Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Who's behind the butterfly attack swarm viral?

This is just a quick lunch time post from me. Trend and meme spotters have noticed a rather nice set of videos getting some promotion this week. Butterfly swarms attack people.

They're almost certainly part of a viral (or social media) campaign rather than just someone having a bit of fun with CGi. You can tell because the YouTube accounts associated with them are so bare and the initial spread of the videos doesn't match the natural spread of a true viral. Nevertheless, they are getting more popular and here am I posting about them!

My question is; who do you think they're advertising? Some American company, no doubt, but who?

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Funky Google Envelopes (beta, suggestion)

I think this could work but I’m not sure there would be any demand. I’m simply reposting this from Yanko Design because these Google Maps decorated envelopes look so funky!

(Yes; I do use the word funky)







Friday, March 26, 2010

Alien abductions. Will the Independent be free offline before The Times charges online?

Front pageImage via Wikipedia

Everyone subscribed to this blog knows that The Times will start to charge for access to its online content. It’s not a huge cost; £1 a day or £2 a week. They’re splitting off The Sunday Times into a different site in order to make this happen.

Good luck to them. They’ll need it.

Any insights on who the payment partner might be? An ideal chance to showcase a single click payment system.

This isn’t a news blog. I merely wanted to highlight the timing of two events.

The same day we’re reading about The Times trying to charge for online access we’re also speculating that The Independent might start giving its paper self away for free.

Russian billionaire Alexander Lebedev bought The Independent for £1. Analysts are backing the idea that he might drop the cover price. This is what he did when he bought the London Evening Standard. They like the idea because it can be used to attract advertisers at a time when print advertising is very fragile.

So; there’s the possible flip. Newspapers can’t fund themselves with ads alone online but might have to try that very same tactic offline.

Oh, and the alien abductions?

Xenophilia is a blog that collects strange news stories from around the world. Xeno posts yeti sightings, videos of UFOs and debates whether shaky footage shows a real ghost or just a fake one...

The Times may or may not be pleased to know that their online cover charge has qualified for Xenophilia today. Someone out there thinks the newspaper plans are... strange.

So; which do you think will happen first? The Times' paywall or a free paper copy of the Indie?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Facebook account unavailable

This morning I went to update some Facebook ads. That's right - if you ever see a set a set of bigmouthmedia gnashers in Facebook it might be as a result of one of the ads I've set up.



I'm quite surprised that Facebook would lock an account out for a couple of hours. The text reads;


Account Unavailable

Your account is temporarily unavailable due to site maintenance. It should be available again within a few hours. We apologize for the inconvenience.

Thankfully Facebook do have an admin presence in London. If any account controlling client spend was treated like this then I'd be on the phone straight away.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Last Advertising Agency on Earth

I like to get up on my soapbox from time to time and rant against the BDA (big dumb agencies). Even within digital marketing I'm increasingly vocal in my demands for evolution.

The folks at @Ogilvy are pushing this video (done by Saatchi Canada) today. It's worth an embed below. The site being promoted is FITC.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Search and Social Media - making your brand stand out

This document (available as a lovely paper brochure if you ask) is from the IAB in the UK and Microsoft advertising.

The IAB's audience are the top 200 brands in the UK. As you would expect there are some big names in here. The Foreward is by the famous Dr. Qi Lu, President of Microsoft's Online Services Division. Danny Sullivan is our page 3 model with an early chapter on how search and social synergies will grow in 2010.

You might find one or two contributions from yours truly, wearing his bigmouthmedia hat, too.

Search and Social Media - Making your brand stand out! IAB & Microsoft Advertising

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Ben Folds in Chat Roulette piano guy ode

I've been watching Chat Roulette roll out. It's rare to see such a quick rush from geek culture to mainstream awareness. Heard of Chat Roulette? French Connection already use it an an ad campaign.

First we had the piano guy in a heart warming, but Chat Roulette style, viral success. Now we're entertained with the awesome Bend Folds' playing a copycat ode to Merton, the original.

Both videos follow. Yes, there's swearing.



Friday, March 19, 2010

Introducing Madame Tre Sesti

Introducing the new keyword Madame Tre Sesti!

