Monday, March 26, 2007

MITEF - Digital Living Begets Digital Advertising

When it comes to Internet advertising, Baba Shetty, a media guru at Hill Holliday, can’t figure out why the migration from traditional platforms isn’t happening faster. His firm, one of the largest ad agencies in Boston, handles between $200 million and $1 billion in ad placements annually (he had to be cagey about specifics), so he knows whereof he speaks.

In the 1950s, advertisers could reach nearly 70% of their target audience via a hit TV show like “I Love Lucy,” Shetty explained to approximately 200 people attending the MIT Enterprise Forum’s recent “Digital Living” panel. That was back in the days of three major networks and a much less fragmented audience.

But today, prime-time TV reaches about 30% of households and the viewing audience is scattered across hundreds of channels. Internet advertising will grow 19.5% this year, but may not be moving fast enough. Morgan Stanley’s 2007 forecast on ad spending reports that $75 million will be spent this year on television and just $20.4 on Internet advertising. Shetty suggests that, in general, companies are overspending on TV and underspending on the Web.

Earlier this month, The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) announced estimated Internet advertising revenues for 2006 at $16.8 billion, up 34% over 2005.

What’s holding up a stampede to Internet advertising? It requires a learning curve and a cultural shift. Marketing executives who are unfamiliar with the ins and outs of advertising on the Web perceive risk, and clients and agencies work under a dated model that suits traditional advertising. In some cases, those who own the budget fear giving up control to the unknown, or decision-making may be more distributed, that is – online advertising may live in a different budget.

Shetty observes that a number of factors can accelerate the movement of advertising to the Web:
  • A CEO or CFO who gets it
  • Analytics that support the move with cold, hard facts
  • A strategic process that fundamentally rethinks the process
  • Competitors are doing it!
  • A marketing culture of innovation
A fun aside from Shetty: He recently heard a Procter & Gamble executive remark that they had considered advertising on podcasts and concluded that their budget would allow the purchase of every bit of advertising available on all podcasts. This, of course, would completely disrupt the economic model of one new medium, and gives you a feeling for just what early days we’re in.

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Electric Sheep, Avatars and Laguna Beach

Probably the last place you’d expect to hear a discussion involving MTV’s “Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County” would be an auditorium at MIT. But, in a full house at the most recent MIT Enterprise Forum event, it was Laguna Beach, Showtime’s hit show “The L Word” and the Dave Matthews Band that kept an audience captivated late into the evening. That, and maybe the blonde-haired, pony-tailed avatar walking, talking and flying around a Second Life island.

A thirteenth-hour replacement to an already intriguing panel of experts at MITEF’s “Digital Living" event, Valerie Williamson of the Electric Sheep Company gave an abridged 10-minute presentation that made her an instant celebrity among the attendees.

The Electric Sheep Company, a service provider within 3D virtual worlds, boasts some impressive accomplishments including the Second Life Island that Valtoid Pixie, Valerie’s personal avatar, navigated during her demonstration. Pixie, as she was affectionately referred to, appeared at the Second Life location of Showtime’s “The L Word,” a place created for fans of the show to mingle, chat and even “meet” some of the show’s stars, a project designed by Electric Sheep.

According to Valerie, a Second Life meet and greet is any agent’s dream, providing fans with the opportunity to chat it up with their favorite stars while keeping screaming teenyboppers (or worse) at a safe distance.

Showtime isn’t the only media giant taking advantage of such a service. Valerie listed CBS, AOL/Time Warner and Sony/BMG Records as others that used Electric Sheep for various marketing campaigns.

At “Virtual Laguna Beach,” the home of MTV’s “Laguna Beach”, a reality show featuring the dramatic and glamorous lives of high schoolers in So Cal, Electric Sheep teamed with MTV and Makena Technologies ( to successfully “virtualize” Pepsi, Cingular and Procter & Gamble.

Cingular, the official cell phone sponsor of the show, offers VOIP capability for any member of Virtual Laguna Beach using a virtual Cingular phone. While that might not seem like a jaw-dropping feature, a sixteen-year-old hanging out in Virtual Laguna Beach would so not want to be caught dead without the most stylish of phones.

With close to 400,000 members of Virtual Laguna Beach and growing, Valerie believes that Web 2.0 will soon be replaced by Web 3.0, a 3D virtual world much like that found in today’s Second Life.

