What Are Page Impressions?

For anybody who works with web-based content then the impression is a very important metric. It used to be the world talked about hits but I think we’ve moved on from that: it being the least descriptive and most open to abuse metric upon which we measure successful web content.

For anybody who works with web-based content then the “impression” is a very important metric.  It used to be the world talked about “hits” but I think we’ve moved on from that: it being the least descriptive and most open to abuse metric upon which we measure successful web content.

So, if you are a publisher of web content impressions are important. Essentially, every page somebody views (and it really should be a somebody and not a web crawler, spider or robot) is counted. The total number of page impressions is one measure of the popularity of your website.  Lovely. Such counts help websites understand what’s popular and what’s not and help them refine what they do.

As the boffins who look at all this data got smarter and as web analytics became big business people acknowledged there were other metrics. The number of pages read is not always a good indicator of success. Is it a million pages read by one person or by a million people only reading a single page? Analytics progressed to give us visits and sessions. These “smarter” metrics understood if individual browsers looked at more than one page and over what period of time. If I read 5 pages in the morning, that was 5 impressions and 1 visit. 10 more pages on your site in the evening was another visit and another 10 impressions but, crucially, I was one unique user.

Ooops, I just threw in another metric. Sites needed to get better at understanding all these impressions and visits because, while nice, numbers didn’t tell them much about their audience. So, unique users became important because it told sites how many people come to their site. From that sites can understand how many visits users make and how those visits end up being all those lovely page impressions.  It’s like a TV company telling us how many people watched Friends last night. It’s nice to know.

But, generally, websites don’t know who you are (unless they are one of those that let you create a user name and log in).  So they started to use cookies to identify your browser. That statement is actually quite important. Sites don’t know who you are they just assign a unique number to your browser to help them better understand all these unique users. Importantly, if you delete your cookies – or sometimes use another web browser – then they don’t know that you’ve done that and those actions can inflate the numbers for the site. Still, TV and radio are measured by small samples of people filling in diaries so all systems have some margin of error and cookie deletion is generally understood, accounted for and accepted.

So, why am I talking about all these web analytic terms? Well, that’s for two reasons.

Firstly, any website that sells advertising needs to tell advertisers approximately how many people will see the advertisement. They do not want the scenario that allows one person to have seen all one million of their advertisements. With apologies to my friends in advertising agencies, let’s say that Advertisers tend to like a range of people to see their messages. These measurements are great for helping sites understand audiences.

As a side note, sites generally like these numbers to be as big as possible because it makes them look good. They have a range of tactics to make the number look as big as possible (such as automatically refreshing the page “or part of the page” to make it look like there was another impression).  Properly managed websites who sell to big advertisers tend to have their numbers audited by companies like ABCE.  ABCE, if you like, helps advertising agencies know that the sites aren’t lying about these impressions, visits and unique users.

Secondly, I am trying to place these terms in context ahead of the next piece I am writing about another important metric to those websites: the ad impression. But that’s for another day.

Whenever you’re working with a site that starts quoting impressions, visits and unique users it’s worth asking how they were collated and are they audited. Are the numbers for the specific site in question or for a “network” or collection of sites owned by the same publisher?  Is the publisher using auto-refresh to inflate the numbers and are those numbers both collected and audited by reputable experts in this field? (It is worth noting that auditing can be expensive for small sites but you do need to understand how they have come up with the numbers and you should try to get an understanding of both the number of pages viewed and the number of users that make up those views).

I must caveat this with the notice that I am not a web analytics expert. Such folks will be able to explain the nuances of these measurements in more detail but, think of this as a handy cheat sheet so that you’re not impressed by somebody who talks about their large number of page impressions and then doesn’t put them into context for you.

If you like, I’m performing a public service.

Update: The second part of this mini-series about ad-impressions is now on the site.

The Largest City On The Mediterranean Coast

I’ve been running a training course for a customer in Barcelona. Sometimes, despite the early starts and late night returns that play havoc with my social life, there are rewards.

My plane left Barcelona airport at 10.30pm last night. It was the best value flight to get me home. Given that the other taxi picked me up at 6.30am on Monday then it’s been a very long two days but it’s been fun.

