Sunday, May 31, 2009

The music biz and the internet

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/28/technology/start-ups/28music.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=music%20lables%20cut%20friendlier%20deals&st=cse



I wanted to post about an interesting article that just came out in the New York Times. It describes how major music recording labels are forgiving music-hosting sites like Imeem the considerable amount of debt they are owed as a result of licensing fees. This is yet another interesting development in the continuing saga of the transformation of the music business as a result of the internet.

Coming from a music background and as an owner of a Brooklyn recording studio, I am fascinated by how music will eventually be distributed and/or sold over the internet. While legal downloading has helped bring in some revenue, it has not nearly closed the gap that the music labels are facing with 20% year over year declines in CD sales. I believe the idea of music being sold on physical media such as CDs is over. It appears that the labels are finally starting to accept the fact that they have no future without internet companies like Imeem and Pandora to help advertise and distribute their product.

However, I wonder if the subscription business model being used by sites like Imeem and Rhapsody will be sustainable in the long run. My feeling is that in the end people feel very personal about the msuci that they love and they want to OWN IT, whether it is stored on a physical medium or not. The idea of paying for a subscription to get access to a large quantity of music isn't quite the same because there is always a 'gatekeeper' like these sites who have to give you permission to access it.While this deal make allow sites like Rhapsody to sustain themselves, in the long run people will want to be able to access their music at any place and time. Having to log on to a site in order to do so will not be possible in a car, in a plane or other places where consumers might want to listen to their iPods. While I also disagree with DRM (digital rights management, where songs sold on sites like Itunes can only be played on the host computer and not shared), I still think a new business model will have to emerge for the music business to once again find a value proposition that customers are willing to pay for...

-Doug

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Picture This

One of the most recognizable earmarks of the Web 2.0 revolution is the endless opportunities for and inclination towards UGC (user generated content). While we have discussed the endless benefits of this type of approach to executing and managing information in the digital world, we have yet to touch upon what helps drive the success of such an approach; the fact that individuals all have the deep seeded desire to express themselves. However, in a world where information-share reigns supreme, and the self-expressions of others are only a keyword search away, artists run the risk of losing control over exactly how and how and where their work is used. Recent advancements in online photo-sharing provide a good example of this phenomenon. We have discussed how websites such as Flickr allow users to browse through photos to find specific images using only a key word search. Sites such as the impending Fotopedia are taking this idea to next level by allowing users to turn their photos into collaborative photo albums on specific topics:http://www.techcrunch.com/2009/05/31/fotonauts-offers-a-sneak-peak-at-its-upcoming-fotopedia/Such tools are useful not only for individuals wishing simply to contribute to an online visual database, but also for aspiring photographers to garner exposure for their work. However, a recent trend has started to emerge where advertising agencies are starting to bypass stock photography sites (e.g. www.gettyimages.com) in favor of more Flickr-esque resources when searching for images of specific subject matter. This behavior has resulted in photos being lifted off these sites and published without the photographers’ knowledge or consent. Moreover, because the business model of a site like Flickr does not focus on monetizing the distribution of the photos being displayed (compared to a stock photography website where that is the number one objective) resources are not devoted to monitoring for and preventing this type of behavior. Click the link below for a specific story regarding this phenonena:http://thomashawk.com/2006/09/did-major-advertising-agency-ddb.htmlNow, there is an argument to be made that this type of episode is simply the risk that must be assumed on the artists behalf in return for the increase exposure generated by posting work on a Flickr or Fotopedia. You be the judge.

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Google and Baidu

It is no doubt that Google is the best internet search engine in the world. But in China, Google doesn’t play well as it only occupied 27.1% while Baidu, the Chinese local search engine, had 61.8% market share in 2008. I’d like to compare the difference between Google and Baidu from marketing strategies and functionality perspectives to analyze why Baidu run better than Google in China.
Baidu focused on search engine for Chinese language and get advantage compared with Google’s search engine in Chinese. That’s one of key reasons why Baidu played better than Google in China. But after Google improved its technologies, the tech gap between Google and Baidu is more and more small. The current difference between their searching results is more caused by their different perceptions than by their technologies. The search result of Baidu are more entertainment and Google are more formal. For example, when searching 纽约(New York), the content of the first page in Google are all about Wiki, news and embassy of New York while in Baidu are not only Wiki but also Gangs of New York, New York travel, and Hailer New York life insurance. Thus, more young people and students use Baidu while more write-collars use Google.
Baidu provides many successful products, such as Baidu encyclopaedia, Baidu TieBar similar with BBS, which attract lots of users. It seems Baidu plan to develop network community business in terms of its huge number of user base. But Google still focus on improving its core business, search engine in China.

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Lost Ad Revenue

I kept CNN playing in the background while I was working on class project today. As I listened intermittently, I heard the segment about Susan Boyle’s defeat yesterday on the British television show, "Britain's Got Talent".  Her fans seemed to be disappointed, but others should be for a different reason.

Several weeks ago, the American media hype about the unlikely contestant’s performance on the show generated over 20 million views online. The video clips of Susan Boyle’s performance has made her a worldwide internet sensation. Her performance on  "Britain's Got Talent" was one of the most viewed videos on You Tube ever, but the producers of the show have not been able to capitalize on the success of the of the internet viewership worldwide. The primary reason is the producers of the show did not roll out online video strategy and the second reason is the video uploads to You Tube were done illegally, so no advertising revenue streams were generated. The video host as well as the content provider missed out on a significant advertising revenue stream. 

So why do many  video content providers  fail to execute on a strategy to generate online revenue streams as video advertising has become one of the fastest growing advertising mediums? One reason may be the producers are concerned with the cannibalization of TV advertizing dollars as more TV viewer convert to online viewers. One solution could be to broadcast original programming on TV and in syndication upload online. Another approach may be to upload original programming online to target a secondary geographic market.  Moreover, established content producers view online broadcasting as  experimental and do not quite understand what works effectively. Besides, one could argue that there are no established revenue models for online video.

As for Susan she still has a chance capitalize on this phenomenon and perhaps land projects such as a book deal, recording contract or a movie about her life.

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In defense of traditional media companies...

Let me start off by saying that I do believe traditional media companies (print, tv, broadcast) need to stay the course and continue to move online and innovate.

In the future, what's important will be the brand and message, not the medium in which it is delivered. Media companies need to become platform neutral and have confidence that if people are turning to their brand for information (whether it's in print or on a mobile device) they will be compensated.

However, these traditional companies should not be overly criticized for treading water a bit of late as the latter part of that equation fails to materialize. As the economy tightens and profit margins are disappearing, can we really fault media executives for falling back to what they know best and what actually makes money? It's a lot to ask of them to continue to invest and innovate in a medium which is adding very little - and in many casing taking away a great deal - from their bottom line.

Having come from a print background myself, perhaps I take it a bit personally. The critics have the luxury to simply criticize without having to come up with any real solution. Traditional media executives are constantly being portrayed as slow, backward thinking, etc. To be fair, in many ways this is the case. However, they are also charged with keeping their companies profitable and growing. It is admittedly short-sighted, but for now, they have chosen to hunker down and focus on the advertising sources that add to the bottom line.

In better times, investment in digital (which lost money, but promised great returns at some unknown time in the future) was easier to stomach. But today, when jobs are being cut and budgets tightened, what would you suggest they do?

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The value of content....

Publishers of original content are in a difficult position. On the one hand, they want bloggers and smaller websites to reference their articles (though a brief heading or link) and drive traffic back to their sites. In theory, the more sites that pick up on their content and spread it around the web, the more return the original publisher will see in terms of visitors and ultimately advertising revenue. However, what happens all to often is the raw text that is posted by many magazine and newspaper sites is simple copied as a whole and repurposed, which results in a loss of revenue to the original publisher. (The key here being that it's not simply a headline or small bit of text)

This is an especially difficult pill for traditional media companies to swallow. They are, in many ways, still adjusting to the idea of putting their content on the web for "free" and hoping the advertising revenue will come. (And when it does, it's almost always less than they'd get though traditional channels.) Add to that the idea that someone else is getting paid on thier content and you have a lot of unhappy campers.

