Tablet Schmablet: How About a Mud PC?

092209ATDgizmodoThe Wondertablet the guys at Gizmodo showed off last night looks cool. But you can’t actually touch one right now unless you know someone very connected at Microsoft (MSFT).

You know what you can touch? Today? How about a PC you control by shoving your hands in a box full of mud?

Seriously. All you have to do is get yourself to New York’s Nolita neighborhood and drop by Gizmodo’s annual gallery show, chock full of cool, weird and often gloriously useless gadgetry.

Among other geegaws on display: An automated pancake maker, some spark-emitting and dangerous-looking Tesla coils, a “Star Trek” tricorder and a videogame that dispenses beer. And, of course, an array of Apple (AAPL) paraphernalia, including some arts-and-craftsy iPhone cases.

The free show, which runs through Sunday, is mostly a labor of love on the part of head gadgeteer Brian Lam. But I gather it’s now making some money, via sponsorships, for Gawker Media’s Nick Denton. (And if that’s the case, I hope Denton uses some of that money to make sure there’s enough power and air conditioning at next year’s gallery. Also maybe some cots for his charges.)

Lam gave me a mini-tour yesterday afternoon, which I filmed with a Flip camcorder. If want to to see for yourself (it’s much less shaky that way), drop by the gallery at 267 Elizabeth Street.

Yahoo’s Bartz: Microsoft Deal Was “Very Clever”

092209ATDbartzSay this about Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz: She promised to answer any and all questions at a New York press conference today, and she delivered! The event, which was meant to highlight Yahoo’s new $100 million marketing campaign, went on for a good hour, and the Q&A covered a wide variety of topics (and a PG-rated F-bomb).

And when that finished, Bartz agreed to answer yet more questions. Video is below, but here’s a synopsis:

  • Should press, investors really compare Yahoo (YHOO) to Time Warner’s (TWX) AOL unit? “We aspire higher than that.”
  • Bartz explains and defends her Microsoft (MSFT) search deal yet again. Key point: She never wanted a big upfront payment, she says.  “What I got was revenue, with my expenses covered. I think that’s actually very clever… cash doesn’t help me. But revenue helps me. Revenue without expenses really helps me.”
  • Bartz says major Yahoo investors like Gordon Crawford support her tactics and strategy: “They’re fine… I meet with them a lot.”
  • Yahoo is interested in M&A, but nothing on an epic scale. “Buying interesting sites and content so we can pull in users or smart people, always a great option for us… giant joint merger combinations? That’s really hard….Small and medium sized opportunities are really what make sense for us.”

Live From New York: Yahoo Introduces “You”

newyahooUnless I’m told otherwise, I’m only going to do this once. But for the record, Yahoo is going with the following spelling for its new slogan: “It Starts With Y!ou”. I don’t think that’s going to fly with consumers or copy editors, but we’ll see.

Also undetermined: Whether there will be any news unveiled at Yahoo’s press conference to roll out said slogan. But I’ll be here for you just in case. And in the meantime, you can find glimpses of the coming campaign at the bottom of this post.

Boilerplate intro remarks from Yahoo (YHOO) CEO Carol Bartz, followed by CMO Elisa Steele. Steele shows off a venn diagram that shows the intersection of “my world” and “the world”. Yahoo, apparently, is that intersection. “That’s where the Yodel is”.

Steele reminds us that this is Yahoo’s first global marketing campaign. That’s old hat for Microsoft (MSFT), and something Google (GOOG) has never done. Ad campaigns will roll out in 10 countries, branding campaign will be in all territories.

Steele runs through some imagery that will be used in campaign. Yahoo users, apparently, comprise many races and creeds. But all of them are buff and/or skinny. Unless they’re pregnant. A video ad, meanwhile features an upgraded Yodel.

OK. Time for Q&A:
Onstage: Bartz, Steele, EVP Hilary Schneider, Tapan Bhat, SVP Integrated Consumer Experiences, Penny Baldwin, SVP Global Integrated Marketing and Brand Management.

What’s budget for campaign? Steele: “Over $100 million”.

Status of ad market? Also, what *won’t* you sell?

