Sips from the Firehose
A blog that seeks to filter the internet into a refreshing, easily-gulped beverage

Mar 26

New Online Ad Models/Placements That Will Make Money – Calacanis keynote (part 4)

Posted: under Digital Migration, New Marketing, new media, Online Video.
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This is the final slice of the Calacanis keynote, where he concludes by showing off some of his ideas for online content sites to start effectively monetizing their audience’s attention. For example, he shows off a movie trailer that could run before users are allowed to start their Facebook session.

He asks how many people in the audience would stop using Facebook or Twitter if they had to put up with ads before they used them. Although few people raised their hands in such a public setting, I tend to think that a lot of people would start to desert these services if they start to cram advertising down the audience’s throats.

Also – not sure if advertising is all that viable a business model to base your hopes on – with the economy in such shambles, businesses have cut back on advertising in ways that would have seemed impossible only a few years ago.

At the end, he returns to his attention-grabbing theme of “Just take the money! We can destroy traditional media once and for all!”

Once more, a great big shout-out to OMMA for a great conference, packed with ad & marketing people who, will deeply worried, are still trying to find a path to the future whereby the media can start functioning again.  It may not look like it did in the past, but we’ve kinda known this day was coming. 

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Mar 26

Twitter Ads – More Valuable than 30 Second Superbowl Spots – Calacanis OMMA Keynote (part 3)

Posted: under Digital Migration, Online Video, Twitter advertising.
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“The obligatory Twitter section of every keynote address in 2009.”

Calacanis describes how web companies could really leverage their audience attention by using innovative new ad models. He “works the numbers” to show how a (proposed) $250,000 investment to be recommended by Twitter would pay off in as many views as a 30-second ad for the Super Bowl – and at the end of that process, you would have a big mailing list, rather than just a press release.

I have not included stills from his PowerPoint as I did with previous clips from this speech. The presentation is available at SlideShare, if you want to see it.

While I am happy bordering on ecstatic to see someone at least thinking about inventing new ad models, I think that Jason kinda contradicts what he said earlier about ads being unwelcome on social media sites.  He had us convinced in the first half of the speech that advertising is useless on Facebook, and then he shows off a classic intrusive movie trailer that you have to sit through before you can log into your home page.  Not sure I agree with him on this – even though he leads the audience through an exercise to see how many people would be willing to jettison their Facebook or Twitter usage if it starts getting crammed with ads.

Well, first of all, you’re talking to an audience of advertisers and marketers.  People who voluntarily watch & applaud for ads. 

I think the reactions of a younger, more anti-authoritarian audience might be a little different.  Yeah, the 14-24 y.o. males might kick & screech a bit about the corporate bastards who are slowing down their SuperPokes of the new hottie in homeroom, and then in a few weeks, calm down and accept the new ad-heavy paradigm.

Or – they’ll use Facebook to organize themselves and perform a mass exodus to some other social media platform (Hi5 – this is your opportunity knocking!) and Zuck‘s beautiful baby will have its value utterly destroyed in a matter of months.  It’s happened before.  It will probably happen again.


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Mar 26

Extended Forecast: A 20% Chance of Riots in the Streets – Calacanis keynote at OMMA 2009

Posted: under Digital Migration, New Marketing, new media, Online Video.
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Calacanis referred to this as “The Bridge.” He starts off with a little more digital triumphalism, and then talks about the real numbers behind the economic downturn, and the 20% chance of civil unrest, riots in the streets, cats&dogs living together, the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man, etc. etc.

It’s quite canny of him to stick a mood-changer like this in the middle of his presentation. A relentless parade of stats (allegedly) proving that digital media will win out over all outmoded forms of communication, and we will join hands and walk into the sunrise of a brave new day … would be sickening. So he threw this in here to address the fears of economic meltdown that were at the core of this conference (after all, the title was “Tools for Tackling the Downturn”).

In the early going, he can’t resist taking yet another swipe at “Old Media” saying that the audience cannot be measured – or that it can, but that the Nielsen stats are “bullshit.”  Which there is a certain logic to – advertisers who buy display ads are charged as though every single reader of the newspaper is going to open to that page and look at the ad.  Of course, we all know that they are not – that the ad rates are actually based on the “potential audience.”

And what Jason doesn’t really go into here is that there are some very sophisticated media analysts grinding numbers and coming up with some alternatives to the “Search Is God” theory he’s plugging.

I’ll post the video of that later – if I don’t decide to turn it into a larger story for a magazine or website – but basically, media buyers/planners are starting to get hip to the fact that search swoops in at the last second in the decision-making process of consumers, and takes all the credit for their buying choice.  Meanwhile, if they had never known that there were, say, alternate iPhone headphones that actually sound good and don’t fall out of your ears – then they would not have been able to search for it.

