March 15, 2012

The problem is Robocalls…

In Canada we’ve been experiencing a fairly large scandal involving Robocalls to Canadians surrounding the 2011 election.  I’ve been frustrated with Robocalls for several years and the lack of regulation by the CRTC.  A few years ago I kept getting Robocalls from a collection agency ( trying to reach someone named Brandi ) and recently I have been getting a barrage of calls from the NDP leadership campaign.  I think Robocall regulations should include: Continue reading

December 12, 2010

Good Product Management RIM’s Saviour?

Mike Mace has an excellent analysis of the challenges that RIM is facing.  My favourite quote is:

“The fault lies not in our ties, but in our selves. In my opinion, RIM’s real problems center around two big issues: its market is saturating, and it seems to have lost the ability to create great products. This is a classic problem that eventually faces most successful computer platforms. The danger is not that RIM is about to collapse, but that it’ll drift into in a situation where it can’t afford the investments needed to succeed in the future. It’s very easy for a company to accidentally cross that line, and very hard to get back across it.”

Anyone interested in Product Management should read the whole article here.

I thought the most interesting aspect of the article was the focus on the Product Management as the solution.  Specific Mike’s 2 recommendations:

“To keep a platform viable, you need to focus on two tasks: Keep the customer base loyal, and add adjacent product categories.”

Very simple advice and focus that many Product Managers forget and Mike follows it up with more strategies for each.

Overall one of the best articles I’ve seen on RIM and excellent reminder of the importance of Product Management.

December 5, 2010

The New New Facebook Profile

Here we go again… Facebook has changed the profile page again and decided to roll it out on 60 minutes tonight.  The profile will be rolled out slowly to users but you can get it immediately by going here.

The changes are mostly minor with Facbeook but the most note-able visual change being the replacement of Facebook Tabs with a small menu on the Left Nav.  The menu includes all the pre-defined Facebook components including Wall, Info, Photos, Notes and Posts.  There is no option to add other menu items or areas.

A “jumble” of personal information is now included at the top of the below the user name, its not overly well formatted and the order seems to be clear.   The jumble seems to default to current job & employer, most recent education, current location, relationship status and partner,  home down, birthday.  I’ve also seen the Jumble show language(s) spoken so it might be related to the most recent changes to your profile.

Continue reading

December 3, 2010

New Facebook Promotion Rules

Facebook Contest PromotionPromotions on Facebook have been a little controversial over the past few years with Facebook requesting a minimum ad buy to approve the promotion and imposing  restrictive rules.   In many cases this has just served to encourage promotions without Facebook approval but always with the risk of removal or early termination.  Facebook has changed all this week with new Facebook Promotion guidelines that remove the minimum ad buy and define clear rules for all promotions.

The main focus of the guideline seems to be around focusing promotional activities on Facebook Applications and not core Facebook functionality.   In order to enter or qualify for a Facebook Promotion an application should be used either on the Canvas Page or a Facebook Page tab.   It’s prohibited for Facebook Promotions to use status updates, commenting on a wall or photo uploads as a method for entering the promotion.  This is very similar to the Facebook Policy against incentivized action for Facebook Applications.  The goal of both theses policies is to prevent companies from encouraging users to spam their friends.

Continue reading

October 15, 2010

The Legality of Groupon?

Groupon has really taken off in Canada.  I think mainly because many popular restaurants have been available as Groupons and that has driven alot of adoption.   One of my favourite restaurants, Utopia Cafe sold almost 1500 Groupons during their promotion.  Today’s Groupon is for the very popular Table 17 Restaurant

If you’re not familar with the concept basically a Groupon is presented for a limited time period, usually 24 hours and a certain number of people have to buy the Groupon for the deal the activate.  In most cases the Groupon offers a 50% discount when you purchase immediately.  Most Groupon’s don’t have alot of restrictions on when they can be used but do have an expiry date.  Groupon also encourages additional Groupons to be purchased as Gifts.  This presents an interesting legal aspect, especially in Ontario, where Gift Cards and Certificates are regulated.