I’ve been running a training course for a customer in Barcelona. Sometimes, despite the early starts and late night returns that play havoc with my social life, there are rewards. Obviously, I had an early start yesterday but managed to get some sleep  en route so that I was sufficiently awake upon arrival to dive into the training.  The interesting part about this trip was that I was training a group of people to use our advertising management tools for, basically, non-advertising content. There are similarities: time based content that rotates based on a series of programmable targeting factors; content that is managed independently from the main site and a level of reporting required that generally does not come with content management systems. It was another fascinating example of how the kind of things that we come up with for the advertising industry can be put to all sort of other uses.

I’ve visited Barcelona once before, also for work, but this visit I got a little time in the late afternoon yesterday to see a bit more of it. People are always hospitable and this time was no exception. The hotel deal I had in Barcelona included free tapas, which was lovely, and it included some free Cava. I thought I’d get a glass. I got a bottle. I stayed at the Hotel Diagonal Barcelona, which I can recommend. Next door to the hotel is the 35 floor Agbar Tower. The tower was built at a cost of over 130 million euro to house Barcelona’s water company, Agbar. There are some great photos in the Agbar Tower Group on Flickr.

After the second day training my work was done. But given the very late flight departure time I had an early evening to kill in Barcelona. I also had all my bags with me but decided that sitting in a restaurant wasn’t something I wanted to do. So, I took one of those open top bus tours. Usually they are a great way of getting your bearings in a new city even if you don’t get a great insight into any of the tourist attractions. They’re also a pretty expensive way of getting around. However, when you have a small suitcase, lap-top and various bits and you have 3 hours before heading to the airport, an open top bus seems the easiest way to get yourself (and your luggage) around the place without worrying about it. It was about a 90 minute round trip. The conductor told me that it was hop-on, hop-off so I could get off at anything that took my interest. I was keener on knowing if it really took 90 minutes. Anything more would have meant I risked missing all the connections to the airport.

So, I saw Barcelona even if I didn’t really experience Barcelona. The tour is quite good, showing you old and new. It was timely that we visited the stadium.  The Barcelona football stadium is the 3rd largest stadium in the World after the stadiums in Sao Paulo, Brazil and Mexico City. Barcelona Camp Nou has a capacity of 110,000 people. The Champions League result was still in the air. How many times was I asked if I was an Arsenal supporter?

One day I shall head back an be a proper tourist!

Behavioural Targeting

I believe we have a lot of research to do to find the true value of inferring things from on-line behaviours. Inferences are either too simple or require a vast amount of data and analysis (which is expensive).

It’s Easter Monday (for my US friends, that’s a public holiday in here in the UK). What did you do this Easter?  I’ve been visiting family, and eating Easter eggs, in Shropshire and Wigan. I’ve been observing Roman ruins in Wroxeter (or ‘Viroconium’ as it was known when it was the fourth largest city in Roman Britain). I watched the film, Walk The Line, at Shrewsbury’s new(ish) Old Market Hall cinema. A lovely weekend.

So, if you were in the advertising business what adverts would you like to show to me now that I have shared this information with you? You know a little about my likes if not a lot about my dislikes.  Based on what I’ve just told you, would you promote a new film (Walk The Line was released in February so I am not sure it says I am big on new releases) or a new chocolate bar (I did extend my Cadbury’s love affair) or would you promote something historical? I am not sure there’s a movie based on Roman chocolatiers, but if there is then let me know!

Now, I know you’d actually profile me, determine that Walk The Line didn’t literally mean I loved country music but the fact that I bought Easter eggs and spent time with family firmly plants me into a demographic and the result of it all will be an ad for the new Volvo, or something similar. You get the idea. We can leap from A to C via M without much justification, can’t we?

This, however, is an issue I am struggling with at the moment at work. I know, I once promised not to write about work here but I’m not dwelling on specifics so go with me.

