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January 2007 Archives

January 6, 2007

Is there anybody out there?

My friend Rich seems to having so much fun blogging, I thought i should give it a try. I figure that if anyone is interested in the inner workings of my twisted mind, this blog may give some insight. I'll be writing about my life, my industry, my interests and tell a (hopefully) amusing anecdote along the way....stay tuned for more.

Content, Ads and shades of grey

Let me start by saying I know nothing about the Federal Election Laws. Ok. Now, with that, I was reading this article by George Will and one paragraph caught my eye. Namely:

"The Federal Election Commission recently fined some "527" groups (named for the tax code provision under which they organize) $630,000. Their offense? Issue advocacy in 2004 that, "taken as a whole," could "only be interpreted by a reasonable person as containing the advocacy of the election or defeat" of a federal candidate. Editorial writers at The Post and the New York Times, ever eager to regulate political advocacy not done by newspaper editorial writers, approved, although the Times thought the fines insufficient, and although The Post, calling the current law "murky," thought the FEC should have enforced the murkiness quicker.

So from the article, and given the First Amendment, I am presuming that the offensive action in this case was a paid for advertisement run in some publication or broadcast. As opposed to the "content" written by the Post, the Times and other publications/ broadcasters. Perhaps an easy distinction to make offline, but online?

One of my early ideas at Topix was to sell story clicks. Stories (more specifically headlines) are the best ads for a publication. I wanted to create an ad network for publications, and use their headlines as the copy for the ads. This didn't come to fruition, for a lot of reasons, but distribution deals nonetheless thrive online. Publications have paid syndication deals with other sites all the time, where they pay the other site to host their headlines and drive traffic back to them. We had one with the NY Times where they paid us to feature their headlines on our site.

Now, the NY Times is not a 527 group. But there are there are plenty of 527 groups online. Lots of them produce "content" every day. Are they precluded from syndicating that content? What if the google crawler spiders them? Does the FEC prevent this? Can the Google spider crawl their member solicitation pages, but not their content? Can they purchase text links on the net? To their content pages, their solicitation pages or both? But the text links can't be headlines (even though those may results in the most solicitation pages page-views)?

Perhaps somewhere the McCain Feingold act addresses this - like i said i don't know. I just find it very interesting how the distinction between content and advertising continues to become murkier and how this will have spill over effects in many areas.

Hey you Grateful Dead fans....

This guy is great....if you play the guitar, like the dead and are looking for accurate tabs, look no further...and his videos are cool too:

Adios Bill, an at

Most of you know that I grew up in Pittsburgh in the 70's and 80's. Now, while I haven't lived in the Burgh since 1986 or so, you can take the boy out of Pittsburgh, but not the Pittsburgh out of the boy - or, more specifically, the Pittsburgh Steeler fan out of the boy. That's why when I see this story about Coach Cowher leaving dem Stillers, I get a bit sad...

Picture1.jpg

He was the perfect coach for the city of Pittsburgh: fiery, resilient, tough, passionate, dedicated, honest and, unlike other coaches that have these same qualities (cough, bill parcells, cough - excuse me), eminently likable. The only thing I can't figure out is why his teams always seemed to play scared in big games (1994 San Diego, 1995 Indy (even though we won), Denver in 1997/ 1998, the Jets in 04, New England in 04 and even last years Super Bowl, etc. etc.) But whatever. He was great for the city and the team. Gonna suck to see him coaching elsewhere in 2 years.

My new home....

Less than 24 hours ago I started blogging and I've already switched URL's.

When I decided to set up a blog, on my friend JT's advice, I gave Vox a go. True to his description, it was really easy to use (an important fact when you are technically challenged like me). With that, a couple of feature-holes really bugged me: (1) no blog roll (the neighborhood feature was similar, but you could only add other Vox members ot your neighborhood); (2) you had to register with Vox to comment on my entries; and (3) there was no traffic reporting. Individually, no big deal. Taken together, enough to make me switch. While I was hesitant to move past anything that was as intuitive as Vox, I've managed to figure out how to move my old entries over to this URL (with accompanying vid's and pic's), i.e. so far so good.

