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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AOL: More Org Chart Shuffles Coming; So Are Ad Dollars. But Mum on Microsoft.

092009ATDaolIt’s Advertising Week in New York! Which means that for the next few days, ad sellers will be meeting, greeting and buttering up ad buyers in hopes of prying some of their dollars free. Just like every week in New York.

One difference for the likes of me: Big ad sellers are making themselves very available to the press. This morning, for instance, AOL sent out CEO Tim Armstrong, sales boss Jeff Levick, sales deputy Erin Clift and content boss Bill Wilson to poke at eggs and ignore a plateful of bagels and lox.

Oh, and they talked, too! The big message was that they’re still in the process of overhauling the Internet giant on behalf of Time Warner (TWX), which brought in Armstrong from Google (GOOG) earlier this year and says it still plans on spinning off the company by the end of 2009.

Afterward, I got a brief interview (along with PaidContent’s David Armstrong) with the AOL chief. The video is at the bottom of the post, and you may need to turn up your speakers to hear it. But the takeaways are:

  • AOL is still looking for a chief marketing officer. The search is in the “early stages.” Do you know anyone? Internet experience is not a prerequisite.
  • More org chart moves, like the one that saw COO Kim Partoll pushed out last week, are coming. They’ll be part of the internal review process Armstrong has dubbbed “Project Everest,” which should be complete by the end of the year.
  • So are layoffs. See above.
  • Internet ad dollars are beginning to flow out again–or if they’re not flowing, Armstrong thinks they will be, as big marketers like Procter & Gamble (PG) make permanent shifts in their advertising mixes.
  • Armstrong professes to be surprised by a report last week that he had met with Yusuf Mehdi, who runs Bing and MSN for Microsoft (MSFT). “I know Yusuf. I’ve known him personally for years. So if I saw him I would be happy, but….”

Is YouTube’s Biggest Star Ready for the Big Screen?

fredWho’s going to be the first Web star to make it to the movies? One alarming possibility: Lucas Cruikshank, better known to a staggering number of YouTube viewers as “Fred.”

Fred is one of those weird cultural phenomena, like Rascal Flatts or the Wiggles, that are hugely popular in some demos and unknown in others. So while you may have never seen him, he was until very recently the biggest star on Google’s (GOOG) video site, and has generated more than 300 million views.

And now, a movie? I’ve yet to hear about anyone committing to financing, and/or distributing one, but Tubefilter has found what it says is a casting call for a Fred-based flick. That makes no sense to me, but then again, I thought “Beavis and Butthead” wouldn’t translate to the big screen, and that worked pretty well, in my humble opinion.

Then again, in my humble opinion, this stuff is unwatchable. Be warned:

Ann Curry Grills Ahmadinejad: “Did You Steal This Election?”

Curry AhmAnn Curry sat down with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad yesterday for his first interview since the Iranian elections and the unrest in Iran — and got some revealing non-answers from him. Did he steal the election? “I don’t know what you mean by that.” Was there was any scenario under which Iran would develop nukes? “We do not see any need for such weapons.” Were Iranian dissidents tortured? “It’s possible. I don’t have such information.” What did he think about the death of Neda? “We’re treating this as a suspicious death and we are very sorry about this. And I’m sure that the truth will come to light.” And then there was this: “I don’t know what you mean by ‘no.’”

Ahmadinejad has always been a slippery interview, and a circuitous, verbose speaker to boot. Curry was obviously prepared for this and came in with tough, tenacious questions that left him semantically squirming. The one disappointing part was the lack of follow-up on the Iranian post-election violence — holding his feet to the fire about the government response, the forcible quelling of dissent, the arrests and imprisonments, the coerced public apologies. This is a partial edit so no doubt there will be more to come, but still — these are obviously the highlights, so it looks like Ahmadinejad did not give any more ground on the protests. Curry did get him squarely on the “stealing the election” question (ouch) and pinned him down like a laser on the “Are there any circumstances under which you would develop nukes?” question – for all his verbiage, he would not say “no.”