I’ve pretty much spent the last few weeks working with customers on how to implement behavioural targeting concepts for their web sites and if those concepts are right for their advertisers based on the customer’s behaviour patterns on the site.  Behavioural targeting isn’t actually as scary as I suspect some people think it is. It just suggests, anonymously, that if you have performed an on-line search looking for a new car then you might be looking for a new car. Now, if you do this on a car web site then it’s pretty much given you’re in the market. It’s not rocket science. Nobody knows who anybody is and I’m only working with technologies that do not share data between marketers. This way my behaviour on one site is not shared anywhere else. I’ve previously worked with technologies that tried to do this on a network level but it didn’t work then as the tech was too slow. DoubleClick moved away from network profiling in 2002 but, of course, technology has moved on and those working in that space should be able to be much more efficient.

The digital advertising industry is awash with people talking about behavioural targeting. I believe that reputable organisations will always exceed privacy legislation and protect their customers better than the law demands. After all, it’s in their interest. However, behavioural data requires so much analysis that I have to question if it is right for everybody. Certainly, publishers with a large user base who come back regularly might get some insight that would be useful to advertisers but we, as consumers, are complex beasts. Our likes and dislikes change based on many factors; advertising can help inform and change my mind and really don’t you want to advertise to all people interested in buying a car? Why just those who currently think it should be a new car? But what about my friends network or family? Aren’t they just as influential? We can’t look at their behaviours too but they are important in how I make decisions. Isn’t behavioural targeting too limiting then?

I believe it works in the right places. I believe that the technology I am working with is the best of breed for publishers. It’s anonymous and doesn’t enable any kind of network sharing so it’s good for consumers too. But finding the right use cases is the hard part.  How do I prove that this technology is working. I think we’ve some investigation to do yet.

I know that I am over simplifying arguments to make my point but I believe we have a lot of research to do in this space to find the true value of inferring things from my on-line behaviours. Inferences are either too simple or require a vast amount of data and analysis (which is expensive). I’ve got to spend the next few weeks reading a lot more data on this. If you’ve got anything that would be helpful then you know where I am.

Disclaimer: These are my view and not those of my employer. You have done the whole full disclosure thing, haven’t you?

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.

My Digital Advertising Orchestra

We gathered customers in a room and asked them what they wanted from our products in the future. Strategy was discussed but not revealed here. Sorry. It was, however, an interesting insight into the dynamics of a group of industry competitors who really shared a common view on the way forward.

Yesterday, we tried something new (well, new to us, anyway). The kind of thing that could have gone horribly wrong had we not got it quite right. We gathered a small group of our customers and, more-or-less, locked them in a room with some of our product and development people to discuss what’s next in online advertising (we did feed them, it wasn’t cruel!). Truthfully, there was no key (although I sat blocking the door for some of the day, but that was to do with the shape of the room) and customers could leave if they wanted to, although if they tried I, in turn, tried to lure them back with coffee (the Dutch said I made it too bitter by plunging too quickly, but that’s another story). It was an interesting experiment and one, I hope, we’ll repeat again.

The first lesson is that managing a group of competing interests like this is akin to conducting an orchestra in that there are many sections who all need to play their part to get the best out of the day. There will be the large string, brass and woodwind sections who have clear ideas what they want from your product and each want to make sure they are heard. Then, of course, there’s the percussion section who seem to fill in the gaps with novel little additions or ideas that hold the other parts together. Fortunately, we had a great conductor in the shape of one of our key product managers from our US office. I guess the rest of us turned the pages on the musical score for the others. Here, my metaphor breaks down and I’ll move on.

I’m not breaking any confidences by suggesting that the key themes are universal to the digital ad-serving business: the industry is maturing and major organisations have moved from wondering what their web presence is all about to how they can make the most money from it and how it integrates into the rest of their business portfolio. I took away a consensus that suggests that the top three things important to the industry are:

  • video advertising is only going to get bigger but measurement metrics are still being figured out
  • ad units are going to get bigger to ensure they make a splash; but we may see fewer units per page
  • understanding inventory availability is a major concern for publishers of all sizes who can sell

and, as all great customers should do, they would like these issues resolved in the next release cycle. Of course, we were given a much deeper insight into what our business needs to do to meet these – and the other less obvious – requirements and industry challenges (do you think I’m going to tell you now?). It was fascinating to see how players in our orchestra interacted, many having never met before. It’s great to see competitors sharing information and, if any of them read this, I’d like to say thanks for your input. I’m sure we’ll do it again. We kept the group small(ish) – more chamber orchestra than philharmonic – so that we could get the best out of the day but if you’d like to be considered for the next one then you’d better be a customer in about 12 months from now!

