July 12, 2008
It wasn’t a surprise today to see that local news channel WRAL selected a Puggle (pug, beagle mix) as their first prospect for a new program they’re calling the Bad Dog Challenge. The program helps pet owners with unbelievably bad pets attempt to provide some obedience through teaching tips on how to handle specific bad behaviors. For instance, the Puggle Albie featured in this issue enjoyed chewing everything in sight, stealing things (probably clothing, towels, and blankets if I had to guess), and barking and shaking her crate while caged up.
I wasn’t surprised because of my recent (since November 2006) experiences with Puggles. In fact, to make their lack of obedience even more fun we got a boy and girl from the same litter so they enjoy each other more than us and always follow each other’s lead before ours. For dogs that have been described as having the best features of Pugs (I haven’t found one yet) combined with the positive aspects of Beagles (very loving but strongly instinctive) I would have to say something is missing upstairs. Maybe they’re stubborn, maybe they just don’t learn, or both, as our professional dog trainer shouted as he returned them back into our handling after three very expensive months living within his facility. In result they returned to us very happy to be back home, very loving, and sort of house broken. Biting, barking, screaming (a unique Pug characteristic), house soiling, sock stealing, shoe and sandal licking, feces eating, jumping, aggressively playing inside, and attention getting remained.
But, they sure are cute and loving when they’re sleepy (possibly the only redeeming quality of a Puggle). As some advice to future Puggle owners… crate train religiously in the beginning (probably for 1-2 years straight), never ever give them the freedom to roam the house without supervision, buy lots of Nylabones in an attempt to allow them to wear themselves out, and no matter how cute they are at the breeders facility DO NOT get two (especially not a brother and sister from the same litter).
We’ve also found that because of their sensitive noses (probably from the Beagle side considering the Pug has no talents to speak of) they need twice as much time as a normal dog to go to the bathroom outside even when they have to go badly. This is where a fenced in yard comes in really handy and is a must-have with this breed. Just make sure to get a privacy fence or a picket fence at least four feet tall and with a 1.5 inch or less gap between the pickets (they are small dogs after all). Expect them to ignore people passing by but to bark and scream at each other ferociously when another dog walks near (we still haven’t figured this behavior out because they don’t really bark at the passing dog).
July 8, 2008
I’m getting extremely tired of hearing the media and lots of really smart people refer to Facebook as being worth fifteen billion dollars. Not because I don’t think Facebook is worth $15 billion. It very well might be, even though with their about $100 million in 2007 revenue that’s a 150x multiple on revenue, only about 10 times out of scale from the other most successful companies in the hottest software sectors right now. What’s killing me is the fact that everyone is arriving at this incredible valuation based on flawed logic.
As the New York Times reported in October of 2007, Microsoft made a $240 million investment in Facebook and in exchange received a 1.6% ownership position in the company. If you scale this up (240/X=1.6/100) by solving for $X = (($240 million * 100%) / 1.6%) you do reach a big nice round number of $15 billion. Maybe the math worked out too perfectly for anyone to look any deeper into the situation or maybe people wanted Facebook to be worth $15 billion. Whatever the reason, the logic isn’t there.
From day one Microsoft approached the deal as an investment in extending the reach of their advertising platform. But this deal has been publicized as a cash-for-equity purchase, so how does that extend Microsoft’s ad network real estate? The answer is in the much neglected fact that the deal wasn’t about cash in exchange for stock, it was for stock and a multi-year exclusive right to non-US advertising real estate on the Facebook platform. The original New York Times article mentions that “As part of the deal, Microsoft will sell the graphical banner ads appearing on Facebook outside of the United States, splitting the revenue. ” So, in addition to 1.6% of the company’s stock Microsoft also purchased many billion advertising impressions over a number of years that they can sell to publishers in their ad network and they can keep 1/2 (or maybe another percentage, this isn’t clear by the wording I’ve seen) of the revenue for themselves.
For this exact reason it was widely publicized that Google and Microsoft were dueling for the right to make the investment in Facebook, in much the same manner that the two fight over online advertising market share already. As many who watched the deal go down said, Microsoft simply could not afford to lose the relationship with Facebook considering their distant second place to Google already in publisher adoption among their ad platform. In consideration of Microsoft’s desperation they may have had little interest at all in the equity position they received, further tipping the allocation of the $240 million toward the value they will receive from the advertising inventory reach and revenue share.