Er. I mean. The new social viral Madame Tre Sesti from Vodafone.



Whereas I can't believe this has been done in entirely in Flash (a hybrid would have done - makes it more social!), I do think this is a good idea.

The viral really does put the focus 360's ability to join your social networking together - it's not a crystal ball you're peering into, it's your phone.

Mind you. I didn't let Madame Tre Sesti connect to my Facebook. Did you?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Ethical, Google okay, money influenced links by Zemanta?

I’m a fan of Zemanta. It’s a handy addition to either your browser (but not Chrome, boo) or your blog that makes image discovery, tag and related link recommendation easy. Those related links can be contextual and in the footer of the blog post.

That’s right. Zemanta encourages bloggers to link to other sites.

Here I will admit an interest in the story. I got in contact with the good folks at Zemanta (and they’ve always been helpful) with regard to the Brinkwire project.

Brinkwire, the pro-blogger, press release hosting site, makes use of Zemanta’s reblog functionality. I also had chats about what Zemanta could do with their recommended link idea but I wasn’t specific.

I’ve not spoken to them since. That’s clearly not stopped the Zemanta team pushing on.
I did notice the suggestion that PRWeb had become the first press release hosting site to do a deal with Zemanta thanks to a piece written by Mihaela Lica. That’s not correct. I maintain Brinkwire got their first.

What I’ve also just noticed is "promoted content" links now appearing in Zemanta’s suggestions.


So, to be clear, no one is paying bloggers to link anywhere. That’s not happening. What we have here is a payment deal that alerts bloggers to the possibility of putting a link in. I’m not Google, I don’t speak to them and I certainly have thought “Google will be okay with this” and be terribly wrong before... but I think Google will be okay with this.

Why? There’s still editorial control. The writer of a quality blog post still gets to decide whether or not they think that link is editorially appropriate. I don’t believe that link is marked as nofollow (should have checked; will try and re-create and test) but it is marked with Zemanta’s signature so Google can ID and tweak the weight of these links should they want (and perhaps it would be appropriate to do that for the paid-for suggestions and the none-paid-for on the grounds that they’re both recommendations made to a blogger).

If you’ve not had my link/election spiel before – here it is.

Google has created a link economy but that doesn’t make link buying okay. For example, democracy creates a vote economy but it is illegal to buy votes. What’s not illegal is to money to influence people and to encourage them to vote for you. Linking works in the same way; you can hire a PR firm, who can create a media frenzy around your new product, this alerts bloggers to your product and you’ll pick up some links. In that scenario you’ve not engaged in paid linking.

I think these Zemanta links are the same scenario. You’re using your money to influence people to give you’re their vote/link. There’s still that editorial discretion that Google wants.

And if I’m wrong? Then we add Zemanta to a growing grey area of next gen services that contribute to an evolved linking model but which may cause Google to loose trust in blogs that use them. I hope I’m not wrong. I’d like to keep on using Zemanta (even if I never ever elect to put one of those promotion content links into my post.


Here’s the last question; what do you think?

Friday, March 12, 2010

Game: Spotting the product placements in Lady Gaga's Telephone video

This is a big vid. It's nearly 10 minutes long and it features Lady Gaga and Beyoncé. Here's a 10 minute long game you can play; try and spot the product placements.

Here's the list I managed. Would you add or remove any from it?

1) Virgin Mobile
2) Diet Coke
3) Plenty of Fish
4) Bebo
5) Wonder Classic White bread
6) Polaroid

Other suggestions
7) LG (the phone in the pic below)
8) HP (the laptop with the Bebo sticker on it)




Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The harm SEOs do: Pride

HubrisImage by voss via Flickr

I really enjoy SEO and the SEO community. I can’t believe it’s been a double digit number of years since a few of us started to promote sites to the top of AltaVista – just for bragging rights on UseNet. It’s been nearly as long since that new search engine, Google, the one we all knew would be a huge success bought Deja.com’s Usenet Service.

At times, though, I get really annoyed by the SEO community. We are often our greatest enemies. One fault in particular brings us down – pride.