It’s estimated that members of Virtual Laguna Beach spend an average of 36 minutes logged in for each visit. If sites like VLB continue to grow at such incredible rates, a “virtually” endless opportunity awaits companies like Electric Sheep. It seems it’s just a matter of time until we all have avatars flying around Second Life, mobbing our favorite celebrities while we chat on our virtual cell phones.


Thursday, March 22, 2007

BlogHer Case Studies Large and Small

BlogHer Business was cooking today in NYC. I'm trying to keep up with the case studies featuring small business bloggers, a solopreneur, a media blogger and an enterprise blogger. Please excuse the jumping in and out of voice. The Web access here has been a bit dodgy. The veteran bloggers tell me that's the hazard of trying live blogging at conferences.

Small Business Blog

Susan Getgood questioned Shirley Frazier of

Shirley says she went kicking and screaming to Web 2.0. She now has three blogs. - These owners are a super niche on the Web. Shirley doesn’t own a giftbasket business, but she has tips for these owners. This is a $4.8 billion industry. (Who knew?) It helps these owners do business. She uses Yahoo and Google alerts for articles that are relevant to expand content. She speaks around the country on the topic. - This site is for independent professionals, for people who work alone but who can’t figure out what to do first in terms of marketing. What can I do on my own? She has a book coming out on this topic, so she started the blog to build a fan base. - Is all about photography tips. Shirley says most of the photo blogs are kinda technical and this one is basic photo tips. It's experimental so far.

How have you been able to measure the results of your blog? Sale of her educational materials. (Many people use their blog to tell people about a book or CD.) Her educational materials are moving, so she believes the blog is working. She can see stats on how folks are moving from the blog to the site.

Passive revenue – Her sites are peppered with Adsense and Conterra. The giftbusinessbasket blog pulls a good portion of my revenue. Third way that I can tell things are working out, I’m getting more speaking engagements. I’d get about 25 speaking engagements per year. I’ve doubled that.

Media Blog

Elana Center interviewed Caroline Little, CEO of Washington Post Newsweek Interactive.

We publish, and Slate. They had their 10th anniversary on the Web last year. Initially, they were just repurposing the content on the Web. The Post was a local newspaper; now 90% of the users are from outside the region, so it’s a very different project. We’ve made some mistakes along the way, but if you’re not making mistakes, you’re not trying new things.

What were the risks? The risks weren’t that great. The journalists were pretty excited about reaching new audiences. Where we’ve gotten a lot of grief – when we have bloggers who are not from the Washington Post newspaper. People say, "You’re representing these people as being from the Washington Post and they’re not."

Mistakes? We had a situation where one of our writers (not from the Post) had alleged plagiarism incident. That was hard for all of us. The coverage of politics can get really heated. Some of the comments are mean, useless and they threatening the journalists, so we shut down the comments section and got slammed. We were the first big newspaper to do this, so we thought we might get a bit of slack, but we got slammed anyway.

In my view, the Web is like a party; you’re not going to talk to just one person. Our role is to help navigate, so we do have links to other stories, sometimes by other news sites. We hope that we’re providing enough context that they’ll come back to us. A lot of other news sites won't link away from their content.

How are you evaluating if this experiment is working? I evaluate it based on things like the national Emmy we won last year and we've gotten lots of awards from the White House Photographers’ Association. Audience and revenue continue to grow too.

How are journos reacting? It’s across the board. Some people feel it should be a reflection of the paper, while others think: “This is the coolest thing. When can I shoot another video?”

The newspaper brings most of the revenue so that’s dominant. But things are changing.

If a blogger links to your story, you put them on your site. Yes, that’s the benefit. People are talking about important issues. (They’re sometimes talking about pretty unimportant issues too :-)

We have 12 million people reading the Post now, online.

What is the biggest surprise from when you started this? In some ways, the more successful you get, the harder it is. I’ve been surprised at our success in the multimedia area. And I’ve been impressed -- there’s an intimacy that comes with a blog. It’s not unlike doing video on the Web. It’s like us talking here today.

(I got to chat with Caroline for a bit during cocktails, she's an impressive woman, but very down to earth.)


Lena West interviewed Carmen VanKerckhove from New Demographic, which is a company that conducts anti-racism training seminars.

