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May 23, 2007

Googleburner? Feedboogle? Fondleburger?

022007 TechCrunch is carrying an (apparently authoritative) story that Google is to buy Feedburner for an amount estimated at around $100m. It's not quite $6bn, but it's a healthy amount.

This is another smart portfolio move from Google, though few companies could justify paying so much for the opportunity to monetize RSS feeds. In Google's case, the math is easy: Feedburner has around 700,000 feeds under management - that's a lot of ad impression and click opportunities. Plus, Google gets to integrate feed measurement into GA, automatic instrumentation into Blogger, and even, possibly, some integration with Google Reader, which is the #1 RSS reader in the market.

Measuring RSS usage remains a perennially tricky problem for blog (or other content site) owners. The Feedburner approach is to 'skin' the raw RSS feed from the real blog and re-present it with extra widgets (including tracking pixels and ads). When a user clicks on a link in the feed to view the original article online, this click is tracked through an adserver-style redirect, enabling Feedburner to offer the range of reports that it does.

The sharpest technical corner for a blog owner to negotiate in the process of setting up Feedburner is modifying the page meta tag information that tells a browser (such as IE7 or Firefox) what the address of the page's RSS feed is. Doing this is essential because if you don't (and the meta tag still points to the page's 'native' feed), RSS subscribers will just pull the native feed and not any of the Feedburner goodness.

But modifying RSS meta tags, whilst not terribly complex, requires some knowledge of HTML. There are still many blog owners for whom the phrase "requires some knowledge of HTML" represents a very, very deep chasm which they know they never have any hope of crossing in their lifetime. So a blogging platform that can auto-generate the meta tag for you is a boon.

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May 21, 2007

A snip at $6B

$6 billion is a lot to pay for any company, particularly when it's about five times as much as you've ever paid for any previous acquisition; it's even more impressive when you consider it's a cash deal. But those are the table stakes to get into (or stay in) the online advertising business these days; and after Google agreed to pay $3.1 billion for DoubleClick, it doesn't seem so bad. But there are a lot of very happy aQuantive shareholders right now (me not amongst them, sadly):

image

After all the furore around DoubleClick, this is a great piece of news for us. People know, of course, that we were in the market for DoubleClick when Google bought them, and of course I can't elaborate (mainly because I don't know) why we didn't get that deal; but I think we've actually ended up with the better fit for our needs. aQuantive has a full-fledged media network and one of the world's largest interactive agencies in its portfolio, in addition to its ad buying & selling technologies. Microsoft will really benefit from the wealth of experience that aQuantive's people will bring. Plus (and this is by a mile the most important aspect of the news for me), Microsoft gets a downtown Seattle office out of the deal, which is a godsend for those of us who hate the 520 with a passion bordering on the psychotic.

[I would have posted about this on Friday, but I was too busy drinking Margaritas]

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May 18, 2007

What would you like to see in Gatineau?

questionmark Here at Microsoft, we like to listen. We also like data (and not just so we can ignore it). And whilst work on Gatineau is already quite well advanced, we're still keen to learn what folks out at the sharp end of web analytics actually want to see in a product like this.

So to this end, we've set up a little survey which we'd like you to participate in. Your incentive? If you want to be in the beta, complete the survey - it's one of the conditions we'll be using for early beta participation. Plus you will enter a draw to win a Zune. Yes, a Zune! (What do you mean, what's a Zune? And no, you can't swap the prize for an iPod.)

If you've already e-mailed us to be included in the beta, we'll be contacting you separately about the survey, so have patience. 

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May 16, 2007

Dilbert on KPIs

I kind of have an unwritten rule not to include Dilbert cartoons on this blog, partly because it's such an appallingly hackneyed thing to do, and partly because it will reveal to my readership that I'm not in fact the debonair man-about-town that the pithy content of my blog would have you believe, but a paid-up geek whose one unchanging Christmas gift request to his wife is the annual Dilbert desk calendar [Too late for that - Ed]. But today's Dilbert comic merits an exception:

dilbert2004887870516

Heh. Hehehe. Heheheheheh <*snort*>.

Now go buy some branded Dilbert stuff from Dilbert.com to make me feel better about the copyright infringement.

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May 11, 2007

E-metrics San Francisco: The stuff I forgot to post yesterday

chocolate_cubes I knew that in my haste to get a post out yesterday I'd forget to mention some things:

  • Many congratulations and best wishes to Eric Peterson on his new venture. For reasons which may become apparent in the fullness of time, I had a little advance notice of Eric's intentions, so I've been spending the last few weeks perfecting my look of surprise for when he made the announcement. To be honest, even if I'd not known in advance I wouldn't have been that surprised, because, like Avinash's move, it is clear to me that Eric will not go hungry as an independent consultant with his wealth of experience at multiple vendors and at Jupiter. Knock 'em dead, Eric!
  • I cracked open the fabulous box of chocolates given to me by Rene yesterday evening - a very thoughtful gesture; thanks Rene!
  • Whilst at the conference I took the opportunity to show the latest pre-beta build of Gatineau to some select folks (all of whom are under NDA, so no names). There's plenty of work still to be done, of course, but reaction to the code we have so far was pretty positive. If you'd like to be considered for inclusion in the beta of Gatineau this summer, send an e-mail to gat-beta@microsoft.com.

