rates are quarter over quarter, unless otherwise noted).

What the slight rebound in growth tells us is that search advertising may be making up for the continued weakness in display advertising, which each of these companies acknowledged in their conference calls.  The question is whether sequential growth will remain in this low range for the rest of the year, or whether search advertising can push it higher. One quarter’s worth of data is not enough to make any conclusons on that front, but at least these numbers provide a ray of hope.

The combined ad revenues totaled $8.5 billion in the fourth quarter, up from $8.2 billion in the third quarter and $7.8 billion in the fourth quarter of 2007. Google continued to dominate, accounting for 65 percent of those revenues, up from 61 percent from a year ago but slightly down from its 65.3 percent share in the third quarter.  Google contributed slightly more than half of the growth.  Yahoo’s 19.1 percent share of revenues went up quarter-over-quarter by the same amount that Google’s went down (0.3 percent).  Microsoft’s $866 million in online revenues gave it a 10.2 share, up from 9.4 percent in the third quarter.  And AOL’s advertising revenues remained flat at $507 million, giving it a 6.0 percent share (down 0.2 percent).

For the purposes of this analysis, I took the total advertising revenues from both Google and Yahoo, including their network revenues paid to affiliates, the online revenues reported by Microsoft, and only the advertising portion of AOL’s revenues. The revenue share figures above are rounded. Below are the absolute revenue numbers, broken down by company:

CLIP NYTimes Exposes 2.8 Million Articles in New API

Ed: Movies, books, politicians, and now news.

What do you do when your industry is shifting under your feet? Taking the lead with radical steps is one strategy. The New York Times did just that this afternoon when it announced that it has released a new Application Programming Interface (API) offering every article the paper has written since 1981, 2.8 million articles. The API includes 28 searchable fields and updated content every hour.

This is a big deal. A strong press organ with open data is to the rest of the web what basic newspaper delivery was to otherwise remote communities in another period of history. It's a transformation moment towards interconnectedness and away from isolation. A quality API could throw the doors wide open to a future where "newspapers" are important again.

What does that mean? It means that sites around the web will be able to add dynamic links to New York Times articles, or excerpts from those articles, to pages on their own sites. The ability to enrich other content with high quality Times supplementary content is a powerful prospect.

The Times has opened a wide variety of APIs over the last year; they are making "the newspaper as platform" (as journalist Mathew Ingram put it today) a major part of the company's bid for the future. We discussed the significance of this strategy when the Times opened its first API in October. As we wrote then,

Reporting is no longer a scarce commodity. It's hard for these huge news organizations to do it faster, cheaper or even as well as a whole web of new media producers around the world. They may be among the top sources for original content still today, but considering the direction technology is moving in - that's not a safe bet for the future.

One thing that big media still does have a particularly good share of, though, is information processing resources and archival content. The Times' campaign contribution API is a good example of this. The newspaper is far better prepared to organize that raw information, and perhaps offer complimentary content, than any individual blogger or small news publisher.

We're excited to see how this API gets put to use and we look forward to seeing it develop all the more.

What could come next? We'd love to see some semantic parsing of all this content. As semantic web aficionado Tom Morris wrote today, "[These] Could be signs of something very good - imagine if the New York Times were to join the web of Linked Data, pointing from articles out to all sorts of distributed resources. The amount of information stored up inside an institution like the New York Times would be really interesting if it were linked together with other data on the Web. A search API isn't tremendously interesting, but it is interesting to see someone like the NYT do this, rather than just Web 2.0 sites and hosts of user-contributed material publishing this kind of data."

Or, as Tim Berners Lee reportedly told attendees of the TED conference today - the time has come for no "database hugging" - don't just make your own website. Especially when it comes to government data, we should all demand raw data now.

Full raw data, marked up semantic or linked data, there are a number of options. This is an informational currency that could mean as much to the world of the future as mere delivery of the paper press used to in an otherwise isolated world. We hope this effort will succeed and be another model for more of the same from other companies.