So, welcome to Marksonland. feel free to kick off your shoes and stay a while....

Note to JT: don't worry, this blog is powered by Moveable Type.
Note to Rich thanks for the hosting help!

January 7, 2007

Scaling the media model

Interesting post today on TechCrunch, analyzing the current "bubble" and the fate of Web 2.0 companies. I agree with most of it, including his spot on analysis of the value of the network effect. With that, it doesn't address this fact: a network, large or small, is as only as good as the monetization it delivers. And right now, absent massive scale, the online media model still isn't delivering.

The reality of the world is that if you are an online destination relying on a media model (as opposed to search, ecommerce, etc.) for monetization, absent a tremendous (and I mean tremendous) number of page views, you're not driving that much revenue. Now, if you are a blogger and only need to monetize your site for extra beer money or perhaps to quit your day job, this isn't a problem. But, if you are a VC and you've poured a bunch money into what you hope to be the next big thing, it certainly has to keep you up at night.

To get a state of the world, let's take a look at the numbers from a site that has managed to scale massively: Facebook. Fortunately, the recently leaked Yahoo!/ Facebook Project Fraternity projections provide a very candid view of the online media model from two of the top players. Now, obviously, this deal never occurred and the numbers are just projections, but they do show (a) how well Facebook was performing on its own (2005) and (b) how well Yahoo thought it could monetize the Facebook inventory post an acquisition (thereafter).

Here are their numbers:

Year Facebook Site Wide CPM
2005* $0.26
2006 $0.35
2007 $0.74
2008 $1.31
2009 $2.05
20010 $2.96

*2005 Pre-hypothetical acquisition.

So, on its own Facebook is/ was monetizing its site at $0.26 CPM. While this is low, it is also a reflection of the fact that its direct sell through is only 4% of its pages. What's more interesting is that had this deal occurred, even after Yahoo! had five years to integrate Facebook into its operations, train its talented sales force to sell a heck of a lot of new inventory, create ad products specifically designed for advertisers to reach the valuable 18-24 year old set Facebook delivers (most of which are even more valuable as they are registered users), the site wide CPM would increase to....just under $3.00?

Two more notes on these numbers:

(i) I presume that the Project Fraternity projections included the integration of a Yahoo! search box onto every Facebook page (there is no search on the site absent the acquisiton). This addition should, theoretically, yield the highest CPM's out there. I say I presume this because I would assume this integration would be a flip of a switch that would occur on day one, but for some reason the CPM from 2005 (pre-hypothetical acquistion) to 2006 (post-hypothetical acquisiton) only jumps $.09; and

(ii) my guess is these numbers are aggressive. Remember, they were being used to justify a $1.6b purchase price for a company with less than $8mm in revenue.

In any event, back to point. So, what do these numbers mean if you are Yahoo! or Facebook? Not much. Individually, they're each delivering such a massive number of monthly page views, that low CPM's don't really matter. The can still deliver a meaningful amount of revenue.

But what if you are an otherwise run of the mill, general interest Web 2.0 company trying to manage a media business model? Well, these numbers tell me that, under current conditions, you better figure out how to grab an audience where you can deliver a billion plus monthly page views if you want to earn real money.

January 8, 2007

The wages of sin....

With the holiday season now over, apparently it's time to pay the piper. We've were traveling at the end of December and then had friends in town the past week or so: i.e. we've have been out eating and drinking every night for two weeks straight.

So over the weekend, I was informed that we are greeting the new year the old fashioned way: a diet. The wife's trainer gave us this crash diet that is supposed to take off 10 lbs a week. We're going to give it a go.

Here are the Vegas odds:

15-1: I lose the 10 lbs I put on over the holidays

10-1: I bust the diet within the first three days

1-1: I follow the diet just enough that i'm miserable and I cheat on the diet just enough so i lose no weight

Happy new year. ugh.

Funny...

My new favorite blog...

Ideas are one thing. Communicating them effectively is a completely different animal. I like to think I have some decent ideas, but I am fully aware of my limitations in communicating them (I blame it on three years of law school and 6 years practicing corporate law - two environments where succinctness is not a priority).

