Monday, July 30, 2007

Yahoo co-founder David Filo makes millions

It's share selling season again. This time I happened to notice that David Filo who co-founded Yahoo sold 167,000 shares and managed to get between $24.69 and $24.76 for them.

That means, at most, he made $4,134,920 and at worse $4,123,230.

Not bad David, not bad. I'll have a pint! Thanks!

It's worth noting that Filo was in an automatic sell share program so even if he did come into some juicy information - Yahoo going up, Yahoo going down, etc - those shares would still be sold. Sadly, I can't ethically stir up Yahoo! trouble mongering headlines with this post!

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Viacom's case against Google is getting murky.

I've been following Viacom's suite against Google/YouTube carefully and today's court events have made for an interesting twist.

Viacom is also complaining about those videos which might have been uploaded to YouTube and shown only to friends.

On a legal front this is a problem for Viacom because they can't know how often this has happened. There's no way to tell. No evidence. No case. (Facebook are currently chanting that too).

The more murky issue, however, is whether "just for friends" counts as a copyright infringement. Certainly if I have a bunch of friends over to watch a DVD then I'm not putting on a "public performance" and I'm not breaking the law. If I had a webcam on in the background and one of my bigmouth buddies in New York was watching - I'm still not breaking the law.

Am I breaking the law if I upload the DVD to an online host and let my friends watch it from there? Ooh. That's trickier. The lawyers will battle it out.

There's a YouTube of Eric Schmidt at Web 2.0 being interviewed by John Battelle which is worth watching. In the video (30+ minutes) Eric Schmidt clearly calls on the "safe harbour" of theDigital Millennium copyright act.

This safe harbour allows companies who move to quickly take down copyright material a "get out of jail free card". Sure. Google had Viacom videos up for ages, in fact, as Google's lawyer David Kramer pointed out that some of the videos on YouTube were uploaded by Viacom itself.

When Viacom fell out with Google and demanded the content be removed, the search engine did act quickly... so Eric Schmidt would say Google's safe as houses. However, what's not certain is whether this Digital Millennium 'safe harbour' applies in this situation.

Viacom may struggle to prove how many/if copyright breaching videos are part of this case. Without that cold hard fact in their case then they're going to struggle.

Google are certainly going to continue to play the corner of simply being a platform where videos can be shared but a platform from which copyright videos are taken down quickly on case of a complaint. Kramer made that clear by saying, "We don't know what works the plaintiffs claim to own," this morning - and that's a mantra we've all heard before.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Find the agency

BlueBoomerang have put together a rather addictive work out the agency game.

It took us a little while in the office to guess them all. The good news is that we're lucky enough to be featured. I'd say that along with Chemistry, Inferno, Wheel and Circus Communications that bigmouthmedia are one of the easiest to guess! So there's no excuse in getting us wrong!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

NowPublic: Struggling or being proactive?

Urg. "Proactive" is one of those marketing words but it seems to fit here.

I'm just back from Heathrow Airport - a two hour delay this time. That's mainly due to the floods that a terrorising parts of the UK and the knock on effects that's having on travel (that and wet and slidey runways across the country).

I have an email from Ryan Nadel the editor at NowPublic which asks for more content. Have you ever had a social/social news site email you and ask for more? It reads:

Dear Sir or Madam,

I am an editor at NowPublic.com. We have you on record as a UK contributor to NowPublic.

We are currently working on the developing story in the UK about the current and expected floods in the region.

Here is a link to an article we have up on the site about the situation. There are some great original photos.

We are looking for more first hand accounts of the floods and original photos and videos. If you or someone you know is interested in contributing please post to the site or drop me an email.

Regards,

NowPublic Editorial Team

I like NowPublic and other than the 'Dear Sir or Madam' this email is well written and to the point. NowPublic doesn't say they lack content. They say they want more.

Is it in the spirit of social news to ask for specific content? Does that take the 'social democracy' element away at all?

Perhaps NowPublic was just using this as a chance to highlight some of the excellent photography they have of the event.

What do you think?

Friday, July 20, 2007

Blocked or Bugged?

Oddness.

The screen grab seems to show Sphinn blocking my attempt to submit a Brand Republic story. The story itself is about Sony and Yahoo! teaming up to launch a pan-European travel guide.

So, bug or blocked URL?

Brand Republic does require a log in. It's a free log in and the site does show a few sentences from the story. It could well be that Danny and co don't want subscription required sites to be sphunn (it can be annoying when you click through and hit a barrier page). It could be a bug.

