Friday, 26 June 2009

A Good Way to Handle Bad News

In a week where Habitat were exposed for taking advantage of the crisis in Iran to promote their products, I thought this was a good move from my friends over at the O2.

Whilst Michael Jackson fans across the world are immensely saddened by his death and immediate thoughts are for his friends and family, 1M UK fans will naturally be a little curious about the tickets they bought to see one of his 50 shows later this year.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

HTC Hero

Is this the first realistic threat to the iPhone?

Tuesday, 23 June 2009


The company Skimlinks was a big winner at the recent A4U awards winning Best Use of Technology, Best New Entrant and Innovative Publisher of the Year.

They work by allowing publishers to monetize their content by analysing it for potential to include affiliate links. For example, if I wrote a blog post about Nike trainers with a link to JJB Sports to purchase, Skimlinks would be able to find that link, recognise the link to JJB Sports and replace it with an affiliate link. As a publisher, I would now be earning revenue from what was previously a simple link on my website.

In content text linking is very much a silent participant in the online marketing world. Organisations such as Kontera and Infolinks are rarely discussed and seldom found in any top end content sites. Their value to the customer experience is questionable and publishers fail to make significant revenue from the cost per click model in place.

Therefore, it is easy to see why Skimlinks is appreciated by affiliates and publishers alike. They allow further monetisation of content by using the traditional CPA model.

What about Advertisers?

It is easy to see how Skimlinks is a fantastic tool for publishers, but does the innovative technology add positive value to advertisers?

Skimming is a generally regarded as a derogatory term. Although Pond Skimming is an excellent past time, the word is more commonly associated with Credit Card fraud. I would question whether Skimlinks is the best name for an organisation given the reservations about affiliate marketing still inherent within many e-commerce operations.

I have worked on both sides of the fence when it comes to an organisational attitude to affiliates; where affiliates are regarded as costly intermediaries and more and where they are embraced as a key driver of incremental sales. I know a number of directors that would object to me proposing that we work with an organisation called Skimlinks.

The ability to make incremental sales is a fair challenge to put to Skimlinks. It could well be argued that because the publisher already had links to the advertiser, they would have received the sale anyway. Skimlinks purely rewards the publisher for sales they are generating, even those they are unaware of.

Whether these reservations will define the success of Skimlinks or not, it is good to see innovation within the affiliate space. With the current dominance of comparison, coupons and cashback the affiliate marketing industry has a vested interest in protecting the large proportion of content affiliates that are missing out on last click attributed sales. I applaud Skimlinks attempts to reward content sites that add value to the customer journey but are increasingly getting less share of the overall bounty.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Austrian Gay TV

I just saw the trailer to the upcoming feature film for Sacha Baron Cohen's latest creation. It's out on 11th July in the UK. Reminded me of this classic moment:

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

The e-Terminator

This week saw the launch of Terminator Salvation, the fourth of the science fiction series that describes a future where machines have taken control of the planet.

Whilst Jim Cameron's spectacle is obviously some way from the truth, developments in artificial intelligence mean that computers are getting smarter. The semantic web for example signifies a step change in the level of understanding from machines.

There is a terminator already evident within the online community that holds the power to kill. It doesn't kill people directly however but it can destroy online businesses.

One of the greatest strengths of the internet is that it has broken down the barriers to entry for entrepreneurs and small businesses to establish themselves. Initially it created a level playing field for all advertisers. Increasingly in the last few years, it has become tougher to find a successful niche. One of the reasons behind this is that the risk of diffusion of innovation by the online giants is too high.

For example, imagine an online analytics startup in 2003 (Not Urchin!). They would have had to produce a business plan, acquire finance and invest considerable time and resource into developing their solution. All of a sudden Google Analytics is released, for free.

There are more examples:

There has been a recent trend towards online conversion with specialist optimisation agencies such as Tamar and Maxymiser working with advertisers to ensure that the converiosn journey is a fluid as possible. As soon as Google brought out Website Optimiser, what happened to the profits for these companies?

I recently discovered Google Merchant Search. Whilst this is only in Beta in the US and available purely to the finance sector, imagine the damage it could do to the price comparison community?

Google Wave is on the horizon and has the potential to dramatically affect the way in which live communication manifests itself online. How does this affect organisations that are providing Live Assistance software?

There are of course a lot more. What effect does Google Trends and Insights
have on your Hitwise subscription? How does Gmail affect your corporate choice of email provider? And how had Google Maps affected online cartographers.

As I implied in my previous post, Google controls the online customer. They have the power to decimate a large number of online businesses without significant material investment.

Of course Google could never threaten to become the equivalent of the fictional Skynet. After all they do no evil.