Saturday, September 20, 2008

Announcing the Widgetbox Blog Network

I am excited to announce the launch of the Widgetbox Blog Network.

The Widgetbox Blog Network connects bloggers across 29 channels (from art to celebrities to music to politics) using a single widget that dynamically showcases content across all of the blogs in that channel. You’ll notice, for instance, that I’ve joined the Tech News Channel and placed the widget in the top right of my blog template. On each page view, new blog posts are dynamically presented from other bloggers also in the Tech News Channel - and likewise, my blog posts appear on their pages… effectively driving highly relevant traffic across the network and taking advantage of Widgetbox’s large audience / community.

Why are we launching a blog network? Simple, at Widgetbox, bloggers and blogs are the core of our community and the new Blog Network:

- Widgetbox has widgets on over 250,000 unique blogs
- Blidgets (blogs we help turn into widgets) have been served over 1.5 BILLION (!) times
- Widgetbox now reaches over 65 million unique each month (verified by Quantcast)

You will also notice that the widget is customized for my blog – showing a badge of my blog and its rank within the Channel (I’m #8 - need to blog more).

Joining is easy:

1. Visit and select the Channel that fits your blog
2. Click the Join This Network button, select your blidget (or create one) and then grab the Channel Widget’s code
3. Add the code to your blog template and press activate

I attach a copy of the PowerPoint briefing here:

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Websites Losing Relevancy for Brand Strategy and Consumer Engagement

Peter Yared's post, “Websites Are So Over,” is a great read. Using Alexa data, Peter illustrates the dramatic decline in daily reach for the websites of some of America’s greatest brands; such as Apple, CNN, Fedex, Disney and others.
The charts below are from Peter’s post and they illustrate the massive fall off in reach experienced by members of the Fortune 500. The CNN daily reach per million data below is particularly telling, a significant relative decline over a two-year period.

The measure of web marketing success used to be measured in page views, visits, and reach. Millions were spent on powerful sites and on related marketing campaigns that focused on driving users back to the company web site. In today’s age, however, of RSS readers, social networks, and huge numbers of user-generated sites, the paradigm has changed. The goal can no longer be simply to funnel traffic back to, but rather the new goal is how best to take the content, applications, and ad inventory from to the users.

Widgets, social media applications, and RSS feeds are the modern day web marketers tools and the model has inverted from driving users to content to driving content to users.

Peter is also the founder and CEO of iWidgets, a newly launched widget and social application builder that allows brands to take their content and services onto the distributed web and off-domain. The service is currently in beta and well worth checking out. He launched with CBS and is helping to make social syndication of tier one content a reality.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Quick Feedback: On-line Ad Growth Rates

A friend and great Internet analyst just pinged me on my prior post.

He sees the following growth rates for the on-line ad market

Q3: low teens
Q4: mid single digits
2009: flat

Mix: display down with search growing at display's expense.

Key point: does not see the 20% growth forecast earlier this year by many market watchers.

How will experimental budgets hold-up?

The need to prove efficiency, engagement, and performance will be critical, as will the ability to prove differentiated reach.

Where is Money Going?

The Dow fell today 450 points or 4.6%, the S&P 500 fell 57 points or 4.7%, and the NASDAQ fell 109 points or 5%.

Morgan Stanley fell 24% and Goldman, the bluest chip financial firm in the world, fell 14%. GOOG feel $28+, or 6.42%, Yahoo! fell

Where is the world putting its money - gold, up close to $80 dollars today.

The attached widget tracks the price of gold - the price of gold is like the proverbial canary in the coal mine. The faster it goes up the greater the worry regarding inflation and fiscal/economic health.

Again, I find it fascinating that the Bay Area remains largely insulated from the downturn impacting the world's money centers - NYC and London, in particular.

The next few months will help us understand if on-line budgets prove counter-cyclical - Google's next earnings report will be instructive. To date, I can only turn to anecdotal evidence which suggests that on-line spend remains robust, with a particular strength in performance-based spend. Of course, budgets are set months in advance and it may take time for the current economic malaise to ripple through.

As 2009 budgets firm up, we will see if the performance benefits of on-line advertising protect the sector from a downturn. The current growth rates project 20% y-o-y upticks in on-line spend. For start-ups, the overall growth rate certainly matters, but more importantly advertiser appetite for experimenting with new mediums and technologies matters more. The on-line market's growth can slow but IF advertisers' appetites for trialing new ad channels remains robust newer markets will grow faster than the overall market.

Two data points to watch closely - total on-line ad market spend and mix/reallocation within the total spend. For start-ups to grow, the overall allocation and the allocation to experiment with new technologies and forms of advertising will matter a great deal.

Book Recommendation: Supreme Courtship

Politics in America is bordering on the absurd. While the economy is in turmoil, we can't stop reading about field-dressing a moose and lipstick.

The mendacity, absurdity, and sick humor of the current political age is brilliantly captured and skewered in Christopher Buckley's new book, Supreme Courtship.

Buckley tells the tale of President Vanderdamp and his efforts to nominate a new Supreme Court justice. Unfortunately for the President, the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee wants the job. The greedy senator blocks two incredible candidates, one for writing, at the age of 12, a critical film review of To Kill a Mockingbird for the school paper. Clearly, a racist.

Ticked off at the Senate for rejecting his nominees, the President decides to get even by nominating America's most popular TV judge to the Supreme Court. Judge Pepper - a hot version of Judge Judy - prepares for the nomination process and the insanity begins.

Great read and a book that perfectly captures the disfunction of Washington.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Wall St's Demise and the Impact on Tech

Imagine waking up to read the following headline, "Oracle Declares Bankruptcy, Cisco Sold to Microsoft in a Cut-Rate Deal."
The figurative and literal pillars of the financial economy are falling like dominos - Bear Stearns, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Lehman, and now, amazingly, Merrill Lynch is being sold to Bank of America.
It is hard to fathom the depth of the financial crisis on Wall St, yet alone the seismic shock waves that are rippling across the country given the litany of failed and failing firms. The CEO of Bank of America expects 50% of the nation's banks to fail. Yes, that would be 50% of the 8,500 banks in the US.
The tech downturn saw marginal firms fail, however, the financial market failures are not only of a much larger magnitude, but also the names in distress are of a far different caliber. The firms failing today are the bell-weathers of the industry and foundational institutions. 
Walking up Park Avenue, or through Times Square and the size of Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, etc literally loom over you.
Thousands of employees, billions of dollars, the credibility of regulators, executives, and the ability of markets to effectively price and manage risk are gone.
To date, the shock waves seem to be passing Silicon Valley by. 
What will the impact of this unprecedented meltdown be on Silicon Valley and on the Internet sector in particular? To what extent will Wall St's failings and the large credit downturn impact Internet/tech companies?
Will venture firms change behavior or their appetite for certain types of risk? 
No one knows...the future is uncertain, however, start-ups can work to reduce risk by exercising real spending discipline - working hard to reduce non-core expenses, thereby delaying capital raising and extending the runway.
Great start-ups play on long-term secular trends - on-line media consumption, mobile Internet, on-line advertising, etc. For us in tech start-ups, I see two important gut-checks - are we working and riding major secular trends and are we investing in growth in reasonable and prudent ways?
So much in life lies beyond one's control. If one is riding a major wave of change and spending wisely to leverage it, then keep your head down and keep making it happen. If you are not....