First Look At RockMelt

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Screengrabs of the new RockMelt browser for those that are keen.

I just got it last night thanks to @pkattera. First impressions is that its very google chrome-ish (built on webkit) with bars on the side for social networks. For those that have used the Flock browser, its a similar idea but less clunky and much faster. Easier to share things to social networks, and create quick links to your favourite people on facebook and to pages on the internet including facebook pages.

Oh, and I have no more beta invites left.

Here’s a video you can watch it in action.

I’ll report back when I’ve used it a bit more.

I’m out like Flock,

Matt Ho

Link love: What I’m reading

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I got this idea from the Servant of Chaos a while ago. Its a summary of interesting blog posts and articles I’ve come across recently.  I’ll try to keep this on the regular. It’ll be a mix of digital, social, economics, business models, travel, music and things that I like. I think it also shows a bit of who I am as well!

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Thoughts on Group Buying Sites

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I decided to take a look at some of the Australian group buying sites. The ones that offer discounts to restaurants, $20 off massages, cheaper drinks, and the like. There’s quite a few now, and some of them have popped up recently like spreets and Scoopon.

These websites got my attention because of similar product buying sites like woot.com and its Aussie equivalent catchoftheday.com.au. Lately Groupon, a social buying site recieved a lot of press and VC funding with its $1 Billion valuation.

I quite like these websites and the idea behind them. As they offer discounts and better deals than if you bought these products or services directly from the supplier. I have used the Entertainment book for a few years now, and really enjoy the savings that you can get. Ironically, you do need to spend money in order to save money! In addition, it introduces you to new services, entertainment and dining venues which you would have never thought of. It gives you ideas of things to try.

I’ve bought goods from catchoftheday before. Occasionally, I receive emails from friends and facebook updates from my social network about JumpOnIt and Scoopon. Both these sites seem relatively new and tend to have a female skew (well at least within my social network!).

jumponit

Group buying sites for services

The premise of these newer group buying sites that are emerging is that they focus on services and need a critical mass of buyers. Living social is another example.

Initially these kind of websites focused on products – a supplier or manufacturer may have a surplus of stock which they needed to offload. Hence, they could list on catchoftheday or some other website offering daily deals. It was great for the tri-parties involved. The supplier (seller) could quickly get rid of stock and convert it into cash. The website (deal maker) instantly got a lot of traffic from people visiting the site looking for a  deal and a cut of the sales. Lastly, the consumer (buyer) won by buying a product at less than market value (commonly known as a bargain).  These websites have proved popular for quite some time, though I’ve only come across them recently in the last year or so.

I love the idea of focusing solely on one product and offering a superior price for it. As these sites have been built up over time with a loyal following and because the products already existed and needed to be offloaded, there didn’t need to be a threshold level that was required to be reached to sell the product.

This brings me now to the service group buying sites. The way that these sites work is that they require a minimum number of people to buy the service before the deal is “on”. e.g. for today’s deal you might need 20 people to buy the massage service before you can obtain the discount. So it encourages people to tweet, facebook, email and generally share it. I think its perfect for today’s social status obsessed environment. People want to share news about a bargain, and encourage their friends to buy it to help them.

I look at some of these daily deals, and I can see that they can easily smash the required number. For example, yesterday Spreets featured a deal @ Doctor Pongs that for $10 you could get $40 worth of food. A saving of 75%. When I checked it with 11 hours to go, there was already 230 people that had bought the service and it only needed a threshold of something like 30!

Behold The Threshold

A key question is whether these service based sites require a threshold number to be reached. Many businesses have multiple coupons and promotions which they use to bring customers through the door. The idea is that these are lead generators. They might take a hit the first time the consumer uses the coupon, however these discounts are more like advertising. What they are hoping for is:

a) an increase in volume in a short period of time (weeks or months during the promotional period)

b) reaching new customers to consider buying their product/service (marketers like to call this “consideration”)

c) however, it really boils down to repeat transactions and selling them more stuff (upsell, cross-sell, monthly or yearly subscriptions, add-ons, etc…)

By having the threshold, it is easier to sell to the business involved i.e. that you need 30 people before the deal is on. This also makes it worth their while to be involved. The more people that buy the product, the more viable and better priced that discount can be and the better the business can absorb that initial hit. What it creates is an economies of scale. It also allows the business to have a crude prediction of demand for that discount.

