Where’s SelfServe by MySpace?

July 11, 2008 § Leave a comment

Back in November of ’07, MySpace announced the future launch of “SelfServe by MySpace” which would “allow advertisers to directly purchase, create and analyze the performance of ads throughout the MySpace network.”  It was supposed to be in beta for two months then launched in early ’08.  It didn’t happen and ClickZ reported last month that SelfServe may launch in later summer or early fall.  MySpace is being left in the dust by Facebook Social Ads and LinkedIn DirectAds.  Now Orkut, Hi5, Bebo, Ning and the others need to step up to the targeted advertising plate as well.

LinkedIn quietly launches Research Network and DirectAds…let the monetization begin.

June 30, 2008 § 8 Comments

LinkedIn DirectAds
LinkedIn has quietly launched a beta version of a dynamic CPM text advertising platform called LinkedIn DirectAds. No formal announcement of the launch was made on the LinkedIn blog or elsewhere. According to the DIrectAds FAQ, advertisers will be able to dynamically target ads by age, gender, geography, educational institution, industry, and seniority. Minimum order size for an advertisement is $25, with the minimum number of impressions dependant on the targeting audience chosen by the advertiser. The rate that you pay for a CPM (1000 impressions) changes as you add or remove targeting options from your ad. Apparently the product will give click-through rates to advertisers, but billing will be based on CPM. In a unique twist, ads will also include the advertisers name and a link to their LinkedIn profile in hopes of “increasing transparency and visibility into the advertiser.” Much like the Facebook SocialAds platform, advertisers must have a profile on the network to launch an ad, although LinkedIn says they are limiting advertisers by completeness of profile, number of connections, date of profile creation and a number of other factors. I was unable to access the platform through my profile.

The DirectAds platform will bring LinkedIn closer to Facebook’s Social Ads technology, with these two leaving Bebo, MySpace, Plaxo, Friendster and the rest of the social networking world behind for now. I hope to be able to try the LinkedIn platform soon and give a head-to-head comparison. LinkedIn will continue to extract a premium on their advertising, as it seems they will be setting the price per CPM internally. A true market (e.g. Overture/pre-Panama Yahoo) or partial market (e.g. Google quality score) influence on price would likely result in prices lower than they would like, and they are clearly avoiding a CPC model for a reason since they are measuring CTR anyways. I think this slow transfer is very smart on their end especially considering their pre-IPO status, but as an advertiser I wish they would switch to a free market faster. Their ad margins will likely be lower than what they were getting with their rate card (although perhaps not), but the volume of advertisements will definitely spike upwards as you no longer have to go through a traditional advertising salesperson process to launch a targeted ad on their network.

LinkedIn Research Network
Additionally, on Thursday of last week LinkedIn quietly launched the LinkedIn Research Network, a product the company first mentioned back in February. No formal announcement of the actual launch was made on the LinkedIn blog or anywhere else, but the Research Network product page is live and linked to from the Premium Product footer, along with job, corporate, and upgrade links. Also linked is a 2 page product summary PDF. The product page outlines what is essentially a premium version of InMail (pdf). A Research Network subscriber can send send 20 InMails at once, and no monthly or daily limits are mentioned. Previously, LinkedIn BusinessPlus subscribers had the most InMail access and were limited to 10 InMails per month, so this is a dramatic increase in potential InMail volume. In the past advertisers could send targeted InMail blasts through LinkedIn’s advertising platform at $1 – $5 per recipient.

The LinkedIn Research Network is an attempt to move into the expert network industry and will be sold primarily to hedge, private equity and venture funds. According to a recent Integrity Research Associates report, there are roughly 25 expert networks in existence today. Aside from my company KnowledgeBid, every other expert network service operates on a subscription model. LinkedIn is likely gunning for the fat subscription fees that players like the Gerson Lehrman Group are pulling from investors (+$50k for access to one industry vertical of experts for 6 months), but the product they have launched is far more like the resume search/direct email services offered by Monster, HotJobs, CareerBuilder, Dice, etc. than an expert network. Perhaps down the road LinkedIn will try to facilitate the actual expert matching, but this iteration of the product just enables subscribers to send a large volume of cold emails to potential consultants. Additionally, the product page makes no mention of facilitating consultant payment and the only compliance functionality mentioned is a “research history”. Legal compliance is arguably the largest issue faced by expert networks today, and something that expert network users have come to expert from service providers. It’s possible that LinkedIn is intentionally not involving themselves with payment of experts in an attempt to remove themselves from the chain of liability if their service were to be used to facilitate insider trading or the like.