New problems, however, often breed new innovation.

Forbes.com recently highlighted two promising new companies -- Scribd Store and Attributor. Scribd attempts to correct the problem by having publishers post content though a secured widget. Those wishing to reuse the content must go through the widget to do so. The second, and in my opinion more interesting company, is Attributor. They act as sort of a content cops for thepublisher. Essentially, publishers give Attributor all the content they are posting and Attributor is monitoring the web for repurposing of that content. If it's found, Attributor lets the company know and they can, in turn ask for a fee or tell the ad neworks supporting the other site that they want a share of the ad revenue.

To me, this is a more optimal situation because it does not stop the flow content (which really is in the interest of the publisher), but it also allows them to have some way of being paid as their content is used by others. As internet consumers, we often forget to think about the costs of producing content. In many cases it's actually fairly expensive. If the producers of such content continue to feel they are not being adequately compensated, or worse, that someone else is profitting at their expense, we run the risk that they will either stop producing it altogether.

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Saturday, May 30, 2009

Advertisement performs a play in videos?

Innovid (http://www.innovid.com/), a venture company in Israel, might innovate video advertisement. The company invented the technology to emerge virtual products into video which is still going on, or other interactive communication tool. I think those technology may get video ad much more effective in near future.

Honestly, the clickable advertisement doesn't make me surprised much. But the technology to put product into product itself was really amazing for me, even though the sample video( http://www.innovid.com/gallery.php) which the company provided was not impressive at all.

The stream video advertisement which is played before, during or after the video is sometimes boring for watcher, and they wish to skip if possible, because those videos, in other words, feel like being oppressed to watch by advertisers.

However, more interactive video advertisement must attract consumers' attentions in effective. On the consumer side, they watch product's advertisement which emerged on the video with hassle-free, because if they don't want to watch it, only go through it. If the technology is able to be combined with technology to distinguish users like Cookie, the advertisement would yield more desirable effect to take into account consumers favor.

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Move Over Google Docs...

As a big fan of Google Docs, I was excited to learn about the announcement of Google Wave at the Google I/O Developer Conference in San Francisco earlier this week. According to the conference, a "wave" is defined as: "equal parts conversation and document, where people can communicate and work together with richly formatted text, photos, videos, maps, and more."

Although I'm not entirely clear on all the specifics, Google Wave seems to be an efficient combination of various services that Google already offers, including Gmail, Gchat and Google Docs. The demonstration of Google Wave at the conference reveals how you and a group can be in separate locations editing a Google Doc or adding/sharing photos, videos, etc in real time, and at the same time and in the same application you are also chatting with the entire group or just with individual members. According to Lars Rasmussen's post on the official Google Blog, Google Wave is "concurrent rich-text editing, where you see on your screen nearly instantly what your fellow collaborators are typing in your wave."

When I look back at how often I used Google Docs for projects just this past year, and how long these assignments would take even WITH access to these applications, it makes me cringe to think about how only two years ago students had to complete those same projects without having these tools (not unlike high school, where students would wonder how on earth people did math without graphing calculators). And I can only think how damn lucky and efficient the next generation of students will be with this new arsenal of Google web applications at their disposal.

It also makes me think of Rob Hof's article on "New Google Search Features", where he describes the "fine line" that Google must follow when announcing a new application such as Google Wave, and hoping these developments don't provide Christine Varney and the Justice Department with the ammunition for an antitrust suit. But talk of monopolies aside, I'm still counting all the free time I'm going to have once we figure out how to use Google Wave for our future group projects.

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Friday, May 29, 2009

Internet Radio Pandora and Tivoli


Saul Hansell in his May 29 New York Times article, “The Ascendance of Internet Radio”, discusses the Tivoli radio with its CEO, Tom DeVesto.

For those who are unaware, Tivoli radio is an Internet Wi-Fi radio that is priced from a few hundred dollars to as high a thousand dollars.  The user can select a station by genre or geography. There are probably at least 100 stations broadcasting via the Internet. Is this real competition for Pandora and Last FM? No, in my view.  I purchased a similar WI-Fi radio from Acoustic Energy a few years ago, and have disconnected it since my discovery of Pandora. 

The problem with Tivoli radio is just that. It is a radio. Pandora and Last FM are software based. These music solutions can be used with a desktop, a notebook or even a mobile phone like the iPhone. The computer can be easily hooked in to a stereo system with a mini pin to RCA adapter to get a big stereo sound.  Moreover the music is from Pandora is customized by the user. Software leapfrogs the hard ware again. 


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Are Corporate Policies Decreasing the Pie of Social Networks' Ad Market?

How many people have found their employers block social network sites such as Facebook and MySpace? According to Barracuda Networks, a content security appliances company that protects organizations from the likes of email, the Internet and IM threats, approximately 50% of companies block MySpace, Facebook, or both. With MySpace and Facebook expected to generate $630 million and $230 million in U.S. advertising revenue in 2009, respectively, imagine how much ad spending would increase if all employees would be able to access social networks.

An employer’s position can be that social media sites reduce productivity and expose a company’s network to unnecessary threats (that’s at least what my former employer said). To expand this point, the employer could argue that there is no direct benefit to the firm for an employee to spend time on social network sites.

The opposite point of view could be that social networks are the wave of the future, and companies need to embrace, not deny, their evolution. In fact, a company can benefit from social networks. For instance, a friend of mine works at an up-and-coming clothing store that is promoting her company’s brand over Facebook. More companies should think of ways to promote their brands through social networks; they can use them to develop a fan base or even as an external communication channel. Additionally, social networks enable employees to cultivate relationships that may benefit the employer in the long run. Furthermore, social networks are one of the primary means of communication in this day and age. By blocking social networks, employers are effectively cutting off communication with friends and loved ones. In the end, employees that are satisfied at work are more productive. Period. As such, if employees feel passionately about accessing social network sites, employers should give in.

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Wolfram Alpha - Cool for Nerds...

…like me! Launched on May 18th, 2009, Wolfram Alpha is a “computational knowledge engine”.

An article in the May 16th, 2009 issue of the Economist describes how Wolfram Alpha works by explaining that it “tries to dissect a question into its components and then performs calculations, using its own source materials, to compute an answer.” The author goes on to say that “Alpha, in short, acts like a nerdy reference librarian who is equipped with the latest calculators and endless stacks of books and encyclopedias.”

But, despite my self-proclaimed nerdiness and my B.S. degree in chemical engineering, it wasn’t immediately apparent how to get the darn thing to work. After several attempts, I finally got it to present the number of engineers working in the United States. Why? This number would probably provide an upper bound on the total number of people that would actually be capable of or interested in using it. The answer: 169,960, or 0.055% of the US population. Thanks, Wolfram Alpha!

Okay, I’m being harsh. As the Economist author writes, “A free service that almost instantaneously computes the answers to complex questions – such as the ratio between exports and imports in Ghana (or any other country) of the past ten years – is indeed novel, and may serve to help democratize expert knowledge.”

The 169,960 engineers (and 12,740 economists and 13,980 physicists…see, I’m catching on) couldn’t agree more.

It will be interesting to see how, or whether, its creators monetize it. Its main competitor seems more like Wikipedia than Google. And, Wikipedia has flourished without ads. Will Wolfram Alpha do the same?