There was far less pride in the early days. When Google said it didn’t want to see white text on a white background or even light-grey text on a white background no one moaned that “Google had created a content economy and should expect – allow – people to hide text if they wanted to”. When Google said it wasn’t a fan of people dropping links into Guest Books no one significant moaned that the “search engine had created a link economy that people should be able to promote sites however they wanted to”.

Nevertheless, when Google further clarified its stance on buying links a whole chorus of complaints rose up.

I can see why. Some SEOs had built not just their career but their reputation on link buying and selling techniques and tactics. It wasn’t just about the money. It was also about the pride.

Money was important, sure. It wasn’t just that some agencies needed to buy links in order to move the SEO needle it was that some agencies took significant commission on link dealing and wanted to protect that income stream.

Compare that to the loss of the Best Practise Funding in the UK, though, which involved far larger figures. Sure the PPC community isn’t as vocal as the SEO community and some of the traditional media agencies simply didn’t know what to say – but, by and large, pride wasn’t harmed and so most people moved on.

Even today we have SEOs who try and argue that any advert that looks like a link is comparable to a bought link. It isn’t. These people know the difference between JavaScript and HTML. They know exactly what Google is objecting too and what the search engine isn’t objecting too. Nevertheless; they continue to muddy the waters in order to protect their pride.

It’s not just paid links that we see this intractable pride coming from too many SEOs, though. It’s all over the place.

Too many SEOs are in denial about the radical changes that have overhauled Google in recent months.

Personal search is now automatic and standard. It’s actually quite hard to opt out of personalised search. Nevertheless, too many SEOs push on with a “business as usual” message and haven’t updated their techniques since 2008 or before.

Social search is running, as a beta, but as a default. Once again you’ll be hard pressed to find an SEO strategy that accepts this, works with or even recognises this.

Real-time search means that we’re not far away from the situation where no two Google searches being identical. Are we seeing a flood of blog posts discussing this? No. It’s more business as usual.

Sure, some of this is an honest lack of understanding from some of the more junior players in the SEO industry, some of it is an unwillingness to change and adapt – protecting the old model – but I fear some of it is the belief that the old ways should continue unchallenged.

I believe that this unwillingness to admit the need to change will harm the SEO industry. I also fear it harms clients. Clients pay for best advice – they don’t pay to maintain egos and hubris.

I’ve made mistakes in the past. Rather than let them haunt me I find it more helpful to learn from them and make sure they never happen again.

I strongly believe that SEO needs to evolve in 2010 if it’s too survive, I don’t think it is a lack of skills that will hold the industry back; if fear it’ll be pride and protectionism.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Google Thailand drops bold, goes red

Just a quickie - and I don't mean to suggest this is anything new as I'm not often search Google Thailand.

Google normally uses bold/strong to indicate the keywords in the results that matched the searcher's query (which could be an an exact match or a synonym). Not in Thailand, in Thailand they use red.

FourSquare needs Fish and Chips

Mobile-social and location darling FourSquare have rolled out a sexy update to their history feature.

You can now put locations into better defined categories. People frustrated with the number of trains choking up the system must now content with the fact there's an official train type (which seems to make sense; you spend hours in trains). As you would expect there's also a food type.

Disaster! The Great British institution of The Chippy has been omitted. Users cannot classify locations as either "chippy" nor as "fish and chips". The best we can do is "Fast Food". Boo! Hiss!

I think we should all encourage FourSquare to add this stalwart of British tradition.

Friday, March 05, 2010

LiveJournal in spy tracking, affiliate cheating, ad scandal

LiveJournal was taken down by DDOS in 2006.Image via Wikipedia

Poor old LiveJournal. I fear the once popular blogging community is still fighting against the tide. The site is clearly desperate to raise some cash but the latest attempts look to be on the dark side and have, understandably, provoked a backlash.

LiveJournal were ambushing outbound links to about 150 e-commerce sites. In other words, if a LiveJournal blogger linked to one of these sites, that link was hijacked by LiveJournal and turned into an affiliate link.

The site that these links are being pushed through is outboundclick.net and already it’s been added by thousands of people to the ad blocker plugins that the LiveJournal community are fond of. However, it was also possible to opt-out of the tracking.

This opt-out is obscure and unpublicised. LiveJournal didn’t tell anyone they’d add the link hijacking in the first place. Users had to find the rarely used admin console and use it to execute the command set opt_exclude_status 1.