The other subtle yet important factor is that if you know that you are going to save money in a transaction, aren’t you compelled to spend slightly more? I know I am the type of person that thinks since I’m saving 25%, I might as well spend $40 more!

However, for these websites to be successful, the thresholds needs to be relatively low. Because most consumers like me, will wait til the threshold is almost within reach. In this Scoopon example below, it is tipped @ 20 people. It is within the range where I would consider buying. It is also worth noting that you do not get charged unless the threshold is reached.

scoopon

Some other Australian examples

The main reason I started writing this post is what I noticed about these sites. So that was Scoopon above and Jump On It above.

Take a look at OurDeal.com.au

ourdeal

Here is Spreets.com.au, a newer site built by Pollenizer and Booking Angel.

spreets

Yes thats right, they all look the same!

I showed a friend of mine, who said exactly the same thing. Its like they’ve all been built on the same CMS (content management system), or by the same design team (doubt it on both counts).

However, more likely, they’ve managed to figure out what is the most optimal way to sell these services and some of them may have just borrowed some elements from each other.

I’m out like buying services on my own,

Matt Ho.

blellow – twitter for freelancers

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Just signed up to blellow today. I saw it on techcrunch a few months ago, but I’ve been procrastinating hard all day and decided to do this instead of what I was meant to do!

blellow looks interesting – like twitter meets yammer. users are organised into groups like for joomla, ruby on rails, accounting & finance, entrepreneurs, etc…

So people with common interests or need help with a certain topic can speak to each other. I’ve joined a couple of groups, so will let you know how that progresses. In the meantime, check out the video below:

btw i couldn’t find anyone from Australia on it. if you are us, holla!

I’m out like blellow,

Matt Ho

the ultimate blog: the fail blog

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Rarely do I come across something so funny and so well done. The fail blog is da bomb as it has pictures and videos of fail situations. It’s titled “FAIL Blog: Pictures and Videos of Owned, Pwnd and Fail Moments“. All it has is a very simple layout with pictures and vids, and a bunch of social media links to digg, stumbleupon, etc.. to rate it. It might be simple, but by golly does it do it well!

If you hadn’t realised, the word “fail” and “epic fail” has slowly crept into our vocab. I’m not sure where it came from, as well as the words “Owned”, “Pwnd”, but I recall friends using it ages ago when referring to computer games moments in Warcraft, Counterstrike, etc… So that could be the origin and now its in everyday use. Anyhow, prepare to ROFL with these pics from the fail blog

 

fail-owned-firetruck-fail

fail-owned-firetruck-fail

 

fail-owned-education-fail

fail-owned-education-fail

I found this blog via the “top blogs today” section within wordpress. There was also “fastest growing blogs”, and top posts”, etc… I have seen them all the time, but I never looked at them or clicked through. I think I might start doing that now! It’s a form of social media recommendation similar to Digg or Stumbleupon as you can see what blogs are popular. 

I’m out like fail,

Matthew Ho.

Call to legislate internet privacy and Google’s new interest based advertising

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After my Advertising and marketing meets Johnny Law post, two interesting things have emerged on internet privacy. Check out the news from the NY times blog and the Google public policy blog (one of my favourite blogs to read).

I’ve copied some of the more pertinent parts of the article below. 

——————-

Call to Legislate Internet Privacy

The debate on Internet privacy has begun in Congress.

Rick Boucher
Phil McCarten/Reuters
Representative Rick Boucher

I had a chance to sit down recently with Representative Rick Boucher, the long-serving Virginia Democrat, who has just replaced Ed Markey, the Democrat from Massachusetts, as the chairman of the House Subcommittee looking after telecommunications, technology and the Internet. Mr. Boucher is widely regarded as one of the most technologically savvy members of Congress……..

But high on his list is a topic that is very much under his discretion: passing a bill to regulate the privacy of Internet users.

“Internet users should be able to know what information is collected about them and have the opportunity to opt out,” he said.

While he hasn’t written the bill yet, Mr. Boucher said that he, working with Representative Cliff Stearns, the Florida Republican who is the ranking minority member on the subcommittee, wants to require Web sites to disclose how they collect and use data, and give users the option to opt out of any data collection. That’s not a big change from what happens now, at least on most big sites.

But in what could be a big change from current practice, Mr. Boucher wants sites to get explicit permission from users — an “opt in” — if they are going to share information with other companies.

