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Archive for May, 2008

Too many pigs at the trough

by henrycopeland
Monday, May 19th, 2008

NYTimes has a great grim story about online advertising this morning.

The prices paid for online ads bought through ad networks dropped 23 percent from March to April, according to PubMatic, an advertising-technology company in Palo Alto, Calif., that runs an online-pricing index. Large Web publishers fared the worst in PubMaticâ”s study, with the prices they received through networks dropping 52 percent.

The article also noted that AOL’s display revs were down 19% in the first quarter, and a downward revision in earnings guidance at WebMD.

The article blames the slump on the looming recession, but there’s definitely something else at work. The online ad marketplace is suffering from the dreaded TMPFAST syndrome. That’s “Too Many Pigs Feeding at the Same Trough” for those of you who haven’t lived through past bursting bubbles. Since the press started proclaiming a couple of years ago that “any idiot with a site can make billions,” new idiots have been lining up to line their pockets. In building their business plans and seducing their eager to be seduced investors, these pigs have focused on the inarguable growth of online advertising (“how can you go wrong in a market that’s growing 30% a year?”), while ignoring the grim reality that millions of similar idiots have been engaged in the same fantasy.

The result won’t be too surprising… and there’ll be lots of sausage to go round for those with an appetite.


Shot by l0s71 with this license.

Smart to duck the networking bullet?

by henrycopeland
Monday, May 12th, 2008

Ian Schafer looks around online for ads for the Smart car and finds none.

… it seems that that support would logically come from some tech-savvy, highly-connected, vocal groups of people that use the web to find each other. So if the Smart car is so smart, where’s the love of the people that it needs to succeed? Where’s the embrace of the (measurable) medium that can jumpstart a revolution?

As a driver of a ’92 V240, I know horsepower from horsemanure, but DO read the Sunday NYTimes, where the car got trashed.

As Smart tries to jump on the Mini’s bandwagon, some myths need to be addressed. First is that the Smart has been a smash success in Europe. In fact, Smart has been a small but weighty millstone around Mercedes’s neck, never reaching sales expectations and posting more than $3 billion in losses over a decade.

The second myth flows from the first: that the Smart is arriving to show America how small cars should be done. But the Smart isn’t the sophisticated runabout that people might expect.

Sure, the Smart is cute, if you enjoy cars from the Weebles school of design. And it’s ridiculously easy to park. My only pleasure came from slotting the Smart into spots that would have discouraged a St. Bernard.

But the Smart’s diminished size brings diminishing returns. From supermarkets to metered spaces, American parking slots are sized for the biggest cars and S.U.V.’s. Because you can’t straddle the lines at the mall or double up at meters, the Smart offers no advantage there.

The Smart’s only edge is its ability to park motorcycle-style by backing or nosing perpendicular to the curb. Oops, strike that: New York’s parking department said that move is off-limits unless signs specifically allow angle parking for all cars.

Compared with suburb-dwellers, the urban single or family is also more likely to rely on one do-it-all car. That means the versatility to carry friends, escape for a weekend and deal with cargo.

That’s where the Smart gets really dumb. For roughly the Smart Passion’s well-equipped price of $15,510, one could have several pint-sized models ‘ the terrific Honda Fit or Nissan Versa come to mind ‘ that are sportier, hold twice as many people, up to six times the cargo and get nearly the same mileage. (Fold the Versa hatchback’s rear seats, and there’s 50 cubic feet of storage, compared with just 7.8 cubic feet for the Smart).

So maybe Mercedes is intentionally avoiding the instant avalanche of cruelty that advertising in a networked marketplace might bring. If networking multiplies success, does avoiding networked media stifle or at least postpone failure?

The good old days

by henrycopeland
Saturday, May 10th, 2008

SXSW mag

by henrycopeland
Friday, May 9th, 2008

I had a short piece in the SXSW quarterly mag that just came out. It was fun to try to carve the thing down from 400 words to 200. Here she is:

My favorite hour at SXSW ’08 began with boredom. I was watching a panel on social media metrics gum its topic. I shuffled my feet, opened my laptop. Twittered. Stewed.

Ian Schafer leaned over. “Get on Meebo.” I wasn’t alone in my frustration!

— guest439761: “20 minutes in and haven’t really heard anything.”
— Christen: “don’t tell me that there are metrics, tell me what they ARE, how to measure them, what the benchmarks are.”

Michael Bassik went to the mic: “To give the panelists a heads up, Meebo chatters are demanding numbers and names.” The moderator responded: “We’ve still got 30 minutes, we’ll get to metrics.” Ten more metricless minutes passed.

— mvp: “someone hack the system and get this up on the screen.”
— mediastorm: “i say we all walk out.”
— nancy: “don’t laugh! the panelist will think they are interesting.”

We started plotting. Strip and storm the stage? A sweater flew, then a sock. We synchronized hand-raising. We coughed in unison. We riffed on metrical drink names and games.

Suddenly our hour was over. So soon? Awww. We’d net-worked a sixty-minute revolution, transforming private anger into collective action and a humorous new culture. And we were ready for Sarah Lacy.

Kudos to SXSW for publishing something critical of itself in the house publication. But I guess not that critical, because the hour was the most fun I’ve had in social media in a while.

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