Update: It's a bug. Now reported to Sphinn's bug thread.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Would Google buy Experian?

Google's next acquisition will make the headlines. Google always does. Being the geek that I am - it's sometimes fun to mull over which will be the next big name that Google might buy. Will it be Iron Mountain? What about Experian?

Experian is a huge company and the market leader in the United Kingdom. Experian keeps track of individual's credit records. If I want to buy a house or get a credit card then the bank will check with Experian to find out whether I'm known to be bad at paying bills or whether I've a good record of paying on time.

Experian, therefore, holds a lot of information. Google tends to be hungry for information. Is it the type of information that Google wants? Well. That's a trickier one. It's certainly not the type of information that Google normally goes for but then we have Google Health which proves the exception to the rule. Google Health does touch on aggregating some of this "flavour" of data.

I think there would be more drama and concerns about privacy if Google did buy Experian. In theory, Google could begin to investigate ways in which to target high value AdWords to people who have a history of splashing the cash. I think that, though, would be too much for many Googlers to stomach.

There is another angle.

Experian owns Hitwise.

Now Hitwise and its data certainly would seem to be the type of company Google would be interested in buying. This begs the question; why didn't Google buy Hitwise?

If you've been lucky enough to attend a presentation by one of Google's vertical account managers then you'll have noticed just how often they can lean on Hitwise data. It may be that Google didn't know that Hitwise was for sale. It may also have been the case that Hitwise simply didn't approach Google. I'm reminded of the comment Seregy recently gave to the press about Facebook.

We don’t really look at companies for acquisitions unless they are really interested.

It may also be the case that Google does not need Hitwise's data. They may have it all anyway. They just don't share it. They certainly don't brand it up and allow Googlers to present with it - not even to huge international brands. In this case it may even be quite handy to have the independent Hitwise source of some data. Google therefore avoids the situation were they are seen to giving some of their data to some clients and withholding it from others.

I'll stick my next out. "Will Google buy Experian?" I think it's a juicy question to mull over. It'll be interesting times if Google does buy the company. I don't think they will. I think Experian is too big, too expensive, too controversial and maybe even too old (even though it only recently detached itself from GUS). I think Google may get better value from Hitwise by keeping them out of Google's growing family of brands.

Monday, July 16, 2007

First Sphinn spam? Spamm?

And the prize goes to...



It may get taken down but here's the Sphinn page which homes it. It was posted at 16:46 GMT.

The culprit (or framed site!) is GlutenFreeGeek. Yes, I'm using the nofollow option for that link!

This seems like a good time for an update on my I Support Nofollow campaign is still going. It has one signature - mine.

Another super merger coming?

Aegis and their Isobar group must be one of Google's biggest customers. They may be Google's biggest.

Aegis is one of those marketing superbrands that own a enviable collection of other agencies. They own the search firm iprospect and acclaimed agency Glue.

Companies similar to Aegis would be Omnicom, Havas and WPP (who bought the Search firm 24/7 Real Media).

Times have been... interesting for Aegis recently. One of their key share holders in a chap called Vincent Bollore. I think he has about 25%~29% of Aegis. Bollore, doesn't, however have any presence on Aegis' board.

Is that a bit odd?

There's a reason for it - Bollore also owns Havas. Havas is a serious competitor to Aegis. Aegis' current board reckon there's a serious conflict of interest there. However, while Bollore has these shares we tends to petition for board access. Let's not use phrases like "civil war" as that's far too dramatic but there are certainly hugely significant votes on the subject.

As you might expect there has been the natural speculation that Aegis and Havas might merge [free sub required].

They might. I don't think that's the mega merger the market has in mind, though.

Partly due to these difficulties and also due to the decline of traditional media (against the rise of digital media spend (yay, go team digital)) Aegis' shares have been under performer. They should be higher than they are.

In other words; it's a good time to buy shares in Aegis.

The City reckons it's such a good time to buy shares in Aegis that someone might buy the whole company.

Likely buyers would have to be agencies like Publicis or WPP. If WPP buy Aegis then 24/7 and iProspect would be brothers. If Publicis buy Aegis then Starcom, Isobar and iProspect will be brothers.

Here in the UK (and elsewhere in the world) Google incentives media spenders to grow their AdWords and try new things. This incentive is a form of a rebate - money back from Google.

If there was a merger of, say, Aegis and Publicis then I would wager that Google UK would find themselves paying hundreds of thousands of pounds to the new company.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

The "Sphinn Me Too" prize goes to...