In 2007,  the Consumer Protection Act was amended to ban expiry dates and most fees on gift cards purchased after that date to ensure consumers get their full value, regardless of when they use them. The enhanced consumer protection measures now in force include:

  1. Prohibiting expiry dates on gift cards and certificates
  2. Restricting fees charged for gift cards to a) customizing a gift card, or b) replacing a lost or stolen gift card;
  3. Requiring the clear and prominent disclosure of any terms and conditions relating to a gift card (e.g., any limits to redeeming a card).

Should this protection apply to Groupons?  Are they a gift card or certificate?

October 7, 2010

The Problem with Facebook Groups…

Yesterday Facebook launched an upgrade to the Facebook Group functionality, the details of the new features are available here.   I think the more interesting thing is what is missing, the mainly one being the ability for groups to choose their own relationship and communication style.  There is still no good way to maintain a group communication system that scales.

Facebook Groups continue to degrade as users join them and the group owners essentially loose the ability to communicate with the group.  This is an excellent idea to control Facebook Group spam but it doesn’t allow users to engagement in popular groups and ideas that will quickly grow beyond the Facebook Group limits.  In way Facebook Groups should be renamed Small Facebook Groups because the functionality really favours smaller groups.  The Facebook Chat is great feature to chat with a small group but doesn’t scale well to larger groups.

In the end I think most groups are probably better served by something like Google Groups which allows a common mail listing and some basic HTML pages.

December 3, 2009

Marketing with Facebook Search

For most marketing search engine marketing is a common marketing technique and entire business united have been established to focus on search.   The most popular tool being Google and in a distant second the Microsoft Bing/live tools.   Facebook search on the other hand is a much different beast and much more difficult to market against.   In order to optimize we need to understand the Facebook Search function.

The key component to understand with Facebook search is the interaction relationship.  This means that content that the user has interacted with in the past will appear first and may appear in the auto-complete if they have Fan, Joined or Bookmarked the content.

Facebook search then will  display search results based on your friends involvement with content.  This means that individuals, groups, pages, or applications which your friends have interacted with appear at the top.  The next considertation is your network(s) and content types with more people from your network will be assigned priority.  Facebook has indicated they will removing networks but this logic is likely to be replace with geographic filters.

The next concept to understand is that Facebook assigns a priorty to different content types, assuming you have equal friend interactions or no friend interactions.  The priority is generally:

  1. Individual user profiles
  2. Facebook Pages
  3. Facebook Groups
  4. Facebook Applications
  5. Facebook Events
  6. Friend Facebook Posts
  7. Everyone’s Facebook Posts

After these internal Facebook content types Web Search results will be presented from the Microsoft Bing search results.

The other major different between Facebook and other search tools is the keyword matching.  The matching seems to be much more strict that other tools and partial keyword matching is very poor.

Across all content types the depth of search seems to limited to the content title.    This is probably the most important tool for Facebook search marketing.  Creating an effective title can increase your placement in search.  Without partial keyword matching a long title will be difficult to match with user keyword and keyword stuff has limited impact because the title on most content sources is limited.

The other important consideration, especially when combined with paid advertising is to get maximum coverage across networks ( geographic, schools and employers ) and across as many friend clusters as possible.   Facebook allows for a number of geographic targeting options and good distribution here can help with Facebook search results.

December 1, 2009

Facebook Page Performance Metrics

Facebook Page Performance Stats

Since Facebook launched Facebook Pages in 2007 alot clients have asked how their page is
performing.

Sysomos provides tools for measuring and comparing brand performance among across social media and yesterday released a report on Facebook Pages here:

http://www.sysomos.com/insidefacebook/

The report includes the Top 5 pages in each of the Facebook Page categories and includes a comparison between the different categories in terms of overall number of Facebook Fans.  The main advantage that a Facebook offers is the ability to communicate with your “Fan” based using the Facebook Page wall and update channel.   Facebook Pages can also be used with Facebook Applications to provide additional functionality and the basis for more interactive campaigns.

