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Archive for May 11th, 2008

EconSM Video: Getting Real: Grown-Up Start Ups

Posted by Mort Greenberg on May 11, 2008

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By Amanda Natividad – Sat 10 May 2008 05:05 PM PST

In our second video from EconSM 2008, Social Approach’s CEO Shawn Gold moderated Getting Real: Grown-Up Start Ups with Dalton Caldwell, imeem’s founder and CEO, Seth Goldstein, SocialMedia Networks’ co-founder and CEO, Keith Richman’s co-founder and CEO, and Toni Schneider, Automattic’s CEO. In this panel covering the topic of moving start ups past the early adopters phase and finding a lucrative exit, Caldwell pointed out the importance of taking time to “suck” in order to learn from mistakes. Meanwhile, Goldstein revealed his own motto to be to “hire slow and fire fast,” getting out the employees who just don’t work out, and not being afraid to hire under-experienced people with “a lot of hustle.” Check out our coverage of this panel and watch the video (RSS readers will have to click through). All of our EconSM 2008 videos will be posted here.


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Firms Gauge Which Mobile Tools Connect

Posted by Mort Greenberg on May 11, 2008

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New Software Aims
To Provide Better Data
On Consumers’ Habits
May 9, 2008; Page B6

Marketing via cellphones is forecast to be one of the next hot trends, but many advertisers are still hesitant to empty their pockets on mobile-ad campaigns. One reason: There isn’t yet a reliable source of data that show what Web sites and features consumers are accessing on their mobile devices.

Measurement firms such as Nielsen and M:Metrics, which have relied mainly on monthly consumer surveys to gather such information, are developing electronic tracking methods that aim to provide more specific and accurate information. Nielsen, which helped pioneer the “People Meter” for television, is developing electronic metering software for mobile devices. The software, which will be installed on some users’ handsets beginning later this year, will track everything from the number of text messages they send per month to the Web sites they visit and videos they watch.

Another company, comScore, which specializes in tracking Web usage on personal computers, is working on similar technology for cellphones that it expects to launch in the second half of this year.

The tracking companies are running into some roadblocks, mainly because there are so many different types of mobile devices and operating systems, and because a small number of wireless operators such as AT&T and Verizon Wireless play such a central role in controlling Web traffic and determining which software gets into handsets. It is another example of how hard it can be to roll out any kind of wireless service — whether it is a videogame, a location-sharing application, or a tool to track usage of the handset itself.

M:Metrics, for example, hasn’t been able to put its software into a large enough cross-section of phones to make the information significantly valuable to advertisers, who generally want data on all cellphone users. So far, the software works only on high-end smart-phones, which account for just 12% of the market.

“If you think about advertisers, they don’t wake up in the morning and say, ‘I just want to reach people on BlackBerrys or Nokias.’ They want to reach all phones,” says M:Metrics Chief Executive Will Hodgman. Nielsen and comScore also acknowledge it will be difficult to make the software work on lower-end phones, because their basic operating systems make it harder to gather usage information.

Nielsen and others are working with Web publishers to try to get them to tag their content with code that alerts the tracking firms whenever their site is visited. Nielsen says it has rolled that out with a handful of U.S. mobile Web sites and several in Europe and Asia.

Mr. Hodgman of M:Metrics says he is focusing most of his efforts on persuading wireless carriers to provide information from their server logs on which sites and features users have accessed. While there is some momentum for that approach in the industry, carriers haven’t agreed to provide that data to an independent third party, he said, because of concerns about user privacy and other issues. An AT&T spokesman said the carrier doesn’t share such data and doesn’t plan to.

Until now, Nielsen and others have relied mainly on monthly survey data to gauge what features consumers are interested in. (Nielsen also collects data from user phone bills.) Such surveys aren’t always reliable because they sometimes don’t tap a broad enough sample of users and handsets. In other cases, consumers unwittingly answer questions incorrectly. Marketers say it is crucial that they get more detailed and accurate information about Web usage as they plan campaigns and try to track their effectiveness. “I’m a little bit lost [in mobile marketing] because I can’t get a lot of information,” says Chris Murphy, director of digital marketing for Adidas‘s U.S. region.

