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  Grill Blogging

Two meat-eatin' bloggers are talking about Grills this Memorial Day. Greg Sterling doesn't specify what he bought this weekend, but Paul Kedrosky has a Weber "Q" grill.

I got a Weber Silver Genesis B (which I love) back in December from Amazon for under $400 incl tax and free shipping - but the best price now is $499 before tax & ship. So if you need a new grill next year - don't wait til Memorial Day to get it.

  Google Video Ads will decrease relevancy

AdSense ads are usually pretty relevant, but I'm guessing that Video Ads will hurt relevance a lot. They may still work - especially as a novelty, but they won't be very Googly.

This hit me after reading a brilliant observation on the sem2 discussion group - I had asked what besides Movie trailers, car ads, political / advocacy ads and real estate would be good candidates for these new video ads. Matt McGee replied:

In all seriousness ... any category in which the ad can show attractive females scantily clad and get away with it.

Damn - he's right, it's the "porn drives media adoption" crossed with "sex sells." Brilliant and obvious. It's pure liquid money to the first advertiser who executes that well.

And if you think about it - no matter what Google is saying about how these ads aren't intrusive since they don't play automatically - the format is going to reduce relevance. Video simply is not text and can't easily be contextually relevant, by definition.

  AdSense Video Ads

Greg Sterling has been on a roll! Tonite he puts out the early word that Google is launching "click to play" video ads in AdSense. I don't see that on JenSense yet (though Quigo has a new ad format) - (update: now she does), nor does the AdSense blog have anything about it.

Ah, Google announces it on the Google AdWords blog - as part of the content network. I guess the AdWords blog is where they notify advertisers of new stuff. The AdSense blog is for publishers perhaps?

It's a bit annoying that the screenshot is blocked by that annoying Flash dialog asking you if you want to allow Flash to store info locally (at least for me, with my paranoid Firefox security settings). C'mon, can't we get rid of that thing and make the default "no".

Anyways, Greg's insight here - the influence of the reach of the AdSense network is gonna make this an interesting experiment.

  Net Neutrality disinformation campaign

This is funny - it's a Flash site sponsored by Telco companies who portray the net neutrality issue as a big set of government regulations backed by Google, Yahoo and Microsoft to ensure massive profits at the expense of the consumer. Um, Right.

Of course, it's actually perfectly perverse. The telcos are out-spending the technology companies in lobbying on this issue by a factor of 10. They are winning the battle to change the underlying nature of internet bandwidth to something they've dreamed of for years - a tiered model that let's them control traffic and charge more for access. The 3 major telcos in the US are desperate and screwing up the internet is gonna be no problem for them.

I don't think it'll be a catastrophe when they win, but it will hurt.

Hey - use Skype and call your Senator or Congressional rep today. Tell them what you think about the Telcos plan...

  The MySpace obsession

John Rodkin agrees with many who think that Rupert Murdoch got the deal of the nascent century when he bought MySpace for under $600M. I think so too, but I also think it was smart of MySpace to sell - because the Murdoch people have helped create a platform strategy that might just work.

John also pulls out an interesting factoid from recent HitWise data:

Another interesting tidbit from the Hitwise analysis is that MySpace users navigate to in huge numbers to run searches - but Yahoo is the default MySpace search engine. That sounds like bad news for Yahoo’s competitiveness.

Sure does. It also explains why the likes of Eric Schmidt and Marissa Mayer have developed MySpace envy lately.

  Why Yahoo is so late with the new ad system
Greg Sterling excerpts Yahoo's press release enumerating the set of features in their "Panama" ad revamp (est. for early 2007).

Basically Yahoo is building what Google had about a year ago. What Danny Sullivan has called a "generation 2" ad system.

But later in the press release after the tarted-up feature dump, there's a very telling quote from Yahoo's SVP of ad platforms, Steve Mitgang:

"While the enhancements to our platform are dramatic and will provide immediate benefits to our advertisers, we ultimately rebuilt our system with the future in mind," said Mitgang. "Once the first version of the core platform is in place, we will be able to move quickly to build in capabilities that ultimately..."

Ah, the classic: "we needed to rewrite everything from scratch" rationalization. (Cf. Spolsky's opinion on massive rewrites) Usually sold to an organization by the engineering team with the promise that it'll be so much more flexible in the future.