One of the more interesting aspects of the report is the owner generated content and fan generated content.   I believe the ratio between these is a great indicator of the level of interaction your achieving with your Fan base.  It also shows the impact of mass in social media with larger pages ( over 1 Million Fans ) having a much greater Owner to Fan content ratio.

November 30, 2009

Ebay and Black Friday

Ebay has released a very cool map/video of Black Friday transactions on their website, you can see it here:

http://www.ebayholiday.com/black-friday

If your not familar with Black Friday, its a mainly US phenomia where retailers enter into the “Black” for the year with the beginning of the Christmas holiday shopping. Most retailers offer significant discounts to get people shopping, and it seems that this trend matchs well with Ebay Transactions online.

Of particular interest is the number of Transactions that appear on the East Coast. Ebay original started as on the West Coast but it would appear to be much more widely penetrated across the East Coast of the US or prehaps East Coast retailers are more aggressive with their Black Friday sales/discounts…

Note: This post can also be found on refreshclassifieds.com

October 29, 2009

Facebook Roadmap

Facebook revealed their roadmap yesterday and it includes a number of changes for developers.  Inside Facebook has a create summer here.

I think the biggest change is the consolidation of communications into the Facebook inbox.  Facebook Invites and Notifications are going away and communication will be divided into Inbox communication and Email.  It looks like both channels will feature an opt-in requirement, making app to user communications very challenging in the future.

I think the consolidation of communication is probably a good thing.  Everytime I see a screenshot of someone’s Homepage I always see hundreds of ignored invites and notifications.  I don’t know that the new system will fix that but it should allow users to find these types of communications centrally.

The other change is around the placement of Bookmarked Applications.  It looks like these will be moving from the task bar to right side bar where the feed filters are located now.  Its not clear where the feed filters will be going or how often they are used ( I suspect they are not being used effectively ).

All of these represent another UI change for users though and Facebook has indicated they want to roll-out the changes by the end of the year.  As always it will be interesting to see the reaction from users to these changes…

October 24, 2009

Facebook Changes with LiveFeed Addition

Facebook released some interface changes last night.  They appear to be:

  • New Group Page design with Tab Interface and strong wall presence.  This makes groups now very similar to Facebook Pages.
  • Addition of a LiveFeed option to the Homepage.   This works similar to the Newsfeed but doesn’t allow the same type of content filtering and the Newsfeed doesn’t seem to update as often.
  • Remove Feature Items, the featured items from the right hand side have been removed.  These were kind of random in any case.
  • Friend Suggest now suggests contacting friends with incomplete or low-Facebook profile usage

The changes are all relatively small but the most significant is probably the LiveFeed addition and it seems users will be defaulting to this in most cases.

October 22, 2009

The Power of Real-Time Search

For years now Google has dominated the search marketing field.  Its Pagerank algorithm attempts to find content that is the most relevant to the keywords being search.  In most cases this means placing a greater emphasis on older more established content and ignoring the newer content.  This has worked well for most content types except for breaking news and trending items.  When Michael Jackson died a search for “Michael Jackson” was more likely to bring up fan pages than articles around his death.

Enter Twitter and Facebook, for trending topics the social networks have an advantage in that they can see trending topics developing in real-time.  And yesterday they announced a partnership with Bing to power its real-time search component.  This should provide Bing with an advantage in the real-time search market.  Its not clear how big the real-time market is as compared to the more traditional search market that Google dominates.

Its will be interesting to see if Marketers start to place a greated emphasis on purchasing keywords based on real-time trends that be associated with their brands.  The search engines are already well equipped with bid based pricing models to handle real-time price fluctuations in keywords.

October 21, 2009

One Degree no more…

One Degree announced yesterday that they are stopping production on their site.  I’ve been a long time reading and even contributed some articles a few years ago and it looks like they’re committing to keeping the site up as an archive for now.

I’d really like to thank Kate and Rose for all the time and effort that went into maintaining the site.   They’ve done a great job of since taking over from Ken.

