Category: Internet

Streaming March Madness (CBSSports.com)

It should come as no surprise that I found the technology behind this years college basketball tournament more interesting than the games themselves – despite this fact I did win in my CBSsports.com bracket! (much to the chagrin of fellow players who all knew I am not a huge college basketball fan)

I was recently reading about the details behind CBSsports.com and how they streamed the games.

CBSSports.com said it streamed more than 11.7 million hours of video to some 8.3 million unique visitors, including nearly 600,000 UVs for the championship game that saw Duke beat Butler.

(source)

…and some context from the same article on what this means for the bottom line;

…ad revenue for the tournament was up a solid 20 percent from a year ago to “at least $38.4 million.” While the total is just a slice of what CBS brought in overall for March Madness, it’s growing at an accelerating pace, and that’s something the broadcast side can’t claim. Consider that in 2006, CBS estimated its MMoD revenue at $4 million, or just 0.8 percent of the revenue of the broadcast tournament. It increased to 1.7 percent in 2007, 3.5 percent in 2008 and 4.8 percent in 2009.

By eliminating the obstacles people had to go through, they actually increased viewership and streams which directly contributed to their bottom line. Unlike the Vancouver Olympics streaming disaster by NBC, there was no authentication necessary to start watching the games.

While NBC had basically DRM’d the Olympics, CBSSports had opened up the streams and won out.

This is the same dialogue that revolves around the music industry, the happenings with Hulu and online broadcast, and many other areas where the gatekeepers want to continue their stronghold over content. This is a great case study into the affects of a large publisher and content distributer (CBS) opening up the floodgates and actually seeing a meaningful lift in revenues and customer satisfaction.

By having a platform that was free, and encouraged watching through a authorized source fans were happy and advertisers were in front of streaming viewers. Whether or not the campaigns were effective is another story, but the basic principles of where and how data should be accessible are all there.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.com

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CNN NewsPulse and the future of content

CNN relaunched this week with a complete redesign.

Along with having some smart advertising introduce the new layout, integrated well with the IAB standard units, they highlighted another section at the top of their navigation: CNN NewsPulse

cnnnewspulse

This dashboard approach combines a few items you have probably seen elsewhere on content sites. You have probably seen “most emailed”, “most read”, or “hottest” articles from an internal system or a company like Surphace powering a module – but this is first time I have seen this done in front of a large audience. Sites like BuzzFeed are a great example of these engines at work. Putting hot content in front of people and promoting things that do well and letting the audience know when things go viral.

CNN however has created a popularity index which is some combination of activity happening around each article.

These types of data driven decisions are what makes content that is good rise to the top. Influences such as web video plays, twitter links, passed links, emailed stories, etc… should all lead to more data about a story which can be used to help put relevant content in front of someone at the right time. This is starting to happen today.

There has been great discussion recently around headline optimization and A/B testing by the Huffington Post, as well as others doing similar things. I think these types of activities will only increase.

The benefit of optimizing stories, layouts, and even headlines is a better experience for the reader. Some may argue that this changes the dynamic of the publication – but that is exactly what is needed. The old way is being overcome by a wave of real time data and this allows an editor to embrace this data wave and make informed decisions about what to put in front of readers.

It is also clear that offline devices should become smarter as you use them not stay the same. This trend is happening with the power of data to influence front page news and will only continue.

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Free and paid services I use

As a follow up to the WordPress plugins post and my 10 tools for web traffic research I wanted to share some services that I use, and pay for.


multitools

Disclaimer: where possible I use affiliate links

Hostgator
– This is where I host Marketing.fm and refer anyone looking for great shared hosting.

GetDropBox – the easiest to use backup and synchronize file tool across multiple computers. If you are not backing up your work, it is only a matter of time before you learn the hard way.

Digsby
– Best multi IM client for Windows. I use AIM, Gchat, and Yahoo chat on a regular basis and Digsby makes it all possible with one multi tabbed client.

Feedburner – best way to track and get analytics for your RSS feed.

TwitterCounter – shows follows and and easy link back to your Twitter profile.

Google Docs – great and easy way to take notes and share documents online.

SiteMeter and Google Analytics – I use both of these services for analytics as they both provide important stats I checkout often. I know that GA is now real time, but I rely on Site Meter for quick and easy referral links to my site(s)

Amazon Web ServicesS3 and EC2 – the static storage and elastic cloud solutions from Amazon are somewhat new to me, but I have been working on a project that will be deployed on AWS to avoid some of the headaches of traditional shared hosting.


Google Reader
– best platform for consuming RSS feeds. You can see how I use Google Reader here.

What am I missing?

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Copy and Paste is the best Social Media Tool

I believe that copy and paste is the best Social Media (or cut and paste) tool that is available today. The simple act of a few key strokes can generate more viewsactionsclicks that just about any other method or distribution strategy. (I knew someone had come to this realization before me and with a quick search I found it at Broadcasting Brain – if there are more let me know!)