That said, he also came out in support of “fraternal love and happiness.” So there’s that.

He also talked about how he felt about President Barack Obama and said that the three American hikers imprisoned in Iran for wandering across the border “need to be punished.” So there’s that, too. Clip and partial transcript below; full Curry-Ahmadinejad interview after the transcript.:

On stealing the Iranian election:

ANN CURRY: Inside and outside of Iran, people are questioning the legitimacy of your presidency. So, it is important to ask you, Mr. President: did you steal this election?

TRANSLATOR: In Iran — in Iran, expressing ones point of view is fully permissible. It’s free. And if a person has an opinion to express within the confines of the law they are free to express such opinions. I don’t see any problems.

ANN CURRY: Would you like to answer that question more directly, given that it is a question that people around the world has asked? Would you like to address the question, “Did you steal this election, sir?”

TRANSLATOR: I don’t know what you mean by that.

ANN CURRY: Did you create conditions so that you would win no matter the vote?

TRANSLATOR: It’s very clear. Whoever becomes a candidate will start a campaign and will do his utmost to win. I think we should be courageous enough to accept the vote of the people. It’s more courageous than participating in the vote itself.

O-kay. “Whoever becomes a candidate will start a campaign and will do his utmost to win.” I think that about covers it.

Here’s Ahmadinejad on the post-election violence:

ANN CURRY: Human rights organizations estimate 4,000 people were arrested in these protests. Some are still missing. There are reports of torture. There are even reports, Mr. President, that some women protestors were raped in prison. Your government has acknowledged that some protestors were killed. You often speak of compassion here inside Iran. The question has to be asked, where was your compassion for your people?

TRANSLATOR: First of all, all of us regret the fact that some people were killed. Two, the police officers and those who accompanied the officers were killed. Their numbers were higher than others.

That stat — or claim of a stat, rather — seems a little fishy to me. This is all the interview/transcript has on this though — I can’t imagine she didn’t follow up there so we’ll check the extended transcript and update accordingly.

And then there’s this, reminiscent of wondering what the definition of “is” is:

ANN CURRY: Are there conditions under which Iran would weaponize?

TRANSLATOR: Well, nuclear arms, we believe, they belong to the past. And the past generation. Today, what brings power to a people is cultural and human power. Cultural influence. Human logic.

ANN CURRY: So, may I assume, then, your answer to that question is, “No.”

TRANSLATOR: My response to what question?

ANN CURRY: Is there a condition under which Iran would weaponize?

TRANSLATOR: We don’t need such — we don’t have a such a need, nuclear weapons. We don’t need nuclear weapons.

ANN CURRY: So, the answer is no, sir?

TRANSLATOR: I don’t know what you mean by ‘no’?

ANN CURRY: I’m asking if there are any scenarios in which you would change what you say is your course and move into creating a nuclear weapon. Am I correct that the answer is no?

TRANSLATOR: We do not see any need for such weapons.

ANN CURRY: You know, it — people will remark that you did not say no, as I’ve asked you three times the same question. You did not say no. Are you sure you want that to be your final answer, sir?

TRANSLATOR: Well, you can take from this whatever you want, madam.

Translation: Nuclear arms belong to the past, except when they belong to the future. Okay then.

Update: Here is the clip of Ahmedinejad talking about the hikers, followed by the full, 53-minute interview:

Ann Curry’s exclusives first aired on NBC Nightly News, followed by NBC’s The Today Show.

How to Make Money With Web Video: Books and DVDs

old jews telling jokesEric  Spiegelman has a Web video hit on his hands. “Old Jews Telling Jokes,” a series of short clips featuring exactly what the name suggests, is popular, viral and cheap to make.

Alas, it’s not profitable. Spiegelman says he spends considerably less than $1,000 for each one-minute episode, and the 50 episodes he’s made so far have generated some four million views since February. But advertising for the series, sold via Web video distributor, doesn’t cover his costs.