October 20, 2009

Facebook Garage Montreal – Oct 26, 2009

The agenda for Facebook Garage Montreal has been posted and I’ve been accepted present on ‘Public Involve with Social Media’.  I will be great to talk about my work with Ascentum over the last few months.  The preliminary agenda is:

  • 5pm to 6:30pm: buffet, socializing
  • 6:30pm to 6:45pm: opening remarks – Louise Clements, Head of Sales, Facebook Canada
  • 6:45pm to 7:15pm: first keynote – Hell’s Kitchen: Facebook comme plateforme de jeux vidéos, Emmanuel Delmoly, co-founder Social2U
  • 7:15pm to 7:45pm: Facebook Advertising 101 – speaker to be confirmed
  • 7:45pm to 8:15pm: break
  • 8:15pm to 9:15pm Social Marketing / Facebook Connect
  • 9:15pm to 10:00pm: second keynote – Matt Wyndowe, Facebook (Palo Alto, CA) – Topic to be confirmed

Should be an exciting evening. The event is free and you can register here.

October 7, 2009

Ted Rogers

I first met Ted Rogers about 10 years ago at a Rogers Wave booth at a home show in Toronto.  I was working with an ISP in Hamilton that was also launching cable modems.   My job at the time was to explain how cable modems worked and the advantages of dial-up and the soon to be released DSL.  As luck would have it Ted chose me to ask about the Roger’s Wave product we were launching.  He made a good impression and I think he really worked hard to understand how technology would benefit individuals.

January 20, 2009

Top CNN Technology usage for Obama coverage

CNN really surprised me today with its use of technology around the Obama inauguration.  There’s 3 main components that I think stand out:

  • Facebook Connect integration, it was awesome watching the video online and getting comments/status updates from your friends or the general public in real-time.  This absolutely made the experience for me and I think it really highlights the future of video entertainment, its social.
  • PhotoSync in 3D, CNN guessed correctly that many people would be taking photos of the inauguration and using PhotoSync its possible to see a moment in time from various angles and photos.  A great use of technology that was powered by many independent people taking photos and sending them to CNN.
  • IReport with Google Maps, CNN also had a real-time map showing different photos and messages as they were received by CNN through its iReport service.  IReport essentially let citizen journalists report on the event either through a message or a photo. The other aspect of the map images was the size  of the crowds, seeing them on TV didn’t really do justice to the amazing mass of people present.

CNN has reset the bar in terms of coverage of major events.  It will be interesting to see if they use the same technology for other events.  It would be great for the Superbowl to have the same coverage…

January 19, 2009

No more online sales for CanadianTire.ca

No Online Sales for CanadianTire.ca

CanadianTire.ca has decided to stop all online sales as of Jan 29, 2009.  Very little information about why the decision to end online sales has been disclosed.  CanadianTire.ca includes the following reasons for the change:

…canadiantire.ca is finding new ways to serve you better.
Over the past year, we’ve made many improvements to our site. We’ve added more of the robust product information you find so useful when you are making a purchase decision. And, as always, we’re dedicated to ensuring that our site is the best in its class.

You’ve told us that canadiantire.ca is a great resource.
Many of you use our website to research and compare products before buying them in your local Canadian Tire store. We’re proud of our strength as a research tool and will continue to build on this in the future. Because our site is primarily used for research and product comparison, canadiantire.ca has decided to discontinue selling products online for home delivery.

We will make this change on January 29, 2009.
All orders placed before this time will be processed and delivered. And, our Gift Cards will continue to be available online for home delivery.

More exciting changes to come.
The great news is that, coming soon, we’ll be making many refinements to our site navigation to make browsing and product search faster and easier. The site will also look a little different, with bigger, more descriptive pictures and even better product information. In addition, we’ll introduce in-store pick up capability in selected test markets in Spring, 2009.

Keep visiting canadiantire.ca.
In the weeks to come, we’ll reveal these enhancements. As a valued online Canadian Tire shopper, we want you to be there with us as we turn in this exciting, new direction.