Congrats to LinkedIn on the product launches. I’m glad to see them competing with Facebook on the advertising technology side of things (let’s see an API guys!) and will certainly be keeping tabs on these products as they mature.

620,000,000 profiles

May 6, 2008 § 2 Comments

I’ve recently been doing some analysis focusing on the growth rates of major social networks and resume databases (I’m saving major blogging platforms for another day, although I’m guessing there are ~400M blogs out there). For the purposes of this analysis I calculated the user profile CAGR for each major social network and resume database, assuming 1M profiles in the launch year and ending with the best estimate of user profiles today (May 2008).

The results show that there are nearly 620,000,000 robust user profiles among these services today, a figure that has grown at a 64% CAGR since ’95. Orkut has grown at the highest CAGR (231%) while MySpace claims the largest raw number of profiles (173M). The chart below nicely illustrates the social networking explosion staring in ’03, underlined by the steady growth of resume databases starting in the mid 90s. The exponentially higher growth rates of social networks can be attributed to the viral features that have come to define them. Traditional resume databases are useful but are generally non-viral so they continue to grow steadily. This analysis does not take into account spam and fake profiles and the chart massively simplifies the growth trends by retrospectively applying each company’s CAGR.

My picks: The best service providers for startups

March 31, 2008 § 30 Comments

A friend of mine…I’ll call him Arnold Babar…is in the early stages of starting a company. Over a few beers the other night, Arnold asked me a few general questions about service providers we’ve used for various aspects of building the KnowledgeBid expert network management platform and other projects. A few came to mind immediately…then I thought of a few later that night…then a few more the next day. I’m putting them all into a post in the hopes that I might save someone else the hours of head + wall collisions it took me to find these guys. I’m only going to include services that I use heavily myself and would recommend to a close personal friend. I’ll add to this as more come to me. My top priorities: 1) cost; 2) functionality / flexibility; 3) quality; 4) reliability.

Best Corporate Telephony / PBX / Fax Service: RingCentral
My previous write-up on RingCentral is here. Super flexible PBX, digital fax delivery, digital voice mail delivery, $19.95/month. Can’t beat it. Mac friendly except for the sound recording / uploading feature.

Best Payment Processing Service: Braintree Payment Solutions
My previous write-up on Braintree is here. The payment processing industry is a total mess. The Braintree guys are straight shooters. Save yourself serious pain and go straight to them.

Best Press Release Services: PRZOOM, The Open Press
The web has antiquated the newswire industry. These two providers are free and get your PR messages on sites other than your own, which is all you really need. PRWeb and the others try to get you to pay, but it’s really not worth it.

Best Conference Call Service: Free Conference
My previous write-ups on the free conference call industry are here. The FCC says these guys can stay in business and so long as you just need them to work for your call tomorrow or next week, you’ll be fine. Call quality is good and reliability is good. I would advise against trying to bake them into your app though…you get what you pay for and who knows how long their loophole will be open.

Best Desktop Sharing Software: Glance
This a simple, functional, reliable piece of software perfect for sharing your desktop for demos. No install needed for your clients, but this means there is no way to see the screen of the person on the other end. It’s $39/month and WebEx has dropped prices in response. There may be some free stuff out there too but I would rather have my demos work and pay a little. Glance is Mac friendly, WebEx is not.

Best Domain Registrar: One and One
One and One is clean, easy to use, without constant upselling, ads and pop-ups. GoDaddy is a nightmare IMO.

Best Hosting Service: M5 Hosting
Previous mention here. These guys were referred to us by a friend and they have done a great job so far. Stay the hell away from MediaTemple.

Best Blog Platform: WordPress.com, WordPress.org
The best blogging and simple content management system out there, IMO. Open source so there are an amazing number of plug-ins, style sheets, and high quality WordPress designers out there so you can really make anything. WordPress.com is a free, hosted blogging platform (example here) while you need to host WordPress.org on your own server (example here, here, and here).

