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Saturday, December 17, 2005

The Achilles Heel of Offline Advertising: Measurement?

Did the Google magazine advertising experiment flop?

In this brilliantly-researched Business Week piece by Ben Elgin about the Google print ads pilot program, we learn that nine out of ten advertisers lost money on the print ads.

Of course, part of the problem with ads like this is that it might take several years to test and refine them, and even to fully measure impact. The jury's still out. What we do know is that the advertisers involved are unanimous in their view that these ads paled in comparison to their online campaigns.

Posted by Andrew | | | Permalink

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Friday, December 16, 2005

AdSense Gettin' Better all the Time

Since I blogged so many moons ago that AdSense sucked so bad I could foresee its demise, Google has addressed many of the things that turned me against this former savior of web publishers.

One annoyance was that you couldn't get AdSense reports e-mailed to you. Well, now you can get your earning reports delivered to your inbox daily, weekly or monthly. Very nice, except I can't seem to open the zip file format Google uses with the built in zip utility in Windows XP. Hmm, a plot to encourage us publishers to finally pay for that copy of Winzip we used until XP gave it away for free?

Another cute feature: themed ad units. Depending on your account settings, you can adorn your AdSense ads with holiday-themed images, like pumpkins, turkeys and snowmen. Again, I struck out, however, again when trying to make this one work on my wine site. I'll keep at it, though. I'mm convinced those snowmen will make my CTR shoot through the roof... legitimately this time! ;)

Google also says their link units have been "optimized" for better performance. If you haven't seen this case study of making link units work better, check it out.

Finally, Google made some marginal progress in making the AdSense for search more flexible. Except it's pretty lame for black and gray to be the only additional background choices. Here's a question for the big G:

You let us customize the ad colors to the hex code, so why not let us have total control over how we integrate the Google site search box?

Read the full scoop: "What's New - December 2005 on AdSense Support"

Posted by Cory | | | Permalink

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Thursday, December 15, 2005

OMFG, Yahoo Mail Beta Rocks

Absolutely stunned. That's how I feel about the new Yahoo Mail. It's far cooler than I even dreamed possible. It's like upgrading from a rusty Ford Pinto to a sleek Audi TT. Oh, the tabs! The drag and drop message filing! The RSS feeds! Oh the joy! Christmas came early.

This new toy has been in my possession for a mere few hours, and already I've forgotten that it's a web-based mail client and not a desktop client. You can delete messages simply by typing the Delete button my keyboard! It's just so natural.

I know it's old news, but here are some screenshots of the new interface, since I'm too lazy to take my own.

I'm sorry Google, but oh dear lord, Gmail pales in comparison to Ymail Beta. Does everyone have this now, or is it still in phased rollout?

Anyone, anyone? Bueller?

Posted by Cory | | | Permalink

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Wanted: More RSS Feeds?

Lifehacker has the goods on a new blog that features a "unique or interesting RSS feed everyday."

OK, if you're an RSS nut like me, chances are you already subscribe to nigh a hundred RSS feeds. What are the chances you are facing a severe RSS feed deficiency? I'd say they're not good.

Which reminds me of something I wanted to point out a while back. Who in the world needs an RSS search engine? Sites like Blogdigger and Daypop just seem so useless to me.

RSS feeds are simply one way to deliver content from a website, they're not an end unto themselves. Yet another example of a solution looking for a problem, I say.

Posted by Cory | | | Permalink

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The Acid Test: Can You Opt Out?

Our lives in this online direct response world have ups and downs, and we grumble. But let's put it in perspective.

Today, as I do every six months, I paid my car insurance bill. In Ontario, car insurance is required by law, and you have to buy a certain amount of liability insurance, too. The only way to avoid buying car insurance is to not drive a car.

I don't know what I'm getting for my money, but I do know this much: it isn't "insurance."

If I have a serious accident - say, to the tune of $4,000 - that insurance company is then going to turn around and recoup every last penny in the form of significantly increased premiums. "And more," comes the helpful contribution from my better half.