One can only assume that CanadianTire.ca has not seen significant growth,  and as a business with substancial investment in retail stores, it must have been an area where it didn’t want to invest further.  Canadian Tire is not the only Canadian retailer to forego online sales, Shoppers Drug market has continued to ignore the online sales market.

Canadian Tire seems intent on maintaining its online presence with product information but will leave the actual sales fulfillment to the retail store locations.  Its not clear  if this is part of a bigger trend for Canadian retails and how the lack of online sales will impact the Canadian Tire forecast.

Canadian online sales are estimated at $62. 7 billion CDN ( source Highbeam Research ) and not having an online sales presence opens Canadian Tire to competition from an online only retailer.   This is exactly the situation with Shoppers Drug mart and Canada’s Online Drugstore – Well.ca.   While Canadian Tire and Shoppers Drug represent different segments it seems odd that both have ignored the online sales potential.  While ignoring the online sales market today might make sense at some point it will become a necessary component of sustained growth and market share.   Lack of investment today will likely mean a more expensive investment or purchase in the future to re-capture the online market.

Update:  Canadian Tire issued the following message to affiliates:

Dear Affiliates,

Over the past few years, canadiantire.ca has experienced exceptional growth in traffic, making it one of the busiest e-commerce sites in the country.  Our research indicates that the overwhelming majority of the traffic to the site is focused on products that are heavily researched, but not necessarily suitable for home delivery (patio sets, tires, etc).  This, coupled with the fact that we have an extensive store network with 473 stores located within a 10-15 minute drive of 90% of the Canadian population, led us to the decision to discontinue direct home delivery and to deploy our resources to development of capabilities and features that will significantly enhance the online experience for the millions of customers that visit canadiantire.ca every month.

To continue to deliver on our commitment to provide customers with the best retail site experience, we will continue to invest resources to dramatically enhance the site.  In addition to re-launching the site with a brand new look, new navigational functionality and even more ‘how-to’ information for our customers, we will also be introducing in-store pick-up of online orders in a couple of markets later this spring.

Effective January 29, 2009 online sales of product (excluding gift cards) from Canadian Tire’s website, www.canadiantire.ca, will be suspended.  The eFlyer program will continue without interruption.

You are welcome to leave Canadian Tire creative banners up on your sites but need to be aware that as of January 30, 2009, commissions can be earned on gift card sales ONLY.  Any Canadian Tire creative banners that speak to free shipping codes or purchasing products (other than gift cards) will be deleted from the Linkshare Image Inventory on January 29, 2009.  A reminder will be sent to you on January 30, 2009 asking you to review your site to ensure that the Canadian Tire creative banners reflect this change.

We appreciate your understanding in this matter and look forward to working with you in 2009.

Regards,

The Canadian Tire Online Team
1-866-746-7287

September 11, 2008

Confused users? Just add stickies…

Facebook is trying hard to get users to user and like its new profile re-design.  I think one of the funniest new additions are little yellow stickies on all the new and non-obvious additions.  Kinda of a “we know you’ll miss this if we don’t tell you” approach to interface design.

I’m not sure how successful this will be with users.  In my case I’m mostly just clicking the x to get rid of these and non-obvious features will probably be lost on me or at least until Facebook changes something again.

September 11, 2008

More Visa Frustrations

A few weeks ago I wrote about my frustrations with the CIBC visa opt-out upgrade program.  Since then CIBC and I have parted ways, my Aeroplan Visa card was the last CIBC service I retained from them since openning a bank account with them as a child.   A few years ago I switched to Royal Bank after CIBC was unable re-issue me a bank card without me returning to Hamilton Ontario.  I am now free of all CIBC services…