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Thursday, May 28, 2009

Closing the (online) deal…

In my last posting, I mentioned that I recently joined Knewton.com, an online GMAT and LSAT test prep site to head up the online marketing efforts. Despite great feedback from student users and the product’s competitive price point, marketing knewton.com to students is a challenge.

Traditionally, GMAT and LSAT test prep has been an off-line affair. Cash-strapped students could either cram with a $50 book and then pray for a miracle on test day or they would shell out up to $2000 to schlep to a traditional brick-and-mortar classroom (and still pray anyway). Knewton’s online course is flexible for busy students, features an unbeatable score increase guarantee ( based on our innovative adaptive learning engine that powers our course) and costs less . A real no-brainer for the experienced online marketer, right? Not exactly.

Being a start-up (i.e. the new kid on the block), getting eyeballs and wallets is a real challenge. As mentioned before, GMAT and LSAT students may be uncertain about virtual classrooms. One great solution was the development of our GMAT prep free 7 day trial offer. Like Netflix, we now offer prospects the ability to try out features of the product before they purchase. This has certainly helped our conversion rates (and certainly Netflix’s, first month free is their typical control offer).

Another major feature we recently included is email remarketing. In order to enroll in the free trial, request email addresses so we can remarket to prospects. The team developed a string of 4 short emails to actively communicate to trial users during the 7 day window (themes include “Welcome and thanks!”, “Try a practice question and watch a video explanation”, “Knewton’s benefits”, and the ubiquitous “ Hey, your trial is almost over, act now!”) . This frequent contact during the critical evaluation period is important to keep us “top of mind” and helps enforce a decision-making process.

Both these campaigns show real promise and I look forward to sharing results as I get them….

Stay tuned!

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Hulu Getting Smarter

Many know that Hulu is a website that plays some pretty cool TV shows and movies for free. Few know Hulu’s meaning. According to the company blog,

In Mandarin, Hulu has two interesting meanings, each highly relevant to our mission. The primary meaning interested us because it is used in an ancient Chinese proverb that describes the hulu as the holder of precious things. It literally translates to "gourd," and in ancient times, the hulu was hollowed out and used to hold precious things. The secondary meaning is "interactive recording." We saw both definitions as appropriate bookends and highly relevant to the mission of Hulu.

Aside from holding precious things and being a place for interactive recording, Hulu’s mission is also to make money. I had been scratching my head at their advertising (read: monetization) efforts in the past. Public service announcements? Advertisements for other TV shows? This is the path to lucrative monetization and overwhelming success?

More recently, I have been noticing more targeted advertisements, and one struck me as particularly clever.

Usually, Hulu plays a 15 to 30 second ad spot immediately before the credits at the end of a show. I can only imagine that a small percentage of people actually watch the ad in its entirety as 1) they don’t like to watch ads, and 2) they like closing credits even less than ads.

As I finished up an episode of The Office, I was getting ready to click away and there it was. FedEx displayed a 5 second ad of a 30 second commercial in fast forward. The voice over was “We understand your time is valuable, so we’ll let you get back to your show.” And, the tag line was “Access to the tools you need to connect your business.” It was over before I could click away and it left an indelible impression.

The extremely short duration of the advertisement added value to an otherwise worthless commercial spot during which users would have clicked away. Store that knowledge in your hulu, Hulu.

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Splitsville for AOL and Time Warner

Time Warner unveiled plans today to complete its proposed separation from AOL. The merger of the corporations had originally been hailed as a "visionary attempt to meld old media with new media". However, the two corporations had difficulty working together, and AOL's revenue has been steadily falling from both a decline in paid subscriptions and the general movement away from dial-up in favor of broadband or cable (AOL lost 740,000 customers in just the last quarter).

Without AOL weighing down on their quarterly profits, according to Chief executive Jeffrey Bewkes, Time Warner will be able "to focus to an even greater degree on our core content business." With regards to AOL, Bewkes insists that the split will in fact allow AOL to "have a better opportunity to achieve its full potential as a leading independent Internet company."

So what are these two vague statements alluding to? Well apparently, internet advertising. According to the New York Times, AOL hopes to "expand its network that sells advertising on other Web sites." Meanwhile, Time Warner has plans to build "its advertising network and the Web sites it owns." So ... it seems to me, while the two corporations claimed to have such difficulty synergizing in the past, apparently they're each planning to pursue very similar goals once they're independent. Interesting.

I also find it interesting that while taking this class, suddenly I'm starting to see affirmations everywhere that internet advertising is the future of business. Perhaps in the current economy, internet advertising shows the most promise for media companies whose profits have taken a beating.

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A more coherent deal for Yahoo and Microsoft

This came in from Silicon Alley Insider and it has some small information on the possible merger between Yahoo and Microsoft.
http://www.businessinsider.com/henry-blodget-yahoo-microsoft-closer-to-search-ad-deal-2009-5

It looks promising, where they clearly stated what each party brings to the table, Yahoo on media, sell search and advertising, Microsoft on search and display-ad serving technology. However, it does seem that the purpose of the merger is to follow on the coat-tails of Google. I blogged previously on Google's continually finding ways to monetize their search optimization engine and I find that it's this competitive advantage, of always looking for new ways to improve and of course, to get more money, which puts them ahead of this pack.

Hopefully, if the merger of Yahoo and Microsoft comes to fruition, it'll yield a strong threat to Google and more innovations. After all, it's the users (us!) who wins!

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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Next Staples?

I decided to blog about a company called Shoplet.com - an American company, which sells office products online. The company was founded ten years ago, in our beloved New York City, by an ex-Goldman Sachs Investment Banker and now is on the verge of doing more than 100 million USD in revenue ( pure organic growth, no outside funding). That Shoplet.com is doing so well and has continued to grow aggressively throughout the recession and despite being in one of the toughest and most saturated markets where big retailers like Staples and Office Depot dominate every street corner; reinforces the enormous potential that the web endows to those who are able to manipulate it to create value to customers. The internet marketing techniques that shoplet.com utilizes would be useful to implement in any e-commerce startup or established company.  

Some internet marketing techniques they use and which we've discussed in class:1) they carry thousands more products than their big retail competitors because their costs are lower and they can cater to the "long tail" just as Amazon.com and other successful e-commerce companies have. 2)The company has extensive affiliate relationships with the likes of Yahoo and Amazon who promote their brand, but also with their numerous suppliers that bring them additional business through their own websites. 3) The website also uses RSS feeds to inform customers of the latest promotions and hot selling items. 4)They employ an extensive e-mail marketing campaign which focuses on customer retention and repeat orders. 5)They have a simple and efficient web interface which makes use so easy despite a complicated and vast product range. 6)They have applications on social networking sites like Facebook and Myspace which center around buying their green friendly products and which appeals to young people and creates a next wave of customers for them. 7)Shoplet.com even uses "click to chat" as a means of assisting customers in their purchases and in customizing the shopping experience for the customer.

I've learned quite a bit from this website and look forward to rolling out similar Internet marketing strategies globally for my family's business: www.office1international.com.  

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Internet Week New York

In case you haven't heard about this festival, Internet Week NY offers a week of workshops and events related to New York's thriving Internet industry. It is presented by IADAS & The Mayor's Office of Film, Theater, and Broadcasting. The festival espouses the same "open to all" philosophy of the internet itself, so any individual or company can participate (by attending or throwing events) for free. Several of the events seem relevant to topics we have been discussing in class (social media, mobile marketing, etc).

Check it out at: http://internetweekny.com/

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Twitter and the Whale

Shikha, I blame you for my being torn on Twitter.

There's the recently posted link to a video about Twitter and how, ultimately, the Twitterati seem to be pretty self-indulgent and potentially short on real friends. Then there's the alerting me to the Twitterings by the Natural History Museum's giant whale, rife with comments that blend lightly camouflaged marketing with wacky one-off's about...well, being a whale. (My favorite: "Someone said today that me and my kind clean the ocean the way kidneys clean the bloodstream. Yuck! That's my mouth!)