Feb 4, 2009

How to Launch Your Web Show on Facebook

from NewTeeVee by 

funspace_katalysthq_mockIntegrating a show with a social network, like Prom Queen on MySpace orKateModern on Bebo, is a great way to attract and interact with an audience. But the world’s biggest social network, Facebook, has no such original content initiatives. Its one content project, Facebook Diaries, a collaboration with Comcast’s Ziddio, was hardly launched before it was forgotten. I recently spoke at length with a Facebook spokesperson about all things video, and she made it clear that such ventures — especially anything including fictional characters — are way far off the company’s radar.

So I was surprised to get an email saying that Katalyst Media, Ashton Kutcher’s production company, is launching its next show on Facebook. How is that going to work? I spoke with Katalyst’s head of digital, Sarah Ross, to find out.

Ross said the series is launching exclusively with Slide’s FunSpace application, which is kind of like a fancy version of Facebook’s Wall. That means that in order to even watch the show, you’ll have to both be a member of Facebook and install the FunSpace app. Why Katalyst would want this limited form of distribution to be exclusive is unclear to me, especially since Ross said Slide isn’t paying Katalyst, but rather both will be splitting revenue from integrated sponsor Cheetos. FunSpace is the third-most popular application on Facebook with 12.5 million active users — way more than most web series.

I got a little little hung up on the distribution details, so let me take a couple paragraphs to talk about the show itself. It’s a reality series (sorta, the sample episode I saw, which portrays the staff helping Kutcher prepare for an assassin movie role, involves a LOT of script and props). It’s called KatalystHQ and it grew out of videos the company’s receptionist made with her standard-issue Flip camera and posted on Facebook herself. She’s since been promoted to assistant, said Ross, and she’s in charge of the show, which is still shot on Flip cams.

Ross said the draw of the show is that the Katalyst staff is young and funny, and people want to see what Kutcher and his pals are doing. For the moment, I prefer The Office and The CollegeHumor Show, but hey, office life seems to be a rich vein to tap.

KatalystHQ episodes will be three minutes or shorter and will be posted every Wednesday. Katalyst’s other projects include its Blah Girls animated show and its recent “24 Hours at Sundance” live video competition, which it’s trying to franchise, said Ross. She said about six more projects are in development, with two of them including planned TV components as well as web.

So back to my original question of how to launch a web show on Facebook. It’s not impossible, but the conditions are not ideal. KatalystHQ is making it harder on themselves by going the exclusive route with Slide, but everyone else who wanted to do this would be in the same situation of using a third-party application on a closed network, too. Facebook’s audience is large and attractive, but it won’t come easy.

Earnings: Time Warner Continues To Feel Pain From AOL, Print, and the Economy

Time Warner (NYSE: TWX) reported Q408 results this morning that underscored the increasing difficulty ad-driven media companies are facing as the economy appears to have worsened in the past couple months. Because the company issued a pre-announcement of earnings several weeks ago, there weren't many major surprises today. But Warner Brothers and Time Inc. each reported declines that exceeded consensus expectations, indicating rockiness ahead for studios and print publishing. Here are the details from the quarter:

AOL: Revenues down 23%, Operating income up 6%
Cable: Revenues up 8%, Operating income up 6%
Film: Revenues down 11%, Operating income up 6%
Turner NW: Revenues up 9%, Operating inccome down 20% (up 12% w/o one-time charge)
Time Inc.: Revenues down 13%, Operating income down 70%

—While overall revenues at AOL were largely in-line with expectations, AOL ad revenue declined 18%, well below the low-double-digit declines many analysts were predicting. This is further evidence that online display advertising slid during the fourth quarter of 2008; it appears to be experiencing continued erosion into 2009 (see our IAC Earnings report). AOL is largely viewed as a bellwether for display advertising so the results suggest that display appears to be eroding as fast as many print-advertising categories.

