Banners & Bazaars

Since the bubble burst in 2002 we’ve seen a move to outsourcing as more and more customers (and potential customers) want us to host the ad-serving infrastructure and they simply operate the system

Apparently, Cairo is the largest city in the Arab world. I’m sure that’s the kind of fact that can be checked on Wikipedia. It’s also packed with people, hot and wholly different from anywhere that I have been before. And it’s fascinating in a slightly “am I out of my depth” way. A colleague and I set off about 12 days ago to undertake a couple of days providing a range of professional services, including installation and training courses, on our primary ad-delivery technology. We set off a day or two early as we’re not presented with opportunities to visit this part of the world too often (actually, I’m never presented with opportunities like this). The lovely people at LINKdotNET helped us source a guide/driver for the Saturday so that we could get the most of our weekend before the worked started on the Monday morning. I have to admit that, sat in the over-priced Heathrow airport restaurant before we departed, I was wondering what on earth I was doing jetting off to somewhere warm just days before Christmas. Let’s face it, the I’m-sorry-I-didn’t-have-time-to-buy-a-gift excuse doesn’t work when the person expecting to tear off gift-wrapping has been looking at Flickr’s uncanny knack of suggesting you’ve been off having a ball in the sunshine while they’ve been struggling through the Oxford Street crowds.

What’s that? Don’t put the pictures on Flickr. Ooops, too late.

Before I forget, this was work. There was quite a lot to do in fact. I should never forget that training and implementation courses are always more complex when somebody else is in another room configuring software, changing settings and generally doing the ‘under the hood’ stuff that you wish they weren’t doing when you say ‘and clicking here works the magic that we’ve spent years developing’. Which of course, it won’t, if they haven’t installed the web-server component at that point. Still, I exaggerate for the story. Things came together pretty well. It’s always interesting working through the set-up in another country but, generally, customers have similar goals so I’m only adapting things to country-specific circumstances rather than trying to work out how we’ll re-develop some core component. I believe that’s one of the advantages of still providing our software for customer’s to run in their own data centres; we can make a set of installation-specific adjustments that are purely for a single customer.

Since the bubble burst in 2002 we’ve seen a move to outsourcing as more and more customers (and potential customers) want us to host the ad-serving infrastructure and they simply operate the system (and before any ad-ops teams come after me with burning torches, I know it’s not simple but, for now, you’ll understand that the word flows better) . Anyway, to my main point. We’re a service provider of sorts. Customers use our service rather than buy our software as a product and that tends to work well. We have the expertise delivering millions of advertisements per day; of tuning the database for the millions of ad interactions; of spotting and filtering the non-human traffic and ensuring that distribution networks deliver content quickly. But, as with every story, there’s an opposite opinion. If you have experience of managing large data projects; of maintaining response times and up-times then you have – most likely – the skills in abundance to manage an advertising infrastructure. My new friends at LinkDotNet are such an organisation; with data centres powering huge web sites popular across the world. Which is why, I found myself, in the corner, merrily suggesting configuration tweaks and obscure settings that might provide functionality in a different way; but one that is more suitable to this customer’s needs. Of course, the deeply technical guys in the room don’t like the changing the systems when all is up and running but I’m all for making operational workflow as easy as possible (see ops guys, I am really on your side).

In turn, we were provided with our own customisations for the visit in the form of our own guide, car and air-conditioning (of sorts). This way we could play tourists for a day with our own schedule and customised route through the city. And, I think, remarkably sensibly of us, it meant the driving was left to those locals who understood the rules of the road. I’d never pass a driving test there. Of course, I might not have to but you understand my point. We did see the Great Sphinx of Giza and visited – even venturing inside one of – the Great Pyramids. We took a boat to dine on the Nile and explored the palaces, mosques, and museums of the citadel, from where Egypt was ruled at one time. The Khan Al-Khalili bazaar is a melting pot of people, sounds, smells and narrow alleyways where it pays to keep your wits about you but pays you more to stop and take in the atmosphere.

There are few countries where you can claim to get out of the taxi and transfer to a camel but, I can say that, because we did. I’m sure our guide saved us a small fortune on that experience and it’s one, I imagine, our colleagues will find amusing when they see the pictures. We did get the company logo onto a pyramid (by subtlety placing a cap on one of the steps rather than spray painting it, you understand) so my covert mission in The City of a Thousand Minarets was completed.