Another Sphinn post! Am I obsessed? Shouldn't I be working, watching Harry Potter or having a glass of brandy? Well. Maybe!

Sphinn has me fascinated right now because it was Google clean. If you searched for sphinn or sphunn before launch you'd have found nothing. I think one word searches (ie, just 'sphinn') aren't representative of the average search these days so I've been watching the two word search 'sphinn sphunn'.

I've already noticed how quickly Google picked up on Vanessa Fox and my first posts.

Here's another first. The "Sphinn Me Too" prize is awarded to the first Google SERPs which shows someone asking people to sphinn their post.

The prize goes to SEO Honolulu and it is won in style.

This is not a sphinn post that SEO Honolulu submitted to sphinn himself but is one that someone else liked and submitted for him. That 'someone else' just happened to be Lisa Barone which explains the proudly titled Lisa Barone sphinned me post at the SEO Refugee forums.

I'm pleased. I think this is one of the best possible reasons to post about one of your articles making Sphinn. It's using Sphinn to help judge the quality of your posts and authority of your readers. It's also, of course, about letting other people know about that success! A less impressive post would have been one which summarises as "I posted article x to Sphinn".

To qualify for the "Sphinn Me Too" prize SEO Honolulu did have to encourage other people to sphinn him.

Does this mean SEOrs are already trying to game the system?

No.

Pop over to SEO Refugee and you'll see that SEO Honolulu does not say "Sphinn me and I'll sphinn you".

SEO Honolulu offers to share details on how much traffic Sphinn might generate but he doesn't ask for any favours in return.

I think the "Sphinn Me Too" prize has been won but it's been won with a good degree of style.

However, it is inevitable that we will see people offering "sphinn me and I'll sphinn you" backroom deals. It will be interesting to see how common it gets, whether the SEO community is as bad as some people claim, whether it becomes a real problem or whether the community polices itself. It will certainly be interesting to see whether Danny Sullivan and co can do a better job at tweaking the rules but keeping the contributors onside than Kevin Rose and Digg have done.

Friday, July 13, 2007

24 hours of Sphinn

Another review of the brand spanking new Sphinn. What spins? What sinks?

The following is a quick snapshot of the hot topics in the last 24 hours.

TopicHot placements
Sphinn5
SEO3
AdSense 2
Firefox2
Rand / Cats2
Clicktracks1
Digg1
Domains 1
Blogging1
Affiliates1
Google Earth1
Personalised Search1

So, after chatting about Sphinn if you want to be sphunn the best tactic to date is to talk core SEO or AdSense. A good backup plan is to chat about Rand or Vanessa's cats.

The top five spinners are:

Google Desktop Virus

One of the programs I need is Google Desktop. I use it a lot. Now, at work I'm very very good and don't download any other software. Nothing at all.


The fact that AVG has listed Google Desktop as being/infected by a virus makes me feel forlorn. I really want to keep it!

Oh well. I'll wait for the scan to finish, see if AVG can fix and if not then I'll risk a purge and re-install.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

I'm now a Feedburner

I've avoided Feedburner until now.

Why?

I'm old school. Heck. In Search terms I'm ancient. I first came to RSS as means to build links and the Feedburner got in the way of that. Even when RSS and subscribers became a more important/more likely Quality Signal than the likely links generated I wanted to remain in control of my RSS source.

Today Feedburner and Blogger joined up. It's now possible to integrate Feedburner and BlogSpot so that Blogger automatically redirects to Feedburner.

In addition, Feedburner's MyBrand is free.

As a result I can automatically publish Feedburner RSS to an arhg.net domain. Indeed; you'll find this blog's RSS at http://feeds.arhg.net/AndrewRHGirdwood - but you shouldn't need to update a thing. Just subscribe, m'kay?

Remember when Google was slow - part two

There you have it. I managed to pull a Vanessa Fox.




I'm still not sure whether Google's just very fast, whether this is Universal Search or whether it matters at all. Never the less; I'm impressed.

Remember when Google was slow?

Here's a question for you? Is this an example of Google's Universal Search plucking a Blog Search result and adding it into the main search or is this Google being very quick?


Vanessa Fox's post has the SERPs all to itself. If anyone has what it takes to get rankings quickly then it would be Vanessa. Zillow will be pleased!

How quick was Google? It took less than two hours.