“I think that strikes the right balance,” he said. “Web site operators are very concerned that if they have an opt-in regime for the internal marketing of the Web site themselves it would be very disruptive. The default position of most Internet users will be not to check any boxes at all. It is a very different matter if the site takes the information and sells it to gain revenue.”

I spoke to Mr. Boucher on the day that Google announced its new plan to track data about customers for advertising. And I asked him about such behavioral targeting, which presents an ad based on what you did on other sites.

For the rest of it here

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Google’s announcement on interest based advertising


 Check out this article on Google’s new privacy controls here and Google’s take on it via their public policy blog. This is exactly the point I was making in my post about relevancy of advertising v privacy of information:

“In her post to the Official Google Blog this morning, Susan Wojcicki, VP of Product Management, announced that we are making interest-based advertising available in beta for our AdSense partner sites and YouTube. Interest-based advertising uses information about the web pages people visit to make the online ads they see more relevant. Relevant advertising, in turn, has fueled the content, products and services available on the Internet today.

Providing such advertising has proven to be a challenging policy issue for advertisers, publishers, internet companies and regulators over the last decade. On the one hand, well-tailored ads benefit consumers, advertisers, and publishers alike. On the other hand, the industry has long struggled with how to deliver relevant ads while respecting users’ privacy.”

 

I will discuss it in more detail when I get my head around all this information. 

Ad:Tech Sydney – First Day Impressions: talking to myspace.com, netpartners, post click, girls.com.au

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adtech_sydney

Ad:tech started in Sydney today. It’s a 2 day expo, with similar events held in San Francisco, Paris, London, Chicago, New York, Singapore. It’s basically for online marketing companies, for those involved in advertising technology. The official line is:

“ad:tech is an interactive advertising and technology conference and exhibition. Worldwide shows blend keynote speakers, topic driven panels and workshops to provide attendees with the tools and techniques they need to compete in a changing world”

I arrived there around lunch time.  I had my express check in pass (thanks ad:tech!), so got buzzed in pretty quick. The first stand lo and behold was Next Digital/Commquest! Which is my company – more on this later.

I was in a rush because I was supposed to go to the Yahoo search masterclass. In the corner of my eye, I saw a guy from my media buying class who’s a dedicated search guy. However, when I got there, the seminar was over. Disappointed, I trudged back and went to the Yahoo search stand and asked them what it was about. I also asked them for notes of the presentation and hopefully they can email it to me. Hit me up if you would like a copy of the notes.

Overall, ad:tech didn’t actually look that full. Maybe its because I expected it be at full capacity. Or perhaps, there were seminars going on. There’s paid seminars, with 3 different tracks but to go to them you need to have a conference pass which costs $1k. I’m just going to the free stuff =) You can check out the different stands, talk to people, and listen to the free seminars. It reminds me of a big careers fair!

Next Digital has got prime position, near the front door and we’ve decked it out in a hospital theme with hospital bed, flasks of weird liquids, IV drip, and doctors walking around with stethoscopes. The theme its “Digital Health Check”, and we’re offering free audits of digital marketing strategy, websites, etc.. We are taking appointments and doing followups. Kate Kendall, editor of marketing mag called it  best stand at expo. Have a look here:

nd-stand-ad-tech

Next Digital was giving a talk after the Yahoo one, so I briefly saw my director Mark Edwards, speaking about digital strategy.  Its a small seated area with about 30 seats and people were standing in the back, 3 rows deep! He had some really good content, however the sound quality was quite poor.The mic and the speakers weren’t loud enough. For the guys standing in the back like me, you couldn’t hear him clearly. As the stands are right next to auditorium area,  there’s so much background noise. It’s a shame and it something the organiser’s will have to look at for next year. Perhaps move the speaking stage a little bit further into a quieter area and turn up the mics!!!!!!!!

I spoke to a couple of interesting people /companies at the stands. Vincent and I walked around and spoke to the following stands. I’ve provided a short commentary on each one:

Fox Interactive 

Websites : Myspace.com, Rottentomatoes.com (movie review site), ign.com (similar to gamespot.com), Askmen.com.

We were talking to Sharon May-Tanous, Group Sales Manager, and she showed us a new feature on myspace.com. There’s this function called “Myspace recharge” where u can recharge your phone by buying credits / topups. Very cool. I’ve always advocated that social networks should do more in the transactional & ecommerce space, given that we spend so much time on there. According to Nielsen research, time spent on social networking has overtaken personal email. Myspace are also releasing a new visa credit card as well, targeted towards younger people. Its going to work like a prepaid debit card. It will be an interesting move for them.