I'm a little surprised that one social media interface can make me swing in such disparate ways. I can't stand the idea of D-list acquaintances wanting to update me constantly on their shopping habits, lunch hours at work and to what extent they are enjoying the weather. If we're friends, can't you just call me to update me with your daily inanities? What else are friends for?

And yet, these whale twitters are almost endlessly entertaining, and they make me incredibly appreciative of the Museum's efforts to engage me -- a potential visitor -- in a quirky but meaningful way. Sure, I laugh at the thought of the whale letting out a late-night whalesong to scare the security guard, but I'm also interested to see the whale's take on the Museum's special programs, concerts, and holiday events. I'd love to see more organizations rooted in the arts and other creative industries take a chance with these sorts of marketing initiatives; ultimately, it does a better job of reflecting not just the brand, but the spirit, of the organization to the public.

I'm also familiar with the Metropolitan Museum of Art's "Meet Me at the Met" campaign on Flickr, but if anyone knows of any other similar initiatives going on, please comment!

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Guns'n'Roses

Former Guns'n'Roses bass player Duff McKagan is now sober, has earned a college business degree and writes a weekly financial column for Playboy.
Anyways.... I found interesting his latest installment, in which he comes back on the Napster debacle.
Most of us remember Napster for its forced shutdown by Metallica, an episode which both triggered unjustified anger by music fans and the beginning of the demise of the music industry.
What most of us (at least I) don't know however, is that apparently Napster at the time tried to negotiate a transaction with the major record labels.
Napster proposed in essence a revenue-sharing deal: Since it was one of the most viewed sites (or the most viewed, according to Duff) on the Internet, advertisers were fighting to get access to this large public. I don't have any figures, but in Duff's words, "Napster was making truckloads of dough off banner ads back then".

Napster offered to share this advertising revenue with the record labels, so that they would use the money to compensate the artists "for the downloadings that Napster made available for free."

The labels declined, and we know the end: the record industry is now in tatters.
I agree with Duff's view that a considerable opportunity was missed, and find this revenue-sharing idea very interesting. Perhaps it could it be applicable in other industries?

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New Trends in Blogging

In a recent eMarketer article, David Tokheim (GM of Six Apart Media) commented on the latest trends in blogging (http://www.emarketer.com/Article.aspx?R=1007085). According to Tokheim, “blogging and social networking are moving toward each other...you’re going to see on the blogging platform side better tools that allow for aggregation and integration with the social net." Since Tokheim's comments were intended as a bare-bones overview of blogging trends rather than an in-depth analysis of these trends, he did not elaborate on the specific ways blogs are engaging with the social net.

Recently, many blogs have evolved from personal journals shared with a few to interactive platforms for discussion shared with the masses. Bloggers themselves have transformed from authors of a monologue to facilitators of a conversation. Over the past few years, bloggers have begun referencing and linking within the blogosphere and beyond. For instance, several bloggers include shout-outs, links, or references to other bloggers or even include lists of their favorite blogs to follow. In this way, bloggers are leveraging their internal community to advertise for and with each other. In addition, it is rare to find a blog these days without some interactive, engaging component, whether a quiz, contest, video, article link, or audio clip. Bloggers have risen from the ranks of mere freelance online writers; they have become cultural commentators, advocates for each other, and key influencers in ever-expanding networks.

The blog's essence is no longer limited to its individual posts. Rather, a blog's true value lies in the comments and interactions inspired by such posts. Now, blogs can do more than propagate ideas - they encourage conversation, discussion, debate, content development, sharing, and interaction.

We are entering an age of participatory culture where co-creation is key. As blogs evolve their connections with the social net, they provide a platform for communal exploration of content. Yet one question remains: how much credibility as an information source will blogs gain and sustain? Already, we are seeing blogs regarded as reputable sources. For example, when I collect online press information for my company's records at my internship, I include both New York Times articles and relevant blog posts.

In the coming years, as blogs and the social net begin to move closer as Tokheim predicts, it will be interesting to track how bloggers secure and maintain credibility, establish an individual voice AND an interactive conversation simultaneously, and continue to empower each other as influencers of the masses.

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My Favorite Mash-up

In our first class session, we discussed mash-ups online: sites that fuse content from disparate sources in order to create something entirely new and often quite useful. 

We shared some examples, like HopStop (or OnNYTurf, which I prefer), which pulls content from Google maps and the NYC subway system in order to offer a helpful overlay that might make your commute a little easier. 

But the mash-up also facilitates some amazing works of art, which reveal truths about ourselves and how we use the Internet -- and present this information in stunning, colorful, and sometimes ineffably beautiful ways. 

We Feel Fine, created in 2006 by Jonathan Harris and Sep Kamvar (formerly founder/CEO of Kaltix), draws data from blogs and social networking sites around the world that employ the word "feel" (or "feels," "feeling," etc.). It displays the phrases and images associated with these "feelings" in a variety of ways: "Madness," for example, is a cloud of quivering, multicolored orbs that -- when moused over -- explode to reveal the source text and its author. "Mounds" shows the most commonly expressed feelings at the moment. The application even lets you filter by gender, age, location, and weather!

People age 20-29, for example, seem to be feeling "better." But the #2 feeling is "bad." Feeling "like shit" appears to consistently rank in the top 10, in a wide variety of age groups and locations. 

On first glance, this may seem dehumanizing, like it's crunching people's feelings into data; but quite to the contrary, there's something mystifying and deeply moving about scanning the titles -- "lonely / stupid / comfortable / special / sorry / etc" -- that can make us consider individuals so remote from us geographically or in every other imaginable way, and actually feel for them.

I'm curious to learn of other projects like this, sites that employ a similar mash-up technique not merely to make commuting convenient or to facilitate some other practical activity, but to reflect and reveal something new. Please share some links in the comments!

 

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Microsoft and Alibaba in Talks Again: for Future After Yahoo?

In his recent visit to China, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer had a meeting with Alibaba Chairman Ma Yun (Jack Ma). The subject of the meeting was not disclosed to the public, but speculators say that the meeting was to discuss the future of Alibaba if Microsoft ends acquiring Yahoo.

Alibaba has an agreement with Yahoo that gives the company the right to buy back its shares if Yahoo is sold to a third party. Since Microsoft still has interest in Yahoo, Alibaba is aligning its interests with its future business partner.

Alibaba and Microsoft have already formed a previous business alliance to promote Microsoft software on its SAAS platform, but it would be interesting to see if both companies are going to be working more closely together.

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SMS and Monetizing Social Networks

Online social networks have grown tremendously in popularity since their inception more than a decade ago. Yet, while some social networking companies such as Facebook have huge financial valuations attached to them, it has been difficult to actually monetize the huge member databases collected by some of these networking sites. Globally, and in the United States in particular, a whole generation of kids has grown up accustomed to not paying for Internet related activities including paying for services to connect to peers. Nonetheless, companies are highly interested in reaching people in these network databases in new ways and monetizing the billions of people who are involved in social networking sites. Below is an article on text messaging and how it is beginning to play a vital role in creating financial value for social networking sites. 


Text messaging is now surpassing voice as the preferred way to communicate and many social networking sites use SMS to facilitate communication between members who want to keep abreast of jobs, and peer activities whole on the go. As social sites continue to experience tremendous growth, they are introducing mobile advertising and location aware services by SMS. 

In class, the other day we discussed how many new web companies and services have been created through bundling different technologies or databases available. One example of this is housing maps.com which combines google map technology with the Craigslist database to help users find apartments to rent. In the same vein, it would be interesting if Google Maps technology, text messaging and social networks could be intertwined to create user value. For instance, retailers might send text messages advertising specific promotions through social networking databases which would reach members who, in real time, are using Google Maps to search for a similar retail outlet in a specific location. Once a person receives such an advertisement they might then forward the text message to other friends via social networks which would allow retailers to reach new customers and drive traffic to their stores. 