—Cable results showed continued strength. In particular, triple-play subscribers increased 4 percent over the previous quarter –- a key area to watch as cable companies battle aggressive competitors in the IPTV space. The number of basic subscribers likely decreased more than many were expecting.

—Film revenue declines of 11 percent are slightly below consensus estimates, which were in the high-single-digit range. But recent announcements of coming layoffs at Warner Brothers served as an early warning that the studio environment was experiencing pressure.

—Turner Networks results were strong, as expected, with growth in ratings, ad rates and inventory.

Time Inc.'s revenue declines of 13 percent were significantly below analyst expectations, which were for high-single-digit decreases.Operating income also decreased more than most analysts were forecasting, driven by a number of one-time charges. And ad revenue declined 20%, providing a window onto the struggles magazines face as marketers continue to lose confidence in print advertising.

More on 2009 outlook after the call.


Join us in Los Angeles on February 5th for EconMusic, a half-day event (12:30 to 4:45 pm) that will address questions such as:

  • What business models are companies turning to in order to remain competitive and stay out of the red?
  • How are online communities continuing to reshape the artist-to-fan relationship?
  • How have free services like Pandora and its popular iPhone app impacted the business?
  • Will mobile music sales finally reach their potential?

Earnings: Disney Interactive Revenues Up 13 Percent But New Segment Turns In A Loss

While everyone else looks at the big picture—The Walt Disney (NYSE: DIS) Company runs into the economic version of the law of gravity—we've been waiting for a different set of numbers: Interactive Media, reporting as a segment for the first time and the results are mixed. Interactive Media revenues rose 13 percent to $313 million, but segment operating income dropped $58 million to a loss of $45 million.

Overall, the company reported an 8 percent drop in revenue to $9.5 billion from $10.4 billion the previous year and a 32 percent decrease in profit, to $845 million from $1.25 billion. Disney earned 45 cents per share for the holiday quarter, down 29 percent from 63 cents last year; analysts polled by FactSet Research (via MarketWatch) expected Disney to post a profit of 52 cents a share on revenue of $10.1 billion.

The new segment represents the Disney Interactive Media Group, headed by Disney digital vet Steve Wadsworth and formed last year by the merger of the Disney Interactive Group with video gaming unit Disney Interactive Studios, and "certain new business initiatives." The chief operating businesses are Disney Online and DIS. It does not include the results for ABC.com, ESPN.com, among others—that means it does not reflect a large portion of the company's revenue from digital media sales. When the segment results came up during the earnings call, CEO Bob Iger said the company would continue to invest in video games and that the virtual worlds and mobile content areas are closer to profitability. More after the jump.

The company attributed the decrease "primarily" to a decline at Disney Interactive Studios " as higher sales volume was more than offset by an increase in unit cost of sales and higher marketing expenses in the current quarter." DIMG also manages Disney-branded mobile and provides the tech infrastructure for ABC.com, ESPB.com, Disneyshopping,com, the theme parks online, etc. DIMG gets paid for those services but the sites are managed from their respective groups and their results are included in the relevant segments.

Through last year, DIS and WDIG results were folded in with Consumer Products and Media Networks, respectively; new business initiatives were reported in corporate and unallocated shared expenses. Along with earnings results today, Disney filed an amended annual report for the year ended Sept. 28, 2008. The change provides a peek into the company's interactive activity over the past 28 months. Some items of note:

FY08: Interactive Media increased revenues 47 percent to $719 million from $490 million in FY07. DIS contributed the bulk of the increase— $160 million—due to new self-published video games (an important initiative for the company) for High School MusicalHannah Montana andTurok. (The previous year's releases were Pirates of the CaribbeanSpectrobes and Meet the Robinsons.) Disney Online's revenue increased $71 million aided by the first year of full revenue from virtual world Club Penguin.