They had a very cool stand with lots of monitors. If you look at the above sites I’ve listed in the heading and click through, you’ll realise that their are Australian versions with localised content. That’s something that they are trying to push, localisation. Rottentomatoes.com is mostly made up of American movies and reviews, so its good a move to have some Aussie content in there too. 

I told her I didn’t use Myspace anymore and she got a bit grouchy LOL. I’ll stick with Facebook, but I’ll check Myspace.com for music related stuff. FYI, I’m name dropping here, but I met Brett Brewer, one of the co-founders of Myspace at the Digital Tipping Point a few weeks ago. He’s sold off myspace to Rupert Murdoch and is now CEO of a social networking advertising company called AdKnowledge. He’s a very cool guy, down to earth, and I guess I’ll have to hit him up on myspace?  

Netpartners – Content network advertising / traffic broking

This area is new to me. I’m still new to search marketing and online advertising, but I understand the basics like clicks, CPM, CPA, conversions and al that jargon. But there’s this whole new area regarding content network / affiliate marketing, etc.. It’s to do with advertising on 3rd party sites, publishers, etc… I spoke to Alan Wan, Affiliate Manager, he explained to me what it was about and I think I got the gist of it. Netpartners is a Hong Kong outfit, mainly targetting US and UK markets. I have to do a bit more research in to this area regarding affiliate marketing. At ad:tech, there were a number of stands, I would say 1/3 selling these services. It was pretty funny, because he was talking English to us and as we were winding down our conversation he asked if we spoke Chinese! Vincent and him started talking, and then I joined in, but I don’t think he understood me very well since my Cantonese is pretty bad and heavily accented. 

Post Click - affiliate marketing

We spoke to the BD manager there. I’ve actually heard of them. Post click specialises in niche affiliate marketing. I’m still getting the hang of this term – its advertising on a network of sites. e.g. you would like to advertise to websites in Indonesia targeting students coming to Australia. They would go represent you and negotiate, and source sites for you to advertise on. They must have relationships with traffic brokers (a new term I learnt) and work out how much you have to pay for CPA, cost per action which is for lead or conversion generation if someone clicks on an ad. Post Click most likely takes a set up fee and a slice of the action e.g. CPC of 1 cent (cost per click of $0.01). 

Girls.com.au / Femail.com.au

I’m not sure why but we wondered over to this stand. We were just curious, and it was right next to ours. They’ve got 2 websites which are online magazines targeted towards females. Girls.com.au has a demo of 18 – 35, skewed towards younger females. Femail.com.au has a demo of 25+. These mags have been running for about 10 years online and has similar content to Vogue, Cleo, etc.. The opportunities are for advertising towards a very specific demographic. 

They also own female.com.au and redirect all the traffic to femail.com.au. however, they are not going to switch over to female.com.au because of the search engine rankings – its already been optimised (SEO baby!!).

CABO Networks – Pay for performance marketing

I spoke to Jurgen Cautreels, who’s over here from Miami. These guys have offices in Miami and Sydney, that’s TWO awesome beach places. They do stuff related to traffic marketing, lists, and email marketing. 

iAD & Pureprofile

I’ve lumped them together even though they are two very distinct companies. Only because they have both presented at our offices. I like iAD, but I feel that their technology is way ahead of its time. When they came into our office and explained their product, they left a lot of us dumbfounded, including me. If you can’t explain to a bunch of people that are pretty technology savvy, your going to struggle with other people as well. Even their blurb in ad:tech is hard to understand – something about a multi-function device, etc…

Ad:Tech on Twitter & Blog

If you are keen to follow with the latest adtech updates, check out twitter. People are twittering using the following hashtags:

#adtechsyd

#atsyd

For the 3 different seminar tracks, there’s also:

#atsyd1 

#atsyd2 

#atsyd3

There’s heaps of ad:tech tweeting going on, and I’ve been following the conversations via twitter and tweetdeck (i’ve got my search groups on for each hashtag!).

You can also check out ad:tech brain blog, I’ve been reading and commenting on it over the past month or so. 

See you there

If you are going to be there, look for me at the Next Digital /Commquest stand in the late afternoon. I’m going to be there in a white coat, and also checking some of the other stands and seminars. 

I’m out like day 1 of ad:tech, 

Matthew Ho aka inspiredworlds