Musings on online advertising, the data layer, audience targeting/optimization, life, and my hobbies. (All opinions are my own, and not necessarily those of past, present or future employers, family, friends or foes!)
See this post, which confirms how interested people are in increasing their visibility/audience, and how Google is working against them, not with them.
Seems that Google is considering (or is already) devaluing social content links within their PageRank algorithm -- referring specifically to the stories on Digg, etc. that people seed in order to try and increase their search engine ranking. By doing this, Google continues to alienate the long tail, disregard the human vote in favor of their own algorithm, and stick to "in-bound links" as the basis for relevancy (besides keywords, of course).
The primary growth area in content today on the Web is personal content, and 99.99% of these people are starving for attention because it's the institutional content that beats them every time on the SERP.
On the 14th of December 2006 (early evening), a wicked windstorm hit Seattle. I was up most the night, listening to the wind roar and trees/branches break around us. By the morning of the 15th, over 1M people had lost their power. I drove Jenny to the airport that morning and the ONLY area I saw with power was Seatac and a little bit of Renton. It was amazing how many trees had fallen and mangled houses, cars, power lines, etc.
Well the kids didn't know WHAT to do -- no computer, no TV, no Xbox. In no time at all, they were quite restless and complaining. Here's what we did:
We had three trees down around out house and many many branches, so we all spent a few hours working outside. We cleaned up the fallen tree branches, and started sawing up one of the trees that fell. Turns out it was dead and made for very good firewood!
Before dark came, we prepared all our flashlights and candles, got all our camping gear out, and figured out what we were going to have for dinner. Best to use all available daylight to prepare for night, when it gets so much harder to find things!
About 4pm, when darkness fell, Hunter and I made a fire. He of course loves to play with the fire and I never miss an opportunity to teach him how. By that time, we had a nice stack of firewood ready to go, along with some firestarter from the camping gear. The wood was good, but not THAT good so it took a little coaxing -- which I assigned Hunter to do.
In the meantime, I filled both our coolers with perishable items from our refrigerator and set them outside on the deck. It was only about 38 outside and I knew that it was going to be close to freezing that night -- colder than the fridge. I left the freezer alone.
As dark fell, it began to get quite chilly in the house and we knew it would only get colder. So I had the kids put on their long underwear and I gave them each Patagonia Synchillas (sweaters) to wear, which stopped them from complaining about the cold.
We made dinner using the outside grill and the propane campstove (indoors). The coleman lantern kept the kitchen bright enough. The kids read books while I cooked.
After dinner we cooked s'mores over the fire, using the sticks we carved during the afternoon. We had never had s'mores at home before, so it was a nice treat and killed another hour.
By 7:30pm we were ready for something else, and the kids were all jacked up on sugar -- so I suggested a game of "fear factor". I would hide down in our bedroom and they had to come find me, WITHOUT their flashlights. They thought that was cool until I started making scary noises! They chickened out a few times, and then I suggested they hide on me -- I tell you, it is very suspensefull and thrilling to be walking around in the dark looking for someone you know is there getting ready to grab you!
Then we played Life (the board game) by lantern.
This kept us busy until about 10pm at which point we all went to sleep in my bed, under comfy piles of quilts and such. When we woke up in the morning it was 56 degrees in the house.
The power stayed out for several days, so we ended up driving up to Bellingham to stay with my parents. We were lucky to get our power back in 3 days. Most of our neighbors went 5 days without power, and some people in the Seattle area were out for a week.
People often look at companies that create browser toolbars (such as Others Online), scratch their head, and say "jeez, getting someone to download a toolbar is kinda hard, isn't it?". Yes, in fact it is, but so is getting people to come to your Web site repeatedly. There are two very important things to remember about toolbars.
First, toolbars that provide value ACROSS a user's browsing experience are much more likely to be downloaded than toolbars that simply emulate a Web site experience. Take search bars -- I search the Web all the time and I don't have a Google, Yahoo or MSN toolbar. Why should I? If I don't have Google open in a browser window already, then it's never more than 1 click away. In contrast, tools for journalists and researchers (who bookmark, annotate, etc. as they comb the Web) are much more appropriately implemented as toolbars because they add value while users browse the Web, on any/every page. If you have a truly unique user experience with value provided across a user's browsing experience, then people WILL download a toolbar.