Furthermore, as the New York Times mentioned, “Microsoft has an existing deal with Facebook to run banner ads on the site in the United States through 2011″ which implies that an existing relationship with Facebook might have been challenged in some way had Microsoft not stepped up to the plate to nab the non-US advertising inventory, especially so if Google had secured it instead of them. After the deal closed Microsoft was very positive about the potential inventory reach and revenue share value of the new international ad inventory on Facebook. As the New York Times reported “In a conference call with journalists and analysts, Kevin Johnson, president of the platforms and services division at Microsoft, described the deal as a “major advertising syndication win for Microsoft.”"
The real question behind all of this is, what is that worth to Microsoft? In fact, if it’s worth more than $240 million then technically Facebook should be valued at $0 using the same logic and math applied to calculate the $15 billion valuation (ie: $240 million = A + B, if A = 1.6% of Facebook’s stock and B = Microsoft’s share of non-US advertising revenue, then by simple logic if B = $240 million then A is equal to 0, then if 1.6% of the company is worth zero notwithstanding rounding error then 100% of Facebook is worth $0 via the scaling equation I outlined earlier). It’s even more fun to consider that revenue value to Microsoft being greater than $240 million. As you scale the value upwards Facebook’s value becomes increasingly negative. So, assuming the deal will be cash flow positive to Microsoft (or discounted cash flow positive) then if you believe Facebook is at least worth $1 then you negate the fact that it could be worth $15 billion.
I guess it was appropriate today that “news” site The Register, with tongue appropriately pressed to cheek, reported an astronomical drop in Facebook’s value per Facebook’s recent approximations of their own value in court papers related to the ConnectU lawsuit. By their logic, nicely stacked on top of the flawed logic I’ve discussed above, Facebook lost $11.25 billion in value just during the day today. Talk about a recession! That seems like appropriate punishment for all the shenanigans the media has had in doing the math on Facebook’s valuation to date. At least now with Facebook’s approximation of their own value the media will finally have another good data point that they can completely ignore for the sake of a good whiplash headline.
July 8, 2008
Joe Pulizzi of Junta 42 wrote a nice post in his content marketing blog today about a great customer service experience he had with iContact regarding our second quarter upgrade sale which ran for the last five days of June 2008. The month of June was a huge success for us as a record number of new customers joined during the month, in part because of the sale. In fact, new customer adds in June were up 19% from the month of May. Wow.
Joe wrote about receiving an email for the sale pretty much immediately after signing up only to realize that he hadn’t been able to take advantage of the discount offer it provided because he upgraded his account before the sale began. He emailed our support team and was happy to learn that the discount had been applied to his account retroactively because of his request. From his blog post he mentioned “Needless to say, iContact will be keeping my business.”
Now that’s the type of experience I’m proud that we’re able to create at iContact. We’re all about making online communication easy but we’re also all about our customers and their success. It’s great to see both of these philosophies in action among our team at the same time!
July 8, 2008
Sarah and I and about 15 friends and spouses of iContact employees spent Saturday a week ago in Chapel Hill working on a beautiful Habitat for Humanity home. The home is for a family who lived previously in a Habitat Home in the area that burned down recently. The lot is within an incredibly peaceful and quiet neighborhood just south of Chapel Hill that was an entire Habitat for Humanity neighborhood going as far back as 20 years ago. A previous house on this same lot was recently demolished to make way for the new construction.
Our team for the day was broken into a morning crew and an afternoon crew. Our morning crew began around 8AM and had 15 people.
We spent the morning putting our new iContact Habitat t-shirts to work while nailing vinyl siding to the back and two sides of the house. Vinyl is very easy to install because it basically just requires lightly tacking roofing nails into small slots within the top of each row of siding. But, it’s not easy to get right. Each row requires measuring and remeasuring and you have to get it perfect or the rows of siding won’t line up on the corners (which looks real funny if you get it wrong).
Another part of our team dug out around a pipe in the back of the house that would need to be replaced. It took a number of hours to get through the thick rock and root systems around the pipe but we eventually got it done by using multiple shovels and a tall vertical pick. I jumped in because breaking rock and roots was a bit more dynamic and enjoyable than hanging siding and I got to use some brute strength which is always fun. I worked hard enough at that to get a nice blister even through my work gloves.