So what you get in early 2007 is a basic ad system with the promise of more flexibility in the future. Maybe Yahoo did need to rewrite the code they bought from Overture. It just didn't need to take 3 years and cost them a billion in revenue while they did it.

  Hitwise Data on Google, Yahoo, MSN and MySpace share

Bill Tancer at Hitwise is putting up some useful charts comparing Google, Yahoo, MSN (and Myspace!) properties.

For example, Google search is 80% of all * traffic, Google Images is around 10% and News is about 1.5%.

Today he put up a comparison of Yahoo, Google, MSN in search, email, maps, news, etc. It's great fodder for the portal and google-ologists.

And over at Heather Hopkins' blog from Hitwise UK, you could learn things like: Bebo is set to overtake MySpace in UK social network traffic! Wow.

My jealousy over the Hitwise bloggers having all that data around is tempered by my recall of an old Steve Martin quote:

I could not handle being a woman, I would stay home all day and play with my breasts.

Luckily, the Hitwise people are there to do that for me, I guess.

  Google, Talent and Hubris

Via Zawodny's mostly dormant blog, I found this old Malcolm Gladwell article on "The Talent Myth". Gladwell writes about Google's Enron's over-confidence in the value of talent.

I think the potential for over-dependence on talent as a management structure has something to do with what Kedrosky was getting at in his response to my post on Marissa Mayer's talk:

Mayer has some perfectly pleasant ready-for-HBR ideas, but in practical terms her talk is loopy and full of self-congratulatory silliness and ex post rationalizations.

On Greg Sterling's blog he comments about the Google culture why it has more cachet than say Yahoo:

Yahoo is run by a bunch of real people, while behind the scenes at the Googleplex people believe there’s a mysterious and infallable cabal of search geeks. It’s strange.

Somehow it seems related to me. Not that Google's the next Enron, but the belief that they've somehow derived a new type of corporate culture based on smart people seems worrisome... (In the old but never-used SGI buildings, to boot)

  Marissa Mayer's Love Letter to Kedrosky

Here's a video of Marissa Mayer at Stanford outlining Google's philosophy about product and innovation. She lists nine points from:

Listening to Marissa and her anecdotes about Google products immediately brought to mind Paul Kedrosky's recent plainative wailing about how Google should clean up their development process and finish 'em dammit!

I think Marissa's infectious enthusiasm and her key points stand up pretty well with respect to developing products and innovation - especially the parts about instant perfection, users & money and not killing projects.

Google's weakness is not its innovation process - it's a strength. In my opinion, it's biggest threat is hubris. Marissa's confidence about the greatness of Google's culture gives a bit of pause.

Update: During the questions, Marissa says that "on a good day" users do 7-10 searches. Then she says that Orkut, MySpace, etc get an average of 100 page views a day per user. Yet another Google exec obsessed with MySpace...

  Yahoo's Disappointing Analyst Day

In the earnings call last month, Yahoo execs kept pointing to May 17 as a big day. That's when they'd detail the features and rollout plan of their new ad system designed to get them back in the game against Google.

Too bad they didn't say anything today we don't already know.

Yahoo doesn't seem to have a webcast posted, like Google did for its recent product day, and there really isn't much press coverage of Yahoo's analyst day yet. I guess that's what being the #2 internet property really means - the press doesn't care that much about you.

I was most interested in specifics of Yahoo's new ads system (codename: Panama) that's supposed to compete with AdWords. Danny Sullivan covers it and he calls Yahoo's new system a 2nd generation ad system (he calls Microsoft's adCenter a 3rd gen system, primarily due to the demographic targeting and dayparting. Google's is currently 2nd gen in Danny's classification.) Overall, the details aren't that exciting, and there's no proof in the pudding, yet.

Yahoo also wasn't specific on when it's actually going to be working. According to Danny's report:

When? Platform tests through Q3 this year, then deploy in US, then Q1 next year internationally. Advertisers will also come into the new platform. The ranking system itself won't change until Q4 this year in the US, it's expected, then Q1 internationally

Platform tests thru Q3 means maybe mid-November? Too late for most the Christmas rush for most people, I think. A really weasel-ly answer, for all the buildup this day got back on earnings day.

