Spyware Consortium Falls Apart

COAST – the consortium of anti-spyware developers – has fallen apart according to E-Week. What did COAST in? Some members say it was the proposed granting of membership to some spyware companies, , such as 180Solutions, saying that opening the standards-setting group to include the very targets it was trying to thwart would turn the consortium into a farce, lending a marketing blessing to the enermy.

Others said the revenue motivation of some members had slowed progress.

Standard-setting bodies are a tactical dance between the members — often competitors — who must strike a balance between their economic interests and the greater good of the standard. One McKinsey partner, when advising a client who had several options during the frothy hey-day of B-2-B consortia (join an b-2-b group created by a competitor, create its own or join one created by a startup), told the client to accept membership in all of them for the simple, evil reason that if the client ever wanted to insure the failure of a consortia, the best place to work its will was within the consortia, as a member.

In this case, the unique twist on this failed standard is not a dispute over the technical architecture or other fine point, but on the strange position of debating whether to permit the membership of a company the standard was trying to thwart. Hypothetically like NATO falling apart over the issue of letting the USSR join in 1960. The ulterior motive of a 180solutions — which Spyware guru Ben Edelman has blasted for having one of the most befuckticated installation routines of all — and other spyware/ad technology scum is to cloak themselves in the respectability of a consortium like your local meth lab joining MADD.

One publisher’s challenge

I met with a Massachusetts magazine publisher on Friday. They publish three print titles in the IT-executive leadership space and do about $40 million a year in revenue. The CEO said the goal is to have online revenues equal print by 2007 .

Ambitious? Sure, but further indication that the print world is seeing some lasting value from the online component, even going so far, as one former employer did, to predict a cross-over in their business model from paper to digits before the decade is out.

What is particularly interesting is the goal of the publisher I met on Friday, while focused on traffic and inventory development in the short term, is the need to support a very high CPM by transforming impressions into leads.

Lead generation is a tough nut to crack. It requires the pass through of contact information via registration which, past wisdom has held, is impossible unless the carrot is big enough and valuable enough to induce parting with personal details that the owner assumes will result in some form of spam — be it emails, cold calls, whatever.

While one can argue that click-through advertising such as Adsense or Overture is one primitive form of lead generation, the publisher in question, who distributes the print product on a pre-qualification basis, is looking for something far more substantive and informational than a mere adjacent relationship between a keyword and a click.

What is the content bait that needs to be set in the trap? Will users reject any lead-generation scheme, avoid registration via work-around like bugmenot.com, or can they be teased to part with valid information in exchange for something valuable?

This goes back to an observation made by Andy Kessler to me in 1994, that user information is the currency of online publishing; not eyeballs, clicks, or subscription dollars.

Google Did a Billion in Ads Q4 ’04

P.1 of today’s (2.4.05) New York Times has Markoff and Ives reporting on Google’s success with ad sales. The story is jumped inside underneath a Stuart Elliott column about Conde Nast — the publishing house with one of the more befuckticated online strategies (ever try to find a New Yorker article? try to understand why Terra Lycos owns Wirednews.com? wonder why Vanity Fair isn’t even online?) when it comes to a trying to push the power of print on advertisers.

One stat cited is that readers spend 45 minutes between the covers of a magazine.

George Sansoucy, senior vp and managing director at Initiative is quoted:

“When marketers buy media, ultimately it is about the quality of the engagement with consumers … the average time spent reading a magazine is 45 minutes … makes magazines a superior engagement medium.”

Superior to what? Buses? The roof of a cab? Banners towed over the beach in August?

I love how the noses grow on magazine ad execs faces when they start babbling about “engagement”, “pass-a-longs” and the latest Audit Board of Circulation audit. Online is the most trackable advertising medium in history and still ain’t getting the respect it’s owed.

ranting over. no blogging until this evening. off to Boston on job interviews today.

Forbes.com: Which Search Engine Is The Best?

Forbes.com is running a poll on the occasion of Microsoft’s launch of MSN Search asking readers what their favorite search enginer/service is. No surprise, it’s Google by a mile, followed by Yahoo, followed by MSN.

Forbes.com: Which Search Engine Is The Best?

From the handful of searches I ran on MSN yesterday, I’d say Microsoft has a long way to go, not necessarily based on any keen insights into their methodology, but on the fact that I find the MSN site butt-ugly and cluttered beyond belief compared to good old spare Google.

Charles Ferguson had a great piece in the MIT Technology Review in December on the Microsoft/Google battleplan. It says it better than any other analysis, given Ferguson’s front row seat at Vermeer (developer of WYSIWIG web builder Frontpage) during Microsoft’s call to action against Netscape. He builds a plausible scenario for how the battle for dominance in search will come down to a classic architectual platform battle, with ISVs and APIs becoming the arsenal.

Microsoft knows that game.

I’d like to link to the Ferguson article, but even me, a paid subscriber to the digital Zinio edition of the Tech Review, can’t get the to the piece. Maybe Charles did the world a favor and has it posted elsewhere. I’ll chase it down.

Walter Wriston

Walter Wriston passed away on Jan 21 at the age of 85. While a banker, he was one of the smartest people on the subject of networks (up there with George Gilder) I’ve known, and amazingly presicent when discussing the impact of networks on quaint old notions of sovereignty and geography.