My own prediction: in the next couple of years, we’re going to see content make a comeback.

That is, if the second part of Jason’s bit here doesn’t come to pass, and we’re all either fricasseed by angry mobs, or hiding out in the hills, living like the Gyro-Captain in “Road Warrior.”

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Mar 26

“Newspapers deserve to die” – Jason Calacanis keynote at OMMA 2009

Posted: under Digital Migration, Newspaper Deathwatch, Newspapers, Video.
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Advertising, Riots, Twitter, Facebook and the Depression

Curmudgeons skip directly to 7:50 or so, for the juicy bits. If you are in a crowded place, please allow at least 10 feet of safety space in all directions for when your head explodes.

This is the first part of the rather incendiary keynote speech by Jason Calacanis, founder of, at the OMMA Hollywood 2009 conference. The keynote’s title is “Advertising, Riots, Twitter, Facebook and the Depression,” and in it, Calacanis cheers the death of newspapers and “Old Media,” and lauds paid search as the “most powerful advertising medium ever created.”

Not coincidentally, Mahalo is a paid search company.

Along the way, Calacanis also trashes social media advertising, showing screenshots of drunken parties to “prove” that all advertising on this platform is unwelcome, intrusive and doomed to die.


“Gosh, newspapers didn’t see this coming, did they? I mean, the newspapers were reporting on their own demise for a decade. And they still couldn’t change it.

It’d be as if you’re the Titanic and you haven’t even left port yet.  And they’re like, “By the way, there’s a lot of icebergs to the north.” And you’re like “OK, thanks.” A day later, it’s “Icebergs are still there.”

They’re like, “Full speed ahead! To the icebergs, as quick as possible!”

They did nothing. They deserve to die. Don’t cry for newspapers, it’s great that they go out of business, because new things can take their place that are better. Much better.


Don’t cry for journalism.  Rejoice, because a new journalism is being built, today, as we speak. And it’s going to be better than the last one.


“They deserve to go away. Goodby, good riddance.”

The keynote was obviously designed to provoke a reaction (more than one conference attendee muttered “linkbait” after listening), and it certainly did that, as every other session after this opened with the panel trying to refute Calacanis’ claims. I’ll post John Battelle‘s rather more measured keynote tomorrow.

I have a few reactions to this, and I’ll post some more with the other three videos in this series.  But to start with, the notion that newspapers did nothing at all about the internet is absolutely false.  The industry has tried to engage with online since before there was an internet (you’ve probably all seen those videos from San Francisco, showing the early paper over video screen tech of the 80s). The problem is, that the battlefield on which newspaper have been trying to engage has shifted radically.  First, it was the fight between portals – Prodigy vs. CompuServe vs. AOL.  Then it was Netscape vs. Internet Explorer. Yahoo vs. Google. Facebook vs. MySpace.

Newspapers are a $50 billion a year industry, with tremendously expensive production and distribution infrastructure, grown up over centuries.  If the Tribune chain had just splashed kerosene over the presses back in ’92, and declared in the flickering light that they were shifting every penny over into becoming a competitor to AOL … well, they probably still woulda wound up about where they are.  But along the way, there would have been tremendous dislocation – millions of readers not getting information.  Millions of readers turning to competitive print products that would have made billions.

So the newspaper industry has tried incremental solutions. Right up to this point, where, as we see in Seattle & Denver (despite what Jason sneers at, there are plenty of people who want to read what he dismisses as “boring” stories about local government, taxation, schools and crime) the papers are being forced to migrate to the web under conditions that are nothing short of brutal.

It’s all very well and good to talk about the exciting news products that are “being built today, as we speak.”  But I know many of the people that work at these small, struggling web news outfits. They are up against the wall, just trying to keep the broadband bill paid.  They are not going to be able to devote thousands of man-hours to digging through documents and making connections, and going out and doing original research (i.e. interviewing people to get things that are not archived on the magical, all-seeing web). Maybe this will be solved someday – but it ain’t the case today, and that’s when we need it.  We need this kind of enterprise reporting, or this country is going to implode, because society is angry at the economic collapse, and nobody’s really been able to dig deep enough to explain it. At least, not in a way that holds up & makes sense for more than a month or so…

If I sound like a bit of a curmudgeon here, well, it’s hard to watch this and not get a bit grouchy. I agree with Jason on the broad points – that Big Media has sinned, and is paying the price; that ad dollars are shifting to where the consumer eyeballs are, and that this trend is only accelerating.

But dude? Less of a gleeful grin.

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Mar 25

OMMA Hollywood 2009: Mobile Advertising Case Study – Microsoft Bar Codes Mobile Ads

Posted: under Uncategorized.

This is the audio podcast of the Mobile Advertising session at the OMMA 2009 conference.