So we get to do it all again in October in Washington DC. Hopefully by then we'll have something that we can show to the world...

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May 10, 2007

E-metrics San Francisco 2007: Busy, busy, busy

So I'm back at my desk after a hectic E-metrics in San Francisco, and now I have a whole bunch of posts backed up that I need to write, whilst also addressing the three-day work backlog that's built up in my absence. But here are a few lightning thoughts about this year's conference - actually the first time I've been to the US version (have always had to make do with the UK version in the past):

  • Great to meet Chris, Stéphane, Justin, Robbin and Ian (and to catch up again with Rene, Avinash and Eric) at the bloggers' table at lunch on Day 1. Chris initiated an interesting discussion (he'd even made preparatory notes!) about how we measure the success of our blogs, and Rene filmed some of it. I await the exquisite embarrassment of seeing my pasty face on Rene's blog with considerable anticipation.
  • Very impressed by the new Google Analytics. The new dashboard's nice, the scheduled e-mail reports feature is good, the tabbed reporting interface is a great innovation. But the thing I'm most impressed by is that Google had the discipline to fix what was broken about GA - its interface - without giving in to the temptation to crowbar in a bunch of new features (I know, you could say the new UI is full of new features, but I mean new reports, visualizations and suchlike). I know from experience (here and before) that that's incredibly hard to do.
  • It's hard for me to judge, being such an expert and all, but my assessment of the quality of the actual conference content is that the keynotes were good (the Microsoft keynote from my colleague Seth Romanow was very well received, gratifyingly) but that some of the breakout content was somewhat ropey.
  • I'm still not sure that the conference strikes the right tone with respect to vendors - now in from the cold, vendors seem to be everywhere on the agenda, delivering sometimes thinly veiled pitches for their stuff. Many attendees, I'm sure, are desperate to hear from the vendors, but not to decide which one to go with - to learn about how to get the most out of their existing vendor. So why not have a vendor education track where the vendors can address "power user" topics for their customers? The vendors can still have their booths to attract and influence buying decisions, plus if an attendee wants to learn about what another vendor can do, they can go to their session.

That's it for now. Must dash off to beat the traffic over the lake. More soon.

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May 01, 2007

IAB throws down the gauntlet to Neilsen & Comscore

magnifying_glass With a sense of timing that you can draw your own conclusions about, the IAB has sent an open letter to Neilsen//NetRatings and Comscore to ask them to submit to an independent third-party audit of their measurement methods. From the letter:

"We in the marketing-media ecosystem have spent too many years trying to clean up the residue of flawed media-research methodologies. We simply cannot let the Internet, the most accountable medium ever invented, fall into the same bad customs that have hindered older media and angered advertisers for decades."

[...]

To this end, we have asked several times for comScore and Nielsen//NetRatings to agree to audits of your audience measurement processes. Both your companies' reports have a material impact on interactive marketing and media decision-making; transparency into your methodologies is critical to maintaining advertisers' confidence in interactive media, particularly now, as marketers allocate more budget to interactive venues. Every major advertising medium receives audited numbers from its key measurement suppliers – but not interactive. Although I understand you have agreed to be audited, I'm not aware that any timetables have been set. The platform is still burning."

Strong stuff indeed, though I'm not quite sure I understand what "The platform is still burning" actually means. Neilsen and Comscore responded immediately with open letters/press releases of their own (I felt a glimmer of sympathy for the PR departments in both companies, since the IAB letter was published on a Friday and the responses the following Monday - someone's weekend was ruined). Both responses were of the "Who? Us? Unaccountable? You must have us confused with someone else" variety. To summarize:

Neither company's press release was exactly effusive in its welcome of the IAB's letter (I particularly liked Neilsen's indignation at the IAB's "We cannot let the Internet fall into the same bad customs as old media" line); it seems that both companies understand that between them they more or less have the entire market sewn up, and that there's no business need for them to submit to an audit.

But Comscore wins on pure chutzpah for devoting three paragraphs to their recently published ("seminal", they say) study into the inaccuracies of cookie-based visitor counts. They go on to offer their services to help establish measurement standards in the industry and eliminate the inaccuracies of cookie/log-based counting. Impressive cojones, Comscore.

For a more intelligent assessment of the dialog between these companies, plus some useful background about the MRC, see this article.

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