The company has run banner ads on mobile Web sites and some text-message campaigns through Isobar, an ad agency that is a unit of Aegis Group. As with other big marketers, Adidas still isn’t doing mobile ad campaigns on the same scale that it markets on the Web. There are other reasons marketers are cautious about plunging into mobile, including concerns about annoying users who would view cellphone ads as an invasion of privacy.

There are some tools available to help individual mobile Web publishers track who is visiting their sites so they can attract more advertising. Bango says its new mobile-analytics service, which keeps track of unique visitors and gathers demographic data on users, is being used by 2,000 Web sites so far. Omar Hamoui, the chief executive of AdMob, another company offering mobile analytics, says there is still a pressing need for aggregate data from an independent firm. “What’s still missing and is in some ways more important is independent third-party measurement of mobile Web activity,” Mr. Hamoui says.

Even with the new forms of electronic measurement, consumer surveys will still be useful for gauging consumer attitudes on such matters as privacy, pricing of services and interest in yet-to-be-launched products, the measurement companies say. “Ten years from now there will be surveys and electronic measurement coexisting,” says Jesse Goranson, senior vice president of mobile media at Nielsen. “It’s important to understand consumer perception in addition to the actual behavior.”

–Stephanie Kang contributed to this article.


Write to Amol Sharma at

Posted in Ad Products, Ad Spending, Ad/Behaviroral Targeting, Brand Advertising, Consumer Behavior, Data & Metrics, Demos & Audiences, Marketplace Trends, Mobile, Research | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

‘Upfronts’ Go Low Key

Posted by Mort Greenberg on May 11, 2008

Article Source:


May 10, 2008; Page A2

During this strike-wounded TV season, some television executives consoled themselves by saying that the turmoil might at least prompt changes in one of the industry’s more cumbersome traditions: the annual “upfront” presentations to advertisers. In a world of year-round program introductions and digital video recorders, these expensive pep rallies to trumpet the “fall season” seemed old-fashioned.

Associated Press
Patrick Dempsey and Ellen Pompeo, from left, with ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy” react to a reporter’s question during ABC’s 2006 Winter Press Tour.

No such luck. This year they need upfront razzle-dazzle more than ever.

Two weeks into the May “sweeps” period, when the networks trot out their best attention-grabbing programming and audiences are usually among the largest of the year, ratings for the broadcasters are down about 20% from last year, according to Nielsen Media Research.

Spooked advertisers will be looking for a sign from network executives that autumn will bring the return of those viewers who defected to cable and the Internet during this winter’s crippling 100-day Hollywood writers’ strike. They will want further assurances that a possible actors’ strike this summer won’t disrupt next season as this one was.

The strike delayed by several weeks the traditional spring development period, where networks and studios decide which veteran series to pick up for another year and order pilots for new shows. Consequently, the networks will have few polished pilots to show advertisers.

Instead, the networks have prepared an array of low-key presentations, combining scant video clips with plenty of evocative descriptions of the shows yet to come.

Executives will emphasize the past year’s efforts to dramatically expand broadcast television’s presence on the Web, whether with home sites such as Walt Disney Co.’s, or other video-streaming sites, including, a joint venture between News Corp.‘s Fox and General Electric Co.’s NBC Universal.

Networks will also try to allay advertisers’ fears about digital video recording devices, which allow viewers to record programs and fast-forward through commercials. Part of that effort means working more branded products into actual story lines of shows. According to a Nielsen survey released last week, product placements on broadcast network shows rose 39% in the first quarter of 2008, compared with the same period last year.

In lieu of an “upfront,” NBC at first hoped to get away with a series of “infront” presentations in April. But in the end, NBC opted not to forgo an upfront-week presentation: The company will host an “experience,” walking would-be advertisers through a life-size diorama of NBC Universal’s multiplatform programming plans for the next 15 months.

CBS Corp.’s CBS and ABC have both canceled their once-lavish after-parties, opting for lower-key events. ABC’s presentation, which in past years included song-and-dance numbers featuring both senior network management and talent, will instead have only two executives on stage, conversing in adjacent armchairs.

Write to Rebecca Dana at

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MTV Plans to Increase Its Blending of Ads and Shows

Posted by Mort Greenberg on May 11, 2008

Article Source:


May 8, 2008


Every year at this time, networks pitch advertisers on their programs for the coming year in previews called the upfronts. On Thursday, MTV Networks will sell not only the appeal of its programs but of its commercials as well.