In any event, when I talk about what I think makes a successful web-site, i usually go on some long rant about how a site must develop a two way relationship with the user, become involved in the users daily life, etc. And then I point to the obvious successes of the email providers (Yahoo, Hotmail), search engines, social networks and how they've developed these two way relationships with their users.....and then the listener usually falls asleep.

Which is why when i read posts like this it makes me feel (a) happy that i have similar thoughts to an obviously smart person; and (b) sad that my communication skills aren't nearly as good.

Anyway, check out: http://headrush.typepad.com/creating_passionate_users/. Cool blog, smart AND well written.

January 9, 2007

Pet Peeves

I think I will make this an ongoing list:

1. The fact that when I travel and calendar something into my phone, the phone does the time conversion for me. For example, I'm on the east coast, someone in Palo Alto says let's chat next Weds. at noon. I of course plug the meeting in my phone for Weds. at noon. Annoyingly, when i get back to California, the phone has gone ahead and automatically changed the meeting time to Weds. at 9 AM. Not sure if that makes sense, but trust me, on the annoying scale it is a solid 7.

2. People that send us press releases that are huge files. As a news site, we get story submissions/ press releases all the time - yes, i know we're a news aggregator and don't produce original stories, that's besides the point. ANYWAY, I don't mind getting them - but i hate it when it is a huge file. I'll get a 5MB press release spammed to me that will fill up my mailbox, make incoming messages bounce, etc. Annoying scale: 8.

To be continued...

Does Online Brand Advertising Exist?

At Topix we've recently dipped our toes in the world of traffic buying. We've done a series of tests on a variety of dispaly ad form factors as well as Ad Words buys, and think we actually may have found something that works. "Works" meaning drives traffic to our site in an economic fashion. We're keeping our fingers crossed.

In any event, I bring this up because over the past few weeks I've talked to ALOT of ad networks. Some of these networks try to justify charging me more for our ad because of the "premium publications" they have deals with (presuming premium is related to the "name" of the publication, and therefore the type of audience they deliver, not the size of the audience.)

I've thought about this, and I've concluded: I don't care. Let me re-phrase: obviously I am not interested in our ads being seen on porn sites or, perhaps, even gambling sites. But other than that I'm not sure I care. For me, it's all about CTR. Once I get them to the site, I hope the brand wears off on them enough that they come back But externally, my focus is getting them there to our pages in an economic fashion.

Basic math: a 1% CTR on a $1.00 remnant display ad means I am paying $.10/ click...return user rate (perhaps a function of the publicaiton, but that's hard ot generalize) brings the cost down even further. Trust me, it's cheaper than the adwords I would buy. This is how I view the world.

So the question is should I care about "premium publications"? Does anyone?

Obviously this disctintion between premium and non-premium relateds to the brand part of advertising. But does anyone run pure brand advertising campaigns on line? By pure brand advertising, I mean one where they don't care about CTR's, they just want their name/logo/slogan/colors/etc. out there?

I think the answer is no. I can't imagine a scenario where a company got their slick new design up on some ads, put the ads on a bunch of sites, found out the ads drew zero traffic....and the CMO was happy. It just doesn't work that way.

Everyone wants traffic. Everyone looks at CTR, CPC, conversion, etc. Now, they might pay a premium element in their advertising to have their brand prominently displayed. But just displaying it isn't enough. In my view, if I buy remnant for $1.00 CPM, 5% is worth it for the brand. The remaining 95% i measure against the clicks.

January 11, 2007

Rocket Man

My friend Rob helped build this (the actual satellite, not the video)...pretty cool stuff....

Do you Google!

I got a kick out of this mock showing what would Google look like with Yahoo's design team.

googleyahoo565.jpg

Rich thinks Yahoo! should do a deal with Google to let them monetize their searches. Given the superiority of the Google product and monetization and the fact that in the deal Yahoo! would end up with 90% of the money, he might be right.