Now, I’m starting the weekend by heading off to see a solo musician. Tori Amos is playing Hammersmith Apollo in a few hours. I believe she can play the piano rather well. I guess she’ll conduct herself.

Three Hundred Million

Figures from the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and pricewaterhouseCoopers, regarded as the industry’s official count, show that advertisers spent £151.6m on Internet advertising in the first half of this year.

According to New Media Zero, UK online ad spend in 2003 could be as high as £350m which is very promising news indeed for those of us involved in the industry. The article doesn’t break down the money and I would be interested to know where it is being spent – I just hope it’s not on more pop-ups!

What We Shouldn’t Be Talking About

Why we shouldn’t talk about click through rates. Really, is that the only value your expensive advertising has. Think about your brand.

Well, some good news for the online marketing industry at last:

Internet advertising is one of only two disciplines in the marketing services industry to report an increase in budgets over the first quarter of the year [Brand Republic]

and if we all stop talking about these online ad topics, what will we say to each other?

The biggest percentage of responders (13.1%) thought that click-through rate discussions are a waste of time. The second anti-productivity prize went to Branding vs. Direct Response debates (7.9%) [Media Post]

Other links of note I have been pointed to today:

  • Whoever buys the assets of UMS – and there are companies sniffing around – they will be doing so when there are signs, albeit tentative, of a recovery in the bombed-out dotcom sector. There are plenty of undervalued companies around – and also a lot of money. However, investors are still nursing their losses from the dotcom collapse and are reluctant to part with it [Guardian via Plasticbag]
  • Craig Newmark observed people on the Net, on the WELL and in Usenet, helping one another out. In early ’95, he decided to help out, in a very small way, telling people about cool events around San Francisco like the Anon Salon and Joe’s Digital Diner. It spread through word of mouth, and became large enough to demand the use of a list server, majordomo, which required a name [craigslist in London via Kottke]
  • A huge advertising campaign focusing on heterosexual tourists risks ignoring the increasingly important homosexual visitor [Sunday Hearald via Gay News Blog]
  • The new name for the Phoenix browser is ‘Firebird’ … In addition to securing Firebird, we’ve also got the OK from those contributing legal resources to use the name ‘Thunderbird’ for a mail client [via Mozillazine]

Has the tide turned for free online content?

I don’t think we’re about to see the death of free. Once you don’t charge it’s going to be hard to charge because there’ll be somebody else with a free carrot.

Has the tide turned for free online content? AOL Time Warner has announced that a number of its properties will move away from offering free web-content. Much of that content is to move onto AOL:

We are making the move from the content being available for free, and (instead are) making it so you have to have a relationship with us, said Peter Costiglio, a Time Inc. spokesman [Source]

I’d love to see all web content free but it’s not practical and I take it as a sign that the industry is growing up and getting real. It will be interesting to see what happens in a year from now when, hopefully advertising revenues are up a little. Will it swing back in favour of ad-revenues?

Luckily, I don’t want to read them!

Online Advertising is a Nuisance

43% of users think that online advertising is a nuisance. But will they pay for content. Isn’t that the question?

According to MSNBC earlier this week, 43% of users think that online advertising is a nuisance and, in another survey, 53% respondents said online clutter was a problem [both via Marketing Fix].

Of course, consumers do not like advertising. Nobody likes being advertised at, just as everybody believes that they are not swayed by advertising (but they know people who are!). Is this a big deal? Well, of course, no advertiser wants to believe their advertisement gets in the way and no advertiser wants to annoy users to the extent that they are turned off the product by the commercials. Yet, as noted in many places, TV advertising is the most intrusive advertising – the programme physically stops so they can show you an advertisement. So, why does online advertising come in for such a hard time?