Carmen has two blogs and a podcast and started blogging to support her training business. She has an anti-racism site, Racialicious, which is at the intersection of race and pop culture. She also writes, for parents committed to raising kids with an antiracist outlook. Her weekly podcast is: Addicted to race."

Why did you choose to open a public free for all about race in America?

Some days I’ve wondered. I’ve gone a little stricter on the panel moderation. I had no strategy when I started this. I kinda stumbled into it. I started the blog because I was inspired by this blog called angryasianman. I originally thought it would be interesting to take a look at the implications of race and mixed race relationships. We don’t make it a scary subject. It can be funny, and a lot of it can be absurd.

My tips: don't forget about your traditional email newsletter. I'm starting to do tele-seminars. Because I've been aggressive about trying to build my newsletter list, I'm getting good response to those alerts on tele-seminars. And on your site, make it really obvious who you are and how folks can contact you.

Large Enterprise Blog

Maria Niles interviewed Staci Schiller from Wells Fargo Bank.

(I got booted offline here, so I missed some good content.) Wells Fargo is a 155-year-old institution. Staci closed with this, but it makes for a good set-up of her overall point. If Wells Fargo can do it, you can do it too. One of the folks at her table asked (incredulously): WELLS FARGO HAS A BLOG? It's rewarding that the blogosphere has embraced us. It shows that even though it's a big company, I'm a real person and people can come to me for advice. Here's an overview of their two blogs and a virtual world.

One blog is Guided by History, which is a community preparedness and response blog. It grew out of the last earthquake. They've also got a site for helping make the student loan process less intimidating: The Student LoanDown. (How smart - making a bank accessible.) Incredibly, they've also got Stagecoach Island, an online community to teach teens smart money management.

Staci: Since banking is regulated, compliance reviews every post I put up. That's just a fact of life for me. You have to build in a couple of extra days for reviews, but I know they're doing that to protect me and that's just the way it is.

What kind of results have you seen that have inspired WF to dive into social media? In terms of the student loan blog, we're getting a lot of traffic. In January you get a lot of people seeking advice for the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid application) and we're there to help walk them through the process.

In the beginning, she was spending 20% of her time blogging and now its 50%. They're promoting their blogs internally, so people who are dealing with customers will talk it up.

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Friday, March 16, 2007

CIOs Uncensored

CHEN PR's Juli Greenwood contributed to this post...

InformationWeek and Optimize joined forces recently to let us know what’s on the minds of CIOs. The co-hosted webcast featured a panel of CIO experts and unveiled Optimize’s own research relating to today’s CIO hot-buttons: The Multidimensional CIO: Priorities, Challenges, and Emerging Technologies.

Not surprisingly, Optimize reports that there’s plenty to keep a CIO up at night: security tops the list, followed by business intelligence, wireless, web services and a slue of others. It’s a delicate balance, keeping up with the new (Web 2.0 and social networking) and maintaining the old (legacy systems). And you’ve got to do it all while cutting costs and driving new business.

Speaking of Web 2.0 -- small- and medium-sized businesses are embracing the new technologies enthusiastically. A new report from AMI-Partners says that more than 40% -- or 2.8 million -- of small and medium businesses (SMBs) in the U.S. are already using Web 2.0 applications despite the lack of a clear definition for the new platform. (I have to thank our friends at Tekrati for highlighting this report. Their weekly recap of high news from the analysts is such a time saver.)

According to the report, SMBs are using Web 2.0 technologies to:
  • Gain affordable access to otherwise expensive technology solutions. Approximately 14% of U.S. SMBs are already using software-as-a-service (SaaS) and this is expected to grow 24% by the end of 2007.
  • Desire to cost-effectively market, sell and support their customers. Over 400,000 U.S. SMBs currently use webcasts or blogs for advertising and promotion while 260,000 SMBs are leveraging podcasts.
  • Open additional channels of communications while decreasing cost. Another 400,000 U.S. SMBs are currently using Skype while mobile instant messaging (IM) is deployed by over a million U.S.-based SMBs.
  • Participate in online communities and portals. One-in-five SMBs are currently participating in some form of electronic marketplace that specifically caters to buyers and sellers within their industry.