But costs, including video game and internet content development, rose 25 percent for the fiscal year, to $974 million. For instance, Disney Online benefited from Club Penguin on the rev side, but it was also the first full year of carrying the virtual world's costs, while the increased emphasis on developing video games meant more investment. The $258 million loss was tempered by an unlikely source—lower costs for mobile services following the shut down of the Disney MVNO in the first quarter—and decreased 11 percent over FY07.

Not a profit center yet: During eight quarters in FY08 and FY07, Interactive Media operations showed a profit only once—$13 million in Q108, on revenues of $276 million.

New businesses: Think Digisynd, Ideal Bite. A Disney spokesman wasn't naming names but added some explanation: "The emerging businesses referenced are a number of small acquisitions and some internal projects that allow us to participate in new forms of interactive media content and services. The businesses are managed separately from the rest of DIMG and are seen as incubation investments."

CLIP Citizen photojournalism site Scoopt to close

Posted by Helena Deards on February 4, 2009 at 10:12 AM
Citizen photojournalism site Scoopt will be no more after February 6, its parent company Getty Images has announced.  The site, which was created in 2005 and bought by Getty Images less than two years ago, will continue to exist until March 6th although no new images will be accepted. Getty spokeswoman Molly McWhinnie said that the decision would allow the company "to focus our energies on more of our core products".
Scoopt allows amateur journalists to contribute their works, which are then sold on to publishers.  The photographer keeps copyright whilst Scoopt gets an exclusive 12-month license, and profits from the sale of an image are split 50/50 between the two.  Getty Images currently also has a deal with social media site Flickr whereby selected Flickr images are featured on the Getty Images platform.

The demise of the site could perhaps be seen as unexpected in an era where citizen journalism and photojournalism have an increasing presence in all manner of publications.  However now that amateur journalists can go straight to the public via sites such as Twitter and TwitPic (last month's Hudson plane crash for example), perhaps it shouldn't come as a surprise that the middle man is no longer needed.  But Scoopt's editorial aspect is what TwitPic lacks, that which allows users tolook at images and trust in their origins - and this is perhaps the real loss to the world of photojournalism.

Feb 3, 2009

CLIP Phanfare's Photon: The Best Photo App for the iPhone Yet?

phanfare_logo_jan09.pngPhanfare is one of the lesser known photo sharing services on the Net, but its new iPhone app is putting the company back in the spotlight. This new app, dubbed 'Photon' (iTunes link), might just be the best photo sharing app we have seen on Apple's phone. Thanks to a smart integration with the company's cloud storage and online gallery features, as well as some nice enhancements to the iPhone's own camera features, this free app looks like a clear winner to us.

In our round-up of photo sharing services last year, we wrote that Phanfare turned out to be a surprisingly good and well designed service. Photon now takes this service and puts almost all of its functionality on the iPhone.

photon_pictures.pngAt its core, Photon is the easiest way to browse through all of your photo albums on the iPhone. Thanks to the Phanfare desktop app and plugins for most of the popular desktop photo apps, you can upload all your pictures to the service. Free accounts come with 1GB of space, while unlimited accounts cost $55 a year. Phanfare also offers a wide array of photo printing services.


Photon's interface is similar to that of Apple's own Photo app for the iPhone, but Phanfare's app comes with a number of crucial new features - besides the obvious advantage of being able to access all of your pictures from the phone. The built-in camera app, for example, comes with an image stabilization feature, as well as a self timer.

In addition, you can apply effects like grayscale, sepia, or auto levels to your pictures. For slideshows, you can upload your own music to Phanfare, but you have to do so through the company's website. The app also lets you crop your pictures and add captions to your images.

Of course, you can also publish new galleries to your public Phanfare sites, and invite friends and family to view your new pictures online.

Because the app caches your images on the phone, most of Photon's features even work when you are offline. You can choose how much disk space on the phone you want to dedicate to the cache.