Spike TV

A scene from a series of spots called “Men of Action” for Spike TV, which ties in products from Kay Jewelers and KFC.

In the past year MTV Networks, which is owned by Viacom, has produced a series of commercials for its advertisers that look like regular content on its roster of channels, including MTV, CMT and Spike.

For example, a short chase movie called “Get Moe,” intended to look like an ersatz “Bourne Ultimatum,” is actually a series of 60-second commercials for Mountain Dew. A series of shorts called “Men of Action” thrusts the heroes into violent confrontations that somehow promote the virtues of KFC and Kay Jewelers.

The stars of the CMT network’s top series “Trick My Truck” appear in a series of spots featuring tips on how to maintain your tricked-out truck, including the timely use of oil from Exxon.

At its upfront, MTV will be telling advertisers that these techniques — which are called “podbusting” because they break up commercial pods with content that is almost indistinguishable from the entertainment programming — have greatly enhanced viewer engagement with the commercials and their retention of the ads’ messages.

“The results are amazing,” Hank Close, the president for sales at MTV Networks, said in a telephone interview that previewed his sales pitch to the advertisers. “In many of these messages we’re seeing 100 percent retention.” MTV Networks wants to attract more advertisers based on the success of these experiments.

“We are increasingly being asked by advertisers to create messages for audiences in our own voice,” Mr. Close said.

The cable television company is promoting podbusting as a way to persuade viewers not to skip over or drift away from the advertising that interrupts the programs — an increasingly crucial aspect of the television business where the price of advertising is now being measured in how many people are watching the commercials, not the shows.

“We’re looking to redefine the commercial experience,” said John Shea, who runs the integrated marketing division for MTV and VH1.

Dario Spina, who handles the same job for MTV’s entertainment channels like Comedy Central and Spike, said of countering the digital video recorder, “That’s the idea here; we want to blur the lines between the commercial breaks and the entertainment content.”

The ideas MTV has hatched go well beyond the more pragmatic product placement that has become the most common counter to commercial avoidance.

“We’re trying to change the product-placement paradigm,” Mr. Shea said. That has meant steps like taking animated characters from the antismoking “Truth Campaign” and inserting them as commentators on repeats of MTV’s “Real World” — a concept not unlike the old “Mystery Science Theater 3000” series, except the animated commentators here direct viewers to the antismoking campaign’s Web site.

But the pseudo-commercials are MTV’s boldest move. In one of the most elaborate pseudo-commercials, a young designer shows how she comes up with her fashions in a three-and-a-half minute movie that dovetails perfectly with the young female audience for “The Hills,” even as it celebrates the designer’s association with Target stores.

MTV is even keeping the live action from its “TRL” program on view while a commercial is running, using a screen-within-screen technique.

One more example is “C.S.I. Guys,” a series of short movies that have played on the Spike channel’s repeats of the “C.S.I.” crime series. The far less professional C.S.I. team in Spike’s commercials gets to the scenes of murders only to be distracted from the task by a cup of Dunkin’ Donuts iced coffee or the aroma of a Papa John’s pizza.

“Viewers keep watching right through the commercial,” Mr. Spina said, adding that “good commercial content is good content.”

Advertising revenue at Viacom’s media properties, which include MTV Networks, rose 8 percent last quarter.


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Do You Have That Portable in a Midsize?

Posted by Mort Greenberg on May 11, 2008

Article Source:

May 11, 2008


A new category that Intel calls Mobile Internet Devices, or M.I.D.’s, will include products like these concepts from, clockwise from lower left, Elektrobit, Asus, Clarion, Aigo, Panasonic, LG, Lenovo and BenQ.

THIRTY-SIX years ago, Alan Kay, a computer scientist, published a rough sketch of his Dynabook portable computer, establishing the ideal of ever more intimate personal computers.

During the next decade, Mr. Kay’s tablet design, at 9 inches by 12 inches by 3/4 inch, morphed into today’s ubiquitous laptop form-factor — a term used by consumer electronics specialists to describe the different sizes of various gadgets.

