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.
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.
I think I made a blunder booking my ticket out of Singapore tomorrow afternoon. This city deserves a week’s exploration at the very least. A full day of meetings in the typical windowless hotel conference room was relieved by a trip to Clarke’s Quay for some Peppered Crab and Chili Lobster at Jumbo Seafood. A post-prandial stroll along the Singapore River revealed a massive riverside mall of trendy tapas bars and — horror of horrors — in the former Fleshpot of the Orient, an honest to god Hooter’s with waitresses in the ubiquitous orange gymshorts. I guess that’s why the water taxis are called bumboats.
The jet lag ain’t bad. Yet. So I strolled and strolled with my Australian-based colleague Patrick, and giving up on an interminable taxi line, we hit the subway for a ride back to Bugis where my hotel is located. Kind of weird walking around in bazillion degree heat and absolute humidity in a city devoid of trash and then boarding a space-age airconditioned subway. I did see one piece of trash, something pointed out to me by Patrick which made me make the excuse that it must have been a tourist.
Hard to describe this place without falling into travel writer clichedom. The first impression is the immense density and newness of the skyscrapers. Nothing feels old, not many vestiges of colonial architecture as there are in Chennai and Delhi, and even Raffles, the hotel named after the first British governor, Stamford Raffles, has been modernized out of whatever romantic notions of Singapore Slings, Pink Gins and those weird white pukha helmets I’ve always associated with the Disney vision of Singapore.
The seafood was amazing. I now know how to cook crab and lobster and isn’t by boiling them and serving them with melted butter. Black pepper and chili sauce rules. You have to get down and dirty with these things — Baltimore style. I did get a plastic bib — too late — after I exploded a crab joint all over my pink Brooks Brother shirt. Totally nuked myself. Hence this post is tagged under the “clamming” heading.
I wish I had decided to hang out for the weekend. Two nights in the InterContinental, a day and half in meetings, one night on the quays, a subway ride, and a cab to and from the airport does not a trip to Singapore make.
Sorry, but the last time I was in Asia (1991) one had to fight to find a fax machine, let alone a PC. Sitting through a day long meeting in Singapore, with participants dialed in by speaker phone, instant messaging commentary across oceans, reviewing metrics delivered in real-time over 10,000 miles, discussing manufacturing in Latin America, China, Taiwan …
Getting pinged on my cell phone, blogging onto a server in Mashpee, Mass. — sorry to state the obvious, but all this PC and connectivity hype that started in the early 80s is paying off in a very, very real and big way.
I’m here not to communicate but to meet people, face to face, the most crucial element and perhaps the cliche of the old “community” movement. But nevertheless, “meat space” versus “virtual space” is the prized commodity in the Flat World. Not the communications.
New world, new thinking.
Is expensive. $23 bucks a day. Granted it’s Singapore bucks, but still. I’ve dropped $50 since leaving Boston on Tuesday to stay connected. I am totally time-zone challenged right now. It’s Wednesday at 1 pm on Cape Cod. I left Cape Cod on Tuesday at 7 am. I arrived here at Wednesday at 11:30 pm. Now it is Thursday at 2 am.
Singapore? Hot. Humid (gee, it must be on the equator). I didn’t get caned at customs. The hotel is nice. The scotch tastes the same.
Time to eat a sleeping pill and aim for six hours of unconsciousness.
Jonathan Spence’s The Gate of Heavenly Peace: The Chinese and Their Revolution. I’ve been a China tear for the last three months (for obvious reasons), and having taken Spence’s class on Chinese history at Yale in the 70s, I turned to his account of the lives of several revolutionaries, intellectuals, and artists in China from the 1880s to the 1980s. Excellent, excellent book about a very complex period in world and Chinese history.
Spence writes like a novelist, but is probably the greatest living Western Chinese historian. The first person he profiles, Kang Youwei, is amazing.
I picked up Nathaniel Philbrick’s In the Heart of the Sea at the bookstore at Logan Airport and finished it before landing in Chicago. Excellent book which tells the story of the whaling ship Essex, which in the 1820s was rammed by a whale some 2000 miles west of the South American coast, sank, and then subjected its crews to a horrific open-sea voyage of 93 days.
Cannibalism was involved. People in the 19th century liked cannibalism in their tabloids the way American’s today like Angelina and Britney and Whitney.
This tale inspired Melville to write Moby Dick, and was the most lurid tale in America in the first half of the 19th century. Philbrick is an excellent writer and historian. I think I enjoyed his descriptions of Nantucket more than the sea story itself. I worked on Nantucket for six years (summers, as a deckhand on the ferry) and while its fishy history has always been in the back of my mind, I had no idea about the social dynamics of the island, the strength of the women who ran the local economy while the men were off on their two to three year voyages, and the immense wealth accumulated by the Quakers.
Nantucket in the 19th and 18th centuries was the Silicon Valley of its day. Ship owners like Obed Macy and the Howlands of New Bedford were the venture capitalists of their time, seeking at least a 25% profit on their ventures — ventures which personified the meaning of risk. The crews and their captains were among the best traveled, culturally aware men of their time, discovering new islands in the south Pacific, as they chased the dwindling whales around the world, up into the Arctic.
Philbrick has me all fired up to turn Chatfield into a book.
Blogging from a broken 747 on the tarmac at O’Hare — bound for Singapore — where the trusty Treo will not work and the lame rented GSM Nokia has no browser.
Managed to devour Nathaniel Philbrick’s National Book Award winner (2000) In the Heart of the Sea, his retelling of the story of the Essex, the model for Moby Dick.
Definitely an inspiration to finish the Captain Chatfield work and turn it into a book. I brought his Civil War letters with me to start transcription during my stay in Asia.
I’ll blog when possible though not by Treo. Will be shopping for a Canon Powershot in Singapore duty-free.