Even after 12 days, I’m still pinching myself at the contrasts between the old world, of pyramids and citadels, and the new of modern offices, data centres and configuring banner ads. There’s so much to see that I’m hoping that we’ll do more business in that part of the world.

And, yes, with 5 days to go I still need to do my Christmas shopping but I think the brief trip to the sun was more than worth it.

Tribute To Atlantic 252

Atlantic 252 tribute site is now online.

I seem to have spent the week reporting news from the UK radio industry. Well, I wanted to highlight a comment on an old radio entry – Long Wave Is The Home Of Hit Music. Simon Hardwick posted to say the Atlantic 252 tribute site is now up and running. Take a look, it’s great and features some great audio which will take you right back.

Reduced Commercial Clutter

Reduced commercial airtime also makes those ads that are aired stand out more. Won’t advertisers end up paying a premium for this? Maybe not in the short term but I would have thought that in the long run it could work. But then again, what do I know?

On Monday I mentioned Capital Radio’s decline in the London market but completely missed the comment piece by Paul Robinson on The Guardian’s site. He notes that slashing commercial hours could ‘knock about £7m off Capital’s top-line revenue in 2006’. This I find interesting. Reducing commercial clutter (as it’s called) will hopefully drive bigger audiences. Reduced commercial airtime also makes those ads that are aired stand out more. Won’t advertisers end up paying a premium for this? Maybe not in the short term but I would have thought that in the long run it could work. But then again, what do I know?

Fined. Big Time.

When I was a child, my favourite radio station was Manchester’s Piccadilly Radio. To me, it was the most exciting station in the world. Pete and Geoff, who I mentioned yesterday, started their award-winning partnership on that station.

I noted some newsworthy stories about the radio industry yesterday but forgot to mention another from last week. When I was a child, my favourite radio station was Manchester’s Piccadilly Radio. To me, it was the most exciting station in the world. Pete and Geoff, who I mentioned yesterday, started their award-winning partnership on that station. It’s now Key 103 and last week was fined the biggest ever financial penalty imposed by a regulator on a UK radio station [source]. Nothing really to add to that but I wanted to note it.

All Change At Capital

When I first came to London, everybody listened to Capital Radio. Everybody talked about whatever Chris Tarrant did in the morning. That was a very different radio world with much less competition in the London market. Right now, I don’t know anybody who listens

When I first came to London, everybody listened to Capital Radio. Everybody talked about whatever Chris Tarrant did in the morning. That was a very different radio world with much less competition in the London market. Right now, I don’t know anybody who listens. Last week, GCap Media – which own Capital FM (as it’s now known)- announced a slump in profits and has promised a radical overhaul of the station. The new management are blaming the old management for the slump. Well, I guess they would, wouldn’t they?

In other news, Pete and Geoff announced they are going to split their award winning partnership and only one of them is to stay on at Virgin. I only listen to part of their show each day but have always found them quite good listening.

Change Your Coffee Shop Now

The same, yet different.

 

by Simon Lord at Flickr
by Simon Lord at Flickr

I meant to write about coffee last week when it was on my mind. There was a day, Monday – I think, where I had some time to kill before meeting PY after work. So I went into Cafe Nero and ordered myself a regular Latte. Nice, warm coffee. Then I wandered around some shops and then went into Costa Coffee and ordered another Latte. This time the taste was totally different. Unfortunately, I don’t have the words to hand to describe quite how different the two drinks were. There was a startling difference between two cups of coffee. The Costa drinks was much less bitter and had a much fuller flavour. I was blown away as I have never noticed such differences between two coffees before. I blame the thick stuff we drink at work for dulling my taste buds. Anyway, the leaflet in Costa says, ‘Others think their beans are fine after a 7-minute blast. Our beans need a full 18 minutes at precisely 230 degrees to bring out every bit of flavour – and we always make sure they get it’. It appears to be true. My regular coffee shop has just changed.

Modern Life Is Rubbish

Modern Life Is Rubbish, at least that’s what Blur thought back in 1993.