Being with Royal Bank I thought it would be easiest if I just chose their Avion Infinite Visa.  It seemed similar enough to my CIBC card until it arrived in the mail a few weeks ago.  Royal Bank has decided to be the first bank to take ‘advantage’ of the new Visa chip and PIN option.  This is a system Visa has been using in Europe for years and it hads a PIN to Visa transactions similar to Interact payments in Canada.  Unfortunately it seems that while Royal Bank is ready, and maybe Visa is ready, vendors are not.    I was unable to order a Pizza, make purchases at BestBuy or even use it at the driver through.  With the exception of BestBuy ( where it took 20 mins for staff to figure out how to process a payment with a chip and PIN ) it seems that most vendors don’t support the new system.  In additional Royal Bank doesn’t actually send me a PIN.  Instead the card is essentially useless ( unless you want to talk to a RBC operator about every transaction ) until you visit an RBC branch and create your own PIN.  In anycase the Royal Bank Avion Infinite Visa with new Chip and PIN technology and I are no longer seeing each other.  Its been cut into little pieces as per instructions…

I’m now waiting for a TD Visa, which I’m assured is Visa Chip and PIN technology free, at least until 2011 when its mandatory and hopefully vendors will know how to handle them.  One unfortunate surprise around the TD Visa was the TD won’t actually send the card to my house.  Instead I have to pick it up at a branch.  I suspect this is so they can check my ID and TD bank seems to have really good branch hours with most branches open 8am to 8pm.  I’m hoping their Visa will be the winner…

September 10, 2008

Facebook breaks Application list, again…

It looks like Facebook is reacting to user feedback about how hard it is to find and navigate applications in the new profile design.  In response last week they changed the application list so that the “browse all applications” actually connected you to all your applications.  This week they’ve changed the application drop-down so that it displays a shortened application list.  Unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be a way to configure which applications are displayed or easily get to any of your installed applications.

The other point of confusion with this design is the Facebook term change from “installed” application to “bookmarked” application.  I don’t think they’ve done a job of explaining to users how these terms are essentially the same but “bookmarked” applications don’t automatically install a profile box.  I’m  hoping Facebook introduces a better definition.

August 3, 2008

More brand Assassination, from CIBC this time

Leigh Himel has a good post about how the opt-out campaign approach should never be used.  We’ve both been the victims of CIBC’s wonderful new Infinite Visa upgrade program.  Without talking to me CIBC has decided to upgrade me to this new VISA program while I was in Portugal at Alex & Iuliana’s wedding.   This is a perfect example of an opt-out campaign, I apparently had a limited time period to opt-out of the upgrade program.

To make matters worst I’ve never received my Infinite Visa so someone could be running around with it right now.   When I login to my old CIBC VISA program no longer get balance updates and I only have until Aug 14 to use my new Visa.  All of my direct withdrawal aggreements also need to be transfered over to my new Visa ( which I don’t have ).  CIBC has even projected a lovely 1-800 to help transfer these direct withdrawals.  My first and only call to the number included 10 mins of horrible music while I wait for a CSR to respond and tell me I need to call the vendor and make the change with them instead.

I’ve been using this card for about 10 years now and I’ve even memorized the number.  What ever benefits this new CIBC Infinite card provides pale in comparison to the inconvience of getting this new card.  And by cancelling my old card on a fairly aggressive schedule they are ensuring that I need to find a replace from here, here, here, or here.  I don’t really understand how CIBC could roll out this type of campaign and expect it to be acceptable to anyone who actually uses the their cards.

August 3, 2008

Simple solutions to complex problems

I recently had to send a letter, for the first time in a long. When I was at the Post Office ( I don’t know where else to buy stamps ). I noticed that all Canada post stamps a valid regardless of their value. Instead of having to buy $0.01 stamps when the price goes Canada Post has ey are decided that when you buy a stamp its good until you use. I don’t know the cost to print a stamp but I’m sure its greater than the $0.01 they made up with these interim stamps. I’m also sure that there is not a huge inventory of stamps being stock piled at todays prices with the hope of saving a few cents in the future. Even if people do start to stock pile them they are sure to loose a few. This new policy solves a very old problem with a really simple solution.

