Are Google in the Mafia Protection Racket?

16 July, 2008

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During lunch at the regular spot and while musing over some things, including the Google launch of Lively, AdViking started up on the old favourite of why is it that American Publishers aren’t able to see that doing a deal with Google wasn’t good for their business, yet Publishers in Europe get this loud and clear.

It reminded AdViking of recent horror stories told in hushed overtones by Publishers about the impact of getting on the wrong side of Google.  That is when they have broken away from an AdSense deal with Google, they soon find themselves re-ranked downwards in the Index and this obviously impacting their traffic.

This fear is probably why the 2nd Search Box hasn’t got much airplay and when you think about it, this is nothing more than a protection racket.  Give us your inventory (and oh, statistical data) and we’ll give you a good ranking.  You don’t play ball and you’re out.  And oh, if we see from that traffic that there’s an opportunity we’re going to launch (e.g.: Health, Lively..etc.) but don’t worry about that, because honestly believe us when we say Don’t Be Evil.

Seems like AdViking might need to become AdDetective and spend some time getting to the bottom of this or perhaps it’s time for the US Government to have a good look at the practices of Google to determine the whole Evil question once and for all.

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Google Snubs Canada & Bin the Yellow Pages Book

2 July, 2008

Following on from Canada Day celebrations, AdViking came across the news this morning that Google snubbed their Great White North neighbours and didn’t have a specific logo to note that it was Canada Day. AdViking might suggest that this is a bit of hubris and could be just the thing for the Publishers to rally the Canadians around to stop using Google.

Google Snubs Canada

As part of the celebrations, AdViking noted that the throwaway comment about Yellow Pages books being recently distributed in the A Fuller View post about Local Internet Driving Tons of Traffic.  And can ?happily? report that plenty of the books are lying around unopened just waiting to put in the bin (recycling hopefully).

Post-Script:

Thanks to D, the post-script on this one is that below is the 4th July 2008 holiday image Google went with…more bowfingers to the Canucks from the mighty Google?

July 4th Logo at Google


Is Microsoft Becoming More Aware of Publisher Conflict?

13 June, 2008

AdViking has noted that Microsoft has recently announced the closing down of Live Expo, it’s Classifieds play and believes this is a good sign.

Live Expo Closing Down Message

AdViking knows of nothing from it’s insider position but would like to suggest that the Live Expo deadpooling could be some proof that the aQuantive folks are shifting the dial towards Microsoft being more open to Publisher’s complaints around conflict within the channel.

That is, obviously aQuantive was heavily Publisher-centric and so from over the years of hearing about battles with MSN, Hotmail, etc. AdViking would like to suggest that this issue is getting airplay inside of Microsoft.

Reason for thinking this is that a Classifieds site is going to compete against the Publishers own offerings and they have enough of a battle with Cragislist, Oodle, eBay, etc..and so by dumping Live Expo, Microsoft is giving Publishers another reason to sit down at the table to  talk about the Advertising stack and the value it can bring to the Publisher eco-system.


Another Reason Why Brand Ads Matter Online

11 June, 2008

I was at AdMonsters in Berlin this week. This was a very well run and enjoyable event. Thankfully they “firewall” the sponsors (vendors) at this event from the members (publishers) and I think this helps keep the conversations focused and at times very open. BTW – I was there as a sponsor (as part of Microsoft Advertising), they made me work for it as I had to run 2 workshops. Thanks to the publishers the workshops were very good and generated some valuable insights especially around the challenges of inventory management for display… I digress. The point of this short post was to outline an old but still well worth remembering reason why brand advertising is very important to content owners. I will now try to explain.

If you have a site with great content (think the Guardian or NY Times) you want your users to stay on the site and you do not want them to click away. However, you need to support your business with ads (ie, ad funded) and thus you need those brand advertisers to buy ad slots on your site (usually in the form of CPMs). It will always be a balance between how many ads and how they are displayed vs. content and editorial best practice. The higher the production value of display ads (more rich media and video please!) the better. Users get the impact, advertisers get value, the publishers get paid and we get to read great content. What we at AdViking call a virtuous cycle. I wonder if the folks over at Google AdWords ever think about this virtuous cycle? Or the smart folks who came up with the 2nd search box?

This got the AdViking crew thinking a bit more about the old “above the line” (branding) vs. “below the line” (direct reponse or DR) split or paradigm. After a few too many fine German pilsners we found ourselves asking why is everyone trying to battle Google in the DR space? Or as John Battelle says (thanks JB for keeping it real; btw – AdViking loves your blog):

Straight down a rat hole. (A direct response rathole, I might add – the majority of dollars on the web are still in DR).

We agree this could be a really bad hole to fall into. Sure DR works but the whole point is it takes traffic away from your content! Simple idea that is easily forgotten while chasing all those ad dollar$ like some sort of crazed publsihing pimps (or do I mean whores?). Maybe DR is a whore and branding is the pimp? As we board our viking ship for battle we say “long live brand advertising online!”


Vertical Zoom – Local Search Summit III in Oslo

6 June, 2008

AdViking has finally recovered (more on that later) enough from the Local Search Summit in Oslo to put finger to keyboard and round off the Vertical Zoom with a quick rundown on AdViking’s key takeaways.