Fred talked about the power of passed links in a recent post and it was the catalyst to this thinking.

As people and companies hype the latest “Social Media” tools and websites, they forget that the most important action or referral comes from someone you know – and online that comes in the form of a link that has been cut and pasted into an email, an IM, passed via Twitter, or included in a document.

There are certainly ways of looking at this fundamental behavior of passing links around and wrapping them up for better accountability.

One of the tools I use regularly for just about every link I cut and paste around it Bit.ly which allows ATLAS and DART like tracking – without all the fuss and its free. Simply cut and paste your url into Bit.ly and you can easily track information about how many people clicked on it, how it was passed, and most importantly figure out what systems your link now exists on. (I am staying out of the debate on url shortners for now.)

I digress to my main point, the method of cut and pasting your content is happening by your potential viewers, customers, and users – even by the person seeding your content into networks. This means that you need to make things easily shareable. I am not saying the latest widget company cannot help in this process, but I am saying that the ultimate real value comes from people sharing with each other. On the web that happens when people share links together – via cutting and pasting them around the web.

It took a few years, but Google Reader now has the ability to automatically email your friends from within the Reader “sharing” the post you are reading with them. This is a direct result of a behavior that was happening (outside the GReader experience) of people opening links in another tab, copying the url, opening up an email client, pasting in the link, and then sending it off. The solution to this problem came in the form of a built in system (note: not behavior change) by Google Reader. To me, that is a powerful observation and reaction.

Conclusion:
Think about how and why you are sharing links, and as you prepare to “seed” networks think about how people can further share this data with each other. As buzz words and tactics come and go, its important to pay attention to the behaviors that never change. Cut and Paste has been around for quite awhile, and when the dust settles on the latest “tool to get content viral” I think we will still be using the original 4 viral keystrokes of copy and paste.

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Relevancy in advertising (not cookies or behavior)

Image representing Google as depicted in Crunc...
Image via CrunchBase

Most people think that a cookie is a delicious treat – not a file on your computer that tracks where you have been, what you are doing, and other attributes about you. Behavior is what you do – not something quantified in a profile.

That is why with the recent announcement by Google to provide “more interesting advertising” you only see the mention of cookies twice towards the end of the post and behavior not mentioned once. The reason for this is because at the end of the day that is what people want – more relevant ads, without knowing much else.

From the post:

That’s why Google has worked hard to create technology that makes the advertising on our own sites, and those of our partners, as relevant as possible. To date, we have shown ads based mainly on what your interests are at a specific moment. So if you search for [digital camera] on Google, you’ll get ads related to digital cameras. If you are visiting the website of one of our AdSense partners, you would see ads based on the content of the page. For example, if you’re reading a sports page on a newspaper website, we might show ads for running shoes. Or we can show ads for home maintenance services alongside a YouTube video instructing you on how to perform a simple repair. There are some situations, however, where a keyword or the content of a web page simply doesn’t give us enough information to serve highly relevant ads.

This is a great way of introducing the idea of controlling your interest meter or define to Google exactly what you are interested in. You can do this if you are logged into your Google account at the Ads Preferences Manager (must be signed in to see full features)

Via this interface you can add interesting categories and topics that give Google a better idea of what to show you. Since you are going to be seeing ads anyway, you may as well have them tailored towards what you want, and exclude more of what you don’t want.

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Internet Explorer 8 and the History of the Web

Internet Explorer 8 officially launched recently and Bradley and Montgomery (BaM), the innovative independent agency behind Microsoft’s Mojave Experiment, released a humorous video created to promote the launch of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 8.



From the release:

Ben Carlson, Chief Strategy Officer of BaM, explains the thinking behind the campaign, “Almost everything you’ve experienced on the World Wide Web in the past 15 years or so has been seen through Microsoft’s Internet Explorer.

I hope Internet Explorer 8 does not mean a bookend for Microsoft and the browser wars. Now that people are switching to Google Chrome and Firefox in droves I think the window in which people view the Internet is slowly changing.

I only use Internet explorer now for antiquated systems that refuse support for new browsers. Without naming names I can say that I use IE for a major bank, a major piece of enterprise software, and an email provider – all do not work on FF and definitely do not work on Chrome or other browsers.

I think continued upgrades and new releases are great for consumers (albeit difficult for developers) and new browsers create further innovation. Ultimately, consumers will win out, but standards must continue to be met.

There are even campaigns to try to end the usage of IE 6 as I found here and as the date says (March 2009) that time is now.

I will keep moving between Firefox, Internet Explorer 8, and Google Chrome for the time being – but I hope to report back soon on the changeover to only one browser choice.

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Google Latitude

Google rolled out a very interesting feature this week called Google Latitude that allows you to see where your friends are in real time within Google Maps. This is a feature that has been deployed many times in the past, but always platform specific (see SonyEricsson T68i and the new Nokia social network) and never at scale.

The interesting thing about Latitude is that it allows you the ability to see friends and locations from multiple platforms from your supported phone to your iGoogle page.