Second, you need fewer toolbar users to "make" the business than you need Web site visitors. Consider the use patterns of a Web site versus a toolbar, and think in terms of pageviews. If you have a Web site, then you know it's extremely difficult to get users to the site, and then come back again. Even a very popular site like Zillow might only average 2-3 visits per month from each unique visitor.
Let's say you had 1M unique users visit your Web site in a month, with each user visiting 3x in that month, and generating 5 pageviews. That's 15M pageviews. Now let's say you had 100K toolbar users, with 75% of them online each day. Online users generally average about 120 pageviews per day (across all sites) so that would be 27M pageviews. So roughly speaking, with 1/10th the number of toolbar users you generate almost 2x the number of pageviews.
Of course, toolbars couldn't possibly get away with showing an ad on every one of those pageviews, but as long as the product utility justifies it, the toolbar CAN utilize that pageview to generate accretive user value. (Profiling, for instance, in which you can make your ad 10x more relevant to the user and also 10x more profitable.)
Alexa provides the most accurate web site popularity ranking statistic on earth. Don't let anyone tell you differently!
All kidding aside ... for anyone that cares, the Alexa ranking of this here blog (today) is 479,875, and I average about 12 unique visitors per day (and 15-20 pageviews). As a comparison, Others Online has an Alexa ranking of 253,510 and averages about 133 unique visitors per day (roughly 300 pageviews). Another comparison would be Siaxx (not providing a link because I'm turning it off soon!), which has an Alexa ranking of 6.4M and averages about 3 unique visitors per day (roughly 5 pageviews).
Alexa tracks about 18M domains (NOT sites). This just gives you an idea of the vast majority of Web sites that get so very little traffic.
Please share your Alexa rank and daily unique/pageview data?
I noted with appreciation some very popular bloggers posting about the echo chamber effect of the blogosphere. (And here I go, perpetuating the very concept by linking to them ...)
Jeremy points out that many people, when referring to blogging, are "really talking about the less than 1% of blogs that find themselves writing about each other in an almost herd-like and insular fashion". He goes on to say "a small subset of blogs (and increasingly non-blogs) hog much of the attention. That happens to be exactly what I'm not looking for most of the time."
It seems that a number of the high-profile bloggers are purposely veering away from the "echo chamber" of the most popular sites and venturing out into the long tail. Chris even provides 10 ways to eliminate the echo chamber.
The echo chamber concept is consistent with the long tail concept, and it's all self-perpetuating. All us online users naturally congregate our attention to the most popular Web sites, not intentionally mind you. Today's search ranking algorithms focus users to the more popular sites on the Web. RSS perpetuates that effect, locking a "worthy" (and usually popular) source onto our guaranteed read/skim list.
Neither the long tail nor the echo chamber will ever go away until the following is disrupted:
You hear a lot about search engines and social sites being "gamed" -- that is, intentionally manipulated in a way that was not explicitly intended by the publisher for the purpose of an unfair advantage. Since only a small percentage of users actually contribute to the Web (as opposed to being lurkers), it's got to be a small percentage of THAT percentage that actually game Web sites like Google, Digg, etc. -- I mean, we're talking less than 1% of 1% (1 out of 10,000).
What we're going to do at Others Online is make gaming part of the user experience. Gaming carries a very negative connotation to it now -- people ask "what are you going to do if people start to game Others Online for their own benefit". My feeling is, if we do it right, 80% of our users will be gaming the system. The more gaming capabilities you build into a site, the more viral it will be, as we create (and users discover) new ways to improve their rank in the system.
Google kind of does this, but far be it from "gaming" -- they're much too civilized for that. They have created and protect a very strict set of rules in their ranking algorithm. It just so happens that the result is the SEO (search engine optimization) multi-billion dollar market.
MySpace does (did?) it much better. They give people free reign over their spaces, and it resulted in basically all users gaming their space to make it their own. (For those of you without a MySpace page, you won't find anywhere in your page creation site instructions how to customize your page.)
When a minute fraction of your user base "games" your site, it's bad. But if almost everyone does, it's hugely positive.