Spiegelman is pretty sanguine about this, but I find it a bit frustrating. We’re several years into the Web video era–almost three years after Google (GOOG) bought YouTube–and this is the kind of stuff that should work by now. It’s original, ad-friendly, and made on a shoestring budget. If that can’t work, what will?

In any case, Spiegelman can afford to wait a bit for things to right themselves. His company, Jetpack Media, is a unit of indie movie studio Greenstreet Films, so he has a bit of a cushion while he figures out how to crack the code.

And in the meantime, he’s hedging his bets by using his Web series as a way to get back into old media, where you can actually get paid for stuff you make, in advance.

Spiegelman has repackaged the first season of his clips into DVD form, which will be sold by First Run Features (you can pre-order the first disc for $19.95).

Next up: A book deal with Bertelsmann’s Random House, via its Villard imprint, with photos from Gawker contributor Nikola Tamindzic (anyone who follows the blog-to-book minimarket will not be surprised to learn that ICM agent Kate Lee brokered the deal).

And Spiegelman can imagine other ancillary products down the line. Perhaps an audio show based on jokes that people submit via a hotline. Use your imagination. Which I guess is what you have to do if you want to make a living making Web video in 2009.

Oh, the videos themselves? They’re a lot of fun. You may have heard of a few of the joke-tellers–former New York City Mayor Ed Koch is a contributor/performer, as is real estate mogul Harry Macklowe–but the rest are fairly anonymous types who have a way with a story and a punch line. Below, a quick interview I taped with Spiegelman last week, and below that, a few of the joke-tellers themselves (Warning! These feature a couple of judiciously chosen curses).

Former CBS DJ Adam Carolla Gets a New Gig: CBS Podcast Host

carolla-shotEarlier this year, I wrote about Adam Carolla, who used to be a popular DJ for CBS Radio and now hosts his own popular podcast. My take: Carolla is even better on the Web than he is on the air, but I worried that he’d have a hard time turning his talent and Internet audience into money.

Turns out he’s figured out how to do it: By going back to work for CBS.

The broadcaster, which canned Carolla from his radio job earlier in the year, is now going to sponsor his podcast. It will promote the show, handle ad sales and let Carolla program his own Web radio station.

The press release announcing the deal describes it as a “partnership.” I’m trying to figure out if that means Carolla will become an employee again or if it’s a real partnership, whereby, say, he retains ownership of his show and shares revenue with CBS (CBS).

I’m guessing it’s the former, since selling ads for podcasts still requires a lot of work and not that much return. It’s much easier for CBS to sell ads against a local radio station with an audience of a million or more than for Carolla’s show, which reaches an average of 130,000 people at a time.

Still, Carolla’s show is frequently in Apple (AAPL) iTunes’s Top 10 podcast list, and someday, someone will figure out how to take advantage of its (relatively) small but dedicated audience. And the show already has one sponsor–Carolla has started doing a “live read” for Adam & Eve Stores, the “the nation’s number one source for all things erotic.”

Here’s an interview I conducted with Carolla in March, where he explains his not-entirely voluntary move to the Web and his attempts to turn it into a money-making venture.

And here’s the release:


Popular Entertainer’s Podcast To Be Featured Across CBS RADIO Properties;
Carolla To Also Program His Own Streaming Radio Station, K-ACE

CBS RADIO today announced it has partnered with Adam Carolla, comedian, TV star, radio host, actor and entertainer to present his successful podcast to legions of listeners and fans nationwide.  “THE ADAM CAROLLA PODCAST” can be heard for free on-demand at and is additionally available for download on iTunes.

Promotion for Adam Carolla will appear across CBS RADIO’s portfolio of station properties with direct links to the entertainer’s dedicated website.  Once there, fans can listen to the latest audio rant from Adam, as well as sample archived podcasts.  Ad sales for the podcast will be handled by CBS RADIO.  Pre-roll, in-stream audio and live reads are available for local and national clients looking to reach Adam’s target audience of Men 18-49, among others.