One feature we did miss from the app was the ability to zoom into your pictures, though Andrew Erlichson, Phanfare's CEO, tells us that this will be included in the next release of the app, which should be available within the next four weeks.


photon_camera.pngPhanfare's desktop app is also quite well thought out, though it doesn't quite match the polish of the company's iPhone app. It does, however, present the easiest way to batch-upload your photos to Phanfare. After that, you can use plugins for iPhoto, Picasa, and a number of other services to upload your pictures instead. You can also import your images from Snapfish, Shutterfly, Kodak Gallery, and SmugMug.


Phanfare's Photon is currently the best photo sharing and photo management app on the iPhone. It is important to note that Photon puts less emphasis on social feature than other services like Radar, which we reviewed last week. Instead, it concentrates mostly on giving you easy access to all of your photos, while also providing you with the option to share them with your friends.

Phanfare's CEO Andrew Erlichson strongly believes that the iPhone and other smartphones will disrupt the traditional point-and-shoot photo camera market in the long run and will allow new players like Apple to get a foot into this market. This app is Phanfare's first step in following the market in this direction by marrying the iPhone's camera feature with a very capable cloud storage and photo sharing service.

How Obama's 'Permanent Dialogue' Affects Marketers

His Direct, Always-on Communication Will Change What Consumers Expect From Us

Pete Snyder
Pete Snyder

Change has come to Washington and is coming rapidly to all of America. And I'm not just talking about the fact that there is a new president with a new agenda that likely will be in stark contrast with the past administration.

I'm talking about the way the President Obama and his campaign communicates with constituents. We all know he used technology, the internet and social media to engage and motivate voters and, ultimately, win the White House. Assuming Obama does what he said he will do when it comes to social media, his administration's behavior will change the expectations of the consumer and the brand-consumer relationship.

Remember how the Clinton campaign changed the way advertising, marketing and communications operated with the notion of "The Permanent Campaign" -- always raising money, always running ads. (And suddenly no company in crisis was complete without a "war room.") More significantly, the Obama Administration brings with it the notion of "The Permanent Dialogue."

Consider: In a Pew post-election study, 51% of respondents said they expect the President and his administration to communicate with them "directly." Not through broadcast speeches to the nation. Not through the media. Not through the briefings by the White House Press Secretary. If the majority of the coalition that elected Barack Obama expects him to directly speak and consult with them, what do you think they will expect of their mobile phone service, automaker or cable/broadband provider? What will this mean for what employees and shareholders expect from CEOs? It will be awfully hard to hide behind spokespeople, exec VPs and assistants blocking calls if the president of the United States has more contact with your employees than you do.

Brands and marketers need to come to terms with the fact that we now have a president (and an administration) who understands the internet and is an active in -- dare I say a "power user" of -- technology. After all, this is the first president in history to refuse to give up his Blackberry. More importantly, we need to understand how this will impact not only the behavior of American consumers, but also how the new Communicator-in-Chief will change what they expect from all of us.

Pete Snyder is the founder and CEO of New Media Strategies. He also is a former GOP pollster and media consultant. Full-disclosure: He voted for McCain.

1. The battleground for both consumers and ideas is online.
What was the first action of the Obama administration? Launching a much more social-media-centric White House website, several minutes before Obama took the oath of office for the first time. Why is this relevant? It sends a clear message that the Obama administration views the internet as the "tip of the spear" -- the first (and, in some cases, primary) battleground as it seeks to push its agenda forward. As the President said: "I didn't use technology and the internet just to win a campaign, we're going to use it to change America."

2. The permanent dialogue has begun.
The president and his team aren't going to keep their database of 15 million supporters behind closed doors. Rather, they will harness these supporters into an army of spokespeople, unleashing them across social-media platforms and millions of blogs, not to mention, town halls, coffee shops and church basements. This dialogue won't be limited to politics and policy (you think its easy keeping 15 million people on topic?). The permanent dialogue will touch every industry and consumer brand. From YouTube (comments enabled, we hope) to live-streaming video via platforms like Qik, from blogs to micro-communication tools like Twitter and text messages, consumers are creating, sharing, interacting with and seeking out content about anything and everything at a staggering pace. If you aren't listening to that dialogue, you better start.