Download Mobile media session OMMA 2009

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Mar 25

OMMA Hollywood 2009: Mobile Advertising Case Study – Microsoft Bar Codes Mobile Ads

Posted: under Uncategorized.

This is the audio podcast of the Mobile Advertising session at the OMMA 2009 conference.

OMMA 2009 – podcast of Mobile Advertising session about bar codes

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Mar 25

ONA – LA “Beyond You Tube”

Posted: under Uncategorized.

100_0254.jpg, originally uploaded by martinboz.

Found this shot while doing a search (try it out – its fascinating) of myself.

This is from the ONA meet-up that we had on March 9, 2009, about online video. It’s always interesting to see yourself in photos you never know were taken. Luckily, in this one, my face is (mostly) turned away from the audience, although the ghoulish green cast on me from the projector makes me look even more like Godzilla than is usual.

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Mar 20

Rules for Running a Paywall/Subscription-based Online News Site

Posted: under Digital Migration, journalism, New Marketing, new media, Newspapers.
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InDenver Launches – Rocky Mountain News Staffers DIY News Project

If the future of news is that it will live as a web-only play, then the InDenver and Seattle PI sites, which are (to use the horticultural metaphor) scions of the original papers are perhaps visions of what the future could look like.

Good luck and Godspeed. Selling information on the web is a business fraught with all kinds of unanticipated complexities.

Good luck and Godspeed. Selling information on the web is a business fraught with all kinds of unanticipated complexities.

The InDenver site has gotten some good & enthusiastic replies from readers eager to get good quality local news information, and who are seemingly frustrated with their other local options. Unfortunately, InDenver appears to be struggling with its e-commerce functionality – multiple readers are writing in to report that their sessions are bombing out, that they’re frustrated, that the interface is broken, or unwieldy.

Welcome to my world, folks.

We (i.e. and – don’t bother trying to find them – they both folded) tried to do this back in 1999, back in Web 1.0, and there were a lot of lessons that we learned that seem to have been lost in the mists of time.

If you are going to try to be in the business of selling information (or the way we couched it, “a fulfilling multimedia entertainment experience”) online, the thing to remember is that things happen way, way faster than they do in the offline/print world.

E-Commerce for Former Print Reporters

A user subscribing to a print edition of a newspaper will fill out a 3×5 card subscription form, or mail off a check in an envelope, and patiently wait a week or so for the paper to start showing up at the front door.

A web subscriber will get halfway through filling out the form – and then a question (how old are you? male or female? what’s your zip code?) will piss them off because it seems too intrusive, and they will click away.

Or it will come time to enter their credit card information, and the process will be onerous enough so that they start to have second thoughts about it, and they will be gone.

Back in the day, we lost 80% of our customers during the payment process.  You absolutely HAVE to make this as smooth and quick and painless as possible, or they will start to think twice about it – and then they are GONE, BABY GONE.

Lingering in the ether, the Seattle P-I keeps trying.

Lingering in the ether, the Seattle P-I keeps trying.

Customer Service is More than Responding to Complaints

This isn’t just fixing broken links on the site, or making sure that your pages display the same across a wide range of browsers – although that is absolutely crucial as well.

No, you have to be really, really, REALLY responsive when your readers reach out to you.  You have to pay attention to what they’re telling you through their clicks, through the time spent per page, through the amount of clickthru you’re seeing on your targeted ads.  You have to pay attention to what they’re saying in the comment spaces, to the kinds of photos and videos they upload (just pray that they care enough to send you their material), to the way they forward your stories to their friends and family.

That is what customer service is on the web.

If you are going to try to make people pay for a service that you provide – if you are going to sell them something – then that thing damn well better be what they want. Or they will cease to buy it.  And they will do this far, far faster than they would with a print product.

The good news is that if you do manage to forge a connection to your audience, that if you do manage to get them committed to reading and acting on the information that you give  them – they will then fight like tigers to make sure that you survive.

Market Yourself Like Crazed Insurgents

You can’t just rely on the goodwill and lingering fondness of your former readership to sustain you.  That may work in the short term (if it works at all), but you have to make an organized, concerted effort to reach out to your market and GIVE THEM A GOOD REASON TO BUY YOU.

Take a look at the viral/guerilla marketing campaigns that were used by Bakotopia; your strategy may need to be a bit different, since you seem to be reaching out to a slightly older, more affluent demographic, but the underlying thinking is the same.

1. Go to the physical locations where your (would-be) readers are. Concerts, county fairs, farmer’s markets, coffee shops, playgrounds, whatever.

2. Have a persistent object that you can give away that will remind your readers that you exist. It can be a cheap 1-sheet flyer stapled to a lamppost, like a punk band playing an underground club. A t-shirt, hat, keychain, whatever with your logo and URL on it.