Badly designed advertising can be a nuisance but I think advertising isn’t generally too much of a problem. What I am interested in is the concept of clutter. So many sites these days surround you with advertisements. Banners at the top, buttons down the left, a skyscraper on the right and some kind of rich-media thing walking across the middle. There’s a very large portal who does this kind of thing all the time. They’re making money but it’s very frustrating.

I’m sure cleverly designed advertising in the right place works – in all mediums. The online challenge is to make it work and make it profitable, at least profitable enough to pay for the sites we like.

Commercial Free

Should Blogs carry advertising? When it’s not clear if an opinion blogged is really paid for commercial content being passed of as something else. It’s not a problem unique to the blogsphere but it’s something that I haven’t pondered a great deal until today. It is a problem other media have had to deal with for years – some have done it better than others

There’s been an interesting discussion on the UK Bloggers discussion list today regarding online advertising and if it’s appropriate in the blogging world.

I need to put my position into context. I came to the web (and, therefore, to employment) because I truly believe that personal publishing can empower people. To me the pull of the medium was access to views and interests outside the mainstream. The ability to publish what you had to say without an editor’s red pen. That doesn’t mean that you can ignore laws of the land but, within an existing legal framework, it is relatively easy and cheap to publish. It’s not easy to guarantee the audience but that’s a different story. The message is out there and that’s a starting point (and should be a right in a democratic society). This is a good thing.

I also believe there is a need for a commercial web. The fact that we buy things online, read content paid for by subscription or advertising etc. helps pay for the infrastructure that allows the rest of us to publish. The commercial web is a good thing too.

Advertising is also a good thing, it pays for things so I don’t have to. I’ve made a career out of working in advertising-related industries. I have no objection to advertising.

Where it starts to blur for me is when the three points above mix. When it’s not clear if an opinion blogged is really paid for commercial content being passed of as something else. It’s not a problem unique to the blogsphere but it’s something that I haven’t pondered a great deal until today. It is a problem other media have had to deal with for years – some have done it better than others.

I honestly believe that giving marketers access to a weblog audience (and you can see why they would want a mass of referrals) starts to compromise the reason why weblogs/journals etc. are so successful and such an important part of the landscape these days. Any media with access to an audience is bound to attract the attention of marketing men. Let’s face it, that’s how Amazon grew – lots of affiliates making small amounts of money and we’ve been linking away to them for years. Is the integrity of a weblog at risk? Well, readers should be asking if a link to Amazon is bourne out of genuine appreciation of the book or if it was placed purely for profit.

The idealist in me thinks the freedom to publish personal opinion shouldn’t be mixed with commercial interests. The realist believes people have to pay for server space and bandwidth so a little commercial involvement may help allow people publish what they want to say. Thus the two are intertwined.

As always, it’s difficult to come down on one side of the arguments. I would honestly like to believe not everything in the world needs to carry a commercial message. I would like to believe that bloggers did it because they had something to say, even if, like this site, it’s not earth shattering. The world, however, is much more complex.

UPDATE: I’ve written a second piece that includes more of the quotes from the mailing list, mainly for my archive but it may as well be posted.

UPDATE 10 March 2003: Tom Coates – who sparked the discussion – wrote (as always) a great piece on this subject.

Eggs and Spam For Breakfast (No Eggs)

The first time I have ever received all spam and nothing else to my office in-box on a Monday morning.

I have spent a great deal of my working life involved with advertising online. I guess that online advertising includes the ability to mass-market by e-mail.

I have no problems with legitimate, professional marketing from reputable companies. For years I’ve never objected to direct postal correspondence – to a certain extent I don’t mind opening junk mail. Occasionally, very occasionally, it’s quite interesting (even if I am just trying to work out how the hell I got on the mailing list).

So, e-mail direct marketing is OK. I don’t mind getting the odd circular or if people I’ve encountered before in an online environment send me mail. I don’t mind those lists that I have signed up to. But, like many people I abhor spam. I use mailwasher to delete spam before it reaches my inbox and have always felt this is the best way of dealing with it. I am careful which e-mail addresses get out and have a couple of e-mail aliases which are just used on mailing lists etc. and therefore the spam does not collect in my most oft-used mailboxes.