As written previously Local Search Summit (LSS) is an invite-only session between various non-competitive Publishers who are at different stages of deploying a Local Search strategy.

The main points for AdViking were:

  1. Search is a Key Business Enabler
  2. Advertising Growth isn’t Just Search
  3. Paper is Dead.  Long live Digital
  4. Direct Sales Force Publishers have become SEMs

Search is an Enabler

For the LSS publishers, is maturing quickly from a destination strategy into a key infrastructure play  That is by having initially deployed a vertical strategy, people are realising that by having a broad horizontal search infrastructure it can enable Publishers to quickly build and deploy verticals, e.g.:  Search driven hyper-local algorithmic digital newspapers.

Advertising Growth isn’t Just Search

Three main points to consider about this topic.

It might be obvious to most in the industry but one important recent penny drop is that Display is still here and not going away.  There’s lots of examples out there but here’s one example from the IAB/PWC comparing 06 to 07 ad spending in the US.

One example is some current thinking that AdViking it putting into around Contextual and how it is probably going to be more effective for Contextual ads to move from the typical AdSense model of PPC and apply the inventory management algorithms of Display.

Paper is Dead.  Long live Digital

One Publisher shared the fact that driven by demand from China, the cost of stock printing paper has risen to $1000 per tonne and rising.  Until recently, it was typically established  around $600.  Obvious impact of this is that it’s getting more expensive to put anything to paper.

Another interesting point was that there is now an increasingly environmental push that is starting to have an impact.  e.g.:  The Norwegian government has banned the printing of the Yellow Pages book.

Direct Sales Force Publishers have become SEMs

It’s confirmed that Publishers are leveraging their feet on the street  to become SEMs to their advertisers.  From evidence at the LSS (e.g.:  Directories are selling video ads created through partnerships with companies like Spotzer, Spot Runner) AdViking would go as far to say that they are becoming digital media agencies with a mix of selling directly to brands, agencies and the SME advertiser.

As for recovered, that’s a comment on the night time activities.  First of all, due to excellent weather and the time of year – the sun didn’t really set and it was quickly 2am but felt like 11pm.  That matched against the fact that AdViking had organised for everyone to stay at the new design hotel Grims Grenka and the nights for LSS was the ground opening parties on the rooftop bar which to quote one of the attendees, “this is amazing, it’s a supermodel party on the roof”!

Post-Script: LSS member, Irish Times have launched their new search service.  It’s work going to have a look as they have done some great things with pushing Search forward.  A Fuller View has more on A New Local Search Site in Ireland – ireland.com relaunched


Behavioural Targeting? Who Really Wins

28 May, 2008

Targeting the ConsumerAt AdViking towers, we mull things over. Sometimes things that look really good on paper – perhaps too good to be true – can be wolves in sheeps’ clothing.

Take behavioural targeting as an example. In principle, a sound idea – the more you know about the user, the more you can target ads at them. This can improve quality for both the user and the advertiser, which can increase the value of the communication… all fine, then.

“It Doesn’t Work Like That”

However, in recent conversations with two ad networks who major on profiling… Adviva and Tacoda… something is emerging that requires a little more scrutiny. Their detailed profiling of customers doesn’t seem in an effort to increase the value to the publisher – but to further increase margin on sale.

Do the ‘Math’

Let’s say we have publisher A who usually sells at £0.70 CPM for media on his site. The advertiser currently pays £1.50 CPM to their agency (as the agency takes a slice, the ad network takes a cut).

However, with profiling, the ad network can raise the revenue to £2.00-3.00 (and possibly more) CPM – which is great… but for whom. In most cases the publisher is actually getting their sell on reduced – to as little as £0.45 CPM. If the agency takes a standard slice, then who’s really benefitting?

We would be interested in hearing how the alleged improvements in profiling and targeting are going to benefit the publisher because from what we can see, it actually negates the value of the publisher entirely. The message seems to be: “we know what the customer is interested in – so we don’t place any value on the space on your site”.

So, in this industry, ownership of the most attractive profiling is key… until, of course, the various personal data security concerns are aired and shared in the House of Commons. Perhaps the next wave of advertising is going to be defined by government policy rather than technology? We’re watching the forthcoming debate in the US and UK with interest.


Vertical Zoom – First Impressions are Often Right and Local Search Summit

22 May, 2008

AdViking has now had time to mull over first impressions from the International Classifieds Media Association General Meeting in Brussels last week and has decided that those first thoughts written in the early morning while waiting to board a flight back to the UK were pretty spot on.

Saying that, AdViking does want to also suggest that you have a look at LocalOnliner.  Especially as Peter has some interesting thoughts and was coming to Brussels on the back of Kelsey’s Drilling Down on Local conference, including sharing some of the musings of the Don of Vertical, Rich Barton.

Which reminds AdViking that it’s less than a week until the Local Search Summit in Oslo.  This is an invite-only session between various non-competitive Publishers who are at different stages of deploying a Local Search strategy.  The agenda is packed for two days of knowledge sharing, networking and blue sky thinking and should finish off the Vertical Zoom nicely.