Since then, there has been a proliferation of gadgets of every size and shape, but to date only one other form-factor has established itself as a generic one: the palm-size or hand-held device that began as the Palm Pilot personal digital assistant designed by the Palm Computing co-founders Jeff Hawkins and Donna Dubinsky. An endless array of popular products, from BlackBerrys to iPhones, are descended from the Palm.

This portable world is now neatly broken into gadgets that fit comfortably in your pocket and devices that snuggle equally comfortably on your lap.

Is there room for a third category? Perhaps a new class of consumer gadgets that fits somewhere between hand-held and laptop?

For want of a better description, I propose that we label this jacket-pocket form-factor the iMoleskine, after the Hemingway-esque notebooks that writers favor.

To date, the best example of the proto-Moleskine future is the Amazon Kindle book reader, which is the size of a paperback book. A quirky first-generation effort, the device has been criticized as having an odd user interface design and a flickering display. Because of the company’s endless front-page promotional efforts on its Web store, however, the Kindle seems headed for nichedom.

Intel certainly wants us to believe that there is more room in the middle.

Last month, at a splashy forum in China for developers, the company initiated its effort to create a category for Mobile Internet Devices, or M.I.D.’s, for those of this middle size. If you remember Microsoft’s abortive effort around the Ultra Mobile PC brand in early 2006, you will have a good sense of the size of an M.I.D. (though it wasn’t called one). Introduced with a painfully hip viral marketing campaign called Oragami, the initial round of U.M.P.C.’s landed with a resounding thud. Entering text and moving the pointer on the screen were laborious, and text was so tiny as to be unreadable.

Still, Intel has persevered, arguing that there is a “use case” — the technology industry loves jargon — based on the intersection of increasingly accessible broadband wireless networks and the Web. We are going to want the Web wherever we are. Think location, location, location.

As a consequence, the Intel executives assert, the tiny cellphone display, which was ideal for viewing an 11-digit phone number or several lines of e-mail or text messaging, will be relentlessly stretched like taffy in all directions.

A cynic might argue that the real reason for Intel’s sudden enthusiasm for the M.I.D. stems from the reality that its recently introduced Atom microprocessor is stuck in a no man’s land between laptop and cellphone chips. It will be another two years before Intel has a chip that will bring the Windows-compatible world to the palm of your hand. So, what to do for now, if your chips are too power-hungry to squeeze into the cellphone market, currently dominated by microprocessor chips licensed from ARM, the British chip company? If you have lemons, make lemonade!

Initially, however, I bought into the M.I.D. idea. It seemed that small screens and pico-size keyboards were ill matched for the ubiquitous Web. A slim paperback book-size computer, perhaps with a Bluetooth headset to transform it into a mobile phone, might comprise the ultimate Dynabook.

The sticking point in that argument is that laptops themselves are relentlessly slimming down. If you’re carrying a backpack, you can now choose among a range of ultralight laptops from Apple, Lenovo, Hewlett-Packard and Sony, as well as newcomers like Asus that are less noticeable than the four- and five-pound bricks of just a year ago.

Indeed, the hottest category is machines like the Asus Eee PC and Everex Cloudbook, which sit on the dividing line between the laptop and M.I.D. worlds. Currently the Eee PC has a 7-inch screen and a keyboard that is just a bit too small to be really comfortable. My guess is that this kind of sub-ultralight laptop will grow toward a screen size of 9 or 10 inches and become thinner — moving in a laptop direction.

To be sure, the caveat in all of this is that Intel may be correct in Asia, where space is at much more of a premium than it is in the United States. There are also wild cards like voice recognition that might change the equation, but conversational voice interaction with a portable computer is still probably half a decade or more in the future.

At one time, I thought that an M.I.D.-size slate might prove the perfect compromise: a jack-of-all-trades media player, Web browser, communicator. I even dared to dream that it might become the perfect canvas to help resurrect my industry in a post-paper era. It’s probably just a daydream.

After all, I’ve been struck recently to see that when Web sites like Amazon, Facebook and Twitter are redesigned for the iPhone, the user experience is actually better than on a full Web screen. It turns out that a high-resolution, palm-size, three-and-a-half-inch screen is just fine for seeing what your friends are up to, and for reading your e-mail and even your newspaper.

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