If, though, Yahoo! thinks search is key to their future, owning that piece is critical to their growth/ staying relevant and Panama will get them there, then they might actually want to take a clue from Google and change the Yahoo front page. I'm not a designer but I picture a big search box in the middle of the page, with links to email, finance and one or two other services being displayed. All of the other Yahoo! services being accessible via search.

Given how lucrative search is, what always struck me as brilliant about Google's home page was how it forced users to search (something they want to do anyway). Yahoo! might want to think about this strategy as well. Otherwise, their stuck with the publishing model, and I already said my two sense on that one.

January 12, 2007

Another Google/ Yahoo! Riff

My friend Dave says I need to write more about my golf game and the steelers and less about my job. He's probably right. With that, one more thought on the industry...

I was thinking more about my last post, and what would happen if Yahoo changed its interface to something more Google-like. As I mentioned, there would only be room for a few home page links (email, finance, etc.) and the rest of the Yahoo! services would only be accessible via search.

So what happens to those other services? Well, if I search Honda Accord, perhaps Yahoo! autos shows up like it does now, as the top search result. Makes sense.

But wait, that shortcut isn't an organic result. It has an icon next to it, sits above the organic results, more links, etc. It's an ad. And since it is an ad, it competes with the other ads on that page. Accordingly, it should be measured against the other ads on the page for performance, profitability, etc.

I guess the hard question is what if there is opportunity costs associated with the shortcut ad? i.e. third party ads generated more income, performed better, etc. than the Yahoo! ad. Would they cut the service? Not sure, but it would be an interesting way to see if all of the "peanut butter" is worth keeping....

January 13, 2007

I need a life

Watching the NFL playoff games this afternoon with my friend Blair (who is in his late twenties) I became pretty aware that my knowledge of professional sports has severely gone down. And to add insult to injury, it became pretty clear that I am old - when i see #29 running the ball for Indianapolis, I immediately think Eric Dickerson.

Anyway, I mention this because I was thinking about my friend Dave telling me I need to blog about work less and more about the Steelers, and it occurs to me that perhaps following the industry has replaced following pro sports for me. Following the players, keeping up with the gossip, checking the numbers - it's pretty much the same. But instead of checking ESPN.com regularly (like Blair does), I check TechCrunch, et. al. instead.

Either that or it's just that the Steelers aren't in the playoffs....I really hope its the latter. ;)

January 14, 2007

Cloying

Cloying: causing or tending to cause disgust or aversion through excess: a perfume of cloying sweetness. (Dictionary.com)

My brother taught me that word. He used it in the context of describing his feelings about pesto sauce to me. "First bite tastes great," he says, "after the third bite the thought of eating more makes me sick."

Now, I happen to like pesto sauce, so that particular application doesn't work for me. But I think it is a really interesting word that describes an all too frequent phenomenon. How many times after trying something, anything (a song you hear for the first time, a TV show you see an episode of, a food you try, etc.), you thought this is great! But one or two more "interactions" with the same thing and you never want to see/hear/touch/taste it again.

Malcolm Gladwell in the book Blink tells the story of the Coke/ Pepsi taste tests. Pepsi won every time, yet Coke was the #1 seller. Why? Well, the taste tests were based on users taking one or two sips of each drink - and it turns out Pepsi is hands down better than Coke in small doses. However, buyers don't drink only one or two sips. They drink the whole can. And measuring the taste of the whole can of each drink, Coke wins every time. Turns out that for most folks, Pepsi is cloying.

I think about the concept of cloying when I see new products (and, of course, new websites). Trouble is I find it hard to identify the characteristics that make something cloying or not. At least for me, it truly is a test of time.

Maybe that's the beauty of the web development now (dare I say it - in the Web 2.0 world (barf)). You can figure out the minimally interesting product, release it and see how the masses react. If you do a good job of SEO (or PR or both) you'll get a good batch of testers and see if they stick. If they don't, it's back to the drawing board (although this is now the hard part - realizing when it is time to go back to the drawing board).

Free, real time, actual user feed back is a better alternative to beta tests and focus groups. But I guess if you do go that route, a lot of tests with the same group is required, otherwise you might be releasing a product that is cloying and you won't even know it. .