Walter Wriston

He was a banker, the father of electronic banking, the man who initiated the revolution that included ATMs and eventually online banking services. The former chairman of Citicorp, he wrote a book, The Twilight of Sovereignty, that influenced most of my thinking about the potential impact of communications networks. Based on his observations of how, in the late 60s, currency traders were able to wrest control over setting the value of any nation’s currency from its Minister of Finance, and “vote”, in real-time, thanks to the first international trading networks, Wriston came to the conclusion that old notions of borders and geography were doomed.

The rise of the European Union and the Euro were predicted by him. Telecommuting was predicted by him. He wasn’t a geek, didn’t go on about doped erbium amplifiers and dark fiber, jjust the big picture.

I had the pleasure of knowing him when he served on the board of Forbes.com. He was a very wise man. Here is Steve Forbes’ tribute.

The Twilight of Sovereignty : How the Information Revolution Is Transforming Our World. I highly recommend it.

Will Highbeam nuke Factiva?

One of the worst things of going freelance (aside from paying one’s own benefits) is losing access to a professional research department like the ones I took for granted at Forbes and McKinsey. I’d file a request and a few days later a couple reams of paper were on my desk, sorted in order of relevance, with post-it flags to steer me to the good stuff.

Search engines have always been woefully incomplete for serious fact hunting, but in 2000 Forbes gave me a Factiva account and it was pretty cool, sort of an HTML Lexis/Nexis which I could abuse because the bills went elsewhere.

I did some consulting for a firm that bills its clients for every breath it takes, and so its Factiva searches had to be affiliated with specific clients. No more wandering around the archives, everytime I opened a full-text document I racked up a couple bucks in charges. I started to hate Factiva. I feared it. I thought about sliming someone else’s log-in and doing a number on their account.

Then along comes Patrick Spain (founder of Hoovers) who launches HighBeam Research (where the dear Chris Locke is “Chief Blogging Officer”. I paid my monthly fee and suddenly felt like a fat person at a buffet.

Proving what? At Jerry Michalski’s first meeting of the minds in the 90s, one of the speakers told the story of a conference he attended where everyone was given a roll of pennies in their registration packet. The deal was everytime a person entered or exited the conference hall, they had to drop a penny in a bucket or a security guard would nag them. Most of the attendees just dropped the entire roll in the bucket and told the rent-a-cop to f.o.

Moral of the story: micropayments suck. Hit me once like Highbeam and make me happy. Factiva makes me more nervous than sitting in the back seat of cab stuck in traffic on the B.Q.E. on my way to LaGuardia with only a twenty in my pocket.

Looking for Examples of Stupid Standards

I’m researching standards — how they get set, adopted, rejected — and am on the prowl for examples of stupid standards. The real dumb ones don’t even get footnoted, so they are rare and a true prize to find.

Here’s an example I caught one night, bored out my mind, watching some antique appraisal show on PBS. A guy brought in an old phonograph — the kind with the big horn that the RCA dog listened to. The appraiser said the record player was given away by a record label (I think it was Columbia) for free to customers who agreed to buy something like a dozen records.

The catch was that the spindle that held the record on the platter was smaller in diameter than the holes on all the other records sold. Hence, the only music the customer could play was music from the record label.

It didn’t catch on.

Sort of reminded me of Intel’s old approach to peripherals. They insisted through Intelian hubris on inflicting garbage standards like the CAS Fax Modem or strange video-teleconferencing formats that only worked with their gear. The world voted with its feet and stuck to the good old Hayes AT command set and H-whatever.

When you look at the history of standards — an inch was defined as “three barley corns; a yard was the distance from King Henry the First’s hose to the end of his index finger — and then look at the politicking that goes on in a modern technology standards committee ….

Can anyone tell me why countries all use different electrical sockets and plugs? I spent a year working literally on the border of Switzerland and Italy on Lake Lugano and there was no way, no how, anybody could convince me why the Swiss plug and socket was better, safer, cheaper than the Italian version. I think I spent $500 at the Logan airport Brookstone everytime I forgot my bag of adapters.

Blog Bucks?

Talking on the phone the other night to an entrepeneur building a very cool web-based collaboration tool and he mentions he heard that John Batelle is raking in “$30,000 to $50,000” a month from his excellent Searchblog.

Wow. In another recent conversation another very prominent blogger told me his efforts yielded him $2,500 last month.

That’s a pretty big gap. Both sites use Google AdSense. There’s one source of revenue. My personal experience with Google — not on this blog — has been about $300 a month from a million pageviews. So obviously I’m doing something wrong with my AdSense placement on the other site, or my audience isn’t compelled to clickthrough too much due to the niche bias of the site’s topic.

Both Batelle and my unnamed friend also use some pretty interesting “buy it yourself” ad placement services. BlogAds and AdBrite. My anonymous friend, who blogs in addition to a day job, says he has to turn away pretty lucrative sponsorship offers because of a conflict of interest with the day job. So, his financial potential could be up to $5,000 a month.

Monetizing blogs through impressions seems to me to be a short walk off a long pier. My experience with ecommerce affiliate programs is that they do not work. Period. Sorry, but my five-year’s experience with commerce affiliate program is a case study in how to piss off a partner.

And if I had to name the number of sites I see using CafePress to sell thongs with their logos on them …..