3. Consumer expectations will change.
Just as the public quickly adapted their behavior and expectations of news and the media with the rise of the 24/7 news cycle, a big shift will happen here, too. Consumers adjust and come to expect a permanent dialogue with them and their leader, don't you think they will expect the same from the other institutions (many parents now expect weekly if not daily communications from their child's teacher), corporations and brands that touch their lives? Change is here. And this means they're changing their expectations of YOU.

4. You'll need an active, authentic voice in the conversation.
You can't participate in the permanent dialogue if you don't bother to show up or speak up. When consumers search on Google or go poking around Facebook, they expect to have a fulfilling, self-driven and authentic experience. They disregard most banner ads, are impatient when pre-roll loads before a video and are annoyed when a full screen flash advertisement gets in between them and the article they want to read. This type of interruptive marketing is not how Obama communicates. Obama used conversation-based marketing and opt-in access to build lasting, trust-based relationships. Go where they are. Be real. Create an actual relationship.

Change is here and more change is coming. Not just in politics and policy, but in how consumers behave and what they expect of us. They'll demand to be closer, deeper and more direct than ever before. The question is no longer are you online, but rather, are you listening, directly available and authentically interacting. Embrace, harness and make social media work for you -- or get left behind. It's a lesson from the very top.

Feb 2, 2009

CLIP Google: "We're Not Doing a Good Job with Structured Data"

from ReadWriteWeb by 

During a talk at the New England Database Day conference at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Google's Alon Halevy admitted that the search giant has "not been doing a good job"presenting the structured data found on the web to its users. By "structured data," Halevy was referring to the databases of the "deep web" - those internet resources that sit behind forms and site-specific search boxes, unable to be indexed through passive means.

Google's Deep Web Search

Halevy, who heads the "Deep Web" search initiative at Google, described the "Shallow Web" as containing about 5 million web pages while the "Deep Web" is estimated to be 500 times the size. This hidden web is currently being indexed in part by Google's automated systems that submit queries to various databases, retrieving the content found for indexing. In addition to that aspect of the Deep Web - dubbed "vertical searching" - Halevy also referenced two other types of Deep Web Search: semantic search and product search.

Google wants to also be able to retrieve the data found in structured tables on the web, said Halevy, citing a table on a page listing the U.S. presidents as an example. There are 14 billion such tables on the web, and, after filtering, about 154 million of them are interesting enough to be worth indexing.

Can Google Dig into the Deep Web?

The question that remains is whether or not Google's current search engine technology is going to be adept at doing all the different types of Deep Web indexing or if they will need to come up with something new. As of now, Google uses the Big Table databaseand MapReduce framework for everything search related, notes Alex Esterkin, Chief Architect at Infobright, Inc., a company delivering open source data warehousing solutions. During the talk, Halevy listed a number of analytical database application challenges that Google is currently dealing with: schema auto-complete, synonym discovery, creating entity lists, association between instances and aspects, and data level synonyms discovery. These challenges are addressed by Infobright's technology, said Esterkin, but "Google will have to solve these problems the hard way."

Also mentioned during the speech was how Google plans to organize "aspects" of search queries. The company wants to be able to separate exploratory queries (e.g., "Vietnam travel") from ones where a user is in search of a particular fact ("Vietnam population"). The former query should deliver information about visa requirements, weather and tour packages, etc. In a way, this is like what the search service offered by Kosmix is doing. But Google wants to go further, said Halevy. "Kosmix will give you an 'aspect,' but it's attached to an information source. In our case, all the aspects might be just Web search results, but we'd organize them differently."

Yahoo Working on Similar Structured Data Retrieval

The challenges facing Google today are also being addressed by their nearest competitor in search, Yahoo. In December, Yahoo announced that they were taking their SearchMonkey technology in-house to automate the extraction of structured information from large classes of web sites. The results of that in-house extraction technique will allow Yahoo to augment their Yahoo Search results with key information returned alongside the URLs.