January 15, 2007

Crazyfingers

Jerry, backstage, warming up.....hard to believe it's been over 11 years....

January 17, 2007

Monday Morning Bus. Dev.

Stories like this always crack me up. First, they say how Yahoo blew it by not buying Google way back when, then they go on to detail how Yahoo screwed up the acquisitions it actually did make since that time. Isn't it more likely than not that had Yahoo bought its rival at the time, the end result would look more like this than what we see today?

Buyer Beware

Interesting post on Tech Crunch regarding the difficulties entrenched players have with new markets/ technology - especially if the new markets/ technology cannibalizes some or all of their existing businesses. As part of an organization owned by a newspaper consortium, we deal with this every day.

In any event, reading the TechCrunch article made me want to expand on my previous post commenting on the recent Wired news story. My post wasn't meant to be a crack at Yahoo!. Quite the opposite. In certain situations the realities of the world won't allow an acquisition be successful.

Acquisitions are hard. Integrations are even harder.

In the internet world, I view acquisitions as an opportunity to buy revenue, technology or audience - or some combination of the three. For technology companies, technology acquisitions can be the trickiest. Revenue acquisitions stand on their own merit - and audience acquisitions are often treated similarly. With these, the focus can be on synergy - pouring traffic on a site, leveraging salesforeces, marketing campaigns, etc.

But technology acquisitions? Oy. In the case of Yahoo and Google, would you want to be the one who had to tell the team of Yahoo! engineers that they just bought their competitors (who make little to no money) for $5 billion, rather than using that money to build something themselves? And even once you have that conversation, good luck getting the new guys and the old guys to eat beans and weenies together at the company picnic. There are too many egos, too much NIH to allow these to be successful very often.

And that's my guess what would have happened had they done that deal. Yahoo was the entrenched company. They were the number one site on the net. They were making money. They buy Google there is no way they let those punks tell them how to run their business. And so they don't. And you end up with something that looks nothing like Google looks today.

The interesting question is who would have come along to fill the gap in the market place had things happened like that.....

January 18, 2007

A Little Knowledge (Literally)

This weekend is the latest edition of my semi-regular Texas Hold 'Em game with my friends. Despite the fact that I'm an average card player at best, I happened to win the last tournament. As a result I am the current holder of our championship belt. By the way, there is an actual belt. Our previous champ (Ruby) took an old weight belt and used white out to write "Texas Hold 'Em Champion" on the front of it. It's now the official championship belt and it lives in my apartment (for now).

Our game is probably like most other friendly games around the country: low stake, drunken affairs with lots of making fun of each other in between and during hands. One of the biggest recipients of this abuse is Rob. Why? Rob plays poker all the time. He reads books on it. He lives it and loves it and is actually pretty good at it. The funny thing is Rob has NEVER won our game. Ever. So even though he has forgotten more about poker than most of us, it hasn't helped in our game - and as a result let's us make fun of him. Alot.

This got me thinking. There are lots of times when someone is incredibly well versed in a subject, but, for whatever reason, the end result just isn't there. Here at Topix I always give our designer grief, telling him that he would have never shipped Craig's list or Drudge report. They're too ugly. Shipping those designs isn't in his DNA. And yet they're two of the top sites on the net with lots of devoted users. Simple, usable and not over thought. Kind of like just playing cards and position at the poker table and not trying to spend too much time reading others. (BIG NOTE: this isn't a crack on our designer - he does amazing works and our site looks 10,000% better now that he is here).

Anyway, I think there are a lot of instances where less is more, amateurs often fare better than experts and "beginner's luck" seems to reign. Economists might refer to this as diminishing marginal returns on knowledge. I just find this to be an all too common phenomenon.

I hope it continues this Friday at the poker table - obviously I will have to re-think this post in the event Rob wins.

January 19, 2007

Spammed-alot

Man: Have you got anything without spam?

Waitress: Well, there's spam egg sausage and spam, that's not got much spam in it.

Wife: I don't want ANY spam!