Best Corporate Email Solution: Google Apps for Your Domain
Face it, yourcompanyname@gmail.com is JV. Google Apps makes it free and easy to have Google tools under your own domain.

Best Bug Tracker: Mantis
We’re coming up on our 300th mantis ticket and so far, so good. Free, open source bug tracking & project management. We tried some of the more trendy solutions out there and were very disappointed.

Best Stock Photography: Stockxpert
High quality stock photography on a pay-as-you-go model. Many other players out there have high subscription fees which sucks when you only need 1 or 2 pictures. Examples here and here.

Best Professional Voice Recording: VoiceVector
These guys and gals are based in Alaska but you wouldn’t know it. $1o for your first 12 words and $8 for each additional group of 12 or fewer words in a single recording. Quick, easy, high quality, and they give you your recording in lots of formats. For example call here.

Best Screencast Solution: Camtasia
The web video world is like the credit card processing world…it’s a total mess. Camtasia makes it easy to record a screencast, polish it up, and host it so anyone can watch it. Example here. They have a free demo period. Tip: don’t try to cut and splice within a single recording – just go all the way through.

Best Competitive / Industry Monitor: Google Alerts
Previous write-up here. Cut down on your unnecessary news reading and get productive.

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I’d love to hear comments on these and other solid services out there. I’m actively looking for these:

Best Headset for Blackberry 8703e

Best Low Volume SMS Solution

Best Free CRM

Best Password / Login Manager

Efficiency through Google alerts

March 26, 2008 § 2 Comments

One of the reasons my posting has slowed over the last month or so is because I have drastically cut down on my news consumption and a good amount of my posting was derivative of the random stuff I read on the web. I still check my Netvibes page every day or two, but in the past I spent at least an hour a day staying current on various tech, econ, VC, law and entrepreneur blogs and news sources. A major factor in my slimmed down news diet has been thanks to Google alerts. I’ve set up alerts for a variety of keywords that I’m interested in monitoring (my company name, competitive company names, friends’ company names, my name, etc.) and get emails from Google alerts when new material is on the web that includes those keywords. I didn’t realize it at the time, but a big driver behind my news consumption was the fear that I would “miss something” relevant to my life. Google Alerts is far more efficient in monitoring the web that I could ever be, and now I can spend my time on more important things without worry that I may be out of the loop.

Tiffany v. eBay trial slated to begin November 13th

October 31, 2007 § Leave a comment

I got fed up with the 2 week delay on the SDNY Pacer system and called Judge Sullivan’s office today to find out what’s going on with the Tiffany v. eBay case. Trial is slated to begin on November 13th. The latest round of settlement conferences were a result of the case being switched from Judge Karas to Judge Sullivan last spring.

Considering the timeline thus far, I’m not holding my breath.

YouTube and the Napster trajectory, Part II

October 27, 2007 § 1 Comment

Back in May, I compared the pending Viacom suit against Google/YouTube to the trajectory seen in the infamous Napster litigation.

Recent developments: Google has introduced “YouTube Video Identification” to help rights holders monitor infringing content. Predictably, Viacom has stated that this is an inadequate step and they are still being harmed by YouTube.

Thus far, the Napster  trajectory has been followed.  To continue on the same path, Viacom will ask for an injunction against YouTube alleging irreparable harm and will ask the court to order Napster-esq 100% compliance…which is what caused Napster to shut down before the case made it into a courtroom. Only time will tell whether the injunction will be granted, what level of compliance is deemed adequate, and what level of compliance YouTube can maintain.

Interestingly, the YouTube Video Identification technology is extremely similar to the Proactive Fraud Protection service created by eBay in response to the Tiffany & Co suit they are battling (or have settled on the sly). Both systems are “tools” that IP rights holders can use. Neither system puts any responsibilities on eBay or YouTube to proactively filter content or identify improper material. Tiffany & Co. and Viacom argue that the service providers are profiting from the infringing material and should carry the burden of monitoring it. YouTube and eBay argue that there is no way for them to tell what is a real Tiffany’s ring or Friends video clip.

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