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Ad revenue on the web and my thoughts on Twitter

Here’s a link to an interesting article on the decline of online ad revenue that appeared in the Business section of the New York Times yesterday:

 http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/25/technology/start-ups/25startup.html?hpw

 According to the author, Claire Cain Miller, overall spending on online ads is going to inevitably decline over the next couple of years. She argues that because of this decline Internet companies (especially start-ups) are going to have to consider alternative revenue generating streams to reduce their dependence on ad spending.

The model she suggests will be the way of the future (especially for start ups) is the “freemium” (a service that offers free and premium software). Two examples of this type of service that she gives are: Pandora’s new model which allow and customers to pay a small monthly fee to hear their music without ads, and digital provider Wetpaint’s new model of charging larger clients for services such as moderating reader forums and website promotion.

Althoug I see the potential for “freemiums” being successful for sites such as Wetpaint where a company ultimately pays for the additional service, I can’t really imagine this “freemium” model is going to gel for consumer entertainment sites such as Pandora. Sure $3 (the monthly subscription that Pandora just started charging) isn’t a lot of money, but I just don’t buy that consumers are going to all of sudden be willing to pay for this service when you get the virtually the same product for free by sitting through an ad for free.  Does Pandora expect to start playing more ads to make the subscription more enticing? Surely they know that would just annoy a lot of their customers. So how then do they intend to convert a significant number of free users into subscribers?  And is this model really the future of web start-ups?

 On a completely different note, this video kind of sums up how I feel about using Twitter for personal use:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PN2HAroA12w.

While I am slowly adopting the notion that Twitter is something that could be a useful marketing and media relations tool for businesses, creative professionals and entrepreneurs, I am still unconvinced that there is a reason that I need to know that “Sally was five minutes late to work” or “that Michael is wearing shorts”. Seriously, Twitterers, isn’t there something more productive you could be doing with your time?


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Pandora can turn the corner

 Clair Cain Miller, in her May 24 NY Times article Ad Revenue on the Web? No Sure Bet ,

discusses the difficulty that Internet start-up are having in generating revenues. The article mentions an interview with the founder of Pandora, the Internet radio station. Pandora is finding it difficult to generate revenues from advertisers and well as subscribers. They attempted to charge a monthly subscription fee for the service. This did not go over well.  Now they are trying a hybrid model “freemium” .  This model charges the subscriber $3 per month for an ad free subscription.

 

The problem in my view is that it really hard to offer something free then later charge. We consumers are so trained that all on the Internet is free especially if we look long and hard enough for it. It’s just the way it has always been. 

 

Was just happening to consider the Pandora proposition over he weekend at my Memorial Day cook out.  We needed music for the out doors. Boom box radio was too much talk and the music from the station that my 20 year old nephew chose was too narrowly focused for a crowd of ranging from grade school to 1970’s era disco, Fusion, Funk.  Playing CD’s is too cumbersome. So I hooked my iPhone to my kid’s plug-in speakers.  I started the Pandora app- and the music that played for the next hour or two was mostly appealing to most of my guests.  The best part was the fact that there were no commercials or blabbing DJ’s.  There was enough appealing variety that some folks could tap a foot, strum an air guitar or sing along.

 

PANDORA IS GREAT FOR THE CONSUMER. Heck they have 10 million listeners per month. I would guess that as unemployment increased, this figure has gone up a bit – more people with more free time and probably listening to the Blues. My children listen to it while they do homework in the evenings. I listen to it in the car as I do my weekend choirs. It’s also great for my commute to Manhattan.  But in this type of economic environment how can service like Pandora survive as ad revenues drop off? Seems to me that at some point in time Pandora and Last FM (another Internet radio service) will have to begin taking audio ad’s after say the 10th song.  Maybe it’s a 15 second commercial – a radio jingle Web 2.0 style for the Internet. I would imagine that banner ads on the web site would have limited appeal because this is an audio experience.

Personally this would not be obtrusive considering that 80-90% of the songs I hear are customized to my taste. This is still a small price to pay. The alternative is radio with way too much talking nonsense, or shuffle CD’s – lots of work and over half of the songs not so appealing OR play list from iPod.  The iPod  alternative is limited by the personal library- songs purchased. Satellite radio has always been a non-started for me – always got poor reception, and customer service was terrible. 

So could it be that Pandora and Last FM become the new radio media.  Customized selection of songs, with just a few commercial ads. Would need a dose of customized weather and news say every hour or so for a few minutes. Alternatively we could just press an icon to go directly to customized weather and news- something like a  RSS – Stitcher combination.   I see traditional radio on the way out in 5-10 years. Who needs it? 

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Is Twitter Twitter-proof?

Throughout 2008, Twitter made headlines almost daily around the world. What was started as a small social networking website has, today, grown into one of the largest sites on the Web with a user base exceeding several million individuals and businesses.

The Twitter system relies on each of its users to continuously contribute 140 character updates onto their profiles. These updates include posts about travels, meetings, parties, and even random thoughts. Users then have the ability to follow each other. This allows a profile to aggregate several different user profiles into a chronologically ordered list of updates. To some this may seem like a web 2.0 form of stalking.

The top individual Twitter users (ranked by number of followers) include movie and television stars, such as Ashton Kutcher (1.7 million followers) and Ellen DeGeneres (1.5 million followers). These, however, may not be the most interesting Twitter users online. For businesspeople, Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos.com is one of the more interesting people to follow. With over 600,000 followers, he posts humorous messages about his various business meetings and travels.

In addition to individual users, Twitter has successfully attracted a wide range of businesses to use its system. Airlines, such as American and JetBlue, electric vehicle companies, including Tesla and Xtreme Green Products, and many others have begun using Twitter as a way to connect with customers.

While Twitter continues to experience explosive growth, there has been less impressive loyalty among its user base. Mashable recently reported that 60% of Twitter users quit after the first month. This may end up putting Twitter in a precarious situation and ultimately make them reliant on pop culture icons to propel their growth forward.

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Monday, May 25, 2009

Will Google keep being top in search? Probably!

So, news just came out that Microsoft, for the "Nth" time, is trying to challenge Google in the search arena, releasing a completely new search engine, Kumo, to challenge Google's already large market share in search engine marketing:



Kumo, might eventually be named "Bing", focuses on finding related search terms closely tied to your initial search. The idea was that "42 percent of all searches need to be refined after the first query". So, what Microsoft is trying to do is build a new interface, with a left window that will show related query, as well as organized search results by category.

Other than the new interface and new searching capabilities, Kumo is also upgraded with better integration with video and image searching, which is still a relative young technology currently. On top of that, Microsoft plan to spend $100 million+ to advertise this.

To me, Microsoft is desperate to fight Google and Yahoo in this search arena. From data today and from class, we know that search engine marketing is a BIG business, and it's currently where a lot of the online money is right now. Microsoft has been trailing as the #3 in this category, and never could break double-digits in market share.

But would Google and Yahoo let Microsoft succeed? Probably not! The articles mentioned above that Google and Yahoo already have similar features in their next generations of search engines, and as mentioned in the first article, Google has already built itself as "THE BRAND" for searching. Unless there is a dramtic breakthru in search technology, I doubt Google will ever loss that much market share.

As Professor Kagan mentioned in last lecture, some future company might come out the next time around to beat Google. This might be true, but I don't believe it will be this time and probably not even close. Based on this article below, Google remain #1 market share with 64% and it is the only company gaining market share last month. I think Google's brand is still strong, and until that next kid comes, Google is dominating this area and making a lot of money while doing it.