Man: Why can't she have egg bacon spam and sausage?

Wife: THAT'S got spam in it!

Man: Hasn't got as much spam in it as spam egg sausage and spam, has it?

This month has been a rough one for the Ops team at Topix. We are now being inundated with more spam than ever. This morning I woke up with 500 emails in my mail box - 480 or so of which were spam. Brief side note: I probably suffer more than other folks at the company because I am on every alias list possible (media, partners, etc.) - provided its not spam, I like reading what people have to say about us.

In any event, back to point, my machine is now rendered almost inoperable during periods of the day because it is so busy processing inbound emails (spam). Argghh! So with that, I have to aska few questions:

Why is this happening?

Is it just that it is January and marketing budgets have been topped off so folks are willing to spend money on annoying spam campaigns?

Are these campaigns successful?

Are their folks who really fall for the "Top Stock Pick of the Week" mass email?

Does this just prove the point that email is really broken?

Is there an opportunity there to create the next widely adopted business communication device (sorry, AIM, text messaging, site messaging, etc. haven't had any sort of mass adoption in the business world)?

I could also ask why the spam problem persists even though Congress made it illegal a couple of years ago. But that would lead me to a rant about how almost always when there is a clash between profits and legality profits always win - but that would add another 200 words and I wouldn't want use this post as an opportunity to intrude on your life uninvited with my political philosophies. That would be spammy.

The king is dead....

long live the new king. I lost my hold 'em tournament tonight. A picture of the new champion Ruby and his belt below. Rob came in fourth. :)


ruby.JPG

January 21, 2007

Anatomy of an Ad Network

Interesting pickup on threadwatch and elsewhere on the recent changes to the Google Adsense Terms of Service.

Specifically, Google has revised its policy, which used to create page level exclusivity for Google ads vis-a-vis other contextually targeted networks, now reads as follows:

Competitive Ads and Services. In order to prevent user confusion, we do not permit Google ads or search boxes to be published on websites that also contain other ads or services formatted to use the same layout and colors as the Google ads or search boxes on that site. Although you may sell ads directly on your site, it is your responsibility to ensure these ads cannot be confused with Google ads.

At Topix, we rely heavily on Google Adsense for our revenue. It's the most effective network out there. We've tested against all of the competition and no one seems to come close performance wise. Why is this? Well, on a basic level, any contextual ad network really can be broken down into three components: (i) the advertiser base; (ii) the targeting technology; and (iii) the presentation.

For our tests (our current Google deployment included) we actually use our own technology to target the ads that appear on the pages. So in our world, element (ii) is a constant. That means Google is outperforming its competition on our pages through elements (i) and (iii) alone. Pretty impressive.

I'm always curious as to how much of the heightened Google performance is attributable to the advertiser base and how much is to the layout. I have a theory that just having the "ads by Gooooogle" lifts performance. Google is such a trusted brand on the net that a user is more apt to click on a link with their trusted seal of approval on it than they would clicking on something merely labeled "Sponsored Links."

In any event, with these revised terms of service it will be interesting to see how enforced and/ or enforceable they are. With text links becoming a larger and larger force in online advertising, and only a limited number of IAB standard ad sizes, as well as a finite universe of colors and font choices, it appears Google is acknowledging something we've known for a while: presentation matters. Now we'll see if they can protect it.

January 22, 2007

Adventures in real estate

My brother is in the midst of moving to Hawaii and buying a house there. So he finally finds a place that he likes, puts an offer down, goes to contract and then finds out about this. In a nutshell, there is some eccentric billionaire who decided to buy up a bunch of houses in nice neighborhood and rent them out to indigenous Hawaiians for incredibly low amounts ($150/month). My favorite quote from the guy:
"I expect these families will invite guests over, between 30 to 40 people," he told the Star-Bulletin. "I'm going to choose families with lots of friends. They're going to be like my family."
In the process of doing this, he has construction crews tearing down walls and filling swimming pools with the debris (and presumably violating all sorts zoning regulations, construction laws, land covenants, etc.).

