AOL

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I posted yesterday about Verizon’s purchase of AOL and how it begged the need for a “single user identifier” to maximize ad revenue across devices. A mobile phone number is an individual identifier, but it doesn’t integrate cleanly with that individual’s IP address or cable TV account number. I wrote a futures piece for Microsoft a few years ago in which I talked about the “Logged and Tagged Society.” Well, consumers are certainly tagged, but their log-ins are all screwed up. An analog for this is electronic medical records in the healthcare world. Also all screwed up. In the future each person will have a single user identifier and when that comes about, the ad platform people will have more context for smart sales than ever before.

An article in the NYT today quoted Facebook’s Andrew Bosworth (note to self, follow him on Twitter) saying “Are ads even relevant now? Do they even make sense on mobile? If all information is indexable and searchable, then what purpose does an ad serve?” He’s partly correct. But with a single user identifier in a logged and tagged society, ad serving will be more contextual and so much more powerful. Sadly, the nerds will take over and the creative people will be pushed aside to a degree. Creative selling is still a fundie of marketing and may take a hit in this mobile ad served/cookied era. But is will be back. We are not droids.

Peace. 

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BAM! (And I’m not talking Brooklyn Academy of Music.) Verizon has agreed to buy AOL for $4.4B and AOL’s stock price has jumped like a marlin. Here’s the quote announcing the deal from Verizon’s CEO:

“AOL has once again become a digital trailblazer, and we are excited at the prospect of charting a new course together in the digitally connected world,” Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam said in the statement.

A digital trailblazer? I haven’t seen a lot of trailblazing going on in 15 years. The purchase of TechCrunch was blaze-y enough, I guess, but that brand has laid fallow since Michael Arrington was moved aside. The story in Ad Age suggests a big part of the purchase rationale is AOL’s content, yet the real story is in the ad platform. Specifically, AOL’s ability to track users from desktop to mobile device. And now Verizon offers AOL the ability to collect data from mobile devices like few others. Also Verizon knows where you go on your desktop…and soon may integrate your TV.

The key to being able to do something smart with all of this data is having a single user identifier. A social security number, if you will, for each person on the web. My wife pays the Verizon bill and when I use my mobile to make business calls, her name comes up – so they have a long way to go.

Make no mistake, this deal isn’t about the content, that’s secondary.  It’s about advertising and data and analytics. Good work Verizon, this is a nice start. But don’t turn to AOL for you vision. Nuh uh!

Peace.

 

 

 

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The Coca-Cola Corporation marketing story is simple but has many layers. The latest layer is the Coca-Cola Journey — a website built to engage, entertain and build loyalty among the family of Coca-Cola brand drinkers and enthusiasts. It’s a corporate website so you can find Minute Maid orange juice, Sprite and other family members represented. Coke learned through its Facebook experience that if it could dally with drinkers and they dallied back – the result would be nice lifts in traffic and presumably consumption. So Coke now fancies itself in the content business. Ding dong, Bud TV anyone?  A business goal, one might surmise, would be to draw users back from Facebook to the new Coke Journey site. Normally, I would applaud this activity, but not if it is going to change the business. Not if it promotes non-endemic brand experiences and cross-product ones at that.

You might say Coke is using only 5 or 6 full-time employees as content creators/curators – so how does that change the business?  I say these 5 or 6 may have large reach. And a few altered cells in the DNA can be a problem.

Were I running this show, I’d continue to host sites for each unique brand. I’d add the full-time content creators to each site, but make the content specific to each brand promise. Have them support the “motivation” behind each promise. If AOL and Yahoo! can’t get content creation to run on all cylinders, why would Coke be able to? This is another story of Facebook envy. Mr. Tripodi, I think you went a little bit off-piste with this journey. Peace.   

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In AOL Chairman Tim Armstrong’s earnings call yesterday, he spoke of “One insertion order, all screens” which is an awfully bold idea.  Continuity focused media planners aside, creating an ad and promotion that is arrayed across a number of media screen and types (not all media is screen-based) offers a media lab that will be tres helpful to marketers.