So I guess this is some kind of legalized extortion, then. If I could, I suppose I'd probably shop for the liability insurance part and the personal injury, death, and dismemberment parts, in a more competitive marketplace. When it came to the actual vehicle, I'm pretty sure I'd "self-insure" if I had the choice. After all, if I have a $4,000 accident, I'm going to pay it all back anyway, right?

So turning to matters nearer and dearer to this blog, we are so focused on comparing your Yahoo Search Marketing and Google AdWords opportunities, and in talking to our clients we hear many complaints about certain kinds of traffic, poor reporting, etc.

Some of those complaints are totally valid. The most valid complaints are related to the parts of the network, or features, you can't opt out of. The second most valid complaints are about the stuff you can't control very well. And the third most valid complaint is about poor reporting that makes it difficult to understand what you're doing, let alone control it. We can get into a lot of specifics about the shortcomings of the two platforms on all fronts.

Stepping back from it, though, I know this much. At least it isn't legislated extortion. You don't have to buy advertising. No one's putting a gun to your head.

But insofar as online traffic to many of us is a little like owning and driving a vehicle, we'll feel compelled to keep pecking away at all of the above, the most valid, second most valid, and third most valid kinds of complaints.

Posted by Andrew | | | Permalink

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Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Up With IE! To the Hand that Feeds!

In all of the industry snobbery that makes slow adopters into an "outgroup," we've forgotten: people who work at tech companies, and early adopters of tech, could be less likely to click on the very ads their whole Web 2.0 world depends on for economic survival. Think about it: folks who do the heavy lifting for companies like Yahoo and Google actually post openly about how they dislike advertising; about how "in a perfect world," companies would "just get found." Imagine if they were the actual user base!

So I say hooray for IE and IE users!

Also, let's revive AOL, and line dancing too. You think I'm kidding?

Posted by Andrew | | | Permalink

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Sunday, December 11, 2005

Is Browser Market Share a Useless Metric?

John Pallatto of eWeek wrote an interesting column that really got me thinking. He asserts upstart browsers like Firefox and Flock need not rock IE's world to be considered a success, and that browser market share is basically an irrelevant statistic that doesn't mean anything.

He says we are narrowly focusing on the old paradigm of the outdated "browser wars" and missing the bigger picture that there is plenty of room for alternative browsers and innovation beyond IE:
"The point is with hundreds of millions of Internet users around the globe even one or two market share points equals an audience of millions. That explains why the intense focus we see on whether Firefox can steal more market share from Explorer is really irrelevant.

Firefox should never be considered a failure even if it doesn't build its market share much beyond the 8 to 9 percent portion it reputedly holds now. That it has been able to build a user base of millions in the face of the Explorer's market saturation is a remarkable achievement by any measure."

I think he is right on the money here. And although new players like Flock don't have a strong business model yet, I believe they can still develop a sustainable model, as long as they have funding and the dedication to build a superior product, as Google did in its early days.

If you think about the millions of blogs purported to exist, and as one who publishes a blog myself, I have to believe there is a commercial market for software like Flock that makes it easier to manage a blog. I for one can attest that I'd rather pay some kind of fee than to see contextual pay-per-click ads embedded in the browser application, which was one of Flock's plans the last time I heard.

Actually, the more I think about this, the more I like the concept. What would stop Flock from charging some kind of fee if their software kicks butt? Maybe that's their stealth plan.

Thus far, however, it's not quite as easy to blog to a blog in Flock as I would like. But it's still early in the game. Maybe we will yet see the rise of commercially viable, specialty browsers unlike anything that exists now.

And blogs are just one unique aspect of Flock. I suspect there could also be a market for selling browser extensions that provide valuable functionality. I wouldn't be surprised if some independent marketplace for extensions popped up in the next year for buying and selling extensions, with Flock taking a cut. Why shouldn't those clever extension developers get paid, too?

Hmm, that gives me an idea! :)

Posted by Cory | | | Permalink

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