Monday, January 21, 2013

MEGA uses mouse movements and timings for security

I never had a MegaDownload account and had it not be hugely high profile case against Kim Dotcom and the site I would probably had no interest in Mega.

I do like cloud storage though. I use Google Drive and Dropbox often. I'm also a fan of Backblaze for automatic cloud backups. Mega's mega amount of free space was tempting but I also thought the site was something that digital marketers should know about. After all, it's hard to talk to content brands about file sharing, cloud hosting and the like if you don't have hands on experience.

The challenge? has been down from launch. Kim Dotcom has been tweeting that the server strain is all due to demand.

The site's back up. Monday morning UK time is often a good time to avoid server strain and I've signed up for an account. It looks pretty.

I was greeted with an interesting screen when I logged in for the first time. I'm not a security expert but I get what's going on here - or love the bluff - but I've connected with SSL in place.

To strength the encryption between my machine and Mega's there's a pair of huge passwords in place; 2048-bit huge. To make sure they're really random, and random is hard to do on computers, they've taken data from my mouse jiggles and typing speed to seed in data that no other algorithm could predict.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Hands on with Vidlinkr

Vidlinkr is a Wordpress plugin from the video affiliate company Coull. Coull, if you’re not familiar with them, provides technology that lets bloggers and other publishers turn YouTube videos (or uploads) into affiliate powered ads.

Coull’s tech adds a call to action layer over the video with a system that integrates with product feeds so affiliates can match up the best match products with the videos they are running.

Vidlinkr is a Wordpress plugin from Coull that automates the process – somewhat. The “auto” option actually results in Coull’s own team handpicking the best ad & product combo for the video. This results in a good match but, understandably, this does not happen in real time.

Vidlinkr is a beta product from Coull and I’ve been part of the test for a good few weeks now with one blog. We’re now approaching the 900 monterised video mark.

This blog post, which Coull have had advanced sight of (except the bits I’ve just changed), is a summary of my experience with the test and ideas for advancing the product. One thing seems certain and that is Coull is investing to advance their service, looking to carve out a niche for themselves before offerings like Kiosked look at the automation or text-only players like Skimlinks or Viglink look into video.

The big change

With 900 or so videos it is a bit of a non-starter to try and manually match all of them. It makes most sense to pick a strong default call-to-action ad layer and then manually override and customise as required. That may make sense but it changes my Vidlinkr experience from being about matching products to managing ads. That’s a big change.

With this big change in mind, I want to use Vidlinkr differently. I want to be able to link to pages rather than merchants – in typical; sales pages, search results and section pages.

I want the ability to create more than one default message and to be able to treat them like banners; especially with frequency capping in mind. In other words; after someone has viewed three videos on my site without showing an interest in the ad, I’d like the Vidlinkr system to try a new ad.

The big choice

I like the idea of Vidlinkr but it does detect from the video experience of the site. My main concern is that viewers cannot open full screen videos and that’s certainly how I watch my videos (although, on mobile, they can).

The risk, the choice hovering over Vidlinkr, is whether the revenue it generates is more helpful to the blog than the lack of full screen is harmful.

It’s not a choice I want to make and with a tweak or so I think it’s a choice that Coull can help avoid. The reason why full screen mode is disabled is because the advert layer (especially on the search results for a few of the comparison merchants) looks dreadful.

However, why not allow users to select full screen videos and simply drop the ads/layer when that happens. I don’t think this will mean less ad exposure for Vidlinkr because I believe more bloggers will be happy to install the code as a result.

Coull point out, rightfully so, there are still full screen limitations with YouTube's HTML 5 player.

Working with product feeds

Product feeds are always an issue in affiliate marketing – they can be a pain to manage.

I’ve found too many dead pages, out of stock products or out of date prices in the Coull system. This is very likely nothing to do with Coull and everything to do with who is managing those feeds. As I said; they can be a pain to manage.

A value add that Coull could offer bloggers using Vidlinkr is to help sanity check that feed data. Their system could help block out of date/sold out products from their search results or, better still, automatically find alternatives and help keep ads live.

This sort of feed management would make the Vidlinkr tech even more attractive to bloggers. This feels like a bigger ask and less important than the ability to run multiple “default” messages and rotate/frequency cap them, though.


I made money with Vidlinkr over the festive break and the shopping season. I made more money with Vidlinkr than I did with affiliate activity in Twitter and had a pretty constant run rate.

Vidlinkr is certainly a product I’d like to see expanded, enhanced and rolled out to more merchants (although I’m not sure how that conflicts with Coull’s business model).

Affiliate Window reported that nearly 15% of their sales came from mobile in in December 2012. After Christmas I think we’ll see even more people watching video on their tablets and the opportunity for Vidlinkr to make publishers and merchants money should be even higher.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

9 observations for digital marketing in 2013

This blog post does not just contain 9 "observations" for digital marketing in 2013 but is also me going against the decision made on New Year's day not to succumb to the echo chamber of "prediction" pieces.

I wanted to avoid prediction pieces because its better to design marketing strategies with flexibility and agility instead of charting a course at the start of the year and hoping for the best. My last prediction illustrates why predictions are risky.

1. Marketing Cloud and automation will rise high enough for in-house and agency teams to think about where they add value and where they need help. This includes big data.

2. Real Time becomes more challenging and more important. Being the source of shareable information is one good way to succeed in the attention marketplace and being quick with comments on breaking information is another. Brands and agencies that can do both will win.

3. The attention marketplace won’t be enough… we’ll have to consider the participation marketplace as well. This means vying for attention with Creative or well-placed messages is not sufficient and brands will have to work to turn causal attention into interaction and even community.

4. We’ll see more modelling as analytics will need to expand to be better at multi-device tracking, better digital GRP metrics and attribution. Analytics will begin the catch up this year, responding to the rising demand for easy but meaningful insight in the increasingly complex landscape.

5. Forget 3-screen strategies; N-screen strategies are necessary for 2013. This year we’ll see the rise of 7” tablets, progress with connected TV, even more smartphones, competition in the 10” tablet space and evolution in the console and PC sectors.

6. Companies will pay more and more attention to good customer service as that becomes an increasingly important differentiator in a commoditised world. Many brands will struggle to move from the discount culture to loyalty based marketing; but they’ll try.

7. Native and mobile snuggle up. In the search to find attractive mobile CPMs platforms will explore native ad formats that blend intuitively into the user experience. This contrasts to with the interruptive presence and low CPMs of the ‘tradition’ mobile display option.

8. Privacy will remain a hot ticket item for consumer groups and the general public will see no reason to consider this a waste of time. This will impact everything from analytics to asset design.

9. In this increasingly complex digital landscape - a landscape that is evermore intertwined with offline - people, especially the crowds, are inherently unpredictable. Good marketers will recognise and adapt.

Crystal ball by Kestya.