Posts from November 2003

Dean vs. Clark (Continued)

I took the time yesterday to read Peter Boyer’s lengthy criticism of Wes Clark’s handling of the war in Kosovo in The New Yorker. It certainly left me with some big question marks about what i have said is Clark’s long suit – foreign policy. Then i read Fred Kaplan’s reply in Slate and felt a lot better about Clark.

Taken together, they give me a really great picture of this debate about Clark’s dismissal and the “character and integrity” issues that Hugh Shelton slammed Clark with and now refuses to elaborate on.

If you are looking at Clark’s candidacy and trying to figure out this guy, i’d suggest reading both pieces.

Profile Email Summit

I was at the Bigfoot Interactive Profile Email Summit this morning. I am an investor in Bigfoot Interactive, which is one of the leading email service providers. They provide email sending and related services to over 100 large enterprises. This summit brought together leading marketers and analysts who focus on email marketing.

Jim Nail, who is the email analyst from Forrester Research, had some very interesting things to say about building email lists. I asked him how large corporations who have huge postal files (postal addresses for their customers) can quickly build their email files.

He said it that those who “forced it” with purchase of lists, append files, etc were getting in trouble with their customers who had no context for why or how they were suddenly getting email from these companies. The customer often views that kind of email as spam even though the mail is coming from their bank, cable company, utlity, etc.

Jim recommends using tools that marketers have at their disposal such as registration, purchase, or renewal processes (whether online or offline via a call center) as the best way to collect email addresses. He said that it takes a lot longer to build the file that way, but the result is that customers get only the mail they want and understand why they are getting it.

Al DiGuido, CEO of Bigfoot Interactive, presented the results of a several consumer surveys that were done in late October.

Some interesting data:
88% of consumers want ISPs and email software providers to provide “unsubscribe” button for certain emails they don’t want to get anymore

36% of consumers would pay money for a “guaranteed” delivery button for certain emails that they absolutely need to get

28% of consumers have had essential email from a trusted source was placed in a junk mail folder

14% of consumers plan to switch email addresses in the next six months

11% of consumers did switch email addresses in the last six months

74% of consumers want porn emails filtered out of their inboxes

40% of consumers who get critical communications from credit card issues (ie – credit card statements) are concerned about these messages being blocked

47% of consumers would consider switching ISPs/email providers if they did not receive a critical communication from their primary credit card issuer

Probably the most interesting discussion was a panel on email delivery. The panelists were:

Margot Koschier, Manager of Anti-Spam Initiatives at AOL
Roy Ben-Yoseph, Product Manager, AOL Mail
David Daniels of Jupiter
Jim Nail of Forrester
Markus Mullarkey, Manager of CNet’s newsletter business
Kevin Noonan, Executive Director of AIM
Michael Della Penna of Bigfoot Interactive

Both Margot and Roy described AOL’s anti-spam efforts as being “member centric”. That means AOL’s primary goal is to protect its members. Helping legitimate marketers get through is important, but takes a back seat to the members concerns.

Margot suggested that marketers put their brand prominently in the “from” and “reply to” addresses and in the subject line. She asked them not to put random numbers or odd looking addresses in the “from” or “reply to” addresses because that is often seen as spam by members.

Margot said that spam volumes are going up exponentially right now because broadband and wifi users have unwittingly opened up their networks to spammers who use them for relaying spam, spoofing, etc.

It came out in the discussion that AOL is working on an “enhanced white list” system. Though the details on this system were pretty cryptic, it sounds like an “EZ Pass” system to allow legitimate marketers go straight through into users mail boxes. In order to get into this enhanced white list, marketers must have the following:
Authenticated themselves to AOL
Have 30 days of good behavior with AOL
Instant unsubscribe for any AOL member who requests an unsubscribe
Strong feedback loop on member complaints

A question was asked about AOL providing an unsubscribe button vs. the current “report spam” button. AOL wants the marketer to do the unsubscribe. Many marketers would like AOL to process unsubscribes for them. At this time, AOL does not want to do this.

Although I didn’t stay for the whole summit, I was glad to see that the industry is talking about the important issues facing email marketers and that the large ISPs in particular are beginning to get interested in solving both the spam and deliverability issues facing legitimate marketers.

Dean vs. Clark (Continued)

I know that all my links to Jeff Jarvis are getting boring, but the simple fact is that Jeff blogs more than anybody i know with the possible exception of Jim Cramer, and you’ve got to pay to read Jim (although the money you’ll make reading him will more than offset the cost).

But Jeff is truly prolific and reads everything and links to a lot of stuff that’s really good. Which takes me back to my original subject, which is the race for the soul of the Democratic party, or as Seth Godin would say, “Who Will Beat Bush”.

Jeff has a post up that talks to my favorite political topic, Dean vs. Clark, or as Jeff puts it, “Deanlash”.

Read the links. Think about them. Dean feels skimpy to me too Jeff.

It’s The Data Stupid

I don’t know if I owe James Carville a royalty for using ths title, but i think the analogy works.

In IT these days, its the data that matters. The hardware, software, communications equipment, and management systems are still important, but they are getting commoditized, standardized, and in many cases outsourced.

But data is becoming more important every day. Think about it. If you have one piece of data about a particular situation that’s good. If you have two pieces of data, that’s a lot better. If you can get to three, then that’s a gold mine.

Think about the way Google ranks search results. They don’t just crawl the web and find pages that meet the seach criteria, they also look at the links to each of those pages and create a second data element, which is the popularity of those pages. The combination of the two data sets creates the results that makes Google the best search engine on the web.