Google has now introduced a location based service into their hidden social network which is there when you need it and not when you don’t.

Below is a picture of my own map that I believe will look very different in a few weeksmonths time.


Latitude Map[/caption]

I have been brainstorming about Latitude today with the help of my friend Adam and there are definitely 10 integrations and features for Google Latitude we would like to see that make a lot more sense.

1. maps.google.com now has my exact location data if I am at a computer and signed into my Google account – this data should be used to pinpoint my location vs. showing me that I am geo-ip targeted to NYC.

2. Integrated GTalk functionality is a must. Seeing where your friends are located is great, but instantly being able to chat with them, surfacing a gchat window, would make even more sense.

3. Conversations should continue between chat windows if you switch from Latitude maps in iGoogle, Gchat in Gmail, or a standalone gchat app

4. Sharing data about your location with either pictures or streaming video. This would allow a conversation to happen by checking your latitude friends without “pinging” them for an update. For example a line at a venue, or even a status of a meeting. (This is somewhat handled by your “Status” within gchatlatitude)

5. Cross promotion with nearby vendors is obviously the future here.

6. Directions to “Me”

7. Dropping pins or breadcrumbs for people to see your trail of where you came from or where you are going.

8. Toggle for “ping me if friendX gets within 100yards of me” for impromptu meetups or to have persistent proximity beacons for latecomers to meetings or just to be notified of arrivals.

9. Sort gtalk buddy list by proximity – this would rely on everyone using Latitude of course

10. Surface distance data from friends. (Adam is 1,426 miles from you – would you like to see directions to get to him?)

I think there is a big resource untapped by location service that pertain to me. These types of opt-in network circumvent the traditional “text for info” or “bluetooth enabled” services as they do not impose on the user. By teaching a service about your habits and locations, the service can better tailor your needs whether they be accommodations, food and restaurants, bars, or even just deals.

The creepiness factor tends to get lower as relevance increases. I am a proponent of sharing this data, as it will be helpful to me and my friends as well as getting me in front of more of the things I want to see.

I am sure there are other integrations and features we would all like to see and I invite you to post them below.

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Online Advertising – Boon or Bust?

What is going to happen to online advertising in 2009? It is a question on many peoples minds as many business prepare for an unprecedented time in the economy. Some are predicting a nuclear winter for online advertising while others are hoping things will continue to grow. There is no doubt that online advertising provides an accountable and strategic part of any ad plan, but there is doubt as to where budgets will flow next year.


Will we be seeing more of these soon?

Will we be seeing more of these soon?


As SEM continues to be a dominate player – what does this mean for the future of TV and Print budgets? No one may have the answer but I am hoping to simply generate some discussion around the advertising market.

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Passion + Web 2.0 Expo

Web 2.0 Expo stage

I spent the day at the Web 2.0 Expo expecting yet another conference. What I ended up with at the end of the day were a number of conversations that centered around passion.

Passion for what you do everyday, your ideas, and overall being happy. Perhaps this meme was sealed by one of the Web 2.0 keynote speakers today Gary Vaynerchuk, who basically outlined that if you are not doing what you love, stop doing it and start doing something you are passionate about. Charlie is helping people do exactly that with Path 101, while folks like myself and Matt are still deciding on what path to follow. You cannot discuss this topic without sounding a little cheesy – but I appreciate the dialogue and hope the conversation continues.

I met a number of entrepreneurs and people today who are passionate about their companies and others who simply work at a startup. You can tell the difference immediately. Gary’s advice was that even if you do not like 1% of what you are doing – change direction and do something else. I tend to agree with him, and find that most people have trouble taking that first step. What follows may be some ups and downs (lets face it, some big downs) but in the end you will be much happier.

There may not be an easy answer to find that one passionate path to follow – but you have to start somewhere.


Web 2.0 expo

It was definitely great to meet a number of folks today for the first time while meeting others in person that I have connected with over the Intertron. I enjoyed the talk Albert gave on cloud computing which prompted a number of subsequent conversations with many of the cloud computer companies present. Some were interfaces for current cloud platforms – others were platforms themselves with apps deployed on them. The final keynote was also great.

In the end, definitely a great experience. Like many conferences you get out of them what you put into them.

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Comcast to Acquire Plaxo

It was announced today that Plaxo will be acquired by Comcast – or at least they have entered into an agreement for this to happen.

An important piece of the announcement that grabbed my attention:

Plaxo and Comcast have been working together for the past year on a number of initiatives. Plaxo is providing the universal address book for Comcast’s SmartZone communications center (slated to launch later this year), and we are also now hosting all of the address book accounts for Comcast webmail users. Our partnership has already more than doubled the reach of the Plaxo network, bringing the total number of accounts to nearly 50 million.

What does this mean for the Social Networking space? This definitely puts some pressure on those who are looking at certain networks. Although the terms of the deal were not disclosed, I suspect that the price will be the new benchmark for social media net buyouts and be the latest “comp” for comparisons.

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