LiveJournal seemed to have tried hard to keep this outbound link hijacking a secret. The links looked normal until they were clicked. At that point some obscure JavaScript hijacked the action. It also looked that the script stripped any of your own affiliate ID and replaced it with their own.

It’s against Amazon’s T&Cs to tamper with other affiliate links in this way.

Needless to say, once the scandal broke last night LiveJournal noticed. To their credit they were fast to act.

Kyle Cassidy, a blogger on the LJ Advisory Board (a non-paid role, I think, and an elected one) started to communicate.

LJ was indeed redirecting about 150 urls to advertisers, even for paid users. They are now aware how Not Good an Idea that was. They're pulling that code tonight.

It seems that LiveJournal have been good to their word. The code is gone.

The whole drama really highlights the challenges some social networks have around making money. There’s no easy way to turn UGC into cash. It’s often not where advertisers want to advertise either.

The lesson seems to be clear too – LiveJournal got it wrong by trying to hide the code. People also worried about the privacy implications of the third party tracker being used. The way forward? Do social networks need to use their own ad system – for trust, if nothing else? Perhaps so.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Clicky building a CDN that supports SSL with your domain name

Image representing Get Clicky as depicted in C...Image via CrunchBase

I’m a fan of the analytics provider Clicky (aff link). Why? One reason stands out above all others – Clicky gives you real time stats. The spy mode lets you watch the traffic come in and if you’re blogging for real-time search reasons (which I do elsewhere) then this is vital.

Speed is also vital. Analytics tags slow sites down; just a little but it does happen. In order to speed Clicky up; they’re building a content delivery network.

Clicky have decided to build their own CDN for two important reasons;

  1. They can’t find a CDN that supports SSL with your own domain name.
  2. They want to deliver tags via JavaScript for backwards compatibility reasons.

Right now, all Clicky are asking for are recommendations on lease servers. You can pop over to their blog to leave a recommendation.

Not only is this a project worth watching; it’s a project worth supporting.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Affiliate Window buys buy.at

Image representing buy.at as depicted in Crunc...Image via CrunchBase

When I say “Affiliate Window” I actually mean their parent company “Digital Window”.

This is my Monday morning wow news. One reason this is “wow” news is because buy.at was only semi-recently bought by Aol. At a glance they seemed to be a good fit for Aol – even the new model Aol – as the affiliate network represented one clear way the content company could monetize content.

Now. There’s clearly been challenges in integrating buy.at into Aol. I’m an affiliate on buy.at and in my day job I also help merchants get the most out of buy.at and I’ve seen the branding roll back and forth between Aol strong and Aol weak. I didn’t see much in the way of international merchants coming on board and that would have been a factor for the international Aol too.

Perhaps more significantly this puts the spotlight on the “should affiliate networks also be affiliates?” question. This happens far more in the USA where in some instances you’ll be hard pressed to tell the difference between an affiliate network and a performance agency.

If Aol was going to use buy.at to monetize its own content then this would mean that buy.at and Aol were closer to the latter model. I don’t think we can say “it didn’t work for them” because, as far as I know, they didn’t quite get around to giving it a good try.

This also means that there’s one great big family of affiliate networks. Buy.at is owned by Affiliate Window. Digital Window and Zanox have the same parents – the publishers Alex Springer. Yes; publishers! Perhaps we’ll see buy.at push into Europe and eastwards rather than westwards across the States.

I can only hope this is a good thing for affiliates – will we see Affiliate Window’s tech been rolled out to support buy.at’s merchants? Will we see single, bundled, payments and thresholds? Or will we just see the end of buy.at’s brand... but what about all the buy.at tracking scripts? What timeframe will affiliates have to upgrade?

If affiliates do have to upgrade their tracking moving from buy.at’s current redirects to the merged tech of buy.at and Affiliate Window – will that be disruptive to merchants? Will it be harder for a smaller site to get onto an affiliate network now as there’s less competition (and networks tend to only want merchants that will be profitable; not unsurprisingly).

Affiliate Window have blogged it.

Haven’t we seen quite a lot of digital marketing news in the last few days? The writing, I think, is on the wall.