At lunch we joined the afternoon crew at noon and passed on what we had learned in the morning to them so that they could finish the projects we began earlier that day. Cindy and Michelle brought in four huge bags of Subway sandwiches and coolers of drinks so we had everything we needed to recharge.
July 7, 2008
Anybody have trouble with Google Calendar today? I was unable to access my Google calendar account from around 2PM to 8PM Eastern time today. I searched Google News for any details but didn’t find anything. I used Google Blog search to look for comments about it but came up empty there as well.
During the downtime today when I attempted to access my online calendar I was directed to a page that said that the service was temporary unavailable, the message was repeated (I’m assuming it was the same message) in about 15 languages, I found one of them helpful. On other attempts to load the page I was directed to a shorter message only in English that referenced a Google calendar support article in their knowledge base. The article explained three ways that the problem could be my fault and left me with no good options to figure out what was actually going on, or to get an update. Now that my calendar is back online this evening there don’t appear to be any notices or alerts inside the software about what occurred. Maybe they’ll send me an email, if so I’ll post it here when I get it.
During the downtime today I realized three things that surprised me:
- I’ve become very reliant on my Google calendar. It’s a free service so I have to realize that it won’t always be available, or as available as a paid service that comes with a real business Service Level Agreement (SLA), but while it was down this afternoon five meeting invitations stacked up in my email inbox
- Google didn’t make any information about the outage readily available to me… either at my regular calendar URL, via email, or within their knowledge base. I guess Google doesn’t feel the obligation to make that communication.
- I’m really glad that I use Goosync to sync my Google calendar to my Palm Treo. I was able to check my calendar on my Treo during the outage but I didn’t dare to try to sync it because I wasn’t sure if it would erase all appointments from my Treo considering that whatever Goosync connects with at Google to make the integration was probably down too. In the event that my Google Calendar never came back it was nice to know my Treo would still have all of my critical information on it. Technically Google has absolutely no liability if my calendar had not come back.
I’m sure glad my Google Calendar is back up now. Time for me to get back to work managing the 29 meetings I have already scheduled this week.
July 7, 2008
Traditional web analytics has fallen short in many ways that have frustrated web marketers who want more information and better ways to view it. For instance, the best web analytics packages show you information about:
- what your website’s visitors do while on the site
- how visitors move through the pages of your site (although because this is done by URL this provides very little information about which link on a page triggered that movement)
- which pages and websites incoming visitors clicked in from
- general location and browser environment information, and
- conversions and where those visitors came from
All of this data is helpful in learning about your site and making changes in an effort to optimize your online content. It also helps you learn about your typical visitor profile and helps you understand how visitor behavior differs among the various channels you pull them in from. But, a big gap remains between these details and the total picture of what your website visitors do online, not just on your website. Other very helpful details are typically not readily available including:
- Where your website visitors spend their time online
- What competitor websites your visitors surf to during the same online session that included their visitor to your website
- What paid search ads visitors click
- What keywords your visitors enter into searches that lead them to websites, and
- Demographic information for the general population of visitors to your competitors’ websites and websites that you might want to consider purchasing ad space on
This information has been available for a few years now among a fragmented set of information aggregators each with a different approach to information collection. The ones I’m aware of are as follows:
- Neilson: collects information from focus groups and individual user monitoring
- Compete.com: collects web activity information from 2 million online users and via surveys
- Alexa: collects information from the Alexa Score bar, and
- Hitwise: collects (and this one has always been my favorite, I want to know who negotiated these contracts) information anonymously from the logs of ISPs around the world
I have seen screen shots of the Hitwise offering as part of a presentation I attended at a Search Engine Strategies conference a few years back and I was blown away by type of information they can produce from the logs of ISPs. The information when brought together shows fascinating things about not only about how individual sites compete online but also general changes in Internet user behavior over time. I am not as familiar with the Neilson product but have used Alexa and the similar Compete.com for a while now. Both contain interesting but not very actionable information. Neilson is often used by larger companies to guide media buying decisions. I don’t know if Google’s DoubleClick ad placement product has had anything built into it historically to provide this information although it should have… and it does now.