Schneider: Starting to see a stabilization. “Wouldn’t go so far as to say as we’re seeing a full recovery.”

Bartz: We’re still “bumping along the bottom”. Re: sales – dodges/reframes question, talks about “focus” instead. “We’re just revisiting everything… Is there anything you won’t sell? Of course”. But no specifics. Will improve photo, video, “much much better e-mail.”

Please talk about launch of Google Ad Exchange and its threat to you. Schneider: “The reality is that the display marketplace is fragmented”. Our exchange (RightMedia) is biggest, but its intuitive that there will be other exchanges. “We welcome Google”.

Why do a relaunch at all? Are consumers actually unhappy? Or is it just advertisers and press and investors carping? Bartz: “Advertisers follow consumers” and we need to “build circulation.” By doing this approach, “we get really good micro-insights for our advertisers.” Doesn’t explain how that will happen, though.

Steele: “Consumers want more from online advertising”. They’re asking for it. Whu?

What about video plans? Bartz: “Video snacks” crucial to consumers and advertisers. “A big emphasis” inside Yahoo. A “big cornerstone of our strategy”.

How long will campaign run? How will you measure success? Steele: Funded for 15 months, and I expect it will run longer than that. Vague answers about management.

Some chat about search, which formally debuts today.

Will there be product-specific ads? Yes. Steele: Launch of campaign in each market will start with brand, and over time you’ll see more product ads, as “people get familiar with Yahoo again.”

One more time: Is Zimbra being shopped? Bartz: No comment. But “What I will tell you is that Zimbra technology is very very important to our mail system, and that’s one of the prime reasons that Yahoo bought Zimbra when it did….[but] the technology is already integrated into our system.”

How is this campaign different than other campaigns? You’ve had a lot of campaigns in the last 15 years. Steele: I haven’t been here in past, but I’ve reviewed every campaign that has been done, and this is radically different, because it’s more than a campaign. Carol and Carol’s staff are all behind the concept of you. Everyone’s on board. “If this was just a marketing campaign or a slogan, then we’ve really failed.”

Bartz: This should remind of you the past, actually. That’s not a bad thing. On search: Search has evolved from “10 blue links” days. I view background of search much like an Intel chip, which everyone uses. But Dell experience with that chip different than HP experience, etc. We’re stable at 19% of search business, because our users are on Yahoo, and they’re like Yahoo search. “Yahoo search is great. It’s not Bing, it’s Yahoo search… What’s most important is that we drive upstream and provide a great experience, even though the plumbing is down here.”

Do users really like to customize their search (premise behind overhauled home page)? Bahat – core group of 15% of users really into customization. Most other people say they want that, but aren’t willing to do the work. So we’re doing incremental customization on home page. “This will be something that keeps growing over time.”

Will you be integrating text messaging and other short-messaging services into home page? Bahat: Yes.


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More Money for Ad Tech: Rubicon Project Raises $9 Million

Startups whose business plans are based on selling advertising are having a very hard time raising money. But startups that want to make money by helping other people sell ads? That’s another story.

Today’s example: Rubicon Project, a LA-based advertising optimization startup, has raised a $9 million C round led by Peacock Equity, the joint venture co-owned by GE Capital and GE’s NBC Universal (GE). This follows a $13 million equity and debt round the company raised just a few months ago. Rubicon has raised $45 million since its 2007 launch.

CEO Frank Addante, whose company helps publishers manage their relationships with advertising networks, says he’ll use the new cash to acquire other adtech startups. Earlier this month Rubicon picked up Others Online, a behavioral targeting company.

Keeping a close eye on all of this activity: Google (GOOG), Yahoo (YHOO) and Microsoft (MSFT), all of whom are reportedly looking at adtech acquisitions themselves.

More Modest Results for Microsoft’s Marketing Blitz. Now It’s Yahoo’s Turn.

poolAnother month, another half-point: Microsoft’s search market share crept up again in August, according to the newest numbers from comScore. Since Steve Ballmer and company launched Bing at the end of May with a $100 million marketing push, they’ve moved from eight percent to 9.3 percent.