When advertising doesn’t work, who do we blame?  “When the phone don’t ring,” the country song goes, “it’ll be me.”  But with a number of ads in different media situations performing and measured by big data analytics, marketers have something tangible to work with. They won’t just be looking at the voids.

Let me vamp here. Say you go to AOL and buy 2 million impressions – all at a blended CPM rate.  Some or on Huff Post, others on local editions of Patch, more on a video channel or mobile site.  Perhaps a TV component or podcast.  Measuring and managing that activity, by media, offer, and message will be cool dashboard stuff.  Then overlay some demographic data on the performance and you have veritable marketing fun house. Of course there will be some mess, but big gains usually start messy. Como se the Affordable Healthcare Act? Peace.

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The Huffington Post is gaining momentum.  A lot has been written in the media world about Ms. Huffington and Mr. Armstrong, the politics of bringing these two companies together and the lack of harmony.  Most of the press has been bad.  Sadly, all the falderal has taken the public’s eye off the ball. It appears that AOL and the Huff Post have been moving forward regardless.  Ms. Huffington has recently been given more responsibility at the company for most everything but advertising. That too, may move to her at some point.

The Huff Post started as an online media company. Online created and defined it.  Now it is just a good, improving media company in a digital world.  By June it will offer steaming TV content on the web 12 hours a day.  It is also growing internationally with a number of global news bureaus. The company has also invested in new heavyweight marketing and comms talent. The two companies are integrating, sharing a vision and evolving.  Apparently, while all the backchannel stuff was going on and the funky press bouncing around, there was a plan.

The Huff Post is a great media property and will be quite a success story. AOL’s days as a brand may be numbered. Kudos to Tim Armstrong and Arianna Huffington.  Happy coo-king.  Peace! 

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David Poque, a technology columnist for The New York Times, is a very interesting character.  He’s a thoughtful, important and market-moving purveyor of what’s hot and what’s not.  Sometimes his columns are a bit like a PC Mag review, but mostly they’re a fun Anthony Bourdain-like travelogue through the tasty streets of technology.

I have seen Mr. Poque on public television and he has a subtle nervousness about him on camera that doesn’t come across in print… so if I were my mother and in an advice-giving mood I suggest he stay in print.  Interestingly, Mr. Poque’s public and private personas are a tad different.  I posted about one of his columns once with a differing point of view and it really rubbed him. (I advocated not providing in-box instructions with new products to save paper.) His angry and personal comment on my blog surprised — telling me there is a bit more to Mr. Pogue than meets the eye.  (A side that might be fun to read outside of the NYT guardrails.)

My prediction:  Mr. Poque will either leave The New York Times within the next 3 years and create his own branded site or AOL will make him an offer he can’t refuse.  Yahoo could, but they have a lazy eye.  Peace.

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There is strategy and there is execution.  A great strategy poorly executed pays naught. I like AOL’s “content is king” strategy; buying the Huffington Post and TechCrunch were nice blockbuster moves.  There are two ways for these purchases to go: either the properties will be enhanced by AOL and grow or they’ll be hindered and slide.  At the high end, these two purchases are defining moments and should be very interesting to follow.

But let’s look at the lower or middle tier. AOL now needs to find some traffic-building Posters (original content creators) on their way up.  Not those owning killer numbers, but those with killer points of view and motivations with big upside.  Sports teams make a living off of young over-performers who are killing it before their first big contract. Up and comers are what AOL needs. Some of whom may not even be Posters yet.   

Finding potential big time Posters is R&D in the web content world.  AOL needs to research what people like online, then find and/or develop the property.  Content is not writing. It’s not reporting.  It’s not curating or aggregating. These are content tactics.  The best Posters (who attract the all-important Pasters) are people with an idea, a passion, a motivation or a love. They are also sharers.  AOL is buying media properties and traffic and that’s a good start, albeit a bit old school.  It now needs to do some R&D and find ideas that fill voids. In markets and brains.  Peace!