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end of the ad?

Jeff Jarvis of Buzzmachine writes often about the intersection between media, news, advertising, and the internet. His latest book is "What Would Google Do?", and in recent interviews he's posited something I find pretty interesting: the idea that advertising, as we know is, is pretty much over:
"Advertising is failure. If you have a great product or service customers sell for you and a great relationship with those customers, you don't need to advertise."
Now this, he admits, might be going a bit far - obviously, if you have a new product and no market awareness, you're going to have to do some advertising. But Jarvis suggests that the marketing relationship between company and consumer is changing, and changing fast. He suggests that the openness of the internet means that your product and your pricing are open for all to see - and in effect, your product becomes all the advertisement you need.

Instead, then, companies ought to consider spending their ad dollars on a more extended campaign to cultivate relationships with their consumers, for example - spending those ad dollars on online customer service, and calling that marketing.

In an interview on C-Span, Jarvis talked of the shifting roles of advertising and PR in a company's marketing strategy. Previously, advertising would make up the bulk of a marketing plan, and the public relations strategy would fill in the holes - essentially performing a stopgap measure. Jarvis envisions a new world where the flipside is true: advertising will end up filling in the gaps of a marketing plan that a strong PR plan can't address.

The reason why PR will be pushed to the forefront is that companies marketing online are now involving their customers to participate in their product to such a degree that these efforts amount to a long-term public relations campaign that has much less use for an advertisement. Continuous input and interaction with customers - with customers even contributing self-made testimonials or messages reinforcing the company's product - is an ideal that bypasses the need to create ad hype, and to the consumer, may feel far more genuine.

The Vest advertising blog points to several examples of this move from advertising to a more sustained, long-term "PR campaign" in which companies have created sites intended to foster very high degrees of consumer participation. The most interesting is The Potty Project from Huggies, where several real families and their babies represent different potty training "styles." These families are blogging, submitting video diaries, and using the site as a platform to discuss the difficult and confusing process of toilet-training a young child.

This to me illustrates very clearly that indeed, advertising - in the form of 30 second spots, inserted into my Hulu or my NYT - isn't dying, necessarily (Jarvis can get a little hyperbolic) - but I do believe that the kind of thing that Huggies is doing with the Potty Project is the direction marketing should be moving in - instead of producing diapers and a series of ads to sell them, Huggies is creating a platform for people to gather. It's a radical re-thinking of what marketing a product even means.

The consumer goods producers aren't the only ones starting to think this way - Rupert Murdoch and management at the NYTimes have both indicated that they are working on developing software to host blogs - to also essentially become platforms for other writers and bloggers.

It seems like the best marketing message you can send to your customer isn't so much about your product but your relationships with them - and now instead of talking about how you're "there" for your customer in a fifteen second advertisement, you can actually make these relationships manifest.

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Calculating the value of online relationships

Understanding online relationships..

Stephen Baker in BusinessWeek, "Learning, and Profiting, from Online Friendships."
http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/09_22/b4133032573293.htm

The article discusses the efforts at the moment that marketers and researchers are undertaking to aggregate the massive amounts of data created by the vast social networking opportunities that exist. Duncan J. Watts, a Columbia University sociologist and the head of a research unit at Yahoo!, says that "this flood of data for social scientists could be as transformative as Galileo's telescope was for the physical sciences. It gives us a new understanding of our world and ourselves."

The amount of data regarding online relationships that is available provides an opportunity for advertisers to develop a better understanding of their targeted consumers and those consumers' motivations. And as information is certainly not scarce now, attention most definitely is, and knowledge regarding relationships and motivation just gets more and more valuable as the competition for attention intensifies.

But online relationship networks have changed the understanding of interaction. The article discusses how friends are more likely to be interested in the same sort of products, attracted by the same type of ads. But what constitutes a friend now? Although I have about 250 Facebook friends, would I be interested in wearing the same type of clothes as all of them, or do I like the same movies, books, television shows, etc.? Sociologists, economists and market researchers are using all of the data generated by social network activity to try and understand of my 250 'Friends', whose opinions and tastes are most like my own?

Friendship Data

Cameron A. Marlow, a research scientist at Facebook, is working on a study to determine how close we are to our online friends. He and his team look at how often people communicate with Facebook friends, click on their links, news and photos, as well as how the communication flows (is it reciprocal?). They have determined the following about an average Facebook user (average user is considered by them to be one with 500 friends):
  • S/he actively follows news on only 40 of them
  • S/he communicates with 20
  • S/he keeps in close touch with about 10
  • And those with smaller networks (less than 500 friends) follow even fewer
As we've discussed in class, the jury is still out on Facebook ads. Although the traffic is there, obviously (as evidenced through the study findings above) people aren't paying a ton of attention to most of their friends. But if scientists like Marlow can discover how these relationships work, then the ability to target those small, intimate networks amongst the vast pool of friends could be very valuable to advertisers.

The article also discusses the internal value of social networks for corporations in increasing the flow of ideas and harnessing the collective intellegence of its employees on a large scale. IBM Research has one such experimental internal online social network, Beehive. The network (at 60,000 currently) connects employees with similar interests and expertise and suggests them as friends. In addition to more social interactions (posting photos), the friends also use Beehive to discuss patents and critique software code.

It will be interesting to see how these studies impact advertising and internal corporate communications, particularly once the data is used to attempt to better understand these relationships in an actionable way so that the hypothesis are tested and produce some real, quantifiable results.

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Craigslist Crackdown - How Will this Affect its Business?

As the online classified ad site of Craigslist continues to accumulate bad publicity, the centralized online community faces increasing pressure to clean up its act. The attorney general of South Carolina, Henry McMaster, has even threatened to open a criminal investigation into the company's executives if changes aren't made. These changes include removing a section devoted to erotic services that allows providers of sexual services to post ads.

Craigslist argues that any website featuring third-party content can't be held responsible for posts that violate state laws (via the Communications Decency Act of 1996). However, this issue of legality will not protect Craigslist's brand image. In order to promote the website as a clean, professional, and safe community to conduct business, Craigslist may need to review its postings with greater scrutiny.

Such a shift in policy would have dramatic effects on Craigslist's business model. With a total of 28 employees, Craigslist has very low overhead costs. Policing for inappropriate posts would require a huge increase in staff and overhead costs. Currently, Craigslist's main source of revenue comes from fees for posting job ads in select cities. If these revenues do not cover potential increases in overhead costs, new fees must be initiated. By initiating new fees, the executives of Craigslist will have retracted from their underlying ideal of providing such an extensive online community completely for free. This is a dilemma they dearly hope to avoid.

But it would appear that Craigslist already faces this dilemma. Do they keep their costs low and by doing so risk damaging their reputation or do they incurr the increase in overhead to maintain positive publicity? Should they consider alternatives to improving their brand image? Such a brand is important, given that Craigslist is not alone in providing online classified adds. Competitors such as Ebay (who also happens to own 20% of Craiglist), Walmart Classifieds, and OLX would surely benefit from a weakened Craigslist brand.

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Thought this was interesting: it's about using Twitter and YouTube to market surgery.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/25/health/25hospital.html

There's something disturbing about the strategy, though. I can imagine that patients facing a craniotomy would research the procedure online, maybe even check out information on YouTube. But should patients choose surgeons based on YouTube videos? It seems like that could be misleading.

On the other hand, referrals can also be misleading. I'd be curious to hear if others think this is appropriate or not.

