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Saturday, January 25, 2003

Google's Light Touch

Just scrolling down a backward links search on Google, I saw a "house ad" inviting users to take a Google Tour. This style of ad is on a powder blue background adorned with the notation "shameless self-promotion" in dark grey text.

Posted by Andrew
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Friday, January 24, 2003

CNN gets Googled

Chalk up another victory for Google. This week, CNN.com quietly added a large, horizontal search bar at the top of their site that prominently features the Google logo. This is impressive for a few reasons:

1) I believe CNN.com is either the No. 1 or 2 news site on the Web.
2) It signals that Google's influence with AOL Time Warner (parent company of CNN) is growing and may lead to bigger moves in the future

News web sites have always had search boxes somewhere that would search both the local site and the Web, but never has a search engine received such prominent branding at the top of a high-profile news site. This move doubtlessly bodes well for the future of online searching, once again back in the spotlight as the Web's killer app.

Posted by Cory
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Tuesday, January 21, 2003

What We Need is An Anti-Spam Revolution... or at the very least, a good book

Cory, I'm glad you mentioned the spam thing. Second time today I've read a beef about the stuff. The always-respectable business journalist Dana Blankenhorn also weighed in on this issue today, with the unorthodox stance "Blame Jeff Bezos" [The Secret Truth of Spam, Jan. 21, 2003].

Of course, I made the same point (that the spam mentality is built in to the "permission" strategies of major corporations, and that the problem is only going to get worse, to the detriment of legitimate information publishers) about 2.5 years ago, but who's counting ["Hey Corporate America - Stay Out of My Inbox," The Globe and Mail, September 12, 2000]?

At the time, I felt a whole book was needed to develop the hypothesis that the larger companies, not spammers, are the greatest and most insidious threat to our inboxes, because of their penchant for fudging ethics when it comes to finding a new way to break through the advertising clutter. Taking spam, and calling it permission, is truly a marvelous con game, as duly admitted by a red-faced (but not guilty) Seth Godin [Permission Marketers: Did We Blow It?, September 6, 2001]. I still think it's a topic that needs to be addressed intelligently. There is next to nothing decent written on the subject. In fact the best books on spam, both fiction and non, seem to be referring nostalgically to the lovable lunchmeat itself!

The demonization of "spammers" - while justified - is a nice red herring that diverts our collective attention away from the broader problem. You can create regulatory bodies (hey, there already are some, especially in Europe) who will "chase down spammers." Unfortunately the paranoid regulatory fervor (one European group was making hysterical noises about - get this - "Chinese spam gangs from Toronto" - GANGS!!! - kind of the moral equivalent of the Newfoundland seal hunt, I guess) pretty much misses the point. "Permission" marketing is soon going to lose whatever legitimacy it had left because permission has been abused nearly from Day One of the concept's invention.

So whaddya say, guys? Are you in? Let's write that book! My people will be in touch with your people.

Posted by Andrew
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Do Accountants Use Pop-Ups?

It was an expensive-looking, and no doubt expensive, TV and print campaign for the Certified General Accountants of Ontario. They picked out a long list of actual accountants with names that were also words, and then they'd theme them together and create a clever pun. They'd put Bob English with Larry German and Wanda Ireland (or John Wrench, Sue Sprocket, and Sam Shovel), have them smile (conservatively) at the camera, and slap a pun on it, wrap it in some nice, conservative blue graphics, and trot out the tagline: "Certified General Accountants. We're the name brand for business."

Light humor, conservative touch, and a boatload of association cash spent on "branding."

So why, now, when I go to the home page of The Globe and Mail, do I get a popup ad in connection with this campaign? People hate popups. Putting popups on the Globe and Mail site is a bit like it would be if you put popups on Google - a massive miscalculation of the audience's likely response.

So, the expensive branding campaign now looks cheap and stupid. But I suppose that's probably a nice parallel for the recent deterioration of accounting's public image.

Posted by Andrew
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Monday, January 20, 2003

"Ain't it Cool?" No... No, It Isn't

I don't know why, but it really feels like I'm on an anti-spam crusade lately. Maybe it has something to do with the hundreds of freakin' spam e-mails I receive everyday! It's not enough for me to successfully block spam in Outlook; now I feel like reaching out to help others avoid it and those who peddle it. Here's my latest crusade.

Chances are that you've been hit with spam e-mails from a company called Coolstats.com, which offers a service that helps webmasters and marketers track website user activity for a fee. And if you have the same distaste for spam that I do, you're more than a little upset about it. This one ranks up there with that Traffic Magnet spam conspiracy (you know, the one with the giant magnet next to the snapshot of your home page?)

Well, I'm going to get back at Coolstats the best way I know: negative publicity. If you are in the market to outsource user activity tracking software, why not turn to legitimate companies like ConversionRuler or ClickLab? At least they respect their customers.

The sad truth is that companies like Coolstats do quite well by spamming anyone with an e-mail address (this one came to my Yahoo Mail account -- go figure), and until governing agencies to something to prevent this annoying waste of bandwidth, we will be stuck with an ever increasing chorus of spam for years to come.

Ain't it cool?

Posted by Cory
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