My feeling from afar is that Yahoo's analyst day was even more content-free than Google's was. The SJ Mercury covered it and local search expert Greg Sterling seems to agree.

But Sterling and other analysts at the meeting, held at the Four Seasons Hotel in San Francisco, said they were disappointed that the company did not provide more specific information about its operations.

Update: On Greg Sterling's blog, he does a bit of a data dump, and says that Tim Cadogan presented a "dizzying array of specifics" on the new ads system. That sounds better, if anyone would enumerate those I'd be interested, but I still think Yahoo under-delivered by not being more specific on release date...

  Cringely == Gordon Gecko?

Another great piece of contrarian punditry from Cringely, complete with hilarious Gordon Gecko-esque lines like:

I'm counting on Google and eBay to save America.

The upshot is a warning to Google to not behave like Microsoft, as tempting as that may be:

What counts is that for Microsoft the platform is the PC while for Google the platform is the Internet and nobody can hope to control the Internet -- not Microsoft OR Google.

Given that Google can't practically aspire to control the Internet and Microsoft can't NOT aspire to control it, Google already has a vastly lighter load to carry.


Now here's a failure strategy for Google. While not intending so much to create a platform, Google has done just that. And once you control a platform, the way to best leverage that control is by sharing the platform generously. Google is right now the basis of much Web 2.0 creativity from third-party firms -- every one of which is afraid that they'll be put out of business next month by Google rolling-out its own version of whatever that ISV has built and proved. That's the Microsoft domination model, so why not? Because it poisons the well, that's why not.

PS: Earlier in the piece, Cringely/Gecko starts in on IBM (and also Sun):

If IBM had invested in improving services, rather than cutting them to the bone, by now they could own their market. But they didn't. IBM's primary innovation has been to move as many jobs offshore as possible, cutting costs for now, but at a horrible long-term cost to the company.

IBM CEO Sam Palmisano, should he choose to reply to this column, might point to the IBM development center in Austin, Texas, which specifically targets the services business, as an example of what IBM is doing right. It's called the Global Technology Center. Alas, the GTC has spent millions of the company's money, are masters at promoting themselves, but have delivered very little of real value back to the services organization.


Cringely and The Dilbert Blog are the two best regular sources of original punditry on the internet.

  Eric, Sergey or Larry

Google execs star in today's Dilbert. I've excerpted the frame with the caricatures of Eric, Sergey and Larry cause it cracked me up.

Which is the funniest caricature? I gotta go with Schmidt, personally.

(via Philipp)

  Blodget on Google CAPEX

Among the more financially inclined google-ologists, the eternal question is: What the hell is Google spending all that cash on? It's known as the CAPEX problem. The Capital expenditures - where are they?

Henry Blodget has some data from the 10Q - apparently during the latest quarter it was about $112M on servers, $138M on buildings and land etc. It turns out not to look as bad as some had feared. I.e. It's possible that Google is spending reasonable gobs of money for a company their size.

So if Google's CAPEX is a reasonable number some things fall out:

And to those who malign H. Blodget based on his infamous past - you really should be thankful he's "covering" Google, cause he's doing a better job at it than anyone else.

  Google Annual Report - Hardcopy

I received my Google Annual report in the mail on Wedsnesday May 10. Unfortunately, I opened it too late to act on the invite to the shareholders meeting on the 11th. Oh well.

I did get a laugh perusing the otherwise minimalist and dry copy inside when I came across this (pg. 11):

Our Google AdSense program enables the web sites in the Google Network to serve targeted ads from AdWords advertisers. Targeting can be based on content, search, site and demagraphics.

Demagraphics?!? Kinda makes me wonder if SVP of Products Jonathan Rosenberg is the only guy at Google who really knows what demographics are...

  Google Press Day - What does it all mean?

Google trotted out the execs and treated the press to famous Google catering. What did the press really see that was news? Not much.

Google emphasized that they think the search game is in the early stages. They did mention that they are experimenting with video ads, and spoke a bit about demographics. But this is stuff they mostly covered in their talk with analysts after quarterly earnings a couple of weeks ago.