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Young generations read more online

The recent research which was conducted by iShare, a marketing research company, showed that almost a half of young generations in Japan e-book that one can read comics or novels online. The fact may perplex to publishers and imply that they have to change their business model in future.
According to the research, 48% of twenties reads comics on web or mobile because of the convenience and reasonable price.
In Japan, it was said that the market scale in e-book of 2006 has reached to 28 billion JPY(almost $0,28 billion) and is expected to grow more in future. On the online market, customers can buy one episode of comic or novel very low price such as from 10 JPY($0.1) to 100 JPY($1).
Accompanying those market growth, the phenomeno that unfamous or budding writers sell their works directly to customers on line, not through publishers has been accelerated.
It is doubtful that those facts are welcomed to publishers. In those days, publishers are absolute neccesary, because if wanted to publish novel or comics, one has to go to publisher first. However, as recent incidents shows, the role of publishers in comic or novel market seem to get unclear and unprofitable. Publishers have to release the books or comics in paper as usual and at the same time compete with e-books which are produced in very cheap price.
If more and more people read books on line in future, will editors and publishers disappear?

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Chinese College Girls' preference is....

Top 10 popular websites visited by most Chinese college Girls can be clearly divided into 5 types: SNS, Health and Skin Care, Blog, Fans forum and Online shopping center (but they are all in Chinese):

Tianya Forum http://www.tianya.cn     

Rayli Female Forum  http://www.rayli.com.cn 

Taobao  http://www.taobao.com   

Taobao Shops Collection http://www.913579.com    

MOP  http://www.mop.com   

Xiaonei   http://www.xiaonei.com   

Sina Blog  http://blog.sina.com.cn 

Lose Weight Healthly  http://www.68263.com   

Hudie   http://www.hudie.com   

Fans Forum e.g. Baidu Post Bar http://post.baidu.com

Source: Sohu.news

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Can Brandlink pave the way for Baidu ?

Firstly let me introduce some general information of internet use in China:

210M Net Users

Of 60% are between 18-35 yr old

Of 57.2% are men

Of 35% are high educated

Most 3 application, search(72.4%), email(56.5%), IM(81.4%)

Of 22.1% have online shopping experience


Then, as professor said that in China the most popular used Search Engine is Baidu.com, and according to my own it is experience thousands of top-searched articles and most-used websites in Chinese that attract me to reuse it again and again.

However, facing with strong competitors Baidu current developed a new search advertising model named BrandLink.

BrandLink area, which is laced at the top of Baidu's web search results, is an information dissemination platform customized for famous brands. This innovative search model combines various display methods, including words, pictures and videos. The BrandLink advertisement area is separated from the common search results by a horizontal line with picture advertisements on the right side of the page, providing a space for the display of products.

As a proper supplementation to Baidu's bidding rank system, the BrandLink model may gain more brand advertisers for Baidu. The company says that so far, many major brands such as Lenovo, Dell, Samsung, Mercedes-Benz and Audi have started their BrandLink marketing on Baidu.

Source: CNNIC, Dec. 31, 2007


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Sunday, May 24, 2009

What’s in a Domain Name

What do Google.com, Myspace.com, Twitter.com, AmericanAirlines.com, and ABC.com have in common? These are all domain names. Have you ever stopped to wonder how people come to acquire domain names like Google.com? Did they just go to Godaddy and register them or did the have to buy them from someone else?

Since the mid-1990s, the domain name marketplace has become extremely competitive. Many great domains are already taken, leaving businesses scrambling for a decent alternative. For some businesses and investors, this has created a remarkable secondary market for buying and selling domain names.

Even though it only costs $10 each year to own a domain name, some names have become extremely valuable over the years. Those in high demand include short domain and those consisting of single words.

According to DNJournal.com, an online publisher of domain sales, the highest selling domain name in 2008 was Fund.com, which sold for $9.99 million. This was followed by DataRecovery.com, which sold for $1.66 million. Even the lowest of the top 100 domain sales, Cleaning.com, went for $100,000 at auction. Not to shabby if you were the one who registered it for $10.

The highest domain name sale ever was Sex.com, which sold for $12 million in 2006 to a California web developer. This sale broke the prior record of the $7.5 million sale of Business.com, which transacted during the peak of the dot com boom.

Even the economic recession hasn’t hit the secondary domain name marketplace. Toys.com sold in March for $5.1 million (in a bankruptcy auction of all places). A month prior, in February, Fly.com sold for $1.76 million.

With all of these 6 and 7 figure sales, it leaves us wondering what domain is left to purchase for $10. The answer is not much in the way of traditional names, but if you are willing to compromise on your business name, then you will probably be able to find something.

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Social Tagging and Museums

I’d like to talk about an interesting example of “Folksonomy” (social tagging) from the arts and cultural sector called Steve Museum. Originally conceived by independent museum specialist, Susan Chun, in 2005, the Steve Museum is a collaborative project between museums, independent museum professionals, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services (ILMS) that uses social tagging of artwork as a way to connect with new audiences, improve public access to a museum’s collections and improve indexing of artwork by allowing visitor to add their own tags to a work of art.

In a nutshell here's how Steve Museum works: Member institutions can upload pictures and make sets of their collections using  “Steve Tagger”, an open-sourced software that was developed by the Steve Museum. Once the works of art are uploaded, the public can view the works of art, tag them, and share them with their friends, much in the same way as they would in Flickr. It should be noted that membership to the Steve Museum and access to all the software and technical support is free of charge and available to any museum that is interested in joining this project.

Although at present only a handful of art museums such as the Guggenheim Museum (New York), The Indianapolis Museum of Art, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art are members, this project is currently receiving a lot of press from professional museum service organizations such as AAM (American Association of Museums), and ILMS. Accordingly, I predict that many more museums will also become members within the next couple years.

I predict that this project has several possible benefits to museums in the long run :

1) By allowing the public to add social tags to works of art, “Steve Tagger” can improve a museum’s ability to come up with categories or tags that are relevant to the average musem-goer. Current museum categories (which are for the most part based on the curator’s definitions) are in some cases very different from the categories or descriptors that a museum-goer might associate with a picture. For example if we take the Mona Lisa, the curator’s tags might describe the artist (Leonardo da Vinci), the period it was painted in (The Italian Renaissance) and other technical facts about the painting. By contrast, the viewer might use the tags that have less to do about the technical aspects about how the painting was produced such as “Louvre”, “Women”, and famous painting. In the future other viewers might find the Mona Lisa through one of these user generated tags because it is more relevant to them than something that the museum had though of.

Thus, by allowing museum-goers to add their own tags, museums could benefit from discovering relevant tags that would help improve the searchability of their collections.  Moreover, by allowing social tagging, museums are likely to encourage an increased sense of ownership and engagement with the museum. This in turn could help drive increased ticket or membership sales to the museum.

2) Once more museums join, “Steve Tagger” has the potential to be a tool museums could use to mine valuable information on audiences such as the age, taste, demographics and so forth. Thus, in the long run member institutions could improve their marketing initiatives through collaboration with this initiative.

3) In the future, Steve Tagger could become a popular social media site amongst museum-goers.  Thus, membership in Steve Museum could  help a museum successfully reach out to new audiences. Moreover, membership could also help encourage a deeper relationship with visitors.

For further information about this project please visit: http://www.steve.museum./


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The Surprising Reason Behind eBay's Decline


In a recent article by Keith Rabois – a former Executive Vice president at PayPal who left the company soon after it was acquisitioned by eBay – Rabois attributes eBay’s current decline in visitors to the rise of social networking sites such as Myspace and Facebook, and UGC friendly entertainment sites such as Youtube.

While the correlation between these different websites may not seem clear at first, Rabois insists that eBay’s success was always predicated on its “fun factor”. He describes how prior to the rise of social networking sites, eBay had the unique ability to attract the general public by combining e-commerce with diversion – from the quirky fun of searching for hidden treasures to the thrill of winning them in bidding wars.

