User generated content…the personalization driver

•September 12, 2006 • 1 Comment

I read recently that User Generated Content (UGC) now accounts for more than 50% of the content on the web.  I’m not sure how valid that number is, but one thing is clear…the amount of UGC continues to grow at a rapid pace.  For example, Technorati is now tracking nearly 54 million blogs.  And, sites like Digg and YouTube have certainly been key to driving this proliferation of UGC. 

If you are like me, then you probably value the insights, perspectives, and opinions in much of this UGC.  However, if you are like me you probably also hate crap.  Hell, even plumbers hate crap. 

The challenge with UGC is wading through all of the crap to find the few good nuggets that are worth reading.  Lars Rabbe, CIO of Yahoo!, understands this challenge.  At the Information Week 500 Conference, Lars stated:

“There’s absolutely a danger that more crap will bubble up from [user-generated content].”

Blog search engines like Technorati, Feedster, and Ice Rocket help…if there is something specific I am looking for, but are of little value at recommending things of personal interest.  There’s simply not enough time in the day to wade through crap.  So, if you are like me and hate wading through crap…then, you’ll soon find yourself seeking out personalization solutions to filter UGC and find you those nuggets. 

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Fred Nails it — User Friendy Opt Out

•August 22, 2006 • Leave a Comment

Over on his blog, A VC, Fred Wilson from Union Square Ventures nailed the debate in yesterday’s New York Times about stored search queries.  In the NYT opinion piece, the author argues for tighter controls over gathering and using search query data. 

While I’m certainly a HUGE proponent of enforcing the proper notification, privacy policy, and adherence by companies with regards to individual search query information — the Times opinion piece argues for some heavy-handed government involvement.  And, while I agree, the companies gathering and using such search query data, need to be monitored and kept in check…we need to be careful to not go to far.  We need to place the burden on the corporations collecting and using this information. 

Fred makes this point brilliantly when he writes:

I believe that what’s needed is user friendly opt-out, not opt-in.

IMHO, it is all about giving the user transparency and control.  Why not give consumers access to their own search query data.  Why not empower them to delete that which they don’t want to be used.  The company that I work for, mSpoke, is built on the fundamental tenants of transparency and empowerment.  It’s this sense of consumer control that makes mSpoke such a great place to work.  I also believe that it is this sense of consumer control (and it’s real control, not just lip service) that positions mSpoke well for the future. 

Don’t believe me on this?  Then imagine a world of search and user query history with FTC involvement.  The only value the FTC could bring to the table is stifling both innovation and value creation — something none of us should be interested in.  Hell, if we are going to do that, then maybe…just maybe we should get the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) involved in all of this.  After all, look out what they did for the online music world during the last internet boom. 

engagement is the new…err old black

•August 16, 2006 • Leave a Comment

It’s been interesting to sit back and watch the term “engagement” become the new black…the new buzz word in marketing circles — especially online marketing circles.  The reason that I say it is “interesting” is that it has always been about engagement.  So, why all the fuss…and why now? 

I’m sure it has been brewing for much longer than I recall, but it seems to me that the term engagement and using it as a success metric for a campaign or an individual piece of collateral became all the rage about a year ago. 

I remember Peter Blackshaw, the CMO from Nielsen BuzzMetrics (go figure?), writing a great piece in ClickZ about this topic about a year ago.  Gary Stein, formerly of Jupiter and now part of WOM Agency Ammo, has written much about this topic as well…noting its importance, but also the difficulty associated with measuring true consumer engagement.  And, the term engagement has become so popular in today’s marketing circles, that it’s now central theme of an alleged sex crime as noted by George Simpson, in his Online Media Daily commentary coverage of “The Quiznos Guy — Scott Lippitt and his recent arrest.” 

So, engagement is everywhere.  It’s the new black.  But am I missing something?  Hasn’t advertising and media ALWAYS been about engagement?  We’ve moved from static billboards along the highway to dynamic ones.  Why?  To increase engagement.  We’ve migrated from advertising on the packaging of video games to advertising within the animation of the games themselves.  Why?  To increase engagement.  We’ve moved from running :30 ads between programs on network television to product placements within the programming itself?  Why?  Well to beat TiVo…and to increase engagement. 

Engagement is not the new black…but rather the OLD black.  The new black will be  a way to easily and accurately measure consumer engagement.  Better yet, the new black will be transforming behavioral targeting from a medium designed to target people deep in the buying cycle to one that focuses on engaging the consumer across all phases of the buying cycle — even brand awareness/identity. 

If that’s the case, then who knows, maybe mSpoke will become the new black???