Another great example of a simple solution is the TTC transferable pass. For years the TTC invested in identity cards and took photos of people purchasing their monthly passes. Passes were then bound to that particular person and with the intent of getting each person in the household to purchase a separate pass. The result was that people that need to purchase a pass did, and those that used the system rarely did not. They also had to incur the cost of the photo taking equipment and the photo cards. A few years ago the TTC decided to introduce a transferable monthly pass. Anyone can use the pass also as they don’t ‘pass it back’ to someone on the same trip. The pass has been a huge success and many couples and families split a pass. Another good example of a simple solution to a very complex problem.

I think both Canada Post and TTC are great examples of how to solve problems creatively. Are there any others?

July 21, 2008

Rogers brand assassination

Rogers has recently started ‘helping its customers’ be redirecting search requests to its own landing page with advertising.   They’re even going so far as to redirect Internet Explorer search requests to this new landing page.  The page looks like this:

Notice the Rogers branding, Chatelaine and Macleans advertising on the page.  Not really clear how these are helping Rogers users…

Rogers has already received a lot of negative press for its iphone pricing and lack of competitive data plans.  This appears to be another example Rogers working very hard to completely assassinate its own brand.  Verisign tried the same approach a few years ago and eventually abandoned the product based on negative feedback.  Rogers appears to be lining up for the same experience.

June 10, 2008

CBC Hockey Night in Canada, the biggest branding mistake ever?

CBC, or Canadian Broasting Corp, has just made what I think can only be called the worst branding mistake ever with regards to the Hockey Song.  For 40 years the CBC hockey broadcasts have used the Hockey Song and this week they let it slip away to their competition.  I can’t think of a bigger branding mistake… Ever!

I can’t think of another TV broadcast, or show that has ever let its theme song slide to the competition.  Worst yet, the song has been in use all year up until 2 weeks ago with the end of the Stanley Cup playoffs.  If the CBC wasn’t intending to renew the license they should have stopped using it awhile ago and worked on a replacement plan.  Instead they just now launched a contest to find a replacement with a $100,000 prize, in the same week that CTV announced they’ve listened the Hockey Song.

I don’t know much about the management of the CBC, or their sports budgets or the deal that proposed for the rights to the song.  Everyone I’ve met from the CBC has been intelligent and with good intentions but I don’t understand how they let this happen.   Its  hard to believe that they can sign Don Cherry to a multi-year deal but let their theme song  go without renewal.  What a disaster…

May 28, 2008

Distance costs.

Sebastian, over at Praized, has a great post about the “New Inflation “ report by CIBC world markets.  If you haven’t read it yet, I highly recommend you check it out.  I’ll wait… ( besure to check out the “Will Soaring Transport Costs Reverse Globalization?” section )

Over the last few years there’s been alot of discussions about globalization and the Walmart effect on business.  There hasn’t been alot of consideration around the sustainablility of the model.  The simple situation is that we’re running out of fossil fuels and the cost is going nowhere but up…

I think this is going to have a big impact on the business world over the next 10-20 years as  have to deal with the fact that distance is going to cost us money.    The change and the cost increases probably won’t be linear, the tar sands projects in Alberta are showing that.  As the cost of oil increases, less opertune oil deposits are reconsidered.  Alternative energey sources will also become viable but most still depend on a finite supply source.   This is probably good news environmentally too, as the costs of the shipping increase its going to force businesses to consider local options.  Overall a great article and a whole new angle to consider with regards to internation competition.

May 8, 2008

User Generated Recommendations, hard to get right…

Joey deVilla has a great post about his experience trying to get a recommendation for a moving company. It sounds simple enough, ask you’re blog readers to respond with recommendations for local services. In reality its hard to get reliable information, in Joey’s case the recommendations were tainted by an apparent fake recommendation and legal/intimidation against apparently true recommendation. Not a great representation for user generated recommendations…

We looked at this when I was with Trader Media, and again with Refresh on Freshrevie.ws. The hard part with user generated recommendation is to evaluate the quality of the recommendation. Its a similar situation with Ebay, and their approach is a user rating system based on past transactions.  Its hard to do a rating a recommendation engine since the past reviews have less baring and there is no money being exchanged to qualify the review.