Think about checking into a flight at an airport kiosk. The airline’s computer system has your ticket in the system. But combining that record with the record in your credit card company’s computer system creates the link that lets you bypass the long lines and get to your flight much faster and with less hassle. Take a look at this article in Friday’s Wall Street Journal that discusses how technologies like this and others have had a huge effect on our economy’s productivity over the past several years.

I think that data is the next revolution in IT. Because data does not have decreasing marginal returns. It has increasing marginal returns. The more you invest in data, the more you get out. But its non-linear. It’s exponential. And that’s exciting stuff.

Paid Content

Rafat Ali is doing a great job with his PaidContent.org blog. It’s really a must read for anyone in the information, media, or Internet business.

But Rafat seems to have an issue with my comment that Reuters did the right thing by putting its headlines on Yahoo! back in the early days of the Internet. He thinks Reuters’ decision to widely syndicate its news on the web was the beginning of Reuters’ well documented probems.

Well Rafat may well be right, but i think if you are in the commodity news business, which is what Reuters is in, then you’ve got to get your headlines out there. And they did. The NY Times did not. The Wall Street Journal did not. The Washington Post did not. And i would bet that Reuters news is way more widely read on the Internet than any of those other news organizations. The problem wasn’t that Reuters widely syndicated its headlines, it was that it let Yahoo! and others run the content directly on their sites. They didn’t drive traffic to their own site, they just took some money and let Yahoo! and others get the traffic.

I made that comment to make a point – which is always dangerous when you are “on the record”. My point was simply that syndicating content is a very powerful way to get your information out there. It’s what i’d like to do with my blog. I’ll run it on any site who I think has the right readership and that will take an RSS feed and post automatically. I think that’s the future of blogging.

I am looking forward to Kinja and any other developments that make it easier for the average person to read blogs and find new ones. And i think Retuers, NY Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, San Jose Mercury, and any other forward thinking news organizations should put their headlines on Kinja and other aggregators to make it easier to have the kind of dialog that blogs promote.

Just like this dialog i am having about Rafat’s issue with my comment at the Always On event last week.

New Music (Continued)

Two more discs i just bought that i really like. These are both indie alternative rock, in the vein of the Velvet Underground, Pavement, White Stripes, etc.

The Strokes – Room On Fire – My sister in law Susan turned me on to this one. It’s great. Click here if you want to buy it on iTunes.

Bettie Serveert – Log 22 – I loved their disc Palomine that came out in 1993. Haven’t listened to this dutch indie rock band much lately, but my wife Joanne put on Palomine recently and i remembered how much i loved the voice of lead singer Carol Van Dyk. So i went out and bought this disc that came out earlier this year. It’s terrific. Unfortunately, they don’t have any Bettie Serveert albums on iTunes yet.

Dean vs. Clark (Continued)

I’ve done a lot of homework on these two guys. As i’ve said before on this blog, i think this campaign will quickly be between Dean and Clark.

Dean has built a tremendous grass roots campaign. He’s used the Internet beautifully. He gets it. He’s using direct communication with his supporters to energize them, empower them, and raise tons of money. My bet is he’ll get enough support today to decide to give up matching funds. And his money machine will keep Dean in this race for the long haul.

Clark is smart, really smart. He is playing his cards much closer to the vest. His long suit is foreign policy. He’s got more crediblitiy than Bush on national security and foreign policy and that’s what’s going to matter in this race. Clark knows that. He’s sticking to a very middle of the road strategy on all the other issues and making hay with foreign policy.

And that’s the only way the Democrats are going to win in 2004. Because the economy is getting better. Bush won’t be beatable on pocketbook issues.

But we’ve still got black hawks going down in Iraq, kids coming home in coffins, Sadaam and Osama and their followers taking shots at us, and that’s not going down very well at home.

Wes Clark has a plan and the credibility to get us out of this mess.

And that’s why i am leaning towards Clark.

Blogging

Great panel yesterday on blogging and social networking courtesy of Tony Perkins’ Always On Network.

I met a bunch of people i hadn’t met before and we got to discuss some great issues that are really central to the blogging and social networking world.

Since i don’t have a lot of time today, i’ll just point to Jeff Jarvis again who captured most of the discussion on his blog yesterday.

Downloading (Continued)

Kudos to Penn State! Not for their football team, which is struggling this year and is 2-7.

Kudos to Penn State for their vision to realize that students want music for free and the only way they are going to stop the illegal downloading is to help them pay for it. In a stroke of brilliance, the school has decided to take some of the $160/year each student pays Penn State for “technology” and pay it to Napster so that each and every student can have all the music they want, when they want it, LEGALLY. See the story in the NY Times this morning for more detail.

This is a win-win-win-win deal.

The students get to keep downloading but don’t have to come out of their own pockets and don’t have to worry about being sued.

The school eliminates a big legal worry about their networks being used for illegal activity, and gets to offer a great new service for the students.

And the music industry gets a new business model to explore – bulk sale of music to a large enterprise – in this case a university. And the music industry gets to train students that they can get music online legally. And hopefully they’ll keep buying it legally once they leave school.

And Napster scores a big win coming right out of the box.

Brilliant. It gives me some hope that we’ll all figure this digital music thing together.

The Citizen’s Media

Jeff Jarvis put up a great post, inspired by Jonathan Miller’s comment that 2/3 of the time people spend on AOL is with other user’s content, not AOL’s content.

Jeff calls this The Citizen’s Media. I like that name.