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Friday, March 09, 2007

From Consultant to Father

From CHEN PR Veep Randy Wambold...

Several of my colleagues and I were invited by our client Boston-Power to attend last night's Mass High Tech Women to Watch event. Boston-Power's CEO and founder Dr. Christina Lampe-Onnerud (at left) was there to be honored, along with nine other women, for her accomplishments in high tech. (The timing of the event was no coincidence; yesterday was International Women's Day.)

I went to the event thinking I was attending in my role as consultant to a client for whom our agency has much professional respect and personal affection. However, shortly after each of the ten honorees began speaking, I forgot I was there for a client and began listening as a father.

I have a 3 ½-year-old daughter. When she’s old enough to start concerning herself with them, I want her professional ambitions to be about what she loves to do, where her skills her, where she wants to focus her hard work. Not about her gender.

Clearly we’ve come a very long way in terms of women’s integration into the work force. The gentleman I sat next to last night, an MIT grad, pointed out to me that today’s MIT classes are 48% female. When he graduated only 25 years ago the percentage was 20%.

Yet in the world of science and technology in particular, and the larger business world in general, being a woman still presents special challenges. Dr. Lampe-Onnerud pointed out in her own acceptance speech, for example, that women occupy fewer board seats now than they did ten years ago.

I imagine each of the ten women who spoke at the event faced challenges in accomplishing their goals because they are female. Some of the honorees spoke explicitly and eloquently on the topic. One was told by an elementary school teacher, for example, “You’re pretty good at math – for a girl.”

But in their accomplishments these women aren’t just showing their own ability to overcome challenges. They’re improving the chances for today’s girls to be thought of as good at math. Period.

At 3 ½, my daughter is too young of course to understand any of this. And she’ll probably never meet any of last night’s honorees. But it struck me as I sat there listening to the honorees’ acceptance speeches that they are playing a role in making anything possible for her.

On a lighter note, based on the acceptance speeches, it appears that a good sense of humor is a requirement to be a Woman to Watch. Here are a few of the funnier remarks from the evening, captured as best we could. Sorry we can't attribute these:

  • Regarding the ratio of women to men (1 female for every 7 males) at WPI when one of the recipients was attending -- and its effect on dating, the recipient and her friend...the only other female in her class -- joked: "The odds were good, but the goods were odd."
  • On the trials of balancing work and family: "You know it's something when your 7-year-old daughter gives up Indian take-out for lent."
  • And an especially endearing one: "I'd like to thank my husband, who thought I was a woman to watch long before anyone else was watching."

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Tuesday, March 06, 2007

MITEF Cambridge: Digital Living - March 14th

The folks at the MIT Enterprise Forum of Cambridge have come up with another smokin' lineup for their March 14th event: Digital Living - Building Brands in the World of New Media.

Speakers include:
  • Jeremy Allaire, founder and CEO of Brightcove, an Internet TV service
  • Eric Alderman, founder and CEO of KickApps, a hosted platform for deploying user-generated content and social networking functionality on websites
  • Jeff Morris, SVP for Broadband Strategy/Technology Development at Showtime Networks
  • Baba Shetty, director of Media and Interactive at Hill Holliday
The event will be moderated by well-known VC Woody Benson of Prism VentureWorks.

The group will chat about opportunities in a consumer-driven marketplace and how we can tap them to reach new audiences.

You can register here.

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Monday, March 05, 2007

Cisco Embraces Social Networking

Next week Cisco plans to announce that it is buying the technology assets of, a little known social networking site with eight employees, according to today's New York Times.

At first glance, it seems an odd pairing - the networking giant with a funky social networking site. But the game plan becomes more apparent when you add this news to the February announcement of the acquisition of Five Across, which offers Connect Community Builder, a platform that helps companies "augment their websites with full-featured communities and user-generated content such as audio/video/photo sharing, blogs, podcasts and profiles."

The NYT conjecture is that Cisco plans to use to bring its corporate customers together in an online community. It's probably not a coincidence that the Cisco home page says "Welcome to the human network."

The Cisco site includes a helpful page, "Acquistions Summary," which rationalizes each one of its acquisitons. Of Five Across, Cisco says: "Social networking functions are of unique interest to media companies, sports leagues, affinity groups and any organization wishing to increase its interactive with its online constituency."

They could have added, "Like us for example."