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Yesterday at the Long Island 140 Conference I had lunch with Jason Molinet. Those from Long Island know Mr. Molinet from his insightful bylined stories in Newsday over the years. He now works for Patch.

I like AOL’s content strategy and often urge the company to invest in big name online properties a la Huff Post and TechCrunch. As for Patch, I haven’t been as warmly disposed.  My first impression was that Patch (AOL’s local news play) was going to be a flop. A big time supporter of the need for more localized news and the internet’s ability to deliver it, in my experience so far Patch has been lacking.  Fact checking, reporting ballast, edge still seem lacking. I wonder if Patch reporters are tired and on second careers. Jaded me?

Well perhaps I’m wrong.  Tim Armstrong (AOL CEO) is heavily invested in Patch and he wants it to work, so maybe Mr. Molinet is a step in the right direction.

Earlier in the week I sat in on a talk at the Social Media Club of Long Island with a New York Times stringer reporter who lives locally.  She’s a heavy social media user and when combining her investigative reporting skills with fast twitch social media she has been doing some amazing things. Her sources are a fingertip away. Story backgrounders clicks away. Quotes immediate.  This woman gets the new journalism. And it is very, very exciting.

Once newspapers break the tether of the paper/paper and traditional reporters will combine their instincts and skills with social and web tools, it will truly reinvent the business. It’s the promise of Patch. Let’s see if they deliver. Peace!

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Here’s the difference between the Daily Beast’s content strategy and that of AOL.  Daily.  AOL has a broad set of content properties with a new video focus and a top-tier Poster mentality, but the Daily Beast is all about today.  Combining of the Daily Beast and Newsweek was all about allowing the Beast to learn the journalism craft and investigative reporting and to infuse news gathering DNA into its being.  Whether or not the Beast subsumes and devours Newsweek, only time will tell (I suspect it will), but this is the play for the Beast.  It has set its sights on the Huff Post, part of the AOL family, and made an interesting move yesterday.

By bringing over the Daily Dish from The Atlantic yesterday (there’s that daily word again) and paying Andrew Sullivan for his column/post/blog, the Daily franchise will grow in stature and readers.  The brand is taking form.  In the magazine media form, first there were monthlies, then weeklies.  Online has allowed for dailies.  Of course newspapers are dailies and if anyone should own the daily label it should be them, but for some reason they can’t seem to get out of their own way.  It takes a blog.

Go ahead and laugh, but it won’t be long before someone comes along and takes the “hourly” franchise.  Peace. 

 

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CBS. FOX and Yahoo!

CBS is a content company. Most think of it as a TV channel…with a bit of an integration problem across the country.  Different call letters, different channel numbers, not where it’s supposed to be on the dial when you move from city to city.  (See? Platform integration has always been around, it’s not just an issue for the TechCrunch crowd.)  CBS has always been dinged for catering to the older market. Well, in today’s media world the older market watches TV. Lots of it. And CBS’s quarterly numbers are quite strong, especially for local sales.   CBS owns C|Net and ZDNet, which along with other web properties, is helping the company diversify and learn about new targets, markets and categories.  CBS has radio, outdoor, book publishing, and other web properties in addition to cable and broadcast, which positions it nicely as all media moves towards the middle.  At its very core, CBS is a content play.

And in a new media world where everyone’s a publisher therefore no one’s a publish, CBS continues to crank out content people want to watch, hear, and read.  This content strategy is also the strategy of AOL and Yahoo!.  Oddly, they are all competitors.  I know AOL and Time Warner didn’t make it, but that was then.  WABC (Disney) and WNBC (Comcast) have too much baggage.  Fox has the stomach for it (read MySpace), so I predict Yahoo!, or less likely AOL, will be purchased by Mr. Murdoch and FOX.  This would be the year to do it, too.   Peace!

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