But with the increasing popularity of social networking sites, suddenly updating Facebook and Myspace pages or watching and responding to Youtube videos had surpassed eBay as a new way to pass the time. To win back the public, eBay decided instead to take on the characteristics of its more obvious competitors, Amazon and Google. According to Rabois, the result was that eBay “stripped whatever remaining fun existed out of its marketplace.”

The interesting take-away from this article is that eBay’s management was apparently oblivious to what made the website attractive to the public in the first place. While Rabois clearly has a bias in his writing (he goes on to lambast eBay for alienating the employees of Paypal, including himself, whom he describes as the “leading actors of the entertainment revolution”) I have to agree with his claim that eBay has lost much of its luster. I actually view eBay these days as more of a practical website; for example, the last time I went on eBay (almost a year ago) was to purchase an adapter for an outdated laptop. And it’s probably been at least 2-3 years since I visited eBay just for “fun”.

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Saturday, May 23, 2009

Hulu Growth - New Deal With Disney

Initially formed as a joint venture between NBC Universal and FOX, Hulu is a website that offers free, ad-supported streaming video of TV shows and movies. It primarily offered TV shows from FOX and NBC, subsidiary cable channels, and full-length movies. Hulu is an incredibly popular website. According to Quantcast.com, Hulu receives 17 million visits per month globally.

However, Hulu has had many doubtful critics since its debut. Although it has received universal recognition as an outstanding product, critics doubted the feasibility of Hulu's business model for a number of reasons: Hulu was too dependant on a small number of content providers, it incurred most of the costs of streaming videos while its partners take most of the revenue, and its content partners were also its primary shareholders (creating a potential conflict of interest).

Hulu's partners refuse to give up exclusive online rights, because they do not want to give up control and limit their options. They also don't want Hulu to become too powerful. Currently Hulu gets only 20-30% of the revenue it generates and its partners would not want that to change.

Another criticism targeted Hulu's operational strategy. The method in which Hulu uploaded videos put the company at a significant disadvantage compared to one of its main competitors, YouTube. By allowing anyone to upload videos, YouTube had the advantage of being current. Any popular video could be seen on YouTube well before it was available on Hulu.

In an effort to quell these fears, Hulu has recently signed a new content sharing deal with Disney. According to WSJ online (see link below), Disney is "ceding some control over the online distribution of its ABC television and other programming in exchange for an equity stake." This will make Hulu the first outside site to stream ABC videos. This news is likely to be unsettling for Hulu's main competitors: Apple (iTunes), Google (YouTube), and CBS (TV.com), particularly Apple who sells video content online.

Will this new deal improve Hulu's sustainability? Possibly. However, Hulu must also address the issue of rising costs. As demand increases for high definition video, it will become more expensive to provide videos. Higher quality videos require more data, more data requires greater bandwidth capacity, and greater bandwidth capacity costs money. Furthermore, Disney now has a large stake in Hulu's revenues. Hulu can improve popularity by increasing content, but at some point it must address its future profitability.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124110275139073305.html

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Friday, May 22, 2009

Once merely a simple email hazard, spam has made its way into the 2.0 world. As the life of the newly born Twitter begins to unfold before the eyes of the public, interesting trends are beginning to emerge that highlight both the self-serving and salutary aspects of the human psyche. Once small community of like-minded, tech-savvy individuals, Twitter has recently exploded into a national (and some would argue narcissistic) mini-obsession. The increased popularity of the site has made Twitter the target of the most recent marketing blitz; the result being an increasing complex, muddy thread-storm that may be curbing Twitter’s potential to achieve high retention rates. Twam, or Twitter spam, is basically when a user is exposed to tweet containing information that is unrelated to the information they were trying to obtain (i.e. unrelated to the topic they thought would be discussed in a particular tweet). Individual and organizations are accomplishing wide spread twamming by manipulating Twitter Trends; a Twitter function that ranks the most popularly followed Twitter threads. Posters can simply (and dishonestly) include a search word currently being “trended” in the title of their post and the post will be included in users’ search results for that trended word. Such activity distills the value of Twitter as an effective information-sharing medium and frustrates Twitter users, perhaps incentivizing disengagement with the platform.However, the 2.0 world is nothing is not community-oriented. And the critical mass that comprises the Twitter following has been mobilized to ignite the fight on twam. WhatTheTrend is a site that crowd sources information to help clarify and define various Twitter trends. Taking its cue from Wikipedia, the site allows users to upload information about Twitter trends and possible twamming tactics. The site also allows users to correct mistakes or delete inaccurate information. While it is by no means spam free, the site has been a great help to the Twitter audience in deciphering the meaning of long and often cryptic trend threads. The success of WhatTheTrend is a testament to the logical behind one of the fundamental components of the 2.0 web movement: to trust that passionate users will willingly and voluntarily contribute to the quality of website. The three-dimensional world is wrought with examples of how communities formed over seemingly meaningless causes can effectively, if not feverently, self-police to preserve the value of their initiatives. WhatTheTrend is perfect example of this real –life tendency spilling over into 2-dimensional the two-dimensional world. To read an interview with the creator of WhatTheTrend, click on the link below:

http://adage.com/mediaworks/article?article_id=136680

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Facebook and YouTube Advertising Suggestions

There has been a lot of talk about how YouTube can’t monetize content well(http://searchengineland.com/youtube-is-broken-heres-how-to-fix-it-18272) how even the Facebook inventors do not know how to monetize their 175+ million subscriber customer base. I have a couple suggestions.

1) Facebook, you know your subscriber and viewer, so why not take advantage of this? In Facebook, you know their city, their age, and you can even get information about behaviors in Wall posts and wall to wall communication behaviors and more about the user. Even subject lines in photo posts can indicate more about each user.

Take this behavioral information and come up with smarter ads. For example, if I post an Album on Facebook called "Our baby" it is safe to assume that I would be more willing to click on an ad for $10 off diapers than I would one offering some obscure “pink tank top”. This could also be as simple as analyzing my daily updates. If I post that I am at the bar or a baseball game, it could be assumed that maybe a deal on Yankees tickets next week and two free beers would a more appealing ad than how to “do business in Queens” (also an actual ad).

2) YouTube can also take a page from this "know your viewer better" mentality. It is hard to determine content from videos using software programs, so collecting simple data could help. Right now on YouTube I can post a video, call it whatever I want, and provide no data whatsoever to indicate what the content is about.

For example, If before I wanted to post a video a skateboarding jump, I indicated to YouTube that this was a video of me, skateboarding, and even had to provide information about me skateboarding- what brand, what area, then it should be easier to approach skateboarding companies with the data that for example, over 1 million skateboarding videos with your brandwere seen last month on YouTube, how about an ad next to the video or pre or post roll?

The rule for both suggestions is not to pull a gmail and start “reading my emails” keep it personal but don’t cross the line. Just use the obvious for behavioral data such as Wall posts and Albums and other non-email forms of user’s information. If my 168 friends know that I had six shots of vodka last Thursday than I probably won’t be as bothered by one more “adfriend” telling me about dollar shots at Happy hour in a local bar by my area.

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Thursday, May 21, 2009

Wolfram Alpha - More Analytics than Search...

just thought I'd take a look into Wolfram Alpha, since it was brought up in class on Tuesday and while it has blown me away in some parts, namely the amount of quantitative information that comes up, it hasn't been very user-friendly for me.

For example, since we're so in tuned with search engine-type searches, ie you'd type a name and expect articles to come up, Wolfram Alpha comes up with numbers for it instead. In my mind, for a split second, I thought that the search was irrelevant, but again, wolfram Alpha is primarily a quantitative search. This is a niche area that Google is not focused on and when the adoption rate of Wolfram Alpha picks up, we'd see some real competition.

Here's a link from mashable.com on how to optimize your search on Wolfram Alpha, enjoy!
http://mashable.com/2009/05/19/wolfram-alpha-better-than-google/

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