Sphinn – sphunn and reviewed

Search Engine Land have launched a new social news community called Sphinn. Think Digg and you’re there. This, hopefully, will be a social news site for the search marketing world.

This is a great idea. I’ve signed up already and have put this rapid-fire review together. You’ve already had the first bullet from this review – great idea.

Let’s start at the profile pages. Search Engine Land have kept the emphasis on the search community and blogging habits of their audience. This is both clever and wise.

My profile has links back to this as my personal blog and the bigmouthmedia news page as a work blog. I try hard to keep the two separate, I will not be the only corporate SEO in this situation and so this clear division is welcome!

Towards the bottom of the profile page you’ll find space to link to forum profiles and social media spaces. This helps keep the community. Sphinn includes SearchEngineWatch’s forums in this – Danny Sullivan’s old haunt – and I think it is big of Danny and the SEL team to include the site.

So – what about the actual functionality of Sphinn itself? Well. There’s nothing dramatic here.

You know how the system works. Someone submits a blog post or story by providing a URL and summary. Once you’ve voted for a story you’ve sphunn it. There’s no system to vote down unwelcome stories, though.

Sphinn offers the following categories; Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, Search Marketing, Social Media, Online Marketing, Searching and Other. The Ask team will be sulking. The “Live Search” branding team will be sulking too. That said; I wouldn’t really try and argue that Sphinn should change the categories that they’ve started with.

There are RSS feeds too – handy. I’ve already added the “Hot Today” feed to Google Reader and can spot the signature sites of a MyBrand Feedburner option. A rather nice feature is that the RSS includes the number of votes (which I imagine will be re-named to sphinns / sphunns later) so I can see which are the hottest of the hot stories.

Sphinn’s what you would expect from a social news site. There are no new innovations here. So why do I like it so much then?

It’s the community. Digg is hostile to the Search World. Reddit, sadly, seems to be getting a little stale. My great expectation for Sphinn is that it will become the site to find the breaking stories from all the blogs and forums I no longer have time to read. The throughput of stories will be higher than the selections we get from the Search Engine Land editors.

Spam’s a concern. My fear is that the Digg community will be proved right and Sphinn will be hit with a tidal wave of low quality and regurgitated blog content. I admit spam is a concern but my belief is that the SEL/Sphinn team will beat it. Relevancy is perhaps a bigger issue. Sphinn’s brand new and already we’ve a story on blending an iphone to which my initial thought was “is that search or social media?” Social media, perhaps. Linkbait, perhaps.

That then gives us the three bullet points from this review; great idea, basic but solid implementation and already facing challenges of relevancy and scope.

I’ll make the point of doing a “second impression” look at Sphinn in a number of months. The compare and contrast against this very first impressions will be interesting.

Google's privacy conflict

I spent eight hours with four Googlers and an international client on Monday.

Clearly and unfortunately, I can't blog about all the interesting facts that came out of the meeting (like the percentage of people who use iGoogle compared to Google).

This was the Monday that the Postini acquisition was announced. I found myself adding stars to many of the items in Google Reader on my Blackberry. Appropriately, Ionut Alex Chitu's post The Pressure of Google NDA was one of them. Google takes their privacy and NDAs very seriously. We once had a Google Engineer pop into our Edinburgh office while he was on holiday. He had NDA forms with him and so we ended up giving him some feedback (and I still can't say what on). Would you go on vacation with a supply of NDA forms?

I do wonder if Google faces an internal conflict with privacy and use of data.

Where is Google's demographic targeting?

Don't tell me that they can't do it. Of course they can.

Don't tell me that they're still working on it. Google could easily have launched demographic targeting services beyond and above their comScore partnership on site targeting.

I also believe that many account managers in Google want demographic targeting.

These are the account managers who work with agencies or directly with big PPC spenders. Demographic targeting certainly helps target PPC spend more intelligently.

So where it is? I do wonder if Google's internal beliefs on data privacy make it very difficult or even impossible to offer demographic targeting. Do Larry and Sergey believe the tracking required to offer demographic targeting is against Google's ethos?

This would leave Google caught between a rock and a hard place. On one side they're increasingly lambasted for their not-good-enough privacy policies (where 'not-good-enough' is a matter of perception). On the other side they're not able to offer some of the cutting edge marketing services because of their determination to protect privacy.

That would be an ouch.

Will Google ever offer demographic targeting? I think so... despite this conflict (on which I'm just speculating) I don't see how Google can go on without offering something more on the demographic targeting front. I think something will come and I'm going to be very interested to see what that something will look like.