Enter Google (you probably guessed it). Last week they announced Google Ad Planner, shortly following a launch of Google Web Trends (similarly named to the popular web analytics product and company WebTrends) just a few weeks before as well. Google Ad Planner brings together information that Google has (Google’s goal you might remember seems to be to have all of the information in the world at their disposal, and to make it available to you for free) collected from a number of sources. Although Google hasn’t been very forthcoming about the sources of Ad Planner data we know they have information from the following assets in their possession:
- The Google Toolbar (more discussion about this is on TechCrunch)
- Organic search information
- Paid search including results-page CPC ads and display ads across their content network
- Google Analytics
Considering their search market share of 70%+ (source) and their broad install base of Google Toolbar (cannot easily find a reference to the number of Google Toolbar installs) this is likely an incredibly large slice of online user behavior data. If in fact they’re using Gmail and Google Analytics data they’re probably getting much higher quality information than the existing players because of the depth of behind-the-curtain details they can glean from website visitors who also use Gmail who are on websites that use Google Analytics. That’s the full backstage pass and Google has earned this position by creating compelling value propositions with both the Gmail and Google Analytics applications.
Google Ad Planner provides deep demographic and competitive site user session analysis where the complementing Google Web Trends product now allows you to track the popularity over time of websites as well as keywords (which they’ve supported for several years now). Google Web Trends also allows you to see a top-ten list of the following information for visitors to any website they track (only sites with pretty substantial traffic are available right now):
- visitor origin-country
- competitive sites from user sessions, and
- keyword searches performed
Many rumors exist for how Google will ultimately make these tools available but I think they’re going to leave Google Web Trends free and available to anyone as it is now and the current invitation-only beta of Google Ad Planner will become available for free to anyone with a DoubleClick or AdSense account (possibly with a minimum monthly spend requirement). This would only make sense as I don’t think Google will want to mess with charging a monthly subscription fee and it would allow them to drive account acquisition among their two online advertising powerhouses. So, maybe now is a good time to get a DoubleClick or AdSense account if you don’t have one, maybe there won’t be a minimum spend requirement at all. Or maybe I’m completely wrong about all of this and you’ll get one anyway.
One closing thought. The combination of Google Web Trends and Google Webmaster Tools and Google Analytics is a free triple-play of website competition tools that when used together (although they don’t really integrate together) as part of a comprehensive web strategy will allow the small business to compete in awesome new ways. This value exists for businesses without any marketing budget to allow them to begin playing in AdSense, or later on, DoubleClick. The information these tools provide basically allows an entrepreneur to plug their brand new startup website into Google and receive automated feedback on:
- how well their online content is being understood by Google
- how that content is being found by relevant visitors
- what sites compete with them for this traffic
- how their visitors search for their competitors, and
- how much and what type of traffic they’re receiving in comparison to their competitors.
After struggling to find this data for years it’s now available through the collection of these tools in action together. Then, when the startup business begins to find success through content optimization and really starts to understand their online visitor profile, the combination of Google AdSense and DoubleClick and Google Ad Planner will allow them to target specific paid search (keywords used by competitive properties) and paid display ad opportunities (sites with similar visitor profiles) that match their preferred online audience and hit the right person with the right message… the web marketer’s knockout punch, but it isn’t free at this level.
July 2, 2008
CNN money recently got together a few CEOs and asked them to share stories from their time at the top of major public corporations, and then discuss their fall. The group included David Neeleman, founder of JetBlue, the airline that stranded thousands of travelers on Valentine’s day, Jim Donald, the former CEO of Starbucks, the company that explored and eventually found a ceiling to the price sensitivity and demand for premium coffee drinks, and Ed Zander, who ran Motorola as CEO.
Each have experienced a big fall from glory in the last 12 months but from their words and the situations which I remember all being covered in the media at heart I think the world understands. It’s fascinating to hear Neeleman talks about calling his wife just after being told that he was being ousted as CEO of JetBlue only to have her interrupt him to say that her mother died. The stress is unfathomable but the story seems be told almost out of the amazement of his own ability to push through the situation. Donald mentions an evening meeting at Howard Shultz’s home that was rather short in which Howard told him of the board’s decision to replace him as CEO and then telling his wife matter-of-factly that he had lost his job. He then called his mother to explain the details.
The article gives a nice look into the personal lives and support networks behind these former top executives. It’s interesting that each focus greatly on their families and spouses when discussing the happenings immediately following their dismissals. It truly is a family effort behind many top CEOs.