Modern Life Is Rubbish, at least that’s what Blur thought back in 1993. I can tell you some Modern Life things still aren’t what they should be. The Modern Life Expo at London’s Business Design Centre was supposed to be and event ‘Combining entertainment and an exhibition we aim to provide suppliers for everything you need in your life from gay wedding planning, health, fashion, home, travel right through to the law & finance’ [site] but it was such a mixture of things (mainly property overseas and wedding invitations) that it didn’t have any focus. Sadly, there weren’t that many people there when we first arrived and we were directed, immediately, to the coffee place rather than the event.

Events like this are kind of weird anyway. They invite people to take stands so that companies can promote their wares. The people attending want to look round with out constantly being pounced on by salespeople. And the two do not go together well. Still, maybe next year …

Talk Radio

Saturday morning talk radio.

Saturday morning and, for some reason, I was up early so I decided to do a little bit of work. In the background I’ve had the radio on. Listening to Vanessa Feltz on BBC London and then Wendy Lloyd on LBC. I guess the topics must have been interesting (why do we seek to impress our parents and why don’t kids do enough around the home – to name but two) but, regardless, I thought both programmes were presented in an intelligent and thoughtful way. And that’s not what you always expect from talk radio. I read earlier in the week that David Prever had left LBC to be the new breakfast host on Smooth FM. That might make the London breakfast market interesting.

Oslo Doesn’t Look Like This For Me

Some people take great photographs of Oslo.

now with this leg solidly planted here i should be able to..
now with this leg solidly planted here i should be able to.. originally uploaded by yrigoyen.

Still in Oslo and, clearly, not in the right part (or perhaps I should be here at a different time of year). I do love this city and I’ve always had great hotels here, including the Scandic Edderkoppen that I am in now. If you’ve never been get yourself across to Norway at some point – it’s a beautiful country. Shame I have to leave today (such a short trip) but check out this photo set for more great views of this city.

Audience Up

After a shaky start to the summer, which saw big names Danny Baker and Jon Gaunt depart, the station turned its fortunes around, with a new line up including JoAnne Good taking the Breakfast show chair and Jono ColemanÂ’s return to the BBC London 94.9FM airwaves.

According to the press, ‘BBC London 94.9FM has recorded its second highest audience figures ever, with 561,000 tuning in every week, according to the latest RAJAR figures covering July to September’. As I have mentioned several times, I love BBC London right now. It was sad when Danny Baker left – his was one of the most innovative mornings shows – but JoAnne Good and the team have been excellent. I am very worried about Jono Coleman as I am not very keen on him as a broadcaster but I guess we’ll just have to see what the rest of the year brings [source].

Admonished By A Snack Food Wrapper

I’m a crisp packet who’s about to fine you £50.

I love Anna’s writing. Captain Crisps and FagEndBoy is one of my favourites:

It’s got to take the shine off your manhood, being publically admonished by a snack food wrapper.

Little Red Boat certainly has a way with words, she makes me laugh almost every day.

Italy Is Smoke Free

See the no smoking signs across Italy.

I just returned from a business trip to Italy to find that Italian bars, restaurants and airports are now smoke free. This is great news for those of us who don’t want to light up cigarettes as soon as we land in the country. But, honestly, Italy doesn’t smell the same any more and it’s kind of strange. Lovely, but strange.

Nokia E61

Nokia’s new messaging phone comes complete with QWERTY keyboard but doesn’t have the treo-style annoying aerial.

Dear Palm

Please take note:

Nokia Announces Eseries for Business (Phone Scoop): E6 -: A slim (0.55 inches) messaging phone to compete with the Motorola Q. Features a landscape 24-bit QVGA display, QWERTY keyboard, and a miniSD slot. Supports quad-band GSM/EDGE and WCDMA 2100.

With no annoying sticky-up aerial to jab you when it’s in your pocket.

Thanks in advance
Me

A New Champion

With limited time to write anything longer, a couple of quick things to note about yesterday’s Brazilian Grand Prix.

Fernando is F1 World Champion 2005Ah, Monday morning and so little time to say anything. Nevertheless, Fernando Alonso’s Formula One Championship title (he’s the youngest ever Formula One champion) can’t go without note [Alonso clinches Formula One title] nor can Christian Klien’s superb qualifying performance [itv.com/f1 – Klien goes from zero to hero]. I preferred the later UK start time for the Grand Prix. 6pm seems like a much more sensible hour.