Bold Moves not Old Moves

•August 15, 2006 • Leave a Comment

In his online spin column today, tom hespos writes about seth godin and his forthcoming book — Small is the New Big.  He uses seth’s book as a backdrop to discuss Ford’s “Bold Moves” campaign.  Tom, as usual, does a great job pontificating ahead of the curve — discussing how Ford is helping to “drive” (bad pun intended) ad campaigns toward a dialouge rather than a one-way conversation. 

User generated content and web 2.0 apps have certainly helped to drive content this direction…it is only logical that advertising — especially online — would follow suit.  Tom didn’t explicitly say this, but next generation behavioral targeting seems to be moving this direction.  Just as web 2.0 apps like Del.icio.us and Technorati have come along to empower consumers with respect to content, so too will new technologies emerge to empower users with respect to advertising. 

Regardless of whether for content or for advertising, the best apps these days are the ones that empower consumers without overpowering them.  That is, they let consumers engage at the level of interaction that is comfortable for them (as lightly or as deeply as they want).  Both Techorati and Del.icio.us do this well for content.  The question that Ford Execs and their agency should be asking themselves is who will do the same for ad targeting?

Consumer Empowerment…coming to a theater near you

•May 3, 2006 • Leave a Comment

The title of this blog is “individual relevance” yet it is a topic i’ve written very little about. However, it is certainly one near and dear to my heart (see my prior post — “I’m Just One Guy“). One of the keys to creating a sense of individual relevance is putting the individual in control. It is only through this empowerment that music recommendations, blog feeds, news, etc. can be personally relevant — artificial intelligence is powerful stuff, but it alone can’t get there without human involvement. Indivivdual relevance requires this involvement at a 1:1 level.

Along these lines, iMedia (one of the thought-leading pubs on the online advertising/marketing space) wrote a nice article entitled “4 Ways to Improve Behavioral Targeting” that talked about empowerment and mSpoke. The third item on that list — Provide Control — hits this notion of empowerment head on. Nanette Marcus, the author of the article, writes:

“We need to give consumers control. Right now, only one company is doing this well– mSpoke, out of Pittsburgh, PA”

Obviously, as VP of marketing at mSpoke, I love the power of that quote. More importantly, however, as a consumer, I love the impact of it. It’s about time that the consumers — who really are the web in this 2.0 era — are given the keys to the kingdom. Finally, we are seeing tectonic shifts resulting in an “Erosion of Power: Users in Charge” to steal a quote from Esther Dyson.

Although a bit more indirectly, Alex Barnett has a nice post about Attention 2.0 and how it is all about putting the users in control of their own attention/attention data.

This notion of empowerment is rapidly gaining momentum…if user’s aren’t in charge now, they will be very, very soon. I’m getting the sense this blog — individual relevance — is going to get very fun as this whole notion of empowerment continues to play out.

Digg adds search widget

•April 30, 2006 • 1 Comment

Just a few days ago, I was complaining to a colleauge about the "search capability" on Digg. I was complaining that it was incredibly primitive, doing a lousy job at keyword extraction and other simple text analysis. As a case in point, I recently typed the phrase "ad tech" into their search engine and got lots of stories back about "lead technologies." So, while Digg added search capabilities a few months ago, it was rudimentary at best.

Just a few moments ago, i learned from TUAW that Digg has come out with a new Yahoo search widget. That's great to hear. Now, I can spend my time "digging" stories rather than digging FOR stories.

Returning from ad tech…

•April 30, 2006 • Leave a Comment

I’m sitting at SFO airport waiting to catch the red-eye back to Pittsburgh. It’s really the first moment I’ve had to reflect on our company launch at ad tech over the past few days. All in al, it was a great, great show for us. We had great meetings wtih a wide cast of characters — potential biz dev partners, customer prospects, venture capital firms. As a firm, I think we spent as much time running up and down the valley meeting with folks as we did on the trade show floor — a great indication of the incredible interest in what we are doing — “individualization” of online content and advertising.

We heard from lots of folks that we were the buzz of the conference. I don’t know if that is, in fact, the case. But, I do know that we certainly caused a buzz over at Claria’s PersonalWeb booth. I think that we had every employee from Claria over trying to understand what we are doing and, in many cases, trying to figure out if we were hiring.

Subtlety is not their specialty.

The company was not subtle using their spyware technologies, just as their employees were not subtle when they came sniffing around for jobs. I think we collected as many resumes as business cards from them. Not sure what the deal is, but seems like people are looking to bail.
I’m sure I’ll be writing more about ad tech over the coming days. For now, I’ve got a red-eye to catch…most likely sitting in a middle seat next to a screaming child and a guy that snores.