In addition, an Adam Carolla focused radio station, called K-ACE, debuts on Monday, September 28, and will offer fans segments from Carolla’s popular podcasts interspersed with rock music and programming selected by Carolla, “The Aceman,” himself.  K-ACE can be heard via CBS RADIO’s streaming platform, Yahoo! Music Radio, AOL Radio, and on select mobile devices such as the iPhone, iPod Touch and the Blackberry.

“THE ADAM CAROLLA PODCAST” began in February 2009 and currently reaches over 130,000 listeners per show.  The podcast remains a constant in the Top 10 of iTunes’ Top Podcasts chart.  Carolla, famous for his rants on various outrageous topics, uses his podcast to broadcast his opinions, while hosting an assortment of influential and popular celebrities and friends, as he charms guests and listeners alike with his witty sense of humor and biting sarcasm.

“I’m thrilled to be back in business with my friends at CBS RADIO and feel like I’m at the vanguard of an exciting new technology,” says Carolla.  ”Now, if somebody could just tell me what the hell a POD is!”

“We are excited to once again be working with Adam Carolla providing our listeners with the same Adam that so many fans have come to know and love over the years,” says Chris Oliviero, Vice President of Programming, CBS RADIO.  “Adam has an uncanny ability to relate to everyday people in a funny and engaging manner, and the popularity of his podcast is a testament to that.

“This distinctive partnership showcases CBS RADIO’s commitment to growth in the digital space and highlights the accessibility, portability and cutting edge programming available on radio.”

Adam Carolla, who is best known for his work in television and radio, has previously hosted CBS RADIO’s “The Adam Carolla Show,” was co-host of the nationally syndicated radio call-in show “Loveline,” co-created, and executive produced and co-hosted Comedy Central’s ”The Man Show,” co-created, executive produced and was a character on “Crank Yankers,” as well as was a contestant on ABC’s popular series “Dancing With The Stars.” Carolla also starred, wrote and produced the award-winning indie film “The Hammer.”  He is currently writing his first book to be published by Crown in Fall 2010.  In addition to “THE ADAM CAROLLA PODCAST,” Carolla is host of “Carcast,” a podcast devoted to those who share Carolla’s passion and pastime of all things automobiles.

Viacom and Google Fight in Court, but Work Together to Keep Kanye West Off of YouTube

video music award taylor swiftYes, Viacom is still suing Google for  a billion dollars, because it says too many of its videos showed up on YouTube. But that doesn’t mean Viacom and Google (GOOG) can’t work together to prevent the cable giant’s videos from showing up on YouTube.

Want to see this in action? Go to YouTube and try to find a clip of the Kanye West/Taylor Swift/Beyoncé incident from Sunday night’s Video Music Awards. Everyone’s still talking about it (I don’t know why, really, but I guess I’m out of the demo), but if you want to watch it on YouTube, you’re stuck watching shaky, grainy footage created when people film their TV sets with a camcorder.

That’s the result of Viacom (VIA) and YouTube using the site’s Content ID system–which YouTube installed after Viacom filed suit more than two years ago. Content ID allows YouTube to track copyrighted material on the site as long as the copyright owner tells it what to look for.

It’s not a plug-and-play solution: On Sunday, Viacom had to have staff work through the night to provide YouTube with “reference files” from the live show so that the Google’s video service could find the offending clips and take them down.

But it worked pretty well. Decent-quality clips of the Kanye incident were taken down fairly quickly, and the grainy shots had only generated some 700,000 views by Monday afternoon, according to video-tracker TubeMogul. Meanwhile, MTV’s official version was approaching two million views (it’s now above three million).

You could argue that both Google and MTV would be better served if the official clip was on YouTube. And one day, that might happen. But first, they have to settle their court case.

That looks less likely today than it did a week ago, by the way, because of the recent ruling in the Universal Music/Veoh case. Team Viacom says the case, which appears to be quite similar to its own, won’t have any bearing on the how the company proceeds, while the YouTube guys see it as an affirmation of their position. Translation: More legal back and forth and fewer Viacom clips on the world’s biggest video site.

Here’s one of the low-fi versions, by the way. Not recommended if you’re prone to motion sickness: