Jim Forbes on metrics and customer tracking

My Weblog:

Jim pens one of the best reasoned discussions of customer tracking I had ever read, and wades in between me and Jeff Young at ZDNet — The Cookie Monster.

Accountability is a drag, but as the man sang, “You gotta serve somebody.” Or as the Cliche Goon’s say, “You can’t manage what you don’t measure.”

I’ll say it again and again — metrics is not an abrogation of a customer’s rights to privacy. If you trust the brand and the brand doesn’t sell your name down the river, well, what’s the beef?

And I’ll go back to the Scott McNealy quote: “We have no privacy. Get over it.”

The late Tom Mandel — he of the W.E.L.L., SRI and the person who put Time Magazine online — once had a fascinating lunch discussion in Palo Alto about a book idea for the “Compleat Paranoid’s Guide to Living Off the Grid.” Basically, we wondered if a person could exist in contemporary America with no social security number, no ID, no nothing. These conversations happening when the privacy freaks were losing their marbles over Caller ID on their phones.

Psychotic Snivelling


Originally uploaded by dchurbuck.

What a fun flight into Beijing. The announcement comes over the loudspeaker that we are having an emergency and to grab an oxygen mask. Great fun. I realized my last thoughts would be a white paper on lead generation techniques and not the 23rd Psalm.

Then, as we were getting ready to land, they handed out health disclosure forms. I was drawn to “Snivel” and “Psychosis,” conditions I have been known to experience, but fortunately was not at the time.

Then the lovely cabin stewards went through the cabin spraying some sort of “World Health Organization Approved” germicide which made me feel like I’d been bug-bombed by a can of Raid.

First view of China


Originally uploaded by dchurbuck.

Made Beijing at 11 pm, being met by a very nice colleague who took off her Friday evening to greet me at the custom’s gate. After a quick ride through the hazy darkness (there have been Gobi sandstorms) I made it to the hotel, logged on, send some mails back to RTP, ate a sleeping pill and just awoke to this, my first look at China.

Sort of takes the romance out of the balloon.

This is what Flash was invented for …


Basically, a tool for determing what kind of sports bra one should wear according to chest size and the intensity of the activity. I offer this only as a public service. Thanks to C.D. for the link.

Temazepam Rules

No jet lag hell to report. Two days on the road, 12 time zones away from my biological clock, and three 30 mg Temazepams — Restoril to you non-generics, definite veterinary soporific — one on the plane to Singapore, one the first night, and one last night, and I feel 90% okay. I didn’t get poisoned by the seafood dinner, and just chowed down some of the funkiest food I have ever eaten — Sundanese (not Sudanese) — consisting of a whole fried fish coated in atomic chili sauce, rice that smelled like eau de toilette, and a bowl of soup with a whole hardboiled egg and indeterminate meat balls floating in curry broth. Basically really Indonesian stuff you don’t find around Cotuit. I think I can do a striped bass in the deep fryer though. This is the land of seafood and is giving me some ideas for summer recipes.
Now I’m sitting in the Singapore Airlines “Silver Kris” lounge at Changi Airport banging away on my X41 (and listening to some fellow Americans in Red Sox t-shirts curse their inability to get on the network on their Dull Inspirons ((dude’s you need a Blue Think button on your machines, ThinkPad’s wireless configurator insures you’ll never “repair connection” again))) charging the battery on my new duty-free 6 megapixel Canon IXUS60 (Ben, they did not have the SD450), moving treo photos off the phone onto an SD card, answering Notes mail, sending memos, and generally feeling like quite the Digital Traveler.

Beijing tonight, tomorrow I see my step-sister, the ever-invigorating Dede and her husband Bing, and the Chine adventure commences. There will definitely be photos now that I have done my duty-free-duty.

Musings on media, advertising, measurement, and optimization

The tracking of an advertising spend has traditionally been the personification of a lost cause, with everyone harking back to the old cliche that half of advertising works, no one knows which half.

I’ve blogged my anger over the high degree of precision which agencies and vendors hold internet advertising to, when print publishers and other traditional media have no idea other than specious reader surveys, fudged circulation numbers, newstand sales, and that ultimate in fuzzy logic: “pass along” figures to base their efficiency case. When I was an online publisher I basically wanted to tell the advertisers and their agencies to go take a flying leap at a rolling donut, and made a good initial kick off to the Forbes Digital Tool by selling flat day-sponsorships with competitor blocks and no guarantees of impressions, and certainly not click-throughs.

Move ahead a decade and now I’m the buyer of the impressions, not the seller. And you know what? It’s the measurement and precision, the promise of optimization that is exactly why internet advertising is the fast form of advertising in the world today. I’ve been looking at the results of some recent campaigns we’ve run in the general, business, and IT press and it is truly astonishing the variance in click-throughs (the diminutive number of click-throughs, measured in basis points), and the lack of measurement on our end of what happens to the click-through once it lands on our pages.

This will change and it will change soon. We should be able to track the life-time value of a visitor from first arrival via a search term or banner clickthrough, across multiple sessions and repeat visits. I’m not marketing impulse buys — no gums and cigarettes — but serious durable goods that the user expects to hang onto for at least three years. That means my marketing spend — if measured only against initial action — can’t show a true ROI or expense to revenue ratio if I don’t keep tracking that user from first click to checkout.

This is basic stuff, it falls on me, not the publishers, and …. it means I need to get much better at getting my messages in front of those people who are in the market for my stuff at that particular point in time. This is where Battelle’s theory of the “database of intentions” and search engine marketing comes in. This is where the chimera of behavioral targeting comes in. This is why the smart people at Yahoo know that the most valuable impression in the world is a car ad at that point in time every four years when the average American turns to the web to help them decide what four-wheeled vehicle they will buy next.

It’s statistical chess and it’s hard. But the people who are good at are few and far between. This is going to be an education as we reform our spending, our measurement, and our optimization.