Oh, I said I was busy adding stars to my mobile version of Google Reader. What else did I star?

Saturday, July 07, 2007

The Googler who met Colin Powell in Google's laundry room... leaves Google

Back in 2005 Google's blog hinted that something funny had happened in Mountain View. They linked to Gleemie's LiveJournal.

It's a great story. In Gleemie's own words:

After a team meeting at work, I stopped by the laundry room to wash some undergarments. Yes, we have a laundry room at work.

I have a handful of tighty whities in hand, headed for the washing machine and the door opens. It's Colin Powell. He greeted me.

Nervously cracking up, I said hi back. He asked me what I'm doing.

"Washing my underwear". Filing in after him to hear the truth were Eric Schmidt, Larry Page, Sergey Brin, and a throng of other Googlers who have come to show Colin Powell our laundry room.

"Well, you're mixing colors!" Colin Powell said as he looked into the washing machine, noting that I've already dumped a pair of black jeans in there.

"I don't want to waste water!" I explain.

I got to press the flesh and explain to Colin Powell what a UI designer does, since he stared at me slightly blankly when I responded to his question of "What do you do here?" with "UI Designer."

But mostly, I shamed my company. :)

I've been reading her blog ever since.

Today brings the news that Gleemie (I'm using the LJ name for the sake of privacy) announced she would be departing Google.
It's more and more official. Two weeks ago, I told my boss and my director at work that I'm going to grad school in the fall. Yesterday, I sent out an email to people and teams at work announcing my coming departure.

Good luck!

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Iron Mountainview

I do enjoy a little M&A speculation myself. I think it's my turn to ponder on which big name Google might acquire next.

Iron Mountain is a company which backs up tapes and paper files for companies. Offices run out of storage eventually and the likes of lawyers firms are obliged to keep paper records for years on end.

Iron Mountain, of course, sees the need to broaden its services towards the digital end. Last month Iron Mountain bought Accutrac Software for an undisclosed sum of money.

Accutrac offers an electronic interface for offices wishing to browse though records in archive.

There are a lot of problems with this speculation, though. Google doesn't like buying companies like this - old, established, paper based. It would be a big buy. There's also a possible backlash if Google buys even more information.

I think this combination would appeal greatly to Google and their mission to index the world's information. Iron Mountain has a lot of information in its records.

Further more, Iron Mountain as relationships with offices all across the globe and would be a useful springboard if Google wished to introduce its own online software to these businesses.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

The Jo3 animation

One of the awards bigmouthmedia has won this year was the DADI "Best Search Engine Marketing Campaign". That's The Drum's awards. What a cool name, huh?

The Drum added a little spice to their award do too. Months before the awards they got a whole bunch of agencies to take park in a communal animation project! The first paragraph of a script was started and passed to the next agency. That agency added to the script and passed it on to the next agency. That agency added to the script and passed it on. And so forth, and so forth...

The Gate then animated (with artistic license) the script.

So! If you want to check out the adventures of digital Jo3 then please do!

This was a test of the new 'draft' blogger to upload and display this movie. It failed. The upload took ages and then opened a layer-based error message.

Analytics Paranoia

I popped downstairs to talk to one of the organic search teams about a new social media project we are doing for their client. In the meeting one of the account managers opined that the theory might confuse our client's web development agency.

I thought that might have been a rather harsh comment and so I asked about it. I got this little nugget of horror as a response.

It turns out that until we came along the web development agency was using Google Analytics to work out which of the clients pages had a high bounce rate. If a page's bounce rate (people abandoning the page quickly) ever spiked too high... they removed Google Analytics from that page!

They removed Google Analytics from the page so that Google couldn't see people were bouncing off.

That's paranoid. Matt's said to his knowledge that Webspam doesn't use GA in that way.



It's also a silly thing to do. You'll end up with data holes all over your analytics.

A much better idea would be to tweak the "high bounce" page so that people stopped bouncing off it. Perhaps re-focus the keywords to something more appropriate or enhance the content to better match searchers' expectations.

Here's the thing - Google does pay attention to bounce rates. If you search for [Andrew Girdwood], click on this URL, return to Google a second later, click on my LinkedIn profile and stay there... Google can see that this blog failed to satisfy your search for [Andrew Girdwood] and LinkedIn seemed to succeed.

If you try and stop Google from noticing user behavior by taking an ad hoc collection of Google Analytics tags off your site then you're just shooting yourself in the foot.