Per usual, you can either argue that these modest gains are good news for Microsoft (MSFT), especially because they come after months of declines. Or you can argue that they are way too modest, given the hype and the media blitz that accompanied the launch.

My question: If you’re Carol Bartz and company and you’re about to launch a Bing-sized marketing campaign of your own, do Microsoft’s results give you encouragement or pause?

Again, the half-full argument is that the Bing blitz proves that given enough brute force, you can indeed use offline advertising to change online behavior, at least in the short term.

Half-empty: At least Microsoft’s pitch has an intriguing come-on–”Hey you! We’ve got a search engine that works better than Google (GOOG)! Come see for yourself!” But unless I’m missing something, there’s nothing equally compelling powering Yahoo’s “Its You!” push.

Maybe I’m wrong: Yahoo (YHOO) formally takes the drapes off its campaign this morning at a series of Advertising Week events. I’ll report back a little later today.

In the meantime, here are the newest comScore (SCOR) numbers, courtesy of JP Morgan’s Imran Khan (click on table to enlarge):

comscore august search share

[Image credit: Seattle Municipal Archives]

The New York Times, Brought to You–Literally–by Twitter

new-york-times-buildingIt has easy enough to be skeptical about Twitter’s influence and staying power–I do it all the time. But there’s no denying that it has become a powerful driver of Web traffic.

Just ask the New York Times (NYT), which says Twitter is about to become one of the top 10 referral sources to the paper’s site.

Impressive. But what exactly does this mean?

There was a flurry of excitement this afternoon on Twitter–of course–when Simulmedia CEO Dave Morgan threw out a much more exciting data point: Reporting/Tweeting from an industry conference, Morgan said Times digital boss Martin Nisenholtz had announced that “Twitter now drives 10% of NYT digital distribution, up from 0 a year ago.”

dave morgan twitter

Other attendees report hearing the same thing. But whether they were participating in a mass hallucination or Nisenholtz misspoke, here’s the Times’s official line, via spokeswoman Diane McNulty: “At its current growth rate, Twitter is, or will soon move into, the top 10 in terms of referrals to NYTimes.com.”

If that’s the case, then Twitter likely accounts for much less than 10 percent of the Times’s traffic. If you assume that Google (GOOG) is the paper’s largest external referral source, and that it likely accounts for a third of the site’s traffic (these are semi-educated guesses, but I’m happy to adjust), then Twitter and other sources at the bottom of the top 10 are going to be in the low single digits.

Still! It is a lot of traffic, and a year ago it either didn’t exist or someone else was directing it to the Times. Now the trick for Twitter (and its investors) is to figure out a way to capitalize on this phenomenon.

The New York Times, Brought to You – Literally – By Twitter

new-york-times-buildingIt’s easy enough to be skeptical about Twitter’s influence and staying power — I do it all the time. But there’s no denying that it has become a powerful driver of Web traffic.

Just ask the New York Times (NYT), which says Twitter is about to become one of its top 10 referral sources to the paper’s site.

Impressive. But what exactly does that mean?

There was a flurry of excitement this afternoon on  Twitter — of course — when Simulmedia CEO Dave Morgan threw out a much more exciting data point: Reporting/Tweeting from an industry conference, Morgan said Times digital boss Martin Nisenholtz had announced that “Twitter now drives 10% of NYT digital distribution, up from 0 a year ago.”

dave morgan twitter

Other attendees report hearing the same thing. But whether they were participating in a mass hallucination, or Nisenholtz misspoke, here’s the Times’ official line, via spokeswoman Diane McNulty: “At its current growth rate, Twitter is, or will soon move into, the top 10 in terms of referrals to NYTimes.com.”

If that’s the case, then Twitter likely accounts for much less than 10% of the Times’ traffic. If you assume that Google (GOOG) is the paper’s largest external referral source, and that it likely accounts  for a third of the site’s traffic (these are semi-educated guesses, but I’m happy to adjust), then Twitter and other sources at the bottom of the top 10 are going to be in the low single digits.

Still! It is a lot of traffic, and a year ago it either didn’t exist, or someone else was directing it to the Times. Now the trick for Twitter (and its investors) is to figure out a way to capitalize on that phenomenon.