Eventually they announced 4 'products' - Google Trends, Desktop version 4, Google Notebook and Google Co-op.

People like Paul Kedrosky have been urging them not to keep creating little incomplete products but rather to polish the stuff that's already out there and I'd say they basically ignored his pleas.

However, the products they did announce are rather meager and a little bit strange.

You have to go read Philipp's breakdown of Google Co-op, suffice to say it's not really a mainstream product - unless you're the first spammer who figures out how to game Co-op for your benefit. It's similar in purpose to Google Base. Google needs people to send them more data so they can categorize it better.
Upshot: For Geeks only

Google Trends is a cute little graphing tool that shows how much relative traffic various search terms get.
Upshot: It's a toy

And Google Desktop 4 is basically contains copies of Yahoo's Konfabulator widgets for your desktop
Upshot: Incredibly me-too.

Google Notebook was announced but not released, so let's reserve judgement.

Overall, a rather boring media day, and very underwhelming product-wise.

So I wonder if Kedrosky's happy after all? They didn't really announce anything major - is that good or bad?

  Yahoo's New Ad System in the NYT

Saul Hansell at the New York Times gives Yahoo a soft-touch in describing their new ad system designed to compete with Google. The Yahoo PR team always does a good job with the press - hiding the internal outrage at the massive screw-ups and lateness to market.

Of course, Yahoo claims the new system is highly architecturally sophisticated and able to handle video ads and such. Initially however:

the first version will present only a subtle difference from what Google offers. Advertisers will simply enter the keywords they want their ad to appear next to and the maximum price they are willing to pay for a click. The most significant option will be to specify a certain geographic region in which the ads will be shown, a feature Google also offers.

The more they make it work *exactly* like Google, the easier it will be for buyers.

One wonders if Yahoo's search is gonna have any significant conversion-oriented inventory by 2007 when the new ad system actually launches?

  Google's Achilles Heel
What's the biggest danger to Google's future? It's not Microsoft, it's not Yahoo and it ain't click fraud.

It's Al Gore.

Well, not actually Al himself, but the intellectual homogeneity he represents.

You see, people at Google LOVE Al Gore. He visits there a lot. He's been a senior advisor to the company since 2001. He travels on private jets with Sergey and Larry.

When Al shows up and gives his global warming stump speech, he has the Googlers eating from the palm of his hand. They just love the guy.

So, what's the problem with that? Just this: Google has hired too many non-skeptical group-thinkers. If, in a group of 5000 engineers, there is a vast majority who accept Al Gore as a credible source of environmental science, something is wrong. Very, very wrong.

Engineers should naturally be able to see through this William Jennings Bryan of eco-alarmism. If they bothered to look at Peter Norvig's blog or actual temperature data, they might draw less extreme, more scientifically valid conclusions.

The biggest threat to Google is internal. The love affair with Al Gore is a bad sign that too many of their people don't bring enough intellectual diversity and skepticism to the table.


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Recent Posts

Grill Blogging
Google Video Ads will decrease relevancy
AdSense Video Ads
Net Neutrality disinformation campaign
The MySpace obsession
Why Yahoo is so late with the new ad system
Hitwise Data on Google, Yahoo, MSN and MySpace share
Google, Talent and Hubris
Marissa Mayer's Love Letter to Kedrosky
Yahoo's Disappointing Analyst Day
Cringely == Gordon Gecko?
Eric, Sergey or Larry
Blodget on Google CAPEX
Google Annual Report - Hardcopy
Google Press Day - What does it all mean?
Yahoo's New Ad System in the NYT
Google's Achilles Heel


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Grill Blogging
Google Video Ads will decrease relevancy
AdSense Video Ads
Net Neutrality disinformation campaign
The MySpace obsession
Why Yahoo is so late with the new ad system
Hitwise Data on Google, Yahoo, MSN and MySpace share
Google, Talent and Hubris
Marissa Mayer's Love Letter to Kedrosky
Yahoo's Disappointing Analyst Day
Cringely == Gordon Gecko?
Eric, Sergey or Larry
Blodget on Google CAPEX
Google Annual Report - Hardcopy
Google Press Day - What does it all mean?
Yahoo's New Ad System in the NYT
Google's Achilles Heel