I think the solution is to have some sort of context around the person writing the review. Facebook is a great environment for this, since you generally know your friends and your friend network helps define and validate you. Gigpark is doing a great job of getting user generated recommendations, by focusing on the user relationship first. They’ve done a good job of connecting users in Facebook and on their own website. The challenge they might face is that people have a limited friend network and they don’t have a complete businesses listings.

The big business directories, like Yellow Pages have very complete listings but haven’t been willing to expose their advertisers to user generated recommendations. Yellow Pages has just recently launched user reviews inside the Yellow Pages Facebook application. This should reduce their exposure to fake reviews since Facebook spends alot of time tracking down and deleting fake accounts.

April 21, 2008

Early funding, for early exits?

I attended Rick Segal’s VC round table last week, which was also attended by Susan Dingwall Williams and Scott Pelton.   It was a good forum to discuss the VC community and the funding process for startups.   One area I was surprised with was the agreement from both Rick and Scott that they wanted to involved early in the funding process.  Generally the area where Angels would have traditionally been involved.

Then over the weekend I read about Xnobi being approached by Microsoft, from TechCrunch.  Xnobi makes a social networking for Outlook and it would make sense that Microsoft would want to purchase them.  Xnobi has just recently, probably has no revenue and very little business model.

Is this the state of startups today?  With early funding and early exists?  This would certainly explain the decline in VC funding, with smaller startups and earlier exists, there is less need for huge capital investments.  VC’s will need to be nimble about how and when they invest, and startups will also need to be equally as quick about how they invest.

April 7, 2008

Can Social Network Monetize?

I’ve been reading alot about Social Networks and concerns over their ability to monetize.   I’m not really too sure why there is a belief that social networks can’t be monetized.  Myspace the guerillia in the space, and arguably still the leading Social Network in the US, has been monetizing just fine.    Fox Interactive is reporting that Myspace revenues are on route to $800M.

In July 31, 2007 Facebook had 150 sponsored groups.  The list price for a sponsored group was $50K/month, thats about $180 Million from groups groups which have been largely replaced with Facebook Pages.   Also in July 31, 2007 Microsoft signed a $200M annual commitment for banner advertising.

March 31, 2008

No Refresh for Yellowpages.ca

For disclosure I think its important to get out that I use to work for the Yellowpages Group when they purchased Autotrader.ca. It was with some humour today that I got a call from the local Yellowpages rep about a free business listing for Refresh Partners.

YPG ( Yellowpages Group ) sells advertising as a print and online bundle with an annual commitment that his billed monthly. The directory is also divided regionally, and Toronto for example has 4 different books we’d need to purchase for print ads for coverage.

This is the beginning of the problem with Yellowpages advertising. Refresh Partners focuses on marketing in social networks, which is most cases is Facebook Marketing. I would only want Yellowpages.ca advertising related to “Facebook Marketing” keywords. Similar to what we purchase with Google.ca.

The Yellowpages pricing starts at $64/month for 3 lines in the print directory and matching keywords online. There is no option to purchase the online keywords only, or to purchase keywords on a CPC basis. Yellowpages.ca also offers a web line to Refresh.ca for $70/month but a great bargain for just a link…

Yellowpages.ca also back fills their search listings from Google.ca. This means that since nobody is currently purchasing ‘Facebook Marketing’ keywords, Yellowpages.ca displays the Google.ca listings. In effect we get full exposure for our Google.ca ad spend on Yellowpages.ca today. A quick check of my Google.ca adword reports shows no impressions coming from Yellowpages.ca. So nobody is searching Yellowpages.ca for “Facebook Marketing”, we can ignore Yellowpages.ca as an ad channel…

The other interesting problem with Yellowpages.ca is that we’ve had our business lines for about 6 months now. The YPG ad sales process is annual so Yellowpages.ca listings generally only get updated annually.