3. Reach out to your readers on regular intervals with updates as to what your new content is via email, instant messaging, SMS, whatever.

4. Enlist your readers in the effort to recruit more subscribers. Give them some kind of prize – free subscription, or exclusive merch.

Yeah, I know. This sounds like the way that rock bands run their fan clubs.  It is.  It also works.

You gotta be shameless. It feels like you’re a carnival barker, and that is not entirely inaccurate.  But if you are going to sell this thing you’ve created, you have to prepare yourself to get your hands dirty.

Christ, I hope you guys succeed.

Meanwhile, here’s the video of the final days of the Rocky Mountain News.

Final Edition from Matthew Roberts on Vimeo.

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Mar 18

Audience Planbook: A Step-by-Step Plan to Transform Newspapers

Posted: under Digital Migration, New Marketing, new media, Newspapers.
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The Big Scary Project that I’ve been yammering about for the last five months is finally live & open for business.

The way out of the maze just got a little easier (click for larger image).

The way out of the maze just got a little easier (click for larger image).

The Audience Planbook was designed to guide newspaper execs through the process of transforming their familiar (but no longer safe) businesses into popular & profitable New Media information centers.  Here’s what the front page looks like:

This Planbook is an answer to one of the most persistent and trenchant objections to all this “New Media Strategery” — that is, that previous case studies and industry analyses have been long on strategy, and short on tactics.  There are hard drives bursting with essays, webinars and podcasts calling for “disintermediated information flows” and “leveraging Web 2.0 to enhance user experience,” but the practical means by which to transmute these philosophies into concrete policies & procedures has been lacking.

No longer.

I’d like to publicly thank & brag about my writers:

Chapter 1: Stacy Lynch writes about how to assess your current situation to spot where opportunities exist – even in this down economy & print-hostile environment.

Chapter 2: Heather Schlegel (aka Heathervescent) shows how to construct User Personas to start focusing in on audience groups that you want to turn into readers/users/contributors/evangelists.

Chapter 3: Chris Willis takes on one of the toughest problems in media organizations: the change-resistant culture, and shows how to start the internal change that will then manifest itself as an external renaissance.

Chapter 4: Francis Pisani brings a breath of fresh air to the product launch process – his experience as an “Alpha Blogger” in France & Spain brought him into contact with tech teams that are doing spectacular things.

Chapter 5: Sean McDonnell uses his experience of working to build communities for the banking and financial sector to show off the newest viral marketing tools.

Chapter 6: Erik Johnson shows how to push, pull, coax and haul our audiences up the engagement ladder; because an engaged user is far more valuable than a drive-by browser.

Chapter 7: Janine Warner dissects the business and organizational structures that New Media companies are using to produce this kind of content.

Chapter 8: Kevin Featherly takes the results of all this labor, and shows how to make an informed decision to “hold ’em or fold ’em.”

I am tremendously proud of the work that they all have done.  We are all trying to peer into cloudy crystal balls here, and they have uncovered some real gems.

Read More

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Mar 15

…thus confirming everything I always suspected about Aerosmith fans…

Posted: under Amusing Nonsense.
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I find data mash-ups like this absolutely fascinating. Totally anecdotal, useless for anything other than starting an argument or feeling smug/outraged, but impossible to look away from. It was made by comparing the reported list of favorite bands from Facebook with the average SAT scores of the university that those students were attending.

So yeah, it’s a completely made-up signifier, one that purports to reveal some hidden correlations, but which is maddeningly vague.   I mean, are Billy Joel fans really smarter than Foo Fighters fans? Or is it just some combination of Jersey-boy favoritism and Ivy League colleges skewing things?And AC/DC fans smarter than Doors fans? I mean, who really believes that the shop class dirtheads out-IQ the pretentious poets?

A larger point to ponder is the amount of data we all have voluntarily contributed to public places, and the ways that data is available to even casual researchers to aggregate, thin-slice and draw conclusions from. Imagine someone with a slightly more robust databank figuring out how to correlate the playlists on and Pandora with the incidence of buying Crocs sandals and voting Democratic in local school board elections.

We all make judgments about each other based on surface impressions – it’s what the book “Blink” was about.  A couple of bearded guys in an aging VW Microbus is such a cliche that I’ll bet you immediately thought “hippie.”  The cops do things like this with bumper stickers, such as when they revealed that 90% of the time they pull over a car in LA with a KROQ bumper sticker, they routinely search it for drugs (when this was reported, two things happened – KROQ screamed bloody murder and thousands of stoners went outside with razor blades and started scraping furiously).  Gang members do it with shoelaces, and screeners at airports do it with twitchy body language.

Graph showing the relationship between favorite band and SAT score.

Graph showing the relationship between favorite band and SAT score.

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