This is crazy stuff. On the surface, the guy appears very altruistic but clearly there is something else going on here. He is trying to lower the property values of this neighborhood for some reason. I have no idea why. In any event, this is more than enough reason to walk away from the purchase.

Welcome to the Aloha spirit. Ugh.

January 23, 2007

Vegas, Baby?

Next week I head to Vegas for the NAA convention. It will be your typical trade show deal - we have the booth, lots of folks coming, an appropriate amount of tchotchkes, a meeting room for partner meetings, etc., etc. Except it will be different, at least for me...

While I've done God knows how many tradeshows in my life and also been to Vegas God knows how many times, for whatever reason the two have never intersected. I've never done a trade show in Vegas. I'm guessing that the experience will differ from my past tradeshows in that any gambling I do will be at the blackjack table, not dropping my business card in the free car raffle. Likewise, this trip will differ from my past Vegas trips in that...well, no need to go into detail there. ;)

In any event, team Topix will be in Vegas next week - if you're there you should stop by our booth to say hi and pick up a tchotchke!

January 25, 2007

Brilliant!

My buddy Dave pointed me to last weeks issue of GolfWorld magazine. They are reporting that the new John Daly sponsored Maxfli golf balls are not being numbered 1-4 like normal golf balls. Instead, no joke, they will have red, white and blue 7-7-7's on them. This is, in a word, brilliant.

Why do I love this so much? First off, as an avid golfer, I am the target customer here. I would definitely buy some of these. I'm not really good enough to be able to tell the difference between the various types of golf balls - the subtleties in performance escape me (not to mention that some of my best rounds have been played with scuffed up shag balls). So, for me I make my golf ball selection as such:

1. I don't play 80 compression balls - they're for women and seniors.

2. I usually buy Titleist Pro V-1's - only because that's what most good golfers play - and i figure they know more than me.

3. Any ball that I find or is given to me I will play (other than 80 compression balls).

And that's pretty much it. But now, Maxfli has given me a new reason to buy its golf ball. Golf, for me, is all about going out with your buddies and having a good time and a few laughs on the course. Having a ball number 7-7-7 red, white and blue can only help this cause.

The marketer in me admires how they took the commodity part of the golf ball - the numbering system - and turned it into a unique feature for their brand. Love that. Now, I acknowledge that this could be looked at as a novelty play - similar to orange and yellow golf balls (remember those?) - but a novelty play that sells a crap load of golf balls is probably a good thing.

But most of all I love the idea of snaking in a 30 footer, pulling out my 7-7-7 ball to show my buds and letting them know it never hurts to have luck on your side.

UPDATED: Dave saw my entry and sent me this message: "I think this only applies to the balls that they supply Daly to use on Tour. He requested it. Sort of like how Titleist gives Tiger balls that say "Tiger" on 2 sides or how Appleby's Precepts have an apple on 2 sides. Not sure the 7-7-7's will be available to the public . . . . yet any way."

Obviously, my opinion is that they should make them available to the public ASAP.

January 26, 2007

Mix-a-lot

Last night team Topix headed out to the Paidcontent mixer. Overall a good experience. Some random observations, in no particular order:

1. The place was packed. When I heard about it, I assumed it would be 100-200 folks, some booze, food, etc. Last count I heard was that there were 750 people in attendance. I have to tell you, it seemed like more. It took place in one of the Palace Hotel Ballrooms, and there was not much elbow room inside there at all.

2. No surprises on the attendees: lots of VC's, bankers, start-ups, tech companies, reporters, etc. running around. Kudos to Rafat. In a short period of time, his blog is reaching a lot of influencers. Not an easy trick.

3. I ran into lots of name tags last night. Note I say "name tags", not "faces", because when I walk the room at these things find myself identifying folks by the names tags they wear, not looking at their faces. This becomes embarrassing when I run into someone I know and recognize them only after reading their name. Ugh.

4. Speaking of attendees, for some reason it bugs me when people who aren't working make up titles for their name tag. For instance, I saw a bunch of Stanford Bus. School folks running around with name tags that had their names on them followed by "Stanford Business School". Another person I saw had his name followed by "Entrepreneur." To be clear, I think its cool that they're at the event, and I'm always happy to network with anyone. But for whatever reason, I find it odd when people do that.