In this aspect of web search, it's clear that no single company has yet to dominate. However, even if a non-Google company surges ahead, it may not be enough to get people to switch engines. Today, "Google" has become synonymous with web search, just like "Kleenex" is a tissue, "Band-Aid" is an adhesive bandage, and "Xerox" is a way to make photocopies. Once that psychological mark has been made into our collective psyches and the habit formed, people tend to stick with what they know, regardless of who does it better. That's something that's a bit troublesome - if better search technology for indexing the Deep Web comes into existence outside of Google, the world may not end up using it until such point Google either duplicates or acquires the invention.

Still, it's far too soon to write Google off yet. They clearly have a lead when it comes to search and that came from hard work, incredibly smart people, and innovative technical achievements. No doubt they can figure out this Deep Web thing, too. (We hope).

STATS Game On! Online Gaming Surges as Gamers Seek Out Free Alternatives in Tight Economy


Minutes Spent Playing Online Games Jumps 42 Percent versus Year Ago


RESTON, VA, January 28, 2009 – comScore, Inc. (NASDAQ: SCOR), a leader in measuring the digital world, today released an analysis of Americans’ usage of online gaming sites, which showed that the category has grown 27 percent during the past year to 86 million visitors in December 2008, while the total time spent playing online games has jumped 42 percent. Americans’ total share of Internet time spent playing online games grew from 3.7 percent in December 2007 to 4.9 percent in December 2008.


Yahoo! Games ranked as the most visited site in the category with 19.5 million visitors (up 20 percent), followed by EA Online with 15.4 million visitors (up 21 percent), and Disney Games with 13.4 million visitors (up 13 percent). The tenth most visited site, Spil Games, saw traffic surge 269 percent to 6.7 million visitors.


Top Online Gaming Sites

December 2008 vs. December 2007

Total U.S. – Home/Work/University Locations

Source: comScore Media Metrix


Total Unique Visitors (000)



% Change

Total Internet : Total Audience




Online Gaming




Yahoo! Games




EA Online




Disney Games




WildTangent Network








AOL Games




MSN Games








Nick.com  Games




Spil Games





“It appears that online, ad-supported gaming is one of the activities that has benefited during this economic downturn,” said Edward Hunter, comScore director of gaming solutions. “Not only have consumers turned to outlets such as gaming to take their minds off the economy, but as they curtail their discretionary gaming-related purchases they are turning to free alternatives.”


Online Gaming Category Attracts More Display Ads

Despite a challenging online display advertising market, trends are looking remarkably positive for the online gaming category. From November 2007 to November 2008, the total number of display ad views in the Online Gaming category grew 29 percent to 8.6 billion. The increase in display ad exposures is due primarily to the increasing number of visitors to the category (up 30 percent), while the average person’s frequency of exposure has remained relatively constant at 127 ad views per person. Another positive trend is that the number of display ads per page view – a measure of “ad clutter” – has actually declined 17 percent.


Display Advertising Trends in Online Gaming Category

November 2008 vs. November 2007

Total U.S. – Home/Work/University Locations

Source: comScore Ad Metrix

Online Gaming



% Change

Total Display Ad Views (MM)




Advertising Exposed Unique Visitors (000)




Advertising Exposed Reach %




Display Ads per Page Viewed




Average Frequency




GRPs Total Population





“The growth in display ads in the online gaming category not only underscores the assertion that gamers are increasingly accepting of ad-supported games, but also that the advertising community is recognizing the value of this highly engaged audience,” added Hunter. “It is also likely that the advertising agency community will begin to demand more evaluations of campaign effectiveness in this space as spend and impressions continue to rise.”


About comScore

comScore, Inc. (NASDAQ: SCOR) is a global leader in measuring the digital world and preferred source of digital .marketing intelligence. For more information, please visitwww.comscore.com/companyinfo.


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