Today, however, I noticed my work e-mail address is suddenly getting clogged with spam. Now I rarely sign-up to anything with work e-mail addresses (and they are only professional newsletters if I do). But I’ve only been at this e-mail address for a month and haven’t signed up for any lists at all yet. In fact, so few people know I am on this new e-mail address that I wouldn’t have thought it possible to be signed up to anything. Regardless, all this morning’s e-mail in my office e-mail account was spam. Every one. This is the first time that has happened to me at work. What would it say about my life if I responded to this motley collection of marketing messages:

  • Do you have problems with your septic tank
  • Hundreds of Lenders… WILL COMPETE For Your Loan!
  • Reduce the amount of sleep you need
  • The Truth About Gold And Silver
  • F*r*ee s*e*x on the web
  • Helping You Get A MOrtgage Loan
  • If you’re interested in *eliminating* up to 100% of your unsecured credit card debt, read the rest
  • Do you want for a prosperous future, increased money earning power, and the respect of all?
  • If you want to see a SERIOUS Opportunity then you need to check this out

Honestly, it should be fascinating. It really should. And every single one appeared to be from a US-based company targeting US consumers. I really wanted to reply to the lot explaining how they ware wasting their time but you know what that will result in!

Pop Up (Up and Away)

There has been great discussion recently about pop-ups. Are they doomed? Well, it’s a subject close to my heart as, being in the online advertising/research business for many years, they have become an important part of my life.

I have to ask, how they can properly be controlled? They are a useful marketing tool and can be useful to site publishers outside the advertising arena but some companies have exploited them far too much. MarketingFix notes that Netscape has announced it’s going to start offering the facility to block pop-ups. Interestingly, the pop-up filter has to be enabled by the user and then “Once enabled, the filter is preset to allow pop-ups on some sites, including several of AOL’s own properties”

I only wish it was possible to stop the multiple spawning.

Fly Accipiter, Fly

My ex-colleagues at Engage AdManager have bought the company from Engage.

I am happy today! My ex-colleagues at Engage AdManager have bought the company from Engage to re-form Accipiter – the company Engage acquired in 1998 (or thereabouts).

Engage has slowly been moving out of the online space. When I worked for them they owned a large number of online companies. The selling of AdManger to its management seems to leave them with no pure-play online offerings.

I just want to wish the new AdManager management all the luck in the world. They are a fantastic group of people and if you’re in the market for an online advertising solution, you’ll find best of breed at www.accipiter.com.

Cookie Me

So DoubleClick are going to be more open about Cookies and all that they are tracking. According to DoubleClick’s press release:

“DoubleClick is to be commended for its cooperation in setting an industry standard for promoting consumer privacy in the data collection and tracking taking place across networked websites,” said New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer.


The issue of cookies – especially in relation to online advertising – is something that seems to get some people all worried that they are being spied on (like those big satellites can’t see what you’re doing anyway). It seems in the US, people go to court over them. Given that I been working in the online advertising business for nearly seven years (has there been an online ad business that long?) I think I am supposed to have an opinion on this hot potato. Except, I don’t think I do (at least as long as we can use cookies I don’t have an opinion, which I guess means I do have an opinion).

Cookies are not evil and, as companies like DoubleClick must have millions of cookies in their databases I am sure my online activity is not of sufficient interest for anybody to try to find out where I have been. Most people are pretty good and don’t store personally identifiable information and, even if they do, I could just wipe my cookie files and start again and stop being tracked. So, all I really want to say is there is nothing wrong with cookies. Cookies are useful. People who hold data on me should abide by the Data Protection Act which seems sufficient for every other piece of information that is being held about me, so why does everybody so worked up about these little bits of data? Agghh!!

<This unstructured, meaningless rant is now over>

Online Advertising Wasn’t The Same in 1996

Looking at yesterday’s Way Back Machine link again, [yesterday’s link] I am struck by the lack (almost, anyway) of commercial messages on the Yahoo! Page from 1996. Obviously, any sensible person realises that, in the end, all this great web content has to be paid for somehow. I am more than happy that the company I work for manages to pay my salary on a monthly basis. Still, can’t help wondering if it’s all gone mad now: Is Our Industry a Modern-Day Sodom and Gomorrah?