5. The only downer was the $9 beers. Topix paid a decent chunk of change to be a Gold Sponsor, so you'd think that would score us a drink ticket or two. No such luck. Oh well, $9 beers probably kept me from drinking to many...which is a good thing.

6. I like our PR firm. They were out in force at this event, and they seemed to be talking us up alot. I know, you would think that this is standard practice for a PR firm, but, trust me, its not. Sometimes it's tough to get your PR firm to even mention you, as opposed to their other clients. In any event, these guys do a good job. Besides, Scott was rocking a purple velvet jacket at the event - which is all good.

In any event, a worthwhile event that was pretty fun too - and I'm not just saying that because I got free parking at the hotel...

January 27, 2007

Found Treasures

Kelly and I and a couple of friends headed over to the Metreon tonight to check out the Titanic artifacts exhibit.

titanic.jpg

While the exhibit didn't blow me away, it was a worthwhile experience that I would recommend doing. Looking at the artifacts really brought out the tragedy of the event for me. I stopped thinking of the passengers random names in a well known story (or characters in a movie), but as actual people who lived lives, had families, etc. Presumably that was one of the points of it, so it was pretty well done.

A couple of other random observations, in no particular order:

1. I had forgotten how many rich/ famous people were on that ship. John Astor, Benjamin Guggenheim, Isidor Straus, Lady Duff Gordon, etc. I started thinking that this would be the equivalent of any number of the people on today's richest persons list being lost in a single event.

2. Whenever I see the name Lady Duff Gordon, it takes me back to my law school contracts class when we studied the case Wood v. Lucy, Lady Duff-Gordon. I remember the professor noting at the time that the defendant was a passenger on the Titanic. But this was well before the movie and the recent resurgence in Titanic nostalgia, so it didn't really resonate that much.

3. I was astounded to learn that it took over 2 hours of descent in a manned subs to reach the wreckage on the sea floor. Perhaps there is some pressurization reasons for taking so long, but that's a lot longer than I would have guessed.

4. I wonder if there are commercial voyages to visit the wreckage. Given the interest in the Titanic, I would think that this would be happening. I mean, they're planning commercial trips to outer space - trips to the Titanic wreckage would have to be easier and less expensive to put together than that, no?

Anyway, if nothing else the exhibit let us check out a lot of interesting artifacts, learn a few things - and of course make a bunch of the obligatory "king of the world" jokes....so a good time overall.

January 31, 2007

Market-ing

I remember when we first started dealing with newspaper companies, we had an exchange with a newspaper company exec that went something like this:

Us: So what markets are you not in now that looking to move into?

Newspaper exec: None.

Our first reaction was: none??!? None??!!?? How can this be??? But then we thought about it...newspapers were living in a comfortable world of co-opetition with their brethren - they each owned there respective markets and life was pretty cozy. Well, that was over two years ago. Have times changed? In a word: yes.

We're now living in a world where newspaper.coms realize that more than 50% of their on-line visitors come from out of market. How to monetize these folks, still deliver a localized experience (outside a diminishing print footprint) and own their markets are now becoming larger and larger issues (notwithstanding that they should have been issues 2 years ago).

In any event, at Topix we think about this stuff everyday. And recently we announced a deal with Tribune which goes, to some degree, to help rectify this. We are going to be powering the general merchandise ads for Tribune papers. The beauty of this deal: it taps into the larger market of classified ads we have developed over the last 6 months at Topix. A nationwide network fo free classifieds that delivers community, targeted ads and most importantly, revenue. Pretty sweet.

The bigger picture: every Tribune paper will now have a classified solution for every market in the US...all 32,500 of them. We couldn't be more pleased. And the analysts seem to agree with us.

So what markets does Tribune want to move into that they are not in now? All of them. Watch out Craig.

About January 2007

This page contains all entries posted to Marksonland in January 2007. They are listed from oldest to newest.

February 2007 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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